Friday, May 27, 2011


It has been too hot to do anything around here.  It's been too hot to knit, too hot to play with the niece, too hot to make sexy-love-times with the Future Mr. Heather-pedia.  So instead of doing the things I would like to do, I've been trolling some feminist blogs (not the best way to reduce one's temperature, by the way) and looking for work.

The work thing is an on-going process.  I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with the dog and the beta fish and we all agreed that someone had to buy pet food and shoes and the occasional bottle of wine, but seeing as I was unable to convince neither dog nor beta fish to seek employment, it all came down to me.  I can't say I was entirely surprised.  So I've been sending out resumes like a woman possessed. Wish me luck.
Despite the heat, this made me feel a little better:
"It's a trap!"

I know some people won't get this joke (also known as "sad people") in which case I recommend a trip to the library as fast as your legs can carry you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

On Being "Not Funny"

A few days ago, I had a friend call me on my cell phone.  This particular friend is a person who I feel the need for my mental well-being to detangle myself from, but find it impossible for various reasons I won’t go into here.  I met this friend a long time ago, back before I was a feminist and held very sexist and harmful ideas about my place in the world.  It’s a familiar tune: “I get along better with boys than girls.  Other girls are bitches, but I’m cool because I let them call me bad names and grab my breasts, but it’s ok because I’m being allowed to hang out with guys, who are superior in some intangible way I can’t articulate.”  I’m not particularly proud of this period of my life, but I have learned from it.
   Anyway, he calls and we chat for a few about our lives.  He suffers from Nice Guy Syndrome like there is no fucking tomorrow, so most of the call was spent with me rolling my eyes and trying not to break out into a lecture. So he offers to tell me a joke.  I oblige, and needless to say it was a very sexist but mostly racist joke.  I told him I didn’t think the joke was funny.  I told him I thought it was racist and inappropriate.

“You used to be fun.”  He told me this like I have stopped being fun ever since I became a feminist.  I told him that I couldn’t in all good conscious laugh at a racist joke because that would be the same as validating the racist belief.

“Oh, that’s right.  You grew up.” You bet your fucking ass I did.
I can’t be the only person who sees this as indicative of a bigger problem, right?  Laughing at this is like participating in our own oppression by reaffirming the joke-teller’s belief that they are right.  If I had laughed at this joke I would have given approval to his racist beliefs and I won’t be part of it.
This is really hard for me.  It’s awkward being the only person in a group not laughing.  It’s equally awkward to be the person to say “that’s not right”, and I understand and respect why some sisters choose not to do this.  I don’t call it out all the time.  If alcohol is involved, and I don’t feel it’s a safe space, I might not say anything.  But I’ve gotten better at it.  99% of the time I do speak up, and while being called un-funny hurts me deeply because I consider myself a funny person, it’s more important to me to be known as a just person than a funny person. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In it for the lulz

Firstly, I'm sorry for Blogger being a pain in the ass.  It erased a few of my comments, but no actual blog posts, thank God.  If you've commented recently I haven't deleted anything, I swear!  It's all Blogger.

Also, this:
I forwarded this from Hadiyah.  I don't know where she finds this stuff, but it's always good for a laugh.  To quote the future Mr. Heather-pedia, "It's funny because it's true"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Not News

Governor Mitch Daniels continues to be a fuck-knuckle. 

Note to self: if I can't get my birth control pills and I get knocked up, I'm suing for child support!

Helping My Allies Out

My post Why I Hesitate has generated a slight amount of buzz and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m re-visiting the topic because a man named Stephen wrote a comment on the original post about what more he could do.  I felt his plea for help came from an honest place, and what’s minor Internet fame if I can’t use it to help my fellow humans?

The first step is education.  I recommend Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks.  It’s a good jumping-off place for a beginner.  Granted, hooks has her detractors, like everyone, but I find it to be a valid first-time feminist read.  Also, if you are lucky enough to live near a college or university, check into some of the women’s studies classes.  It may also be listed under “gender studies”.  Women’s studies professors are usually open to having guests, but be sure to ask first.  You usually don’t have to be a student to participate in events like “Women’s Week” or something similar.  If you don’t live near a university it can be helpful to e-mail a women’s studies professor and ask for a list of recommended readings or a copy of a syllabus.  Don’t let the stereotypes fool you; we are surprisingly friendly and helpful.

The second step is action.  This is the step that trips up most people. I personally have signed up for e-mail alerts from places like Planned Parenthood.  They send me an e-mail whenever some political fuck-knucklery is about to go down so that I can fire off a quick e-mail to my representatives whenever I check my inbox.  I can really be that simple!  Also, many feminist blogs and tumblrs will have action alerts.  The Shakesville community calls this ‘teaspooning”.  They provide e-mails and phone numbers for you to use.  If this all seems so overwhelming, it might help to pick a focus.  There is no shame in dividing the work into manageable chunks.  

The third step is to help educate others.  I personally suck at this step because I usually end up getting angry and telling some misogynist where he can get on the bus to hell.  Thankfully, there is always room for personal growth.  This step is where male allies can be very helpful because, sadly, men tend to listen to other men before they listen to a woman.  So stepping up to the plate and refusing to laugh at a rape joke or stopping sexual harassment when you see it is a huge act in educating others.

Finally, never stop trying.  Sometimes it feels like we’re all beating our collective heads against a brick Wall O’Sexism, but the goals we hold dear are worth the occasional headache.  And keep in mind that small acts of progression are still very important.  It might not seem like much to fire off 50 bucks to a domestic violence shelter or telling your guys friends that you can’t go to Hooter’s on principle, but it really does add up, and we really do appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy Star Wars Day!

Today is "Star Wars Day" and God knows I'm gonna celebrate.  Once I get my own place I'm pretty sure this will be an official holiday.  Also, how cute is it that it falls on May 4th ( Get it, May the Fourth...?  Cute, right?)

Anyway, let us use today to not only eat as many Wookie Cookies as possible, but to reflect on how women are portrayed in sci-fi/geek culture and what we as the XX chromosome nerds can do to make it ok for younger sisters to be as unabashedly geeky as possible!

That being said, let us raise our glasses to one of the most powerful, influential, and kick-ass women in sci-fi, Princess Leia!!!  How awesome is this poster?  I found it via a link of a link of a link (you know how the internet can be) so if anybody out there knows who did this, let me know so I can give full credit to this awesomness!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why I Hesitate

This is a topic that is near and dear to me.  It is my dirty little secret, one of the few I have left since becoming a feminist. It is my shame.  It is something I would never dare mention out loud to a women studies class for fear of the ridicule I would face.  Feminism as it is today is my main identifier.  It is a huge piece of who I am and it encompasses the words I use when I describe myself, so the idea that I might alienate myself from my sisterhood holds my tongue, lest I lose the only place where I have ever truly belonged. But part of being a feminist is being brave against all odds and telling our stories despite the backlash it may ensue.  What would we have if Alice Paul stood trembling?  Where would we be if Gloria Steinem chose popularity over justice? And while I am not trying to compare myself to these great women, I feel a sense of camaraderie with them. They are my sisters in spirit and it is in the spirit of their ideals that I write this piece.
            I hesitate about men.  I do not, contrary to popular belief and despite all evidence otherwise, hate men.  I do hesitate to trust men, and by extension, I hesitate to trust men within my movement.  This is a very unpopular opinion in the current generation of feminists, who believe as Audre Lorde believed; that we can dismantle the Masters house with the Masters tools and that men as well as women can pick up the Masters tools and heave the hammer of justice.  I hesitate.  I disagree.  Can we trust the Masters sons?  Would any other movement place such a huge responsibility on the sons of the enemy?  The answer is, only after a long and difficult process of re-education and learning to trust again would any rebel group accept assistances from a former oppressor, and even then it would be with heavily-guarded eyes and a grain of salt.  But it can be done.  History has shown that the children of oppressors can make amends and become an ally.  We tell triumphant tales of the Underground Railroad and the rush to smuggle Jews out of Poland; all fantastic examples of an oppressors child shrugging off the mantle of oppression and turning their back on their privilege in order to do what is right.
            And still, I hesitate.  Why? This is difficult for me to explain.  In a way, it would be easier to hate men, but I refuse to give anyone the satisfaction of allowing the Man to believe that I hate all men as a whole, in an all-or-nothing uneducated way that makes it my problem rather than a justifiable anger toward them.  I will not allow them to place tags on me that labels me irrational or insane and let them continue to abdicate responsibility for their actions.  So I do not hate.  I could.  I have plenty of historical evidence, statistics, books, and personal anecdotes that would justify such a position.  But I do not hate.  I hesitate.
            But again, the question is why do I hesitate while at the same time admit to a historical precedent of former oppressors becoming allies?  The answer is both simple and sad.  The men of the world have yet to do something that their historical counterparts did again and again.  The men of the world have not made actions towards women to show penance.  They have not apologized.  They have done nothing to earn our trust and yet they believe through their privilege, that their intrinsic maleness should be enough, that their existence as the Chosen Gender, the Golden Child Who Can Do No Wrong is enough of an endorsement to let them into our ranks.
            But, perhaps it should be asked, what have the men of the world done to earn such disrespect from me.  What causes me to hesitate to the degree that I do?
            I have allowed myself to be a public person.  I write on a blog, I protest, and I am unabashedly loud and opinionated.  99% of my detractors are men.  Of these men, not one has chosen to argue with me in a constructive way that contributed to civil discourse and not a one has ever agreed to disagree.  Rather, they seek to destroy me emotionally.  They do not see me as a person with a difference in opinion.  I am a Thing, an Enemy that must be called horrible names that only have the power to hurt me because men use these words to hurt women throughout time everlasting.  I have been physically assaulted.  I have been groped on public buses; I have been unsafe in public places.  I have had my breasts grabbed by complete strangers who felt it was in their right to touch me because as a woman in public I am obviously a Thing for their amusement.  I have been yelled at when I dare to walk the streets.  I have been interrupted when I demand quiet and a safe space because a mans urge to speak/touch me overrides my fundamental right to be left alone.  All of these things have happened to me and to countless other women, the sole difference between our collective experiences being the severity of the incident.   These events have all been perpetrated by men, some strangers to me, some well-known to me.
            These occurrences are the most seriousness, and due to the seriousness of their nature it is common for them to be excused as outliers in otherwise impeccable male behavior.  And I might believe that if it were not for the other, countless reminders I wake up to everyday; little mental Post-It notes that remind me that I am Other, I am Thing, I am Less Than.   It is the casual rape joke, it is using words like bitch and pussy that remind everyone within earshot that the worst possible thing in the world to be is a woman.  It is being accused of looking for things to get mad at; it is being told that I am hysterical.  It is being called humorless or overly-sensitive or a feminazi.  It is having to beg a friend, a lover, a companion to not tell a rape joke, to not use that word, to please be respectful and have them not; or worse, have them use your trauma and your trigger for their amusement and think it all jolly-good fun when you run screaming from the room in tears.  This is why I hesitate.
            Yet men still say the words that are supposed to inspire trust.  I love my daughter, my mother, my wife, my sister they say, as if being somehow related to women erases their guilt. They want us to believe that their proxy to women allows them automatic access to our trust and our votes, our money, our movement.  It does not. It is a power play using words designed to grant trust where it is not deserved and I am not simple enough to fall for it.  I hesitate.
            And worse still is the liberal male who has just enough education to be dangerous.   These are the men that insist on playing devil's advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject in which they know I am an expert, but somehow still expect me to allow space for their opinions because they have lived a life of privilege that says they are special and male and therefore their opinions, no matter how uneducated and ridiculous those opinions sound, must have merit. These self-proclaimed liberal men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun, and they wonder, why I become upset, why I yell and scream and grow increasingly frustrated with each passing moment.  These amateur debaters believe that my emotional display means that I have lost (or worse, I have played into some stereotype about women being emotional and therefore illogical) and that they are the better debaters, because they have managed to infuriate me and  my emotional responses to an intellectual exercise proves that my point of view has no solid reasoning.  This must be, they ponder, or why else would I have thrown such a fit?  What ultimately has happened and what the debaters have not taken into consideration is that this is more than an intellectual exercise for me.  To the men discussing womens issues is akin to discussing time travel or theoretical moral ambiguities.  It is not a reality to them; it is another mental Rubiks cube for them to ponder over safely and without getting upset or overly involved.  Such is not the case for me and other women.  For us, this is not just a paradox for us to chew over with the other philosophical cud.  This is our lives we are fighting for, and no one likes to have their personal war reduced to someone elses banal amusements. Worse still is when these same men speak about women in a way that is distant and objectifying.  They talk about what they have observed as if women were strange butterflies to be pinned and studied instead of people who have legitimate experiences that might lead one, such as I, to hesitate.

There is the unwillingness to learn, or worse, the flat refusal to learn.  There is the blatant ignorance, the refusal to see sexism even when its pointed out in such a bald-faced way that its obviousness is embarrassing.  Even when the willingness to perhaps learn is there, the burden is placed on me to teach, rather than on the ignorant to learn.  And if I do acquiesce and agree to teach, I am told by the same smug male that perhaps my lesson would be better received if I was: less angry, more pretty, nicer, calmer, more indulgent, more understanding, used less swearing, stopped using personal experiences, stop using facts and statistics, and never, ever forget to show the ever important male point of view; thus stripping away my expertise and if the lessons do not sink in it is my fault for not being obliging, rather than their fault for being intellectually lazy.  And thus I hesitate.
            And I will admit that part of my hesitance is a self-defense mechanism.  It is an essential tool to help with the day-to-day encounters I have described above.  The first thing a baby porcupine learns is how to raise its quills.  The first thing a baby feminist learns is how to raise her guard. If I am on guard, if I hesitate and stereotype and distrust, then I reduce my risk of being knocked off balance or being placed in danger.  But its not just a personal danger.  I fear for all my sisters, and every day I wake up in the morning regretful that somewhere in the world my sisters are going through some physical or mental exhaustion at the hands of men (both malicious and clueless).  Were this any other fight my careful regard would be seen as a natural response to danger.  Only the truly cruel cannot see why a Jew might be cautious in their return to certain parts of Europe, or why perhaps a black man actively avoids certain parts of the United States.  We see their survival mechanisms as understandable and we respect these choices. People see this hesitancy as a reminder of a horrible history and an admonition that we must be vigilant and always, always work towards righting past wrongs and slowly becoming trustworthy again.  And yet because the world is built on the frail ego of the privileged male any slight, any insinuation that we as women have cause to distrust is seen as heresy and an attack on the status quo.
             Im not saying male allies arent important; they are.  However, they are only as valuable as they are active.  Many are the ally who looks at a violent rape culture and bemoans the fact that they dont represent me”.  But they do.  They are placing an image out that represents you.  And male allies are well within their rights to be angry, but they stop there.  They need to be active.  Anger is merely the starting point.  The men need to behave as the feminist label beseeches them to: act, write letters, protest products, rock the vote.  It is not feminism to observe the rape/violent/misogynistic culture, become upset over that representation of masculinity, not do anything about it, and then become confused and angry when your female compatriots do not welcome you with open arms/legs. My lack of trust upsets you, your lack of action raises suspicion in me.  Why should I trust a man cognizant of the problems and who chooses to do nothing?  That man offers nothing but verbal reassurances that no, no there are good men out there.  This is not new information.  We need more than bland reassurances of the righteousness of our cause.  Our cause is just, it does not need approval.  It does not need a man telling us what we should do to make him feel better or more comfortable or provide an excuse for his behavior.  What my cause needs is help. We are not getting the help, the respect, the action we deserve from the men who mercilessly grab the feminist label in a vain attempt to be seen as more liberal or hoping it will increase their chances of getting laid.
            So what advice do I have for the male who does desire to help us in our fight against the various –isms of the world? Is it possible to re-earn the trust lost over years of oppression and defeat?  Yes, I do believe it is possible for a man to truly be an ally; truth be told I am engaged to one.  The keys to earning our trust lie in education and respect.  Firstly, respect that becoming my ally will take lots of time and many, many gestures on your part.  If this seems too much like a Sisyphean task, take a deep breath and remember all I and my sisters have suffered through.  Understand that we have been hurt by men who called themselves allies before and recognize that the reward for your patience is a great one.  Educate yourself in the same manner as a woman would.  Do not believe that because you are a man you have a greater insight to the womens movement or that being a male makes you more objective.  All being male grants you is a different perspective that may or may not be totally incongruent with the feminist movement.  Instead, read the same books we read, peruse at your leisure the same websites we peruse.  Do not assume; instead ask questions and be open to the answers.  Fight cognitive dissonance.  If something is making you feel uncomfortable its probably your brains way of helping you recognize your privilege.  Do all this and soon there will come a day when gender-neutral pronouns come easier, when calling your friends on rape jokes feels like an obligation to your morality, and you will understand the hard battles won and yet to be won.  On that day I will trust, I will be proud to call you brother, and I will cease to hesitate.