On becoming a maleist

When I was about five years old my family and I were on summer vacation. We were staying at a “camp” (which to all of those outside of Maine is a summer house on a lake) with a big porch off one side of it.

One morning, I decided the porch must be swept. But I didn’t just want to sweep, I wanted to really maximize the moment. So what did I do? I dressed myself up in a long skirt and a bandana crafted out of a kitchen towel. Only then was I truly ready to pursue my goal for the morning.  I remember being SO proud as I swept that porch clean, nearly dancing through the movements in a happy rendition of some 1800s peasant scene I had conjured in my mind.  So proud was I that I even asked my parents to capture the precious moment with a photo, a request to which they happily obliged.

A few years and many dress-up episodes later, we were all back at this same camp. This time I decided to beautify my brother and dress him as a girl. I put him in a spaghetti-strap tank top, gelled up his hair, and masked his face in cheap child’s make-up. I thought he looked great! My parents, however, were not pleased with my artwork. Essentially, I was shaming him; certainly this was not appropriate play for a seven-year-old boy.

Now are we seeing a gender binary or what? Of course it’s okay for a little girl to emulate an older woman cleaning. But god forbid a little boy is put to express his potential feminine side.

My little anecdotes here are certainly not new experiences to most, but I do think they’re quite illustrative of what our society so fears today: misplaced femininity.

We fear so much to be called a sissy, a pussy, or god forbid, a girl. We fear to show weakness through our feelings (because only females have feelings, and therefore feelings are for the weak, obviously). We fear to have children and lose the race against male dictated capitalist success. And we absolutely fear to be “crazy”.

Society is so fearful of not just female-connoted weaknesses, but especially of male enactments of femininity, that we actually teach females to enact a super femininity. As long as females stay feminine (emotional, weak, and beautified with particular clothes and make-up), we will never truly challenge nor confuse masculinity for anything other than strength, logic, and innate correctness (as it is indicated with masculine bodies and behaviors).

Okay that’s a rather loaded paragraph. What I mean to say is this: in order for men to be as manly as they are, they need women to remain super feminine. As long as we women enact our gender with skirts and craziness (ahem, emotions), it’s going to be near impossible to redefine society’s concepts of strength and wisdom, because those are traits connected to everything masculine.

For a while now I’ve been thinking, why is it that I wear make-up every day? Why do I like to wear such feminine clothing? And why the heck do I bother to shave my legs all the time?  Sometimes I actually tell myself its because I choose these styles because I feel powerful when I look my best. But then I think, this power it absolutely connoted with a male-dominated society where female enactments at least garner me mainstream acceptance.

Yet, I’m not ready to chop off my hair and ditch the skirt I’m currently wearing. I like being a female. I like the way I look (if for no other reason than the fact that after 10 years of wearing mascara every day my face looks much more familiar this way). Being a woman can be and is normally great (which should and will be another post in itself).

Perhaps rather than asking females to continue emulating males in their pursuits for success in modern day life, we should teach/encourage/push/ask males to be more “feminine”. Maybe we don’t need to dress them up with spaghetti-strap tank tops, but we could open up a space for men to be more emotional and more aware of other forms of strength.

A couple of weeks ago I was in my gender and diversity class, and we had a guest speaker for the day. This particular man spoke to us about a group of males of which he was a part. This group encourages men to not just combat gender violence, but to open up themselves to one another in authentic conversations about emotions and life experiences (how “girly”/awesome does that sound?!) He described to us a different type of masculinity, one in which maleness was expressed and valued, but in non-violent, non-dominating ways. Rather, the guys in his group support each other with male-defined peace, caring, and equality.

Now, how difficult is it to digest that sentence… that males can might want the same things as women are traditionally made to want? (If you think I’m generalizing about gender-based values (which I admittedly am), I am doing so with consideration to only what I have lived and learned. Just consider that the most typical phrase associated with the ultimate feminine embodiment, the beauty pageant contestant, which is of course: “I want world peace”. Now I’ve never heard a male contestant of any sort exclaim that his number one goal is “world peace”, unless of course world peace includes a few more bombs along the way.

So rather than trying to call myself a feminist and try to be as strong as a dude, maybe I should call myself a maleist and seek a world where males work to embrace female-associated expressions strength and wisdom, because yes, peace, care, and equality are all wise, powerful choices we can all make.

Advertisements

Am I a house cat?

Cats are stupid.

I find them disagreeable and silly. They just lounge around all day. Though they never have anywhere where to go, they still insist on whining and pawing at the door to go in and out every five minutes. Given that they generally do little more than provide minimum entertainment for their owners, I’m not really sure why anyone would want to keep one around.

Given my general distaste for these animals, the thought of being told that I am in fact one of these feline nuisances is not what I want to hear. So when I recently read an article that referred to us white women (the author and I) as the house cats of society, I was a bit distraught… distraught and also alarmed.

Despite my hesitation to compare myself to these undesirable creatures, I did in fact realize the parallels between us are disturbingly strong.

As a white girl, I can cry (a merit within itself) and the expected result is that someone rewards me with comforting pats on the back. Sounds pretty cat-like to me.

Let’s see, what else… If I make a mistake and don’t feel like crying my way out of it, I can instead just conjure the most innocent face complete with saucer-pan startled eyes, thus immediately relieving myself of all guiltiness in one killer white girl blink. Seriously, don’t ask me how many times I’ve wide-eyed a police officer on the verge of giving me a ticket.

Innocence is so deeply entrenched the way we are perceived, mostly by men. We’re just like those aggressively “adorable” cat pictures that cat owners always insist on showing while murmuring, “look, look, my princess, isn’t she cuuute?!”. Of course what they’re neglecting to also tell you is that the cat sh*ts wherever it wants and that the scratches covering the owner’s hand are indeed from this “cuuute” beast. (Point being, we can all be a bit vicious, mean, and selfish when we feel like it… regardless of our biological make-up.)

And just wait, the cat-white girl parallels only get worse.  When my innocent, helpless white girl self ventures outside the confines of my home country, the powerful title of “American” is assumed in my whiteness. When this identity combines with the disgustingly vulnerable, incapable identify as woman, I am granted an immense ability to weasel my way through most tricky travel situations (such as losing four $120 bus tickets or crossing a border with smuggled foods not officially permitted). Being a rich American/guiltless female, I am totally unsuspected of crime and am moreover able to deflect any potential issues with feigned confusion and uselessness.

In this way I’m just like a collared cat permitted free reign of the front yard; I am too cute and too cared for to cause any real damage. However, did you know that cats are something like the number one killer of birds in the U.S. (this could be a Grace Fact, but it’s what I’ve been told). Number one or not, cats kill a lot of animals, but no one does anything about these lethal killers because cats are just so damn accepted in their “household” nature. This is to say, there are a whole lot of things white girls get away with that we shouldn’t.

Indeed, I have been bequeathed with an identity that enables me in way, way too many ways.

It also renders me with the sense of being completely useless in society.

Let’s think of the scenarios here. If I chose to go to Wall Street (not that I personally ever could manage such a feat, but if), then I’m a selfish bitch whose just using the system to stay on top. If I teach at an underserved, minority heavy school, I’m a white colonizer who’s abusing the system. If I sit at home, well, at least I don’t hurt anyone or push my whiteness on anyone. But then I’m literally the human form of a house cat, gross.

Now let’s be honest, this isn’t a real problem. I have absolutely positively nothing to complain about. My biggest complaint is in fact that I have enough knowledge to live in discomfort with my feline privilege. THAT’S NOT A REAL ISSUE.

So what am I going to do? Certainly not sit at home. YOLO… obviously. But as a teacher, I’ve got to be real careful in the way that I teach, in the content that I teach, and in the system with which I align myself (including the current one in which I’m working… which is painfully white). And I’ve also go to be immensely aware of my presence in the world, including in this blog. I am not trying to make the issues that I write about to be bigger than they seem, because woman or not, I’ve got more then enough tools to fight whatever forms of sexism I encounter. And the last thing I want to do is further trivialize my cat-like self.

Image

White people talking (in Maine?!)

Dear Maine,

Oh how I love you, you splendid land (of white people). I love you for your natural wonders, your “upta camp lifestyle”. I love your work ethic, your spaciousness, and your sense of community. Yes, you are a great state indeed.

But, I’m afraid Maine that you’re teaching your children a HUGE LIE.

Or at least, you definitely taught this child one. You taught me that race didn’t matter, and you sent me out into the world blissfully ignorant of and tremendously uneducated in the racialized nature of our world.

When I was six years old, I actually thought black people had darker skin because they had lived in the southern part of the country where the sun made them more tan. Why else would people have different skin colors? Who else could live in the world other than white people made darker by the sun?

Well eventually I figured out that black people living in the U.S. didn’t just happen to tan a lot, but there was a thing called slavery and that it sucked, and that a lot of America’s black population lives in a reality still burdened by this ugly past.  But I also came to believe that ended long ago and that we now live in a happy equal society.

In high school, I believed I could date a guy of another race and it didn’t matter one bit. And for all intensive purposes, it didn’t matter to me then. Maine is so overwhelmingly white that in my community there is little option but for anyone else to assimilate into the dominant white culture to a large degree. And so, well, I barely even took note of his skin color. If and when I did, I was simply proud of my “post-racial relationship” (not that I knew the term at that point, or that that term appropriately describes what transpired then).

So wow, when college hit I was ahh-mazed. People of different races often sit together at different lunch tables!? People often date within their race, and can experience difficulties when they date people of other races!? The city of Providence is divided by socio-economic lines that just happen to align perfectly with racial lines!? Our public schools are still majorly segregated!? People have more or less difficulty getting jobs based on the assumed ethnicity of their names!?

Wait… race still matters? But, but… I thought that ended with Martin Luther King.

I had some serious learning to do.

Mid-way through freshman year I went to a meeting. A group called “White People Talking” was hosting a gathering for white people to talk about race. I had seen a flyer and I was intrigued. So one Friday afternoon I snuck off to check out this very foreign concept.

When I went to that meeting I felt dirty. I of course associated white people getting together exclusively as part of a long history of segregation, inequality, and general horribleness. But I am so thankful I went.

What I found was a group of primarily white people talking about their experiences as white people. To me, being white from a white state, this awareness and deliberateness about race was a definite first. Indeed, the exploration left a permanent mark on my understanding of being white (in that I am in fact white and that I can in fact talk about it). I can’t remember exactly what was discussed because I was so swept away by the sheer fact that such an event was transpiring before my very eyes. But I do remember the sensation of rather uncomfortably observing tricky moments of white people trying to express experiences and feelings. And that feeling hasn’t gone away. In fact, I’m still feeling it right now.

Until recently, I’ve never just sat around and discussed whiteness with friends or family. It’s just something I had never learned how to comfortably talk about, for fear of sounding racist or naïve or dumb.  (Note to self: make sure my future kids acknowledge and grapple with whiteness.) Moreover, I was never forced to talk about it. It didn’t consciously factor into my existence as a person.

BUT HOLY CRAP ITS PART OF MY EXISTENCE!

In conversations that I have had with white people in more recent years, I’ve enjoyed discussing the “challenges” of being white, or better put, the lack-thereof.  For instance, reflecting with those very aware of the fact that sometimes the privilege of “finding yourself” is an experience limited to those with the resources (who in the race/class spectrum are largely white) available to travel, to work for nearly nothing, and to do that soul searching (yayyy Fulbright!).

Which is to say, what more can white people possibly have to talk about, other than privilege? We don’t have a culture, right? (Or… do we?). We definitely don’t have a fight, a struggle (other than consumerism/imperialism). We don’t have to talk about our experience with whiteness because we are the oppressors, and oppressors are taught not to talk about their dirty oppressing acts.

And plus, in white dominated spaces, what would spur us to talk about whiteness? White people can go days without thinking about race. I mean, maybe you think, “oh, there’s a __________ person”, but rarely are we forced to think “how am I representing my race right now? Are people judging me on my clothes or my skin color? Will I have any white friends who get where I’m coming from? How can I make my race not an issue at this meeting?”

This is something I didn’t fully appreciate until I came to Colombia and felt, well, what I imagine what a black person feels like in Maine (or so I’ve been told at least). EVERYONE LOOKS.

Here in Colombia, when I consider drinking a lot, or speaking in public, or well, doing anything, I always think… white, white white. What will people think of white people based on my actions? I am the sole standard in this situation so I better not mess it up.

Let’s put it another way. For all you white readers… write a list of five adjectives to describe your identity. How many of you put your gender, your occupation, your familial status? How many of you put white? (Or how many of you wouldn’t have put white if I hadn’t prefaced the question with this essay?).

Why don’t we see our whiteness? Why don’t we feel it? Identify with it? At least in the case of Maine, maybe its because we’ve come assume that we’re the common standard and that “race doesn’t matter”.

Which is probably the biggest lie ever told. 

So, how should we identify with whiteness? How can we be aware of race in such a way that doesn’t just otherize everyone else? How do we avoid dangerously de-racializing ourselves?

Now, go talk about it. 🙂 

Paper Hearts and Butterballs

In the midst of our farewell dinner last night, a sudden flood of paper hearts fluttered through the air and gracefully scattered our water glasses, plates, and hair. The swell of thin red paper accompanied a charming restaurant band, prompting us all to smile goofily and sway our shoulders to the music. 

After a few minutes the music lulled and the question became: what do we do with all these little red hearts everywhere?

Image

One of my new favorite people proposed a game. She told us to gather the hearts nearest to our seats. The hearts were now to represent tokens of gratitude, and we were to spend them on the people surrounding us.

One by one we began offering affirmations and thank yous to the now familiar faces after five short but very full days in Bogota.

“I admire your sense of community and your leadership abilities that draw in everyone around you and make you an amazing leader.”

“I love you because you love me and even when I’m being the biggest bitch in the world you understand why.”

“Thank you for your honesty in our discussion tonight, I learned a lot.”

“I love your stories about your students because they always show how much you love them, and I love to hear them.”

By the end of the activity we were all radiating in our compliments both given and received.

And the best part of the story is that this wasn’t the first recent experience I’ve had with conscious acts of gratitude this week. A couple of days ago at the lunch table we played Pass the Butterballs. The name really just originates from the fact that a small plate with two butterballs resting on it was the easiest feasible object to pass from person to person. As was such, we took turns holding the plate and responding to a couple of different prompts conjured to make us more aware of our positive experiences in Colombia (and in response to a lot of negativity we heard from people convening after two months in their designated locations around the country). 

Amongst other things we shared what about Colombia inspired us, (for me it was dancing in my kitchen with my roommates). It made us all a bit more appreciative of experiences, and a lot more happy than listening to complaints.

And speaking of complaints, I often use this blog to express varying levels of discontent with myself and/or my society. So I wanted to write something positive today, something that expresses my appreciation for the people with whom I just got to spend a wonderful week talking about all the things that I just cannot express in my broken Spanish. I’m not sure if it’s the people I’m lucky enough to be around, or the fact that we spend way too much time in each other’s company at restaurant tables, but one way or another, I have benefited from deliberate attempts to recognize the gifts we receive in each other and from our live experiences in this new country we currently call home.

And conveniently enough, there has been a recent push for empathy and emotional education in articles from NY times and Huffington Post, as well as this amazing video. So it’s nice to be able to write a testament to the experiences I’ve recently had that, at least to me, accurately reflect the arguments written and shared around the internet. 

Image

Yes, I know this is a very cheesy post.  But I really just want to get in one more act of gratitude before I fully get back into my Cali life. And I want to share it not just with the paper heart crew, but with all the people who listen, share, and love in my life every day. Next time I get some butterballs in my hands I’ll send them your way. 

Big Expectations

Recently an article went around Facebook about the false expectations of “GYPSYs”. The author of the article explains us GYPSYs as:

“yuppies in the Gen Y age group — I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs. A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.

Essentially, we GYPSYs are given false hopes for a bright shining future without much effort. We’re told we’re special and we deserve to be recognized for our unique contributions to humanity… by the age of 25. When we don’t achieve this, we are sad. Essentially, we expect too much out of life, and of ourselves.

 But the article fails to mention that even though we have the delusional notion of fulfillment in life and passion-filled careers in our twenties, we also have been very well trained to expect pretty damn near perfection from ourselves (perhaps with the same sad ending when we realize we are unfortunately all far from perfect… and yes, it hurts to even type that).

This is especially true for women. As a friend recently lamented, “women are expected to be perfect in every aspect of their lives. It’s not fair”. This is of course not new news.

Ever since skinny, beautiful, interesting girls first graced our TV screens and magazine covers many years ago, we’ve been simultaneously trying to achieve perfection while trying (perhaps unsuccessfully) to reject such absurd ideas. This all has lead us to believe that we’ve got to be attractive, smart, helpful, caring, ambitious, and hardworking, without ever being selfish, aggressive or self-conceited. We must be confident, but not too confident. We must be unique, but not weird. We must be perfect, but never, ever believe it.

And as we try to mold ourselves into our own particular brand of perfect that shimmers in the blinding light of all social media sites, it seems our expectations of relationships have fallen off to the side.

Indeed, what is perhaps most telling about the article is that it doesn’t even mention our expectations for love.

For example, when I develop a new crush, I hear over and over again, “just don’t expect anything”. And when a girl schemes about future romance, a good friend must always chime in, “yes that’s the plan, but remember, no expectations!” And in the case of a girl brave enough to still own a plan of action, she must always offer the disclaimer,  “but still, I’ll expect nothing!” 

So while we women may be busy attempting to achieve a full plate of perfection with a side of love life, guys get away with living in a constant state of awesomeness in which they need neither the absolute perfect GPA nor a girlfriend. In fact, they’re a bit more badass and awesome if they can somehow manage to be smart and loved without such qualifiers.  

For while we may expect less of them in performance, we perhaps expect more self-assuredness. How often do you hear men claiming their excellence, exclaiming, “I’m just that awesome” or “I can’t help but be the best”? When was the last time you heard a girl say that?

Indeed, it seems that somehow men have been able to maintain dominance in society despite the fact that our expectations may not be so high for them, particularly in the world of love expectations.

But of course it’s this way! Why would be expect love from men we don’t expect a lot from? It becomes a question not only of “what do we expect of men in love?” but of “what do we expect of men in society?”

We women may want guys to show loving emotions to us, everything we as a society have taught them is the opposite: never cry, never be weak. The world has contrived a place for men that situates them in a difficult place, for all of us.

Meanwhile, women are living a mantra of “Hey girl, reach for the stars in your career, but don’t you dare expect something resembling true love to walk through the door any time soon. So best not to think about it at all”.

But in the end, am I just being a GYPSY whose expecting too much by saying I want a change? 

One million and two ways not to forget

Have you tried to break up with someone, ever?

 Have you tried to forget someone, remove him/her from your life, move on?

 Has it worked?

 Ugh, it hasn’t worked very well for me!

 You can de-friend someone, block him/her on Gchat, delete their text messages, stop following their Instragrams, and remove their Snapchat names (because god forbid you see their best friend list with a strange girl on it… it may lead to Facebook stalking and inquiring texts to determine exactly who might have replaced you).Image

But still, you never know where this someone could pop up!

Two weeks ago I was happily sitting in my kitchen scrolling through Facebook, as I too often do. And then, out of nowhere, appears a picture of a boy long removed from my friends list. A girl from high school had tagged him in a picture of them together! What?!

 It only took me about two seconds and one text message later to determine they are dating. Well that’s a sorpresa! And something I really didn’t need or want to know. So instead of continuing to scroll happily through my Facebook, I ended up staring at the wall imagining the two of them together at his grandmother’s house, where I had been, oh I don’t know… about seven long years ago!

Finally I realized I had to get a grip on reality. “Oh hey, Colombia! Oh hey different continent, different life, different me!” I promptly left the house and ended up at a very bad reggae bar where at least I could think about horrible music rather than weird scenes of a life long gone.

A week later I unfortunately dreamt about another past boy, only to wake up to a Facebook reminder that it’s his birthday. Of course it had to be his birthday! I immediately fell into a vortex of memories of previous birthdays and the long sequence of unhappy events that was our “relationship”. It only left me disheveled and once again in need of reorienting myself to my current life.  It just won’t stop.

Should it stop? Probably. Will it stop? Probably not.

Even with all my boxes neatly stacked and counted here in Colombia with no troublesome boys within a country’s distance, nothing can or will stop the steady presence of technology and its one million and two ways to keep in contact with them.

Of course, I could delete all my social media apps. I could be in Colombia and only in Colombia. But what about my family? What about my best friends? What about all the people who I love? They might forget about me!!! And I need them! (And well, duh, I’m as addicted to Facebook as every other stricken member).

So the question becomes, how to manage a love life riddled with memory mines that could set off at any Facebook log in?

And how to manage the temptation of sending a text, a gchat, a Facebook message?

It’s so easy! Too easy! 

It was probably hard enough to break up with someone before the modern technological age. But now… now!? Well it makes it nearly impossible to properly break up with someone. And what’s that doing to our hearts? This phenomenon where we are always able to know, to hang on to facts, to be upset by reminders? No, no no, this can’t be good!

 We’re going to have to adapt some pretty damn good mechanisms for dealing. At least we can always send each other a text, a Gchat, a Snapchat, a Facetime request, a Facebook message, an email, a Skype message… (am I missing any?)…

 Yes, thank god I’ve got a million and two means for contacting my dearest friends even in Colombia. 

white women today

Hey, did you know poor white women are the only demographic group to decrease in life expectancy in the last century?

Hey, did you know the American 1% now possesses 20% of U.S. wealth, bringing us back to 1927 level disparities. That can’t be good for our future.

Has Sheryl Sandberg said anything about that?

The 1% of [primarily white] women can keep getting richer and more powerful by leaning in, but what about everyone else?

As a white woman with enough education and resources to lean in all day long if I try, I might not be the best to ring the warning bell. But #solidarityisforwhite(wealthy)women is pounding in my ears anyways, so I’ll ring away.

Then I’ll ask: So if poor white women are decreasing in life expectancy because you need to go to college to get a good job that supports your health, what are our hopes for improving education for all the non-white-rich people in a country where our major cities are failing to open adequate schools (Philadelphia this means you) and where college costs are skyrocketing like never before? Where 1/5 of the money belongs to 1%?

Who can and will lean in on that one?

Putting Boys in Boxes: a heterosexual look at modern love as it exists between a girl and a box

Disclaimer: I know I’m being atrociously hetero-normative here, but I’m not sure how else to explain my box theory without using the term “boys in boxes” because it entirely encapsulates the experience shared here.  

Okay so, having said that, have you noticed the hypocrisy in my latest posts!? First, I claim to have always strived to be a “strong, independent woman” (before realizing the redundancy of such a term), then I turn around a call myself nothing more than a mere bystander in my love life. So, hypocrite much?

Well, yes… and no. Ultimately, my goal to be my own dynamic, courageous, free person cannot be achieved until I stop allowing myself to call victim every time a dude walks into the room. But at the same time, I feel very good about my efforts trying to become the teacher/friend/family member/student/alpaca rider (see below) I want to be, without allowing victimization to poison these other identities I claim and love.

How, do you ask? Easy. Just put those boys and all those issues in a box! And not just a normal square box, but a box with various categories to further separate, compartmentalize, and isolate those boys so that they absolutely cannot inhibit all those other boxes of my life.

“Putting boys in boxes” was officially initiated into my vocabulary in the fall of 2010. On that fateful evening almost three years ago, my friend and I were attempting to spend a Friday night in our dorm catching up on some work. Though we were sincerely trying to hard to focus on our work, those boys and their texts just kept popping up! They were all over the place, jarring the carefully laid plans we had made for them (unbeknownst to them of course). So, instead of writing essays that evening, we instead poured ourselves into the well-known art of crafting proper text message responses. As we drafted and revised, we had to be careful so that we could get those boys “back in their boxes” so that they could together comprise the best version of a love life we could conjure at the time (with consideration to the fact we had a zillion other projects to simultaneously work on). 

You see, once out of a box, a boy could cause a lot of trouble. If, for instance, the boy is meant to be nothing more than an innocent flirt, but then all of a sudden morphs into a sexual aggressor, well, problems arise! Or if a boy in the “boyfriend potential” box all of a sudden becomes a jerk, then well, you either have to find a way to get him back in that box, or find someone else to replace him. It’s all very tiresome. And moreover, managing boys takes a great deal of energy and attention that could otherwise be spent on academics or jobs or the zillion other projects I mentioned before!) So, it’s just easier if boys stay in their boxes, to be removed at the proper time.

 ImageEssentially, “putting boys in boxes” (or to put it more bluntly, compartmentalizing my life) has become a primary survival strategy for me. What began as a managerial technique for separating the different boys that composed my love life in a hook-up culture quickly morphed into a larger symbol for how I can live my live if I’m not careful: in boxes.

For me, love (or something like it) has become just one division of a towering pile of cardboard separated pieces of myself. If my boxes of family and friends and teaching can all burst with love and success, then the problem-ridden box labeled boys doesn’t look so bad. And if I try really hard, I can knock it back into the corner and nearly forget about it as I delightfully open and close the many other, bigger, shiner boxes that I’ve nurtured with all the hours and energy of my day.

When the night arrives, if conditions permit, the boy box can be taken out and cautiously opened. And if things go poorly, then I can just shove the box right back to its corner the next morning and quickly open a more joyful box, like tutoring! (It is no coincidence that my favorite time to tutor during college was on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I could work off  hangover induced frustration about the night before through playing, reading, and laughing with a wonderful girl who inspired me to focus on the happy, rewarding box of teaching and learning.)

What I mean to say is that, as we become successful in our adult lives, we can be superwoman at work, kindred spirit in friendship, and late night text messager in our love life. We can compartmentalize our lives so that we can fit every last thing in. It works, and it works well.

But what does it tell us about our lives today?

What it tells me is that our families and homes exist in very different spheres than our work lives, which are distinct from our friend circles, which are often separate from our love lives. It is difficult to live in an integrated circle of friends, family, and lovers when our educational and career tracks lead us on a constant march of change and growth (and in my case a series of countries). And this constant state of change is of course supported by phones and the internet and a zillion means of communication so that we can in fact live such different versions of ourselves all at once.

The many opportunities available to us today can propel us to build and build upon our pile of boxes. And that love box, it can stay just that, a box.

Is it a good thing, these boxes? Sometimes I argue yes. Better to keep a boy in a box rather than let him (and the issues that arise) consume my life. But if I allow myself to continue to live in boxes, then how will I ever get past my own self-created barriers? If I let the boy box stay in the dark corner, then of course it will never get better. 

 And just as I start to question how exactly to move beyond the confines I’ve made for the boys who may enter my life, I stumble upon this article. So maybe, it’s about finding the “change” box and opening it up to see how I can integrate my life and myself so that boys become a thread woven into a lovely life tapestry, rather than an ugly box I try to avoid when things aren’t going well.  Maybe its about nothing about boxes at all.

This video…

First and foremost, watch this! (And thank you to the dear friend who shared this with me!)

 

Now… Articles, articles, articles! I labeled them for both you and myself to keep track of what’s what. Click away

 

1. Women don’t make as much money as men:

dollar_bills

Speaking of this picture, a recent post on Facebook from my school said this:

Pay discrepancy between genders has been a hot topic in the news. Check out this illustration. Watch for our November Webinar on negotiating your salary. What are your thoughts on this issue?

I ask: Did the person writing this not notice the fact that it’s not just between women and men, but also between ethnicities? And that perhaps it might be about a bit more than “negotiating your salary”

On a similar note: Forbes magazine discusses huge pay gap between A list male and female actors, while completely ignoring the fact that all the women listed are white. 

 

2. Women being victimized sucks on a larger scale than just my “sneak attacks” (see post below)

 

3. A pretty intensively negative look at birth control, but there are some good points in there I think. Here’s the book:

 

4. And on a happy note, women are awesome!  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/04/girls-tweeting-not-twerking-their-way-to-power/?_r=0

How not to be a victim?

            A very good friend of my mine recently told me “Grace, don’t be a victim”. He was right.
           It is so easy to become the victim. “Someone made out with me”, “he wouldn’t stop texting me”, “I didn’t know how to say no so we just kept going”. In each scenario, the dude completes the action and the woman (me) receives it.
          (And has anyone been following the campus rape issues around the country? I haven’t been too closely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the assumed passivity taught to many females in our culture perhaps “confuses” men into believing that the girl actually is consenting. But by all means, know I am NOT trying to say women victimize themselves in these situations… rather that there is a larger culture around male initation that needs to be addressed)
            I for one victimize myself all the time in my interactions with men. Most recently I’ve been framing unwanted advances by Colombian men as “sneak attacks”. “He sneak attack kissed me!” “I ended up on a sneak attack date and I was so annoyed”.
            What exactly is a sneak attack? A sneak attack is what I have deemed to be some sort of sexual or romantic advance in which I play a passive aggressive role. Then I complain about it afterwards. Sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it?
            Yeah, it’s lame and decidedly unacceptable (see ending of this post). To explain my unacceptable passivity, I admit to being absolutely horrible at communicating with men, whether it be a “no thanks” or a “yes, I’ve developed feelings for you”.
            In a recent example, rather than saying something simple and clear like “please take me home, I’m not interested in dating you”, I pretend to be sweet and nice until I can escape and then deflect text messages until the guy gives up. And well, that’s me in a post-college world where I live outside the realm of late night text messages.
            In fact, my self-victimization gets much more pathetic. In college I would torture myself waiting for my phone to vibrate, fully convinced I was nothing but a mere pawn of some inescapable world of male initiated texts. A message before 12pm signified “he’s not even too drunk yet, this is good”. A 9 or 10pm message would literally knock my socks off: “what he soberly thought to text me!?” And well, to wake in the morning to a missed text, well… that just meant I had played hard to get and could celebrate a sign of strength I had clearly not at all earned.
            In this world, texting a guy first was a cardinal sin, a sign that I had given in to “the game”. When I would finally summon the courage to send an initiating text message because oh btw, I have feelings that I want to express (what??), it would only be after encouragement from at least one BFF who assured me that it was “my turn” or that “he’s definitely going to text back”.  Indeed, in retrospect nearly my entire college “dating” (hah) experience was all not much more than a power struggle between girls and boys playing a hook up game. It was a miserable experience in which I actively participated (though as an often passive participant).
            The saddest part of all is that this victim role I play dates all the way back to middle school. Any one remember the days of AIM? That’s where I first learned the tremendous value of “he messaged me first”. As though it were my greatest accomplishment to have succeeded at sitting at my computer… waiting, begging, praying for a box to pop up with the infamous “hey”, which maybe, if I were really lucky, would be followed with a “what’s up?”
            Dear lord, who am I? I’d say I’m a product of a world contrived to make women believe that their best option in the world is to express “power” through waiting for someone else to dictate the relationship.
            Literally, there was one boy, a boy I would wait hours, days to hear from. When we were together, I always alarmed him when I would deny his oh so kind gestures to open doors or pull out chairs for me. He’d ask, “Geez, are you a feminist?” Considering he was the first to ask, maybe he was on to something. But really… does it take a mere “I can open the door myself” to call someone a feminist? Did he really expect me to wait not just for his text messages, but also for his obviously more powerful arms to pull out that bar stool for me? Was I capable of anything other than waiting? Apparently not.
             If I had waited for these things, these texts and door openings, is that power? You could argue that indeed it is, in the vein of “you go girl, you make him wait! You make him work for it!” Or perhaps, this sense of “power” has been produced to hide the reality that in fact, as long as we give the majority of the initiating power to men, and as long as we feel sh*tty about ourselves when we initiate something, we will not be able to fully realize our equality as human beings with equal measures of proactivity. (This is not to say there isn’t worthy power in waiting in the right circumstances, but when it becomes a matter of torture, one must question why she is subjecting herself to something she could in fact address).
           But then, what about my recent “sneak attacks”?  This type of self-victimization is perhaps a product of both a personal issue with confrontation in all areas of my life, and also the form of femininity I have adopted. I am a girl, which means, to me, that I should be try to be nice and caring as often as possible. I cannot imagine myself halting a guy mid-kiss and saying “don’t”. It sound so easy, but at the same time, sounds so painful. How awkward is it going to be afterwards? How badly might be feel? And am I going to look like a… gasp… an angry feminist? It’s so much easier to just kindly wait it out and then be an angry/uncomfortable/pissed/annoyed/flustered/awkward victim later. 
            Well, rather than continuing to expound upon my victimization and thus further victimize myself, I will say I am trying to change. People here don’t send text messages, but if the day comes that I find some guy here interesting and attractive, I will not stare at my Facebook inbox willing a message to appear. I’m not going to like, jump up and profess my every last emotion, but I’ll try to legitimize my feelings enough to recognize when I’m subjecting myself to painful waiting because I’m too scared to do something. And the same goes for my “sneak attacks” and general passivity when it comes to discomfort… I will not subject myself to passively dealing with whatever happens in my life. If I don’t like it, I’ll say something. But well, if I do like it, I guess I won’t put up a fight.
 
** I talk a big game. So I’ll test out my new mantra and report back. 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

Caroline Maker on On becoming a maleist
Caroline Maker on Am I a house cat?
Kasey on White people talking (in …
Andrea C. Maker on Paper Hearts and Butterba…
Caroline Maker on Big Expectations

Categories