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Tag Archives: feminism

30 Before 30: Go to a Live Taping

24 May

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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I’ve been wanting to do this for years! But it’s not as easy to score tickets to these shows as one might think. The tickets themselves are free and are often snatched up by tourists. Over the years, I’ve tried to get tickets to the Tonight Show, to the Daily Show, to the Colbert Report, and of course, to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. All to no avail. It seemed such a fruitless endeavor that I kind of gave up.

As far as television goes, other than the occasional Netflix binge (currently obsessed with “Jane the Virgin”), the only shows I watch on a weekly basis are “Walking Dead” and “Last Week Tonight.” But I recently added a third show to my weekly, lazy tv time: “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

I was interested by the first late night show hosted by a woman. (Really? It took till 2016 for that to happen?) But I already had my hands full with number-one-love-of-my-life-John-Oliver. I wasn’t looking for any more political satire in my life. Go women and all, but do we really need another one of these shows?

Yes, yes we do. While she tackles major issues like the presidential election and the Syrian refugee crisis, she doesn’t shy away from dedicating major chunks of her show to women’s issues. Abortion laws, fraudulent pregnancy centers, unprocessed rape kits. She makes my feminist heart pitter-patter.

So I added my name to a list of hopefuls for tickets to the show, not expecting to ever get a call. But a couple weeks later, on a Monday morning, I got a phone call from someone who works for the show. They had a bunch of cancellations and had tickets available. I dragged my friend Lauren with me, and we went to the live-taping.

It was quite unglamorous, although I didn’t expect it to be much. We sat in a holding room with about a hundred other people, until we were ushered into the studio. After 30 minutes or so, Samantha Bee came out to greet everyone and answer a couple of questions. She also introduced some personal friends she had in the audience including her father and her gynecologist. Of course she would invite her gynecologist. Of course she would.

Once the show got underway, it was a bit odd, to be cued on when to clap, and to watch most of the pre-recorded show off a screen. But I was starstruck to be in the same room as that tiny, feminist bastion of hope in her signature blazer and high heels. In between taping and setting up for the next segment, a DJ played “Bad Girls” by MIA, as Samantha Bee danced around while assistants fixed her hair. What. A. Boss.

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Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

17 May

I had written before about how I had read a book filled with essays about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legal legacy and how it was boring. This book was not. This book was a more biographical survey of Ginsburg’s life coupled with her legal legacy. I loved this book so much, I bought a t-shirt.

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The book comes from a popular Tumblr account put together by a law student, Knizhnik, along with a reporter from MSNBC, Carmon. Together they created a narrative about the amazing work Justice Ginsburg has done in her lifetime, especially in the realm of civil rights. I found myself getting choked up during various sections by how much the world has changed for women as a result of this tiny powerhouse. The fact that I am allowed, as a woman, to pursue a career and an education that interests me, is a relatively new development in American culture.

The authors also paint the picture of a complete human being that lost her mother at a young age, that faced gender discrimination, that bonded with her ideological opposite (Scalia) and sang opera with him in DC, that enjoyed a deep love with a man who was more than willing to subsume his own ambitions to help her pursue her own. She has lived a life so meaningful and robust that an autobiography of her is naturally fascinating.

The book itself is a joy to read. Full of annotated dissents to help the reader understand the legal jargon, a description of her workout routine (this octogenarian still does 20 push-ups a day!), and numerous artistic tributes to her over the years. The last couple of pages of the book talk about how to be more like the RBG, and I soaked in every word. I’m so grateful to this woman for the work she has done and hope to live a life as full as she has. I think every American with even a slice of inclination toward equality should read this book. We truly do stand on the shoulders of this tiny legal giant. An absolute hero. An absolute legend.

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her wellbeing and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

-RBG during her confirmation hearing for the position on the Supreme Court

Book Roundup #7

25 Apr

As I sat down to write this post, I came to the sobering realization that I haven’t written in a month. What on Earth have I been doing with myself? I’m not even entirely sure. Some fun things have happened which I’d like to write about in the coming days, but I guess the answer is that it’s Spring in New York, and everyone wants to hang out and do fun things. Who am I to say no? But lots of train travel has led to a lot of reading.

The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Ed. by Scott Dodson

 

RBG is legit. She’s amazing and incredible, and all American women owe her a great deal of their freedoms and opportunities to the work she has spent her life doing. I delved into RBG scholarship by reading this book of essays about her work. I read the first third (the portion about the gender equality cases she championed) with gusto, but I’ll be honest I didn’t finish the rest of the book. The last two sections were about her much less sexy work, mainly her obsession with Swedish civil procedure. This book was more geared for law professionals which I am not. And this book made me realize how happy I am that I’m not.

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

After how much sleep I lost while reading “The Shining,” I decided I needed even more Stephen King twistedness in my life. In type A fashion, I googled a variety of rankings of his novels and decided “‘Salem’s Lot” was a good next step for me. It’s about vampires taking over a small town in Maine. I wasn’t too wild about it. Maybe because in the last decade, the vampire thing has been beaten to death and forever tarnished by the abysmal Twilight series. But I also think my adolescent adoration for everything “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has skewed my perception of anything vampire.

In any vampire story, rules are created. How to kill vampires, how to make them, what their abilities are. I subscribe to the Buffy rules, and I don’t stomach other worlds’ rules well. Secret fact about me: Sometimes when I’m at kickboxing class, I pretend I’m Buffy.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

My sister is a librarian and got an advanced copy of this book at a library conference that she attended. The cover was dramatic, while the title seemed benign. I was skeptical when she said she liked it, but I ended up loving it. The plot is odd. A Korean woman decides to become a vegetarian after a dream she has. It throws her whole life upside down and creates turmoil with her family. Sounds like a stupid plot, but the book was beautiful. The imagery, the hint of insanity. It was poetic, and I couldn’t put it down.

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

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Another book that my sister picked up at the library conference and worked its way through the readers in my family. It follows the investigation of a missing child through the eyes of the mother and the eyes of one of the detectives on the case. Another title that I found to be melodramatic. But the unraveling mystery was fun. Macmillan does a good job introducing suspects and revealing clues. A great, easy read.

 

 

 

30 Before 30: Watch “The African Queen”

30 Dec

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 30 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

This is the first Christmas I have ever spent in New York City. I don’t have family here, so I instead spent the day with a couple of friends. In the afternoon we went to the IFC center to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It felt like a very New York City Christmas-y thing to do, and I had only seen the movie once before, so watching it again felt new to me.

Overall, it was great. But I had one major hang-up that bothered me. The whole montage of what the world was like without George Bailey in it. Sad, horrible things. His brother is dead. His uncle is in an insane asylum. Some of his friends are homeless. But the climax of this scene is what happened to his wife, Mary, if he had never been born. She NEVER MARRIED. Tragically, she ended up a librarian instead. This is the worst fate. Worse than the dead, the insane, the destitute. God forbid a woman not marry.

I tried to enjoy the rest of the movie, but I sat stewing over Mary’s fate. Maybe she was happier not being married! She could have married Sam if she wanted to! Maybe she LOVES her library job! She’s only in her early 30’s, that does not an old maid make! These thoughts sat with me for the rest of the weekend. I understand the movie was made in a different time for women, but it wasn’t that long ago.

So Sunday night, I watched “The African Queen.” The story of a missionary (Katherine Hepburn) in Africa in the early 1900’s. The German army burns down the village where she is living whilst her preacher brother dies. She has no choice but to join up with a riverboat captain (Humphrey Bogart) to head down the river to another life. Obviously they fall in love, and what a romantic little boat ride they have. Leeches, mosquitoes, rainstorms. Somehow it is romantic though. And Hepburn’s character discovers the strength and the bravado inside herself. She comes up with a plan to navigate the boat through white water rapids, build homemade torpedoes, and ram them into a German ship in an effort to exact some revenge. She’s a fucking badass.

I loved the romance that evolves. I loved the odd couple that Hepburn and Bogart make. I loved that old-movie, quick-talking dialogue. But I kept thinking about poor old maid Mary from the “It’s a Wonderful Life” alternate universe. That Mary would have been in her mid-30s. The Hepburn character was in her mid-40s. It gave me comfort to know that old maid Mary wasn’t done for. She could still end up in Africa. She could still find love in Humphrey Bogart. And let’s face it. As much as we all love Jimmy Stewart, Bogart would be so much more fun to date and obviously be better in bed. I love Katherine Hepburn. I love how stubborn and strong and confident she played her characters. I love that during a dark time for women, she existed and she fought to play these kind of women. She was a fucking badass.

Conversations with Maya Angelou Edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot

8 Jun

mayaWhat an incredible woman. My associations with Maya Angelou where formulated in high school when, like so many others of my generation, I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I remember liking it, but like so many books forced upon me in high school, I don’t remember too much about it, or her, other than the basics. She was raised in the South during segregation, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and she had her son at the age of 16. She went on to become a symbol of Black female strength and was even named Poet Laureate during the Clinton Administration, becoming the first poet since Robert Frost to read at the presidential inauguration.

A+ for that book report. But reading these interviews about Maya Angelou made me want to re-read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and perhaps to go back and read all those other books I rushed through in high school so I could finish my Calculus homework.

I knew she was a poet and an author. I did not know that she was a playwright, a screenwriter, a director, an actress, and a dancer. That she had been nominated for Tonys and was the first black woman to write and direct her own film. She worked along Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement. Fluent in seven languages, she also was a master at cooking regional African cuisines that she learned while teaching in Ghana. All this from a woman who never went to college, who worked as a madam and a stripper. She seemed to always push forward, pick herself up and accept any challenge presented to her.

These interviews with her felt like How to Live Life 101. So much zest for living, always striving to write better, and looking for ways to influence and improve the world around her. So many gems to quote, like…

“What do you mean, do I consider myself a feminist? I am a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

or

“I want to know more- not intellectually- to know more so I can be a better human being, to be an honest, courageous, funny and loving human being. That’s what I want to be – and I blow it 86 times a day. My hope is to cut it down to 70.”

This book spans her thoughts on racism in America, the plight of white women vs. the plight of black women, motherhood, creativity, how to write, travel, and how to be happy. From page 1 to page 240, I was gripped by her unwavering love of life.

“Living life fully, fiercely, devotedly, makes you much more able to accept other people who are doing the same. All we’re trying to do is to get from birth to death. And you can’t fail. Even if you only live five minutes, you have succeeded…But it seems to me that life loves the liver.”

Phenomenal woman, indeed.

Honey/Sweetheart

13 Nov
All American Girls Professional Baseball League: Rockford Peach for Halloween

All American Girls Professional Baseball League: Rockford Peach for Halloween

Last Wednesday was the final game of the 2014 softball league I play in. The MTA conspired against me and both the trains I took to the field were running late. I showed up to the field as the first inning was starting, running to our dugout in time for my teammates to tell me that I was next up to bat. I try to stretch my arms a bit before stepping up to the plate.

I knew the team we were playing was undefeated, and since I was late I wanted a good look at what the pitcher was throwing. So I let the first ball fly past me.

“Strike 1!”

It was. But now I knew what I was looking for, that same smooth pitch over the plate. But the next ball she threw was a bit outside, and I don’t like to reach. However…

“Strike 2!”

Hmmm, didn’t agree with that, but whatever. Deep breaths, Wilson. Wait for yours.

“That bat is made for swinging, honey.” I hear from a gruff voice behind me. I turn around in horror, expecting this snide remark to have come from the opposing team. Instead I saw the elderly umpire snarling at me in a creepy smile. Furious, I try to lock back into the pitcher. She throws a ball, which again, looks a bit outside. Yet…

“Strike 3!” I was out.

I walk to the dugout and ask if I can play at second as I’m a bit ticked at the umpire and don’t want to play catcher and be in his proximity. The following inning, I did play catcher though, firmly resolved to not speak to this umpire. After two outs, one of the team’s best players comes up to bat. One strike. Two strike. Third pitch… he hits it foul. I extend my arm to my left and dive into the dirt, using my other hand to lock the ball in my mitt.

“OUT!” I hear the roar of my teammates cheering for me, and I smugly think to myself, “How’s that, honey?” But I say nothing and jump around in excitement with my teammates telling me how proud they are.

A couple of innings later, I’m back up to bat. I’m one and one at this point. After my questionable strikeout, I hit a good single. You see, I’ve been doing a lot of kickboxing lately. My body is stronger. My upper body, my core, my legs. I can feel the strength growing in them, and it feels amazing. My hitting has improved so much. I’m making good contact, and I finally finally have a wee bit of power behind my hits.

So there I am. First pitch is a little high, but I swing and miss.

“Sweetheart,” I hear behind me. “You need to step with your front foot. Step with your front foot, okay?”

I don’t turn around. I just face the pitcher and silently scream in my head. I don’t need this stranger to tell me how to bat. I don’t want him to tell me how to bat. All in all, I’m doing just fine on my own. I’ve gratefully accepted advice from friends, boyfriends, flings, first dates in the past, but all solicited, all with me starting the conversation of how I can improve my batting. This man doesn’t know me.

Finally my pitch comes. I hit it hard. I make it to first, and in a perfect yet imaginary world I hit it like Ken Griffey Jr., running to first base with bravado, looking over my shoulder to say “Don’t ever call me sweetheart again.” But in the real world, I keep my chin up and run as hard as I can focusing on making it in plenty of time.

Later at the bar, my teammates congratulate me on a good game. I tell them about the comments from the umpire, and they likewise respond with disgust. But they also claim that maybe a bit of that rage was good for me, they joke about calling me honey/sweetheart before every at bat. I laugh.

But I’d prefer they not. Unless you’re someone I’m romantically involved with or you’re my mother or a good friend comforting me in a difficult time or someone who has earned that familiarity with me in some way or another, please don’t.

Start Your Engines…

25 Feb

RuPaul”s Drag Race Season 6 – Trailer from Eduardo Roza on Vimeo.

A couple of years ago, I was spending a lazy Friday night at my friend Brian’s apartment on the Upper West Side. We were drinking Gin and Tonics and catching up on “30 Rock” on Netflix. Once we were Liz Lemoned out, he suggested we watch old episodes of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“It’s so campy and cheap and ridiculous, you’re going to love it!”

I was reluctant. I was skeptical. Brian is gay. I’m not. It wasn’t my culture, and drag queens had never interested me. Two episodes in, the show was growing on me. First, it’s hilarious. Queens insult (“read”) each other with quick-witted, smart one-liners. The competitions they were put in were over-the-top camp. Photo shoots in a wind tunnel that pulled their wigs off, getting thrown in a dunk tank. The tongue in cheek humor is unparalleled. The winner is whoever displays the most “cunning, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.” Think about that acronym.

So I became hooked. To this day, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is the only show that I look forward to, make sure to watch on a weekly basis. I’ve even gone to events in the city that feature some of the past and present queens. Over the years, I’ve begun to see the show as more than outrageous fashion and campy attitudes. Beneath all the glitter, the show has a distinct message about being yourself, and to me, it’s taught me a lot about being a woman.

Despite our equality strides, women are still not portrayed as powerful as often as they should be. When they are, it’s with a frumpy bitch overtone (see Hillary Clinton). Men dressing as women has traditionally been seen as humiliating, weak. What the drag queens do is elevate the ideals of womanhood. They are smart, creative, and tough. They are beautiful and commanding. The queens that win are the ones with the strongest personalities. Last year was Jinkx Monsoon with her vaudeville humor and flapper glamor. The year before that was Sharon Needles who has a gothic appearance and a penchant for using fake blood in her outfits. But these lady boys aren’t laughed at for dressing up as women, they are respected and admired.

We should all be that proud to be ourselves.

Book Roundup

15 Jan

Oh heavens. 2013 has not been kind to me so far. We are two weeks in, and I spent the first week bed-ridden with a nasty cold (albeit not the super-flu that’s going around) and a couple of days ago I sprained my ankle walking down stairs (no one has ever accused me of being graceful.) Hopefully this just means I’m getting disasters out of the way now in preparation for an amazing 50 remaining weeks. But despite a brief respite in California with my family when both legs were functional, and I was only suffering from a lingering cough, I have spent most of my time in bed watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and reading. Thanks to my new addiction to Good Reads (Join and be my friend!) I’ve been reading a lot of amazing books lately. I only like to recommend books that I absolutely loved, and I’m amazed that I have three to write about. In that sense, 2013 has been awesome.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Boot_jkt-330I’ve written about Cheryl Strayed before. She is one of the most honest, intuitive writers I’ve encountered in a long time. “Wild” is a memoir of her time hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She was 26, lost, confused, and simply out of ideas. So, quite ill-prepared, she decided to take a summer to hike the trail and figure her shit out.

As someone who is also 26 and likewise lost and confused, I found her hell-bent journey fascinating. She doesn’t hide or sugar-coat any of the bad decisions she made in her life, and like a lot of 20-somethings she embarked on a somewhat foolish journey. The wisdom of what she learns about herself and how she reconciles her past with her blurry future was fascinating to me. I couldn’t put it down.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Nothing_to_EnvyWow, man. North Korea is an insane place. I’m sure you already know that. We all laugh about the antics of Kim Jong-Il, but this is one of the most isolated places on Earth. We really have no way to know what’s going on in there, and they don’t know what’s going on out here!

Demick interviewed six escapees from North Korea about their lives inside. It’s mind-blowing. I read this in a day. My jaw was on the ground. It’s heart-breaking to know the immense amount of suffering going on, and the fact that the people there are so brainwashed that they think they are the lucky ones in the world. When I lived in the Czech Republic, we studied the failures of communism, but this takes it to a whole new level of failure.

How to be a Woman by Cailtlyn Moran

how-to-be-a-womanI have decided that this book should be recommended reading for most everyone. First of all, it’s a hilarious memoir of her life. Second, she makes some damn fine points about feminism and the state of women in the world today. Third, it’s not an intimidating book at all. People are TERRIFIED of the term feminism, but they really shouldn’t be. It’s quite simple, wanting women to have equal standing in the world. I read this book while I was lying in the sun in California, quietly nodding to myself and occasionally letting out a “Mmmmhmmmm” or an “Aymen!”

“What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy, and smug they might be.

Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.”

None of Your Business

1 Nov

In the time that I’ve had this blog, I have gotten less and less personal with my posts. This has been a conscious decision, as I like to keep my personal life relatively quiet. I don’t like to talk about who I’m dating, and I don’t like to talk about private matters. But this has been bothering me, and I’m trapped in my apartment because of Hurricane Sandy, and I’m bored, and I want to write about something. So this will do.

Saturday night, I went out on Halloween as an M&M. I know a lot of girls my age subscribe to the idea that Halloween is a time to wear a skimpy outfit. This sort of thing makes me wildly uncomfortable, so I opted for the green M&M look. I still wanted to look nice, so I wore bright green and black stockings and high heels. Under my costume, I had on short shorts and a tank top. I planned on coming home that night.

My costume was a complete success. Lots of compliments, lots of laughs. Around 1AM, the prospect of going back to Queens did not appeal to me. The guy I’ve been seeing lives much closer. So we arranged to meet up. We got pizza and went back to his place where I spent the night.

The next morning, we went across the street to grab bagels and coffee. I hadn’t planned on spending the night away from home. So I ended up wearing the tank top, short shorts, my heels, and his flannel shirt to the bagel shop. I felt a bit silly, and my legs were rather cold. But there was not much else to be done.

The line at the bagel shop was loooong, and he was anxious to get back in time to watch the Jets game. I told him to run across the street to the grocery store to buy coffee grounds, and I would hold our place in line and order for him if the line moved fast. He smiled, kissed me, and ran across the street. While standing in line, I noticed a couple of girls my age in line behind me. They looked at my bare legs and the cute boy that was running across the street and snickered. I told myself I was paranoid.

But I could definitely hear them whispering. And as my ears perked up, I realized that they were definitely talking about me. And I most definitely heard the uttering of the word, “slut.”

Man, did that sting. There are few words in the English language that can make a girl feel as worthless and low as that one. I tend to dress conservatively, and it’s not a word I’ve been called often in my life. But hearing it felt like a shot to the gut.

My first reaction was to brush it off. Who were these girls to judge me? They were in sweatpants and Uggs, and I had great legs and a cute boy who was going to come back my way. I also justified to myself that I really wasn’t doing anything wrong. These girls were unfairly judging me. I’ve been dating him for months. I really like him. It’s the day after Halloween, and I didn’t have anything else to wear.

But then I had the most important thought of all. NONE OF THAT SHOULD MATTER. The fact that they felt high and mighty enough to call me a slut is unacceptable. They don’t know my situation, and they shouldn’t have to. I absolutely hate that we live in a world where women are so vilified with this double standard. Boys will be boys, but girls carry the Madonna/Whore complex around with them everywhere. One of the biggest lies people in our culture believe is that women have achieved equality. We haven’t. Please, let’s all stop kidding ourselves with this.

And the worst part of this to me is that other girls were calling me this. I thought of Tina Fey’s speech in Mean Girls

Calling each other sluts and whores just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores

And that’s really the problem. It isn’t necessarily men holding women back from equality, we’re holding each other back. Every time we pick on each other for our appearance, for looking fat, for dressing scantily, we’re damning ourselves.

All I’m saying is that I want to live in a world where women don’t have to claw at each other because they feel as though they need to compete for men, social status, jobs, anything. It’s horrible. Maybe I’ve been watching a lot of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” the last couple of days, but I’d really like it if women saw other women dressed scantily and say something along the lines of “Damn, she looks fierce!” And that same woman could feel secure and proud to walk down the street, wearing what she wants to wear, without fearing the condemnation of those around her.

I don’t know why those girls felt the need to call me a slut, and I just wish it wasn’t something I heard. Can we all just not use that word anymore? Can we all just agree that it does nothing but hold us ladies down? Wear what you want to wear. Sleep with whomever you want to sleep with or don’t. And as Salt ‘N Peppa say, “Don’t keep sweatin’ what I do, cause I’m gonna be just fine.”