equality

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny…

Designer Jessica Rey implores for greater modesty from young women, asking the question [of the bikini], “Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?”

To this I say, “Maybe… I DO ?”

Her argument for greater modesty is underpinned by studies showing that men really do see women as objects the less they wear. However she is invoking the same logic used in arguments saying that if women and girls don’t want to be raped they shouldn’t wear short skirts. Feminism is about equality and choice. If I want to wear an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini, I should be able to— without fear of some consequence such as sexual harassment or abuse.

Rey’s argument also ignores the existence of a woman’s own agency. To her own question, “who says it has to be itsy bitsy?,” she answers: everyone— “fashion designers, the media….”—everyone except the woman buying the bikini, that is. In this way, she completely fails to acknowledge a woman’s own agency.

But perhaps, Ms. Rey, it’s the WOMAN buying it who says so. I buy bikinis because I think they suit my particular body shape better than a full bathing suit, and, quite frankly, I find it more comfortable. Point in fact, I actually feel like a sausage stuffed into a casing in a full bathing suit. Hell, maybe I would actually look “better” in a full bathing suit rather than a bikini, but I just prefer letting my belly and hips hang out. It’s so freeing.

Quite frankly, Rey seems to be living in line with the misogynistic male gaze more than I do in my bikini, or perhaps any woman in her bikini for that matter. After all, she’s the one conforming to the very androcentrism behind her whole argument.

“Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?”

Me. And my freedom of choice, and my fashion sense, and my self-recognized agency. That’s who.

 

 

 

 

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You Might Be A Feminist If….

 

Recently, a friend showed me the following article from Glamour magazine titled,

The New Do: Calling Yourself a Feminist.”

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“I’m not a feminist—I hail men. I love men. I celebrate American male culture and beer and bars and muscle cars.” -Lady Gaga

 

According to this article, “the number of women who identify as feminists went up 12 percent from 2006 to 2012, according to a study by Ms. magazine in conjunction with Lake Research. The affiliation is especially strong among young women; a you.gov poll found that 42 percent of women under 30 call themselves feminists, the highest percentage of any age group.”

While I do, of course, think feminism is “catching fire” so to speak,  I also can’t help but think that perhaps my perspective is a little skewed on the subject due to my complete immersion in it. Of course I think feminism is catching on— I’m constantly reading about it via feminist articles written by other feminists. However, bias aside, I think that it’s hard to argue that it’s not resurfacing in a major way thanks to women like Michelle Rodriguez, Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham, and now Beyonce.

Honestly, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

I’ll never understand why any woman wouldn’t want to call herself a feminist.

Okay, actually, I unfortunately can understand why— it is, no doubt, due to the extant influence of our nation’s sociopolitical backlash against feminism in the 1980s after all of the advancements that were made in its name throughout the 60s and 70s. But it’s 2013 now. Almost 2014 as a matter of fact! So can we please close the door already on all of this feminazi/ women wanting to dominate the world/ feminists hate men, bullshit?

And guess what, ladies….? Chances are— if you are not a woman who is experiencing/ suffering from self-loathing internalized oppression— you might be a feminist. And to all the boys and men out there: if you have a mother or sister, whom you love dearly and believe is deserving of all the same respect and rights afforded to men, you might be a feminist. Or perhaps you have daughter of your own, (heavens to Betsey—especially if you have a daughter of your own!) hopefully you are already, unknowingly, a feminist. Which is, in fact, absolutely possible, if not quite likely. (Also, see: John Legend.)

Point in fact—You Might Be A Feminist If…

  • If you think sexism is real, and it sucks, you might be a feminist.
  • If you know who Elizabeth Warren and Wendy Davis are—and you like them—you might be a feminist.
  • If you think gender roles are bullshit, you might be a feminist.
  • If you are aware of privilege in its myriad forms, you might be a feminist.
  • If you think women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, the disabled, and other marginalized groups of people are, well, marginalized, you might be a feminist.
  • If you are pro-choice, you might be a feminist.
  • If you know who Angela Davis and Alice Walker are—and you like them—you might be a feminist. (or a womanist)
  • If you know what biological determinism is, and you think it’s bullshit, you might be a feminist.
  • If you believe that women are the largest population of oppressed/subjugated people on this planet, and it ticks you off, you might be a feminist.
  • If you think the ubiquitous sexualization of girls and women for marketing and advertising purposes is disturbing and fucked up, you might be a feminist.
  • If you’ve ever taken a women’s and/or gender studies course, you might be a feminist.
  • If you believe in equal rights and opportunities, you just might be… a feminist.

Marriage is a System of Privilege, Part 2: Love

First and foremost, I would like to say… I looooove my husband. Immensely. He is my best friend, the love of my life, the yin to my yang, my emergency contact, and most importantly, my life partner. I am very happy to be married to him.

In reality, however, love is not a requirement for all marriages. While it obviously should be, and hopefully is the ultimate catalyst for all such unions, people can and do marry simply for those benefits, privileges, and protections previously mentioned. But shouldn’t it be all about the love? I think so.

What if marriage was, in fact, a love-centered social institution, instead of one based on heterosexual romance?

A story, as told by Lisa Duggan (her story*):

 

“A few weeks after September 11, 2001, I went with my ex-lover to register as domestic partners with the city of New York. We had never registered our relationship with any state agency during the 17 years that we had actually been partners. But we changed our minds nearly a year after we broke up, on September 11, as we searched for each other in the chaos of that day. I had spoken to her on the phone that morning, but then lost phone service and all contact with her. She was teaching at Brooklyn Law School then, and I at New York University; we lived near each other only minutes from the twin towers. I did not know where she was, or how she would get home. I started to panic that she might have walked across the bridge right when the second tower fell. I imagined her hurt and me unable to find her, or unable to convince a city worker or hospital employee that she was my next of kin still, though no longer my lover… When she finally came through my door late that evening, covered in grey dust and totally exhausted, we both grasped the significance of that term “next of kin” as we never had before. If anything happened to her, the importance of me being recognized as the one most responsible, the one most concerned, arose in my mind then as an absolute emotional and practical imperative.

As soon as the relevant city offices reopened, we made the trip to city hall to register—though given the requirements and assumptions of the domestic partner provisions, we had to lie and claim we lived together as a conjugal couple. We were not surprised that there was a long line of people waiting to register along with us. We were very surprised to find that nearly all were heterosexual couples. We asked the people around us why they were there, and their reasons were very much like ours. They did not want to be married, or they were not romantic couples, but their experiences since September 11 had convinced them that they wanted the basic legal recognitions that domestic partnership registration would provide.”

 

Lisa’s personal narrative underscores her political one: That the abolition of marriage could be “one other path to full equality of gay and non-gay people…in the meantime, it is obviously discriminatory to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. But given the demographic reality—the diversity of our actual relationships and households—might de-centering marriage and multiplying options be not just another, but a better path to meaningful equality?” The way I see it, she has a point. What if we took heteronormative romance out of the equation, leaving only the love, along with a corresponding “life partner” aspect? What if we redefined marriage (or as Duggan suggests, abolished it completely and replaced it with something new) as a legal union that addresses the “diversity of our actual relationships and households”?

For example, my godmother in Spain once half-jokingly proposed that my mom move to Spain and they get married so that my mom could finally retire, not worry about health care and, they could ultimately, ‘be there’ for each other (after all, the two have been best friends for 40+ years and they are both single senior citizens). Think about it: Why shouldn’t they be allowed to enter into a legal union together, affording them the benefits and privileges of a life partnership if they have the mutual love and respect that I believe any such union should require (and, in my opinion, should be the basic foundation for any such union). Why not? Why should they not be entitled to a legally recognized life partnership in which they share all property, health benefits, and anything else they wish, if they so desire?

Why should that kind of deeply committed partnership not be recognized or allowed? Just because it’s not romantic or doesn’t fit into our traditional notion of “marriage”? Well maybe that kind of notion is becoming outmoded; Or, at the very least, it is no longer the only kind of union or partnership that we are seeing these days. Hence, Duggan’s proposed abolishment of marriage in favor of a new, more inclusive, and pragmatic legal system that addresses the needs of the varying types of households and partnerships that we are increasingly seeing these days. Oftentimes our legal system needs to be re-imagined and reworked in order to more appropriately fit what the current state of affairs in our society is, and I believe that this is one of those areas in which the law needs to catch up with the status quo- not the other way around.

Oddly enough, I think Carrie Bradshaw said it best when she simply stated, “It’s just two grown-ups, making a decision about spending their lives together.” ** I love this statement both because of its simplicity, and because of its inclusion of potentially platonic, yet pragmatic partnerships. It speaks to an institution that “potentially separates state recognition of households or partnerships from the business of sexual regulation altogether,” to borrow from Lisa Duggan again. It speaks to an institution founded on love- one that caters to partnerships founded on mutual respect and love- whether that person is the love of your life or your emergency contact. It speaks to a legal system that is simply about “two grown-ups, making a decision about spending their lives together.”

 

 

 

*taken from Lisa Duggan’s “Beyond Marriage: Democracy, Equality, and Kinship for a New Century.” You can read the full article at: http://sfonline.barnard.edu/a-new-queer-agenda/beyond-marriage-democracy-equality-and-kinship-for-a-new-century/

**quote taken from Sex and the City, the movie.

Marriage is a System of Privilege, Part 1: I’m a hypocrite!

Hello all! I know it’s been a long time but I am finally back with a new article that I hope tickles your fancy…

Now you may be asking yourself, “Yeah, that’s right, where the heck has she been..?” and the answer is, unfortunately, that work (you know- the kind that pays the bills) became exponentially explosive as the holidays commenced, and furthermore, immediately following those holidays, I ended up getting married and going on a little mini honeymoon.

You know what that means…. I am officially a self-acknowledged hypocrite.

You see, my stance on marriage for some years now, has been and will continue to be [albeit hypocritically], that marriage is a system of privilege and I am therefore politically [albeit hypocritically] against it. It is a system that serves to privilege one group of people (the “marrieds,” as it were) over others (the “non-marrieds”).

Think about it: What purpose does marriage serve?

*Ahem* tax break(s), health benefits, marital communication privilege, “family benefits” vis a vis children, visitation rights, residency privileges, and let’s not forget, social status, just to name a few of the many benefits, privileges, and protections afforded to married persons.

Many of you, I’m sure, will answer with a response that argues for the romantic aspect of marriage: “it’s about making that special, romantic commitment to the one you love in front of all your family and friends,” or, “it’s about taking that bond and commitment to an even more heightened level,” or perhaps, the purpose lies in one’s religious beliefs and moral doctrine.

Well, those rationales are all fine and good, but none speaks to an actual, concrete, pragmatic purpose with regard to the legal aspect of the binding social contract that is marriage. For example, if you want to get married because you want to solidify your relationship in front of all of your family and friends- you want to have that special ceremony in which you each declare your love for one another in front of all whom you care about- well you can still do that without actually going through with the whole marriage license and certificate bit. In fact, someone very close to me has recently done just that. And I’m sure I was the only person that walked away from that beautiful, emotional, and very fun wedding saying to my [then boyfriend, now husband] “That was a really, truly, wonderful wedding, but I can’t help but wonder… if those two are actually married, ya know? As in, realistically, that whole ceremony, while beautiful, means nothing legally, so it’s just kind of funny, ya know…? They could totally not be legally married for all anyone knows. I’m just saying….I wonder.”

Now I don’t mean to sound like a jerk or anything, but that’s just the way my brain thinks. Honestly, blame the UC Berkeley “question everything” analytic ethic that has been ingrained into my mind if you want, but really, that’s just me.

So, the point to that story is, as it turns out, they were not, and are still not, legally married. But as far as all of society is concerned, they are absolutely married. They are husband and wife, that’s how everyone knows them, they wear the rings, the whole deal. And if one is in the hospital you bet your ass no one is going to deny the other access to him or her because they are husband and wife. (You think anyone’s going to ask to see the marriage certificate? No. And I actually know for a fact that they have not run into this, each of them having been in the hospital for various reasons) Therefore, you can still have the ceremony, the vows, the entire romantic gala in front of all whom you hold dear without submitting to the legal system of privilege that is marriage. Even if it’s for a religious purpose, you can still make that commitment without making it “legal.” Anyone can make that commitment without making it “legal.” Hell, that’s how my partner and I had looked at it for years and why we were never really concerned with, or cared about, getting married. We were married in our heads and hearts. We were determined to get through any and all problems together and had mentally eliminated the idea of breaking up as an option. That’s how we came to buy a house together last summer.

Which is sort of how we came to get married at the tail end of 2012, too.

Yes, yes, of course we love each other and all that, but let’s face it: as stated above, from my perspective, love does not provide a valid rationale to enter into the institution of marriage. Where love is concerned, two emotionally committed people, such as my husband and I, do not need it. It serves no purpose for us. Our bond and commitment is strong either way. We’re good. That’s not to say that we’re above, or better, than anyone else, but as aforementioned, being politically in conflict with the institution myself, my choice was to say, “thanks, but no thanks,” and my partner was okay with that.

Furthermore, it’s purpose is clearly not to protect the sanctity or strength of two people’s “love”. If that was the case divorce probably wouldn’t be allowed, or there would at least be some kind of quick litmus test to make sure the two people entering into this powerful, yet ridiculously easily obtainable contract, were somehow fit to do so*- maybe a quick quiz to make sure they just know one another’s last names or something…? Oh, but that’s right, they have to recite each other’s full names during the vows, so I guess that covers it! Nevermind!

Returning back to my valid rationale for getting married: privilege.

We had bought a house together. And come tax season, the whole home ownership tax situation would be a whole hell of a lot easier if we were married….

Not to mention, no longer being a law student, with my student health insurance about to expire…

Privileges, Benefits, and Protections…

…benefitting one group of people over another.

I implore you to just think about this. Think about it in this way. It doesn’t mean demonizing marriage or those who are married. It just means critically analyzing a certain social institution. <— Go ahead and expand your mind with a little Lisa Duggan action. She calls for an abolishment of marriage… And in it’s place, a new system of legally recognized partnership(s) that is more inclusive and pragmatic. I know, I know, so very liberal, so very leftist, so very radical… But if you’re curious about such ostensibly radical ideas, I suggest you check her out. Who knows, it may not actually seem that radical at all.

*I am not really advocating some kind of standardized test as a pre-qualifier for two people that want to get married, nor am I implying that any two people that end up getting divorced were probably never fit to be together in the first place. Every couple is different, and most importantly, both of those ideas are dumb.