Tag Archives: feminism

“Be Brave”

Don’t tell me
to Be Brave,
again,
as if courage
is instinct for
half of us and
Learned Behavior
for XX chromosomes
alone. As if
my going
out is not its own
defiant act

And my speaking:
Bold, Direct
is not akin
to wielding
the sword.

Don’t tell me
Courage is:
holding my tongue
and the serving tray
at a 3rd wave
Dinner Party
thrown for strangers with
pasted on grins

I am no one’s
Darling
I am already
Strong

Advertisements

mansplaining: a definition and how to avoid it

Mansplaining in Four Points

1. Women are often socialized to approach their opinions passively by prefacing them with “I think” or “I feel” to lessen the blow of their words and distance themselves from potential controversy. When a man responds to a woman in the way men are often socialized to do by saying “This is how things are…” many women feel like they’re being bossed around or that the conversation is being hijacked by the man. This is often unintentional, but it’s still worth paying attention to, particularly when the woman is trying to share a personal anecdote rather than have an academic discussion.

2. Mansplaining as a term can only be used to describe a man’s conversational tone and behavior toward a woman or women because it results from the power imbalance between men and women in patriarchal societies.  Women can certainly be demeaning and callous to others, but this behavior does not fall under the category of mansplaining.

A man who mansplains is likely to use a patronizing, instructive tone with women that he doesn’t use with men. Or, as often happens in forums and comments sections of blog posts, he will specifically choose to address the comments made by women and avoid confrontation with any men involved, perhaps because he feels his arguments will hold more weight with women. He will often talk at instead of conversing with and will bring information into the conversation that derails it altogether instead of moving it forward.

(A friend pointed out that some men, rather than engaging with women in a condescending manner, will ignore women’s comments altogether. I’d say this is part of the same problem. In both cases, the woman’s comment is taken less seriously than the man’s.)

3. Mansplaining is a useful term for addressing this problem, but I don’t find it productive to call a man out for mainsplaining when I’m in conversation with him, especially if the incident occurs in a public setting (or on a public post on social media). It’s not helpful (or gracious) to use dismissive language like this because it cuts off the line of communication. It stops the conversation dead in its tracks, which makes it impossible to effectively address the problem. If you know the man involved, it may be best to take it up with him privately and preferably in person. If he is a stranger, just get the heck out of there (and maybe write a blog post about it!).

4. You’re much more likely to get called out for mansplaining if the woman you’re talking to doesn’t know you very well (or if you’re legitimately a jerk). It’s hard to read tone when you can’t envision what it would be like to talk face to face or when the woman has no sense of the assumptions you’re making about her during the conversation. For this reason, it’s important to articulate your point clearly and with kindness, especially if you insist on having the conversation online. Otherwise, try to meet up in person. Treat each other like adults who deserve to live in the world and have opinions and you’ll be okay.

Mansplaining is real, but it doesn’t justify women being jerks. Men and women are both guilty of  interrupting. Sometimes women say dumb things. This isn’t about refusing accountability, it’s about having productive and meaningful conversations that help us understand each other and the world a little bit better. Sometimes – oftentimes – that means checking our privilege. It means hearing each other out, respectfully.

links.

colonial hot cocoa photo

Just wanted to stop in to let you know about a cool, informal anthropological study/blog on women and marriage called The Marriage Project. According to the blog’s founder:

I want to interrogate the “sacred cow” of marriage, to ask questions that women tell me they are seldom asked about what’s assumed to be an inevitability, a step taken by  people  in love (depending on what state you live in and your gender and sexual identity) are told to take if they are really “serious.”  In short- what’s the difference between what we’re told to believe about marriage and the reality? Ultimately, it’s  a tool for women to connect with one another, and to talk  about how marriage and other choices  impact how we understand the notion of feminism, femininity and what it means to be a woman.

I’ve spent a good chunk of time reading the personal stories on doubt, love, and fulfillment, and even contributed my own story.

If you’re itching for more reading, I encourage you to keep up with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s wherabouts via The Guardian‘s As It Happened feature; learn about the reasons for America’s startlingly high suicide rate; or follow along with Rachel Held Evans as she discusses the complex relationship between sex and the Church.

lipstick for slaves

I was introduced to Radiant Cosmetics’ “Kiss Slavery Goodbye” campaign through a fashion blogger I’ve been following for some time. As I mindlessly scanned the blurb (because no one actually reads fashion blogs), I was suddenly forced to engage when I read the following:

For every lipstick purchased, we’ll donate a lipstick on your behalf to a survivor or current victim of trafficking. 

lipstick

Wait. What? You will donate some lipstick to a prostitute or child slave?

I can imagine how that conversation will go:

“Hey! Are you a slave?”

“Yes. I suffer daily at the hands of tyrants. I am violated, stripped of human rights, treated like a dog.”

“Great! Leah in Charlottesville donated this lipstick to you. It’s definitely your color.”

I’d like to give Radiant Cosmetics the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a typo? Maybe they’re giving lipstick to Texas preteens in the hopes that they’ll recruit them for the virtuous cause of ending human trafficking?

Except they don’t say that. They say they’re going to hand sexually violated and demeaned and desperate people some lipstick, then maybe smoosh their glossy lips together and blow them a kiss before bidding them adieu.

I hope they realize that something as serious as human trafficking doesn’t really pair well with the American beauty industry, that it’s inappropriate – and frankly, bizarre – to put a cutesy spin on slavery. (To their credit, they do donate 20% of all proceeds to charities that work to end human trafficking.)

(On only a slightly different note, I recommend watching the documentary, Whores’ Glory)

Revision 1/5: My husband discovered this excerpt from a British soldier’s journal that has a very different firsthand take on giving lipstick to slaves. I don’t know if this particular incident directly correlates to the one above, but it’s still worth a read for reflection’s sake.

Becoming Wise

wise wedding

Hello, my name is Leah Wise and I have a confession to make:

I’m a feminist who took my husband’s last name.

“How could you?!” my feminist sisters cry. Well, because I wanted to.

Let me acknowledge that I’m right there with you when you say that taking on a husband’s name implies an unequal balance of power between the sexes, that it’s part of an archaic patriarchal system, that it arose within a tradition that passes women as property between father and spouse. I agree; that’s why Daniel didn’t ask my father’s permission to marry me. Independent adults can make their own decisions.

I’ll admit that I really didn’t think about not taking Daniel’s last name until after we were married. It took me 6 months to make all the changes to my legal documents, in part due to laziness and in part due to the fear that everything would be different with a new last name (it wasn’t, but more on that later).

I considered (and consider) myself the academic sort and I didn’t want to confuse my professors with a new last name. But, for the most part, my hesitation wasn’t due to the fact that I felt I had built a name for myself as a supreme scholar using my maiden name; I was afraid more that they’d question me for my age. I was 21 when I got married. That’s young by a lot of people’s standards and I didn’t want their condescending judgment. I hadn’t really considered that the name change itself would produce that response.

Back to the point. I acknowledge that patriarchy is bad for women and that the name change developed within that system. But I changed my name because I wanted to have the same last name as my husband. I don’t want to sound like a cliche, young-and-in-love moron, but I was wooed by the idea of creating a family unit with my husband (not the child-bearing family unit necessarily, just being identifiable as a married pair). I like that people call us The Wises. I discussed the subject with a friend and mentor earlier this week and I liked the way she phrased this point: getting married is choosing your next of kin. You tell the world, by marriage, that you have chosen a life partner who is closer to you than your parents or siblings; you have taken them on as your family. Having a uniform last name symbolically represents this bond.

I changed my name because I had the open space – the freedom – to make that choice for myself. I’m sure I was influenced by custom, but I married a man who believes strongly in fairness, equality, and egalitarianism. We both received departmental awards as undergraduates in the same field and graduated summa cum laude. We’re equals and we know it and we’re proud of it. If he had suggested that I had no say in the name change, I more than likely would have broken it off altogether; that’s straight up male chauvinism.

Additionally (this may come as a surprise to some of you), changing my last name had its perks. For one, I felt like I could become something better than I was as a Wells (I should have mentioned that my new last name is very similar to my old last name). Because changing my last name was my choice, I gained a fresh outlook on my identity (it feels similar to moving to a different town or graduating high school). I also symbolically shed the burdens and ideologies of the family I grew up in. College changed me profoundly from an ideological and religious standpoint and I think the superficial move away from my past helped me admit my new identity to myself and my family. It helped me gain the footing to stand behind my beliefs. The family name I took on doesn’t represent a family that is less broken than my own. It represents the pact I made with my husband to stand beside him for the rest of my life.

There are numerous other arguments that neutralize the name change: when you keep your maiden name, you keep your father’s name, thereby re-affirming patriarchy; future children are easily added to the family without name confusion when you take on a uniform last name; a uniform names provides social legitimacy; etc. I agree with those sentiments, but ultimately it comes down to personal choice.

It strikes me that feminism has always been about choice. To paraphrase my friend again, feminism is about equal pay, respect, civil rights, and self governance – all, at their root, about freedom. While I believe that American women are still beaten down by an unjust patriarchal system, while I know women oftentimes don’t reach high enough or stand up for themselves or gives themselves credit, we cannot lose sight of the original heart of feminism. Don’t shame your sisters in this struggle who think differently or choose differently. The beauty of creating an expansive landscape of choice is that we can journey out in an increasing number of directions and still be within our rights. The last thing we need is to restrain those beaten-down women who came to feminism to find room to grow.

I became a Wise because I wanted to. If I felt strongly that I was encouraging patriarchy by doing so, Daniel and I would have made up a new name or co-hyphenated.

We would have resolved it together because we’re in this together. That’s why they call us Wise.

october moodboard

october

october

Before the month is over, I intend to enjoy:

  • Making use of my scarf collection
  • Comfy cardigans and flattering jeans worn out in the lovely, mildly cool weather
  • The printed tees I’ve added to my wardrobe lately
  • My gray, second-hand Minnetonka moccasins
  • Crossbody Vera Bradley bags, perfect for adventures
  • Old school Madeline L’Engle books and literature on Christian Feminism
  • My ballet classes; I wish I could go more than once a week
  • Hot chocolate and mochas
  • The colorful fall landscape along Skyline Drive

faith and feminism, part 1

I attended college in North Florida, the southernmost point of the true south. As a Religious Studies major, I learned about my Christian faith and its heritage within a much wider scope than my evangelical upbringing had provided. I studied history, literature, ancient languages, and ethics. At some (I suppose, inevitable) point, I found that I possessed more academic knowledge than many pastors who had lead my congregations growing up, and that I was respected for my thoughts and given a voice within academia.

I attended a conservative Protestant denomination affiliated with the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. They followed the Bible literally, which included not using instruments in the main service and not allowing women to take part, by speaking or leading, in the main service, or assembly. I ignored the obvious tension between my undergraduate expertise and the church’s interpretation of the Biblical text for nearly a year. But when women (and men) within the church began to discuss giving greater leadership privileges to women openly, I could no longer ignore their stance. When the elders ruled that it was best not to forsake tradition and stir up controversy just to let women pass the offering plate, the tectonic plates within my chest began to crunch together, grinding and sparking, forcing words and cries and change out of me. Something had cracked and I couldn’t stay silent.

That being said, I didn’t begin prophesying in the assembly or tearing my garments. I really liked the friends I’d made and the a Capella singing and the fun weekly hangouts. I tried to move past the pain, and the anger, by venting to those within the group who would willingly, and lovingly, provide a listening ear. One night, we invited several people over to our apartment to learn some new hymns. After the worship portion of the evening was done, we began to casually chat. Someone mentioned that “where two or three are gathered” there Christ is also. I remarked that our group, in effect, was an assembly. Yet women were speaking! A few female long-time attendees began to argue that women could speak, lead, and participate within this context, but not within the context of the larger, whole church assembly. I couldn’t face the contradiction, the injustice, the lack of critical thought. I blew up. I shouted that I couldn’t stand the denomination, began to weep, then ran to my room like a small child. Within the week, I had been formally chastised for my behavior on the grounds that it could discourage newcomers’ in their faith.

I couldn’t help thinking that my faith had been manipulated and shattered by the undercurrent of sexism labeled as Biblical adherence, and that no one cared. I mentally disconnected myself from the congregation after that talk. Although I worked to forgive those who believed they had spoken the truth in love, those who had meant me no harm, I could never go back with an open and full heart. Near the end of my attendance there, the worship leader sang the wrong part, and I recalled that there were formally trained female vocalists in the congregation who could have lead with both heart and knowledge. But they weren’t allowed. Implicitly – and there’s no satisfactory way to get around this – women were secondary to men. I got up and ran out of the building, down to a creek on the church property. I cried, and felt at peace, away from the church. I felt God. Away from the church.

I didn’t attend church again for almost a year. And my faith grew.

This is the first part of a series on faith and feminism.

links & things

Research, news, and music that have affected me this week:

  • In Search of the Mysterious Narwhal by Abigail Tucker – Biologist Kristin Laidre studies the mysterious and secretive Narwhal with the help of Indigenous communities in Greenland.
  • The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Don’t Like To Talk About by Christopher Rollston – The Bible is fraught with patriarchal language and the church needs to accept it, but certainly not embrace it. The article has created much controversy and Rollston is now facing disciplinary action at Emmanual Christian Seminary, where he works and teaches.
  • Heaven is Real: A Doctor’s Experience with the Afterlife by Dr. Eben Alexander – Neurosurgeon, Alexander, experienced strange and wonderful visions while in a coma. He believes that what he saw is real despite the fact that it contradicts scientific theories within his own field. The vision itself is captivating and I’m interested in the discussions it could spark.
  • I love the Bible by Rachel Held Evans – I appreciate Evans’ transparency – the way she approaches the Biblical text realistically, revealing its nuances, its problems, and the difficulty of applying it to contemporary cultures while also recognizing its value.
  • Cat’s Entertainment? Musical male mice learn to sing to impress females by Rob Williams – As the co-owner of multiple mice, I was thrilled to discover that male mice sing at high frequencies beyond human perception in order to woo potential mates. I feel sorry that our three females will never get to hear the wondrous music of their species. For more detailed information about the song itself, read this article (unfortunately published by my college rival).
  • Perpetuum Mobile by Penguin Cafe Orchestra – This song makes me laugh and cry. It’s been playing in the background at the coffee shop for several weeks, but I had the chance to concentrate on it at home thanks to Pandora and it had a significant effect on my tear ducts.
  • The photographs produced by the Ballerina Project – Viewing portraits of ballerinas in urban settings is part of the reason I’m taking classes now. Their body movement and posture are breathtaking.
  • You Never Marry the Right Person by Timothy Keller – A spot-on discussion of what marriage really looks like and why marriage and love will never be easy.