Feminism


Lots of things about being female that irk and irritate me, but none piss me off more than everyday sexism.

I have spent all but a few years of my life railing against the limitations, inequalities, dangers and outrages visited upon me simply because I am not male.

Decades of my life. Quite literally.

So it stands to reason that I am very interested in varying takes on the subject that appear in the news and on the social media.

Yesterday, a conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Michelle Rempel, who also happens to be the immigration critic, wrote a piece which appeared in The National Post, detailing her ongoing struggles with the daily hassle of trying to represent her constituents while being female.

I’d like to report that the Canadian Parliament is an enlightened bastion of gender equality, and that Canadian men are not sexist Neanderthals in the workplace, but sadly, I cannot.

Here is some of what Ms. Rempel had to say on the subject:

The everyday sexism I face involves confronting the “bitch” epithet when I don’t automatically comply with someone’s request or capitulate on my position on an issue, confronting assumptions that I have gotten to my station in life by (insert your choice of sexual act) with (insert your choice of man in position of authority), enduring speculation and value judgements about my fertility, and responding to commentary that links my appearance to my competency. It involves my ass being occasionally grabbed as a way to shock me into submission. It involves tokenism. It involves sometimes being written off as not serious when I’ve clearly proven I am.

I’m fortunate, though. I haven’t had to overcome obstacles that many other women face. I have a romantic partner who isn’t emasculated by my success, and enthusiastically encourages me to pursue my aspirations. I’ve worked for and with employers who have done the same. I’m in a position of authority. I haven’t had to raise children as a single woman. I haven’t had to raise children, period. I’m cisgender, straight, and white. My body mass index doesn’t exceed 25. I’m not an immigrant. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship. I’m fortunate enough to have had a steady job throughout most of my working life. I could go on, and on, and on.

It’s a laundry list of not only the dismissive attitude men in the workplace still harbor and act upon, but it also highlights that being very privileged isn’t the shield some might suspect.

At the end of a day, what a man sees when he happens upon women in the world – wherever it might be – is someone who is not his equal. Someone he is free to not only make assumptions about but to give them voice. Someone he can fondle, leer at, proposition, and belittle because he is the man and the man is allowed.

It’s 2016 and the. man. is. allowed.

Let that sink in.

Then ask yourself, why is that?

In my opinion, some of it stems from the fact religions and out-dated cultural beliefs and practices still have too much influence in the world, but it also stems from the reality that women are a diverse group with differing and competing ideas/needs concerning what equality should be.

Regardless, I am firmly on the side of those who believe  the root of the problem is men. Their attitudes. Their unwillingness to let go of a status quo that suits them just fine because it asks/expects so little of them.

A gentlemen on Twitter responded to one of my tweets about Rempel’s article by saying he flet responding with a positive when a man behaves in a sexist manner is more likely to prevent similar behavior in the future than scolding or outrage.

Generally, I would agree. I spent too many years slowly luring teenagers to the trough of knowledge to not recognize the wisdom in such an approach.

It doesn’t mean, however, I am not bone weary fucking tired of it.

When after a conversation a man says to me, “You are a lot smarter than I thought you were.” My reaction is no longer “Thanks.” As it would have been when I was young.

Now, I say nothing.

Because there’s nothing to say to something so incredibly insulting the mind boggles he thought it was okay to say this out loud.

And grabbing my ass is grounds for slapped fingers. Or losing the whole hand.

Not that I have to worry about being groped anymore. My ass is too old to entice anyone but my husband. That or men save this kind of extraordinary personal space invasion for younger women because they instinctively know older women will hurt them.

Like Rempel though, I haven’t experienced sexism in a way that held me back during my education or kept me from employment or advancement after I graduated.

Though I have been physically threatened at different points when I was a young girl and woman, I was never hurt and was never trapped. I would point out that fear leaves its own marks but how we deal with them is an individual thing that can’t be easily quantified.

While I have been a single mom, an immigrant and “too large” to qualify for inclusion in what passes for “beautiful”, they were not obstacles for me either in the sense that they are for many.
I have been lucky and lucky, as most of us are wise enough to realize, is simply another way of saying “privileged”.

And she makes several good points about privilege when she writes,

The everyday sexism that I experience is grating. It angers me, and it makes me roll my eyes. Sometimes, when it’s bad enough, it causes me to second guess myself. I address it. I speak out about it. That said, I’ve never lost a job because of it. I’ve never experienced violence because of it. I’ve never had to worry about feeding my family because of it.

So, who am I to tell other women how they should combat everyday sexism? In fact, who are any of us to do the same?

There is no one sizes fits all solution for everyday sexism from a women’s perspective and, in my opinion again, there is no solution at all until men are willing to share privilege with us.

Because equality is really about leveling privilege.

And I don’t see that happening.

We’ve come a long way since the days we were not allowed to vote and were passed from father to husband like chattel. But we still owe the progress that been made more to the largess of men than anything. And unless we speak up, insist and address the daily insults and outrages, little is going to change.

So it’s incumbent upon those of us who are in the position to do something to do it. Like Michelle Rempel does in Ottawa. Like I do when I radicalize my daughters with knowledge, encouragement and being embarrassingly outspoken.

We need to push. We need to call out. We need to remember that women are still not equal and it’s way past time we were.

 


Statistically speaking, Ghomesi’s not guilty verdict only sort of exonerated him of his alleged crimes.

The women who testified against him at his trial are but 3 on a list of women who’ve come forward with tales that Ghomesi is a sexual predator and serial sexual assailant.

Their testimony was riddled with supposed contradictions and apparent collusion that has only helped fuel the belief of those who cling to the myth that women falsely accuse men of sexual assault at higher numbers than the factual reality.

The vast majority – 92% at minimum – of reported sexual assaults are true. That’s a fact. It can be looked up and verified.

But, there is a large segment of society (predominantly male) who prefer to push the lie that most men accused of sexual assault are innocent and victims of “lying women”.

The heart of what has come to be termed “rape culture” flourishes because so many men can’t, or won’t, confront the truth about their gender, which is that men labor (still) under a cloud of misinformation about women and consensual sex that they picked up from dubious sources and continues to passed from one generation of men to another.

It’s 2016, but the list of fallacies about women, how we react in any given situation where relationships and sex are concerned, is still stuck in the misogynist past.

Despite what we now know about how victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse behave in the aftermath of their assaults, men, the media, the judicial system, law enforcement and religious groups with a variety of agendas continues to ignore the facts.

The fact is that victims often behave inconsistently after they’ve been assaulted for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes it’s denial. Understandable given the stigma that is still attached to having been sexually assaulted. And it’s difficult to deal with the shock of what’s happened – often at the hands of someone known to and even trusted by the victim. It’s normal to not want to believe you’ve been a victim and to try and restore a past state that has been erased by a violent betrayal of trust.

Often it’s shame because society still believes that victims can/should do more to prevent themselves from being victimized. Ridiculous, I know. We don’t ask victims of muggings why they were walking where they were or why they didn’t fight back after all.

There is fear factor too. Victims can still be at risk of repeated abuse by those who assaulted them, and with social media these days, it is all too easy for victims to be shamed and vilified by people they don’t even know. Not to mention, but let’s, push-back from family, friends, co-workers (their own and their assailant’s) and the community they live in.

Finally, law enforcement remains mostly clueless about how to deal with victims in a way that doesn’t re-victimize them, which is a problem our justice system suffers from as well.

Sexual assault is a minefield because we still see it as “sexual” rather than assault and society cannot seem to shed the idea that bad things only happen to bad people where sexual assault is concerned.

I am not surprised by the Ghomesi verdict. Growing up female, I learned quickly that men will always be believed and women will not be when it comes to sexual assault and domestic abuse. And not much has changed since I was a kid back in the seventies except that we talk about it now where we didn’t back then.

But talk is mostly all it is.

We still have no consensus on what must be done. and there continues to be undue burden on women to “prove” they are worthy of being believed rather than facing the reality that this litmus test is what allows sexual assault and predators to continue victimizing people.

I kind of hoped that my daughters would live in a safer world than I grew up in but that’s not really happening. Today is simply more proof of that.


Recipes

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

My mother brought me my grandmother’s cookbook. It’s one of those parish cookbooks where the women contributed their best recipes and household hints and sold it as a fundraiser. Paper cover and plastic ring binding, and complied by the St. Andrew’s Altar-Sodality of Tennyson, Wisconsin in 1946.

The first section is titled “Household Hints”. Gems.

Cut very fresh bread with a heated sharp knife.

When rendering lard put a little hot water and a little soda in the kettle before putting in the lard. It renders faster.

Large potatoes will take much less time to bake if left to stand in hot water for 15 minutes before putting in oven.

A discarded pocketbook makes a dandy first aid kit for the car or barn.

An inexpensive but most amusing rattle for a baby is crumpled newspaper sewed in a gauze bag.

The bloody water left over from washing fresh meat is very good for house plants (no salty water).

Throughout the book, Grandma made notes here and there. Sometimes dating them as she tinkered with each recipe. One such was updated in 1966, ’67 and finally in 1975. Most were corrections about the amount of this or that to use or to change the baking temperature. One cookie recipe has the warning “no good” in the margin.

Ice cream, pickles and soap – these women could make anything. In the section on sandwiches, they explain how to make the peanut butter itself before giving directions for preparing the sandwich.

One of the household hints involved thickening gravy. “Remove it from the fire before adding the thickening.”

“Remove from the fire?” I said to Mom.

“Oh yes, we were still using a wood burning stove then,” she said. “My mom used to bake bread three days out of the week and she always managed to keep that wood burning oven at an even temperature.”

It’s the dedication I love,

“… is dedicated to the housewife, the greatest contributor to the happy home. The recipes have been given by ladies from a thoroughly American Community, founded by our German ancestors, a hundred years ago. Our mothers, our grandmothers and great grandmothers, have all enjoyed the reputation of being good cooks and bakers. In this book we give to you the treasures they have bequeathed to us.”

Obviously there was still more than a little anti-German sentiment following the war, but I love the pride they take in their skill sets. Sure, at the time, housewifery was the female path, but they see themselves as important and what they contribute as worthy of sharing. It’s a legacy that’s been passed on to them and now passes through them to others. Very cool.

Dee decided we’d take a stab at the chocolate angel food. Helluva lot of eggs need to sacrifice their whites for this recipe, and there were a few too many bakers today, but chocolate is good regardless of how the cake turns out. And it was more than a bit flat. Whipping egg whites is an art. I can’t imagine how my grandmother whipped eggs by hand. These women must have had forearms like steel bands. I gave up and used the mixer.

Tomorrow, date pinwheels. A Christmas treat that when I mentioned it not long ago to Rob, his reaction was,

“And you haven’t made these ever because?”

Because I didn’t have the recipe and couldn’t remember all the ins and outs that Mom used. It’s one of those that requires making and refrigerating things in advance. It also calls for “shortening”, which leads to “rolling” at some point – this I remember from my childhood when Mom would give my sister or I a baking chore every Saturday morning. Things that needed to be rolled were never my favorite, and I suspect they weren’t favorites of mom’s either because at some point, we only had pie whenever DNOS or I made one.

1946 is a long time ago. The hundred years of cooking is closing in on 170 fairly quickly. I am glad I have the book. It would have been a shame for those ladies of St. Andrew’s to have put so much love into a book that wasn’t still being used.


1926 US advertisement. "Birth Control"

1926 US advertisement. “Birth Control” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was passively enduring talk radio on the drive back from Dee’s soccer game this evening and caught the FOX shoutfest that is Hannity. They were yelling over each other about small government, which no American under 55 can seriously claim to have ever lived under or even have the slightest idea of what small government means in terms of daily life, but nevermind. Small government diatribes these days almost inevitably detour through the vaginas of America’s women, who are the true root of the horror that is big government.

“If they want birth control (I love it when “they” refer to us as “they”, don’t you?) then they can pay for it themselves,” Hannity opined like a Catholic bishop from the pulpit. “I don’t need to pay for their lifestyle choice.”

Lifestyle choice?

Let’s see. I have breasts, a vagina, uterus and two XX’s. And that’s a choice I made?

Being female is not a “lifestyle”.

Why is it that everything small government conservative types are opposed to is slapped with the “choice” sticker?

First it was choosing to be gay and now, apparently, one can choose to be female too. Like anyone would, knowing the world as the female non-friendly place that it is. Who wouldn’t choose to the male? And straight and white while one was at it. Why not? If life were a simulated reality video game, as was recently pointed out, smart money is on picking the easiest setting – straight, white male. A penis is like finding a gold ticket in a Wonka Bar.

But here is the real beauty behind the “lifestyle choice” strawman argument, it allows “them” to define “us” as sluts. Only a slut would use birth control. My mother certainly never used birth control. Except if she is a baby boomer, she most certainly probably did. Just as your sister probably did. And your girlfriend because the god of your straight white maleness forbid that you deny yourself anything by stuffing your burgeoning manhood in a condom as opposed to a sassy wet slutty cunt.

But your daughter, and likely many of her friends, use birth control. Your nieces. Your cousins. The women you work with.  The one who checks your groceries at the store and the one who cleans your teeth, make your lattés and tells you to “have a nice” day when you are strolling out of Walmart, all have a better than even by a long shot chance of having used birth control at some point in their lives.

Damn slutty female lifestyle choice. Can’t escape them. They are everywhere, tainting the landscape with their tending to their femaleness and thinking you don’t know it. They should be ashamed of their lifestyle choice.

I know I am.

If only I had chosen to be my brother, who’s had two children out-of-wedlock to my NONE.

But no, I chose the female lifestyle. With its monthly bloody shedding of uterine lining and sole burden of child incubating and birthing and breastfeeding and putting nearly all my own wants, wishes and desires on hold for ten or twenty years, so it can grow, learn and hopefully leave home before I am too old to get back to focusing on me for more than snatched minutes here and there.

Being female is a perk-filled lifestyle. I can’t imagine why more men aren’t choosing it.

When we are not bleeding, pregnant or lactating, we are being paid less for the same work and bruising ourselves against glass ceilings, doors, and walls. We cart home the bacon after having shopped for it only to cook it, be criticized for getting fat if we eat more than a bite of it and then clear it from the table and wash the plates from which it was eaten.

If we show cleavage, we are whores, but if we try to disguise our breasts, we are anal prudes with no sense of humor who should, “Just smile, Sweetie, because you are so much prettier when you smile. Don’t look so serious all the time.”

We get to have a special “place” and straight white god in heaven forbid that we shouldn’t recognize it and plant the asses we should not let get too fat right there where they belong.

What kind of bullshit is this lifestyle choice crap?

No woman on the planet would choose to be female. Why? Because as lifestyles go, it sucks. Lifestyles should be rich, famous, and packed with privileges. Being female is none of those things.

When the small government folk go on and on about “lifestyle choices”, they are attempting – and in the US with great success – to redefine what being female, or gay, really is. It’s not a choice. It’s a condition of being. Part of being female is managing the plumbing, and no one gets to stick his nose up my plumbing unless he’s my husband or has an M.D. behind her surname.

I am female by random chance, and I have lived a female’s life of which I am not ashamed of. Nice try, Hannity.


Time Magazine jumped into the Mommy “War” fray this past week with a “provocative” cover story, which featured a good-looking millennial mom breastfeeding her big-for-his-age almost four-year old as the cover photo.

I am sure you’ve seen it by now. She’s garbed in the standard yoga uniform of the SAHM with one boob flashing a bit as her son peeks from behind it, his mouth firmly latched.

The outrage! How dare Time sexualize breastfeeding?! And how icky of them to use a hot looking mom as opposed to the dumpy beings we all know that moms are? And the kid? He’s a kid!! Kids don’t breastfeed! They eat. Lunchables and Happy Meals while drinking fructose infused juices and sodas. And finally, breastfeeding is all well and good for INFANTS (provided a woman CAN nurse … because you know, not all of us can. Failure to latch or lactate enough or you know, we have lives) but not preschoolers who can ask for a cup of milk and maybe even pour their own sippy cups. Pretty sure that sucking Mom’s teat (in front of people) isn’t something Jesus wants fully actualized feminists to do.

‘Cause Jesus loves the working woman.

Did you hear my eyes rolling on that last line?

Look, I breastfed Dee until she was a tad over four years old. Ask her. She’ll tell you that it was awesome and that breast milk is the tastiest stuff ever and she misses it … because she’s lactose intolerant and rice milk just doesn’t cut it for her, and I am mean and won’t let her have much cow’s milk. And no, she won’t be traumatized if someday her peers find this out because we have raised her to value what she knows over the often times misguided misinformation of others.

She slept with me too until Rob came along – because he is the world’s most finicky sleeper*. It’s the slippery slope that is “attachment parenting” for most of us who aren’t Hollywood actresses. Breastfeeding is an on demand thing and in pretty short order it occurs to most of us that letting the baby, toddler or kid simply latch on as needed while we sleep is the best way to not die from exhaustion.

As most people who know Dee can attest, she is neither emotionally impaired nor particularly clingy. She sallies forth into the world at her own pace, dictated more by her personality – which she inherited in more or less equal measures from me and her late father – and that no one would accuse her of being particularly effed up in terms of her ability to separate from Rob and I. She speaks up for herself. She doesn’t take crap from peers. She knows who she is and aside from her insistence that she is going to work at The Pottery Guild when she grows up (she is going to be an engineer because we’ve already decided that we can’t waste money on university without some sort of assurance that she will be employable and not destined to live with us for the rest of our lives), she is practical and – based on my observations of many of her friends – far more self-sufficient.

There is nothing particularly right or wrong about breastfeeding beyound the first 6 weeks or months. Once I got the hang of it, I found it much easier than messing about with formula and bottles. But I wasn’t slavish about it. I didn’t get the hang of pumping, so Dee took formula at daycare. Devilish smart wee one that she was, she figured out quite early that because she could nurse all she liked in the evenings and over-night, she didn’t need to take much formula during the day. More than once, a worried caregiver informed me that Dee had taken only 15 ounces of formula that day. She was too clever by half even as a 4 month old.

And I didn’t personally know anyone whose kid or kids didn’t take up residence in their bed. Honestly, I don’t know that forbidding this sort of thing promotes “independence” any more than letting a baby cry itself to exhaustion teaches them to sleep (which begs the question of how “sleep” – a natural human thing is “taught”). My parents forbade us to sleep in their bed. In fact, I vividly remember having to stand in the hallway outside their door and call to them ’til one of them woke up if I needed them in the night because it was literally taking life in hand to even stand next to their bed.

Most of the sanctity of the marriage bed thing stems, in my opinion, from the quaint notion that sex is why the bed exists in the first place and that a couple somehow loses precious bonding time when children “intrude”.  Aside from our days trying to conceive, the late husband and I rarely had sex in bed. And frankly, I am not at all sure how one bonds during one’s sleep. But given the fact that “bonding” for many couples consists of watching Game of Thrones on a flatscreen nearly as big as the bed – I am not really sure where the bed gets its sacred reputation. It’s a bed. Mostly you sleep in it and kids eventually will get tired of being squished and go find beds of their own. I don’t know a single co-sleeping family who is harbouring teens or 20 somethings in their beds.

Here’s what I think about the hysteria over the Time cover pic.

People project. A lot.

North Americas have  a puritanical streak wider than the Mississippi and twice as long. The media and the Pink Ribbon brigade has so twisted our notions about the female breast that we can’t see them and not think SEX. Breasts in our culture are about accessorizing, flaunting and power and not necessarily in that order. Men see breasts as enticing toys, and women pander to this view a lot more than is necessary.

Breasts are not just fatty tissue housing milk ducts, They are statements. Sexual objects used by everyone from the purveyors of capitalism to the pimps of the patriarchal religious right. More so than even our vaginas, our breasts are used to pit us against each other in pointless areola gazing.

Are you Mom enough? Time asks us. And by doing so is accused of stoking the next battle, but we willingly engage in one mom up-woman-ship all the time on our blogs, Twit streams and Facebook pages. Seldom have I witnessed Moms gathering (or women in general for that matter) where hierarchies aren’t quickly established with women knowing, without even asking, where they rank. Nothing about being female screams FEMALE as loudly as the endless competition we entered into at some point before junior high and continue to engage in to one degree or another until we drop dead (from breast cancer, if you are inclined to buy into the hysteria).

Time fed the distraction troll with this one. One could excuse it if one were inclined. I’m not. Nor am I inclined to cut much slack to the hysterical and squeamish who jumped into the fray while decrying it.

They are just boobs, doing what boobs are uniquely designed to do. I get that Mom on Time’s cover. Breastfeeders are constantly sent the message that we are freakish and should keep that shit in our homes – with shades drawn and maybe in a closet underneath a thick blanket. I’d have stuck it out there for all to see too had I been given her chance. And personally, I get a vicarious feeling of satisfaction knowing that cover is discomforting the judgemental and the timid conformers in every grocery and Target all over America. Take that, Mommy Clubbers!

Seriously, they are boobs and the kid is nursing. He’ll be fine. Get over it already and stop buying into your own manipulation by a media with a political agenda that is clearly not women friendly.

*I am lucky that I am allowed to share the bed with him because my tossing about has driven him to distraction on more than one occasion. And Dee is even worse than I am.


Sheet music cover of "A Pretty Girl Is li...

Sheet music cover of "A Pretty Girl Is like a Melody". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

April is not just about showers that bring the flowers of May. Nor is it merely about poetry.

It’s also Guitar Month, Humor Month, Autism Awareness Month, Cancer Control Month and Occupational Therapy Month, Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, Autism Awareness Month, Books to Brighten Young Minds Months, Community Spirit Month, Confederate History Month, Couple Appreciation Month, International Customer Loyalty Month, International Guitar Month, International Legacy Month, Keep America Beautiful Month, Lawn and Garden Month, Mathematics Education Month, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month, National Humor Month, National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, National Self-Publishing Month, National Smile Month, National Youth Sports Safety Month, Occupational Therapy Month, Pets Are Wonderful Month, School Library Month, Spring Break Month, Straw Hat Month,  and World Habitat Awareness Month.

All that and still the most interesting thing remains poetry?

I take poetic license then and share what some would disdainfully call a “feminist rant in metered time”, but I think, for poetry, is a pretty damn good poem that says more about the tyranny of “pretty” in a few minutes than I could in an hour.