Tag: feminism

Portraits of a War: In Defense of the Selfie

“All identities have been created with war.”

The international news reporting guest professor said this last week in regards to Europe’s war-riddled past, but I immediately scribbled it in the margins of my legal pad.

All identities have been created with war.
And my war is ending.

For a long time, I wanted to be one of the boys. I shunned the color pink and curling my hair. I watched football every Sunday with my dad, begging the Cowboys to “please, please make this happen.” I went to hockey games and ate with my hands and didn’t care about dirt; I thought girls who piled on makeup and Abercrombie were fake or desperate or stupid.

Mostly, it was because I was small enough to fit into Abercrombie for about three months of my life. Then my body changed and stretched and expanded beyond what that coveted moose logo could fit. When I wore a lot of makeup, I felt like an impostor, like a child who got into her mother’s vanity. So, my not-quite-pretty-enough, not-quite-small-enough self rebelled against womanhood, against all things girly.

“Being a man would be so much easier,” I would whine, tugging at the bits of my swimsuit I couldn’t quite get to cover up my body. I wasn’t having a gender crisis — I was just tired of feeling the pressures of a patriarchal society that told me I wasn’t worth boys’ time if I didn’t look vaguely like a Barbie.

Except I didn’t know it as “the patriarchy” when I was 13. I knew it as girls looking at me like I wasn’t good enough. I knew it was cool to not like other girls, to have more guys friends than girl friends, to say “guys are just so much more fun to hang out with because they’re drama free!!!”

That’s not a phase girls should go through. That’s not girls being girls. That, my friends, is called internalized misogyny.

My desire to be a “cool girl” continued through most of high school. I took pride in my sweatpants-and-Birkenstocks outfits. I looked down on girls who wore makeup while I left home with a clean face. I lived to talk sports with the boys, reveling in their shock when I could form complete opinions on why Jason Witten is a truly exceptional tight end or why Ronnie O’Brien was FC Dallas’ best offensive asset. I hated on Kristen Stewart and Megan Fox, calling them boring or slutty.

It was exhausting, though, to constantly be checking over your shoulder. To make sure you were the girl in the room who cared the least about being a girl.

Things are changing, folks.

Sometime in the last couple years, women started learning to love each other again. Slowly, young women realized it was more fulfilling to compliment another girl’s shoes or smile than it was to sneer after she walked past. We began to see that another woman’s fashion choices had nothing to do with our own lives and therefore didn’t need to be addressed. We found comfort in the inherent strength of being a woman in a society that wants to treat you like everything but a human. Our war against each other was turned on its head into a war against the forces trying to separate us.

And I turned the corner and began to love my sisters. I tucked everyone into my heart: the women in coffee shops and the funny friends of friends and young girls playing kickball at recess. When men (or other women) speak badly of women, I have become a feminist lioness — no-nonsense and strong and protective. I have called out classmates more times than I can count on calling anyone, including celebrities, a slut. When I feel the conversation start to head down the path of misogynistic prattling, I simply say “She can do her thing. It’s her life.” ever so casually. When someone stands up, the group will usually reroute conversations.

I am not the only one doing this, either. I learned the bravery to speak out against classmates’ remarks by watching strong women in my life boldly speak their minds. Other humans I know, across a broad spectrum of sexualities and genders, shared their experiences and gently checked my white-cis privilege. My friend group has become a mass of young people tired of putting up with sexist, racists, ableist, misogynistic bullshit, for lack of a better word.

I’ve written about how destructive girl hate can be before, but I think I left out a key part: the key to loving others is loving yourself.
And that’s where selfies come in.

I’ve been through a pretty terrible year, self-love-wise. I’ve been in the dark of the woods, unsure how to get back to loving myself for more than 15 minutes a day when I’m laughing with my friends. I wanted to remember how to love my freckles and my fat fingers and my knobby knees and my brown hair. But when you can’t get out of your own head, it’s hard to look into the mirror and decide that you like what you see.

Recently, I’ve turned a corner yet again. I’ve made it to the window of my mental health fortress and realized that I needed to teach myself to love myself again.
So I started journaling. And not being afraid to be proud of work I had done. And to acknowledge both my shortcomings and my accomplishments. And to remember it was my own body that got me through the worst experiences of my life. And that I was cute, darn it.

So let’s stop shaming selfies. If you feel cute or goofy or just need to remind yourself that you are here and present and okay, take a selfie. If you want to remember a moment with friends, take a selfie. If you had an amazing hair day and felt the need to document, take a selfie. If your makeup looks incredibly good because you somehow managed to get your winged eyeliner even on both sides, by all means take a selfie and then teach me your ways.

Take selfies in full length mirrors when your outfit is worth remembering, for which ever reason. Right after you wake up, makeup free and groggy. On the middle of a dance floor, warm with beer and pop music. With friends, all beaming and pulling faces. Keep them on your phone infinitely or post the best ones to Facebook or save them for a friend’s birthday PicStitch. Comment on your friends’ selfies, reminding them that they’re cute and that you definitely should set up a coffee date soon.

Don’t forget that just as you are worthy of the love and respect of others, you are even more worthy of the love and respect of yourself.
In the always wise words of  Eleanor Roosevelt, “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.”

Because identities are forged by war. When you start coming out of the woods, remember to snap a photo of your warpaint. I will stand by you and support every single selfie you Instagram. Together, like women marching into battle, we will learn to love thy selfie.

If loving yourself is a revolution, put me on the front lines.

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A Few Ignorant Men (And Women)

I almost flipped tables over today. Not because of my French midterm or my low bank accounts. Not even because I haven’t felt truly awake in a really long time.

But because a handful of humans continue to beat against the walls of my “everyone is good” heart.

A blog post by Matt Forney called The Case Against Female Self-Esteem has been circulating widely on my Facebook, and probably on yours too. I encourage you to go read it. Warning: you will be fuming afterwards. I gave myself a stress headache and a racing heart. If you don’t want to infuriate yourself, I’ll give you a play-by-play.

Forney states that women should be insecure, that female confidence is a plague on our nation. He gives a three-part argument:

  1. “Most girls have done nothing to deserve self-esteem.”
  2. “Insecurity is integral to femininity.”
  3. “Women don’t want self-esteem.”

As if the subheads weren’t already infuriating, it only gets worse.

  • “A woman with excessive confidence is like a man with a vagina. It’s an attribute that is at best superfluous and at worst prevents women from fulfilling their natural biological and social functions.”
  • “If girls want to play in our world, they’ll have to obey our rules. Otherwise, they know where the kitchen is.”
  • “Confidence doesn’t give men erections; vulnerability does.”
  • “Sorry, but homie don’t play that game. If I’m not the center of a girl’s world, I’m not going to be in her world period.”
  • “So-called confident women are as threatening as a pile of dog turds. Sure, you can scrape them off your boots when you get home, but it’s better to not step in dog shit to begin with.”
  • “Why do you think the average urban slut machine is downing enough Prozac to poison the water supply?”

The worst thing is the last paragraph.

At the end of the day, there are no Strong, Independent Women™. There are only shrews pleading for a taming. All the posturing, the pill-popping, the whining and demands for “equality”; they’re a cry for help. Girls don’t want the six-figure cubicle job, the shiny Brooklyn 2BR, the master’s degree, the sexual liberation, none of it. They want to becollectively led back to the kitchen, told to make a nice big tuna sandwich with extra mayo and lettuce, then swatted on the ass as we walk out the door.

I say we give them what they want.


Okay. The cordial, “don’t-get-too-loud-about-you-feelings” gloves are coming off… ARE YOU KIDDING ME. ARE YOU JOKING. IS THIS REAL.

The idea that there is a person out there who can, in good consciousness, type and publish a piece like this is horrifying to me. An even bigger problem is that it’s not only Forney who holds these views: Commenters are voicing agreement from the void of the Internet. Women, even, are nodding their anonymous heads, telling Forney how attractive they find him, how they want to sleep with him, make him happy.

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 4.41.53 PM
I want this to be a sarcastic comment, but I just can’t tell.

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 4.40.58 PMIt doesn’t end there either. Forney has posted other inflammatory posts, such as  “Why Fat Girls Don’t Deserve To Be Love.” This posts hits especially close to home, as an overweight woman, and I was nearly naseous when he referred to overweight and obese women as “warpigs,” “cows,” “sluts” and “vermin.” This post includes quotes just as choice as the piece on insecurity:

“Women, regardless of size, crave one thing above all else: attention. Starve the heifers of it. Don’t speak to them if you don’t have to and don’t acknowledge their existence. Treat them like you would treat a child molester or a card-carrying Nazi. This includes your family; if your sisters, cousins or aunts insist on being losers, treat them like losers.”

I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I want to believe that people are good underneath all of our pettiness and wacky behavior. I want to believe there is a golden streak through the heart of every human, that wants to bring good into the world. I want to believe.

And then people like Forney and his followers open their Internet mouths and destroy that hope.

I know the people I surround myself with in my personal life are not the types to ever read a Forney post without screaming at the feminist goddesses, asking why a few ignorant men insist on ruining the reputations of good men everywhere.

For all of the goodness of my family and friends, and their sincere desire for me to succeed, there are people (with Internet connections and blogs) who think I am worth nothing if I am not cowering in a corner, waiting for a man’s approval.

How do we move on from here? How do I move past the fact that there is a group (not an individual, but a group) that thinks it’s okay to call me a vermin? That my career aspirations and educational pursuits are all fluff? That my place is in the kitchen not because I make really delicious oven-roasted veggies or turkey chili, but because that is all my tiny female brain can handle?

One of these days, I won’t get upset by the toxic words of others. I will do what I can to educate and forgive those who have spoken out of hate or naïveté, but I won’t let the negativity of others impact my life. I will live with respect and compassion, and do my best to be light in the lives of others.

Not today. Today, I am angry.

(note: I wish I had a solution to offer you, dear readers. But I am simply fuming and needed to get this post out of my system.)

Girl hate, from slut-shaming to body-policing, and why it needs to stop.

Girl hate is an epidemic. It covers the Internet, the school playgrounds and whispers after girls walk by tables of peers.

“Wow, what the hell is she wearing?”
“Heard she hooked up with another guy. Sluuuut.”
“Hmm. Does she think she needs ice-cream?”

Why? Why are girls so cruel to each other? What do we gain from being, for lack of a better word, bitches to each other?

Nothing. That’s what.

At first, I noticed girl hate in celebrity media. And, shamefully, I took part. I made fun of Kristen Stewart for never smiling and always looking miserable. I rolled my eyes and scoffed “slut” at Miley Cyrus’s risqué performance outfits. I was a rather dreadful girl, but I didn’t think anything of it. They’re celebrities! They won’t be influenced by what I say to my friends at lunch!

Then, I started to notice this girl hate everywhere. A girl getting up to leave her table of friends, and the remaining girls instantly starting to gossip about her outfit. Sly comments made about complete strangers. Even my friends and I, asking each other in judging tones about the state of some girl’s hair or clothes or makeup.

I realized that what had started as harmless complaining about celebrities had infiltrated day-to-day life.

Most guys think that we do our hair and look cute for class (well, I try to at least once a week) for them, but they’re wrong. Most of the time, it’s to avoid judge-y look from other girls. This is not the kind of world I want to live in.

I want to live in a world where girls look out for each other. Where we don’t make negative comments on other girl’s outfits, make-up or hair. Where we don’t make negative comments on other girl’s bodies. Where we don’t make negative comments on other girl’s sexual lives. Why do we think it’s any of our business, what other girls wear or who other girls hook up with? Why does that have any bearing on our own lives?

Miley Cyrus’s crop tops don’t affect me. Kristen Stewart’s lack of smiling doesn’t affect me. (While we’re on the topic: the media needs to stop picking on Kristen and telling her to smile. She’s shy and uncomfortable in front of the paparazzi. Stop asking for her to be uncomfortable so that you can have a better photo for your tabloid. Stop that right now.) Taylor Swift’s boyfriends and break-ups don’t affect me (also: can we stop calling her a slut? I’m not even her biggest fan, but that’s just 100 percent rude and unnecessary).

Girls, let’s be women about this. You don’t have to love every girl you encounter. You don’t have to be OMG BFFs 4EVAH with someone simply because you’re both women. But, you must have respect. In the wise words of Madeleine Albright, first woman United States Secretary of State, “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I always have thought that women have a stronger connection and bond than men do. I’m not sure why, but I think we should use that to our advantage.

An feminism patch sold on Etsy.
A feminism patch sold on Etsy.

This is the essential facet of feminism: choice. Women are allowed to wearing plunging necklines, short skirts, teased hair, baggy jeans, not wear foundation or wear socks with sandals. Women are allowed to be abstinent, to hook up with every hot girl or guy she can get a hold of or stay with one partner for life. Women are allowed to do anything they want. Feminism does not succeed when women rise above men and never do anything remotely feminine. That is a misinterpretation. Feminism succeeds when every woman feels free and safe to live her life to her choosing on an equal playing field as every other member of society.

Let’s stop being bitches, y’all.

Make an effort to eliminate girl hate today. Compliment a stranger on her shoes. Use interruptive language to let your friends know that calling other girls sluts is not okay. Carry yourself with self-confidence. Stop calling celebrities sluts. Stop using the word slut. Stop thinking that a certain body type is bad, wrong or undesirable. Stop concerning yourself with the sexual lives of others. Let other women live their lives. Speak out when you must, but never from a place of jealousy, misunderstanding or bitterness. Be nice and kind and respectful.

Let’s reclaim our sisterhood.

“I ain’t yo’ babygirl”

“Stop telling women to smile.”

Poster from the movement
Poster from the movement

The first time I saw this poster floating around Tumblr, it really struck a chord with me. As a young women who has worked both of her part-time jobs in food service, happiness is in my job description. Countless managers have told me to smile more, which I oblige, After all, you don’t get your regulars to come back if you look like you hate your job (for the record, I didn’t – I was usually tired or hungry).

Random men on the street telling me to smile because it makes me prettier: that’s where I draw the line.

I shouldn’t have to smile all the time. I’m not always in a good mood. I have bad days, stressful phone calls, fights with my friends. I don’t smile as I type four-page literary analysis papers in French. I don’t smile when I’m running late for a meeting.

Many of the people who tell women to smile are strangers. Men on the street who believe that I am more pleasing when I am smiling and showing off my two years of orthodontia. That’s not for them to decide. My happiness is my own choice.

Another poster project against street harassment
Another poster project against street harassment

This blog post by Damon Young on Ebony.com brings up a really wonderful point from the male perspective.

After hearing Nicki tell me the details of her awful week, watching her take a phone call that somehow made things even worse, and seeing her wait for a bus, clearly upset, it angered me knowing there was a good chance some guy would notice this beautiful woman—depressed for various reasons—and politely (but insistently) demand that she put a smile on her face. Despite the fact that he’d had absolutely no idea why she was down—for all he knew, she could have just found out a family member died (which she did, btw)—he might even pepper his request with an annoyingly familiar “Come on, sis. Things can’t be that bad.” Basically, since they obviously can’t or don’t experience the range of emotions that any other human (well, any other man) can and do experience, they should be able to smile on demand.

The movement functions out of several websites. The Tumblr account posts many other installments of the project protesting street art. All art is produced by artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. There are also shirts available for purchasing from BigCartel.

Artist Fazlalizadeh wearing one of the shirts from the project.
Artist Fazlalizadeh wearing one of the shirts from the project.

Fazlalizadeh speaks about her inspiration for the projects in an interview with a organization called Stop Street Harassment:

The project was inspired by my daily experiences with street harassment. Being harassed on the street is exasperating. I’ve wanted to do some art work on the issue for a while now, but I couldn’t figure out how to properly communicate what I wanted to say in my primary artistic medium – oil paint on canvas. Over the past year or so I’ve started working in public art as a muralist. Thinking about  creating art in a public space led me to this idea of wheat pasting posters. Because what better medium to create art about street harassment than street art.

There are few things I love more than women speaking out against womens’ issues in a constructive and creative way. If it happens to involve street art, I won’t be mad either.