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March 12, 2013 · 10:39 am

Sound Reflection: Tell a Feminist Thank You

Cheers and thanks to you all!

Cheers and thanks to you all!

Today there’s a hashtag on twitter #tellafeministthankyou – so I’m going to say a few thank you’s to people who’ve taught me, or who keep me writing.

Thanks to my mom, Paula, for raising me as a feminist.

Thanks to MTR, because talking about feminism in his office made me better at what I do.

Thanks to Kenna and Lillian, for editing me, for talking theory and genuinely helping me learn more about what I think.

Thanks to my husband for being more of a feminist than he thinks he is.

Thanks to Jo Jo, Sailor, Jenn, Amelia, and all the other feminist burlesque ladies in my life.

Thanks to Orli, Kate, and Mary for discussions of feminist theology on a range of religious backgrounds.

Of course, thanks to my readers – because without you I’d just be writing into the void.

Being a feminist is more than just holding beliefs on your own, but about constantly interrogating your own thought processes and challenging the things you think in order to further your understanding of gender dynamics in society. I think all feminists are served best by the communities they involve themselves in, and the conversations they start within their communities.

Who are you thankful for? Who has helped you become a feminist?

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Bionic Eyes!

Last week bionic eyes went on the market in the US and the Uk! (Please be aware, it’s a surgical shot for the link, if you’re squeamish about eyeballs this may not be the link for you)

The only thing I want to know is – why on earth is it 99k? There are so many people who would benefit from this kind of science. Does it cost that much to make?

Anything that would benefit the disabled seems to come with a massive pricetag. I hope someday these kinds of innovations can be available to a wider range of people who need them.

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My childhood landscape involved shooting at dragons

Nerf is coming out with a line for girls. The Rebelle – and the first item in their line? The Heartbreaker Bow. It’s… well… Pink.

And it’s for girls.

And for those reasons, I want to hate it.

But the converse of that is this: The function of the bow is absolutely not any weaker than the other products made for Nerf, in fact it’ll pack the same strength behind it as the Nerf Elite darts. The company is making a bow and arrow set targeted at the female child market, and  I never thought I’d see that happen in my lifetime.

But I also think children are smarter than that. And in an age where we have children who are recognizing that there is more than just gender binary – where we do have children who realize their gender may be in flux, we need to stop marketing to children with “Boy” this and “girl” that. We need to just start making toys for children. 

So that the 6 year old girl who wants to hunt dragons (or rescue them, as the case was with me) can shoot a bow and arrow and wield a sword.

So that her brother can play with dolls or a tea set if he wants to.

So that the trans child who doesn’t have an easily identified gender market can play without fearing gender identification by picking up a doll or a Tonka Truck.

Children are smarter than we give them credit for, and really – what’s the difference between the Heartbreaker Bow and the Z Curve Bow except color?

I know that Nerf did market research, that they didn’t just slap pink packaging on one of their other models and call it For Girls, and for that I do commend them to an extent. But why do we need to slap pink on it at all? Why can’t girls play with bows and arrows? Why weren’t girls already part of that market?

In a world where a young woman can choose to enter the military, serve her country – and now go to the front line – we should be changing our perceptions, and maybe it’s a small thing, but the changes start with the toys we play with as children.

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ADA Accessibility And Burlesque

I write about burlesque and disability again for Pincurl Magazine!

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February 5, 2013 · 6:02 pm

In Defense of the Work From Home Feminist

I’m so tired of feminists judging each other.

I know I shouldn’t read the comments I know this, but when Jezebel posted their “Most Women Would Rather Kick Their Husbands to the Curb than Be a Housewife” post we all knew I wouldn’t be able to resist reading the comments.  After all, the comments are like watching an ambulance filled with hypocritical feminists crashing into Betty Friedan’s house.

Here’s the deal – I work from home. I write every day, the days I’m not writing are days that I’m stepping away from my computer so that my brain doesn’t fall out of my skull. But for the most part, I write. The last month or so I’ve been quieter on Feminist Sonar because I’ve been working on other writing projects which I’ll eventually get to write about here – but the point is, I’m working.

I’m also the only one at home between the hours of 8am and 7pm on weekdays.

My copy of the Feminist Mystique has not gathered quite as much dust as one might think when I say this – Being a feminist is not antithetical to the practice of being a housewife. Especially in a modern age where women have the right to choose what the best plan for their life is with regard to their distribution of work, sometimes it just works out better for women to stay at home.

Putting me out in the workforce is somewhat impractical – I’ve been trying to get a job over the last two years with absolutely no luck. Part of it is the economy in the NYC area, part of it is the fact that regardless of anti-discrimination law, most companies would prefer to hire a fully able-bodied worker than hire someone with hearing and visual impairments. So instead of continuing the futile fight to find a job, I’m choosing to work for myself.

Does this mean that I spend more time at home cooking and cleaning? Yes. Does it mean that in the first year of my marriage I have had to learn how to cook so that my husband and I can eat dinner together? Sure does.

Do I feel like less of a feminist because of the choices I’ve made?

At first I felt like I was “letting down the sisterhood.” I thought I was being a bad feminist for working from home. With time, I’ve come to see that this is actually not the case. I’m not being a bad feminist because I’m making choices with my partner. Now, if my husband had told me “YOU ARE GOING TO STAY HOME AND COOK AND CLEAN AND DO MY LAUNDRY.” I probably wouldn’t have married him, and I probably would have given him a very stern talking to.

The fact of the matter is, I’m not the only one getting crap for making solid choices about MY family. A woman I know who made the choice to stay home with her infant daughter rather than return to work as an attorney continues to be told that she made the ‘wrong” choice as a feminist. My understanding of feminism is that we are supposed to be able to make our own choices, and make them without being given ultimatums by the patriarchal system. Sometimes giving into the system is part of giving in to the patriarchy. By choosing to raise our children with feminist morals, by choosing to make my own way as a feminist scholar rather than giving in to the corporate machine – my housewifery is also fueling my feminism. It is giving me a chance to be productive in my chosen field without having to sacrifice my time to being a secretary. Isn’t that a more feminist action?

Perhaps, rather than chastising our fellow feminists for making choices they’re happy with, we should focus on the upcoming vote on the Violence Against Women Act  (Call your senators!) Perhaps we should all buy some Girl Scout Cookies to support an organization which helps young women grow into adults who can think for themselves. There are so many ways to be a feminist and not judge the choices of other feminists. I think that’s the next step.

We can learn a lot from the feminists of the past, but one of the things we can learn from them is where we’ve gone wrong, and where we can fix our theories and make them less judgmental for the future.

Borrowed from the Seattle Times – Why VAWA Matters

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In the Shadow of Illness

I don’t remember ever being told my father was dying. I must have been too young when I internalized this information. I think I always knew he was sick, and since my dad was an AIDS educator, it wasn’t like I didn’t know what the disease did.

It was the 1990s. We were only beginning to knew what AIDS was, and at 8 years old, I only understood what it had done to my father.

My memories of these days are so scattered, and I try to pick up the pieces, scrambling them together like a puzzle made of my own sadness.

I’m still missing some of the pieces – and as an adult I am discovering that the process of getting to know my father nearly twenty years after his death is something I am going to have to fight through. I have letters, written to him, and written from him to others. I have his artwork. I have his writing. I have the play he wrote about his disease.

But I will never remember what he smells like. How do I grab hold of his smell, or his tone when he was happy? The question I begin to ask myself is not “who was he?”, but sometimes “Who am I?” in the context of my lineage.

People tell me I look like him. I have been told that I dance like him once or twice. But I cannot draw like my father, and our writing styles are vastly different. Where does the person I have become line up with the person that he is, and how do I integrate these things into a whole?

When all you have is fragments, where do you begin?

The discovery of who my father was is slow.

Whether or not we realize it, our parents are integrated into our identities at early stages in our development. But there was no father to take with me to the father daughter picnic for father’s day, and I remember having to explain myself whenever a classmate at a new school would ask why I wasn’t making my dad a card.

As adults, we’re expected pretty frequently to identify with our families – especially in highly socialized rituals like weddings. When I got married last year, strangers would ask, “is your father going to walk you down the aisle?” or say, “Oh, your father is just going to love lifting this veil off your face!”

I’ve never been a Daddy’s Girl. I don’t even know what that means. I do know that I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to acknowledge and remember a person who I don’t really know. This year I’m forming an NYC AIDS Walk group in his memory – to walk in his honor and raise funds to fight the disease which killed him. But I don’t want to know my father through his disease. I don’t want to have him be just an illness. I want him to be my parent.

The problem is that even when I ask the people who knew him best about his life, they can’t tell me about the relationship we might have had because none of them are his child. These splinters of memory – reading books about hippos, playing rocketship/astronaut games before going to sleep (and sharing my bed with him when I stayed the night), having my art hanging on the wall – a child’s sketches, next to his artwork during a showing— reading his dedication to me in the play he wrote. These are the things I can cling to.

But they’ll never be enough.

I don’t know if this is what it’s like for everyone when they lose a parent – but I know that I still grieve 20 years later, in part not because I miss him, but because I miss what he could have been in my life. I miss the may-have-been moments.

As a child I remember that I clung to the idea of his physical remains – his ashes, because they were the only reminder I had that he had been there at all. I sometimes envy the people who have gravesites to visit, because at least then there is an acknowledgement outside of their memories – a physical space to occupy when you wish to remember. I don’t have a gravesite, but I do have physical touchstones. As a historian, I suppose it does help me to have these artifacts of his life. I own his archive.

I didn’t know, for example, that my father could read German until I found letter written to him exclusively in German. I didn’t know that his artwork wasn’t always abstract, and that the things I love in art are influenced by the work he did when I was around him. I don’t know how I’m like him, but I want to know. I remember going with him to teach AIDS education classes to adults – I have letters thanking him for his teaching, and these are the things I choose to carry with me. I haven’t done the work in a long time, but I think it may be a way to connect with him – something which I did with him before that I can carry on as an adult. The disease is so different now, but the reality remains the same.

It happened to me, it has happened to others: their parents die from AIDS, but instead of everyone understanding it like they would cancer or another terminal illness, the sideways glances of misunderstanding cloud their faces. The politics of sex education and gay rights muddle the story of my past, and I am forced to politicize the very nature of my identity. The teddy bear gay pin sits in my jewelry box. The ACT UP pin sits next to it. The photos of drag queens and letters from family sit in my office, and I need to find a way to synthesize the historical image of my father with the reality. I need to understand where I came from without forgetting what I already know.

He was Tanya Ransom, a drag queen. He was Michael, an artist, educator and playwright. And he was a patient. And he was my father.

N.B.: If you would like to donate or walk in the AIDS Walk Team I have begun, it is team 4884!

Artwork by Michael "hiv" Norman and Elsa Sjunneson

Artwork by Michael “hiv” Norman and Elsa Sjunneson

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