I am a feminist!

Watching this video has prompted conversations in my life. It is really great, with all the little niggly points coming together in an awesome conclusion. I doubt my ability to sum it up well, so go watch it. Really. Here it is again.

As always I work through my thoughts by asking everyone questions, this week’s was ‘how do you define feminism?’. There was one answer I got that particularly struck me. After stating the basics of being equality focused on women he explained that most self identified feminists fall into a particular and annoying personality type. I enthusiastically raised my hand announcing myself as a self identified feminist, he shook his head indicating that I was not in the annoying category.

His point was that there is a certain personality that loudly self identifies as one and only one thing, be it feminist, atheist, lesbian, whatever. I agree with that type of one trick pony being frustrating in conversation as well as a bit boring. I am saddened that it is the first association with feminism in my friend’s head, especially since he is not anti-feminist. It is the kind of pervasive thinking keeping a negative stereotype of feminism at the front of the feminism conversation.

I am thinking today that I need to get a bit louder about my self identification. The more quantity and variety of people that vocally self identify the harder it will be to describe feminism as a crazy fringe man hating group of people.

Why can’t I think the way I want to?

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I actually watched the Oscars this year with a friend (it was fun!). Everything around the Oscars seems to be built around judging, and not just the movies (think red carpet, fashion blogs the day after, etc). Both of us found ourselves saying things about the clothes/looks/weight of movie stars in ways we did not expect.

I find it frustrating that even if I educate myself on all the media manipulations and cognitive biases I still fall into the traps I am trying to avoid. Today’s focus is women and body image. Mostly because it messes with my head.

Here is the way I want to think:
–Many many body types and looks are beautiful.
The media appears to think there is more or less one ideal. I like to think of myself as someone who can see through the bullshit in media and society, but I see it have a huge effect on me nonetheless.

Examples of failure:
Clothing choices: It is easy to judge others on this, my favorite pop culture example is from ‘Hackers’: “Spandex: it’s a privilege, not a right”. Who made that rule up? If she (the hypothetical person wearing spandex) is comfortable and proud then who are we to judge? What needs to change is society’s idea of beauty, not what one woman is choosing to wear. My thinking has not stopped me from saying ‘she should not be wearing that’ in the past, or thinking it recently. I want to work on that part of myself.

Flaws in others. When I see people with a crooked smile I think it is adorable. When I saw a picture of myself with a crooked smile I freaked the fuck out. I kept thinking ‘is that what I really look like’. And then I would think ‘why is this bad on me when it is awesome on other people’. Because I hold myself up to messed up standards I have bought into after seeing them my whole life.

OMG, weight. I think I am fairly average right now, for my age and all. I could be tons better, I could exercise at least occasionally. For awhile I was super skinny. I got that way from being unable to eat after a boyfriend cheated on me (NOT healthy). When my sister sees pictures of me from back then she says I look scrawny. I think I looked great. I do not want to think I looked great, because it was not healthy. Nonetheless, I look at those pictures and see them as me at my best.

I often hear that when a woman gets a nasty look from another it is a compliment, because naturally we are all just jealous of one another. Wink wink, nudge nudge, this is just an uncomfortable truth. NO. This is one where my intention and my brain are actually on the same page. When I see a well dressed attractive woman (in my eyes) I genuinely think good things. When I see a woman give me any sort of disdainful look I wonder wtf I did.

While watching the Oscars both my friend and I called ourselves out each time something judgmental was said. I do not want to beat myself up *too* much for not being perfect, but I also want to continue learning and make an attempt at being better. Societal conventions have way more impact on me than I would like. I think the best I can do is recognize when it happens, try to understand how and why, and let that learning affect my daily doings as it will.

In the meantime I would like to ask my brain to stop thinking things I don’t want to think, let me be the person I want to be.

May the blessings be with you

Yesterday someone (my single reader for the day) found my blog by searching the term ‘if a guy tells you to have a blessed day’. I did a google search for the same and did not see my blog on the first few pages. They must have had some serious questions about that phrase if they went that far into a search is my conclusion.

I read many of the links in the first couple pages. It was an interesting mix of people (much like myself) being a wee bit fed up with hearing the phrase and others complaining about the fed up people.

What reading all that got me thinking about is how to respond. The only time I have responded with anything but a vaguely uncomfortable smile did not really turn out so well, and there is usually not time in the situations where I hear it. Also, I am not quick on my feet conversationally, so I need to think about it ahead of time. I am leaning towards one of these:

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If they say it’s not my birthday, I can say I am not religious! Ok, this *may be* passive aggressive.

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Because who doesn’t love a Star Wars reference? Then again, the people saying this would probably wonder who doesn’t want blessings.

Prejudice and racism

I opened Facebook the other day to this:

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It made me question whether I had a solid definition for prejudice and racism. The little rant also sounded pretty racist to me, and I wanted context and explanation, neither of which I got (despite my heroic efforts). Lacking explanation and context I did what I always do, which is ask anyone willing to talk to me what their definitions are.

Most people agreed on prejudice and in the definition broke down the word to pre-judge. Google defined it as:
preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

Most people (but not all) also agreed that racism is a type of prejudice. The Venn diagram of prejudice and racism would look like this:

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Dear god that graphic is large, what happened to the photo size option in my WordPress app?

Racism is the harder one to define, my goodness it is complicated and every single answer I got was different. Google says:
the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

This makes sense to me as a literal but not all encompassing definition. Take that and only that and I can see how one would end at the statement from the above Facebook comment “There are only literally thousands of ‘racists’ in this country … And most of them are black”, with which I wholeheartedly disagree.
So, what is that definition missing? I think it is both subtlety and social context.

The subtlety I see most often in microaggressions. I believe as people we all have biases and prejudices, often without seeing them in ourselves. Because microaggressions are by definition subtle, it is easy to tell oneself that engaging in the behavior is not racist. When these slip into our conversation we do not see them as racist, but to someone feeling the effects of microaggressions day in and day out it would feel racist.

The social context is mostly about power dynamics. Only one of the ten or so people I asked for definitions brought up societal power dynamics as a defining factor in racism, so though I believe this it is obviously not universally accepted. I see institutional racism in our society against minorities seeping into most aspects of our society, much of it unconscious. This is a good explanation using bricks, and a generally good read.

I think that is all my brain can take on racism, and I by no means have a definition that I am happy with. At least my Venn diagram helped me with the prejudice difference…