A feminist perspective about the feminist perspective

Category: Inspiration

Today is a Deep, Cleansing Breath

Happy new year.  I know yesterday isn’t any different from today, but it’s nice to have a moment where humanity takes stock of itself and promises (despite knowing failure is eminent) to be better.  A starting point that everyone agrees on, a rush of excitement knowing that this year could be different.  And it is different.

Think about where you were a year ago today.  Think about all the moments you’ve had, all the lessons you learned, the friends you’ve made or lost, the relationships that started or crumbled.  And think about where you’ll be a year from now, goals you have set, events you’re looking forward to.  Just as there is potential in every day that we should grasp, there is potential for you to now know yourself and where you’re going.

Today is a deep, cleansing breath.  Take it.


Be Karma

Get your hands dirty

Karma isn’t coming.

I know, for all of us, there is a sense of security that comes from believing that a problem is going to be taken care of.  And I don’t mean our personal problems.  I mean the global ones that are often out of our hands, come out of left field and take a swipe at our sanity.  Where an Indian girl is gang-raped and forced to drop the case, leaving her the option of killing herself or marrying one of her rapists.  Or when new legislation comes forward that makes it possible for others to make medical choices for your body that are none of their concern.  We want to believe that some larger force is going to come down and help with the situation, and if that doesn’t happen, then clearly it was an oversight.karma list

We want revenge, and we don’t want to do it ourselves.

lazy karma

But revenge shouldn’t be our goal.  Change should be our goal.  If you want revenge, then you’re going into the situation thinking only of that scenario, of those particular people.  And karma isn’t coming after those people.

Karma is meant to be balance in nature and life, and we don’t know what that balance is.

So be your own karma.  If it pisses you off that people are getting away with beating their significant others, then do something.  Call in that domestic abuse report, and then refuse to back down until they do something about it.  You can’t just hope that a truck is going to hit the perpetrator, or that they will be beaten.  It solves nothing except giving you a vicious thrill, a taste of violence, when what you should really be doing is fighting against violence.

We are too far out of balance when our solution to violent crimes is to wish violence on others.

It certainly wasn’t karma that put six gang rapists into jail on murder charges.  It was a huge crowd, protesting for justice.

Karma isn’t going to stop these doctors from imprisoning new mothers.

And karma isn’t going to come down on the legislators who refuse to pass VAWA.

We are.  We’re going to come down on them, and we’re going to keep bringing change into the world.

But we have to be more loving and compassionate than our enemies.  Far from being vengeful, we have to be thoughtful and creative with our solutions.   We have to face the evils of the world without standing behind a shield of supernatural interference.

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” – Andrew Boyd

Never again

To my three nieces

First and foremost, I love you.  Even if I never see you grow up, you’re always in my thoughts.  When I fight for women’s rights, I fight for you.  And I want you to know, that you are on the cusp of a new world.  A world with more rights for women than we have every seen.  Hold tight to those rights.  Don’t let anyone take them away from you or tell you that you don’t deserve them.

You have the right to be yourself.

You have the right to say no. Or yes. Or maybe.

You have the right to your body.

You have the right to speak your mind.

Your accomplishments are your own, and although you may need help (and I encourage you to take help when you need it), remember that you had the strength to accomplish whatever you wanted.  Don’t let people belittle you.  They’ll never know you like you do, and they’ll never understand what it took for you to get where you’re going.

Love yourself.  You’re beautiful.  I know, because I’ve looked into your eyes at some point and seen a future full of hope.  I’ve seen your smile, free of worry.  And although you may go through life worrying, remember that at some point… you were totally zen.  And going back to that point takes good food, a loving hug, and a long nap.

Love others.  People go through life with no self esteem because they’ve been brought down.  Love especially your sisters, every woman who crosses your path.  Just like you, no one knows her like she knows herself, and she deserves to be appreciated for her struggle.

Fight for a better world.  There’s enough to do to last you a lifetime.  Someone out there needs your help, and I know you can help them, because you’re made of love.

Don’t fall into gender roles if you don’t want to.  Leave the pink life behind and go to the blue side if your passion is there.  No one can stop you, and give them hell if they try to.  It’s your life, your mind, your goal.

I wish I could help you fight your battles.  I wish I could be there to tell you that you are loved and that you can do anything.  But I can’t do that all the time.  For two of you, I can’t be there at all.  But you’re in my heart, and this message is to let you know: You are loved.  You can do anything.  And I hope you can hear my prayers for you.

For Those With Disorders and Those Who Love Them

I suppose I should start this post with a confession: I have ADHD and Major Depressive Disorder, a combination that lets me think really fast about what I hate about myself, want to sleep for the entire day while being unable to stop blinking, and at certain points cry and giggle uncontrollably.

I’ve had a lot of hard years dealing with this, and my darling husband has had to suffer through it with me.  It was really bad the first few years after the breakup with my abusive boyfriend.  I was unmedicated and stumbling through the days, failing school and unable to hold down a job.  I went through fits of rage and depression, and even though I was beginning to accept what had happened to me, I was still completely out of it.

Things have gotten better, but I have to admit, I’m still ashamed of how I used to act, especially toward my husband.  And even now, when I forget my meds, I get to a point that I can’t even handle myself.

I suppose it’s not fair to those who love us with mental disorders.  They try to comfort us, to take care of us, and often times they get no love back.  Oftentimes, we’re angry at them when they can’t handle the situation, like that was what they were put on this earth to do and that they are failing us.  We can’t handle the fact that they get angry or upset or want to have some space.

What I mean to say is, we all have a responsibility to mitigate these disorders.  It is our responsibility to try our damnedest to take our pills, go to therapy, and understand which situations we can’t handle.  We should also try to comfort those who comfort us.  We’re all part of the human experience, and we all deserve comfort and love.

I understand the anger.  I often feel as though I’ve lost control of my life, and that I’m just a walking mess.  I hate my pills.  Sometimes I throw them, and sometimes I neglect to take them just so I can be in control.  I hate therapy sometimes.  I hate that I need it.  What right does my therapist have to talk to me about my problems?  And sometimes I’m angry at my husband for not  having these problems.  How the hell did he get so lucky?  Why is he able to go everyday without pills or great sweeps of emotion and physical backlash?  Why is it that even when I take my damn pills, I still have problems?

It’s not easy.  I’m scared of losing my mind completely.  And my fear comes out in ways that I don’t mean.  But I try… so hard… not to take it out on my loved ones.  I try to do my best everyday.  Because it isn’t their fault that I’m sick.  Their only fault is loving me and wanting to help take care of me.

So just take the time to understand how hard it is for the people who love us to see us go through the pain that we do, to have no way to help us.  They are scared and angry too!  They want to fix everything and have no way!  It’s fucking miserable for all of us!

But also understand that they are there because they love us and there is something about us that they are seeing beyond the disorder.  We have lives and talents that they appreciate.  They want to be with us, despite the suck-tastic days where we can’t handle where our minds go.

Be happy we’re so lucky that we have people strong and loving enough to stick by us.

Gender Norms: Creating New Instructions

I wish there were a way for me to be an expert in everything that I write about, but given that I’m 26, I don’t think I’ve had the time.  So, feel free to start the conversation about this when you want to!

Ah, the need to conform to gender norms.  I’m sure we’ve all struggled with this at some point, feeling constrained by what society tells us is right for us to feel, do, wear.  In feminism, I feel like we’ve reached an impasse on what is right.  On the one hand, some of us feel that we can be perfectly happy sticking to gender norms, as long as it is our choice.  On the other hand, some of us feel as though we’ve taken a step back and are objectifying ourselves through being what society considers attractive.

I for one feel good about my gender lines and don’t mind how other people view me.  I’ve already shed my shame about what I wear and do, and I certainly don’t owe apologies to people who consider me trashy.  So why does it matter to other people?

Research has time and again told us that people will stick to gender norms.  People tend to feel positive when they adhere to the social norms that they see and mimic.  Gender norms allow us to comprehend “normal”, and when we succeed in reaching the coveted “normal”, even for a moment, we’re pleased to think that we are more socially acceptable and therefore more lovable. (Gendering the Self: Selective Magazine Reading and Reinforcement of Gender Conformity by Sylvia Knobloch-Westerwick and Gregory Haplamazian)

In fact, when we find materials like magazines that reinforce those stereotypes and we engage in them, we tend to feel more like the gender that we are influenced to be. (Same reference as before)

So why wouldn’t women, even feminists, feel better about themselves when they adhere to social norms?  Feminists may feel an inner guilt for giving in, but the reward system is so strong that we can’t argue with how it makes us feel.

Guidelines and rules are important to human beings, and even if those rules constrain us, it’s a comfort to have them there.  How overwhelming is a model of a plane or a car if there are no instructions?  How much more slowly do we have to build and contemplate what to do?  The stress is more intense!  What if we’re doing something wrong right now, and the model can’t be salvaged?

Likewise, we base our personalities on models of people we grow up around, and what culture tells us our gender is supposed to do.  While some of us break away from these gender norms and rules, many people struggle with the idea that maybe they are doing something wrong, even if they do break away from the norms.  There are no instructions for people who don’t fall into a neat little place in the “normal” scale!  (Conformity to Gender Norms Among Female Student-Athletes: Implications for Body Image by Jessie Steinfeldt, Hailee Carter, Rebecca Zakrajsek, and Matthew Steinfeldt)

This lack of instructions can cause us more stress in all life situations.  Female athletes, for example, can’t grow their strength to their full potential for fear that it will ruin the femininity of their bodies.  They still strive to fit in the gender and sexual norms despite doing what they love to do, and it hinders them.  It may seem as though a woman can’t be as physically strong as a man because they appear to be naturally smaller, but in truth women limit the way their bodies grow in order to stay within the norms. (Same reference as before)

Gender norms also force us to have personalities that are on the opposite spectrum of the opposite sex.  Researchers found that women who tended to be more gender normal were far more different from men than women who moved away from the gender norm.

Together, these results clearly indicate that the social learning of gender, operationalized as the level of conformity to gender norms, plays an important role in personality styles. This would mean that greater or lower compliance to a given set of gender norms leads to differences in personality, and that, regardless of sex, the degree of conformity to these norms establishes differences between people, even within the same sex. Furthermore, those women who adopt and are more identified with what is traditionally expected from them regarding what they should do, think, or feel have personality styles that differ more from those found in men, and those women who comply less with the expectations and feminine norms differ less from men regarding personality styles. Thus, we can state that our data suggest that gender socialization plays an important role in personality differences between men and women, because, when the degree of adherence to gender norms in women is taken into account, the differences with respect to men decrease.

(M. Pilar Sánchez-López, Isabel Cuéllar-Flores, Rosa Limiñana and Javier Corbalán  Differential Personality Styles in Men and Women : The Modulating Effect of Gender Conformity)

Just imagine what kind of lives we could lead and what kind of stereotypes we could crush if we moved away from what society told us gender should be.  Women and men don’t have to be so different from each other, and identifying yourself as a man or a woman despite your genitalia should be no special issue.  Society is dictating our personalities and confining us to being a certain way just because of the way we were born.

The temptation to stay with gender norms is a strong one, and we all struggle with it.  But we can make instructions for other ways of life!  We can learn about different choices and because we would be able to understand them, we could respect them.  Education first, people.  Create instructions for your gender lifestyle, and let other people know that it’s okay to be the way that they are.  The reward system to be happy with yourself will follow.

Resolving Hate… Through Pictures!

So, I realize my last post was full of things people wouldn’t want to hear from a feminist because they dedicate themselves to ignoring what feminists say.  So this supplementary post is filled with pictures with quotes from other people!

I know… calm down Alyssa, they’re still not going to read this.  Oh well.  I have quotes for my feminist friends too, down at the bottom!  But I believe the top quotes are good for anybody fighting for a cause!

Anyway, I think it’s important for us all to take stock of what we’re really doing with our lives.  Strong beliefs are great!  But if you believe that people should be good and decent people, and spend your days being hateful, then you’ve completely missed the point of what you yourself teach!

When you spend time hating other people, you take time away from your own cause.  How are people going to know what you believe when all you say is how someone else is wrong for what they believe?

What good does hate do anyway?  Does it further your cause?  Does it make the world more like you want it to be?  If it does, you need to seriously reconsider your morals!  The world is never better with hate!


And hate certainly don’t help you as a person.  In fact, it empties your life of joy that you seriously need!

Now, I know some people join in on a cause because their friends and family are firmly into that cause.  That will hurt you too!  You spend your days acting like someone who isn’t you, and taking on morals you know to be against your own world views!  How does that help?

Some of you are legitimately worried that if change happens, it will effect you in a negative way.  I understand your fear.  But hating and worrying about change that doesn’t effect you at all is no way to live your life!

Now, for those of you who feel you are being hated on, keep hope!  Anger always stems from another emotion.

Learn from the mistakes of those who hate, because it will help you in the long run.  You don’t want to be like that person, do you?  Of course not!

Don’t let them wear you down!  They may attack you, even personally, but they don’t have the power to make you feel their hate.  If you know what you’re doing is right, then nothing they say should be able to affect you.

Always consider legitimate arguments.  However, many times in angry blogs there is no argument, especially not a legitimate one.  So just let them go.

If it does start to bother you, and I understand it will (it happens to me), take a break and reflect on how awesome you are!  We all have struggles, and the best of us take on a lot of struggles we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Anyway, that’s about all I have to say!  I hope this helps someone to have a better day, or to consider being a better, happier person!

Waste Through Hate

There has been a lot of concentrated backlash against feminism lately.  The “men’s rights activists” are on full alert in forums, and many loyal conservatives are trying to belittle the We are Women march that happened in DC.  Fortunately, I’ve seen little support for them on a large scale, and I hope that people will continue to understand that what feminists are working for is not the degradation of society, but a system of support and equality for all.

What really disturbs me about the backlash is the way that anti-feminists are trying to belittle us.  There is no argument, only snide comments and insults.  They sit and laugh at our attempts of being visible, and invite others to laugh along with them.  I wonder where the honest discourse has gone.  I wonder why we can no longer have different opinions without demonizing each other.  I don’t blame others for having a different opinion from me.  I only work towards making sure that those opinions and lifestyles don’t end up hurting other people.

This active need to tear down others is so saddening.  Gay marriage hurts no one.  Equal rights for all genders and races hurts no one.  But people still refuse to allow these basic rights, and they do it through hate and scorn.

Why are we so obsessed with how others make themselves happy?  Life should be happy, and we should be praising each other and building each other up for being so happy!  Instead, some people make it their personal prerogative to destroy happiness that doesn’t even affect them.  Their concern is solely for themselves.  They worry.  Worry that somehow, this is going to come back around to them.  Make them less moral, take rights from them, raise their cost of living.  It’s just not true.  Equality has time and again shown to improve the lifestyles of people, and if the morals of others damages your own morals, then you weren’t convicted enough as it is.  Besides there’s no harm in your morals being changed so that you are a more accepting and loving person!

We should be working together against what really makes us unhappy.  What really takes away our rights and raises the cost of living, ruins our lives and the lives of those we love.  We should be working together to end sexual violence, poverty, abuse, and a myriad of other issues that ruin lives every day.

I don’t know you, but I love you.  I want you to be happy and to have a fulfilled life.  I want you to do something that makes you proud of yourself, that lets you know that you are worthwhile.  Hating others is never going to give you that feeling of joy.  So if your first action is to attack that which doesn’t hurt you, take stock of why you want to hurt others.  Question your own values and the purpose of your attack.

On a practical note, being hateful is going to get no one on your side but those who already hate as much as you.  You can mock and laugh together, but at the end of the day, nothing gets done.  Nothing changes.  The only difference in that day is that you took action to hurt someone else, and there is no joy in that.

Constant Little Reminders

Once I became a feminist, I found that there was no getting away from the constant reminders of needing to be a feminist.  From the anti-abortion billboard a few blocks from my school to the protestors at the women’s clinic down the street from my house, the church board saying “Eat more chicken” to the emails begging me to sign the petition against the human rights travesty of the week, I see why I need to fight.

We live in a time where the lines are deeply drawn between two opposing sides.  Standing in the middle is nearly impossible, as even the local news has an opinion on where we should go from here.  And I certainly can’t stand in the middle.  I can see both points of view, because they are there, always, for consumption.  Our blogs, facebook, twitter, news, friends, family all have their points of view branded on them.  But there is no way for me to let both sides “live and let live”.  The side that I stand on sees the other side as hurtful, ripping people’s rights away so that they can stay with the status quo.  I see them mocking my loved ones, calling them names for being who they are and loving who they want.

I can’t take it.  I can’t allow them to hurt the people around me.  I have to stand my ground.  And these constant little reminders help me to stay to my convictions, because I can see the fight everywhere.  It isn’t a small thing that we do!  We fight for those we love, whether they want us to or not.  Whether they see the purpose or not.  I don’t mind.  Because I love them.  I love the people around me, and I love the potential of the world.

Don’t get worn down by these reminders.  Take them as little pushes to do what is right, to stand your ground.  You can see the problem clearly, so the solution isn’t far off.

The Anonymous Feminist

In junior high, I had my first little bit of activism.  We had a perverted gym teacher who graded us on our breast size (a strange distinction considering we were all about the same size).  He also peeked into our locker room to watch us as we changed, and we became quickly tired of hiding in the corner while getting into our gym clothes.  All of the girls marched down to the front office and demanded that he be fired.

The front office, being as unbiased as possible, had us all write down our complaint.  We had the choice to stay anonymous, and I took that choice because I feared repercussion from my family if they found out.  Unfortunately, our complaints led to nothing and the gym teacher stayed on.  The two girls who signed their names were yelled at, and as I watched them take the blame for all of us, I felt a twinge of guilt.  I wanted to walk up to him and tell him that I had also complained, and that his excuses were nothing to us.  But I never did.

I still feel guilty about my decision, although at the age we were at, it was hard to make that kind of sacrifice.  But how would the tables have turned if we had all signed our names?  Would he have been able to yell if he had to look at all of us, with our accusing eyes, the boys having no choice but to hear what he was talking about?  Would we have won?

This is how I feel about feminism now.  So many women have made the sacrifice, to stand up without fear and say that they are tired of dealing with the bullshit.  And there are so many others who agree with them that decide to stay silent and allow them to be yelled down, to be told that they were wrong because they were the minority, the children, the delinquents just looking for trouble.

When you admire first, second, and third wave feminists, but refuse to take up the name with them, you’re taking away what little agency they had in the first place.  You’re standing behind them, far away behind them, saying, “Good for you, but I won’t add my voice to the fight.  I refuse to sign my name next to feminism.  It’s too much for me”.  You let them guard you from the punishment that will come.  Your friends, mentors, leaders and models are protecting you and giving you rights.  And you refuse to stand on the line with them because you’re scared.

But how amazing would feminism be if we all took up the name?  The stigma would wash away because we would all stand with our collective voices against the perverted enemy.  The enemy would have to look us in the eye, and explain himself to all of us.

We’re not just a scattered group!  We’re a powerful force, and you have harmed us!  You have done wrong, and now you must answer to us!  We are not the minority!  We are feminists!  What do you have to say to that?  Now you have to answer with the world watching, judging you instead of us, because we stood together and signed our names to the cause!  There is nothing anonymous about us!

Take a moment and think about whether or not you’re being too quiet.  Imagine the enemy staring down at a few speaking out, and then imagine that same enemy backing down because now he has to answer to all of us.  Tell the enemy alongside your fellow feminists that you will not take his excuses, that you know what he’s doing, and that he has no right to do it.  Admit that you’re a feminist, and stand with your heroes.  You’ll soon find that speaking out is less frightening with other feminists at your side.


Put Down Your Shovels

Okay, I’m pulling out the Oxford English Dictionary on this one, and someone’s about to feel like I’m yelling at them, but that’s not what’s happening.  I’m simply clarifying a linguistic pet peeve of mine.

Feminism cannot be dead, because it cannot die.  Ideas do not wither up under scrutiny and time and fall into a grave of their own insecurity.  Even if you took the word “feminism” out of the language, the idea would still be there, stirring up controversy.  People will always search for equality, and women have always struggled to gain and keep their rights.  The movement may appear to “die off”, but there will always be someone working towards the goal.

Saying that a movement is dead is just a way for people to discourage others from joining that movement.  When they say that feminism is dead, they really mean that they don’t believe it has power anymore and can no longer sway the public, or that the word has become so smeared that using the term can only hinder the cause.  This is simply not true.  The word “feminism” has been around for too many years.

Oxford English Dictionary traces it back to at least 1887.  From there on people have been attacking feminists for their agenda, and nothing has ever changed.  Newspapers have time and again placed feminists in the center stage when it came to social change for women.  Even if the people fighting for women’s equality refused to call themselves feminists, other people would still call them by that name.

This is not a testament to the power of words; this is a testament to the power of a strong ideal.  You cannot strike it down.  You can’t kill it, and it can’t die.  So stop asking “Is feminism dead”.  Feminists, Femininjas, Feminazis, Femi-whatever, we’re still talking about working towards equality for all, and there is no grave for you to bury it in.  So put down your word shovels and go do something else.

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