Tag: women

On Good Girls and Sexism

Woot! I get a wave of excitement when something I write actually makes it into the blogosphere. Here’s part of a new piece I just wrote for Huffington Post, Why Do I Have to Be Nice to Everybody?

“I grew up in the South, and nurtured habits die hard. I was once grounded for saying “damn” to my sister. I wore white gloves and bonnets to Easter mass and crossed my ankles when sitting in skirts. I didn’t know what the word “horny” meant until one of my girlfriends took pity on my naïveté in eighth grade. (Sexuality is inherently tied to a woman’s value and virtue, you see).

“Even today, I wear slips under dresses and send hand-written thank you notes. I don’t discuss bodily functions in mixed company and consider it an honor to be asked for a recipe after a dinner party. I smile even if I don’t like you and am one of four people on the metro who says, “Pardon me.” In sum: I was raised a good girl.

Read on and tell me what you think!

F*#! You, Rape Culture – via Jezebel

As an undergrad I proudly served as a member of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – Rape Education Services by Peers Encouraging Conscious Thought . I sigh for the youngsters who thought that the clothing a girl wore had some correlation to her rape, and that if a woman didn’t say ‘no and really mean it’, it wasn’t rape. Oye.

Today’s article in Jezebel is worth sharing:

Fuck you, rapists. You were all over the fucking place in 2012, to the point where Barack Obama had to explain to Jay Leno that “rape is rape,” in case there was any confusion.  Repeat: the president of our country had to make time to appear on national television and reiterate that rape is always a crime.

Here’s an alphabetical list of the rape-related insanity we’ve had to put up with in 2012:

A is for rapey advertising. There is a thin line between “dark humor” and “offensive bullshit,” one which companies seem to have a hard time figuring out, especially when it comes to making light of sexual assault. Some lowlights: Belvedere promising to make the ladies “go down smoothly,” Bar Refaeli’s bizarre app, one bar’s “stay away if you’re not D for the D” ad. Advertisers: let’s reconsider the LOL-rape ads in 2012, kay?

B is for basketball players. When will we stop pretending that college athletes can’t be rapists?

C is for rape culture on college campuses. From Amherst to BU to the University of Missoula, we could write an extra-special rape alphabet listing college sexual assault scandals and the administrators who don’t take rape seriously enough.

D is for different kinds of rape. Here’s a guide, for people (and uteri) with bad decision-making skills.

E is for emergency rape. Only women who have been “emergency raped” deserve emergency contraception, Republican Linda McMahon explained last October. Thnx, Linda.

F is for rape fatigue. Sometimes there’s just no anger left. Hopefully you’re not suffering from rape fatigue yet, because we’re only on the letter “F.”

G is for God. Because sometimes He gives you the gift of rape! We wouldn’t want to be in Richard Mourdock’s house this holiday season. (Or ever, for that matter>)

H is for the Sanctity of Human Life Act. Remember that time Paul Ryan sponsored a bill that would allow rapists to stop their victims from aborting? Now you do! You’re welcome.

I is for inane rape analogies. No, having a baby out of wedlock is not just “like” getting pregnant from rape. Weren’t any of you politicians English majors?!?

J is for rape jokes. Here’s how to make a good one.

K is for Kym Worthy. The Detroit prosecutor and rape kit advocate kicks major ass. What, is this some positive news in the midst of a sea of rape-related batshittery? It is. don’t get too used to it, though; it is “Fuck You” week, after all.

L is for “legitimate” rape. Presented without comment: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” — Republican Senate Nominee Todd Akin, 2012.

M is for military rape. It’s a huge fucking issue!

N is for Nice Guys. Nice guys don’t rape, but “Nice Guys” definitely do.

O is for Obama. Who, as previously stated, told Jay Leno that “These various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me, don’t make any sense to me.” A man who understands us.

P is for Pennsylvania House Bill 2718. It’s that recent super-shitty bill that would require low-income women to prove they were raped in order to qualify for welfare. America!

Q is for questioning rape victims. It’s something we do way, wayyyy too often instead of questioning, you know, THE RAPISTS. What were you wearing? Do you have a boyfriend? Why were you out so late? Why were you by yourself? Why did you invite him back to your apartment? Why didn’t you run away screaming the second he penetrated you? Why did you text him after? Did I ask what you were wearing?

R is for Redditors. They sure do love chatting about rape.

S is for spiders. Recently, a lawyer called an 11-year-old gang rape victim “the reason” that twenty teenagers and adult men raped her, like “the spider and the fly.” More like “the child rape victim and the dickhead lawyer without a case.”

T is for Team Rape. Hey, they lost big this election season!

U is for underwear. Wouldn’t it be cool if Victoria’s Secret had a line of consent-themed panties? They don’t (duh), but here’s how one feminist group envisioned it.

V is for victim-blaming. Rape without victim-blaming (a.k.a. slut-shaming, “she was asking for it,” etc etc) is like peanut butter without moldy, rancid jelly!

W is for Wisconsin’s Roger Rivard. He once said “some girls rape easy.” And some politicians lose reelection!

X is for X-Rated. It should go without saying, but sex workers can be raped — and deserve legal protection from sexual assault — too.

Y is for YES! Say it with us! Ask him/her to say it before you initiate sex! It feels so good, we swear.

Z is for zzzzz. Is she unconscious? Here’s a bright idea: don’t fucking rape her.

In conclusion: FUCK YOU, rapists, rape apologists, and all you politicians, comedians, advertisers, lawyers, and internet commenters who think it’s soooo hard to take the time to make sure someone actually wants to do the sex with you. Fuck you guys. Fuck all of you. Consensually, that is.

Thanks, Katie J.M. Baker

4 Books to Read if you Have Ovaries

Every female has her flavor of womanhood, her ‘brand’ of femininity. There’s no one right way to be a modern woman, but we make
decisions that serve us and enslave us – for better and for worse.

After my first year of college I posed a question to my older sis that had been vexing me: “What does it mean that I like to cook and bake and play hostess? I like my room to be in order. Does that make me a bad feminist?” My wise older sister paused, replying, “No, it doesn’t mean that at all. Feminism is about choices. You absolutely can enjoy cooking and cleaning and keeping order. Feminism just means you no longer have to do those things just because you’re a girl.”

In addition to my older sister, the following four books indelibly influenced my thinking about what it means to be a woman. In different ways, they cut through societal expectations and lift the veil of structural inequality and power imbalances. But these books don’t pummel you over the head with femi-nazi rhetoric; they serve up thought-provoking ideas with humor, insights, stories from their lives and examples through their characters.

1)  Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb
Because pleated pants have nothing to do with whether he will clean up kid vomit.

Before you pick this book up know that it’s written from the perspective of a 40+ educated, single mom looking for a husband. Also, it’s not nearly as inflammatory as the title wants you to believe. Even if you don’t want marriage and a family–or don’t know if you do–this book is surprisingly insightful about women in the dating game. Taking advice from life coaches, matchmakers, friends, pop culture, and dating services, Gottlieb provides a reality check for those still waiting for a man that meets every criteria on their list of ‘ideal husband traits.’

The point: whether he wears sport socks with sandals, is balding or stands three inches shorter than you—these ‘faults’ say nothing about his quality of character or quality of life partner. I’d rename the book “Dating Smarter, not Harder – since it’s about getting everything you NEED, which may not be everything you WANT. Read this when you’re tired of meeting men at bars.

“What matters is finding the perfect partner – not the perfect person. It’s not about lowering your standards – it’s about maturing and having reasonable expectations. There’s a difference between what makes for a good boyfriend and what makes for a good husband.”

2) The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home, by Arlie Hochschild
Because running a household is work, and like any good business, the load must be negotiated and shared.

The first class I stepped into for my undergraduate education was “Sociology of the Family,” and this book served as required reading. It changed my world. Have you ever wondered why women send all the family Christmas cards and buy the birthday presents? Why Pinterest is angled at weddings and hairstyle and entertaining children? Why dads “mean fun, but moms mean business?” (Yes, that’s a quote from Honey I Shrunk the Kids).

As Hochschild points out through her work with couples and families, if you add the time it takes to do a paid job plus housework and childcare, women work roughly 15 hours longer each week than men. Over a year, they work an extra month of 24 hour days. Most women work one shift at the office and a “second shift” at home. This book isn’t about man-bashing, though; it explores the assumptions we make about who is supposed to do what in relationships. Read this when you set up a joint household.

“A twenty-six-year-old legal secretary, the mother of two and married to a businessman, said, “[My husband] empties the garbage occasionally and sweeps. That’s all. He does no cooking, no washing, no anything else. How do I feel? Furious. If our marriage ends, it will be on this issue.””
3) The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood
Because your worth isn’t determined by anyone but yourself.

While pouring out my heart to a dear friend, herself divorced and pursuing a rewarding new relationship, she recommended this book. Already a fan of Atwood’s from The Handmaid’s Tale and Year of the Flood, I was open. Atwood is largely known for the female protagonists who represent “every woman” struggling with victimization and marginalization by gender and politics.  Or, as a friend recently phrased it, “Atwood’s a pretty hard-core feminist and all-around kick-ass person.”

In The Edible Woman, a young woman gets engaged and finds that she’s unable to eat. She grows increasingly concerned that consuming food mirrors how her fiancé is consuming her identity. This book pre-dates eating disorders and the feminist movement, which makes it ring even more authentically. The plot is less of the point than how Atwood handles a young woman facing the loss of her individuality into coupledom. This isn’t a book about spiritual enlightenment or quick solutions; it’s a book to make you think. Read this when you have time to mull on it, perhaps with a glass of wine and a piece of cake.

“You’ve been trying to destroy me, haven’t you,” she said. “You’ve been trying to assimilate me. But I’ve made you a substitute, something you’ll like much better. This is what you really wanted all along, isn’t it? I’ll get you a fork,” she added.”

4) How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
Because life is too short to feel guilty about not being a perfect woman. Let’s get real.

Caitlin Moran is wicked funny and painfully, awkwardly truthful in this book. Rather than harp on the theoretical implications of modern feminism, Moran skips the arguments and says simply, “Feminism is having a vagina and wanting to be in charge of it.” Ding ding!

She manages to address the horrors of childbirth and the joys of parenting, the conundrum of naming of vaginas, and the unnecessary discomfort of women hiring domestic help – all with a deft hand and abundant use of italics. As an added bonus, you’ll learn a fair amount of confounding British slang.  A girlfriend gave me this book, and I continue to pass it forward. I wonder what amazingness would occur if every girl received this book on her 15th birthday? We could all save ourselves so much time, effort and angst! Read this book now, then give it away.

“No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it. Da Vinci, Van Gough, Newton, Faraday, Plato, Aquinas, Beethoven, Handel, Kant, Hume, Jesus. They all seem to have managed [childlessness] quite well.”

What books influenced your thinking about what it is to be a modern female?

Rending the Social Fabric

For the most part I tend to write about food and recipes and happy moments, with some ponderings on relationships and work complaints. I avoid a lot of politics and have never once had an urge to be a political figure. I live in an area of the country where politics hangs in the air; it feels like I subsist on it sometimes. The endless rhetoric and talking heads talking about nothing of substance but defending it tooth-and-nail disconcerts me.

tiny but oh, so powerful

But I read an article today and want to share it. The writing is delightful with phrases like “…a frenzied donnybrook fight…” and, “The first rule of understanding apocalyptic movements is this: If someone tells you the world is ending, believe them. Because for them, it probably is.”

It takes a wide-angle lens on what changed society in the last century, namely: the internet, landing on the moon, and effective contraception, an issue that I am a strong supporter of. “What’s the big deal with birth control?” I’ve wondered while escorting women into Planned Parenthood or signing a petition to not declare a clump of cells a ‘person.’ I am grateful to not be a single mother due to the access, cost and education that made birth control available to me. 

I recently made the mistake of sending what I considered an unbiased and informative article on the Obama Affordable Care Act Contraceptive Coverage to my (Catholic) family . That schism has yet to be breached.  (I mean, come on, data shows that 98% of sexually experienced women of child-bearing age and who identify themselves as Catholic have used a method of contraception other than natural family planning at some point in their lives.)

Why is it a big deal? Read Sara Robinson’s  perspective in her articulate piece, “Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control — And Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now.”