America’s Next Bill Clinton!


A new take on violence …

It certainly took a lot of time to deconstruct, but I think I can safely say that I’ve come up with the conclusion that violence – no matter how justified, is not a trait belonging to the feminist movement – and that just as we speak out against domestic violence, we must also speak out against all other forms of violence.

I write this because my journey to feminism hasn’t been an easy one – it’s been filled with trials and tribulations – particularly dealing with my tendencies to display violent toward those who I deem misogynistic.

But said thoughts and actions, no matter how well intentioned, still reeked of the patriarchy. As feminism asks males to give up our privileges, we too, must also give up the things that we hold closest to. For me, it was the ability to prove to others that I can overpower them, and can render them powerless.

This idea of masculinity, then, is also a social construct. Just as we are socially constructed to believe men and women ought to behave a certain way, we are also socially constructed to believe that violence is a part of masculinity – that somehow, if one walks away from a fight, or shows a desire for peace, that one isn’t “man” enough.

I was ready to give up other privileges, but somehow, I was still reluctant to give up violence. Somehow, for me, to give up violence meant to give up a part of me – that to give up violence, I would no longer be a man, but rather, an “other.”

To truly give up privileges means we should give up the privileges we are uncomfortable with giving up – not just those we feel like giving up. For me, violence was one of those privileges I did not want to give up. I’ve come to realize that feminism is not meant to make us comfortable. It’s meant to challenge us – the way we think and the way we behave.

Consider this: in speaking out against misogynistic actions and the objectifications of women, we are speaking out against social constructs of what it means to be men. To be consistent with ourselves, we must, too, give up violence.

We have to acknowlege that we are affected by the Hollywood version of what it means to be a human being – what it means to be tough – and what it means to be a man. For most, this means embracing violence.

Just as social constructs have affected women negatively in others ways, they also affect women through violence. By my mere actions of embracing violence, I am sending the message to others that, indeed, violence is acceptable. While all of the violent actions I embraced were gears toward those I believed deserved such violence, through their anti-feminist actions, what I did not realize is those violent actions in themselves, were anti-feminists.

After all, the violent actions I take will only uphold violence – by embracing violence, I only reinforced the idea of what it meant to be a man – and while I won’t be affected, such actions have a domino effect, as it further fuels the violence cycles, and the recipients of said violent actions are women and teenagers, whose minds are still impressionable, and thus the cycle of violence continues.

Being a feminist does not mean we get to pick which forms of violence to reject. The truth is all violence is bad – and by picking and choosing, not only are we being incosistent with our feminist beliefs, it also means we are upholding the very things we are fighting against.

For those who have been so patient with me in my walk closer toward feminism, thank you.

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“Are you a feminist?”

I am a journalist for the military – that’s how I make my living. Telling people’s stories is how I earn the money for feminist conferences – and to go to school.

My career has taken me places – both while I was in the military and now – where I’d written stories of young women and men being brought to a dark and hopeless place – war – that many, sadly, never returned.

I’ve written stories that touched lives and made people cry. I’ve written “fluff,” a term used in our circle to describe stories that raise morale and make people happy.

Today, perhaps, I asked the one question that made me proudest – a question that, when I was given the answer, touched me as none other ever did.

March is Women’s History Month – and in keeping with the Department of Defense’s guidelines to celebrate various months of diversity, my employers put together a panel of “successful women,” and in front of their hundreds of collogues, told the stories of how they became successful in a male dominated society.

The one-hour event culminated with a question-and-answer session from the audience. I am in the front row, studiously taking notes. Yet, to my disappointment, not a single soul mentioned the F-word in the one-hour session.

I was appalled because one woman related the following story when asked to relate a “funny” story about a woman living in a male-dominated organization.

“After I was hired, I was told that I was hired because I had the nicest legs out of all 15 candidates,” she said. The audience laughed. I was disgusted.

I raised my hand – it was, after all, a Women’s History Month panel – and to let it go by without addressing feminism – a major, if not single, contributor to the empowerment of women would be a travesty.

“How much do you think your successes are a result of feminism – and would you consider yourself a feminist?” I screamed from my front row seat.

I’ve asked a lot of tough questions in my career – and I didn’t consider this question to be tough. It should have been an easy answer.

Yet, the panel members sat there and stared back. One could almost hear a pin drop were it not for the murmurs of the audience. Apparently, I asked a controversial question.

“I’ll take the question,” said a kind woman on the panel. She is a doctor and a librarian – and we have a certain connection in that she is friends with my professors – and a member and major contributor to the Friends of Women’s Studies program at my school.

She continued: “When I went to the University of Michigan, it was at the height of the Vietnam War. I was raised at home to believe I can do anything I wanted to. I got the same things at Michigan. This was when feminism was at its early stages.

“I believe the actions, writings, commitment and passion of the early feminists opened many fields. I owe my life to feminism, and yes, I am a feminist. But I want you to know feminism isn’t just for women. Not only women should be feminists – but anyone who cares about the betterment of the world and give people opportunity can be a feminist,” she concluded.

It was beautiful. I grinned. In front of the hundreds and hundreds of military personnel, this woman had the courage to stand up and identify herself as a feminist. In front of a patriarchal society in which the word “feminism” is frowned on more than the other F word, she told the world she is a feminist.

Perhaps with her answer, the kind librarian – one who I’ve looked up to for guidance and conversations, changed a few minds. Perhaps she’s made people see that feminism isn’t about men-hating, it isn’t about not shaving your legs, and it isn’t about women taking over in a society.

It’s about women empowerment. It’s about the deconstruction of masculinity. It’s about creating a level playing field so that we may all have the same opportunity.

After the panel, I walked up to her and shook her hand. “Thank you for that answer – you made my day,” I told her.

Perhaps more than making my day, she also made history – in changing the minds of some people – those, who, for too long have had a misconception about feminism.



Elliot Spitzer, prostitutes and feminism.

Yet another politician caught red-handed; yet another media circus talking about infidelity, with “relationship experts” who give women advice of how to “keep their men”; yet, another case of a high-profiled sex worker being harassed day and night because of “weakness” of a politician. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that in cases like these, sex workers are treated like freak shows. Their personal lives at probed; the media camps outside of their homes for days at a time; their pictures splattered all over the Internet. Yet, the focus of the issue, the talk of the town, isn’t about her. It’s not about her plight. It’s about the impact this has on politics.

The issues the matter to people are not Kristen, whose service Elliot Spitzer sought, but rather, Spitzer himself. 

There will be discussions about Spitzer’s hypocrisies; there will be dialogue but how this has an effect on progressive politics; and Republicans and back-stabbing Democrats alike will ask for his resignation. The Republicans will call for Spitzer’s resignation because having sex outside of marriage, with a sex worker, at that, is “immoral.”

Yet, they don’t realize the immoral thing here is to ignore the dialogue about sex workers, and what brought them to become high-priced prostitutes. There is a victim to every story. In this case, Kristen is the victim – someone who, because of the failures of an andro-centric society, became just a part of the system.

She left home at 17, became a dancer, and eventually turned into a sex worker.  Yet, her story isn’t told. The lives of sex workers aren’t explored. That politicians are exploiting the plights of the very people they’re supposed to be fighting for isn’t talked about.  

Yes, her face will be splashed across your newspapers and internet sites. She will receive millions of hits on her myspace page. She will become an instant celebrity overnight – but no matter how you slice it, the media’s treatment of her is similar to the treatment of an object – a show. She’s something to be taken pictures of, examined and probed. Her story will never be told. Her voice will more than likely not be heard. What questions she is asked by the media won’t be about what brought her to doing sex work, or the lives and conditions of sex workers, but rather, her interactions with Spitzer. Unimportant questions to unimportant issues.
 

Isn’t it time we change the dialogue? Isn’t it time we put women’s issues first? Isn’t it time we give voices to women – even if said woman is “just a 22-year-old prostitute?” 

When we give something a voice, we give it power; we give its stories values; we bring forth the experiences from the viewpoints of the subjugated. Let’s give this woman a voice.

Let’s tell stories from her experiences. Let’s focus on the real victim here. Until we do, until we bring her story to light, it’ll be the same old shit again. Patriarchy. Aren’t we sick and tired of that?



A sincere apology …

I know I said I won’t be posting much, but the fact is that I need to apologize. It’s been less than a week since school is back in session, and I’ve already been challenged to look at my world from a different lense. For that, I am thankful. The apology note is below.  

I feel the need to apologize to all who’ve been on this blog during the past few months. It’s all my fault.

 I am not making any excuses for it, but I will say this: I failed to see things from your perspetives and paradigms, and I am wrong for it. I wasn’t wrong because I didn’t see it, but because I refused to take the time to see it.

Instead of being critical at myself and my own belief systems, I became critical of the knowlege and claims of radical feminism. I held my “truth” and “values” as the only ones that could be correct, and as a privileged male, doing so only furthered my patriarchy. I took the advice to “listen to women” as meaning “submit to women,” while all along, it simply means to learn from women’s voices and experiences.

 In doing so, I leaned further to the other side of the line – the one that I’d been a part of all my life. In doing so, I moved further from feminism, and deeper into the patriarchy. For that, I apologize.

 The words I use and the jobs I take, while I can justify them with the way I view the world, take on a whole different meaning for women. Rather than trying to see things from women’s perspectives, I was defiant and defended my own perspective. My shots at radical feminism was based on my lack of understanding of untapped knowlege and experiences. My attack on radical feminsm was based on on the male lense, the lense of the oppressor, rather than the oppressed.

From my vantage point, I don’t see everything. I see very little because in belonging to the class that rules, rather than the one being subjugated, I DID NOT need to see a lot. I was wrong.

To truly be effective in feminism, I must not only have the values and the convictions, but also the knowlege of women’s experiences. Too often, I’ve neglected those stories and experiences when they are told to me, because in my world, individual stories are written off as meaningless. They are written off as being useless in the fight for power and control.

Know that while my convictions and values were there, my practice was not, and most of the time, it was an unconscious decision. Most of the time, it was based on my “intuition” and “instincts,” the majority of which was socially constructed based on male power.

As such, I strive to do better in the future …to share less and listen more. The paths to social activism starts with the values and convictions that all are equal, but without the knowlege of what or how to best serve women, then said values and convictions are useless.

 I am working on that knowlege and I will continue to do so. Sometimes, all I need is a dose of reality – a talking-to by a feminist mentor, for me to see what I’ve done wrong.

Perhaps that’s what scares me the most …what the hell do I do when I am out of college and there are no professors for me to call and ask the critical questions? What the hell do I do when I don’t know what’s best for women? Do my professors hold all the answers, or do individual experiences of individual women matter more? Those are the questions I am still trying to answer, and in coming back to the women’s studies program this semester, I hope to answer those questions.



Taking the time off …
January 12, 2008, 5:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yeah – class starts again on Monday, and with working and going to school from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m., this blog, as well as any un0fficial emails, take a break for a while.

Good luck to ya’ll in whatever you’re doing …



Feminist dilemma and MAXIM-like magazines.
January 11, 2008, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Feminism, feminist, journalism, men's magazine, objectification, rape, third-wave feminism
I have a dilemma about feminism and the job I just got last night – and sleeping on it didn’t help any.

First of all – let’s get the first thing out of the way: I am the shit. I get out of the military in three months, and people have been scaring me left and right, telling me there are no job opportunities.

Last night, I went to a job interview with a magazine (name withheld) and about an hour into it (it was mostly of me asking THEM questions and talking about my visions), the interviewer and I went outside for a smoke break and the next thing I knew I was sitting in their editorial meetings. The job is now mine.

It pays well, and I can sustain myself, but here lies the problem: it’s a men’s magazine. Imagine it to be sort of like MAXIM or one of the other men’s magazines.

The whole staff is consisted of men, with the exception of one women; looking at their planning/dummy sheets, I became concerned because the content seems a bit objectifying of women’s bodies. That, coupled with the fact that there are articles that seem a bit patriarchal, I kind of cringed.

The lone woman on the staff, sensing my discomfort, told me that it’s okay for me to work such a job being a feminist (she found out I am a women’s studies major through introductions) and at the same time work for a men’s magazine, just as she does …

But I am still uncomfortable with the idea of making money off women’s bodies – no matter how willing these women are willing to pose for this magazine. Wouldn’t I be contributing to the objectification of women by doing this? Does it go hand-on-hand with my feminist values?

But the person who hired me has given me free range to do whatever I want – he said he isn’t attached to the content, but rather, the money made from the magazine. This gives me an opportunity to bring in feminist thoughts and philosophies to the magazine. For this month, I am doing a few article, one focusing on STDs and safer sex practices. The other on the dilemma of it being two in the morning, and the girl is drunk – but you and her have been talking, and you want to take her home, and whether it’d be the right thing to do. There are more articles I am working on, but the fact is I can sneak my feminist views into these articles.

Because of that, I feel I am justified with this job. But I am still not happy with it.

I know I am the shit and I can walk into any newspaper or magazine, just throw down my resume, talk for a few minutes, and get a job …and I don’t NEED this job, but I feel as though I can contribute to turning this magazine into a better one instead of one like MAXIM, which is clearly misogynistic.

Thoughts?



Hillary Clinton’s “break down” and an asshole …

I want to focus on Clinton’s so-called “melt down” last night and how assertions from the media – and mostly the conservatives, are that she set feminism back about 20 years.

But first, look at this video and tell me it doesn’t piss you off. If I were there, I’d kick him in the chest: http://www.breitbart.tv/html/25784.html

For those who don’t know, at a recent roundtable discussion, Senator Clinton showed emotions in talking about her visions for America, and what are, to be sure, the struggles her campaign has faced.

“This is very personal for me,” she said. “It’s not just political. It’s not just public. I see what’s happening and we have to reverse it.

“Some people think that elections are a game, it’s about who’s up or who’s down. It’s about our country and it’s about our kids’ future.

Because she somewhat teared-up during that discussion, some critics are now labelling her as “weak,” and making women seem emotional and unable to control their feelings.

She wasn’t being a “woman.” She was being a human being. She was showing the side that matters and what guys like Edwards have advocated and asked for in politics – genuine feelings. Isn’t it time we get away from corporate politics and get back to what really matters – truly loving and caring for our fellow Americans as well as our nation?

It’s funny, because I know that if Obama or Edwards broke down, there would be no talk of them being a “woman.” They would look like they’re sensitive and are in touch with their feelings – and critics would say that is the exact change America needs. But because this is Hillary Clinton, people are viewing her as a woman and not a politician. I can’t help but get a little ticked off.

I am sorry that Clinton didn’t act like “one of the boys.” I am sorry that she showed she had feelings. She is not supposed to be a man. She doesn’t want to be a man. She is a human being with emotions and with a geniune love for America – as the majority of politicians – Republicans or Democrats – do.

The bottom line is Clinton has no obligation to act “accordingly.” She is an accomplished woman who has many things to offer America – and if in the course of her campaign, she happens to show her human side, what’s wrong with that?

Furthermore – why do people write off her emotions as fake? Why not give Clinton the benefit of the doubt? Why not TRUST women? Sure, Edwards can talk about his personal life and growing up poor, and Obama can talk about his journey to finding faith, and no one finds it to be fake, but Clinton does it and they do? Why? Because she’s a woman.

I also heard something yesterday that made me frown. Someone told me that he questioned Clinton’s motives. Well, I’ll tell you her motives: she wants to make America a better place. She wants to see progress. She wants to ensure the American Dream is securely fastened in the hands of every man, woman and child.

How and why else would a person run for political office? Why else would someone have political aspiration? The majority of politicians have paid their debt to society to get where they are, while they could have taken the easy way out. Public life is not fun. Travelling to campaign is not a walk in the park – but they’re committed to doing it because they’re committed to America. Let’s give them, and in this case, Clinton, some credit, huh?

I could crawl in a hole – I could be taking the easy life at school, I could have a damn easy school schedule, and I could just turn a blind eye, but I don’t. Why? Because I care about America and believe with the right education, I have what it takes to change America. I am busting my ass to build a political future, and when I do run for office, I’ll be damned if anyone questions my “motive.”