Things I want to change by the time Eden notices

(This is not at all a comprehensive list. It’s just the first stuff that came to my mind. And my mind is all over the place.)

I want more movies and TV shows to have female protagonists even when they aren’t about “girly stuff.”

I want the way coolness works to stop being about not being sensitive. Sensitivity and vulnerability are healthy, crucial aspects of being a fully operating person. Without them, we miss out on the things that make poetry timeless and life rich. Making fun of ourselves and other people is not necessarily a bad thing, but there needs to be plenty of room for caring automatically and whole-heartedly and even just a little about stuff, too. Or maybe we can just all care less about being cool?

I want it to be a lot harder to find gross photos on the internet. I feel like we should all be able to google without running into graphically documented surgical procedures and abused animals and car crashes and unusual, dramatic skin conditions.

I would also appreciate it if there weren’t so very many photos of sexy mostly/totally naked women online and everywhere else. And if those women didn’t all look so particularly similar that it feels easy to assume that there must only be one good way to be a mostly/naked woman.

I want there to be more swimsuit options. Why do they all demand that I pay a lot of attention to what my pubic hair is doing? Mandatory bikini waxing is ridiculous. If we can’t get over the fact that adult women have pubic hair, let’s at least wear swim trunks.

net-a-porter-bathing-suit

(googling for “bikini” resulted, predictably, in a million examples of the last topic, too. maybe I just wanted to see the bathing suit? maybe? source)

I want porn to actually be varied. I keep reading about how it is. Whenever someone writes an article about porn, they’re always like “you can find any crazy thing out there! If there’s a fantasy, there’s a video of it on the internet!” But the reality is that most of the readily accessible porn is endless repetition of the same themes, and popular among those themes is total female submission and, often, humiliation. Yes, some women like to be humiliated, but that’s not the point. We need a lot more versions of female sexuality, and it’d be much better if they popped up, too, upon a casual googling.

I want girls to be able to run around and study and make friends and play and goof off and think and look in the mirror without having to prioritize their appearances. Being embodied is about a lot of stuff, not just the way we look. I want girls to enjoy their bodies without having to think first about whether or not other people find them attractive.

I want this for women, too, but it starts with girls.

 

I want articles about accomplished women to be about those individuals, and not have to say things like “as a woman in this particular industry…” The articles about accomplished men tend not to mention their maleness and how that impacts their lives and careers. It’d be cool if we could celebrate individual women without everything they do having to be about womankind. It puts a lot of pressure on individuals to have to represent all of womankind.

It also makes it sound like it’s slightly unusual for women to be accomplished. I don’t want it to feel even slightly unusual for women to be accomplished.

I also don’t want “accomplished” to necessarily mean “running a huge company.” We need more definitions of success and more women populating them.

I don’t want freedom of speech to get lost in a sea of people saying really cruel things to each other just because they can. I want being kind to be just as culturally important.

Spot lit microphone and stand on an empty stage

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I also want it to be OK to ask big, awkward questions that will always offend someone/most people. Offending people by challenging the norm is crucially different than being purposefully mean.

I want there to be more regular, inexpensive occasions to wear a gorgeous evening gown. 

I don’t want teenaged years to be all about getting into college.

I don’t want college to feel absolutely critical. I don’t want it to determine anyone’s fate.

If it feels critical to individuals, I want it to actually be affordable for them, too.

I don’t want adulthood to seem scary and boring. I want it to seem open-ended and exciting.

I want there to be plenty of truly good jobs.

I want cake pops to be more of a thing.

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I want the world to feel big and accessible. I want it to be accessible.

I want everyone to agree that keeping the earth healthy is incredibly important. And then I want national and international policy to reflect that.

I want everyone to have basic rights and even a few rights beyond that. I want it to sound weird that gay people weren’t allowed to get married. I want that to sound like it must’ve been a long, long time ago, when everyone was unenlightened and all of the girls and women wore skinny jeans almost exclusively and all of the senators looked the same.

I want people to stop reflexively hating other people without knowing anything real about them. It’s a terrible habit. I’m sure it makes tons of sense when seen this way and that way, and through the lens of centuries of careful anthropological observation. But it’s the worst thing. And I wish I could raise my daughter in a world that wasn’t poisoned by it.

I want there to be more bra options that aren’t padded push-up bras. Where did all of the other kinds of bras go? I miss them. I am wearing one of the last of them, every day, and it looks sad and lonely now, and also significantly past retirement age. “Please,” it begs me with its tattered, yellowing lace, “let me go.”

I want there to be fewer commercials. And I want the commercials starring women to be less about low fat yogurt and Swiffer and shampoo and indulging in the occasional tiny, tiny chocolate after you’ve shopped for all of your family’s holiday gifts and more about the rest of the things people do. Because the commercials for women often suggest that women are generally feeling guilty about something (eating too much fat, having a messy house, not having smooth enough hair, trying to do “it all” but failing) and just need to chill out a little. Maybe we don’t feel guilty, though. Maybe we’re already eating a giant chocolate bar and we’re not buying anyone gifts this year and we’re just trying to watch a dumb cop show, damnit, so stop telling us we’re probably feeling bad about ourselves and let us get back to it!

woman-eating-yogurt

(yogurt!!!! every woman’s closest companion. source)

I want the language of women eating food to change, so that we’re not constantly reciting apologies and disclaimers and little self-effacing jokes whenever we pick up a fork. I am sometimes totally guilty of this. But really, let’s just eat.

I want the “mommy wars” to go away. They’re not real, as far as I can tell from the ground. I’m standing in the field, but there’s no battle. Just a bunch of different strollers with similarly complicated folding mechanisms. Whatever it is that I am doing as a mother and with the other parts of my life when Eden is old enough to notice my life, as long as I’m not hurting anyone, I hope people will treat my choices with respect. I hope they will treat all not hurt-y choices with respect. And then let’s talk about it without the endless comparisons.

I want being smart to always be a good thing.

I want being smart to always be about more than getting good grades.

I want nerdiness to be a real option for girls, too.

I want those twenty-something women who walk down the street in clusters of three to explain how they all came to be wearing the exact same shoes. I see this all the time, and I’m really curious. Do they always go shopping together and pick them out? Are they only friends with people who already own the same shoes as them? Are they just subconsciously drawn to one another because their style is similar enough to suggest compatible mindsets? WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

images (2)

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I want “women’s magazines” to mean things other than “Weight loss! Sex tips! Celebs!”

I want it to feel safe to be a woman occasionally alone outside at night.

I want it to be safe to be a girl, anywhere in the world.

*  *  *

what do you want to change soon?

Unroast: Today I love the way I feel about the way I look when I first put on warm weather clothes. Like “shit, my arms are too fat” and then “whatever! It’s spring!”

39 Responses to “Things I want to change by the time Eden notices”

  1. Vicky responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Yay for these!

  2. teegan responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 11:56 am #

    I think about you (and lists like this) when I’m at work. I have a weekend job at a coffee/bagel place, and I work with girls aged 17-27, and all my coworkers talk about is whether or not their diet is working, how they really need to “get to the gym” (not get stronger or leaner or faster or healthier, just “get to the gym”), how they really need to eat fewer bagels, how unfulfilling their diet smoothie is, how they drank too much last night, how they need a boyfriend, how much their boyfriends suck. Oh, and the high schooler who doesn’t talk about these things; she talks about college and how she has too many random extracurriculars but really needs to work more and how she wants to go to business school, but she doesn’t know what ‘business’ she wants to be in. I don’t want my son or any hypothetical daughters growing up in a world in which THAT is the norm for females aged 17-27. They’re cynical and rude and bossy. I thought it might just be in my head, but Mark has come in a couple of times and always says afterward how terrible it is to watch behavior like that as a customer.

    Makes starting a commune in VT look pretty darn good…

  3. teegan responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 12:03 pm #

  4. CL Mannarino responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    I love this. All of this. All of it! Thank you, thank you!

  5. camilla-sofia responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    this post was brilliant and summed up so well what i think about every. single. day. i’m nineteen and in college and shocked at how much work is still left to be done in my own generation about things like homosexuality and feminism. just yesterday in my psychology class, 65% percent of the class still thought that being gay was a choice. and we call ourselves the progressive ones! it made me think of something one of my favorite singers, P!nk, said about the issue: “I think that the best day will be when we no longer talk about being gay or straight – it’s not a ‘gay wedding’ it’s just a ‘wedding’, it’s not a ‘gay marriage’ it’s just ‘a marriage’.”

    one other thing that is really big for me right now and is something that i wish i had been taught growing up is that college is really not that scary. i lived my high school years in constant fear of this thing called college, and once i got in it was so…normal and doable. i think more parents need to reassure their children, especially their girls, that higher academics is absolutely feasible and there’s nothing scary about it, especially if you’re pursuing your passion. i also grew up in a family that wasn’t so hot on women earning marketable degrees. my parents were always pushing me to go for the english/philosophy major, but one day i decided i was going to do what i really wanted to do, and i changed my major to journalism, and suddenly realized that it is totally possible for me to do anything i want to do, in the workforce or elsewhere. and then i realized how sad it was that it took me nineteen years to get to that place of fearlessness.

  6. Beth responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    You know what, I fucking hate yogurt and have always felt guilty about it like I should like it more just because you always see women eating it with words about being healthy or probiotic or whatever and I am going to stop that right now and go eat some damn cake.

  7. Rachel responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Considering that this lists a lot of really depressing things about the world, it makes me strangely excited about the idea of being a parent. Because when I was a kid my mom always warned me about the nonsense I was likely to encounter in the world and encouraged me to push back against it, and I did, and ended up influencing a lot of other kids who didn’t have awesome progressive feminist moms in their corner. When Eden is old enough you can tell her about this vision of the world, and by because she has such an awesome mom she’ll be able to do her part to create it.

  8. Kate responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    @teegan
    that’s lame. Default conversations say a lot about where we are in our lives and what our society prioritizes. Women definitely talk A LOT about dieting. About how they aren’t dieting enough, often. How’s it going, working outside the home on weekends? I should just email you. I’m so bad about emailing these days.

    Also, thank you for that link! Gorgeous!!

  9. Kate responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    @camilla-sofia
    A couple things:

    1) this reminded me of when I took a public policy class in college and the professor asked everyone who thought a girl who was raped after wearing a really short skirt “was asking for it” and most of the students raised their hands. I was like “WHERE AM I?” Oh, right. In the world! She went on to deliver an awesome lecture, luckily, and hopefully they learned.

    2) I also thought college was going to be this BIG THING. And then it was kind of normal, which was disappointing, but also doable. I think it’s awesome that you figured out what you want out of it and are doing that. Seems like you’re ahead of the game to me! Congratulations!!

  10. Kate responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    @Beth
    I laughed out loud! YES!

  11. Kate responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    @Rachel
    Thank you for this! I’m pretty excited to be in the same camp as your mom, since you went out and improved the world because of her message. Hell yes!

  12. San D responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    The more things change the more they stay the same. I was shocked, shocked, I say, how things hadn’t changed for young women when I started teaching high school in the 80′s from when I went to school in the 60′s. Whether it is hardwired into our brains, or a biological imperative, our defined sexual identification roles change very little. Whether it is hard to buck the system, or easier to go with the flow, or when priorities in one’s life are set, fighting for a change isn’t one of them, but loving your immediate families and friends is, I can say with great assurance that your “want list” doesn’t match your “budget” to pick a phrase from House Hunters. All we can hope for is “each one teach one”, and hope like ripples in a pond we can make a difference. I have always said asked “why can’t we attack our society’s acceptance of violence on all levels, like we attacked smokers”. As a society we pick and choose the strangest goals.

  13. Kate responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    @San D
    Well said. I’m always surprised by the things that we fight so passionately against and the things we leave in place. But also, I see that when we do fight passionately, things really do change. So I want that, for so many more causes.

  14. Lacey responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Amen to ALL of these!

  15. Krystina responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    I thought I was the only one who noticed those girls who wore the same shoes – and I also see them wearing the skinny jeans, leggings, boots…all the same outfits. I’m over here in my jeans and hoodie. I’m 30, did I miss this phase? It looks kinda silly to me. I just started college recently and I qualify for no scholarships. I guess cause I actually have a job and made some pretty decent choices in my life. I actually survived cancer – and some other crazy shit. I’m still here, working for the school system, basically working for gas money and health insurance. I hope the world is a better place for your Eden and the rest of the children out there. I want to add finding a cure for cancer to your list. It’s about time. I’m exhausted, mentally and physically. Btw, I actually eat yogurt and like it. Don’t hate me. I like the Greek with blueberries and granola.

  16. Kate responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    @Krystina
    I occasionally enjoy yogurt myself, but even if I didn’t, I’d try not to hate you :p
    AMAZING that you’re a cancer survivor. Adding it to my mental list– and actually, I think about that a lot. We need to cure cancer. Bear is obsessed with it, he reads about cancer research and listens to lectures about it every day, and he forwards me the studies that look promising and I leave them open on my laptop, to make the future feel hopeful. I also want diabetes to be cured. And all of the rest of the diseases that make people’s lives all about surviving rather than getting to fully live every day.

  17. Lauren responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Amen to all of this, but especially the part about women succeeding in roles that are not female-dominated. Every time I tell someone I’m a civil engineer, I get this somewhat horrified response followed by “Wow, how did you end up doing that? You must be really smart.” Hard work will get you far, and why are we sending the message that you have to be a fricking genius to compete with men? It drives me bonkers.

  18. Abby responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    There are probably other things, but the main thing I want…

    I want exercise to be about finding something that makes you incandescently happy. Or maybe even don’t like, but do for the good of your body. I want there not to be this dichotomy of men “bulking up” and women “slimming down” by exercising.

    I want schools to not pick kids out and make them feel bad based on something as arbitrary as their weight…all in the name of health.

    I want my child (if that ever happens)to understand that love and sex and all those interrelated things are so much more complicated than a box on a form. That they’re messy and complicated and it’s okay to say “I actually am not really sure right now.”

    Most of all, I want girls to grow up into women whose go-to phrase isn’t “I’m sorry.” (It’s a very useful phrase for apologies…but I’ve noticed, especially for me, it’s become something I say so automatically, so naturally, that it’s a little scary.)

  19. Nicole responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Ah! Being able to walk alone safely anywhere in the world would be wonderful! I really want to travel more and don’t want to have to drag around a boy to protect me wherever I go…

  20. Mary responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    Loved this, and totally agree about more bra options!

  21. juliet responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    I totally agree with your list. I really want girls to not be sucked in by the marketing machine telling them how they should look/feel/dream. Everyone should be allowed to express themselves as they want (without hurting others, or themselves, obviously). As a woman who has just gained her doctorate in hydrology, i want to provide an example of one of the many pathways open to girls, and i want those pathways to be more obvious. That science can be fun and interesting and challenging and useful and not something best left to ‘boys’.

  22. Odette responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    I am so with you on the porn thing, and I’m glad you included it on this list because I feel like it really needs a conversation. I am 33 years old and I talk with my girlfriends about all kinds of issues that affect women, and yet we never discuss porn. Surely I can’t be the only woman who watches porn but also thinks it is so… awful? Is there really no market for porn that women actually want to watch? Like you mentioned, there are typical themes, which are basically scene after scene of blow jobs and other acts that only serve the man. You rarely see a woman really be turned on, attended to and genuinely satisfied. This is so damaging, especially for young/ less sexually experienced people, because it is a constant barrage of the idea that the purpose of sex is to serve men, that women’s needs come second or not at all, and that women’s sexual responses are simple and quick and similar to men’s, which they’re not.

  23. April responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    I agree.

    I’ll never forget seeing the commercial of a “big” guy at a bbq in slow-motion chomping into a big sausage-dog in a big bun. The commercial was for the sausages, and it was almost funny. It worked, as a commercial. But would a WOMAN ever be advertised biting into something like that on a commercial? Heck no! People would be turned off by an overweight woman eating a sausage, but here it’s okay for an overweight man to be actively selling the product like that and people gladly approve of it. I was disgusted at the double standard.

  24. Mel responded on 09 Apr 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    I want sensitive, kind and introverted boys to be valued in the same way rough and tumble, competitive extroverted boys are. I’m sick of being told my beautiful 7 yr old boy needs to toughen up. The world doesn’t need any more “tough” men. It needs more smart, sensitive and kind men.

  25. Jade responded on 10 Apr 2014 at 2:26 am #

    Thank you for being so awesome and managing to express everything that I think and feel but can never seem to get out. I wish I was half as eloquent as you!

  26. Jen responded on 10 Apr 2014 at 6:31 am #

    “I want it to be a lot harder to find gross photos on the internet” – yep! I sent my husband shopping for swede (I think it’s called rutabaga in the States). He didn’t know what they looked like so Google image searched swede. For a moment, his eyes lit up until I confirmed that, no, I didn’t want him to bring home a Scandinavian blonde goddess :) There’s also a cider in Aus called “Dirty Granny” with a funny marketing poster. Don’t Google that, you don’t get the poster in the results 8-| Some things you can’t unsee.

  27. Lynn responded on 10 Apr 2014 at 7:45 am #

    Awesome List!!! Thanks for posting!

  28. Kate responded on 10 Apr 2014 at 10:59 am #

    @Abby
    Love these. I think it should be OK to say “I’m actually not sure right now” about so many things…

  29. Kate responded on 10 Apr 2014 at 10:59 am #

    @Mel
    YES

  30. Jeremiah Jarvis responded on 10 Apr 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I apologize for the length–I pasted something from recent notes I took on some thoughts about a “sense of connection” we might experience: Shyness, vulnerability: People who avoid confrontation, seem meek, even cowardly, easily embarrassed
    Perhaps “shy” people, “emotionally vulnerable” “weak” people have more “points” in body/brain/nervous system/”spirit” which can experience the kind of connection suggested here—have more “connecting points/areas” than others.
    If there are these “connecting points” at which, through which other entities can “enter” or “connect” the people with the highest number of them would feel the most “vulnerable” to outside influence.
    Possibly “autistic” people have the most “openings” to their inner selves.
    Vulnerability is the state of being open to, accepting of an exchange of energy/information/vibration/emotions
    Trust for a “vulnerable” person to function well in a potentially hostile environment. She must trust her judgment of others as well as her ability to survive a misjudgment of someone
    If one realistically (based on past history of behavior and judgments made) trusts ones’ judgment of the reliability and integrity of others AND, more importantly trusts her ability to observe and assess accurately and go into a protective mode as soon a threat is detected, one can focus entirely on the spectra of points in the environment which appear useful and advantageous, contributing to ones’ well-being.
    For a realistically confident person vulnerability (openness to new and novel experiences) is a powerful and exhilarating mode of experiencing the world
    For a timid, unprepared, fearful person, vulnerability is frightening and dangerous.
    Realistic Confidence includes/requires(?) knowledge based on history/experience:
    Being good at observing and assessing the immediate environment
    Assessing the current environment as safe/secure/nourishing/welcoming
    Assessing own capability to handle any contingencies encountered

  31. Carolina responded on 11 Apr 2014 at 1:30 am #

    I love these two:

    I also don’t want “accomplished” to necessarily mean “running a huge company.” We need more definitions of success and more women populating them.

    I also want it to be OK to ask big, awkward questions that will always offend someone/most people. Offending people by challenging the norm is crucially different than being purposefully mean

    I also want it to be okay to choose differently, whether from your family, your siblings, your friends. I want it to not feel like you’re an alien when you opt to go a different route. Sounds broad, but I think you might understand what I mean :-)

  32. Kaylene responded on 11 Apr 2014 at 4:32 am #

    I hope that once I become a high school teacher, that I can encourage some of what you’ve spoken about in the students I teach. I want them to realise that becoming an adult doesn’t mean becoming boring. That you don’t need to decide what the rest of your life will be involve straight out of high school. That it’s ok to pursue a future you’re passionate about, because passion and fulfilment is worth so much more than money.

    I want the girls to realise that it’s ok to be proud of the way that you look, no matter what your shape or colour. That girlyness doesn’t mean shallow. That loving fashion does not make you vapid. That not giving a damn about appearances is okay too. That we are so much more than the media would like us to think. That we do not need to disassociate ourselves from our gender in order to be worth something.

    I want the boys to realise that ‘being a man’ doesn’t mean concealing emotion and pretending that’s strength. That it’s okay to need a shoulder to lean on. That ‘strength’ is a multi-faceted thing which is not gender-specific anyway.

    I want them ALL to learn that people can be many things, and we don’t fit into shoebox stereotypes. That the old idea of ‘gender’ is already past it’s used-by date.

    And finally, I want them to think that their teacher can wear make-up and dress classy and be intelligent and warm and have dorky video-game wallpapers on her computer, and make silly pop-culture references in her powerpoint slides, and that this is perfectly normal.

    Because we are all so much more than just one thing.

  33. Bethany responded on 17 Apr 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    I always wear swim shorts. They are cute, comfortable, and I don’t have to worry about any hairs poking out of tiny briefs.

  34. Jessica responded on 18 Apr 2014 at 1:36 am #

    Here here!
    I wish for a world where everything is shared and no one has a false sense of entitlement just because they happen to have been born into a particular country. I hope that empathy will be the most highly valued trait and we are concerned with eachother’s happiness instead of wealth.

  35. Friday Snacks {4.18.14} | Kate Baer responded on 18 Apr 2014 at 4:37 am #

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  36. Brittney responded on 18 Apr 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Such a great list! Speaking of other bra options, have you seen the kickstarter campaign for yellowberry? It’s a high school senior creating modest AND stylish bra and undies for 11-15 year olds. I love it and was practically shouting, ‘you go girl!’ reading about her.

  37. Link Love, Vol. 57 - Break the Sky responded on 27 Apr 2014 at 6:04 am #

    [...] shares a list of things she wants to change by the time her daughter is old enough to [...]

  38. cantaloupe responded on 27 Apr 2014 at 9:30 am #

    The porn sites I frequent tend to rate lesbian porn the highest. Any anything with good, realistic female orgasms. Most of the ridiculous humiliating stuff gets average ratings. Sometimes I click through and rate them all low on purpose. I think my point is that I actually do think there’s some good porn out there.

    I totally agree about the evening gown events needing to happen more! I used to fantasize about having a house big enough to throw balls in, simply for the fact that I wanted it to be like an annual thing. That everyone would just dress up for my annual ball. And it would be awesome.

    I like this entry. Lots of food for thought. Well done.

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