Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Til Death Parts Us

The other day, as my parents were getting ready to go to a wedding, my mom was writing a check as a gift. She made it out the the bride with the husband's last name and my dad asked if she was certain she was changing her name. My mom responded that it was almost definite because the bride's parents were traditional.

Wedding traditions drive me crazy.

So much of weddings and marriage is about what people are supposed to do, regardless of the origin of the tradition, and regardless of what it means. The father gives the bride away and nobody stops to think about the historical link in which a woman passed from being the property of her father to the property of her new husband; nobody stops to think about the implications for a woman's autonomy of this step in the ceremony. The bride is expected to take on her husband's last name - because that's what people do - without giving a second thought to the name and identity she is giving up. That is not to say I have a problem with a bride taking the groom's last name if there is a reason for it, but it is stupid to do so just to conform.

At this point in the conversation I mentioned that I didn't think I wanted to give up my name, and that perhaps my husband could take my name, or we could make up a new name together. My dad laughed. To make up a new name, to create a new identity for the new couple one becomes after a legal marriage, was ludicrous to him. "I've never heard of such a thing!" Yes well, it is not such a strange idea in the circles I run in. Circles that question tradition and never act simply to conform. Circles that think critically about the why behind their actions. Circles that do nothing blindly. These are my circles that I wish I could extend to include everybody because everybody deserves autonomy and choice, and the right to choose how their relationship should run its course.

My attention was recently brought to a zine about women who are not married and who do not want to be. I think this highlights an important point: people get married for many different reasons and they do not get married for just as many reasons. Too often marriage is simply seen as the final goal of a relationship, and any relationship that does not end in marriage is in some way a failure. Furthermore, any marriage which ends is seen as a failure on both parties because they were not able to stay together until "death do us part." People change constantly, and it is ridiculous to think two people can remain good for each other for their entire lives. If they happen to change compatibly and remain happy, good for them - but it is unlikely and society's view on marriage needs to change to recognize this fact. I could write longer, because my ideas tend to want to write for much longer than a blog post, but instead I'll leave you with that miniature snippet on my views on marriage.

Marriage is not unnecessary because there are multiple financial, social, political, and legal benefits to marriage. That being said, aspects of marriage have to change because the institution is flawed, as is society's viewpoint.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Return to Reality

Oh how long it has been since I have written... I blame my hiatus on finals, graduation, a two-week trip to France, and a rest period to rejuvenate myself after all that craziness. I have moved back home and am returning to a life of compromises and a full house and a lack of the independence and scholarship I have grown to love. I already miss the intellectual discussions of my beloved alma mater, and will have to uphold my feminist education on my own time. This blog may become my only outlet for dialogue and sorting out my ideas, or it may just fizzle out.

First, I would like to make a few comments on my trip to France. This was my first trip to Europe and I will remember it forever as the fabulous period wherein I discovered all the places and monuments I have dreamed of are real. I saw the extensive sculptures of Notre Dame, the fantastic arched ceiling of Sacre Coeur, and the majestic, metallic height of the Eiffel Tour as it sparkled at midnight. It was all real. Despite the magic and the wonder all around me, I was struck by the twinges of annoyance that accompany offensive actions.

French men were much more forward than Americans and cat calls were frequent. By the end of the trip I never wanted to be called beautiful again; there is just something seedy about some random man selling paintings telling you you're beautiful after you ask him a question. There was also a man who talked to me about rap and how I should rock the hip-hop style to look even better while I waited for the metro. Then the man who spoke to my mom about marrying me, but who I let get away with it because he gave me free food - twice! (it is hard to say no to free wine and crepes) He actually would have been a very nice memory until a certain friend had to ruin it by setting up a date, ignoring the existence of my American boyfriend. She created an awkward situation at his restaurant, and my later guilt when I did not show up for the date. Too bad my French near-romance had to be ruined by an aggressive attempt to make it an illicit real romance, now he is just another sour memory (who still came with free food).

On my flight to Nice, a city along the French Riviera, I sat next to a teenage couple and was initially excited to whip out my French and make a few international friends my own age. Instead, I was forced to sit by a couple as they kissed, cuddled, and fondled each other for the entire time the seatbelt sign was unlit. While I realized early on in the trip that European couples are more fond of PDA than myself, this trip crossed even that boundary as I vigorously tried to read my book instead of seeing this young man's hand slide into his companion's pants. Is it more rude to ignore this assault on my eyes and let it go on in this public place, or to ask them to cut it out? Despite my current attempt to quit slut-shaming the way I learned as a teenager, it was hard to resist a very quickly spoken English "You are a dirty hoe-bag." I have no problem with people doing whatever they want to at home, but I do not want to see it. I should have the choice on whether I see sex or not, and I do not want to see it on an airplane. Luckily Ken Follett writes wonderful books and he held my attention the best he could. Notwithstanding, my family quickly commented on the hellfire and brimstone burning in my eyes as I exited the plane.

So Nice revealed my conservative line I did not know I had; thanks for that. Oddly enough, that line did not extend to the topless sun-bathing I encountered on the beach once we arrived on the Riviera. While I found it odd through my lens as an American, it was not disturbing the way some would expect.

As a traveler I was constantly analyzing the viewpoint I was bringing to my experiences and trying to recognize the background and lens I held, while also trying not to be too much of a disgusting tourist. I have a particular distaste for tourists who travel around without knowing anything about the history or culture they are "experiencing," who do not recognize the difference between the tourist part of a country/city/state/etc and the reality -the people who run off to all the tourist icons and never bother to see anything true.

This trip was the realization of everything I have studied since 7th grade when I started taking French, and it was amazing, with only a couple bumps that could barely mar the experience.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Virginity Myths Debunked

As I have two papers to write this week, I do not have time to write a full entry (although my final papers are causing me to think about a lot of things I'd like to share!) but I had to share this article on debunking virginity myths. There was a "Rethinking Virginity" conference at Harvard; oh how I wish I could have attended! I wanted to share these myths because I think it is very important to realize how the majority of discourses surrounding virginity are rooted in heteronormativity (and really what good has come from keeping to the heteronormative?) and are more harmful than not. I wish I could write more, but the women at Feministing who attended the conference outline some of these very nicely.

Happy finals if you are as buried as I am.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Perhaps you heard about this piece of juvenile humor that quickly became an international media issue. By dressing immodestly, whatever that means for each individual, people are drawing attention to the oppression of women and responding to the ridiculous claims of Iranian senior cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi that "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

I don't think it is anything new to blame promiscuity for social problems, but to blame immodest women for a natural phenomenon crosses way too many lines to be ignored. Blogger Jen McCreight proposed a experiment wherein women would dress immodestly to see if there was an upsurge in tectonic movement. I do not see this as a science experiment, but as a social display that the constant scapegoating of women and in turn the shaming of their choices is unacceptable.

This is not oppressive to women despite the likely ogling that will occur because no woman is being pressured to wear anything she would not already wear, but is making a choice to participate in social critique. While I wish something more radical and structural was being done to combat these ludicrous claims, if a woman is standing up for choice, that is a feminist action. While there are certainly different feminisms and not all women will choose to participate, there should be no "slut-shaming" because that is just as oppressive as blaming women for earthquakes or blaming them for crime.

Women have a right to dress how they choose to without outrageous judgment.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sad Day for Arizona

Arizona has long rested in my mind as utopia - a state with blissfully dry heat, majestic cacti, howling coyotes, juicy citrus, and the cavernous and breath-taking Grand Canyon. Arizona can bathe you in warm sun, or you can drive into the mountains near Flagstaff and it can immerse you in chilly mountain air. Arizona has it all - temperature on both sides of the spectrum, silly birds that run around, orange trees in the backyard, and gorgeous scenery. Sure there is a serious lack of grass, but you can get used to a gravel lawn; you can even paint your gravel green and you have your own field!

Yesterday Governor Brewer signed a ridiculous immigration bill which will allow for blatant racial profiling. I am really hoping Obama acts on his negative opinion of the bill and uses some of his executive power to reverse it, because there is no way this bill can act without racism.

The bill orders immigrant to carry their papers at all times and allows police to request papers when someone looks like an illegal immigrant. What exactly does an illegal immigrant look like? What is the largest immigrant population in Arizona?

The US has some odd obsession with policing its borders, but goes haywire over keeping undocumented Latinos out. This bill will not be able to resist racial profiling because the immigrants they are concerned about are the Spanish-speaking Mexicans who make it past the border police. Therefore, any individual who looks Latino or speaks Spanish, or more importantly "broken English" will be suspected and thus asked for documentation. How is that not racial profiling? How does that not go against civil rights?

Thousands of students are protesting the passing of this bill and I applaud them for standing up against this atrocity, and hope that the criticism of this bill will be echoed by other states.

The US has a history of choosing an immigration population it wants to limit whether that be Chinese (1882-1943) , Eastern Europeans, or East Asians. The US privileges Western European immigrants as the "founders" of America, and by limiting immigration to certain population perpetuates the idea that certain races, ethnicities, and nations are inherently inferior.

Furthermore, the US benefits from undocumented workers and thrives on the cheap, exploitable labor. Corporations can exploit an undocumented worker to a higher extent than a citizen. Immigrants do not take jobs from Americans because they take the jobs no American wants; they work in food services, care work, domestic labor, and janitorial services. The do the crappy jobs Americans don't want, and they do it for cheaper because there are not proper protective services set up because their mere presence in this country has be criminalized.

This bill reveals antiquated ideologies of race and immigration. It goes against American civil rights by encouraging racial profiling. Arizona has passed the most stringent anti-immigration law throughout the United States and by doing so has created a hostile and racist environment under the guise of "protecting the people." The claim that illegal immigrants are causing traffic incidents and harming the natural-born citizens of America is as ridiculous as the claim that immodestly dressed women are causing and uproar in earthquakes. (I wish I could get into that as well, but I only allow myself so many tangents) People need a scapegoat but their suggestions are getting more and more absurd. Immigration is not the problem people make it out to be and does not deserve perpetuating racism.

Evidently, Arizona is not the paradise I always imagined it to be.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Right to Choose

So I've decided to finally dive into that controversial mess that surrounds abortion because I am running into the issue everywhere, and am considering applying for an internship dealing with reproductive choice. We'll see what happens with that seeing as I hate committing to things and prefer to put off big life decisions much to the chagrin of myself and my parents. Anyway, here's my two cents; this is truly one of those things I could argue about for hours but I will do my best to keep this concise.

Abortion is one of the most frequently tossed around womens' issues because pregnancy belongs solely to women. I have battled with this issue over the years because there can be no denying that a life hangs in the balance. However, pro-life groups focus solely on this life that has not yet matured to a viable age, and their only concern is for the life of this fetus over everything else. Nobody is pro-abortion; nobody is out there asking all pregnant women to kill their fetuses to improve the world. What I am for however, is a woman's right to control her own body. A woman has every right to decide whether she wants to devote her body to a fetus for 9 months, and then possibly to a child for the rest of her life. A baby is a huge responsibility and not every woman is prepared to handle that - she has a right to make that decision.

Encouraging adoption over abortion does not eliminate the fact that this woman is going to be greatly affected for the next 9 months of her life, and it is her decision whether or not she wants her life to change. There has been a debate on my favorite Feministing blog lately over the "Abortion Changes You" ads in NY which elicited a blogger's critique of Feministing over their support for abortion out of convenience. The women at Feministing replied the same way I do - why shouldn't women get abortions out of convenience?! Isn't it a woman's right to choose her education and career options and to prioritize her life goals? Shouldn't that mean she can decide when and if she wants to have a child? It is not necessarily a question of whose life is worth more, but whether she wants to compromise her life for a fetus she does not want. A woman has a right to her own chance at self-improvement instead of falling into a dead-end job because instead of going to college she has to take care of a baby.

At my university in the fall there was a huge anti-choice display in the mall area comparing abortion to the genocide of the Jews in WWII with graphic pictures of fetuses and concentration camps. This was an outrage. I do not know what groups were in charge of this display, but it was offensive to Holocaust (and indeed any genocide) survivors and their families, women who had abortions, and people like myself who realized their assertion was unfounded and disgusting. Genocide, as defined by the genocide convention after WWII, is defined as the purposeful extermination of a portion of a population based on ethnicity, race, religion, etc. The definition has its complexities, but in no interpretation can abortion be seen as genocide. So not only was I offended by the grotesque images I was subjected to, but also by their false assumptions.

If you want to argue abortion is murder, I can accept that. However, murder is truly not the issue at hand, the issue in question is a woman's control of her own body. Nobody can regulate the rest of her bodily functions or what she choose to put in or take out of her body. A woman can crash diet, she can get plastic surgery, she can choose to live off of McDonald's, she can use tampons, she can give blood, she can take vitamins, she can use birth control, she can take fertility treatments. If nothing else about her body is regulated and fought over, why can she not decide to have a baby or not without being vilified and condemned? A woman has the right to be able to choose what to do with her body, and she has the right to legal and safe abortions. Pathologizing abortion will only force it underground where more blood will be shed, so even the "value of life" argument falls short.

While there are valid points to the pro-life faction, there is a difference between being pro-life, and being anti-choice. Thinking about ending the life of an individual, even of a partially developed fetus, makes me queasy. I do not support violence or murder; I am pro-life. When it comes to abortion however, I am pro-choice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nom nom nom

I wanted to supplement my earlier post about my move towards organic/sustainable grocery shopping. My first few days have left me very well-fed and satisfied. I have made panini caprese, and egg salad sandwiches in an effort to use up my delicious sourdough bread before it goes stale, and both meals were absolutely fabulous. I fear I may have too vehemently condemned the prevalence of boxed/frozen food in American society, because it is not the fault of the consumers, but of the larger corporations that run our society that our groceries have made this shift.

Realistically, most people have busy lives. I know in my own family between kids school, sports and activities, college, work, church, homework etc, there was very little time left for us to spend together at all, let alone to make and eat dinner together. Having more commitments means more needs to happen in spare time, or that you need to be more efficient to create more spare time at all. This is a capitalist concept in that you are trying to produce surplus; you want to get more out of what you put in. Under that principle, it takes less time to make a meal from a box that from scratch, so if you want to save time you should cook the prepackaged meal.

This was marketed towards us, make no mistake. There are corporations behind everything suggesting the best choices to make. Corporations decide that prepackaged meals are cheaper than individual ingredients and they enjoy the profits. So although there is certainly consumer choice involved in the matter, there is a reason so many people choose to eat out of a box. I maintain most of those foods will not taste as good as homemade ones, but sometimes we have to compromise - time and price for quality.

I do not condemn people for not making a move towards ethical shopping because I realize in our capitalist society we want more bang for our buck. Maybe your bottom line is that you can get more food at Cub than the co-op for the same amount of money. You would not be alone; Americans are raised to be good, patriotic, capitalists after all. My point is there is a trade-off by making that choice (because it is a choice) and each person has to weigh their own concerns.

I have come to the conclusion that buying ethically and making my own food from scratch is more valuable. I have free time in my evenings and enjoy spending some time cooking - although my cat would prefer I spend it brushing him and he makes that very clear. My roommate made me a beautiful apron that I can wear while cooking; it may make me miss her while she flits around Europe but it's nice to think about her all the same. I hope to nurture this skill of cooking because it is one I have not paid much attention to, and I am all about learning new things! I enjoy my homemade cooking better; I have so many things in my pantry that I never feel like eating because they just aren't very good! I cannot wait to go home tonight to make some delicious mushroom and swiss quesadillas!

I will continue to critique the system and the status quo it enforces. The way food is marketed is classist and not everyone can afford to make the ethical choice. To make a true change however, there needs to be a demand by the public, and for that to happen, the people who can afford it have to make a change. If we demand ethical foods, they will be supplied and made more available. This can be seen in the growing number of vegan/vegetarian restaurants and co-ops in general. There is a growing demand for these foods and the market is responding.