F is for Feminism

Let’s get a a couple of facts out of the way:

1). I’m a feminist.

2). If you respect any of the women in your life, you should be one too.

Feminism, as defined by Merriam Webster is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” or “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” For the sake of this conversation, let’s use both variations as working content, rather than the ludicrous urban dictionary definition. I’m currently reading Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and one of the core takeaways is that as long as you adhere to the basics of equality, feminism is flexible. No matter how you react a word however, the truth is there’s a lot less respect for women around the world than there should be in 2017, and a lot of this inequality flies right under our noses.

In a previous post, I mentioned that pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition in the recent Congressionally-approved repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). However after she read my post, my mother pointed out I was playing softball. Her point: under some pre-Obamacare insurance plans, not just pregnancy, but RAPE could be classified as a pre-existing condition in some states.  If ACA is fully repealed, non-consensual sex could still be categorized as such, depending on providers and channels of coverage.

This health care onslaught against women comes at a time when we have definitions like Urban Dictionary’s crawling around the Internet (even as a “joke,” it’s highly offensive and disturbing). And there are many who treat the label “feminist” like a curse word, avoiding it altogether. What’s wrong with being an acknowledged pursuer of equal rights?

Answer: Nothing.

The “problem” is that asserting modern equality of any kind (see: Black Lives Matter) upsets the status quo and is viewed as a threat by the reproducers of ideology. Humans are capable of great change, but are too often resistant and intellectually lazy about the associated effort. But here’s the reality: women are treated unfairly. In the workplace, in interpersonal interactions, and by too many governments.

Most of you reading this are probably well aware of the gender climate. Apologies – the last thing anyone wants is another lecture from a white man. I know I’m writing from a position of privilege on complex set of issues that don’t subjugate me.  All the more reason to speak,  to push for an end to these injustices. My life has been enriched by strong women who overcame obstacles they shouldn’t have had to. As a society, we’re standing on yet another precipice of choice between advancement and regression. If I’m in a position to support and advocate, I will and I must.

The examples of regression are numerous.  Headlines display a barrage of egregious physical and political violations. Last week a ten year-old who was raped in India was granted (oh thank you justice system) permission to abort her abusive rapist’s child. This same district horrified the world in the case of a brutal gang rape, where the driver blamed the victim for “being out too late” and not what he considered a “decent girl.”

We don’t have to leave American shores to find other disgraceful examples of sexual violence that debase a women’s person-hood. Baylor University football players are accused of drugging and raping female students as a demented bonding ritual. This kind of depravity treats half a population like a commodity; a viewpoint enforced by governing bodies who attack women’s access to healthcare. Iowa just swapped out Medicaid money for state funds, which limits those funds’ usage at centers that provide essential care if they also offer abortions. Life and death decisions for women are founded on the opinions of those who can’t possibly empathize – mainly rich, white men. 

It’s almost a mistake to label the aforementioned examples “regressions.” The word ignores the history and constancy of gender inequality. Nothing here is new, but somehow it feels freshly discouraging.

Until a few months ago, a path to gender progress in American was visible. Hillary Clinton was primed to be the first female President of the United States of America. Despite constant hectoring (see this satiric compendium of everything she’s been called) voters seemed to be With Her. Instead, “Grab’em by the pussy” Donald Trump won the election, leading to the Women’s Marches as a direct response. For many the civil unrest offered hope that we haven’t lost our sanity altogether, that as a democratic nation we’ll resist all forms of tyranny. 

Maybe I’m guilty of romanticizing that moment, believing the day’s momentum would propel women forward. Easy access to healthcare, freedom from toxic slut-shaming, working side-by-side with men without the spectre of sexual harassment. But progress doesn’t move in bursts. Unfortunately it comes in fits and starts. Knowing this, let’s keep standing and protesting.

Chuck Todd and the Rest of Mainstream Media Finally Recognize Bernie Sanders’ Existence

meet-the-press-chuck-todd

“Todd was speaking of results from two new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls of likely voters from Iowa and New Hampshire. The latest data shows Hillary Clinton with just a three-point lead over Bernie Sanders in the Hawkeye State. Meanwhile in Granite territory, Sanders is ahead of Clinton by four points. So yes, it is clear we have a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination. My question for Chuck Todd and the rest of the mainstream media: but haven’t we always? Why is conventional wisdom and corporate marketing so quick to count out Bernie?”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Wedding #5 (October 31, 2014)

Vieques, Puerto Rico; Coralville, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Chicago, Illinois; Peoria, Illinois

At first glance, as the old Sesame Street tune goes, “One of these things is not like the others.” The freak entry in my 2014 wedding travel log is a sunny paradise full of clear waters, scenic cliffs and exotic wild animals (in this Midwesterner’s defense, frogs and iguanas qualify as otherworldly in a landscape rife with pigeons, rats and squirrels). The other four stops are…flat and full of corn.

There’s a cute new television commercial airing courtesy of Southwest Airlines. In it, a perennial wedding guest is shown rocking a succession of attractive frocks, while throwing down some infectiously committed, if spastic, dance moves. In one scene, she is forced to adjust the overeager hands of a juvenile suitor. I am not saying this happened to me at the Iowa wedding, but if I did, would you be surprised? Basically, change the protagonist’s hair color to a deep red and put a few more years on her, and this advertisement tells my story.

When the invitations started rolling in around the New Year, I had a few concerns about my ability to rise to the occasions, above and beyond the ample financial and time investment required. A jam-packed wedding season is not normally the favored prospect of a two-time divorcee. Also, as regular readers of this blog know, I limped into 2014 fresh from the latest incapacitating romantic disappointment. I was emotionally bankrupt and attending up to six personal and group therapy sessions a month when the first invite was extended.

One must be comatose to find a summons to Eden unappealing, especially when it comes from a dear friend who’s become part of the family. And when that sister’s betrothed flatters a battered ego with a request to sing the wedding song, “Besame Mucho,” only a real fool rejects such an opportunity. I wrote about the experience earlier this year as a transformative one in many ways. It left me with the ability to envision myself, for the first time, as a contented retiree. Personal vistas expanded with time and freedom to celebrate life, committed love and a raw, achingly beautiful, undeveloped part of the world I rarely experience.

I kind of assumed Puerto Rico would be an anomaly. Upon a mid-April return, I tried to fortify myself for the coming onslaught of other people’s dreams coming true, and the bitterness I expected to wear as an accessory. The level of adoration I feel for these people would take priority over self-indulgent pouting of course, but no way could I just sail through a matrimony parade feeling fine, right?

As it turns out, once I got it right in my head that I have zero interest in a third husband, and am not totally sure there’s a commitment of any type in my future (at 36, the small talk associated with a first date feels like too much labor better invested elsewhere), I became a veritable reception MACHINE. I’ve clapped along because I felt like a room without a roof. I have done the Cupid Shuffle after drinking enough champagne to believe myself a channel for Eartha Kitt levels of sexiness. I have hit the buffet, asked for cake seconds and encouraged intoxicated men to do the Worm. Because why not?

One thing I have not done? Get in line to catch the bouquet. Let the other ladies take their superstitious turn. In my 20s, I caught myself a grand total of three castoff flower bunches and guess what? Didn’t up the odds of matrimonial success one whit.

So this weekend is wedding number 5. And I’m ready to Electric Side myself back onto the dance floor. Upon reflection, the coveted, raucous guest is where I always should have left it.

Cheers!