feminism

“Resting B*tch Face”

There is no such thing.

Women aren’t obligated to smile constantly or always seem to be holding a pleasant happy thought in our heads.

When a man doesn’t smile, or he looks serious, or contemplative, or even mean or angry, we don’t call that anything. It is simply one of many emotions within the wide range of possible human emotions.  Men are not expected to maintain only pleasant thoughts and feelings at every waking moment. But because women are expected to always be warm, welcoming, happy, and accommodating, when a woman doesn’t smile we make up a derogatory term for it.

RBF: Resting B*tch Face

There is no such thing.

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feminism

Getting More Women in STEM

With the dismal diversity numbers coming out of Google, Facebook, and other technology companies in the news recently, there has been much talk about how to get more women into science, technology and engineering disciplines.

As a woman who is in a male-dominated technical field, I have some thoughts on this.  I was the only female in my graduating class, and the winner of the Best Portfolio award. (own horn, toot toot!)  I work at an engineering firm.  I’m an expert user of a lot of software, I troubleshoot my own computer issues, and I know a few scripting languages and computer programming basics.  I’m not intimidated by math or science or computers.

But before I tell you my ideas, let me tell you what is NOT the way.  PLEASE, for the love of God, do not try to get women into STEM by making it “girly”.  Please, do not make it pink.  Do not put glitter and flowers on it.  Do not make it cute or gossipy.  Please do not make it “sexy” to like math and science.

We need to get girls interested in math and science the exact same way we get boys interested, by making it interesting and giving them inspiring examples of other girls and women who have done it.  Ask a man why he got into an engineering field and his answer will not be “because I am a man and it was a masculine thing to do.”  No, it will likely be “because I was intrigued by _____.” or “My favorite sci fi movie featured a little boy hero and I wanted to be just like him” or “I wanted to build _____ or design better _____”

When I was a kid, I was already into nerdy things.  I loved sci fi, both reading and movies.  I loved fantasy.  I loved video games.  I loved building things with legos.  Looking back though, I notice that all of those movies and books I loved, they ALL had a male protagonist.  In most cases there were no girls or women at all except as the love interest.  The girl character existed only as an object of the boy character’s desire.  She usually had no lines.  Flight of the Navigator, The Never-Ending Story, The Last Starfighter, etc.

My favorite books, The Lord of the Rings series, had a few minor two dimensional female characters.  So many of my favorite books followed that pattern.  It just seemed normal to me that women were rarely featured.  I never questioned it until much later.

Because of my interests I did not fit in.  I would never be popular.  Girls teased me and boys passed me over for girls who were pretty and giggled a lot.  Being nerdy was never cool, but being a nerdy girl made me one of a kind.  I was an oddity.

We need movies and books that make science and technology intriguing to little girls and show little girls as the HEROS not the love interest.  Show me a little girl winning the space battle or saving the world with a magic video game.

We also need video games that allow girls to feel like they are a part of the world of technology.  Not pink flowers and ponies, science fiction type puzzle games with smart female protagonists, and they don’t need to be dressed like they’re going to work at the strip club either.

We need books with female protagonists solving technology and science issues.

We need TV shows that show women being scientists and starfleet captains.  Thank goodness for Captain Janeway.  MORE please.

We need teachers who are trained to encourage boys and girls equally in math.  I experienced sexism in my schooling.  It came in subtle and overt ways.  I can see why other girls were driven away from the path of math and science, but for me it egged me on.  I’m just a defiant type of person, but we can’t expect most people to buck their social role.  Whether it was teachers who acted surprised at how well I performed at math and science or teachers who wouldn’t call on a girl in their classes, it was not encouragement.

Want more women in STEM careers?  Get girls interested in it.  Encourage curiosity.  Let them know they can do it.  Give them examples of other girls doing it.  Don’t act surprised when a girl is good at math.  

We don’t need to put pink stickers on it. 

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autobiographical

The Time I Got Fired From Pizza Hut

I worked at Pizza Hut as a waitress the summer after my first year of college.  It was the first of many serving gigs.

Pizza Hut had its fun moments.  Waiting tables, even at a chain pizza place, was much more lucrative than the customer service minimum wage jobs I had prior to that.  People used to go out to eat pizza.  Maybe they still do this?  I don’t.  Pizza is the food you get because you don’t feel like going out.

Pizza Hut in the late 90s was the familiar red-roofed building with a somewhat dark interior, complete with red and white checkered table coverings and personal jukeboxes in each booth.  People had birthday parties for their kids there.  We had a lunch time pizza buffet and people came in on their lunch break.  We had a rudimentary salad bar with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons, a few types of dressing and two types of soup.  You could order a personal pan pizza and it came to you in the pan, which seems hazardous in retrospect.  Those pans were hot as hell.  We sold beer by the mug or pitcher and we a most exciting variety on tap: Bud or Bud Light.  Soda was served in big red clear plastic cups and a big red pitcher for refills. 

Incidents at Pizza Hut that summer:

  • The time we made a Personal Pan Crayon.  We unwrapped a bunch of the crayons that were for kids to color on the paper kid place-mats, put them in the personal pan pizza pan, and sent it through the oven.  This was a truly ill-conceived idea.  We thought we would get an awesome swirl-colored crayon disc.  But pizza ovens are really hot, and wax crayons melt really fast.  So halfway through, they melted over the side of the pan, leaked out into the oven and caused a noxious cloud of smoke that set off the alarms and brought the fire department.  OOPS!
  • The time I passed out while carrying a pan pizza.  I am lucky I did not burn myself.  This was one of 3 times in my life I passed out unexpectedly.  It happened when I was 19, 22, and again at 35.  I have no idea why nor do any of my doctors.
  • The time a table of French-speaking tourists came in and ordered one medium pizza each.  Despite my repeated attempts to explain that a medium pizza could feed 2-3 hungry people, and 3 years of high school French under my belt, they didn’t get it.  When the 8 medium pizzas for 8 people arrived, their shocked faces were unforgettable.

I ended up getting fired after an incident involving an angry man.

It was later in the evening and we were close to closing time.  A very large group came in, something on the order of 20 people.  We seated them and I took their orders.  They were all very friendly, all but one.  The group was mostly women and there was one man.  The man was very grumpy. The good-natured women in the group laughed and joked with me and said to pay him no mind.  But he was very angry and grouchy the entire time.

Because it was late, there was not enough silverware for all of them as it was in the dishwasher or dirty.  I discussed this with the other waiter who was working and we decided to give them plastic utensils.  It’s pizza anyway, barely anyone ever used the utensils except moms cutting up pizza to feel to children too small to eat it as a whole piece.  

Grouchy man did not like this, or anything.  Unfortunately grouchy man was paying and I was glad that the gratuity was included for large tables or I am sure he would have stiffed me.

A few days later the manager fired me.  Grouchy man had called in to complain and the manager had a policy of firing anyone who received a customer complaint.  When I tell the short version of this story, I just say I was fired for giving people plastic silverware at Pizza Hut.

I was 19 and didn’t really care.  I used it as a reason to go to Atlantic City with some friends instead.

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feminism

Not Just Hello

There has been a lot of much needed discussion about street harassment lately.  I have my stories.  Yes, all women have these stories.

The first time I experienced street harassment I was a 13 year old girl.  They may have thought I was older, because I developed faster than all of the other kids, I was chubby, and I was tall.  I was walking down a country road in my home town and they were in a truck.  The truck slowed and they started saying things to me.  There were three or four of them.  I kept walking and they drove slowly beside me yelling sexual, threatening, and insulting things at me until I ran.  I ran off the road and into the woods.  It was incredibly terrifying and put me off walking outside for many years.

Later there was another somewhat similar incident in the same town.  I was older, had graduated from high school, had an apartment in the same small town, and was walking home from work at night.  Again, some men in a vehicle slowed beside me and started yelling things.  I walked, then ran, to get away from them as they followed me in the vehicle.  But I was afraid to go home, lest they know where I live.  So I ran to a friend’s apartment and escaped them.

Soon after that I moved out of that town.  I will never go back there.  Them country boys scare me.  Yes yes I know.  Not all men.  Tell that to thirteen year old me.  Tell that to the woman who is so terrified her heart is going to beat out of her chest.  Explain it away.  Tell me it was meant as a compliment.

I have other stories, of course.  But none scared me the way those two incidents did.  Once I lived in the city, having strange men say things to me became par for the course.  I would sometimes yell back, tell them to go fuck themselves.  I would sometimes ignore them and keep walking.  Occasionally I would come up with a witty response on the fly.  But generally these things now happened in areas with street lights and other people and I felt relatively sure that I wasn’t about to get grabbed and dragged off somewhere for I don’t want to think about what.

I still get harassed today.  I’m almost forty and I’m hoping to soon be old enough that they leave me alone, as some of my older friends say happens to them.  They tell me how relieved they are to be past the age where men find you a good target to yell “Hey baby, I want to fuck that ass baby, why you ignoring me baby, you fucking stuck up bitch!”

I’m still chubby too so that invites another kind of harassment.  One time, as I was walking down a city street, I walked past a man who looked at me like he wanted to murder me and said “If my wife was as fat as you I would divorce her.”

I have never had any man yell something at me that could even vaguely be considered a compliment.  Mostly it was very vulgar sexual talk, or talk about my body- my tits, my ass.  Or it was something insulting about being fat.  Of course, being fat gives me bigger tits and ass, so you see how the two subjects are related.  Often times it starts as a “hey I want to do ___ to your ___” then when I don’t respond, it becomes insults or threats.

Only one time did a man actually grab me, and I shoved that asshole so hard he fell on his back and whacked his head on the sidewalk.  I didn’t stick around to find out if he was alright.

When I see men defending street harassment, they always make it out like it’s just innocuous compliments. “Aw, I’m just trying to tell you you look good, why can’t I tell you that?”  Yeah.  No.  That’s not what it is and we all know that.

That incident that happened when I was 13, I know it could have been a lot worse and for a lot of women it is much, much worse.  After that, I found myself considering what men might say to me or try to do to me if I dared to do something risky like leave my house.  No, it did not keep me from living life, but it was always there in the back of my mind.

How many times have I looked over my shoulder?  How many times have I crossed the street to avoid walking close to a group of men or even one man?  How many times have I felt my heart pound and race in my chest? Too many to count.  Those experiences colored my whole life.

It’s not just hello.  Almost every woman can tell you.

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rant

Berating People For Their Health

So I notice that people like to make extremely rude/judgmental/condescending remarks to and about people who are fat or mildly chubby or even just not totally fat-free dehydrated muscle-covered skeletons.

One of my quirks is that I constantly psychoanalyze everyone.  This stems from having a psychologist father and a psychiatrist mother, no doubt.  I am always trying to figure out why people do things.  It’s an intellectual curiosity sort of thing.  I know I can’t control other people’s behavior; I just find it interesting to try to figure out what they get out of it.  I do this to myself too, by the way.  I once had someone tell me that I “reached depths of self-analysis never before seen in a human.”

I have several theories about the mean-to-fat-people people.  Here are some of them:

1. They are trolls who are trying to stir up drama.  Trolls are interesting in their own right, but I think this one is pretty self explanatory.  Maybe I’ll write about my theories on trolling some other time.  The basic gist is that they are making intentionally inflammatory statements just to cause trouble.

2. They think being fat is a fate worse than death.  I can’t really blame people for this one.  Our society is pretty fucked up when it comes to the way we talk about anyone who is not a totally fat-free dehydrated muscle-covered skeleton.   We are bombarded with the message every day that anyone who is even remotely chubby is a lazy, useless slob with zero self control, no goals, and mentally inferior.  I have even seen a few people state that they believe fat is a “mental illness”.  So I think some people react to this by separating themselves from any possibility of being mistaken as one of the inferior fat people by making broad proclamations about fat people.  Some of the people who do this are fat themselves, and they hate themselves for it and blame themselves for being a moral failure (I know this because I have been this person before.  Hint: it never made me thin).  The people who believe this have a visceral reaction to anyone who is fat, especially if that person is unabashedly okay with herself.  Being okay with not being skinny is like WHAT?! especially to a person who spends her entire life fighting her body out of fatphobia.

3. They think it’s really unhealthy to be fat and fat people are all slowly killing themselves of heart-diseasabetes.  They also believe that unless fat people lose weight, they are doomed to die young of a preventable disease.  This one is interesting to me.  I’m not surprised people believe this.  We are constantly bombarded by messages that the “obesity epidemic” (in quotes because I don’t believe this really exists) is ruining the very fabric of society.  Ok, so let’s say that being fat is the worst thing ever to happen to anyone’s health AND that it’s easily reversed by a few simple behavioral changes (I know for a fact this isn’t true through my own personal experience, but let’s say it is) AND that if you do lose enough weight not to be fat, you will magically be immune to all disease, like all thin people are (hahahaha!)

Ok, so if all of that is true, and fat is a horrible health problem, and it is going to cause death, WHY do people use that as a reason to berate people?  This is where I get really confused.  I have seen so many people declare that the reason they have just made some kind of derogatory comment about fat people is because HEALTH.  So you’re telling me, health-concern trolls, that because fat is unhealthy, that’s a reason to be a total asswipe to fat people?  No sir, you are just a total asswipe.  But I find it really interesting that these people seem to think they are benefiting society with their asswipery because Health.  Delusional.

4. They are mean sad bullies who need to put other people down because they hate themselves and everything.

5. They are bigots.  They are prejudiced judgement-filled people who allow their personal attraction or revulsion to other people’s appearances to determine the worth of that person.  They believe that thin attractive people ARE smarter and better and more-goal oriented and, of course, healthy.  Because all thin people eat vegetables and work out every day, right?  Actually, numbers 1-4 are usually caused by or mixed in with a bit of #5.

 

Berating people for their own good.  For their health.  I just can’t get over that one.

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rant

Beauty Fatigue

I am tired of beauty.

On one hand, we have the constant barrage of techniques and products for making yourself more beautiful. These include altering your appearance through the use of makeup, hair styling, skin products and procedures, wardrobe choices, body hair removal, and even cosmetic surgery. Some of these seem innocuous. Some women even state they ENJOY their beauty regimen. But some are downright painful. Others are possibly life threatening.

On the other hand, we have a counter movement that is attempting to spread the message that ALL  women are already beautiful! Instead of changing yourself, they say, simply embrace your own unique beauty that you had all along if you would just have the confidence to show it off. At the core of this message is the belief that every woman wants to and deserves to feel beautiful.

I prefer the second message, if those are the only two choices. But the second message is still problematic in that the underlying message continues to be that beauty is EXTREMELY important for women. So much so that in order to be empowered, we must all have it.

Ask yourself this: How would you feel about a campaign to convince men that every man is handsome? It is absurd, right? Because men are expected to go on about their lives whether they are handsome or not. Being handsome is not required.

I do not feel empowered by being told that I am beautiful; I feel suffocated by it. I feel that I cannot go through one day without hearing about beauty and how I must find a way to embrace it in myself. Yet I have come to realize that I simply do not want to.

I don’t find my appearance all that interesting to think about. Certainly I have gone through various stages or insecurity, rebellion and conformity. I have tried to enhance my socially desirable physical traits and minimize those parts that are wrong, wrong wrong according to the ideal. I have told myself in the mirror that I am beautiful but it never felt right.

The truth is that I am not beautiful. I am not hideous. I am an unremarkable looking woman. I make the bare minimum effort to look presentable for my job and would do even less if I could.

For a woman to say “I am not beautiful and I am fine with that,” is the ultimate rebellion in my book. Because when people hear that, they hear “I am unworthy and unlovable.” Because when people hear that a woman does not find herself beautiful they believe it means the woman is depressed and has low self-esteem. Because beauty is so important that nothing else you think about yourself matters unless you are also beautiful.

I am smart. I am hilarious. I am clever. I am creative. I have innate artistic talent. I am caring. I am compassionate. I am successful. I am independent. I am empathetic. I am out-spoken. I am confident. I am loveable. I am a good friend. I’m an all-around pretty fucking awesome person.

I can be all of those things. But if I say I am not beautiful, I have low self-esteem because clearly a woman’s self-worth comes from her feelings about her appearance.

I don’t spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, but when I do I do not negatively judge myself. There I am. That’s me. That’s what I look like. Do I have spinach in my teeth? No? Ok good. I do not berate myself for “flaws” but neither do I swoon over my own image.

And I am in a long term relationship with a man who finds me sexy. I don’t care if anyone else finds me  sexy because I am not trying to have sex with anyone else. Yet I cannot go one day without hearing tips about how I deserve to feel beautiful and sexy at every waking moment and it drives me crazy sometimes.

Women do not exist for the visual pleasure of others. We are unique individuals with hopes, dreams, aspirations, struggles, histories, and all the humanity of any person.

I Am Over It.

What is beauty, really? As an artist, I certainly do find things aesthetically pleasing. I find people aesthetically interesting, even if they are not beautiful. But beauty is a social construct and it has always been changing. What we find most beautiful today in our culture would be considered hideous in another place and time. Some people say beauty comes from the soul, but I think that’s bullshit. There are beautiful people who are vapid and awful inside. And there are ugly people who are saints. If everyone is beautiful, what can beauty possibly mean? What is it then, if it is not an outer appearance? It’s nothing. So can we PLEASE stop talking about it?

I would like to talk about ANYTHING else. Anything. Can we work on empowering women through our accomplishments instead?

Basically I have beauty fatigue. I am so incredibly bored by the idea of female beauty I don’t care to hear about it ever again. It either pits us against one another or we all have it, so let’s just move on to something more meaningful.

Maybe beauty is a complete farce to keep us distracted from things that matter. Instead of worrying about what’s happening in the world or your country or your government or your society, here look, Shiny Things! See how they sparkle! You want to sparkle too, right? Everyone loves to SPARKLE.
I don’t want to be a shiny thing. I want to do things.
I am worthy.
I am good enough.
I am loveable.
I am awesome.

I am not beautiful and I do not need to be.

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rant

Five Photos That Make You Feel Beautiful

This is a thing going around on Facebook right now.  One of those chain post things.  A person is tagged and they are supposed to post “five photos of yourself that make you feel beautiful” and tag 5 friends to do the same.  I’ve been tagged in this thing multiple times now.

I don’t plan to participate and here are some reasons why:

1. I don’t do chain mail.  It’s no different now than it was when it was on paper or via email, it just spreads exponentially faster now that we have social media.

2. I don’t care if I’m beautiful.  Yes, you read that right.  I am a woman who doesn’t find any pleasure or power in thinking about how beautiful I am.  Now you may be thinking that “true beauty comes from within” or some other nonsense but that’s just a load of crap to me.  There are beautiful people who look gorgeous on the outside and are hideous beasts on the inside.  They’re still going to look beautiful in a photo.  You cannot look at a photo and see someone’s “soul”.  Beauty is outward, aesthetic, ever changing, and superficial.  As women, we are taught that nothing we do matters unless we are beautiful while we do it.  I reject that.  You may be thinking “well you must be ugly then, only ugly women say beauty doesn’t matter.”  That’s fine, like I said, I don’t care what random strangers think of my appearance.

3. I spend zero time worrying about whether or not I am beautiful.  To me, looking in the mirror and telling myself how gorgeous I am is just a tiny step above looking in the mirror and thinking about how hideous I am.  Either way, it places a ton of importance on the outside package.  When I see a photo of myself, I don’t think “god I’m hideous” but I don’t think “Oh I am so beautiful!” either.  If a photo had the power to make me feel beautiful or not, I would see that as a problem not something to celebrate.  Vanity is still a vice in my book, despite what our society may be trying to tell us about the virtuousness of being obsessed with your own appearance.

4. “It is amazing how complete the delusion that beauty is goodness” – Tolstoy (one of my favorite quotes).

5. It’s sexist.  Can you imagine a viral chain FB post asking men to post five photos that make them feel handsome?  No.  It wouldn’t happen.  Why?  Because men are allowed to be things other than handsome.  They can be smart and talented and successful without also being handsome.  Their worth isn’t all tied up in whether or not they feel handsome.  They are expected to go on about their life either way.

To me, trying to convince every woman she is beautiful is just more of the same bullshit.  Call me when there’s a viral post to show five photos that make me feel powerful or intelligent or grateful and maybe I’ll think about it.

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