Higher Stakes

SmallMenBreakfast

As you, my lovely readers, know, there’s nothing I prefer to write about more than the challenges and triumphs of feminism around the world. This weekend has been ripe with material.

With some not-so-uplifting news from Pakistan, I was reminded that no matter where you go, there will always be small-minded men trying to control women. An article about proposed legislation from an extremist group in Pakistan has been circulating the internet. The group would like to make it legal for a man to “lightly beat” his wife for defying his commands, dressing in a way he didn’t approve, or refusing to have sex with him. They lay out what qualifies as an acceptable beating for the unholy behavior of showing off your ears or going to bed alone. Unfortunately, they didn’t settle on the only reasonable answer to that quandary, which is to just let a person be a person without feeling the obsessive and childish need to control her every action.

Some discussions about the bill have discounted its significance by noting it was proposed by an extremist group and has not been passed. I’m calling bullshit on that one, as I do when dangerous bills in the United States are proposed and never passed. While we can be thankful that much of the outlandish, harmful legislation is blocked, we can’t ignore the people who continue to propose it—people who look the other way when the percentage of reported honor killings in Pakistan rises, who work to keep the nation’s literacy rates among women offensively low, and who continue to marry Pakistani children. We have to remember these people exist because we need to work hard to bring them into the spotlight, appropriately shame them, and show everyone else just how wrong they are. We can’t forget there are still men who are angered by a pants-wearing woman who says she doesn’t feel like having sex with them. For some reason, I feel like I keep running into those guys. Literally. Because when I’m running and creepy guys yell obscenities at me, I stick my leg out to trip them.

This bill is thought to be a response to another rejected bill created to protect abused Pakistani women. It’s a disgusting act from a group of men who feel threatened, who feel the need to constantly stand on top of someone else—or a whole group of someone elses.

The kernel of hope in all this, though, is there are people fighting for growth and change. There was someone who wrote that bill to protect women in Pakistan. There was someone who boldly argued for it to be passed. And there will be someone who says no to this terrible legislation. No matter how hard these small men try to push us backward, there will always be feminists and humanists working to push us forward. It’s like a giant game of tug-a-war, but with much higher stakes. Same weird uncle cheering for the wrong team though.

Deleted

Internet

Last night I wrote a post about watching the first episode of the Bachelorette and how it forces two contradicting aspects of myself against one another. I’m a sucker for pop culture institutions and an uber feminist. Unfortunately, these two things rarely overlap. Although we’re being gifted with more and more amazing feminist entertainment, the majority of pop culture is sending us messages that make the tiny Gloria Steinem inside my brain cringe.

Anyway, I wrote a whole post about it and then my blog deleted it. I think that means the internet hates women. Just kidding, we all already know the internet hates women. Even though I feel strongly about the need to recognize the contradictions we live with regard to our beliefs (and forgiving ourselves for them), I also feel strongly about getting in some quality relaxation before bedtime.

Instead, I will leave you with Dave’s response to me after I tried to explain a particular scene from a past Bachelor season. He looked me straight in the face and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I love you.” So that’s basically my life in one sentence.

Accidental Naps

soupuniter

We’ve been busy celebrating excellent, joyful events these past couple weeks, so I feel like I haven’t had a chance to relax. I’ve been using all my energy to cheer on and laugh with and hug tightly all the people I love. It’s wonderful and also very very exhausting. Plus I had to wear heels on Saturday, which I make a concerted effort to do no more than six times a year, so that was a big deal.

I’ve been running from place to place with my brain on overdrive, and it’s starting to putter out a bit. It feels like a tiny motorboat lazily floating back to shore because someone forgot to fuel it up. That someone was me, since I was feeding my brain cupcakes and pancakes and mostly just different kinds of cake. I actually got distracted thinking about napping on my drive home yesterday. I’m lying. That was just a nicer way to say I almost took a nap on my drive home. I am in desperate need of some peaceful rest.

Dave and I were thinking about what next weekend, one of our rare free ones, will hold. We made some really major plans. His first response to the brainstorming session was to look over at me and pronounce, “We’re gonna be home for so long. We can make so much soup.” We like to think big and we always go hard. You’d think you could make soup any time, but no, not me. Whenever I make soup, I make it for an army. I think it’s cause it’s mostly water. Also, I’m trying to recruit an army of well-fed, ladle-wielding soup lovers to take over the Seven Kingdoms.

Oh Yeah!

DoubleTreats

Yesterday I ate so much sugar I thought I’d turned into the Kool-aid guy and gained the ability to burst through walls with just the power of my giant glass belly. I could punch my way into strangers’ homes, shattering bricks and insisting the shocked families drink my contents.

It really seems like the Kool-aid guy shouldn’t be so persistent about everyone consuming him and his kind. That’s just not sustainable. He’s definitely trying too hard to be liked. Let it go, Kool-aid man. You can’t force people to like you by destroying their homes and enthusiastically waving your fists in the air.

Despite knowing that, my sugar intake had me feeling just as committed to spreading the gospel of sweetness. I was pushing candy and cupcakes on everyone I saw. Then I awoke from my sugar-coma. I realized I had suffered from sucrose-induced delusions of grandeur. My dreams of being an oversized vessel of dyed liquid were only dreams. I crashed and crawled my way back to human status. It wasn’t pretty.

I think I may have a problem.

Gamegirl

SilentFriends

I just heard someone is making a big budget film based on the game Tetris. I don’t understand this at all. Are the pieces going to come to life? Will someone be playing the game on-screen? Are we all actually stuck inside a giant Gameboy? It sounds like an impossible task and a movie I will hate, but I’ll definitely see it, because Tetris and I have a deep history.

When I was 12, I asked my parents for a Gameboy Color. I’m not sure why I wanted it so badly. We didn’t have a lot of technology in our home and it wasn’t something that usually drew my attention. I was way more into books and paint and dirt. For some reason though, that little handheld console spoke to me. I requested one as a Hanukkah gift, thinking there was no way I’d ever get it.

A few weeks after I asked, we went to Canada for a family reunion. Before the buffet lunch, my dad pulled me aside and told me we were going to the store. I was so struck by the surprise, I didn’t know what to say. We drove to a big department store and walked through the aisles until we found them—all those tiny Nintendo boxes stacked together inside a locked case. He called over an employee, asked him to unlock the shelf, and told me to pick the color I wanted. I couldn’t decide. It felt like the most luxurious gift I’d ever received. It was the most luxurious gift I’d ever received. So I had to make the right choice. At the same time, I was afraid if I took too long to decide, the whole situation would unravel and I’d leave without the tiny computer of my dreams. The pressure was compounded by the chaos of holiday shopping going on in the store at the time.

I settled on the transparent purple and we got two games—Mario and Tetris. I spent a lot of hours on that little machine lining up small colored boxes. It was an activity that matched my particularity and introversion. I could sit alone and organize the world. At the end of a successful level, I was rewarded with a fireworks show, each one bigger than the last. And I really enjoyed coordinating things in peaceful solitude, so I earned some excellent pixelated displays on that tiny two-inch screen.

Since I’ve been tight with Tetris for so many years, I just don’t understand how they’re going to make a movie of the game. Maybe it will just be a room full of nerds sitting in silence. If they need extras, I’m available. I come cheap and can supply my own props.

Soupersede

SlurpingSoupI really wanted to write a nice post about how great it is to achieve a goal toward which you’ve been working hard, but I spent all night making virtual soup. I hadn’t realized I needed to be the greatest soup distributor in the universe, but once I started down the path, I knew it was the right fit. So there’s gotta be a lesson in that.

In this new game I was playing, you have to wander around strange and new planets, colonizing them with your soup factories and warding off rival alien soup thieves. It’s a little stressful because you have to carry mushrooms around an oxygen-deprived landscape, but it’s also meditative, because you get to simply carry mushrooms around an oxygen-deprived landscape.

It just goes to show you that you have to accept opportunities as they come. I didn’t set out last night to become the market leader in soup sales across the galaxy, but I’ve earned it and now it’s both a gift and a burden I must carry.

Little by Little

Speech

It seems like every time I open my newsfeed or walk past the gigantic television at my office, I’m smacked in the face with how terrible people are treating one another. We’re fighting wars based on fear-mongering, executives are profiting while people are losing their savings, and children are getting bullied for being themselves. It’s a tough world out there, guys.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded there are people working hard to make things better. This month, I got that from Attorney General Loretta Lynch when she spoke about how she and her team are battling the dangerous laws passed in North Carolina and the general push for sanctioned and unsanctioned hate crimes across the country. Lynch had already warned the North Carolina government that their new law forcing people to enter only bathrooms that matched the gender they were assigned at birth are illegal and must not be enforced. State officials ignored her warning, because they were really busy unlawfully discriminating against citizens and that’s time consuming work.

Lynch talked about the lawsuit they’re filing against the state of North Carolina, its governor, the state’s Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina, saying “it’s about the founding ideals that have led this country—haltingly but inexorably—in the direction of fairness, inclusion and equality for all Americans.” Now that’s inspiring. That could get you to sign a petition or text a number to donate $1 or go on a 5k walk. It might even get us to elect officials who don’t attempt to legalize hate.

She also spoke directly to the communities being threatened, saying Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy—but we’ll get there together.” She’s right. It can be a challenge to get people do to what is so obviously right—because of all those terrible things we’re seeing on the news every day, all those people who haven’t yet woken up and realized we do better when we lift one another up. That just means we need to roll up our sleeves, listen to some more inspiring speeches, and remember to use the appropriate hashtags of support. Oh, also just be kind to one another and don’t uphold state-sanctioned discrimination or whatever.

 

Swimsuit Season

OnePiece

Discovery Girls magazine recently published an article titled What Swimsuit Best Suits You? and showed us all what’s wrong with growing up as a girl in America. The magazine’s target audience is young tweens, which usually means 10-12 year olds. Here’s what swimsuit best fits a 10 year old girl: one that allows them to play in the sand, swim with their friends, and stay protected from the sun. Here’s what they should not be considering: drawing the eye away from problem areas, adding curves with well placed straps, flattering the body with contrasting patterns—all advice given by Discovery Girls to their readers.

Ugh. Just, no. Are we still really doing this? Have we learned nothing from Gloria Steinem and Marlene Dietrich? Kids should, of course, be able to express themselves through the clothes they wear. They should choose the colors, patterns, and combinations that make them feel great—based on their own preferences, not inappropriate social messages from outsiders about their bodies. In fact, when we tell a girl to consider how other people will feel about the choices she makes for her body, we are taking away the core of that choice.

But it’s easy to forget that. So easy, in fact, that a magazine created with the mission of encouraging girls to love who they are made this mistake. Apparently, Discovery Girls works to further girls’ independence and give them a voice. Much of their content is written by their own readers and they hold leadership summits each year. With that worthy goal, their massive misstep shows us how this harmful messaging can permeate even movements that set out to be positive. After the outrage about the article, the publisher acknowledged they’d made a mistake, but the question is how a group of people supposed to be working toward girls’ empowerment thought this would be an appropriate piece. I think it’s because we, as women, are told to be empowered by the reactions we get to our bodies. It’s so engrained in our culture to accept this as worthy praise, that we’re teaching our children to accept the same guidelines.

When we start talking about this together, it makes perfect sense to be offended. No sane person thinks it’s a good idea to dress a child with those goals in mind, but the messages are so common we forget we’re even receiving them. And, most importantly, we forget we’re passing them along. That’s why it’s so important to say these things out loud—so we can be conscious of our actions and responses. Personally, I’ll be hoping that if I ever have a daughter, she’ll embrace my love for jumpsuits and ridiculous hats, so all attention is drawn to her face.

Passing on Your Left

Mercury

Have you always wanted to watch Mercury pass between you and the sun? Well, today’s your lucky day! This only happens thirteen times a century, which is about every 7.6 years. Scientists are pretty excited about this one, because they have now developed more accurate tools to study the planet during this time. They’ll be working toward a better understanding of the sodium in its exosphere—the thin layer of surrounding gases—and how we can use what we learn from this phenomenon to discover planets that orbit other stars.

I can appreciate the push for scientific advancement and the desire to drum up excitement about space, but every 7.6 years doesn’t seem that rare. I’ve eaten granola bars that old. I already owned half of my current wardrobe the last time Mercury flew by us this way. And at that moment, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was topping the charts. It seems like just yesterday, and not because yesterday I was breaking out my best hand-flip moves to that jam in my living room.

Nevertheless, I’ll be staring directly at the Sun at least a few times between 8am and 2pm to try and catch a peek of the smallest planet in our solar system. (Sorry, Pluto-lovers, Mercury has claimed the title.) I don’t have one of those cardboard boxes we all made in elementary school, so I’ll just have to take the chance of being blinded. I practice high risk, high reward astronomy.

Be Brave

People

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a time for us to think about the ways in which we can create a kinder, safer world. It’s a moment to recognize the massive harm and destruction that one group of people inflicted upon another. It’s a chance to be better. With the spread of hateful rhetoric in our political system, the violent disenfranchisement of entire communities, and a growing disregard for basic human rights, this work of bettering ourselves seems particularly pressing.

I try not to pay much mind to toxic, ignorant people—both in my personal life and with regard to public figures. For me to live in a functional and productive way, I have to separate emotionally from their ego and arrogance. This has been my approach to the hateful politicians I’ve been forced to listen to these past few months. I have a sort of schoolyard rule about ignoring the bullies so they have no one else to bully. Now, though, we can’t ignore them. Because other people aren’t. And this is what actually worries me: the mass of people following these men around, repeating their catchphrases and swinging their punches. One man uttering hateful nonsense is sad; whole communities of people doing the same is dangerous.

When I was in middle school, my friends and I devoured any book we could find set during the Holocaust. Every Jewish kid I knew had cried over Number the Stars and developed a soft spot for mice after reading Maus. We all watched that Kirsten Dunst movie where she opens the door at her family’s Passover Seder and is transported to a concentration camp. The stories were a mix of fact and fiction, but the sentiments were strong and similar. We were supposed to identify with the young characters, the ones who lived and the ones who died. We were supposed to feel in our gut what that kind of hate does to a person, a community, and the world. They were painful stories, but we sought them out in an attempt to understand the harm. And, perhaps most significantly, these stories modeled for us how to respond—be bold enough to speak up, be brave enough to act, be kind enough to reach out your hand.

These leaders standing on platforms of hate are dangerous not because they’re loud bigots, but because people are listening and groups are powerful. Once they’ve been directed toward a movement, they’ll just keep on rolling. I have no idea what Isaac Newton’s political views were, but he knew something about momentum. An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and same direction, unless acted upon by an external force. Our object is headed in the wrong direction, and it’s up to us to move it toward something better. Let’s be brave in the face of hate. Let’s stand up for the friends and neighbors and strangers who need us. It’s scary, I know. It’s hard to lift your head and say something to the bully in the schoolyard. He’ll probably make fun of our stirrup stretch pants and steal our fruit roll-ups, but my eleven year old self would expect me to do something and I bet yours would too. Make her proud.