Mark My Words

I am on a feminist steak right now. My feminist flame always burns, sometimes it is a bonfire though. This project I am currently working on has definitely lit that fire back up real big.

I was reading a riveting article tonight about feminist history. A lot of the info I was familiar with but I had an epiphany while I was reading about first wave feminism.

First wave feminists were primarily white middle to upper class women. Now this was not exclusively the case but there was an unspoken rule that women of color were not welcome in this movement. I knew this was true but I never made the connection about what this actually means about women’s suffrage.

The nineteenth amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote… kind of. White women gained the right to vote in 1920. Women from other various ethnic minorities gained the right within the following years but ALL women did not gain the right to vote until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed granting all minorities the right to vote. women’s suffrage did not end until 1965 and even then there were major issues with access.

So here was my epiphany..  Mark my words that in 4 years there will be feminists, Allies, and women all over America who want to celebrate 100 years of women having the right to vote and I think that is crap. In 2065 let’s talk. It’s not a win for women unless it includes all women. I feel like celebrating in 2020 would be whitewashing history. It makes me think of Soujourner Truth’s speech, Ain’t I a Woman.

I identify as a feminist. I am not perfect, I may not always get it right, I try to be open minded to each feminist’s interpretation of feminism.. For me though, it is not a win unless it results in equality for all gender minorities. It is not a win unless we all benefit. What took place in 1920 was progress maybe but I just don’t feel like I can call it a win for women because it wasn’t a win for a whole lot of women.

mark my words

mark my words1

A Lesson in Communication

How appropriate is it that last night’s class session was all about communication and bridging the gap when communication breaks down?
I mean I thought it was pretty serendipitous considering the communication issues my group was dealing with and the need for us to get on the same page.

So last night we did an exercise in class where you have to get with a partner, someone you do not know, and do the following:

1st: Stand face to face close together – not so close that you are breathing on each other but close enough that you are kinda in each other’s bubbles.

2nd: Close your eyes as the professor walked us through a guided meditation all about our early childhood experiences. We had to think about being an infant and being completely dependent on our caregivers to keep us alive. Then think about being a young child and how everything you are learning about who you are is from those same caregivers.

3rd: We had to open our eyes, look at our partner and take a mental snap shot of them. Then we closed our eyes for another 30 seconds before opening them and going to a sit down together.

4th: Once seated we were instructed to tell one another our perceptions of each other based on our mental snap shot.

The exercise got pretty interesting from here. We processed it as a class once we were done and I think most everyone agreed that this part was uncomfortable.

My partner and I’s perceptions of each other appeared to be accurate. She was wearing accessories that were made of natural materials and the clothing she was wearing was made of comfortable earth tone materials. My perception is that she enjoys nature and seems grounded – she said that was right on.

Her perception of me was that I too enjoy nature, I am a creative/artistic type, and that I like to read – Yep, sounds about right.

As we are talking about our personalities and the activity we are instructed to do different things like one of us stand up while the other stay sitting, then it was turn your back to each other while still talking, then the big one that freaked a lot of people out.. hold hands and keep talking.

My partner and I didn’t flinch. We just kept talking through it all. We were having a really good conversation. The hand holding was kind of intimate but even that led to a great conversation about culture and social expectations.

So after this activity we did another as a class around defense mechanisms. My favorite defense mechanism is intellectualization because it is makes me think of Todd, he definitely leans on that one from time to time. The assignment was that we were to draw a defense mechanism and bring it to class last night then the whole class was going to guess which one we drew.

intellectualization

This is what I came up with. It was a big hit. The professor liked it a lot, I think maybe he leans on that defense mechanism too.

There was some awesome art for somatization and sublimation as well.

At the end of class my group got together to discuss our project and the role play we have to create. I was not looking forward to this but I knew I needed to keep an open mind. I am glad I did. The two guys in my group told the rest of us how they both feel in over their heads. The older one admitted he knew nothing about feminism and that it was a lot to try to understand in a small period of time – I get that, it totally is a lot to take in– the other one seemed a little more in tune with the essence of the theory but still a bit lost.

They were really honest about their struggles and I can have compassion and understanding for that. I explained the roots of theory being in conflict and empowerment, showed them some articles I found about intersectionality, and then the professor came over and between the two of us we gave a bit of a history lesson about the different feminist movements and how they are/were sometimes at odds with each other.

Our group got some important things figured out so we know how to go forward with the project and the guys were given some room to figure things out for themselves which I think they needed. At the end of class it was just the professor, myself, my girlfriend and the younger guy. The guy was saying how cultural competency is really important to him and how he wants to get this stuff right but how it is intimidating at times because as he has been trying to learn and grow he has also gotten his head bit off by a few feminists for getting it wrong.
He was allowing himself to be pretty vulnerable as he shared and I can totally empathize with wanting to get it right but not knowing what you just don’t know. I told him that as a woman I personally appreciate his effort. I told him that he would never be able to understand what it is like from my perspective but to even want to try to understand does deserve some credit and I appreciate his efforts to be an Ally. This led to a deeper conversation facilitated by the professor which ended on a really good note.

I think this exchange needed to happen both for this guy and for me. I was totally a feminist that was ready to bite his head off for some stuff that was happening. I am glad that instead we were able to have a conversation and find common ground. My calling him out probably wouldn’t have done anything to help him grow, hopefully this conversation did. I know it did for me.

Enlightened Men AKA the Male Feminist

femm4

If you remember last summer I had a rather sticky time dealing with a male colleague at school who claimed to be enlightened but repeatedly blasted me with microagression after microagression. From calling me a feminazi after my truth made him uncomfortable to commenting multiple times on my make-up free face and how sick I looked. It was one thing after another with him and for someone so “enlightened” he just did not seem to get it.

The good news is after that difficult summer he and I did find common ground. In fact, we were working towards it all summer I would say. To his credit and my own, neither one of us ever backed down from the discomfort of it all and by the end of the summer I think he “got it” a little bit better and I consider him a friend.

This summer is starting to feel a bit familiar for the wrong reasons. I am getting a very sick “I have been here before” feeling that relates directly to my experiences with this friend.

In my theories class we are working on a group project where we have to do research around a certain theory. One of my friends is in this class with me and we both agreed we wanted to be in the Feminist Theory group. When the sign up sheet was going around someone my friend knows walked over and asked if she would join his group. She looked hesitant and asked which theory he had chosen to which he replied Feminist. She told him that both she and I wanted to work on that theory and there were two spots left in the group so we joined.

I am still getting to know the people in this group other than my friend but what I can say so far is that this guy seems to be taking charge. What I have learned so far about him is that he claims to be enlightened, super interested in social justice issues, and may even identify as a feminist.

The other two people in the group are his friends. One of them made it quite clear that he didn’t care about which theory we covered as long as he was in his friend’s group. I get it, having group members you trust to do the work is important, but I also don’t really like it in this case.

The first night we were getting to know each other this man totally made a joke that generalized all women as moody and emotional. It put me in this uncomfortable place of feeling the need to throw him a noncommittal laugh because I don’t know most of my group members and I want to get along with them.. AND.. wanting to be true to myself and not laugh because that is not only not funny, it is offensive.

I chose not to laugh.

So here I am in a group where I am super excited about the work but kind of unsure of the members, with the exception of my friend.

It has been a week since the group formed. The guy who made the not-funny joke has been radio silent. The other guy has not. He has been saying a lot without saying much if that makes sense. I still have a pretty queasy feeling about all of this.

He sent a message the other day wherein he told us all which aspect of this theory he thinks the group should focus on, he then immediately said that we should all discuss our preferences as a group though and that he is not trying to influence or dictate as that would go against feminist theory. I was kind of impressed. Ok, maybe this guy gets it..

Then yesterday my friend and I, through a group message, were asking if the group was available before class to meet and discuss the project. We both listed what time we were available to see if it worked for the rest of the group. No one responded and that is fine, we would still see everyone in class in the evening. This morning I get up and see the guy who has had a lot to say did respond. He said that he was writing to let everyone know we will not be meeting before class and I have to say the message was kind of patronizing.. It ended with Mmkay? kay. Good.

I am trying to give room for the fact that I do not know him and he might have a silly personality which is why he chose to close the message this way but all in all the whole thing was dismissive. Excuse me sir, last time I checked you do not speak for everyone.

My girlfriend and I still might meet and decide to discuss the project before class. I think what you meant to say was, “I am not personally available to meet at that time”. To dictate that a meeting won’t happen though and speak for everyone? I don’t think so.

So this was kind of a long story leading up to this point, a man can say he is a feminist and that he believes in gender equality but he will never understand gender inequality from the perspective of women/gender minorities who experience it. He will always been in a place of privilege and power and I have yet to personally meet a man who was truly enlightened to these facts.

It is just like how I can want to be an Ally to people of color and the LGBTQ+ community but that is the most I will ever be, a straight white Ally. I will never truly know or understand the experiences of these groups of people, it is not something one can learn from research and reading. You only know by living it first hand which is something I will never be able to do. I can try to be enlightened, accepting, supportive etc. but I will never be more than an Ally at best.

I am not trying to vilify this guy. He is clearly well-meaning and wants to do the right thing, much like my friend that I had so many issues with last summer. The truth is I honestly don’t think people really know what the right thing is sometimes though and even if they do, do they have the courage to actually do it?

Like when his friend made the joke about women being moody and emotional, he could have said something. That would have made him an Ally.

This situation that I sometimes run into with so called “enlightened men” or male feminists reminds me of this article I read last year about well-meaning white people. I at least identify with the title because it is true, I don’t know what to do with “good guys”. Am I supposed to give this guy a break because he is trying? Should I ignore microagressions when I know the person is not deliberately trying to offend?

It is easier to deal with blatant sexism than this kind of “I am on your team but not really because I don’t know how to be” stuff.

He thinks he is an Ally while not realizing his approach thus far is putting the females in the group in a lesser position. He did this by speaking for all of us and by not standing up for us when given the opportunity.

I read something a while ago that I am thinking of now as I write this.. Unfortunately I cannot find it to share it but it talked about why more people (specifically women) aren’t feminist. The bottom line is because it is EXHAUSTING. It is exhausting to live as woman in a patriarchal society, it is more exhausting to acknowledge it, it is even more exhausting to try to do more than just acknowledge it.

I am tired.

I am tired of feeling angry when someone who IS NOT ME tries to speak for me.

I am tired of having to be your (the collective you) teacher.

I am tired of the labels that get applied to me without my permission and without any consideration for if they are ACTUALLY APPLICABLE or not based solely on the way I look.

I am tired of being afraid of the world.

I am tired of politely smiling when I feel scared, or offended, or uncomfortable because I do not know if I am physically safe to verbally express how I feel about whatever is happening.

I am just tired. All the time I am tired.

Here is the thing though, feminism is not a choice for me. I have to trudge forward everyday not just for me but for my niece, for my mother, for your mother, for my future daughter, for my homeless cousin, for my neighbor, for women who live no where near me and who I will never ever meet.. and not just for women.. I cannot be anyone’s Ally if I am first my own and there are populations of people who have far less privilege than I do, who are far more tired than I am, and for them it is not a choice either.

I am not mad at this guy, he is trying, just like I am trying, just like we all are. He makes me tired though, he does not lighten my load with his good intentions. Just like my attempts at Allyship may at times be misguided as well. And it breaks my heart to think that but it is just true.

I guess all we can do is keep trying but acknowledge that sometimes even our best intentions do nothing more but make tired people more tired.

 

 

 

 

Close to Closure

my own book

 

I have written many reflective posts throughout the four years I have kept this blog. A year from now I will be finished with school which means I will be closing the very large chapter of my life that has made up my time as a student.

That is not true entirely I suppose. I will always be a student, informally speaking. I will always be learning, growing, challenging things, philosophizing..

When I started this blog grad school graduation felt very far away, like something that would happen some day but no day soon. That is no longer the case and I am starting to come to terms with what that means. Lately I have been thinking about what that means in terms of this blog I have come to love so dear.

I have decided that when I am done with school this blog will be done as well. I started it with a purpose and its purpose will have been served at that point. This blog has come to mean much more than its original intended purpose but that is life, you plan for one thing and you always get more – for better or worse.

As I consider what next year will look like for me I also consider, somewhere in the back of my mind, what I will do once this blog has seen its last post. Two things come to mind.

One: I will start a new blog or journal. I have always been a writer. My need to write will not go away so I will find a way to quench that thirst. The details will be determined at a later date and shared.

Two: I will make a book. There are websites online that can be used to create a hard copy of your blog. I have decided that feels like the exact right thing to do when this blog has seen its final post.

I don’t intend to have much of an online presence after graduation so as to protect mine and my family’s privacy once I am a practicing social worker. As this blog has never been completely anonymous I think having a hard copy in lieu of leaving up the website feels better to me.

I also like the idea of having something physical I can hold to show for all the hours I have put into this blog. So much of my life lives on its pages, I look forward to being able to touch and turn those pages when I want to relive moments from this time in my life.

I have never made a book before, not even one on Shutterfly. I have no idea how much of a process this will be but I think I will be grateful for the finished product.

It feels funny acknowledging that these days as a student that felt as if they would go on forever are in fact numbered and few at this point. There is not much left, just a few months, so I will do my best to be present, grateful, learn, grow, and write as often as possible.

 

The Healing Properties of Salt Water

salt water healing qualities

My Papa used to say this to me when I was young. So did my mother for that matter but I am sure that was because he said it to her when she was little as well. He and my mother also told me that dog kisses healed wounds. I never knew whether to take this literally or if it was more metaphoric. Either way I believe them, salt water and dog kisses can heal all wounds, physical and emotional.

I guess I should count myself quite lucky that I live so near the beach and have an affectionate dog to cure me between trips to the ocean.

Todd and I will be spending almost every weekend in July at the beach, starting this weekend, and I can’t wait. This week Todd’s parents arrive for a visit. We will spend the weekend at the beach together. I look forward to stimulating conversations with my father-in-law, searching for sea shells with my mother-in-law, eating fresh scallops, and watching the sunset with Todd.

We are going to the beach Todd proposed at. As fate would have it we have visited this beach many times since that trip that changed both of our lives. It is a beach from my childhood. We used to stay at this yellow hotel that had a dolphin statue out front. It is the only hotel I remember from the many beach vacations of childhood, it was my favorite. For years I had not been to that beach but since our engagement we have had many opportunities to vacation there.

So this weekend we will stay at our beach with Todd’s parents. In a few weeks Todd’s best girlfriend from college will come to visit us with her sister and her sister’s husband. The weekend they are in town we will return to this beach with them. Then at the end of the month we are going to a concert near another beach.

I am working ahead on my assignments so as not to fall behind during this busy month. I think all this salt air will do me well, especially right before I start internship.

Siblings

siblings

This made me laugh because that was totally me as a kid. I used to sneak into my brother’s room when he was playing outside and play with his G.I. Joes and Lincoln Logs and then have to dart if I heard him come in the front door. I definitely got pounded a few times for snooping around in his room growing up.

So when Todd and I were having drinks with our friend over the weekend at one point we were talking babies, and family, and siblings. Todd and I are on the fence about how many children to have. I am thinking I could be pretty content with one, a happy little family of three with a dog. We go back and forth though, we have definitely talked about two for quite sometime as well. Todd and I were both one of two, we both have an older brother making us both the youngest. We both have good relationships with our siblings  but I don’t think it is that ideal of “my sibling is my best friend” for either of us.

My friend was one of four. When I was growing up I wanted one more sibling. I had this grand idea that if there was one more of us, preferably a girl, she and I would be best friends and she would always be on my side when my brother and I would fight.. Which was all. the. time.

So I asked her if it was like that for her growing up, would two of you gang up on another one etc.. She explained how having siblings is a built in friend for life. Relationships come and go but here is this person who has known you your entire life and they will always be there. Really good point.

My absolute favorite part of the entire conversation though was when I asked what was the most difficult part of being one of four. Without skipping a beat she said, “never being able to find matching socks”. I laughed so hard. I suddenly imagined her as a child sitting on the floor in front of a laundry basket rushing to get ready for church and not being able to find socks.

I didn’t say this to her but having fewer siblings may not have made a difference in this department. My Mom put zero effort into organizing socks when we were growing up. Socks were washed and then kept in a laundry basket where we could go dig for pairs. This might explain why I opted to go barefoot as often as possible.

Ultimately we will have as many children as we are meant to have. There is a level of planning involved and level of fate. There does seem to be so much societal pressure to have multiple children though and stigma involved in only having one. Societal norms will certainly not a play a role in our final decision, it is a lot to think about though.

The Music My Parents Gave Me

Music my parents gave me

I have my mother’s nose, my father’s teeth and toes, I get my coloring and blond locks from my Papa who also shared with me his crystal blue eyes. One of my favorite hand me downs though is my taste in music. While it has been influenced by friends and romantic partners over the years, I have my parents to thank for my initial introduction into what I now consider “good music”.

I was thinking about this over the weekend. We were at my parents house playing cards and drinking with them and my aunt and uncle. Early in the evening my mom asked that I put on Pandora with no mention of a specific station. As I was perusing her selection I landed on Creedence Clearwater Rival, a favorite of Todd’s, passed down by his parents. I realized real quick that station wasn’t going to work for me so I switched it over to Annie Lennox much to Todd’s chagrin. As I listened to familiar songs from my childhood, often signing along with my mother, I thought about how great an influence my parents both had on my musical taste.

So much of what I love, like really deeply love, was theirs first. In a way this music was a gift from my parents that I get to keep even long after their gone.

Together they gave me A-Ha, Tears for Fears, The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, K.D. Lang, Natalie Merchant, Melissa Ethridge, Annie Lennox, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Willie Nelson,The Beatles, the Out of Africa soundtrack, The Mamas and The Papas, The Zombies, Fleetwood Mac and one of my all time favorites, Simon and Garfunkel.

It is a small thing but the music you listen to at different stages of your life becomes embedded in you forever. My mother listened to strong female artists with powerful messages and folk singers singing about love and peace. My dad listened to old crooners and upbeat 80’s music.

I think, even if just on some small level, this music influenced me. I hope my someday children have as much love for Todd and I’s music especially knowing that some of it will be music we pass down to them from our parents.