feminism

We are not our genitalia

So I wrote the post below 6 months ago, then never got around to editing and publishing it. I am very passionate about equality, but rarely post about it because honestly, it can get fucking depressing and blogging is supposed to be a fun hobby for me. (If you follow me on Instagram, that’s where you’ll see more on the topic.) But 6 months ago, I felt inspired and wanted to share my thoughts – it’s not perfect, but hopefully it provides some interesting food for thought. This week seemed like a good time to get it out there, with all of the terrible political attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Hope you enjoy!

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Photo by Andrew Branch on Unsplash

 

I read a fantastic article the other day that got me in full-on sociologist mode.

I highly recommend it, even though it’s pretty academic. But it covers a very important concept in our society – that men and women are very different, because of their biology.

Now, I’m not going to argue that males and females aren’t different. Males have different genitalia than females – females give birth, males don’t, etc etc. However, notice that I switched from the terms “men and women” to “males and females”. You’re thinking: who cares? “Men” and “males” are synonyms, and so are “women” and “females”.

And here’s where I’m gonna stop you and give you a free sociology lesson – and you will learn what my friends and family had to go through from 2010-2012 (who am I kidding, it didn’t stop then) when I was getting my master’s in sociology. Free and unsolicited sociology lessons were thrust upon innocents all around me during that time…

But YOU – you might want to hear this, right? Right??? Cuz you love me, and you love learning.

That’s what I thought.

So here’s the lesson – there is a big difference between sex and gender.

Sex = male/female, which refers to our chromosomes or genitalia.

Gender = women/men, which refers to how we express ourselves to the rest of society. This includes how we dress, talk, dance, eat, sit, stand, walk, work out, flirt, do our hair… it’s part of our identity, which is shaped by us, and our environment.

So back to this idea that is so important – are women and men different, on some core and essential level, because of their biology (aka sex)?

This is a very prevalent idea, that shapes our culture in a ton of different ways. The idea that we are inherently different because of our sex is the foundation of everything from family structure to war to deodorant to self-help books to our country’s entire labor force.

So you might be thinking, “Ya, of course everything is based on that, because it’s true – men and women are born different, and we are built to do different things – we’re just different, down to the very core.”

Some things are true. Males, on average, have more muscle mass and can lift heavier things and stuff. Females are able to give birth and males can’t. Males have more testosterone, females have periods.

But now, can you look at those things and then conclude that women are better at working with children? Can you conclude that men are not “built” to be as good at listening and empathizing? Can you conclude that men are not as sensitive, shouldn’t cry as much, are just designed to have trouble staying faithful in monogamous relationships? That women don’t have what it takes to run a government or a company? That women are predisposed to focus on one primary goal: to find a husband, keep him faithful, and have children?

See what’s happening here? We are extrapolating A LOT. And I know that hormones and genetics and all of that have a big effect on who we are and how we behave. However, I think that too much weight is put on this one aspect of our biological bodies (sex) and how it impacts who we are in society.

And you know what throws a big ‘ol wrench into this whole idea? The fact that intersex people exist. Newsflash – there aren’t just two binary sexes. There’s a whole grey area, a whole population of people (and not a small one) that is neither male nor female. So who are they? Should they raise kids? Should they have long hair? Should they suck it up and “be a man”? How does this work for them?

There is also the transgender community. A man can technically give birth if they wanted to – because perhaps they were born with female biological characteristics, but they identify as a man. And if you talk to someone who is transgender who is undergoing hormone therapy, you will realize that physical sexual characteristics can be completely created by hormones – if you are born a female and identify as a man, you may undergo hormone therapy and can become a physical male, in almost every way. Body hair, fat distribution, chiseled jaw line, even an adam’s apple! It’s tougher for transwomen, but what you realize when you look into what these communities experience is that so much of what we see as genetic or biological can be performed in a way, just like the cultural aspects of gender.

Let’s break this down even more. Our culture tells us that we are born a man or woman, and that makes us so distinctly and essentially different – that it is a binary and clear distinction that determines who we are. Okay – then why, if you asked me, could I walk, talk, and act like a man? I can mimic all of that behavior. Because all of that is cultural, learned behavior – it is performed. It is not something we are born with.

If you add in hormones, voice training, months or years of living as the gender that doesn’t traditionally align with your sex – you honestly, in a lot of cases, wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. You probably are unaware that you have interacted with multiple trans people in your life. They just seemed like “normal” men or women.

The intersex and trans community are exactly why the distinction between the terms sex and gender are so important. When you learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, you’ll see how fluid both of those concepts really are – despite the media telling you how important your genitalia and gender are to how you interact with every person in your life.

Let’s go back to the hetero-normative idea for a moment. You read in the news all the time about studies of men and women, right? “Studies show that women are 5x more likely to x when doing x than men.” Something like that.  What I loved so much about the article I linked to at the beginning is that they called out these types of studies and how you can’t take them at face value. First of all, studies are only news-worthy when they call out our differences. Studies like this would be kind of boring, right?:

When it comes to humans, yes, Fine says, on average men report a greater interest in casual sex than do women. But according to a large-scale British study of more than 12,000 people ages 16-44, the most common number of sexual partners for both men and women was … one. That answer held whether the respondents were asked to report for the previous three months, the previous year, or the previous five years. Both men (80%) and women (89%) also said they preferred to be in a sexually exclusive relationship.

We have our differences, of course – but the argument here is that our similarities are never emphasized. This makes us feel like strangers to each other, like we can’t understand the “opposite sex” – and it encourages us to feel estranged and dramatically different from each other.

Why? If you’re asking me, personally, I say the patriarchy and the interest of those in power to make sure we all feel like only a certain group of people are fit to be in charge, and so we don’t band together to call bullshit. But it’s also used to sell us all kinds of things, like I mentioned before. Why do we need different deodorants???? Razors? Self-help books? Cars? Clothes? Anything can be gendered in advertisements, it’s actually amazing. Once you start looking for it, it’s kind of mind-boggling.

But this article also called these news-worthy studies into question in a different way – I laughed out loud when I read this part:

What about the now-famous studies done on college campuses that show men are far more likely than women to accept the request of an opposite-sex unfamiliar peer (actually a research confederate) to come over to their apartment or even to go to bed together?

Here Fine is at her best, registering this objection (among others):

“What this study is actually primarily showing is women’s lack of interest in being murdered, raped, robbed, or inflaming the interests of a potential stalker…. Social realities mean that women and men in these studies are simply not participating in the same experiment.”

BAHAHA.

Actually, I might be interested in casual sex, but I’m just really not into being murdered, which is kind of at the top of the priority list.

So with everything we just talked about, here’s the kicker – both gender and sex are not that important in a lot of ways, right? So what if I don’t have a penis – I’m really not that different from men, and we are definitely not as different than society wants us to believe.

BUT – with sexism and rape culture and homophobia, sex and gender are very important in other ways – if you are in the minority group in these categories, it can affect everything from getting a good job to being safe in our own homes.

So – this stuff is all so important when reading news headlines and puff pieces and when watching romantic comedies (which are the absolute worst when it comes to this stuff, but I still love them?). Sex isn’t binary, gender is performed, sexism and heterosexism are real and ubiquitous.

Think about why you are hearing the messages you are hearing. Why can’t you just do what you want? Why do you have to have your hair that way, or do this or that in order to be a real woman or man? Question everything, my lovelies.

~

…like why Trump announced the trans military ban and the Justice Dept. argued against LGBTQ+ discriminatory protections this week. This particular week. Why now? What are we being distracted from? Who are they distracting? I bet you can guess.

It’s been a rough week, but if we keep questioning, taking no bullshit, and standing up for each other, we can spread love better than they can spread hate.

 

 

 

 

Life Lessons from Laguna Beach

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It started when I was about 16, watching Laguna Beach and noticing how Kristin Cavallari seemed to be about 20 years older than everyone else. Sure, everyone pretty much hated her. But I think it was because she was on to something – and no one knew what it was.

While on one of our frequent phone dates, my sister (who was in college at the time), cracked the code for me. Kristin didn’t care what everyone else thought – at least not nearly as much as a 17 year old typically does.

Here’s what she does that we found so revolutionary:

  • She leaves the room/party/conversation when she’s not having a good time anymore
  • She is honest about what she wants and doesn’t want and doesn’t apologize for it
  • She is confident – in how she looks (cuz duh, but still), and that she will still find friends, or another boyfriend, or someone who will want to spend time with her if everyone else hates her
  • She takes as fact that her idea of a good time and opinions of other people are totally valid

…and everyone hates her. She’s the mean girl. She’s the bitch. She’s self involved and selfish. And okay, she is a popular white blonde 17 year old who is rich AF so I get it. You can hate her. But she doesn’t care. And that’s kind of – why you hate her.

Why doesn’t she care? Why isn’t she freaking out about what everyone is going to think if she leaves this party early because it’s lame and people are being idiots and she would rather be home alone watching TV? How can she just leave and not feel bad?

What we’re all thinking is – I would never be able to leave and not stress over it.

Maybe you never watched Laguna Beach circa 2005 (I’m sorry that happened to you) and maybe you leave parties and don’t give a shit and that’s awesome. But the majority of the people I know didn’t know what this sorcery was, especially at 16 – and some still don’t leave parties even if they are basically in hell at age 30 because they don’t want to risk making a couple of acquaintances feel bad.

And let me get something out of the way real quick before we move on – Kristin Cavallari was acting like a bunch of dudes act all the time. Everyone had a passionate hatred for her on that show because she’s a woman who doesn’t care what you think. That just goes against everything everyone has ever been taught in our society from day 1. If you’re a woman, you DEFINITELY care what everyone thinks, to the point of literally harming yourself in all sorts of ways. Men experience societal pressure too – but I would argue that women are particularly hated when they decide to say fuck off to their set of guidelines. I just read Shrill by Lindy West and in that book you will find a ton of evidence to this point – being a woman who is loud, contrary, and I unapologetic will result in mankind’s worst behavior coming at you from the underbelly of everything shitty. (I recommend the book, by the way – it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, but she is a feminist bad ass and makes you think of things you may not have before).

The point is – Kristin and Lindy are hated. But they are also revolutionary and we want what they have. Or at least a lot of people I know do, and I do, too. I want a life completely based on my terms – doing what I want to do and surrounding myself with people I enjoy.

So my goal is to continually move toward this. I have been moving toward it since I watched Laguna Beach. Some switch flipped when I figured out that I wanted what Kristin had. I dumped a group of friends (in the only way my teenage self knew how – I would probably do things differently now – but then again, high school is SO WEIRD so who knows if I could have actually done that in a better way). I was tired of feeling like a doormat and basically telling people in a variety of ways to treat me like one. So I cut out things in my life that made me feel shitty, at the expense of things I was supposed to care about above all else – like looking cool with a group at lunch (I’d rather go home and eat with my mom), or not attracting too much attention at the risk of it being negative (I started dressing the way I wanted to instead of how I thought I should).

I stopped putting other people’s feelings about what I did above my own feelings about what I did. I mattered more.

How I feel everyday matters more than how other people feel about me everyday. If something makes me happy and that causes someone to think of me in a bad light, that sucks I guess but it’s more important that I feel happy.

I’m mostly talking about acquaintances and social circles here, so of course take it with that in mind – sitting for 2 hours talking to my boyfriend about my feelings and being super vulnerable is not my idea of fun, but I am prioritizing myself in that moment, and of course him as well. So you get what I’m sayin.

This new book I’m reading (I Need Your Love – Is That True? – terrible title) basically asks you to imagine what your life would be like if you stopped caring so much about what people thought about you. What if you only got dressed for yourself? What if you looked at your social calendar and schedule for the week and only saw things you wanted to do? (We talked about this idea a while back, actually.)

I’m trying to slide into my 30s with this mentality as a goal – life is too short to care about what peripheral people think. If I spent the time I took worrying about acquaintances and how they viewed me and applied it to my important relationships, how might my life improve?  I want to hit 30 with some experience with this under my belt so I can hit that decade running. I want to be a Kristin – who, by the way, was always very sweet to her close friends, from what I can remember (it’s been a while). I want to have FUN and give my time and effort to the people that really count – not this weird studio audience category of people that so many take so much time trying to impress.

We need to ask ourselves – how important is this person? Then give them a proportional amount of time, brain space, and effort.

 

What do you think? To be honest, I haven’t watched Laguna Beach in a loooong time so let me know if I have selective memory and if any of ya’ll remember it differently! And I found this fun piece if you want to take a stroll down memory lane…

Do you have any goals to give less f@#ks lately? :)

 

 

 

How will we fight

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So I’m going to be honest with you. Election night for me went a little bit like this – I got drunk and cried at a bar with a bunch of friends, emailed saying I wasn’t coming into work the next day, and proceeded to have a pity party for myself and how this result was going to affect my white privileged life. Not my most shining moment, but it was real. I feel like I felt my feelings and that’s okay.

The next day (after I slept off my hangover) I went into self-care mode. Watched the series finale of Buffy (helpful inspiration – we will triumph over evil again and again, etc – and I am in desperate need of a pep talk by Joss Whedon btw), hardly went on Facebook, took a walk and called my mom and asked what she did when things were this bad – the civil rights era? The Bush era? What should we do?

What should we do? That was all I kept thinking. I was sober and ready to think of the more important problems – how we will protect people of color, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ+ communities…

I kept saying to myself: “This is only day 1.”

“This is only day 4.”

“This is only day 10.”

We will strategize, organize, talk to each other, try things and try other things instead – we will figure out the best way to fight for our values and we will do it for as long as we need to.

My mom said she wants Trump to hear an enormous outcry every time he does something that goes against our values, and I agree. I want to flood the right places with calls. I want to have huge marches. I want to give them hell.

But it is only the beginning. For now, I am looking for sustainable ways to incorporate fighting back and engaging in my community into my life, and learning about what works, how I can play on my strengths, and how to use my family and friends as resources.

At the end of week 2 of this weird apocalyptic reality we’ve been handed, here’s what I’ve come up with:

Green Initiatives 

For my personal cabinet for the next four years, I have appointed my BFF Emily as my Chief Green Initiatives Commissioner & Hippie Consultant. She has done hours and hours of research on all things green and environmentally friendly. I call her whenever I need to check what’s killing me in my house: “Is soy still a thing? I heard that candles are bad now? What should I clean my sink with?” I love having her on speed dial – she is all-knowing and wise.

I’ve already been using cloth napkins and coconut oil for a while now, and switched to a menstrual cup a couple years back to cut back on waste. I’ve also wrapped my Christmas gifts in brown paper bags, and plan on doing so again this year. But I wanted to take more steps since Trump doesn’t believe global warming is a thing and will fuck up our progress on trying to save the planet.

So far, I have switched over to 100% renewable energy for our apartment. It was only going to be a couple of extra bucks a month, and now we are supporting clean energy just from a couple clicks on our energy provider’s website. Take a look at the website of your provider and see if they have a renewable energy program – it literally took me 2 minutes to make the change, and it’s something that could make a big difference if more people join in.

Here’s my list for the other things I want to do to do my part:

  • Make my own household cleaners
  • Get refillable containers and get common items in bulk to reduce package waste
  • Switch to beeswax candles (nontoxic and purifies the air!)
  • Use essential oils + coconut oil instead of scented wax for my wax melt air freshener
  • Watch Before the Flood

Have more ideas? Tell me in the comments!

Get Involved

In addition to Emily, I have added a couple of friends and my sister to my Bad Ass Bitches Feminist Collective Committee. Texting, ranting over drinks, sharing articles – they are my powerful tribe of intelligent AF and brave women who inspire me to do more in the world. With ideas from them and encouragement, here is what I have tried so far to be more involved in my community.

I attended a peaceful protest in my city and marched to protest hate and promote diversity and love. I follow a local group that organizes these events on social media, and I’m hoping to attend more. There is a women’s march in LA in January that I also want to attend. I believe protesting is helpful and meaningful, and found this article to be helpful in explaining that position, in case you’re interested.

I also found this app that compiles locations of safe and/or unisex restrooms for trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals – add bathrooms in your area when you see them so people can pee where they feel safe!

I’ve also called my local representative for the first time in my life, and I’m going to make it a habit. The staffer was so so nice, and I want to just keep the pressure on for my reps to take a vocal stand against all of the very wrong things that are already happening in our government.

I sent an email today to my loved ones that may be shopping for Christmas soon, and asked that they consider using the money they might spend on me to instead donate to organizations I care about (I included links to Black Lives Matter, my local NPR station, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and my local LGBTQ+ organization). I’m not sure how I will donate yet and where, since money is a little tight, so I felt like that was something I could do in the meantime.

Next on the list:

  • Find the best ways to keep track of local town hall meetings and other events
  • Gather ideas of sustainable ways I can help local organizations further their causes
  • Find good sources for local government news to stay informed

What have you found that’s effective when engaging locally?

Don’t back down

The biggest urge I had on election night was to not listen to the news for four years. The idea that I’ll have to listen to that man’s voice, as the representative of the voice of our country… I just couldn’t. I wanted to hide. I couldn’t imagine getting more bad news day after day, hearing him spew hate and being allowed to do it while holding the highest office in our country.

But that would be the most privileged and unhelpful thing I could do. I would be trying desperately to ignore the things I am lucky enough to have the option to ignore, and try to force this new fucked up arena into the “normal life” category. Nope. We have to stay informed. We have to stay angry. That’s what will fuel us. We can’t hide for four years, or move to Canada, or try to get California to secede – those things aren’t helpful. We need to stay and fight for those who need our help and protection.

It’s going to suck. But not as much as it will suck for our LGBTQ+, POC, and Muslim neighbors. We need to fight as hard as we can for them – this is our mess, and we need to clean it up and stand up with the resources we are lucky enough to have.

So that’s what I will try and do. And I don’t want this post to come off as self-congratulatory – I really just want to share ideas. What has worked for you? What have you tried that actually doesn’t work? What do you think I can do to help more?

Here is another helpful list of things we can do to help if you want more!

We need to keep talking, keep reminding ourselves that this isn’t normal, and keep the fire to fight stoked and ready. I’m loving all the thoughtful conversations on social media and off and I know we can all come together to do something to help.

<3

 

 

Music for the Resistance

I have been coming across some amazing music lately that has been emerging out of the bullshit that is the news lately. In need of some revolutionary protest songs? I’ve got you covered.

Sara Bareilles wrote this amazing song for This American Life, when they asked her to write about how she thinks Obama has felt during this election. It is so beautifully performed, and the whole vibe is just beautiful and quiet and strong – I’m pretty obsessed.

Pussy Riot came out with a new song with one of the best hooks of all time:

Let other people in/ Listen to your women/ Stop killing black children/ Make America Great Again.

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The video is pretty intense, so get ready for some hard core no bullshit punk girl power stuff – and for a world imagined where Trump rules. *shudder*

I also just heard a beautiful song by Alicia Keys, one of my favorites as well – she has recently talked a lot with the media about how she is revisiting the idea of wearing makeup, and exploring how wearing her hair and skin in their natural state is a form of empowerment and resistance. This song has a great message and is just another beautiful ballad by one of the best:

If you haven’t listened to anything by Kendrick Lamar or Beyonce’s Lemonade, get on that, too.

If you’re looking for ways outside of music to challenge injustice, I recommend checking in to the Standing Rock Reservation on Facebook – a small thing you can do to stand with the protectors from afar. If you do, follow these instructions:

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What are your favorite acts of protest lately?

 

 

 

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