If anyone needs me, you can find me eating a bag of silent Doritos and drinking lady scotch in a corner.
Look, I know there are far worse things happening in the world than Diageo announcing their Jane Walker scotch for women. We need stricter gun laws, we need to pay teachers and not arm them, we need to save net neutrality, we need to protect DREAMers- just to name a few things going on this week alone. But, when I woke up this morning and saw the headline about Jane Walker, I was initially very upset. Upon reading more about it though, I learned that Diageo is doing some good with this initiative. They're donating a dollar to women's organizations for every bottle produced. Awesome! But if this is a women's scotch, shouldn't they be donating $0.67? Just saying. I'd rather have equal pay than a scotch marketed towards me.
It's not just the scotch though. It's the pens and the chips on top of this. I'm getting very tired of feminism and women, in general, being a marketing tactic. Please stop trying to sell our struggle back to us. It's not what we want - or at least, what I want. I can't speak on behalf of all women, but I'm just guessing that's not what we've been marching for. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe women have been asking for silent chips and scotch with a lady on it's label. “Scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women,” Jacoby said in an interview. “It’s a really exciting opportunity to invite women into the brand.” Oh please, invite us to sit at the table women apparently couldn't join for so long. No. People will drink scotch if they like scotch, same as they've always done. And they won't if they won't.
Women are not a marketing tool that you can use for limited edition or a special release. We are here to stay. We make up half the population and aren't going anywhere. So stop trying to sell us things to make us "feel better". Just pay us equally, get rid of the pink tax, treat us with respect, don't assault us, believe us, and march with us. We still have a long way to go.
I remember texting my friend, asking her if she thought it was weird that I was going to grab a drink with a male coworker one evening. I thought it was a little strange he asked me out, me knowing he was married, but it seemed friendly and innocent enough. We walked to a nearby bar, each had a beer, shared an order of onion rings, and that was it.
A couple months later, at the office holiday party, I remember dancing with some coworkers, only to look up to the balcony and see him watching me. I smiled. He smiled back. We had become friends since our first beer and onion ring outing. It was nice. I enjoyed hanging out with him.
A bunch of us continued the holiday party to an Irish pub nearby. I remember it was raining. I don't remember much else. It's all kind of a blur of images between me leaving the bar, this male coworker following me down the street, pulling me aside and kissing me under an awning. The only reason I distinctly remember the rain is because of how miserable I was standing in a puddle of water trying to hail a cab, trying to get away from this man as fast as possible after pushing him away. I remember sobbing to my friend on the phone as the cab drove me away. I remember asking, "is it my fault?" I remember the gut wrenching pain I felt that night. I remember feeling so incredibly low and ashamed. I didn't want to go into work. I didn't want to go anywhere. And I blamed myself over and over again for his actions. I counted it as my mistake. Maybe I had flirted too much. Maybe I liked the attention. Maybe I was looking for the attention from a man because the guy I was seeing at the time was treating me like utter crap.
I remember sitting in a psychiatrist's office the morning after the holiday party. The appointment had been scheduled for weeks, but timing worked out great for me. He recommended a therapist to me, which helped me deal with some of my issues with men. Not all, because they never go away completely. I can't forget the other married one who groped me in my car after a small cast party which I was the designated driver for, me hoping he was too drunk to forget that uncomfortable situation. He wasn't, and wanted to pursue an affair (to which I said hard pass). I can't forget the guy I worked with at the feed store who pinched my ass (to which I turned around and punched him in the arm). More than that though, I can't forget the stories I've heard from my friends, both male and female over the years. And you know what? It's not fair that we have to continue to relive these moments, to share these accounts, in order for everyone else to wake up and pay attention.
Sure, expel Harvey Weinstein from the Academy, but let's not focus on one awful human being when we need to shine a big massive light on this systemic problem that's been going on for years. Going back to what I wrote about in my last blog, The Tyranny of Masculinity, this is something we need to find solutions for instead of continuing to point out the problems. As Jackson Katz (seriously, watch his TED talk) says, "We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women... Even the term 'violence against women' is problematic. It's a passive construction; there's no active agent in the sentence. It's a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term 'violence against women,' nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them... Men aren't even a part of it!"
While I do think it's important we hear and share the #MeToo stories, we also need to keep in mind that the perpetrators people are writing about aren't just monsters that go away when we turn the light on. No, these are people in our everyday lives. One of my favorite Instagrammers, @feministastic posted this today and I had to share because I couldn't have said it better myself:
This is not to say that #MeToo is a bad thing at all; just that, once again, the burden falls on the oppressed group (people who have been assaulted/harassed) to appeal to the moral sense of their oppressors. @femmefeministe explains, "Each time I pour my soul into a piece about assault, I draw out words and put them together with the hope that someone will feel connected or some sense of solidarity.
I write for victims, but I also write for those who don’t know what it’s like, I have written with the hope that those of you who have never felt themselves shredded and stripped of their autonomy will hear us and fight alongside us because we need more people to stand up against rape culture.
We march, we carry signs, we hold hands, we cry, we scream — but who’s listening? Sometimes it feels as if no matter how many times we write our stories, no matter how many statistics we show you, you don’t really care. For a moment you ingest our pain; you read details and see flashes of images pushed into the sentences we stitch together. Perhaps you almost feel a sense of revulsion, or even guilt.
You think we were raped by monsters, but the people in our nightmares are people like your fathers, your brothers, your friends... How many stories will we have to write for you to care? Or have you read too many of our horrors? Are you desensitized now? Your friend made a rape joke, but hey, he’s a good guy. Right?
I won’t tell you about the person who destroyed me. I won’t tell you about the scars. I won’t tell you about the night terrors or the depression or the anxiety or loneliness — because, to you, I’m just another bitch who was probably asking for it. I’m a statistic you will forget, these words of mine, you will forget but I will go back to bed and not have the luxury of forgetting.
I am tired of proving to you just how difficult it is to recover. I cannot do that labor anymore. The numbers are out there for you to research: the essays, the songs, the art and the speeches are there for you to absorb and carry within your heart so that perhaps one day you can find the time to actually help us dismantle rape culture.”
So yeah, #MeToo. And yeah, I hated being reminded of that male coworker who followed me after the office party years ago, because it brings me back to that moment of sobbing in the cab. I don't want to relive that, but I also don't want young men and women to have to live through situations like that themselves as well. That's the thing though, isn't it? It shouldn't have to fall on the survivors to prevent it from happening again. We've done enough and have lived through it. What about you? Those who are remaining silent. Those of you who are standing by watching all this happen. Those of you reading the statuses and the comments, saying how you get in almost fights defending harassment. Those of you who say you're heartbroken seeing so many of your friends share #MeToo. Those of you who have witnessed sexual assault and said nothing. Done nothing. Those of you who enabled people like Weinstein for years, knowing full well what was going on. Where's your action with all of this? And what are you going to do now that you know the monsters aren't just going to go away because we've turned the lights on?
I've been thinking a lot about that word a lot lately. Masculinity. It's hard not to with the news surrounding Stephen Paddock and the Las Vegas shooting, Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault allegations, Trump, with well everything he says and does. My partner was recently watching Manhunt: Unabomber, and as I caught bits and pieces of it in the background, I found it interesting to hear the history behind the Unabomber, what were the causes that led him to those horrendous life-altering decisions. There's some kind of empathy that goes with it when you learn more about the type of upbringing a person like that had. You see them more than what their actions represent and realize there's layer after layer built onto them as a person. There's things that happen in all of our lives that shape us, change us, and influence us to become the person we are today. So what is happening to men that leads them to behave in such an atrocious manner?
Now, I'm not pointing fingers at men, saying "What's wrong with you? It's all your fault!" On the contrary, I'm looking at our culture and trying to figure out what we can all do to help the toxic masculinity syndrome that's been breeding for far too long.
"The feelings of entitlement behind so many mass shootings may explain why shooters skew not just male but white male. According to the findings of a 2013 study at the University of Washington: “Among many mass killers, the triple privileges of white heterosexual masculinity which make subsequent life course losses more unexpected and thus more painfully shameful ultimately buckle under the failures of downward mobility and result in a final cumulative act of violence to stave off subordinated masculinity.” As Madfis explains, “If we’re talking about mass murderers, they often have gone through life with a series of losses—they’ve failed in lots of respects, haven’t gotten jobs they wanted, been passed over for promotion, these kinds of things. Then something bad happens, they get fired, there’s kind of an acute event” that triggers the shooting."
I recently watched a couple TED talks surrounding this subject. In the first one, I found it interesting that Tony Porter's 2010 talk titled "A call to men" ended with him bringing up his daughter and the type of world he envisions her living in. He says, "how do I want men to be acting and behaving?" in relation to her. Yet, he didn't bring up his son (who he mentioned at the beginning) and the type of world he envisions for him or what actions he can take as he grows up. Why is that? Why do we tend to focus more on the world we want young girls to grow up in but not young boys? Do we assume they're taken care of? That it's more important for girls to feel safe than to help men from acting out in a dominate manner?
In the second TED video, Jackson Katz turned the table with his talk "Violence against women — it's a men's issue". He focused on the type of language we use (based on the feminist linguist Julia Penelope's work) and how important it is to ask a different set of questions when looking at violence. Now, instead of reiterating it, I want to share with you exactly what he said: "Because this isn't about individual perpetrators. That's a naive way to understanding what is a much deeper and more systematic social problem. The perpetrators aren't these monsters who crawl out of the swamp and come into town and do their nasty business and then retreat into the darkness. That's a very naive notion, right? Perpetrators are much more normal than that, and everyday than that. So the question is, what are we doing here in our society and in the world? What are the roles of various institutions in helping to produce abusive men? What's the role of religious belief systems, the sports culture, the pornography culture, the family structure, economics, and how that intersects, and race and ethnicity and how that intersects? How does all this work?"
Jackson Katz's TED talk is from 2012, by the way.
"I understand that a lot of women who have been trying to speak out about these issues, today and yesterday and for years and years, often get shouted down for their efforts. They get called nasty names like "male-basher" and "man-hater," and the disgusting and offensive "feminazi", right?"
The language sure has shifted over the years (note the sarcasm, please). Nowadays, women just get called "nasty" if they speak up.
"And you know what all this is about? It's called kill the messenger. It's because the women who are standing up and speaking out for themselves and for other women as well as for men and boys, it's a statement to them to sit down and shut up, keep the current system in place, because we don't like it when people rock the boat. We don't like it when people challenge our power. You'd better sit down and shut up, basically. And thank goodness that women haven't done that. Thank goodness that we live in a world where there's so much women's leadership that can counteract that."
Again, this talk is from 2012, so I wonder where the women's leadership lies nowadays. In a world where the Education Secretary (who is a woman) scrapped a key part of government policy on campus sexual assault, where the President is rolling back the birth control mandate because it's important to focus on limiting women's reproductive rights rather than gun control. With all this, it's evident how scared the current administration is of women and men speaking up, wanting to shift the system, and free others from toxicity of masculinity we've been seeing. The masculinity of men carrying tiki torches, so afraid of their role in society being compromised.
"But strip away the so-called toxic aspects of masculinity: the aggression, the violence, the hate, the guns, and what are you left with? Strength, endurance, a woody-scented perfume, a liking for the colour blue? Certainly nothing that need be associated with manhood or maleness. These are simply individual qualities. The only reason to code them as “masculine” is to preserve a social hierarchy that ought to be destroyed."
We see men like Harvey Weinstein who claim they need training on how to be appropriate in the work place and to women, saying his behavior is due to growing up in a different age. To quote Jackson Katz again, "My argument is, he doesn't need sensitivity training. He needs leadership training, because he's being a bad leader, because in a society with gender diversity and sexual diversity and racial and ethnic diversity, you make those kind of comments, you're failing at your leadership." And how can we not hear that, look at Weinstein, and then look at Trump and hear the leader of the United States say "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now."
We see it. We hear it. We know toxic masculinity exits, and yet so many people will say things like "boys will be boys," and let it go. No. We cannot be silent when we hear that. We cannot be silent with any of these situations. It's time we stop being bystanders and get involved. The topic of toxic masculinity is a hard one to tackle, but it's important to recognize it than to just pretend it doesn't exist in hopes that it will go away. Young boys are still being brought up with the idea that they shouldn't cry, that conquering women is the goal, that if they fail - then their manhood is in question.
I've started coaching a group of young girls through a running program. The other day, we were outside and their male classmates yelled at them, "have fun at girls on the walk" (implying girls can't run). The girls asked me to call them jerks, but I told them I couldn't do that because I have to set a good example. I want to be a good leader for all genders. Because, while a lot of my work focuses on empowering girls and women, I don't want to leave behind the boys and men who are struggling to find their place in society as well.
So I replied to the boys, "I don't know what you're talking about. These girls run." Not at all what I would have liked to say. I would have liked to ask them why they felt the need to make fun of the girls. But I know the answer. They're jealous they don't have a group of their own to partake in. And if there was a group dedicated to empowering young boys, people would say that's only feeding into the patriarchy or something like that. Which yeah, some of those that I've seen out there seem like they're doing that. But there are some organizations dedicated to mentoring young boys, which is awesome. We need more of that. Because if we continue to only focus on lifting women up, we're going to leave behind a lot of people who are struggling to find their place in the world too.
"Well, the tyranny of masculinity and the tyranny of patriarchy I think has been much more deadly to men than it has to women. It hasn't killed our hearts. It's killed men's hearts. It's silenced them; it's cut them off."
Again, we all have our own stories and backgrounds that have shaped us into the people we are today. And toxic masculinity isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But it starts somewhere and we don't have to be silent about it. One way to start taking action against it is to take the following pledge with the Representation Project: "I pledge to use my voice to challenge society's limiting representations of gender." Other ways to get involved are signing up for their campaign and newsletter for more information, continue to educate yourself and others, and join forces with those in your life that are leading by an amazing example for our children. It's up to all of us. Not just men. Not just women. We all have to partake in this conversation and get involved to see the changes we want to see.
Over the past few weeks, I've watched the Harry Potter films a handful of times (the first was binge watching the DVDs while recovering from surgery and since then it's been on Freeform all the time, so of course I keep watching them!). I actually have Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 on in the background as I type this. Judge all you like. You're just jealous because you want to be watching it too.
So, while running away from reality and disappearing to Hogwarts, I'm taking in as much of J.K. Rowling's wisdom as I possibly can. I know the movies aren't strict adaptations of the books, because what movie actually is as good as the book? To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe, but I digress. One line has stood out to me though, amongst the Harry Potter films. Upon the third time watching Order of the Phoenix earlier today, I heard Luna Lovegood's line in a different context than I had before. She's talking to Harry about how her and her father believe him regarding You-Know-Who being back. Harry replies they're probably the only ones, and Luna (being her honest self) replies that's probably what Voldemort wants, for him to be alone. "Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone, you're not as much of a threat."
When I heard that line, I had an image of Colin Kaepernick kneeling by himself and could hear 45 (the other He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, because his name causes me to feel nauseous and makes my blood boil) say, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ ” And then I thought of The Kaepernick Effect taking place, and my eyes welled with tears. 45's words led to a series of protests among the N.F.L. and beyond today, showing that one person can start a movement, but they really need the support of others to keep it going.
I believe it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." It's true, and I think we're all seeing that now. There's no room to be silent anymore. There's too much at stake. With our health coverage, natural disasters (and people that don't believe in global warming), DACA, and the list goes on and on and on. Silence is no longer an option, and we can't let the world rest on one person's shoulders. We must divide the weight, do our part to make a change, and let others help as well. It's not fair to take on the burden ourselves. We must be leaders and listeners.
I've noticed this with Stories of the Resistance, the fundraiser I'm organizing for Planned Parenthood. I find myself taking on so much and wanting to do everything (it's the recovering perfectionist in me), but then I see the joy other people feel when I ask them for help and it makes it beyond rewarding. Those that I'm reaching out to, they want to make a difference, same as I do, but sometimes a lot of us just don't know where to start. As I mentioned in my previous post, that's how Stories of the Resistance began. With one Facebook status asking if anyone wanted to join in a theatrical fundraiser to talk about health care and reproductive rights. And it's amazing the response it's received. I look at all the stories we're going to share this coming Saturday night, and so many of them are individual struggles dealing with health coverage. People going about things alone with no one helping them, but Planned Parenthood helped them. They were there for them when no one else was, because Planned Parenthood doesn't want you to feel cut off from everyone else. They want to provide you with the appropriate knowledge, resources, and understanding so you can decide what's best for your body.
Because isn't that what we've seen from the men deciding the rights of women's bodies? They're threatened by us and want to control us. Like how Dolores Umbridge tried to control the students at Hogwarts with all her rules. She tried to silence them. She tried to tell them what to believe (cough cough global warming isn't real). She even punished them. But despite her actions, an army was born. Dumbedore's Army, as Neville Longbottom so aptly put, is "supposed to be about doing something real." And despite Harry insisting he go about things alone, Hermione (of course) reminded him: "When are you going to get it into your head? We're in this together!"
Yes, Hermione. We are in fact all in this together.
Last year, around mid-November, I put a call out on social media to see if anyone would be interested in participating in a theatrical fundraiser to benefit Planned Parenthood. A lot of people expressed they wanted to be involved. They wanted to tell their stories. So, this idea grew over time and became a part of my passion project I AM S.H.E (Stories Heard Everywhere). Thanks to the incredible powers of Allie Harris and Tiffany Adeline Cole (amazing queens, friends, and co-founders of I AM S.H.E.), we recently announced our first event! It's titled Stories of the Resistance and will be taking place on September 30th in Los Angeles with another one set for the spring in NYC.
For the LA event, we are striving to raise $2,000 to support Planned Parenthood's commitment to ensuring access to quality health care, education, and information for all individuals and families worldwide. Each of the stories being told are personal accounts relating to reproductive rights, the health care system, and our current political climate. They're incredibly powerful, and I can't wait to share them with the world. The event will be live streamed, so if you're not in the LA area, you can watch it online. More information can be found on our Facebook page and website.
While working on Stories of the Resistance, I've been finding myself extremely overwhelmed by people's generosity to help make it happen. To see so many people jump at the chance to get involved, I'm reminded that there's still hope in the world (look for the helpers!), how we are people making a positive change (be strong and loud!), and that working on something that matters to you is such an amazing feeling (is this what Wonder Woman feels like?).
So I urge you to check out our event, donate what you can to support Planned Parenthood, and ask yourself: are you ready to join the Resistance with us?
First things first, here are some ways you can help those affected by Harvey:
Second of all, I honestly don't have much to write about because all I can think about is Houston and how they need our help. Please do what you can.
And finally, I just want to share a few social media highlights from the last few days.
Professor Wolbrecht goes on about this for about 11 tweets. My response to Matt Walsh: Yes, this is how it ought to be, people helping people. As @iwillharness posted:
@iwillharness is HARNESS YOUR ENERGY TO POWER CHANGE (founded by America Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams, and Wilmer Valderrama, Harness connects communities through conversation to inspire action and power change). Check them out.
Last week, I shared this Tina Fey sketch on Facebook and thought it was somewhat cathartic to see Fey eat a sheet cake (because that does seem relatable) but there has been some serious backlash against this sketch that is worth reading and acknowledging our part in it as well. While some are claiming the brilliant satire of Fey to be overlooked, I believe with that platform she had that night, she could have done so much more with it, especially knowing that a lot of people were looking for something we're clearly not getting from 45.
She's a smart lady and uses humor well most of the time. I've been a fan of hers for years. Hell, my branding is to say I'm a lovechild of Tina Fey and Audrey Hepburn. But, while I have admired the witty New York writer, I am becoming more aware that she does not have the best reputation in the feminist world. She sides more with white feminism than intersectional feminism, and a lot of her humor is pretty damn racist. I noticed more of it in Kimmy Schmidt, but it's definitely seen throughout 30 Rock as well. And yes, she's a comedian. A lot of people felt the need to remind us of that after the backlash began with the sheet caking. Comedian or not though, a lot of POC took great offense to the sketch, and that should be enough for us to look at it (and ourselves) with greater perspective. While I don't think it's fair to hold Fey to that level of presiding over us, we the people were expecting/needing more in that moment. No, she's not a leader, but she's the face we saw and looked to for hope.
I do wish she had ended the bit with a more of a unifying tone instead of telling us to stay at home (because a lot of people thought she was seriously suggesting that). When I initially watched it, I thought there was something to it, the idea behind not giving power to the white men whining about their rights. It seemed to say "take care of yourself, you're not alone, don't just sit around and do nothing though," which who's to say if that's what she was going for or not. Either way, the audience for that message was people like me. White ladies overwhelmed by guilt and the sad state of the world. It reminded me of the following Bo Burnham lyric from his song "Sad":
"That's it, laughter, it's the key to everything
It's the way to solve all the sadness in the world
I mean, not for the people that are actually sad, but for the people like us who've gotta fucking deal with 'em all the time
Being a comedian isn't being an insensitive prick capitalizing on the most animalistic impulses of the public, it's being a hero!
The world isn't sad. The world's funny! I get it now! I'm a sociopath!"
And the other day at a Town Hall meeting with my Congressman, was I tempted to get up and ask him: "So, what do you think of Tina Fey's cake sketch?" Yes. Without a doubt. I wanted to get up, ask my silly question, and tell everyone there I brought enough sheet cake for us all to share (which obviously I didn't). I wanted to do that because the room was so full of hate, anger, and shouting, my friend and I were holding hands throughout a lot of it because of how intense it was. So, I created a humorous situation in my head to ease the pain. Because humor is a wonderful thing to turn to during moments of struggle, but sometimes it's truly not enough.
I was visiting my family this past weekend when I heard about Charlottesville. As I was sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight back down to LA, I was writing down some thoughts in my journal. This is what I wrote:
"But I struggle with my perspective as a white cis middle class woman - haven't we had enough of those [stories]? I don't want to be more of the same. I want to change. But this is where I am. A young woman. Or am I just a woman now that I'm 30? I am part of the problem. I need to do more.
It's vulnerable for me to share those words on this platform. Writing in my journal is a safe space where I can let it all out without any repercussion or outcome. It's just word vomit. But I wanted to share the words above because I feel like I'm not alone in some of these thoughts. A lot of people I know are struggling with how to voice their feelings with everything they're watching on the news. A lot of people are not talking about it. A lot of people are saying we need more love in the world. A lot of people are open to friendly discourse and conversation. Me? I'm thinking about jumping on a plane and flying to Charlottesville or somewhere else in the world to get more involved. I'm not going to, but the thought is there. I'm looking for protests, panels, and marches in my area. And yeah, I'm definitely open to talking about different perspectives, but when it comes to racism, bigotry, classism, or anything close to those? Fuck it. I want to scream in a lot of people's faces right about now. I am angry. I am full of rage. I am thinking some horrible thoughts. I am ready for action, instead of just sitting behind my computer, observing everything that's taking place. I am thinking too much about myself.
What about you? What are you doing? What are you feeling? Do you have any words to share? The quote I keep in mind lately is "If you are silent in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu. Other words in my mind are from Ani Difranco. Who, around 2011, rewrote some of the verses of a 1930's labor song "What Side Are You On?" and it seems appropriate to share some of the lyrics today:
"Too many stories written
These words have echoed in my mind for 72+ hours. What side are you on?
Our SCROTUS thinks there are many sides to this. Many sides. WTF. He said, "I think there is blame on both sides... You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.” It's infuriating. It makes my blood boil. I thank whatever god you believe in that I'm not in high school right now and can pour myself a very large scotch to numb myself from the pain.
I wish I had a better note to end on this week, but with everything going on in the news, it's hard to focus on anything else. So for now, I'd like to take the time to think more, reflect, listen, scream, and do more than contribute my $5 to whatever non-profit can help people out this month.
First of all, I highly recommend that you listen to the Nerdette podcast. It's quickly become one of my favorite things to listen to and from work. The guests provide homework for the listeners, which I am so into and have fulfilled all of the assignments I've listened to so far (yes, I'm a nerd and it's the Hermione Granger in me that's coming out).
Second of all, if you haven't seen the film Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre and starring Jenny Slate, do yourself a favor and rent it on Amazon. To this day, it's still one of the best movie going experiences I shared with some of my close lady friends.
Now, with both of those things said, I want to share something that happened to me the other day while I was driving home from work, listening to Jenny Slate on the Nerdette podcast.
Jenny was speaking about how amazing Gillian is to work with, and as she was saying "while she loves men, she has just no time to bend towards the male gaze," I looked to my right and saw this old dude in a beat up mini van just staring at me in a very creepy manner. Jenny's voice continued, but I couldn't hear the rest of it. My ears seemed to stop working because all I could focus on out of my peripheral vision was that dude continuing to stare at me.
I tried to get back to Nerdette, but my mind was running all over the place. I thought of that 30 Rock scene when Liz mentions the male gaze and Hazel responds, "Yeah, they're all a bunch of gays." I thought of earlier in the day when a guy catcalled me from his car as I walking down the street. I though of when I learned about the male gaze in college and how that opened my eyes up to cinema more. I thought of Orange is the New Black, Wonder Woman, the manic pixie dream girl and the cool girl. And as I was thinking about each of those, I was focusing on the male gazing at me from his window. How dare he objectify me. How dare he stare at me. How dare he continue to do so even when I looked back at him, clearly seeming upset.
The light turned green and we each drove off, me in a slightly more raged state than before. I rewound the podcast to hear what I had missed. Jenny's voice calmly surrounded me in my car: "she has just no time to bend towards the male gaze, and I needed that. I needed a role model like that in my life. It changed everything from my personal style to how I think about myself in my community to how I pick my jobs. And I like that she allows me to play women who are sexually active, have sexual preferences, but are not sexualized in any way that is going to create a marketplace for the patriarchy. I like that."
We need more people like Gillian Robespierre.
In that moment, I breathed a little easier. I felt comforted, understood, and not alone. It was as if Gillian and Jenny were in the car with me, and we were driving off to create more badass feminist art. And we definitely don’t have time to deal with any of the bullshit that is the male gaze.
Last night, I attended a panel put on by Amplifier at their LA Pop-Up Studio in Silver Lake. The title of the event was The New Feminist Agenda: Where the Women’s March Goes From Here, and it included a group of five artists and activists. I attended this in hopes of finding some answers to the questions I've been asking:
The speakers also mentioned the importance of finding our tribes. We need to utilize the people around us and start the work from there, building out. I was instantly reminded of the Leslie Knope quote: "Not to say that public service isn’t sexy because it definitely is, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because we get the chance to work hard at work worth doing, alongside a team of people you love. So I thank those people who’ve walked with me, and I thank you for this honor. Now, go find your team and get to work." It's one of my favorite quotes of all time. A close contender, however, might be from one of the panelists - Paola Mendoza - last night, who said: "Organizing out of anger is exhausting. But if you organize out of love, it's energizing. Love keeps you fighting. What got me out of bed on November 9th was love for the undocumented community. My love for democracy."
Those words are definitely what I needed to hear, and why I left feeling better than when I arrived. Those words reminded me that so many of us are fighting with love right beside us. It's love that keeps us going, not anger. Anger is what is coming out of the White House currently. Well that, and fear. It's a lot of old white men in there that want to control others, to fit us in this mold they made for us. And when we don't, they don't know how to handle it so insane things just continue to happen. Those crazy things might make us angry, which is good. That is the fire within us, but what fuels the fire? That's love. We need to keep the love burning and light each other up with inspiration.
Oh, also, something important I took away from this panel. Don't be afraid to be uncomfortable. We all have to be more uncomfortable to incite change.