RSS Feed

Why defending “white culture” is a garbage concept

Once, as a child I asked my mom why there was no such holiday as Kid’s Day, given that there were such holidays as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. My mom told me that everyday of the year was kid’s day. I had one day a year that I celebrated my mom. She dedicated every day of the year to me.

I didn’t need a special day devoted to me. Our household already revolved around me and my siblings.

The same logic can be applied for why we don’t need special “white pride” privileges. White normativity is everywhere. It’s EVERYWHERE.

Think about the media you consume. When was the last time you watched a movie with a person of color in the lead role? How many books in the past year have you read that were written by people of color? Do the television shows you watch cast people of color based on stereotypes?

Only 19% of television programs in 2015 had casts that reflected the racial diversity of America. A mere 7% of films accurately depicted racial diversity. Only 22% of children’s books featured people of color as main characters, and only 12.5% of children’s books were written by people of color.

Our study of the humanities is also dominated by whiteness. Most Americans can recognize white creators and historical figures such as Mark Twain, Leonardo Da Vinci, Beethoven, and William the Conqueror. Most have never heard of Wu Cheng’en, Wole Soyinka, Hokusai, Ravi Shankar, or Shah Jahan (all of whom were incredibly influential in their respective cultures).

So forgive me for thinking that any fears of “white culture” dying are baseless.

Our screens are filled with whiteness. Our literature is filled with whiteness. Our museums are filled with whiteness. Our history is filled with whiteness. We don’t need to celebrate whiteness. It’s state of predominance is more than enough celebration.

but last year i had 37

And for the record, don’t expect me to believe any claims that promoting “white culture” is about honoring your heritage and not about race. If you think being white is the most important part of your cultural identity, then you’re not appreciating the real depth that a culture has to offer.

If you, as a white person, want to honor your heritage, find out where your ancestors came from. Research their life stories. Maybe learn the language of their homeland. Try some of the recipes they may have eaten. Visit the countries your family immigrated from. Study the history of those countries. Learn about the holidays and traditions your ancestors would have participated in.

I promise, time spent on these activities will be far more effective in preserving cultural heritage than waving a flag and telling the world how great white people are.

Resist the urge to feel threatened by other racial groups taking their turns at center stage. Take it as an opportunity to expand your worldview and grow more empathetic.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but you don’t have to make everything about you. And when you say things like “If we have a Black History Month we should have a White History Month!” you’re a) seriously misunderstanding the reason for Black History Month b) probably not making an effort to understand the reason for it and c) detracting from the voices of people of color.

Don’t silence people of color because every now and again something is about them and not you.

The world is a big place. We can afford to share it.

Wonder Woman matters

Posted on

I’ve liked superheroes as long as I could remember. As a child I watched the ultra campy 1970s Super Friends tv show. By the time I hit high school, I had run out of super hero cartoons to watch and since I didn’t have access to the comic books, I spent hours on Wikipedia reading about characters and plot lines, just trying to satisfy my craving for capes. In college I wrote about superheroes in my persuasive writing course and got the paper published in a campus journal.

But despite my devotion, I always felt sort of like an outsider in the fandom. Sure, I loved superheroes, but they weren’t for me. I was always felt myself outside the target audience. Like superheroes were made for the boys and I should feel lucky that I got to tag along.

There were a lot of things that made me feel this way. Male fans who felt the need to quiz me and make sure I was a real fan. Comments about how I probably only wanted to watch the Marvel movies to see the abs of some Chris. But more than anything it was that the stories were not women’s stories.

There were female characters. But there weren’t as many and they weren’t as important to the plot and they usually didn’t have fleshed out personalities and they were often wearing ridiculous outfits and they frequently were fridged and pretty much always they were over sexualized.

In short, they were stories with women. But they were rarely stories about women and never stories for women.

Then there was Wonder Woman.

wonder woman

I finally saw a woman on the big screen saving the world. She is strong, brave, powerful, and loving. She isn’t there to be a sex object. She is there to be a hero.

I actually cried. Kind of a lot.

I thought I knew how much it would mean to me to see a woman front and center and kicking trash. I had no idea. I didn’t realize how much I needed a female lead hero until I was sitting in the theater seeing a superhero movie that was actually made for me, one where I wasn’t an outsider. It was like I was finally part of a family I’d been attending reunions for for years.

And apparently I wasn’t alone*. A lot of my friends said the same. It means something to us to see a woman starring in a superhero movie.

One thing is certain. Wonder Woman can’t be the token female film in a genre of male-lead titles. We need more of this.

 

*This is a really great article. Don’t read the comments unless you need more proof that insecure men have a compulsive need to attack anything that women enjoy.

It’s not about me

Posted on

My friend is being harassed online. Earlier, as I was going through the routine of blocking and reporting the harassers (and unfortunately this happens often enough that it is a routine), my science brain kicked on.

I got to thinking that it might be interesting to study the language of online harassers. I’ve already been reading up on online insults in gendered discourse for another paper I’m writing. Heck, maybe I can make a career out of studying this.

I caught myself. What was I thinking? I didn’t decide to get a PhD so that I could read a bunch of comments from internet trolls and say “Yep, they sure are sexist (and racist and homophobic and abelist and anti-Semitic)!” But that’s exactly what I did last semester. I spent hours and hour and hours analyzing sexist YouTube comments.

How did I end up neck deep in this line or research? I didn’t want this. I wanted to study literacy and reading acquisition. I wanted to help create programs that would close education gaps between privileged and underprivileged demographics.

So how in the world did I end up studying feminist language theories?

When I started my study on YouTube comments, a lot of people said they could pretty well guess what I was going to find (though I don’t think anybody, myself included, fully comprehended the extent of the toxicity and awfulness). Sure enough, I now have a lot of numbers to back up what most people already knew; the internet is really super sexist.

Not only am I wading through a field of study I never expected to find myself in, I’m getting results that are really just confirming what people already know.

What’s really sad about this is that the results are still relevant. Because while most people I talked to are aware that the internet is sexist, there are still some people who feel the need to argue why it isn’t sexist or why it isn’t that bad or that actually, men have it bad too. Beyond that, there are a lot of people who are really content to ignore it.

Basically, I’m spending lots of time and energy developing research that demonstrates the existence and prevalence of internet sexism. And I’m doing this because PEOPLE CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO LISTEN WHEN WOMEN SAY THIS IS A PROBLEM. Because the problem isn’t serious enough if we just say it’s an issue; some grad student has to go actually verify what women have already said is a problem. Just to make sure we aren’t overreacting. And I’m the person doing this at the expense of studying what I really want to study.

I guess this is why it baffles me when people say that feminists are out for attention or that we’re looking for reasons to be triggered.

I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this. I don’t want to write papers about the horrible things people say to women on the Internet when I could be writing about promoting vocabulary growth instead. I don’t want to get angry over things people post on FaceBook when I could be focusing on my ThrowbackThursdays. I don’t want to write blog posts about feminism when I could be writing about funny dating stories instead.

Every minute I devote to feminism is a minute I could be devoting to something else that I would probably enjoy more.

I don’t want to spend my time doing these things. But more importantly, I don’t want the women in my life to be belittled or harassed. I don’t want the next generation to have to put up with the stuff me and my generation have put up with. I don’t want the little girls I know to be taught to hate themselves. Because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I went a full week without one of my friend’s telling me that they had been harassed.

I’m not doing this for me. I’m not doing this because I need attention.  I’m not doing this because I like to argue. I’m not doing this because I need a hobby. It’s not about me.

I’m doing this for them.

In fact, I’m not even doing this because I think it’s effective. I’m not convinced I’ve ever managed to change anybody’s mind with the things I’ve written. Regardless, I hope when women read what I write they know I’m fighting for them. They know that in a world that’s eager to tear them down, I’ve got their back.

I’ve got YOUR back.

You’re worth the time I spend. You’re worth the energy I spend. You’re worth all of it and more. You’re worth so much more than I could ever give to you.

And I will keep screaming until you can no longer hear those who would hurt you. Because I care about you more than I care about the criticism I receive for taking a stand.

You are worth every bit of it. And I will never let you forget it.

push-ups-888024_1920

Slowing Down, Being Vulnerable

Posted on

This morning I woke up to about a foot of snow. As I was trying to dig my car out, I started feeling nauseated and dizzy. I kept shoveling.

When I got to the last patch of snow I needed to clear away, stopped to catch my breath. I started wondering what I was doing. My head hurt so badly that I felt I might pass out if I kept going.

I put down the shovel, went back inside, called in sick, and went back to bed. This is kind of a big deal for me. I don’t think I’ve missed class or work on account of feeling unwell in over five years.

img_20170123_1248365

I’m not good at relaxing. Like really not good at it. When I try to relax, I usually end up thinking of more productive ways I could spend my time which usually results in me feeling more stressed than before. It’s sort of a problem.

If you read my New Years post, you might remember that my resolution for 2017 was to try and slow down a little. How is that going? Eh. Not great. I’m making a little progress. Sometimes I leave ungraded work at my office so I can’t work on it after hours.

Part of solving a problem is identifying the cause of it, and I had a recent breakthrough about why I have such a hard time slowing down.

A few years ago I was in a toxic relationship with somebody who made me feel inadequate every time I talked to him. After I got out of that relationship, I began focusing a lot on improving my sense of self worth. I made good progress by learning not to judge myself on my appearance or how many boys did (or didn’t) like me. The downside was that I started judging myself by my accomplishments.

When I finally realized just how toxic that relationship was, I ran. I ran as far as I could. I haven’t been able to stop running since. At the time, that was what I needed. Overcoming that meant getting as far away from it as possible.

But the next stage of moving on is learning how to stop running. I’m trying to learn not to base my self worth on a list of achievements. I’m trying to remember that my value is not a factor of what I’ve done, but inherent in my status as a human being and a Daughter of God.

It’s a work in progress. But I’m getting there. I was supposed to have a 13 hour work day today. Instead I worked for about five. The world still seems to be spinning.

The world is spinning pretty quickly, in fact. And sometimes it’s good to stop trying to keep up with it and just watch it turn.

Yes, We Do Still Need Feminism

As a child, I liked to make up fake countries and pretend to rule them. Once my uncle walked in on me playing this game and I proudly declared that I was the king of my imaginary country. He told me that I was a girl and therefore a queen. I told him it was my country and I was the king, thank-you-very-much.

He then spent some time trying to convince me that I was a queen instead of a king. However, he never once asked why I thought I wanted to be a king instead of a queen. Even in elementary school I had realized that masculinity received more respect than femininity. So I decided I would be more masculine and garner more respect. In retrospect, it’s sad that I thought I had to be like a man to be fully valued.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of social media posts saying things to the effect of “Women have the right to vote. Women can do everything men can do. What more do they want?”

Perhaps it’s this mindset that leads people to (erroneously) believe that feminist women believe they are better than men or that they want more privilege than men. But it is a valid question. What more do women want?

We want respect. We want safety. And we want to be treated like people and not bodies.

I have no doubt that women can do everything men do. Women have been doing incredible things for thousands of years, often regardless of whether society permitted or approved of it. But these achievements are hard-earned and undervalued.

Case in point: a woman does something amazing and the media chooses to focus on a sexualized aspect of her body.

heidi-klum

Yes, the feminism of the past has won some important battles. But the feminism of the present recognizes there’s still work to be done.

Because we’re taught from a young age to hate our bodies.

sexist-onesies

Our bodies are objectified, compared to food.

objectification.jpg

kim

No, the fact that she’s Kim Kardashian doesn’t give you an excuse to make this kind of commentary on her body.

sexism.jpg

Pole dancing is actually super difficult, by the way.

And when you treat women like objects, men start to think that they can talk to women like this (NSFW language):

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 9.31.33 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 8.32.40 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 8.33.05 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 8.33.57 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-01-24 at 8.33.47 PM.png

Interesting how these men think they can completely devalue a woman by attacking her appearance.

Clearly, there’s still work to do.

I’m trying to be patient with non-feminist friends. Though I would very kindly suggest that before you slam on feminism, you make sure you really understand what it’s all about. Many of the arguments I see address a dated brand of feminism, serve only as straw man arguments, and stall useful discussion. At any rate, I try to be patient. I try to explain why we DO need feminism. I used to decry feminism as well because I didn’t see how these issues affected me personally and because I didn’t want to feel like a victim.

I see the need now.

For my friends who are not feminists, I try to be grateful that they’ve never experienced anything that made them see a need for feminism. Feminism isn’t a perfect movement; it never has been. But with feminism, I see progress. I see no progress without it.

Do you know what to say to your friend when she tells you she’s been raped?

Probably not. Because there are no right words for that. There is nothing you can say that will make that right. About the only thing you can do is tell her that you will fight for her. And then you do fight for her. In any way you know how.

I hope you’re starting to see the need for feminism. But whether you do or not, you will not prevent me from seeing it. Nor will you prevent me from fighting. For my friend. For my sisters. For women I don’t even know, because they deserve it.

Because feminism isn’t about fighting against men. It’s about fighting for women.

And in the words of Rachel Platten, I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

womens-march

Lessons from 2016

Around the end of the year, people generally start thinking about how they want to improve their lives in the upcoming year. As a fan of self improvement, I’ve always sort of enjoyed this process. Which isn’t to say that I’ve always done a good job keeping New Years’ resolutions. But I think whether or not you reach your goals, making them can be valuable.

However, this year I’ve struggled with coming up with 2017 resolutions. To be honest, 2016 has left me sort of exhausted. It’s been a rough year for a number of reasons. It’s also been a busy year for me. I finished my MA, moved to a new state, started a PhD program, taught three different classes, continued my freelance editing business, and wrote or revised seven drafts of different novels.

So I’ve decided my goal for 2017 is actually to slow down a little, smell roses and whatnot. I want to spend less time worrying about things I haven’t done yet and more time appreciating all the good things in my life.

With that in mind, I’m going to end 2016 by reflecting on a few things I’ve learned through this crazy, roller coaster year.

  • It’s never too soon to start being one of the heroes you grew up reading about.
  • We all need to spend more time listening to people who are different from us.
  • You are a good looking human being. If anybody tries to tell you otherwise, that person is a stupid head.
  • Sometimes people will give you conflicting advice, and you just need to do the best you can.img_20161003_1750554
  • If somebody is trying to convince you that something you love is stupid, you should probably just throw glitter in their face and waltz into the sunset because you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  • “I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” -Edna Mode, The Incredibles
  • Don’t date anyone who treats you like a side quest. You are a main quest.
  • It doesn’t matter how nice you are. Sometimes people will still be mean to you.
  • Always make sure you have a solid foundation. Especially if you are a Christmas tree.img_2484-2
  • Attacking problems with kindness and positivity is great, but certain problems just need to be kicked in the shins.
  • It’s good to laugh, and it’s good not to take yourself too seriously.
  • There really is a Taylor Swift song for every occasion.
  • You don’t need to be perfect to be worthwhile, and neither do the things you create.
  • The family that wears fake mustaches together stays together.mustache
  • Do the thing you are terrified of. But wear protective gear while doing it.
  • Spend a little time every day encouraging other people.
  • Your emotions are valid and important.
  • You should dance, even if you’re bad at it (and I am really, really, really bad at it).
  • “Just think, while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world, you could have been getting down to THIS. SICK. BEAT.” -Taylor Swift, Shake it Off
  • If you’re stuck, maybe you just need to kick through a door.
  • You can fix just about anything with duct tape. Including the door you just kicked through. And if you use colorful duct tape, it will be extra fabulous. img_20160620_1936149
  • It’s good to know your limitations, but sometimes you should ignore them anyway.
  • “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” -Ms. Frizzle, The Magic School Bus
  • The days when you realize things are worse than you thought they were are also the days where you realize that you’re stronger than you thought you were.
  • You’re doing better than you think you are, so keep it up!
  • It’s gonna be okay.

Real Gifts

Last year for Christmas, my dad and his siblings all pitched in to get my grandparents a new television. We waited until the very end of the present opening frenzy to give it to them, so all eyes were on my grandma as she broke down in tears.

I remember one of my aunts saying, “Mom, why are you crying? Don’t cry over a tv!”

She did not stop crying. She said, “I can’t help it. We’re just so blessed!”

My grandma is right (she pretty much always is). We’re an incredibly blessed family.

christmas-4

We all live comfortable lives, and that’s something to be thankful for. But things like new television sets are only the very surface level of what we have to be thankful for.

As my grandma is crying over a tv, I’m looking around the room. I have probably twenty odd cousins there and aunts and uncles and siblings and parents. They’re some of the goofiest people I know (as illustrated by the above attempt at getting a cute picture of grandkids in Christmas pjs). The televisions and things are nice, but these guys are the real gift.

christmas-tree

Looking back, I can’t say I remember too many of the presents I got for Christmas as a child. There was a doll house, a giant teddy bear. A set of play food. And a basketball hoop that I think was maybe more for my dad than for me (though this was before my complete lack of athletic potential had been fully realized).

What I do remember is spending time with family and friends. I remember dipping Christmas chocolates, decorating cookies, and building really ugly gingerbread houses. I remember caroling at nursing homes and going around to see the lights. I remember sledding and building snowmen. I remember cutting out snowflakes and decorating the house.

I no longer play with any of the toys I received as a child (except the doll house because that thing is sick). The presents were nice, but they were temporary.

But the loved ones and the Christmas memories I’ve made with them are still part of my life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Christmas is a time of year for family and friends, because they’re a real gift.  And if, like me, you believe in Christ, it’s a time for drawing closer to Him, for He is another real gift. Regardless of whether you believe in Christ, this is a good time of year for developing Christ-like attributes of love, service, forgiveness, and charity.

I hope as you’re shopping for and wrapping the presents this year, you think about the real gifts you’ll be giving to others this year—your time, your attention, and your love.

Thank you all for giving me the gift of your friendship and love, however long I’ve known you. Merry Christmas!