Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Us v. Them

I am baffled by the in-fighting between women.  It seems no matter where you go it's always there,  a party, a new job, the swimming pool.  A lot of women, maybe not all, put other women under such a critical microscope.  There is an unrelenting competition going on here.  
As much as I try not to participate, I catch myself in negatively divisive thought.  "Oh, look at her! Such a young, beautiful woman with such an awful tattoo."  Or, "Dang ... she's too old to be wearing that!"  It's her business, not mine.  I make assumptions based on first impressions way too much.  People may make similar pre-judgments of me, too, which isn't fair.  And such over-emphasis placed on looks and youth.  So superficial.     
MissRepresentation encourages us:
"For the next week, let's all make a concerted effort to see women as allies instead of enemies; and let's stop judging other women for their success, their talents or their looks."
The newsletter suggests the "assumption of scarcity and the feeling that there isn't enough room for all of us" is the impetus of such competitive judgement.  There seems to be some unnatural criticism that I can't fully understand, almost as if we're pitting against one another for ubiquitous attention from an unknown force.  Is it innate?  I hope not.  It seems we are cultured to be catty, and we have to end the vicious circle with our own self-realization to stop acting this way.  
Instead, I'd like to hope there are many more women like Marina Keegan, a young Yale writer, who tragically lost her life just days after graduation.  Her last essay, The Opposite of Lonely, has gone viral since her untimely death.  She said, "We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
Such positivity!  Her wonderful attitude and hope scream from the page.  She had such great plans for her future.  Regardless of a grim job outlook for new college grads in sketchy economic times.  I think she spoke to the universal human experience, one where we must help sustain each other.  
This kind of unity and support is what I wish was viral.  People uplifting each other with great expectations for themselves and humankind.  Young women reaching out to other young women to seek out the positive aspects within their time on earth and not hatefully compete with each other.  May we all have tomorrows to do so.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Post Mother's Day tribute - looking back

A post I had written on an internet parenting community back in 2009 was brought to mind today.  It was about the best money lesson I had learned from a parent.  My mom was naturally the center of my thoughts back then, and is to this day, so I thought I'd revive them here now.  A day or so late, but not really a dollar short.  
My heart still breaks a little to think of how hard Mother worked to be able to provide for the ungrateful little pig kids she brought into the world.  She worked hard her whole life, at jobs and at home, to only become physically disabled in her retirement.  My mom spends a lot of time watching television and can tell you about anything that's going currently on in the world.  She's a talker, and I attribute that partially to her solitary existence but also to her personality.  We both find ourselves to be very clever and quick with a joke, whether anybody else thinks so or not.  
She dotes on my child, loves us both more than we may ever realize, and lives through all her children and grandchildren.  It's ironic, because I never truly considered who she was (and is) as a person until I became a mother and realized how very much I wanted to still be considered a person, too, and not  just a mom.  My mom is definitely one of my heroines.  
I learned the true value of work and earning money from my mother.  When we were kids back in the '80s, she cleaned other people's houses.  She was paid a whole whopping $8 for cleaning a house.  That's right, only $8!  For cleaning someone's nasty house.  I was appalled to learn this later in life.  Here I had begged for money for this and that for school, and she was breaking her back to buy whatever I (we four kids) wanted.  For instance, I remember cheerleading shoes costing around $30 for a pair of Nikes.  That does not include how much it cost for my uniform and for clothes to attend camp.  I would contribute toward the costs, but my mom would techincally have to clean four houses just to pay for the stupid shoes.
Her lesson was that she loved us so much that she broke down her body and health to provide for us.  She also taught me that education is the way out of having to literally slave in the labor to earn money to support your family.  She didn't have the opportunity to go to college, but she's helped me along the way to see that I did.  She is an amazing woman.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

television nostalgia reborn

I just love Zooey Daschanel's New Girl on Fox, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  It's like going back to the days of Friends, without Monica's whining and all the marriage obsession.  This new set of friends is hilarious, dishing out some of the funniest scenes I've seen on television since I don't know when.  And I don't even like cute.  Jess's version of cute is excusable in my opinion.  It's more of a doe-eyed innocent way of looking at the world in an "aw shucks" way that I typically abhore.  

The show is smart, funny and doesn't make fun of females in general, only Jess specifically for her goofiness.  And the fun poked at her is done in a laughing-with-you type of manner.  I wish I had the glass-half-full attitude where I could sing a solution to every sticky situation!  While at first it seemed like she was socially awkward the guys had to save her, I think the show has moved on to show her saving them from their own (mostly drunken) idiocy.  Hence the douchebag jar.  It is, to me, a very human portrayal of a group of friends who embody  characteristics ... good and bad ... of modern young adults for whom you can cheer as good people who help each other.

New Girl 

An early but great feminist critique is at Broad Recognition.

It's so discouraging to see so many modern sit-coms go the way of covert misogyny.  Even my favorite, Big Bang Theory, teeters on the edge of too many anti-women jokes.  Especially via Howard.  He's just smarmy enough to get away with it, though, through his obvious enrapture of Bernadette.  I just wish they didn't have to "dumb down" the intelligence of Bernadette and Amy Farrah-Fowler by drawing them as flighty and a stoic, horny quasi-lesbian, respectively.  It's almost as if they can't just be smart versus Penny's supposed lack of smarts without flawing them some other way.  Not that either personification is actually flawed, just fixed as less than desirable by males.  It just pisses me off, because Big Bang otherwise makes me lol every time I watch.  No matter how many times I've already seen each episode.  I counted during a recent TBS re-run (lol'ed 10 times).  

Most of my viewing habits have gone the way of Modern Family, which was so progressive and wonderful in its infancy.  The female characters are all dependent on male "bread-winners" and fall into stereotypical roles of either the dingy sex-pot, demanding shrew, slutty girl or smart girl.  The males are pigeon-holed into either the blundering dad, his doofus son, an overbearing caregiver patriarch, or patent gay stereotypes for the male same-sex couple.  Manny is the zinger-lined saving grace for the show.

I've said it before, and I'll spew it again ... it's because of women-hating writers like Lee Ahronson.  I honestly believe, in my own conspiratorial paranoia, that he sits around with other Two & a Half Men creative team a$$h@le members who come up with this crap and try to hide it within the dialogue.  "Let's make Claire Dunfy just as cloying as Debra Barone but still cute enough to be lovable."  I didn't want to stop watching Modern Family but made myself boycott it.  Once again, it's one of my little personal protests that nobody notices except me.  I need to feel a sense of doing something to refuse being complicit.  

What we see is what we accept as okay and ignore if we don't make ourselves discrimination what we're watching.  I hate to see so many women who write, "Get over it, you uptight feminists" about things like this and the stupid fascination with utter shite like Shades of Grey.  That's another rant for another day, but it helps make my point.  Women thinking objectification, submission to male dominance, and misogyny's subterfuge of prime time sit-coms are okay is part of the patriarchal system that keep us back in the days before suffrage and the first wave.  We sit idly by and slam each other for what we consider the "other" to be doing wrong.  And there's no easy answer.  Unfortunately, I'm not here to offer miracles.

I choose personal action and turn the channel, turn off the television, or not buy the book when I see it happening.  And I don't do that when I watch New Girl.  So thanks, Liz Meriwether!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Twitter party - media representation of women

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, CEO and Founder of, has been quite an inspiration to me lately.  It seems I'd never post if it weren't for MissRep.  At the very least, her writing has inspired several of my blog posts here.  Her latest call to action includes:
Coupled with the recent news that the Kardashian family's reality TV show has been renewed for another three years, I am especially worried about the message the media is sending my daughter, my son and their generation. Who are their role models? Why are we rewarding reality TV's exploitation of women's bodies? Are looks, for women, more important than their brains or their talents? Is hyper-sexualization and self-objectification now a legitimate path to success in America?
These aren't rhetorical questions, but part of a real conversation we want to have with you - because each of us plays a role in healing our culture. Next Tuesday, at 4 PM PST, we're calling a Twitter party with hashtag #WhyKardashians to get to the root of America's increasing fascination with superficiality and the objectification of women in popular media. 

I keep going back to #TheConversation.  The conversation springs from the unrealistic images of perfection purported throughout the media.  We should, instead, consider what we can do to better value ourselves.  Our culture has been permeated with a distorted way of showing women and girls. I'm glad there are people fighting for an "international action-oriented conversation" around these issues.  I had begun to type our "American" culture, but the misrepresentation of perfect expectation is an international phenomenon and not specific to the U.S.  The status quo is not limited to American movies, television, books and advertising throughout all those venues.
My young life was spent with a slump-shouldered gait and an androgynous mousy brown pixie haircut that got me mistaken for a long-haired boy in our class.  Mother was always telling me to stand up straight, and I kept my posture the way it was just to spite her.  Our "measure of perfection" at the time was Charlie's Angels, a latter-day fictional Kardashians. 
If boys were going to kiss you during the moonlight skate, you had to look as angelic as possible to gain their interest.  Needless to say, I wanted to instead fade into the background.  Even if my mom wasn't telling me to stand up straight to necessarily boost my self-confidence, much less get me my first adolescent kiss at the roller rink, I wish I had heeded her coaxing anyway.  Not to gain the boys' attention, but simply to help me project a better self-image than I had back then.

Women now witness an even more overt push toward perfection by the current size two to four females in the media.  Charlie's newer angels were even updated a few years back to a politically correct modern-day troupe and later another (failed) television show.  

Young women apparently have to embody that kind of flawless figure and magazine cover made-up face to be attractive enough to draw positive male attention.  Realizing it is currently the look-at-me generation, girls are trying more than ever to get anyone and everyone to look at them.  Are they hoping to mirror the K sisters or some other cookie-cutter pattern?

I hope they choose to stand up straight for themselves and not for the gaze of others.