Tuesday, April 28, 2009

All I have to say is: AMEN

People who don't understand why I can't stand Judd Apatow movies, please take note:



Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Labeling: Why I think it's important to self-identify as a feminist

Talking to a friend today who was bitching about the fact that anyone who labels themselves is essentially "limiting" themselves to a particular set of traits, he brought up "feminists" as an example. It got me thinking about the labels I apply to myself and my own box. Why DO I identify as a feminist? So many women, when asked, respond to the question of feminism with something along the lines of, "I'm not a feminist or anything, but I do believe xyz about equality, gender norms, stereotypes, etc."

I guess my take on "labeling" is this: When you are a member of a group of society that is currently and historically marginalized, I think identifying yourself as part of the group is important. Not only does it allow other people within your (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc) to feel supported and less alone, it gives other people who know you the opportunity to confront their biases and prejudices in an empathetic setting. That is, because they care for you, they may see the group you belong to in a more sympathetic light. This is the motive behind the mass "coming-out" parties within the gay/lesbian communities and I think it's an effective way to advocate for change without getting in anyone's face.

To me, identifying myself as a feminist means that I unequivocally believe that women in today's society face a gender disparity. It means that I am willing to have a civil conversation about gender inequality with people who don't agree with me. It means that I support women who are marginalized. It means that I pay attention. It also means that I am willing to be a challenge stereotypes about feminist women: that they are angry dike bitches who want to get rid of men and rule the earth.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sometimes a girl just wants to be happy

So, this woman, Susan Boyle performed on Britain's "Who's Got Talent" and basically blew everyone away. Today, Jezebel wrote an article questioning why it is that people are so excited about her:

The blogs are a-twitter with this Magical Woman, come to teach us Lessons. What fools we are! we self-castigate. Here's a dowdy lady who doesn't look like an American Idol contestant and we judge! Because she hasn't received validation from the patriarchy, we assume she's unworthy! And we were wrong! Stupid, stupid, shallow idiots! We judge! And are found wanting! Ad nauseam!

There is indeed something worrisome about plucking someone from obscurity and feting them for a week or so to make the rest of us feel better, reducing her to a two-dimensional character who reaffirms our belief in the Power of Dreams, never mind that Boyle seemed neither miserable before, nor particularly turned by the attention. (Indeed, she seems insufficiently willing to play the role for many of the interviewers, who seem reduced to portraying her as "lovable character" rather than "tragic redeemer.")

And sure, I guess I get that sort of criticism. I think there are definitely people out there who want to take Ms. Boyle and use her as a representation of the Great Hope for All Mankind or whatever- journalists, tv people, talk show hosts, sure. But that wasn't why I loved watching that performance.

I loved watching that performance because when you watch her sing, the sheer joy of singing almost overwhelms you. She is SO happy to be there, to be singing, to be on that stage (regardless of who she is or where she comes from) that you can't help but be moved by it, and the audience is and the judges are and for one beautiful moment you and everyone else are caught up in the triumph of music, of the moment, of the song, of her beautiful voice. For me, it was about that one pure moment of just utter love- not the stupid analysis that comes after it or the humble beginnings from which it sprung.

My brother and I had a discussion yesterday about whether it's rational to care about people you don't know. In this discussion, I was definitely the idealist of the two of us. I argued as rationally as I could that caring about others is not just the moral thing, but it's a necessity in a world where everything and everyone is so intricately connected. After the conversation though, I realized that although that's part of it for me, a large part of why I care about other people is because I want to believe in magic. I'm not talking about insipid tricks or potions or whatever- I'm talking about those very rare moments when the world seems to connect and life seems...possible. When you believe that all the shit that's happening in the world today can be overcome and even if not by you, by someone somehow. Susan Boyle's performance is an example of that for me where everyone is so surprised in those few brief moments that something (guard, cynicism, etc) is let down and everyone laughs and the whole world seems alight with childlike wonder. I want to believe in that.

And in things like this :)