I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Posts Tagged ‘Manifesto

Why “Just Don’t Buy It” Just Doesn’t Work

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At least once in pretty much any discussion about patronizing idiot-chic tee shirts, uber sexy Halloween costumes, or itty-bity sexpot bikinis for 2 year olds, at least one person will take the time to comment “If you don’t like it, just don’t buy it.” It’s one of many phrases that could (and does!) fill an anti-sexualization/anti-stereotyped gender roles bingo card (along with comments about pedophiles and gender neutrality making kids homosexual). And on one level, it’s a reasonable assertion – if we don’t like a particular consumer product, rarely, if ever, are we forced to spend our hard earned money on that product.

But it’s also extremely short sighted.

As Melissa, at Pigtail Pals has eloquently stated, it’s not about the t-shirt, or the costume or the bikini or the miniskirt or whatever. It’s not about crushing our tween’s budding sexuality or prudishness. It’s about recognizing that the singular product(s) that garner media attention are but a drop in an ocean of sexualization and negative stereotyping of our children that masquerades as “positive” sassiness. It’s about recognizing that children who are bombarded with image after image of boys being active and girls having tea parties and dressing up as princesses start to see these roles as their rightful place in the world.

Do I think that I, as a lawyer and a feminist and an active, powerful woman am the strongest role model my children have for what a woman can be? Absolutely. And I’m thankful every day that my kids have fabulous women and men in their lives who provide them with terriffic support and examples.

But I don’t think for one minute that these are enough. Because we do not live in a bubble. My kids see supposedly “educational” programming that relegates women to cute supporting roles. They see toys in the toy aisle that encourage little girls to project an image of adult women dressed for a night at a dance club. These images are so pervasive that kids only see the “novelty” in each doll – hey, that one looks like a werewolf instead of a fairy instead of a mermaid instead of a doctor wearing clothing that is completely impractical for practicing medicine (ever try to rush around a hospital and stand performing surgery in stiletto sandals? Yeah, me neither). They see images of boys rejecting anything “feminine” and being told to be a “real man”.

And even if I could raise my kids in a bubble of non-sexualized, non-stereotyped messages until the age of 18, I wouldn’t want to. My job as a parent is to teach my children to successfully navigate the world as it is, not a magical land where no little girl feels like she needs to dress as a sexy witch for Halloween or no little boy is ashamed of liking pink toenail polish, much as I may wish that were actually our culture. And my job as a human being is to want something better for all little kids – not just those with parents who see this stuff, but those who don’t. The kids of parents who see nothing wrong with a t-shirt proclaiming that their daughter is too pretty to do homework may be my daughter’s daycare classmate, or my son’s date for the prom. All kids deserve better, not just mine.

So sure, I won’t buy the t-shirt or the costume or the bikini. And, of course, other people who think it’s harmless can continue to do so. But I will sure as hell try to change their minds.

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Written by emandink

October 14, 2011 at 11:52 am

The third sign of the simacrulum.

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Or: meta, within meta, within meta. Or:in which I blog about blogging.

I think every blogger, deep down, must wish to actually develop a following – a community of people who care about what they write and who not only view the blogger as helping them learn something but who, through their participation help the writer learn as well.

Note the shift in terms there, since I’m not at all sure it’s limited to blogging. Here, in 2009, anyone who has access to the internet can grab a soapbox. It may be tiny, it may be huge, it may be one voice pitching into the void, or it may be a community.

Maintaining community is hard. I know this as a moderator in forums where I have no direct responsibility for providing content, but “merely” keep my eyes open for trolls or unsafe comments or inappropriate posts.

Maintaining a blog – at least one that is more than a personal journal – with thoughtful, researched content and original ideas and supporting links – is also hard work. Really, I had no idea what it would take to regularly post here – and clearly I do not. I constantly have ideas in my head for posts I want to make; I have a whole series about my trip to India, for example, that I’ve wanted to write about for almost three months. Just this past week, I’ve thought about at least half a dozen things that would make interesting posts, but I just don’t have the time or the energy or the focus.

This is not my life. It is not what I do. I spend hours every day working at a job that I enjoy and that pays me well and I am immensely thankful for that.

This also means that I am immensely thankful for those people who do have the time to build and maintain the communities that give me hope and inspiration and the feeling that this all might be worth something. I’m thinking mostly right now of Shakesville, and the gigantic effort that Melissa and her contributors must put into making that place what it is. And it is a place. It may be virtual, but it is still real.

And the same goes for at least a dozen other sites where I pop in from time to time and my tweeps and readers and, hell, I have to get to the “real” job, so if you think this is about you, then it probably is. But I want you to know, this is no less “real” to me and I don’t think it ever could be again.

Thank you.

Written by emandink

June 10, 2009 at 8:05 am

Hand in glove…

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So, I just found out about Write to Marry Day while reading Shakesville, which is a blog I clearly should have been reading for ages, but there you go.

Anyway.  Gay marriage.  Some might wonder why a woman in a monogamous heterosexual marriage even cares that much about the right of women to marry other women and men to marry other men.  After all, I can do what I want to do, clearly.

But, of course, nothing ever is, nor should it be that simple.  First off, marriage – I never thought I would get married.  Well, yes, when I was little I’m sure I did, but I don’t really remember having the stereotypical little-girl-fluffy-white-dress sort of fantasies that supposedly all little wannabe princesses have as wee bairns.  From a pretty early age I figured I would be the happy old maiden aunt who could be really awesomely cool with my step-siblings kids and then could go off to my fantastic artsy loft apartment with my fantastic artsy friends.  I was about 15 I think when women started appearing in the relationship part of those fantasies with almost the same regularity as men.  So, wonderful marriage to a man aside, I also know that but for the chance of meeting him before I met a wonderful woman, I could be directly affected.

But I still partake of and engage in and have oodles of heterosexual privilege, regardless of which onscreen personalities make me short of breath and there is something that smacks of simple platitudes for someone so publicly heterosexual to try to empathize with the situation of couples who have wanted what I have for decades.

Which brings me to another thought, which is about the term “marriage” itself.  Now there is a train of thought – which I’ve flirted with from time to time myself – which is the idea of “why not just civil unions?”   And in theory, I could support the idea of marriage as a solely religious term and civil union as the term for what we now think of as a civil marriage ceremony but for the fact is that words have power and meaning beyond what the dictionary definition might be.

“Marriage” as a concept in U.S. culture is loaded with social meaning that transcends the religious meaning for many people. I understand that the religious aspect of being “joined before god” is very important to many religions and that the concept of mated partnership is a vital part of many world religions. And while the concept of marriage may have begun as a religious ceremony (something which I doubt, personally, but I don’t have enough background in ancient cultures to really know for sure), as soon as it became something recognized and enforced by the state, it ceased to be something purely religious.

The importance of my marriage – of being joined to my husband as family, with all of the legal and social recognitions – is not remotely lessened to me because the ceremony was performed by a justice of the peace in a secular castle. My commitment to my husband of 11 years is not less because we do not believe that we were joined by “god”.

I’m completely fine with marriage meaning different things to different people – and goodness knows, I completely understand why some people do not want to be married/otherwise-legally-unioned because of what the term means to them. But I don’t want to cede the term “marriage” to bigots.

I remember a rousing debate engagement twelve years ago when we announced our engagement in an on line community that my husband and I frequented at the time in which someone I had considered something of a good friend had an extraordinarily difficult time understanding why I would want to enter into a legally binding socially endorsed relationship like a marriage, particularly at my then relatively tender age.

It’s because marriage has meaning.  A marriage becomes something larger than just the individuals involved.  And there is absolutely no justification I can think of for why any adult who wants to should not be able to marry any other adult who wishes to enter into that relationship.

I can think of a multitude of legal reasons why not acknowledging same sex marriages is a violation of the U.S. Constitution – starting with the Equal Protection and Full Faith and Credit clauses.  But really, what it comes down to is basic human rights – the right of people to love whomever they love and to freely enter into whatever relationships meet their needs.

Written by emandink

October 29, 2008 at 9:01 pm

What’s in a name?

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Not surprisingly, I suppose, I am not alone in my past ambivalence to the term “feminism”.  While in the past few years I’ve found my way to again actively embracing the term, there are still plenty of people who seem to think that “feminism” is not just about the radical notion that women are full fledged human beings with agency and that there is some sort of monolithic feminist agenda.

There’s not.

No, really

Is there a radical feminist manifesto?  Well, sure.  There are plenty of people and articles and essays who try to define feminism and what it should be.  But in the end, there are almost as many different “definitions” of feminism as there are people who consider the term.  Valerie Solanas doesn’t speak for all of us.  Hell, I’d venture to say she doesn’t speak for many of us.  Andrea Dworkin, Gloria Steinem, a lot of the second wave feminists who get trotted out in debates about what feminism is – they are inspirational women on whose hard work a movement has grown.  But they are not the arbiters of what feminism is, or what it can and should be.

White feminists – myself included – need to get our collective heads out of our collective asses.  We need to recognize that feminism – right now, today, in 2008 – reinforces white privilege.  Feminists should know our history.  We should know and acknowledge that Elizabeth Cady Stanton engaged in race baiting rhetoric in the interests of fighting for women’s right to vote.  We should know and acknowledge that the women who are viewed by the mainstream press are woefully silent on issues of race, or embarrassing often as not when they are not.  

We need to take back the movement.  We need to listen to people who want to be our allies.  Feminism is not just about people who look like me.  Feminism is not about lipstick and disposable razors and (not) wearing skirts or bras.  It’s not about menstrual cups.  It’s about breaking down barriers.  It’s about putting 18 million cracks in a glass ceiling and about recognizing that gender, race and class privilege are not individual issues.  It’s about all women leveling the playing field.

That’s my manifesto.

Written by emandink

July 2, 2008 at 6:35 pm