Sunday, September 8, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

Before I had kids I was worried I would lose my personal identity and have nothing to talk about other than my kids. I didn't realize until after I had a kid, my kid would be what I wanted to talk about. Motherhood takes a significant portion of my life and it's difficult to talk about my life without including my kids. That said, I crave intellectual conversation. I love having a topic that makes me think, that has more than one side, that makes me refine what my beliefs and thoughts are. This craving often results in a clicking frenzy that makes me look bleary-eyed at the clock and realize I should have gone to bed hours ago.

The last few months have led to an evolution for my thoughts on feminism. Previously, declaring a major in women's studies would have me questioning your sanity. Now I would tell you to pair it with some marketing classes. Women are the primary purchasers in this nation, having an in depth knowledge of women's issues would be an asset. It would be an asset for those crafting legislation, arguing court cases, and plenty of other settings. Feminism is far more than the stereotype of bra-burning, man haters.

The past six months of reading have expanded my views on the following statements:

Stereotypes can sometimes be beneficial.

Shame and guilt can be tools for changing behavior.

Women have a responsibility to dress modestly.

Cherishing and protecting women isn't sexist.

Men are more visually stimulated than women.

You can direct others' perceptions about you.

Note I said expanded, not refuted. My views simply evolved, not necessarily a whole 180 or disagreement on everything. Curious? Craving something for your brain to chew on and think about? Here's some of the things that got me started, not in chronological order.

One of the first wasn't even a feminist piece at all. Check out this video by Brene Brown called The Power of Vulnerability. She has found out some powerful things about shame from researching and interviewing thousands of women. 20 minutes WELL worth your time. It led me to read her books. 

Dude. They. are. powerful.  I Thought It Was Just Me and The Gifts of Imperfection. Read one I and guarantee you will want to talk about them afterwards with someone. I am happy to be that someone. Seriously, if you only read one of the things on this page, make it I Thought It Was Just Me. Go reserve it from your library right now and come back to the rest of the post.

Then I read this link of reasons why cambridge students need feminism.  It helped me see why we still need feminism even though I feel like I have equal opportunities in general.

A funny photo from 1915 by the suffragettes on why men shouldn't be able to vote, printed as a rebuttal from traditional arguments on why women shouldn't vote. I still hear similar arguments made by both men and women as reasons why women shouldn't be in corporate positions.

A friend introduced me to this series on PBS called MAKERS. You can watch it online at that link. It was really interesting because it shows footage of women's interviews in the 70's who were leading movements and why.  Then they had current interviews with some of the same women about how their views may have changed and what they think the next step is. I loved all of the primary sources. They had footage of such blatantly sexist advertising that made me really appreciate the uphill battle women faced. It is an ideal documentary to have playing while you are doing something else. 

That documentary made me want to read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedman. I'll be honest, I didn't get a chance to finish because I had already accrued $6 in fees from the library on that book alone and just ran out of time and brain power before M was born. She gets into some weird Freud stuff, but Big Sis pointed out that it was the 60's and the U.S. was just barely getting into Freud at the time. I got a kick out of her mention of the Freedom Riders in a present tense. There was also a bunch on the first feminist movement with the suffragettes I loved.  I will warn you that you may find yourself in disbelief at some of the popular arguments about women and higher education. Really interesting read and I understand why it became part of the canon.

There is this little piece on how feminism has become a politically charged word and doesn't convey the reality. It helped me learn to embrace the word as part of my identity.

That leads to some discussion on what feminism is in a modern setting. I really liked the Lean In TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg. I watched it before I even knew who she was. I like how she doesn't dictate if you should follow a career or not, just some ideas if a career is what you want to pursue. It has been controversial but I liked it.

An interesting article on work/life balance in the Atlantic on why women can't really have it all. It will make you think for sure. I'd block out an hour to read or just keep it in an open tab to come back to. VERY controversial, but again, I liked it.

Here is a great TED talk on the hidden meanings in kids movies. It talks about how "the world is now safe for girls in armor," but the hero journey is is inherently limiting. I like to think of it as part of the broader goal of feminism that includes breaking men from limiting stereotypes as well.

Another essay I adored is Schrodinger's Rapist. It explains some of the communications women send when they are approached by strangers wanting to make conversation. The tone of the piece is beautiful as well. And it gets double points for referencing scientific theory as part of the metaphor. It had over 1200 comments before the comments were closed. It is potentially another thinking piece about how it applies to both genders or if the mentality is perpetuating a culture of fear. A quick read, unless you read the comments too.

I would never have found it if it wasn't linked to in this article where the man decided to change the tables on a stranger not picking up on the subtle cues. 

Ok, I have more, but I think this is sufficient for now. Pick one to read. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of them. A prize goes to the person who actually reads them all :)

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