Feminism

I figure feminism is a good topic to get my blog started again considering that I have let it languish for so long and feminism has suddenly become a major topic for whatever reason. 

http://time.com/2861278/famous-women-feminism/

Recently famous women (and some men) are being asked if they are feminists. One would think the answer would be “Yes, duh” because aside from conservative extremists, who seriously does not think that women should have rights and equality now that it’s 2014? Apparently feminism has become a bad word now because people associate it with hating men and being a crazy bra burning weirdo.

I think it’s easy now to deny being a feminist or hold that image of feminists because we are a generation or two removed from the struggle. Women have been voting for almost one hundred years now. Women can enter the workforce. Women can wear pants everywhere. Sexual harassment is no longer the norm in a professional setting. Not understanding what women went through in the past can make the feminists of that time seem like fanatics in retrospect.

But the fight is not over, because discrimination against women has simply become more subtle and/or harder to prove (such as wage disparity). Sexual harassment still exists in the workplace, but it is not as blatant, so can be easier to be ignored or brushed off as just a joke. Women continue to be ogled or harassed by random men on the street and there’s little recourse because of the anonymity of the situation. There are plenty of men out there who still believe that women have a choice in whether or not they are raped and plenty of male law makers who are unfortunately successful in their endeavors to pass laws to control women’s bodies and limit women’s access to birth control.

Rape culture is somewhat of a spin off topic, but it is very real and I’m glad that it has also become a major topic of discussion and that women have been speaking out about how they’ve been treated, mostly by university bureaucrats, when they report rape and/or harassment.

Even the concept of “having it all” and “doing it all” is a form of sexism, because that notion assumes that women will have successful careers while continuing the typical domestic role at home.

True feminism means equality for all. It means men treating women like human beings and stepping up to fulfill traditionally female roles if the woman is pursuing other goals. Feminism is the total opposite of hating men and burning bras. It means embracing femininity while not feeling pressure to conform to any norm. It’s ok and totally possible to be a feminist and be a stay at home mom just as it’s ok to be a feminist woman with a career. The point is doing what one chooses and men supporting women in their chosen role, whatever it may be.

And men can be feminists too! (Thanks Joseph Gordon Levitt). He sums it up very well. Everyone should be who they want to be and screw traditional gender roles. I think the world would be a better place if we treated everyone as human beings first and were not so obsessed with gender and how it relates to what we’re “supposed” to be doing or how we’re “supposed” to act.

 

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Some thoughts on the death penalty

I wrote this here: http://ezkool.com/2013/05/thoughts-on-the-death-penalty-part-1/ but can’t seem to re-blog it because I’m a dummy.

The death penalty has been on my mind lately as the Jodi Arias trial (impossible to escape) nears its conclusion. Without a doubt the death penalty will be on the table for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev when he goes to trial as well. I used to believe in the death penalty for the most heinous of killers, which these two are, but I’ve come to believe that it needs to be abolished no matter how brutal the crime.

What changed my opinion was the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was a Texas man convicted and sentenced to die for the 1991 deaths of his three children in a house fire that was supposedly started by him. Evidence for arson included the burn pattern of the fire and the fact that accelerant appeared to have been used. However, an independent fire expert determined that the fire department’s analysis was flawed and there were alternate explanations for the fire appearing to be an arson. The prosecution declined to hear these arguments however, and Willingham was sentenced to death. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, dismissed any calls for Willingham’s life to be spared as anti-death penalty protests.

While Arias and Tsarnaev are certainly guilty of their crimes, for every one of them who is guilty without a doubt, there is a Cameron Todd Willingham who may have been an innocent man sentenced to die. For that reason alone the death penalty needs to be abolished. The United States is one of the only Western nations with the death penalty still on the books which is shameful. If our nation is going to protest stonings and beheadings in other nations, then we need to end “an eye for an eye” on our own soil. No innocent person should die and certainly not for political reasons or because the prosecution did not want to admit they were wrong. To have that happen is an irreversible miscarriage of justice. At least a living person who is incarcerated can work to prove their innocence and be alive if redeemed.

Before begging for her life again, Jodi Arias stated, “Death is the ultimate freedom.” No killer should be given that sort of freedom. Let Jodi Arias and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spend the rest of their natural lives alone, pondering the gravity of their crimes. Despite the fact that terrible people who showed their victims no mercy are being allowed to live, abolishing the death penalty shows mercy and gives a second chance to those who may be innocent.

My thoughts upon reading Cheerful Money by Tad Friend

This book was recommended to me several summers ago. I’ll discuss below while I’m only getting around to writing about it now. Anyway, this book is a memoir by Tad Friend (a writer for the New Yorker) about his childhood growing up in a WASP family, anecdotes about various family members, and how he came to terms as an adult with being a WASP. 

I thought I might possibly identify with this book coming from a WASPy family myself. My immediate family certainly wasn’t rich, but I grew up visiting my mom’s parents in Hanover, New Hampshire (home of Dartmouth college where my granddad went) and we spent winters in Tuckerstown, Bermuda (a home which had a walled and sunken garden. There’s a paragraph in the book in which Tad states he was embarrassed to tell an acquaintance that his family’s home in the Hamptons had a walled garden.) My mom had a pretty WASP childhood complete with exposure to drunken acquaintances of her parents as a kid, parents who were frequently away, and more “fun” stuff like trips to Barbados and Jamaica, tennis lessons, ski trips, etc. It should also be noted that we’re Mayflower descendants on my Grandma’s side. So I thought perhaps I could identify with Tad’s tale of being white, privileged and having wacky relatives.

Instead I found the book to be so terribly boring and self indulgent that I put it down and didn’t pick it up again for nearly a year. I picked it up again only because I hate to leave a book unfinished no matter how terrible it is. I wouldn’t say the book is flat out terrible. The man knows how to string sentences together and there are some amusing vignettes about various family members. A lot of it is hard to follow though as apparently WASPs have a mess of relatives and are fond of silly nicknames (things I managed to miss out on growing up) and it’s hard to tell who is who.

This entire story is also the epitome of a mundane tragedy. Most of his anecdotes are about incredibly boring situations like playing tennis, eating dinner with his family and over analyzing these situations to try to point out how they’re unique to WASPS. I can sort of see his point about white, upper class WASPs being emotionally repressed and feelings being hurt while trying to maintain social standing. But is any of that really so traumatic that it’s necessary to spend $60,000 on psychoanalysis to cope with that? He mentions that in his book and the link I added is to a book review which references that part. 

Anyone has any right to spend their money however they wish. And anyone else has the right to privately (or semi-publicly on their blog) judge them for their choices. To me throwing that much money away on what’s essentially a psuedoscience* reeks of someone who’s never had to deal with any financial struggle, never had to truly work to make ends meet, and had everything handed to them, hence just throwing a ton of money away to lay on a couch to look at inkblots and discuss how mommy didn’t hug them enough and that’s why they’re bad in bed as adults. There are portions of the book in which Tad discusses how he’s apparently an inadequate lover because he’s so emotionally repressed.

*I don’t meant to sound like Tom Cruise here. I certainly believe in psychology, psychiatry and recognize that Freud, Jung, et al made legitimate contributions to those fields. A lot of ideas put forth in psychoanalysis seems bizarre and sexist (e.g. penis envy) however and I have not heard of anyone recommending it for treating actual mental illness.

I’m saying all this as someone who has been diagnosed with clinical depression and has family members who have dealt with the same thing. There’s a huge difference between clinical depression and the feeling of “wah, wah, I don’t know what to do with my life, but at least I have plenty of money to fund it!” and Tad Friend comes across as having the latter. 

I’m also curious as to this. Is Tad Friend so narrow in his worldview that he thinks these problems are restricted only to rich, upper class whites? Did it ever occur to him that maybe people who grew up in poor, single parent, or even traditional middle class families also had distant parents but perhaps for the reason that their parents were working rather than pursuing hobbies? What about crazy relatives? Doesn’t everyone regardless of race or socioeconomic standing have a wacko in the family tree? In his book he mentions hardly ever socializing with non-WASPs as a kid, but surely he has met people from different backgrounds as an adult. 

The only conclusion I drew from this book is that he’s an empty, vapid man who’s searching for some sort of meaning in his life. Except his life is so dull he’s left searching for meaning in the most trivial of events. Perhaps that’s what we all do to some extent, but there’s no reason to write a pointless book about it (which honestly seems like a 300 page sneak brag. Refer back to the part about the walled garden, which is only one of random anecdotes that scream “Hey look at me, I’m rich but pretending not to be!”). But hey, someone published his book, so good for him!

It’s my life to wreck my own way

I read this piece by Elizabeth Wurtzel in this week’s issue of New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/elizabeth-wurtzel-on-self-help.html

It was difficult to read because I fear that I’ll find myself in the same situation except without having accomplished anything. I have a job, but it’s not my dream job and I don’t know if it’s a career job or where it’s leading me. I know not to blow all my money on frivolous things and I do finally have the ability to start saving and paying off debt, but I’m afraid of always struggling in some way, never hitting it big, and always living in obscurity enduring some sort of extended adolescence.

I wrote in my previous entry about not wanting to marry or be tied down and mentioned the flip side of not wanting to end up old and alone either. I feel like there’s no way to be completely satisfied. Perhaps fame is the answer? Beloved by an adoring audience, but not stuck with a house and a husband. That’s an unrealistic goal though. As much as I believe that hard work and persistence play a part in finding success at that level, being at the right place at the right time and simply being extremely lucky also play a huge part.

This stuck out to me while reading the article:

I got out of college and came here hoping I might make a reasonable living writing for magazines. It seemed like a crazy dream when I was in high school, something so glamorous and grand that you had to be very special to do. But then this happened and that happened, and it began to seem less ridiculous. I wrote a music column for New York after I graduated, then I did the same thing for The New Yorker, then I wrote books. I never wanted to be a millionaire or a billionaire or anything at all like that, because the happiest thing would be doing what I love. Which is how it turned out, and so it goes with talented and thoughtful people who move to places like New York and L.A. and Chicago and Austin and wherever else you take your wits these days. It isn’t just creative types, also public­-interest lawyers and public-­intellectual academics and political thinkers—collectively, the professional class. In a city, these are the people who make the place vital and fun. They work hard but still have time to try a no-­reservations restaurant on the Lower East Side or to check out the small boutiques in Nolita and help interesting young designers get off to a start. Mostly, they make six-figure incomes and somehow manage. And they are happy for the privilege.

But these are people who soon won’t exist anymore. Soon New York will be nothing but a metropolis of the very rich and those who serve them—and the lucky and desperate still hanging on. All of the fun jobs are disappearing.

She’s absolutely right. All the fun jobs are disappearing as are all the thoughtful, talented people which made New York such a vibrant city at one point. It still is vibrant, but in a different way. All anyone focuses on is money, power, success and whatever dreary, soul sucking office job they have to put up with in order to get there. I don’t want to do any of that. I want to be fun and be creative, but of course I don’t know the right people. I’m working on developing my writing and reaching out to people, but most of the time I feel very discouraged and like the girl least likely to. I suppose time will tell.

Writer’s Block

I don’t think I have writer’s block in the traditional sense. I know what I want to say, it comes out as I type and I’d like to think what I write isn’t pure crap. It’s the getting started that’s hard. And continuing. I’ll plan to write and come up with a million things I’d rather read instead, so I just waste hours reading when I could be writing something.

I forget which interview with the artist Linder Sterling this was (it wasn’t the one with Morrissey featured in Interview Magazine which was wonderful to read), but she said somewhere that being creative can’t be scheduled. Unfortunately working a day job, I have to schedule my “creativity” around that which I think is part of the problem. If only I could be one of those people living in their parents’ basements! F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise in his mother’s attic. Just kidding, having developed some life skills from living on my own will benefit me whether or not I ever do become an author.

Anyway- I actually have begun a novel I intend to complete. I just need to find something within me to give me that final push to actually do that.

Why I’ve Changed My Mind About Voting Across Party Lines

Generally speaking I think it’s dumb to blindly vote for someone simply because of their official political identification. Ideally every politician should be an individual with their own thoughts and opinions- not some robot blindly spouting their official party platform- and they should be voted for as individuals. But the Republican party has gone so far off the deep end and lost enough of its principled and moderate leaders that I can no longer think of any Republican who I would ever vote for.

I have immense respect for John Warner, a senator from Virginia who retired in 2008. He was a Republican who wasn’t afraid to step away from the party’s official beliefs and show his support for civil rights for those in a same sex relationship, gun control, a woman’s right to control her own body, ending the war in Iraq, etc. What Republicans are there now who stray from their official doctrine? Possibly Susan Collins from Maine and her fellow Maine senator Olympia Snowe. It should be noted though that Snowe is retiring at the end of her term this year due to disgust over “hyperpartisanship.” On a more local level there’s Mayor Bloomberg, but he’s an Independent now.

Speaking of Snowe, it’s possible she did not wish to be considered, but at the time (and still) I found it appalling that if John McCain wanted a female candidate for vice president why on Earth not her or Collins? Picking an unqualified nutbag like Sarah Palin was a) a disgusting way to pander to the very far right and b) could have quite possibly made some people think women in general aren’t qualified for that position. I would rather see another old white dude run than a crazy lady who could potentially make people discount other more qualified female candidates.

Thankfully I think most judged Palin as an individual, not as a woman, but it seems like the majority of the women who could potentially be president are on the Democratic side. Do all the strong Republican women either keep their mouths shut or leave like Snowe?

Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but the Republican party platform is so out of step with contemporary America and shows so little respect for women (their official platform states that abortion should be banned in all cases including rape, incest, and the health of the mother), gay people (same sex marriage is described as “an assault on society”), immigrants (making English the official language, making life for illegal immigrants so miserable they’d “self-deport”), the non-super rich (vowing to repeal the affordable health care act, refusing to pass tax cuts without additional ones for the super wealthy, etc.) and so on, that I find it hard to have any respect for someone who votes for a Republican because I find it to be an endorsement of fear of and hate for all of the groups mentioned above. Even if one votes Republican for purely economic reasons I feel it still shows a massive lack of empathy for those who are not white straight males.

Therefore, until the Republican party has a massive overhaul and realizes that the majority of the electorate is no longer comprised of white men I will never vote for a Republican candidate for any office. If the Democrats go insane and put their version of Sarah Palin up for election I suppose I’ll have to find a third party.

 

Absence and Apathy

I’ve taken a long absence from writing here. Real life and apathy have gotten in the way. I feel like I’ve been absent in a lot of ways though. Losing touch with people who I have less and less in common with, not spending as much time with those I do keep in touch with, not pursuing interests because I’m so tired. I don’t know if this is a part of getting older and becoming more focused on “adult” things like work and responsibilities or if I’m just going through a funk. Even the smallest things, like updating my address book, seem like monumental tasks. I’ve cancelled things I’d normally look forward to, like going to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I legitimately missed out on the Daily Show because of work stuff, but I could have gone to see Colbert- I just didn’t feel like waiting in line so I cancelled my reservation. Then I felt really depressed about that for some reason even though I’m not such a huge Colbert fan that I’m seriously missing out and I theoretically could go at any time.

I’m trying to be less of a hermit crab and accept invitations from people. Work makes me very anxious though and I feel like something terrible is going to happen if I’m not always available. The only moments I’ve been totally “free” are when I went to see Morrissey. I saw two shows- one at Radio City and one at Terminal 5. The cellphone was turned off then, but I was on the phone/emailing/texting pretty much the entire time before and after.

Brief interlude to discuss the Morrissey shows which I haven’t really mentioned to anyone. The first one at Radio City was excellent- the audience was a tad tepid though and I was a bit far back. Terminal 5 was a whole different planet compared to that. I got there at 10am as I’d been warned that people camped out super early to get to the front. I was number twenty-five on the list of early birds. The wait wasn’t as bad as it sounds- I met a lot of interesting people, I brought plenty of snacks so I didn’t starve, and there were places to use the bathroom. I am also immensely grateful that I was at the front almost at the barrier- not only to get to see Morrissey (and Kristeen Young, the opener who I really like) up close- but it was like a sardine can and I probably would have gotten crushed in the middle. It was very hot and everyone was pushing, pushing, pushing to get as close to the stage as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a crazier pit, even when I was in high school and went to local punk rock/metal shows. During the encore people were leaping over everyone to get onto the stage. I also got kicked in the head by a girl who had a seizure in the middle of the pit and was being passed over everyone’s heads to get to the front.

That’s pretty much the only vaguely exciting thing I’ve done, especially since I bailed on The Daily Show and Colbert. I’m never bored though. I’m thankful that I have the ability to entertain myself or at least enjoy my own company. I feel very sorry for people who are always bored, mostly because that means they’re boring people.

I am almost finished with my fruit smoothie (a snack/drink I have become obsessed with). Time to make some toast and tea! And attempt to be productive.

Going “no ‘poo.”

Not shampooing one’s hair sounds like it would be really disgusting. And for the average person it probably would be, at least temporarily. Shampoo contains chemicals which strip the scalp’s natural oils, so the scalp overcompensates by producing more oils, the hair becomes greasy if it’s unwashed, and it becomes an endless cycle that results in being stuck purchasing tons of hair products. Which is precisely why I decided to ditch the ‘poo (and conditioner and everything else).

As an aside, many cosmetics/hair product companies test on animals and I’m trying to reduce my consumption of those products to zero. As I mention in my vegan/vegetarian purchasing guide, there are a decent amount of companies out there who don’t test on animals, but I figured if there’s a completely natural alternative, why not try it?

I don’t mean that I literally don’t wash my hair. Instead of nasty chemicals I use baking soda with a rinse of vinegar. The baking soda absorbs oils and such and the vinegar acts as a conditioner making my hair smooth and shiny.

A reprise of my pink hair photo on the main page.

Hair normally undergoes a transition period of about two or so weeks where it’s super greasy from being unwashed, but the situation normally corrects itself. Frequent washings with baking soda can aid the transition period before gradually tapering off to one or two baking soda washes per week. Thankfully my hair only took about a week to adjust and I normally wear it in a pony tail anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.

An even closer look.

A closer look.

I’m now about a month and a half into this experiment. Ultimately I feel like my hair has become healthier. Less hair falls out when I rinse and comb it out (which I do every night). It feels clean and has the same amount of volume as it always did (I think my length has started to weigh it down). I recently did a henna rinse which made it feel even nicer and look more vibrant. As you can see, I’m growing my hair as long as possible and I don’t want a head full of super long, damaged hair.

Overall I’m satisfied and my total cost for hair care has been reduced to an average of around $5/mo taking the cost of the henna into account.

 

 

Here are some resources for those who are interested:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_poo

http://no-poo.livejournal.com/

http://simplemom.net/how-to-clean-your-hair-without-shampoo/

Google comes up with a bunch more.

Most of these resources discuss measuring amounts of baking soda and vinegar and coming up with the correct ratio of water/baking soda or water/vinegar for your hair. I’m far too lazy for all that, so I just eyeball a half cup of baking soda and mix it with water. The vinegar I just put straight on and rinse out. That probably won’t work for everyone though. I should also note that I apparently also have the ideal hair type for this kind of thing (thick and wavy). It can be harder to find the right balance with other hair types, but as humans managed without detergent-like shampoo for thousands of years, it should be do-able for everyone.

Below the Floorboards

By Stephanie Kollgaard

This opera has quite an interesting background. According to Wikipedia the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center asked several artists to develop an opera to attract a younger audience and Wainwright ended up getting the farthest with his project. He split from the Met and Lincoln Center however as he wanted it to be in French, not English. It debuted in 2009 at the Manchester International Festival in the UK with subsequent performances in London and Toronto in 2010. And now the Brooklyn Academy of Music is doing a limited run the 19th-25th.

The gist of it is an aging opera star from Paris, Regine Saint Laurent, is planning a return the stage after losing her voice in the middle of the second performance of Eleanor of Aquitaine, an opera written specifically for her. It takes place the night before Bastille Day in 1970 and her failed…

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