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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Like a Girl.

Feminism.
It's been on my mind a lot, lately.
My mother told me at a young age that The Feminist Movement was merely a shield for Man-Haters and Loose Women to be awful. She said that women thought they were gaining freedoms by sleeping with whomever they chose and getting jobs but really they would eventually regret all that slutting around and wind up lonely spinsters. To keep me even more in fear of the Feminist Monster she told me that if I ever had sex outside of marriage I would contract cancer of the vagina and would go blind if I took Birth Control. 
Thankfully, like so many other bizarre 'life lessons' I was taught, I  took it with a grain of salt and then gleefully allowed my brain to be washed by my liberal leaning teachers as I got older.
Woo-Hoo.
To be fair...I don't think any of my teachers ever ranted about social-politics with the exception of a math teacher who said we should treat our environment with respect and not trash it. 
Gasp...what a freak!
Aye, but I digress.
Back to Feminism and well...treating Everything and Everyone with respect

Last month after ANOTHER shooting in our nation, we were reminded that some still see women as mere bodies meant to pleasure the whims of others and if they don't do so they will be killed and/or raped. Last week we got to watch some assholes on The Supreme Court throw women's reproductive rights down the crapper in the name of Relgious Freedom. 
So, as I picked up my Birth Control from the pharmacy the other day, I had a sense of gratitude that my employer will not deny my right to life saving health care and I do mean life saving. While I enjoy the benefits of pregnancy prevention, my main reason for taking birth control is so that my PMDD can be more manageable and I don't become an inconsolable and somewhat suicidal wreck once a month.
What struck me more after picking up my prescription was that I shouldn't even have to worry whether or not my employer will have a moral, I mean oppressive, objection to my right to control my body.
I pay for my insurance.
I work for it and to think women now have to consider if a job will support their rights as a human being to regulate their bodies is insane.
Do men?
It's my understanding that Viagra and Vasectomies are still covered.
So?
I'm freaking pissed off and not just about that.

Knowing that my High School student niece, despite having a life of her own and having overcome major obstacles as a child, is still expected to make food for her father and brother even though they are fully competent enough to make their own damn lunch has my heart breaking and feeling sad because I understand the mentality that has continued to thread its way not just through my family but the world at large. Being raised in a teeny tiny desert town with 3 brothers, a father raised in rural Ohio and a mother who was raised by her very Conservative Grandmother meant I would be raised to fulfill a very certain role which was assured by the very meaning of my name.
Alysa Mar'et.
According to a book my Mom read, it means 'Delicate Princess' and she reminded me of that on a regular basis.
To me it just screams 'Fluffy Flower Glitter Muck'. I thought it was dumb because I felt anything but 'delicate.'
I loved playing in the dirt, making car cities in the yard with my little brother, practicing ballet, helping my mother with chores, helping my father wash cars, playing with dolls and making forts. I don't think there was anything very unique about any of that but as I grew up I began to question why my brothers were allowed to do certain things but I was not.
I liked being a Brownie and a Girl Scout, however, I also felt like there were other things to do besides arts, crafts, double-dutch and roller skating. 
My older brothers got to play sports, cuss and go hunting.
I went to ballet 3 times a week and I loved it but I also wanted to play football, be included in camping trips and ride 4 Wheelers like my brothers.
The whole family would get together to watch and support my brother, Jon every weekend as he played football, ran track and wrestled his way to State Championships but my yearly dance recitals were only attended by my parents.
My brothers did not have to attend because well...it was 'girly'.
Ya know, boring.

When I was 10 years old my family was in a car accident that left my mother with major hip damage and also began her life long addiction to pain killers
For the rest of the family, it was expected that I would take over the cooking and cleaning. In addition, I took care of my little brother and made sure my grades never dipped below a B. If any one of those things did not happen I was often beaten with belts, wooden spoons, brooms or dragged by my hair by my mother. As we grew older, my Dad helped my brothers start their own Car Detailng Business. I wasn't allowed to participate. 
My brothers would have up to 5 cars a day to wash and detail during the weekends and would easily walk away with a few hundred dollars to put in the bank on Monday morning so by the time my older brother's got their licenses they were able to afford pretty nice cars.
Because, I wasn't allowed to work or receive an allowance, I had no money saved up when I was 16 so I got a job at a Frame Shop and was able to save enough to eventually get a car when I was 18. 
A girl doin it for herself, I guess, which was fine but a little bit annoying.

I recognize that the oppression I endured doesn't even scratch the surface of the violence, murder and educational suppression suffered by females around the world. I also know that my brothers were also told that they had certain obligations they had to fulfill. They were given jobs at very young ages, so they could establish a strong work ethic because they would be expected to be the bread winners when they grew up.
As expected, 2 of my brothers do support their families, now.
Very much so.

I also remember my older brother Jon being humiliated for crying when my oldest brother Jimmy thought it would be funny to spray the interior of a car with water after Jon had just spent 2 hours cleaning it.
Jimmy wasn't in trouble but Jon was laughed at for being a weakling.
So...it isn't too surprising that my Brother Jon, now speaks of "Men's work" with pride and doesn't consider the harm he has done to his relationship with his daughter as she resents being a shadow in his home despite accomplishing a great amount in her short life so far.
I'm angry about it.
I don't want her to resent her dad.
I want her to understand that he was raised in a family and society that fed him these stereotypes. I hope she will have compassion for his ignorance but I don't think it should be used as an excuse to hold tight to harmful beliefs that hurt humanity, in general, either.

When my brothers grew up they were praised for their athletic successes, their ability to lift heavy objects and run away faster then anybody else. I was never envious of the skill but I was envious of the praise. Despite getting straight A's and writing awards I never received the attention that my brothers did from my parents. What made me valuable wasn't my skill or achievement, it was needing to be the prettiest girl in the room. It was such a concern, that my mother "spoiled" me by gifting me with a nose job before High School. 
Hallelujah!
With fingers crossed, I think my parents hoped that their social activist of a daughter who spent her weekends volunteering for Tucson Aids Project and collecting recyclables would simmer down and make herself respectable enough to find herself a rich husband and be a trophy wife.
Me. A trophy wife. Hilarious.

It took me years to not worry about the fact that the face I saw in the mirror wasn't recognizable to me and remember that my worth was more that my appearance. I resisted the story that women were to be seen and not heard but I eventually fell into the confines of 'be pretty' and forgot my strengths and voice for many years. 
Sometimes, I still do. 
The younger and prettier ex-girlfriends of my partner still preoccupy my brain at times when I should be focusing on how to make the world a better place. My hard work, my compassion and my honesty are my strengths. My looks are nice but they won't last. However, the actions I choose can make a difference.

I am a woman raising a boy to become a person who respects everyone. 
A person who can pause and ask a woman for her time and not expect it. A person willing to listen and learn before reacting and I hope that I will raise a son who will eventually reconsider the answer he recently gave me when asked what he would do if he woke up a girl.
My boyfriend recently attended a workshop regarding violence against women. He told me of a study in which children were asked what they would do if they woke up as the opposite sex. 
The girls said things like " I would be President or a doctor."

The boys overwhelmingly said " I would kill myself."
Little boys said they would kill themselves if they woke up as girls.
If you need to stop and cry for a moment, please do because it is heart breaking.

I thought that there was no way MY son would say this. 
So, I asked him the same question.
His reply wasn't as severe as theirs but it wasn't far from it.
I'm his mother.
A single-mother who left an emotionally abusive relationship.
I work full-time, I care for him and financially support him.
I encourage him to share his emotions, to do what he likes...
He watches Spider-Man, he watches The Powerpuff Girls, he likes bugs, painting his toenails with glitter, he likes digging in the dirt and he likes helping me bake cookies. I work hard to expose him to balance, equality and kindness but yet...being born a girl still seems like the worst thing he could be.
Why?
Why? 
Why are we constantly working so hard to burn bridges that could connect us as a whole? Why is the idea that a woman being able to manage her fertility a threat even though men don't question their need to have sex, make love and just fuck for curiosities sake but women...no way should they have the same freedom.
No way!
Education. Jobs. Financial independence? Why is that a threat?
I really don't know.
I don't know why feminism is a dirty word that equally has women recoil and say " I'm not a feminist because I like men."
Maybe, feminism is too gender specific, as well.
Maybe we need a new term, then.
Could we call ourselves Compassionists?
Equalitists? 
Would that work?

I have been thinking a lot about Feminism. 
I've been thinking a lot about the fear that complicates our need to find compassion for one another and the fear that has even turned us into beings that look at our phones more than we look at one another and that saddens me.
All I can do is know that this girl will fight 'like a girl' to raise my child to love like a curious and open-hearted being.
That's all I can do but I think it's a fucking lot.




 

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