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    Guest Post: How Anderson Cooper Changed My Outlook on Outing

    July 22nd, 2012

    This is a cross post from Carrie at Don’t Be Afraid to Open Your Eyes, reprinted here with permission. And, don’t forget, she’s hosting our July Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival on Wednesday, July 25! Be sure to check that out, too!

    When I was a sophomore in high school, my Gay-Straight Alliance hosted an event called “Tales From the Closet.” It was an open mic night, during which teachers and students (myself included) sat on stage and told their coming out stories. Many of the speakers were LGBT-identified, but not all of them were – allies told stories, too, about how they became supporters of LGBT rights. There were funny stories, sad stories, and surprising stories, but the one unifying factor was that everyone’s story was different. The idea behind the event was that everybody has a story, and everybody should have an opportunity to share that story publicly. It was an empowering night, and one that has stuck with me for the past decade.

    I remember that night often, particularly whenever I hear stories about public figures coming out (or, at least, starting to publicly identify) as LGBT. Even with actors or musicians or politicians whose careers and lives I don’t follow, I’m always curious to read their coming out narratives and their public declarations of queerness. It’s really true that everyone has a story, and when people in the spotlight use their fame to share their stories, they have the power to change hearts and minds. They also have the power to make life easier for young queer people who lack role models and feel isolated in their communities. Never underestimate the political and cultural power of a good coming out story.

    But there’s one critical caveat that is often ignored: ultimately, none of this is our business. A stranger’s coming out process should not be in the public’s control. While I wish everyone talked openly and publicly about their sexual identities, the reality is that some people don’t feel safe doing so. Some people don’t fit neatly into “Gay” and “Straight” boxes and have difficulty articulating their identities. And some people are just private. And that is okay. Nobody should ever feel pressured or obligated to be out or to be a spokesperson for the movement.

    This has been on my mind a lot in the weeks since Anderson Cooper publicly came out. I say “publicly,” because Cooper has always been out. As he wrote in his statement, “I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues,” meaning he’s not any different than any other LGBT person who’s openly LGBT. The only difference is that he’s on television, and as a result, people who don’t know him, who aren’t a part of his life, feel connected to him and feel that they deserve to know his business.

    But we don’t. None of us do.

    For a long time, like many people, I desperately wanted Cooper to come out. For years, his identity as a gay man was viewed as an “open secret” – something that we all knew, but something that wasn’t publicly acknowledged. I believed that, as a public figure with significant influence, Cooper was being selfish by not talking about his sexuality publicly. “He’s living a lie,” I thought. “He’s not being a good role model for queer youth. He’s trying to hide something. Who does he think he is?”

    And then, earlier this month, Cooper came out. As I read his statement, something in me changed. I began to realize that the pressure that I – and others – placed on him with our speculation was completely unfair. We have no way of knowing whether he came out due to pressure or due to his authentic, genuine desire to do so, but I think it was a mix of both. I don’t think he would have come out if he didn’t want to, but I also think that if the pressure and speculation hadn’t been a factor, he would have been happy to continue living his life privately. I’m glad Cooper came out, and I’m glad that he felt comfortable doing so. But his doing so has absolutely changed my perspective on what we talk about when we talk about coming out.

    Coming out is terrifying. I’ve come out several times, as my own understanding of my identity has shifted, and the process has been scary every time. You never know how people will react. You never know how it might change your relationships. You never know how it will impact your job security and safety and wellbeing. As a result, coming out should always be an intensely personal decision. While I believe there’s truth behind the phrase “the personal is political,” I do not believe that people have an obligation to come out for political reasons. When it comes to celebrities and public figures, we often assume that there’s a political and social obligation to be out. But truthfully, there isn’t.

    Now that Cooper is publicly out, he is in a vulnerable position. Part of the reason he didn’t openly discuss his sexuality for so long is because of his job. As he wrote:

    Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.

    Cooper’s personal safety never occurred to me as a reason why he might not feel like coming out. It’s a very, very good reason, and now that I know it, I wish I hadn’t contributed to the speculation. The man deserves his privacy, as we all do. And while his being out will probably do some good for gay visibility, is it worth the security he’s now sacrificed? I don’t know. I hope it is. But I feel some guilt over it, and it’s causing me to think twice about perpetuating speculation of others in the future.

    My thought process on this is evolving. I still believe that everybody has a story, and everybody should have an opportunity to share that story publicly. But having the opportunity is not the same as having the obligation. Despite numerous advances, our culture is still a dangerous one for LGBT people, and while coming out is one way of raising visibility and increasing societal acceptance of queer people, it isn’t the only way. And before we start the next round of gossip about which celebrity may or may not be gay, let’s pause and lay off the pressure, so that people can truly tell their coming out stories in their own way and in their own time, if at all.

    Photo Credit: mroach

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    Guest Post: Why I Submit to My Husband

    July 21st, 2012

    This is a cross-post from Danielle at from two to one. Danielle is a twenty-something newlywed who writes about the intersection of marriage, faith, and feminism at from two to oneConnect with her via Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.

    Not long ago, Relevant posted a provocative article entitled “Who Submits to Whom?”  First, I give props to the author for using correct grammar.  But more importantly, it’s something that M and I have wrestled with, discussed at great length, and investigated deeply through Bible studies, books, talking with other couples and pastors and friends, and prayer.

    This is not about the ongoing theological debate surrounding such hotly-contested hermeneutical gymnastics about what “head” means (source? provider? protector? boss?) or even about whether Ephesians 5:21 is a segue for a related, but highly differentiated set of guidelines for husbands and wives, or whether it’s establishing a context for the mysterious verses that follow.  M and I havelooked deeply into the two camps — popularly delineated as complementarianism and egalitarianism — during our dating relationship, engagement, and continually throughout our ever-strengthening marriage.

    In raw honesty, we do not feel comfortable in either camp.  It’s a similar feeling as being the most conservative people in liberal circles and the most liberal in conservative circles; it’s a lose-lose situation when discussing it as strict either/or.  Either you are a good feminist and don’t submit to your husband or you are a bad Christian wife and disrespect your beloved.  Either you are a good Christian and submit dutifully to your spouse or you are a bad feminist for even uttering the dirty s-word.  So let me just say it.

    I submit to my husband.  My husband submits to me.  We mutually submit to one another.  For those who will pray for our souls given our “radical feminist interpretation” of these difficult verses to swallow, so be it.  We do not see this as a salvation issue, and we do consider this to be an incredibly complicated, personal matter for husbands and wives to respectfully decide together.  And yet, we find comfort in knowing that Paul even realizes that this is a profound mystery.

    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32 NIV)

    Sometimes I submit first.  Sometimes M submits first.  But the goal is not to keep tabs or follow some preset decision-making protocol such as the husband being the tie-breaker and Final Decision Maker, but to love one another and grow more into the woman and man God calls us to be.  At this juncture, I usually hear people respond with something like, “Then why did Paul give separate instructions to wives and husbands?  It only says for the wives to submit to their husbands.” Yes, and it admonishes husbands to “love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…and to love their wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:25, 28 NIV).  For Paul to instruct wives to submit to their husbands in the first century AD was not a revolutionary idea; women had no legal, social, or political status.  But telling husbands that they were to basically die to self, sacrifice themselves for the good of their wives, and not treat them as property (which women have been considered for almost all of history)?  Now that is rocking the boat. 

    We feel like we are traveling on uncharted territory as we journey from two to one.  During the first few months of marriage, we experienced quite a few growing pains in our adjustment to living together for the first time (let alone living in the same city for more than a month at a time!).  As husband and wife, we also got to experience a lot of newness — from the day-to-day to the sacred to the sexy.  We struggled to understand how to be married.  For those who aspire and adhere to traditional gender roles, the “stuff” of marriage — the decision-making, domestic division of labor, work priorities, and hobbies — is seemingly easier to manage because there is a set path laid out before you.  But as we’ve demonstrated previously, we both, as our parents frequently say, “think too much.”  We seek to test everything and understand a why for each what.

    The result of this “thinking too much” is that we reject patriarchy and its seemingly all-encompassing hold on faith, justice, women, and marriage—precisely the topics I write about here.  As someone who grew up in the Catholic Church and still holds steadfast to the faith despite outrageous bureaucratic shenanigans like this, it literally took years for me to realize that I am a product of patriarchy and its subsequent structures and norms.  Every day, I am uncovering new patriarchal bargains, or as blogger extraordinaire Balancing Jane explains, “Trying to untangle the mess of recognizing the patriarchal system while still being a part of it—a balance that I think we all have to do at some point (if we ever even get to the point of recognition to begin with), and a balance I empathize with as I’m going through it myself in some ways.”

    As a Christian, white, cisgender, able-bodied, married, middle-class, educated, generally attractive American woman, I am undoubtedly and unfathomably privileged.  Not as privileged as my husband, but privileged nonetheless.  As part of our faith and our feminism, M and I are committed to understanding (note: not ignoring or denying or feeling guilty about) our privilege in order to better understand how we can be the change we want to see in the world.

    Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women. (Ashley Judd’s awesome smackdown via The Daily Beast)

    And yet, we conform to traditional gender norms in many ways.  The other day, I screeched and squirmed as I batted the window and pleaded with M to get the moth out of our car.  “Babe, you scared me!  I thought something was seriously wrong!”  Something was seriously wrong.  I needed that bug out of my space and I needed it out now.  M was the guy to do the job.  Not necessarily because he was the only man around, but because I’ve seen him catch a fly with his bare fingers to the dismay and utter shock of my family — even my adult brothers.  A few months ago, I wrote a guest post at ForbesWoman about how I wanted to learn how to sew and how Pinterest and mommy blogs are influencing twenty- and thirty-something women in rebirthing domestic arts and duties.  And daily, I even wear dresses or skirts (especially vintage) because I like the feminine feel and basically because I am more comfortable in them over pants.

    But we analyze why we inhabit these roles given our feminist values.  We acknowledge and value the differences between men and women.  We accept that there are certain things that we both have been socialized toward based on our gender that we genuinely enjoy.  Yet, that doesn’t mean that we need to wholeheartedly reformulate our marriage based on these norms.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t challenge patriarchal notions of power and authority.  That doesn’t mean we can’t account for personality and practicality when deciding how to live our lives as husband and wife.

    Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman?

    (Dr. Russel Moore, author and Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary via his blog.

    I submit to my husband and he submits to me.  We do a delicate dance as we take small steps in unison, sometimes M taking the lead, sometimes me gently guiding, but we do so as a team, as lovers, and as devoted followers of Christ, who is the only true Leader in this relationship.

    Photo Credit: epSos.de

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    Guest Post: Tall, Dark, and Handsome

    July 20th, 2012

    This is a cross-post from Danielle at The Collegiate Feminist, reprinted here with permission.

    Confession: I have a mental checklist for my perfect guy. Tall, dark, and handsome… smart, a little nerdy, worldly, and artsy (piano skills for serenading me with Ben Folds- even better)

    Confession: I’m completely fine being single until I meet the right person. Or am I?

    Confession: Feminism is a source of personal strength and confidence. But I still wonder if letting my guard down and embracing the vulnerability of being in love would strengthen my sense of self as a feminist, but more importantly as a woman.

    When I was growing up, conversations with my mother about dating, marriage, etc. would usually go something like this:

    “Find a career that you’re passionate about first and just make sure he’s the one.” One in this context referring to the perfect guy.

    Yes, the checklist is somewhat of a joke, but I’ve always loved the romantic notion of meeting someone who is that person: tall, dark, handsome, smart, a little nerdy, worldly, and artsy. I was that little girl who grew up in a pink bubble of roses and rainbows with the fantasies of endless “happily ever afters” and when the pretty, pretty princess phase finally came to a close, I began to find similar, yet more mature themes of the idyllic love story in literature and film. I fell in love with characters, their noble, raw, and truly refreshing struggles with finding love, but theorizing 21st century dating prospects a la my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies Sabrina (1954) and Love in the Afternoon was not the most believable rendering of reality. Frankly, it led me to disillusionment and disappointment. I wanted my Darcy, my Florentino from Love in the Time of Cholera, and all of Audrey’s dapper co-stars, William Holden, George Peppard, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, and so on. I still believed that my tall, dark, and handsome would come up to my table in Starbucks, where I’m sitting all alone, reading a great piece of literature while sipping a soy latte. That is to say, at this very moment, I had merely fallen in love with the idea of falling in love.

    Flash forward to college- I had listened intently to all of my mother’s stories of all the dates and meeting guys outside the library after a long day of studying and I was convinced that I would be drawn to like minded individuals, bonding over lingering discussions after class or something of that sort. Imagine my crash course in college social life 101. For me, this was my reality check. Not to imply that college is reality, but it woke me up from yet another fantasy world. And I became more cynical, less dreamy, less doe-eyed. I needed to grow up, but on my terms and without compromising myself. I wanted something real and for the emotional attraction to proceed all else. Instead, this “reality” seemed abnormal, impersonal, and at times stand-offish with relations devoid of all things emotional that ultimately led me to doubt love and to blame myself for not being as carefree or spontaneous or free-spirited as the others. And then I began to explore the implications of feminism. My feminist framework gave me the insight I so deeply needed. It felt safe, secure, and empowering. Becoming a feminist, but perhaps identifying even more strongly as a feminist nurtured me as I began to construct a new confidence, a new sense of self, and a new reality.

    Now I’m in Colombia. A new culture, language, people and yet, still another unfamiliar sense of reality. I am in love with Medellín. A city that has endured, that tells a story of grief, fear, bravery, and triumph. I am in love with paisas-the people of Medellín. The warm affection of greeting friends and acquaintances with a comforting embrace and a quick kiss on the cheek. The tart sweetness of the evenings. The endless hours of dancing, feeling light, giddy, and carefree. Playfully shouting over live salsa, cupping your face with your hands, sharing a laugh and a moment with those huddled in the dim corner of the courtyard. The protection and security I feel from hardly ever walking solo or feeling alone. For a culture that seems to celebrate the femininity of women’s bodies. For the friendships, so honest, loyal, and true. I am in love with the language, the words. The suave and intoxicating sounds of Colombian Spanish and the euphoria I feel when my thoughts are expressed in a bold and coherent manner. And I am in love with the wondrous skylines of this expansive, sprawling city. How the wind rustles through my hair on the balcony of my bedroom, twelve stories above the buzzing streets as I stare out into a paradise of glimmering lights that sparkle and shine for miles and miles. But maybe I love it all, because I love the way it makes me feel. I’m not burdened or weighed down, the self-deprecation is fading. I smile. I laugh. I feel a profound gratitude for the now, this time to just be.

    “But maybe I love it all, because I love the way it makes me feel…”

    Forget the mental checklist, the tall, dark, handsome, and the fictional dreams–this is a perfectly lovely beginning. Or at least, the love that I want to believe in. The kind of love that needs to precede love. The love for something greater than me, greater than you. A love that teaches you how to love. Feminism led me here. To a place where I found an inner strength through the written word and a new, undiscovered sense of self. It’s beautiful. It’s real. It’s inviting and welcoming. Everything you ever imagined.

    The jokes still ensue. My family is determined that I will find a dreamy Colombian. My friends here want to play match maker. Apparently, asking how the guys feel about “machismo” determines our potential compatibility. “Absurdo!” has proven to be a winning answer.

    So maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But regardless, I found something more lasting and true, at least for now- a love and respect for myself, the feminist I am, the woman I am, the person I am.

    And I think to myself……what a wonderful world.

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    Guest Post: Rape “Jokes” & Daniel Tosh

    July 19th, 2012

    This is a cross-post from The Mamafesto, reprinted here with permission and edited from the original for language and length.

    Trigger Warning: Multiple mentions of rape, rape culture, and sexual assault throughout this post. 

    If you’ve somehow been unplugged for the last day or so, let me catch you up to speed. This happened: Comedian Daniel Tosh was performing stand up and made some jokes about rape, an audience member called out that rape jokes are never funny, and according to her, he decided the best way to handle her outburst was to respond with:

    “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

    The incident was shared via a Tumblr post and… the internet exploded. Everyone had an opinion – on whether or not you can even joke about rape, about Tosh’s non-apology, about how to make a rape joke, and many spoke up in support of Tosh. (I also love Bitch‘s Douchebag Decree that sums up everything to a T)

    I’m not a comedian, and am only occasionally (mostly not on purpose) funny. I’m not here to comment on humor or what passes as a joke these days. However, an unintended conversation on Twitter yesterday, coupled with a story from a friend got me thinking.

    Last night I found myself engaged with a comedian who didn’t quite understand why everyone was so up in arms over Tosh’s “joke.” Relax. Take a chill pill. You’re overreacting. You have no sense of humor, etc… I did my best to not engage, but when he verbally attacked a friend of mine, I stepped in. I was rational. I was calm. I made some logical points. And yet…

    (I’ve chosen not to share screen caps of our conversation because I don’t need to give this guy any more attention. The bolding are my doing).

    Him: The idea of “rape culture” is your cross to bear, I’m afraid. Not everyone believes in it. Like alien abduction.

    Me:  how can you not believe in it when 1/6 women are victims of rape/attempted rape? coincidence? (And I linked to: http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims)

    Him: Because the idea of rape being a culture is a very specific idea propagated by a very specific group that I am not part of.

    Me: rape culture means that as a society we fail 2 be a part of the solution when it comes to rape. regardless of individuality. and when you make “jokes” or observations or attacks or whatever you want to call it, you become part of that problem.

    Him: It’s a very extreme feminist viewpoint, which I can’t get behind. Rape’s already illegal and immoral. What else do you want?

    Me: Not everyone agrees it’s immoral or there wouldn’t be rape. or people joking about it. or people saying she was “asking for it.” or people saying she “led him on/teased him.”

    Him: Those two things are bull, I agree. But they are not my problem, or society’s problem. They are a rapist’s problem.

    Me: when you make “jokes” or observations or attacks or whatever you want to call it, you become part of that problem.

    Him: No I don’t. That’s where it goes off the rails. My words don’t cause people to get raped or rape each other. That’s nonsense.

    Me:  words may not *cause* rape but they allow others 2 feel ok laughing about it-normalizing it in society when its anything but.

    * * *

    That. That conversation right there is why Tosh’s “joke” aimed at an audience member is unacceptable. There are people who believe that their words don’t matter. The fact that there are people that live in the same world I do who don’t believe that rape culture exists makes it very dangerous to have jokes like Tosh’s not only applauded but defended. Beyond thinking that “rape culture” is an extremist point of view, this guy shrugs off any responsibility (for himself and society) as far as rape goes.

    Perhaps this comedian has never felt the need to cross the street while walking home alone late at night to avoid a potential situation. Perhaps this comedian has never had to question if the clothes he’s wearing might give somebody the wrong impression. Perhaps this comedian has never had to repeatedly tell somebody no because they just didn’t get it.

    Read the rest of the post at The Mamafesto! It’s REALLY GOOD! Go! Do it!

    Photo Credit: redfriday

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    New Project and Guest Post: Our Reality

    June 15th, 2012

    This is a cross-post from Avital Norman Nathman at The Mamafesto. Her and Carrie Nelson are good friends of mine and they are working on a new project to allow teen moms to share their own stories. This is a powerful project and they need your help. Please read this article and vote for them so they can receive the funding they need to make this project a reality (no pun intended – this is a great idea and these stories need to be heard!).

    Holyoke Massachusetts is a city known for many things. It’s considered the birthplace of volleyball, holds the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the nation, and has a mayor who was elected at the age of 22. It also, however, holds the distinction for having the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state – five years running.

    And, for the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many of these teen mothers as they work toward completing their GED or high school diploma at The Care Center. If you know me outside the internets, then you’ve probably heard me talk all about The Care Center a time or two. I also may have shared a story or two from there here, as well.

    Now? I want to share even more stories. I’ve spoken with the young women, and they want to share their stories as well. They’re sick and tired of MTV’s “reality” shows being the face of teen pregnancy. Time and time again they’ve told me that Teen Mom is not their reality. These young moms have a much different story than ones we’re used to seeing in reality shows, but their stories are no less valid. Not only are they working toward acquiring an education, but they’re actively fighting against the stigma of teen pregnancy/parenthood – whether they realize it or not.

    Our Reality (helmed by me and my friend Carrie Nelson) is a project that will help these young women share their stories – their realities. The goal is to create a website that would feature mini documentaries of some of the moms at The Care Center. The girls will write their own stories and narrate the videos, which will include images and clips from their daily lives. They are eager to lend their voices to the narrative of what it means to be a mother, a young woman, a person working toward something more – and we want to help them do so.

    To get this project off the ground, we’ve signed up to win a $3,000 Storytellers award from GOOD Makers. You can read more about what we envision there, and vote for us if you feel inclined to do so. You can only vote once and the contest runs until July 3rd. Please consider lending your support to this project by voting and letting others know about our campaign.

     Originally posted at The Mamafesto. Vote here!

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    Guest Post: Defying Social Norms II: Little Boxes All The Same

    October 6th, 2011

    This is a guest post by the awesome Stephanie Farrell. You might remember her from this post previously. And now she’s back, being even more awesome. 🙂 Yay!

    The grass at our house had gotten way too long, and gone way too long without a mow (in the summertime down in South Florida, you really need to mow your grass every week, basically at the lowest setting on the mower). It’s Richard’s “job” at our house to mow the lawn, which he really doesn’t like. I guess most people don’t. He puts it off and puts it off. At our house, it’s my job to do this dishes and house clean (sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, etc.) on the weekends, which I really don’t like. I put it off and put it off. Usually, neither get done when they’re supposed to, and by the time we get around to it, the lawn is out of control and the house is a disaster. For five years we’ve been doing this dance. I find other things, like say, writing on my blog, or work, or Facebook, or some other random thing to do besides clean the house. Richard finds other things to do like, clean the house (haha, since this is what I avoid at all costs), or play a game, or anything else in the world besides mowing the lawn.

    If you recall my “Defying Social Norms” post, I mowed the lawn about a month ago to teach my children a lesson on what a woman and a man can do. I actually really enjoyed mowing the lawn. It gets me moving and exercising and I’m accomplishing something at the same time. Plus I really get a sense of satisfaction when I look at the lawn after I’ve finished mowing it. Well, our yard really needed to be cut, and since I knew Richard didn’t really want to but felt he HAD to now because it was starting to look ridiculous, and hello we have neighbors probably looking at our lawn thinking we must have died, I offered to do it. I don’t know how to change the blade height on the lawn mower, so Richard did that for me, and generously filled the tank up with gas. He said, “You don’t have to do the whole yard, I’ll do the back if you just want to do the front.” Man was it hot yesterday around noon, but I took the task. I really enjoyed being out in the heat, sweating, knowing I was exercising and alone.

    I think you have to be a parent of multiple children who all want every second of your being to appreciate what it can mean to be alone. There’s no one screaming or crying or whining or hungry or thirsty, there’s just you and a lawn mower. It makes the same noise continuously (unless you run over a stick), but that noise means it’s working just as hard as you are. It’s just as good a silence- another rare commodity when you become a parent. It’s time to think, or not to. It’s when your mind isn’t racing, perfecting the art of multitasking without losing your mind. It’s peaceful mowing the lawn. No fighting over who had the toy first or who’s turn it is to take a bath. Just a nice hour to myself, thinking about whatever I want to think about, or zoning out and feeling like I’m doing nothing at all. I cut the grass again today, to make it shorter, so that next week won’t be such an arduous task.

    Last night, I decided to have a talk with Richard and suggested we switch. Let’s switch responsibilities. You hate doing the lawn, I kind of like it. I hate doing the house, and you’re pretty good at it- dare I say you enjoy it. Who cares what other people think if I’m the one out mowing the lawn and you’re in the laundry room. We’ve been doing it wrong for the past five years, and nothing ever gets done, why don’t we see if we can’t be more productive this way? No argument, it sounded like a great idea to Richard. Why should we care what other people think about how we distribute household responsibilities? I HATE DOING LAUNDRY. Richard actually keeps up with it. Richard hates cutting the grass. I’m more than happy to do it every single week, on a specific day (Saturdays are great, a nice weekend relaxer). I felt great waking up this morning, the house was clean, the yard looked nice.

    You know, it’s amazing that for five whole years, we assign our responsibilities based on what society tells us male and female roles should be around the house. It was just always assumed Richard was to take care of the lawn and cat box (he can keep this one!) and other “dirty” chores, and I should be the one doing the dishes and cooking and laundry and all the things I hate. Why? Because that’s what people do, right? Society tells me my role is household chores and yours is yard work. That’s the way things work, we thought, without really even consciously thinking about it. FIVE YEARS go by before we actually talk out loud about what chores we want to do. Forget about what we think we’re supposed to do, what would we enjoy doing most, what would be most productive and efficient, what would keep us most sane. These roles are so deeply ingrained in us that we don’t even think about them- we just go with the flow, whether it makes us happy or not, whether it works or not. Maybe it’s just hard to think solely in terms of what actually will make us happy when we have a whole other schema of what is supposed to make us happy. When those things aren’t working, we’re trained to think there is something wrong with us, not that there’s something wrong with those things. Our household is constantly evolving, and I only see things getting better as we actively think about stepping out of these boxes that society has put us in, and really investigating and experimenting and finding things that work for us, regardless of whether they work for society.

    Stephanie Farrell is a 24-year-old stay-at-home-mom and manager of a five-person family. She is a mother two three beautiful children and a wife to a supportive husband.  Raised in South Florida, she enjoys making homemade jewelry, gardening, and having fun with her family.

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    Guest Post: Highs and Lows Of This Fall’s Leading Ladies

    October 4th, 2011

    This is a guest post by Julia Harpin for TV.com

    New fall shows this season seem to have way more female leads than usual. On its own, that’s awesome, and there are certainly some great female characters on TV right now. Unfortunately when you look at some the shows and what they’re saying about their characters, it’s not always a pretty picture.

    The Good:

    Up All Night

    This show has a great take on the increasing trend of working moms and stay-at-home dads. Reagan, a television producers, works while Chris, a former athlete, stays home with the new baby. They don’t fight over their responsibilities, Chris isn’t bitter, and even though Reagan has moments of missing her daughter while at work, she is happy and passionate about her job. No one around them has a problem with their situation, or even seems to view it as unusual. I love it when TV shows treat unusual lifestyles this way (well, unusual for TV, couples where the mother works and father stays home are hardly rare any more), because it sends the message that this is so normal and acceptable, that there’s no reason for anyone to even make a fuss about it.

    2 Broke Girls

    It’s so refreshing to have a comedy with female main characters where their goals have nothing to do with men or marriage. Waitresses Max and Caroline are trying to raise enough money to open a bakery, but neither of them have any money or any conceivable means to earn the $250,000 they need. So the main tensions of the show come from the two women finding ways to raise capitol for their business, as well as learning to work together despite their polar opposite personalities and upbringings. Some of the side characters are a little stereotypical, but so far Max and Caroline come off as confident women who know who they are and what they want.

    The Bad:

    New Girl

    I had high hopes for this show from the commercials (which were impossible to get away from all summer), but the pilot does not live up to the hype. The main character, Jess, searches for love with the help of her three male roommates. That’s about all the conflict this show seems to have. Jess, while quirky, comes off way too pathetic. She wallows on the couch, she has no idea how to talk to people, she almost breaks down crying in a restaurant. But the guys are there to help her, to protect her. I get the idea that the show creators thought this would come off as endearing, but instead it’s implying that women can’t take care of themselves.

    Pan Am

    You’ve got to give Pan Am a little bit of slack, because from the starting line it’s giving itself a setting full of bigotry and prejudice. Stewardesses in the early 1960s had to deal with levels of discrimination we can’t even imagine in 2011. So for Pan Am to not come off as sexist, it would really have to go the extra mile. Unfortunately, the writers don’t even seem to be trying. It’s not so much that they go out of their way to portray women poorly. It’s just that they glamorize a time and place that viewed women as sex objects, with no apparent consideration for the message they’re sending about how women ought to act and ought to be treated.

    Whitney

    You can tell it’s trying. It wants so badly to be a feminist show but, poor thing, it’s still so far away. Maybe if the central conflict of it’s pilot wasn’t Whitney worrying that her boyfriend will get sick of her, or maybe if her best friends weren’t such ridiculous stereotypes (an angry, alcoholic divorcee and a bubbly airhead), or maybe if Whitney didn’t spend about half the episode in a slutty nurse costume, then it would be different. As it is, Whitney just reinforces gender roles and fails to have anything positive to say about women. Which is weird, because series creator Whitney Cummings also co-produced 2 Broke Girls, which has far stronger female characters.

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    Guest Post: Teachers are Academic First Responders

    August 26th, 2011

    Janni is one of my favorite bloggers and tweeters out there. As a teacher, she is passionate and cutting-edge. As a feminist, she is ardent and intuitive. Her support has meant the world to me, and just being able to interact with her from our work with Equality 101 as well as our time spent on Twitter has given me hope that a future generation of students is truly learning about social justice and civil rights. Her students are fortunate to have her as a professor, and I am fortunate to have her on my side in the fight for teacher’s rights. Today’s post is all about how awesome teachers are, folks. Get excited!

    Today it seems like teachers automatically have a target on their chest and backs. They cannot do anything right apparently if you follow the popular press, government reports or talk to the average person. Test scores are down, some teachers are preying on their students, or they are too easily protected by the powerful teachers unions. This is only part of the backdrop about teachers, though. This is perhaps why Matt Damon became the patron saint of teachers thanks to his positive support and his “Bourning” of an ignorant cameraman. Let’s really think about teachers and what they do.

    The reality is that people go into teaching for the love of teaching and wanting
    to work in the classroom. They do not go into teaching to make lots of money and have an easy job. The summers are not really off, as teachers often prepare for the next term or school year during this time “off.” Likewise, people do not realize that teachers are often thinking about the classroom—ways to improve discussion or how to manage students. Teaching is not the sort of job that is easily turned off. You take your work home with you—grading and lesson planning. Many teachers actually work a different job during the Summer months in order to supplement their income. If they are not working for paid work, I can tell you that they are doing two things: taking time off and preparing for the next year.

    Teachers today also have to deal with the pressure of having to teach to the test. I have laid eyes upon the thick binder that constitutes the History curriculum in an urban inner-city school in Southern California. I was dismayed that the teachers were given little latitude with how they could personalize the material for the students. The test and test scores are the mantra and this is no way to impart a love of learning. Instead, teachers are now forced to teach to the test in order to not leave any child behind. What this can do is sap the creativity out of our teachers.

    Honestly, teachers are academic first responders (no slight to fire fighters, police, and nurses). They deserve more credit than most are willing to give them. They are not overpaid babysitters. They have to teach children who come to the classroom hungry, angry, sad, ready to learn. And, then the teachers have to deal with parents who are interested, hovering or disinterested. Their multiple constituencies is mind-numbing if you really think about it. I have a teacher in my family and there are many times that I shake my head in utter shock. I’m thankful that my students are adults. But, I feel a certain camaraderie for my teacher brothers and sisters at the K-12 levels. I see the good and positive consequences of teachers’ hard work–because I am one.

    Janni Aragon is originally from California and currently writes from Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, where she lives with her family and two calico cats.

    Janni is a Senior Instructor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. She is a regular contributor at University of Venus and her areas of interest are varied: Gender and Politics, American Politics, Feminist Theories, Youth Politics, and Popular Culture. Currently she is working on a co-edited Introduction to Women’s Studies textbook and she blogs at http://janniaragon.wordpress.com Janni views her primarily role as that of an educator and mentor. She loves the classroom, but probably loves mentoring equally.

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    Guest Post: Feminism, TV, and Men

    August 25th, 2011

    You may remember Cat Rocketship from her guest post last year about feminism and being a housewife. I absolutely loved that post, and I absolutely love this one, too. My favorite thing about Cat, which is also why I asked her to write another post for Small Strokes this year, is that she’s totally able to mold feminism into whatever she wants it to be, and absolutely unafraid to call feminists out on their sometimes overlooked oppression of each other and themselves. Here, Cat does the same thing, recognizing that men are sometimes just as stereotyped as women. And let me tell you, it is pure awesomeness.

    I spend an inordinate amount of time watching TV. I watch enough TV that I’ve started to critique. Enough TV that I have most commercials memorized and I have an opinion on the awesomeness or suckitude of almost every show out there — there aren’t many I haven’t seen. This is the role TV has in my life. I also watch a lot of movies, read a lot, and use the Internet so much it’s like I need it to breathe, but TV. TV is my first love.

    For a long time, I was incensed by the messages I saw there. Mostly commercials — the images of women buying products to improve themselves, often so men would find them sexier, more attractive, more fertile, more appropriate to take home to mother. We’ve all seen those, right? I shook my fists at the men who run the ad campaigns and try to convince women we need to wear fewer clothes. Gross, guys.

    But as the years went on, I started watching TV with men. My friends, my boyfriends, my husband. Once in a while they’d snap at the TV in the same way I did — but when football players tried to tell them they weren’t sexy because they didn’t have a six pack. Or when car companies implied mean things about their anatomy. And each time it made them feel uncool because they didn’t care about the new Jockey polos.

    The men in my life are far from most images of men on TV. They’re more like the “Fiber makes me sad!” hipster, upon whom I am completely crushing. The men I know are funny and smart and concerned with others, and they pretty much only drink Gatorade when they partied too hardy the night before. And just like women, they’re constantly being told they aren’t good enough until they have the body, the clothes, the hair, the sex, the money, the cheekbones, the butt, the house.

    My point is this: you and I, people who dig the concept of feminism, also have a responsibility to fight the negative body imagesmen get. Let’s yell just as loudly about stereotyped jocks! Let’s insist that the men we love are no less worthy when they aren’t perfectly groomed. It’s just as feminist to decry doofy husbands as it is to seethe about Summer’s Eve.

    Cat is a writer and artist living in Des Moines Iowa. She writes Hipster Housewife (http://hipsterhousewife.com) and is the managing editor of Offbeat Home (http://offbeathome.com). She loves the Internet with all her heart.

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    Guest Post: Queering Traditional Marriage

    August 24th, 2011

    I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to interact with Carrie. Since well before I joined the Gender Across Borders team, and ever since, Carrie has literally had nothing but wonderful things to say to me, about me, and about Small Strokes. While the ego boost is always nice, it’s even nicer when it comes from someone as talented and devoted to the feminist cause as Carrie. Her post today about getting married and standing for marriage equality is so beautiful, I’m going to let it speak for itself. But I will say this: I truly believe in Carrie’s message here, and I believe even more in her and her mission to be an activist within the LGBT community.

    Few political issues have shaped my life as much as marriage equality. In fact, marriage equality is largely responsible for my interest in political and social activism. In November 2003, when I was a high school senior living in a suburb outside of Boston, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized marriage equality. That day, for the first time, I realized that the fight for LGBT rights was bigger than my GSA’s annual involvement in the Day of Silence. It was bigger than standing up to bullies by walking down the hallways holding my girlfriend’s hand. I suddenly saw LGBT civil rights – the big things, like marriage rights and employment non-discrimination and protection against hate crimes – as something tangible, something that was actually being achieved in my lifetime. I saw a social justice movement that was relevant to my life as a bisexual woman, and I wanted to be a part of it.

    That day, my views on marriage changed significantly. I saw marriage as more than a beautiful act of love or a symbol of lifelong commitment between partners – now it was a political stance, a radical act of love open to any couple, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The realization that someday, at least in my home state, I would be able to marry the partner of my choosing, no matter what gender that person might be, was huge. The world was full of possibilities.

    Three years later, I started dating Anders, the man who is now my husband. Prior to that point, when I thought about my future, I had always pictured spending it with a woman – that was just where the bulk of my relationship experience and romantic feelings had centered. But once I met Anders, the gender of my partner didn’t seem as significant. We fell in love and knew rather early on in our courtship that this was the real deal. So, for the first time in my life, I started thinking seriously about what heterosexual marriage meant. Could I still be an LGBT activist and marry a man? If I read as straight to the average observer, would my marriage still be able to stand for the radical notion of love that marriage equality had come to represent in my mind?

    Anders shares my passion for marriage equality, so once we got engaged, we were mindful of equality in both our wedding planning and in our every day lives. Incorporating marriage equality in our wedding was the easy part. In addition to cookware and table settings, we registered for donations to Freedom To Marry. During our ceremony, my maid of honor read from the bell hooks essay, “Love As the Practice of Freedom,” which is about how love should be a critical component in all social justice movements. And before the breaking of the glass (which was already queered by the fact that I, a woman, did the stomping), we included text linking marriage equality to the Jewish notions of remembering injustice to temper times of great joy and engaging in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) to make the world a more just place.

    All of those actions were deeply meaningful to us, as well as to our LGBT and allied friends. But a wedding is only one day, and the gestures would have been empty if we did not consciously think about equality as part of our relationship on an ongoing basis. Try as I might, it’s hard to put into words exactly what that looks like. Certainly, we’re equitable with chores and finances, like any respectable Card-Carrying Feminist CoupleTM, but it’s more than that. It’s a mindset. It’s a way in which we look at ourselves, and the world around us, and think, “What do we want the institution of marriage to look like in 20 years?” Marriage may be one of the oldest human institutions in the world, but it’s also a living and breathing one, and it’s constantly changing. Anders and I want to help it change for the better. We want to make it more equal and open to the wide variety of partnerships we see around us all the time. And we do that by looking at our queer, interfaith relationship and honoring it, regardless of how others might feel about it. All partnerships matter, no matter what they look like and no matter the gender or sexual preferences of the partners. That, in my mind, is the true definition of marriage equality.

    In June, I sat anxiously at my laptop and watched the live streaming video from the New York Senate floor as marriage equality was debated and, ultimately, legalized. My heart soared, and I thought back to our wedding day, which took place only six weeks earlier. I thought about what our officiant read just before I stepped on the glass: It’s important to Carolyn & Anders that their joined lives be part of Tikkun Olam, of repairing the world, and today, they stand together not only for each other, but for a world they want to see flourish. And I realized that the world we were talking about, the world we wanted to see flourish, is already coming about. Change is slow, but it’s happening. We, and so many other queer and allied couples, are helping to make it happen.

    Carrie Nelson is an Editor and Founder of Gender Across Borders. Her background is in film production, and she currently works as a grant writer for an LGBT nonprofit organization. She lives with her husband, also a writer, in NYC. You can follow her writing and ranting about movies and feminism on Twitter.

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    Guest Post: Defying Social Norms

    August 23rd, 2011

    An internet friend of mine recently introduced me to Stephanie’s blog, Practicing Parenting, and I am so glad she did. This blog is awesome. She’s a feminist parent, and a stay-at-home mom who teaches her kids about gender equality. How much more awesome can you get? Fortunately, she’s allowed me to repost her post, Defying Social Norms so y’all could enjoy it here. But this just touches the surface of what she’s doing on her blog, so check out her site!

    So, this morning, Richard told me he was going outside to do some yard work. I asked what kind of yard work. Oh, you know, pulling weeds, mowing the grass. I jokingly said, “I’ll mow the lawn for you.” Richard, “Really?”  Then Richie chimes in, “No, Mommy, you can’t mow the lawn.” So I asked why.  The response, “Because only Daddies can mow the lawn, you’re not big enough.”  OH MY GOODNESS.  So I told my young Richie that I indeed could mow the lawn and so could any other Mommy that wanted to.  His reply, “OKAY. But be careful, Mommy.”

    Super-Mom to the rescue! Defying social norms and setting a great example for my two young children (I don’t think Sophia is old enough to realize what is really taking place).  A great example to Richie that he is no better simply because of his gender, and to Lily also- just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you aren’t strong enough or big enough to do hard work.  OKAY. Now how do I work a lawn mower?  Seriously. I have never in my life mowed a lawn- even though we were all girls growing up, my Dad tasked my oldest sister Jennifer with that responsibility.  I suppose because I’ve always been of a really small stature, my height maxing out at 4 feet 11 inches and growing up my weight never being more than 90 pounds.

    So I asked Richard to give me a quick tutorial (he wasn’t aware I’d never worked a lawn mower until this point).  How do you start it?  You pull a string back quickly while holding down on a lever at the handle-bars.  Okay. You mean I have to keep holding this for the lawn mower to keep working? No problem.  To make the front wheels drive I also have to hold down two OTHER levers?  Alright, I can do this.  The backyard was a breeze. I strategically did the sunny side first so that I could “relax” in the shade with the other half. The easement? Not so breezy. Although it’s mostly shaded, it’s mostly on an incline. Half way through I ran out of gas. Another trip to Daddy to figure out where to find and put that.

    At about 90% completion of the easement I had to turn the mower off to move some big sticks.  This was a little bit of a downfall for me because my arms were so tired I couldn’t restart the mower.  I had to ask Daddy for some assistance.  After 3 seconds the mower turned off again- MORE GAS.  I didn’t put enough in last time.  Okay.  I told Richard I’d do my best to restart it myself after I added more gas. SUCCESS.  I started it all by myself!  I finished the easement, and part of my neighbors easement.  Then I headed to the front yard to finish the job.

    My elderly neighbor, Mr. Roots, looked very confused that I was mowing the lawn instead of my husband (at the same time, my husband was outside in our laundry room washing and drying towels, we must of put this 80-something-year-old man through a loop).  A few neighbors (men) saw me out mowing the lawn and proceeded to go to their own sheds and get their lawn mowers and start getting to work.  Male egos can be easily manipulated by seeing a woman doing a “man’s job”.  As I type I still hear lawn mowers cutting grass.  I went ahead and cut the neighbors lawn next to my wood fence and finished our front lawn and easement, even though Richard pointed out (which I already knew) that it wasn’t our lawn. It’s okay to defy social norms and do a good deed at the same time.

    I got myself good in the gut turning the lawn mower in the easement and really knocked the wind out of myself.  In case you didn’t know, I live in south Florida, and even at 10:00 or 11:00AM the sun is brutal.  I was thirsty and hot and sweaty and wanted to quit and let Richard finish the front by himself. I pushed forward because I know that this is an important lesson for my children.

    It’s fine and well to use words to explain to your children how boys and girls aren’t very much different besides their anatomy and that girls can be strong and boys aren’t the only ones capable of “hard” work.  It’s a whole different level when you are physically showing them; leading by example.  The feeling of satisfaction after completing my task, and the knowledge that my kids saw me do something (yes, they watched- they wanted to!) they thought only their Father could, is by far one of the most satisfying and invigorating feelings on this Earth.

    I can do dishes, I can fold laundry.  I can change diapers and make bottles.  I can vacuum, mop, and cook.  I CAN MOW THE LAWN, TOO.

    I AM SUPER-MOM, HEAR ME ROAR.

    Stephanie Farrell is a 24-year-old stay-at-home-mom and manager of a five-person family. She is a mother two three beautiful children and a wife to a supportive husband.  Raised in South Florida, she enjoys making homemade jewelry, gardening, and having fun with her family.

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    Guest Post: Lost in Translation

    August 22nd, 2011

    When I met Colleen, we were at a reading for Reality Bites Back with Jenn Pozner. After the reading, she pulled me aside and said “I don’t know you at all, but I hear you’re a teacher and I want to pick your brain.” And that was the start of a beautiful friendship. Colleen is a whirlwind of energy in the best possible way. When you meet her for the first time, it’s like you’ve known her forever. She’s clear-headed, hilarious, and has the kind of positive outlook on life that I envy. She truly is the kind of person that looks at her life experiences – good and bad – and both learns from them and turns them into a funny story. I’ve been bugging her to submit a guest post to me forever because I knew you all would enjoy it, so when she sent this to me, I was practically jumping for joy. I think Colleen hits the nail on the head here with her post – sometimes in a relationship, things get lost in translation, no matter what language you’re speaking.

    I always order for my husband in restaurants. It has nothing to do with gender equality, reversing gender stereotypes, or anything of that sort. Waiters simply cannot understand him. He mumbles, which doesn’t help, but he also brought his accent with him from the UK where he was born and lived until he was twenty five years old.

    What is the first thing you usually ask a waiter for? Water. It’s taken him awhile to get used to even asking for this, as it’s not complimentary or readily offered across the pond, but it’s also an earful for someone not prepared for a British accent. I tend to shout out, “WA-TERRRRR” before he can even open his mouth. A few nights ago he beat me to the punch and the waitress stared at me baffled until I translated English into English.

    The most common reaction I get when people find out I’m married to a Brit is this question: Does he have an accent?? I can see ladies’ faces perk up as visions of Hugh Grant circa 1998 dance through their heads. When I answer yes, the smiles that spread on their face are truly Mr. Darcy worthy. I quickly explain to them that the accent sometimes causes more trouble than it’s worth.

    When we first started dating, we had a fun time swapping new vocab words (ice lollies for popsicles is probably my favorite.) With our first argument, however, I remember being particularly stung by the haughty sound of his insults. Once I even yelled at him, “Stop being so snarky!” to which he replied, “I’m not being snarky! This is just how I talk!” In the middle of a New York City move in the dead of summer (surely the downfall of many a relationship) I cut a corner with something heavy and scraped the wall. “Stop being so brutish!” he yelled, only to be even more annoyed by my laughter at his grandpa speak.

    One night recently, we had a good hour-long conversation about why he told friends “I’ll check,” when they asked if he was available to hang out. I talked on and on about his need to be autonomous and not “report” to his wife if he wanted to do something with his friends. Increasingly frustrated at my failure to grasp that he was not, in fact, reporting to me, he finally blurted out, “I think it’s an American thing! I would never say ‘I’ll get back to you!’” Stopped in my tracks, I realized that our whole conversation had occurred because, after five years together, things were still getting lost in translation.

    I know that other couples misunderstand each other. I know that the first year of marriage is often about figuring out how exactly two people fit their lives together neatly. Added to this dynamic in my life, however, is a strange penchant for using different words to mean almost the same thing. Most of the time I don’t hear his accent anymore, but in my house we empty the bin, not the trash can, clean up using kitchen roll, not paper towels, and go to the loo, not the bathroom. Turns out marriage has taught me how to speak another language.

    Colleen Cavanagh is a friend of Ashley’s and a teacher in Chicago.

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    Guest Post: Nothing’s Perfect

    August 19th, 2011

    I have been so fortunate to make the acquaintance of Liana on Twitter (what a cool tool for meeting new, like-minded people!). She has been great fun to interact with, and has been incredibly supportive. When she reacted to a few of my posts, saying she could relate to them, I asked her to write a guest post for me here. I’m so glad she did, because this post is wonderful. She writes about the very real issues we all go through when we find ourselves no longer… well… ourselves in a relationship. This is something we can all relate to.

    Some time ago,  Ashley blogged about what it was like to lose yourself in a relationship and find yourself again. She mentioned, among other things, that she believed in love but also in being partners with the person you loved. I identified with her post so much, and felt myself nodding in agreement all the way. But it was this line that really hit home for me: “Somewhere along the line, my life became less important than ours.” I knew exactly what that felt like.

    When we met, Radioguy 1 and I were hard at work on making our career dreams come true. What a coincidence that we were both brought to that college town in Upstate New York by our careers: he a sports broadcaster, I a graduate student. He worked with several sports teams year round. I had just started PhD coursework and was teaching my own classes. When the day was over we’d run over to each other’s apartments’ we’d finish work on the couch or the kitchen table and catch up. Sometimes I cooked, or we went out to dinner, or hung out with friends. Later, we’d sit down and watch tv for a little while before going to bed. I felt we were perfect.

    Almost two years later, we decided to move in together. It made sense: we shared expenses and living space anyway, and we both believed in living together before committing to someone for the rest of our lives. We refused to move into each other’s apartment because we thought that would bring tension and a sense of invasion, so we looked for our own apartment.

    Months later after we moved in together we started having problems. We argued over laundry. We argued over how to arrange items in the refrigerator. We argued about having space to ourselves (in a one-bedroom apartment, of all places).

    I didn’t realize at the moment that part of what made our relationship work was that we had accepted each other for what the other person was. Work late? Sure! Go away for the weekend with friends? Why not? But once we were living together, there was always something I needed or he wanted. There was always something that he didn’t do or that I kept on doing. And I became obsessed with being perfect again.

    Here was a big part of the problem: even though I consider myself a feminist, I brought in a lot of expectations about what living together meant. I was all of a sudden consumed by ideas about what I should or shouldn’t do. I thought I should be home early from school when before I would have stayed on campus to work. I resented that Radioguy would stay after games to talk to co-workers, even though he did that before. I thought he should care about chores just as much as I did. I thought a lot during that period.

    Once things got rocky, I dissected our relationship nonstop: what can I do?, I thought. I stopped caring about myself and my work. All I wanted to do was heal our relationship. After all, we were supposed to be perfect for each other. Till this day I always remember what Radioguy told me once during that period: just make yourself happy. But I didn’t know how to anymore. I thought it was my job to make us happy again.

    Eventually we broke up. Those few months apart were rough; I thought he was my soulmate, and the fact that we couldn’t be together shook me apart. However, that period was good for us. We got back in touch with ourselves. We learned to be happy by ourselves again. I started a new job, returned to my research, even went out with someone else for a while. But we never lost touch, even when we were hurt and upset, and we gravitated toward each other again. Now we live in Kansas City (coincidentally, because of his job) and are raising a daughter together.

    I can’t give you a precise answer why we broke up or how we got back together again. This post isn’t about that. What I can tell you is that I learned to recognize that I was bringing into our apartment high expectations of not only him but of myself; I saw myself trying to be a traditional wife, and failing at being a homemaker. In the process, I lost myself. Now that we’re together, I still make time for my research, and have started writing for my own pleasure again. I do what I can around the house, and share responsibilities with Radioguy. And when he does the laundry I leave him alone.

    Liana reads, writes, listens, tweets, and dissertates on a regular basis. She’s also a first-time parent. Until recently she taught college-level writing, which allowed her to rediscover the pleasure of writing. You can follow her on Twitter (@literarychica) and read her blog (http://wordsaremygame.wordpress.com).

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

    1.  Not his real name.

    6 Comments "

    Guest Post: Honoring my Foremothers

    August 18th, 2011

    Can I just say I love Jillian? OK, I’ll say it: I love Jillian. I have been asking her to write this post pretty much since we met, or at least since she told me the story about her grandmother and her name and why it’s important to her to keep it. I hope I haven’t given too much away here, but this post is for anyone and everyone who has ever even considered keeping their name after getting married. Sometimes, names run deeper than patriarchal lineage. Sometimes, like with Jillian, the importance lies in a well-respected matriarchal figure.

    Deciding whether or not to keep one’s given name or take on your partner’s remains a deeply complex and personal decision. Regardless of whether or not I decide to legally or socially change my name to my partner’s, I have always known that I would keep my given name professionally. This is the story of why.

    Back in 1923, a young woman named Irene was born in St. Louis, MO. Irene held her first job at the age of eight, showing a well-to-do young woman around the city to earn much needed extra money for her family. As a child, Irene always dreamed of becoming a surgeon, confident that her nimble fingers and sharp intellect would serve her well. Not only did Irene dream of becoming a surgeon, but she wanted more than anything to attend Princeton. However, Irene turned 18 in 1941 – a full 28 years before Princeton admitted its first female students and right in the thick of WWII. Like many young American women around her, Irene kept working, just as she had through her childhood, only by now she inspected bomb fuses. There, at Carter Carburetor, she met Reg and fell in love. They married, he went to war, and when he came home they had three beautiful sons. Through all of this, Irene held onto the seed of her dreams, nourishing it deep within her.

    Once all three boys were in school, Irene made a long-awaited appointment with a career counselor at the local community college. While there, she expressed her desire to eventually attend medical school. The counselor, noting Irene’s advancing age (she was in her 30s), told her that by the time she actually practiced medicine, she would be near retirement. He convinced her that it was not worth it, and refused to sign her up for classes. Irene, with her dextrous and caring hands, listened to him. To this day, it remains her biggest regret.

    Irene is my grandmother. As a child, she taught me to paint, my clumsy and youthful attempts with a brush paling in comparison to her landscapes and still-lifes. We spent hours in front of the sewing machine, the embroidery hoop, and with knitting needles as she patiently tried to transmit to me the skilled motions that came so naturally to her. She taught me to play countless board games and card games, and regularly took me to visit Bear-ly Read Books, leaving with paper bags overflowing with novels of all sorts. Irene has supported my every intellectual, creative, and educational goal, reassuring me at every turn that I could be anything in the world I wanted to be – even President of the United States.

    Two months ago, I graduated with my Master’s degree, the first in my family to do so. As I build my career, I hope to add another diploma to my wall – a Ph.D. Although it’s not the MD Irene longed for, it’s a doctorate nonetheless. And I can’t think of a better way to honor her dream, and the long distances women have traveled since 1941, than to practice as Dr. T.

    So I will. Where ever my professional interests lead me, I will be known as Jillian T. For now, Jillian T., the therapist. Someday, Dr. T. and Professor T., and hopefully even best-selling author Dr. T. And each time I see my name, whether on my diplomas, business cards, books, or practices, I will think of the woman who taught me that anything – even a female president – is possible. And I will be honored to share her name.

    Jillian is a 26 year old couples therapist. She lives in Chicago with her fiance, The Russian, where they enjoy everything from playing Scrabble together to planning trips back to their home in California. Jillian’s hobbies include reading, obsessing over Lady Gaga, researching Ph.D programs, and blogging at Fulfillment of Fireworks. Jillian and the Russian are looking forward to marrying on October 20th of next year.

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

    7 Comments "

    Guest Post: Not Just About Me

    August 17th, 2011

    Lauren and I originally connected through our love of teaching, even in spite of her giving it up to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector. She became a writer for Equality 101, and after that, we were fortunate to meet in person at a Chicago Feminist event. Since our meeting about a year ago, Lauren has been incredibly supportive of my writing, and we’ve commiserated about the future of feminism, equitable relationships, not living in the city – you name it – on many occasions. I’m glad to have met her, and I’m so glad she decided to contribute a guest post this week. As much as you want to be an independent woman as a married feminist, it is sometimes a good reminder to read about how it’s not all about you anymore, and that’s what Lauren has to offer us today.

    I took a look at the job description.  Despite the fact that I was home by myself, I audibly gasped.  I might have even squealed a little bit.  It was perfect.  It was the exact job I wanted, working for the exact non-profit I wanted.  I hurriedly read the rest of the posting, thinking about all the ways I’d tweak my resume and what I’d say in my cover letter.

    There was just one minor problem.  The job was in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    When I got married, I chose to begin a life pursuing our dreams, not just my own.  The days of wildly applying to jobs, regardless of location, are long gone.  So instead of editing my resume, I prepared for a long talk with my husband about whether or not this dream could be possible.

    We weighed the pros and cons.  He is a teacher, and just secured his tenure status.  Moving would mean not only giving that up, but searching for a job in a difficult market.  If he was unable to find a job, it’s unlikely that we could live comfortably on just the non-profit salary that I’d make.  It would also mean trying to get our house ready to sell and selling it.

    One of the most important things I considered was that my husband already has his dream job.  I am confident that he will teach in the same school until he retires, not because he has tenure, but because it is a perfect fit for him.  The climate and culture of the school suit his personality, he’s challenged to grow professionally, and has the support he needs to do it.

    While the North Carolina job seemed to be my dream job, there was no guarantee.  If I was only worried about myself, I’d take the gamble.  But gambling my partner’s dream job for the possibility of my own seemed reckless and selfish to me.  I know that if the situation were reversed, he would consider my needs and happiness in his decision as well.

    How do I know?  He spoke to some acquaintances in his field in North Carolina, trying to get a feel for the job market and sustainability there, without me even asking him to do it.  He invested himself in trying to see if there was a way we could make it work.  We even discussed living in separate states temporarily so that I could take a stab at it.

    In the end, I applied for the job but requested to work remotely.  When I read the e-mail telling me that I was qualified, but they couldn’t accept someone who wasn’t in Charlotte or willing to move, I expected to feel disappointed.  Instead, I felt only assurance that I had made the right decision.

    Several friends have asked how I could place limitations on myself and my career in this way.  To me, the answer is simple: it’s not just about me anymore.

    Lauren Marie is a feminist, triathlete, and fierce supporter of teachers and education. She blogs at Forward is a Pace.

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    Guest Post: Food, Farming & Feminism

    August 15th, 2011

    I have been so fortunate to meet Avital through Twitter and our work with Gender Across Borders. She is always ready to provide advice, an ear, or – in today’s case – a guest post. Avital’s feminism and activism has been an inspiration for me, especially when it comes to feminism and food. Her expertise in the area of urban farming is something I envy, and when she said she wanted to write something for my readers about it, I was all for it! And I’m glad she did, because this post definitely gives us all something to think about when it comes to food, farming, and feminism.

    Planting seeds, pulling weeds and harvesting greens…on the surface these activities hardly scream feminism, but when you dig a bit deeper, it’s almost hard to miss the strong connection between food, farming and feminism. For me, it all boils down to a sense of self-sustainability: if I’m able to grow some crops and turn them into something both edible and nourishing, I’ve added just one more way to ensure both my independence and ability to take care of myself, especially as a stay-at-home mom. There is also the slight satisfaction I get (beyond biting into a tomato picked straight from the vine!) knowing I that excel at something that is traditionally a male endeavor.

    This is the third year that we’ve planted our small urban vegetable garden.

    My husband tending to our kale

    We don’t have an actual yard or lawn, and instead ripped out the few ornamental bushes the previous owners planted. With only a six by ten square foot plot of dirt surrounded by bricks, I’m able to grow broccoli, various types of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, kale, basil and mint.

    I can then take my veggies and herbs and turn them into delicious, healthy meals for myself and my family. While some might scoff at what I do and suggest that I’m conforming to a ’50s ideal of the wife who stays home and cooks for her family, I find that it’s completely the opposite for me.

    Instead of playing into a stereotype, I’m actively transforming the notion of what a homemaker is with my little garden. I’m taking the power back, working hard, and choosing to eat my own produce rather than patronizing big box stores. Like the feminists of the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s, I’m driven by the desire for self-sufficiency and autonomy as well as achieving personal satisfaction. Yet instead of heading out to the office, I head to my garden.

    The idea of small and even urban homesteads has only grown in recent years, with women raising backyard chickens, planting gardens and learning skills that had been put to the wayside for most, like canning, spinning yarn, baking bread from scratch, etc… Various books and articles have even been written about these women, showing that most have either Masters and Doctorates but choose instead to see their workspace within the home rather than outside of it. Author Shannon Hayes even went as far as coining the term RadicalHomemaker,” when explaining this phenomenon and sharing the stories of women living this life.

    This idea of radical homemaking is not just for the middle-upper class, however. Every week I head to a nearby inner city to tutor teen moms who are working towards their GED. I’m there once a week, and in the short time I spend with them, I invariably get into discussions about their food choices. Bags of Doritos, piles of Slim Jims, huge bottles of soda and fast food containers litter their desks. The girls are quick to remind me that these choices are cheap and quick. I remind them that they have access to wonderful community gardens right there in the city (and even one tended to by the program they’re in). While I may not change their eating habits overnight, they do get excited about the prospect of being able to grow their own food and control that aspect of their lives – something essential for these young women, many of whom feel that their lives have spun out of control.

    As for me? While I do still work part-time, albeit from home, the rest of my time is spent with my son either in the garden or working with the bounty we reap from it. In the summer we can freshly picked strawberry jam and in the winter we bake fresh bread. It instills a sense of pride in me that I’m teaching my young son all of these tasks as well. As a feminist, ensuring that he not only knows, but appreciates and enjoys having these skills is important to me. One day, hopefully, he will be the one wowing his family with blueberry pie and homemade pretzels. For now he’s just happy getting his feet dirty along with me and eating broccoli straight from the stalk.

    Killer Kale

    This is my favorite way to eat kale (or any hardy green!). It’s both easy and super quick, making a great side to any meal. (You can also put some tofu or a fried egg on top of it and bam! – the perfect meal). It’s also pretty awesome because you can always change up the flavor profile (instead of tamari/soy sauce/sesame seeds you can use a little chili powder & cumin and add some black beans).

    Wash and steam some kale. My favorite, which we grow in our garden, is dino kale. I don’t have a fancy steamer and instead just tear up a bunch of kale, add it to a saute pan with a bit of water and cover. Let it cook for no more than 5 minutes. You want the greens to still be a bright color and not super wilted and mushy.

    While the greens are cooking, toast a handful of sesame seeds in a wok. Add 2 teaspons of olive oil, a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a tablespoon of either tamari or soy sauce. Once the garlic is cooked through, turn off heat and mix in kale. Delish.

     

    A former teacher and lifetime learner, Avital Norman Nathman is a play-at-home mama, freelance writer, wife and feminist (and not necessarily in that order). When not gardening, cooking or dancing around the house, you can catch her musing about motherhood and feminism at TheMamafesto. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

    Want to submit a guest post? Check out the guidelines and email it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    Guest Post: Playing Princess with Purpose

    July 14th, 2011
    Princess

    Image by Www.CourtneyCarmody.com/ via Flickr

    Today’s post is a guest post from Kristin Morton. Kristin does not blog, but this submission makes me think she should. We spend a lot of time talking about how girls don’t have to play princess when they are younger. They should have options! What about doctor? Firefighther? Policewoman? And, while this is absolutely true, what happens when your little girl would rather play princess than anything else? Kristin has an answer, and it maybe isn’t what you’d expect.

    This second baby grew inside me like a brilliant idea.  It started small, and then with time and attention blossomed into a most amazing creature.  I will not forget the sensation of pure joy that I had in the delivery room when my husband told me that we had a girl.  I cried tears that I had no idea were waiting, felt joy that I hadn’t known I’d feel.  I watched my husband realize what it meant to him to be the father of a girl.

    Having a girl baby provides challenges for a feminist mommy.  It starts with trying to avoid baby clothes with words like ‘Diva’ and ‘Princess’. I want my girl to become neither. I searched the racks for anything but pink and purple in which to dress this mass of power and intelligence that I was snuggling.  I remember buying my son pajamas with astronauts, police officers, fire fighters and doctors.  For my daughter, I could find only dancers and princesses.  Cute baby animals were plentiful- but there was no sign of a veterinarian.  As I looked through the choices, I felt like I was the only person that realized that she was already so much more than the world expected of her.

    When she started eating, I cringed every time someone rewarded her for being a ‘good eater’ or ‘eating everything on her plate’.  I know the minefield that awaits girls when it comes to food.  Hearing her praised for the amount that she ate made me nervous.  I know that a healthy relationship with food is an uphill battle for a girl in our world, and I wanted her to be well-armed.

    Now at three, she has a clearly developed set of likes and dislikes. I tried my best to steer her toward the toys, games, and books that were less stereotypical, more child-driven and imaginative, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was holding a cap gun in a nuclear battle.  Refusing her access to the girl toy aisles would be the same as telling my son that he couldn’t play with trucks or trains.  Completely unreasonable.    The feminist mommy has to choose her battles.  I know I can’t talk to her about the fact that Disney princesses do not have mothers and that the only adult women in the princess movies are scary witches.  I really, really want to, but I can’t.  I can’t bear to tarnish the things that she thinks are wonderful and special.  Instead, I teach myself about Strawberry Shortcake and Tinkerbell, and my house now resembles the pink aisles at Toys ‘R Us.

    Here’s how I survive.   I play princess with zeal and enthusiasm.  I tell our daughter that we are beautiful and that putting on the princess accessories makes us ‘fancy’.  I put on the boas and the clip on earrings.  I love how they sparkle.  I tell her that I appreciate the choices that she makes as she adorns us.  When we are dressed as she wants us to be, I survey our kingdom with her.  I ask her what she loves about our kingdom.  We practice gratitude and appreciation.  Then we talk about what we would change in the kingdom.  We are the rulers and we get to make things just how we want them.  We practice being powerful.  Some days we make the stuffed animals our subjects.  We give them tea and cookies.  I watch quietly as she makes sure to give each of our subjects equal amounts of what she serves.  I love her sense of fairness and justice.  Some days we pick beautiful gowns to go to the ball with the prince.  On those days we talk about what we want the prince to be like.  I tell her why her Daddy is my prince, and about the things that made me pick him.   We giggle and laugh.  She loves it when I make crazy faces and pretend that the tea is too hot.  I realize that we are together, playing, laughing and talking about important things.   When I play princess with my girl, I am conveying to her that what she cares about and thinks has value to me.   And just as I don’t want any woman to be judged on what she looks like and wears, I have learned not to judge my daughter for her gowns and tiaras.

     Kristin Morton is a feminist, activist wife and mom. She loves laughing, Cosmopolitans, neighborhood cookouts and fierce debates. She embraces all that is crazy, fascinating, beautiful and challenging and has a giant vision for the world that she tries every day to share with her children.

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    Guest Post: Educators’ Roles in Preventing Sexual Harassment in School

    May 15th, 2011

    Today’s guest post comes from Mandy Van Deven.  Mandy is a progressive activist, co-author of Hey, Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets and editor The Scholar & Feminist Online’s “Polyphonic Feminisms: Acting in Concert.” Her writing can be found in AlterNet, ColorLines, Curve, Marie Claire, RH Reality Check, and The Women’s International Perspective. Her website can be found at www.mandyvandeven.com.

    “He stood next to my desk and kept his eyes on my face as he grabbed his crotch and started rubbing,” she warily confessed to me. “I was pretty shocked by what was happening, so I just avoided his gaze and told him to go back to his seat.”

    One of schoolteachers’ best-kept secrets is their own victimization in incidents of sexual harassment in school. Whether hearing homophobic slurs in the hallway or having a ten-year-old boy masturbate in front of them, many teachers find themselves not knowing what to do to address the situation. Having had little to no training on how to speak with students who have been sexually harassed or accused of sexual harassment, many teachers err on the side of caution by skirting the issue, taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach to what can be a very tricky issue.

    I empathize with these educators who want very much to do right by students, but also want to keep their jobs. And in a socio-cultural environment where a hug can arouse suspicion of sexual misconduct – admittedly, sometimes rightly so – teachers are put in a bind when it comes to their comfort addressing sexual harassment.

    Hey, Shorty!: A Guide to Combatting Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets is designed to be a resource teachers and other school staff (e.g., security, custodians, counselors) can use to advocate for their own and students’ protection. It provides a source of validation and support for the frustrations that come from working within an educational bureaucracy. In order for changes to be made in schools, teachers must feel supported by their immediate supervisors and citywide leaders to step in when incidents of sexual harassment occur and sensitively handle the issue. Hey, Shorty! examines where policy and practice break down, and gives suggestions for how teachers can be advocates for themselves and for their students.

    Here’s a brief peek at what the book has to offer. No doubt this information won’t be new to some of you, and it’s unfortunate that it bears repeating. That said…

    Teachers are the front line of defense for students in preventing sexual harassment in schools, and advocating on students’ behalf can sometimes endanger one’s position. Here are some strategies we suggest you cautiously use to be an ally to your students:

    — Model the behavior you want to instill in young people. Never tolerate behaviors and comments by students or colleagues that have a tone of gender insensitivity or disrespect. Speak up when students or colleagues stereotype males, females, and LGBTQ people or make discriminatory jokes or comments. Ignoring actions or remarks that trivialize or put down girls, women, and LGBTQ people communicates that such put-downs are acceptable, feeds into sexual harassment, and suggests that females and LGBTQ people are inferior and undeserving of protection.

    — Check to see if there is a sexual harassment policy and Title IX coordinator at your school. If there isn’t one, find out who you can speak to in order to advocate for one without endangering your position. You can even volunteer to write the policy and grievance procedures yourself, and include the students in the process of doing so.

    — Talk to other staff members about sexual harassment prevention and form a coalition of sexual harassment advocates in your school who support the students and each other in creating a safer environment.

    — Include information about sexual harassment as a part of every classroom’s code of conduct for students. Hold students accountable to this code of conduct.

    Become or identify an adult ally for students who can handle sexual harassment issues that concern students. This person can serve as a liaison between students and administrators on sexual harassment concerns (as opposed to a person who receives formal complaints). This signals to students that there is someone they can talk to who understands.

    — Give your students an anonymous survey about their experiences of sexual harassment in school that gains information about students’ perceptions of the problem and the impact sexual harassment can have on students. Then share the results with school administrators to raise consciousness about the problem.

    Ask the administrators at your school to hold an assembly about sexual harassment and to bring in educators who are qualified to speak to each class about the topic.

    Have students create prevention posters that inform students and staff about sexual harassment and make sure they are prominently displayed throughout the school.

    Small Strokes is part of the Hey, Shorty! Virtual Book Tour. Check out this link (http://www.heyshortyontheroad.com/tourdates) to see other Tour stops and spaces that are supporting this project and find out how you are able to support it too!

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    Guest Post: Eligible to Propose

    April 28th, 2011

    Today’s guest post is from Shelly, one of my favorite internet friends.  Shelly served on the editorial staff of Equality 101 with me, bent over backwards to help me out, and always has made me laugh with her poignant observations of the world around her.  She is a fantastic teacher, always pushing her students to look outside gender stereotypes.  I was also very fortunate to meet Shelly in person when I visited San Diego last summer.  We talked for a while, and then she asked me – and I’ll never forget this – “So, how do I stack up against how you thought I’d be based on my internet personality?”  I was a little taken aback because, after all, us bloggers do put ourselves totally out there on the internet.  But she was right, what we expect based on what we read isn’t always the same as how it really is.  I told her she was exactly how I expected her to be: bubbly, funny, friendly, with just enough sarcasm.  She told me she imagined I was very put-together and dressed nice, which she said turned out to be true, so that was good. 🙂

    So when I heard of Shelly’s engagement, I was totally stoked for her.  And when this guest post showed up in my inbox yesterday, I was even more stoked.  This post represents Shelly at her best: fighting sexism with humor and just enough sarcasm.  Congratulations to Shelly, and I hope to hear more from her about her engagement and wedding-planning process!

    Sam and I discussed getting married before we were engaged. A lot. We talked time lines, expectations, proposal thoughts, rings, wedding locations, etc. When he proposed, I knew he had already bought the ring. I was definitely surprised when it happened (and where, and how 🙂 ), but I knew more or less it was coming. And seriously, THANK GOD.

    The proposal was nothing like I imagined when I was twelve years old and my “science” teacher had us write a letter promising abstinence to our “future spouse.” Also, Thank God.

    I count my exposure to feminism as a significant reason that our courtship was different from the start. To explain that, I have to tell you about my first feminist mentor, Val.

    In graduate school at SDSU, I was in a Rhetoric of Women’s Rights class taught by Val. She challenged me in so many ways (consciousness raising, anyone?) but one that stuck with me was her problematization of the getting-engaged process. She pointed out one day how gendered the process is–the man decides, spends money on a ring, and then knows when it’s going to happen. He plans what to say, gets mentally prepared, and then, on his terms, pops the question. The woman waits…and waits…and wonders…and hopes, and reads into signs, and over-analyzes her boyfriend’s actions/words, and…waits. Val commented: “I mean why isn’t it a conversation that leads to a mutual decision to get married? Why the proposal lore?”

    And, as they say, CLICK. So when Sam and I started getting serious, I told him my thoughts about the proposal process. (Side note: Folks, PLEASE STOP ASKING WOMEN WHEN “HE’S GOING TO PUT A RING ON IT”).

    Me: “I just hate that the man has all this control–and the woman just waits while people constantly ask her if it’s going to happen soon, and she just sits in the dark and *hopes* or whatever.”

    Sam: “Well we don’t have that kind of relationship. So let’s say it right now, both of us are equally eligible to propose to the other, when we’re ready.”

    Me: “I think I’ll be ready after we have lived together for about 6 months.”

    Sam: “I think that’s about right. Let’s say that then, after 6 months, we’re both eligible to propose.”

    And that frankly, was one of my favorite moments in our relationship. It occurred right before we moved in together. In the meantime, I thought a lot about the proposal I imagined as a child, and I realized that while I hated the power and financial and control issues, I really did want to be proposed to. So I told him, and we talked about it.Then I told him I wanted an ethical ring above all else, and that meant it had to come from Brilliant Earth.

    The media gives us these specific ideas about what a “romantic” or “ideal” proposal looks like, and they become the enemy’s outposts in your head. You start thinking “am I not worthy of a proposal that ends up favorited by tons of people on youtube?” And that is where hegemony comes in, and healthy thinking about womanhood ends.

    He proposed and it was adorable. It was funny, and sweet, and really meaningful to us. The ring is lovely, and ethical, and we spent the next few hours calling our loved ones. I was surprised, but not scared–ready, happy, and in love.

     

    And by the way, anyone should have the chance to feel what I felt that day if they want–regardless of the gender of the people involved.

    Shelly is a graduate student living with her partner, 3 cats, and a turtle in Texas. She blogs at fairandfeminist.com.

    This was a guest post about feminism and relationships.  Have something you want to submit?  Send it to samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com.  But be sure to check the guest post guidelines first!

    3 Comments "

    Guest Post: The New Perfect Marriage

    April 22nd, 2011

    The following is a guest post by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, authors of Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, which I reviewed here. 

                Hollee and her husband, John, started regular date nights when their firstborn was a newborn.

                Before becoming parents, the two had spent weekends lounging in bookstores and bagel shops, catching whatever movie was playing, and eating out whenever they felt like it.

                Complete and total freedom.

                So when Gideon was a week old, John decided that he and Hollee shouldn’t have to give up their old ways just because they had a kid. So they took a 9-day-old baby to Steelers training camp in the 90-degree heat. Hollee still remembers trying to nurse the baby on a bench before he’d even learned to latch on properly.

                It was a disaster.

                A few days later, John had another idea. They couldn’t go to the movies anymore (they weren’t going to be like those people), so they took their newborn to a 9 p.m. showing at a drive-in. Hollee slept through Austin Powers, the baby cried, and John was frustrated.

                Finally, they decided to suck it up and hire a babysitter for weekly date nights. Dinner with friends, dinner and a movie … anything not involving the baby.

    They’ve kept it up for nearly nine years now, and it has helped their 12-year marriage thrive.

                Nurturing our marriages is a big piece of finding a peaceful fit between work and family. The frustrating irony, of course, is that having kids makes this harder than ever. And modern marriage can be a tricky affair: Our roles as men and women are no longer strictly defined — which means we need to figure out for ourselves what it takes to be a “good wife” or a “good husband.”

                In the nationwide survey we conducted for Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood (Harlequin Nonfiction, April 2011), more than 1 in 10 mothers said their greatest sacrifice had been their  marriage or partnership.

                But it was clear that working to prevent that lag was important: Those who described strong marriages were also the ones who were most satisfied with their choices.

                These couples had learned to:

    • ·         Be honest about how having children had changed things at home;
    • ·         Stop blaming each other for conflicts that were really caused by a lack of time;
    • ·         Make deliberate choices to address the time crunch;
    • ·         Allow each other to be less than perfect;
    • ·         Share parenting, housework and other duties more equally;
    • ·         Value the contributions of each partner;
    • ·         Become conscious of deeply ingrained gender biases and avoid falling into roles that created inequality or tension;
    • ·         Re-adjust as their family evolved.

                For Becky and her husband, Pete, things became much easier when they acknowledged the toll that his 70+-hour workweeks as a lawyer took on their home life — and the toll that her “I’m-the-expert-parent” attitude had on his ability to participate when he was at home. And it became even easier when a new job enabled him to spend more time at home. They began to truly share duties as parents, and found themselves calmer and happier than ever.

                Of course, these kinds of changes are rarely easy. It often takes trial and error to hit a good stride, just as it took Hollee and John multiple attempts to figure out “date night.”

                But those dates are a sacred ritual now, and one that makes Hollee and John better parents. They enjoy peaceful nights out as a couple, and when they go home and kiss their sons (grateful that someone else did the bathing and medicine-ing and reading), they smile.

                They know that the effort it took to get it right — and keep it up — has been worth it.        

                           

    Becky and Hollee’s new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, is available at http://amzn.to/newperfect . They blog about parenting and work/life balance at http://TheNewPerfect.com.

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