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