Category Archives: Magazine

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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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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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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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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Abortion not a “women’s issue”

For some time now I’ve been interested in what I affectionately refer to as “women’s issues,” that vast swath issues ranging from domestic violence to women’s image in the media to the most notorious of women’s issues out there abortion. As “women’s issues” these topics are usually handled by women in the media. But to my delighted surprise, a recent Salon article written by a man about abortion was one of the most honest and enlightenign articles I’ve read on the subject for a while.

The author Aaron Traister

The male writer is Aaron Traister and he describes how abortion and reproductive rights have touched every part of his life. From his mother’s decision to end a dangerous pregnancy to his college’s girlfriends decision to have an abortion to his wife’s access to birth control, each of the women in his life made reproductive choices that not only affected their future but his. Realizing this, Traister writes one of the strongest arguments for men becoming involved in the pro-choice movement.

I wish all men could read this and understand there is no such thing as “women’s issues.” As Traister, says “The destinies of men and women are intertwined by sex, and pregnancy, and childbirth. It is time for more men to sack up and start taking responsibility for their end of the conversation.” Read the full article here .

I must admit that there is a part of me that is protective about “women’s issues” and particularly abortion. A part of me doesn’t want to give up ownership of something that has to do so intimately with my body and my future. But as I read Traister’s story, I came to the same conclusion with him: abortion is a difficult decision which we are all responsible for defending and perhaps in sharing this responsibility the burden will become a bit less.

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An eye for an eye, a mass of cells for a doctor’s life

You can’t “kill” a mass of cells in a women’s uterus but in South Dakota it is A-Okay to kill a full grown adult. A new bill would make killing an abortion doctor legal if the intent was to save a fetus. Who really thinks this is a good idea?

Read the article here

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Abortion’s Common Ground: It’s Not Your Decision

For as long as I have been alive, abortion has been legal. It has also been one of the most divisive issues of my generation, not just in the media, politics or in the church but within my own circle of friends. The majority of my friends are pro-choice yet what we would do personally if we became pregnant, the decisions vary widely.

But no matter what each of us feel individually, we all understand it is not our choice to decide what another person should do with her uterus, her 9-months and her future. This is the common ground we all stand on. Although personally we all have different values, we know our values are not somehow better than anyone else’s.

This is the major common ground missed in most abortion arguments. In light of the recent horrific news about an illegal abortion clinic in Philadelphia, Salon’s Rebekah Kuschmider reminds readers that this common ground still exists.

Kuschmider remarks that “Societies over the course of human history have tried to put all kinds of different regulations and rules on sex but in the end, pretty much everybody does it. And you do not have the right to impose your personal sexual morals on anyone else. You don’t. It’s rude. So please don’t try.”

She continues to confirm that indeed the human race has sex and sex produces pregnancy. She encourages society to change the way we look at sex, reproductive rights and the attitudes we hold towards women and sex.

“Telling young women that having sex makes them “bad” is a good way to totally undermine their self-esteem if they do have sex and lead them to make poor choices about it,” Kuschmider says.

While my friends and I  have these conversations about abortion “what ifs,” we also have discussions about the best type of birth control, which condoms are most enjoyable as well as what positions we like and what makes good sex great. And just as we would never tell a friend that liking “doggy style” is just weird and wrong, or perfering ribbed condoms is immoral, we would never say the personal decision to have an abortion is right or wrong.

Read Kuschmider’s full article here

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Debating the Sexual Should’s: Should Women have Sex like Men?

A recent article on CNN Health posed the 21st century, post-Sex-in-the-City question many American women are all too familiar with these days: “Should women have sex like men?”

The article was overflowing with generalities, short on science and overall disappointingly shallow when dealing with the complexities of female sexuality. As its crowning proof of the inability of women to have string-less sex “like men”, the article cited a 32-year-old woman battling “post-orgasm regret” a bout of depression that developed right after orgasming. One woman cries a little after sex and suddenly all women are unable have sex without those pesky sentiments of love?

The problem with the article and the general debate in society about how women “should” or “should not” have sex is all in the wording. Sex should never be an issue of what an individual “should” or “should not” do; it should be a discussion about what an individual WANTS to do.

The question should be do women want to have sex “like men” or sex without emotional attachment. That is a debate likely to be as multi-dimensional as “what is the government’s role in the recession recovery” or “what is your favorite sexual position?” Everyone has a different opinion, and one that is likely to change over time and experience.

We (this includes the men folk here) need to stop telling ourselves what we should or should not be doing and start really investigating what we want. There will be times in many women’s lives when they want string-less, emotion-less and hopefully orgasm-full sex. There will be times in many men’s lives when they are sick of the hook-up culture or are never into it to start. When we start listening to want we want and not what society tells us we want, we will all be a whole lot healthier, happier and hornier.

Debunking a few CNN misconceptions

1.

From CNN: “Many years before Candace Bushnell put pen to paper, Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing wrote, on the subject of sexual freedom, “Men get erections when they’re with a woman they don’t give a damn about, but we don’t have an orgasm unless we love him. What’s free about that?”

From Reality: Women orgasm with or without love everyday. Some women can’t orgasm even with all that oxytocin and love. Some women can orgasm without even knowing someone’s name. However, for the record, if you can’t orgasm without love, accept that and stop having loveless sex. In this case, all the faking in the world won’t help you make it.

2.

From CNN: “Oxytocin helps facilitate a sense of attachment. But if there’s nothing to attach to, if there’s no deeper emotional content or meaningfulness, orgasm could become a regretful reminder of the hollowness of the sex that preceded it.”

From Reality: Does this mean there are millions of women out there emotionally attached to their vibrators? Orgasms can create oxytocin which can facilitate attachment. Orgasms can also be an incredible muscle spasm leading to extreme relaxation and passing out 5 minutes after sex. The roll over and sleep maneuver isn’t reserved for men. Seriously, not all women love to cuddle.

3.

From CNN: “A woman is less likely to have orgasms early in a relationship. Her body needs time to adapt to the new partner, to learn to trust him or her, and to relax into the knowledge that her partner accepts and appreciates her body.”

From Reality: This may be true for many women, and for others it is complete shit. Anyone ever seen 9 ½ weeks? The one-night stand exists for a reason and it is not just to please the man. Women like exciting adventurous sex too.

 Conclusion: It is time to start really thinking about the who, what, when, where and why of sex on a personal level and let go of the should. We all know we can have sex like Samantha but do we want to? And just because we want to be Samantha one day doesn’t mean the next we can’t want to be a born-again virgin. The rule book never helped much any way. Throw it out and create your own sexual should’s. Number one: Sex should always feel good.

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