Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Misogynist in Feminist Clothing

I hit a snapping point today after reading yet another article preaching about women. There’s been a lot of this kind in recent months – always authored by women and always loaded with opinion. Today’s final nail-in-the-coffin moment was inspired by an article published on Huffington Post. The article intended to make the point that money spent on weddings and baby showers was frivolous, and would be better expended toward fanfare for graduations and promotions.

What irks me about this article – and others like it – isn’t the suggestion that we should celebrate women outside of familial milestones, but the fact that it puts down other women’s choices. This belittling and judgmental tone is unfortunately one that litters most so-called “feminist” articles. But really, there’s nothing feminist about that. What they truly are is misogynistic.

The true definition of feminism seems to have clouded recently. Feminism isn’t about erasing any or all female traditions, and it certainly isn't about judging other women. Feminism is intended to lift up and to empower women to take control and make choices, not to be forced to fulfill any role. Misogyny, on the other hand, is hatred against women. And when these articles put boxes around and negatively frame certain choices of women, that’s misogyny.

What I loathe about these articles, and those who promulgate them incessantly on social media, is that each post is inherently condescending: always judging, always putting down the women who prefer baking over sports. Or the women who choose to get married. Or the women (the allegedly most wretched type of all) who choose to be a stay-at-home moms.

I am tired of the cloak of feminism concealing a petty witch-hunt to criticize and bully other women. Those women – the ones who feel the need mock others for personality or lifestyle differences – are a conniving bunch of “against you” women: newly-instated female members of the He-Man Woman Haters’ club.  

I am an advocate for supporting and celebrating the women I love in however they want to be celebrated. For one friend it was happy hour to celebrate a new job in a new city, and in September, I’ll be celebrating my best friend’s wedding. What’s important isn’t how or what specifically you celebrate. It’s that we celebrate other women in being true to who they are, and for the moments that matter to them. If that means a promotion, a wedding, a baby, purchasing a home… all are cause to celebrate. None are cause to scoff at a woman being true to herself.

Full disclosure: I am a married woman. I also love my career, sports, reading and occasionally baking. I will also definitely attend and bring a gift to your $20,000 promotion party with open bar. Thank you for inviting me. 

UPDATE 12/20:Wanted to share an article from PolicyMic responding to the Huffington Post article. This one deconstructs some of the suggestions the Huffington Post contributor makes as well as sharing my same disgust with the flurry of "feminist" articles that bash other women's choices. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Resolution

I've never really had a serious New Year's Resolution, and generally those I do make are pretty trivial. For example, last year's: get hair cuts more regularly. But this year, I actually made a real one: journal more, and regularly. Not necessarily blogging, but journal - pen. paper. hyper personal. 

There's a lot of back story I should really write about before I jump into this post, but I've drafted more than 10 posts all under the stipulation I'd publish them following the "catch-up" blog posts, which I'd draft later. But I never wrote the "catch-up" posts, and all those  still idle in a drafts folder.

So, here's the skinny of the back story for "all my readers" who aren't members of my family  (are there any???) and don't already know some crucial, recent developments: 

In June I got engaged.

I'd write more about all the excitement, passion and emotions of that moment, but I'm a bit too proud to divulge my softer side publicly

Anyway, fast forward six-plus months and several wedding check-list items later, my fiance and I found ourselves in the first of many marriage counseling sessions with the minister officiating our ceremony. I figured the sessions would be "surface-personal" so the minister could understand enough about us to include a few personal anecdotes during our ceremony as well as offer some general marriage advice, but our first meeting was deep, emotive and more like therapy than expected.

We discussed how we communicate and argue as a couple, the latter subject being a more difficult to share, yet it made me realize why it's so important I begin to journal and write again.

While my fiance is calm and worries very little about the future, I have great difficulty putting aside my thoughts and concerns as soon as they are conceived - no matter how unformed. When I don't release them as they arise, they mount within me and erupt in fits of rage or tears.

For most my life I kept a steady diary that not only satiated my passion for writing, but also served as a therapeutic release of these ideas and concerns. In recent years, I'd shared these feelings on this blog and others in conversations with my fiance. But some items were too personal for the blog, and some too vague to articulate in conversations, and so they would brew within me without escape. And although initially minuscule, over several days it transformed into a ferocious beast I could no longer restrain... leading to unfair, displaced frustrations and bellicose moods - all of which were previously mitigated through my practice of scribing and vetting out these inner workings in prose. 

As I realized this, it reminded of an email FWD my mom shared about holding and releasing stress (paraphrased, original source unknown):

A young woman leading a seminar on stress management walks into a room, pours a small bit of water into a glass and asks, "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Several attendees offer measurements in ounces, but she shakes her head. "No, it isn't how many ounces that matters; it's how long I hold it."

She continues, "There is only a small bit of water in this glass, and if I hold it for just a minute, it's no problem. If I try to hold it for an hour, my arm will ache. If I hold it for a day, I'll likely need to see a doctor. You see, in each case it is only a small amount of water, but the longer I hold this glass, the heavier it becomes."

She explains, "That's the same with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, the small things become increasingly heavy and prevent us from carrying on."

So this year I made my first real and healthy New Year's Resolution: to return to my former, beloved and valuable habit of writing. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why I Don't Love Fiction

For years I've turned up my nose at reading fiction, defending my distaste on the premise that a memoir or biography offers better insight into a past era or foreign place. Yet that really isn't an accurate statement: there are plenty of fictional books that invent characters and stories but take place in a historically accurate era or offer an window into a foreign culture. Nonetheless, I still leaned on that excuse whenever refusing to read fiction simply because I still couldn't really articulate why I held that preference.

The last book I read, The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure is a memoir about the author's exploration of the places featured in The Little House on the Prairie book series. Although there are some small tidbits about the Prairie lifestyle in the late 19th century, the book really focuses on the writer's personal journey and her childhood passion for the books.

Even though I felt no connection to the places or projects the writer completed along the way (I never read the books or watched the TV series), when she closes her book, reflecting on why this journey meant so much to her, it hit close to home and brought me to tears.

As I silently sobbed (mind you this occurred as I was riding a crowded train to work), I finally began to understand why I prefer non-fiction to fiction. And it actually had nothing to do with my prior excuse of history or foreign cultures...

I kept a steady diary from the age of eight on. On nights when I was craving a bit of nostalgia, I'd flip back through the entries from years past and let myself slip back into the euphoria, sorrows or excitement of my own life. When reading the pages full of heartache, my eyes would well up with tears, remembering those feelings of disappointment. Even though those moments had come and gone, knowing that they were real, and understanding that pain made it permissible - at least in my opinion - to let the emotion run free.

I feel the same way when reading anything non-fiction. I'm able to justify my tears and happiness as true empathy for what really happened, but I just can't allow myself the same freedom when reading a fictitious story - no matter how historically accurate. When I know that the story isn't true, I distance myself and dismiss the validity of my own and the character's emotions since it's only pretense.

What I love about reading is how intimate the relationship is with the characters and the author: you're alone with the words and plot, experiencing more of the story and someone's life as you turn each page. And when that story is true, either a personal account or a biography, that relationship is even deeper. And suddenly, reading those emotions and experiences are as personal as if I were rereading my own diary.