Nth Wave Feminism

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sacrificial Parents

Blogger buddy Elizabeth has a new post in which she writes about her choice to be childfree in a light-hearted, jokey manner, and, boy, have the commenters made my blog finger itch.  Rather than start a profanity-laced war in her comments section, I figured I'd make use of this dusty old blog instead :)

To get right to it, here's a couple of comments that piss me off:
"[W]e should respect those who are sacrificing themselves for someone else's sake. Even when they keep telling us that "we'll change our mind"."
Ew, no.  Respect is a two-way street.
"To me, the best thing about having children is having grandchildren."
Look, I get that people are half-joking when they say this, but having kids for the sake of grandkids is a risky investment and a poor return on your time.  (Also applies to any plans to have your offspring or your offspring's offspring support you in your old age.)  Maybe it'll work out, or maybe one of the following will happen: your kids don't want kids, your kids aren't able to have kids, your kids are assholes, your grandkids are assholes, your kids move far away and no-one has the money for frequent visits, or you become an asshole that your kids want nothing to do with.  (Or, your kids aren't able to support you because of ill health and crappy insurance/exploding student loans/expensive children of their own.)

Mostly, though, we need to jettison this rhetoric of "sacrifice."  If you think that our society depends on something, don't obligate people to "sacrifice themselves" to produce it.  We need to value labor, especially child-rearing, and that means paying for it.  Round up some more taxes from us childfree folks and send those parents a box!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adventures in Gender Panic: Underwear Edition

Image via. Also someone please buy me this.
"You're not choosing sides. You're choosing a style."

These words popped up on my phone right when I was about to crawl under the t-shirt shelves at the store and cry. For the first time in fifteen minutes, I exhaled.

They were from Casey (incidentally, the partner of the delightful and fabulous C in this post about Chik-Fil-A), who is also genderqueer, and who has been one of my guiding lights lately while I'm trying to figure out what I'm trying to do with myself here, what feels right. In a culture structured around the idea of two genders, that's no easy thing. Lots of people can tell you this. This is not news. And along the lines of genderqueer and trans* identities, I have it pretty easy. I'm highly educated, white, and employed. I have health care. I can shop wherever I want without risk of being thrown out or followed by store employees. I know this.

But today I needed to buy new underwear, and I had an anxiety attack about it, and I don't think that's meaningless, either. Lately I've been wearing what people typically think of as men's clothing. I really like it, I feel great in it, it works for me right now. Because lotsa people expect us all to decide on a gender and stay with it forever, there's not a wide variety of gender-neutral clothing out there, and what there is is expensive (American Apparel, for instance).

A couple of straight people asked me, when I posted about this whole thing on Facebook, what gender panic is. This feels like a good time to tell you: I guess I don't really know. It's probably different for everyone. For me, it felt like an anxiety attack (high heart rate, shallow breathing, dizzy) because I couldn't fit into binary expectations: I don't fit comfortably in Man or Woman. Someone for whom I have a great deal of affection called me a "boygirl" today and that made my heart melt. Some people probably panic when they can't discern another person's gender and call that gender panic. Most of the time, I think playing around with gender expression is fun and empowering and anyone who's known me for ten minutes knows I like subversion. But sometimes it's hard and today wiped me out. Anyway.

Recently, I've had reasons to be more self-conscious about what I'm wearing and how I'm presenting (in part because I'm dating, a scenario in which externals and legibility matter). So whether I was going to buy "girl" underwear or "boy" underwear was a big question for me, and the answer was also pretty immediately clear. To the men's section I went. I hedged around for awhile, picking up some new tank tops and checking out jeans. By the time I got to the underwear section I'd worked myself up into a panic about it, not because wearing men's underwear feels wrong to me (I've worn it before, though mostly when doing drag), but because I seem to be at something of a turning point regarding my gender expression. Casual remarks about how something about me is more femme than expected make my eyes go wide and my head spin. Someone at the restaurant where I work calling me "sir" kind of makes me giggle. But there's something about buying underwear that feels really intimate. Now it's not just about how people in the world might see me. It's also about how I see myself. Most people in the world don't get to see my underthings.*

So I texted Casey and said that buying underwear was giving me gender panic, and she sent that brilliant response that I will be using forever. I'm not picking Man. I'm picking clothes. (I also texted our very own Kyrie, who was fabulous and sympathetic as always. Love you, lady.) After a couple of texts made clear that this was going to be a bigger conversation than is easily had over text message, Casey called and we talked about how stupid it is that this is hard. This isn't hard because Casey and I and lots of our other friends are weird. We are fabulous and not a problem. It's hard because this is a sick culture that's all "WELL WHICH IS IT BOY OR GIRL?" Look, I don't know. I want to wear what I want when I want to and I want other people to also do that and then we can go get ice cream and watch Friday Night Lights.

So I bought a whole lot of stuff today, clothes that I tried on and that I liked, and I bought some "men's" underwear and I bought "women's" sunglasses and I said fuck it and bought some mouthwash because regardless of whether my gender is legible to other people or to me, I still care about my dental health.

Do any of you have shopping advice? Stores or brands you like that are comfy?

*Ask nicely.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Short Play About Why Kids Are Better Than The Rest Of Us

Hi, NWFers! SORRY I haven't been around lately. I'm going to try to do better. There is obviously a lot of stuff going on in the world that I want to talk to y'all about, but let me tell you, dissertation work + conference papers does not equal lots of free brain time for writing.

I want to tell you about this conversation I had today with a six-year-old kid. He's my friend's son, and I was babysitting. The plan was to go to a really cool trail in our town and see some alligators and then go get a happy meal or whatever. My friend C, who is also gay, went with us. So we were all in the car and heading to the trail and he was already on about lunch, asking if we could go to Chik-Fil-A.
Jess: No, because C and I are both gay and Chik-Fil-A doesn't like gay people.
Kid: What's gay people?
Jess: It means that I'm a girl who likes to go on dates with girls but not with boys.
Kid: Why does Chik-Fil-A have a problem with THAT?
Jess: Because they're not very nice.
Kid: ... But they give me free refills on my soda?
Jess: Well, sometimes you can't tell whether people are nice based on what they give you.
Kid: Okay. Just, can we go to McDonald's or something so I can still get a toy?


But seriously, humans? Stop eating at Chik-Fil-A. Even though someday somebody's gonna make you wanna gobble up a waffle fry, just love your queer friends more, k?

Image via.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Doors and Suitcases

So, I started the new job, it sucks, whoops.  I'm back on the job market (wish me luck), but in the meantime I've got plenty of grossness to tell you about!

For instance: I fly to Jacksonville weekly now.  As you may already know, Jacksonville is definitely more Deep South-y than Gainesville, which means (among other things, like grits in the cafeteria) plenty of men awkwardly scooting behind me and wresting the door from my grip instead of just walking through like a polite human being.

Just today, on my flight home, a fellow passenger grabbed my suitcase and went to stow it overhead for me.  Slightly irked that he did so without asking, and, at the end of my weekly trip, very tired of people carrying my stuff for me, I kept my grip and said, "no, that's all right."  You guys.  He ignored me and kept pulling on my suitcase.  In what world is this ok?

After a, "DUDE, I've got it," he finally let go, making a big show about how unreasonable I was being.  See, this is why I hate chivalry: it's often just a facade for rampant assholery.  Maybe he got a kick out of playing the role, maybe it was some sort of "Gift of Fear"-type boundary-testing.  What it wasn't was being considerate of others, since the other in this case was clearly resisting.

When you think about it, chivalry basically consists of a bunch of one-way favors.  The exchange of favors builds good-will and social ties and all that good stuff; I suspect a cultural standard of men doing these favors for women, but not vice versa, arises from the desire to build a sense of gratitude -- and, I don't know, maybe feeling beholden? -- to men on the part of women.  That's not nice; that's actually kind of evil.

And it's not like I'm saying you can't hold a door for anyone, dudes.  But if you're making a big show of it (or trying to yank someone's stuff out of their hands), I bet your motivations are suspect.  That's all.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Some Queer Things I've Liked Lately

So I'm trying to post more regularly, but long ranty and over-researched posts aren't going to happen too often. So today you're going to get some things I like that you might've missed. Feel free to add your own recent faves to the list in the comments!

First: Nic Bravo's "You Can Get It: A Queer Ladies' Field Guide to Fucking Nic Bravo."
Nic, as alert readers will already know, is one of my very best friends in the whole world. She's great at talking about sex (which, as much as Republicans would like to argue otherwise, is something a lot of people have/think about/talk about - thought not everyone, of course, and I don't want to reify the idea that all people are into partnered sex or any kind of sex at all), consent, communication, and not slut shaming. This is a great, great example of how to talk about sex, and if you know Nic and you think she's cute (she is!) give her a call sometime. You should also read her whole blog, "Stick up for yourself, son." She's a great great writer.

For other queer history nerds, my dear friend Casey pointed me to Fuck Yeah, Queer Vintage. It's beautiful and really good at the inclusivity/diversity thing. Also on the history tip, here are some black lesbian elders telling their pre-Stonewall stories.

Audre Lorde is one of my favorite people, and you can go here to hear her read a poem and read some stuff!

I love a lot of stuff on Radically Queer, so read the whole thing, but I especially liked this piece, "Do Feminist Dating Messages Apply to Queer Dating?"

Friend Mallory sent me this, on the importance of gay mentors in higher education. I have some outstanding queer mentors, although most of mine are at other universities.

Speaking of queer mentors, Catherine Lugg, who is not really my mentor but is someone I admire greatly, and who is faculty at Rutgers, has this fantastic blog, Thinking Queerly.

What've you been reading lately that you'd like to share? I need things to read when I'm procrastinating from paper-grading!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Semi-Guest Post: Gay Agenda at Toys R Us

Hello, faithful Nth Wavers! Thanks to the continuing ridiculousness of my schedule, I'm still having trouble finding time to write. I will find a way to resolve this, but in the meantime, I pounced on a Facebook post from Alert Reader Andrew, who lays into the bigotry of One Million Moms and their rampage against Toys R Us for allowing something gay to happen in the proximity of their stores. I'm gonna give y'all some background and then let Andrew take it from there, k?

One Million Moms, for those who don't know, are a bunch of hate-filled parents who are terrified of all things queer and also of having conversations with their kids. I'm not gonna link to their site here, because I trust you can all use Google if you really need to know and I'm not into giving them more hits. They're upset because Toys R Us is carrying Archie comments, and Archie has a gay character who got gay married to his gay partner.

Andrew leads with this quote from that story (what's to follow is from him):
Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary.
Ah, yes, the toy store, the last virgin wilderness where parents can be sure that all things their children see won't raise awkward questions...

Let's have a gander at a small sample of toys that can be seen at Toys R Us:
1) Animals devouring carcasses of other animals and leaving only the skeletons

2) Medieval siege engines with attached prison cages

3) Robbers

4) Pirates

5) Poachers

6) Armed cops arresting thieves

7) Lots of forts, cannons, and other military scenarios

8) Secret agents

So One Million Moms feels fine explaining war, conquest, pillage, theft, animal cruelty, the natural order, torture, espionage, and other things but they find it inappropriate that two men who love each other are getting married? Damn. Those are some priorities. (I'm not saying kids shouldn't learn about other things, but I don't know that it's easier to explain why Mr. Lion ate Mr. Fluffers than to explain that Steve and John love each other and are getting married.)

In the words of Archie CEO:

We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I've said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It's an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday.

We're sorry the American Family Association/OneMillionMoms.com feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people.

Not all available at Toys R Us, but here are Play Mobil sets of questionable virtue for children.

Hi! It's Jess again! I'm interested in what parents who aren't bigots have to say about all of this, of course. And if anyone else wants to write a guest post to help a grrl out while I'm getting my act together, I'd be most appreciative. Otherwise, you're probably going to get a lot of nerdy "here's what I learned in the archives today!" posts for awhile.

Love y'all!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blogger on Hiatus

I'm preparing to take a new job in six weeks, so my blogging has ceased for now, and, depending on how the new job goes, possibly for quite a while. As a conciliatory gesture, I'd like to share with you a post by a friend of mine, about some bullshit in the music world.