I Didn’t Know it Was Called That

Have you ever seen something so often you took it for granted? You didn’t know what it was called or that it even had a name? Phineas and Ferb, a show I insist is for adults and not children, did an episode on the little plastic thing on the end of the shoe-lace. Turns out, it’s called an aglet. It has a name. I have been educated.

That was startling to discover, but not nearly as startling as my discovery years ago that this feeling I had about how girls and women can do anything was called “feminism.” Or how frankly offensive some people feel that term is.

It is so offensive, apparently, that when a young girl wore a shirt that said “Feminist” to her school picture day, she had it censored by the administration. It’s so offensive, that when I do a google image search for Feminist, it breaks my heart a little, and scares me more than a little.

I wonder if people have feelings this intense about aglets now that they have a name? What the fuck are these little tips trying to get away with, anyway? Helping guide laces through holes in the top of shoes. They don’t know their place.

I was raised by my mother. My dad was there, too, but he was in the Navy and away a lot during my formative years. I don’t want to minimize his contribution to my bringing up, but in things parenting, he deferred to my mom. I think he was frankly baffled by us.

My mom worked and took care of us. My mom managed the finances. My mom fixed things and put things together. My mom painted and tinkered. She worked retail in the hardware section. Then she worked as a jeweler. She had five kids, and she kept us in line without spanking or yelling. One look was all she needed to quiet us down. To disappoint her was to disappoint ourselves.

I didn’t grow up thinking my choices of career were limited by my gender. I didn’t grow up thinking I had to get a husband. I didn’t grow up thinking power tools were only for men.

I always knew that women were smart and strong and funny. I always knew women were problem solvers. And I always knew women could be real forces of nature. I have three brothers, and they certainly think women can do anything men can do (except pee standing up.)

When we settled back in New England near the end of my dad’s time in the Navy, my mom put herself through college while she worked one full-time and one part-time job. Then she got her Masters degree while she worked the same jobs. She became a teacher, and a damned good one. A sought after one.

She was always a little disappointed, I think, in how little we kids marveled at her accomplishments. We didn’t marvel. Poor mom. We didn’t because we were completely unsurprised. Of course she did it. My mom can do anything.

In my life, I’ve tried things and succeeded. Except for having a kid, I’ve never thought of one accomplishment as having to do with my gender. I’ve tried things and failed. Except for not being able to pee standing up (tidily), I’ve never thought of one failure as having to do with my gender.

The feeling I have that girls should be able to have the same opportunities, safety and rights as boys came from having a mom who took on the world. It has always been there inside me. If that makes me a pants-wearing, nonleg-shaving, foul-mouthed aglet, I’ll take it.

Casually Dismissed

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I’ve listened to the song a few times, and I liked it. I added it to my Spotify list. It’s a huge hit and seems generally harmless. Then I noticed just when it’s almost over, the singer throws in, “Bitch, say my name.”

When I finally heard that line, I thought, “Oh. I am not this song’s intended audience.” It is catchy, cute, and kind of funny, and casually misogynistic. The song is a good time for everyone except the kind of woman who doesn’t like being called a bitch.

I have this feeling that lines like this are a test. (Come on, don’t take things so seriously. It doesn’t mean anything.) If you do get upset, you are, in fact, a bitch. I don’t know why something like this would bother me more than obviously, outwardly misogynistic songs, and there are tons of those. Like tons. But I think it’s because it’s so unnecessary, and because it is casual. “Just wanted to point out that I have no respect for your gender. Now back to my song.” (Oh come on, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s just being funny.) Haha.

I’m not raging, demanding him to change it or even suggesting that other people don’t listen to it, you know, with my HUGE influence. It actually just hurts my feelings. I feel like an awkward kid at a dance who is having a great time until he notices everyone is making fun of him. I’m part of the audience and part of the celebration until I am suddenly not. Then I am asked to either laugh along with the joke or leave so my weakness and sensitivity can be mocked. (Bitches, man. AmIright?)

This happened to me a couple of other times this past year with music. My son liked the song from the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It’s got a great beat and is just about four brothers fighting together as a family. Then, again at the end, it talks about the female reporter: “She takin’ pics for me, told her smile fo’ me Pass her off, I’m a real team playa.” Oh. Well OK. We’ll just throw in a little rape there before we close out the song. (Oh, come on. It’s probably not rape. She’s probably just a willing sexual play thing.)

Since I am trying to raise a boy who can identify and speak out against misogyny, these lessons are important. I just wish there weren’t so many of them. Plus, at what point do I start? Should I explain to him why “bitch” is a bad word? Should I just leave it until he’s older? For now, I have stopped playing those songs. Fortunately there are so many talented, respectful musicians out there, that I have no problem filling in the gaps.

My current favorite, Hozier, is brilliant, compassionate and an amazing musician. I need to get in touch with his mother to find out how she did it.

Hozier: You grow up and recognize that in any educated secular society, there’s no excuse for ignorance. You have to recognize in yourself, and challenge yourself, that if you see racism or homophobia or misogyny in a secular society, as a member of that society, you should challenge it. You owe it to the betterment of society.

Hozier: You grow up and recognize that in any educated secular society, there’s no excuse for ignorance. You have to recognize in yourself, and challenge yourself, that if you see racism or homophobia or misogyny in a secular society, as a member of that society, you should challenge it. You owe it to the betterment of society.

Here he is talking about then singing Sedated

Fifty Shades of I Don’t Know

Let's Talk About It

Let’s Talk About It

The movie is coming, the books were a hit, and the opinions are strong. Many of the brilliant women writers I respect have spoken up about this, so of course it has me thinking. The movie and the books didn’t, actually (have me thinking).
In the past week I have read several strong opinions on it, all different, and all from feminists. I think they all say the same thing: Women should be respected.

The question or conflict comes in when we talk about how that respect manifests itself. I’m not a fan of the eye-rolling and calling women who read the books “silly” or “giggly.” It is undeniable, there is something compelling in the story line; women I know, smart women who make tough independent decisions all the time, are drawn to it. I personally don’t think it’s because those women secretly want to be dominated by a man. In fact, the women I know that enjoyed the books are very much equals in their relationships.

Is it dangerous? Well, from my safe perspective of nurturing relationships I don’t think it’s realistic enough to be dangerous. I’m lucky. But today, I heard the opinion of someone I respect very much who is the survivor of domestic abuse. In my limited capacity to see it through her perspective, I can see the answer as yes.

In the book, the male lead was abused. He acknowledges himself as a mess. (The title, for those who didn’t read it, comes from him referring to himself as “Fifty shades of fucked up.”) Their relationship is clearly co-dependent. There were lots of times when the plot should have devolved into something more sinister than it did. That it didn’t was part of the fantasy.

We can fear for some young women with this plot being in the spotlight right now. I sure as hell didn’t know who I was when I was in my teens and twenties. This plot, plus ridiculous social pressure to look a certain way, to deny certain parts of themselves to be likable, and to not be seen as a bitch, is the perfect storm for terrible relationship choices, possibly even dangerous ones.

Do I think it should be censored for these reasons? I don’t. (BTW, nobody I’ve read lately has suggested it should be.) I strongly believe that having others decide what is good for us to see, read about, or know is the reason dominance and control occurs. What I think should happen (and yes, the whole world is queuing up to get my opinion on this), is that we should talk about it. We should talk the hell about it.

We should all talk about sex, pleasure, control, trust, dominance and domestic abuse. That last one, we should talk about a lot. Shaming and silencing one another, even subtly, gets us further away from that goal of respect.

Let’s talk about it. And let’s listen. And (this would just be a bonus, I suppose) let’s be nice to one another while we do. I will try harder.

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If you or someone you know is in danger at home, help is available.

In the U.S:. National Domestic Abuse Hotline:  1-800-799-7233 TTY 1-800-787-3244 or Online www.thehotline.org/

In the U.K: National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or Online  www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/ 

In the rest of the world: International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies http://www.hotpeachpages.net/index.html