Sunday, July 7, 2013

New blog!

Hey everyone, Thank you all for following me on this lovely forum. I'm creating a new blog for writing (some feminist/political non-fiction sort of blogging, and some poetry and flash fiction and essays and whatever else, too.) It's at , if you'd like to follow me there instead. Thank you for everything! Alexa

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Body Image Warrior Week Post!


As I've mentioned previously, I'm a Sister to Sister Mentor for New Moon Girls, a fabulous magazine and online community for girls ages 8 to 12. It's really the perfect community for preteen girls- it's smart and not at all condescending, there are incredibly insightful discussions, and it allows girls to discuss issues both fun and serious in a safe environment. One of the issues on which New Moon focuses is body image, regretfully perfect for the demographic of its participants. Although I know body image barely brushes the surface of the issue, I wrote a post for the girls of the site (keep the age group in mind :)) for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I'm pleased to also publish it in conjunction with Body Image Warrior Week at Already Pretty, which was inspired by NEDA Week to publish posts regarding body image, and I thought that worked out conveniently. Here's the post reprinted below.

My group of friends consists of some pretty incredible girls. I suppose I am biased, as their friend, but they really are spectacular. Some of us have the highest grades in our whole class, others are being commended by colleges already for their athletics, some are leads in the school plays. But wait—that’s not really what makes us special; those are just things that society thinks make a person stand out. My friends are special because they’re caring, kind, good listeners, honest, and beautiful people.

That’s why it’s so disheartening that every one of us has known many equally special girls with eating disorders or disordered eating. A combination of genetics, cultural and family norms, low self-esteem, media influence, and dissatisfaction with weight or one’s body are causes of eating disorders. At least one in every hundred American women suffers from an eating disorder. Even more appalling, 95% of those suffering from eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25, and about 90% of those people female.

Eating disorders are a really important topic for me. I had very poor body image when I was younger, which is something that I still struggle with, and even contemplated eating disorder behaviors. I had really negative thoughts about my body for over a year before I told my best friend, and it was over another year later when I told my other friends. I trusted my friends, and they knew most things about me, but I was embarrassed and terrified to tell them or anyone else. My friends were all so smart and didn’t seem very concerned about their image; I thought that if I told them that I wanted to be thinner or prettier they would think I was silly or “girly”. I thought that they would be awkward around me after I told them, treating me like there was something wrong with me. I was afraid that they would agree that there WAS something wrong with me.

It also just happens that most of the people in my group of friends are especially thin. I was even afraid- amazing girls that they are who would NEVER do such a thing- that they just hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t as thin as them yet, and once I told them, they wouldn’t want to be my friends anymore.

When I told all of my friends how much I hated my body at a sleepover in ninth grade, no one freaked out. Most of the other girls admitted that they’d felt the same way, which shocked me. Most importantly, all of those girls are still my best friends, and at times that my body image was particularly negative in the future, I’ve found friends to go to that make me remember that weight isn’t important. That’s something I know for a fact- that every girl is beautiful- but sometimes I forget it about myself.

When I finally made this confession, though, something unanticipated happened- my body image improved dramatically and I was so much happier. It wasn’t because people had assured me that I wasn’t “fat”; it was because a secret that had seemed so dark and embarrassing to me really wasn’t so powerful anymore. I realized that I didn’t have to think about my weight all the time, and that people I loved most would still love me back regardless of how much I weighed.

If you are ever struggling with body image, please don’t hesitate to sticker me or one of the other mentors or post on the Sister to Sister message board. It feels so much better to get it out in the open.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Post!

Hello! I'm sorry that I haven't posted in months. I hope that everyone's 2012 is going swimmingly. Today, I have a guest post from my friend Lola George about gender's relevance that she wrote for her gender ideology class (of which I'm super jealous- I wish my school had one of those!) It is a wonderful piece and I'm so honored that she's given me permission to post it here.

“GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTUCTION!” I shout, semi-jokingly across my German room to two friends arguing about which gender is superior. A laugh erupts from my fellow students, bounces around the room, settles, and then we’re back to learning. I sit back in my chair, and consider what I have just said. I’ve always been soft-spoken, and I tend to keep to myself in a classroom setting. What was it that moved me to speak my unpopular opinion aloud, for a room full of peers who would be thrilled to have another reason to judge me? I consider the phrase. “Gender is a social construction.” What does that even mean? If gender is only a social construction, why does it affect our lives so much? Social constructions only have the power we choose to give them, so why have we chosen this one as a way to govern our lives?

Throughout my life, my parents have never pressured me to be a certain way. They have always been supportive of whatever choices I make. The same goes for me choosing to go with or rebel against gender norms. Up until about third or fourth grade, I was always incredibly “feminine”. I wore dresses exclusively, dressed my cat up in doll’s clothes, and liked to keep things neat and clean. I was very careful and cautious and I absolutely loathed any sport or activity that required me to break a sweat, get my hands dirty, or hit another human being. This fact about me still rings true today.

However, once high school hit, I felt a need to rebel against traditional gender roles. During my freshman year, I was completely head-over-heels infatuated with a senior named Leah. The first couple of weeks, I only admired her from afar. I couldn’t even determine her gender until we spoke for the first time, but from the first time I saw her I knew that I found her to be very intriguing and very attractive. In hindsight, I think what attracted me to her most was the rebellious lifestyle that came with her short, shaggy boy’s hair cut and baggy jeans, which were offset by the delicate silver rings on her fingers and the way t-shirts tugged against the curve of her hips. She was a gender rebel, an insurgent against traditional roles, and everything about her life had me completely captivated. Being an active member of our school, Leah was the president of a few clubs, including the gay-straight alliance, and, being an active member or our school, I made sure to join every one of them. Much to my excitement, we ended up getting along quite nicely. Leah taught me everything she knew about queer culture, and I soaked it all up like a sponge. She introduced me to feminism and the world of gender-bending queer slam poetry, which I am still grateful for today. Eager to be like her in any way I could, I decided it was “uncool” to fit gender norms, and started to dress more androgynously. I bought boys’ pants and wore my rattiest sneakers. However, try as I would, I couldn’t seem to really look like a boy. Not like Leah could, anyway. One day, were sitting outside, discussing the trials and tribulations of being out and queer in high school. I was asking her about her experiences, trying to relate, when she stopped me. “Look at you, then look at me,” she said, glancing over me and then herself. I had a neat button-down men’s shirt, tucked into a pair of unisex trousers, all topped off with a black bow tied in my hair. She was wearing her usual uniform, an oversized t-shirt and shabby jeans, typical “boy” clothing. At first I felt frustrated in my inability to pass as a non-conformist, a gender rebel, but then I understood something I hadn’t considered before. Gender is a form of self-expression and how we present ourselves to the world, if nothing else. I knew who I was, and my true self could not be altered. I am who I am, and I identify how I identify, and even if it isn’t making the biggest statement, my identity cannot be changed.

Now, I am very comfortable with my identity. I wear what I want, whether that is a miniskirt and heels or a t-shirt and cargo shorts. To quote Andrea Gibson, I am what I am when I am it. My friends are a wide array of sexual orientations and gender identities, with many different views on the subject. One of my closest friends is a queer-identified boy named Adam. This year, instead of going to homecoming, he asked me out on a best-friend date. School dances have always made me uncomfortable. I hate dancing, bad pop music and sweaty gyms, so naturally, school dances are my personal hell. Of course, I accepted Adam’s invitation. It would be strictly platonic, just two queers out on the town, mocking heteronormative culture. We dressed up and went out to dinner, using fake accents and laughing quietly when the waiter mistook us for a couple. When we decided we had our fill of overpriced pasta, I got out my wallet, thinking we were going to split the check. Instead he leaned over across the table and said, “Please let me pay.” Being a person who would never refuse a free meal, I was about to graciously accept Adam’s offer, until he continued, in a no-nonsense, serious tone, “It would really make me more comfortable. I don’t want to waiter to think I’m some terrible boyfriend.” This is where I had to stop him. I tried to make a list in my head of everything that was wrong with this, but I decided soon that the list would be infinite. I felt so angry. This is exactly what we’re trying to make fun of. Why couldn’t he understand that? I swiftly whipped a $20 dollar bill out of my wallet, and said, loud enough, for the waiter to hear, in my terribly fake accent, “Great, so we’re splitting it!”

I don’t know what gender really is, and I don’t know what makes it so important. All I know is that as long as a queer boy will feel the need to pay for a queer girl’s dinner because he feels pressure to look or be a certain way, gender will be playing too big of a role in our lives.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Coffins and Wedding Dresses: Why I Don't Have to Get Married

When I was visiting my great-aunt over the summer, she was telling my family and I about a woman she knew who would visit the department store she worked at circa the 1950s. The woman would visit the store each Monday, reeling from the weekly conflict that occured at Sunday dinner in which her daughter, in her early twenties, tried to convince her father (the woman's husband) to let her move into an apartment with a female friend. It was cyclical- the daughter would ask the question with feigned innocence, the father would simply refuse, and it would escalate into a full-on conflict, leaving the desperate woman in the middle.

There was one line the man hurled at his daughter, recited to my great-aunt by the woman, that struck me significantly:

"You're not leaving this home unless it's in a coffin or a wedding dress."

There's a pretty high chance this guy's been dead my whole lifetime, and I still want to punch him in the face for saying this. It makes me so mad that this statement could ever have been accepted. I can barely imagine a world before Second Wave feminism. So much of my life thrives on what it's created. I can't even fathom when our society was so intensely gripped by patriarchy.

The worst part of the above phrase, in my opinion, is that the daughter could not control her own future. She could only move out if she got married or died. Yes, she could control her own death, but that really wouldn't do much for her. And she had control, to some degree, over her romantic engagements- but those involve more than one person, with a whole other set of opinions and experiences. She couldn't use her own ambition, skill, or finances to get out of her house and live an adult life- she had to rely on someone else, be it her father or her partner/husband. She couldn't do it herself. She was subservient.

The portrayal of marriage was unfortunate, too. It was an ultimatum. It was the only way out, not a mere option. Her motivation for getting married would have been getting the hell out of her house, not love. I mean, there is a chance love would have played a factor, but it's likely desperation played one as well.

Whether we've heard of feminism or not, girls like myself today know that they can be anything. They know that they have power. They can use their skills and hard work, academically, athletically, or in terms of other talent, to progress. A lot of teenage girls still think about marriage, but it's more of an option. Some of my friends like talking about getting married one day, some are vehemently opposed to the idea, and some have absolutely no idea. We've come to gather that all of those perspectives are fine. It's something I'm extremely grateful for, and I think that many other girls are as well, whether they explicitly articulate it or not.

Recently, I was at a meeting of my school's literary magazine. Some of the girls on the magazine were pleasantly discussing marriage, and love, and pleasant little futures in picket-fenced houses. (High school lit magazines equally attract the daydreaming romantics and angsty Holden Caulfields- this was a discussion of the first type. I fall exactly in the middle of these disparate groups.) The conversation came to a lull, and the other girls stopped to look at me. I typically have much to say about any topic, but I'd been pretty quiet here. That's because, well, I didn't know what to say.

"I really have no idea if I want to get married. It could be pretty cool," I ventured. "But, I mean, personally, I can't see it happening. Maybe it will. But I can't imagine myself getting married. I don't think it's going to happen." Which is exactly true- right now, at the age of sixteen, I can't imagine it at all. It sort of baffles me that some people can see that far. Another girl piped in. "I agree. I don't really think I'm going to get married either."

"It makes me so sad that you girls say that!" said another girl, who had extolled marriage earlier in the conversation. "You'll fall in love one day!"

But then comes another girl, so earnestly: "Why do you think you won't get married? You're beautiful! Someone will want to marry you."

Hold up. I did not say that I wasn't going to get married because no one was going to want to marry me. Nor did I say that my amount of attractiveness was going to make or break getting married, either. For some crazy reason, I thought that I may not get married because I didn't want to. Getting married involves two people who want to marry each other, not one person who decides if the other person is beautiful enough to marry them, as far as I'm concerned. It's not 1950 (thank goodness!) anymore. I don't have to get married. That's something that feminism has done for me, and every other girl in that room. Most of us will go to college, and be out of our homes within the next few years. If we decide to get married at some point, with or without a white picket fence, that's our call.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Guest Post on The Beheld Today!

Around the time I posted about fear for my generation, Autumn at The Beheld posted about her generation's attitude toward beauty as teenagers, noting,
In some ways this post may just be a mea culpa to the world at large for not having paid closer attention to the differences between what young women experience today versus my experience as someone who came of age at a time when baby tees hadn’t yet been invented. I maintain that the root issue isn’t that different. But more has changed than I realized.

Upon reading my post, she asked if I was interested in writing a response to hers about my own generation's approach to beauty. I was thrilled to be asked, and wrote a post that went up today. Please check it out! :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Moon Girls: Sister to Sister

I have the opportunity to be an older sister-esque mentor for New Moon Girls , an awesome website and magazine for girls ages 8 to 12. I write advice blogs for the girls about once a month, and here is this week's!

Sister to Sister- Take Your Own Advice

I had one academic goal for high school: to be on Principal’s List every quarter. Principal’s List is our school’s highest honor roll, with all averages above 94.45%. I wanted to be on it so badly. I worked so hard, and when I was up studying past midnight or ditching lunch to do homework (neither of which I recommend whatsoever), I would just remind myself of the goal: Principal’s List. It became this elusive, enigmatic way of epitomizing all of my goals. It was my proof that I was smart. It gave me a right to say so- or else, I would just be like everybody else, and to me, that seemed awful. Then, the very final quarter of my sophomore year, the unthinkable happened: a 94.38. Yes, that was my fourth quarter average, everyone. 0.07% off from the goal that I had defined myself so intensely by. What the heck was I supposed to do now? I had tried as hard as I possibly could, and I had failed. I’d always been told, by parents, teachers, even New Moon Girls, that if I tried my hardest, I could achieve whatever I wanted. But I didn’t. I was heartbroken.

I’m not seeking pity here. And I’m not complaining. I know so many people have so, so many worse things to deal with. I’m using this experience of mine to serve as a metaphor for the first time you try so, so hard to do something, and you can’t do it. Sometimes, this has to do with competition with others. For example, even if you try your very hardest for a part in the school play, someone else could get the role. That’s different, though, because people other than you had control. It’s so hard when so much is on you, when they standards even you set for yourself become too tough.

After my academic average fell short of my expectations, one of my close friends reminded me that the same thing had happened to her last year. She had been about the point off from the same goal, and I had consoled her, saying that it didn’t make her any less smart. It didn’t make her any less deserving of praise. It’s not like her parents, or even colleges, would care about one little point. This system of defining us, I had said, was stupid and baseless.

It wasn’t the first time stuff like this had happened to me, either. When I was in middle school I was very concerned about my weight and appearance. I thought that I was overweight and that if anyone else “noticed,” they wouldn’t like me anymore. Don’t get me wrong- I knew how silly that was, at least logically. Yet at the same time, I was on the Girls Editorial Board and spent tons of time on New Moon telling others that everyone was beautiful and that weight didn’t matter- and I believed it, too. But much like with my friend and our averages, I couldn’t manage to apply it back to me.

I don’t know if this is only a female issue, but I think that it has a certain relation to self-esteem that exists with primarily girls. Whether it’s natural or nurtured, girls are often empathetic, or attuned to other’s emotions. We understand what it feels like to go through such troubles, and are great at consoling each other. Yet, sometimes we can’t take our own advice.

I just wanted to remind you girls not just to treat others how you’d like to be treated, but yourselves, too. Imagine how much we could all get done if we focused on our awesomeness instead of our supposed faults.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Fear for my Generation

It’s typically stated that the current generation of young people, spotlighting adolescents, is ignorant and self-absorbed. It’s a long, winding list of absolutes- that all kids are addicted to their cell phones; that American students don’t study nearly as much as their international counterparts; that they don’t realize all of the social progress that has allowed them to live their lives the way they currently do.

I always tried to ignore this prevalent viewpoint. How could it even be uttered? Many of my friends are caring, wonderful young people. I have one that builds houses in an impoverished area of West Virginia each summer, and another who’s seventeen and has volunteered at her local congresswoman’s office for four years. We’re the kids who invite the kids deemed pariahs to sit with us at lunch. I’m not claiming we’re perfect, of course, but I think that we are good people. And how about all of the lovely, brilliant young teenage bloggers? Julie at The F-Bomb, Danielle at Experimentations of a Teenage Feminists, and Talia at Star of Davida are just a few examples. These girls are taking the time to eloquently express their opinions in a public forum, creating a community for other like-minded people. I’ve never seen an ad hominem attack done on any of these blogs, which is far more than could be said for many adult pundits.

But my last few weeks in the start of school have made me feel that all of the ignorance and apathy associated with my generation might be right on the mark.

Take the conversation I was a part of at an athletic team gathering. A friend and I were sitting on the couch next to a bunch of very recent high school freshmen, who were discussing various females in their grade, branding them as “sluts,” “weird,” etc. It was very The Plastics in Mean Girls. One of the girls there mentioned that she was frequently called a slut, and everyone shouted, “OMG! You’re totally not! Not like [insert name here]!” (I wish I was hyperbolizing.) I tried to profess that your worth can’t be defined by your sexual activity- whether devised on the grapevine or actual- but everyone just kind of looked at me. Anyway. One girl, now Girl A, switched the topic to how Goth was weird. “My dad said that if I ever become a Goth, he’ll send me to female military school.” Alright. A bit weird, definitely. But then Girl B interjected, “Oh, yeah, that’s like when parents send their gay kids to straight school.”


I cleared my throat. “Um, hey Girl B, that kind of doesn’t make any sense at all. What do you mean?” [Fake giggle.]

“Oh, there are lots of them. And they, like, work, too. Because when the kids come out they were gay before and now they’re straight.”

“But… that makes no sense. If you’re gay, that’s it.”

She looked at me like I was completely insane, and then the conversation switched to which belly button rings each of these fourteen-year-olds planned to get when they turned eighteen.

Oh dear.


This story’s off the middle school rumor mill, courtesy of my little brother.

Most people have heard the rather annoying phrase, “Cool story, bro. You should tell it at parties.” It’s now printed on lacrosse pinnies across the country. But my brother told me about a shirt one of his thirteen-year-old male compatriots wore to school, reading, “Cool story, babe. Now make me a sandwich.”

I was legitamitely speechless.

My brother said that when a teacher saw it, she supposedly lectured him in front of the whole class, “but not like yelling at him. He wasn’t in trouble. But asking him if he even knew what it was saying.” (I knew I trained him well.) Obviously, I think that this was the right thing, if not the awesome thing, for her to do.

But really? Thirteen’s a bit young for blatant sexism.


The list goes on and on. Another shining moment is when teammate relayed to me that a kid in her Global History II class asked the teacher, “If you’re Lesbanese, are you automatically a lesbian?” “I just knew that would make you mad,” she said. And she was right.

Why does this make me so mad? Because these kids are SO young. They already have these close-minded views in their heads. I know the last generation was all Free-to-Be-You-and-Me, but I think my generation may have missed some of that acceptance. Our world is progressing so much socially. These kids could have any opinions they want. If this is what they really think, then that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

But… how many thirteen year old guys buy their own shirts? I can’t say very many guys I knew bought their own clothes before high school. I would strongly suggest that this kid’s mom bought him the offending clothing article. What the Hell is that teaching him about how to treat women? And my teammates- it’s one thing to have self-expression stilted by threat to boarding school, but another entirely to say that being gay isn’t a part of one’s intrinsic identity. I can’t help but think that parents influenced this too. In the media this is becoming a far less portrayed view (I mean, Glee, right?) But if kids’ parents are stuffing them with archaic opinions, how much can we blame these kids for their ignorance?

And yeah, maybe I’m guilty of this too. I try as hard as I can to be open- stuck 100% in liberalism is just as bad as being stuck 100% anywhere else. My parents’ opinions on issues such as these wasn’t particularly strong in my childhood, for which I’m glad, because I’m confident that I formed opinions that are right for me personally at this time in my life. But how can my generation achieve social progress when bogged down with no room to think for themselves?