Saturday, January 27, 2007

Some Thoughts on Feminism

women learn to be women
and men learn to be men
and I don't blame it all on you
but I don't want to be your friend

-Ani Difranco, Letter to a John

Okay, so call me a stereotype. Like every other pseudointellectual queer woman of my age, Ani Difranco is one of my heroes. I listen to her music nearly every day. I dissect her songs and poetry and see how it relates to my life and the world around me. I use her for inspiration in a lot of my writing. And while I don't blindly agree with everything she says, I feel indebted to her, in the same way that I feel indebted to Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin, or Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.

Anyway, these lines from Letter to a John have been rolling around in my head for the last few days, lending themselves to all different interpretations of feminism. I've been thinking about what feminism means to me, and do I even know what it is anymore? As a woman who has a relationship with another woman, who is raising a female child who will someday be a woman, and as a woman who lives in a blatantly male dominated society, what are my thoughts and feelings on the feminist, and if I'm confused, how do women without my strident opinions feel?

I grew up in the 90's, a decade in which there was a huge backlash against the feminist movement. So many of the girls I knew casually in high school refused to even label themselves as feminists. (My closest friends, of course, always considered themselves feminists, even my male friends.) The term of the decade was "feminazi." As though the idea that women are people was so radical as to place it on the same level as "the Final Solution."

So many people I know believe that feminists hate and fear men. That all feminists are either openly or secretly lesbian. That if a feminist "found the right man" she'd stop complaining. I don't hate men. I do fear them. And with good reason, in my case, some might say. I've been exposed to my fair share of dominating, hurtful men. But, I've also had the wonderful good fortune to know amazingly kind and compassionate men. And I'm smart enough to know that men as a species can't be lumped into two categories, good guys and bad guys. And that's what I find frightening. That even the "good guys" the ones on "my side" aren't really on my side. They can't be. They aren't women, can't understand what it means to be a woman in this world, how it feels to fight against every idea of what "womanhood" means. That's like saying I understand what it means to be a black person because I sympathize with the fight blacks have against white oppression.

There is so little movement left in the feminist movement. We've stopped shouting and waving our flags and marching. Women are putting on "power suits" with "sensible pumps" and assuming the biggest battles are over. There are, to be sure, women talking about breaking through glass and marble ceilings. Women fighting for "equal pay" and all these things that people think of when they think of feminism.

But, I think all those things are distractions. They're beside the point. We've been lulled into complacency by the idea that because we can go out there and get jobs and live on our own, we're winning the fight. We go through life like the patriarchy isn't something that should frighten us. We assume that because our fathers and brothers and lovers and friends support our right to choose and our right to be equal that we've won the fight. But the basic issue of male domination of the entire world hasn't changed. Women are still second best at best. We're still in awe of a woman in power. Nancy Pelosi's recent ascent to speaker of the house proves that. It was met with jubilation, rather than disgust that it took so damn long. It's like the men are allowing us the leftovers of their great feast of power and we're just so damn happy to even be invited to the party that we aren't seeing that that we're basically still just sitting at the kids table.

Because even when we ascend to power, and maybe most especially when women ascend to power, they are supposed to be still be "feminine." Take Hilary Clinton for a great example. During her husband's presidency, a lot of people accused her of taking a much too powerful role. She was criticized for being "dowdy" and not wearing makeup and for wearing her sensible suits and shoes. And now, with her new and "improved" image, great hair, plenty of makeup, people are looking at her like...hmmm, a woman president? Not, hey, look at this amazingly competent democratic senator, perhaps that's the kind of leadership the White House needs. Gender is still the main identifying factor, here.

Which maybe wouldn't be such a big deal, except that along with gender come all those "traditional" gender roles. Women are softer, less aggressive. We are expected to compromise. We are the ones who have to choose between family and career. We're the ones who are criticized for working 60 hour weeks while the children are at home with nannies. A woman that has sex whenever she wants is still a slut. A woman with strong opinions is a bitch

And then I think about all the people I love most in my life, male and female. And I get it, why these people are the ones I can sit and talk with and not want to poke out my eye with a sharp stick. These are the people who don't buy into the traditional gender roles. Take, for example, my friend the Archaeogoddess, Erin C., she travels the world by herself. It simply doesn't occur to her that a "mere woman" doesn't usually travel to places like Israel or Jordan without companionship. Whereas I have another friend, a lesbian, but she still plays the traditional "girlfriend" role. Does the laundry, asks her girlfriend's opinion on everything and expects her girlfriend to pay for dinner. And while I love her, every time I talk to her about her relationship, I feel vaguely nauseated. It's a feeling of uneasiness that even lesbians can't shake the traditional gender stereotypes.

We won't have won equality until a woman runs for president, and we don't think, hey, a woman in the white house would be nice. We'll only have equality when we look at people and don't immediately say, she's a woman so she's this, or he's a man, so he's this. When we look at a political candidate and the only question is, is this person qualified? When we aren't surprised by a woman who buys her own home while still single. And yes, when women can march right alongside men into any battle that our foolish governments involve us in.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

R.I.P. Denny Doherty

It's a day of mourning here in the realm of LQofU. Denny Doherty passed away today leaving only Michelle Phillips as the surviving member of The Mamas and The Papas.

The Mamas and The Papas saw their heyday long before I came into this world, and yet have been one of my favorite groups for nearly all of my life. While they lack the political or poetic genius of most of my other favorite musicians, they have never failed to bring a bit of much needed peace to my world.

As some of you may know, my daughter is named for Mama Cass, which may tell you something about the importance of this group in my life.

Monday, January 15, 2007

For Your Consideration....

I used to write alot of poetry, as some of you know. I've gotten a few requests to post some poetry here, and I'm more than willing, but I've had a really hard time writing anything new for awhile. Like since John died. I wrote one poem for him, and then it was like a switch shut off in my head. But, I miss it. Putting words together for poetry and expression rather than just being up on my soap box. I miss it almost as much as I miss him. The big difference, here, though, is that I can have my poetry back. It just takes work.

So with that in mind I've taken this half idea I had awhile back and reworked it. Something I never had to do before, but being able to write again seems worth it. So, let me know what you think...or don't...whatever....

Closer To Acceptance

i was closer to beautiful way back then
or perhaps the my mirror was more forgiving
than the one through which i am currently living
i seem to remember
that my eyes were brighter
my hair was lighter
my face was much more interesting
these days i feel like an old motel
with neon lights spelling vacancy
or is it vagrancy
flashing behind my eyes
i keep trying to answer the whys
of all the women i have been
the truths behind my countless lies
i have blamed my past
and the dna responsible for my ass
leaned heavily on self-pitying crutches
lost myself in meth induced rushes
i have laid my head down in places
along side others with huge empty spaces
where their hearts should have been
i have filled the vortex between my thighs with men
thinking they would fill me full
and ease my emptiness
but now i see that it was just more of my bullshit
that i was camouflaging my ugliness
my selfishness
and my refusal of my goddess self
i was looking in the mirror
and believing that shiny lips
and round firm tits
said something about woman i could be
that's all over now
i am learning to embrace
the plainess of my face
the lines beneath my eyes
and the circumference of my thighs
i am reconstructing my concept of beauty
learning not to care when they look right through me
i am softer now
time has worn down my edges
i've talked myself down from all those ledges
and brought myself closer to acceptance

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Sorry for the lack of posts, but I went and took a mini vacation and my computer has decided that it too shall take a vacation. And it doesn't seem to be coming back anytime soon. I hate Windows.....

Alrighty, so I'm off to go and call some small town in India and ask them to help me fix my fucking computer. Hopefully I'll be able to post tonight about the one time I called tech support and they actually helped me....otherwise I'll be back down at my mom's house in the morning telling a funny story about how I threw the damn thing out the window...sigh...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Hi...How Are You?

It's the first thing we say to each other every time we see each other. The "how are you" is just part of the greeting. You don't even think about it, right? Because the immediate answer is "I'm fine and how are you." It's so ingrained into us that even when we learn a new language it's the way we say hello. Never mind that we can't translate the answer, because here's the thing, unless the person you're greeting is a close friend or family member, you don't really want an honest answer. You're looking for the fine, the good, the okay...or perhaps a joke of some sort, but not the truth. Now, when you ask your friends and family this question, you want at least a quasi-honest answer. Maybe you don't want the full details about Aunt Marge's explosive diarrhea last week, but you want to know...oh, you're not feeling good, or you broke up with so-and-so, great now I can tell you I really never liked him.

But, what do you when the person you're talking to has a chronic illness? Now, you love this person, presumably, if you count them amongst your friends or your family members. But, you know they're sick, they're not going to say fine. They're going to give you an honest answer. Probably. Because here's the thing. People with chronic illness love that you care enough to ask, but shit, it depresses us to think about it, why should we dump it on you? Especially when you already know, because you've talked to their mother or something recently and you know they aren't doing well. Or, well, you look at them and you can tell....damn, you feel like crap right now, don't you, 'cause you look like crap, let me just tell you. But, it gets a little tiring doesn't it? I mean, you call for some small talk or to vent about your day, and you make the familiar, Hi, how are ya? And they tell you. They do not say fine. They tell you how they are, which may or may not be as bad as yesterday, but clearly is not good. And you find yourself not wanting to talk to them, because the normal is gone. You think all she thinks about is her illness, or it's always about him.

Okay, so put yourselves in our shoes. Suppose you simply aren't well, haven't been well and don't expect to be doing well anytime in the near future. What do you do when someone you love wants to know how you are? You can lie, which most frequently gets you in trouble. Because someone's going to believe you and not realize you lied just so you wouldn't have to answer that question, then when they find out later you just said fine so they'd feel okay, their feelings are going to be hurt. You can tell the truth, or some abbreviated version of it, which seems simple and straightforward, right? Try again. Because for someone with chronic illness, nothing is simple and straightforward. (For example, a good day for LQofU doesn't resemble a good day for most people. For me, any day I manage to shower, get dressed and still accomplish one other thing is a fantastic day.) So, if I say "fine" I'm thinking, "Hey, there's no eminent ER trip here, so I'm doing pretty good." But, you might be thinking I just talked to her and she said she was fine and now I hear she's really sick.

Or maybe, just maybe you're tired of the subject. Maybe you really care about someone who is sick, but you miss the good old days when you didn't spend the better part of every conversation talking about their doctors and their medications and how crappy they feel. Maybe you think to yourself, I am so tired of hearing about this I could just scream. You know what? Me too. I'm tired of being the sick girl, the one who talks about the doctors and the pills, but right now that's all there is. I'm sick, I'm going to the doctor and I'm doing my best to be a mom and a girlfriend and not succeeding very well. I'm sick of the same four walls. I'm sick of going back and forth from my bed to my couch. I'm sick of not having a life outside this illness.

So, let's just make a pact....unless we rarely talk, don't ask me how I'm feeling all the time. I'm tired of talking about it. If I don't tell you some detail of my treatment or illness you find out from someone else, don't take it personally, because it isn't personal. And if you ask me, I might not be feeling well enough to laugh the question off, I might be feeling so crappy that all you're going to get is the icky truth.

Oh, and if by chance, I happen to say fine, when you do ask me...please don't think that means I'm all better and that everything's great. That's not my reality, okay? But, if I ask how are you...I want the truth....;-)