feminist

PRETTY HURTS

In the now publicly-released video for “Pretty Hurts,” Beyonce makes a strong statement about girls, women, society, and standards of beauty. “Pretty Hurts” is about the pain many young girls and women face as they go through life absorbing the millions of messages from television, magazines, society as a whole, and sometimes even family members, telling them that their self-worth is tied to their looks. “Pretty Hurts” is about self-esteem, it’s about self-revelation, and it’s about reevaluating that socially-charged word to begin with—”pretty.”

Preach, Bey, preach….

“Pretty Hurts” by Beyonce

Mama said, you’re a pretty girl
What’s in your head it doesn’t matter
Brush your hair, fix your teeth
What you wear is all that matters

Just another stage
Pageant the pain away
This time I’m gonna take the crown
Without falling down, down

Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Perfection is the disease of a nation
Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Tryna fix something
But you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

Blonder hair, flat chest
TV says bigger is better
South beach, sugar free
Vogue says
Thinner is better

Just another stage
Pageant the pain away
This time I’m gonna take the crown
Without falling down, down, down

Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Perfection is the disease of a nation
Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Tryna fix something
But you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

Ain’t no doctor or therapeutic that can take the pain away
The pain’s inside
And nobody frees you from your body
It’s the soul that needs surgery
It’s my soul that needs surgery
Plastic smiles and denial can only take you so far
And you break when the paper signs you in the dark
You left a shattered mirror
And the shards of a beautiful girl

Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Perfection is the disease of a nation
Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Tryna fix something
But you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

When you’re alone all by yourself
And you’re lying in your bed
Reflection stares right into you
Are you happy with yourself
It’s just a way to masquerade
The illusion has been shed
Are you happy with yourself
Are you happy with yourself
Yes

Lyrics via metrolyrics

*This post was updated on 4/29/2014

I’m Growing My Mustache!

mustache

Just call me Mz. Money Mustache

 

This article isn’t about what you probably think it’s about. It’s about me…growing my mustache. Well, my “money mustache,” that is. You know—becoming a mustachian!

Towards the latter half of 2012 my now-husband (but at the time, boyfriend) started reading the afore-linked blog and it turned out to be one of the driving forces behind us getting hitched. Actually, it initially resulted in a highly unanticipated and, in my opinion, unwelcome turn in my husband—a total 180, as a matter of fact—with respect to money, and therefore lifestyle. I was not okay with this sudden and complete turnaround in his life perspective. You see, he used to be one of those people that thought things like, “what’s the point in saving all of your money for retirement if by the time you’re able to enjoy your money, you’re too old to do all the things you would have wanted?,” and “I understand wanting to save, but if it’s going to come at the cost of enjoying the present and having fun while you’re young, then really what’s the point?” I liked this philosophy. I agreed with this philosophy. But as I said— total 180. And if I wasn’t willing to do a 180 in the same direction, well then… I would be heading in the opposite direction, now, wouldn’t I? This was either going to mean the end of us as we knew it, or the beginning of a life-long [financial] commitment…

Mr. Money Mustache is the mustachian— the originator of this newfound ideology that my husband found so appealing—he’s “the freaky financial magician who retired along with a lovely wife at age 30 in order to start a family, as well as start living a great life.” How did he do this? Well, I suppose it all starts with recognizing the “Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness” that is the average consumer’s lifestyle. (He really has a way with words doesn’t he?) But that, of course, merely scratches the surface of his ideology and money management stratagems. Honestly, I’m not going to go into detail about all the financial strategy required for this kind of early retirement, but if your interest is piqued, and you think you may want to pursue just such a goal—click on either of the hyperlinks above and read his blog. I highly recommend it. I, however, was not so easily convinced when my husband first brought this plan to me…

 

 

The Deal: There would be no spending beyond basic needs such as:

  • mortgage
  • car insurance
  • gas
  • phone bill
  • internet
  • cable (only because we were in a contract)
  • food (and even there, there would be serious budgeting)

When he said he would even be eating less meat, and trying to eat more vegetarian, I knew this shit was for real.

The Payoff: Retiring in 10 years, at the tender age of 40.*

*except—as he said—he would still work enough hours at his job for us to keep our insurance.

Well, it’s been a year now, and boy have we saved/invested/accrued A LOT. And I am finally—probably just now, to be honest—adjusting.

Surprisingly, I think the best part about this whole life plan/shift in lifestyle is just that: the shift in lifestyle. No more going out to eat means lots of delicious, carefully crafted home cooked meals. No more movie theatre dates means curling up on the couch with wine, cheese and crackers instead. We’ve traded in Starbucks drinks for homemade coffees (which we do quite expertly with our french press and milk-foaming gadget). And instead of spending money on sporting events or other costly outings, we go to the library, hiking with our dogs, have game nights, and I just so happen to have a membership to an awesome museum here in Oakland that I received as a gift, so that’s free too! Not to mention, of course, we both still have full time jobs and personal projects to keep us individually busy as well.

Growing my mustache is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only will it bring my partner and I closer to retirement at a young age while making life richer in the process, but ultimately, it rests on a lifestyle more in line with my feminist principles. Less spending equals less consumption, which equals less waste, which means simpler living, and more of what actually matters in life. La Pura Vida. And I am actually doing it.

Now I just need to learn how to ride a bicycle…

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Is Katy Perry’s “ROAR” The Current Generation’s “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”?

 

When I finally heard the latest hit from Katy Perry, I couldn’t help but think, “Could this be the current generation’s newest feminist anthem?”

 

Now I know what you’re thinking: but it’s Katy Perry.

To this I have two points to make:

1) Listen to the lyrics. It’s fucking inspirational and feminist subversion at it’s best. I say “at it’s best” precisely because it is a pop song — it will be heard by millions upon millions everywhere. And it encourages girls and women to be strong, confident, unafraid to speak their own minds, and perhaps most importantly, “be our own heroes.”

2) If Katy Perry were to declare herself a feminist I’d be like, “fuck yeah” because let’s face it: it would be a boon for feminism. It’s a label still riddled with negative connotations, so if she were willing to accept that label and wear it proudly like a prom queen sash, well that, ladies & gentleman, is why “I’d be like, ‘fuck yeah’.”

For those of you daring enough to watch the above video, it is super silly over the top ridonkulousness. Enjoy.

*side note: I find it interesting that as her “independence & strength” grow in the video, the less clothing she seems to be wearing. It’s almost like a women’s lib throwback, as if to say, fuck female modesty!*

Lyrics:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (hey!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready ’cause I had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Now I’m floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes
I went from zero, to my own hero

You held me down, but I got up (hey!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Roar, roar, roar, roar, roar!

I got the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar!

 

Lyrics via metrolyrics.com

Book Review: BODIES by Susie Orbach

Single sentence synopsis: Bodies does for our visual culture (& our bodies), what The Omnivore’s Dilemma did for food.

And, as a matter of fact, just as The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores the disconnect between us and our food, so too does Orbach explore the disconnect between us and our bodies and its consequences.

Susie Orbach is a British psychoanalyst who has done much work for, and within, the feminist and women’s health communities, and this book is a social-psychological look at bodies, underpinned by the very feminist tenet that bodies are socially constructed and discursively materialized.

Ok, that’s a mouthful, I know, but let me explain: That is not to say that feminists are of the opinion that bodies magically materialize out of discourse, or are actually (i.e. literally) constructed limb by limb, organ by organ, out of “society.” This perspective merely holds (though there is nothing “mere” about it) that “a body…is inscribed and formed by the accretion of myriad small specific cultural practices… in certain respects, there has never been an altogether simple, “natural” body. There has only been a body that is shaped by its social and cultural designation.”

Did that help make any more sense to anyone? If not, perhaps this is a better explanation:

The point is that our very hand gestures, symbolic physical gestures, our facial expressions, our gender performativity, what we wear, how we speak , everything about the physical body— all of these material, physical aspects— are shaped by our social surroundings and cultural influences. This is what it means to say that the body is socially constructed and discursively materialized. In Orbach’s words, “Every gesture we make, the very way we move, our grace or lack of it, our physical confidence or unease, reflect both the country and local culture we have grown up in and the particular interpretation of our gestures that our mothers and those close to us have passed on.”

It is in this way that many feminists hold that there is actually no such thing as a “natural,” or “organic” body— because each body is informed, shaped, and defined within its particular social context. I think once you read the following descriptions of this book this may all make more sense… *spoiler alert: I cannot recommend this book enough*

Bodies is broken up into the following chapters:

  • Bodies In Our Time
  • Shaping The Body
  • Speaking Bodies
  • Bodies Real And Not So Real
  • And So To Sex
  • (&) What Are Bodies For?

She begins the first chapter by introducing us to Andrew, a case study of sorts. He wants to “do away” with his legs.

IMG_3607

I found this book in my local library, read this first page of the first chapter, and immediately checked it out and bolted home. It did not disappoint.

This first chapter is an examination of people “in the wrong bodies.” Whether it’s Andrew, who cannot feel whole unless he has rid himself of his legs, or Michaela, a prison inmate who wanted to be/ felt he was a woman. In these cases, “Biology and psychology had not melded as expected,” says Orbach.

She also proceeds to give a really great overview of the rest of the book in showing us why Bodies In Our Time is her starting point:

“Our bodies no longer make things… Our relations to the physical and physical work are shifting… Our bodies are and have become a form of work. The body is turning from being the means of production to the production itself.”

In her words, “an obsessive cultural focus on the body” has resulted in “the search for a body, disguised as preoccupation, health concern or moral endeavour. Almost everyone has  a rhetoric about trying to do right by their body which reveals a concern that the body is not at all right as it is…”

Chapter 2, Shaping The Body, is just as fascinating as the first chapter. It explores the hows and whys of the social physical world affecting an individual’s physicality. It’s about how one’s physical world/ physical upbringing can shape them, not just emotionally, but physically. There are some reeeeeally interesting case studies in this chapter, such as Victor, the boy raised by wild animals in France, found in 1799, as well Gina, a modern-day young girl who was moved from foster home to foster home. And don’t even get me started on her discussion of mirror neurons and how they play into all of this. It is insanely engrossing and does not require you to have a background in science in order to understand it (Lord knows I certainly don’t).

Speaking Bodies (Chapter 3) veers into a discussion of therapy itself, as well as the role the therapist plays. And, once again, there are a couple of very interesting case studies here.

Bodies Real And Not So Real ends up taking on a wealth of topics in addition to what I thought it would be about. Not only does she discuss avatars and computer-based relationships, but also, cosmetic surgery, dieting, pregnancy, the controversial French Artist, Orlan, and more. Did you know that, “Diets, it turns out, promote chaotic eating”? As a matter of fact, according to Orbach’s research, “Diets can cause people to gain weight. They are not a wise response to “overweight,” but are part of the destabilising of the ordinary processes of eating.” Furthermore, “overweight people who exercise have a lower mortality rate than thin people who do not. So [as Orbach postulates] one is led to wonder why thin has erroneously become the gold standard for health.” Another significant fact: “In 1995 the World Health Organisation, under pressure from the International Obesity Task Force, revised the BMI in such a way that 300,000 Americans who had previously thought they were “normal” weight woke up to find themselves reclassified. Brad Pitt and George Bush, for example, were now overweight… and George Clooney and Russell Crowe were obese.” And this is just the tip of the iceberg to this chapter alone. These are mere brushstrokes to the greater work she is painting with this book…

She begins the second to last chapter, And So To Sex, with an anecdote almost as galvanizing as the first story of the book (Andrew’s story), except, of course, this time it involves sex. I can’t help but think that this chapter should be read by every person on this planet that has sex. Maybe even those who don’t. But then again, I also think everyone should read this book. That’s just how much I loved it.

And finally, with What Are Bodies For?, she leaves us with the culmination of this work in its entirety. And it’s really relatable. I suppose that’s why I loved the book so much in the first place, and why I couldn’t help but think upon finishing it, “BY GOD, EVERY HUMAN BEING IN THIS COUNTRY NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK!” It’s relatable. It’s about all of us. It is pertinent to our very individual and collective existence.

If I haven’t succeeded in making you want to go out and read this 179 page book yet, I don’t know what else to say except that… it’s intriguing, insightful, possibly cathartic, significantly relevant, and ultimately, if you have a body, it’s about you.

Now isn’t that worth reading?

 

A Vindication of the Rights of Pin-Ups

hilda

“America’s Forgotten Pin-Up Girl,” Hilda

 

I am really feeling the sting of woman on woman deprecation today.

And in the name of feminism no less!

First there was the article on how straight feminists hate lesbian feminists, (which, thankfully, was sufficiently rebutted by others’ comments) and then almost immediately after, I came across this post condemning women that are fond of pin-ups and/or like to dress up in the pin-up style. The following words are in response to the currently trending popularity of this pin-up character from the past, “Hilda” (pictured above).

 

Here’s what the post said (taken from this article):

“We currently live in a “pin-up” culture where women are only granted visibility when they display their bodies for public consumption; therefore, most women are groomed and disciplined from young ages to have pin-up ready bodies.

That’s what white-centered postfeminism is all about. A vision of sexual liberation that hinges on the male gaze and male approval. Now we can sit here and have that long, uncritical, derailing conversation about women who “choose” to strip and enjoy being “pin-ups”; but I’m going to spare myself a stroke and move on, because talking about “individual agency” is irrelevant when we’re discussing hegemony.

When women fight to end negative media representations of women in contemporary culture, yet still circulate vintage images of white, female, pin-ups, they’re missing how the culture surrounding vintage pin-up girls largely informs the sexism that we’re trying to fight today.

This is what happens when we only focus on the individual and not the system that conditions the individual.

If we have a superficial surface-level understanding of oppression, then we will have superficial surface-level solutions. It’s that simple. Posting up any sized sexualized woman on your wall, originally created for men, won’t solve the reality that systemically, women are degraded, dehumanized, and are robbed of understanding their sexualities organically. It also teaches men that sexualizing “diverse” or “alternative” bodies is progressive and therefore acceptable.

Additionally, as I reiterate all of the time, the idea of publicly displaying your sexualized body is largely a white enterprise and endeavor. Black women are not granted the same privileges when we showcase our bodies because we’re viewed as public property; evidenced through our high rape rates and low pay-rates in spaces of sex work, etc.”

 

I think it goes without saying that I do not like this attack on pin-up girls/pin-up culture.

More importantly than what I do, or do not like, however, is the fact that saying, “talking about “individual agency” is irrelevant when we’re discussing hegemony,” ignores the very multi-faceted world of pin-up culture as well as the individuals participating within it— which is relevant. (Since when is talking about the parts of a picture irrelevant to the picture as a whole?) While the author’s critique invokes the rhetoric of “hegemony,” he or she is creating a hegemonic feminism of their own, in which all other feminists who like to participate in and enjoy pin-up culture are castigated.

The feminism I learned about was more accepting than this. While I do understand the perspective from which this author is writing (I did study gender politics at Berkeley after all), I choose to not make such sweeping generalizations about people, or groups of people (except Republicans, of course… Just kidding! I actually do really like Meghan McCain, so there). To imply that just because someone likes to wear pretty dresses and curl their hair, they “have a superficial surface-level understanding of oppression” is extremely insulting.

For me, the recognition of various forms of subjugation (via studying feminist theory) has meant the ability to see through such cultural patterns and influences, actively resist them, and perhaps even become self-definitional if such a thing is possible. Just because I indulge in pin-up fashion on occasion does not mean that I don’t know the history behind it, nor does it mean that I don’t understand the gendered, sociopolitical implications of it. And I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one (okay I know for a fact that I’m not). As a matter of fact, there is a vast array of modern day pin-ups out there that take the original concept of pin-up beauty and culture, and turn it on its head, thereby subverting the entire set of traditional notions behind it— the very sexist “white enterprise” that the above author is citing. Just look at the Suicide Girls (started by a woman and still largely run by women) which, may I remind you, began as a counterculture of “alternative” beauty.

Moreover, my brand of feminism is about choice. Just as I’m not going to castigate any woman, feminist or not, for being a stay at home mom, I’m also not going to do the same to a woman that chooses to delight in her femininity through replicating pin-up looks. Not only does it not, in my opinion, seem in keeping with the basic tenets of feminism (though, yes, I know, there are a myriad of different feminisms) but honestly, it’s also just not polite.

 

 

A Shout Out to the SAHM on Mother’s Day

A while ago I liked this page on Facebook called the “Rabid Feminist.”

Until one day they put up a guest post from someone stating how SAHMs (that’s “Stay-At-Home-Mom,” in case you weren’t hip to the acronym) were undermining the goals of, and strides made by, feminism. Apparently, in the eyes of whoever wrote the piece, and the moderator of this site, if you were a SAHM you were by definition not a feminist, and furthermore holding all of women’s lib back, negating much of the gains made by feminism— because you decided to be a SAHM.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I quickly looked to the comments below.

Relief! All of the comments were ones of anger, upset, and disappointment.

I myself posted something to the effect of: “Shame on you for trying to shame any woman that chooses to be a SAHM. Not only can being a SAHM be one of the most profound feminist acts of all, but to disparage any woman for making that choice is what is really anti-feminist.”

Yes, I am a “Strident Feminist” as Caitlin Moran would say, but that most certainly does not mean looking down on any woman just because she decides to be a stay-at-home-mother. That is a decision made by her, and/or an agreement decided upon by her and her partner, end of story. And hell, much love and power to those women! We all know that whether working outside the home or not, being a mother is a full-time job, but the way I see it, being a SAHM could encapsulate a very philosophical, free-thinking, creativity-inspiring, radical foundation for thinking and learning. One of my teachers once said that the Ancient Greeks—those great minds of the past (who stole most of their good ideas from the Middle East and Africa, according to him)— didn’t learn by sitting in a classroom in which all of learning was broken up into separate disciplines, but rather, they just had conversations (*ahem Socratic method*). This makes me think of all the things—concepts, ideas, ways of thinking and seeing, etc.—that could transpire between mother and child in a SAHM situation. What a classroom! Not to mention eschewing one’s place within the whole capitalist scheme of the workforce could be seen as a radical/ feminist move in itself, too.

Lastly, I would like to share that a while ago a SAHM friend of mine took me out for coffee, paying for both of us, and when I later told a male friend, “Oh, I met up with so-and-so this morning and she bought me breakfast, how nice, la la la….,” he responded,

“Well, her husband bought you coffee. She doesn’t work, so it wasn’t her that bought it.” I said, “OH SHE WORKS ALRIGHT. She just doesn’t have a “traditional” capitalist job, getting paid by a corporation like what you’re thinking… but OH… SHE WORKS. And SHE EARNED THAT MONEY and she bought me my coffee!”

So hopefully that clears the air on what at least one feminist thinks about the SAHM. (But we all know I’m not the only one)

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, mother-in-laws, single fathers, stepmothers, mothers-to-be, foster mothers, male-mothers, and anyone else doing the work of “mothering” out there. I’m a fan of your work.