Hello, my name is Feminism, and I am unloveable.

I am re-posting this entry I had in my other blog, as it fits well with the themes in this blog as well. I am editing a bit from the original, too. — My dad recently shared with me a fear that I know he’s had for quite some time. He told me, “I am worried that because of your choices (to study and speak loudly about feminist issues, to seek a career in sexuality education, among other “choices” he might suspect but doesn’t speak about), you will never get married.” I laughed.

I laughed because what else was I to do, really? I laughed because I knew it, I knew that a lot of his efforts to keep me away from activism, from women’s studies, from gaining weight, from dressing like a tomboy, from being too outspoken, were not exclusively about him not wanting me to be that way, but him thinking no man would ever want me otherwise.I laughed because after years of becoming more confident in my own skin, my own ideas, it sounded like such a laughable thing: “Oh heaven FORBID I never land a husband! What would my life mean then?!” I laughed because I have been loved and will be loved BECAUSE of who I am, not IN SPITE of it. I laughed because I think it’s cute (in a weird, kinda horribe way) that my dad thinks the kind of man that finds me intimidating is the kind of man I would even want. I laughed, too, because he said “man” and “get married” which are two things that are very much optional and avoidable in my life plan.

But really, let’s think about it for a second. I know my dad’s worry all too well, and it terrifies me that most people who were raised as women probably know it too.

It’s the line that isn’t written in every lady magazine article about how to look younger, hotter, thinner. It’s whispered after statements such as “oh I believe in equality, but I am not a feminist or anything radical like that”. It’s what you can hear if you play any good old slutshaming parent’s record backwards.

It’s the worry that if you don’t play by certain rules (shout out to the patriarchy!), you will become “unloveable”.

I know I have feared that too, more than I care to admit. I also know that I laughed at my dad’s “confession” because I can laugh now, now that I love myself enough to know sexist disapproval is just that: sexist. I understand the fear of being unloveable, because we all want to be loved, accepted, appreciated. But the fact that most women are at least somewhat familiar with the “no guy will ever love you” (implicit or explicit) threat makes me really anxious, and angry too.

I want parents worried that theirs sons would stay away from feminist women. What would a decent human be afraid of in a feminist?

I want parents worried that their sons will reject a woman based on what she does or doesn’t do with her body hair, or her weight. I want parents worried that their sons grow up feeling entitled to an opinion when it comes to women’s appearance or bodies in general.

I want parents worried that their daughters will stay silent about things they care about in order to please men. I want parents worried that their daughters think feminism is too radical a thought, that equality is too much to ask.

I want parents worried that sexuality education is a field that gets so much heat, that gets slut-shamed. That slut-shaming is a thing that exists. I want parents worried that slut-shaming & sexism in general would deter people from persuing whatever career they want.

I want parents worried that the media and the patriarchy have led us to believe that a woman’s – and a man’s, to a different degree – only road to happiness (because I do think my dad wants me to land a husband so I can be happy) is heterosexual, monogamous marriage. [Not that it can’t bring people happiness or that it isn’t a valid choice, of course. But there are as many roads to happiness as there are people.]

I want parents worried that their kids are being taught that women’s lives revolve around men. That women’s worth is dependent on men’s approval, or men’s desire, or even men’s love. A person’s worth is dependent on them existing in this world, period.

Honestly, there is so much I would be worried about if I was a parent. However, whether my daughter can find a husband who will take her in all her feminist, sexuality-educator ways would not be one of those things.

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Notes on The Feminist Porn Book | Take 3

Continuing with my series of notes on The Feminist Porn Book, I am taking this next one from Candida Royalle’s essay, “What’s a Nice Girl Like You…”

This quote is about porn but really it’s about every aspect of sexuality, IMHO.

“If women don’t create their own erotic visions, their own sexual language, men will continue to do it for us and we’ll never fully understand our own unique sexual nature.” Candida Royalle

Candida Royale was one of the first women to make “porn for women” – a term that, although now problematic, spoke in its beginnings (and still does today to an extent) to a need for porn that was not so into money shots, not so lacking in foreplay and in female orgasms, porn with a little more conversation to go with the action, please (geddit?).

This quote – or rather, how I think about it – is about much more than that, though.

Of course, having women (or anyone that is not cis, hetero, able-bodied, male & white) direct & call the shots in porn allows for others fantasies to be explored, other bodies to be shown, other types of sex to be represented. And that is awesome. That is not the start, or the end of it, though.

Across the board, it is primarily men deciding what our bodies should look like, how we should feel about them, what they should mean to us, and how it is acceptable to use our own bodies and sexuality. Mass media, the “medical community”, mainstream porn, the beauty industry: they are by and large owned by white cis-het able-bodied rich men who get to tell everyone what sexy looks like, what normal looks like, what acceptable, healthy sexuality should look like.

[Oddly enough, if you ask me, enthusiastic consent is the only “should” that has a place when it comes to sexuality, and yet it is the one thing that none of these industries seem to care about.]

We could be the ones calling the shots on what our bodies feel like and what we want them to look like. We could be the ones calling the shots on what our fantasies are, what our sex looks & tastes & sounds & feels like, and if and when we choose to even have it.

This is something we can all learn from feminist pornographers: we get to decide what we think is sexy, acceptable, desirable, healthy for us & our bodies. And your sexy, acceptable, desirable & healthy will not necessarily (or likely) look like my sexy, acceptable, desirable & healthy, and that’s okay. That’s friggin’ awesome, in fact, because choice is at the heart of feminism & sex-positivity, and should be at the heart of just basic human decency, to be honest.

We don’t have to make our own porn for this to be the case – although if you feel so inclined, please do make your own porn, and tell me all about it afterwards! Everytime we are thinking about our own body and sexuality & feel a “should” question coming to our brain (should I ask them to take out the whips? should I lose a few pounds? should I wear this tight glittery dress?), we could replace the should with a want. Do we want to ask them to take out the whips? Do we want to lose a few pounds? Do we want to wear the tight glittery dress?

As long as we ask and get the consent of everyone involved in whatever is going on – and no, your judgmental fatphobic aunt is not INVOLVED in your weight – then you should feel free to do whatever you want to do.

Going back to the quote, moreover, if we don’t start (or continue) pushing back against what the media, the beauty industry, most of mainstream porn, & the patriarchy at large tells us to look, feel & fuck like, the powers that be will continue to do it for us. And how do we fight back? Sometimes it is one outfit choice at a time, or one sexy session, or one meal, or one heartfelt conversation. Hell, even a selfie at a time. One shame-induced should at a time.

 

This is not to say of course that we are at fault if we are unable, unwilling or too exhausted to push back & fight the oppressive systems that tell us we don’t look the part, we don’t fuck right, we don’t do as we should. It’s okay to be tired of fighting back; it is okay if you don’t feel emotionally or physically safe doing so.

The corporations, the media, the government should be the one changing to become better at representing its costumers, its consumers, its people. Some brave folks work everyday from within these systems & structures & institutions to try to shift gears towards more humane capitalism (is that even a real thing, I ask?) It is not enough though, and it will never be.

Empowerment & resistance start at home, because body- & sex-negative capitalism – or sketchy, sexist, racist porn, for that matter – isn’t going to hand over the power. We gotta take it ourselves.

—————-

If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:

Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.

 

Related bits (re: shame, empowerment, sex-positivity)

What Revenge Porn Tells Us About Sex and Humilliation | Charlie Glickman

The cost of sexual shame | The Salon

Megan Falley – “Fat Girl” (poem)

Notes on The Feminist Porn Book | Take 1

I recently read The Feminist Porn Book by Tristan Taormino. It is such a great book, and Taormino, as well as all the other authors who contributed essays to it, have amazing brains.

I love talking about porn with people and listening to their opinions. This book definitely helped me in polishing and re-conceptualizing my own, and has equipped me with more information and perspectives to be able to help and guide others in their journey through porn & porn critique.

I decided to write a series of (shorter than usual) blog posts about different quotes from the book that are thought-provoking, fun, and/or great to talk about. Please comment, add to, disagree with, and share through the comments, on social media or wherever you feel like bringing up porn (hey, Easter is coming up!). Communication is what keeps us learning and growing!

I will start with a quote from the Introduction which I think is VERY relatable to many, and I think speaks to one of the reasons I love feminist porn.

“Feminist porn does not shy away from the darker shades of women’s fantasies. It creates space for realizing the contradictory ways in which our fantasies do not always line up with our politics or ideas of who we think we are.”  – Constance Penley, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Mireille Miller-Young, Tristan Taormino

It is very simply put here, which I love about the quote, but really it speaks to a complex, ongoing process of deconstruction, critique and mindfullness that feminism has always dealt with in different ways with different phenomena.

The internal battle between desire & politics, fantasy & activism, the personal as political, is not exclusive to porn, of course. For decades certain currents within and outside of feminism have criticized femme identity of being internalized misogyny, sex work of being a weapon and a victim of the patriarchy, fetishism as being just another form of female objectification, to name a few instances. Hell, even being attracted to cis men is sometimes subject to feminist, queer criticism. Ask bisexual communities.

The thing about porn, and about sex & sexuality at large, is that we do not pick and choose what turns us on. Sure, desire is to an extent malleable, but it is hardly voluntary. Either something has orgasmic potential or it doesn’t. What we protest against during the day may very well be what we ask our partners to (consensually!!) act out with us at night.

Think about BDSM, abduction fantasies or rape (role)play, D/s relationships, maid/slave/schoolgirl role-play. These are all things for which (primarily people raised as) women who enjoy them, in particular when these women want to play out the submissive role, often face external and/or internal criticism, shame, accusations of betrayal to the movement. “Am I perpetuating rape culture?” “Why do I want a man to be physically/verbally violent with me in bed?” “Am I furthering the stereotype that (all) women WANT to be submissive (outside of bed too)?”

My answer would be NO, people whose desires take them to submissive roles, feminine attitudes, and/or ANYTHING ELSE for that matter, are not perpetuating anything. They are (consensually, duh) enjoying their sex lives, which is awesome, healthy and empowering. And they are acting upon their own bodies as they please. Isn’t choice and self-determination what feminism is all about?

Now, we – the book & I both, I mean – aren’t saying that fantasies, BDSM, porn, etc should be exempted from intersectional feminist critique. Feminist porn is about allowing that critique to happen – in front and behind the camera, as well as in the audience & under the sheets, there should be discussion & reflection of why and how and when these things are happening, ways to be ethical & humane about them, etc.

But feminist porn – and sex-positivity in general, I would say – is about acknowledging that our politics are no less valid because we don’t get off on them. It is also about being mindful that our desires are just as big a part of us as our ideologies, and that paying attention to both is not an impossible contradiction but rather a useful tool in knowing ourselves and others better.

Feminist porn does not pretend these “darker shades of women’s fantasies” don’t exist, nor does it judge & police them. It exposes them, is highly aware of them, comments on them, and ultimately allows them to be. This is something to love and admire and try to bring to our lives: feminist porn allows (or tries its best to allow) all shades of human emotion & sexuality to just be.

————————-

If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:

Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.

Related bits (re: fantasy, feminism, BDSM):

Laci Green’s vid on Female Sexual Fantasies

The Pervocracy: “How can you be a feminist and do BDSM?”

Feminist Halestorm: Consensual Non-Consent. Trigger warning for discussion of rape.

————–

What do YOU think about fantasies, feminist porn & the politics of desire?

“Ladies should respect themselves”

I have always been very confused by this or any variation of this statement.

For me, respecting myself means appointing myself as the boss of me and recognizing that no one else owns my body or my life choices. For me, respecting myself is listening to my body and what it wants and needs. For me, respecting myself is loving myself enough to know that weight, gender, sexual orientation, ability, sexual status, relationship status, race, religion do not condition my worth. For me, respecting myself is knowing that only I can press the play, pause, forward or rewind in my life. For me, respecting myself is saying no when I mean no (and asserting my right to have my “no” respected), and saying yes when I mean yes. As many fucking times as I want with as many people as I want, in as many situations as I want. And that means yes to sex, but it also means yes to education, to health care, to a dignified living.

What you mean is “ladies should respect what men want of them”. Which is a bunch of contradictory, non realistic, objectifying BS.

How is it possible for people to be so willing to interpret “respect authority”, for example, as “listen to authority”, and “respect yourself” as “listen to everyone but yourself”? 


It is only possible, if you think about it, when you compare that statement to one that is said when something belongs to someone. If you say “hey, respect that car”, it doesn’t mean “listen to that car” (the car has no will). It means “don’t scratch it or use it or misuse it (in accordance to the rules of the owner) in any way for it belongs to someone that is not you”.

And so “respect yourself” means “don’t scratch or use or misuse yourself (in accordance to the rules of the patriarchy) in any way for you belong to someone that is not you.”

And, damn, I will scratch (I am giggling on the inside) and use and misuse myself in any way for I belong to myself and I am abiding by my own rules.

So yes. I am always respecting myself. And if I decide to be a sex worker by my own will, I will also be respecting myself. If I decide to go on a sexual rampage (HAHA) I will still be respecting myself. If I decide I want to not have any sexual contact with anyone at all for the rest of my life, I will be respecting myself as well. If I decide to join a convent or the church of scientology or the friggin westboro baptist (I almost wrote baptits, fyi) church, as long as it is my choice, I will still be respecting myself.

The day that I do or stop doing or being something because someone else says I should, that day you can say that I am not respecting myself.

The end.

I show you mine, you show me yours.

I want to share a deep, dark, secret with you guys: I am privileged. Another deep dark secret? You are very likely privileged too.

privilege-and-prejudice

Neverrrrrrrr

I am also oppressed and non-privileged in more than one way, and probably so are you.

I want to address a couple of conversations I have had and comments I have received (thanks you guys! you make me love my blog and feel obligated to write in here even though I have finals coming up, and I like the feeling), most of them relating, directly or indirectly, to privilege. I have mentioned it but, true enough, haven’t really explained it or said too much about it. The point of this blog (or part of it) is making information accessible, and I haven’t been doing that all too well.

So, first of all, what is meant by privilege?

For those not too familiar with social justice or feminist blogs or literature in general, privilege is a set of unearned benefits society bestows you due solely to one fraction of your identity, whether it be race, gender, sex, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc. What does this mean, in reality? That there are things that I don’t have to think about, daily nuissances that I will not be target of, worries that I will not have, and disadvantages that I do not need to consider because I am a person with no physical disability or impairment of any kind, for example. Privilege makes our lives easier in ways that we tend to take for granted, and so checking our privilege is, for one, realising how good we have it in many ways. Privilege also makes us think, say and do things that may offend others simply because, in our position of privilege, we do not “have to” think about others, as the default way of thinking in that area in which we are privileged supports our own.

This is too broad and abstract though, I believe. Most talk about privilege is fairly abstract because it intends to apply to as many people as possible. I will talk about it in more concrete terms. Big, huge, monumental disclaimer, though: I am not speaking for anyone other than myself. I do not know or pretend to know everything. That is another thing about privilege: even if you’re oppressed in some other way, no two oppressions are the same, so do not pretend you empathize, because you cannot possibly know what anything other than your own experience is like. That said, here is an attempt to further explain what privilege is.

For example, I am a ciswoman (as in, my gender identity happens to match the sex assigned to me at birth; this, as opposed to transgender, which is when the gender identity you’re comfortable with does not match the sex assigned to you at birth). Based on that one little fraction among all the complexities of human beings, I have certain benefits – ranging from relatively small nuissances that I don’t have to deal with, to relatively big ones like not having to choose between a birth certificate that reflects my identity (and save myself from more nuissances, confusion and harassment) and having children. I am not harassed and stared at and whispered about when I go to public restrooms, I am not constantly asked really invasive and STRAIGHT UP NONE-OF-THEIR-BUSINESS questions like what my genitals look like or how I have sex, my gender identity is plenty represented in mainstream media (without it being only as the punchline of a joke). If I am in need of medical care, my gender identity will not grant me an unnecessary psychological examination; if I am in need of a shelter I do not have to fear for physical abuse in there. People don’t ask what my real sex is, as if I was lying or as if my gender identity was not valid, as if they were entitled to decide who I am for me. [I am taking these examples from this blog post, but the list goes on and on.]

Now, another thing I have heard and have read is pretty common (and fairly understandable) is that whole defensive ‘ttude of “but I am not like that!” or, “what do you mean I am privileged? I have had it bad in life!”

Here’s the thing, when someone (for example me, through this blog) tells you to check your privilege, they (or we) are not blaming you. Privilege is not about individual behavior or douche-baggery. It is not about you.

Privilege is not about blame, but it is about responsibility. Of course I know you cannot help but being white, or male, or cisgender, or able-bodied, or economically well-off, or heterosexual. I know, also, that you are probably a nice, well-intentioned fella. Most people are, I truly believe that. Thing is, we are part of a patriarchal society which values and reinforces and benefits some groups of people while oppressing, discriminating against, dehumanizing and invalidating the experiences and identities of other groups of people. That is a fact [If you are unwilling to accept this fact, I am sorry we’ve wasted each other’s time. Go about your business now].

Furthermore, society is built in such a way that dominant discourse, mainstream media, formal education, law, medical discourse is meant to represent and reinfornce the views and interests and needs of the privileged and ignore or reject or misrepresent those of the non-privileged. For a quick example, see what is meant by “flesh-tone” in most products: whose flesh tone is that? It sure as hell is not mine, it sure as hell is not the majority of my hometown’s flesh tone, it sure as hell is not the majority of most countries’ flesh tone. And YET…

Now, as I was saying, privilege IS about responsibility. Sure, as much as you read a checklist on male privilege and you think to yourself “yes, that’s right, how have I never thought about this”, you’re still a guy. And that is okay. Don’t do like I did the first time I read that I was privileged in so and so ways and be paralized by liberal guilt and by “omg I have been such an asshole!” thoughts. I mean yes, reflect on the fact that you may have been an asshole enough time so that you try not to be an asshole ever again, but accept that you probably will. Move on, though: we all make mistakes and will continue making them, just hopefully not the same ones.

A friend, reasonably, asked me, what the hell do I do with that, though? What do we do with that privilege?

Be extra aware of it. Be aware that you are already over-represented everywhere else, so you should allow non-privileged groups to have the chance and the space and the voice: help them create those spaces, those times.

Be humble. The rest of the world thinks you are more entitled to talk on behalf of others already, so don’t. No matter how much you read about their history, their needs, their interests, their concerns, their oppression (which you should, by all means); no matter how active of an ally you are. You are not them, you cannot explain their suffering for them, you cannot answer for them. So shut up, listen, and learn.

Learn their terms. They should not be the ones teaching you how not to be offensive, you should be able to do that yourself. It is valid to ask questions, of course (RESPECTFUL questions). Just do not feel like you can correct us on how you can refer to us (if I personally find you calling me ‘baby’ offensive, dude, drop it). Short confession: I once thought I was entitled to judge if I were to call a transwoman a woman or a man based on how much she “passed” as a woman. I cannot even begin to say how ashamed I am of that mentality right now, how sorry I am for it. Completely unacceptable.

Learn their history, their oppression, their concerns. We learn the white, heterosexual, able-bodied male history since we are kids, even if it does not represent most of us or OUR history. Now it is time for you to do the same.

Be an active ally. Do not try to lead the way, but try to walk with them, supporting their struggles. Call bullshit on the guys for catcalling, intervene when someone is bullying a person on a wheelchair, correct a person who you know got your friend’s pronoun wrong [See: Trans Etiquette for Non-Trans People | Matt Kailey]. To be an active ally you have to be an active listener, willing to accept your own mistakes, willing to take the heat of being an ally of an oppressed group, willing to shut up when you have to and speak up when you must.

And, honestly, why not? Use your privilege for good. Respectfully, carefully, checking yourself closely.

While cismen speaking up against violence against women might be seen as problematic because it should not take a cisman’s voice for other men to listen to it and pay attention (a woman saying “stop raping us” should be just as effective and respected of a claim as a man saying “let’s stop raping women”), today’s world works in such a way, unfortunately. Cismen speaking up against violence against women or against sexism in general, provide men with a role model they can relate to (on the basis of genitalia similarity, which I find quite odd and arbitrary), and they can listen up. They cannot say the guy is speaking to his own benefit or personal interest, and human brains work in such a way that we think that fact makes their claim more valid – whereas, as Tim Wise speaks about in his ‘Pathology of White Privilege’, who is more of an expert on oppression than the victim of that same oppression?! – and it may be more effective. An ally is an ally. If I am talking to a friend about sex work, about transgender issues, about disability, I will use my privilege in those categories to speak of what I know, with as much care and tact and humility as possible, and I will try to change someone’s prejudices and misunderstandings. I will point out when they say something offensive, even if it is not specifically offensive to me.

Why? Firstly, because I would like a guy to do the same thing about rape culture and about slut shaming and about wage gaps, I in fact love it when I see it happening. It does not make them or me a better person, or more entitled to friendship, a relationship, sex or ANYTHING with the group we are an ally of, needless to say. But I love it. Secondly, because part of knowing you’re privileged in some way is knowing that people are more likely to listen to you (unfortunately, and we must of course fight to change that fact as well: referencing non-privileged authors or sources of knowledge, explicitly noting that your word is not any more valid, etc). People are less likely to dismiss you, or get defensive, or offend you with their denial. It sucks, but it is true, and an ally is an ally (again, a respectful, non-entitled, humble one). I don’t know about you, but I’d take it as it is.

So yeah, that sums it up I think. Checking your privilege is 1) realizing you haven’t got it so bad after all, so stop bitchin’, 2) taking into account that what you say might come from that place of privilege and ignorance and you may need to apologize, correct yourself, do your homework, etc, 3) taking responsibility for your words and actions, and owning that privilege by becoming an active and supportive ally, 4) realizing some spaces are not for you to take over with your privilege-splaining (I think I just made that up, but see mansplaining to check out what I mean) or your over-representativeness: you have the rest of the world to have role models, topics relevant to your needs and interests, categories and terms that are consistent with how you see and like the world, etc., so back off when, for once, it isn’t about you.

That is all, for now. If you have any thoughts or things to add, please tell me. I love knowing more and more and more. And sharing it all 🙂

If you feel like talking about privilege to others and are not sure how to start, or are not all convinced by what I said just now, check out How To Talk To Someone About Privilege Who Doesn’t Know What That Is, and An Anthology of Privilege Checklists.

Words that matter.

I have said before how I love language. I love it because it can empower or disempower, create or destroy. It frames issues, gives them direction. It is part of your identity, of how others see you and how you see yourself.

It can be incredibly intimate – with secret codes and made-up words to have with someone, with words of encouragment every morning in front of the mirror – and it can be incredibly political. It IS always political, in that it includes and excludes, offends or supports, ALWAYS. Even when we are not paying attention, language comes up behind us and stabs us in the back, letting everyone know our true sentiments, our deepest-held prejudices, our privilege, our ignorance. I believe that we ought to pay more attention, as our choice of wordscan make a great deal of difference in which conversations happen, who we include instead of excluding, who we stop hurting.

Language (not just English, although the literature I have encountered has been vast on this particular one) as an inherently racist, inherently sexist, inherently homophobic, inherently classist thing is too broad and too complex and too damn long a topic to speak of right now. For now, I just wanted to share some terms I have been trying to use or stop using and why. I of course, invite you to also check yourself – as a privileged ally, that is the least you can do really – and evaluate your language use and do your homework about it and change some habits too.

Some of the terms, dichotomies, standard-versus-other stuffs that we should all be changing:

– First of all, that whole “my gay friend/cousin/teacher” when sexual orientation is not relevant to the conversation (which if you ask me, is almost all the time). It makes me and others think 1) the gold standard is being heterosexual and that one person is the weird one in your world, 2) our (and your) judgment of the rest of what you’ll say should take the ‘gay’ bit into account (for some bizarre and homophobic reason) and 3)  that – sorry, I gotta say it – having a friend who happens to be gay somehow makes you a better or cooler or special person and we should take notice of that fact.

Also, some funny kind-of-true stuff

– Same thing goes with “my black friend”, “my trans friend’, ‘my disabled friend’, ‘my midget friend’. Unless that part of their complex, full, awesome being is relevant, saying it only marks it as a difference. And yes, differences do exist, but I do not hear you saying “my white friend”, “my straight friend”, “my cisgender (I’ll come back to this one) friend”, “my fully-physically-abled friend”.

– Start using cisgender to refer to people who are not transgender, who are privileged in this society for identifying with the same sex they were born with, when differentiating from transgender people. Do not mark the difference by saying “men and transmen”, as if the normal thing was to be cisgender and the other, the alien, the abnormal was to be transgender.

“Oh, but I only mean normal in the statistically-normal kind of way”, you say? We humans do not talk in statistically-literate terms, in case you have not noticed. In a hypothetical situation, almost anyone would be more likely to say it is more normal to run into an English-speaking person in Argentina (or almost any country) than it is to run into someone who speaks Chinese, even if Chinese is more statistically normal. Because language is about politics, about visibility, about access. I know the analogy is not perfect, but you get the point.

“Oh, I don’t know anyone trans so I’m not offending anyone”, you say? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t (what makes you assume you know, anyway?). Even if you don’t, language works like a forest fire. If you say cisgender, someone might ask you what cisgender is, maybe they’ll too be convinced and use it, and so on: somewhere (if not everywhere) along the line, you just stopped someone (and yourself) from – possibly unintentionally – hurting, discriminating against, and offending some one else.

While we’re on the subject of cisgenders and cisgender privilege, it is time for a check-list. I know I have been guilty of more than one horribly offensive, transphobic thing, and some of them stem from not fully acknowledging cisgender privilege, so check it out and stop being a twat 😉

– Saying something/someone is “so gay” as a way of saying silly/dumb/ridiculous/flamboyant/cowardly/boring/cheesy/over-dramatic. You are literally equating those negative or at the very least stereotyping adjectives to being homosexual, and an = sign goes both ways. It is as simple as not being lazy and use any of the above adjectives or any other instead of saying “gay”. Even Hilary Duff agrees with me on this one.

– The same thing goes for “stop being such a girl”, “you’re such a pussy” (for an anatomically-accurate word for ‘sensitive’, try “glans”, as in the tip of your penis), “he plays like a chick” or the like.

run like a girl

You are saying, first of all, that whatever attitude the person displayed was a feminine (girly/womanly/chick-y) thing to do which is 1) stereotyping and further reinforcing gender roles that block both men and women from being however the fudge they want to be without fear of ridicule; and 2) saying, literally saying, that being equated to a woman is wrong or undesirable or humilliating or inferior. Actually, all of those things. It goes like this: “playing like a chick” is saying (most commonly) that that person is playing badly or poorly or too delicately, right? So you’re saying that a girl plays badly and poorly and too delicately, and because you are saying it to demean a person, it is saying that being called or compared to a girl is supposed to be demeaning. It is very easy: say they are playing poorly. Say they are being over-dramatic, say they are being too high-maintenance. Don’t equate those bad attributes and offensive stereotypes to women and do not equate “woman”/”girl”/”chick” to an insult.

– Using the word ‘retarded’ or retard. Something is not retarded: something is either ridiculous, or dumb, or bad, or annoying, none of which describes or equates to intellectually challenged or disabled individuals. Do not use that word to describe people who are not intellectually disabled as a way to insult them: it should not be an insult because intellectually disabled people are not inferior or wrong or less worthy than non-disabled people like yourself. Do not use that word to describe intellectually disabled individuals either, it is offensive. You are not charged by the vowel, so I am sure you can use intellectually disabled instead.

– Oh, OH. Please, stop using the word ‘rape’ for anything else than rape itself. Ohhh this makes my blood boil. You did not “rape that exam”, you ‘rocked’ it or you finished it no-problem. The football team did not “rape that tournament”, they embarrassingly outperformed the other teams.

Using the word minimizes the actual pain, suffering and trauma of survivors. It hurts them, and it can bring back the pain of the actual rape that happened to them. It makes survivors feel unsafe and rapists feel safer in a world that trivializes and jokes about what they do. Here’s another more elaborate take on this.

– Relevant to recent events, debates and blog posts: gay marriage vs marriage. I am guilty-as-friggin-charged. I think this is not cool because it makes it as if marriage between heterosexuals is the whole deal and the other one is an alternative version. So I will start saying “straight marriage” or “heterosexual marriage”. This is a pledge.

So yeah. These are some easy ways in which we can change our habits to be better and to make others feel better and safer. By recognizing the prejudices that we carry with us and by correcting the language that promote these same prejudices, we make it less okay for people to say racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist things whether it is on purpose or not.

THIS. If you have to start the sentence with "I'm not racist, but", YOU ARE BEING RACIST.

THIS. If you have to start the sentence with “I’m not racist, but”, YOU ARE BEING RACIST.

I also invite you to check out this test. It is related to my blog post in that our word choice is one of the ways our prejudices leak out, but there is so much more to look at inside our socialization. The test was created by Harvard researchers in order to assess some of the unconcious associations we make and makes us reflect upon them in order to make our concious attitudes meaningful ones. It is also super simple and interesting and enlightening [I got some scores that embarrass me, honestly, but that make me think and try to tackle internalized ideas I hold].

Any other terms/phrases you think we should change in our vocabulary?

Lines, marriage and who’s worthy (and who decides).

Same-sex marriage in the United States has been for quite some time the focus of attention in terms of LGBT activism in that country. It also has the entire world turning its head whenever a state legalizes it, whenever the Supreme Court discusses it. Today and tomorrow are such days, in which activists around the world are either picketting, marching, making phone calls, staring at their TVs/computer screens in waiting for statements, for results, hopefully favorable ones.

For thousands and thousands of people in California, though, today and tomorrow are life-changers. It is not just a cause that they support: it is their life and their happiness that is in the hands of those judges. Because of the weight of the decisions being made in these two days, millions of people in other states’ livelihood is also at stake. Furthermore, as has been studied over and over again, a course taken in the United States, because of its standing in the global market (of ideas and products alike) is a course likely to be followed by other countries. The whole world is watching.

miserable gay marriage

I cannot stress this enough, though: it is people’s lives that are on the table when you talk about same-sex marriage, anywhere in the world.

You might think I am exaggerating. Some of you may even think: “who cares about an archaic notion such as marriage?” or “marriage is a patriarchal, oppressive institution” or, most valid of all (imho), “fighting for marriage equality is supporting the notion that marriage is the ultimate and most legitimate form of coupledom and that coupledom is the ultimate and most legitimate form of existing in today’s society”. And I agree, I don’t care about the archaic notion of marriage, I also think marriage is instrinsically oppressive and (hetero)sexist and indeed, marriage should not be the norm and standard to which to compare other forms of relationships or families. But that is absolutely not the point.

The way I see it, the struggle to dethrone marriage and the struggle for marriage equality are two parallel ones, not mutually exclusive or in competition with one another. First, because we are talking not just about principles and causes and struggles and good ol’ activism: we are talking about people’s choices, even if we (marriage dethrone-rs, that is) don’t agree with them. And I will beat you to saying “but they are socialized into wanting marriage, that’s why”, because it might be true but kind of irrelevant. I was socialized into liking The Beatles by my mother who would play their albums nonstop, which does not mean that I didn’t later arrive by my own means to the conclusion that they are awesome and I like them too. The second reason why the two struggles are parallel and not competing is because you cannot have the first without first having the latter, I believe. It is like skipping a step in the ladder for actual, full equality of all humans regardless of their sexual/romantic choices and modes of association.

Marriage, whether we like it or not, the most validated relationship status (which is key in society’s evaluation of us and others, the State’s evaluation of us and of our own self-evaluation), the only one that is sanctioned by the State and the one that all other forms of association “look up to” (in terms of legal, social, economic and political benefits, that is) and compare themselves to. It is the 10 on the scale of 1 to legit. Not having the right to marry means you are less legit as a couple, and therefore as an individual. It means you are less citizen, less human being, less everything. As a pivotal institution in society, having access to it means having access to all that being a human being in a particular place can have access to. It means society accepts you and sees you as important and legitimate and equal to everyone else.

One only has to look at the name of the law the Supreme Court is discussing tomorrow to see how degrading the illegal status of same-sex marriage is: Defense of Marriage Act. To me, it sounds like the precious sanctity and purity of marriage has to be defended against the abomination of outside forces such as homosexuality. It comes down to that, really; it is saying: “you are unworthy of such an institution, you are unworthy of equal treatment and you are unworthy of the same kind of citizenship that we have”. I will not even talk about the divorce rate, statistics on cheating, on domestic violence or on sexual abuse within heterosexual marriages. You can look those up and question how sacred and pure and worthy of “defending” heterosexual marriage is. I am not even arguing homosexual marriage would do a lot better on those stats (which I have many reasons to believe), I am merely saying that there is probably little difference, little to no abomination that same-sex marriage can bring to the general pool of ugliness that marriage in general already is.

Furthermore, who exactly is being called “unworthy”? According to various surveys throughout the years (at least in Canada and the United States, but there is little reason to think the trend is not in the same direction in other countries), more and more people self-report as being somewhere along the scale which is not 100% heterosexual. This means, for one, if you are casting a vote (or buying a product that casts a vote for you) against same-sex marriage, regardless of where in the world you are from, you are almost sure to be casting a vote against people you know, people you care about. Your ballot is actively telling your neighbor, your cousin, your teacher, your fireman, your son, your soldier: “you are less worthy of rights than me”.

I want to share this TED Talk (I could share a thousand TED talks, really), because it speaks to exactly this. It is as relevant now as it was 20 years ago, as it will be for quite some time, until we stop categorizing arbitrarily and picking and choosing who is worthier than who based on ridiculous and private things such as what genitals does the person in the neighbor’s bed  has. Because it boils down to that, folks: you are casting a vote saying your choice of genitalia to bring home is better than everyone else’s. To me, that’s just arrongant, condescending, ridiculous and kind of none of our business at all.

Anyhoo, the awesome TED Talk:

http://www.ted.com/talks/io_tillett_wright_fifty_shades_of_gay.html

I want you guys to think about this because sometimes we think about laws being discussed and we may sort of support them but not really cause they sound so far away, specially if we don’t live in the States or do not vote there, and specially if we do not identify as LGBTQ*.

They are not far away, though. First, in today’s global society, every place that passes a law (or repeals a ban) in favor of same-sex marriage, it encourages other countries to do the same, it fuels activists worldwide, it makes a case that judges elsewhere can look at.  Second, politicians are elected by us, which means they can be pressured by us too. Third, corporations are sustained by us, which means they can be pressured, by our wallets, to push for one or other law.

Fourth, and going back to my mention of the feminist dilemma to support marriage equality or not, consider this: a challenge to traditional marriage is a challenge to traditional marriage. What I mean by this is that by challenging the heterosexism of marriage as an institution, other challenges are in order, such as gender roles within a marriage, economic and social responsibilities, division of labour, etc. Taking one layer of oppression of the giant oppressive pile that is marriage, is a start. Even if it is true that the only legal way to protect and validate your family and your love should not be marriage, while it is, let us make sure we all can access it.

Let us all make sure we are concious of who we are voting against, or who we are not moving an inch for. Wherever you’re reading this from, there is very likely a group of people considered less worthy of basic civil rights, basic human rights even. There are people challenging that worthiness. Learn about it, so that this piece of big news in the Supreme Court does not end there. Look at the pictures in the ‘Self Evident Truths’ and see if they’re really less worthy than you, if you can really be the judge of that, if you can really point to a radical difference in their faces to yours, to your family’s. If you can really stay still while people like you are being told, on a daily basis, that their existence in their own homes is not legitimate.

I know I can’t. I can’t look any one person in the eye and say that they matter less than me. I can’t draw a line between ‘more important’ and ‘less important’ than me.

 

 

An itty-bit more on the debate of marriage equality (there is PLENTY):

Live Blog: Supreme Court Weighs Gay Marriage – Washington Wire

Defense of Marriage Act – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

LZ Granderson: The myth of the gay agenda

Feminism and the Same-sex Marriage Debate

Decoupling Marriage and Procreation

 

 

And to answer the question of who decides who’s worthy: we all decide. We all have the power to decide. As I said before, we elect the politicians, we keep the businesses going, we tune in to the media. That is how we vote, that is how we say that we are all worthy, or none of us are.