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I’m Just A Girl

I’m just a girl, living in captivity/Your rule of thumb/Makes me worrisome/I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?

I was lucky to be surrounded by aunties and uncles who told me repeatedly I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. Most women I saw at the time in my life or on TV worked either clerical jobs, as nurses, or cheerleaders. Yes, there was a time when I was little that it was my fervent desire to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. Until I saw Nadia Comaneci score her perfect ten and Charlie’s Angels hit TV. We have come so far and you only need to watch Makers: Women Who Make America to see the progress. Yet there are still idiots out there who think female privilege exists, the lack of women in science means there is a genetic difference between men and women, and if women can’t do math we are destined to work the pole.

Nonsense is all over the internet and somehow it keeps making its way to my screen. I don’t go looking for it. It’s just there on my social media feeds. It started with this Open Letter to The Sexists Who Think “Female Privilege” is a Thing by Charles Clymer. (Go read the post then return) It must be hard being a male in today’s society, particularly a white male. Everyone pointing fingers at you and it’s no wonder. There are glass ceilings for women (and minorities) in the workforce that you set to make the playing field unfair. We make less yet more is expected from us and God forbid we choose to put our family before making money for a corporate entity. Many women shoulder the load of a full-time job, raising the children, and running the household while men work a full-time job and come home feeling entitled to do nothing. If a man speaks his mind, he’s being assertive. If a woman asserts herself, she’s a bitch. Just because we say things that you don’t like and happen to be true doesn’t make us bitches. A friend recently said, “Women who dress a certain way, or talk a certain way or look a certain way are totally judged as sluts, whores and skanks. Have you ever even noticed that there is not a comparable word in English for men? What is the male version of the word “slut” that is equally derogatory? Men can sleep with as many partners as they want and society looks at them as virile.” Rape victims are victimized over and over in the judicial process because living through it once isn’t enough for everyone. Then the victims get to hear the litany of excuses. “She was asking for it.” “He’s an athlete, it’s okay.” “She was dressed like a hooker. What did you expect?” No, some of the men out there can’t be bothered to take responsibility for the choices they make. YES, rape culture EXISTS.

Yes, there are good WASPs out there and men in general, but those are not the men I’m talking about here. This is a sliding scale. Not all men are bad. Just like not all women are evil.

Then this video popped up.

http://www.upworthy.com/neil-degrasse-tyson-reveals-that-hes-been-black-his-whole-life-hilarity-and-wisdom-follow?c=gt1

Someone asked what the genetic differences were between men and women to explain more men in science. Someone actually asked that question.  When you see the headline grabbers for the video, it’s about Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about race. He used race and racism to give the audience his frame of reference in how he understood the difference being not about genetics but about access and stereotypes. He ends with, “So before we talk about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity then we can have that conversation.” It goes back to what I said earlier about what we see and what we’re told. If the adults in our lives are telling us we can do anything or be anything, the sky is the limit. I had enough women in my life who were in the workforce and as the years went by, more women on TV were doing more than sitting behind a desk typing letters or helping a doctor. We need teachers, family members, and friends to encourage us and tell us we can do it. I loved Chemistry in high school. Not only did I get to play in the lab, but it’s where algebra finally made sense. I wasn’t just solving for anonymous x anymore.

And math leads me to this meme that showed up on my Twitter feed:math meme

Let me tell you why it’s not funny if you are laughing right now. Girls who are not good with math can do so much more than be a stripper. I passed all my classes, but it math was always a challenge. I didn’t end up on a pole. I wound up with a career in the mental health field. Saying our only option is to be stripper is to imply that strippers are uneducated and stupid. When you think of strippers you tend to go for the stereotyped stripper in a seedy bar with daddy issues. Where are the male strippers in seedy bars with mommy issues? We have Chippendales and Thunder From Down Under. Where are the glamorous female revues? It goes back to what my friend said about nothing comparable for men that is equally derogatory. If you still think this is funny, imagine that’s your daughter pictured in the meme. Is this what you want society to think of her and how you want her to think of herself?

Women are much more than we are given credit for by many and we deserve better than this.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Words Hurt

handwritingTo say that people on the internet are annoying me this year is an understatement. I took a Facebook break on my personal page because the judgmental and negative attitudes were too much and took a toll on me. Staying away from that feed has made me a happier person. I was content to stick with being active on Twitter while I work on my manuscript. After the Oscars on Sunday, even the judgmental and negativity reigned from Joe Schmoe to celebrities. I’m guessing everyone missed the Jimmy Kimmel bit before the changeover from the red carpet show to the awards show. Glass houses, people.

When I worked for the YMCA back home, one of the things I had to include in lesson plans was teaching my kids what we called the 7 Be’s: Be Honest, Be Healthy, Be Helpful, Be Caring, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Your Best. What I saw online fit none of those Be’s. Rudeness and outrage was directed at Kim Novak and John Travolta without hesitation in massive amounts. There was also snark for some of the performances.  I just felt like I was watching crabs in a bucket trying to pull everyone down rather than helping each other. You wouldn’t want the same comments directed towards you on social media, would you?

Yes, let’s cruelly mock the eighty-one year old woman who had to conform to Hollywood standards or be ousted from the business. We want women to be natural, but when they are natural, we are taken aback at their gall. There is a constant double standard for women in our society. Be beautiful at any age no matter the cost, but if you become obvious about it we’re throwing you under the bus with a spotlight on you. I think one person put it best on Twitter that we are “morally bankrupt” while another person called it “penalizing women for aging”. Do we see the same comments about the aging male actors who dye their hair black to cover the grey? Would everyone have made the same comments about Kim Novak knowing she’s been through treatment for breast cancer and was in a horse riding accident recently?

Travolta flubbed while introducing Idina Menzel. She wasn’t even done performing and a new Twitter account for Adele Dazeem was up and running. I woke up Monday morning to name generators from big websites on how John Travolta would say your name. I was sickened when one of our local new stations used it on air Tuesday. It’s amazing how many other people flubbed while reading the teleprompter, but everyone glommed onto his flub. Does it really matter that he didn’t get Idina’s name right? I spent over twenty years having my maiden name completely slaughtered by Mainlanders. Even at my high school graduation when the person announcing the names got to practice it during graduation rehearsals. The really scary part is whenever a star flubs or makes no sense during these live awards shows we chalk it up to them being drunk or high. I’ve been guilty of making the same assumption, but I try to keep it to myself or say it in private, not broadcast it to EVERYONE on the internet.

Guess what? Travolta has dyslexia. How do you feel about his flub now?

I really don’t know what is up with the comments about the performances. As a singer, I enjoyed them all and found them much more consistent than the performances on the Grammy’s. I love “Happy” and play it often when I deejay. U2 can do no wrong in my eyes. I never heard of Karen O or heard “The Moon Song” until Sunday. As a musician and deejay, I always keep an open mind when hearing new music. P!nk and Bette Midler brought tears to my eyes with their tributes. Then, Idina Menzel blew me away with her performance. I love listening to all kinds of music, but there is something about a voice trained to perform on stage that grabs hold of me and whisks me around the dance floor.

If it weren’t for the fact that Twitter keeps me connected to other authors and to followers in a better manner than Facebook, I would probably give up social media altogether. You can sit there and say that we should just shake it off because it’s just the internet. It’s an internet where people spend increasingly more time and where there is a very real person behind the words we read on the screen. It’s an internet that gives us the perfect opportunity to connect with the world and make friends, but there is so much fighting, finger pointing, and attacking that the potential is lost. It’s a shame.

I work daily to be caring, respectful, responsible, and my best. I don’t always say the right thing, but I strive to because I truly want a kinder world and Gandhi said to be the change we want to see in the world. I think about what I typed before I send it out. It’s not an editing to make myself look good to the world, but a self-check of is this kindness and/or edification? It’s easy to give to in to the initial reaction without checking it. It’s easy to sit back and make judgments on what we see on TV, read on websites, catch on social media, or witness in real life and comment on on social media. It’s just as easy to keep it to ourselves or to respond with something kind instead of negative.

As a writer, I have to choose my words carefully when writing, editing, and re-writing to make sure everything fits right. Wouldn’t it be great if we all chose our words carefully in a manner that would make others feel better about themselves rather than feeling like they are less than human. The truth is we don’t know the whole story when we make these snarky remarks and yet we make them and hurt others with our words. Remember the saying from childhood, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? It’s wrong. It’s a front to appear strong, to deter our verbal assailant, to will it to be true. Words hurt in the worst way. A bruise fades and a broken bone mends, but the wrong words haunt for eternity.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Perception of Weakness and Strength

It is assumed I am weak because I am a petite female. I have more strength than anyone realizes until they see me in action.

It is assumed I am weak because I am a petite female. I have more strength than anyone realizes until they see me in action.

I drove to Kroger on Monday for distilled water and an orange. I arrived at the checkout with those two items, an armload of other items, and my giant reusable bag.

I was punching in my PIN number when the cashier waved his hand over everything and asked in his thick accent, “What do you want in the bag?”

“All of it.”

His eyes widened and his head bobbed quickly, “All of it? Including the water?”

“Yes.”

“It’s going to be heavy.”

“I know.”

I really dislike being told every time, “It’s going to be heavy.”  I would not ask for everything in one bag if I did not know this.

The question needled me more than usual this time. Maybe because I watched Chain Reaction the day before and was irritated by Keanu Reeves holding Rachel Weisz’s hand while going through water like she was helpless. It did not help my mood that her character was supposed to be helpless. I have difficulty with female characters portrayed as women physically and mentally unable to help or save themselves. No, the man has to save the woman and help her through physical exertion because she is not strong enough.

Bullshit.

Women are perfectly capable.

Chaz likes to bring up that I like movies and TV shows in which women kick ass and are kick-ass. He also says I take great pleasure watching a woman kicking ass. Wouldn’t you? I mean, who says it is just men who can beat the daylights out of the bad guy? It is gratifying (to me) to see people underestimate women then WHAM!

The men I started training with in Aikido thought they could out-muscle me on the mat. I am a woman right? I am small right? Therefore, I must be weak and meek. They had to show they were stronger than me. It was completely frustrating in the beginning because what they were doing was completely counter to a real life attack. If you throw a punch, you are not going to stop mid-punch to muscle against your victim using your momentum against you. It happens way too fast in real life and the act of missing your target throws you off as much as your victim turning the tables on you. They quickly learned that my size was to my advantage and their size was their disadvantage. Hello, center of gravity. The saying that the bigger they are, the harder they fall holds true on the mat. Yes, I took great pleasure throwing the big guys around on the mat. It was thrilling to throw and be thrown.

What is it that continues to create this perception that women, especially petite women, are weak or need help when physical strength or endurance is required? Is it the roles that are written for women and men? Watch your favorite show for the continued gender stereotypes. How many times is a woman told to stay in the car for her safety? How many times does a man insist he needs to protect a woman? How many times does a man rush to help a woman with something requiring physical effort?

Remember the furor that arose when Battlestar Galactica was rebooted by Syfy and Starbuck was cast as a female? I was thrilled. Here was a woman who smoked cigars, drank men under the table, fought with heart, and never let anyone get away with putting her down for being female. Where the original Starbuck was a handsome womanizer, Kara Thrace was a no-holds-barred fighter pilot who was unapologetic with the air of uncaring, yet she cared very deeply. The reboot gave Starbuck so many more layers than the original. I am not knocking the original, but I love the reboot even more for the complexity and urgency they gave to the story and characters.

Maybe I have run against the grain of the stereotype for so long that I am tired of it. I grew up with my uncles and aunties telling me I could be whatever I wanted to be. My uncles teased me mercilessly which eventually led me to fight back rather than run to Grandma to tell on them. Blame my uncles for my feisty nature, but because of them I grew confident in my physical strength. I knew I could do whatever I wanted, including asking boys/men out on dates. I freaked out my entire high school Health class by being the only girl in the room to raise my hand when the teacher asked which girls had asked a guy out.

I visited family friends in Panama City Beach, Florida, when I was still in college. They are a family of sailors. They took me out on the sailboat one day along with their boys, one of whom is my age and we were good friends, and his girlfriend. We anchored offshore and took turns with the rowboat. Jen and I somehow decided we were going out rowing together. We managed to get water in the boat and had to get out and drag it to shore. Jen kept stopping and looking around for one of the guys and saying we needed a man. I finally tired of it and shouted, “WE DON’T NEED NO MEN!” Boom. We turned the boat over on shore to empty the water then pushed it back out in the water. No men needed.

I know I will be told “It’s going to be heavy” for the rest of my life. I accept it, but I do not have to like it. My usual reply is, “I’m stronger than I look.”

One of these days my filter will be off and I might end up saying, “Do I look weak to you?”

Because I totally want to say that sometimes, just to see how the man will react.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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