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?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Observations in Target: Mass Marketing and Young Females

"Mom, look! That's Rocky and CeCe, from Shake it Up! Can I pleeeeease get one of their clothes?" She stands on tiptoe to reach the higher shelf, and points to a t-shirt with an attached pinstriped vest. "I like that one!" I wonder if she notices that it's almost identical to the one CeCe is wearing in the poster above the rack of clothes.

My post- elementary school years have contained very little Disney Channel, which I consumed vigorously as a child. But after spending a week with a seven-year-old, I was fully informed on how Disney is functioning today. I know every person says this about the shows they watched when they were a kid, but I truly believe that the shows were much better then, especially for girls. Or maybe it's just that I have better media literacy now. After reading in Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter (not intended toward my demographic, but I still found it quite interesting) about the marketing system Disney uses, I've been genuinely frightened. There would be the show, and then an interview with the show's co-stars, and then a music video of their song, all within a half an hour. It's no wonder this young girl's eyes was drawn to the ad immediately.

As I stood in the pastel-hued feminine products aisle of Target, I muttered to the girl, like a batty old woman, "You don't know what you're doing! You're buying the clothes that she is wearing! You are not thinking! The advertisers have infiltrated your brain already!" Of course, within a minute, the vest-shirt combination was in her mother's cart.

A few minutes later, two girls and their mother passed by with a cart. One girl, about seven, sat in the cart's bottom, and the other, maybe ten years old, walked next to it. The younger girl was rooting through a small pile of clothes next to her crossed legs in the cart. "Sophia's shirt is an extra-large!" she said loudly, giggling. "Mommy! Why's Sophia's shirt an extra-large?" she asked, smirking at her sister. Sophia sped up walking, blushing. Sophia looked to be at a completely healthy weight, similarly in body type to both her mother and sister. What struck me, though, was how such a young girl already thought that the size "extra-large" was something to mocked, and mentioned, and giggled at. She knew that it was fodder to embarrass her older sister. I gather that looks have been a source of sister feuds for centuries, but I had a feeling the media threw something in here, too.

Disney usually plays it safe in terms of political and social correctness, so I was shocked on another Disney show, Good Luck Charlie, how often weight was mentioned. On the show, featuring a family of four children and their parents, the two sons frequently mock their dad for being overweight. When I saw this, I was completely shocked. Many TV shows have featured overweight fathers, but I've never actually see it be mentioned, as well as mocked, on a show targeted towards young children.

These experiences, although tiny in the scheme of my life, these girls's lives, and, feminism itself, gave me personal proof of the influence of the media on today's young girls. The girl who wanted the Disney shirt proves that Orenstein's claims, as well as those made my many feminist-themed mother bloggers, aren't alarmist. Sophia's little sister, as well as Sophia's own apparent humiliation, proved that the associations with weight begin at a very young age. It makes me so sad that by the age of seven, girls might already think that their appearance ties to their worth as a person. It makes me sad that people think that at all, but now it's happening even younger. This proves that we need to improve the media that children today consume.

This was reblogged on The F-Bomb.

Five Videos I Wish Every Middle School Girl Could See

When I’m trying to share feminism with my friends, dropping Manifesta on their desks or barraging their Facebook walls with links from the Ms. blog are often dead ends. I found that YouTube videos are an awesome way to disseminate this information. When I see the ideas that I subscribe to put out so clearly and grippingly, often with humor, I wish that every girl could see them. Maybe not every girl would agree, and that’s fine, but at least the opinions would be exposed to them in a palatable way. Here are my top five short videos, all with a feminist vibe, that I wish every middle school girl could see.

1. Good Girls Don’t Get Fat I think that this video would make a lot of ideas suddenly click in many young girls’s minds. They may know that they’re valued for more than their looks, but still put a ton of energy into being thinner. This video, to promote Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book of the same title, is very eye-opening.
2. The Girl Effect In a different vein than most of these videos- the issues affecting the middle class, middle school girls of today- this one is about girls around the world and how sexism, far more influential than it is in the US today, rules their lives. It’s incredible to see how much the world could improve
3. Billy Bricks: A Poem (This link is a little tough to get to- click on it, then scroll to the bottom of the page, and click the video there, with the girl’s face with her hands on her cheeks as the screenshot.) The Arts Effect NYC is an awesome theatre group that, with students writing the plays they perform, provides an extremely authentic voice to the preteen girls of today. This video shows that the encounters many girls assume must occur in their daily lives are actually sexual harassment, and not to be tolerated.
4. Why Girls Sometimes Wanna Be Boys By the same theatre company, I found this to be one of the most honest videos I’d ever seen in my life. These girls are brilliant. I think every adult who deals with girls this age- teachers, parents, coaches, everyone- should see this video.
5. Target Women: Story Time Target: Women, a former segment on the former show infoMania, just might be the funniest, feminist-est series I have ever seen. Although (unshockingly) targeted towards adult women, it truly exemplifies how much the media and advertising especially impact girls.

If you have girls this age in your life, please share these videos with them! And if you have any others, please comment!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Interview with Autumn Whitefield-Madrano of The Beheld!

The Beheld is a blog focusing on beauty from many different and thought-provoking lenses, run by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano. I find it particularly interesting as one of the few beauty blogs that explore beauty from a feminist perspective. I had the opportunity to interview Autumn about the many topics she covers on her blog.

What sparked your interest in writing about beauty?

Honestly, I don't know! I was researching a post on the history of makeup and found something in a Wikipedia entry about cosmetics history, and found what I was looking for, and when I looked at the footnote source saw that it was drawn from an article I'd written for my college magazine in 1999! So I've had this interest for a while. I think it's that I was reading lots of great feminist stuff, and was also engaging with beauty on my own terms, and I felt frustrated that there wasn't more examination of how women actually treated beauty beyond just condemning the beauty myth. Bust magazine broke some ground in that area, but they became a little too "yay roller derby and retro lingerie!!!" for my tastes. There's still very much the idea out there in the world that we're either smart OR pretty; that we're either serious women who don't care about our appearance or who do so begrudgingly, or we're big fluffballs who just wanna look purdy. And I know so few women who fit into one of those categories, and gobs of women who don't. I personally don't feel satisfied by the discourse of beauty that's out there--I still find a lot of it one-dimensional.

I guess I just really took to heart that "we write what we know." Anything truly good that I've ever written has come from a place of truth within myself. And the fact is, I think about how I look a lot. I think about how what I assign to my appearance affects how I move through the world; I think about how it shifts how I relate to others, and how they relate to me. I think intensely about a lot of appearance-related choices I make. And I used to belong to a Livejournal community in which I'd just write whatever came to my mind--it was really a journal, not a blog, so I wasn't thinking about how to make it readable to a broader audience. But when I started getting the real itch to put myself out there, I looked through my Livejournal and was surprised to see how many of the entries were tagged "beauty." Around the same time a good friend had been listening to my various thoughts on the matter, and he said, "You should either be thinking about beauty less or writing about it more." I chose the latter!

In regards to your Mirror Fast- what did you most take away from the experience? Would you do it again?

By now you've probably read my grand conclusion--if you haven't, here it is. The upshot is that I had to come to terms with how much I was using the mirror as a barometer of how I was feeling. I'm in recovery from an eating disorder, and one of the biggest issues surrounding eating disorders is a lack of awareness of how one is feeling. Food, or lack of it, or treating it inappropriately, becomes the way one deals with the slightest blip of emotion--it sublimates what you're actually feeling, so you don't really learn how to recognize and handle emotions. I'm still working on dealing with that, but I'm getting better. But when I was "mirror fasting," I realized how frequently I wanted to turn to the mirror to help me determine how I was feeling--like, I'd want to confirm that I was having a good time, or confirm that all was well, or assure myself I didn't need to be sad, which I'd determine by, say, how puffy my eyes looked that day. (Which is all in the head anyway!) And an unexpected outcome of the mirror fast was that for the entire month, I experienced hardly any eating disorder urges. I'd been doing okay at that point--not great, but pretty well, and WAY better than I was before I sought treatment. But for that entire month, it was almost like I'd never had an eating disorder--I ate normally without thinking about it. It was, quite honestly, sort of radical.

I would do it again if there were a situation that called for it. But actually, in some ways I'm still on it. My bathroom mirror is covered, and so is my gentleman friend's. I lift my mirror shroud to apply makeup, but I don't look at it at other times. I do when I'm in an office or another person's bathroom--it's reflex. But I look in the mirror WAY less than I did before. Highly recommended!

When did you begin to define yourself as a feminist? What aspects of feminism do you most identify with?

I don't remember a time when I wasn't a feminist; I was raised in feminism the way one might be raised Catholic. My mother was an active member of NOW when I was growing up, and she volunteered at the local women's resource center. This was in the Dakotas, which was hardly a hotbed of feminist activism, but that meant that people who were a part of the feminist community were tight-knit, so I was steeped in that culture. (I marched in an ERA march in 1980 dressed in all white like a miniature suffragette, and wore a pin that said "Ankle-Biting Feminist," which I still have and think is hysterical.)

But of course that meant there was rebellion. For a while when I was quite young--maybe junior high?--I declared myself basically a "notafeministbut." Even at age 12 I could see that the term brought up some negative connotations. But then I read a piece in Seventeen by Linda Ellerbee about how we shouldn't be embarrassed to use that word, and I figured if it was in Seventeen it must be cool! I haven't looked back since.

They say the personal is political, and certainly for me the whole idea of body talk and appearance has been central to being a feminist--learning to look at media messages critically has been helpful for my self-esteem, which enables me to be a better feminist. And, frankly, talking body stuff is way more interesting to me than politics. (Though, of course, even there I'm making a false division--marital rape, for example, was once considered "personal," but now we see it as political, because we've legislated consequences for it.) That said, I think it's very tempting for feminists who have reaped the benefits of feminists who came before us to ignore that sort of thing, and I really try not to. I'll never know what it's like to not be able to find birth control, or to not be able to get a credit card in my own name, or to be eyed with suspicion if I stay at a hotel by myself, or to know that if I got married my husband could rape me and the law wouldn't care. It's a luxury to be able to have my primary outlet of feminism be more philosophical than political, and I try not to forget that. But my way of supporting political women's causes is to donate money and to speak up on a personal level in conversation. Me writing an essay about reproductive rights would seem hollow compared to people who have had more intense experiences with that.

I also feel strongly about empowering women in developing nations, and support such causes financially, either through microfinance groups like the Grameen Foundation or through groups that support girls' education, like She's the First and the Vietnam Fund for Education, Music & Infrastructure. I spent time in Vietnam a few years ago and saw firsthand how essential it is to support women's work there in practical ways. Helping women in developing nations means helping communities; the two cannot be extricated from one another.

What do you think the role of feminism is in allieviating ridiculous beauty standards?

I think it's a process, and a historic one. Second-wave feminists played a crucial role in this by signaling to women that their role could be a public one that had nothing to do with their appearance, but rather their skills. We wouldn't have the beauty myth in its current form if that hadn't happened. But, of course, we DO have the beauty myth.

I see the role of feminism in alleviating harmful beauty standards as being twofold: 1) The more "real" women there are out there in the world saying to one another, "Hey, this is bullshit," the more alert and aware all of us will be. And while those women don't have to identify as feminists, without feminist discourse those non-feminists might not feel as free to challenge the beauty standard. 2) Feminism can provide an alternate script of what beauty means. I think that it's a human desire to want to beautiful ourselves; the problem is that we've created a rigid template on how we should do that. Feminism can expand that template, provide alternate modes of living and of seeing one another, and I think that's exciting.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

General Confusion; My Apologies.

Hello. I am remarkably grateful to all of you who have followed my blog. I'm so pleased that you found my ideas, or writing, or whatever interesting enough to make it a part of your Internet experience. Unfortunately, I did a rather sucky job of repaying you by not posting in forever.

You see, I have a small problem. Every single time I think or type or write out a complete thought or concept that seems true to me, I immediately contradict it. It's becoming quite a mess. I write up these pieces, think, "This would be awesome to post!", and then read it the next day and think it's the dumbest thing in existence, and there's no way I'd want to put it on a blog where (essentially) anyone could see it! It sounds trite and cliche and maybe it's inherently part of being a teenager, but I apologize for not disseminating any cool ideas as of late. I have many ideas of things to write once the school year starts up, and I'm thinking about posting weekly once September comes. Due to my now routine contradiction, though, anything could happen.

In the meantime, some things to do...
• Check out The Beheld. It's an awesome feminist-flaired beauty blog with new posts most Wednesdays, always intriguing and enouraging comment.
An interesting post on the satire in Lily Allen's music from Rachel Hills
• & A made-of-awesome feminist Nerdfighting video.

Thank you :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Birth Control Blog Carnival!

The fact that birth control isn’t often affordable is just very counterproductive.

Birth control is a preventative health care measure. Preventative health care measures really make everything easier in the long run. For example, a cancer screening, detecting cancer months or years in advance, is preventative in various ways. Not only will, in terms of practicality, immense quantities of money saved, but a woman or man’s health will much more likely remain intact. Birth control prevents, an enormous percentage of the time, against unwanted pregnancy.

There are so many reasons why birth control should have no co-pay. Many people with more socially conservative views believe that affordable birth control is unnecessary, especially for teens and younger adults; the belief that one should wait until marriage to have sex remains. Unshockingly, it’s been statistically proven that more than nine of out ten people have sex before marriage, often at a very young age; According to Public Health Reports, in 2002, the median age of first premarital sex for those then aged 15 to 24 was 17.6 years old.

The statistics prove that teens are having sex. The majority of people, politics aside, think that teen pregnancy should be avoided. Even if people think that teens having sex is bad, it’s undeniably occurring. This creates quite a conundrum, until we remember that there is a solution: birth control. It seems, although not idealistic for some, the most safe and practical resolution.

The only problem left, then, is its affordability. Again, teenagers can have a debacle when faced with the finances associated with birth control, with minimal incomes especially if still in school, and sometimes if their parents don’t know that they’re using it (or even, in some cases, if they do.) Yes, money will be spent by the government if birth control has no co-pay- but so much more money will be spent if another child is born.

Everyone- adults and teens of both sexes- benefits from no-cost birth control. I elected to focus on its benefits for teenagers, but it can also prevent a family, already struggling to afford the cost of living, from having another child to raise, and oral contraceptives can often alleviate the pain and discomfort of different hormonal imbalances.

Making birth control affordable would be incredibly, wonderfully productive.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Grammar v. Feminism?!

The two things that I defend most passionately on a daily basis are, irrefutably, feminism and proper grammar usage. Feminism is much more based on opinions, though, than grammar. Feminism is an ideological movement, intrinsically based upon opinions, for each person to agree or disagree with. Grammar is much more straightforward; its foundation is composed of rules of the English language that we, as a society, created, have evolved and now accept as fact. Because of the endless differences between two of my obsessions, I never thought there would be a conflict between them, but alas, there is.

Now, as I learned formally in freshman English, the pronoun and antecedent in a sentence must agree. (eg: her bike, his shirt, their toys.) This didn't used to be much of a problem, but with many more people attempting to avoid sexism, it is.

How could this be?!

Well, if a statement was being proposed in formal writing, the writer would be talking, most likely, about one individual, eg: "One must try hard to achieve _____ goal." This is where the problem lies. "One" is, quite obviously, one, but the majority of the time (at least for high school essay writers), "their" fills in the blank.

Their, although catering to both of the traditional genders, is NOT singular. It is plural. It would only be used accurately if it was "Therefore, people must be aware of their use of grammar."

We are told, then, to just get it over with and use he. We can only use one of the gendered pronouns, and of course, based on the traditon of patriarchy, the masculine one is the one formally accepted to be "right." But as a fervid advocate of grammar and the equality of the sexes... this just will not do. I will not just use he, because I am referring to a human being, gender unspecified.

Some people, as a rebuttal for this intrinsic antiquated sexism, use her exclusively, something which I've done in an essay or two. I lucked out having a teacher open to the idea, though; not all teachers are. The most common correct option is his or her or her or his, which can become tiresome if repeated frequently. My favorite is his/her; it's as if the two genders of the pronouns cancel each other out.

What we need is a gender neutral, singular pronoun. And apparently, I've recently learned, there is one, most popular in queer circles: hir. I've only seen it mentioned once, I believe in either Full Frontal Feminism or Female Chauvinist Pigs, getting a mention for a page or two. It's based on ze, a completely gender neutral personal pronoun for he/she. It was originated for those who don't identify with either the male or female gender, and it can encompass any gender identity. If it could make its way into contemporary society, this conundrum could be solved. However, it has not. And the scary question is: can it? The regulations of the English language have been around for centuries; can we really expect a change now? Will teachers and professors- most importantly, early elementary school teachers- be willing to change their traditions for the sake of gender?

I'm not really sure how I feel about this- will ze and hir work? Could our language evolve to be truly equal? This is just one example of many in which our language contains antiquated biases. Feel free to comment with your opinions :)

*I apologize for assuming that there are only two genders for parts of this post. I attempted to be completely inclusive, but grammar obviously isn't.
**All of this is applicable to the he/she debacle, too; it's essentually the same thing, just his/her are possessive pronouns and he/she are personal pronouns.
***I'm sure I've got grammar mistakes here too- my grammar is just as fallible as anything else, despite my love for it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What is Gender?

What is Gender?

(In part inspired by:

So, this isn’t exactly an original topic. I know so little about this; I’ve only researched it a bit, and haven’t studied it at all. However, I think it’s a very interesting topic. Someone recently told me of the theory that sex (the noun, not the verb) is biological and gender is socially constructed. This had never occurred to me, but it immediately made sense.

Now, many girls are encouraged to wear blue and boys are given Barbies. Sure, the “traditional” gender roles still stick, but many parents of today don’t want their children to feel limited and inhibited by arbitrary societal constraints. Although many (most) fight for equality and equal opportunity of the sexes, there are myriad credible studies that find extreme trends with the sex of participants, and other psychological studies showing strong preferences and feelings associated with one of the sexes. I know that it’s not just stereotype.

Still, if one really goes back into thinking about girls and boys, when they are born, the only real difference between them is their body parts. That is sex of a person, the biological aspects of one’s body that typically identifies he/she as male or female.

The reason that men are often seen as more powerful than women is, in my opinion, often due to the antiquated views of the serious way back when, times that the woman was the nurturer and gatherer, and the husband was the hunter. He was given this job because it’s likely that he was more physically inclined to do so, as well as that the woman, as the one who birthed the children, was expected to care for them. In most developed countries, though, physical strength plays a minimal role in daily life. Yet, why is it that most boys feel drawn to pretending to hunt with Nerf guns whereas the girls pretend to mother Bitty Babies? How much of it is intrinsic? Could it be a social construct from thousands of years ago? Essentially, could nurture have become nature over time?

This might be so silly, and so invalid, but, as a child, most grouping has to do with gender/sex. When walking down the hallway, the kids are in two lines, male and female. But if sex is the only real concept present here, then why don’t they just get in two lines by hair color? Could our society progress that much? It seems so unsettling from the way things are now, but it could be remarkable. Imagine just being a person. Imagine just liking people, and we wouldn’t need to have the labels of sexual orientation we do now because people would just like people. It seems so pleasant, and it seems so right. We don’t need gender anymore for its practical reasons; our society is technologically developed beyond that. Sex in terms of biology will always be present, but doesn’t have to be prominent.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Turn Beauty Inside Out Day!!

As some may know, today is the eleventh Turn Beauty Inside Out day. This annual event was started by the Girls Editorial Board of New Moon Girls Magazine ( in 2000. It celebrates the idea that beauty should be defined by character, not outward appearance. It’s a message that desperately needs to be heard by New Moon’s audience, girls ages eight to twelve. At the same time, New Moon maintains a delicate balance by also stating that every girl’s physical appearance is beautiful as well. Knowing that there’s nothing wrong with one’s body, coupled with the knowledge that true beauty is internal, New Moon provides a powerful, feminist-fueled foundation for thousands of girls to go and lead dynamic, vibrant lives. Take today to remember what beauty is, and that it’s not what the media claims. Remind your friends, the young women in your life, and everyone else of their beauty today- most importantly, yourself.

(More information:
Also, NMG uses May and June entirely for their inner beauty campaign! Visit their site for more information:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Inevitable Sadness? My hesitancy to speak out sometimes.

Setting: On line at a crowded fast-food establishment. Various GIRLS are talking in separate, overlapping, frightening similar conversations.
Girl 1: Should I get one of those? Or two?
Girl 2: I don't know. You can get two, if you want. Whatever.
Girl 1: I mean, I am hungry. We won't eat for a while. And they're small, right?
Girl 2: Yeah, they're small. (nods affirmatively)
Girl 1: (opens mouth; pauses) I think I'll get two.
Girl 2: Okay. (lowers voice, turns toward Girl 1) We'll walk off whatever we eat anyway.
Girl 1: What? (laughs halfheartedly) That's not what I was talking about. I was afraid I'd get sick later.
Girl A: I'm so excited that I can get something. I lost seven pounds in the last two weeks.
Girl B: Cool. What did you do?
Girl A: I don't know. I've been exercising more, and eating sort of healthier, I guess.
Girl C: But how do you know you lost seven pounds?
Girl A: Well, I've been weighing myself.
Girl B: You know you're never supposed to weigh yourself!
Girl A: What? Why?
Girl C: A lot of girls who weigh themselves become obsessed. If you get to into it, you can become anorexic or bulimic or something.
Girl A: Well, I wouldn't do that! (pauses) I just want to lose a little weight.
Girls who seem so confident and strong- girls who ARE so confident and strong- can be broken by a milkshake. It's society's priorities that are screwing them up. They've overcome the hardest academic courses, the most grueling athletic practices, the most exhausting rehearsals. They make jokes and have many friends. They are so talented and kind. Yet, while in line for ten minutes, at least eighty percent of the conversation revolved around food choices, and not in a casual way. Each sentence was careful, critical, cautiously articulated. This never, ever fails to shock me.
It shocks and disappoints me even more that I feel paralyzed from saying anything. All I can visualize is me squeakily exclaiming, "Everyone is beautiful!" and no one even hearing what it took me so much courage to even say. While reading pieces that say that everyone is beautiful, I always feel compelled to just climb on a rooftop and shout it to girls far and wide. But when I'm actually there, in the position to make a difference, I tend to freak out. I don't know how to do it without sounding cliche, without sounding like a creep, without sounding fake. Maybe what I really can't take is the sadness that will come when I shout, "Everyone is beautiful!" and someone inevitably responds, "Bullshit."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I am not easily affected by other people’s opinions. Maybe I was at some point, but I rarely value my worth by how others perceive me. So I don’t understand how I can feel so awfully judged by someone else without her saying a word.

If asked if I were ever explicitly bullied, I would probably say no. But when I sat at this table among eight of my peers, all girls within a year of my age, many of whom I’ve been acquainted with for years, I positively felt like crap. One of the other girls at this table, one of my close friends, visibly hunched over as we sat down.

My friend and I are intellectual. We have truckloads of aspirations and are not afraid to share our opinions or assert ourselves. Neither of us would have a problem speaking in front of a thousand people- as long as I didn’t know these girls were there.

I can’t place what it is. They say that my voice is cute even when I’m talking about rape as a war weapon in Sudan . They fake laugh at what I say regardless of its content, because apparently that should be more of a compliment than actually responding to what I say intellectually. They think that it’s strange that I talk to my friends, the rest of our peers, and teachers exactly the same way, and especially that I talk to guys in the same manner. I can’t do the coy, flirty thing. Maybe I could if I tried, but I haven’t. Maybe one day I will, but it’s not currently my prerogative.

When I speak, even when I’m just sitting there, they look at me. They stare; they never actually make eye contact. If I look back, they just sit even straighter and adjust their clothes.

Around them, I just shrivel up. I feel ugly and fat. I feel like my clothes are wrong. I feel like a loser, and immature. I am always aware, I suppose, that by cultural standards, they are much prettier than I am. I know that, by all logical measures, they are thinner than I am. I know that I dress unusually in comparison. These things, although I am aware of them and do not often fill me with glee, seldom negatively affect my thoughts. Usually I am proud of being a “nerd”, as I value intellectualism. My intelligence is what I am most proud of. But for them, being a nerd is bad, and when they’re around, their perspective begins to infiltrate mine. The immature thing is the most ironic. I’m concerned with global issues and ethics whereas they are typically preoccupied with typical adolescent drama. But for them, due to the fact that I’m all virginal and whatnot, I’m a little kid and younger than them. Somehow, just… lesser than them.

Strangest of all, I feel jealous, so very jealous. I have never been vapid. I will never be so easy to laugh or cry or forget about intense issues and just go to some party. It is not in my character to just get drunk impulsively or, honestly, do anything impulsively. I will never have that kind of fun. It depresses me a bit, because the satisfaction I achieve, although nice, is very different from their immediate gratification.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Followers :)

Thank you so much to those who have followed or commented on my post! I really appreciate your support. I intend to continue to post at least weekly, if not more, so please keep reading! If you like my posts, please share this link with friends. Thank you! ♥

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Feminism is Having a Choice

One of the most prominent issues of Second Wave feminism was acquiring the right for women to have access to safe, legal abortions. People who believe that women have the right to choose whether or not they have abortions are called, as most everyone, knows, pro-choice. Although in the media today this term almost always pertains to abortion, in my opinion the goal of feminism as a whole is to give women the right to make their own decisions. This applies to so many facets of the modern woman’s life today.

Women should have the right to choose how they raise their children. First and foremost, lesbian women have just as much of a right to bear or adopt children as any other women. (Obviously, gay men equally possess that right.) The stigmas that many women are stuck with, though, often pertain especially to heterosexual relationships. Regardless, when it comes to working women have a right to go back to work after they birth their children, while their partners stay home and raise their children. Or, both partners can go to work and the child can be cared for at a daycare or by a relative during the day. But women should in no way be persecuted for electing to stay home and raise their children and not return to work, or maybe not return for years after the birth of a child. If they have the financial means and desire to do so, women should have the right to choose whether to go to work or remain at home after raising a child.

Women should have the right to choose how they dress. Some Third Wavers, like Jessica Valenti, believe that as long as women understand why society wants them to be thin, dress in a sexualized manner, and wear makeup, they have the right to do so. Others, like Ariel Levy, believe that by doing this, some women objectify themselves. The beauty and body ideals of society have fluctuated radically over the last century. One hundred years ago, wearing pants was controversial for most women. Since then, women have been told to dress puritanically and sexily; with every inch of skin covered and not very much at all; in skintight clothes and clothes that didn’t touch their bodies whatsoever. If women are forced to follow any of these fashions, though, they are not liberated. A woman has just as much of a right to dress in a way that could be perceived as conservative as she does in a way that could be perceived as sluttish- as long as it is her decision.

Women should have the right to choose their sexual activity. They have the right to elect when they lose their virginity. Today, more sexually liberated Third Wavers strongly advocate for the right of young women to have sex, including access to information and contraception. These feminists are very vocal in their belief that teens should have the right to be as sexually active as they want. It is awesome that this belief is becoming more prevalent, but young women’s decisions to have sex later in life, even after marriage, has to be an option too. If young women now have the right and means to choose to have sex in high school, they should also have the right to abstain for as long as they see fit.

This relates to countless other feminist issues being debated today. As long as all women are generalized into one group and not given the right to have opinions as individuals, they are oppressed. Feminism will have succeeded when the every woman can express her opinion and has the free will to act upon it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Defense of Comprehensive Sex Education

A very hot-button issue that has brought feminists to the forefront is comprehensive sex education. It is something that Jessica Valenti defends vehemently in the notable Full Frontal Feminism, and that many teens have written passionately of on Julie Zeilinger’s The F-Bomb. As someone who believes that ignorance should be avoided at all times and that the current state of education is condescending to high school students, I was always on the defensive side on this issue as well.

In the past month, I have experienced sex ed at my public high school, and my defense of comprehensive sex education has become infinitely more fervid. The majority of my friends, including the three that I spend my health class with, are virginal. Out of the four of us, none of us are in relationships and have not been in relationships in which we felt a desire to lose our virginity. Two of us are fully supportive of premarital sex; the other two are more divided, as their parents oppose the action. None of us were planning to have sex in high school, although we were not opposed to the idea and would not judge any of our peers by the action. It seemed like a perfectly okay thing to do, if you were confident that you wanted to have sex with your person and you used protection and whatnot. Right?

Any casual, sexual desires we had developed previous to health were almost quashed by the lessons we learned. Our teacher educated us on prevalent STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) in their transmission and (grotesque) symptoms. The three girls I was with and myself all have A or A+ averages in school, are fairly eloquent, and informed on basic current events. None of us, though, knew a thing about syphilis or oral herpes before this lesson.

The best part about this, though, was that our health teacher spoke to us in a way that she made it sound like it was not a sin to not be a virgin at this time. She was not condescending. It was awesome. I’d always imagined it to be like that scene in Mean Girls where the gym teacher expresses: “Do not have sex, or you will get pregnant and die!”

I can now say with confidence that comprehensive sex education is far more effective than abstinence-only. I have read dozens of accounts and excerpts of abstinence-only sex ed lessons, and they are, in my limited experience, far less realistic. Telling kids they shouldn’t have sex “just because” doesn’t get anything done; most teens inherently want to rebel against what they’re supposed to. Besides, expressing the unpleasantness of genital warts and painful urination are far more effective than just saying that something is “bad.”

The bottom line, applicable to this just as much as any other (as in, every) issue that effects teens: if they are treated like mature adults, with rights and opinions, they are far more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On Being Pretty

This is a piece I wrote that pertains to my belief that society inhibits women from feeling good about their bodies, but that that can change. ;) Please comment! Thank you!

"On Being Pretty"

I am not pretty.

Now, the typical response to this is, "Yes, you are!" Even if the people in question have never even met in person. Because maybe this person seems pretty, in the sound of her voice or the style of her writing. Maybe this consoler is one of those people who truly believes that everyone is beautiful. That is a lovely, wonderful ideology that I too subscribe too. Every person is beautiful. But not every person is pretty.

I certainly am not.

Pretty can be hard to define; or, at least harder to define than those words considered its synonyms. And its only companion that carries nearly as much weight is "thin." I have many friends who do not believe that they are pretty, as well as many who do not think that they are thin. It is much easier to confirm that someone is thin. Thin is objective. Thin can be proven by muscular abdomens and hard, flat stomachs. It can be verified by pristine, tight legs and sharp, defined collarbones. Thin is good, right, aesthetically pleasant.

I'm not thin either.


The fact that I am not thin used to hurt. It was a tangible ache, like a lovesick spinster pining for a suitor who had long forgotten her. By the time I was thirteen, I felt it was too late. I wanted to be thin; I had to be thin. So much of my life revolved around this desire, these acrid mantras constantly interrupting my thoughts. I didn't even realize how much this wanting affecting me it was replaced with more pressing matters.

When I was younger, I loved throwing coins into fountains for good luck. The one at the mall and the Chinese restaurant were my favorites. This was a favored activity of mine, though, well beyond early childhood. Every wish I can remember having, from the age of eleven and beyond, was to be thin. Sometimes it was specific, a number to achieve or a particular day to yearn for. Often it was just general: "I wish I was thin." Every so often, I'd also add a wish to be happy.

In books, and movies too, the not-so-pretty girl always gets to have this marvelous transformation. Sometimes, she just whips off her glasses and flips her hair. Her peers all love her. Everything works out. Sometimes it takes effort, plucking and sit-ups and new jeans and mascara. It's hard work, for certain, but she may even gain some new friends with this process. Then, there's the girl who was just ho-humming along, and she goes away for the summer or visits her grandparents or takes a long nap and, suddenly, she's gorgeous. This is the plot of countless forms of entertainment, yet it never ceases to infuriate me.

I've hated this girl for such a long time. And I hate that I still, and probably always will, envy her.


I now possess the confidence to firmly state that I am not pretty.

I'm not thin enough, either.

But by what criteria? Who creates these standards that I am judging myself by, like a rubric for an assignment?

Well, my peers, I suppose. My peers, the majority of who dully absorb whatever they're told without a second thought. Less than two decades into their lives, so many are already lackluster, with a piteous dearth of emotion and creativity. So, they obviously didn't make this up themselves. But where did they get this all from, these expectations that affect the lives of so many?

The media.

These standards were created by society. They are not organic. And I have always been all about screwing the media. I have always wanted to subvert the patriarchy, reject antiquated racism, and slap prejudice in the face. I knew it was ridiculous that, as a woman, I had to be submissive. And even more preposterous that, as a young woman, I was expected to depend on others. There was no reason for me to follow these orders. Why? Because they're bullshit.

So, why isn't this body ideal bullshit too?

Huh. It was quite the epiphany for me. Still is, mind you. And once I confirmed its truth, I was so very scared, because, for the first time,

I was free.


I am not pretty.

I'm not thin enough, either.

Knowing what one is defined as and caring, though, are two blissfully different things.

I do not care anymore, but I don't shout this from the mountaintops. I don't wear it on a badge with pride. For me, losing possession of self-loathing is a private triumph to be quietly celebrated. It is a truth I am patiently caressing until I am ready to share its magic.