Dear Woman,

Dear Woman,

I am writing you this letter to tell you that you are enough.

You are a woman or a girl because you are one.

Not because you wear dresses or make up or high heels.

Wearing pink or lace doesn’t make you more female any more than wearing blue makes you more male.

If you prefer jeans  or mud, that doesn’t make less female either.

You are exactly as you are meant to be:

Perfectly imperfect. As we all are.

Choose lace.

Choose mud.

Choose lace and mud.

Just know that you are female, a girl, a woman not based upon the garb you choose to don.

Every person who ever put on clothes in the morning was dressing up to play a role. Maybe that role was MOM or CORPORATE MOGUL or ATHLETE. Maybe that role was CAREGIVER or COWGIRL or PRINCESS.

You define your roles. Don’t let them define you.

If I were a pirate every day and today I dressed as a princess, would that make me less of a pirate?

The same is true of our femininity.

If I am a woman every day and today I dressed as a pirate, would that make me less of a woman?

Dress up.

Dress down.

Dress the part of the role you play today. Rest assured that it is only a role and does not change who you are.

You are a girl, a woman, a female inside your heart and body, not outside of it because of your clothes.

Embrace yourself.

Love yourself.

Love,

Me

Generation M

I’ve been a little lax about posting in my Man Up and Womanly Arts categories. To be honest, it’s hard to maintain the energy needed to be that worked up about it all the time. So I throw in the towel sometimes for a while. (Obviously it has NOTHING to do with my focus challenges. At all.) Also, I have a little wiggle room because I am raising a man-cub and while there are lots of gender and gender role issues to deal with for boys, the boxes they are put in have a little more room. However, I do sometimes come across something that really needs to be shared. This is one of those things.

Generation M for Misogyny

“Another generation of women and girls is being trained to please men, to do whatever they can to not make men unhappy, to stroke men’s egos and to know their second class status and not complain about it” 

http://empowering-girls.blogspot.com/2011/08/generation-m-for-misogyny.html

“Girls today are raised around images of idealized beauty, where airbrushed perfection informs girls of the standards of beauty in our society, and it is also no accident that the words “Hot” and “Sexy” appear on almost every cover of teen magazines aimed at girls and where makeover tips are found throughout. It is against this background of idealized beauty, and the beauty industry’s insistence that girls and young women have many imperfections that this beauty industry thrives.” 

Please click through and watch the video. It’s less than six minutes.

Man Up Monday: Football

My Dear Son,

I know that you love football. I could rail against the violence and cookie cutter gender roles that so obviously are present in this sport and its portrayal in the media. I will not. I will teach you that even within this sport there are many different roles played out. There is a vital role on the team for multiple types of masculinity if we only look.

The more traditional definition of masculinity can be found in the linemen. Big and strong, they give and take the brunt of the physical force bandied about in this battle. You have your daddy’s build, a longer, leaner body type that probably won’t lend itself to the linebacker model. Perhaps you will be a running back. In this role the man is not large and built for blocking. He is more slender. He is fleet of foot. He relies upon his eyes to show him the way through the opposition to reach his goals. With help from his teammates, he is able to use his quick reflexes and agile body to navigate across this minefield to where he can coordinate his feet, hands, eyes, and mind in concert to catch the passes thrown to him.

The linchpin of a football team on the field is the quarterback. Of course, the quarterback needs physical strength and nimble feet in order to fill his role on the team. But the quarterback, more than anything else, must be smart. He needs to be able to see the bigger picture, make quick decisions, and implement those decisions into actions while in the face of adversity in the form of the players on the other team. If it is my choice, I think you will make a great quarterback one day. But none of these players would win this game without the other players.

We also must mention in our roles of masculinity the role of the coach. I hope that we remember the coach as knowledgeable leader who has played the game before and is able to show you how to play, how to maximize your talents, and how you will best be an asset to the team. Do not mistake aging for losing strength. While it is true that the coach might not run as fast as you can, he has the knowledge to see things that you can’t and choose the play that will allow for the best possible outcome.

All of these positions are legitimate, valid pictures of strength. It takes all of them to make it possible to have a good game and win at it. Remember that in many ways football is all about life, but in no way is life all about football.

 

Man Up Monday: Tough Guise and Intro

I recently watched the movie Tough Guise in my Gender and Race in Political thought class.

Here is a portion of the description from Mediaed.org where it is available for purchase. It is also available online for watching.

“While the social construction of femininity has been widely examined, the dominant role of masculinity has until recently remained largely invisible. Tough Guise is the first educational video geared toward college and high school students to systematically examine the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century.

In this innovative and wide-ranging analysis, Jackson Katz argues that widespread violence in American society, including the tragic school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and elsewhere, needs to be understood as part of an ongoing crisis in masculinity.”

Perhaps because I have a young son, I was inspired by this movie to do something to promote alternate views of what masculinity is or can be. I’m calling it Man Up Monday. I will try to post something on (hopefully all, but certainly most) Mondays dedicated to the healthy raising up of our boy children in to whole and healthy men. So, with that in mind, here is an except from another essay that I turned in in that class. It’s a 5 page letter to my son about masculinity and role models. This time I can break up the text into more manageable chunks-unlike the last one.

My Dear Son,

I love you and am enjoying watching you grow into a young man. Let me tell you that I will do my level best to keep society or family or even your Dad and I from confining you into a box that defines who you are based on some stereotype of masculinity. I promise to help you follow your dreams, whatever they might be, even if they are seemingly hyper-masculine like racecar driver and bull rider. I will help you learn to be strong in the face of adversity, not because men must be strong, but because people must be strong and persevere when we feel like giving up.

I will make every effort to show you alternate definitions of strong. In challenge to the mainstream media’s sledgehammer definition of strength, I will find role models who show you how to be strong in quieter, softer or more subtle ways. I think we may be off to a good start, given my obsession with dance shows. Male dancers are often some of the strongest athlete’s in the world, but they are so graceful at the same time that it is often overlooked. I will teach you to look at our culture’s stereotypes with a critical eye. I will show you how to “win battles” with words and knowledge. I will preach to you of Dr. King and Gandhi whose strength was not brutish and violent. Their strength came from nonviolence and peaceful ideals.

Look for Role Models in Football (his other love) next week

Robots, Seals, and Chivalry! Oh My!

Another piece written for Gender and Race Class:

I do not want to be a seal.

A Navy Seal, that is. When the movie G. I. Jane came out, I was really excited about it. I felt like, finally, we were being shown in a tough role that broke down barriers that were holding us back. Or down. My mom, on the other hand, felt that it was showing us trying to be like men. She quoted the Feminist saying from back in the day, “If you’re trying to be like men, you’re setting your sights too low.” She was a pacifist and anti-war protesting hippie. She couldn’t see why a person would want to be a Navy Seal or any other Special Forces. From where she sat, it wasn’t a worthy goal for a woman to have.

She felt the same way about Beauty Pageants. Why on Earth would you want to participate in something so contrived? In something that focuses narrowly on the looks of a woman and only slightly allows that they might have talents other than filling a bikini? In something that seems to be moving us backward instead of forward?

Neither do I want to enter a beauty pageant.

What I do want is the option of trying to be anything that I set my mind to and to know that if that is my passion, then I can do/be that.

We argued a bit about it. Eventually she came over to my side. It’s not about wanting to be that. It’s about being told that you can’t. Because you’re a woman and women can’t or shouldn’t do that.

This is what I was reminded of when our gentleman friend in class was questioning whether there isn’t some validity to gender roles and/or stereotypes. He wanted to know what’s really wrong with wanting to protect your woman. Nothing is really “wrong” with it. As long as you know that she’s not actually yours and that she wants protecting.

It is a challenge to balance our chivalric ideals with gender neutrality and equality. I understand that it can be a challenge for a man to figure out when it’s appropriate to protect and shelter a woman as our public chivalrous, gentlemanly code dictates he should and when it is chauvinistic.

My husband and I have assumed fairly traditional roles in our household. Much of that is due to our skill sets and preferences. Which I have to assume comes from how we were raised and society. He has a lot of “masculine” skills. He was raised on a ranch, joined the Marines, and then was a heavy equipment mechanic. He likes to hunt, enjoys sports and cars, competition and adventure/thrill seeking.

Most of that doesn’t particularly appeal to me. So I am happy to leave him to it. This means, for the most part, that I get to do the more domestic duties like cooking dinner and doing dishes and laundry. Of course, I have an eye toward one day being able to afford to have someone do the cleaning for us, so no one has to do them, least of all me.

Maybe we can change chivalry to include good manners toward men and women and loosen our gender roles enough to include everyone’s strengths and weaknesses without regard for gender. Maybe we can’t in our current culture. But, I hope that is not the case.

I suppose I’ll have to wait for robots to eliminate the need for humans to do many of the chores of daily living. Perhaps when we are freed from the “heavy lifting” of life we’ll be able to more readily turn our gaze to loftier goals.

 

Orlando and Gender Roles

We recently watched the movie Orlando in my Gender and Race class. This is what I wrote on the topic of gender roles for our weekly “Think Piece.” These are short papers giving our take on what we saw, discussed, or read that week.

Orlando and Gender

I found Orlando to be an interesting and odd movie. Obviously one of the main subjects was the role of women and men in society. Not just the lower status that doesn’t allow for the ownership of property and other legal inequalities for women, but also just the social expectations attached to gender roles. When Orlando was a man, he was expected to charge into the glory of battle willingly. These expectations don’t take into account the personal feelings of the individual. People who buck these stereotypes are often treated as weird or, in some places and stages in the world and history, outcast from society or persecuted legally. This was the case when Orlando was changed to a woman. Her lands were confiscated unless she had a male heir.

In my own life, I don’t recall growing up with any particular gender role expectations. I saw my mom raise me by herself. I also saw her enter into the male dominated world of the timber industry. She worked for years on tree planting crews and eventually became a sawyer there. She put up with quite a lot of teasing and ridicule in that setting for doing a “man’s job.” I say that I didn’t feel any particular gender role expectations. But, on second thought, that’s not entirely accurate. There is always the pressure to fit the beauty standards of the day. These are always much harsher for women. I read a study last year for another class about the self esteem levels of women of different sexual orientation. They compared heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women’s general levels of self esteem and found that lesbians had the highest levels overall. This isn’t surprising when you consider that heterosexual females are competing for the attentions of males who are biologically hardwired to pay more attention to physical attractiveness. This puts the onus on us to measure and compare that attractiveness against each other.

Also, some gender inequalities are so institutionalized that it’s hard to even see them. I’ve read recently that women still are paid on average approximately seventy-five cents for every dollar that a man is paid for the same job. But, it’s hard to see that because we don’t talk about finances openly. How would I know that the man working next to me is making more than I am? I can say that I didn’t feel much in the way of gender role pressure, but I think it may be like trying to explain water to a fish. It’s there, all around you, but you can’t really fathom it because you can’t see it and there isn’t anything else to compare it to. I don’t know what would have been different had I been born a boy. Would I have been more encouraged to participate in sports? I have no idea. I played basketball and was supported in that. I doubt it would have made a lot of difference in my home. In my life in society? Probably a very big difference. But I can’t see that from here.