*I’m doing exactly what they tell bloggers not to do—changing the schedule. I’ll be posting Monday nights now. For the most part. Unless I can’t.*On August 5, Kim Kardashian is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at BlogHer‘s annual conference in L.A—one of the biggest conferences for women bloggers in the country. In explaining this decision, Elisa Camahort Page, a co-founder of BlogHer, told ABC news, “She has parlayed her influence into a huge media, commerce and mobile app empire, including making tens of millions on her app alone. And it’s an empire with women in the driver’s seat.” Apparently financial success alone merits this prominent space on a platform supposedly intended to promote female empowerment.
I suppose, given how so many people have already deified her, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. And yet it does.
It seems to me outrageous, and incredibly sad, that BlogHer would hire Kardashian to be the voice of their conference. Maybe I’m crazy, but I could have sworn that blogging had something to do with actual writing, even if in the most tangential of ways. That ideally, being a presence on social media might be about more than just the numbers–that as feminists we could strive to make it also about contributing something of substance to the world around us. (Hold the laughs until the end please.) Continue reading →
Things — identifiable objects, products, goals with clear labels and price tags, men you’ve known for five minutes — make such a handy repository for hungers, such an easy mask for other desires, and such a ready cure for the feelings of edgy discontent that emerge when other desires are either thwarted or unnamed.
-Caroline Knapp, Appetites: Why Women Want
We’ve all been there. Too much to drink, late-night out–you end up going home with someone who is so hot you can’t believe your own luck. Only to turn over the next morning and find that, in fact, you can completely believe your luck: once again, screwed by the beer goggles.
I have a pair of goggles that are similar to those–well not so much “similar to” as much as “the opposite of.” Mine are what I call “body goggles” (#bodygoggles), and apparently I wear them all the time. I’m not proud of owning said goggles, but there it is anyway. Objects may appear larger than they actually are.Continue reading →
And while I can proudly report that I told both those people (very nicely) that I thought they were wrong–that it wasn’t just women who judged people without kids–I also have a confession. The piece in question was originally a blog post of mine called Why You Should Stop Feeling Sorry For Me, and that blog post of mine was originally called Why WOMEN Should Stop Feeling Sorry For Me.
So yeah, until recently, I also bought into the idea that it’s really just women who have problems with childless people. I wrote the piece in October, and before I published it I read it to my best friend for feedback (read: for her to tell me that I’m a literary genius and the piece was perfect). But she couldn’t get past the sentence: “And women have a hard time understanding that.” We talked for a while and she made some good points, namely that women are probably only more likely to voice their opinion on the matter, not necessarily more likely to have it in the first place.I changed the title of my post but wasn’t entirely convinced until a few months later, when something else happened.
I posted a hilarious meme that said “The best part of kids is that I am not responsible for any of them.” I know, right? Told you it was hilarious. Also happens to be true–despite the fact that I love (some) kids, I don’t have any myself because I’m not ready to give up the freedom that one loses upon procreation. And someone said this:
Such a sad, sad commentary by someone who has never experienced the pure joy and love a child brings to the heart and soul of one who IS responsible for them.
I’d only been on Facebook for a short while at the time, and wasn’t able to let trolls’ comments slide off my back with the same ease that I am now. (Ha.) It made me so angry that I took to Facebook to write the one and only rant that I’ve ever posted. And let me tell you, it was a pretty good one. I said that it most certainly was not a sad commentary, that a woman doesn’t need kids to be fulfilled, that blah blah blah, insert feminist rant here. And I could totally feel both men and women near and far giving me a feminist salute as they liked and commented and shared my post. I was basically saving civilization in general, and feminism in particular.
But here’s what was interesting. Everyone assumed that the comment was made by a woman. It wasn’t.
I wasn’t trying to trick anyone, it just never occurred to me to mention that it was actually a closed-minded man who said what he did about my “sad” commentary. (Unsurprisingly, he had a lot of hunting pictures up on his page–a lot of standing triumphantly over enormous dead animals, his eyes glistening with pride that he was able to outsmart an animal and then turn a weapon on it.)
So my question is–why? Why are we (myself included) so quick to assume that it’s only women who care about the status of women’s wombs? The idea of a happy marriage with 2.5 happy children is the great American Dream, is it not? Isn’t it a societal standard that both men and women designate as the arbiter of what’s important and what isn’t?
I don’t have any definitive answers, but I do know that these questions merit some serious thought. As women, I think we’re especially hard on other women. Both of those comments portray women as catty and competitive, but there’s something much more aggressive–almost vitriolic–about the woman’s comment. There was a resentment there–that I was part of a group of people who were consciously trying to perpetuate a notion that I knew to be false. That I was afraid to tell the ugly truth about who women really are.
A friend told me that he did think women care more than men about who has kids, and when I asked him why, he couldn’t cite any specific examples. Just a general feeling. We have been trained to think certain things about each gender, and then to attribute those differences to “nature.” And if we really want things to change, we need to start examining those ideas and questioning where they have actually come from.
***I’ve been thinking back to where it all started for me and this little blog. Y’know, all the way back to October (when I was still doing the e.e. cummings thing). Thanks to everyone who has read and supported me, especially those who’ve reached out to tell me when something resonated with them. For a writer just starting out, you can’t know how much it helps to know that my words are landing somewhere. Happy New Year everyone.***
the other day, my blonde-haired blue-eyed 7 year-old charge looked at me and said, “what do you wanna be when you…” and there he stopped, an impish grin forming across his sun-splashed summer face. he knew i was already a grown-up, but he also understood that being a nanny isn’t a response to the question of what you want to be when you grow up. babysitting is something you do, not something you are. and though he didn’t want to offend me, he did want an answer to his question. he thought about it for a moment and then said, “well, besides this, what do you want to be when you grow up? i wanna be an engineer—so i can make roller coasters.”
a few weeks ago, i took a pilates class to relax and clear my mind. this happened instead.
“c’mon girls, relax your neck and pull that bellybutton in toward your spine,” the teacher barked over loud music. “let’s go ladies! tighten those cores, tighten your glutes—and tighten that va-jay-jay!” oh for fuck’s sake.
first of all—no. just, no. and second of all—NO. never say that again. ever. anywhere. to anyone.
now let’s deal with the semantics. as a grown woman, you should be able to say the word vagina. don’t we do enough abbreviating these days? must we address our genitals like that too? tie-tie and tum-tum and cray-cray—i’ll cop to using some of those stupid phrases sometimes. and while they’re certainly not my proudest moments as a writer, asking someone if their tum-tum hurts is not the same thing as calling my vagina something that sounds like the name of a cheerful puppet on a children’s show. i’m not a little girl who hasn’t mastered the art of pronunciation yet, and neither are you.
semantics aside, there are much bigger issues here.
i work out to feel like a bad-ass. of course there are physical benefits—healthy heart and tight tush and blah blah blah. the thing that gets me to the gym when i don’t want to go (which is every time i go) is the bad-ass thing. i exercise to stop my rat wheel of a mind, tune the world out, and leave feeling stronger. do you think any of that is possible when you keep lobbing the phrase “va-jay-jay” around? does that sound like something that makes you feel ready to head out and kick the day’s ass? the only thing it makes me want to kick is you—in your va-jay-jay. and it’s not even the good kind of violent impulse that fuels my workouts sometimes. it’s the distracting and demeaning kind.
so listen closely because i’m only going to say this once: my vagina does not need to do pilates. y’know what actually, maybe that bears repeating. my vagina. does not need. pilates. it just doesn’t. no one’s does.
this has nothing to do with who’s had kids and who hasn’t—it’s not about anything physical. it’s about finding one goddamn place in my life where i’m not bombarded with the idea that as a woman, my value is inextricably linked to my sexuality—a sexuality of a very specific form and function. woman as object for consumption. shit, all i have to do is walk through the lobby of the gym and i see diet products everywhere and bright lcd screens that accost me with images of shiny, happy people using shiny, happy products. which is why when i actually get to the fitness studio, and you’re the one who is supposed to be my guide, it’s kind of important where you take me and how you get me there. and taking me there via vagina-talk is completely unacceptable.
while i’m at it, here are a few other things i never want to hear again from a teacher at the gym:
while working my ass, don’t tell me to “squeeze it like a stripper holding onto a hundred-dollar bill.” whatever the opposite of empowerment is—that sentence is it. not to mention an image i could do without.
when you’re balancing on one leg and you fall over, please don’t tell me that you have your period, which everyone knows compromises a woman’s balance. first of all, i very much doubt that’s true. and second, keep that shit to yourself. you fell over. it happens. just own it.
while working my back, don’t talk about all the women you see with back-fat to whom you want to run up and offer your card. let’s try not to confirm all of our worst fears about how women treat each other. you’re on stage, with a microphone, in front of women of all shapes and sizes—act like that fuckin matters to you.
don’t tell me that once i get into shape and start getting noticed by my friends’ husbands, then my own husband will start paying attention. really? do you get a bonus if you hit every evil stereotype of a conniving woman, talking shit and stealing husbands?
this last one has nothing to do sexual politics, but it’s reallyimportant nonetheless:
please—for god’s sake—don’t try to get me to whoop, clap my hands, count out loud, or vocalize my excitement in any way. don’t tell me to smile because frowning will give me wrinkles. YOU smile. do not ask me if i’m enjoying myself—i’ll tell you right now: no, i’m not. that’s always the answer. my muscles are burning, i can’t breathe, sweat is pouring off of me, and i’m watching the woman in front of me do it all more nimbly and without breaking a sweat. you asking me to show faux-enthusiasm for something that is kicking my ass only serves to highlight how much fun i am not having. and how can i be a bad-ass when you’re telling me to clap my hands?
as the people closest to me will attest, i am not an especially easy person to please. i know that. i realize that often my expectations get the better of me, but i don’t think this is one of those times. i’m asking for a few simple things: don’t tell me to clench anything in my ass, don’t perpetuate every nasty female stereotype, don’t talk about your period, and please—if you hear only one thing today—leave my vagina out of it.