In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Grover on Marriage

Love knows no color or texture, and marriage is when two people get married. In this clip from a 1983 episode of “Sesame Street,” Grover and a little boy named Jesse define the concept of marriage. I’m not going to give away the ending, but their definition involves kissing, hugging, being friends, helping each other, and being between a mommy and a daddy. Wait, shoot, not that last one.

Superbowl Open Thread

I only kinda halfway watched it because being out watching the Superbowl is a Thing You Must Do, but I did pay attention to the halftime show. Beyonce! Wow. Beyonce. You are a superstar for a reason and I love you and want to be you and I am so glad you never wear pants because there is absolutely no reason for you to ever wear pants. 2013 is really her year, huh? Inauguration and the Superbowl? Not bad. I did not watch the commercials, although I saw that Audi one this morning and I agree with Amanda that it is gross. No, kissing someone isn’t rape, but walking up to a virtual stranger and planting a kiss on her because she’s hot and you’re “brave” isn’t really treating her like a person who should have some say in who she wants to kiss. It’s treating her like she’s an accoutrement to your sweet life, like that car. But as Amanda points out, it is forever fascinating that there exist “gross dudes who will die on the hill of claiming that creeping on women and forcing yourself on them is a legitimate form of flirting.” What did you all think? About the game or the commercials or Queen B or the lights going out because Beyonce is just too bright or whatever?

A Simple Saturday Post: Leave Me Out of Your “Everyone,” Mr. Apatow.

I just wanted to quickly mention the trailer for the new Judd Apatow movie, “This is 40.”

Of course, we all know that Hollywood is guilty of all sorts of offenses all of the time, but it seems rare even today to find one that is quite so up front with its surface-level exclusion. The tagline at the end of the trailer reads: “This is not just their story. This is everyone’s story.”

Please, watch, if you’re so inclined:

(Trigger warnings regarding this trailer: man on a toilet, Megan Fox in underwear, humor about spousal death, anti-aging, inherent anti-lotsa-stuff…)

The trouble, of course, is with the assumption that “everyone” will see some aspect of themselves in this story… a story which appears to be about a wildly wealthy (do you KNOW how much a house like that costs in LA?), white, American-born, middle-aged, thin, conventionally attractive, cissexual, child-rearing, married couple. I’m going to give Mr. Apatow and his corporate marketeers the benefit of the doubt and assume they know not “everyone” will conform to all of those attributes at once, and are trying to make a more general point about the basic similarity of human experience, but even I—a white, cissexual, American-born woman raising a daughter—feel thoroughly alienated and offended by this at just a core level. My heart and stomach clench to wonder how other “everyones” must feel when watching this trailer and getting smacked by that tagline.

It’s obviously impossible to cast aspersions on Mr. Apatow’s film itself– at least until the movie premieres, this will remain a marketing problem– but he is a hugely powerful filmmaker in this town, and I believe it’s fair to say that the tagline came down to him. It represents at the very least a myopic and embarrassing perspective on the world. At worst, it suggests that those with the most privilege in this country are unwilling to even bother extending an invitation to see their new movie to those that aren’t adequately “like them.”

And frankly, in order to chalk up a box office success, they will presumably need more than middle-aged rich white people (traditionally not the most movie-friendly audience out there) to go see their film… So couldn’t they have come up with a slightly less exclusionary pitch?? (I’m kind of seriously asking this, and also leaving the comments section wide open here for complaints, suggestions and heavy-duty snark.)

I am very lenient about humor, and I know what Judd Apatow’s movies are like. Some of his stuff has made me laugh, some has made me cringe, some has made me cringe through laughter or laugh through cringing. In addition, I believe he has every right to tell this story—clearly a personal one—if he chooses to do so. But if his marketing is going to display a level of ignorance this enormous, and work to exclude us so egregiously, then “everyone” can certainly choose not to see it.

How Storytelling Saved My Memories

(Trigger warning: shame, drug/alcohol use.)

There are so many things in my life that I used to be ashamed of. I have made mistakes bigger than I ever imagined I would or even could, and I have been through unforeseeable experiences that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody. I am very proud of the person I am now, but some of the stops on the road that got me here… yikes, my friends. Oh my yikes. At times, I’ve been so ashamed by these moments and memories that I’ve elected not to discuss them, analyze them, or even think about them, none of which resolved my sense of mortification and—in some cases—self-loathing. Fortunately, something has recently come into my life to assist with all of this heavy stuff!

Here in LA, consider the storytelling scene a cousin to stand-up comedy. (And, because societies have forever used storytelling to keep a record of their histories, consider it the older cousin.) Los Angeles is a stand-up hub, but storytelling is close behind and gaining speed. With no intentions of ever performing, I was going about my ho-hum existence as waitress-by-day-writer-by-night when a friend of a friend called, more or less out of the blue; she was starting a new storytelling show, and wondered if I would like to participate one night. I decided I did. It went well. She asked if I would like to co-host a refined version of the show with her, attached as a producer and regular performer. I decided I did, and Happy Hour Story Experiment was born.

Before this, my relationship to storytelling revolved around the kitchen table, or the corner of a party, or behind the safety of my writing desk. Everything is different on stage at the Hollywood Bar & Grill. Strangers are there, looking at me! Sure, sometimes they laugh when I expect them to, but other times they just stare. And their silence can be deafening. Sometimes they’re not listening at all because they’re jonesing for another (weirdly watery) martini. And new people are constantly walking in off the street, unaware that there’s a show going on, which is particularly distracting when you’re carefully holding back tears over the loss of a sibling.

The first few weeks, I only read pieces from my old blogs, but they were mostly trivial tales about dating and single momhood. Then I dropped the reading format and started to explore bigger, more dramatic events in my life. I quickly discovered that that this combination—more personal stories with a more physical, freewheeling, anything-can-happen performance style—helped me examine and sort of re-contextualize those events. By actively molding my own memories for an audience, I found that I was creating small pieces of self-mythology; fairy tales, with insightful little morality nuggets. It became an exciting and a comforting way for me to access and analyze my own life, and the shame I carried with me about certain embarrassing choices and events began to dissipate.

Here’s an example, albeit what I consider a slightly more light-hearted one:(WARNING: possibly NSFW on account of language and…grossness?)

(Video description: I am on stage with a microphone describing a very bad night that taught me a lot about my willingness to ask for help. QUESTION: as a guest blogger, am I supposed to transcribe the entire video here for the hearing impaired? How much detail is expected? Please advise. Thanks.)

My own performances notwithstanding, I have become incredibly proud and grateful to be a part of the HHSE. Time and time again, people thank us for creating a safe space to try out new material, to talk about personal experiences, to try out something they’ve otherwise been afraid of for fear of embarrassment. In addition—and I assume it’s because the show is hosted by two females (myself and comedian Melinda Hill)—I am so thrilled by the fact that our performers every week are mostly women coming from all walks of life. Finding a supportive, communal place for female creativity can be extremely difficult, and to be a key part of one feels like a dream come true.

Of course, everyone is allowed to participate, and sometimes the most effective storytellers are not the ones I’m expecting. These are my favorites. One night, an older man wearing drawstring sweatpants tucked into his socks stepped onto the stage. He told a silly story about a recent trip to the petting zoo where he patted a woman’s head because her hair was so frizzy he mistook it for an animal. The man laughed his way through the end of this story, delighted all over again by this hilarious thing that had happened to him. He came alone to our show, and though I have no idea how he heard about us or where he went when he left, I know for sure I’ll never forget him or his little story. He was so sweet I almost wanted to cry. Later the same night, when a woman told us about an epiphany regarding her husband’s Jewish heritage and his parents’ experiences in the Holocaust, I did cry.

Storytelling has the capacity to bring everyone together in celebration of the weird, funny, humiliating, scary, and heartbreaking stories that make up our lives. For me, it has been a key to unlocking my own history, and given me the confidence to attempt new, even more intimidating challenges (hello, Feministe!). The more secure I am with myself, the better a role model I am for my daughter, and the more comfortable I am thinking about the hard conversations that lie ahead for the two of us.

Have you ever turned embarrassing stories or shameful truths into helpful myths of your own? How do you all celebrate community and creative expression? I’d love to know how else I might be able to chase this feeling!

Posted in Fun

So I Thought This Was Kinda Cool

Not sure if anyone here is familiar with The Good Lovelies, but they are a three piece ensemble out of Port Hope, Ontario who are generally categorized as “roots” music – they have a real throw-back, Andrews Sisters three-part harmony type feel. Sunday drives and picnics type stuff.

A friend got me their first CD for my birthday a few years back and it’s great. I took my girls to see one of their shows and they put on the kind of performance that makes you wish they were your best girl friends. I was listening to it in the car not long ago and it occurred to me that nestled in this collection of guitars and ukuleles and banjos were nestled a number of feminist themes. “Sleepwalking'” describes having been sold out by the promise of domesticity. “Down, Down, Down” talked of disillusionment with the church and acceptance of mortality. I should add, these are my personal interpretations only.  

 The song that surprised me most was “Cheek to Cheek”. Admittedly, it was one of the tracks that took me longer to get used to. After really taking a listen to the lyrics I discovered that behind what could be considered a pretty innocuous, love song, was a song about sexual agency, where the woman narrating is truly a subject, rather than an object of desire.

*Listen Here

Put your cheek next to mine
While our fingers intertwine
Step with one foot at a time
My hips have it, my feet fall in line

Our strolls turn into miles
Guided by the pale moonlight
I want to lean in, but it’s been a while
So I wait just a little longer

Oh, I would do
Anything with you
Under the moon

You wait by the riverside
Lips together, eyes shut tight
We sway like it’s our first time
Gently pull you down to the ground.

It’s subtle, but not. I like how there’s a sense of hesitancy in the second verse, but it’s based on the narrators own readiness. There’s no pretense of not wanting to come across as too forward or too bold. Just the thought of “Hmm.. Is this what I want?” and then “Yes, yes it is,” during the bridge.

 The narrator here is the one acting, rather than being acted upon, right up to the last line.

I’ll also add that, vocals aside, there is no indication of gender. This could be a song about a man and a woman, two women, two trans men, two people of any given gender or sexuality.

 Long story short, this reading of the lyrics increased my enjoyment of this song in particular. Does anyone have a different reading? Do you find the lyrics problematic in anyway? Is this just my way of promoting local(ish) talent?

*Lyrics are reprinted with permission (*gigglesquee!*)

Tarot! Get your tarot!

Hi guys. As some of you, but not most of you, know – I read tarot. Not because I’m a creepy “let me tell you your future, child… oh yes, a tall, handsome man approaches…” – type (Jesus, at least I hope so), but because I have found that tarot is good for predicting the present. As opposed to the future.

The rules are simple:

I do most of my readings via essay form in e-mail nowadays.

Readings are also available via Skype. Sometimes, they can be harder to schedule, due to time differences (I’m in Moscow), but I’ve had some success with North American and UK people recently, so it can be done. Sometimes, an adorable infant will coo in the background, adding to your general reading experience.

Prices range from $30 to $100 per reading, depending on your preferences and how we decide to approach your question.

Different spreads suit different lines of inquiry.

No, I’m not going to try to convince you to get the most expensive reading possible. Only if you prefer to go in really deep will I offer the 21-card spread, which takes a while to complete but is usually worth it.

I accept PayPal.

I try to get a good sense of why you’re approaching me for a reading first, so some back-and-forth banter via e-mail is usually required to proceed.

I can be slow (work, play, baby, husband) – in part because I try to give the best reading possible, and need my wits about me for that.

Very rarely, I will reject a possible customer, but only if they’re being super-weird and/or rude. Like, “So I think this stuff is bullshit and a waste of time, but how about you impress me?” Sorry, I have roughly two billion better things I could be doing.

Unfortunately, time constraints and financial constraints mean that I cannot offer readings for free at this time – or even on a barter basis. I hope that will change eventually.

I have this hope that tarot reading among expats will catch on in Moscow. Probably because I think that tarot is good for your emotional health, and expats tend to lack it. I even have my eyes on a cozy future space where to occasionally gather – but all of that is in the distant future.

I don’t really think that tarot is magic in that whole supernatural woo-woo sense. If you’re into the supernatural woo-woo stuff – that’s perfectly cool. But I closely tie tarot to a type of therapy that can occur via interpreting symbols. NO, it has NOTHING to do with traditional therapy. But it can help people have fun and relax.

I think I’ve said it all – if you’re interested, please leave a comment here indicating this. Please include your real e-mail address. I will be in touch with more information, including a rough price list.