Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In which I defend feminism yet again

 A few years ago, I shared an experience where a friend said I was a feminist and I flinched. Two years of grad school and a semester teaching later, I'm ashamed that I would even bat an eye. But I understand a little better now why I flinched. Feminist seems to still be a bad word, a stand in for man-hater or wannabe man. Sadly, I've gotten used to that. You can't convince everyone, but lately, it seems like the world wants something to blame for people not being happy, so they look towards feminism.

I've read quite a few articles on gender lately. Nothing too scientific, I'll grant you. Some that I hope no one would take seriously. Believe me, I'm tempted to tear some of them apart, but I worry that I would just be tearing apart a straw man. I will however mention one, Susanne Venker's To be happy, we must admit women aren't equal. In it, she blames feminism for making marriage more competitive and for posing women against men. I can actually agree with her that sometimes there is a competitiveness between men and women, but I don't think it's feminism's fault. I think it is that some people, men and women, don't understand what feminism is about.

Here's an example: I often like to get my students to debate and one summer, we actually had enough time to have daily debates. In trying to teach against stereotypes, I asked my students, "What makes a woman a woman?" Genetic features aside, they mentioned a few things, but challenged and questioned each other and finally came to the conclusion that the definition depended on the person. I couldn't have been happier with their conclusion. I thought my lesson a success. However, one of the guys in my class said that he'd like to discuss what makes a man a man. Well, I thought it was only fair. So the next class we began our debate with his question, but it turned out quite differently. No one challenged the definitions of manhood being stated. In fact, despite the challenges of the last debate, many of those definitions relied on contrasting masculine characteristics to feminine ones. They even went so far to say that men had harder qualities while women had softer ones. Venker might point out that the total breakdown of my lesson proved that men and women are different, but I saw something different. I saw my male students were perfectly fine breaking down constructions of gender when they applied to women, but still relied on those constructions when it came to defining their own gender. The guys on my class had to define themselves in contrast to women.

If feminism has played a part in the break down of marriages, it is not because feminists hate men, it is because we have not been able to get men to talk about the pressures they feel to meet certain stereotypes while trying to allow women to break stereotypes. If men are still expected to protect and provide, then maybe that is why some of them feel threatened when a woman is hired over them or their partner seems to be able to take care of herself. In that frame of mind, they are essentially redundant, but relationships are about individuals. If it was simply a matter of gender, anyone guy could marry any girl. But it doesn't work that way. Some guys may need to provide so they like girls who let them. Great, fine. Personally, that's not the guy I need. Feminism is about making sure people, men and women, are treated equally and treated with respect. To give Venker's closing statement a new meaning, "Isn't it time we stopped fussing about who brought what and just enjoyed the feast?"

I'm not the first to notice this, either.
How Movies Teach Manhood

Suggested Further Reading
Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth
Yes, I'm a Homemaker

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer of Bravery: Mabel Makes Me Face the Birds

Let me first say that I wasn't planning on doing another bravery post. I thought the caving fully satisfied my need to test my safety boundaries, at least for the summer. Mabel had a different idea.

This week I'm visiting Mabel in Washington before she goes on an LDS mission to Brazil. So today we toured Seattle and she took me to Ivar's which is a restaurant on the wharf that sells fish and chips. Ordering itself is quite the experience because they don't have lines. Instead, you yell out your order and wait until your order is yelled back at which point you pay for it and pick it up. You can then choose to sit in a glass shelter or out on a pier. Obviously, a nice day in Seattle calls for pier seating, but it also means that seagulls will be joining you for lunch. Birds do not rate high with me and seagulls are among the lowest in that category, but Ivar's is famous for feeding seagulls. There's constant movement along the pier with seagulls swooping in for food. If it was not enough to be keeping an eye on the closest seagull (and boy, do they get close), there is a feeding rite of passage. Guess who had feed the seagulls?

Only after I stuck out my hand to let a seagull snatch a fry did Mabel tell me about the gash she got from doing this. Thanks Mabel!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hipster Puppy

You know how some girls get baby fever? Kinda like Tina Fey seeing babies everywhere in "Baby Mama"? Well, I get puppy fever and I've had it bad this last week. I'm going to blame Annie for this because she got an internship/ grew up and got a cat which made me realize that once I grow up and get a job, I can a get a dog.

So now I've been browsing the web, looking at different breeds. Honestly, I don't mind mutts. My favorite dog, Odie, was a mix between a chow chow and black lab and he was the best dog ever! But I happened upon another interesting mix: puggles. I'm not exactly fond of pugs or beagles, but puggles seem too freakin' adorable. Plus, they're a small dog that doesn't yap. That's a dream dog to me.

The down side is that they're apparently very popular among movie stars, at least according to, but the breed is still fairly new and therefore, unknown. I'm pretty sure some hipster could say "it's a breed you've never heard of."  And I just don't want a "trendy" dog. I want a good dog. What do you think? Should I get a hipster puppy?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer of Bravery: Take that Childhood Fears

This last Saturday, I went caving. Probably my most recognizable act of bravery for the summer--although I'm pretty sure certain family members believe it lands more on the side of stupidity. Basically, I climbed up the side of a mountain, used climbing equipment to descend to the cave, scrambled around the cave (some spots I had to army crawl), and then ascended out of the cave and hiked/strategically slid down the mountain...during the night.

Considering I was the biggest chicken as a kid, I'm pretty proud of myself. I mean, I used to panic if my dress got stuck over my head, and I just crawled through a two foot door to get into the cave. I freaked when my brother used to do his golem impersonation, and I laughed while I listened to another golem impersonation in complete darkness. Of course, if anything had touched me, it'd be over like that, but still I'm feeling pretty hardcore right about now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Always a Valley Girl: Rodeos and Cowgirl Tough

My friends and colleagues are tromping around Central America and Europe while I'm stuck in Provo attempting to be productive. Not exactly thrilling. But I'm finding things here and there to keep my summer interesting and going to the rodeo is one of them.

Now I'm no cowgirl, but if you're a Valley girl in Utah, you go to a rodeo. And I'm not making this rule up. At the rodeo last night, I was not only there with two other Valley girls, but we recognized another girl from the good ol' SLV sitting behind us. That being said, my reason for choosing Pleasant Grove's Strawberry Days rodeo had more to do with my stomach than my heritage: cups of strawberries and cream. Heather and I got there early to save seats and to enjoy the strawberries and cream so no one would know just how many cups we had.

Still, I enjoyed more than the food. Heather and I have been friends since we were nine years-old so there was plenty of reminiscing about our childhood in the valley and commenting on other rodeos we've seen or participated in. For those who aren't familiar with rodeos, there's the funny/cruel tradition of sticking money to a calf and having kids chase it. Heather and I both have done it, but it was, of course, much more difficult when we were kids. For example, there were two or three calves when we did it so kids were running helter-skelter. At this rodeo, the poor calf was stuck in a corner while kids swarmed it.

There's also mutton busting; it's another event for kids where they see how long they can stay on a sheep.  I've never done it myself, but Heather had.  Before they started she predicted that a girl would win because they know how to hold on and sure enough she was right. The top two mutton busters were girls. It made us wonder if women could ride bulls too. We'd never seen it, but we figured that with a lower center of gravity, women might even have the advantage over men. I'm not sure if that's true, but there are female bull riders. These girls have to be tough and I can't help but admire that. Male or female, bull and bronco riders amaze me. They get jerked around and if something goes wrong, the consequences come fast and painfully, if not lethally. I'm trying to be braver this summer, but I see them and realize I've got a long way to go before I'm that brave. 

Slightly less dangerous (only slightly) but seriously entertaining is wild-cow milking. A team of three has to catch and milk a cow. It was hilarious to watch, until this mean cow decided this hefty man was in its way and flat out bowled him over. I didn't get a picture of that, but I did manage to capture the more humorous attempts at cow milking.

And just for fun, pictures of horses because even if it's cliche, they really are beautiful animals.

Even if I don't agree with all the views of a country lifestyle (get me started on country music and you'll find out why, but that's a discussion for another post), I do admire how tough a cowboy or cowgirl has to be. If I've really carried anything over from being raised in the valley I hope it's the resiliency I see in rodeos--of not being afraid to fall because you can always get up and dust yourself off.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Going Green Update

Despite popular belief, I don't have a black thumb. I don't know that I'd say I have a green thumb, maybe a flesh colored thumb is the best description, but the point is that it's not black. I offer these pics as evidence:

Geraldine is growing nicely. I was tempted to get another plant, but then I inherited a fish. It's a long, tragic story, but let's just say my roommate found she no longer had time to take care of him so now I have a betta named Lou. He's rather cranky (and camera shy so don't expect a picture), but I think he's warming up to me. So now I'm taking care of three living things and none of them have died yet. I just might be one of those nice ladies with a garden when I get old...or a crazy cat lady, but I think my distaste for cats will save me from that.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

For the Love of Books

My future looked bleak; I was questioning my love for reading. Since summer break started, if anyone asked what I was doing today, my answer would be reading. I've officially started working on my thesis and taking a theoretical discourse class on the post-colonial and subaltern studies which meant lots of reading, lots of required reading.  Most days it was fascinating, but after doing the reading I was supposed to, I had to go do something else. I quit reading for fun, feeling like if I was going to read than I should be reading something for my thesis. I'm still excited for my thesis, but today, I got a needed reminder of my love for reading.

Today I went to the Utah Festival of Books. In truth, there were more activities going on than there were books (I pretended to be a newscaster and had my name written in cool calligraphy), but the activities focused on learning and getting people to read. I deal with books so often that I forget some people don't read them. Dare I say it? I've been too immersed in academia lately. It was great to see discussions on cooking, writing, and gardening or see kids work on reading activities. I remember being so excited for book fairs as a kid. If I got good reports from teachers during parent-teacher conference, and I always got good reports, then I got to choose a book. I'm not sure if that was sneaky parenting or me being a book worm from a very young age, but I loved it. Perhaps nostalgia enticed to me buy books (as if I needed an excuse), but I got three books today that have nothing to do with my thesis:

The Waste Land and Other Poems by T. S. Eliot- I foolishly sold back my Norton Anthology, plus there is something unschool-like in owning a thin book.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri- This might be a bit of a risk, but I read "Interpreter of Maladies" in high school and really enjoyed it.

The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson- I'm most excited about this book because I like going for walks and was thinking there had to be a book that analyzes walking. This is that book. Besides, it's been too long since I've read about something just because I was curious.

I'll let you know if I come to any profound conclusions from reading these books, but it's refreshing to add some books to my library that have nothing to do with my schoolwork. Don't worry. I'll still keep trucking through my thesis, but at least I have some reading to remind me why I'm working on a thesis in the first place.