Category Archives: Feminist Rant

What I want in a boyfriend: not so different from when I was 13

I recently discovered this list hidden in one of my drawers. It is what 13-year-old Niki wanted in a boyfriend.

 

With the exception of my complete flip-flop on facial hair (and of course now preferencing men over 15 year old boys), this list has stayed pretty consistent.

I want (in very particular order) a man who is

1. Open hearted/courageous/confident,

2. Funny (sarcasm never hurts),

3. Independent,

4. a good story teller,

5. with a keen interest in the female orgasm (preferably my own),

6. who is nice to his mommy,

7. and preferably has a full head of hear and cute hipster glasses

Good to know some things stay consistent in life even if perfect boyfriend has yet to appear.

*Note that the “kids” requirment is that he likes kids, not that he has them. This was more obvious at 13.

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What The Wire Taught Me About SexEd

If you knew me in High School, you know I had no need for SexEd while I was a teenager. I was hyperbolically academic, awkwardly clothed in thrift store cardigans and my role model was Rory Gilmore. And despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I masturbated embryonically and definitely had a strong curiosity in the subject of sex, even if just pixilated hypothetical sex, there was no way I was getting laid while I still roamed the hallowed halls of Preble High.

Yet somehow when my best friend decided to start having sex our senior year, I knew to google Planned Parenthood and look up the local number. I also knew the advantages of condoms versus the pill. And I knew you could get gonorrhea in the throat from a blowjob.

To this day I’m slightly baffled how I knew all this since I had a) never had sex and b) had never had SedEd. Although I’m foggy on many of the details of where my virgin self picked up all these details I’m pretty sure the knowledge came from three distinct sources: 1) Whatever information I could glean from the internet after my parents went to bed that would satisfy some of my growing curiosity for the birds and the bees and s and m 2) peers who usually were informed by older siblings or open hippy parents, god bless them or 3) in a few particular cases, specifically the gonorrhea in the throat example, Lifetime movies.

As I watched the fourth season of The Wire this weekend from my sick bed, I realized not all kids are as lucky as I was. For starters not all are blessed with braces and post-pubescent baby fat; some teenagers are attractive and can indeed attract sexual partners. And with this attraction comes all the complications of sex but with none of the formal or informal education.

I realize The Wire is not real life but after watching a recent local TV report about the lack of SexEd in Chicago, I’m beginning to believe it is not so far off. In addition to the “horrifying” fact that Chicago’s young people have the highest rate of gonorrhea in the U.S. (which also means Chicago has the highest rate of reporting and treating of that STI), the report also examines the schools’ role in this “epidemic.” A CPS grad, who is interviewed in cognito because of the extreme stigmas associated with underage sex, says she didn’t learn anything about sex, pregnancy or STIs in school. She learned about these things instead via first hand experience, aka two pregnancies and a Chlamydia infection.

It seems that whether we are in a fictitious Baltimore, or home sweet home in Chicago, we ignore teen sex. We pretend our 14 year olds aren’t having sex because it is easier to think of them as children than as complex human beings with a range of desires and emotions. Other than being naïve, this is dangerous.

Luckily there is a statewide movement to educate Chicago youth with age-appropriate SexEd. A bill called the Comprehensive Health Education Act or HB 3027 is currently looking to gain support in the IL legislature for a vote. A fact sheet is available on the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health website.

To be totally honest, I wish 14 year olds weren’t having sex. Looking back at my 8th grade picture, I’m sporting a Tommy Hilfiger shirt I wore about every 3 days, braces with bright yellow rubber bands and an uncomfortable smile of someone not quite used to their own skin. Looking back, I’m delighted I had time to grown into my skin before rubbing it against someone else’s.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to have my bad fashion sense and awkwardness; not everyone’s journey is my own; some teenagers are going to have probably awkward terrible 5-minute sex. We can’t stop this and realistically we don’t always need to stop this as it is part of growing up. But we can educate these little humping bunnies along the way so they stop passing around gonorrhea like some smuckers lip balm. We can give them more than some passed down information from siblings or inferred knowledge from American Pie. And for the ones not curious enough to WebMD “safe sex” we can give them the information in a handy worksheet, hopefully with smiling sex organs cartoons.

Something struck me at the end of the Chicago TV report. When asked what she wished she had learned, the CPS grad listed the basics, information on STIs and pregnancy but then she also added one more thing. She said she wish she had learned “self esteem, everything a woman needs to grown.”

It is this last bit that you can’t absorb from the glow of the internet nor from snippets of lifetime movies. It is this last bit that took me years to personally learn after years of confusing messages from the media about sex.

In the past decade we have put major educational resources towards abstinence only education and classes that are proven not only ineffective but also teach girls that if they have sex they are like sucked candy and that they need to be like quiet maidens.

The Comprehensive Sex Ed Bill isn’t just to teach kids to put a condom on a banana or how you can get knocked up even if he pulls out, it is to teach kids that sex has dangers and consequences but also ways to manage risk; that sex is a physical act between consenting people who respect each other; that sex is sex is a part of life, not your whole life; that sex does not make you used candy.

Really this bill is undoing the damage of a decade of bad lifetime movies and worse abstinence – only education programs. It is the kind of education I wish I had had so I was so shocked and disgusted the first time I saw a penis (at age 35 for my future children) and it wasn’t yellow and curved to the right.

For a glimpse into SexEd done right, check out this NYTimes article.

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Loving My Body One Orgasm At A Time

* October 19th the National Organization of Women celebrates Love Your Body Day. This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival.

When I was a freshman in college we had a “love your body day” presentation by a campus group. They posed the question “What do you love about your body?” Answers ranged from “my eyes” to “my biceps” to “the whole package” but almost all were in reference to what the individual found physically appealing about his or her body.

The coordinators then rephrased the questions and asked, “What do you love about what your body can do?” This took markedly more time. Answers ranged from “running 5 miles” to “laying down those sweet dance moves.” I think I said something about being able to walk up the 850 ft monstrous hill on campus everyday and thus avoiding the #80 bus.

But this was a cop out answer. Yes I am thankful I have legs that can carry me up a hill. Yes I love that my body is physically able. But what I love, what I really really just LOVE, is my body’s ability to orgasm.

Shockingly (or I guess not so shockingly given college freshman’s inability to talk about sex despite having vast indiscriminate amounts of it) no one in my group mentioned the big O or even thanked their hands for the effort on everyone’s 5-digit favorite pass time.

Our media is saturated with images of airbrushed cleavage, thigh and ass of just barley legal girls (not to mention the occasional side boob or crotch shot of a celebrity from overpaid, under scrupled paparazzi). They all reek of objectivity and over sexualization of women. Justifiably the counter culture screams of the injustice and points to all the other wonderful abilities of a woman’s body, to run, to be mobile, to be powerful, to be untraditionally beautiful.

Although a woman’s body is all of these things, it is also a cleavage, thigh and ass. And when it is appreciated fully for its ability to run, jump, skip and be beautiful, and perhaps touched in right combination either manually or with a partner’s generous help, a woman’s body is also sexy.

It is a fact we should not try to overlook on Love Your Body Day because it is an essential part of our bodies. Young girls are being taught via modern media how to look sexy, how to act sexy, how to squirm and moan sexy and how to sex sexy. They are not being taught how to actually experiment, explore or enjoy their sexy.

By only talking about the unsexy parts of the body, we are doing a disservice to young women. We are creating varsity soccer captains, student council presidents and Model UN representatives, who love their bodies and brains but wear ass-cheek revealing booty shorts with the words “sweetie” across the butt because a movie told them this is “sexy;” because no one told them part of loving your body is loving your own way of being sexy which usually does not include shorts with descriptive words scrawled across one’s backside.

I’m on a bit of a pedestal here but I’m going to preach it out while I have your attention. If we are ever going to truly teach girls how to love their bodies we are going to have to stop avoiding the sexy and start redefining it.

Sexy is not airbrushed nipples; it is not a series of carefully orchestrated positions in the best possible lighting followed by simultaneous orgasms; it not one image and it is not easy to define. Sexy is something we need to start talking about especially with our young women and men whose bodies, in addition to being beautiful and lovely, are also at their root horny sexy masses of energy. Let’s not ignore that fact; let’s metaphorically embrace it, and start talking about what sexy really means.

To me on this cold Chicago night, it is probably coming in the form of one of seven delightful speeds…

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Do I really need to clarify? Apparently yes. OK here it is: rape is not funny. ever.

I was at this lovely little free comedy show at a dive bar in Lakeview one night, enjoying my night and pissing away my nonprofit salary on craft beer, when a comedian opened her act with this doosy: “There should really be rape days at work; like vacation days but after a rape.”

I wanted to find the humor or perhaps wry commentary on society in this joke, but instead I just ended up concluding that it was a stupid attention getting stunt meant to illicit uncomfortable laughter (which it did). In all honesty I give the comedian some leeway because she is a woman and therefore not as funny as a man so she had to resort to the easy punch line.

But where I simply can’t find the wiggle room is how a man thought telling a story about RAPING a drunk woman was funny. But apparently ex-Second City cook Eric didn’t get the don’t be a fucking rapist memo.

I’ll admit it; I’ve been a bit of a P.C. freak in the past but in my elder years I’ve come to appreciate the slightly off colored jokes especially when they involve dead babies. However I will never understand why Eric thought that forcing his way into a unwilling woman’s room, getting on top of said intoxicated women and “doing his work” would ever be considered humorous.

I could get into the particulars of Eric’s pathetic story such as his perceived “peer pressure” and his idea of the “fish hook” as foreplay, but honestly I think I’ve said it all when I say Eric D Angell you will never have sex again.

Also I hope Tina Fey kicks your ass.

 

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Local DV group giving alternative view of Odd Future’s violent lyrics

Odd Future is scheduled to play at Pitchfork this weekend to the delight of fans and the dismay of local domestic violence groups. Their performance is sure to alight mixed emotions in Chicago; critics and fans are hailing the band as the “next big thing of their generation” while domestic violence groups have voiced concern over the group’s violent lyrics towards women.

Over the past year, Odd Future has made a name for itself with its intense hip hop beat, shock-value lyrics, and strong underground following. The group rejects any attempts at critics to define their music and they don’t bother to try to defend their hateful lyrics towards women. In typical 19-year-old fashion they “do what they want.”

Yet domestic violence groups in Chicago are quick to point out that Odd Futures fantasy raps are a reality for many women in Chicago. In order to remind festival goers of these realities, the d.v. group Between Friends will be handing out over 5,000 fans over the weekend with a list of resources for women who have experience violence. The group raised $1,700 in two weeks for the campaign and will now have a booth inside Pitchfork.

“We do respect the fact that they [Pitchfork producers] have the right to have the music that they feel people are interested in at their fest,” says Between Friends Programs Director Yesenia Maldonado. “But we’d like to make sure that they have the resources available while they’re there. This is a huge venue and we really want for people who haven’t heard these shocking lyrics—maybe they’re coming for another band and this is the first time they’ll be hearing [Odd Future]—we want to make sure that we let them know that this is something that we’re taking notice of, and we really want to get the other view out there as much as possible.”

There is something about blaringly different Odd Future that makes critics rush to proclaim them the next big thing, each critic trying to up the anty with hyperbolic predictions of Odd Future becoming the voice of a generation (obviously ignoring half of the future generation that would not like to be violently raped). They praise the harsh lyrics of rape and violence as an expression of naïve youth and assume because people can’t understand it, it must be new and good.

Even those critics who are critical of the band, always seem to end on an apology, as if it is their fault they don’t love the narrative of repeated violence against women. Although most will agree Odd Future has the right to exist and be produced, it is also important that the group be honestly critiqued and reviewed, glorified AND condemned.

Personally although I accept Odd Future’s right to make music, I think their music sucks and I have no desire to listen to a 20-year-olds fucked up fantasy about rape that is all too imaginative for him and all too real for many women. I think it is unhealthy for this to be proclaimed the voice of a generation when it is clearly only the fantasy of a few.

Odd Future gives one voice of a generation and groups like Between Friends are thankfully giving the other, to show the realities of domestic violence in our world. I for one am happy at least someone is willing to stand up and say this music is crap.

Check out an interview with Pitchfork founders here: http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-05-02/pitchfork-odd-future-endorsing-rape-or-showcasing-art-85888

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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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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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