Wooing a feminist 101

Guest post by Nadia Morris

*This post is specific to hetero dating

Every now and then, I dip outside my cozy feminist bubble and date someone who leans a little more mainstream. Who agrees that women should have equality and autonomy, but who hasn’t really tried to deconstruct their culturally inherited expectations of gender. Who maybe hasn’t thought a lot about the subtleties in our language that are disempowering towards different groups of people. Who isn’t a misogynist by any means, but also might not know how to pronounce the word “misogynist.”

I made a little list of mainstream dating practices that are always meant in good faith but are pet peeves of mine. This isn’t meant as a rant, but as suggestions to people who want to show affection to their special lady friends without being condescending. This is a personal list, so I’m sure not everyone will agree with me. The important thing is to know your audience and ask your partner with your words!

1. Don’t call me baby

One guy I dated used to use “little” as a descriptive term a lot. When I had something on my face, he’d tell me I had a smudge of dirt on my “little chin.” When I hit my forehead on something, he would tell me he was sorry I bumped my “little head.”

Why it bothers me: I know he was just trying to be affectionate, but I found the language he used trivializing towards me. Yes, I’m on the short side, but I pride myself on my strength and athleticism. I make a living by working outside doing demanding physical labor. “Little” might be a term of endearment to some people, but I always feel like I’m being equated to a child.

What you could do instead: Cut down on words that one commonly hears as describing babies. The world “little” is the primary one, but for me I prefer it when people keep words like “adorable, “cute,” and “sweet” down to the occasional rather than the regular. If you’re trying to compliment me, I prefer language like “beautiful, delightful, awesome.” Be creative, and remember that I’m an adult.

2. Don’t get territorial about paying for everything

One time I was on my way to a hiking trail with someone I’d just started dating and we stopped to grab lunch. I was searching in the car for the wallet I had dropped. My date wanted to go inside, so he asked me “why are you bothering? You know I’m going to pay for you any way.”

Why it bothers me: No, I don’t actually know that you’re going to pay for me. I will never assume that someone is going to treat me out unless they specifically say “I’d really like to take you out to ________ tonight.” Independence works both ways—if feminism means I can have a job, be treated as an equal, make my own decisions, then I damn well am not going to assume someone is going to pay my way.

What you could do instead: I like it when people offer to pay instead of making it a mandate! Saying something like “you don’t need to find your wallet right now, I’d love to get this one,” is a great alternative. And if sometimes a woman wants to take YOU out, accept it graciously. I offer because I like you, not because I want to emasculate you.

3. Don’t make blanket assertions about gender.

“You’re not like other girls”

“You’re the first girl I’ve met who doesn’t [insert annoying habit]. ”

“You’re a girl, you should know about [insert annoying stereotype]”

Why it bothers me: I appreciate it when you’re trying to compliment me. But don’t do it by dumping on other women. If I’m awesome, it’s because I’m awesome, not because all your other options are grizzled nagging harpies. Maybe your life experience truly has included a lot of women who happen to be really difficult to get along with, but when you start talking about how “women are crazy,” that’s a huuge red flag for me.

What you could do instead: Remember that there is not some secret girl club where we get together and teach each other about hair and shoes. Tell me about your experiences with people in your past, but don’t ascribe everything to a person’s gender. Appreciate or dislike people as humans, not as spokespeople for all of man or womankind.

What about you, dear readers? Any dating pet peeves to add to the list? Why do they bother you, what do you wish people would do instead? How do you go about initiating a conversation about it with your partner? Share in the comments below!!

Related articles: Chivalry is dead, lets just be humans

Dark Girl Nude: The Spring 2014 Guide

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“They disappear like magic and become a fluid extension of her legs, as in a sketch, elongating the silhouette.”

– Christian Louboutin, shoe god

The nude shoe. It’s a shoe in  a color that comes as close as possible to blending in with your skin tone, and it’s been a hot trend for so many years that the fashion world is saying it’s a classic here to stay. From the castles of Great Britain to the streets of America , you can walk or click into virtually any shoe store and find a pair that works for you- unless you are a darker person of color.

For at least four seasons now, lighter skinned people have had easy access to an overwhelming selection of shoes in colors specifically designed to neutrally complement their skin, and they can often find such shoes in the section named “nude.” The same can’t be said for people who look like me, which has consistently frustrated my shoe shopping endeavors. The trend of labeling one color group “nude”, as if nude is not a relative color, also frustrates my brain- “nude” literally means “naked” or “skin colored” so applying it only to light beige-ish colors implies that the color of my skin isn’t actually a normal skin color. This just one of example the normalization of white skin across the fashion and personal care industries (and even the coloring crayon industry- the Crayola color we now know as “peach” used to be named “flesh.”) It also exemplifies the erasure of people of color (and black women in particular) even though we make up over one third of America’s consumer base. And the normalization of whiteness in fashion seems to be a particularly easy form of white supremacy to internalize and excuse- below you can see a black woman in the comment section of an article about nude shoes trying to use the dictionary to prove that “nude” really does just mean beige because that is the color family of white people’s skin:

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Now, can darker folks still flawlessly rock tan or beige foot gear? Absolutely. But it’s just that- wearing a tan or beige shoe as a color because it looks good with your outfit, not wearing it as a nude. And there are brown shoes out there, obviously, but very few that are designed to blend in with the shades of brown than humans  actually come in.

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These ladies are killin it with their shoe game! The shoes still aren’t “nude,” though.

So what can we darker folks do when we want a barely-there look on our feet that makes a colorful ensemble pop? When black, navy, or white just look too harsh? When we want to invest in a pair of shoes that literally goes with everything? When we want to “elongate our silhouettes?”

We can hope that shoe designers follow the lead of Louboutin and start designing nude collections with us in mind. But in the meantime, I have scoured the web for you, my friends, and I’ve got some suggestions!

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Choosing Community College

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It isn’t breaking news that college tuition for both public and private 4-year universities in America has skyrocketed in recent years. Although the 2.9% average tuition increase seen in 2013 marks the smallest annual increase in college tuition for over 30 years, the fact is tuition that is still on the rise. “Financial assistance” is available, yet the average American undergraduate student still graduates with approximately $26,000- $29,000 in debt. The job market for recent grads remains grim, literally compounding the situation.

Luckily, there is an excellent high-quality AND affordable option available at least for the first two years. I’m talking, of course, about community college.

Spock surprised

If you raised an eyebrow at the notion that community colleges provide high-quality education, read on: this post is for you. Continue reading

We the PEOPLE: Demanding Humanity through Language

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We’ve demonstrated quite a few times here at DDP that we’re particularly adamant in the belief that words matter. Language can shape how we feel about ourselves, how others perceive us, and even the tone and course of societal ideas. Language can be used to uplift individuals and communities, organize and inspire entire social movements, devastate our emotions, and yes, even as a tool for dehumanization.

Language is particularly important to social justice movements because it’s often used as one of the most insidious forms of oppression. Hurtful and oppressive language has been and is used by explicit racists, misogynists, and LGBTQIA-antagonists to assert superiority and to actively erode the will, mental health, and perceived humanity of the groups they antagonize. Thankfully the number of those people is shrinking (though can still absolutely be found, and are still a danger in our society), as is our general tolerance of the hate that they profess.

But oppressive and offensive language is commonly used by implicit oppressors as well, meaning people that say “lighten up” or “that’s just the way it is”. People who cling to biological determinism or who “don’t see race”. Everyday sexism, benevolent sexism, and microaggressions of all kinds can fall under this category. Implicit oppressors usually “don’t mean to offend or oppress” but that plausible deniability is what makes it so insidious. By not challenging the norms of an unequal society AND using language that apes or reinforces explicit oppressors we are only allowing that oppressive society to persist.

I’d like to talk now about one particular linguistic tweak that we can all make that will help us on the path to not being implicit oppressors, and that’s “people-first language”. Now, if you’re already familiar with this concept and are about to close this browser tab please stick around because I hope to also provide some nuance and complexity to the subject that you’ll appreciate! Continue reading

Five Feminist Reasons to Watch Orphan Black This Saturday

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The second season of Orphan Black premieres this Saturday on BBC America at 9 pm EST, and I am so excited that I want to tell you all about it. I think it’s the best show on TV right now, and definitely the most feminist. So here are five reasons why you should watch the season premiere on Saturday and/or mainline the first season immediately. This post contains some spoilers, but none of them are major plot points.

1. It showcases the talents of the incredible actress Tatiana Maslany.

Orphan Black is a conspiracy thriller about women who are the subjects of an illegal human cloning experiment, and have to struggle with how that affects their lives and identities. All six of the clones on screen are played by one actress, Tatiana Maslany, who makes each of the characters instantly distinguishable by her body language and speech.

Tatiana Maslany as six clones
Meet Helena, Alison, Rachel, Sarah, Katja, and Cosima.

2. It fails the Reverse Bechdel Test.

If you haven’t heard of the Bechdel Test, it’s a test of gender representation in media invented by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel. It has three criteria: a) there must be at least two women, who b) talk to each other, c) about something other than a man. Only half of all movies pass this test, most often because the female characters never talk to each other; they are defined by their relationships with men.

By contrast, female characters and their relationships with each other are so central to the story of Orphan Black that when talking with a friend I realized that Orphan Black not only passes the Bechdel Test, but fails the reverse of the Bechdel Test. We couldn’t think of a single time when two male characters talk to each other about something that isn’t a woman.

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Another Gosh-Darned Shaving Post

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Ways My Life Has Changed Since I Stopped Shaving My Armpits:

1. When I lift my arms, the breeze blowing through my armpit hair tickles. Takes me by surprise every time.

2. I use the term “luscious armpit kittens” way more than I used to.

Persian-Kittens

Accurate.

3. I no longer own razors.

4. That’s . . . . about it?

Seriously I’m not even sure this should be a post because literally nothing in my life has changed since I stopped shaving my armpits.

The sky didn’t fall. Strangers don’t point and condemn me in the street. (In fact, I’ve barely noticed a disapproving glance). Romantic partners didn’t recoil away in horror. Embracing my body hair hasn’t cost me a damn thing. And I guess that’s kind of my point.

Hairy armpits are often viewed as symbolic of a kind of “out-there” feminism – it’s just about one step before bra-burning, to most people. I certainly used to view them that way. The first time I saw a woman my age with hairy armpits (I think I was all of 19) I was shocked and fascinated and a little repulsed, all at the same time. I admired her bravery, but thought she looked weird, and wondered how she could seem so comfortable with herself when I got anxious about the stubble on my legs. She seemed almost like a different species of girl than I was.

For years – actual years – after I stopped shaving my legs, I continued to shave my armpits. I just wasn’t ready to be a member of that other species quite yet.  Habit reinforced hesitation, until one day . . . I just stopped. I threw out an old razor and just never bothered to get a new one. And now that I’m standing on the other side of this divide . . . I really don’t feel like another species at all. I’m just me. A little hairier. A little more ticklish, maybe.

How about you, friends? Do you have any non-stories to share? Any changes that you never saw yourself making, until you made them?

 

 

What We’re Reading 4/16/14

Not-All-Man! Voice of the Voiceful! Defender of the Defended! from listen-tome.com

Not-All-Man! Voice of the Voiceful! Defender of the Defended! from listen-tome.com

Welcome to another edition of What We’re Reading, our intermittent roundup of all the articles, videos, and images we shared with each other (and now with you!) this week. You are encouraged to share your own links in the comments. Bonus this week: a game!

Our Days of Rage: What #CancelColbert reveals about women/of color and controversial speech

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A Feminist Love Story

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Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

“There’s no positive feminist alternative to the Disney model of romance,” an old friend told me late one night.

As is not unusual in conversations with me, the topic of feminism had come up, and I’d asked him whether he thought gender roles were a good thing. He responded by sharing a story of his own heartbreak: a relationship that ended after moving in together and falling into a pattern of contentious discussions about who should be responsible for which chore.

My friend seemed to be implying that gender roles make things easier, that the feminist model of each couple negotiating for themselves was more work. “We spent all our time in negotiations about living together, instead of just enjoying living together.”

I pointed out that it was more work for him to talk about it, but probably less work for her because the continuing inequality in household chore breakdowns means that, statistically speaking, women who don’t specifically negotiate otherwise tend to end up with an unfairly large chore burden. And of course, relying on gender roles for divvying up household chores only works for couples with one man and one woman.

Nevertheless, I think there was value in my friend’s observation about a feminist alternative to the typical romance narrative. It was a revelation to me, perhaps because I live in a bit of a feminist bubble: I think there is a feminist story of love, and perhaps we just have to do a better job of spreading it.

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“Avadim Hayinu,” We Were Slaves: An Open Thread on Passover and Social Justice

Greetings Disruptors!  Tonight is the first night of Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery in Egypt.  Some consider this narrative of freedom to be historical, others consider it to be a metaphor for the relatively greater religious freedom we enjoy in the modern day, and there are many other beautiful interpretations.  To those who will be celebrating, in whatever way that means for you, we wish you a meaningful and joyful holiday.
Alternatively, you could just tink of ways to integrate Beyonce lyrics into your Passover celebration. Thanks beyonceder.tumblr.com!

Alternatively, you could just think of ways to integrate Beyonce lyrics into your Passover celebration. Thanks beyonceder.tumblr.com!

To all of our readers, we think this is a great opportunity to pause and reflect on how the themes of freedom and slavery impact our lives.  What kinds of slavery, whether literal or metaphorical, do you think we as a society (or societies) still need to liberate ourselves from today?  What are some steps you want to take toward greater freedom for yourself, for others, or as part of a social justice effort?

Fuck All That Happy to Be Here Shit

Look, fuck all that happy to be here shit that y’all want me on. -Drake

Just Happy to Be Here. It’s what I call a line of thinking that can emerge in the mind of someone from an oppressed group who manages to nab a seat at “the table.” JHBH can creep up in a variety of contexts- “the table” might be a movement, a conference, an institution of higher education, or any number of entryways to opportunities, access, knowledge, and power. Maybe it’s a nonprofit that hired you, impressed by your knowledge of and lived experience with the issue it works to address. Maybe it’s an organization that is working to recruit people from a group that you identify with, and financed your membership and your attendance at national events. Maybe it’s a liberal arts college to which you were able to be admitted, despite the consequences of structural racism, thanks to affirmative action. Whatever it is, it has issues- but you don’t feel completely free to point out areas of improvements because you feel silenced, you want to fly under the radar, or you are genuinely happy that it got its shit together at least a little bit or you wouldn’t be there to speak to the problems at all.

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