“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

28 May 2014

#YesAllWomen

If you know me, you might be surprised that it's taken me four days to respond to the massacre in Isla Vista. I've been following this story, and its aftermath, with interest and disgust in equal measure. Interest in the #YesAllWomen response, and what it means to take the emphasis off the killer and put it on a systemic problem. And disgust because, ultimately, I think that effort will fail.

When I consider adding my small voice to this debate, I feel like I'm yelling into the wind. I'm screaming for us to slow down, think, take our time to consider. But we are a nation of speeding up, and we are leaving what really matters behind.

Six people are dead for no good reason. That makes me so, so sad.

Yes, the killer (whose name I don't care to type) was mentally ill. Yes, he got legal access to weapons he had no reasonable excuse to own. Yes, he was a misogynist who believed he had a right to have sex with beautiful women. Yes, all women know what it feels like to be considered someone else's possession.

Are these factors connected? Not overtly. But they speak to a commonly-accepted but undeclared part of the American Dream: If a man is powerful, if he is handsome, if he is rich, if he is "manly," then he deserves a beautiful woman to take care of his needs. Or, for the somewhat more enlightened, if he is "good guy," he deserves a woman to appreciate him.

She's what he deserves.

So a gun, and the ability to use it, might make him feel powerful. If he is mentally ill, those who love him might hide it to protect his reputation. When he throws hot beverages at women, hits them, calls them "sluts" and "bitches," the men around him might laugh and commiserate, because they've all felt under-appreciated by girls before. If he took his rage out on others, especially on those same "bitches," society might try to blame it on anything--anything at all--except ourselves.

I've been that bitch before. I've "friend-zoned" many a boy in my time, and I can't say I know how most of them felt about it. Probably awful. When my guy friends complain about how women never want "a good guy," how hard it is to be the "guy friend," I do understand that. Like most women, I've been friend-zoned, too. It's just that I've never felt like any man owed me his affection, his sexual interest, even if I bought him things or took care of his needs. I always acknowledged that I was the fool, even when that hurt. Some men, even "good guys," have lost that capacity. I can be sympathetic to a broken heart, but I cannot be "deserved."

We have idealized unconditional romantic love, but I don't buy into that. My husband still earns my love, and I earn his. It's work. When we stop doing the work of loving, we start to feel entitled. That is a dangerous way to feel.

I don't have the answer to this problem, but I think it starts with redefining what we deserve. In this country, we believe we have the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Happiness isn't a right; only its pursuit. And if we value liberty equally, we must acknowledge that we can only have it when both sexes live life with equal self-determination. One person's pursuit shouldn't trump another's liberty.



No one deserves another person. No deserves anything but to live free and try to find joy. I don't have much more to add, except the names of the people who really matter:

C. H. (although his name is known, his parents requested only initials)
Weihan Wang
George Chen
Katherine Cooper
Veronika Weiss
Christopher Michaels-Martinez

And the wounded, who are mostly unnamed but remain in my thoughts.

Hug your sons and daughters, tonight and always.

02 May 2014

The Revolution is Now: I'm Buying a Bikini

It's making the Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook rounds, so maybe you've seen it.

13 Snarky News Headlines About Women, Improved

These are brilliantly done. They were contributed by followers of The Vagenda Magazine, which has the hilarious motto "Like King Lear, But For Girls." The fourth one down is my favorite:

4. Wait, women have skin?

So. Bikinis.

I'm not sure I have ever owned a bikini. If I did, I was a child and I don't remember it. I do remember feeling, around age twelve, that I was "too big" for a bikini. That my body was in some way inadequate--like there were rules for bikini-wearing, and I wasn't able to follow them. I mean, that's insane, right? Too big for anything at twelve years old?

Most women stop wearing bikinis once they have a baby, I guess because they believe their bodies have been "ruined" by children. Every advertisement on Facebook wants me to "fix my post-baby body." Fix what? My pregnancy was miserable but healthy, and my natural delivery went great. I can still breathe, walk, sleep, eat.

Crohn's Disease may slowly eat holes through my intestines, and plantar fasciitis might cause me pain. I might keep getting migraines and ovarian cysts. But none of that was caused by my baby. I didn't need a c-section or an episiotomy. My pregnancy didn't break a goddamn thing. I'm lucky.

Oh, right. They meant my stretch marks. And increased waistline.

I'm buying a bikini. I'm not going to believe my body is "broken" a year after I completed the most incredible, badass job of my life. I'm going to go to the pool. I'm going to choose how and what I display, and I'm not going to apologize. My daughter scratches me sometimes, and sometimes I get pimples on my shoulders. I still have excess skin on my tummy. I'm going to wear a bikini because I want to let my stretch marks show. They aren't something I want to be ashamed of.

http://www.goddesslife.com/Websites/goddesslife/images/stretchmarks.jpg

Are bikinis revolutionary? I don't know. Maybe.
Does this look revolutionary to you?

http://everydayfeminism.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/k-bigpic.jpg


Rachele of Fat Babe Designs introduced me to the "fatkini" movement.
It is awesome.

I didn't wear a bikini when my body was young and lithe. Now that I'm older and scarred, I'm not the "target demographic." Seeing me in a bikini probably won't up the market value. And I don't care. I have skin on my stomach that has never, not ever, seen the sun because I thought there was too much of it. How stupid is that?

Bikini Revolution, my friends. Raise the flag.