Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"This New Year #IResolveToGain Rather Than Lose" Featured on Hashtag Feminism!

Check out my post on rethinking New Years resolutions on the brand new Hashtag Feminism website! Super excited to be a part of their important work! Join in the Twitter conversation #IResolveToGain !

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Check out my latest post on About-Face.org!

Thanks to the wonderful folks at About-Face for publishing another one of my pieces on their blog. 


Have you seen the latest Special K ad? What's your take?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I taught my first Women's Studies class & I think I passed!

A few months ago I wrote about my excitement for teaching my very first Women's Studies class this semester. I taught the last class this past week and am waiting for them to hand in their tests (yes I gave them a take-home). I have to say this was the most-rewarding thing I've done in a long time. I read the book as the students did and would go in to class energized and excited to talk about what we had read. I was able to give them a few examples from my own experience which is fun/easy for me and from what I have heard, entertaining/educational for them. I made a point to encourage them to share their experiences with the class or at least in their reading reflections if they were too shy to speak up in class about something personal.

I am proud to say that as a result of my class, one of my students signed up to major in Women's Studies and two others will be signing up to minor in it. How awesome is that?! I remember that moment when I decided to switch my major from Photography to Women's Studies. I had dreamed of being a photographer for a while but was disillusioned with the lack of classes that were offered in that program at my school. Not long after I took my first few classes of a Women's Studies course I was hooked. I can tell that many of my students had their "a ha" moments in my class. Now, I don't take all the credit, of course. The book I used, recommended by my WMST colleagues, was pretty awesome. It had some great feminist classics and also some recent pieces. I appreciated that they included the year each piece was written next to the title so the students could put them in to context.

Not long into the semester some of my students started emailing me interesting articles and videos they had found online related to women's issues. They didn't get any extra credit for this, they were just so inspired they wanted to share it with me. That for me was evidence enough that I was doing a good job because they were starting to open their eyes. My favorite quote from Gloria Steinem about feminism is "at first it will piss you off" because it is so true. Once you open your eyes and start analyzing how gender is portrayed and used to limit women and men, you get really pissed off. And then once you have the tools to express yourself you learn to pick your battles and be strategic about how you fight that oppression. I mentioned this in class several times and I think by the end of the semester they finally realized what that meant.

I told my students about how my friends reacted to/treated me when they heard I was taking Women's Studies classes and then majoring in it. My best friends were cool about it and we'd have interesting talks. Other friends who I wasn't as close with would refer to me as "The" feminist and bring up issues and challenge me on them whenever we were together at a party. It got real old but I kept up with them. They, like many others, had heard only negative stereotypes about feminism. Or, some of them being white males, felt threatened by the word "feminist" because they assumed it meant I was out to take something away from them. They weren't hostile, they were just passive aggressive. I get it. I'd like to think I handled myself ok. Poor Bill got to hear what I really thought after we left each "challenge". He was learning along with me and of course was/is so supportive. I mostly tried to use humor and "tease" those friends who would challenge me because I knew where they were coming from. Hopefully I helped them to look at the world a little differently.

The friends that I spend most of my time with now are feminists (or feminist enough) that they identify sexism if they see it when we're together or come tell me about something sexist so I don't even have to point it out anymore. It's AWESOME! I love that there are more people in my life that GET IT. It's not so lonely any more. I have to say I was SUPER lonely in my feminist bubble in the beginning. It was HARD basically getting picked on every time we were at a party. "Oh Gretchen, The Feminist is here. Everybody brace yourself!" It's not like I would even bring anything, or only a few things up. Sigh. BUT, I made it through and, like I said, I'd like to think I got through to them at least a little bit.

There was this one guy. Oh, I loved going back and forth with him. He was the "Alpha male". A "man's man" who worked out a LOT, drank protein shakes, and dreamed of going in to the military (he eventually did and I appreciate his service). I could always get a rise out of him but it was fun because he was so animated. This guy is a great story-teller. I remember laughing til I cried just listening to him tell a story about trying to take his dog to the vet and getting delayed in various ridiculous ways. I knew he was a good guy so I felt safe pushing his buttons. It was all in good fun. At least, I think so. I'm not sure if I made a difference in the way he sees the world. I doubt he'll let either one of his three sons wear anything pink but maybe he'll teach them that "no means no and drunk means no" or some other very important lesson as a result.

I had 4 guys in my class this semester. One definitely liked to challenge things we brought up in class. BUT, he also got it. I could tell from his work that he is supportive of feminist values. One of their questions in their take-home test was "Do you identify as feminist, why or why not?" I'm not going to fail them if they don't, I just want them to be able to show their critical thinking skills and that they understood what we went over in class. I'm curious to see how many say they are feminist. At the beginning of the semester only 4 or 5 raised their hands when I asked the question in class. On the last day I had about half the class raise their hands. I'd call that a success.

The sad thing about my class ending is I don't know that I'll see any of them again. I know I'll see a few for sure because they've signed up to volunteer with my office or I knew them already. I want to know their stories and see where they go in life. I want to be a fly on the wall when one of their friends or someone they meet realizes they are a feminist and challenges them on some issue. I want to see how they handle it and be there to cheer them on. I'll just have to settle for them hopefully remembering something we talked about in class and using that as an example to win an argument.

Most of all, I hope that what they learned in class gives them the courage to have confidence in themselves, call out injustice in all its forms and to go out and change the world. Maybe they'll find me on Facebook and let me know how things go. I can't wait to meet my students next semester. It will be interesting to see how that group differs from this one. A new group of eyes to open! :-)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Messed Up Music Monday: "Stay" by Florida Georgia Line

I used to be a big fan of country music. I grew up in the country so it went hand in hand with my environment. I loved me some Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, and Garth Brooks. But I eventually grew out of that as I was introduced to different genres of music. I still have a country station on my Pandora and when I flip through the radio I'll occasionally stop on the local country station to see what's new. Recently I discovered this new band called Florida Georgia Line. I had heard them mentioned on TV a few times so curiosity got me and I checked them out.

I just watched their video for "Stay" and was basically disappointed. I didn't really listen to their musical abilities, I was mostly focused on the story in the video and the lyrics. The first lines made me immediately uncomfortable. First, to the lyrics.

"I'd sell my soul just to see your face. 
And I'd break my bones just to heal your pain." 
Neither one of those things would happen or do any good for anyone. Also, committing violence against yourself is not a good way to make someone want to be with you. If you can't get someone to like you in your happy non-broken-bones-with-soul-intact state, how the heck are these two "solutions" supposed to make you any more appealing? What would be more enticing (for me anyway) would be something like "I'd check my masculine privilege at the door to get a chance to tell you how I really feel. I'd break all the stereotypes about being a 'real man' and genuinely listen to your hopes and dreams." But I'm no song writer.

"But if I told you I loved you, would it make you want to stay?
I'm sorry for the way I hurt you and making you walk away.
(I should have took the time to tell you)"
Yes, you should have taken the time to tell her you loved her on a regular basis. Everybody needs to hear that they're loved. But what would make someone want to stay is not just words, but actions. And hurting her, however that occurred, is not going to be fixed just by saying "I love you". (BTW, the song is speaking in generalities so I will do the same.) Did you cheat on her? Then no, "I love you" is not going to fix that. Did you steal money from her? Again, ILY is not going to work. Did you put her down and tell her she's worthless and then switch around to the honeymoon phase and write this song (hello red flag!)? Then again, those three little words aren't enough. The fact that you hurt someone enough to make them want to leave and they actually get in the car and go (see video), you can bet your ass ILY is not going to do the trick. Healthy communication and NOT doing things you know will hurt the one you love is the way to keep that person in your life. 

"My heart's on my sleeve, but it's turning black.
(I guess I know what it feels like it to be alone)
Without your touch I'm not gonna last.
(I know you know that I need ya just to carry on)
It feels like my walls are caving in.
(You'd always hold me before I left you hanging on)
And I'll do anything to have you here again...
There's gotta be a way, 'cause going on without you is killing me everyday."
Ok, RED FLAG, RED FLAG, RED FLAG! This is not healthy communication people. Telling someone that your life is over without them is passive aggressive and is not meant to make them feel special. It's meant to guilt them in to staying with you. And, by saying her leaving is "killing" you, you're making this her fault. Yeah, it SUCKS when someone you love leaves you. But when that happens it's time to do some self-reflection and figure out where things went wrong so you won't make the same mistake again. It's not the time to lay a guilt-trip and tell them you'll basically die without them. Not healthy, or fair for that matter. Do you want someone to be with you just because you want them to be and not because they want to be? No, not if you're a sane person. 

Let's learn some healthy relationship behaviors like communication (tell them how you feel, when things upset you, when they make you happy, and yes, that you love them if that be the case), trust (it's a two way street buddy), and support (listen to their hopes and dreams and encourage, not push, them to pursue them). Also, learn how to be independent and allow them the space to be independent as well. Your life should not depend on whether or not their in it.

Now to the video. Please watch the video here so we can be on the same page. I could point out all kinds of wrong things with this video, but I'll stick to my main points for brevity's sake: unhealthy relationship behaviors and unhealthy masculinity. He's hurt her in some kind of way that makes her want to leave him. She leaves and he texts her over and over again (kinda stalker-y) saying he can't live without her. Instead of giving her time to process and have some space to herself and to stay gone if that's what she wants, he torches his trailer, his phone and a picture of them happy together. It's sad that I have to point this out, but burning down the house is not a healthy way to express your hurt feelings. If you're feeling that bad that you want to break and burn stuff, I think it's time you sought some counseling. 

Also, she changed her mind and came back (and depending on the non-hypothetical situation could be either a good or bad thing) and he missed out because he was acting a fool. It was probably all for the best that they did not end up together in the end because he obviously has some serious emotional issues he is not dealing with. It's sad that men aren't taught that yes they have feelings and how to express those in a healthy way. This is one of the things I focus on with my two boys. I don't scold them when they cry. I hug them and tell them it's okay and ask them why they're crying and talk them through it. I validate their feelings, not shun them. It's hard to unlearn something you've been taught from day one so I don't want to teach them not to express or deal with those emotions. I want to give them the tools they need to live a healthy emotional life and have healthy relationships, romantic and otherwise. 

So, now you know why I'm disappointed with this song. The guys in Florida Georgia Line are popular right now and they're just teaching their fans, male and female, how guys should deal with a break-up. It's more of the same and it's about time we had some examples of how to handle it that don't end up with property destruction or violence for that matter. I was hoping for better and I'll continue that hope until I see it happen. 

What do you think of this song/video? Do you know of any songs that deal with a breakup in a healthy way? If so, please do share.