Archive for the 'feminism' Category

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.

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what do women do all day?

“What do you do all day?” asked someone who reads this blog. Shouldn’t I post more often, since I must have so much time? And then later, in a follow-up comment, this reader wondered why I hadn’t published that book I’ve mentioned working on. What have I been doing instead?

There it was: the question. The moment I’d been dreading.

When I had Eden, I chose to work part time and spend the rest of my time with her. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have this option. It feels a little like a dirty secret.

photo (14)

(yes, this is part of what I do all day)

I am embarrassed, sometimes, that I haven’t gone further in my career by now. I would prefer to have succeeded in ways so obvious and succinct that they would fit on a nametag. I would like to have fulfilled the potential that feminism and social change and modernity have given me. That my mother gave me. That my father believed I had just the same as my brothers.

I know the SAHM rhetoric—this is important work, too. Women’s work doesn’t always pay. You are doing something essential. You are doing the work of shaping an entire person! But it doesn’t stick to me, it slides right off. I feel like I’m cheating on my ambitious self with this new role. And yet I’m actively choosing it. I am unable, somehow, to not spend this time with my daughter, knowing I have the chance. I am unable to believe that work is everything, even as I’m unable to believe that motherhood is everything. I flounder somewhere in the middle, in a gray area where balance and confusion circle each other with territorial defensiveness.

I stared at the question on my phone while nursing the baby. I could practically feel my milk turning sour. I thought about how to answer as I tried for forty minutes to convince Eden that, no, really, she should have a nap. Finally, she was asleep, and I hadn’t eaten yet that day because there hadn’t been time, but under the microscope of the question, I felt abruptly like I was doing nothing.

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Kate on March 19th 2014 in feminism, life, motherhood, new york, work, writing

sexy naked women absolutely everywhere

Bear opened his new headphones. “Check it out!” he said happily, gesturing at them.

I peered into the box. There were the headphones (I don’t know much about headphones), and directly below them was a glossy photo of a naked woman, wearing the same headphones.

He followed my gaze. “Is she totally naked?” he said, only a little surprised.

“Yup,” I said.

“Is that a nipple?”

“No, but almost.”

“Phew,” he said, grinning. “Wouldn’t want to see a nipple or anything.”

“Awesome,” I said.

“Now I REALLY want to wear these,” he said, teasing me. “Naked ladies LOVE these headphones.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “But seriously? I mean, seriously?”

“Seriously,” he said.

headphones-icon

(source)

*

We got off the subway, Eden on Bear in the frontpack, on our way to buy a little plastic plate and a little plastic spoon and maybe even a sippy cup for the first time. It was the weekend, life was good, the city was muddy and cheerful and the cold felt like the right complement to hot chocolate and wool. I glanced up, waiting to cross the street, and there, covering the side of a building, was a butt.

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Kate on January 29th 2014 in beauty, body, fear, feminism, motherhood, new york

the family beauty

Bear’s grandmother looked like a movie star when she was young. You should see the pictures! There’s one of her perched on a rock in her bathing suit, and it looks like she was posed there by a famous photographer. Everyone always comments on it. “Wow!” we say, “You were such a beauty!” And she sort of chuckles and looks away.

The story goes—she got selected as the prettiest girl at the local fair. I always imagine a dour panel of older male judges, shuffling through the cotton-candy eating crowd, hands behind their backs, in gray linen suits, sizing up the young women, looking for the prettiest one. They must have known immediately, when they saw her. Maybe she was laughing with her head thrown back, her hair lustrous in the sun.

“She was so beautiful!” we exclaim, looking over the old photos. Now she’s 95—a pert, tiny, stooped woman with a ready grin who thought Obama was cool long before the rest of us knew his name. She laughs a lot, reads a lot, and grows a wild garden in her backyard.

14971881-wild-flower-in-a-garden

(source)

I sometimes wish that I were beautiful just so that it could be my legacy. How cool, for my great-granddaughters to be able to find the photos of me tucked into some ancient hard-drive and ooh and ahh over how stunning I was? They would be proud to come from me. I sometimes wish that I were beautiful so that it could be a part of my family’s story. Beautiful women always seem to get a mention. There is a certain familial boasting that happens. We have good blood. Good genes. We make strong men, pretty women. 

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Kate on July 11th 2013 in beauty, family, feminism

the stupidity of “natural” beauty

It must be nice to be a “natural beauty.” To be gorgeous without effort or even interest. This type of beauty is perhaps the most impressive. It’s like being a piano prodigy, except that you don’t even have to touch the keys*. You can just stand around. You can sit. You should probably not eat too much, but otherwise, you’re good, because of God and genes and accident.

(don’t even worry about it… source)

It’s hard to escape the concept of natural beauty. Once in college I was in a religion seminar, and the guest lecturer, a world-traveling, leathery-tan man with an impressive literary biography described in detail the beauty of the pious Muslim girls he’d encountered on his wild desert journeys. One girl was maybe fifteen, but she radiated a kind of primal loveliness. A dewy, untouched sex appeal. Holy shit, did he actually use the words “sex appeal” in describing her? He might as well have. Rapturously, he recalled how even her thorough hijab could not conceal her bursting beauty. Unlike Western girls, and here he glanced around the table at our tired, effortful faces, this pure blossom didn’t even have to try. She simply embodied beauty. She had, somehow, regardless of politics and oppression and discrimination and whatever else, won.

I was disturbed. Why were we talking so much about this girl’s appearance in the first place? Why was this man so comfortable objectifying, exotifying, and eroticizing her, especially in an academic setting?

But we are always talking about girls’ appearances, actually.  And, in practically every context, “natural” beauty is praised.

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Kate on May 28th 2013 in beauty, body, feminism, perfection

stolen

Someone stole my body from me. The whole thing, all of my pieces. I think I’m locked up somewhere dark now.

I know, because when I look down at myself, I don’t see me. I see all of the things I should be instead of being myself.

I’ve been stealthily, expertly, completely replaced.

Aliens?

I noticed it the other day, smoothing cream over my legs. Well, these legs, anyway. The ones that attach there, at the base of the torso. I was rubbing the moisturizer into them and I had this image of my head of other women smoothing other, probably more expensive, moisturizer into probably more expensive legs. Better legs. Legs that are longer and lither and tanner and sleeker. Legs that get described in books, lovingly, sometimes almost flippantly, like, of course. Of course, if she’s here, important enough to get a mention; she has these long, fabulous legs.

“I love your short legs,” said Bear, randomly, and I was insulted. “Short” was an insulting word for a second, and then I realized that he was being sweet, and he was serious, somehow, and he had, after all, started off with the word “love.” But “love” and “short” and “legs” do not work together in my mind, because I’ve memorized instinctively all the right proportions and measurements (even though I suck at numbers) and I know what is worth loving.

But I don’t know what is worth loving. Because I am worth loving.

I feel like I have an expert eye for beauty. It’s because I’m an artist, I’ve told myself. I have always painted. But really, it’s because I’m a girl.

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Kate on May 23rd 2013 in beauty, body, feminism, pregnancy

this is not a first world problem

“My drive from work is too short for me to decide what to listen to on Spotify #firstworldproblems” was a recent tweet from the Twitter account First World Problems. The tweet reached over 50,000 people, and it was only one in a long list of mildly amusing little complaints about an easy, well-fed, upper-middle class life.

The idea of first world problems has recently become a meme, with inspired tweeters hashtagging the phrase on the back of every observation that doesn’t seem world-changing or ring out like a strangled scream from the depths of oppression. It’s kind of a fun trend. Maybe it serves to remind us all of what we already have. It offers a little dose of perspective. And when it first appeared, I was totally on board. But then I started seeing the hashtag cropping up a lot more when women were talking about all those things that get labeled “women’s issues.”

(she might be about to say something, not just display her red lipstick. source)

I started seeing it in the comments section under painfully honest essays about weight discrimination or reports about the billion dollar cosmetics industry. “First world problems” was being tacked on women’s conversations everywhere I looked, often by men who sounded like they wished these women would just shut up. Sometimes by women who went on to state that they themselves had much bigger, more serious problems. Before I knew it, “first world problems,” was looking a lot like “shut the hell up, no one cares,” in a lot of contexts.

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Kate on April 24th 2013 in beauty, body, feminism