Here’s to the losers

Someone reminded me today that sometimes it is hard to be the one fighting in the rink, the one risking it, the one challenging the status quo, for lack of a better word sometimes it is hard to be a maverick. Often, it is so difficult because you fail, you lose, you go in full of luster and you still fall sort. But it is worth it, because you live life, because you are trying. Trying really in the end is what it is all about.

Here is some Garfunkel and Oats to remind us of this in song form. It is always better to try and lose than to not try.

The Sum Total of Love

While I was walking to school the other day, I was listening to a Sex Nerd Sandra podcast called Love Lab. A 34-year old listener called in and told Sandra he had been alone for every single one of the past 34 Valentines Days. He was sick of it; more accurately, he was bitter and discouraged. You could hear it in his gruff but slightly shaky voice, the raw emotion of what felt like an eternity of lonely Valentines.

Of course, this youngish man’s plight made me think of my past 29 Valentines, from the Mickey Mouse cut out cards to the over-the-top-bouquets to the binge drinking of $2 long island ice teas.

When I was little, like all little kids, I loved Valentine’s Day because it meant candy, lots and lots of delicious, fructose-corn-syrup-enriched candy. In true Midwestern style, everyone gave everyone else a valentine in my rural little elementary school; not because we had to, not because the school made us, but because we were in Wisconsin and that is what you did. Valentine’s Day meant spreading the love via sugar.

As I grew up, I remember the significance of Valentine’s Day becoming apparent to me with my first crush in middle school. There were usually school dances during which I danced with one of my very platonic and eventually gay male friends. And for the most part, I was fine with this, as the idea of actually touching my crush made me dry heave.

In high school, I vividly remember my Dad bringing home my mom and I carnations from the gas station one Valentine’s Day. They were hideous and cheap and died in about 2 days, but for a stoic 250 pound man, this simple gesture was one of sheer love.

In college, if Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday through Sunday, I drank through it. If it fell on a Monday through Wednesday, I only drank through half of it. Needless to say I don’t have a lot of distinct memories from these Valentine’s Days.

Then came “adulthood.” During the past 7 years on Valentine’s Day I have, in no particular order, been broken up with on the phone, lost my virginity in a terribly clichéd and lovely way, cut off my hair into a shaggy Justin Bieber style cut and then partied like a rock star, cried through the day on the pull out couch of my parents’ retirement condo in Florida, gone on a completely average and forgettable second date, waited for someone to call, made dinner for a broken hearted friend, and found out I had been accepted to grad school, which immediately led to drinking like an undergrad. My Valentine’s Days have been a hodgepodge of lovely, terrible, mediocre and drunk.

But the thing that strikes me the most about reflecting back is looking forward; I have another 50, or if I’m being optimistic, 60 years of Valentine’s Days. I have 50 more days of possible love, heartbreak, solace, excitement, disappointment, resentment, jealousy, apathy, and most likely uncertainty. I have 50 more days of potential.

What the love lab caller hasn’t yet realized is his life, his joy, his worthiness, is not a sum total of all of his Valentine’s Days, it is not how many people have loved him, how many dates he has taken to fancy Italian restaurants, how many people have slept in his bed. His life is not a sum total of romantic love.

Although his life, our lives, are love. Our lives are all the things we have loved, do love and will love, whether that be the our yet-to-be-born children, our parents or our now-gone grandparents, our childhood friends, the Green Bay Packers, our amazing jobs, our golf clubs, our Vampire Weekend album on vinyl, our in-progress medical degrees, our rock-tumbling hobby, our yearly trips to Burning Man,  our cats and/or our current or to-be-found future loves. We are all a sum total of what we love and the potential for what we have to love.

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s choose to think in sum totals instead of zero sum games, let’s feel all the love we have instead of that which we have lost or that which has not found us yet, let’s look with gratitude on this day of love that we are able as human beings to both love and lose love, heal and find love again. Let’s be grateful that, if we really think about it, love abounds even if it doesn’t feel like it in our lives today.

Why Elliot Rodger is a wake up call for young feminists

It’s been more than a week since Elliot Rodger went on a misogyny-fueled killing spree in California. For the past week, the media and society has tried to process what happened all over the interwebs everywhere from the comment section of Jezebel to the hallowed walls of Tumblr to the streaming hashtags of Twitter. There have been conversations about gun laws, mental health and of course hating women and what it means to live as #yesallwomen in a world where Elliot Rodger existed. Despite some criticism, I think many of these conversations have been productive and productively uncomfortable. This tragedy has forced Americans to talk about gender and violence in a more honest way; the gunning down young men and women in Isla Vista goes beyond debating Chris Brown’s fucked up song lyrics or the disturbingly violent rapes on Game of Thrones. We can’t pretend Elliot Rodger is a lone madman and we can’t pretend misogyny isn’t real.

For me personally it has been a wake-up call, reminding me of the tangible reasons I’m a feminist. For the feminist movement, especially for the new wave of young feminists, I hope this horrific crime is also a wake-up shout: We HAVE TO include young men in this generation’s feminist movement.

We have to start addressing the fucked-up way we teach young men to be “masculine” in the same way we are trying to change the way young women look at femininity. We need to stop the dichotomy of #notallmen and #yesallwomen, and start to see how the challenges both genders face come from the exact same disgusting source: strict gender roles and ridiculous gendered expectations based solely on if your genitalia is an innie or an outie.

Elliot believed his entire self-worth was tied up in whether or not “hot” women would sleep with him. He believed he “deserved” to sleep with hot women because he was a good man. He is operating within a dichotomously-gendered world we have created: men get women as a reward.  Of course this sucks for women – we are little more than objects to bestowed on deserving men – but it also blows for men who begin to believe they are less than if they can’t “score with the ladies.”

And if men can’t get women, their only socially approved outlet of emotion is anger and aggression. Society doesn’t let “manly men” feel sad or god-forbid talk about their feelings. They are allowed to rage and that is all; rage until they have to vomit their anger out in all sorts of cringe-worthy ways. And while all this anger may fuel the threads of Reddit, it is not helping any young men find lasting happiness and equality in the world.

#YesAllWomen deserve to live in a world free of fear of misogyny; and also #YesAllMen deserve to be able to live beyond the expectations of masculinity. Men too need a movement to break these ridiculously strict gender roles and I believe our generation of feminism should be that movement.

Feminists still have to constantly fight against the ridiculous stereotype that feminists are “man-haters.” The past discourse of the second wave often pitted women against men in a ridiculous fight we both lost.

In the next generation we need to embrace men into the cause; with men we need to address issues of masculinity and the harm it does. This will not take away from the feminist movement, it can only strengthen it.

But it is not just about embracing men’s issues and addressing masculinity. We need to actively and vocally invite men into the feminist movement. We need more men on our chapter boards of NOW. We need more men writing feminist pieces in major news outlets. We need more feminist men in our ivory towers. We need more men who identify as feminist knowing the struggle is not just that of their sisters, mothers, girlfriends or partners, but that of their own. We need men invested in the feminist fight because, as we saw with Elliot Rodger, this is men’s fight too.

Pooches, naked bodies and what is beautiful

As has been previously established, I watch a lot of porn. Mainly this is for academic research but of course I still watch porn for pleasure. Only now when I do, I do so with a much more “discerning” eye. I’m looking for the what-I-now-sadly-recognize-as-typical violence and degradation, but I’m also looking at body types. It is always impressive to me how female porn stars  manage to keep their stomachs flat in almost every position; like they are constantly sucking in their guts while they are vigorously humping along.

I first noticed this when I was researching Belle Knox’s new porn. As a new porn star, she is still rather novice (and young at 18). In one of her first videos, a hideous thing made for facial abuse, Knox was receiving doggy and her back was hunched up and therefore a bit of the world’s tiniest pooch was sticking out from a very slender girl. The director instructed her to “try to suck your fat belly in.” (I don’t recommend it but if you want to see the full scene, here is the very NSFW or suitable for life video). Granted this is a site designed for degradation and humiliation but it also made me realize as a novice Knox hadn’t learned the tricks of arching her back and sucking in so that her stomach appeared flat at all times.

Knox’s little faux paus also made me realize how used I am to seeing that sucked in stomach trick; I have begun to imagine most women have flat stomachs in all positions all the time when naked. I think it is fair to say that in reality though most women do not. To be honest I’m not usually thinking about my stomach when I’m having sex; I don’t have sex for a video camera so I don’t usually worry if a pooch is hanging down or out when I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

Tizan-3

I guess I wonder and worry if other women do think about their pooches, and if this thought may keep them from fully enjoying sex. To be blunt, when most women orgasm they can barely contain their thigh muscles much less hold tight their guts. If women are obsessed with replicating the flat stomach tricks of porn stars, I wonder if they may be impeding on their own enjoyment of sex.

Beyond though just women enjoying sex, I wonder if we aren’t recognizing the sexy of the pooch. I recently saw a posting on Facebook about what famous paintings of naked women would look like if they were photoshopped to today’s standards. It was terribly sad. All these beautiful women in these gorgeous paintings, cut down, their softness just sliced away. I understand some people’s bodies are naturally slim which is also totally sexy and beautiful but most women have some softness to them, a bit of a curve in the belly, a bump in the hips. This is gorgeous. This is not something to be slivered away at or held in. This curve of lusciousness is meant to be touched and caressed and held (or humped, pounded and spanked if that is what you are into.)

I’m not advocating for gaining a pooch if your body doesn’t have one. Be healthy and happy. But I’m saying, when I look at myself naked, I don’t want to take a magic photoshop eraser to my stomach or my hips or my thighs. I want to see my body, its health, its softness, and see sexy.

I think that is what these artists hundreds of years ago saw when they looked at women and I think that is what modern pornographers have lost in their interpretations of the female body.

#rantover

Being a Stupid Silly Girl

I’ve never felt quite as stupid as I’ve felt the past month. Since grad school started, every day seems to present a unique WTF moment. What is the differentiation principle? Is Cronbach alpha some sort of fraternity? Was Kuhn drunk when he wrote about shifting paradigms? Is there a goddamn truth? How the heck am I supposed to drink a beer out of a 34 oz mug?!

At least that last one I solved. (A straw may look ridiculous but it is extremely useful in drinking mass quantities of Upland IPA.) But usually I’m left scrambling, attempting to look things up in my dictionary app or doing that awkward nodding yes shaking no head bobbing thing.

I’ve taken to calling myself stupid or poking fun of my own flailings and failings. Since I decided to throw myself into this crazy town of grad school, I thought I’d just embrace the stupid girl identity that felt like it went along with this academic journey. Self-deprecation has always kind of been my thang anyway.

But this week I found myself kind of believing I actually was stupid, like perhaps this whole academia thing had been one big mistake. I was becoming this silly girl persona I created for myself.

Which was flipping whack cause I’m a pretty smart lady.

I’m a smart lady who happens to have a lot to learn about communication theory and method.  As my adviser reminded me, it’s only week 3. I’ve got some time before I really know something, and still more time before I know anything, and even more time before I know everything.

The thing is, as a woman, I often have to fight off the impulse to accept these convenient nicely packaged social scripts that the media has created for me. Women are usually depicted as less authoritative, less knowledgeable, less intelligent, and weaker than male characters in the media. This kind of messes with all of us.  Did you know studies have shown girls actually perform worse on math exams if they are asked to identify their gender? They aren’t just stereotypes, they are societal norms that start to limit who you think you can be.

I’m particularly susceptible to the manic pixie dream girl type of prototype. You know Zooey Deschanel in every single role she’s ever played. How easy is it to just be that kind of quirky, nonthreatening, vaguely artistic girl?

But even if you are just “acting” a little Zooey, even if you are just joking about your inability to comprehend a full sentence of Kuhn, even if you just kid about being the slow one of the class, this act eventually defines you. You stop seeing the line between yourself and the persona. You become a silly girl. I became a silly girl. And when you are a silly girl you don’t even take yourself seriously.

And if there is one thing I think is absolutely essential about grad school it is that you take your fucking self as serious as James Franco in that 127 hour movie. Because if you don’t believe that you are smart enough to be here, then you aren’t, you silly, silly girl.

Little Feminist in the Ivory Towers

I feel like I have swapped one quasi-idyllic self-sustaining bubble for another; the pink and purple I-am woman-hear-me-roar feminist world for the pristinely pale and erudite world of academia.

A month ago, as the PR Chair for the Chicago National Organization for Women, I spent my weekends writing feministy column for local papers and destroying early Brittany Spears songs during karaoke as an act of third wave rebellion.

Living in the feminist bubble there are things you just assume other people know, words you assume other people define the same way, values you assume other people share. You rarely have to explain why you have that “keep abortion legal” bumper sticker on your car or why the song “Blurred Lines” is so hideously offensive. People get you, you get them, you don’t have to explain yourself, or rarely even question the superiority of your clearly righteous ideals.

Now, as a MA student in the Telecommunications Department at IU, I go to classes where pretend I know the importance of the t-test and refer to porn as either sexually explicit images or visual sexual stimuli. WTF. There are totally different rules in this bubble!

Which is basically to say: this shit is hard guys. Not in the whiny #firstworldproblems type of way – okay well maybe a little bit in that type of way -but also in that I feel my brain growing and my world expanding type of way. It’s a little painful but in the #worthit type of way. And hopefully someday it will be in the #benefittingsociety type of way.

As my Philosophy of Inquiry class is teaching me, I was living in a pretty comfy worldview of feminism. And it was lovely. But now after my abrupt move to IU, I’ve got to learn to exist within this new worldview of quantitative variables, crazy acronyms and a very different value set.

Good News: at least in this paradigm they also have copious amounts of wine. Cheers!

If it’s good enough for Kristen Wiig, it’s good enough for me

Starting: New Blog for International Women’s Day

Three years ago, on International Women’s Day 2010, I started my first feministy blog. I had just broken up with my first love and was still in the crying-in-the-bathroom-on-my-lunch-break phase of mending a mangled heart. But even through the endless pathetic geyser of tears I was shedding, I felt an openness, this possibility forming inside of me. I felt the need to write.

I hadn’t written for over a year and a half, I hadn’t written at all while Stephen and I were together. I blamed him, as my tendency was in our relationship. He was the real writer. He demanded the undivided attention of the writing muses. I was there to possibly give him edits and always pat him on the back. My writing was journalistic, simplistic and artless, or so I thought Stephen would think, Stephen and everyone else. The truth was I wasn’t sure I had anything to say anymore.

But if breaking up does nothing else for the wounded hearted, it gives them back their own time. While some see this as a curse, it was my opportunity to become the woman I had been putting off becoming for years. More importantly it was time for me to become the writer I needed to be.

So I started “third wave in the second city,” a clever title for what I thought would be synonymous for fun young feminists in Chicago. Only later did I find out many young feminists don’t consider themselves part of the third wave; they are the fourth or fifth wave or believe the entire “wave” concept is too old school to even be functional. This was mainly how the next two years of blogging went. I stumbled along trying to find my voice among in increasingly divisive world.

Mainly I ranted. And lord it felt good.

It was awesome to spout off about why rape jokes aren’t funny or why Pink was my lady hero or how much I hated just about every ridiculous thing the RedEye printed.

And then in March 2012, I started writing for the RedEye, in an unimaginable twist in the road. My first column was called Feminism is Your Friend. After I started writing for the RedEye, I suddenly felt less inclined to scream-write on my little-known blog. It was like I suddenly felt heard so I didn’t feel the need to yell anymore.

On International Women’s Day 2010, I was quite literally on the floor of my bedroom, crying, punching out the first words I had written in years. I had no idea that two years later, my hard punched words would be circulating to 200,000 young Chicagoans.

Why am I sharing all of this on this on my new feministy blog “Super Woman’s Day Job?” Why am I telling you my sad sack tale of heartbreak? Why am I flying my loser flag so damn high and proud? Partially because I am by nature an over-sharer. But also because it is the opposite of what I thought I should write here. It is the opposite of “super woman.”

Super woman does not cry over silly boys, if she blogged she would probably have a kick ass blog title that wasn’t passé, and she would never quit writing because she was afraid.

Growing up in the 90s, I was taught the traditional line of post-second-wave feminism. Girls can do anything boys can do…but better. And why? Because girls were super women. Girls were strong and powerful and stoic with fantastic hair. And that is what I should aspire to be when I grow up: a hero in heels.

But what I’ve learned the past three years is that super woman does not become our hero by being better; nor is she a hero because she is perfect. Super woman is awesome because of her day job, because of the work she puts into life, because of the struggles she has and the sweat she lets run down her face.

And sometimes that isn’t pretty. Sometimes it is a bed full of used broken-hearted tissues or an ugly rant about online dating. And sometimes that gets you a column in the RedEye or a sparkly new blog. And sometimes you get to be a hero, but not without the hard stuff first.

In a way I’ve created this blog to help remind me to do the work. I’m heading off to graduate school next year. I’ve got these grandiose ideas of life and what I want to do and how I want to change the world. I want to be super woman. But hopefully I will write to remember that to be super women, I need to sit down and do the work, to write the words, to do the day job, even if that just means blowing my nose, patching my heart and writing a silly blog post.

My new blog gets a little help from Lemon

My new blog gets a little help from Lemon