Monthly Archives: March 2011

Men embracing the “f” word

The Root published a fantastic article recently about a young man’s struggle to understand the term feminist and why he should claim the title for himself.

“Like most guys, I had bought into the stereotype that all feminists were white, lesbian, unattractive male bashers who hated all men. But after reading the work of these black feminists, I realized that this was far from the truth. After digging into their work, I came to really respect the intelligence, courage and honesty of these women.

Feminists did not hate men. In fact, they loved men. But just as my father had silenced my mother during their arguments to avoid hearing her gripes, men silenced feminists by belittling them in order to dodge hearing the truth about who we are.

I learned that feminists offered an important critique about a male-dominated society that routinely, and globally, treated women like second-class citizens. They spoke the truth, and even though I was a man, their truth spoke to me. Through feminism, I developed a language that helped me better articulate things that I had experienced growing up as a male.

Feminist writings about patriarchy, racism, capitalism and structural sexism resonated with me because I had witnessed firsthand the kind of male dominance they challenged. I saw it as a child in my home and perpetuated it as an adult. Their analysis of male culture and male behavior helped me put my father’s patriarchy into a much larger social context, and also helped me understand myself better.

I decided that I loved feminists and embraced feminism. Not only does feminism give woman a voice, but it also clears the way for men to free themselves from the stranglehold of traditional masculinity. When we hurt the women in our lives, we hurt ourselves, and we hurt our community, too.”

Read the full article here.

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Reminders from the Second Wave

Salon recently interviewed author Anne Roiphe about her journey as an artist. As a housewife in the 50’s Roiph channelled all her artistic energy into being a muse instead of being the artist.

Reading this article in combination with Friedan’s classic Feminine Mystique, has reminded me of the incredible privilege I have as a post-second wave feminist to realize my own dreams instead of merely supporting the artistic dreams of my husband. I think many young woman when thinking of the term feminist, forget why the term was created, they forget that a mere 50 years ago, women were restricted to the private world of the home.

This article is a great reminder to be thankful for all the struggle of second-wave feminists. Read the full article here.

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Sex Ed from Broadcast Television

Legislators can argue about it all they want but sexual education is happening everyday inAmerica; not in our schools but on broadcast television.

What ours schools lack in formal sexual education, broadcast television fills in with the nitty gritty visual details even if lacking some of the less sexy reality facts (such as theUnited Stateshas the second highest teen pregnancy rate). After watching a particularly racy episode of Gossip Girl, I remember thinking, man I wish I was 16 again so I could have that amazingly effortless, safe and consequent free sex.

After years of disappointingly surface content surrounding teen sex, it was surprising, refreshing and a little humbling to see teen sex tackled with such ease and common sense as Glee’s “Sexy” episode did this week. It didn’t talk down to teens, it didn’t over simplify something as complicated as sex and most importantly it didn’t pretend sex doesn’t exist.

In probably the best teen sex speech I’ve ever heard, Kurt’s dad tried to express the complexities of sex to his son. The speech, in the episode directed toward a gay teenage boy, is universally applicable to all teens (and some adults for that matter).

“For most guys sex is just this thing we always want to do. It’s fun. It feels great. But we aren’t really thinking about how it makes us feel on the inside or how the other person feels about it. Women get that it is about something more than the physical. When you are intimate with someone in that way you are exposing yourself. You are never going to be more vulnerable. That scares the hell out of all of us guys. You got to know it means something. It is doing something to you, to your heart, to your self esteem. Even though it feels like just having fun…When you are ready, I want you to do everything. But when you are ready I want you to use it as a way to connect with another person. Don’t throw yourself around like you don’t matter. Because you matter.”

If only everyday parents could start saying this to their teens maybe we wouldn’t need broadcast TV to do it for us.

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A feminist response to the not-married blame game

My roommate forwarded this Huff Post article to me recently and there is really nothing more to say other than “right on sister.”

Exert:

“I know it’s my fault I’m not married. I know that in the future, if I don’t get married, it will be my fault as well. And thanks to the advancements made by the women in the generation above me, it’s my decision to make. Because staying in a bad relationship just because it is heading towards marriage is like putting a plastic bag over your head, and just letting in enough air that you can stay alive….

“But I grew up in a generation of women that literally never stopped hearing that marriage isn’t a fairy tale. We were fed statistics about divorce in the same way that the Baby Boomer generation was bombarded with ICBM figures. Daily, we were told that men were not Prince Charming, that they would not vanquish a dragon to save us, rescue us from a tower or even just fight their way through a double transfer on the subway to come kiss us goodnight. And so we learned how to expect literally nothing from a man. And do you know what happened because of that? We learned to let men treat us like crap. We came to believe that men were doing us a favor by settling down — because otherwise they would be out spraying the world of willing women with their abundant seed. We were taught to be grateful if a man showed interest in us, and we became fearful at all times that he would leave us once he did. Women of my generation are still the second-class citizens of fairy tales: only now, we don’t even have the chivalry or the ever-blooming roses to comfort us in our eternal boredom…

“All of the qualities we cultivate in ourselves from our first overachieving moments in elementary school to our graduation from the best universities in the nation — confidence in our physical appearance, the ability to support ourselves, our cultured and well-read minds, the sterling pedigree of our schooling, our taste for healthy debate with our peers (both men and women) — actually won’t help us to find an equal partner. What it will do is make an “equal” man feel insecure, and what he will do with that insecurity is label us as “crazy.” And crazy people aren’t to be taken seriously — they’re to be medicated, dosed, tamed like “Kate,” the eponymous shrew — and made into the perfect wife. In essence, in order to participate in the ritual custom of marriage, we have to become shadows of our best selves. So when you say to me, Tracy McMillan, that I have to work around a “man’s fear and insecurity in order to get married,” I say to you, why aren’t you telling me that I should be going out to look for the men who wants a woman like me? (They do exist; some of them are my friends.) Instead of being told I need to medicate my “craziness” to pander to a man’s itty-bitty oh-so-witty ego, I want a man who is every bit my match, and is not scared off by that. I want a man who appreciates that I enjoy sex. I want a man who loves that I can fire back a sassy comment like Katharine Hepburn on one of her lazy days…

“All that I’m trying to say, ladies, is stop trying to frighten me; make me feel empowered. Speak to me like I can make my own decisions, and don’t demean the difficulties I may be having finding a guy who I think is worth my time and energy. Marriage is a rapidly-changing institution. Let’s discuss how it can be molded to fit our rising status, rather than trying to jam ourselves into some outdated ideal.

Read the full article here

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New “factual” argument against promiscuity

Ross Douthat’s had a lovely little tidbit in the New York Times last week about the cost of promiscuity…on women. As Dothart says less sexual partners “increases the odds that [women’s] adult sexual lives will be a source of joy rather than sorrow.” His argument is notably reserved for women.

The facts come from a study showing women with increased sexual partners are decreasingly unhappy. However this fact doesn’t say if the connection is causation or correlation aka do women sleep with more people because they are unhappy or does sleeping with more people make one unhappy. Or ignoring both of these suggestions is there something about behind the sex such as finding a stable partner that increases happiness.

According to a professor intereviewed by Salon’s Tracy Clark Flory “There is no compelling reason to think that larger numbers of sexual partners are truly ‘causing’ less happiness…It’s more likely that the reverse is true. I find Ms. Right; she makes me happy; I then don’t need to look for any other sexual partners.” In other words, actually having sex with more people isn’t making women unhappy but rather the frustrating fact that they haven’t found Mr. Right.

Arguments like Douthat’s which twist stats to prove a personal moral issue, do nothing but reinforce negative societal stereotypes. The truth is finding Mr/Ms. Right is a frustrating and difficult process; the unluckier you are in your pursuit often the unhappier you can appear to be in the time being. However in the end, when Mr/Ms Right is found Mr/Ms Wrong, whether that number is 2 or 200, really doesn’t matter.

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To all my sister friends on International Women’s Day

A year ago, I celebrated International Women’s Day by starting this blog. I started the blog partially to be a platform of discussion for 3rd wave feminists in the city but mostly just to be an outlet for my feminist “rants” that were getting too lengthy for the 420 character limit of Facebook. But really looking back I think I was looking for a community.

Today my “sister friend”, a term we created to define a friendship in which one is comfortable talking to the other while using the restroom, sent me a chain message I had received twice before. This International Women’s Day, the message hit home.

The chain email, called “They Teach it at Stanford,” is about the connection between relationships and health. It boils down to this: “one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.”

We know our girlfriends, moms and sisters are important, we know we feel better after exhaustively talking about life over a bottle of wine and now we know why.

“Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this “quality girlfriend time” helps us [women] to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being…We [women] share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health…Failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking.”

As for men, right or wrong, women tend to be the givers, the listeners and the comforters in a relationship; we are conditioned that way. Men benefit from the comforting nature of women in a relationship. But women need that sense of support and community as well; they need their sister-friends.

I have no idea if this email is really about a lecturer at Stanford or even really if it is total bullshit. But I know that since there have been men, there have been groups of women talking about men, and in the process becoming better, healthier and more well-adjusted women. I know that female friendships are not only a blessing but also a requirement for a stable existence.

I have always been blessed in my life to be surrounded by the most beautiful and supportive women. And over the past year, I have realized that these amazing women are more than just friends, they are even more than sister-friends, they are my community and they are my home.

This International Women’s Day I am choosing not to focus on the continuing struggle of equality for women around the world- there are many fights still to be fought and, honestly, they can be exhausting. Instead today I just want to say thank you to all the women in my life, who have picked up my crying 3 a.m. calls, helped me edit term papers 2 hours before the deadline, laughed with me at Will Ferrell movies, listened to my rants, and who have loved me better than I could love myself. Thank you for being my home.

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The devaluation of sex: a bad thing for women?

I have reread a recent Slate article a few times, and each time I am left hoping the majority of women don’t believe this crap. It claims the recent devaluation of sex has given women a disadvantage. Sex is now easier to get and therefore women can gain much less from it. For example, since a recent college grad can easily get sex, he is less willing to commit to his girlfriend.

The proof comes from statistics showing couples choose to have sex earlier in the relationship as well as a “survey” showing that men are more likely to have sex with a stranger and not feel bad about it. This is paired with some narratives of young women frustrated because their boyfriends won’t commit.

This article and its proof does seem to show that sex is becoming less of a bargaining chip in relationships, but I can’t seem to see why this is a bad thing. If sex is taken out of the equation as a bargaining chip perhaps men and women can both start enjoying sex for sex and stop thinking about all the potential implications. Maybe if sex the power of sex is taken away, then couples can start focusing on what really matters, a mutually supportive relationship.

Read the Salon interview for more insight into the facts here.

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RedEye celebrates International Women’s Day by writing about men

RedEye’s back cover today: “Dude looks like a lady.”

It is an article, or really just a collection of photos,  about celebrity men dressing up like women.

Really RedEye? Even on Women’s Day you focus is men. Nice.

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The 20-something man-child: do today’s young men deserve all the hyphens?

Thanks to the release of Kay Hymowitz’s new book “Manning Up,” everyone from NPR to Salon to your local bloggers seems to have an opinion on the current “pre-adulthood” state of young men. Hymowtiz’s hypothesis, which is based heavily on pop culture references, suggests that unlike previous generations, young men today are unwilling to grow up, give up the playstation and become a flourishing part of society… and all because young women are growing up faster and more successfully.

It is hard to tell if Hymowitz’s argument is trying to blame the victim (damn those over-aggressive young feminists scaring young men away from success, they deserve to deal with the pathetic outcome) or be the voice of a disapproving, guilt-inducing mother (time to straighten up young men and produce some grand babies). Either way it seems less than convicing to most because of its over-generalizations and reliance on hit movies to support her argument instead of facts. (Read NPR’s review and exerts here.)

As Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory says “there is certainly some truth here — but, unfortunately, she relies on oblique statistics and pop culture observations instead of talking to the men she’s writing about. ” Read her full response plus the response of some real young men here.

And yet when I was reading exerts from Hymowitz’s book, I couldn’t help but feel some twinges of familiarity when reading the descriptions of child-men: “It’s looking pretty clear that ten or fifteen years of party-on single life are a good formula for producing navel-gazing, wisecracking childmen rather than unhyphenated, unironic men.” Despite not having the facts and figures to back it up, I feel myself agreeing with Hymowtiz’s hypotheis, even if it is only based on my own small experience in the world.

No one would deny the past few years have been rough particularly on young people just starting out in the world, trying to make their path in society and finding more dead ends than promising roads. And yet when I talk to my female friends, I find we have found a way to adapt; we have put our pride aside, taken positions for less money with less than appealing titles and worked to make our way even if that way was not on the previously drawn map. We are looking at going back for master’s degrees, taking on bigger projects at work, and moving up in our fields despite the recession. We may not be looking to get married, have babies and enter that “adulthood” but we are looking to better ourselves and create our own place in society.

And yet the guys we are dating are routinely disappointing (of course with delightlful exceptions). It is not that they don’t call, don’t open doors, don’t pay for dates (although they routinely don’t); it is that they are lacking any ambition or plan for their futures but seem filled to the brim with excuses for their stagnant lives: the economy, their stupid boss, their parents, society’s unrealistic expectations. They are not just navelgazers but navel-buriers; they have buried themselves and their futures in their own unrealistic world and expectations.

I have no facts to support these claims other than my occasionally humorous and often painful personal history. Yet despite my personal experience, I do not think today’s young men deserve the hyphens. Although I suspect Hymowitz’s observations are true because they resonate in my own life, I am beginning to believe her man-child conclusion is flawed.

Young men today just like young women are struggling to find their place in a changing society. The majority of young men and women of today do not get married at 21 and have babies, they do not have the obvious, visible entrance into adulthood. Instead they often have a decade of creating their own identities, of finding their place in society and of negotiating their hyphens. It seems that young women seem to accomplish this task in a more socially acceptable way, by getting jobs, supporting themselves and creating an independent life. Young men seem to be taking a different more frustrating route to self-discovery.

This can be baffling for older generations used to a certain formula. And yet there is not much to be done except maybe write more books about “preadulthood” and lament the good ole days. As for the frustrated young women out there, all I can say is some young men find themselves earlier and in less infuriating ways. So stop making excuses for the child-men who are still trying to start a band living off food stamps and their parent’s naive generosity and dump them. This 20-somethings decade is way too short to spend it writing angry blog posts about the disappointing men in life.

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