07 December 2010

Gaining Perspective

I've recently spent more time with some of my college friends, most of whom have a lot of the same interests as myself. You know, we talk about race and privilege and oppression and "the powers that be". It's amazing and fulfilling and it reminds me why I loved school and why I love my friends.

Unfortunately, I'm also reminded about how challenging and, in some cases, lonely it is to be a feminist when tons of folks think that means I'm easily offended and too politically correct (whatever that means). BUT, it seems silly to skate around in my privilege moping about people who think I'm too sensitive, when instead I could be implementing my thoughts and ideas and goals through conversations and through my job and through all my interactions. That seems more productive.

The best thing to have happen to me since graduation has been participating in research for a dissertation (thesis? whatever you do when you're a PhD candidate...). A wonderful professor/mentor is looking at white women who identify as anti-racist feminists, and it couldn't have been better timing, really. Just precisely when I was falling out of talking to other folks about feminism and oppression and privilege, she sort of reeled me back in. Insert sigh of relief here!

I can't put into words how absolutely necessary it is for me to be able to talk these things out and be sarcastic and mad and critical, because those opportunities don't pop up as easily in the big kid world. People want to get through their work days as fast and as painlessly as possible so they can get home to watch Glee or head out to the bars or do whatever it is adults do after their adult jobs. Even brief conversations about social justice, crappy policies, and privilege immediately fill me up and rejuvenate me. There's no doubt, really, that these are the things that keep me going. Of course, talking about and examining my own privilege and/or oppression daily is a TRIP. Ups and downs and guilt and frustration, all wrapped up in a pretty box with a big red bow of happiness and excitement and energy.

All's I know is this: I *must* find some way to integrate these things better into my work and my life because, without all of it, I sort of feel like I'm wasting my time on things that aren't the MOST important to me.

08 November 2010

Dubya talks about race

George Dubya has a memoir coming out. In it, I hear he says that the LOWEST point in his presidency was when Kanye called him racist. THAT was his lowest point. Not when Katrina hit, not on 9/11, not at any other point. It happened when Kanye called him racist and Dubya told Matt Lauer that he resents that. Hmpf!

Race has always felt like the most daunting of social justice endeavors for me personally. I can't pinpoint why exactly that is. For a while, I thought it might be because race is one area of social identities where I CLEARLY identify as white and, thus, as privileged. Of course, I've never considered myself low-income but have come to terms with my privilege around that social identity and what it means for me to never have "walked a mile in those shoes." So, I'm beginning to wonder if my discomfort has something to do with the particularly heinous history of white folks and POC, and because I was raised to never pay attention to skin color and to treat everybody equally and all those things that sound good in theory and don't work as well in practice.

But, pause. That sounds like an excuse for being uncomfortable talking about race and working through my own troubles with race.

Because let's be real. There's no way I'm just uncomfortable with race as a social identity because it's a tricky subject. Nah, I think there's more to it. Like, for example, that I'm white and I never had to consciously deal with my race even though every interaction I've ever had in some way could be related back to my race---from the things I talk about to the jokes I find funny to the clothes I wear and the people I call family and the work I do and the causes that matter to me. It would just be ignorant to pretend like my race hasn't impacted all of those things.

Needless to say, I feel like I'm in a constant struggle to balance my privilege around race without spending all day everyday analyzing and over analyzing and thinking and re-thinking if I've said something that could be considered racist or if I've done something subconsciously that might be racist. How can a person be striving towards anti-racism while acknowledging the influence of the mostly white world around me and without letting myself off the hook as an advocate? I get that I can't spend every minute panicking about every word out of my mouth, and that there will be days when someone will call me out on something that probably is racist. AND, it's okay for me to make mistakes and learn from them so I don't make those same mistakes in the future.

Ramble, ramble. Bad at dealing with tough subjects, don't like making people mad.

I annoy me.

But not as much as Dubya annoys me!

17 October 2010


I just pondered all my blogs. What a depressing place, this Intimate Association has become!

Nix the "coming soon" post. I'm pondering up something that will perhaps be more lighthearted and more telling of what I believe to be my usual happy (though cynical and easily annoyed) self. Like, for example, hilarious things that happen at work. About a million situations a day would mandate a post if only confidentiality weren't so darn tricky. Of course, there are ways and it will happen and I will share these stories with you, my few loyal followers.

So, what's REALLY coming soon is something more upbeat that the past 20 posts have been. Here's to being easily annoyed, cynical, and happy all at the same time.*

*None of this is to say that I won't still bring up points regarding privilege, power, feminism, and the like. It IS to say that all of those things can be discussed without leading my readers into a deep, dark place where nobody wants to go.

(P.S. The picture at the top is a visual of "happy".)

06 October 2010

Coming soon

I'm working on writing a post about body image, societal ideas about this, and other such ideas as I have been inspired by a few incredible women who have recently shared their frustrations and feelings via facebook. I'll post it. Someday.

Body image is a constant, wake-up-in-the-morning struggle for me and just the thought of writing about it and exposing myself is stressful and tiring. I think there's some healing power in writing and expressing and telling and I really want to feel that authentically, so I don't want to write and post without assessing and pondering and deleting and re-writing.

There are other topics in the queue that will get some attention soon after I'm done mulling and pacing. Come to find out, blogs are stressful.

29 September 2010

Keeping it going

I never write. I'm the worst blogger there ever was.

I've been considering transitioning to tumblr because people have done some sa-weet things with tumblr. The trouble is, one must write/post in order to have a successful blog. Blogger could be sa-weet like tumblr but only if I actually use it. In my mind, I should only post if I have something BIG or important or profound to talk about, but maybe that isn't the goal at all?

Originally, Intimate Association started as a part of a class project (and because I'd wanted to start a blog for a long time) and that class was focused on social justice. In turn, this blog seemed like it needed to focus on social justice. At the time, it did. Realistically, even if I wanted to write about something besides social justice or feminism, those topics would inadvertently become a part of the entry simply because those topics are an important piece of my world view. Anyway, I've avoided writing/posting because I haven't been feeling as much of a connection with those topics post-graduation.

Maybe I need to expand my blogging horizons and start writing about other things? I could write for years about my job, or about cohabitation, or about how much I like to clean, or probably what I did over the weekend--have you ever been to a country concert?! I now understand why I haven't done that before. If anybody, anybody at all, is reading this, it'd be great to have a few thoughts about what you're reading/writing so that I might be able to try something new.

And, if you're still checking on my blog...thanks. It's been relatively lifeless and cobweb-y around here lately.

30 August 2010

Not a proofreading believer

It's been a while since I wrote [typed?].

Come to find out, the adult world outside of academia is disappointingly uninspiring. It's not that I don't want to write, but rather than all the things happening in life seem unimportant. In my mind, it's better to not write at all than to write something a little boring.

Perhaps this explains a lot about my life.

I'm finding that one of my main struggles in writing and activism and sharing my own stories is that I feel like I have the same perspective as any other white, female-identifying, middle class feminist from the suburbs. What I'm forgetting is the unique perspective of a white, female-identifying, middle class feminist from the suburbs. I mean, it's only so unique (check out Feministing...they've got their fair share of white, middle class, feminist, suburban women [and, in all fairness, a great number of women of color and men, too]). My perspective can be broken down into those identities, or can be broken down into the perspective of someone who graduated from that college with that degree (a degree that deserves more scrutinizing than this entry will offer) who then found a non-profit job in this city at that time. So, it is a unique perspective. AND, it's important that I start talking and sharing from that perspective because it's one with a relative history of relative privilege with intersecting identities that might explain the way I function in the world. Plus, if I hope to work toward breaking down barriers and looking more closely and honestly at my own privilege and the privilege around me, it's doing myself an injustice to keep quiet.

Hopefully I'll be seeing you again soon. With more thoughts and better ideas.

29 July 2010

Moving on up

We (me and the sig.o., of course) are in the process of moving.

I hate moving. Half my stuff is here. Half my stuff is there. And moving is so.expensive! We need to get new this and new that, while meanwhile getting rid of old this and old that. It's a silly process and one that mostly just annoys me, but I'm excited to have it all out of the way.

When we were on the prowl for a new apartment, it wasn't really clear if I'd have a job by moving time so we found a place that was a little less expensive than our current location and without a few of the cushiony amenities that we've come to enjoy. Coincidentally, I now have a job and my partner is applying for jobs as well. Though it's always good to be prepared for the worst, I'm regretting just a little that we didn't have more faith in us. The thing is, we aren't convinced this new place will be so great and that's a little disappointing. As if moving weren't stressful enough, it feels like there's a little extra stress since we aren't as pumped about the actual apartment as we could be. My hope is that the place grows on us enough that we can stay there for longer than a year. I'm soSO tired of moving. All the time.

Once, I tortured myself into counting the number of times I've moved since August of 2006. Ten times. TEN TIMES! Argh.

19 July 2010

Together we rise (but first we have to get together)

I went to an event tonight put on by an organization dedicated to increasing the rights of LGBT folks in Colorado. My organization (well, more specifically, a branch of my organization) is a collaborative member of this effort to increase rights and awareness about rights, and I went as a representative for that group. Ironically, my membership at this town hall style meeting seemed inappropriate considering I was representing a group built for GBT men. Anyway, that's off the point. The purpose of the event was for this organization to hear about the needs of communities and to learn about the priorities of the LGBT community in my area.

There was something like 40 people present, which is a pretty incredible turnout if you've ever been to something like that. And, considering the glistening whiteness of my community, there was a relatively large number of POC and based on my perception, a wide variety of sexualities represented. I was impressed by the overall turnout and glad to see that one of our local government representatives showed up, as well. Less neat was the fellow who showed up who is running for a legislative position in the next county over.

I don't mean to be a jerk or difficult to please, but this guy really made me want to stab holes through my eardrums. I'm sure, in his mind, he was being genuine. But every word out of his mouth was projected as slimy, political mumbo jumbo that was spewed with no other intention than to grab the attention of a few extra potential votes. This dude stood up and started a story off with, "I have a friend who's gay...". As if, PERHAPS, having a friend who's gay makes you an ally. As if eating your mother's dessert means you like it. That, my friend, is not true. I have gathered that the best way to know if you're an ally is if people who identify in (insert name of oppressed group here) believe you are an ally. So, I don't know who considers me an ally and I avoid using that word for myself because I don't want to label myself that way. I do what I can to work for things that my friends of different identities have told me they want, but if I'm not apart of the community it isn't really my place to decide what needs to be done.

(I have a hard time organizing my thoughts in blog form, so thanks for hanging in there with my writing if you've read this far).

The trouble with this fellow was many-fold, but among other things was that he utilized this opportunity, a town hall meeting to share thoughts about what folks in the GLBTQQIA community want/need, to push his own personal agenda (i.e., to get elected). He talked shiz about his opponent and went on to talk about how he supports people in this community because he has a friend who's gay. On the flip side, the second elected official simply shared that he's there to listen and wants to know what he can and should be doing for this community. It's concerning to me that people like the first gentleman could potentially get elected. Granted, he's probably better than his opponent (if his opponent did indeed compare to the GLBT community to murderers), but I'd still rather not vote for him and I'm glad he's not in my area when it comes to voting.

The town hall meeting made me glad to see so many people interested, but one piece made me particularly sad. The Executive Director of the organization running the meeting noted at one point that something like 72% of Coloradans support "equal rights" for GLBT folks, and that the rest oppose equal rights. The problem, he said, is that the small percent that oppose rights do so adamantly while the majority that support equal rights say they want equality but aren't willing to fight for it. I'm frustrated that my peers can feel so nonchalant about it when it impacts everybody. I know that everybody has their issues, but it is infuriating that I know people who care immensely about the friends in the GLBT community, but won't fight for their rights. What has to happen to make that change?

15 July 2010

Gender pay gap

This is re-freakin'-diculous. I hope when I'm old someday, kids will see things like this and think it's as absurd as I believe abstinence only sex education to be. And, hopefully, that'll be history too.

I can hope.

14 July 2010

My neurosis is spilling over

Maybe one of the most challenging things for me in terms of my work (or, really, in life in general) is to not take myself too seriously. It has been the case for as long as I can remember that when I make a mistake (even a small mistake), I tear myself apart about it for days on end. The plus side is that I typically avoid ever making that same mistake again. Ever. The downside is that I lose sleep over things like forgetting to close my window at work before heading home for the day.*

Today, I managed to show up 35 minutes late for an hour-long meeting. It was a conference call with someone who is a senior adviser for the American Psychological Association in DC, and with the program manager of the program that funds my position, and our Executive Director. So, of all the meetings to which I might show up late, this was a bad option. Nobody lectured or even really stared me down, but that's certainly a bad image to portray. It's also a particularly frustrating image considering I'm typically overly careful about timeliness. There's really no excuse, as far as I'm concerned regarding myself, for being late. There may be reasons, though, and in this case there were reasons. Specifically, the meeting was originally scheduled for noon and then was moved to 11, but I forgot to change the time on my calendar. So, I meandered about waiting for noon to come. By chance, I walked past the meeting on my way to the bathroom and then promptly changed my meandering to profuse nervous sweating. Anyway, if nothing else, it was embarrassing and unprofessional. Considering how lax my place of employment is in all other matters, the least I could do is show up on time for important meetings. That certainly isn't a good representation of our organization with other organizations, so boo on me.

On the flip side of things, I can guess that the people in DC will forget or have already forgotten that I was late. And, I triple and quadruple apologized to my ED (heh, ED) for being late, and I just can't do much more than that at this point. Anyway, why be so serious and down on myself? On a larger picture, it doesn't matter that I was late. Shiz happens and people are late and that's the way the world works. I wonder, though, how to go about convincing myself of that? There's a great chance I'll wake up again in the middle of the night and tear myself apart about it.

To stick with the general theme of my blog, I feel like there is a particularly large amount of pressure put on people to perform at incredibly high levels in the US. I know very, painfully little about other countries in terms of values around working, but I have gathered that few other countries stress work in the same way that we tend to in the United States. Naturally, that's a broad generalization that doesn't always fit. However, if that generalization holds any truth, I want to just say that I don't think that pressure to perform so "well" at work actually makes people work better or harder. In this case, I think it drives me a little bit wild. I sleep less, I stress more than could ever possibly be healthy, I tear myself apart, and in the process I end up doing worse work because I feel bad. Now, if I were you, I would be thinking, "Gol-lee! She missed half a meeting! It doesn't even matter!" Annnndddd, you're right--it doesn't matter. It's fair to mention that I'm maybe a hint more neurotic than the average person and I have REALLY high expectations for myself. All the same, it's not healthy and not necessary. The best I can do, so far as I can tell, is to always be improving while also sometimes giving myself a break. As much as I'd like to be the perfect employee, such a magical thing doesn't exist and is less likely to exist than Big Foot (whatever, I don't know if Big Foot exists) or a unicorn, maybe.

Thanks for reading if you read this far. My neurosis might rub off on you, so be careful.

*In all reality, that's a reasonable concern. I also forgot to lock my cabinets which contain immense amounts of confidential information about clients. But still, waking up at 1:30am and staring at the ceiling, filled with angst, for two hours seems a little excessive.

11 July 2010

Vacation, all I ever wanted!

I went on "vacation" this weekend. I quote because it was one full day and another 12 hours or so that I was away from home. It was delightful and my partner and I enjoyed some much needed time away from this world where people have HIV and everybody hates feminists and freshman composition. As a side note, I hate the word 'freshman' but felt like I should just use that word so you, my faithful readers, would know what I was talking about. Calling it 'first-year composition' takes the scathing torture out of the word.

I digress.

Even if I'm not longer living in the beautiful, heart-wrenching world of social justice academia, I still spend many minutes of every day pondering the way I present myself in the world, considering the privilege from which I know I come. Whilst off enjoying a vacation, I realized what a funny thing a vacation is. Let me tell you about how many POC I saw over the course of the weekend: approximately 10. Realistically, there were more than that, but considering how many people were relaxing in the same small mountain town as myself, that's a relatively small number. And, are you curious to know about where specifically I saw those folks? Almost always working in shops or serving at the bar. Meanwhile, I was ordering drinks and minding my own business. It's a frustrating thing, I think, to be in a place like that and to note how many people there are like me and how few people there are who do not bare the same skin tone as myself. Is vacationing kind of a gringo thing to do? Speaking from my own experience, my family rarely vacationed when I was a kid. Usually, we went to Disneyland which is, in case you didn't know already, the happiest [read: most oppressive] place on earth! So, my vacationing knowledge is slim. Fill me in, blog world. Do I just go to places where all the white people hang out? Because if that's the case, I need to know how to expand my vacationing horizons without a) losing all my money, and b) intruding in spaces where I'm not really invited.

I love vacations, even if I simply leave my home and go somewhere else for a weekend. I don't, however, like leaving my town just to go some other place exactly like the place I left. Perhaps it's time to do some research about the things other people do when they get away from the daily thrill of work and school.

29 June 2010

For the biggest win!

I just need to note that few things make me happier in the world than when I realized my partner is on board with feminism (even if he won't call himself one). What kind of a champ offers to pay for half my birth control without my prodding?!?!?!? Yessssssssssssss.

17 June 2010


Things I've been meaning to write about, but haven't gotten around to:
  • remember when rape jokes weren't funny? That time is now. They still aren't funny. They weren't funny yesterday, they aren't funny today, and I'd be willing to be all my money that they won't be funny again ever.
  • Transitioning from full time student + employee at a feminist workplace + volunteering (equaling out to what I imagine was a 70+ hour week) into the 40hour/week working world is more difficult than anticipated.
  • On a similar note, how do grown ups find hobbies? I don't know what to do with myself at night besides put pajamas on and watch TV.
  • Why living with a partner is better than living alone.
  • Why being exceptionally independent makes living with a partner a challenge from time to time (and less so when he cooks for you every night...!!!)
  • Exercising doesn't come naturally to me. Evidently, gaining weight at rapid speed does. Well.
I guess that's about all. Sorry to the 0.5 people who read my blog. Or, sorry to myself for not writing more often. I'm not very crafty or clever or inspired for words.

06 June 2010

Working in the working world

I recently began working for what I like to call a "Big Kid" job. You know, 40 hours/week, salaried pay and benefits. It's great, mostly because when I was in school I was "working" for probably 60+ hours/week. Suffice it to say, I am beyond excited to work 40 hours, then go home and do other things. It's an interesting transition moving into the workforce, particularly at an economic time such as this. I wanted to celebrate getting a job, but everybody else I know who has graduated (and who matters to me) is still job-less. Granted, it's only been 3 weeks since graduation. All the same, friends and the such are becoming anxious about the job search, while I get up and go to work on my usual 9-5 schedule. I don't feel guilty, really, because I worked hard in school and feel like I'm qualified for the job I was offered. However, that brings up some interesting privilege issues for me. I doubt I got this job simply because I'm a hard-working, badass individual. I'm certain that any number of things played a part in the offer, but here are some things I know:
  • I am white; all but one person at my new workplace (based on my perception) is white. This, to me, is particularly curious because the work done by this non-profit is for a community of folks that is disproportionately made up of POC. For me, there's a bit of an awkward power dynamic because of that. Also, if I were a POC seeking our services, I might be a bit uncomfortable sharing the intimate details of my life (which most clients do, considering the details of the job) with someone who, relatively speaking, doesn't "get" those details that well.
  • I am a woman hired into a non-profit setting. While I'm not willing to go find statistics, I can safely say that the majority of folks who work in the non-profit setting are women. Interestingly, a vast number of our clientele is made up of men, identifying along the range of sexualities. It's really no surprise that a white woman was hired on, though it is interesting that the make-up of the staff at this particular non-profit is pretty evenly split between the menfolk and the womenfolk.
  • I'm a VERY recent graduate that applied for an entry-level non-profit position. During the group interview with 8 other applicants, I took note of the people in the room. Of the 9 of us, here's what I gathered: 3 men were present, one who appeared to be a man of color, 2 who I perceived as white, and one who openly identified as gay. Of the 6 women in the room, all appeared white to me, and none openly expressed an identity other than straight. Three of the applicants identified as NOT recent graduates of an undergrad degree (or, in this case, were non-traditional applicants for an entry-level position) while all the rest of us identified as recent graduates (within the last year). Needless to say, I blended into that crowd identity-wise, but I must have done something right to have been offered the job.
Anyway, maybe all of that doesn't seem terribly relevant, but I think it is. Part of me wants to jaunt about with my chest out, telling people, "well, yes! As a matter of fact, I did get a job promptly after graduating during a terrible recession! I must be awesome!" But, the truth is, I think my identities (which I cannot control in some cases, but have the fortune of addressing and recognizing anyway), and especially those that are dominant societal identities, played an important role in my obtaining a job right after graduation. Nevertheless, I think I'm awesome and think (hope) I'll be awesome at this job.

04 May 2010

Saving the ta-tas

I have something VERY important to say [type]. The above image makes me more mad than almost anything on the face of the planet. It is not because I'm against breast cancer awareness campaigns. In fact, I'm pro-finding a cure. What I am not all about is finding a cure and meanwhile objectifying the body part that is the target of this particular type of cancer. Allow me to explain.

Last year, I worked in a residence hall where a supervisor (who I thought was a creepy, womanizing jerk anyway) wore a shirt that said the above gem. Because he happened to be wearing it on one particular day where I was feeling especially triggered by life and patriarchy and men, I may have essentially scolded him for wearing it and for not understanding why it was, in my opinion, really awful and misogynistic and, honestly, annoying as fuck. Naturally, as is the case with men (or supervisors, I guess), he was unappreciative of my scolding and we became un-friendly for the rest of the year. Prior to that experience, I hadn't really examined why those shirts and bracelets, and the others like them, felt so triggering to me. And, at the time, I doubt I was really explaining myself very clearly.

The trouble is not a desire to bring an end to breast cancer. The trouble is that breast cancer has garnered an immense amount of support recently, and I'm not convinced it is because of the severity of breast cancer (which is NOT to say I doubt the severity. I totally get that breast cancer can be extremely life changing and/or deadly for many women, and men too). According to the CDC, on average each year more women die from heart disease than from cancer, the 2nd leading cause of death. It's important to note that the numbers switch for American Indian/Native American and Alaska Native women, and for Asian/Pacific Islander women. Even then, the focus on breast cancer is fascinating. Overall, more women are dying from heart disease than any form of cancer, so why don't we have promos like "Save the Hearts" or something? I'm about 110% sure these campaigns wouldn't be as popular if the slogan was "Save the Colon".

The point here is, I think a big part of the reason that breast cancer awareness has been such a hip thing is because breasts are such a culturally identifying trait of women, and a characteristic that is sexually appealing and pleasing for all genders. So, I don't think people are worried about breast cancer because of their exceptional concern for women and their bodies. Nay, I think it's really because people want boobs to play with, to look at, or to fit best into women's clothing. The other slogan that comes to mind is "Save second base". So, clearly, the focus here is the sexuality of breasts and not the immense health concerns that come along with having breast cancer, and additionally the potential loss of parts or all of one or both breasts due to cancer and the loss of self/femininity/woman-ness that could perhaps come with that.

*I* would really like to see some reframing around the way breast cancer is presented and the way the cure is funded. I understand that these types of slogans are popular and are hot buys, so organizations can make oodles of money to put towards research to find a cure for breast cancer. I'm all about finding a cure. I just wish it could be done in a non-objectifying kind of way.

01 May 2010

Leaving people out, as usual

Since pretty much the beginning of feminism (which I assume was whenever some super-BA kind of woman stood up to her husband or quit making babies 'cuz she wanted to, meaning since always), this movement has failed to include all groups in a way that makes the movement itself more powerful, useful, and applicable to a wider range of folks. I know I spent far too much time counting myself as a feminist (which came after I learned that feminists can, in fact, still like the menfolk and wear bras if they so choose) while also excluding broad groups of people from that ideal. Still, I catch myself thinking exclusive kinds of things about feminism, about who can and cannot be a feminist, as if I were the feminist police. I've really worked hard in the last year or two to grow my feminism into an ideal and a life practice that takes into account intersections and differences and provides space for feminists who also identify with things like Christianity or as a Republican. Unfortunately, it was and still is tough to make those changes after being raised in a world where not everybody gets to be the same.

As of late, I've noticed that some of my social justice peers at my University have taken to alienating (or so it seems and feels) folks who do not fight as hard for an issue as themselves. It seems like this alienation comes in the form of incessant badgering and an overload of comments on facebook that address and talk about and work through whatever said issue might be. In the most recent case, I've seen an excessive amount of badgering going on regarding SB1070 out of Arizona. While I want to point out that I don't support this bill in the least, I'm also working hard to recognize the intersections of the ways class or even gender play into it. Certainly, from a feminist POV, it's hard to see it as anything but racial profiling. But, that's aside the point. Some folks agree with the bill, some folks don't. But where ever someone might stand on that issue is not impacted by rude comments or comments that make people feel alienated, judged, or looked down upon for agreeing. I'm a firm, FIRM believer that change comes with excessive amounts of understanding, education, listening, and dialoguing, and not through rude exchanges and covert put-downs. In fact, it really irks me that people get so caught up in being a better activist/feminist that they forget that much of this movement, from my perspective anyway, is about including even those who disagree to have dialogue and to progress from those initial viewpoints...on both sides. I know I have a lot to learn from people on all sides of every issue, and we could probably all move forward with positive social change much more quickly if we didn't get so caught up in emotion.

That being said, I can't stress enough how much I value personal stories as a way of moving forward and creating change. Stories make issues real and personal, and I think that's a huge element that sometimes gets left out of academic work around social justice.

But I digress. I've just been frustrated lately with some of the conversations I've overheard/witnessed around social issues. With folks who lie on the humanist/feminist side of things arguing and battling like war, I don't see us ever moving forward. I want to encourage my peers to really examine how they present themselves in conversations and how they approach the subjects where they most want to see change. It seems so pointless to work so hard for something just to see if break apart before your eyes because you couldn't manage to see the POV of someone who sees things differently.

I need some perspective: is it better to throw your emotions out there in social change conversations, even if it means potentially losing a possible future supporter in the name of talking to everybody about that issue? Or, is it better to maybe not get someone completely on board with your views, but let someone know that you understand their views and want to work together to make change?

Make sense? Whatevs, thoughts and criticisms welcome.

15 April 2010

Using radio to encourage manliness

In the past, I've pretty much stayed away from listening to the radio in my car for no reason other than the fact that my own music is a lot better [IMHO]. However, because of a busy schedule and laziness and little time spent in my car, the radio has been playing more and more often. And, come to find out, the radio isn't a very "safe space" to be a feminist. More than once during the last week, my preferred station (I'm having a hard time remembering why I like it anymore...) has been broadcasting these awful conversations between their DJs and whoever chooses to call in and chat with the DJs. Most recently, the radio show hosts, who I perceive to be men (in fact, I believe they've both IDed themselves as men on the show) asked listeners to call in about their most "girly-man" friends, whatever the crap that means. So, people called in to chat about their male partners who shave body hair or get it waxed, or about how they prefer to wear pink shirts everyday. The DJs were just dying the whole time, like pink-clad men are unheard of in their worlds. After each caller explained their girly-manness, the DJs went on and ONNNNN about this apparent phenomenon and gushed and cracked jokes and were apparently shocked about this.

I don't know about you, but I don't really get it.

First of all, it's just annoying to listen to (so I stopped, don't worry about it). I would like to please know what the need was for this conversation. I felt like the whole conversation was getting at socialized standards of masculinity and femininity, and what it means to be a REAL man (versus, apparently, a fake one). For whatever silly reasons that I do not understand, wearing pink and calling yourself a man actually makes you a girly-man. And getting rid of body hair, well, only the REALEST menz keep their body hair. Physical body standards don't really add up to me as the components of masculinity, because I don't really know anymore what masculinity is, aside from a narrow box to assign roles to people so they know how to act in the world. Meanwhile, those standards hurt men because they have to reach and reach and reach to obtain the unobtainable standards of manliness. At the same time, non-men deal with the internalized impacts of men forcing men to be REAL men. It shows up in the form of rape and sexual assault, in violent relationships, in homophobia, and in encouraging other men to strive for those standards.

So, thanks, Unnamed Radio Station, for perpetuation unrealistic standards of gender socialization on a daily basis. No wonder men rape other people in an effort to attain some ounce of the power they're told they should have.


12 April 2010

Reproductive justice: bigger than abortion

The big issue that I think initially pushed me into feminism was the "choice" issue and reproductive justice. Since high school, I've been super interested in abortion rights and access, and have worked with any number of national organizations in guaranteeing that my generation and the next continue to have safe, legal access to abortion and other reproductive health care. So enveloped in this issue, I didn't realize that I was missing a HUGE, enormous, astronomically important piece of the issue. Choice is really important and, I think, a key aspect of the reproductive rights movement. However, it is NOT an all-encompassing view of repro justice. In fact, it skips most discussions about what "choice" REALLY means.

"Choice" means having the option of choosing to pay for an abortion, paying to give birth and adopt out, or paying to raise a child. "Choice" also means telling your doctor that you do NOT want to be sterilized, and having a doctor who obeys that request. "Choice" can mean that you don't have to worry about your doctor choosing a C-Section for you because it makes the procedure take less time. On top of all of those, "choice" is being able to have the financial means to go to a doctor who knows your cultural traditions, recognizes the value of those traditions for you, and who abides by your every wish to make your medical experience as pleasant as possible. So, really, choice is a lot more than "choosing" an abortion. Some women live in communities that perhaps encourage abortions for Women of Color, or other communities that post billboards encouraging Black/African-American women to stop obtaining abortions. These messages aren't clear and steer clear of actually explaining the issue fully.

I think there needs to be a shift in the way we as a culture look at this issue, and it starts with re-evaluating what we mean when we use the word "choice". I would love to see a transition away from the epic, never-ending battle of Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life (whatever either of those terms mean) and into a movement for reproductive justice. The issue is about so many things outside of abortion that it just doesn't fit to phrase your stance based on that one issue. One of the ways I think we need to start making that transition is to make information about repro justice more accessible to more communities.

This past weekend, Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (CLPP) put on its annual reproductive justice conference. The theme this year was "From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom". I didn't plan my schedule well enough to go (*pout*), but it sounds like it was an amazing weekend, and I think the conference organizers did a great job of highlighting that this issue is more than abortion. However, the conference was held on the east coast, which is a pretty hefty plane ticket if you're coming from almost anywhere. Conference attendees were able to choose how much they paid for the actual conference, childcare was available, and the overall experience sounds like it was pretty accessible for folks with disabilities. It sounds like organizers did everything they could to make this conference one that had as few barriers for attendance as possible. Unfortunately, it also took place over the course of 3 days which is a pretty substantial chunk of time for people who may need to work nearly everyday. The point is, unless you had money to afford a plane ticket or lived in the area, or you have the availability with work/school to take off for a few days, the conference wasn't very easy to access. What that means is that a lot of voices went unheard at that event, and it isn't unlike other similar events.

I attended the March for Women's Lives in 2004, which was an incredible experience with the women in my family. Meanwhile, if you didn't have the funds to afford to travel to Washington D.C., purchase a hotel room for at least a night, and also take that time off work, that event was also missing some representation. These events are absolutely necessary if we ever hope to invoke change in the future for this issue, and I don't think we should stop having them. On the same token, I hope we can start finding ways to reach out to low-income women (who are often the women who are most impacted by this issue), Women of Color, and other marginalized identities to make sure those voices are heard, too. I recognize the challenges of an organization to make these events accessible without also draining their funding, but I would love to see (and be apart of) those efforts to include more people.

02 April 2010

Barely touching the surface of white privilege

I spend a lot of time talking about my subordinated identities (being a woman, specifically, but among a few others), and very little time talking about my privileged or dominate identities. This is one of the biggest fails of the current feminist movement from my perspective (which is of course colored by my experiences as a white, middle class, non-Christian, US born, pansexual, college educated women) because I spend so much time working on unpacking my [very few] subordinated identities that I don't take the time to unpack what comes with my [many] dominant identities. If I ever anticipate change, perhaps the way to do so is not by working on changing the minds of those with dominant identities, but rather by making an effort to work on my own dominant identities. On the same token, I don't expect that all men will suddenly understand how their gender identity oppresses other genders, and I suppose I'll have to continue learning and educating about gender oppression while also learning about my dominant identities and about all the ways those identities impact others without my knowledge.

For example! I am white. This is no secret, but I lived the majority of my life paying nearly no attention to the fact that I am white and receiving any number of privileges based on that uncontrollable piece of my identity. I went through elementary, middle, and high school in a predominantly white, middle class neighborhood where I was never questioned by authority figures based on the color of my skin, assumed to be stealing because of the color of my skin, or regarded as unworthy by teachers and classmates if I made a mistake. While I was dealing with other issues I'm certain, I never dealt with race in the same ways as people of color. Daily, however, my perceived racial/ethnic identity gave me endless advantages over the other students of color at my schools. Teachers probably paid more attention to me and heaped on words of encouragement when I did something only mediocre (which may have also been because I was a girl), invited me to join clubs and groups and honors societies, and pushed me to reach higher and do better. The point is that I was never forced to be aware of my whiteness, and in turn benefited from it daily without knowing it.

I think this is an enormous error on the part of white people. I was raised to believe that everybody is the same, everybody deserves my friendship or caring or love. Unfortunately, the world outside of my home wasn't so encouraging of those relations, and I wasn't ever pushed to defy those expectations that I found at school, work, and play. I can, in fact, remember my first friend who identified as a person of color. She was great and one of my best friends, but we as a pair had almost no other mutual friends. We spent time together at school, during lunch, and in classes, but we went our separate ways once the bell rang. I rarely called her at home because I was intimidated by my lack of knowledge about her family, and then she moved away for her father's work and we've hardly spoken since. I think that, in my community, it didn't seem acceptable to be friends outside of a school setting, and neither of us pushed that limit. I could attribute the characteristics of our friendship to other things, like maybe we were involved with different activities after school, or we didn't have any way to get to and from each other's houses. Of course, those same things stood in the way of my time with white friends too, but I found a way to make that work. It would be interesting to know now if my friend actually saw it at that point as an issue of white versus non-white. I've become increasingly more aware that people of color are often raised with the knowledge from family members that they are not the "same" as the white kids. So maybe she knew that our friendship was a little taboo, even in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Even if she didn't, looking back, we might both be able to pinpoint that as one of the reasons for our friendship demise.

It should really be a conversation all along that white people benefit in this society, often by no fault of their own, but at the expense of people of color, and that we should be aware of. I see trouble when those who are subordinated get to spend so much of their time recognizing and experiencing that position in society, while those who (intentionally or not) continue to enforce societal norms around power and privilege don't spend any time at all pondering their role in that. It seems inappropriate that those in the dominant role not consider how to make positive changes and leave that work to those who are subordinated because of the attitude that it doesn't really affect them. I would say that white privilege affects everybody, holding everybody to absurd stereotypes that don't make any sense when applied to entire groups. That is only one of the reasons that one might consider paying more attention to their whiteness. On top of that, folks who care about others might be interested in how their unintentional actions impact the lives of others. I don't love the idea that because I had no control over the color of my skin that I now get to ignore injustices or ignore my own role in those injustices. It seems unfair that people of color get to think about it day in and day out while I ignore the ways I am oppressive.

The idea of whiteness is really REALLY big and I don't think I could write a dissertation and cover all of the points of research and thought about this. Hopefully I'll delve into this more at another point. In the meantime, you should probably read White Like Me by Tim Wise. He does a brilliant job, I think, of putting this issue into words and stories that make the issue relevant to people who've never thought about it before [ahem, white people].

22 March 2010

Why immigration is more than politics

I recently returned from an Alternative Spring Break trip that took me to the faraway land of Tucson, Arizona to learn about immigration from a social justice perspective. Our group worked with Humane Borders, a faith-based organization that places water tanks in the desert in southern Arizona to help prevent migrant deaths due to dehydration. We also visited Blessed Nuno Society, located in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, to get a better look at what life is like across the invisible line we call the U.S.-Mexico border.

For the sake of a general overview, and as if you have been living under a massive boulder for the last several years, the United States has experienced an enormous increase in the number of unauthorized* migrants crossing the border between the United States and Mexico. The vast majority of these people are NOT crossing with the intent of moving their families and their lives to the United States. Come to find out, we aren't as desirable a place to live as some of us might want to believe. Most people who travel to the United States without authorization do so in order to find temporary work. The hope is often that temporary work will suffice until families can find better ways to support themselves in their native countries. Unfortunately, with globalizing efforts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it has become increasingly more difficult for people south of the border to make a sustainable wage. In the past, Mexico was primarily a farming nation, but NAFTA has made it nearly impossible for farmers to earn a fair trade price for crops. It has become more cost effective for the United States to purchase produce grown in this country rather than import crops from elsewhere. In turn, the Mexican economy has very little substance to serve as a foundation, and things such as drug sales have become a source of profit for the very few people who have chosen that line of work. The vast majority of people who cross the border, contrary to popular belief, are not smuggling drugs or bringing dirty bombs into the United States. (as one piece of hate mail stated that was received by my Alternative Spring Break group). In reality, many of the people who have crossed the border are doing so out of sheer desperation to sustain their families.

Prior to this experience, I really felt unsure about my opinions about immigration. Some have argued that people who are not authorized to be in the United States may not be paying full taxes like those who are citizens. They do, however, pay sales taxes every time they make a purchase in the United States. Depending on their job status, they may very well be paying income taxes and into Social Security, too. Of course, they will likely never see any return on the Social Security payments (though, I may not either at this point...). I also recognize the argument that unauthorized immigrants are working jobs in the United States that could potentially be filled by citizens in the United States, but I think that argument missed the part where most U.S. citizens are unwilling to work low wage, physically laborious jobs. Additionally, I wonder if some of those employers (i.e., fruit orchards, vegetable fields, etc) may not pay minimum wage and perhaps pay workers under the table. Consider that simply a thought since I don't have research to back that up. Anyway, those are just a few of the arguments I had heard before this experience.

At this point, my main concern is that the human aspect has been completely eliminated from conversations about immigration. I'm worried about how little people care about their fellow humans who are in dire need. During our time with Humane Borders, we visited a few of the water tanks placed in the desert. I was [somewhat] surprised to see how many of them had been vandalized. People took down the flags that alert migrants to the existence of the water tanks and threw them out into the desert. Some people shot holes through the tanks so as to drain the water. Some tanks were filled with dirt. It was really shocking to see how upset people were about preventing deaths in the desert. I've been asked several times since I have returned if I think that the water tanks encourage migrants to cross the border, and the best answer I can give is the one given by Humane Borders, which is this: people don't cross the border and travel through the desert for water; they do so for jobs, to survive. Whether or not water is available is unimportant. That jobs may be available and that parents may be able to support their children for another month is what matters.

So, these are the aspects of this debate that make immigration a feminist issue. As a feminist who also identifies as a humanist, I am worried about the way ALL people are treated in this world. Looking at the topic of immigration from an entirely humanitarian effort helped me remember that what matters to me is that people can live and work and sustain themselves while making choices without limitations in a world that supports them. In the case of immigration, choices have been hindered because of policies like NAFTA that restrict commerce between countries, and in turn people cannot support their families with available market jobs. So, they have turned to a market where jobs are available to them, but they have not done so out of choice. In one documentary that we watched (I can't remember for sure, but I think it was The 800 Mile Wall), a mother stated that she had two choices: watch her children die slowly for the next year, or take a life-or-death journey into the United States in hopes of finding work. That doesn't sound like a real choice to me.

Having discussed all of this, it only seems appropriate that I toss out a few thoughts regarding solutions. First, I think we need to start looking at this issue from a perspective that recognized the humanity of those most central in this discussion: immigrants. By doing so, we will be able to begin crafting solutions that make sense for the United States, for Mexico, and for all the people stuck in between. I'm sorry to say that building a wall along the border does not, in fact, protect anybody from anybody in this case, but rather makes the border an ugly, unforgiving place that funnels people into the death trap that is the Sonoran desert. Second, we need to seriously consider work visas that are tied to the employee (versus the employer) so they may have some ounce of pull in case they are treated poorly by their employers. Third, the border needs to be demilitarized. Using Black Hawk helicopters (read: people-killing war machines) to stop people from traveling through the desert in search of jobs is just plain inhumane. Knock it off.

There are a million other things that could (and should) be done about this issue, and I have an immense amount of educating myself to go before I can even begin to fully understand the complexities of all those options. Additionally, I know I've missed some big points here about the great immigration debate. The above are a few good first steps that can potentially lead to other bigger, more important second and third steps. The topic of immigration won't be going away any time soon, so we might want to start having productive discussions about other options (clearly, a 20 foot wall isn't doing the trick). And, wouldn't it be nice to include the voices of those who are migrating into the conversation?

*I have heard so many different preferred terms for people who are migrating that I thought I should clarify my use of the term unauthorized. This is the term I have heard most recently as the most acceptable term. "Illegal immigrants" is considered less than great because, as they say, "no human is illegal" (but their actions may be). I then began using "undocumented immigrants", but was corrected on this because many people travel here with documentation (i.e., passports, visas, etc), but then stay longer than their visa/passport/document allowed. Thus, I have come to use the term "unauthorized" as a way of signifying that a person does not have the proper authorization to be in the United States.

05 March 2010

Vagina Monologues

I fo' real don't know what I'm doing. And on that note, I write.

My bomb roomie and I went to The Vagina Monologues tonight. Boss! I love things like that, and I loved to see a healthy turn out for the event (which benefited the local sexual assault advocate's center). What I did NOT appreciate about the event and about the audience was, first and foremost, the people sitting behind us. I perceived them to be a group of cisgender white women. I also perceived them to be at this play because the word "vagina" was in the title, and because they needed a new "girls night out" activity. I'm not about to get all uppity about these perceived women enjoying their Friday night at a fun event that benefited a GREAT organization. I will, however, get all uppity about these apparent women perhaps missing some of the points. I appreciate a good time (seriously, I do), and I think I also understand that this world is not made up of rainbows and butterflies. For anybody who has seen The Vagina Monologues, you'll know that it is a cleverly crafted production that is both funny and emotionally poignant at times, too. While I appreciate a hearty laugh here and there (in fact, all the time), I can't get down with snide comments after serious points. At one point, the narrator shares facts about Female Genital Mutilation, which comes shortly after one of the many hilarious pieces. One of the individuals behind me was apparently displeased with this information, which I have assumed based on the comment, "thanks for ruining the mood." I am evidently unclear about what mood this person was going for, and wonder if perhaps she would have more appreciated this information if she thought it affected her life in any way.

I recognize that feminism/humanism/caring about people isn't an opportunity to be an elitist jerk all the time, and I also know that sometimes these commentaries sound like I'm poo-pooing on everybody's fun. But I guess I get confused when people hear facts about things like Female Genital Mutilation (which, by the by, I have not studied extensively but believe has some real cultural value and cannot be evaluated from a white, US-ian, middle class standard), and are then disappointed to have had their apparent mood ruined. I'm sorry you've been so tossed from your comfort zone that merely hearing about FGM has ruined your mood! Anyway, I see that these women probably had pure intentions (or something), and I'm glad they went and that the money from their tickets went to support an AWESOME organization. I'm sad that they couldn't take the good with the bad (read: the good with the dose of reality).

On another note, I have made a concerted effort to notice lately what types of people fill what types of spaces. Certainly, these attempts are based entirely off of my own perceptions and, in many cases, mean very little. However! I did note that every one of the 8 or so women who performed in tonight's event appeared to be white. I trust [hope] that isn't entirely accurate, but I also know that I happen to live in the heart of a predominantly white town.

All in all, The Vagina Monologues was a great success, entertaining, and heartwarming. As expected. And, unsurprisingly, some people annoyed me. All in a day's work!

19 February 2010

The Purpose

As a Women's Studies student at the undergraduate level, it seems a logical step to begin using my knowledge, privilege, views, and values in a way that could potentially benefit the world, or at least add another voice to the wide array of the feminist blogs. What follows are my thoughts about current events and topics that matter to me as a feminist, a student, a young woman, and a human living as a small part of this varied world in which we all live.