Feminism Fridays: The Unfortunate Nature of Bad Feminism

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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.

Aside

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.

Feminism Fridays: Guys, Learn How to Take a Hint

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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.

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.

Feminism Fridays: Go Home SCOTUS, You’re Drunk

I would be remiss if today’s post was not about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In a nutshell, the decision stated that the government cannot require closely held for-profit companies, like Hobby Lobby, to violate their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby, which is owned by the Green family, who are Christians, felt its religious beliefs were being violated by having to provide coverage to employees for four types of birth control, including morning-after pills and IUDs. These forms of both control are abortifacients, which means they work after an egg has been fertilized. That, under the beliefs of the Green family, is a violation of Christian principles.

The biggest problem with this decision (in my opinion, anyway) is that for-profit companies have now been given the same status as religious institutions. Now, if a religious institution wants to take certain forms of birth control off their health-care plan, that’s fine by me. The people working at those religious institutions almost certainly hold the same religious beliefs as the institution. For-profit companies, however, hire employees who need a job, not employees who are there for religious purposes. And if these family-run companies now have the ability to make health-care decisions based on religious beliefs, how long will it be before all for-profit companies have the ability to make the same decisions?

Salon published an article about the highlights of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, which address some of these same issues. According to the article’s summary of Ginsburg’s dissent:

“Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. … The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.”

Also:

“Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”

Salon ends with Ginsburg’s views of how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been distorted:

“In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent.”

This decision has opened the door even wider for religion to take precedence over women’s rights. Every time it seems like women gain ground on our right to control our bodies, something like this happens, and we have to fight that much harder to regain our rights.

I am not protesting religion. I myself am a practicing Jew, and I find great comfort and community from religion. I also know many Christians who are great people and great friends and with whom I have wonderful and intellectual discussions regarding religion. But I also believe we live in a day and age where we have realized that those living in the time the Bible was written lived under very different circumstances. If we still followed the Bible to the letter, we would be killed for cursing our parents. Seriously. According to Leviticus 20:9, as it is written in the New International Version, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.” According to that law, how many of us would be dead now? I certainly would.

The decision has been made, and now we, those women who believe that we, and we alone, should be able to control our bodies, have a decision to make as well. We have to decide whether we will sit back and continue to allow decisions like the Hobby Lobby case to be made or whether will stand up and fight for rights. What will you decide?

Feminism Fridays: This Is a Thing I’m Doing Now

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’ve decided to do a new weekly post regarding feminism. I haven’t been great about blogging regularly, and hopefully this will help keep me on a better schedule. Also, feminism! Yay!

Some of you may be cheering with me. Others may be groaning. That’s ok. My hope is that this first Feminism Fridays post will turn your groans to cheers as well. It will be less about feminism in general and more about my own experience with feminism. So stick around, please, and maybe I’ll change your mind about what it is to be a feminist. For those of you who aren’t groaning, feminism! Yay!

So without further ado, here is the first weekly Feminism Fridays post.

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I didn’t always consider myself a feminist. In fact, I used to actively disengage with the word “feminism.” It was not something I wanted to be associated with. When I was younger, the only thing I knew about feminists were that they hated men, they took themselves too seriously, they had no sense of humor, and I didn’t like them. I unfortunately did not have access to the kind of information that would show me what feminism is really about. Yes, the Internet has all that info, but I wasn’t looking to learn about feminism because no one told me that what I thought I knew wasn’t the whole story.

When I finally got to college, I began to learn more about feminism and women’s studies. I heard enough from peers and professors to actually look into feminism and see what it’s all about, and, gradually, I began to identify as a feminist.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t feminists out there who hate men, who take themselves too seriously, and who have no sense of humor. They don’t however, make up the majority of feminists, just like not all whites are white supremacists, not all Jews are doctors and lawyers, and not all blondes have more fun. The bra-burning, armpit hair-bearing, men-hating feminists are the stereotype. (Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with bearing armpit hair. You probably shouldn’t burn bras though. They are expensive. You also probably shouldn’t hate men. Sometimes they just don’t know any better.)

The problem is that there is not enough education about what feminism is, at its core, actually about. Even as I write this, I’m still not one hundred present sure what constitutes a textbook feminist. I’m not sure anyone does. But that’s part of feminism. It’s giving women the opportunity to choose who they want to be and how they want to act. Feminism is being able to not shave and show the world that woman don’t need to conform to social standards of beauty. Feminism is being able to shave and show the world that this isn’t for the men who find it beautiful. It’s for us. Feminism is giving women the power to choose. It’s raising women up to know that we are beautiful, we are strong, and we are good enough.

I hate that I didn’t learn more about feminism before college. I hate that I didn’t have many women in my life to teach me that women are powerful, and that we can do anything we set our minds to, even if society doesn’t think we should. I hate that young girls are taught to be pretty instead of smart. I hate that they’re shown how much society values their sexuality more than their minds. I hate that this is still a problem.

Feminism is not something to be feared, like I once did. It is something to embrace. It is something to teach the next generation. We as women have a duty to show young girls what women can do, to show them that we are not objects. And men have a duty to teach young boys that women do not exist for their pleasure, and that strong women do not immaculate them. We all have a duty to embrace feminism and teach future generations what equality looks like.

I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but I’m saying again because no seems to be hearing it yet, not really. So help me spread the message, and welcome to Feminism Fridays.