Archive for category Gender
TweetThe question always comes with good intention, “Why are you a feminist when women have already accomplished so much?”
Meaning, women in certain cases have achieved similar ambitions in life as their male counterparts, so why raise ruckus when women are doing so gosh darn well?
Well, for one thing, things like this are still pretty horrific in the world when you read a headline like, “89 Kidnapped Infants Rescued” At first glance, it may seem unrelated to women’s rights – just a terribly disturbing story – but when you take a close look, you’ll get why nearly all social problems stem from a kyriarchal problem.
In certain parts of the world where males are favored, it has disparaging effects on females. These effects ripple and grow in ways that most people don’t want to acknowledge. Gender preference, for instance, is no more prominent than in the birth and children industry. How many times do you see fathers’ congratulated when their first child is a son? And how many mothers do you see congratulated when their first child is a daughter? Answer: The former happens ALL THE TIME. And that’s just a mild US-centric example.
Look at China, where there is not only a warm glow placed on males, but combined with a strict one child birth restriction, forces women and children into human trafficking. According to the article, “The report said that police have uncovered 39,194 cases of human trafficking in China since April 2009, the majority of the cases involving women or children.”
It’s not just about preference. When it comes to kyriarchy – where boys born in a privileged family with resources in a country without birthing restrictions – the line is drawn and girls are left in unknown conditions of life. Human trafficking is modern day slavery where girls and women are made to be either domestic slaves, abused entertainers, exploited caretakers, or at the beating end of violence.
So no matter how many glass ceilings are broken by white-identified, privileged, economically advantaged US citizen-ed women, as long as 10 day year old girls are being born in secret to be sold into slavery around the globe, there is no true liberation taking place for anyone.
That’s why I identify as a feminist. I measure liberation by the freedom of the least visible.
TweetI just wanted to point out a lovely remark my darling partner made this past weekend…
I casually ask Nick why most men don’t care about what they eat.
He replied, “Men aren’t punished for showing their desire for food or their appetite. Women are punished not just for eating, but if their bodies don’t look a certain way, or even if they desire something that is considered inappropriate by society. Men aren’t punished the way women are.”
That was one of those times when I think to myself, “Damn, I really love my lifetime boyfriend.”
TweetThere’s nothing sexy about pain. There’s nothing even remotely redeeming, glorified, cute, or remarkable about pain.
I came into this realization quite quickly Sunday morning when I was dressing Isaiah for mass. I began lowering him to the floor, felt a horribly familiar pop! in my lower back and I immediately recognized that telling radiating heat that spread throughout my lumbar region as I fell on one knee. Isaiah screamed in my ear as he harmlessly wobbled back from me so he peer into my face to see what was wrong. All he could see was my face going paler by the second and my breath quicken in short spurts and outbursts, trying to control the pain.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
Not again. Not again. Not again. NOT AGAIN.
I just got back to the gym this week. I just started getting back on the treadmill, back in the zumba studio, back for my first swim in the pool. I just …
I just got over my back injury from last month.
Remembering my phone was in the inner pocket of my purse, I slowly walked to my purse on the ground and gently leaned forward. I reached and immediately fell and screamed in pain.
I somehow got my phone, I don’t remember how. (A friend told me that when her back went out, she blacked out from the pain.) I remember feeling calmed by the smooth surface of my phone, thanking God it was charged and relieved that Nick was only 5 minutes into his day, ahead of me, and on his way to work. I whispered frantically to Isaiah that everything was fine and threw him a toy as I winced in pain. He hobbled away, whimpering at the site of his mother in such disarray and distraction.
I burst into tears and could barely get the words out to Nick, “My back…w-w-went ou-ou-out a-a-a-gain…”
It was at that moment that I retreated from the world, the pain was overwhelming, almost blinding.
A co-worker told me later she saw Nick walking on the street when he was talking to me, all dressed up for work, briefcase in hand, but in an unusual walking speed, “a near run” she told me. So she stopped and offered him a ride to wherever he was rushing to. “Home,” he said, “Leese threw her back out again.”
It’s hormones, my chiropractor told me yesterday. All the hormones and chemicals that loosen the pelvis and back, readying the body to deliver a baby, are still in your body and, likely, the lumbar region isn’t as tight as it was before and isn’t as strong. Doing household chores and lifting things can sprain, strain, and injure the lower back, says the doc.
All of this from hormones? Still? It’s been 14 months.
Hormones and chemicals can linger in your body, doc says.
A number of friends – all who have given birth in the past two years – have confided of their recent and surprising chronic lower back pain, some so severe that it prevents mobility. Few have found comfort. All have tried natural healing, gym trainers, chiropractors, physical therapists. This strange community of back pain mothers comforts me.
I toss two pills of Alleve in my mouth and tried to smile at Isaiah in the kitchen. He put his chubby arms up for me to carry him and starts grabbing my clothes for leverage, like trying to climb a tree. Nick immediately scooped him up and tries to cheer him up with a jolly, overly boisterous voice. The shriek out of Isaiah’s mouth was one I could interpret instantly, “What’s the matter with you? Why won’t you pick me up?” He’s taken away from me and, out of nowhere, I have an image of him being taken away from me the moment he was born when all I wanted to do was hold him. I shake my head, and gently stir the boiling orzo.
Is this what birthing mothers deal with, I asked my head as I stare at the back of Nick’s body. His is so strong, so solid. Simply clad in jeans and a white tshirt, Nick’s body looked beautiful to me; his wide and capable back seemed fearless. His stride was fluid, like a complicated piece of piano music keyed effortlessly. I look down at my body. A staccato mess of surgeries, stretch marks, and my skin’s opinion of the pregnancy weight gain and loss. I see my scarred belly from three surgeries with another scheduled in the summer to fix an umbilical hernia. My inner eye sees an exhausted and red lumbar region, a weakened lower back throbbing with stubborn stiffness. It strikes me, with almost a pin needle acuteness, that Nick’s body hadn’t changed at all since we had Isaiah. Nick’s body remained intact, with no incisions, no stretches, no torn anything.
I pause in that realization.
His tongue had never mistaken water for metallic liquid. His nose never became so sensitive as to be able to detect the cleaning fluid on the floor of a grocer. His heart ventricles never widened to allow more blood flow. His calves and feet never swelled with unbearable water retention. His chest never billowed with heart burn. His mind never clouded with postpartum depression. His nipples never cracked with pain so deep that his shoulders shuddered. His skin never broke out in rashes. He never vomited from anesthesia or used his foreman to protect a 6 inch abdominal incision against a winter chill. He never had a catheter put in at the same time as a suppository while compressors pumped blood away from his legs. He never had an abrasion in the back of his eye because the surgeons forgot to completely close and protect his eyes before surgery. He never had to take pills to stop, prompt, or control a menstrual cycle. He never felt a flutter of life in his belly or feel the hiccup of a new being inside his womb.
Because he doesn’t have a womb.
Nick did and does everything a parent could possibly do. He transformed his emotions, his life, his commitments, and reformed his schedule to accommodate me and every little thing I needed throughout my pregnancy and birthing experience. He respects anything I tell him or request. Nick continuously and gladly lays in a metaphorical railroad track for me and our son. If that’s what needs to happen, that’s what I will do, he says.
But in the confines of my bed, nursing this near paralysis, when I hear Isaiah’s laughter and Nick’s efforts to keep him occupied, I realize, with ringing clarity something that I could not have known or respected prior to going through it myself: our bodies are entirely different and our needs are entirely different. My body endured all of this and my body cried differently than his. I knew this beforehand, but I never really Knew It beforehand. Maybe my body never really cried until I became a mother.
So this difference between Nick and I exists. It exists as sharp as a paring knife, as real as our love. That difference – that my body changed while his did not – initially sprouted a rocketing resentment against anything him, society, and anyone else that didn’t Get It. It = women’s bodies are a terrain that only we ourselves can travel. It is not for anyone to lay laws upon. It is not to be conquered, violated, disposed, or mishandled. Along with the resentment, I also noticed a widening reverence for my body. From which new life travels, the woman’s body is the canal to existence. It is from our very bones, the calcium of our teeth, the marrow of our own breath that the woman’s body offers and sustains a new being. The woman’s body is the epitome of automated self-sacrifice. It is the ground zero of renewal — if the environment agrees that her life is valuable and the time to recover is respected. We women, we give birth. And we are also born into a new identity and a new body.
Are there two more powerful and daunting words in the English language?
But we women are also prone to set back and injury because of what our spines uphold. Our bellies swell with life and our spines pull back to hold us up and in shape. Sometimes, though, the spine gives way and loses its strength.
Pain, whether it’s the lower back or elbow, or migraine, or menstrual, is a debilitating state of existence. Not because of the physical pain itself. It’s debilitating because chronic or severe pain draws our minds inward, incapable of fully giving of ourselves to anything or anyone else. In pain, I become unlike myself. I don’t unravel. I do the opposite, I am mummified. Most people, but especially me, are social beings. I feel endorphins from conversation, laughter, and intellectual exchange. However, in the confines of a bed and four walls, my spirit goes down. My intellect goes dim and my emotions begin to go dark. Swathed and cast in my own stillness and short breaths, pain dictates my freedom. I no longer care about anything. All that matters is finding a pain-free, mobile existence. Which is why when I check all my social media outlets – email, Facebook, Twitter, newsfeeds, and listserves – I shake my head that the world is celebrating Mardi Gras and International Women’s Day. I wish I had the energy to care. I find all kinds of interesting stuff to read, but before my mind digests in the information, my back spasms again and I nearly drop my laptop in shock.
Pain draws us inward.
So for me, today, the one day (unfortunately) that calls women from all over the world to stand together, I lie in bed, with my eyes closed, waiting for relief. Luckily, for me, I am certain of two things:
patience and writing can be worked on in bed
I do and can stand up for women’s rights and gender justice on a daily basis. But right now, regaining my spiritual and psychological composure after a back injury and remembering the awesome capacity of a woman’s body seems like my fight for today.
Tomorrow it may be something else.
TweetI started using the self-descriptive term “feminist” about five years ago and although my life’s work to create a better world extends much longer than those five years, the lens of feminism – my feminisms, to be precise – has positively enhanced the way I experience and percieve the mystery of socialization and gender.
Tomorrow, I have my 20 week ultrasound. Before pregnancy, I didn’t know that 20 weeks is a milestone. Usually with prenatal care, an “anatomical” ultrasound is done, which means Adonis and I get to see the baby growing in my uterus. We see the face, ears, feet, hands…everything…including its genitalia.
Many things have surprised me about pregnancy, but none moreso than the impact of hormones in my body. My memory has been underwater, my moods sometimes swingy, but my emotions have been fairly calm. I’ve felt peaceful. One of the few pieces of anxiety I’ve been experiencing relates to gender and finding out the sex of the baby.
I’ve been pretty open about my feelings concerning my pregnancy through my letters to Veronica, my unborn daughter, which I started a long time ago…well before I was pregnant. And one of my fears is not just having a child, it’s about having a son. I think that my fear dwells in my uncertainty if I can teach a child and have a larger impact than the rest of the world. All the lessons this child will learn will have to be undone at some level. It begins tomorrow. It begins the moment the ultrasound technician will say “boy” or “girl.”
And the barrage of texts, emails, FB messages, and comments wanting to know will begin. Along with the pink and blue bull that I don’t believe in.
Facing the reality that I am carrying life within me has meant coming to the reality that I am deeply responsible for the wonder and destruction this child shall bear on the world once it enters this life and takes its first breath.
I am faced with the reality that the men who rape women once had mothers too and I wonder what they learned (or didn’t) about loving and treating women, both in personal relationships and strangers. I think about the way teenage boys careen by the waterfountain at school and mock the budding bodies of womanhood and adolescence out of their own insecurity. I am, essentially, afraid of what boys because, after working with violated women and children, I know what they are capable of.
I don’t want to raise a son contributing to another woman’s disempowerment.
But feminism has also taught me that not only are men capable, and actually prefer, to be loving, active, energetic leaders for goodness and wholeness, it’s also taught me that women are not grouped together in their fight for equality. The bullying, the cut throat competition, the hidden jealousy, the betrayal…raising a daughter now terrifies me just as much as raising a son. After I’ve work with violated women and children, I’m afraid I’ll raise a daughter who doesn’t care about her worth and values her sexuality only at the price set by society and media.
Whether son or daughter, I’m afraid she’ll give up on herself.
I’m afraid, quite simply, they won’t care about the world they way I do and I won’t be able to stand their selfishness.
I’m afraid that when they ask me questions about what I’ve done to make the world better, I’ll look in the mirror and only see a half-worn human and full blown coward.
Somehow, in the years I’ve contemplated and studied gender and advocated that all persons are equal, I’m petrified I’ll find that I’ve only kidding myself because I know the world can and will knock me on my butt with its cruel, streamlined, flick of the wrist power to teach domination, selfishness, individualism, and greed.
Knowing this child’s gender makes it all real, too real, because once I know “boy” or “girl,” I’ll inherit an entire set of specific strategies the world has planned to brainwash my kid. I don’t have anything except what I *think* I know, a lot of guessing, intuition, and a loving partner.
I hope those seeds are enough.
Will they know how to love, truly love themselves and another human being?
Do they know the world is not fragmented and we, all of us, are inexplicably connected?
Does having this much fear dictate what kind of mother I will be?
Who will be there to save me when I’m the one in trouble?
In some funny way, I want this child to forever remain as it is right now – perfect, growing, dependant on nothing but amniotic fluid, oxygen, and my voice. Not only do I fear about this child hurting, but I’m afraid of the harm the child will be capable of doing as well.
Tomorrow I will know if I am having a son or daughter.
TweetThere’s no better dumping ground for socialized gender stereotypes than the ears of a pregnant woman. For a womyn like myself, it raises my blood pressure to listen to all the gendered talk and so I see writing about my pregnancy as one of the necessary exercises to stay sane and keep the kid healthy.
Sharing your pregnancy with others is like an invitation for the worst gender assumptions to pass through my ears. There’s nothing, I repeat nothing, more annoying to me right now than the comments that sound like misogyny on steroids.
“It’s just better to have a boy. You’ll worry less.”
“I wanted my first born to be a boy. ‘Cause after that, you can just relax and not worry about what the others will be.”
“Girls just are too much.”
“It’ll be better if you have a boy. With a girl, it’s just, it’s so…it’s so much more worrying.”
What is this equation in birth? Labor + boy = relief
while Labor + girl = stress
Let’s go past all the generalizations (all BS in my opinion anyway) about girls spending more money when they grow up, you’ll have to deal with more emotional crises, you’ll worry more about violence, etc…
I see both boys and girls as precious and vulnerable little things who will look up at me and not know left from right, evil from good, right from wrong…and they’ll learn what from me? –> That because she was born female, I will worry more about her being a victim of violence? That the world will treat her less, pay her, view her less because she was born with a vagina? What impact does that have on how she confronts the world? Will she fight it or believe it?
And what will I teach my son? I presumably don’t worry about him because he was born with a penis and we all know that the world prizes that much more than if he were born my daughter. Maybe he’ll have it tough from time to time, but he’ll never worry about his safety or getting raped or drugged because he’s a male.
The reality of the world is not hidden from me. I see misogyny, I see the violence, I see who takes the brunt of poverty, brutality, trafficking, and abuse. I understand how the world will treat my child differently based on its genitalia. I get it. But how does knowing how the world mistreats girls and women lead to the thought it’s better to parent a boy?
How radical is my mothering if I just walk the stereotyped line and accept the world as it is, not as I want it to be? Am I more of a mother if I protect more, worry more if it’s a girl? Or does that make me a coward?
My deepest fear is not in having a girl. I feel like I would know how to raise a girl because I identify womyn. I’ve never been a boy, I’ve never been a man. I don’t know how to teach masculinity in healthy, loving ways except in what I imagine it SHOULD be. My fear is that I do have a son and he grows up, eating the garbage available from media, peers, and school. And instead of regurgitation, he’ll swallow it, whole. And in my naivety of not knowing how to raise a man, he’ll grow to eventually be one of those fathers telling a young mother that it’s best to first have a son than to ever have a daughter.
That’s more terrifying to me than having a daughter.
TweetSince my induction to the feminist blogosphere, I’ve put much time into narrowing my focus. Widespread blogging seems too general, unfocused, and leaves me with little direction. Mostly, I don’t feel I learn as much as I want when I blog across the spectrum.
About a year ago, I decided to move forward in specific issues relating to feminism – defining “radical,” exploring sexual violence, faith, media, and womyn of color.
Every once in a while though, I wonder if focusing on “feminism” somehow limits my exploration of “gender.”
How does that focus change me, my writing, when and if I write: I want to explore feminism vs. I want to explore gender.
Is it the same thing?
Before I would have emphatically stated yes.
Now, I would emphatically distinguish that mainstream feminism and academic courses absolutely ignore the entirety of gender as an issue. Often times, feminism is conflated with the upward political, class, and elitist advancement of White women. Somehow, in some contorted, quiet way, I’ve often thought that gender has gotten lost in feminism. Sure, it’s pointed out when women, particularly women of privilege are abused, oppressed, or violated, but, for the most part, feminism and gender, ironically, are often not paired together in headliners.
I’m thinking, specifically, of the transgendered lives and experiences that I, admittedly, know very little about.
I am not and do not identify transgender and have often felt like my understanding is extremely limited by my slow understanding and deconstruction of socialization when it comes to gender roles. For as much as I analyze the experience of womyn of color, I often fail at pushing myself to explore the experience of transgendered womyn of color. Semantically, it’s easy to ask, “What about the transgender folks?” But to truly be an individual open to learning the struggles and causes of the transgendered population, the questions must conquer the fear and confusion.
And so, as someone suggested to write about feminism as it relate[s] to transgender, here’s my honest reply:
I don’t know. You tell me.
And I write that with as much respect and honesty as a womyn of color who once asked how feminism relates to US-born Filipinas with immigrant parents. I write that as someone who asks how feminism relates to a late-birthed sexual awakening and an even delayed political consciousness. How does feminism relate to transgender lives?
If I do not live a transgendered life, do not know the full extent of the pain and violence and discrimination suffered by transgendered womyn, I will not know how feminism relates to them, or even IF it relates to them.
Despite what is being written in the history of mainstream feminists in the westernized, classist world of iconic femmies with self-serving agendas, the truth is that feminism has the power to transform consciousness and spirit. It has the ability to challenge our very definitions of humanity and rights. I believe, however, that it must arrive in the grain of relationship and a shitload of humility.
Feminism, the study of women’s lives, excludes no one…in theory. Yet, we don’t live theoretically, do we?
We live individually, often to own detriment. We live so individualistically that we fail to even understand gender within feminsm and we fail ourselves. We fail as writers, activists, listeners…we fail as people, I think, when we forego others. Feminism has long bypassed transgendered womyn. I write that as someone who only sees transgender issues written about when someone has been slain. I write that as someone whose blog only mentions transgender issues a handful of times.
Truthfully, my goal as a writer is to point out the holes. Most people mistake that for seeing the negative, or constantly bitching about what’s wrong. But there are enough fans of mainstream feminism and not enough compassionate critics who long to see it do better than what it is currently doing. And the “doing” isn’t by feminism itself, but by the students and practitioners who claim to be activists within a “Movement.” And if the students and practitioners are happy with feminism, we are in big trouble.
It isn’t just about transgendered folks being ignored or how the issues are only mentioned in the blogosphere by way of violence and brutality, it’s the complete disregard for any gritty issue of gender when it involves unfamiliar territory. This is true for feminism as it relates to the disability movement, transnational or international womyn, immigration, faith, Katrina…the list goes on.
Feminism does not make itself relevant to folks like you and me. We must make it so.
In other words, your voice, my voice is needed to explain why.
Steinem basically says that if a womyn had Obama’s credentials, she would not be given the same weight due to gender. True dat.
That’s not what I have a problem with. “What worries me” is this statement: “Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life…” but then asserts, “I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest.”
Spoken like a true 2nd wave White mainstream feminist “icon” from the New York Times the morning of the New Hampshire primary.
She argues with the following:
“Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were
allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power,
from the military to the boardroom, before any women…”
Right. Because the right to VOTE being given to black men over a century ago proves that gender overwhelms race. Yes, let’s focus on how White women were restricted the right to vote while ALL Black slaves were restricted the right to live. Let’s focus on the few men of color who have “ascended into positions of power” and not the holistic picture of how race and gender interface for all communities of color. There may be some gende/race arguments for the political scene, but that is quite different from making a statement that gender is the most restricting force in America.
Look, I’m not going to go head to head with Steinem and argue what is most pressing for womyn in America – race or gender. What I do know is that as a US womyn of color living in this country is that the two are so inexplicably interlaced that I resist ANY individual that pitts once against the other, especially a White mainstream feminist. What I find most often, too, is women like Steinem (White liberal women) call gender over race. Let’s rally all the women together once more because we’re all being denied the right to vote and the men of color are making it into the boardroom before any of us are.
There’s a reason why I use the word gender/ace as one entity. I cannot separate the two. But, I’m a womyn of color, my opinion probably doesn’t fare well next to Steinem. Once again, gender is the tool being used as the great equalizer among women.
Let’s look past the military and the boardroom, which Steinem quotes as two examples of Black men’s ascension into positions of power. Let’s look at economics among women. Take a look at the US economic standing between white women and compare to the womyn of color. I think that tells you everything you need to know about the power of race and gender.
When womyn of color are not the suffering majority from poverty, illiteracy, poor health and education; when I witness White womyn truly listen to womyn of color and learn how to be true allies; when feminism and gender is not used as a big umbrella to bypass issues of racism – THEN I will read the New York Time article again and consider her points. Until then, I find it ludacris to make such statements as Steinem. If you wanna talk gender/ace issues, let’s talk about it in the real way that real people experience them. But, I guess for this conversation, we’re focusing on the privileged – Clinton and Obama – and ignoring the real gender/ace dynamics of the marginalized.