Yeah, I Just Said What You Think I Said: I’m a Feminist.

This post is a part of the This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like blog carnival.

The Feminist Action Network at my alma mater gave me a sticker. It says: This is what a feminist looks like. I love those stickers. When everyone wore them, it showed that there’s no “look” to a feminist. We’re of different races, genders, backgrounds, religions, and…ages.

I put my sticker right smack in the center of my laptop, for the world to see, as long as this laptop functions. It’s sparked some conversations. I’ve gotten to dispel some stereotypes. One thing, however, has not changed and is not going to change for a long time.

I look young. I am a female college graduate at the age of twenty-two, which is awesome, but I look somewhere between the ages of 13-17. (Say I’ll love it when I’m older and I cannot take responsibility for my words or actions.) The conversations usually go like this:

Me: “Hi! Can I get a pack of Camel #9 menthol 100s/beverage of dubious content, please?”

Them: [skeptical expression] “Can I see some ID, please?

[sees date, eyes boggle, examines ID closely for holographs, boggle again] My goodness! You don’t look twenty-two at all! You look 16!”

Me: “Yeah, I know.”

OR

Them: So what school do you go to?

Me: I graduated from WKU in May.

Them: [eye pop] Oh?! How old are you??

Me: 22.

Them: Wow! You look 16, tops! You may hate it now, but you’ll LOVE it when you’re older! Congrats on graduating, what’d you study?

/end scene.

Some form of this conversation happens whenever I meet someone new, even with people my age. Its inevitable, though I’ve come to prefer it with younger folk, because once it happens, the shock and disbelief turns into a respect. With older folk, the condescension of talking to a minor turns into a different, though sometimes minor form of it. This condescension drips when speaking of politics, of feminism. You know what I’m talking about. Oh! You’re a feminist! Isn’t that cute! You think you’re an activist! Don’t worry, you’ll grow up and realize that in the real world, you have better things to do.

Further, I’m a young feminist in Kentucky, a conservative state. A red state. Not only am I young and a feminist, but I live in a state where religion and tradition abounds, where real work is the only kind that is valued, and I am often one of the few liberals in a circle. A feminist, too? Forget it. I was somewhat shielded from this in university. One of those liberal havens, you see, where silly kids go to happily receive their liberal indoctrination.

I’ve spoken before of being a liberal in a red state, and how abandoned I’ve felt by liberal organizations, especially feminist ones. There are plenty of feminists here in Kentucky, and we work hard to make things better for Kentucky, but we need help. We need the resources of the national organizations–their funding, their manpower, and their influence. Kentucky has Mitch McConnell, and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. A longstanding incumbent is hard to get out of office, no matter the political affiliation.

Kentucky is not served by the divide between young feminists and old. The older feminists have resources that us young feminists don’t. We young feminists may not have a lot of money to donate, but we are willing and able activists. I receive the e-mails from NOW and other organizations of the like. I don’t read them anymore, because the “Action Alert” is invariably to donate money. Where are the protests? Where are the grassroots, door-to-door knocking and talking about feminist issues? Where are the organized trips to Frankfort to talk face-to-face with legislators? Young feminists are willing and able to do these things–hell, we’re eager to do these things.

I love protests. I love sign-making. I LOVE going to Frankfort and talking to my representatives. I have resources. I know people. I know people who have things to give, if only there were an organized effort to give to.

We can’t ignore young feminists, like we can’t ignore conservative states. Like the political map, ignoring us will only lead to more polarization, and less effectiveness.

Let’s work together. I’ve got the posterboard and markers. You’ve got the money. Let’s go do something.

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The Bitter Fruit: When Prejudice Begets Violence.

Today the New York Times features the story of Ahmed H. Sharif, the cabbie in NYC who was stabbed by Michael Enright after Mr. Sharif said he was Muslim. This article gives a profile of both men, as well as what happened in detail.

Enright is rightfully being charged with attempted murder, as a hate crime. That’s a first degree felony, with up to 25 years. It’s a chilling tale–cabbie picks up fare, the two chat, fare asks cabbie’s religion, then how his Ramadan is going, then starts to mock Islam and Ramadan. Suddenly Enright brandishes a knife, reaches through the divider, and stabs Sharif multiple times in the neck, face, and arm, then takes off.

I can already see where this is going to go from the article. It paints Ahmed Sharif as the good, integrated Muslim, making sure to mention how long he has been in the country, his family, and his position on the community center two blocks from Ground Zero (he’s against it, of course. They’re trying to paint him as a Good Muslim) in the whole paragraph they devote to his background.

It paints Enright as a good, all-American boy. Everyone is shocked, shocked that he would do something like this. They make sure to mention that he volunteers with Intersections International, that his senior film project led him to embed with a battalion of Marines in Afghanistan, and that, in court, he was dressed nicely, and he’s “terrified…shocked…just trying to cope with it.”

Huh.

He’s terrified, huh? The guy who saw fit to stab a man, just because he’s Muslim, trying to kill him, then dashing away–he’s the terrified one?

They’re going to paint him as the Good-All-American-Boy who believing he was part of a holy war against Islam, just had to stab an innocent man just trying to make a living, because of his religious beliefs. He’s so scared, officer! I mean, he’s not a real soldier, but he saw all these terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad things in Afghanistan! He had to do it!

Not buying it. I hope the judge and jury doesn’t, either. This is prejudice and hate at its worst. This is what fear-mongering and hate-based propaganda produces. This is what happens when political parties and hate-filled activists stir up controversy based on prejudice of an entire religion.

I’m so glad to hear that Mr. Sharif is alive. I’m sure his wife and four children are, too. I hope he recovers.

But the damage is done; to him, and to the Muslim community, in NYC and across America. Enright has done a lot more than just stab an innocent man. He’s threatened an entire group of people–sending them the message that they’re not safe in this country because of their religious beliefs. He’s told Muslims that they might get killed in America for believing in Islam. It doesn’t matter if you’re Sunni, Shiite, or secular.

And that’s what makes this crime all the more horrific. We’ve seen this coming. We’ve stood by and watched news outlets, politicians, activists, and our loved ones breed resentment, hate, and fear of Muslims in America. We’ve stood by and let this happen. Now we’re seeing the fruit of their hate. And it’s a bitter one.

Poorness-Moral Failing of you or me?

I grew up poor.

Are you disgusted with me yet?

I’m twenty-two and not rich yet.

How about now?

I still live at home.

Oh, yeah, I can feel the conservative disgust.

The lack of a cushy bank account is not a moral failing. Spending some of the cash on what could be considered “luxuries” while Being Poor is also not a moral failing.

See, like Real People, poor people like to do more than just exist. We pray, we play, we enjoy good food, pleasure; more so, I dare say, because we so rarely get to enjoy such things.An example is in order, yes?

When I was a kid, our water heater broke. We couldn’t afford to replace it, not for a year. We lived a year without hot water. Hot showers feel great. But no hot shower felt better than the first one I took after we got the new heater. Now this is an extreme example, but it demonstrates very nicely what I’m talking about. Hot water is a luxury. We didn’t HAVE to have it. But it is very, very nice to have. So when my family could afford it, though still poor, we got it.

Were we still being the noble, virtuous poor that conservatives like to elevate while degenerating the poor who accept government assistance? Did I mention that we were on food stamps for a while, too?

Oops!

Now the disgust is oozing. Every situation is different. Every family is different. But we’re part of a community, just the same as the Real People, who are Real because they’ve got the cushy bank accounts.

No society benefits from a portion of its citizens starving, living without necessities, being unable to afford school supplies for its children, or being homeless. There is no benefit, unless perhaps the Real People’s Realness depends on their ladders being composed of these non-Real People. I mean, what other reason could there be for such disgust?

I’m not just talking about material benefit, either. I’m talking about the mental well-being of every citizen of Society. What mental good can come of existing, of seeing, of having such contempt for the poor?

There is none.

Let me tell you something else. That private assistance, that charity of private citizens (Real People!) that we poor are supposed to rely on when our boot straps break from all the pulling? In my case, my family’s case, it was nonexistent from those Real People. I was a good church-going girl back then. Every Sunday, Wednesday, choir, VBS, musicals, you get the drill. When we couldn’t pay bills? Nada from the Good Christians of Charity, those Real People of Virtue. Who let me spend the night, so I could have a hot shower without damaging my childish pride? The other non-Real People.

That disgust of poorness doesn’t motivate charity and goodwill, contrary to popular belief. It motivates hate of the supposed moral failing, it motivates spurning of our fellow humanity. It motivates greed and the disregarding of integrity and respect in order to keep filling that bank account, to avoid at all cost losing the status of a Real Person.

Are you still disgusted with me? Or perhaps with something else–like, the mindset that pushed you to be disgusted with my poorness?

Traveling While Differently-Abled

As I write this I’m in the backseat of a friend’s SUV, somewhere on the coast of California. I love traveling. I love that feeling of “Wow. I’m in [place] right now” and looking at the mountains, the ocean, the restaurants, and man-made sights. Traveling is a huge privilege, class-wise and abled-bodied wise. The extra things the differently abled have to consider living day-to-day obviously extends to travel as well, though, persons with abled-bodied don’t even consider it.

Plenty of medication has to be packed, the traveling/touring schedule has to be accommodated to fit certain needs, and environmental factors have to be considered. If your traveling partners are all abled-bodied, there’s also the burden of their perceived burden of having to accommodate your needs. All of these things take the whimsical, carefree nature out of traveling. They add stress.

Part of the fun of traveling is seeing new places, but for the differently-abled, that has a downside. At home, we know which places are friendly to our needs, and which places are not. Our doctors are close at hand, as are our pharmacies. Our living spaces at home are already suited to our needs. We have a support system of family, friends, loved ones at home. None of this is so when you go out of town.

When traveling with companions that are all visibly different from you, locals (or other travelers) want to know why. People like to hear the traveler’s story—where you’re from and why you’re there. When you’re visibly different (in my case the only civilian) they want to know why you’re different (why I’m not in the military). And it hurts. We are constantly reminded of our difference, and these questions are only another slap in the face. These questioners are genuinely curious, but that doesn’t change the feeling one gets when you have to endure these questions. I was already very acutely aware of my civilian status. When my traveling companions are in uniform it is all the more so.

See, I desperately wanted to be in the military. My dream, from the age of thirteen, was to join the Air Force and become a pilot. I wanted to wear the uniform. I wanted to serve my country. I joined Civil Air Patrol at the age of fourteen to better my chances, and I loved it. I loved the military culture. I loved how the uniform made me feel. I love the feeling of serving. I loved that respect (that a woman, and a differently-abled one, gets all too rarely). The uniform masked my womanness, the things that signaled my second-class status, and my accomplishments were born right on my uniform, unable to be disputed by others. My accomplishments were the first thing others saw.

So when I was asked about my difference, it was a crushing blow. I had to, again, for the thousandth time, decide if I was going to be “polite” aka a dutiful broken body and disclose my disability, or if I was going to be “rude,” and not satisfy the local’s curiosity, and therefore be an uppity broken body instead. Making that decision at home, in my comfort zone, is one thing. Making it in a new place, where I am merely a visitor and am completely unfamiliar with, is entirely another. It reminded me that my body can’t do the things I want to do, and that my dream is forever taken from me. They tell you as a child you can be anything you want to be, do anything you want to do. For the differently-abled, our disability tells us, each minute of every day: NO YOU CAN’T.

I’m having a wonderful time. I celebrated my birthday here yesterday, and I did not regret being away from home. But for me, and others like me, there’s always something lurking at the back of the mind.

Feminism: From the Mythological to In Your Face.

The more I blog, the more I’ve found myself talking to friends about feminist issues. I discussed them before with friends, sure, but only with ones I knew were feminists themselves.

Being a feminist in a red state can be difficult. For the most part, I know the political persuasions of my friends. Many of those friends are Republicans, and many more have at least some conservative leanings. So much of the time, I avoid politics when talking to friends. It’s easier that way. (edit: clarification: I avoid talking about certain issues with my more conservative friends. I can’t not talk about politics!)

But the more involved with blogging I’ve become, the harder it is to avoid it. (Hey, who wouldn’t be excited about your blog getting a larger readership, interning and moderating for other blogs, and another opportunity coming your way?) So, I talk.

And predictably, they get pretty heated. I’m traveling with a friend of mine currently, (Hello from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California!) and well, when you travel with one other person, you talk. A lot.  When I say things get heated, I mean I get heated. I’m largely a self-educated feminist. As much as I would have loved participating in and completing the Women’s Studies program at my alma mater, I didn’t have the time to do it. I did what I always do when I want to learn about something: I read. I read books, I read blogs, and I read articles on news sites and in academic journals. I read court cases. Knowing all I know, it’s often frustrating talking to others who know so little of feminism, and much of that being myths and stereotypes.

It’s amazing to me that for so many people, feminism is this mythological creature that, like God, is mysterious, and is unable to be completely known. Outside of feminist circles, it’s spoken about in vague terms, with much hand-waving and platitudes. My non-feminist friends are no exception. When a topic is shrouded in vague and mystifying terms like feminism is, people often only know of generalities. Like many political issues, feminist issues are complicated and cannot be reduced to soundbites, but often are.

In these conversations with my friends, I strive to bring specificity to the table. I tell them of specific ways that these “feminisms” have manifested themselves in my life or theirs. I tell my stories. I tell Momma Beemer’s stories. Why? Because they’re raw, they’re real. No one can parrot a two-minute segment they saw on Fox News in an attempt to prove it’s not true.

By sharing my experiences, I expose the myth that sexism, sexual harassment, and rape, as well as other problems with patriarchal society are not rare, because to continue to believe so would mean that I’ve lived a life so extraordinary it would almost be mythological. And they know my life is not extraordinary. It’s not fantastical. My life is just like theirs. They can’t dispute it.

In so doing, it brings feminism back down to earth. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s a passionate movement that seeks to bring real change to the world, and for the better. It’s fair. It’s just. It’s free.

I may not change their minds, but I’ve accomplished something. With one friend, he realized that his views of rape were incomplete, wrong. That’s progress, even though he still rants about “those crazy liberals” in front of me, and insists that I’m not one of them, because I’m reasonable. That’s progress. Another friend, so shielded in his adolescence and young adulthood, has a lot to learn, and though he’s conservative, he can see my passion and admires it. That’s progress.

For a long time my online life were separated from my “In Real Life.” But with Feminism, it simply can’t be. I love feminism. It gets me fired up. It makes me want to move. And with that kind of passion, it’s impossible not to share.

Why The GOP May Not Gain As Much As They Think

As yet another election season approaches, there’s a lot of talk about Democrats losing political offices, and Republicans gaining them. I’m not going to go into all of the reasons that Democrats have to worry, because those have been widely discussed, debated, and posited upon. Though I recognize that it is typical for the in-power party to lose seats in midterms, I want to present arguments that I think Republicans have to worry–and why they might not gain as many seats as so many seem to think.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

1) The GOP’s money problems

According to this article on Politico.com, the Republican National Committee, the RNC is having, ahem, financial difficulties. The committee had to take out $10 million in a line of credit to finance “relatively small” House races. They’re only able to pay for a fraction of the initiatives the RNC usually sponsors for elections, such as GOTV (get out the vote), phone banks, mailings, et cetera, and are instead relying upon conservative group American Crossroads to pick up the slack. Republican House and Senatorial Committees are only getting a fraction of the money they usually get, as are Gubernatorial and Congressional candidates.

This lack of cash flow will have a huge impact all over the political sphere–like it or not, our political system runs on money. The more of it a candidate or party has, the more resources they have to get their message out, to put their face in living rooms, and to get the desired demographics to the voting booth. It’s also a race. If a candidate has a significantly lower amount of cash to campaign with than does his or her opponent, then not only are not getting face-time, but your opponent is getting a lot of it, and voters are more likely to remember your opponent than you.

2. The Tea Party. Oh, yeah. The Tea Party. The gift that keeps on giving, but not so much to the Republican Party.

The Tea party is a recent phenomenon, a reaction to President Obama’s election. They haven’t yet experienced an election season, so the remainder of this year will be very interesting. Like many have pointed out, the Tea party’s lack of leadership, unity, and direction is attractive for rhetoric, but bad for getting things done. The Tea Party membership is also highly conservative. So much so, that in fact it may divide up the Republican party, making mainline Republicans to support certain candidates, while Tea Party Republicans will support more extreme candidates, with more extreme ideas and positions. This is not going to win elections. This is going to fracture the party, meanwhile, Democrats will have the same base of support they’ve always had.

3. Some candidates running for office.

Kentucky: US Senator: Rand Paul.

The Tea Party candidate, a darling of libertarians, Rand Paul is the one who famously came out against the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. I must note, not against their ideals, but that they forced private businesses to stop discriminating, and required them to accommodate differently-abled employees (if they had over 20 employees). Regardless, as a self-declared Tea Partier, his radical views on long-standing legislation, especially legislation that has long been regarded in the public as necessary as well as huge gains for the United States, is not going to help the Tea Party, or the Republican Party be viewed as anything but “the party of no” and regression.

His glib reaction to the BP oil spill is also not going to help, especially considering the crickets from other Tea Partiers and Republicans when this came out.

Throw in that he certifies himself to practice Ophthalmology, that board is not certified by the American Medical Association, and new allegations of his involvement in a kidnapping and forced-pot-smoking on the victim, and Rand Paul looks like a bad candidate, indeed.

Nevada: US Senator: Sharron Angle

Another darling of the Tea Party, and vocal opponent of the health care reform, Sharron might have been okay here, considering how unpopular the bill has been with Conservatives, except:

“there’s nothing wrong with our health care system.”

Whoops! While many would say that the legislation wasn’t the answer to the issues within our health care system, very few would say that it is perfect as it is.

She’s the famous one who recommended “Second Amendment remedies” for political disagreements. Don’t like someone’s political views? Shoot ’em up! Sorry, no. I’m in favor of gun rights, but only for personal safety. Only for self-defense. That definition doesn’t extend to intimidating people to win arguments or promote legislation. This is horrifying to most Americans–our political system is a democratic-republic and based in freedom of expression. Anyone advocating for repression of that is one that will repel and disgust Americans. Even though she has retracted this statement, it will not soon be forgotten by voters. Indeed, after this atrocity, her ratings dropped.

Throw in her statements advocating the “phasing out” of Medicare and Social Security, which is not going to sit well with older constituents, her refusal to speak to mainstream media outlets because they “won’t let [her] ask for money,” and her advocating the elimination of the Department of Education, and Sharron Angle’s election is not only in trouble, but also the image of the Republican Party.

She’s alienating parents, older voters, as well as those voters who abhor violence, value the back-and-forth our political system provides, and those who do not appreciate candidates who hide behind biased sources and refuse to speak to media outlets who won’t allow her to beg for money. So, pretty much everyone.

From Dan Raes thinking that a public bicycle program is evidence of a communist conspiracy, to Sharron Angle’s advocating getting rid of the Department of Education, these Tea Party candidates are dividing the GOP, and thus, votes in November. Moderates and Independents will likely not vote for such extreme-positioned candidates.

4. Ted Olsen.

The attorney made famous by representing George W. Bush in the infamous case Bush v. Gore, his fame increased by his teaming up with David Boies, his rival on the Bush v. Gore case, to fight Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative in California that re-banned same-sex marriage. Olsen is a prominent conservative lawyer. Few conservatives will come out in support of same-sex marriage, let alone go to bat for the equal rights of our GLBT citizens. He’s an example to fiscally-conservative-socially-liberal voters, showing them that they don’t have to hide their social-progressive views in order to be a Real(TM) Conservative.

Many Republicans are for GLBT rights, but will not advocate for them, let alone pressure their party to reverse course on their views, or even vote against candidates who hold extremely bigoted views of LGBT people.  Ted Olsen shows these closeted supporters that they do not have to hide, that they should not, that they come out in support of our fellow citizens, and advocate for their equality. I don’t know who Ted Olsen supports politically, but his hard work (and victory!) in Perry v. Schwarzenegger should be someone progressive-conservatives should look up to, and vote against bigoted candidates, no matter their fiscal policies.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but for sure it demonstrates that the GOP is not going to have the easy gains it hopes to make in Congress and other public offices this November. The next few months will surely be interesting, as a voter, and as a political scientist.

What do you think?

Support in a time of need.

A sister in our community needs our help. Renee Martin, of Womanist Musings, has just lost her twenty year old nephew, Jesse James Cox.

Jesse James Cox, 20, died Thursday.

Unfortunately, Renee and her family, in addition to grieving for their lost family member, cannot afford to pay for Jesse’s funeral. If you can afford to do so, please take some time to donate to Jesse’s funeral fund. Even small contributions will help, and your donation will help to alleviate some of the stress Renee and her family are dealing with during this difficult time.

I’ve linked to the paypal page above, but you can also access it from Womanist Musings main page, where there is a donation box on the left column.

If you cannot do so, leave of comment of support on Renee’s post, and help spread the word.

Thanks, for all those who have already donated, and to those who are supporting Renee and her family in other ways.