These Two Things Are Not The Same….

I was speaking to a male blogging friend recently about some of the worst comments he has ever received (because bloggers share comments like soldiers share battle wounds) and something really struck me. Lets see what you think…

His 5 Worst Comments

  1. I hope you die
  2. Your grammar is incorrect
  3. You’re not as smart as you think you are
  4. You’re an asshole
  5. You should do more research

My 5 Worst Comments (Warning – graphic)

  1. I hope you get raped
  2. I’m going to find you and dick slap you
  3. I can’t wait to beat your cunt
  4. If you get raped, know you deserved it
  5. I’m going to shove my big dick up your ass until you bleed

So…those are not the same. All awful, but not exactly equal. What really struck me, is that my friend blogs about what might be considered controversial topics and I…well…I don’t. (At least not on the blog where I received these comments) I blog about happy things and things that make me laugh.  So, why are my worst comments so much more violent than his?

I have a pretty good theory as to why – it’s because I have a vagina.

BUT – before I add another thing to my sexism list, I thought a larger sample was in order. So, male bloggers – have you ever received violent comments? Feel free to be as vague as possible (aka, just say “yes”) as I know this can be very painful and difficult to rehash. I’m just interested to know if my friend is just super lucky in the comment troll department, or if there is something bigger at play here.

Let me know your thoughts! (And ladies, if you would like to, feel free to share as well)

- Mae

Behold The Man-Hater: A Modern Myth

The-Suffragette-front-pageThis morning, my rage kettle boiled over. On an eons old post, we received a well-written and seemingly thoughtful comment, that intimated I didn’t deserve to question men, because they are the ones who lay down their lives for this country and who gave me the right to blog in the first place. Shockingly, this is not the first time I’ve heard this argument. It essentially consists of “Feminists are evil man-haters, who don’t understand all that menfolk have done for them!”

I just—

I can’t even…

What? 

There is so much wrong with this argument that I’m actively worried about the state of education in the West. Ignoring the obvious—which I’ve compiled a list of at the bottom of this post, because fuck all the fuckery—there is a major problem with this whole line of thinking: feminism isn’t about hating men or soldiers or any group of people, except perhaps misogynists. Feminism means believing in equality of the genders. That’s it.

Blog over! 

Y’all, that’s Kindergarten level simple. Why do we still let people—many of them young women, who are directly victimized by patriarchal structures every day—go around saying that feminists hate men? There’s not a single feminist I know who wishes to banish all men from Earth. That’s not really our thing, darling. Such a goal would be not only irrational, but severely limiting of our social lives. After all, it’s not like Dillon-who-bags-my-groceries is the reason I get paid 11,000 dollars less than my male colleagues. It’s society at fault, not men specifically. We’re all culpable.

Throughout history, people have bought into the notion that women and men are not only unequal, but not even deserving of the same the treatment. It’s reinforced in every aspect of daily life, not just our relatively recent right to vote. When you play for a girls basketball team called the “Lady Warriors,” you’re being victimized by the system. That’s your school saying that you’re not the real team—representing them with honor and talent—you’re just the girls. When the church you attend has a weight loss bible study for women, but not one for men, that’s society at work again reinforcing the notion that women are meant to please to the male gaze. Sexism is everywhere and it’s unending. It’s like that pink slime from Ghostbusters II, popping up in all social settings, seething below our streets like a glowing mass of unseen douchery.

Just the act of calling us “man-haters,” instead of feminists is patriarchy at work. Every time that is said, the cause of gender equality is devalued one more time. Rare is the teenage girl, riddled with insecurities and fear of social doom, that is willing to label herself a man-hater. If she’s less likely to call herself a feminist, because that cute Liam Patel might judge her, then she’s also less likely to speak up when she experiences gender inequality. The concept that “we shouldn’t be so sensitive, because that’s just the way things are,” is internalized in one more young woman. This hurts everyone. Young men are just as at risk from this thinking, as seen by each “locker room culture” scandal. The more we say women are one thing and men another, the more none of us are allowed to fulfill our true potential.

Feminism isn’t about hating men, it’s about hating systematic discrimination. This should be everyone’s fight, but we’ve corrupted the very language of our society with pervasive phrases like “man-haters”, “bra burners,” and “angry lesbians.” Our pool of advocates is winnowed down with each usage, obscuring the real intent of feminism. I wear a bra every day, damn it! The girls can still be high and perky, while discrimination shrivels.

Equality should be the cause of all people. We’re not here to take away rights, we’re here to ensure everyone finally gets them.

- Grace

Obvious Issues With This Argument: A List

  1. Women have, in fact, laid down their lives for this country countless times. The only difference is that we were not explicitly allowed on the front lines by the United States until this year. It wasn’t because we were lazy dilettantes who didn’t want to fight, it’s because we were again and again denied the opportunity. That’s the patriarchy, darling.
  2. Women were not just one day given the right to blog or do anything. Those nice men in Washington didn’t wake up one morning and decide women were finally ready to vote. We fought. Forever. We fought to not be property, we fought to own property, we fought to vote, we fought to work. We’re still fighting for equal pay and an end to the objectification of our bodies and all those other systematic little inequalities that are so prevalent in our society that we consider them normal.
  3. See: Lysistrata
  4. See: Women’s Air Force Service Pilots
  5. See: Harriet Tubman & co.

Get In The Bathtub, Dude: An Advertising Field Guide to Men

179b653565641b1dee73ecbdf6a7a69fThe time is upon us once again. People are sporting garish color combinations, insisting their friends eat chip-and-bean casserole concoctions, and complaining at every Saturday wedding they attend. It’s football season, kittens!

Usually, I’m not much of a football fan. I enjoy watching the actual game well enough, but take umbrage with so many aspects of it—hyper-masculinity, health dangers, its effect on education, and those wretched pink Lady ___insert appropriately intimidating mascot__ Fan! t-shirts—that it’s hard to give more than a rousing “Woohoo!” when that College Team I Follow wins. Thanks to living with a man whose school is doing particularly well this year, however, I’m watching a lot more football. And, as a result, football commercials.

Y’all, these commercials have totally opened my eyes. Back before Professor McGregor, I semi-longed to understand the proverbial menfolk. My mind told me they were just the same as me—regular people, with the added bonus of a penis—but friends told me they were mysterious creatures, mystifying in their ways and hairiness. It turns out, all we needed to do was watch more ESPN to discover the truth.  There are lessons to be learned, in between those brief periods of programming you actually want to watch. Sports advertising understands men and gives the rest of us handy man-dealing tips.

Truth #1: Men love to take baths, especially with wolf soap. I would never have known this from living with my teenage brother, but men really love being clean. Just when you think a man wants some sexy time with his lady love – boom! – he suggests bathing instead. And not bathing-together-in-a-sexy-way either, but side by side, each person with their own bathtub. Men cannot share tubs with you! They want to enjoy the warm water and romantic sunset in their own watery space! The only creatures a man wants to bathe with are wolves and eagles, who lend their essences to man soap. I always thought Professor McGregor’s showery scent was something with sandalwood or cedar, but these commercials are pretty insistent that he bathe alone in animal extracts.

Truth #2: Low Testosterone is an epidemic that must be solved. Everyone knows that the most important part of being a man is having a vigorous man member, which rouses quickly at the slightest hint of a womanly presence. But when men age, their testosterone levels naturally decrease, apparently making it really hard to do the one thing men are supposed to do all the time! Judging by the amount of commercials, low testosterone is reaching epidemic proportions in America. Sure, your husband tells you that he doesn’t want to canoodle, because he has the flu, but that is really the fever of low testosterone. A man who cannot canoodle is no man at all! We must save the canoodling man bits people! Who wants to plan a benefit walk/run for canoodling with me?

Truth #3: Men hate cooking, but love cheese. When men get together, they don’t want to make things. That’s crazy talk! Men don’t cook, they grunt and swear and worry about their fantasy football stats. To keep up their energy, however, they need to eat. That’s where cheese comes in. If you’re hosting a man party, it will only be a hit if you buy fast food covered in dairy product. Chicken tenders + CHEDDER! Pizza + FOUR CHEESES! Tacos + CHEESEY SAUCE CHEESE BYPRODUCT! These are man foods. Leave the expertly barbecued pork loin at home, Harold, unless you want all the other men to mock you.

72a16f1bdb1b793426a0cb0464eeeb0dTruth #4: Men are powerless, when presented with breasts.  All my adult life, I’ve had the power to rule menfolk and I didn’t even know it. When presented with breasts, men forget how to properly function as human beings. They crash cars, spill soup, and embarrass themselves in front of their friends, by following woman orders. This apparently, includes gay men, since I’ve never seen a sports commercial featuring a man distracted by great man shoulders. Surely, ESPN wouldn’t assume gay men don’t like sports and, thus, don’t need targeted advertising. Obviously, there’s just some sort of natural kryptonite reflex built into men, when it comes to breasts.

When Professor McGregor comes home tonight, I’m going to try out all these new, amazing lessons I’ve learned from sports advertising. Sure, he said he wanted to come home, make bison steaks and Brussels sprouts, then watch Much Ado About Nothing, but he’s a man! I suppose I’ll throw all those vegetables away, order a pizza loaded with four pounds of cheese, give him a blood test to diagnose his current testosterone levels, and force him into the bathtub instead. Thanks, ESPN!

- Grace

You Are Not A Before

lucky-ad-2Are you a woman over the age of twelve? You should definitely be on a diet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 20, there is always weight to lose or maintenance to be done. How will you ever find love and succeed in the world, if you don’t know your daily caloric intake? It’s not just about beauty, of course, it’s also about health. Everyone knows that health is a number on a scale. Today is the first step in a journey! You are a before now, but soon you will be an after!

We’ve all heard this message. As women, society expects us to be on a never-ending quest for perfection. If it’s not fat to vanquish, it’s wrinkles or cellulite. This message, this unyielding refrain of “Be prettier, already!”, makes me want to find the nearest dried up lake, fill it with full fat chocolate pudding, then wallow in its sugary goodness until I seize and/or drown. I am, it seems, alone in that. Lately, my Facebook feed has been overrun with women in their late twenties on a “journey.” Friends, of all shapes and sizes, are posting caloric counts and exercise logs and—worst of all—before and after photos.

You’ve all seen these pictures. On the left, there is a somewhat/slightly/vaguely chubby woman glowering into a mirror, while on the right is that same woman turned into a glowing, smiling health angel. The caption is, always, thus:

“I never thought I’d share this photo, friends, but it’s time for me to be brave. This was me three years ago: fat, depressed, and deeply out of touch with my health. Through hard work and hours of dedication, I’ve taken control of my life. If that girl can do it, so can you!”

Just last week, one of my old school friends posted an eerily similar photo-and-caption combination. When we were younger, she was always one of the chubbier girls in our class—not morbidly obese or anything, just somewhat out of the norm—which all changed when she went to college. She became a nutrition major, an avid runner, and is currently getting her physical training licence. That is all fantastic! She found her raison d’être and is super happy in life! What’s not fantastic, however, is that she completely disavowed the person she was before. By calling herself an after and raising up a picture of her teenage self as proof of what she had overcome, it turned that girl I loved into a negative. She’s now an after, not a before. 

girlancientprejudiceremovedLThere, right there! That’s my problem with before-and-after photos and the sensationalism of weight loss in this era. Losing weight doesn’t and shouldn’t make you a different person. More over, being overweight does not make you a before. A woman is not a butterfly, waiting to emerge from a cocoon of shame, with just a little diet and exercise. You are a real person, have always been a real person, and will continue to be a real person until you die…no matter what you weigh.

While I completely understand and support people wanting to lose weight, because of either happiness or health issues, a scale number shouldn’t be what defines someone as worthy. By framing our body image in terms of before-and-after shots, I worry that we internalize the narrative that after is always better. Weight loss doesn’t make you a better person and it certainly doesn’t make you a different one. You may be more confident, able to shrug off negativity more easily, or happier in your own skin, but you are still Odette. Losing weight is not a woman’s one great accomplishment. If we look at it as such, we are encouraging women who are not in perfect shape to hide away from the world, because conventional beauty is the sole characteristic of a successful woman. The message does not become one of inspiration, but one of shame.

I think it’s wonderful to share accomplishments, especially ones you’ve worked so hard for, but maybe we need to check which ones we’re assigning highest value to . It’s okay to be unhappy at a size 18, but it’s also alright to be happy as one. There are more important things to you than skinny or chubby or gaunt or fat. Are you kind to other people? Are you pursuing a long held dream? Do you make really awesome apple pie? All of these things make you more worthy than fitting into tiny pants. I wish there were more people posting before-and-after shots of academic success or pie baking attempts. If I’m going to be an after someday, I want to be the after of literary success and dressmaking skills.

In the end, however, I don’t want to be an after. I want to be Grace, living her life. I am not Before-Grace, just as you are not Before-Odette. This day, this person you are right now, is just as important as the one you will become. Neither one should be judged by the size of her pants.

-Grace

My Heart Is Dainty, My Hips Are Not

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30174987-500-668I was born to wear a sheath dress. Ignore the abundant rear curve and my chest’s propensity for becoming—in strict geographical terms—mountainous. My soul longs to be twee.

It is, of course, never going to happen. The gods could curse me with an immortal tapeworm and my bones would still be Viking-esque, more suited to leading horn-wearing he-men into battle than ethereally floating into tea. Despite my love for all things delicate and feminine—lace, tiny cups, dogs named Claudette—pursuit of a different Grace is fruitless. In my mind, I may be Betty, but anyone with eyes can tell I’m a Joan. So, what do you do, when the outside is never going to match the inside?

Not give a damn.

This is a recent epiphany, kittens. For most of my life, I tried to pretend I wasn’t soultwee. The word “flattering” was my best wardrobe pal. People praised my sense of style, my knowledge of what worked with my generous hourglass shape. Which was all well and good, but have you ever noticed how subtly offensive “flattering” can sound? It intimates that you aren’t attractive, so much as benefited by the outfit you’ve donned. Flattering means that you’re wise to hide certain parts of you, lest someone suspect you don’t possess a perfectly flat stomach or appropriately pointy hip bones. Flattering is something we say all the time to women, as if the best thing she can do is camouflage her squishy parts—or flat parts or whatever it is that doesn’t measure up to our ideal—under yards of fabric or a strategically long cardigan.

Flattering has held me back. Y’all, I want to wear sheath dresses. Who gives a crap if Stacy and Clinton decree that they don’t work for my body type? Sure, I love a fit-and-flare dress like it’s clothing cake, but sometimes I want sartorial pie instead. In writing there is a delightful saying: “Learn the rules, so that you can break them.” That is how I have come to feel about wardrobe choices, as well. For a decade of my life, it’s been all waist-cinching, layering, bust-highlighting rules for hourglass Viking princesses. I know what looks good on me, so isn’t it time I got more comfortable with what supposedly doesn’t?

This summer, I pulled the trigger on my first sheath dress. One of my favorite independent pattern companies, Colette, came out with a lovely little column dress that I gleefully ordered. I tweaked the lines of the pattern a bit—scooping out a bit at the waist for a suggestion of curves—but at the end of the day, it’s a sheath dress. It is exactly the wrong thing for my body type and I adore it. The dress is absurdly comfortable, easy to throw on if I’m in a hurry, and dresses up beautifully. Initially, though, it made me uneasy. I’d pair it with a belt, cardigan, and heels, in an effort to remind the world that I understood my body type. Wear a sheath dress, Grace, but remember who you are! Slowly, however, the accessories disappeared.

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30467816-500-664I don’t get as many compliments on this dress as my full-skirted, cinched pieces, but who cares? When I wear it, my inner 1960’s ingenue perks up, giving the camera her best Audrey Hepburn smirk. If no one else sees that, I don’t mind. Some days even the Swedish milkmaid wants to feel sweet and delicate. Why shouldn’t she? We are entirely too bound by all those supposed rules, when at the end of the day, our clothes should please only ourselves. I’m all for looking pulled together and stylish, but my style is my own, not one handed to me by society.

I propose we stop obsessing over the styles that work for us. Wear the skirt you love, but is made for the tiny-waisted. Buy that tiki dress you covet, despite the model’s larger chest bunnies. Don a swimsuit without a skirt, because cellulite should not hold you back.

Wear the things that scare you, darling. Society can go suck an egg, if it doesn’t think them flattering.

- Grace

Ignore a Pick-Up Artist, Save a Puppy

4256913449_e09b0c3219_oFriends, there is a plague upon us. It oozes up to you at a bar, telling you that you’re really pretty for a chubby girl and asking if you’ve read Hemingway’s lost grocery list. It encourages the objectification of women, turns love into a game, and wears too much cologne. The pick-up artist movement is still a thing and it’s boring.

Today on Jezebel, yet another misogynistic asscake and his poorly punctuated ramblings—this time on why his precious manseed only goes to deserving women— were highlighted. That’s right, I said highlighted. Jezebel’s intent was to castigate the blogger, of course, but we all know that’s not how the internet works. I’m not linking to his original blog, because every damned URL turns into followers and comments. Attention, of any sort, is the route to book deals and advertising. Y’all, we can’t keep giving our page hits to sad, delusional man children!

It’s important to know the face of your enemy, but pick-up artists aren’t the enemy of feminists. After all, they aren’t actually changing the dating landscape. When was the last time someone tried to “neg” you and it worked, kittens? I had six single years in my twenties, through the height of this supposed movement, and was never successfully picked up by one of these clowns. In order for pick-up artistry to be a threat, it would have to be working. These men think they’ve cracked the code to seducing women, but all they’ve done is find women who probably would’ve slept with them anyway. As one University of Kansas study found, the women in these relationships are just as sexist as the men. Like finds like, disastrous as the results may be.

We have loads of actual foes to deal with, from the continuing wage gap to society’s constant body snarking of women. Pick-up artists are, in the jungle of gender politics, gnats: annoying, harmless, and awfully noisy for their size. Yet, we continue to be scandalized and angered by them. We link to their blogs, angrily talk about their latest books, and give them entirely too much of our damned time. Are they misogynistic jerks? Totally. Are they having a tangible effect on the ways normal, well-adjusted young men and women view dating? Not so much.

A nice, well-informed man probably won’t pick up “The Game,” much less read it and follow its advice. The audience for such things already thinks women are prizes to be won, not equal partners to share in sexy times and adventures. Pick-up artists aren’t looking for love, they’re looking for bed-notches, and as a result they’ve missed the whole damned point of life. We’re here to foster relationships and leave a positive impact on the world, not shag ourselves straight into a syphilitic hallucination. Sex doesn’t last forever, so the small number of men who buy into this bullshit are destined to find themselves disillusioned and alone at the end of it all. Their comeuppance is of their own making, not from admonishments that will fall on deaf ears.

If you want to get rid of pick-up artistry, ignore them. Their game will fail and you’ll have much more time to devote to real issues. We have sexual violence to combat, systemic sexism to eradicate (the actual cause of this supposed trend), and puppies to save. Who has time for another douchebag in a velvet suit? Stomp on his tail, roll your eyes, and sashay off into the sunset with an enlightened manfriend.

- Grace

I’m A Pussy & So Are You

105You’re a pussy.

Wow, it just got super hostile up in here. I can feel the rage boiling over, kittens. Did Grace just call me weak? Is she using female genitalia slang as an insult? My mason jar of whoop ass, it beckons! That anger is legit. The use of female genitalia, or the feminine in general, as an insult is both pervasive and shitty. Hands down, the worst thing a teenage boy can be called is something feminine. “Pussy” and “douchebag” flow as easily from the lips of youths as “Of course, I wasn’t drinking, Ma.” Being designated as feminine is to be weak and small—a nightmare in an adolescent world that values athleticism and aggression above all else.

Except, here’s the thing…pussies are badass. Vaginas are the physical embodiment of strength and resilience. Just think about it! An opening no wider than a couple of fingers is expected to push a living, squalling, life form out of itself. Hell, forget babies. Those cats get all the vaginal concern. Did you know that a penis needs two pounds of force to push into a vagina? That’s the same required to push through a swinging door.* Y’all, male members have engorge themselves with blood and become hard as steel, just to attempt breaching our forces. Your vagina is a baller, shot caller.

Perhaps you should examine your insults a bit closer, society. The next time someone calls their friend a “pussy” in my presence, they’re going to get an extremely vivid lecture about vaginal resilience. Being a “pussy” in the true sense of the word is something to be celebrated. This is what should be going down on basketball courts across America:

Youth 1: Don’t be such a pussy, Bryce! Get up!

Youth 2: Did you just call me a pussy, Aiden?

Youth 1: Yeah. What are you going to do about it?

Youth 2: Dude, I’m going to hug the shit out of you. Thanks so much! Did you know that your mom’s vagina expanded to ten times its normal width just to push your big head out of it? I didn’t realize you thought I was such a baller. That’s really sweet, man.

Dear reader, you’re a pussy and a cunt and a twat, but only in the very best sense of the words. You are strong, capable, and resemble an orchid in full bloom. If you wanted to, you could totally push a metaphorical baby out of your heart. Go pussies!

- Grace

Note: Special thanks to my friend and very favorite sailor, Admiral Nelson, for his insights into male humans and the awesomeness of vaginas.

*Source: Bonk by Mary Roach, which you should read immediately.

You’re Not My Sister, Sister

20523 - The Dolly SistersReaders, I have a sister. She’s sixteen, snarky as hell, and utterly delightful. Henrietta is excellent at Harry Potter trivia and understands the vital importance of pretty tea cups. I wouldn’t trade her for all the Turkish delight in Harrod’s! While that may not seem like a meaningful sacrifice, the lemon variety should really be renamed Gelatinous Grace Crack. Having a lifetime supply of it on hand is one of my fondest dreams. Moral: Wee sister, I love you.

What I don’t love is when the world throws around the word sister like it’s just another noun. As soon as a group of women is put together, we’re encouraged to call ourselves a sisterhood. Last year, I was lucky enough to final in one of the most prestigious writing contests in my genre. Not only was it a huge resume bonus, but it put me in contact with a group of extraordinary women: smart, helpful, and imminently talented down to a one. However, within a week, I started getting twitchy.

“We’re sisters,” they declared!

“I didn’t know you last Tuesday!” I thought, but wisely did not point out. (It’s mind-boggling, I know, but away from this blog I’m praised for my tact. Crazy, no?)

It wasn’t that I didn’t like them or that they weren’t lovely women, it’s just…I have a sister. Not only have I known her for sixteen years, but we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve cried through movies (Well, I’ve cried. She’s pointed and laughed at me.), I’ve given her countless Talks-with-a-capital-T, and we have both endured the embarrassment that is our father talking to strangers on vacation. Kittens, I changed her poop-filled diapers. There aren’t many people I’d still love, after their feces wound up under my fingernails. Sisterhood is a big damned deal. It takes love and trust and time.  It doesn’t magically happen, just because two people have vaginas.

Sometimes, if she is truly lucky, a woman will have friends who become like sisters. It’s imminently possible. In my experience, however, these are rare and precious relationships. In my life, I have two: Kate and Mae.  They are the women I’d help creatively dispose of a body (The swamp! The answer is always the swamp!) and whom I’ve called for every dilemma, from dating problems to the breed-appropriate naming of small dogs. They are also the ones who will stand up next to me, as my maid and matron of honor, when I marry Professor McGregor later this year. Pardon the cheese, but they are the sisters of my fucking heart. I love them and I wouldn’t be who I am without them. They’re family.

Maybe I’m too reserved with my emotions.  It’s possible, perhaps, that I’m a stone cold ice queen who needs to work on letting people in. Honestly, though, I don’t think so. I think that people are entirely too cavalier about relationships, in general. If someone is your sister, you take a bullet for them. Telling someone they’re like family comes with a vow: If it ever comes down to it, I will change your diapers. That’s, pun unintentional-but-hilarious, some heavy shit. I love meeting new people and try to always ease life for those around me, but sister is reserved language.

Matching reproductive organs don’t make us family. Common experience doesn’t make us family. I believe in supporting other women, as a rule, but The Sisterhood makes me uneasy. I am a feminist. I am a citizen of the world. I am not, however, a sister to all.

Unless, of course, you have a pair of magic traveling pants. If that’s the case, welcome to the family, home slice.

- Grace

Sometimes, I Worry About Marmalade

vintage_canning_posterMillenial women, I have concerns. It’s not a usual complaint—too many of us living with our parents or forgetting how to use our vocal cords, because of the Facebook—but something more insidious. I am worried about all the marmalade.

Have you preserved something lately? The internet says you have. Sure, maybe you just made some kumquat jam or harvested some green beans from your garden for later use. What’s the big deal, Grace? Everybody’s doing it. It’s not like I’ve set up a canning shed in the backyard yet. It’s not the jelly that truly worries me. If you want homemade apple butter, that’s your (delicious) right. If you want to spend all weekend stewing beets, stew away, my little ableskiver! What worries me is the canning movement.

Everywhere I look, our generation is celebrating domesticity. We’re making jam and knitting sweaters. We’re not only sewing our own clothes, but weaving the fabric from backyard cotton crops and creating chevron prints with handmade vegetable dyes. Flocks of children are being cooed over and homeschooled and raised on homemade organic vegan baby food. And that’s great! The domestic arts are important, under-appreciated crafts. For far too long, “women’s work” was reviled and treated as an expectation, not a honed skill. Knowing how to make things yourself is not only important, but freeing for both genders. De-stigmatizing the feminine is always a good idea, in my book.

Only…I’m less convinced that’s what we’re doing. Could this “new domesticity” not be busting gender roles at all, but reinforcing them? Look at your Facebook feed. Are any of your guy friends posting about the fruitcake they just baked or the new quilt they made for their son’s room? I’m betting not. Young women, however, are baking and sewing and quilting in droves. We’re sharing photos of our creations and blogging about them. Such hobbies are becoming the social norm for women.

canning_foods_vintageEven the look of our generation—the much reviled, but still copied hipster—falls into a gender dichotomy. The Millennial guy, the one who will be parodied at fraternity parties in twenty years, is hyper-masculine. He has facial hair and flannel shirts. He’s really into video games and philosophy and locally sourced bourbon. Meanwhile, our dear Millennial woman has long flowing hair, which she artfully arranges into a braided sock bun, and wears twee, collared dresses she’s made with her own hands. She bakes towering, photogenic cakes and uses homemade cleaning solutions to scrub the kitchen mess away.

That’s not radical, friends. That’s traditional.

If we’d reinvented domesticity, surely it would be split more equitably along gender lines? If our argument is that we’re de-stigmitazing women’s work, then these hobbies shouldn’t be confined to women. Just as many guys should be teaching sewing classes and making scones for their families on the weekend. And—I say this as a person who enjoys both of those things—they’re not. The revival of these arts is a vastly female endeavor. The people who are reading the blogs and pinning the recipes? Women.

We haven’t reinvented homemaking at all, we’ve returned to it. It’s not an inherently bad thing, because the traditionally feminine isn’t inherently bad, but it is a cause for concern. All too many women I know are getting involved with these pursuits out of a sense of expectation. All of their friends suddenly care about canning strawberry jam, so they must as well. The moment that pressure happens, we have a problem. Hobbies are all well and good. Choosing to stay home and raise your children is also all well and good, but we must keep it that, precisely: a choice.

We fought for our right to make pecan pie and kick ass in the working world. Little by little, women have bashed in the social constructs that kept us in the kitchen. The death of these societal expectations is what allows this “new domesticity” to exist, that allows a choice to be made. I’m worried that we’re getting complacent about keeping that choice. The same friends who learn to knit out of a sense of peer pressure, insist that feminism is no longer necessary. That is my marmalade nightmare, friends. Are we going to, slowly and beautifully, place ourselves right back on that pretty, homemade pedestal?

1950skitchenThere is still a war to be fought. The wage gap continues to exist; the gender roles continue to negatively affect both sexes. This is not the time to blithely saunter back toward tradition. Let’s bake our pies and care for our children, but keep up the good fight while we do so. Maybe our guy friends would like to make a perfect meringue or our sons would like to weed the garden? The feminine ideal shouldn’t be charming and pretty and accomplished. The feminine ideal shouldn’t be.

Canning fruit doesn’t make you a good woman. Sewing your husband a shirt doesn’t make you a good wife. You are good, whether you burn water or achieve perfectly fluffy souffles. The new domesticity is lovely, but it should never be an expectation. If you want to wear pearls and vacuum, then vacuum your little heart out. Just remember that you don’t have to.

Make your marmalade. Make intellectual war, while you’re at it.

- Grace

Hello, Big Boy: Pornography and Feminism

On Saturdays, We Talk About Sex is a new series in which the Spinsters talk about sex, sexual politics, and sexy things. On Saturdays. If you’re related to one of the Spinsters, or would prefer to never think of Grace/Kate/Mae mid-bedsport, this may not be the series for you. We recommend watching This ABBA video, instead of reading ahead. Everyone else, let’s talk about sex (on a Saturday).

04eMen watch pornography. It’s a bit of an expected thing, in this day and age. Teenage boys, given thirty seconds and relaxed Google settings, will find some people doing it. Boys will be boys, you know. Teenage girls, on the other hand, are expected to be horrified by porn, pretend it doesn’t exist, and spend all their time on Pinterest instead. This socially expected discrepancy will eventually play out in the following scenario:

A party of guys/girls. The first winter break of college.

Guys: We’re so free and adult now! We can talk about sex in front of girls!
Girls: We shall hint about our newfound sexual adventures, because it’s college and we’re no longer automatically slutty, if we’ve seen a penis!
Guys: Oh my god. The girls are ALSO talking about sex.
Girls: Sex, sex, sex! We are so empowered!
Guys: You know would be awesome, group of friends we’re really excited to be talking about real things with? Watching porn.
Girls: But no! We’ve never seen such a thing! Our eyes, our eyes!
Guys: Porn it is!
Girls: Oh My GOD! PEOPLE ARE HAVING THE SEX AND BEING NAKED! BRING US OUR PEARLS, FOR WE MUST CLUTCH THEM!

I know this scenario happens, because I’ve been there. An eighteen year-old Grace quite vocally insisted that she had never, not ever, seen pornography and why would anyone want to watch such a thing and, also, gross! Of course, I had seen porn. I was a teenager with an internet connection. It was “off limits”, so I’d switched off my safe settings and gone traversing the great, wide world of people doing it on camera. Being a virgin at the time, it was also super enlightening to have visuals of acts that seemed somewhat mechanically questionable. They weren’t my regular internet haunts, by any means, but I’d seen some P put into some V quite a few times.

So, why the feelings of shame? The guys weren’t embarrassed, but I would have bathed in warm garlic mayonnaise, before admitting to any virtual voyeurism. It was, of course, fear. If I’d spoken up and asked what the big deal was, my friends might have thought me—terror of terrors!—slutty. Good girls don’t watch porn. Good girls can be in touch with their sexuality, but only to the extent that they sometimes have monogamous heterosexual sex without hurling. To not only enjoy it, but actively seek it out? Unthinkable. Boys were the ones super interested in sex, while girls simply gave into it. As porn served chiefly to aid self-arousal, porn was off limits.

Now, here’s the thing—I am not pro-pornography. I think there are a lot of problems, for women specifically, when it comes to modern internet porn. In many ways, it has radically changed the way my generation looks at normal sex and sexuality. The most tangible example is in our grooming habits: well over 80% of women under thirty completely wax their pubic regions. While we say it’s for our own hygiene or for the guys we love, it has roots in a trend started in 80’s pornography, with the goal of better camera shots. That a standard beauty practice for young women has direct roots in pornography and the resulting look of pre-pubescence should cause anyone to pause. As a feminist, such pervasive and quick changes to the expectations of womanhood make me uncomfortable. Moreover, it’s just the beginning. We’re only just now starting to understand all the ways porn has changed the bedroom politics of America.

Vol-4 erotism-lingerie  (12)I’m not here to make value judgment on porn, but instead on the way we deal with it. Anytime something is a labeled a “man thing,” my hackles start twitching upwards. What exactly makes porn an exclusively male domain, World? Well, Grace darling, it’s because men are base creatures driven by their sexual desires and they’re going to masturbate themselves blind anyway, so we should let them have an outlet. Women, on the other hand, are delicate flowers who aren’t as in to sex and certainly don’t want the kind of dirty, lewd things featured in internet pornography. Unless they’re slutty, of course. That’s where porn really comes from: sluts.

Yeah, okay, see that’s all reeks-of-sexism bullshit. Women are told, subtlety and constantly every day, that we shouldn’t like sex. When we make jokes about wives having headaches or thinking of England, we’re reinforcing the notion of appropriate, gendered sexuality standards. Bullshit! Some dudes don’t have super excitable sex drives, while some women want it all the damn time. What’s more, how many women enjoy sex a whole bunch, but don’t feel comfortable voicing that enjoyment? How many men are made uncomfortable by the impersonal nature of porn, but must pretend otherwise to their buddies?

We’re doing everyone a disservice with these Victorian notions of what’s appropriate for whom. How will we ever talk about actual problems pornography may foster, if we can’t openly discuss who’s watching it and what’s happening in it? World, teenage boys are not the only young people watching pornography. Your daughters are seeing it too. What’s more, it’s quickly becoming the way all teenagers truly learn about sex. We need to address what that means for us as a society and we need to do it honestly. Let’s stop pretending men are all hypersexual semen monsters and that women are all innocence and light. Neither gender is that simple.

Men are watching porn. Women are watching porn. Instead of treating it as the flesh-colored elephant in the bedroom, let’s treat it like what it is: our modern sexual reality. How you choose to deal with that is the next question.

- Grace