This holiday season, it is very easy to get caught up in the materiality of all the shopping centers and online bargains and forget about the point of the holiday: giving. As a Christmas celebrator, recently I have been struggling with what to give my sister, what to get my patents, younger cousins and family and also what to get my friends. I am definitively not the most well-endowed with funds this year, but I do want to show the people I love that I care. So for all of you readers that are struggling along with me, I have thought of one wonderful, priceless and irreplaceable gift to give. Time.
“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.
This is a guest post by Silver Longjohns.
The one time I have dressed up for the opening of a movie was for Serenity in 2005. I went with a dozen costumed friends. I was Christina Hendricks’ ambiguously-named character. My favorite was my “two by two” friends in white lab coats who had swiped blue latex gloves from chem lab and thumb-wrestled for our cameras. We also had Kaylee with a parasol; two Inara’s in various finery, and someone had even knitted the Jayne hat. The one black guy in our group of majority white friends is a devout Christian and went as Shepherd Book. Our Zoe was a white lady and wore that signature disconcerting string of leather as a necklace.
Full disclosure: I was embarrassed to be out in public dressed up and I would never have done it alone. However, the time was right – as a stalwart Joss Whedon fan, I was delighted he’d done a movie, and the feeling of belonging in that group of fellow fans was very powerful for me. Even as I fretted about how our costumes set us apart from other folks in the theater I relished the opportunity to publicly fly a shared nerdiness flag.
So I’ve had a longstanding loyalty to Joss Whedon’s work, and I’ve been glad to see him gain more recognition. But my latent feminist tendencies have developed quite a bit over time and there’s a lot I wish Joss would do differently. In a fit of Netflix-enabled nostalgia I did re-watch Firefly recently, and because there’s been so much discussion recently about Joss Whedon and feminism, I’m sending out here some of my current reactions to Firefly. They’re somewhat popcorn style, focused on the lady characters, gender, sexuality, and romantic relationships. I should also acknowledge that it is particularly egregious that Firefly takes place in a future where everyone speaks Mandarin Chinese but not a single actor appears to be of Asian descent. Joss’ characters generally are not very ethnically diverse; it is a problem, y’all. Others have written on that before, though, so I won’t unpack it here. (Also, I only took two years of Mandarin but in Firefly their Chinese is terrible.)
Firefly disappointingly barely passes the Bechdel test, but I’m relieved that in the limited conversation among Kaylee, Zoe and Inara, they are unequivocally supportive of each other (River I’ll get to later). The sex positivity allowed to their characters is also simply delightful (Zoe and Wash get all sweaty and adorable together! Kaylee hooks up with a guy in the machine room because engines turn her on!) However, I wish Kaylee and Inara presented better models of communication about romantic needs.
Trigger Warning: descriptions of verbal, mental, and emotional abuse.
This is a guest post by Laura Brangan.
I recently listened to a story that discussed turning points in our lives. These moments that tear people’s lives in half, leaving them with separate lives before and after a distinct occurrence. I found the same to be true of my own story. My marriage exposed me to verbal, mental, and emotional abuse. This was an experience I never thought possible, one that forever changed me. I want to share this not as an accusation of my ex-husband, but in hopes that women who are in similar relationships can see there is hope.
There are many forms of abuse in relationships. I was well educated about physical abuse. I knew what it looked like and knew that I would never be the victim of abuse. However, my first marriage taught me that abuse is not always obvious to the victim, nor those closest to her/him. It begins with love, dreams and promises of a happy life together. Slowly this changed, and after giving in to a series of outbursts, I found myself in a position that I had never dreamed of.
Dear loved one,
This is a letter for you, the person in our lives who is in an abusive relationship. You are our sister and our brother, the girl we went to college with, the friend with whom we went on that epic road trip, our coworker, our parent, our past self, our future child. The abuse you’re living though may be emotional, sexual, or physical. You abuser may be a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, parent, friend, or some other relationship to you. Maybe you’ve spoken with us about your abuse, maybe you’re not yet comfortable sharing it, or maybe you’re not even comfortable labeling the treatment you endure with the “A” word. This letter is to you, the one we love who is enduring abusive behavior.
There are some things we want you to know, and the first, the most important, is this:
You are loved.
I love you, and many other people in your life love you. My love for you is not dependent on whether you choose to stay in a relationship with your abuser. I love you because you are good, smart, funny, kind, sassy, sweet, and brave. I love you because you are wonderful. You are.
Even if I didn’t exist to see it and love you for it, even if I don’t say it to you enough: you are valuable. You have intrinsic value. Please never forget that, even if your abuser sometimes tries to convince you otherwise. You have value, you have worth that he can neither give you nor take away from you.
This is a guest post by Barbie
[Trigger Warning: detailed descriptions of rapes in an abusive relationship]
At the heights of our relationship, I loved him more than I can say. At the depths, I lost a sense of ownership over my body and feared for my life. As far as I knew then, love and abuse of any kind – emotional or physical – were supposed to be mutually exclusive. But as our relationship progressed, it increasingly involved elements of both love and violence, and I lived them side-by-side. My belief that the two could not coexist prevented me from acknowledging the abuse, and it stopped me from getting out.
“So today’s question on “It’s Probably You” is…” Paul looked at the camera, “How can I get my SO to try anal sex?“”
“Man, how CAN I get my partner to try anal?” I replied. “Great question, anonymous internet friend.”
As part of “It’s Probably You,” a video webseries giving advice on relationships, sex, and dating, I gave an unscripted, candid answer (that you can watch here and is NSFW). Afterwards, I considered the question in more depth — how can you have great anal sex with a partner… who might not be initially interested?
So here’s my ideas, in full, on how to have awesome anal sex with your partner. For the first time and for the rest of time. The text is a little racy if you’re at work, but there’s no scandalous photos.