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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Heteronormative Dichotomy

As I sit here at work too tired to concentrate on reading my French novel, I feel the need to instead write about my issues with the binary view of sexuality our society maintains as a whole. I have a whole list of issues that feminists bring up regularly that I hope to write my views on eventually, and this is one of those simply because most people have never thought about sex in a different way. Unfortunately because so many of these issues interact it is such a challenge to me to remain focused, so bear with me...

Mary Hawkesworth, a gender theorist, writes of five assumptions, which I include to show that what I am saying and thinking is backed up by the research and conclusions of others.
1. There are two and only two genders
2. Gender is invariant
3. Genitals are the essential signs of gender
4. The male/female dichotomy is natural
5. Being masculine/feminine is natural and not a matter of choice

These assumptions make up much of heteronormative thought. Heteronormativity refers to the general assumption that certain traits or choices fall a certain way because of one's biological sex. By this I mean an individual born with female genitalia is classified as a female, and is expected to be feminine and be attracted to men. This assumes that sex will match gender and sexuality, and that there is simply a right way for these three to interact. Not only is there a right way to connect the dots, but there are only two choices - male is to female as masculine is to feminine.

Sex is not gender. Sex is biological; gender is a social construct. Nothing exists that is inherently feminine, but society makes it so. There is no reason for girls to like pink and play with Barbies and for boys to like blue and play with Tonka trucks but we raise children that way. We reduce sex to equal gender and we reduce these categories to a dichotomous relationship. Instead of accepting infants are born with a variety of genitalia, people expect only two choices labeling those who differ as inter-sex or hermaphroditic. When a child is born whose outsides do not conform to one of two choices, some parents opt for gender-reassignment surgery and simply choose a sex for their child. While I am not sure on the medical rules for this currently and can only assert it has happened in the past. If I had some of my notes from random classes I could give some stats on the prevalence of inter-sex individuals, but alas, you will have to take my word for it that the number is higher than you (or I - not trying to sit on a high horse here) would guess.

How barbaric to perform surgery on your newborn simply because their organs don't match what you want them to. This is the problem of a binary view of sex - it does not allow for variation. Besides that, the relationship between sex and gender is naturalized. Gender is not natural, it is performed. Children learn to act the way they are "supposed to" based on simple social cues and they learn early on how to be a good girl or a good boy.

That is gender. The performance of certain traits that are for some reason or another associated with the sex of the body.

Genderqueer individuals are not all that visible in the community, and I'm in Minneapolis. Get out to the suburbs or rural areas and that presence is further repressed. Regardless of sexuality, if one identifies with a gender that does not "match" their body, they inevitably run into all sorts of issues, for example, whether to check male or female on forms or which bathroom to go in. These simple daily functions become a stressful and complicated because of society's narrow view of sex and gender.

There has been a "five sex" system proposed by some, which is separated as male, female, homosexual male, homosexual female, and bisexual. This is not much better than a binary system. What is up with our need to label everything?! Why can't people just be who they want to be without fear of teasing? No more taunting of the "tomboy" or the "effeminate" boy... If gender were less policed by society and there was more freedom allowed, people could find their niche easily instead of waiting for the "right role model" to show them who they want to become. What is so wrong about a girl not wanting to wear dresses or a boy wanting to play house? I see no problem and I wish there was a way to get over the need for a label, and thus a way to move away from narrow views of gender.

Unfortunately humans have an obsession with the dichotomy: Good vs Evil, God vs Devil, Love vs Hate, Master vs Servant, Male vs Female.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Just Add Water

So yesterday I was able to do my grocery shopping at one of the nearby co-ops and it was a wonderful experience, and I truly could have wandered around for hours looking at the bulk spices, nuts, granola etc, but my companions were not equally intrigued. But really, I bought bulk soy sauce and balsamic vinegar! Who knew you could do that?! But I grabbed a little tub, filled it with as much as I wanted, and paid by the pound. I paid $.18 for the amount of sage I wanted instead of buying a whole bottle. This was just amazing to me.

While I have long been interested by the idea of sustainable and organic grocery shopping, I have never made the effort to go somewhere besides the Cub/Rainbow/Target market, but my Gender Labor Politics class pushed me to try. For one I can get extra credit by doing a cost analysis of my grocery bill, but also a discussion about food politics made me really think about food and why I eat what I do.

We have reached a point where we expect to buy whatever groceries we want whenever we want it, therefore we want produce out of season. This means extraneous measures are being taken around the world to make sure someone is producing corn for January and and for July (switched seasons). More and more food is being genetically modified so some people can make a bigger profit. Animals are caged up so tightly they cannot move and pumped full of antibiotics to combat the diseases they get from standing in their own feces, and people put up with it because it's cheaper.

There's a sense of false consciousness prevailing over our culture concerning food. We need food so there's no way to strike against it like the garment workers of Forever 21, so we distance ourselves from the process. We refuse to think about slaughterhouses and chemically "enhanced" meat and vegetables. We ignore that corn grown by farmers can no longer be eaten because it is hard and disgusting, but has to be processed into corn syrup and fed to livestock. We keep asking for food that is bigger and better than it is naturally supposed to be, so the producers make it happen.

On top of eating chemically and genetically modified foods, we exist off of
preservatives. Instead of mashing delicious russet potatoes we buy a box of Four-Cheese Mashed Potatoes, just add water! How lazy do we have to be that we now subsist off "just add water" groceries? Instead of making a healthy meal we pop something in the microwave - something that is full of preservatives and who knows what else so that all we have to do is nuke for 30 seconds. Then it comes out and it doesn't even look good but you eat it anyway and really just end up dissatisfied all around, so it's not like eating frozen food wins any points there. Sure it's fast, but it's gross.

Most of the ingredients and processes behind the food we eat is completely hidden from our view. Look at a granola bar and try to find out where those oats came from. It is impossible. At a certain point you cannot trace your food back any farther and you are asked to trust the company they are getting it safely and ethically. You are asked to trust that a certain amount of insects in your peanut butter is ineffectual. You are asked to trust that "Free Range" chickens are actually allowed to walk around when that is nowhere near the truth. Food politics are all about a separation between the producer and the consumer, but not only a separation - indeed there is a big black curtain keeping the two apart so that the latter know nothing about the truths of the former.

The problem lies of course, in the cost of eating organically and ethically. That choice is more expensive because in order to produce more ethically, most has to be spent. It costs more to keep a few chickens in a pen they can walk around in than to cram a whole bunch of chickens in that same space, and that cost is transferred to the consumer. This choice is an easy one to make until cost is factored in. Theoretically everyone prefers the more ethical choice, but practically not everyone wants to spend the extra money. I paid $3.49 for eggs which I could get for around $1.39 at Target, yet because I went in with a list for my planned recipes for the week, I still spent less that I normally do.

Food from a box that just requires some added water and a couple minutes in the microwave may be cheaper, but I know where my groceries came from - 42% was grownlocally, and I know there are no hidden "ingredients." While I may not be able to promise I will stop eating anything from a box or a can, this feels like such a positive decision I plan to make every effort to eat organically and ethically. It is the easy choice.

As a poor college student I want to make the ethical move, and I think I can make it work for my budget. Shopping for ingredients requires more planning; I cannot just walk down the aisle and grab a few boxes for my meals that week, but have to know ahead of time what I need which means less spending on food I will not actually eat. Plus the food I can make with these delicious ingredients is so much tastier than Mac 'n Cheese or Lean Cuisine. How could I possibly make any other decision? They always say the first step is the hardest, and most of the time that first step is just deciding to make a change.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

People Person

As I get closer and closer to my trip to France, and as I look at the pictures all my friends are posting, abroad or not, I realize more and more that there is a right and wrong way to take pictures. Normally, I do not consider
myself much of a people person. I do not like meeting lots of people at once, I do not like talking in a group, and I am very shy and quiet until I feel comfortable to actually be me. I need to be alone a lot. I would prefer to sit at home with my cat and a book than go to a loud crazy party with a few of my friends. I love my friends and I love spending time with them, but when it comes to making new friends I take a while.

That being said, when I take pictures I take pictures of people. Ten years from now, I will not care about that lion at the zoo, or that flower in a field, or that weird statue. This past weekend I found some pictures I took at horse camp years and years ago (I still had my glasses that took up my whole face, that's how old these are) as I was going through drawers of old things; I had to choose between those to be saved, those to be donated, and those that deserved to be thrown away long ago, yet were kept because of my former packrat identity. The pictures I kept showed me with people from camp, and the horse I spent the week with (because clearly Cheyenne was more person than random object or animal). I threw pictures of the other animals, sure deer and rabbits are cool; pictures of hills and trees, because those aren't everywhere; and pictures of the rooms and bunk beds, for one camp bunk bed is really the same as the rest.

For me, pictures are about moments in time, represent a way to recall the happiness of that moment as a way to relive all those wonderful feelings. They show my friends and the way we spend our time. You do not need to go on a trip to take pictures because there are joyful moments every day, and a few that are lucky enough to get captured on film.

There is no joy in a bunk bed; without the rest of the film I would have no idea where that bunk bed was from. A picture of myself and other campers on the other hand, while I no longer remember most of their names and wish I had labeled them, brings up memories of those ugly shirts, singing churchy campy songs, buying candy and playing foosball in the common area (this camp was where I played my epic 30-8 game against two people), and playing capture the flag around the ranch. These girls became close friends for this week spent away from our families as we all searched for a way to fit into a new environment.

I learned quickly that pictures of animals, , and landscapes do not interest me after developing the random disposable cameras throughout my youth. 10 years later I may not care about that lion on a rock, but I will care about that trip to the zoo; if there is a picture with my sister and a lion, that picture has some redeeming qualities. While I make some exceptions for artistic photography, I think those pictures should be kept separate from the rest because they serve entirely different purposes, and I will not take those pictures.

Pictures are about capturing a moment, not about capturing an object, so I take pictures of people. I take pictures of people and moments in time so I can look back and remember that ridiculous game night, that delectable dinner, and that relaxing vacation. Pictures allow you to re-experience moments and recall things that are insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but looking back you remember having the time of your life. Picking the pictures for this post made for easy choices, because I know what times I like to remember, and
know which pictures epitomize those days. Now I am just sitting here smiling thinking about the car ride to Thanksgiving, the Christmas spent with the boyfriend's family, Sister Day, the cabin trip, Stooge Week, Prom, winter break, freshmen year with the SAD lamp, and Padelford. Each picture has a story, not only of itself, but of the entire day and experience. Pictures capture a moment and make for wonderful memories, and in memories, people are what matter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not Alone in Anger

While engaged in my regular perusing of my favorite blog site at Feministing, I found a post that is dealing with the issue of anger which I touched on in my post this afternoon. I share this to prove I am not the only one trying to figure out how to express my feminist ideas in a world where "feminist" is is associated with "feminazi," but also because if anyone else is dealing with the same problem - self censorship - some of the comments are helpful. Our society has an obsession with finding what "normal" is, and I am happy to report my reaction is normal!

Thinking Radically, Judging Critically

My college experience has forced me to think critically about numerous aspects of life; I won't go so far as to suggest I have thought about everything because I find myself thinking about new things every week during my Gender, Labor, Politics class (this week for example is food and the political economy). As an extension of this process, I have looked at myself critically as well. I grew up as a perfectionist, and I'd like to think I grew out of that to a point, where I can appreciate perfection, but do not require it and as such am much more satisfied with my accomplishments and results. As a perfectionist however, I find myself extremely critical and judgmental (which I am sure comes across in my writing). I make snap judgments about ideas, people, places, actions etc, but I am not unwilling to change those judgments, so I do not find this practice entirely harmful. However, I tend to speak my mind more quickly than not and almost always fail to censor myself for my audience. By this I mean I snap at people easily who oppose my opinion if it lies within my passions, and I tend to speak/write passionately which also often means I do so offensively. While I realize this, I always realize it too late after I have riled up whomever I am speaking to. What a dilemma. My blog is only feeding this problem because everything I write here is very raw, and virtually just a train of thought that I can only attempt to keep on topic. Improving this flammable aspect of my personality will probably be a lifelong quest

On top of being critical, I am finding myself to be more and more radical in my opinions. This is a problem because much of my family is conservative (whether self-declared or not) as well as many of my long-term friends. In college I tend to drift towards similar thinkers like myself, but inevitably I maintain contact with people with opposing viewpoints (and thank God for diversity!). I have discovered that some of my opinions are very upsetting for some of these people. For example, I think government health care is long overdue (huzzah for the vote passed yesterday!!!), I think our capitalist system is corrupt and exploitative, I think abortion is a woman's undeniable right, I think marriage is an antiquated institution which privileges heterosexual couples and maintains patriarchy, and I think the church deserves absolutely no place in our legal system. Apparently some of these thoughts are radical.

I say apparently because in my classes, these viewpoints are the status quo. My classes are full of young men and women viewing the world through a feminist lens. By this I refer to modern feminism which is no longer merely the search for gender equality, but has expanded to have political meaning as well, which is a large part of the reason it is so hard to define feminism - it is not just about women! It is for this reason I am surprised to find opposing thoughts because I am constantly surrounded by liberal thinkers. While I appreciate the existence of opposing thoughts (however much they may upset me), I love my liberal companions.

I love that there is a niche where like-minded people like myself come together and have open dialogues about issues too many people find controversial and unsettling. We are not afraid to critique society, and we are not afraid to speak out against the majority opinion. I treasure this sacred space I have found and only wish I could remain in college forever because once I leave I will be bombarded by the opposition and by those who are not ready for change. It will not be long before I am yearning for a group who longs to revolutionize nearly every aspect of society in order to end exploitation and inequality.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mommy and Me

So I wrote this on Monday and didn't post it because I wanted to wait to get home where I had a picture of my mom to add. Unfortunately I only have older pictures and neither of us resemble this anymore.

Today is International Women’s Day; what a wonderful month filled with recognizing the achievements of women everywhere! I’d like to recognize the greatest role model in my life: my mother. While I date my feminist wake-up call to my freshman year of college, my mom instilled gender equality in my values since I was young. She has always been a model of a strong woman, helped my find my values and morals, and encouraged my success in all aspects of my life.

My favorite example of this is my old book of nursery rhymes. I did not grow up reading Mother Goose, but read instead the rhymes of Father Gander. These rhymes eliminated the gender and racial inequalities inherent in Mother Goose, and also rid them of violence. Humpty Dumpty was put back together by all the king’s horses, women, and men and Jack and Jill learned how to get up the hill safely. And my personal favorite rhyme: Jack be nimble Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candle stick. Jill be nimble jump it too, it Jack can do it, so can you! Then I got to preschool and kindergarten and everything and was told I knew the wrong rhymes: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together, Jack and Jill fall , get hurt, and fail their task, and Jill cannot do anything. What a sad state of affairs.

Looking back at my adolescent years I laugh at how much I resented the boundaries and rules she set for me. I’d whine and complain about how my other friends could watch R-rated movies and stay out later or have boys over and end up so mad. Now I can appreciate what her rules did for me. People crave boundaries, and if we do not get them we act out and rebel until we find the breaking point—find the action that pushes our parents over the edge. Children need rules and thrive on them. The kids whose parents let them stay out late and do whatever they wanted do not end up as strong, stable, independent adults. I won’t make generalizations about what does result, but it’s a fair assessment that across the board, the results are not ideal. I applaud my mother for having the strength to assert her parental guidance.

My mom and I agree on many subjects, but even when we disagree we can still have an intelligent conversation about whichever topic is at hand, and we can talk for hours. We have a similar sense of humor, and as anyone who has ever been in the same room with us knows, we have the same distinct laugh. It is so refreshing to have this close relationship with my mom and to know I can go to her with my problems once I decide to deal with them myself. She sometimes tells me things I don’t want to hear, but I respect her all the more for it.

There is no way for me to truly do this marvelous woman justice because I could never enumerate all the ways she has affected my life. I attribute the person I have become (whom I am largely satisfied with!) to not only the values she gave me, but the space she gave me to grow. She encouraged my independence yet never left me feeling alone. She always sets up the ideal for me, but lets me go about it my own way and make my own choices and mistakes.

My mother is beautiful, intelligent, strong, opinionated, and wise. She loves chocolate, babies, cats, and crossword puzzles. She has a wonderful laugh and smile. She knows so many things about so many subjects; she is the definition of well-rounded! She uses hand-sanitizer and makes sure there is some available at group gatherings. What can I even say except she is my mom, she’s fabulous, and I love her.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't be an iDiOtTtT

Today I was browsing through blogs in hopes of stumbling upon something of interest. I found some random humorous posts, but nothing worth following regularly. I do not care about random people's weddings and their attempts at pregnancy, or meals they are trying to cook. Reading about the lives of people I know is one thing, but not all random people have interesting things to say.

That being said, what really made me click to the next blog was poor grammar, spelling, and writing in general. The most annoying blog being this one. I understand random spelling mistakes will make their way into writing, especially in blogs where little to no editing takes place. So fine, I cut you some slack. Neither do I care deeply about ending a sentence with a preposition or the misplacement of a comma. However, do not fail to capitalize "I," do not write LiKe ThIs, do not add extra lettersss, or leave out vwls. These make no sense! Saying "heyy" does not make me feel like you are more excited to say hello to me; it looks like a typo and you look like an idiot.

I have a problem with idiots. Some idiots cannot spell, some idiots are chauvinistic, some idiots fall over drunk, some idiots pick fights, some idiots use 50 coupons for items they did not purchase. Some people just don't know anything. Idiots are found everywhere; this is very disheartening. After working in retail, I realized how stupid people really can be; customers really represent the epitome of stupidity, and my Target friends and I could (and do) rant for hours about our "guests" and their issues. Come to think of it that really should have been its own entry, but oh well. During my blog browsing, I came across this blog where the author comments on latin tattoos, and also makes a critique on the people who seek them.

I was also struck by the stupidity of some people after reading the "anti-feminist mailbag" on Feministing. This section is basically the hate-mail these women receive, and based upon my brief foray, is made up of ignorant comments. Luckily the Feministing women have a sense of humor and add fabulous commentary; they really are wonderful people.

Everyone needs to rant once in a while, this was my outlet.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Writing Women Back into History

Say hello to the beginning of Women’s History month! The theme for this month is “Writing Women Back into History;” if you want information visit the National Women’s History Project. I find this topic especially interesting because women’s history has often been ignored – both contemporarily and historically. During my studies of Ancient Egypt, I was intrigued by the roles of power women made for themselves (e.g. Nefertiti and Hatshepsut – both of whom [most likely] dressed as men and took on a male persona in order to assert their rule), yet research is difficult because the actions of women were not significant enough to record alongside those of the pharaohs and pyramids. This is a common theme wherein minority history simply isn’t recorded because it is “not important.” Remember that snide comment that history is written by the winners? This is especially visible when trying to find information about minor players who find themselves a minority for whatever reason – class, race, sex, war.

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s-70s, there has been greater emphasis on the role of women throughout history as their experiences were invariably different from those of men. Scholars are searching for that invisible tale woven between the published wars and politics of men, for the obscured achievements of women as they try to exist in a male-dominated world. Women are not silent participants in history and they are finally getting back their voice as this month brings to mind the contributions women have made to all fields such as politics, sports, science, literature, and art.

Part of Women's History month is Talk Like a Feminist Today which I already mentioned is tomorrow!! Grrrl power!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sex Tours and Mail-Order Brides

I just finished reading an article about sexism and tourism and ended up frustrated, angry, and depressed. These feelings are becoming so common because of all the reading I’ve been doing on women’s studies, which in itself upsets me. By now we’ve all heard of sex tourism, generally found in exotic trips to the Philippines or Thailand and the like. Noteworthy tidbit: many of these sex tourism sites have also served as “rest and recreation” sites for the US military, hmm…

This industry has been wildly successful and many Third World nations depend on it as a way of bringing foreign currency into their economy. In order for sex tourism to work, the government has to view women and their feminine wiles as a natural resource, the women have to be desperate for money, and Western men have to fetishize this foreign woman who will do things “respectable white women” will not. We have linked domesticity to respectability for women and we have not escaped that ideology despite more women entering the public sphere and diverse careers.This
combined with the assumption that “white is right” provides the rationale to oppress these women. These women fall into prostitution because these countries focus their entire economy on tourism. If they fail to develop manufacturing and commercial sectors, all that is left is domestic service (because people on vacation expect to escape daily menial tasks like making their bed), dining service, construction (of more condos!), and prostitution. The only escape from selling her body is to hope a traveler will bring them back to Europe or America so she can sell her body to the institution of marriage. How depressingly futile.

What I keep coming back to is that sex and gender affect everything. Why does it all have to come down to sex? Why are we forced to recognize the impact our sex has on the rest of our life and our every interaction? Why do we keep finding ways to tell people they are inferior? Gender studies classes frustrate me.

Tuesday is “Talk Like a Feminist Day” where everyone can find and express their inner feminist, so go and espouse ideas of gender equality!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This Thing Called Feminism

I have recently discovered a wonderful blog at and if you are at all interested in feminism, you MUST check it out. There is a team of women who run the site, but there is also a community blog where members can post and comment and a lot of good discussions get started. I found this blog because a feministing panel is coming to the University for a discussion and presentation, so I looked into who they were and what they thought and fell in love. While I by no means agree with everything people post, it certainly makes me think about things. It also brings up variance in feminist opinions which I feel is not recognized by many.

So what is feminism? It's hard to explain and I feel most people have different definitions. I remember talking about it in my first GWSS (Gender Women Sexuality Studies) class as we wrote down all the things that came to mind, among them: bra-burning, pissed off, butch, lesbian, crazy women! Now as I self-identify as a feminist I fear these are the things people attach to me, when that is just simply not the truth. Any woman who is not a feminist simply hasn't encountered the right feminist thought, because all women should be opposed to the inequalities we face because of our sex. I say this because I used to laugh at feminists before I knew anything about the actual beliefs; I figured, stop whining and get over it, you can vote and work.

Women make only 70 cents for every dollar a man at the same job level earns. Telling a boy he throws like a girl is an insult. There still exists the ideology that women should raise children and do the cooking and cleaning. Society dictates marriage is the ultimate goal of a heterosexual couple and enforces this institution by attaching benefits. Women are objectified in the media, most disgustingly so in music videos. Women walking down the street at night have to be constantly aware for fear of attack and rape. Most swearing is offensive to women.

Feminism is the movement striving for equality in all aspects of life. Feminism is about choice -- to have children, to get married, to take a husband's last name, to have a career. Feminism is the fight against patriarchal overtones. Feminism the about ending the oppression of women and the violence against them. Feminism is realizing sex and gender are inextricably linked to issues of state, capitalism, class, race, power, politics, religion etc. Feminism is realizing gender is a social construct and does not exist on its own. Feminism is claiming one's sexuality. Feminism is complex and consists of more aspects that I can iterate; this is why one can study anything with a feminist perspective or apply feminist theory.

I love my boyfriend. I would hate life if I had to give up wearing bras and jiggle around all day. Patriarchy frustrates me because it affects everything and sometimes fighting against it seems futile. I want to walk down the streets of Minneapolis and not have my hand on my pepper spray. I want to get married because of the religious aspect but am against the institution. I see myself becoming more radical every day in my quest for equality and the end of oppression. I want children. I wanted to raise my children to be gender-neutral until I realized they would never get by because of the way society demands gender.I get pissed off about the inequalities facing women. I am a feminist.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Depleted No More

Unfortunately I have been forced to realize this blog is a privilege and cannot be one of my top priorities with school riding me lately. I have papers due in every class this week and had to spend my writing on more scholarly subjects, and this is now my break! It is upsetting because I very much enjoy blogging and always have a lot to write about (not that my life is interesting, but I do have a lot of opinions!), but such is life.

First of all, I was lucky enough to switch shifts over the weekend and was able to attend church! It was an extremely positive experience and left me smiling all day. I spent ages trying to decide on what to wear not as a vain move, but out of lack of expectations. I knew the church had a liberal outlook but had no idea how that would translate. I ended up dressing fairly conservatively and simply while at the same time maintaining my style. Actually I had a woman tell me she liked my look and that it could have come from Project Runway! I was flattered, but at the same time I’ve seen Project Runway and they make dresses out of burlap sacks, so what does that really mean…

As soon as I walked in I was greeted by an older couple who said they didn’t recognize me. Once I said this was my first visit I started talking to the man about my studies, how I found the church etc. He pointed out different things I could do while I waited for the service and I chose to read some of the literature they had posted to get a feel for the church. While doing so, a woman came up and introduced herself, again saying she didn’t recognize me. She asked me to sit with her before realizing I had brought a close friend with me.

The service itself was similar to the traditional service at my church back home so it was fairly familiar, but I would prefer a service with a worship team and contemporary music; however I do enjoy a good choir. Everyone kept telling me this was a period of transition as a new pastor starts next week so it is an exciting time to join. What struck me was both pastors were women! My pastor at my home church is female so that is not odd for me, but after seeing my church was the only one with a female minister, I realized perhaps this was bizarre for others. The congregation was invited to share prayer concerns and joys as usher’s carried around mics, and at the end visitors were introduced.

The entire time I was struck by the sense of community and felt so welcomed. People realized we were new and were eager to hear about our lives and studies. After the service there was a coffee hour wherein the entire congregation sat down for coffee, cake, cookies, crackers, chocolate – so many options – and mingled. It seemed like everyone wanted to greet my friend and I. I was handed a business card by the pastor who offered to answer any questions, was invited to a small group meeting for Friday, got an offer to oversee a group of toddlers, and was asked to see a play a church member was performing in. I was immediately drawn into their community as they looked for places I could serve; they even need a crocheter for a knitting and crocheting workshop!

There is another church I want to attend this coming weekend that is more contemporary and caters towards a younger audience. However, I feel this other church is a lot bigger, and while I may appreciate the music, I loved the community I found this weekend. Most of the people were older, and maybe singing hymns gets a little stuffy, but feeling welcomed and wanted is something. I could clearly see places I could serve and where I could be needed and that can do a lot for a person. Assuming I like the new church, I’m considering going to the contemporary church every weekend because they have an evening service, and doing the more traditional service with the very liberal theology every other weekend with my work schedule. This church left me feeling so content which makes me feel that maybe this was exactly what I needed. Perhaps I will no longer feel spiritually depleted!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Victory, Valentine, Vagina

I have mixed feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day. I hate how commercialized it is. I would much rather my boyfriend do something sweet on random days throughout the year instead of feeling forced to buy me flowers and jewelry on a day filled with pink hearts and naked archers. I would rather go have a nice dinner when we both need a pick-me-up or want to celebrate the end of a semester or whatever the event may be then be obligated to dress up and pay more money than usual for some Valentine dinner special. All the restaurants and cute stores capitalize on these required actions – restaurants refuse normal specials and discounts and create special menus because everyone wants to go out, and they want it to be special. Catalogs display everything in pink and red, and suddenly everything comes with a heart on it. While most holidays have become centered on consumerism, Valentine’s Day is only about the commercial aspect.

One thing I do enjoy is V-day, wherein the V stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina. V-Day is a global movement to end violence against girls and women. For the past few years I have attended Eve Ensler's play, "The Vagina Monologues." I LOVE this play and hope to continue watching in annually. The monologues are made up of stories Eve gained from interviews of about 200 women and relate somehow to the vagina whether it is through sex, birth, periods, etc. The monologues range from serious tales about the Comfort Women of Japan which was featured the first year I saw it, to entertaining accounts like “My Angry Vagina” where a woman yells about the trauma from tampons and “duck lips.”

The other thing I like about Valentine’s Day is the way it makes you think about the people you love. After years together it is easy to take your partner for granted and this holiday brings your attention back to why you became a couple in the first place, and what has kept you together. That’s always nice!

On the flipside, if you do not have a partner by the time this holiday rolls around, you feel somehow inferior and unloved. What a horrible sentiment for a holiday to arise. Just because you are single you end up feeling depressed because you have nobody to spend this day with, because this day does not stress the love you have for family and friends, but only for your “soul mate.” This may drive you to find some schmuck at the last minute, stay in an unhappy relationship, or to spend the night with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but rare is the person who is not bothered by being single during Cupid’s celebration.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Flesh and Blood, Hold the Silicone

As we near the dreaded Hallmark holiday of Saint Valentine, some people are reminded of the love they share for their companion while others get depressed over their lack thereof. Never fear lonely people; soon there will be a delightfully realistic sex doll with whom you can cuddle at night or talk to over coffee! My roommate shared this link with me about the invention of the $7000 perfect woman. She is thin, anatomically correct, chats according to personal preferences, and even oohs and aahs as you touch her. So if you are sick of having a conversation with a real person who may disagree with you or God forbid, annoy you with her quirks, there is now a solution! You can turn off her snoring and sleep talking and just enjoy her however you please!

Reading about this doll thoroughly disgusted me. I understand some nights can be lonelier than others, and maybe sometimes you just want someone to hold you. What I don’t get is using a robot to fill that void. Maybe a toy can fulfill your urges, but there is no replacement for companionship and intimacy – they cannot be faked.

The robot’s target audience is described as “shy, awkward, or older men who ‘have trouble meeting girls.’” This implies these men are unable to find someone with whom they can have an intimate relationship which I disagree with. Nobody is entirely incapable of intimacy, but perhaps getting there takes longer for some. Therefore this target audience is just lazy and does not want a real partner anyway. Sure Roxxy pumps warm air throughout its body so it feels like you are caressing a real human being, but even if this robot can simulate orgasm, can you really gain any satisfaction from knowing you caused a fake climax? Because I think that’s normally an insult…

The appeal of this doll eludes me, but I’m offended by the advertisement that Roxxy is the “perfect woman” because you can shut her up. Realistically, everyone you know is going to do something annoying or frustrating; maybe there’s the classic nagging girlfriend or the boyfriend who doesn’t listen. Despite these “faults,” it’s all good because you love them and they really exist! Whether the person in question is your mom, spouse, friend, or sibling, you love them because of their eccentricities (or maybe just tolerate them!). Why would anyone choose a battery-operated, silicone computer over a living, breathing person? I’ll take my companion with flesh and blood please!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Drinking Tea Like It's the Air I Breathe

I just slept for 14 hours and am on my second cup of tea. I don’t what is hitting me more, the stress of school, my cold or just the assault of daily problems, but all four sectors need some healing right now. Because of my sleeping marathon, I missed church this morning which is disappointing. I work every other Sunday morning so unless I find a place with a less conventional worship time, I have to wait two whole weeks to try again.

After all my sleep, tea and some actual soup I am feeling less sick; I am trying to avoid putting pills into my body but certainly will not go so far as to deny Western medicine like all the people who go on trial for child homicide (Random simile, but I just read an article about how faith healing, and in turn the refusal to go to the doctor, because of religion is not a legitimate excuse in court if your kid dies). Despite feeling better, I still just want to lay in bed, but of course it is Sunday and that is homework day, so perhaps I will still schlep my way to the café to read for hours – at least they have tea! It always works out that the day you want to do the least is the day you have to do the most.

My emotional side is lacking mostly because my best friend is in France and communication is nil. She has always been the one I can talk to about anything and who makes me find the sense in the madness. This dearth of confidante and source of logic means either I have to find someone else to talk to, or, as I have chosen, to work everything out myself. This choice is not ideal, but nobody can replace my Tin-Tin.

Mentally, school is just a lot to handle. I’m not taking any math or science classes so I don’t get any homework problem sets, but just a lot of reading, then every now and then, some writing. Reading and writing can only go so fast, and nothing is straight-forward, and there is no right answer. I miss being able to be right or wrong.I need to pause life for a little while, when is spring break?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Just Want Some Chicken Soup

As I previously mentioned, I am searching for a church to be a part of. I continued that search at work today and was delightfully surprised with what I was finding, and have picked the first service I will attend. Because I am looking for something to supplement my own faith and spirituality, religious domination is in no way factoring into my search. I do not care if the church is Baptist, Lutheran, or Methodist as long as the values match my own, and the messages speak to me. I am so attached to the music and sermons of my home church that I am sure I will never find an adequate substitute, but I need something more in my life that is currently so busy with school and work. Hopefully this church is a good fit, and if not I’ll try a new one next week until something clicks.

I have read several mission statements to get a feel for what each church is about because there are certain things I want to get out of my worship service. Acceptance of GLBT and queer bodies is an important point for me and is part of the liberal outlook I am searching for.

My hometown’s paper wrote an article this past summer about one of the local Lutheran churches withdrew from the ELCA because of a difference in opinion concerning gay rights. The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) voted in August 2009 and created a social statement accepting individuals regardless of sexual orientation and welcoming everyone into the Lutheran congregation. The statement places importance on mutual respect despite disagreements. Several churches did not accept this statement and refused to welcome GLBT individuals and their families into their congregation. They ended their relationship with the ELCA in an abrupt break because of their differing views which was very upsetting to me.

I am always amazed in this day and age to come across people this close-minded. I wish I could find the actual article because it gave some numbers from a vote in the church on whether not to secede or not – something like 80% of the congregation agreed with the split (don’t quote me on that, it was just a surprising number). I find it extremely un-Christian to exclude people for whatever reason. If one thinks their purpose is to spread the word of God, and follows the Bible’s direction to “love thy neighbor” how can they possibly think this agrees with their faith? “Love thy neighbor” basically means “don’t discriminate” yet sexuality remains a point of contention for many churches. Being a Christian is about so much more than going to church, yet so many feel that this action makes up for their less savory thoughts and actions . It is important to me to find a church whose statement matches their actions, and that they both mesh with my own values because I am not just looking for a building, I am looking for some “chicken soup for the soul” as it were.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Seeking Sanctuary

I am feeling so drained today – physically, mentally, and emotionally; spiritually I’m doing okay. It is just one of those days; it’s not like everything is going wrong, but more so that things just aren’t going right and are taking more energy than usual. I wouldn’t call myself a loner, but I do require a large amount of time alone, which normally isn’t too difficult to come by as long as I count time with my cat as me-time. I find time spent by myself allows me to regenerate emotionally the same way sleep rejuvenates physically and mentally and I truly cherish these moments. During school it is hard to find enough time for myself as I attend my full load of classes, and work 20 hours a week, and meet up with friends for lunch, and do my homework, and spend time with my boyfriend, and play cards on game night and attend physical therapy as I recover from knee surgery. Each of these things is important to me, or necessary to do, and I enjoy the time I am spend with my friends. However, as with every other aspect of life, balance is also essential to avoid a burnout.

After class yesterday I returned to my hometown for physical therapy and some time with my family, then came back this morning to go to class. Besides being slightly sleep deprived, this meant I have felt busy for far too long and I am in desperate need of going home to my Neko and warm bed. Whether I choose to take a nap or curl up with a book or simply just lay down for a little while is not the issue for me, but rather just returning to the sanctuary of my home.

For some people their house is a place to keep their things and to sleep at night; for me it is so much more. I strive to make my apartment a place I want to be through the furniture I choose, the objects I keep in it, the art I hang on the walls, and the things I do inside. Because I have created this refuge, I almost refuse to homework at home. My productivity reaches optimum levels at a café or library, and who am I to defy my nature? Another reason I have made this decision is my cat because he loves attention, but also demands it. If I am home he should be in my lap. If I’m playing my keyboard he crawls up my legs to fit underneath it or just lies on my shoulders. If I’m in the bathtub he is perched on the edge batting at the bubbles. If I’m reading in bed he lays on top of my book. My insecure and needy cat does not want me to do things without him and indeed hinders my attempts to do so (I will try not to ramble on about my cat because I realize his stories are only interesting to myself, but I love him and he is bound to seep in sometimes).This combined with my desire to make my home a place I want to be, and thus not associated with unfavorable goings-on such as homework. My home is an arena for music, cats, cooking, reading, crocheting, and sleep and that is why I love it.

Besides finding peace at my house, I am also looking for new churches to try. I am looking for a church with a liberal outlook and contemporary music with perhaps the opportunity to join their choir. If anyone has any suggestions in the Minneapolis area let me know!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Life is Cheap

One thing I have learned from my years at school is how much I detest capitalism. Inherent within capitalism is the exploitation of the many for the profit of the few while those of us in the middle scramble around trying to buy all the commodities the media insists we need. How many times do you hear someone claiming how they need that new pair of brown patent leather boots or they need a new laptop because the one they own does not have enough memory or whatever it is laptops should have to be awesome? Consumerism dominates our society as the majority of the population waits for the next model that is bound to be bigger and better than before. Your iPod Nano is no longer enough, now you need the iPod Touch! Your flip phone, while it makes phone calls like a phone should do, is no longer acceptable because you need a phone that can go online and play music for you. AND you need to have it with you at all times (which is another subject entirely and one of the most annoying things in the world). It amazes me the way people are obsessed with buying new things.

While I am by no means a minimalist, I am making the attempt to move in that direction. I grew up following the footsteps of my father and was a faithful pack rat. I kept all my old school projects because sometimes you just need to read poems you wrote in third grade. I kept paper scraps because you never know when you will have the urge to make an art project out of that faithful construction paper. I kept hordes of stuffed animals and let them take over my double bed because they were cute and as a girl in our gender-obsessed society, I was supposed to want to cuddle with them. Now, after living on campus and having to move back and forth twice a year I realize all that stuff just is not important. If I don’t care enough to move it around or if I leave it at one house and don’t miss it, I DON’T NEED IT! The concept of necessity has become skewed in our society and no longer refers to survival requirements.

I bring up my detest for capitalism after a rousing discussion about its effects on the feminization of labor, but also of poverty. In the current global economy, everyone is out to make the most of what they have, and who can honestly fault them for that? However this has resulted in the reliance upon sweatshops and cheap labor. We submit to false consciousness in order to deal with their existence justifying our purchases. I work hard for my money so why should I not indulge in the things I want? If you can get three sweaters at Forever 21 (which uses cheap labor from LA) for the price of one which is say, homemade and sold at a craft fair, what choice do you make? You can choose to boycott sweatshop labor, or you can get more for your money. I stumbled upon an essay from Harvard Business School titled, “Sweatshop Labor is Wrong Unless the Jeans are Cute” which I feel totally typifies our culture. I can ignore the negative aspects because hey, I really want those Nikes and that U of M sweatshirt.

However, boycotting businesses who exploit these workers acts as a double-edged sword as seen in the documentary “Made in LA” which is about the Forever 21 garment workers. The women stress that if we do all choose to boycott the clothing they will be out of a job and will not be able to provide for their family. Sometimes, a job is a job. So what can we really do? Somehow action has to come from these big corporations themselves because otherwise it seems we’re stuck in a vicious circle where we can never escape the devastation of capitalism. I’m still not sure what the solution is, but there has to be a way of mobilizing enough people to enforce minimum wage for everybody. Can we really deny our humanity for the sake of a few extra dollars? Unfortunately, probably.

This ended up not really going into the effects on women like I had planned, but sometimes my writing just has to go where it wants to.

I took the time to send Reiki last night to people who I felt might need it – friends who felt sick or had pain, my dad as he deals with the stresses of business meetings and traveling, and people who I felt could use help sleeping. I learned that I will definitely have to move this time to right before I sleep because I was so relaxed afterward that the reading I had planned to do just didn’t happen (although really who is to say it would have gotten done anyway). I will enjoy taking this time not only as a period of solitude, but as a period of compassion and gratitude for those I love and want to help in any way possible. Perhaps it is this overwhelming compassion brought on by Reiki that is making me more conscious (or more passionate) about the exploitation of others lately. Either way, being overcome with love is never a bad thing. This reminds me of a song I used to enjoy, and I will just close with the lyrics, which I promise is odd for me, but just seems fitting.

Love in Any Language - Sandi Patti

Je t'aime
Te amo
Ya ti-bya lyu blyu
Ani o hevet oth kha
I love you

The sounds are all as different
As the lands from which they came
And though our words are all unique
Our hearts are still the same

Love in any language
Straight from the heart
Pulls us all together
Never apart
And once we learn to speak it
All the world will hear
Love in any language
Fluently spoken here

We teach the young our differences
Yet look how we're the same
We love to laugh, to dream our dreams
We know the sting of pain

From Leningrad to Lexington
The farmer loves his land
And daddies all get misty-eyed
To give their daughter's hand

Oh maybe when we realize
Just how much there is to share
We'll find too much in common
To pretend it isn't there

Love in any language
Straight from the heart
Pulls us all together
Never apart
And once we learn to speak it
All the world will hear
Love in any language
Fluently spoken here

Though the rhetoric of government
May keep us worlds apart
There's no misinterpreting
The language of the heart

Love in any language
Straight from the heart
Pulls us all together
Never apart
And once we learn to speak it
All the world will hear
Love in any language
Fluently spoken here

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Positive Energy and Wonderful People

Yesterday was fabulous. I had my second day of Reiki class and being surrounded by such a wonderful group of people and feeling the effects of our positive energy put me in a great mood. We spent the weekend bathing in healing and humor which really made up the best combination; after all, there is no better release than laughter and nothing brings people together or puts them at ease faster.

I’d like to share a few of my Reiki experiences, just a couple that made me realize how real it is, regardless of how intangible the concept. The first time I gave my little brother Reiki, he was just sitting in a chair watching the obnoxious show, SpongeBob Squarepants. While I prefer to receive Reiki in a more relaxing environment and close my eyes, it works anywhere, and some people are more comfortable the less spiritual the environment. Reiki is all about the receiver so I do what I can to put them at ease. All I did was a 15 minute seated treatment and he fell asleep – while sitting and watching cartoons. What’s more is he did not even realize he had nodded off until I told him he missed a butt joke. For an 11 year old with seemingly boundless energy to fall asleep and not laugh at a [hilarious…?] butt joke because of the energy flowing through my hands was amazing to me. There was no reason for him to doze off except the relaxation from Reiki.

Another time Reiki stretched into the tangible reality for me was when I was giving it to my younger sister. She, as a dancer and soccer star, has chronic hamstring problems and had just pulled a hamstring. We laid down to watch a movie, and I laid my hands on one of her legs. Normally my hands get warm when I do Reiki, which is how I feel the energy flowing. So I felt the energy and we just kept enjoying our movie (August Rush, fabulous film by the way!) until a few minutes later I switched to her pulled hamstring wherein the heat increased sharply. Instead of being a pleasant constant warmth, the heat was searing and almost painful as her pulled muscle pulled in the energy it needed to heal. Reiki does not necessarily take away pain or cure diseases, but it gives you what you need whether that is sleep, decreased anxiety, or decreased pain, and the energy will go where it needs to. I did her other hamstring as well and the heat was still strong, but much less intense. The fact that I could feel the difference between the types of pain in her legs from the intensity of the energy flowing floored me, and to this day remains the story I go to whenever I start to doubt myself.

The concept of energy healing is difficult to grasp, and I myself was skeptical before taking the class. Therefore you can imagine before I took the second class, I was again suspicious – how can Reiki be sent through time and space to my lovely sister in Paris when I am all the way back in Minneapolis? My professor and Reiki Master likened distance healing to prayer and good thoughts. Just as you might ask someone when their surgery or test is then tell them you’ll be thinking of them, or praying that someone feels better after having the flu, you can send Reiki. While this still leaves doubts, it makes the idea much more comprehensible.

In class we practiced distance Reiki first between ourselves, sending symbols back and forth. One side of the room would pick an area to send to while the other side just sat and waited to see what they would feel, then we talked about it and switched roles– very simple. The coolest time for me was when my partner sent me a symbol and I immediately felt a bright light exploding from my forehead and my eyes started twitching as if they were having a seizure. It was so powerful and unexpected, but sure enough she had sent the symbol to my Third Eye chakra which is located on your forehead. We were both shocked at the results: that she had clearly sent the symbol across the room and it worked, and that I felt it exactly where she sent it. It sounds crazy, I know, but that’s why I want to share these stories. I know some of this sounds ridiculous and I myself came in with so much skepticism, but experiencing these feelings makes me realize the power of Reiki is real.

I’d like to make a quick disclaimer about myself because if you do not know me, the stuff I’m saying may come off as pretentious or crazy, depending what I’m writing about. I know talking about chakras especially immediately puts people on their guard. I am actually a very grounded person (although I suppose any crazy person will tell you they are perfectly sane, so how much can you really trust anything I say?) who merely wants something more from life. I need to believe in a higher power and I need to believe in the existence of something besides the physical. While I try to write as closely to the way I would talk, I realize some of my voice gets lost that way, and perhaps my sense of humor will not translate through written word; many people do not understand my humor normally anyway. I am not pretentious unless it comes to coffee or tea – I am a hot beverage snob – and I am not loopy. Hopefully more of my self will come out as I continue writing. Already I have written twice in a week (it would have been two days in a row except I was so tired last night) so this is going well so far. For me. But how it is going for you and what you are getting out of this does not really affect me unless you feel the need to throw a rock at my head in an attempt to bring me back to reality, from which I strongly suggest you refrain. Either way, I am proud!

If anything I say does present you with questions however, I strongly urge you to ask them. I am always willing to perform a Reiki treatment if you are curious. Just let me know and offer me a bottle of wine or some cheese as part of the necessary energy exchange. I do not require monetary payment, but Reiki is most effective when you want it and give something in return. I am also glad to send you Reiki if you are having a particularly bad day or just need to relax for a test. Or perhaps you, like my mom, wake up every hour throughout the night. I sent her Reiki two days ago and she slept all night until my dad woke her up getting ready in the morning. I love talking about Reiki and have many more stories to share and would love to create more. As for now I shall continue to bask in the positive energy I was embalmed with this weekend and let my cat reap the benefits of my desire to practice.