Tag: feminism

#YesAllWomen: The Animal Dark


This weekend has been unexpectedly emotional. Elliot Rodgers shooting and stabbing seven people was not actually the thing that has brought me to my emotional knees. The Twitter hashtag trend #YesAllWomen is what has made me feel gutted and strung out on a line to harden in the hot California spring breeze like pulverized meat.

I’m pulled in a hundred directions of thought. I might not be ready to distill it all. So call this the animal dark in which instinct is all I’ve got to navigate with.

I have always been a feminist but I haven’t always realized it. There was a time when I thought that because I love chivalry I must not be a feminist. Because I want to believe in romance. Because I don’t hate men. Because I don’t get offended by a lot of things that feminists I know get really angry about. But put in a situation that challenges my autonomy as a person, that belittles me based on the fact that I have a vagina instead of a penis and I become a force to be reckoned with.

This weekend I have been listening to women’s stories of rape, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual advances, abuse, discrimination, and how they’ve been silenced. How they’ve been told to stop “whining” and making a big deal out of “nothing”. I’ve been listening to stories of the billions of women who never feel safe.

It felt like an old stale jar of forbidden shame had busted open and suppressed memories came flooding through. The fact that I never feel completely safe in this world and the thing I’m most afraid of is men came not as a shock but as a thing I’m not allowed to express and apologize for feeling when it leaks out because I know that not all men are rapists. I know that not all men are misogynists. I have so many amazing men in my personal life that I can’t let these fears free, can’t admit to them for fear of offending or poisoning the good relationships I have with the men in my life.

The thing is, the good men in my life aren’t the ones who make me afraid. They know they aren’t. They know they aren’t part of this awful culture of female oppression and hate, but I feel so worried about offending the good ones and losing them and offending the bad ones risking physical retribution.

Listening to hundreds of women’s short stories about the insults, rape, abuse, and casual stranger boners being thrust into their backsides was like listening to the dark underbelly of this supposedly liberated free society we’re all enjoying and I remembered all the times I’ve been propositioned by men for sex – men who mistook me for a prostitute because I wore a lot of make up (I guess?) or because I was walking alone in neighborhoods where the only women brave enough to do that were looking for Johns. But I’ve also been propositioned on busy posh streets, ordinary streets, during the afternoon, the evening, and pretty much every time of day. And don’t fucking pull out some talk of provocative clothing because I’ve dressed with as little skin showing as possible for as long as I can remember. Fuck anyone who jumps to that thought.

The most corrosive thing is the silence that has been imposed on these stories for so long by not only men but women who are fearful of them and women who are under the spell of the biblical stricture that whatever a man says is law, even above their choice of God. There has been such a mass silencing and minimizing that has proved consistently stronger than the movements meant to weaken the misogyny we’re all exposed to.

This is deeply personal. This is my skin. These are my scars. This is my PTSD. I can’t share all my stories because I have to protect myself. Because down to my bones I know that the first rule of being a girl is to protect myself from the retribution of men. So when I listen to all these stories opening up I know only half of them are being said out loud.

My heart has been both full and leaking fluid all weekend. I’m riled to full fighting height. Above all the stories of fear, of devastating betrayal and abuse, there is the inherent strength of women shining through. The inherent ability women possess to be both emotional and rational. These two qualities in combination are what many unenlightened men fear. The double threat of being able to care for our helpless young while simultaneously able to work out calculus problems in real world applications. Practical, logical, and emotionally engaged is pretty threatening to anyone incapable of it.

As I’m writing this, the thing that disturbs me the most is this constant feeling that I must apologize for my opinions since they aren’t complimentary to all men. As I listen to all the women’s stories I want to embrace them and give them some kind of healing elixir but here’s the beautiful thing – the incredible thing – they don’t really need that from anyone. Women are strong as fuck. They just need to be heard and acknowledged and respected as equals to men. It’s as simple as that.

And obviously not treated like shit.

Or abused.

Or have hard penises rubbed against them in the subway. Because that shit is creepy.

This isn’t rocket science – what women want. You know how men are encouraged to have a rich sex life and also a great career and no one ever calls them whores? Women want that. You know how men are allowed to wear whatever the fuck they want and sometimes it shows a great wide carpet of chest hair and a thick sausage package in their tight pants and maybe women think it’s hilarious but they never take that as an invitation to rape men? Women want that for themselves. You know how men work hard on the job and get paid a standard wage that other men get for the same job and then when they work hard and get a raise and no one ever suggests they slept with the boss and they don’t earn less than other men in the same positions? Women fucking goddamn want that shit.

You know how men can be dirty as fuck in the bedroom but then be considered great dads by society? Women want that. Because you know what? Most women really like fucking and they want to take part in that dirty romp as equals but you know what often happens when they give men EXACTLY WHAT MEN WANT?

They get called sluts. Or whores. GIVING MEN EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT.

But men are always just being men.

It seems to me that men are the complicated ones. Women want all the things men want but maybe they have different words to describe their feelings and desires. There’s no doubt in my mind (based on experience) that some women and men speak almost completely different languages. But if you take the fucking time to work things out (both parties) it usually works out that men and women want many of the same things.

There are some men who are abused by women. I am for the whole truth, always. There are some really toxic women in the world, absolutely. And for any man out there who has experienced the same treatment by women as women have by men – I don’t condone that shit for anyone. Abuse is abuse and I’m against abusing other human beings and don’t really give a shit about their gender when it gets right down to the details.

But statistics and anecdotal stories show that the number of men being abused by women is an exponentially smaller number than that of women being abused by men.

How many men fear walking home alone at night? How many men have been victims of date rape – and how many have gone on a date fearing such a thing? How many men worry about being raped at all? How many men are really truly afraid of their wives? How many wives actually break their husband’s bones? How many wives give their husbands discrete bruises? How many men worry about everything they say to women – hoping they don’t give the wrong message and create a miscommunication leading to a scary situation? How many men worry about sending the wrong message with their tight pants? How many men wonder if their tone is giving the wrong signals in conversation and wonder if they’ll have to defend their casual conversation in court later to prove they really weren’t leading their rapist on?

They don’t. I don’t have to ask every man I know because I already know most of them live day to day not fearing violent sexual confrontation from anyone. Most women do.

I’ve felt choked up and overwhelmed and full of apology I owe to no one all weekend.

I have been made aware of more hatred towards women than I previously knew was out there. Hatred that endorses killing women for not agreeing to have sex with any man who wants it.  Fucking double standard from hell – because when they DO agree to have sex with you without any of the natural and healthy courtship rituals they are slandered as SLUTS and WHORES.

We are disrespected if we do and killed if we don’t.

If the epithets WHORE and SLUT are going to be thrown around then they apply more appropriately to all men. It’s tempting to sling that around at men, to taste that in the mouth of full reversal.

But I don’t think having sex and loving sex make anyone a whore or a slut. Not women or men. Because I see us all as equals and I see sexuality as a normal and healthy part of human life provided all parties are of legal age and able to consent. I don’t give a fuck what gender(s) you prefer. I don’t care if you like to swing or have an open marriage. I mean, I have opinions on how well that works out in general, but I don’t see anything morally wrong with whatever any consenting adults want to do with each other.

Just leave my unconsenting sisters of the world alone because my wrath is waking up.

There’s an awakening happening and I understand why certain men are afraid of it. Women individually are pretty fucking fierce – but if they are mobilized to rise and protect each other they are warriors of the finest caliber and more vicious and brave than any man on earth because they have both the fire of creation and the strength to protect life more than they care about their own skin.

That is a combination to fear if you’re on the wrong side of it.

Women stepping out of their code of silence is an act of rebellion as immense as black Americans stepping out their code of slavery.

Neither of us is finished rewriting the code yet.

All I can say is watch out for women because they’re taking numbers, but not for sex.

The Color Pink, Early Christmas Fatigue, and Our Unconventional Family

Penny playing

This post will mostly consist of thought spew.  Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

The stores and commercials on television are already all about Christmas and as tedious as it might seem to some of you Christmas fanatics to hear yet another Grinch complain about this – it really is disgusting.  It disgusts me and it depresses me.  I’m not a big shopper in the first place but obviously I am repulsed by Black Friday which has now become Black Thursday, a day I used to know as Thanksgiving.

I’m hearing a number of women on my facebook stream complaining about targeted marketing to girls – specifically with regards to color.  This reminds me of the brilliant bit Elle Degeneres did on the “Bic for Her” campaign.  Some women seem to think that if manufacturers didn’t make girls’ toys in pink and purple that girls wouldn’t like it – that girls are being essentially brainwashed into liking pink.  I personally think that gives too much credit to manufacturers power to tell us what we like and too little credit to girls being able to decide for themselves what colors they like.  I grew up in a sea of pink toys and yet I’ve never liked pink and managed not to have very much of it in my life.  And it’s not like I didn’t like conventional girl toys either.  I did.  I was UBER-GIRLY in my love for Barbie dolls and playing dress up.  But my Barbies, who were packaged liberally in sparkly pink boxes, rarely wore pink once in my hands.  I believe that manufacturers make what they think girls want and if girls keep choosing pink they’ll keep piling the shelves with pink.

Mostly I think it’s a waste of time to obsess over gender targeted toy and color choices.  As a parent you can offer your children more choices in toys and colors available to them and if your girl wants dolls and pink – let go.  If your girl wants to wear black and play with trucks – that’s great.  I gave my boy a baby doll when he was little and he banged its head against the wall for fun so I took it away.  He liked weapons and trucks and trains.  So what?  He had a choice, he chose, and it’s okay.  It doesn’t mean I’m training him up to be a chauvinist.  A neighbor boy of his same age had a choice too and nurtured and loved his dolls.  Totally cool.

What I’m saying is – I find it offensive to suggest that the only reason girls like pink is that they’re being brainwashed to like it.  Also – while I don’t love pink – what the fuck is wrong with girls liking it?

This book came to my attention yesterday: To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.  I’m not going to link to the book because it’s evil, instead I’m linking to the article that led me to it.  Michael and Debi Pearl should be jailed for encouraging people to criminally abuse their children.  Manson is in jail for getting other people to commit murders.  This couple is responsible for inciting parents to whip and starve children into submission.  This is an example of religion causing people to do evil instead of good.  It makes me sick to my stomach.

It’s raining today and I LOVE IT.  Max is loving it too.  We don’t miss much about living in Oregon (besides missing our friends there) but the weather – oh man, I really miss the weather!

Max’s birthday is tomorrow and he’s turning 13.  Jesus!  He’s a real teen now.

Yesterday he mentioned his directed studies class (for kids with IEPs) in which they were working on making a coupon book of potential treats they could have for good behavior.  Max couldn’t really think of anything and when the teacher suggested things like “How about you get to go out to eat and you get to choose the restaurant you go to?” and Max explained that he always gets to choose where we go.  After a few more suggestions which Max explained weren’t treats because he already gets pretty much everything he wants he said the teacher made a comment about him maybe being spoiled.  This makes us look like such bad parents.

But the truth is, we’re not a conventional family in any way.  Max gets to choose where we go out as a family because there are only a few places where there’s anything he likes to eat.  Going out to eat as a family should be enjoyable to all of us.  So he gets to choose which of the three places that have things he’ll eat we go to.  There’s something for Philip and I at each of them so we don’t really care.  We’re not sacrificing anything by letting him choose.  When Philip and I go out alone we go places that Max won’t go.  Everything is a kind of negotiation in our family between all of our particular “special needs”.

He doesn’t get whatever he wants whenever he wants it but he doesn’t really ask for a lot of stuff.  So if we can afford what he wants it’s often okay.  And when we can’t afford things he’s pretty understanding.  There is a lot of harmony in our family and our child is treated as an equal in many ways.  When it’s important that he do as I say or that he cooperate – I don’t have to work very hard to get it because he feels respected and loved and safe in this house and he knows I don’t ask a lot of him.

But we really do look like bad parents most of the time.  That’s okay.  I prefer the harmony in my little family over the incredible discord and fighting that I grew up with.

Now I’m going to warn you who are still following my blog that I’m going to be flogging you with my book.  I’m going to include a link to buy my book in every post at the bottom.  I’m going to ask you to tell others about it and if you can think of any way I can promote it – please share your ideas.  I have, in the past, completely sucked at marketing my products.  But here’s the deal: I want to make a living as a novelist and I’ve got a lot of things going against me (being an unknown author and being self published are two of the biggest factors I have to overcome) so if I want to succeed I’m going to have to get good at this marketing thing.  Even if it makes me exquisitely uncomfortable.  This is the most important thing I’ve ever done and there is nothing I want more than making a living writing novels.  So I have to really go for it.  And that means I’m going to ask for your help and I’m going to plaster links to my book everywhere I possibly can.  Okay?

I’m going to succeed at this.

True Feminists Aren’t Hot and Don’t Wear Stilettos

ye old corset

Is Feminism only for the fat un-hot girls?  If a girl is wearing underwear and is thin and attractive and confident – does her feminism mean less than that of an obese girl who no one objectifies?  I want you to really think about this.  Does feminism only apply to women who take great care to never expose cleavage, wear heels, or short skirts?  Does feminism only mean something if women are dressed chastely and in no way presenting a temptation to the men around her?

This girl is thin and not dowdy.  She likes to wear Victorian underwear.  Is she less a feminist than this woman:


Obese, middle aged, almost sexless… do you think this woman has more credibility as a feminist than the thin chick in the corset?  Does the fact that the only man who is attracted to her is her husband make you feel comfortable with her as a feminist role model?  You would like your daughters to eat too much cheese and drink too much beer and hate their bodies so much they want to crawl out of their skin?  You would prefer this to them being able to safely express themselves and not be afraid that men might take their stiletto heels as an invitation to violate

No you wouldn’t.  You know what’s fucked up?  That women are so exacting in their expectations of other women as role models.  Women who are confident in their bodies and who are perceived as being “hot” can live by strong feminist values and still be discredited by other women as not  being “real” enough.  But a woman can be too real, too fat, too unattractive.  No one will hold up an obese woman as a healthy role model for young girls any more than they will hold up a centerfold as a role model.

You don’t want your daughters to grow up and let their hot young bodies be objectified and so you don’t really want them to learn to celebrate the strong young beautiful bodies they’ve started off with but you also don’t want them letting themselves go – becoming fat and ugly and unwanted because that’s almost worse.

Women are the worst critics of other women.

Equal rights for women isn’t about women being equal only when clothed conservatively.  It isn’t about women being equal only when not feeling hot and sexy and ready for a romp (which would be wrong because obviously it’s okay that men have appetites but not women).  It isn’t about being equal only when women are ugly and asexual.  It isn’t about women being equal only when men can still feel confident around them and not get boners.

Equal rights for women is about women living by the same standards as men.  It’s about ALL women being treated with respect no matter what their personal style is or how much of their skin is showing or how smart they are or how confident they are or how beautiful they are or how young they are or how old they are or how many wrinkles they have or how big their boobs are or how thin they are or how chaste they are or how sexual they are.

Equal rights for women is about women being able to express their individuality and let their lights shine without ever having to worry about being sexually harassed or ridiculed by men or other women.  Equal rights is about getting equal pay for equal qualifications.  It’s about getting treated respectfully in courts of law, in schools, and among peers.  It means that rape victims are taken seriously and offenders are punished severely.  It means that skinny girls and fat girls experience the same respect of body and mind.  It means that the opinions of all women COUNT and that being hot or having big boobs doesn’t disqualify your point of view.

Feminism is for ALL women.

It’s for the good girls and the bad girls.  It’s for the strong girls and the weak girls.  It’s for the smart girls and the dumb girls.  It’s for all the girls in-between.


And if boys were girls it would be for them too because it’s really about equal rights for everyone.

Today I watched this parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video:

“Defined Lines” feminist parody of “Blurred Lines”

Haven’t seen the original?  Me neither, until today.  So check out the original:

“Blurred Lines” chauvinist parody of what women want

And here’s a critique of the feminist parody in which a woman thinks she might get behind it more if the women in the parody weren’t so hot and wearing stiletto heels:

True Feminists aren’t Hot and Don’t Wear Stilettos

Feminism isn’t about being better than men.  It isn’t a contest with men.  Or other women.  It isn’t a contest, period.  It’s about being held to the same standards as men and enjoying the same civil rights as men.  If men can walk through town without their shirts on, women should be allowed to walk around town without their shirts on too – and be treated the same as the shirtless men.  There are men who feel threatened by feminism but they shouldn’t be.  Women love sex.  Straight women love sex with men.  There are lots of dirrrrrty women who would love to get nasty with men but who expect to be safe and be able to trust that when they’ve had enough and say “no” that they will be heard and have their drawn lines respected.  Women want sexual fulfillment too so it doesn’t serve men to be misogynists.

Feminism is a message that every woman can embrace and embody.

Feminism is smart, obvious, essential, sexy, sizeless, and human.

Feminism is for all of us.

*So many of my regular readers have called me “brave” over the years but I haven’t felt brave until the moment I published the fat picture in this post.  It makes me feel sick to my stomach to have it here on my blog but those of you have come to respect my honesty keep me honest. 

The Fetishization of Motherhood

party girls

Motherhood isn’t a religion.

Mothers aren’t by nature the most selfless people on earth.  I have met many mothers as selfish as misers.  Mothers aren’t better than other people or more pure than non-mothers.  I can’t stand hearing people talk about motherhood as though it automatically elevates you to some higher status than non-mothers.  I can’t stand it when women (or others) rhapsodize about the beauty of motherhood, the selflessness and nobility of giving birth to babies and raising them.

I can’t stand it when people fetishize anything.

And people love to fetishize everything.  Motherhood, diets, sex, clothing, shoes, art, people (celebrities), careers, power, money, sunshine, beauty, objects, spirituality.  There is literally nothing humans won’t turn into an unhealthy obsession.

There is no bad moment to tell your mother you love and appreciate her.  There is literally no bad day to tell anyone in your life who has been kind and good to you that you value them.  No one needs a nationalized day to remind you.  Or at least you shouldn’t.  I always give my mom some appreciation on mother’s day because it’s expected and if I didn’t she might feel left out.  But I show my love an appreciation to her often and without any prompting because that’s what you do for those you love and appreciate.

I’m a mother too and as far as I’m concerned it’s okay with me if Max never does anything for me on mother’s day because it is meaningless to me.  What is meaningful and poignant for me is when Max tells me randomly how much he appreciates that I “let”* him just be who he is, my problem child, and that I don’t punish him for being different or challenging.  That – coming from my kid – is pretty great.

Being able to get pregnant and give birth to babies is nothing special.  All fertile humans can do it without even thinking which is evidenced by the high rate of unintended pregnancies that occur all over the world.  It takes no skills and no nobility of purpose and happens to every kind of person from the very best down to the most base and horribly unfit people.  I imagine this fact might add extra insult to injury for those people who desperately want children and can’t get pregnant.  As infertility becomes a  bigger and bigger problem among humans – the most you can say of being able to get pregnant is that you’re lucky to be able to do it on purpose, but being able to get pregnant sure doesn’t make you special and it has nothing to do with your worthiness as a potential parent.

I believe the fetishization of motherhood is backlash from feminism.  Women used to have babies not necessarily because they were dying to be mothers and that was their life’s ambition (though obviously there have always been women for whom this is their main desire) but because it was expected of them.  How many times have I heard older women talk about the days when all women were expected to get married and have babies even if they didn’t really want to?  Can’t even count ’em.  But as the feminist movement picked up steam and power – many women started to view having careers outside the home as the new noble thing.  You CAN work outside the home so you SHOULD.  Women who finally felt free to nurture professional ambitions looked down on those women who really wanted to stay home and have kids.  Or stay home and no have kids.  Suddenly there were all these women who believed that feminism was about women freeing themselves from the yolk of wifery and family and lost track of the point of feminism which was to promote women making choices for themselves.

Women pitted against women is stupid and just as destructive as chauvinism is to free choice and empowerment of self.

Now my generation of women has taken motherhood to a new level of competitive sport.  Different parenting methods and philosophies have become warring religions and women rise up and call other women “abusive” to their children when what they really mean is “You’re not doing it like ME” and somehow having kids now confers a golden halo of light around you that makes you more worthy of any non-childbearing women.  That’s fucked up.

Motherhood may be challenging but so is being the CEO of a fortune 500 company.

Choosing motherhood is NOT a selfless act.  Having  babies is, in my opinion, the single most selfish thing a woman can decide to do.  This wasn’t true in the middle ages when there were a hell of a lot less people on earth.  They died off in plagues more frequently and devastatingly and there were seemingly endless natural resources.  Chances were good that if you had kids – half of them would die by the age of 5.  So having kids, and having as many as you wanted or could have of them had very little impact on anyone but yourself and your family.  But this isn’t the middle ages and there are billions of people on earth and limited resources.  Every single baby you give birth to (mine included, obviously) is a selfish act in which you bring another being to life who will take more resources from the people already here.  It does not matter how much you recycle or reuse things or how small your carbon footprint is – your children will need water and air and they will shit into toilets that will fill either holes in the soil or sewage systems.

And that shit doesn’t make good fertilizer.

Your child will compete for jobs, housing, land, money, partners, oil, power, not only with other people’s children and older people who are losing opportunities to the young every day but they will also compete with your other children for all those things.  Every time you bring another kid into the world you are taking another chunk of limited resources for the sake of your own satisfaction.  For your own selfish desire to have more kids because it pleases you.

I am not here to say anyone shouldn’t have kids.  And obviously if you have kids I hope you do your damnedest to be a great parent to them because you’re the reason they’re here and none of them asked to be born.  But don’t, for fuck’s sake, suggest that anything about having children makes you some kind of hero or selfless.  So have your kids – as many as you see fit – but don’t imagine that you are doing the world any favors, because you’re not.

It is far less selfish to choose not to have children.

I personally went the selfish route and had my baby.  I don’t regret it for a second and I love him best of all people in the world.  But I sure as hell didn’t do any of you any favors by having him.  Even if he becomes a person who changes the world for the better.  Even if he really does do something heroic.  I’ll be able to say I nurtured the good in him – but if Max grows up to be someone fantastic that other people are thankful for – I won’t have ME to thank for it.  Max will have himself to thank for it.

That’s the other great myth that I can’t stand.  We place so much importance on parenting – as though bad parenting will result in bad people and that good parenting will result in good people.  Every child that parents bring into the world is an individual and while you can certainly break people with abuse – the fact that there are many people who come from abusive childhoods and go on to do great things and be great people is proof that no matter what kind of parent you are – ultimately the child you gave birth to is their own person who has responsibility for their own choices and there are a million factors that can contribute to who they ultimately grow up to be.  There are also dedicated loving parents whose children grow up to murder people, steal, or just become douchecopters.

So when Max grows up and becomes what he becomes I will not be congratulating myself nor hating myself. I will either be proud of the choices he’s made or I’ll be sad about poor choices he’s made.  He is not clay in my hands that I have the ultimate power to make into a good or bad or mediocre adult.  A lot of who he will become has to do with who he came into this world being.

My job as his mom is to do the best I can to set him up for success and as far as I’m concerned – being a “good mom” is about being there,  being present as much as I can and meeting my kid’s needs while still living a full life as a woman whose life ambitions far outreach the scope of motherhood.

If motherhood is your main ambition in life – go for it.  Be a mom.  If it’s what will fulfill you as a person – then I support you doing it because I support women choosing the life that will best fulfill them.  Whatever it is.  If you want to have kids but also pursue a professional career – do it.  Make the best of it that you can.  If you don’t want kids at all – thank you – you’ve done a kindness for the earth and for the people who are already fighting for its resources.  There’s room for us all to make different choices.  The choices I have made are not superior to the choices anyone else has made.  And your choices are not inherently superior to the ones I’ve made.

I want to see women support each other in the full range of choices available to us and I want to see women support each other in the full realization of our individual gifts.  The world needs women taking part in all aspects of civilization and it should be our guiding light to help each other find and use our gifts – whatever they are.

To do that we must stop fetishizing our life paths.  Stop making our choices into religions or cults.  Stop fighting each other over the “right” way to parent children or the “right” kind of job to pursue or the “right” kind of relationships to develop.  Stop fighting over what life choices are most noble or righteous or beautiful or magical or fun or fulfilling.  We’ll never agree and it’s okay.  That’s the beauty of it.  We don’t have to agree with each other all the time – we just need to respect each other.

I had a lot of other things to say about mother’s day and motherhood but Anne Lamott got there first in her article called “Why I Hate Mother’s Day“.  I don’t actually hate mother’s day but otherwise she basically spoke my mind.

Mostly I just want people to be real.  Honest and real.

And to keep things in perspective – especially if my views anger you or hurt you in any way – remember that I do not think human beings are all that awesome.  I believe we are the worst virus this planet has ever had inflicted on it.  I think ants are more valuable to the ecosystem than human beings.  I think the worst dog has a more pure heart than the best human.

So there you have it.  I think us humans need to stop thinking so highly of ourselves as a species and make ourselves worthy of the space we’re devouring on the planet.

*As if I could make him be anyone else.

Designing new heroines and the importance of ignoring other people’s yardsticks.

a drag queen christmas

The perfect heroine does not exist because there is no such thing as a one size fits all role model.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’m seeing people on Face Book posting all kinds of pro-girl and feminist content meant to challenge the still prevalent and insidious chauvinism and bigotry directed towards the women of the world.  I’m always glad to see women standing up and fighting this kind of bullshit – and becoming fierce whenever a girl is felled by rape or other forms of cruel injustice.  It’s important that women keep speaking up and speaking out.

But along the way I find myself irritated, too, at the strange narrowness that stems from the fight.  I suppose it’s inevitable.  You want girls to know that being a princess isn’t the only dream a girl can have, that they can be whatever they want.  I don’t think the best way to get this message across is to swing to the opposite pendulum and tell girls that unless they do something WORTHY with their lives (meaning: attaining achievements previously dominated by MEN) that they are letting us all down.  It’s the same thing as berating women whose main desire in life is to stay at home and have children because you think they should have chosen something more than that since previous generations of women fought so hard to give them a choice.  But choice is the key – and what right does anyone (male or female) have to dictate what life choice is right or worthy for others?

I loathe hearing women talk about how they were always tomboys and not interested in girly stuff with that tone that implies that their “boyishness” and their disinterest in fashion or other “girly” stuff somehow makes them more substantive, makes them BETTER.  It doesn’t.  I would argue that it’s just as girly to like sports as not based on how many girls I know who like sports.  Playing sports doesn’t make any woman smarter any more than loving fashion makes any woman dumb.  I would argue that being a girl should not be about placing value judgements on women for the things they’re interested in.  Women make up roughly half the population of the world and the point of feminism is not to limit us to just a few accepted life choices or to scorn each other for having different interests.  It is, in my opinion, chauvinistic to look down on any woman for having qualities traditionally considered feminine.

It implies that women are only equal in worth to men in relation to how much LIKE men they are.  That’s some fucked up shit.

I thought feminism was about both genders being equal in worth without regard to their sameness or differences.  I thought feminism was about equal civil rights  – not gender neutrality.

I’ve been thinking about the two heroines I have designed.  I’ve looked at the choices I’ve made for them in physical attributes, interests, issues, personality, and asked what kind of women am I building?  I can see already that I can only build the type of heroine that fits my own needs- women that I can relate to and admire and strive to be more like.  I find myself purposely trying to steer clear of the tired stereotypes I’m sick of.  Women who kick ass with porn star bodies.  We can be SEXY while being tough.  Sure, that’s a good message.  But the idea that porn star is the only version of sexy out there really chaps my ass.

Here is where I’d like to say that women with porn star bodies, whether natural or manufactured, certainly ARE sexy to some people’s tastes and there is nothing at all wrong with having a double or triple D sized chest and a skinny young girlish body.  If that’s your thing – why should I come along and trash it?

What bothers me is that there is so little representation of other versions of sexy in movies and in books.  I concede that literary fiction alone tends to be independent of these heroine stereotypes.  It also doesn’t sell nearly as well as Romance and Science Fiction in which the busty lusty ass kicking lady is still the main attraction.*  It also bothers me because we seem to be pushing the idea that men only like women who have enormous boobs but otherwise fairly prepubescent bodies (emphasized creepily by the removal of pubic hair – but that’s a whole different discussion).  The men of my acquaintance who are heterosexual find a variety of body types sexually attractive.  Here’s the other thing – heterosexual men aren’t just attracted to women based on their looks.  Suggesting that that’s all men care about is as sexist as it gets.  That’s all SOME men care about but for most men I’ve ever met – how a woman looks is simply the starting point for interest.  And that’s totally natural.  Before you know a person all you have are visual cues and they can only tell you so much.

I have designed two heroines so far and I have been conscious of creating very physically different women.  The first one I designed is  Jane Bauer.  She’s tall, she’s voluptuous, she’s dark haired, she’s green eyed, and very pale skinned.  I really thought about what kind of a heroine I was building.  What was the significance of this choice or that.  Jane Bauer is not an ass-kicker of men.  She has been a victim of the violence of a man.  Her strength is in her recovery, her friendships, and her personal evolution.  She’s shy, she’s quiet, she shrinks into corners.  She loves vintage fashion.  She’s neither a tomboy or a girly girl.  She’s a complex person.

Then there’s Cricket who couldn’t be more different than Jane.  Cricket is of medium height, red headed, liberally freckled, has grey eyes, is small boobed but has womanly hips (classic pear shape), is a total tom-boy, is an ass kicker of men, is sexually liberated enough to meet her needs without hangups, she’s reticent but not shy, for all her physical strength she is emotionally immature, she is scrappy and loyal and enjoys music and drinking.

So I was thinking about building heroines and what it means to be a female role model and also thinking about tired stereotypes and how to rewrite women outside of the narrow definitions of women written by both men and women alike.  There are a lot of worthy women characters that fit in between the hyper sexualized female super hero and her geek-girl counterpart.

I can tell you right now that there are certain kinds of women characters that I am incapable of making into my main characters.  Women who desire having children is a major one.  It’s not because I think poorly of women who find their true fulfillment in having children.  It really boils down to the fact that I am tired of reading stories or watching shows where women always end up having babies.  As though this is the only conclusion possible, even to women who choose careers.  When women characters don’t have children they are almost always portrayed in a way I find unattractive and unfair.  I don’t relate to women wanting babies.  I have close friends who love having babies and it’s just something I don’t get, though I try.  I find stories about women yearning** for babies really boring.  I think it’s because it’s a story as old as time and there isn’t much more to add to it.  I’m interested in NEW stories about women who don’t want babies but aren’t hard and driven (implying that the only women who don’t want kids must be just like men – a stereotype I LOATHE).  But these stories aren’t being told so much.  A few here and there.  But really – authors and movies and musicians all seem to come back to the motherhood thing.  That if you aren’t a mother it’s either because you are not womanly or because you are not capable of having them for one reason or another.

I will never write a main character who wants children.  You can pick your motherly heroines all over the cultural map, they are everywhere, our culture is completely saturated with mothers of all kinds.  Which is totally natural considering that motherhood has been the province of women since before language developed.  But feminism opened up so many other possibilities for women and supposedly gave us the power and the permission to not have babies.  It gave us choice.  It gave us permission to decide what we want for ourselves without regard to traditional designated roles.  It gave us the power to develop ourselves in whatever direction interested us – to find our inspiration and fulfillment in whatever ways suited us best.  That is the best thing about the feminist movement.  We now enjoy choice.  So why is it that we keep fighting each other about what makes a woman worthy?  And worthy of what?  Of admiration from other women?  Of admiration from men?  I feel like the yardstick women keep using for themselves and for each other is the same negative one men have used against us.

When I was a little girl I loved the idea of being a princess.  I loved the idea of prince charming.  I loved fashion.  I loved pretending to keep house.  I made elaborate mud pies.  I cherished the idea of being saved by a gallant hero.  Is it wrong to want to be a princess just because I could  be a knight if I chose?  Is it a sign of weakness to want to be saved?  If I cherish the fantasy of being saved by a man does that make me a lesser woman?  A woman to be despised and dismissed by other women?

It is because of these narrow attitudes of my female peers that I didn’t consider myself a feminist for so long.  I like chivalry and I don’t believe it diminishes my power and autonomy-of-self as a woman.  I have always known who I am.  My mother will tell you – I came into this world knowing who I am.  I never measured up to anyone’s yardstick growing up and it was a disaster to my self esteem.  I didn’t measure up to any ideals of either man’s making or woman’s making.  I ended up building my own yardstick against which to measure my worth.  I consider that the most feminist action I’ve ever taken.

If women want real progress with women’s rights then they need to take care not to become the new chauvinists casting women in specific roles they find acceptable or considering a woman’s worth based only on how they compare to men.  Are we as strong as men, can we be exactly like them, can we compete in their fields, can we prove we’re better than them, can we have everything, can we be everything, and can anyone admire us if we don’t want to be a heroine or save the world?

The worth of a woman should not be judged against the choices other women or men make but against how close she’s come to living a life that suits her needs and desires, that helps her become the best version of herself she can be.

*Don’t spit out all the exceptions to me for I KNOW there are exceptions but we’re not talking about the ground breakers here.

**See how I used it in a negative way?  If I’d used that word in an earnest way you would have felt kind of gross inside.  I promise.

Women in Fiction: Telling all the Stories

I have never been dedicated to the feminist cause in a militant way.  I believe in equal rights for all sexes.  I believe in equal pay for all sexes and I’d be willing to march for it, to sign petitions for it, and maybe I’d be willing to fight for it on a grander stage than that.  But I am not, and never have been, a lighthouse looking for breaches against the seawall of womanhood.  I refuse to see the world in terms of Her versus Him.  I refuse to see any sex as the enemy.  I like to think we’re all equal in value but different in expression, in parts, in personality.

There are a lot of familiar stereotypes of womanhood based on what exists as the truth for the majority of women divided into nice clean identifiable groups.  There’s the fecund version of women who want to have lots of babies, as many as they can muster, or maybe even just one, but it’s vitally important to give birth.  There’s the career woman who doesn’t want children if it gets in the way of her career, she has so much more to offer than children and is (according to many of the fecund version of women) rather selfish in her preference for self aggrandizement over children.  Then there are the women who always wanted children and cherished the desire in their breasts for the great holy union between man and woman but who never cracked the code to creating that life or finding the man.  This woman pines for lost opportunity to have babies.  Next there are the women who want everything and arrogantly (according to some) think they can distinguish themselves in the professional world and turn around and pop out well adjusted babies.  Everyone who isn’t this woman hates this woman.

There’s another archetype of woman.  There’s another story to tell.  There aren’t many people telling it.

There are the women who are nurturing and caring and love children but who don’t feel it’s important that they give birth to have this experience.  There are women who aren’t particularly career driven, who aren’t bitter spinsters, and who like children and have the nurturing spirit but who feel no drive to express this with their own wombs.  There are women who just don’t have any urge to have children but who are absolutely womanly in every other conceivable way.

I realized recently that I can never tell the story of women longing to have babies.  I can never tell the stories of women devastated because they aren’t able to have them.  I am not the person to tell the stories of women who see themselves as high powered executives too busy and important for children.  I don’t relate to any of these people.  I can’t tell the story of women who mourn their reproductive services shutting down during menopause because everyone is already telling that moving story.  There’s another story.

It is tedious to me to read yet another story about yet another woman LONGING to have babies.  I don’t think it’s ignoble or stupid or bad to have babies.  Obviously I succumbed to the hormones that incite a woman’s body to produce offspring.  I can never be sorry for having had my son.  I never dreamed of babies.  I did plan on taking over the world at some point but other than that I wasn’t even career driven.  It wasn’t a question of babies getting in the way of my ambition.

The thought of  being pregnant was horrifying and terrifying to me.  The reality of being pregnant was also horrifying and terrifying to me and wholly unpleasant.  It took seven years for my baby hormones to dominate all my intellectual objections to having a child, giving birth, bringing more people into the world, the selfishness, the fucked up family I’d be bringing a being into, and the enormous lifelong responsibility I would have to that being.  My hormones won out and though I’m glad they did, they have never since been stirred to recreate the event.  I have come to understand that I only had a child because Max needed me for a mother.  Otherwise, I was not meant for motherhood.  I don’t have that desire, the pangs, the thrumming uterus that so many women seem to have.  All these years after having a baby I still relate much more to women who chose and are choosing not to than anyone else.

A woman’s inherent womanliness is not dependent on her having or wanting to have children.  There is so much misty emotional driftwood about women  being women because of their need to mother, their need to constantly nurture, to pop the goddamn babies out and when her children are grown she becomes a shell of herself because she’s been in service to children and husbands for decades and it’s all she ever wanted so when her children leave she focuses her hopes and dreams on grandchildren.

Either that or, so it is suggested constantly in popular culture, she rejects all that to be hard as a man who has no nurturing spirit, who fucks and makes money and watches football and is filled with the bile of ambition.  What’s amazing is that women with incredibly sharp brains and the desire to rise can do so and be fierce and stand up for all women to say that what we’re capable is limitless.  Yet, these women are often depicted as nothing more than men with vaginas.  Other women see them as unnatural.  I know this view has been slowly changing over the last two decades but I notice we’re a long way from understanding that these women leading their industries aren’t flukes and they aren’t unnatural, that they’re women who’ve spent their time following the lines of passion and hunger that do us all credit.  Some of them have children, some of them don’t.  They’re all women to be proud of.

I don’t, as I’m sure it often seems I do, look down on women whose true and most close desire in life is to have babies.  I think this is a legitimate and honest and wonderful choice to make if it’s an actual choice.  There’s no denying that I have a difficult time empathizing with this life choice.  I don’t relate.  I don’t empathize much, even though I keep trying.  I don’t give up.  I do, however, resent the belief that motherhood is the most sacred calling for any woman.  That’s such total rubbish.

The life choice so few women acknowledge, write about, talk about, or revere is the woman who has no desire to give birth to her own children.  As modern as this country of mine likes to think it is, there is still a very strong prejudice against women who don’t want to have children.  Women who don’t feel the ache in their uterus at the sight of babies.  Why is this such an untold version of womanhood?

I realized recently that the two heroines I’ve written so far are women who have no desire to procreate but who are unambitious for power.  In other words, they are women who simply don’t want babies, not that they’ve traded in babies to have a career or to do something else.

It feels like new language.  I can’t tell any other story because every fiber of my being screams that babies are not necessary for fulfillment in women’s lives.  I don’t see anyone telling this story and it pisses me off.  It alienates me.

What’s great about being a writer is that  I have the power to write what I know, what I think is important.  I can give voice to the unheard or underrepresented.  There are a lot more stories to tell from a woman’s perspective, many more than I know of and I fell sure that over time other writers will present stories I have not thought of or been much aware of and the more that happens, the more we veer away from the major archetypes the more truth will be revealed.

If all I ever do in my life is show a different side of being a woman, showing that our stories are diverse and multidimensional, I will feel I have done something worthy.

I’m pretty sure Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman will not be fans of my fiction.

I’m completely at peace with that.

Is a woman’s life pointless without children?

I just read a very interesting post written by a woman who objects to everyone thinking her decision to not have kids is their business and their assumption that the only reason she doesn’t have any is because she can’t have any.   Her objection, more specifically, is that anyone thinks it’s their business to ask what she’s planning to do with her womb in the first place.  The post itself didn’t spark my thoughts today as much as the many comments she received about it.

One commenter tells the author that she can’t know what she’s missing by not having kids.  Others talk about leading a “more fulfilling” life by having kids.  This all echoes a million different comments I’ve heard over the past decade on the subject of having babies: women claiming that their life can’t be complete without kids, that if they don’t have more than one child they can’t feel happy, that having children makes a life more meaningful, that having children makes them a better person.

I’ve got news for everyone:  what having children really does for you is wear you out, make you fatter (not universally, but very common), steals all your time for personal development, divides (by however many children you have) the time you have to spend with your spouse as a couple, each additional child you have robs attention from the previous children you already had (your love may be infinite but your time and attention are not), it robs you of sleep, robs you of relaxation, makes hanging out with grownups difficult, and drains you of money.

I want to take a moment to remember how angry I used to get when women I talked to who were working outside the home used to imply that my life must be mind-numbing and less worthy because I was a stay at home mom.  It’s always been my belief that if a woman decides to have children the best thing she can do for them is to stay home with them as long as finances allow.  I still believe this and career women without children assuming that staying home is an unfulfilling life choice are asses.

Since then I have encountered so many smug women with children who think their purpose in life (having babies) is the most noble and fulfilling one that a woman can have.   Women who think a childless life is less meaningful and fulfilling are also asses.

Smug career women are asses.

Smug working moms are asses.

Smug stay at home moms are asses.

What I want to say to the woman who suggested that you can’t know what you’re missing by choosing to not have kids is this: if I have two eyes in my head (or one really sharp one) with which to observe the parents I see around me I can know EXACTLY what I would have missed by not having one.  Now that I have one I can say authoritatively that I was NOT missing anything  necessary to make my life more fulfilling or meaningful.

I was on the fence about having kids for seven years (right after having spent a decade knowing absolutely that I didn’t want any) before I finally decided to give in to my hormones and have one.  The idea of having a kid had nothing to do with being fulfilled.  I was already fulfilled by my life, by the things I chose to spend my time doing, by the people I chose to know, by the goals and ambitions I already had for myself, and the new things I was always learning.  I wasn’t missing anything in my life, I just wanted to take a detour, to go in a new direction.

If I had turned out to be infertile I would not have been devastated, I would merely have been disappointed.  I wanted to experience family life but long before I even met my husband I had a serious sit-down with myself after dating one too many stupid men where I basically slapped myself upside the head and told myself that having fun, having a good life, and finding meaning was all my personal responsibility to myself and that I would end up so much less powerful if I looked to other people to fulfill my needs and dreams.

The plus of having my child is not about my own fulfillment, the plus is that having him gave me him.  I love him.  I am proud of him.  I won’t give him back.  He’s awesome.  He’s smart.  He’s handsome.  He’s talented.  I love him more than anyone else.

However, I didn’t need him to truly understand the circle of life, the fact that we’re mortal, or that parenting is hard.  I do understand some of the choices my parents made better now that I am one, but that knowledge wasn’t necessary to develop a strong relationship with my mother.  I didn’t need to have my kid to get closer to my spirituality or to improve my empathy or compassion.  Having a kid has not made me a better person than I would have become without one.

Being a cognizant, evolving, self-aware person is what makes me a better person.  My son is a big part of my life but I would never burden him with being responsible for giving my life meaning and fulfillment.  He will have to be responsible for his own and that’s enough.

So screw you all who think a woman needs children to be fulfilled just because you couldn’t figure out how to make your life meaningful on your own!

Fulfillment in your life should NOT depend on: anyone else.

How about this scenario: how about women stop being smug asses to each other and realize that all of us have different ways of reaching our potential and that the greatest thing we have is: CHOICE.

You will never hear me say that a woman can’t meet her greatest potential and meaning by being a stay at home mother.

Being a woman who chooses both a career and a family is the hardest choice of all, in my opinion, and regardless of the choices I personally would make, I respect any woman who can make having both work.

Lastly (and maybe most importantly of all), you will never hear me suggest that the life of a woman requires either a man or a child to make it meaningful, productive, beautiful, fulfilling, or complete.