Until After the Wedding

Every word she spoke increased my sorrow, and made me realize just how bad my parents relationship had become. Not that I didn’t suspect it at some point to happen. When I was a teenager I noticed that my parents didn’t have much of a relationship, and despite my mothers efforts, my father was clueless and unfortunately more selfish than he would ever realize in his emotional ignorance.

My sorrow deepened even more as I recalled all the times I confided in my mother about concerns I had in my own marriage…and she responded with “You definitely married someone like your father.” No less, all the times she told me “You’re just like your father.”

Thank you mom. You’re so supportive.

The sense of hopelessness that it left in me made me consider that my marriage may end up looking like hers one day. Where my husband feels more like a roommate and less like a husband. Unfortunately hints of that have already started in my relationship, and to divulge my feelings to my husband and get an honest response out of him….I had to get him buzzed so we could talk about it without anyone saving face or telling lies a few nights ago last week.

The hardest part of being in my mothers situation is knowing that she was worth more long before my father was married to her. She was a teacher, with a good savings, paid well in her district, and a solid retirement plan. When my father got hold of the finances after they were married, he lost my mothers retirement and asked her not to go back to work until after we kids were out of the house. A closeted sexist and an unfortunate product of the era of his parents. He wasn’t counting on pregnancy and time to increase my mother’s health problems, and eventually he seemed to set himself up well for retirement and with life insurance policies on both he and my mother, but unfortunately no retirement plan for my mother, and no financial security either. Now she is unable to go back to work, and her health costs are taking them both for all they’re worth…which oddly enough gives me a sense of comfort know my fathers poor decision making has not come without consequences to his actions. It’s just unfortunate that my mother has to lose her peace of mind and security in her marriage over his lacking.

I had been wise in asking my husband to keep our finances separate. A method that many family and friends had given me flack for. Saying that I was not being wise or truthful to my husband about our finances and that it wasn’t right of me as a wife to request it or withhold from my household. Still, my husband was kind enough to agree to it. We each put what we can into our joint account, and we each do what we can to keep our own savings and checking accounts in line. If I’m broke, it is only my fault and no one else’s. No one can financially abuse me. I can choose what I want to invest in or not.

Still, financial abuse is not he only concern my parents relationship has caused me to be afraid of. My father, will sell nothing of his own, but often suggest selling things of my mothers to make ends meet. He will often be distant or removed emotionally and not have any kind of romantic attachment to my mother when he doesn’t feel like it. His moods swing and she falls victim to his coldness, not that he cheats or physically hurts her…but he neglects her…something I have noticed ever since I was old enough to become observant. All attributes I can see great potential of in my own relationship. Which makes me increasingly afraid.

Still I fight so hard to remind myself that my husband is not my father. He tried to ask me how I’m doing. He tries to take care of me. Even if he’s feeling distant he never pushes me away if I attempt to emotionally approach him. He may struggle with words, but he admits that. He asks for affirmation. He asks for my respect when he feels he is not getting it. He never makes unreasonable demands.

Still, we are young both in age and marriage…and so much has yet to happen.

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Victims

My car was in the shop a few days ago, and since my husband and I get off work pretty close together, and our jobs are only a couple blocks away from each other. I told my husband if he dropped me off at work in the morning, I would walk over and meet him at the car in the parking lot at his place of business.

Big mistake. On the way, I got cat called not once, not twice, but 5 times…as well as followed.

The first one was pretty usual. A honk and some lewd yelling. I flipped them off and they sped up. The second was immediately after them, a small piece of the chain reaction, only this one was a man with a young boy no older than eight or so in the passenger seat. I kept walking and mumbled curses under my breath for that one. The third one was just a honk, and when I ignored it and kept walking, they made a u-turn and started back my way very slowly. That really freaked me out so of course, I ducked into the nearest business I could. A hardware store within the block of where my husband worked, and sharing a parking lot. I told the manager what happened, and asked him to forgive me for loitering for a while. He offered to call the cops. I told him I didn’t get a good enough look at the car to really have that be useful. Only that it was a blue car, darker blue, but not navy and not quite royal either. When we looked out to see if any blue cars were around, and saw none, I finally was ushered by the manager to exit the building out the back door to get to the shared parking lot faster.

When I got in the parking lot, and half way across nearly to our car on the far side (where employees are directed to park), I got cat called again. Twice. One guy hollered and I increased my walking speed. Then another guy from another car did too just as I reached for my door handle. I yelled back some vulgar words, remarking on the kind of trash I thought the guy was, since he was nearer to me and I had just about had it with cat callers for one day. He was older too, not like the previous four who were all probably under 40 or so I guessed. I got a better look at him than I did the others since he was closer and moving slower as he was leaving the parking lot.

Of course, when safely in the car I locked myself in, and turned on the AC full blast. The thermostat claimed it was 87 degrees. I felt like I was out of breath and melting. It had been a hot walk in my bootcut black jeans and blazer. What pissed me off was that nothing I was wearing was provocative. No makeup. Wearing all black with a company t-shirt underneath. Which also made me super aware that people who catcalled me on my way to my husbands workplace might now know where I work and watch out for me.

After a quick moment to catch my breath I called my mother to look busy in the car in hopes people would leave me alone. While recounting my tale to her, my mother remarked “I always worry about that with you. You’re so small. Anyone could just grab you up and throw you in a trunk.” Thankfully I’m pretty strong which I half heartedly pointed out to her, but she wasn’t wrong either. On a hot day wearing all black and exhausted by a long workday, I was probably a tired target…which might make me an easy one.

My mother had even asked what I was wearing on my walk after I had recounted my tale and calmed down, conditioned by the culture she grew up in, and every fiber of my feminist being was outraged and I got wound up again. Then I had to calm myself down once more as my heart raced in anger, disappointment, and fear. I was not alone, and how many other women had worse experiences on the matter than I? Too many. It made me angry for them. For the women who were asked the same questions. For the women who were victim blamed.

Why does anyone want to victim blame? It’s rude and insulting to the victim, and it doesn’t call-out the perpetrator for their harassment. II’ve thought about it for a while now. Why do people victim blame? The more I think about it the more complex the answers or reasons become. Part of it is I think people want to give others the benefit of the doubt to make their worlds feel a little safer. Cat callers mean no harm. They would never act on their catcall. It’s just a compliment right? Besides it doesn’t it take two to tango? Then there is the justification issues. Lot of people do it (apparently) so anyone might feel justified in asking how the victim may be asking for it because they have catcalled women before thinking outfits and mannerisms are some kind of justification for it. They want to justify their own actions so they don’t feel badly about it, or worse, they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.

When I was harassed, I felt objectified and upset, and when I was followed for a while by the blue car, it didn’t really feel like I was being complimented as some might think. It felt like I was being intimidated. Maliciously targeted. I was afraid. I hated it. Worst part? I got cat called walking to my car (which I had gotten back that afternoon from the shop) in the parking lot the next day when I left work.

So what do I do about it? I can’t go back in time and call cops or come up with better comebacks. So as an artist and letterpress printer, I decided to make posters. A weird response I know, but it was more or less to release my anger as well as an act of public service. Because letterpress printing has its therapeutic qualities. The result:

It’s a pretty great feminist work if I do say so myself. I also like how the image shows the rectum as well, so you can either think it says don’t be a dick, or don’t be an asshole! Or both! You can pick your part! This poster was also a really satisfying way to use my newly purchased gold ink, which looks beautiful on the black hand-cut card stock. Not bad, for my first truly feminist work.

A Long Post About the Friend Zone and the Girlfriend Zone

In college I had a guy friend who happened to go through a really bad breakup with his fiancé. I had been close to both he and his ex fiancé at the time, spending a great deal of time with them and letting her stay in my dorm when she came to visit. She was fun, and super nice to hang out with, and I had known him since freshman year when school began, he was pretty cool and a good friend.

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Faith is Not a Gender Issue

Many ask me how I can be a Christian Feminist. Not because they think it’s counter productive necessarily, but they can’t understand how a feminist could be okay with a Patriarchal God. I often laugh at this question, because for one, God isn’t necessarily patriarchal. God is perfect. The perfect being with perfect intentions and all seeing knowledge. It isn’t about gender for me. Faith isn’t a gender issue. Faith is putting my belief in perfection. God may be seen as male by most, but if anything, God is the perfect male. Perfect in understanding. Perfect in judgment. Perfect in love. The gender of my God doesn’t matter, what matters is God is perfect.

To think that the gender of God matters is almost more damaging to my views as a feminist as well. Why would I be offended that God is male, if there is equality in male and female? I feel the same about feminist man bashing. Why are we bashing men when we seek equality with them? To bash a man feels almost like we are lower than they, proving the patriarchal ideal that women are inferior. That we feel inferior. It is almost as if we have already given in to the inferiority and need to bring them down to our level. But what does that accomplish? Very little. People do not respond well to childish insults and name calling. What they respond to is intellect. Confidence. A sense of self worth. They may respond hurtfully, as some often do when they encounter something unfamiliar to their beliefs, but to be hurtful in return is to concede to their ideal. It seems far more counter productive.

It is sad we have to keep this as an ongoing conversation. Never will there be a day where it won’t be a social issues topic, but what I can say is that just because it is a “forever”problem doesn’t make it irrelevant. It isn’t going ways as long as humans realize differences and imperfection, like poverty, literacy, disease, and mental illness, weightism, racism…forever doesn’t make it unimportant, in fact it makes it more important.

We Do Not Love the Same

No it wasn’t I
Who gave you everything
It was someone else
Someone who’s value
Hinged on you
Who’s self worth
Was decided by you
But you do not decide
How much I am worth
That is between me
And my Maker
I might give you
Small things
But to give you myself
That will not come
Until you prove that
You deserve me
That you are committed to me
Until it is sealed
And do not think
Because someone
Gave herself to you
That you can justify
My own choices for me

Beware….a Feminist Book Review….Or Something Like That

Recently, I began reading a book called Killing the Black Body which is a work about the history of African American women’s reproductive rights and it’s switch from the culture of slavery which forced these women into motherhood, to enforcing the government funded sterilization (without patient consent) and suppression of their right to give birth. It’s heavy. Filled with case study upon case study of control, violence, and political struggle. It’s heart breaking really. Causing me to wonder about the intensions behind the existence of contraceptive drugs, the ideals of Planned Parenthood, racism, and the ever changing meaning of (and threats to) reproductive liberty.

There are many reasons I chose to buy and read this book.

Firstly: Because it is a book about Black women. I am not Black. I am a woman. I seek knowledge about both because…I don’t know what it means to be either of those things. So in a search to understand my femininity and my ethnicity, I sought out a piece of literature that might help me understand things outside of my realm of white (enough to practically glow under black lights) and into the common ground of female.

Secondly: It is a history that I am only slightly familiar with because of American History Classes, that are predominately written to give a brief (and not very detailed) history of America. A bit of an experiment with my national identity as an American, and how I may be informed about the laws and issues that surround all women and how those laws effect women on a large and individual scale dependent on issues of race, social, and economic status.

Thirdly: Because it’s a freaking book and I love reading.

When I began reading this book, I found myself not only painfully taking in each case study, but also trying to read between the lines. The forward had informed me a little bit of what the author, Dorothy Roberts, was intending to write about, but I wanted to see what she was REALLY trying to say. To be truthful, I was more or less trying to figure out if she was for or against the ideals of Planned Parenthood. A topic I have come to be more conscious of as I grow and mature in my femininity.

What I love about informative literature, is the questions they pose to me that differ from my own beliefs. But what I enjoy about this book more specifically, is it is written in a way that I am only able to hear the voice of the author in a very subtle way. It is unique, in that it is about the topic of racism saturated culture and the issues it has caused in the realm of Planned Parenthood, but it is also unique, in that it does not disrespect either side of the argument. It tells the story, perhaps not the whole story, but enough for a person to accumulate the gist of both sides of the issue, and to think for themselves.

I wish more literature was that way. I dislike being beaten to death by an argument that has no standing. One that wants me to be brain washed, and force fed only to regurgitate it out later whether it is relevant or not. I don’t want to be assaulted by an author. I want to be informed! I want to know the angles. I want to know the responses to the opposition. I want to actually learn something, not be told to think something, and not to be told to think something that isn’t useful to me. Or worse….isn’t relevant. 20140628-211118-76278861.jpg