You’re such a woman!

March 2, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’m a feminist who is a vegetarian and loves to knit, bake, do yoga, and be around babies.

I have been told by numerous people (both male and female) upon mentioning any of these habits, “You’re such a woman!”

“You’re such a woman” is not an offensive statement. Far from it, I am proud of my womanhood. I, however, am offended by the tone that accompanies this statement. It is usually said as an accusation or as a fact that belittles my feminism.

When I ask the accusers why these parts of me make me such a woman, they have responded by saying:

“Because you’re so domestic,”

“That’s what housewives did in the ‘50’s,”

“You’re caring,” and, my personal favorite,

“It’s stuff you do for others.”

These are all sexist. Blatantly sexist. How?

  1. They take (mostly) positive attributes and apply them only to women, thereby implying that men are incapable of caring and doing for others.
  2. They make both women and men who practice vegetarianism, knitting, baking, doing yoga, and/or baby-loving feel guilty for pursuing their own happiness.
  3. They narrow the definition of what it means to be a woman/man in a society that has questionable values.
  4. They narrow the definition of what it means to be a feminist in today’s world.

My personal definition of feminism is the promotion of everyone’s right to choose, as long as an individual’s choice does not interfere with the prosperity of others. Only if that freedom of choice exists can we have equality. When I am told I am “such a woman” in a condescending, volatile tone, my choice to do these “domestic” activities is taken away. The difference, my accusers, between me and a reluctant “’50’s housewife” – besides the obvious – is that I choose to do these things because they make me happy.

I choose to be a vegetarian because I am much happier knowing exactly where my food comes from. I choose to knit because it takes my mind off of the day-to-day drama of my life. I choose to bake because I love the simplicity of following a recipe. I choose to practice yoga because it makes me strong and my body empowered. I choose to be around babies because it makes me happy seeing new lives blossom.

So you know what? I am such a woman (and proud of it), but not for the reasons you, my accusers, deem.

Doesn’t everyone deserve the choice to their own happiness without sexist connotations/criticism?

Compliment v. Harassment: Where’s Your Line?

March 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

In response to some of the great posts written recently about street harassment and inappropriate comments, I’d like to share one of my own stories. 

I was in a deli on Friday when a young man said “Miss, you have very nice eyes.” I thanked him and continued on with my day, not phased or annoyed at all. 

Had he picked a different body part, particularly a female-specific body part, I probably would have freaked out. But he picked my eyes- a body part that everyone (hopefully) has. He could have said the same thing to a man or to a transperson. Is the difference between a compliment and harassment that a compliment is gender- neutral? 

I also appreciated the tone he used. I obviously couldn’t gauge his intentions, but from what I could tell, he really just wanted to tell me that he thought that my eyes were nice. I guess I’m saying that I didn’t sense guile or malice in his voice, and it didn’t make me feel degraded or self-conscious. But how do we define a tone that makes us comfortable v. a tone that makes us uncomfortable? 

Ultimately, all of this is personal. Some people argue that no person should ever make a comment about your body, regardless of their intentions, tone, etc. 

But what do YOU think? What is a compliment and what is harassment? What makes you feel comfortable and what creeps you out? Where is that line? 

Have a productive Sunday night and a painless Monday!

Things to celebrate…

February 27, 2009 § 2 Comments

1. It’s finally Friday! I know it comes around every week, but I still have a little party inside every time.

2. Pheebs’ awesome letter to inconsiderate oglers was posted on the front page of Feministing!

3. It’s that once-in-a-lifetime event…where Silvia turns 18! It’s been a fierce, feisty, feministy year. Happy birthday, girl. You rock.

Horror Story in Creative Writing

February 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

This semester I’m taking a creative writing class that has been pretty enjoyable so far. Earlier this week, we received an assignment to write the first two pages of a story focusing on setting. There were two prompts we could choose from: a love story on the subway or a horror story in a mall. I wasn’t surprised that as we went around the room reading excerpts from our stories almost every love story was between a man and a woman with the woman being approached by the man in a patronizing and sometimes outright creepy way. However, I was surprised when one of my classmates read his “horror story.” The story was about a cross-dressing football player and the excerpt he read came from the end of the story. It was about a paragraph, describing the main character’s desire to wear women’s clothing and feeling trapped by his gender. The story was supposed to be humorous, he read it out loud while choking back laughs. I was extremely uncomfortable considering the prompt was to write a horror story. To be fair, he only read an excerpt so I don’t know if there was something in the story that actually merited the horror genre. I squirmed in my seat thinking that there could be a student in the room who was struggling with his or her gender identity, and that writing a “funny horror story” about it could not be very encouraging.

What more could I expect considering that the topics of gender identity and GLBTQ issues are so rarely discussed, and when they are it is in a similar vein to my classmate’s story? After he was done reading, all I did was say “really?” I couldn’t think of anything else. Should I have said more? What would you have done?

Humorless Feminist?

February 18, 2009 § 1 Comment

After recent posts about Courtney Martin on the O’Reilly factor and Amy Sedaris’ racist comments I’ve been wondering about where we draw the line with sexist and any kind of -ist humor. It seems to me that the excuse that O’Reilly used for his sexist and ageist comments about Helen Thomas were that they were “humorous.” I didn’t find any of his comments funny, and I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. I didn’t find Amy Sedaris’ racist comments funny either. I thought Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin was pretty hilarious, but I also think that the way Palin was portrayed by the media was often sexist, as is the portrayal of female politicians in general. So where do we draw the line between funny and wrong?

Sometimes it is easy to tell when something is done in bad taste. But often, people seem to disagree on whether or not something is offensive. I think it is extremely important to be conscientious when it comes to what we see and hear on t.v., online, etc. I think we should all have the ability to discern for ourselves what we consider funny or offensive, but at the same time, we can’t let jokes that we feel are based on stereotypes and even malice go by unnoticed.

After watching Courtney Martin on the O’Reilly Factor, I was really impressed by her poise and eloquence in defending Helen Thomas and calling out O’Reilly on his sexist and ageist comments. O’Reilly’s responses to Courtney Martin’s points were all relying on his assertion that his comments were “humorous.” This relates to the notion of the humorless feminist–one of the biggest stereotypes and a damaging one. Portraying feminists, or anyone who dares to call someone out on the use of offensive “humor”, as humorless is a way of silencing them. Similar to portraying feminists as uncool and angry, portraying feminists as humorless makes us seem less relatable and unnecessary to listen to. Calling people out on jokes or comments that are offensive does not make you humorless. In fact, my feminist friends are some of the funniest people I know.

Feminist and Latina? No Way.

February 9, 2009 § 11 Comments

There have been so many times when I have told someone that I am a Latina and I have received the response, “Wow, but you don’t look it at all,” or even, “You don’t act it.” I have often been confused as to what these responses could mean. At first, I believed that it is based on ignorance. Many people do not realize that Latin America is an extremely diverse place in terms of culture, religion, and race. When I tell someone that I am a Latina, I often get confused looks because of my fair skin, sometimes I even get responses that doubt my Latin American heritage. I really don’t think that these comments are coming from a place of malice. I think that these responses are a result of the pre-conceived notions that many people have of what Latin Americans look and act like, which does not take into account the extreme diversity of a large region in the world.

This may seem a little off-topic, being that this is a blog that is primarily about feminism. There’s a connection, I swear. The confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone of the fact that I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants, that Spanish is my first language and that I am the first person in my family to be born in the U.S., is very similar to the confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone that I am a feminist. When many people hear the word “feminist,” their minds immediately jump to the pre-conceived notions of what a feminist looks and acts like. For example, I recently had a conversation with a peer who checked my legs for stubble immediately after I told him that I am a feminist. Hmm…This got me thinking about where these confused, surprised and doubtful reactions come from. Is it really just ignorance?

Perhaps we should examine the way that the media portray both Latinas and feminists. When a classmate tells me I don’t look or act like a Latina, what exactly does he or she have in mind? This is the second image that comes up on Google image search when you type in “Latina.” This is the third.

Clearly, it is not just Latinas and feminists that are portrayed in stereotypical and unfair ways. These are just the stereotypes that I have experienced personally. The media play a significant role in creating the preconceived notions that lead to the responses of confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive. We should be fighting these stereotypical and unfair representations in the media, as well as meeting misled preconceived notions on an individual basis with information and challenges to those notions. Not to mention the fact that the way women are portrayed, especially women of color, is a hot button feminist issue.

Facebook and Feminism

February 8, 2009 § 1 Comment

I’ve been having a really wonderful time checking the “Grinnell-Class of 2013″ Facebook group ever since I got accepted. At first this was because I’m ridiculously excited to go to college and join the Grinnell community. Almost immediately, however, the nature of my interest changed. I began to notice people posting really weird and personal things on the wall, stuff that you normally don’t tell strangers. Soon among the bizarrely personal posts, I found this WINNER:

who needs your school to be well known when you have Anna as your friend on Facebook. The girl has over a thousand photos of herself – she must be famous, or self-obsessed I can’t decide.

First of all… this is just a disgustingly mean thing to say about another human being before meeting her. Period.

But my main point is this: Facebook encourages its users to expose themselves. We share information on the internet with a huge amount of people, some of whom we haven’t even met yet. The option (more like imperative) to have photos on Facebook puts girls especially, I think,  in a difficult position.

If we have to many pictures we are self-obsessed. If we have too few we have probably been deleting the unflattering pictures, and are once again labeled superficial. If we leave up the unflattering pictures, we are ugly (but maybe we have integrity?). If we are caught on camera doing something unladylike such as making out with someone at a party, it’s now totally acceptable for that picture to go up on Facebook without our permission.

I am, at times, guilty of judging people I hardly know on Facebook, that’s for sure. I think the accessibility of all this personal information is sort of hard to pass up. So, I can’t decide if I should blame Facebook for encouraging this type of situation, or thank it for highlighting a truth that has always been there.

I do know, however, that when I meet “Grimy” (my little nickname for the author of that post) I will have a pretty valid reason to judge him: HOW HE TREATS OTHERS.

“I’m just not into that”

February 4, 2009 § 5 Comments

So, today was my first day as a second semester senior, a day that notoriously marks the beginning of several months of partying, nostalgia and (my favorite) intellectual apathy. I am all for taking it easy after 3 and 1/2 years of stressing over GPAs and getting into college, but today I realized that perhaps my last semester of high school can be put to good use.

Silvia and I are both in US Women’s History. After class, we heard a classmate complaining about being stuck in that course, saying, “It’s going to be so much feminism, I’m just not into that.”

My response: Luckily, US History of Women is IN NO WAY a class on feminism.

Silvia’s response: Oh, so you aren’t into equal rights for women?

Embarrassed, she then mumbled something about not wanting to do all the reading for the class.

It frightens me that smart women are scared to even learn about other women because they are afraid of being labeled as (GOD FORBID) feminists. So even though I’d love to turn off my brain until the fall, I feel compelled to defend the class, US Women’s History, AND the label, Feminism. It will undoubtedly be more fun than calculus and college applications!

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