women

Female Fatigue

I spent all day listening to Dr. Ford’s testimony (credible and poignant) and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony (belligerent and dismissive). I have read the latest allegations and cringed at the mothers and women the GOP trotted out to declare, “boys will be boys.” I’ve absorbed the comments and heard the blustering of “how can we possibly be held accountable for our actions over 30 years ago? No one will be eligible for public office” without a shred of irony.

And I’m tired.

I’m tired of being thought of as nothing more than a uterus with legs whose only worthwhile job is having babies.

I’m tired of being dismissed as inconsequential.

I’m tired of the burden of proof being extraordinary and always on the female victim.

I’m tired of being told that if something terrible happens to me in the company of a man, it is my fault.

I’m tired of worrying that my tone, my opinions, my interactions may be distasteful for no reason other than I am a woman and stepping out of line.

I’m tired of politicians actively pursuing platforms and candidates that refuse me bodily, social, and economic autonomy in order to hold onto power.

I’m tired of being blamed for it if I do everything right and still become a victim.

I’m tired of knowing that my life, my existence matters so little to men in charge (and even those not in charge).

I’m just tired.

I thought it would be different in 2018 but it isn’t and in some ways, it feels like things have gotten worse. It may be that I’m older now and more aware.

I’m tired, but I am SO angry.

Are you?

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Politics of the Swimsuit

This morning, a 2014 piece by Jessica Turner titled Moms, Put On that Swimsuit, came across my FB feed. 

Turner’s message to mothers is good and necessary: put away your vanity and body issues & play with your kids at the beach or pool.

No quibbles there. 

My issue with the piece came when Turner started to help women – mothers only – accept their less-than-perfect bodies because the “imperfections” like a soft, stretched belly and larger thighs are the leftover evidence of pregnancy and childbirth.

Ouch. I hate articles like that because they fail to acknowledge the experience of women who build their families without the physical acts of pregnancy or childbirth. So even though I am a mother, my extra pounds are just fat? I have no justification for it according to Turner.

I’m probably reading way too much into her piece and allowing my own history to influence my reaction, but it is difficult in a society in which conversations about motherhood are dominated by the physical parts.

And what about non-mothers? The child-free? Are they supposed to have perfect bodies since they weren’t ravaged by pregnancy and childbirth?

How about we change the piece to this:

Dear women, you are beautiful and wonderful the way you are. You wear whatever you want at the beach or pool because you are a human being with dignity and deserve to be at the beach or pool regardless of appearance, parental status, income, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. You are a human being and that is what matters.

We are much anticipating leaving for our first beach vacation of the summer next weekend. It’s been a long time since I was a size 6 18-year-old who prided herself on being close to model height and weight. I weigh more than I’d like and dread seeing family and friends who knew me when – and I have no excuse for it other than food and age. But I will be rocking my Land’s End tankini with the skirt bottom and I think I will look pretty damn cute! I’ll still be the palest person on the beach, but that’s OK. I’ll slather on copious amounts of sunscreen and build sandcastles with Daniel and play in the water.

37

Today Daniel, recently intrigued by numbers and addition, asked my why I was 37.

Of course the initial answer is, “because.” I don’t know why I am 37, but I assume it’s because I was born in 1977 & 2014 minus 1977 equals 37.

37. I don’t think I managed to post anything around my birthday in early September. Age 37 puts me firmly in that late 30s/approaching 40 demographic.

In a society rapidly shifting from focusing on Baby Boomers to catering to Millennials, it is easy to feel both irrelevant and old, yet young too. Sometimes it shocks me to be 37. OLD. And then I think about how I would not have been eligible to be president until 2 years ago, so clearly age equals wisdom and experience, at least in theory.

The gray in my hair is increasing. I note every one and hope they aren’t too visible. I work with a lot of young things now, which is a change since for a long time, I was the youngest by decades at work (poor Gen X!). Sometimes I feel matronly and invisible: should someone my age worry about how she looks, dresses and is perceived? Which is silly, because I’m 37!

At the same time, I think 37 suits me better than my 20s ever did. At work, I have a weight now and I find people are more inclined to listen to me. I feel more confident and able to say what I think (within reason). It’s actually expected of me. In some of the meetings I attend, I am still one of the youngest. I also know what I do and do not want out of life as well as what is reasonably possible. Jimmy and I are talking about and planning for paying off the house and retiring in our 50s because we do NOT want to have to work. Fun topics!

Do men feel this way about age? Or do they consider themselves in their late 30s as just beginning to be seasoned, with their best years still ahead? While women start to think of themselves as old and/or unattractive on many fronts.

Maybe it’s the approaching end of my theoretical childbearing years that is influencing my mindset. Not that they hadn’t been over for me for years already (always?) but from a biological perspective, 37 is not young, nubile and fertile. And we still have those 5 frozen embryos that haunt me.

37. So old, yet so young.

Are You Down With Me?

Being of a certain age, I listen to Lithium and the 90s channel (as well as the 80s channel) on Sirius XM every day. Daniel prefers the 80s station (good boy), but I am partial to the music of MY generation, the 90s 😉 Yesterday, after I dropped him off, Naughty By Nature’s “OPP” came on the 90s channel. Ooofff.

First of all, I think everyone I knew in junior high (as it was called in my day) understood the song’s topic: infidelity. Yep, understood that at age 13. However, thanks to my participation on Twitter and overall increased awareness, I think of that song on an entirely different level now.

You’d think it would be the tacit infidelity that bothered me – and it does – but it isn’t the main irritant now. Now, I bristle at the perception of women. The lines:

That wasn’t the thing it must have been the way she hit the ceiling
‘Cos after that she kept on coming back and catchin’ feelings

Oh, man. That line, that shit bothers me now in a way it never did at age 13. Really? You are saying you are soooo awesome in bed that she forgets all of her morals and wants to hit it all the time? Isn’t that impressive. And unbelievable.

The truth is that you aren’t all that. No one is all that. And hearing such an overtly sexist line pisses me off. I’m not naive; I know many, many songs from a variety of genres contain similar lines. And I know the line is the equivalent of guys bragging in the locker room, a bonding tactic. But it rankles this feminist because I know on some level, it reflects their beliefs about women. And I am trying hard to raise a son who isn’t like that in a difficult, challenging world.

I want to say more, but the truth is that my husband sliced a good bit off of his thumb tonight (slicing low-carb zucchini pasta for me) and journeyed to urgent care, leaving me to hold down the fort. This feminist is worried about her man and also keeping an ear out for her little boy who is slowly slumbering. It’s been a long day. Long week.

Ugh.

What song has been ruined for you in adulthood?

The Converse of Being Cassandra

Late Wednesday afternoon, I had the follow-up meeting for the Tuesday meeting that prompted my post that day.  I was dreading it, frankly, because it was coming at the end of a day full of meetings that would have the miniature of Munch’s The Scream that resides in my brain, well, screaming all day.

To my relief (and surprise), the meeting went well.  I laid out my case. I advocated. I espoused. I had support from other coworkers. I also may have been a tad too fearless in a few things I said.

But as we left the meeting, it appeared that my point of view had won the day.  I forgot how it feels when you are listened to, when  you win a debate: you feel like a fucking rock star.  I walked out of the building exhilarated, pleased and relieved. I know that winning a debate does not guarantee the changes I want, but it was wonderful to feel like logic and reason had won the day.

The sad part is that within 20 minutes of the end of the meeting, I was worrying that maybe I had been too strong. Maybe I shouldn’t have said one or two things. Sometimes the problem with being a truth teller is that you don’t know when to shut up. A nice girl wouldn’t act that way. A good employee would be more diplomatic.

I also fear that it wasn’t fact and reason but emotion that won the day. Does that matter? A victory is a victory, right? Well, I prefer to have people come around to my way of thinking because it’s the right thing to do, not because they want to appease me. I want my coworkers to understand that I take the stands I do for the good of the organization, not because it’s what KeAnne wants to do.

I received some great advice to my last post. I’m going to try harder to pick my battles. But what do you do when everything is a battle?

Cassandra Syndrome

I have a reputation at work: the truth teller. If I were Native American, I might be called “she-who-reveals-the-elephant-in-the-room.” I think that this reputation, this quality is perceived positively, and I’m expected to speak up and say what others are thinking but won’t say.

I worry about it, though. I worry that I’m speaking too much, too loudly. My voice is too strident. I’m too forceful. I worry that coworkers are secretly rolling their eyes at me and exchanging glances. I worry the prevailing thought is, “There goes KeAnne on her soap box again.”

I wish I could be silent. I wish I could wait until I was asked my opinion, but I can’t. The words bubble up inside me and practically explode from my mouth, spewing over everyone.  I’m compelled to say what I’m thinking. I go to a lot of meetings and in each one, I tell myself I’m going to sit and be quiet. Detach.  Be thoughtful. Pensive.

And then I wonder if I feel that way because I’m a woman. If I would feel differently if I were a man.

The downside of being a truth teller is frustration when you tell the truth, and it is ignored. I’ve always identified with Cassandra, able to predict the future and tell truths but cursed to be ignored. Cassandra watched her world fall apart around her because no one believed her predictions about the destruction of Troy.

I have no psychic ability (to my disappointment), nor am I dealing with events as catastrophic as the ones Cassandra did, but I am very, very frustrated. I find myself explaining situations, answering questions, providing information, predicting outcomes over and over and over, and it is like I am shouting into the wind. My words spin away into nothingness, never to find their target.  And the more frustrated I become, the more strident and aggressive and let’s face it, unfeminine I feel.

I feel like a traitor writing that when we’re being urged to lean in, speak up and not opt out. I want to be respected for my work and the contributions I make, the thoughts and opinions I have. I want to be a leader, a go-to person. I do not want to be a loud-mouthed bitch.

But right now, like Cassandra, I feel out of control over how I and my message are received.

What I Read on Summer Vacation

Vacation is over, and we’re back to reality and work this week.  It was a pretty good vacation overall and as relaxing as a vacation with a three-year-old can be I suppose!  No one returned sunburned, but I do have a few more freckles (unfortunately all on my arms and face and not on my legs where I could really use some color).  We ate some good food, collected some pretty shells and played in the sand and surf.  Daniel liked for us to build sand castles for him to smash; he’s not much of an empire builder at this age!

I have a confession to make.  This book accompanied me on vacation:

I know, I know.  I’ve been really conflicted about reading the book for several reasons:

  1. I refuse to ever read the Twilight series
  2. I have other books I want to read
  3. Everyone is reading it which makes me want to run the other way (petty, petty)
  4. I’m a little uncomfortable with how James is making a profit off of fan fiction.
  5. I’m not really into BDSM…not that I’ve researched it or anything
  6. My mother and her sisters read the trilogy.  Ewww.

I try hard not to be a book snob.  I enjoy a good, throbbing, pulsating historical romance novel as much as the next person.   I read chick lit.  I like supernatural fiction (once upon a time I had a book blog.  It was pre-Daniel AKA when I still had free time). I’ll read anything as long as it’s interesting. Right now I’m into parenting non-fiction like Badinter’s The Conflict.  I over-share my reading tastes with you to convince you that my hesitation to read 50 Shades is not due to any moral or intellectual arrogance.   I respect your right to read smut, even if it’s not the best-written smut (though I do wish there were more well-written smut).

All of the commentary on Twitter and blogs piqued my interest and finally wore me down.  If there were a 50 Shades cultural zeitgeist going on, I was curious to see what it was about and whether it was as sexy, as ridiculous and as poorly written as I had heard.   My mother offered to lend me her copy but just…no…so Jimmy bought it for me when he shopped for beach stuff before our trip.

Because I’m a bit ashamed of myself for letting my curiosity get the better of me, I’m trying to remain a little detached from the book.  So far, I think Christian Grey is kind of hot in the way only extremely flawed, brilliant billionaires can be. He’s got a few screws loose, but I can see the attraction.  Ana, on the other hand, I cannot stand.  She’s weak and vapid and unbelievable as a modern-day college student. As an English major, I am offended by her blandness though I’m guessing James is going for the stereotype of the repressed lit major (or librarian) who lives in books and who needs a kinky sex fiend to initiate her into adulthood and the real world.   Or an old-fashioned bildungsroman using sex as the catalyst.. I’m also seeing just a hint of the theme of the reformed rake: the love of a good woman will turn Christan Grey around and fill all the holes inside him that his BDSM Room of Horror cannot. I want to say that Ana doesn’t deserve Christian Grey and all that hotness but when I remember his need to dominate and control, I conclude that they deserve each other.  I’m only halfway through the book, so we’ll see if my opinion changes.

I have another confession: I’ve started reading fan fiction.

It turns out that there is a flourishing fan fiction community for one of my favorite childhood series: Trixie Belden (yes, Katie, you may roll your eyes now).  I had stumbled across some Trixie Belden fan fiction many years ago, but it was poorly organized and there wasn’t a lot of it.  When I went to FanFiction.net, I was thrilled to discover over 100 Trixie Belden stories with more being added every day.  Other Trixie Belden fan fiction sites from the past had become better organized too.  I started reading and was hooked.  Sure, some of the stories sucked and the writing was laughable, but I found a few really good stories that maintained the characters’ personalities with great new plots.  I realized quickly, though, that the stories I gravitated to the most eagerly were the ones that dealt with the romance between Trixie and Jim, a romance briefly alluded to and then downplayed in the series (because they were young teenagers).  Clearly, we Trixie lovers wanted to see adult (or older teens) Trixie and Jim get together.

After I devoured story after story, I realized that many of the, ah, most satisfying stories about their romance turned Trixie into a stereotypical romance novel heroine: naive, sweet, gorgeous, insecure and unsullied. She was something to be obtained and owned.  Story after story made reference to her belonging to Jim, claimed by him from an early age. I was really bothered by this realization because that’s not the Trixie I knew and loved from the series.  Unlike Nancy Drew, Trixie is imperfect.  She is impulsive and impatient.  She jumps to the wrong conclusions.  She isn’t a great student (I sucked at math too).  Her family isn’t wealthy.  She is spunky and longs to open her own detective agency when she grows up.  She’s a tomboy.  I never liked the chilly, perfect Nancy Drew, but I adored Trixie and identified with her.  She was so real and believable, she jumped off the page.

These stories turned her into Ana. And I liked them (a lot) even though the back of my mind was screaming that the Trixie in those stories shares only superficial details with the Trixie I knew from the series.  Over the weekend, I read Mel’s post 50 Shades of Grey Depression and Your Sex Life and everything sort of clicked.  Sometimes a carrot is just a carrot, and sometimes it’s fun to read a romance novel or erotic fiction for the, er, pleasure of it, but when you start to think about the characters that populate them and their relationships, it is shocking.  I in no way, shape or form would want to be Ana before or after Christian.  Or the sweet, naive Trixie who has managed to turn into a gorgeous Barbie but is nothing more than a vessel for overprotective Jim’s love and no-longer-honorable lust.  But some women might.

I know…it’s just a book.  It’s just fan fiction.  No need to take it so seriously, right?  But. Other than the obvious titillating (heh) nature of these stories, why do they always involve unequal relationships between over-protective men and objectified women? And I’ve read enough of them to know it’s the case. What does this say about us as women? Do we really want to be submissive?  Is it a way of dealing with the stresses of being a modern woman? Is there an allure in being powerless?  Dear God, does Katie Roiphe have a point with which I agree?

For what it’s worth, the Trixie fan fiction trilogy (yes, trilogy.  I’ve got it bad) I enjoyed the most was the one that had a confident, sexy Trixie tell over-protective Jim to shove it and in which they both had to work through their various issues in order to accept each other and find love. Kind of like real life.

Have any romance novels to recommend that feature strong women and are still hot?