Read This!

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Things have been busy lately and there’s still no time to write, but until I find time here is another amazing post over at The Rumpus by Anne Valente about running, sexism, and navigating femininity. Check it out!

The Right to Choose All of Life’s Roles

July 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

My local radio station airs a series called Perspectives that features members of the community and their thoughts on whatever strikes their fancy. This morning I listened to Jeremy Sherman share his perspective on talking politics with a libertarian friend he often disagrees with, and it boiled down to this: people don’t like talking about things they find boring, so details that don’t interest them – in his friend’s case, the complicated balance between necessary constraints and individual freedoms in society – are ignored and so strongly held beliefs are justified only with ideal-based rationalizations. Which makes sense to me – when two people are exclusively focused on separate aspects of an issue, it’s easy to wind up arguing over ideals without realizing you’re actually talking about completely different things. Getting into specifics can help you find common ground in shared beliefs.

So let’s talk details. The title of this post comes from one of my favorite chapters of (recently retired) Judge Nancy Gertner’s book, In Defense of Women, and here are some specific roles I think we should all be able to choose for ourselves free from social criticism or judgment:

  • Stay-at-home mother/father
  • Unmarried adult, whether or not you have children
  • Primary family provider, regardless of sex/gender
  • A romantically involved person, regardless of each person’s sex/gender
  • A sexually-active person who has no intention of having children

Not an exhaustive list by any means, but that’s the beauty of details: we can always add more.

Reviews: In Defense of Women

July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I got completely sucked into Nancy Gertner’s memoirs, In Defense of Women, which cover her career as a lawyer and some of the major cases she worked on until becoming a Federal District Judge. Her cases spanned first-degree murder charges, sexual harassment and discrimination, and many civil rights violations of disadvantaged people.

Throughout the book, Gertner talks about what it was like for her to work in a highly male-dominated profession from the 1970’s onward, career ambitions and other life balances, and her determination not to just play it safe to get through difficult situations. (I’ll leave out the “having it all” reference that has gotten so much online attention lately, but she goes into those issues in the book too). Sometimes that involved wearing red suits in court, other times advising a client not to plead guilty for lesser charges when the situation didn’t call for it. Always it involved being awesome.

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Current Happeings in Comedy

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

A news story I saw at Feministing this morning ties into my earlier post: this is why we still need to talk about the social context of humor.

Three things:

1. What the woman in the audience did was not “heckling” – this is what heckling sounds like. Okay not exactly, but the Muppets are pretty awesome.

2. Trying to shut down discussion of social concerns by dismissing valid criticism as an uptight overreaction is a crap tactic. In fact it’s a craptastic crap tactic. Yuuup.

3. I think that there are ways of making jokes about the awful things that exist in the world, but this definitely wasn’t one of them.

 

Ironic Humor is Ironic (Ironically)

July 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine over the weekend and, after catching up on her latest adventures and attempts at basil lemonade-making, we spent a long time talking about the legitimacy of our reactions to questionable jokes/attitudes/comments.

I’ve been thinking about humor a lot lately, particularly the kind of humor that involves politically incorrect ideas related to sexism, racism, etc. How can you tell when something is genuinely funny because it plays with controversial topics and when it is just lazy, thinly-veiled “ironic” stereotyping?

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The more things change…

July 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

the more things do not stay the same. At least that’s how it should work with cultural shifts. Maybe the original truism is relevant for personal reflections on relationships or life courses, but not so much with social movements. I hope.

So how can mainstream norms regarding gender, sexuality, inequality, race, class, and so on shift? Or be completely reworked? Or just thrown out altogether? How does change happen?

Attitudes change in response to things like persuasive communication, cognitive dissonance, or social influence. Classical or operant conditioning are more structured ways of actively trying to change behavior. (If you aren’t way too wrapped up in The Office and haven’t had a change to watch Jim classically condition Dwight, it’s a pretty entertaining demonstration of psychology.)

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This is What a Feminist Sounds Like

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

For those of you just stumbling upon this, my name is Kate and I’m a feminist. Stick around if you’re interested in discussing sex/gender, the media, pop or the wider soda-less variety of culture (I spent my childhood summers in North Dakota, that’s a Midwest joke), politics, social change, or anything else on your mind. I also have big plans to share pictures that make me smile. The latest is this gravity-defying goat:

Because how else are we going to shift the dominant paradigm of society, if not through the sharing of goat pictures? Seriously.

So. This rest of this is going to be short and sweet – why is it important to me to identify as a feminist?

I’m a feminist because…

  • I believe men and women – and people for whom those labels do not fit – are equal. That’s pretty much the heart of it. There’s a really interesting discussion going on right now over at Feministe about what equality would look like.
  • women are systematically disenfranchised in a variety of ways, and that isn’t going to change unless we talk about it and work to change it.
  • I believe in the rights of marginalized groups in our society.
  • accepted gender norms influence so many aspects of our lives and do not make sense in so many ways…why did the colors of the toy a girl happens to be playing with in this adorable ad change into this?
  • the top Google autofill suggestions after “why feminism” are “is wrong,” “is stupid,” and “is bad” (I was going for “is important to me“). Ugh.
  • power works to maintain the status quo, and feminism works to transform systems that won’t change themselves. I’mma explore that further, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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