Feminism Fridays: The Unfortunate Nature of Bad Feminism


via BuzzFeed

In honor of the release of writer, professor, editor, blogger and all-around awesome lady Roxane Gay’s new book, Bad Feminist, I decided to dedicate this week’s Feminism Fridays to my views of bad feminism.

Like Roxane Gay, there are times when I too am a bad feminist. I do not get offended when someone refers to a group of men and women or just women as “guys.” I myself refer to groups of women as guys all the time. That’s the way our language evolved, and I’m ok with it.

Women are highly sexualized, and this is a problem, but I do not think we should desexualize them entirely. I think we should tone it down and make the sexualization of men equal to that of women, but honestly, I like looking at attractive women and men, and I would be disappointed if that disappeared.

I could go on. I could list all the things I think and do that a good feminist wouldn’t, but those things are not the problem. The problem is that there is such a distorted and uneducated view of feminism that it’s hard to say what exactly makes a good feminist or a bad one.

To improve the outside, and inside, views of feminism, I think two things need to happen. First, there needs to be a more concerted effort to educate people about feminism. Mothers can teach their daughters. Teachers can speak to their students. More classes can be offered. Feminists can get on WordPress and blog about feminism, maybe even on Fridays. The opportunities are endless, because, honestly, we aren’t doing that much right now.

The second thing that needs to happen is that feminism needs to be more inclusive, and feminists need to stop shaming each other. Bad feminists exist because, rather than educating others and spreading feminism as far as possible, other feminists tell us we’re wrong.

You know how I mentioned that I don’t care if I’m in a group and addressed as guys? I had a conversation with my friend Marla about that. She tried to tell me that I was being oppressed by letting people refer to me as “guys.” I was like, um, hello, you are currently oppressing me by telling me what I should and shouldn’t think.

(Marla, by the way, is one of the smartest and most wonderful people I know. We were able to have this conversation in a civil way without yelling at each other or making each other cry. She’s great that way.)

My point is that we should stop telling each other what we’re doing wrong and start telling the patriarchy what it’s doing wrong instead. We need to better include women of color and the LGBTQ community in feminism. Feminism is not just some cause for privileged, white heterosexual women to get behind. It is also not a group of men-hating bra-burners with copious amounts of hair flowing from all areas of their bodies. Feminism is the idea that gender equality should exist and that women should be able to choose who they want to be. Period.

I’m not going to stop addressing groups of people as “guys” anytime soon, and I’m certainly not going to figure out the best qualities of feminism in a day. So let’s get rid of the idea of bad feminists, because honestly, does anyone actually know a perfect feminist? Seriously. Come on, guys.

Tarot: It’s Not As Crazy As You Think

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The Wild Unknown Tarot deck, available from The Wild Unknown and Free People

A lot of people are really into tarot. Most people scoff at it as just another hokey bit of mystical mumbo-jumbo. I’m one of those people who’s really into tarot.

Please don’t leave. I’m not a crazy lady. Hear me out.

I can be pretty cynical about this kind of stuff too. I’m very grounded in things I can physically experience. I love spirituality, but sometimes I have a difficult time connecting to the intangible stuff. For me, tarot is a way to connect to the part of myself I sometimes have a hard time reaching.

I use tarot as a kind of meditation. When I’m trying to figure out what direction to take my career or how to approach family issues, or when I just need affirmation that eating a pint of gelato in one sitting does not make me a bad person, I turn to my tarot cards.

The cards are purposely a bit vague so that they can apply to anyone. I see that as a positive thing. I don’t expect the cards to tell me the future or anything like that. I use them to organize my thoughts. Often I have so much going on in my head that I’m not sure which direction to go. Tarot helps me turn the craziness inside my head into a cohesive thought process. The cards tell me things I already knew but hadn’t been able to decipher properly (like the fact that I probably should not be eating a whole pint of gelato in one sitting).

Different people get different things from the cards. Some people are not very open to them, which is fine. Those who are open to guidance from the cards don’t find out who they’re going to marry or when they’re going to die. They simply find out how to organize their thoughts enough to start out on a more decisive path.

I don’t know if I believe in crystal balls or spirits or spells, but I do believe in guided meditation. Some people meditate during yoga. Others surround themselves with nature. I read tarot cards.

If you want to give tarot a chance, find a reader near you or ask me questions about tarot in the comments. It can seem silly at first, but the more you meditate with tarot, the better you’ll be able to decipher your thoughts. I can’t, however, make any promises regarding gelato intake.


Sorry for Bailing on Last Week’s Feminism Fridays. Israel Needed Me.

I didn’t post anything for this past Feminism Fridays, and I’m sorry about that. I was busy all weekend showing my support for Israel. I went to a rally on Friday and spent Saturday editing audio from the rally so it could be used on a radio show called The Sunday Simcha. I will post something more about the rally later, but for now you can listen to the Sunday Simcha and hear some of what was said there by clicking on this link. If the date on the program page is not already listed as 8/3, choose that date and press play.

You should also read this article about how the son of Hamas’ co-founder spied for Israel. It shines light on some of the actual facts of the terrorist organization controlling Gaza.

Feminism Fridays: Death to PMS, Long Live the Pill

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Yesterday The Belle Jar posted her reaction to a Buzzfeed Community post titled We Asked 24 Women Why They Don’t Use Birth Control And These Are Their Answers.* I suggest you read her response. It’s very funny, but it’s also very sad that she needs to write a response at all. Anyway, I thought for today’s Feminism Fridays post I’d give you my take on birth control.

From the time I first got my period, I had the worst PMS symptoms, the kind that perpetuate the stereotype. I became hyperemotional. I cried at everything, overreacted to everything. I knew my emotions were irrational, but I couldn’t help myself. I was a bitch. I broke out all over my face. My breasts were so tender and sore that putting on a bra or sleeping on my stomach was excruciating. I had ovary cramps and back cramps, both of which were sometimes so bad I had to take four Advil at a time and wear an Icy Hot back patch for days. Sometimes the pain was so intense I had to take sleeping pills to relax enough to fall asleep. Occasionally the pain made me vomit.

Finally, after years of these horrible symptoms, I decided to go on the pill. Even then, it took another year before I found one that was right for me. The lower-hormone pills didn’t work. My body is so self-regulated that I would get my period during the week I was on the placebo pills and on my regular 28-day cycle. Yes, that means I got two periods a month. It was horrendous. Finally, though, I ended up taking Reclipsen, a pill with a higher dose of estrogen. It’s strong enough that the artificial hormones override my natural ones. Now I’m back to one period a month, thank God.

My PMS symptoms have also significantly decreased. My emotions are much more in check, and I don’t feel like I’m losing control for two weeks every month. My cramps only last a day or so, and they’re much less noticeable. Although I still get bad days every few months, they’re not nearly as bad as they were before.

That’s just what the pill does for my PMS symptoms. I haven’t even mentioned that whole thing where I have a 99% chance of not getting pregnant while taking the pill. Hello, how awesome is that? I still use condoms, because the pill doesn’t protect against STDs, but in the event that a condom breaks or what have you, I have an excellent safeguard against an unwanted pregnancy.

Birth control is great. It gives women the option to have more control over our bodies than we would normally. Now, I’m all for doing things as naturally and as chemical-free as possible (I mean come on, I make my own shampoo), but in this case, bring on the drugs. Taking something that gives me control over my body is empowering, and no one other than myself should have the right to decide what I do with my body.

There are a lot of birth control naysayers out there, but so many of them are religious zealots or are simply uneducated. I myself am religious, but God needs to stay out of my vagina. As for the uneducated, this is just one more reason why we need more in-depth health and sex education classes. Until that happens, though, I’ll keep fighting the good fight. I just hope that when I do finally decide to get pregnant, my significant other will forgive the raging hormonal beast I will become for nine months.


*This post was created by a Buzzfeed user, not by a member of the Buzzfeed staff.

‘The Girl in the Road’ Review: A Sci-fi Future That Seems Almost Real

GITR-cover2Monica Byrne’s debut novel, The Girl in the Road, breaks into the world of sci-fi with a forceful voice and a demanding presence. It offers a great change of pace to the overwhelming amount of post-apocalyptic stories out there right now. Instead, it tells the story of a world that doesn’t seem so unfathomable.

The Girl in the Road takes place in India, Africa and on a floating chain of energy-harnessing scales that spans the ocean between the two. It’s alternating chapters tell the story of two women, Meena and Mariama, both of whom are on journeys to escape their past. Symbols and connections overlap the two women’s stories, but it isn’t until the novel’s shocking climax that we learn how they are connected.

Meena is running away from an apparent attempt on her life. She ends up traveling across The Trail, a new type of technology, created by the giant corporation HydraCorp, that harnesses the energy of the Arabian Sea. Mariama travels the width of Africa, from Mauritania to Ethiopia, in search of a life better than the one of slavery she previously knew. The two women’s stories do not exist in the same time. Meena’s story takes place over a couple of months, while Mariama’s takes place over most of her life. When their stories do intersect, however, it is in a wholly unexpected way.

As visceral as Meena and Mariama’s stories are, though, Byrne, sometimes takes away from them with an overuse of sci-fi plot devices. Semena Werk, the organization who Meena believes to be after her, is never fully-realized. Throughout the novel it remains an unexplained, and ultimately unnecessary, force to move the plot. Byrne has a masters degree in geochemistry, which lends a wonderful authenticity to the science in her story, but she often spends too much time on the scientific mumbo-jumbo, and the story slows way down. Also, the snake, the main symbolic motif throughout the novel, is over utilized. Rather than letting the reader make the symbolic connections on her own, Byrne forces the connections on the reader. There are a lot of things going on in The Girl in the Road, so much so that the story sometimes seems confused, as if it’s not sure what it’s really about, but they aren’t harmful enough to ruin the story.

As much as Byrne stumbles in some areas, she excels in others. Much of the technology in her book is grounded enough to seem like realistic things we can expect from the future, and it’s exciting to read a sci-fi story that puts forward ideas that might actually come to pass. Byrne also takes this opportunity to address not just the technology of the future, but the sociology of it as well. The LGBTQ community has made great strides toward equality, and people are much more comfortable with sexuality in general. India’s caste system exists mainly in the minds of the older characters, with the younger ones embracing a culture where money doesn’t have to determine your status in life. Africa has become the new mecca for humanity, “the new India, after India became the new America, after America became the new Britain, after Britain became the new Rome, after Rome became the new Egypt, after Egypt became the new Punt, and so on and so forth. Now we’re back to Punt.” Byrne puts forward the thought that America will not always remain the superpower it is now. One day we will all go back to where we began.

The Girl in the Road ends on a bit of a confusing note. A lot of things are left unexplained. In the end though, it is an excellent debut from Monica Byrne. I read it in four days. I could not put it down. So if you’re looking for something new and exciting to read, The Girl in the Road is it.



*FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Buy the Medium Bag of Popcorn

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Dinner and a movie.

It’s become the typical and cliche date for young high schoolers in love. It can also be a great night out with friends. But what about going to the movies alone?

A lot of people shy away from that one empty seat between The Chick Who’s Obviously Going to Talk the Whole Time and The Man Who is Clearly Too Large for This Chair. That hesitation is understandable. No one actually wants their right ear to fall off while their left shoulder is being swallowed whole by a blob monster. But there’s probably also a row that’s fairly empty, and there’s no reason you can’t lay claim to it.

Maybe you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe all your friends are busy. Maybe you don’t have very many friends. Who cares? There are so many amazing films out, and you shouldn’t let a lack of moviegoing companions keep you from seeing them.

The key is to act you like own the whole damn movie theater. Walk up to that box office with your head held high and your fist ready to punch those annoying little teenyboppers in the face . . . okay maybe don’t do that second thing.

Anyway, moving on. Flirt with the guy who rips your ticket stub or the girl who sells you that soda and medium bag of popcorn. Yeah, that’s right, order the medium. You’re already there by yourself, so you might as well go all out.

(Don’t forget to go to the bathroom at some point before the movie though. If you need to pee in the middle of it you won’t have anyone to explain the epic plot twist you just missed.)

So now you’ve braved the public bathroom, got your snack and left your number with the guy at the ticket counter. It’s time to find your seat.

When you enter the theater, don’t be afraid to take a minute look at where the best seats are. You do this anyway with friends. Now, some people like to sit completely alone. Others like to sit near other people for possible interaction before or during the movie. Either of these scenarios is okay. Just do what feels comfortable.

Once you’ve found your seat the worst is over. The movie will start, it will be amazing and you’ll forget whatever reservations you might have had when you were forced to park your car 5 miles from the actual entrance because you left a little bit late and all the good spots were taken.

As humans, we like doing things with other people; it’s in our nature. But doing things on our own can be just as fulfilling. So next time you really want to see that new action flick that none of your girl friends like, or that chick flick that makes all your guy friends want to vomit, don’t stress about not having someone to go with. Go on your own. Be shameless about it. Buy the medium bag of popcorn.

Feminism Fridays: Guys, Learn How to Take a Hint


For me, one of summer’s quintessential activities is watching Big Brother. Laugh if you like, but I’m shamelessly obsessed. Everyone has their reality TV show achilles heel. Big Brother is mine. As much as I could ramble for hours on the minutia of this show, though, today I just want to cover the fact that one of the houseguests does not seem to understand that most basic principle of “no means no.”

Caleb, or, as he refers to himself, Beast-Mode Cowboy, has a bit of a crush on Amber. At first it was cute. He told all the other guys how beautiful he thought she was, how she was the kind of woman he would take home to his parents. Then it got annoying. He wouldn’t stop talking about her, doing things for her, describing her to the other houseguests as if he’d known her for years when he’d only known her a couple weeks.

Then it got aggravating.

He called her his queen, his girl, as if she belonged to him. He put himself in a position of danger in the house to save her, even though she specifically asked him not to. He continued to ask her out on dates even though she said no every time. And this conversation happened:

Caleb: “There’s a certain way you like at me throughout the day and I’m sure you feel the same way. You look at me a lot. Am I wrong?”

Amber: “I don’t know. I didn’t know I looked at anybody a lot.”

Caleb: “Everybody sees you.”

Amber: “This is all news to me.”

That was the first time Caleb brought up his so-called “love” for Amber. She was understandably a little flustered and didn’t make herself  very clear. Since then, however, she has done everything she can to make sure Caleb knows she’s not interested. At one point he asked her what else he had to do to get a date. She told him again how she didn’t want him to do any of the things he did in the first place.

Go away, Caleb. I’m tired of you.

What really pissed me off recently, though, was that Amber and Cody have a little thing going, and Caleb is pissed. He confronted Cody about it, demanding that Cody tell him if anything was going on. He also follows Amber around the house, looking especially sullen if she’s with Cody.

There are a lot of guys with Caleb’s problem. None of them seem to realize that women are not possessions, things to be put on pedestals to show off to everyone in the land. You can’t call dibs on one and expect her to be with you because you did so. Women are people with free will, who can decide who, if anyone, we want to be with. We don’t need the help of men to make our decisions. Caleb claims to treat Amber with nothing but respect, but the mere fact that he won’t let go of the idea of them being together says otherwise.

So, just in case anyone missed it earlier in this post, NO MEANS NO. Just because a women is friendly toward you does not mean she wants, or is obligate, to go out with you. Also, we women can stand up for ourselves. If we ask you not to do something on our behalf, listen to us. That’s not to say I don’t want my boyfriend to come to the rescue if I’m being mugged or something. But if it’s a matter of defending my honor or something of a lesser severity, I can handle it myself, thank you very much.

This won’t sway me from my irrational love for Big Brother (trust me, last season was even worse), but it will remind me to make my voice, and the voices of all women, heard. Our voice is one of our most powerful tools.

Now, Caleb, GTFO.

“Wish I Was Here” Review: A Must See. Tissues Required.


A little over a year ago I backed Zach Braff’s new movie, Wish I Was Here, on Kickstarter. A lot of people don’t like Zach Braff. I’m not quite sure why this is. I, however, will now shamelessly flaunt my love for this man and his projects. Wish I Was Here deserves it.

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Ever since I gave to the Wish I Was Here Kickstarter, I have been waiting, impatiently, to finally see the movie I helped make. I opened the backers only emails with relish, waiting for the day the backers thank you screening would be available. I loved seeing the behind-the-scenes photos and videos, but what I really wanted to see was the movie.

Finally, this past Saturday, I opened an email with a link to the screening. I snuggled up on the couch with a cup of tea, my dogs and the hope that my Internet connection wouldn’t get screwy. (It did, unfortunately, and I yelled at the intangible Internet for a while before it started working again.)

Internet problems aside, Wish I Was Here was everything I hoped it would be. Many things were similar to Garden State: the writing, direction, soundtrack, cinematography. I was expecting, and hoping for, this to be the case. I was so excited for this film because I loved Garden State so much. I wanted to see the same style in Wish I Was Here. What I really loved, though, is that, even with these similarities, Wish I Was Here is its own film. It’s not a Garden State remake or sequel. It’s a different story that deserves to be told.

Aidan (Braff’s character) is a struggling actor in his 30s. He’s also somewhat of a struggling husband, father, son and brother. When his dad, played by the brilliant Mandy Patinkin, finds out his cancer is back, Aidan’s struggles come to a head. Aidan’s dad can no longer pay for his kids to go to a private yeshiva school, so Aidan takes on the challenge of homeschooling them, only to realize he has no idea how to teach his kids anything meaningful. Meanwhile, his wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), works full time to support their family.

As Aidan’s dad deteriorates, it takes a toll on the whole family. Aidan tries to repair the relationship between his brother, Noah (Josh Gad), and their dad. Sarah tries to do the same, in her own way. She can see how much Aidan and Josh’s dad love them, even if they can’t, and she tries to bring them back together. By the end of the film the family does reconnect, at least a little bit. Even though it’s a bit expected and obvious, it’s not any less heartfelt.

The whole movie is filled with heartfelt moments that will bring you to tears. Mandy Pantinkin’s performance honestly had me sobbing and wishing I’d put a box of tissues next to me before starting the movie. There are also moments that will make you laugh (especially if you’re Jewish). There are great one-liners scattered throughout the film, just the witty kinds of things you’d expect from Braff, and wonderful performances from Jim Parsons, Ashley Greene and Donald Faison. They only appear briefly in the film, but they own their roles and bring life to their scenes.

There are a few scenes where Aidan imagines himself as a sci-fi hero, and the film could have survived without them. They were a bit forced and not entirely necessary as a plot device, but they weren’t so intrusive as to ruin the film.

Braff’s decision to use Kickstarter to fund Wish I Was Here created a lot of controversy and brought a lot of haters out of the woodwork. I’m glad he did it, though. I don’t think the movie would have turned out as well had it been a studio film. Braff’s voice is so present in his movies, which is what makes them great, and his voice would have been drowned out under studio funding.

I don’t care what the naysayers yell about in all caps in the various corners of the Internet. I loved Wish I Was Here, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it. I haven’t reached my 30s yet, but I know what it’s like to reach a point in my life where I have no idea what the hell I’m doing and where my family struggles aren’t making anything easier.

Wish I Was Here is a movie for the lost dreamers, just like Garden State was. It’s a movie for the indie crowds and the wanderers. There are a lot of people who don’t like this movie or how it was made or who made it. Ignore those people for a minute, though. Give this film a chance. Remember to bring tissues.


Feminism Fridays: Let’s Talk About Sex

Recently I’ve been watching Masters of Sex, the Showtime show based on the work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the pioneers of the science of human sexuality. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about sex a lot. Most of those thoughts are irrelevant to this blog, but some some of them are relevant. Today I’ll talk about the relevant things. The other stuff I’ll leave to your imagination.

One of the aspects of this show that intrigues me the most is women’s sexuality in the 50s and 60s. Many women (and many men as well) did not understand how their, or their partners’, bodies worked, or that women could take pleasure from sex just as men could. Today sex education is taught in elementary school. We learn early on how our bodies work and what gives us pleasure. What we’re not taught, not really, is that sex should not have to be a tool that you use to affect your relationship.

Growing up, young girls see examples of women’s bodies used as props or rewards for men. They are showed images and videos and ads of women being represented in the context of their bodies rather than their careers or accomplishments. They grow up thinking that one of the biggest measures of success is what men think of them, and the best way to get a positive response from men is by using their bodies.

Women are making strides in this regard, of course. There are women’s education classes at many colleges. Parents can teach their daughters about self image and can teach their sons about how women should be viewed. Popular actresses, authors, musicians and others with a voice can speak out about women’s issues and raise awareness through the very magazines and music videos that are currently part of the problem. But this, in my opinion, is not enough.

To make even bigger advancements in the way young girls view their bodies, I believe a self-image section should be taught during sex education. It is not enough to simply teach young people how their bodies work. We should also be teaching them about the effects of using their bodies for sexual purposes. We tell them that sex is a big deal, but we don’t really tell them why. We should. We should tell them how a woman could think she’s worthless if no one wants to have sex with her, and we should tell them how that is so wrong. We should tell them that women feel the need to use sex to get men to notice or like them and feel rejected and alone when they don’t stay. We should tell them that men should know this by now and should stop the cycle. There is so much we should tell them. Why is no one telling them?

Don’t get me wrong. I think sex is great. I think it’s a way for people to connect on a deeper level. I also think it’s a way for people to have a good time (safely, of course) and not worry about what it means. But I don’t think this is something we should start learning in our 20s, if that. We need to educate young people about sex’s role in society and how it affects sex’s role in individual lives. It will never change if we don’t change it ourselves. Women deserve better than that.