When Backing Up Your Birth Control Isn’t So Simple

March 30, 2011 § 6 Comments

by ELENA

Last week, I spent 72 hours in the hospital after being diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis. In normal terms: I have a blood clot in my leg. The cause? My birth control, which I had been on since the start of June.

I’m lucky. I have insurance, and access to heath care and physical therapy. I’m on rounds of blood thinner medication, and am slowly beginning to recover, and move around normally. However, I am not allowed to use any hormonal birth control for an entire year. Any extra dose of estrogen could be fatal.

So, most contraceptive methods, and Plan B are off-limits to me. And while having a bad leg and withdrawals from painkillers mean that sex is not the highest priority on my list, I know that will not always be the case. And I also know that my options for a contraceptive other than condoms (which are always a given for  me anyway) are slim. They include diaphragms and the copper, non-hormonal IUD.

Sometimes I think we forget that hormonal contraceptives are not always the be-all-end-all solution for wanting to enjoy sex without the risk of unplanned pregnancy. I can’t just take a pill every day, or take a more expensive pill if a condom should break. Those pills could kill me.

And now for a little holiday spirit…

December 25, 2010 § 7 Comments

by MIRANDA

…I present you with photographic evidence of my twelve-year-old sister’s seriously awesome Christmas present to yours truly:


~DO NOT MAKE ME USE MY FEMINIST VOICE~

For the record, she loves my feminist voice. See these examples:

“Hey, I’ve been reading Twilight, want me to read you a littl–” “My darling I’d RATHER YOU NOT for I have a FEMINIST DISTASTE for such PURITY-pushing, VAPID-female-narrator fodder. But I’m SO GLAD to see YOU ARE READING FOR PLEASURE.”

Or:

“Hey, who is Julian Assan–” “Well LET ME TELL YOU about JULIAN ASSANGE AND MICHAEL MOORE, OH and KEITH OLBERMANN ALSO, and a SPECTACULARLY EXECUTED ONLINE PROTEST of RAPE CULTURE, my little miss!”

Happy holidays, everyone!

A Feminist Haircut

October 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

by SARAH

For a pretty good portion of my life, I had strawberry-blond,  can’t-get-it-in-a-bottle hair that went almost all the way down to my hips. It was thick and long, and I would get constantly complimented on its length and color. As a chubby, socially awkward, relatively insecure preteen, it was one part of myself that I was the most proud of.

Two years ago I cut it off up to my jaw. A week ago I dyed it dark brown. After both drastic changes, I felt different. Different in a really, really good way. Somehow renewed, as if I had taken a step in reclaiming and reshaping my identity.

One pervasive gender stereotype that’s used to differentiate girls from boys is hair length. Long hair is feminine, short hair is masculine. The butch lesbian stereotype includes a short, choppy haircut, while in this day and age, long, shiny, straight hair is equated with traditional feminine beauty.  Talking about hair as a way of self identification and external expression may seem slightly superficial, but considering the strongly gendered implications it has, hair can matter if one chooses to make it matter.

I like to think that my short hair distances me slightly from traditional femininity, while helping me create my own femininity. For me personally, the choices I’ve made with my hair – to cut it short, to get rid of its oft-complimented color, to shape it so it suits me more – have all been a part of constructing my own queer, femme identity. Being 18, I’m naturally in a different place than I was two years ago when I chopped off my locks, but I think the desire to make that drastic change was fueled by the same motives that caused me to dye it. Although two years ago I may not have been able to tell you what a “queer femme identity” was (I probably just barely could now), I think I had some recognition of gender’s fluidity, about both the power it can give you and the power it can take away from you. As someone who is femme, yet strives not to let the boundaries and limits of traditional gender roles define me, I found myself naturally drifting towards a physical expression that includes many traditionally feminine aspects, with a few kinks.  I wear makeup, my closet consists of mostly dresses, what my hair looks like matters to me. But I wear bright red lipstick and green eye shadow, much to the chagrin of any Cosmopolitan reader. I couldn’t care less what the current fashion trends are, and instead I get my clothes, most of which are pretty retro or vintage, at dusty thrift stores. And I care what my hair looks like because I want it to be different and to express my own personality, not because I want Giuliana Rancic to give me her gold seal of approval.

When I was proud of my long, red-blond hair, it wasn’t because it represented me. It was because I was young and a little awkward, and the attention people paid to it was a substitute for the lack of attention I paid myself – for my lack of identity. As I grew up, transitioning from a pre-teen, to a teenager, to where I am now at 18 years old, I became more self-assured. How I choose to express myself physically is no longer for anyone else’s benefit, but to truthfully express myself. My short hair actually makes me feel more feminine, simply because I feel it’s a physical manifestation of my personality – a personality which includes femininity. But it’s my own, reclaimed, personal version of femininity. A version that includes my feminism, my pansexuality, all my individual quirks, and short, dark hair.



Genderqueer

July 27, 2010 § 12 Comments

by CHAD

I’ve been on vacation a lot lately, but I also have been on tumblr a lot, and a common theme I notice (even among the LGBTQ community) is what is genderqueer? Being as I am genderqueer I would like to explain what it is, in hopes of giving a better understanding.

Genderqueer is a gender, as stated in the name, and is completely dependent upon the person that defines themselves as genderqueer. Think of gender as the social construct that it is, there are “boy” clothes, “girl” clothes, “boy” toys, “girl” toys, “boy” colours, “girl” colours, and many assortments and roles that are subconsciously (or not) assigned to each gender. For those who define themselves as genderqueer, they’re a gender outside of “boy” and “girl”, they are both, neither, or a third gender that isn’t presentable in the current western system.

Being genderqueer is a way of labeling yourself as no label. Personally, I use it to say that I like things and do them because I like to, not because it’s the boy or girl thing to do. Socially speaking, there are very very few people that exclusively occupy one social gender. I use it to say I’m me, not a “boy”, and doing “girl” things doesn’t make me any less me. However, it is completely dependent on the person.

Those that are genderqueer also might have a pronoun preference, it’s rare, but still a possibility, so I’ll quickly brainwash you with English gender-neutral pronouns (pronouns that do not specify a gender)

  • Her/Him – Zir/Zem
  • S/He – Ze
  • Her/His – Zir/Zes
  • Herself/Himself – Zirself/Zemself

What ones you use (Zir/Zem) does not matter, as the idea is that they do not have gender.

If you have any questions on genderqueer I’m more than willing to take any via the comments :)

I am not Mandy Slade, but thanks for the sweeping generalization.

July 22, 2010 § 10 Comments

by ELENA

This morning, I went to my local Health Department in order to get tested for HIV. It was free, quick, and I tested negative. I also managed to curb-check the family station wagon on my way there, and so explaining to my parents why the steering was messed up wasn’t fun.

There was one thing that irritated me, though.

The nurse who administerd my test reacted very negatively when I explained that my boyfriend was bisexual. She said that it was very plausible that he was lying to me about his sexual history, and that he should get tested for HIV right away.

I was a little dumbstruck, but in no mood to piss off the person responsible for performing an accurate test.

When will we get it through our heads that gay/bisexual man does not equal “lying asshole who has every single STD known to humanity”? The main reason why I decided to get tested was not because I suspected that my boyfriend was lying to me, but because I was concered that any of my straight exes may have had an STD they had not told me about. In middle school, my health teacher stressed that HIV/AIDS wasn’t a “gay disease.” In high school, my gym teacher said we shouldn’t worry about HIV because only men who have sex with men are at risk. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who received mixed messages about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases while they were growing up, and these mixed messages are what lead to people making inaccurate assumptions.

I’m lucky that my parents and friends are very supportive of my relationship, but I also have to wonder if there more people like my nurse out there: Well-meaning people that are convinced that my health is at risk because of who I am dating, or that I am kidding myself because bisexual men don’t really exist and I’m just dating a closet case, or that because of who I’m dating I am somehow “unclean” and unfit to give blood, despite the whole being HIV negative thing.

In 2005, researchers at Northwestern University did a study on male bisexuality, and came to the conclusion that male bisexuality didn’t exist. Their justification was that the men they study only reacted to images of gay porn, and they didn’t find any men who were a “3” on the Kinsey scale (ie, equally attracted to men and women). So evidently I’m dating someone who doesn’t really exist.

There aren’t a whole lot of examples of bisexual males in pop culture. David Bowie is currently married to Iman, but I am as much of a supermodel as my boyfriend is a rock legend. Bryan Safi did a hilarious “That’s Gay” segment on how TV shows like to have a stereotypical “gay best friend,” whose gayness is suddenly cured when he falls in love with an (unrealistically hot) woman. The only woman in TV/film who dated a bisexual man that I’ve ever seen was Velvet Goldmine‘s Mandy Slade, who was portrayed as a coke-snorting basket case. The film is quite good, albeit campy, but it’s sad that the only example of a woman dating a bi man in film winds up “paying” for it by ending up divorced, lonely, and miserable.

Network and cable news shows like to occasionally bring up the “down low lifestyle” as their “scandal of the week,” which is 500 different kinds of irritating, because it combines racial panic with gay panic: “Oh noes! Look at all of these black men! That have girlfriends! And occaisonally have sex with other men!” PANIC TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Society likes to categorize women by their relationships with men. Realizing that people can make sweeping judgements about me just because I’m dating a bi man only reinforces my belief that such categorization has got to stop. Plus, it would be nice to be able to give blood again.

Thoughts on a Ruined Afternoon

July 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

Cross-posted at Female Impersonator.

Memory: It is a delicious Sunday afternoon. Sun glitters through the trees, splashes over benches and stains the ground. It is the fourth of July, and I have spent several hours on my own, reading the intoxicating prose of one of my favorite writers, Zadie Smith, in one of my favorite places in all of New York City: Fort Tryon Park. Shoes off, feet in the grass. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache. It’s time for the ideal reading break: an ice cream cone. I walk to the truck, pay for my chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. Perfect refreshing cool, perfect crunch. I stroll back into the park under a canopy of lush leaves. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache.

There are people in the background of my vision. One of them emerges slowly; I understand that he is moving toward me. He is an older man, probably in his early seventies, walking along. He stops in front of me, and I pause slightly.

He is going to say, “It is so gorgeous on this lawn.”

He is going to say, “It is so relaxing here!”

He is going to say, “It is so hot today, don’t you think?”

No, he is not. He is not going to say any of these things. His face is two feet from mine and he is saying, “It is so sexy watching you lick that cone.”

There is a voice in my head saying: You should have known this was coming. I am still walking and I say crisply, loudly, “THAT’S DISGUSTING” and he smiles and he turns and I walk and my mouth is dry. Sometimes the world is so awful it makes me ache.

Vision: I don’t walk on. I don’t say anything. I laugh shrilly and he looks startled and I mash my cold ice cream into his face, his beard, it covers him and I am calm. I’ve won.

Vision: I don’t walk on. I scream, “Leave me the fuck alone.” I shriek, “You’re a piece of shit.” I shout, “Fuck you, prick.” I’ve won.

Reality: I can’t win. Street harassment is so mind-bogglingly fucked up. It’s a cruel game that I’m playing against my will and I can’t fucking win it. That’s all I want: I want to win. I want to feel better than these jerks because I am. Even more than I hate harassment itself, I abhor the way I feel afterwards. At first I feel ashamed, embarassed even though I’ve done literally nothing wrong. Then I feel regretful, angry at myself for not reacting more harshly. I feel like a bad feminist, like I haven’t spoken up properly or stood up for myself in the “right” way. Next I feel guilty. I feel mean. I make excuses for the dipshit who’s put me in this situation — I tell myself maybe he’s a nice guy, maybe he didn’t mean it that way. And finally, always, I feel sick, physically nauseous.

All of this shit, all of this fills my mind. It takes up so much space, so much brainpower and it’s absolutely useless. Instead of being consumed by these victim-blaming thoughts, I want to feel safe and strong and sexy, sexy on my own terms.

Street harassment isn’t a compliment. It’s not “no big deal,” and it’s not isolated. It lies on the continuum of violence against women; it’s meant to keep women quiet, keep us inside, keep us from coming and going as we please. It can ruin your afternoon, your emotional safety, your confidence. It needs to be stopped.

~~~~~

HollaBack! is an awesome organization that works to fight street harassment on a global level. Check out their new website, and their PSA (transcript below the fold). I’m the one wearing the plaid jacket.

« Read the rest of this entry »

HollaBack: My Story

March 31, 2010 § 2 Comments

I had the great privilege of working with Emily May and the people behind HollaBackNYC to create a PSA for their site. I also had the opportunity to share one of my own stories of street harassment.

You can hear my story below:

You can check out other stories on the HollaBackNYC Youtube channel or on their blog.

Intersectionality Snowday: A Feminist Teacher Revolution!

February 10, 2010 § 2 Comments

Two years ago when Miranda and I started a feminism club at our liberal high school in Chelsea, we had chosen a faculty advisor, our global history teacher who openly incorporated feminism into the curriculum. Then, we walked into our English class and our teacher came up and asked us if she could be our advisor too! We celebrated the beauty of two awesome feminists, one who teaches of a patriarchal world with a critical eye and the other who teaches loquacious poetry written by unheard women. It is true that both teachers were in the humanities and it would be awesome to find some feminist science teachers to round out our school, but the point is that we had educators vying to teach feminism and we know that’s a rarity.

Too often, academic feminism is restricted to the college classroom. In Girldrive, Nona Willis Aronowitz articulates her well-deserved skepticism,

We realize its power, but we’ve also noticed how academic feminism alienates young women from concepts they would otherwise be down with…. All we want is conversation and if academic feminism really has become so removed from personal experience that it’s caused emotional paralysis, then we are determined to change that.

Here’s the thing: academic feminism can get so wrapped up in theories and generalizations that it gets disconnected from reality. That reality is that women and men experience sexism conditionally, based on all the intersections of their lives – their personal lives. The academic must be personal in order get young women and young men down with concepts they can relate to. And for the academic to be personal, intersectionality must be acknowledged, celebrated, and taught in the mainstream. And that’s especially hard when there’s such a clear socioeconomic gap between women’s studies curricula at various universities.

Next year, I plan to attend super-liberal and well-to-do Wesleyan University. Currently, Wesleyan offers 19 women’s studies courses and offers a major in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. And they better offer this many courses, seeing as Wesleyan costs $54,000 a year. I was also considering SUNY Geneseo, a public small liberal arts college with roughly the same number of students as Wesleyan, though it costs $48,000 less. SUNY Geneseo currently offers only three women’s studies courses. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between the escalating tuition of higher education and the number of women’s studies classes offered.

This is a problem. A dramatic disparity between the number of women’s studies courses offered at private versus public institutions means that only a certain part of the population is being educated on feminism. And let’s face it – those who go Wesleyan are already pretty knowledgeable on feminism whereas those who attend public universities come from a much wider range of backgrounds and need this education the most. Sure, it’s easy to celebrate intersectionality at a university that is known for being politically correct, but what about in a university that actually has a ton of students from backgrounds that provide the means for intersectional discussions? Shouldn’t that university offer courses devoted to such conversation?

I propose a solution. Academic feminism, as confined to the campus bubble, is nice and safe. It’s hard to pinpoint patriarchy as it affects us on a personal level when we sit in a classroom with around twenty women and one man in a college that is made up of mostly women in a town so crummy that quads have become the most immediate society we interact with. Of course Nona’s critique of the removal of academic feminism from personal experience occurs. There is little personal experience to draw from in such a setting. That is why feminism must be taught before the university bubble is blown, way before it is to be popped a few years down the road, academic feminism potentially leaving its students defenseless in the real world of personal experience.

Feminism must be taught in K-12 classrooms. And not just in yuppie high schools in Chelsea. Feminism must be taught in inner-city schools where students have personal experiences with domestic violence and rape. Feminism must be taught in Catholic schools where girls are taught to be chaste and purity rings are celebrated. Feminism must be taught in Jewish Day Schools where the religious classes are taught almost exclusively in a male lexicon. Feminism must be taught in all schools where, to quote the blog Equality 101, “history courses continue to obliterate women who have made marks on society and culture.”

To teach feminism in the classroom not only gets more students to identify as feminists, but it broadens the spectrum of whom a feminist is. When a feminist can be a kindergarten student who is genuinely pissed off that her arithmetic talents aren’t being as valued as that of her male peers, we are making progress. In the K-12 classroom, the academic is inherently personal. Us high school students deal with sexism daily – at home, work, school, extra-curriculars, the books we read, with friends…just fill in the blank. We need a feminist teacher revolution to incorporate equality into the curriculum. Why is this basic concept, one that promotes inclusion of personal experience, so revolutionary when it comes to the classroom, the youth that represent our future?

Intersectionality Saturdays: Choice in a Cultural Context

January 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

It’s been a really long while since I’ve posted on here, but I’m back for a weekly cross-post between Women’s Glib and my new blog on Jewish feminism, from the rib?. This column will focus on intersectionality – the connection of oppressions and liberation movements – and how it affects my life. Here’s edition #1:

Yesterday, I was talking to a girl in my Biology class who just returned from a semester abroad in Israel. She asked me the broadest yet incredibly popular question: “What do you think of Israel?” After living in various parts of Israel for five weeks this summer, I left more confused than when I arrived. When I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, I was ignorant. I left realizing just how many diverse and seemingly unrelated topics there are to be ignorant about. Because of that ignorance, I like to gently lead people away from pre-supposed political answers and into topics I feel comfortable forming opinions about. These usually concern sexism and feminism.

Academically and socially, I feel authorized to speak on sexism and feminism. At times, I feel like I live and breathe books, blogs, and performances of feminist work. I am also a woman and recognize the exploitation of my own gender in the media, as well as what “society” (the largest abstraction of all) expects of me. Culturally, however, I feel like a feminist without a cause. Growing up as a white member of the middle class in liberal New York City with a mother whose income is greater than my father’s, the education of my choosing, and occasionally attending egalitarian synagogues, I am privileged and, on a superficial level, I have nothing in my own life to fight for.

So back to the conversation that got all these thoughts whirling. I redirected it to the treatment of women in ultra-Orthodox Israeli societies. While I was supposed to be researching viral causes of cancer cells, I spoke of the horrible treatment of women in education, in synagogue, and in the home. The girl in my Biology class responded that she does not see suffering amongst women in the ultra-Orthodox communities she has visited. Their roles are what they have been brought up with and it is what they want to continue with because they have never known anything else. It is their lifestyle.

My immediate response was that it is because they have not been shown an alternative. These women do not know they are oppressed because they have never experienced having equal opportunities. And then my Bio buddy threw at me one of the most provocative questions I could be asked: “How do you know your way is better?”

How do I know my way is better? I believe I know what equality is. I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be a feminist and fight not only for my rights but for the rights of us all that are so interconnected. My way is what I have grown up with and has stemmed from the privilege I was raised with and the beliefs I have had the freedom to foster. I believe in choice and I believe that all women should be able to choose their own way in life, be it sexist or feminist through a traveler’s eyes. If a woman is happy and fulfilled singing lightly in the background of a synagogue or receiving an education different from her husband’s or forgoing occupational opportunities and chooses to do so, that is not sexist. She has chosen it for herself.

What does choice mean in a cultural context? Where is the line drawn between advocacy and – I’m going to make up a word here because we are speaking in a feminine lexicon at the moment – maternalism? How can we enforce a right to choose in communities where women do not know what choice is? And who on earth am I to say they do not know what choice is?

Call for Participants

January 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am thrilled to announce that my Senior Keystone project — a culmination of my high school work — is underway. I have decided to focus my project, tentatively titled Beyond Juno: The Birth Mother Project, on how social stereotypes about birth mothers compare with their identities and lived experiences.

Beyond Juno: The Birth Mother Project
Call for Participants

SEEKING: Birth mothers, first mothers, women who have placed a child for adoption from the New York City region, TO BE INTERVIEWED AND PHOTOGRAPHED for a feminist art/activism project.

PARTICIPATION REQUIRES: A physical meeting with me (roughly an hour and a half long), where I will conduct an informal interview regarding the participant’s life and experiences with adoption, as well as capture some portrait photographs. The final product will be a compilation of transcripted interviews and portraits. The aim of the project is to give voice to birth mothers and to encourage discussion around their experiences and identities.

PLEASE NOTE: It is certainly possible for a participant to remain anonymous; a woman’s name can be changed and her face obscured if she prefers.

All prospective participants should CONTACT BirthMomProject@gmail.com. You can also contact me there if you have any questions about the project.

Please forward widely. Thank you!

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