The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Monday, December 24, 2012

Don't Hate Me Cause I'm Sexy


I don't pretend that you're living under a rock and haven't seen the news, BUT IF YOU HAVE there is a bit of a controversy going on right now: The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that to fire a woman for being too attractive would not be illegal gender discrimination.

I know, I know. I'm thinking it too. How am I going to keep a job down?

Given the above picture (and hundreds like it on Instagram), I'm sure you understand my concern.

The case the Supreme Court ruled on was about a dental assistant named Missy who worked for her older boss for 9 years with no issues. The last year or so, the dentist (Dr. Knight) started making comments about her clothes being too tight (She wore scrubs to work, so, OK). They occasionally texted each other, like things about their kids. They were both married to other people and seemed happy. He was occasionally creepy to her. Whatevs, Missy's a chill girl. Doesn't bother her too much. Then one day she's called into Dr. Knight's office and his pastor's sitting there with him. Dr. Knight informs her that she's being fired... because she has become an irresistible temptation for him, and he thinks it's best that they don't work together anymore.

It turns out that Mrs. Knight (his wife) also works there and had recently found out that Missy and the dentist had been texting. She flipped out and demanded Missy be fired, which is what brought this on in the first place. Dr. Knight later called Missy's husband and told him that Missy was the best dental assistant he's ever bad, but that he's concerned if he and Missy continued to work together, he will be unable to resist and they will have an affair.


The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that Missy's case wouldn't even make it to trial, because no jury could reasonable find that Missy was fired because she was a woman. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that this had nothing to do with Missy Nelson being a woman, since Dr. Knight employees many other women. He fired her because he had feelings, and since in Iowa, employees can be fired for any reason except an illegal one, his feelings do not constitute gender discrimination.

Was Missy was fired because she was a woman? Yes. Dr. Knight has testified that he is a heterosexual man and is solely attracted to women. He has been asked if he would have been attracted to Missy had she been a man, and he has said that he would not. Dr. Knight has said, and continues to say, that Missy was a great employee; she was just an irresistible temptation to him.

There are many things about this which bother me immensely. Scrubs have suddenly become irresistibly sexy, so that's cool. She also wore Target long-sleeved shirts underneath, so let's all start wearing those to get some attention from DE MENFOLK. Dr. Knight, of course, brought his pastor in to inform Missy that she was a secret harlot, so that's also awesome. Or humiliating. One of the two. This decision to pry himself away from her was clearly so hard for him (a moral and pious individual) that he needed his pastor there to hold him to this and give him support. And, naturally, Dr. Knight assumes that Missy - who has never flirted with him or shown any signs that she was sexually interested in him, and who is 20 years younger than him and thought of him as a father figure - would be TOTES down for an affair. It's not like she's happily married with kids or anything. He just assumes she would be helpless to resist his succulent charms.

And now we come to my favorite part... irresistible. Oooh yes. He would be unable to resist making the sexes to Missy if she had continued working there. Dr. Knight just wouldn't be able to help himself guys! He would continue to have sexual feelings for her sexy scrubs and would be UNABLE TO RESIST. BOOOOBZ.

As I'm sure you know, people have this thing called self-control. It's that little thing that stops you from doing things like hitting other people, or raping other people, or stealing things. It's basically that thing that helps you resist things you know you shouldn't do. We don't let people steal things because that big flat screen tv was irresistible. We don't let rapists off because that girl's bod was SO irresistible. You know why? Because it's common sense - nothing is irresistible. People have self control, and we're expected to act like adults and use it, or face the consequences.

The Supreme Court claiming that Dr. Knight was just motivated by feelings might seem logical for about 5 seconds, until you think of what other arguments people can make... "Oh, I didn't fire that guy cause he was black! I fired him because darker skinned men make me uncomfortable." There goes racial discrimination! NO SUCH THING. Just people with feelings. Now, I like feelings, but firing someone for being black because you have feelings is still illegal. Why is this any different for a woman?

Don't get me wrong - I understand that it may have been uncomfortable for Dr. Knight to have worked with a woman he was getting pants feelings for. I get it. I understand why his wife probably got jealous, cause Missy really is a hottie and Dr. Knight clearly was interested in more... But how does that NOT have to do with her being a woman? And if it does, how is her being fired not illegal in the state of Iowa?

I'm a little biased about this case. My mom just happens to be the attorney for Missy Nelson. I'm a future law student, and I'm very interested in women's issues... However, I fail to see how the Iowa Supreme Court ruling makes any sense. Do you agree with their ruling? Do you agree with me? Do you find other people irresistible sometimes? DO YOU FIND ME IRRESISTIBLE? Do you steal things because feelings? Let me know - comment below!

Love - Madie

Links to news stories concerning this: 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Listen to Me When I Tell You to READ THIS BOOK!

Up until this point, the authors of this blog have yet to exploit our growing fan-base by trying to convince you to buy specific consumer goods.  That ends here!  Yes, this blog entry is not really going to talk about anything deep or soulful.  I just got through with finals…I’m mentally drained.  Deal.  It is, however, going to contain awesomeness the likes of which you may or may not have seen before.  I don’t know…I don’t really know what kind of awesomeness your specific life-journey has contained.  Anyway, this particular blog post is serving one purpose, and one purpose only: I want to convince you to read the book Poison Princess by Kresley Cole because I want it to become so popular they are forced to give into societal pressures and make it into a movie.  Okay, yes…it’s a book review.  BUT IT IS AN AWESOME BOOK!!  So read on and allow me to try and Jedi-mind-trick you into taking time out of your life to indulge in this particular literary adventure.

With the release of the Twilight books, the young adult paranormal romance genre has EXPLODED in popularity among readers.  Believe me, I’m a writer myself, and I do my homework on what's hot in the marketplace.  If you go into a Barnes and Noble, there is a subsection in the Young Adults book section just for paranormal romance.  Now, you’re probably thinking “Are you trying to sell us Twilight knockoffs or something?” That would be a huge NO my dear readers.  Let me explain.  The huge leap in popularity of the YA paranormal romance genre has started to draw in the heavy hitters, the world champions of the Adult Romance world…and these authors are no one-hit-wonders.  My favorite, as I’m sure you have gathered, is Kresley Cole. 

My idol.
This woman is my idol (sorry Rowling, but you’re a close second).  Since her debut in 2003, she has published NINETEEN novels in three different series, including a new tangent series with its first book having just been released this past November (I’ve practiced incredible self-control in not buying it before the end of finals).  Nearly all of her books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, with two of them hitting #1.  She has also won two RITA awards (look it up), her works have been translated into seventeen different languages, and she has written both historical and paranormal romance.  Cole has actually traveled all over the world, and does extensive research into history, mythology, culture, and whatever else she needs in order to create her characters and her worlds.  The series she is probably best known for right now is called the Immortals After Dark Series, which currently contains twelve books (plus the tangent series that interacts with it), with no end in sight!  I could go on and on about these books, but they aren’t the ones I’m trying to sell you on (yet).

The Major Arcana - The Tarot Trump Cards
Poison Princess, Kresley Cole’s first venture into the world of YA paranormal romance, is the first book of a series she has called The Arcana Chronicles.  Cole incorporates the Tarot cards into the story, focusing on the twenty-two trump cards, or the Major Arcana.  See that…Major ArcanaThe Arcana Chronicles…yeah, Cole is brilliant.  The book’s main character is a sixteen-year-old girl named Evie Greene who lives in Sterling, Louisiana.  She is wealthy, pretty, popular…and has horrific hallucinations that she cannot begin to explain.  Having already been locked away for her “mental issues”, Evie is determined to have a normal, weirdness free life when she returns for her junior year of high school.  However, that wouldn’t make a good story now would it?  I don’t want to give too much away, but Evie’s hallucinations end up being visions of the future and a disaster of apocalyptic proportions decimates not only her hometown, but the rest of the world (this isn’t a spoiler because it says so in the front cover flap).  In order to survive, Evie has to turn to Jackson Deveaux, a rough-around-the-edges Cajun boy who has her on edge from the minute they meet.  I love him and want him to be real…that is all.  The story follows the two as they try to make their way across a ruined and dangerous southern United States, encountering other teens with strange powers similar to Evie’s along the way.

I read this book in two days.  I mean, I always fly through a Kresley Cole book, but this one grabbed me, shook me around a little bit, slapped me once or twice, and still wouldn’t let me go.  It kept me on my toes, making me laugh uncontrollably one second and chanting to myself “Don’t go in there, don’t go in there!” the next.  When I finished it, I almost cried because I wanted it to keep going (ask anyone who knows me…crying is not something I do).  I am not kidding you when I say upon completion of this book, I immediately hit up Google to see if there was news about a sequel (and yes there is a sequel coming out next year called Endless Knight).  The writing itself was fantastic, the story exciting, detailed, and from my perspective, flawless.  Cole doesn’t disappoint, throwing in quirky humor and adolescent angst amongst the mayhem and carnage.  Like all of her other books, she has done her homework, including such brilliant touches as Cajun French within the dialogue and incorporating the Tarot cards and characters into the story with ease.  Her characters are each unique individuals with developed personalities and characteristics, with their own goals and agendas to try and meet.  The romance parts aren’t cheesy or unrealistic, and will keep you on the edge of your seat as much as the action scenes.  Cole doesn’t hold back on detail, in any aspect of the story, which is a distinct trait of all of her books.  She keeps things pretty PG-13, though it does get pretty gory at times.       

Despite what you may think, this book is NOT just for crazy pubescent girls who scream a lot about nothing in particular.  This book has something for everyone (cliché, yes, but completely true).  Crazy awesome action, danger of apocalyptic proportions, coldhearted militia men, teenagers with freaking superpowers, a Ducati motorcycle, sexual tension, romance (of course), and on top of everything else that is going on there are zombie-like creatures roaming through all of the crazy.  They are called Bagmen, they are freaky, awesome, and perpetually thirsty (FYI, blood is an optional thirst quencher for these guys).  If that isn’t enough to convince you that you need to go buy this book, I’m pretty sure if you have an E-Reader, the E-book is on sale right now.

With Christmas time just around the corner, it is the PERFECT opportunity to go grab this book and lose yourself in it for a little while.  Actually, I don’t even really care if you read it…just go buy it and tell all of your friends and family to but so that movie-makers get the hint and start work on silver-screening this thing.  If ever a young adult book deserved to be movie-fied, it is this one (correctly, mind-you…no half-assing here)!  Seriously, though, if you are a fan of good writing and captivating plotlines that keep you wanting more, than Poison Princess is something you really should check out.  Trust me…I know what’s good for you.

Until Next Time World,
Erin B.        

Oh hey look at that...a handy-dandy link to take you to Amazon.com to find the book
Poison Princess at Amazon.com
 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Finding Your (Listening) Voice


Do you ever feel like you're simply not being heard by those around you?

Lately I've been struggling to find the space and language to articulate the problems I've faced with being a woman in graduate school, and not always being heard in the ways that I think I should be. But I think now I'm ready to share this tension I've been experiencing and what it means for me trying to move forward after my first semester of graduate theological school (!!!).

I used to be someone who only cared about being heard, and much of the time I failed to listen. Part of my reason for entering divinity school is because I want to hear the stories and struggles of those who feel like they have no voice and help them find a way to discover or use it. Regardless of if I ever choose to be ordained or pastor a church, I want to help people. Since my decision to pursue this ministry stuff, I feel I've gotten a little bit better at the listening part, but now it seems I've shyed away from the vocal prowess I used to have. It's not that I'm no longer opinionated or have nothing to say, but after certain experiences and conversations I've had with people I greatly respect, I've come to value the art of listening. It really can take you a long way, especially if you claim to want to help others in any capacity.


All of my educational settings thus far have been small-school, where everyone knows your know in a Cheers kind of way. Never before have I fully experienced life in a university, which was one of my reasons for choosing Vanderbilt University as the site for my M.Div. I wanted something different - a challenge. Don't get me wrong, I didn't come into grad school thinking it'd be a cake-walk. Even though I'm pretty well prepared (thanks Simpson College), I've already felt my thoughts and beliefs being stretched and challenged, and I appreciate that. But perhaps it's my wholesome Midwest sense of self that has betrayed me the most since being here in the South. There's a different mindset in this place that I'm still trying to navigate.

It's very evident that there are some brilliant students and faculty here, and I know I have a lot to learn, but also a lot to offer. Some may call that pride; I call it confidence. But sometimes, when all I'm looking for is casual conversation, the cut-throat academic predator starts to emerge from others, and I just can't take it. I realize many students are here to pursue their vocations/passions, or to figure out questions they have and find answers to them. That's totally cool - it's why I'm here too. But when social encounters become a contest to prove how much more someone knows than you, it makes it pretty difficult to want to interact with certain folks.

I feel kind of guilty admitting my angst over this - it probably makes me seem super selfish. If people are passionate about whatever theology, why should I be upset about that? They're just enthusiastic. Kind of like how I get when there is talk of running sports, Iowa, or food.... But there comes a time when excessive talk of things no one else can relate to just becomes rude. Let me paint a picture for you:

Recently I was at a divinity school function where I happened to be sitting at a table with all dudes, and I was the only woman. The table included a couple first years, a 2nd and 3rd year, and a PhD candidate or two. The conversation was primarily about differences in grammar and syntax of different languages (I know, WAY EXCITING). Since I only speak English and know minimal amounts of Spanish, there wasn't much I could contribute to the conversation. And it didn't help that at the time I was having a crisis of 'am I smart enough to be here?' lurking in the back of my mind. I tried to interject some jokes, even provided segues to other possible topics that everyone could have access to. Yet all of my attempts when either unnoticed or shrugged off. This went on for nearly half an hour. If I wasn't at an event where I had to sit at a table with these folks, I would have gotten up and left 20 minutes sooner.

I bring up this story as an example of a time when I tried to be heard, in a space where I'd expect voices of all kinds should be, and I wasn't. To be honest it was mostly because of the particular people who were present and perhaps the gender ratio (though I'm not saying male dominated groups are not ever aware to female voices/perspectives/presence...but PATRIARCHY). There have been many other instances similar to this one in the short time I've been here, in both formal and informal settings. But this moment left me with a lasting impression.

How important is listening? How can we be aware of when we need to be fully inclusive in conversations? And, most importantly for me, how should I react to these instances in the future - be humble or assertive?

Ideally, if one is seeking a position in ministry, listening is perhaps the most important skill to posess. And maybe that's why I was so surprised to be in an environment when I felt (at times) there wasn't much listening going on. I mean, I'm surrounded by future pastors every day - how come I feel like I'm not being heard?!?

But the truth is, not everyone is great at having conversation. I know I'm not all the time. And not everyone has been in a place where there is such a range of age, gender, expressions of sexuality, race or religious identity, or lack thereof. Sometimes we get nervous, we say things we don't know are sensitive, or use words that don't truly convey what we want them to. Our language is not one that easily forgives; it betrays us easily and frequently. Whether we are cognitive of that or not, we should be aware that people have voices, and if we are to be respectful of the person, we must also be respectful of their voice.

Sometimes we have a tendancy to segment a person from their actual body. I can acknowledge that a person is a human being with physical worth, but as soon as they open their mouth and say something I don't like, it becomes easier to dehumanize them. I find particular difficulty with this and those who speak hateful, untrue things about others... Bigoted, soul-splitting things... Certain political figures maybe? It becomes easier to render those people not human. Even on a lesser scale - when people talk about things that annoy us, or things we can't relate to - it becomes easier to disregard them as people not worth getting to know, or people without a heart and a past like you.

As much as I get annoyed when I can't say what I need to say or get cut-off mid-sentence and have to hold in a freak out, what I and others need to remember is that there is a time for speaking and a time for listening. Knowing the balance between the two is never clear-cut, but it is something we should all try and master if we want to make an impact among people. Even times when I feel "outnumbered" or as a lone representative of the female identity, having presence and listening can be a powerful thing, however subtle it is. This is not to say we should subject ourselves to being in spaces where speech is harmful to ourselves or others. (Pastoral advice 101: self-care includes your psychological state and THAT'S IMPORTANT.) There comes a point when those authority and assumed superiority need to be challenged. But we also need to be mindful of the situation, the people involved, and exactly why it is we feel like we're not being heard.

After talking with some people about my frustrations in this area, I've come to find out there's not really an easy way to address the issue. Some people just like to talk, and don't realize when they're neglecting other voices in the circle. Others feel an overbearing need to silence others as a means to assert themselves. Sometimes we just have to observe first and then find a way to approach creating an inclusive space for dialogue. It's pretty arbitrary, unfortunately. But such is life, right?

I will say that after expressing my concerns to individuals here, things have gotten much better. I'm also aware of those who I've felt silenced by before and only interact with them in smaller settings where there's not as much pressure to "stand out" in the crowd. It comes down to awareness, both of yourself and of others. And if I remember anything from this first semester at divinity school, I feel that's a pretty good lesson to have learned.

With peace,
EG

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The L Word

Views expressed in this blog are solely the author's experience and opinions. They are not intended to speak for other or all queer-identified people.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I came to the beautiful conclusion that I am attracted to women. It was a moment alive with emotion and enlightenment - the dawn of a new day.

Hey, I took this picture!
Others might call it a panic attack (which may or may not have involved my head over my toilet, gasping for air).

It's been quite the journey, and those who know me know that I've changed along the way. I've also changed the language I use to identity myself.

I came out to my parents using not very eloquent language, essentially spitting out that I was "s-s-something other than s-s-straight...even though I might never date a woman."

A couple of years later I comfortably use the term lesbian. Somewhere along the line I claimed words like "bisexual" and "queer" to try to put a name to my...condition.

The summer before I came out, I expressed to my best friend that "uhh...if sexuality really is a spectrum, maybe I'm somewhere on it...?"

Her response? "Well, Kelsey, I guess I am too. I mean, I'm attracted to Angelina Jolie."

people.com
The point is that in two years I went from "so maybe I don't just like boys" to easily taking the "lesbian" descriptor.

Why is this?

There are a couple of reasons. First of all, as I will explain to anyone who asks, I've grown comfortable with the thought that chances are that I'll settle down with a woman, not a man. I can't guarantee that I will never date a man again, but listen folks. I dated 13 of them before I turned 22. I tried really hard to be straight. 

The more complicated reason that I've taken the fetching "L Word" title is that it's just freaking easier than trying to explain that I may or may not be somewhere on an imaginary spectrum.

I have a friend who identifies as bisexual, but lesbians always assume she's one of "the gays" and straight people always assume she sticks to dating men.

And the truth is, if you lined up every person in this planet, I would probably pick out many more women than men that I find attractive. But to be fair, I haven't seen every person in the world, so I can't say for sure.

But, if you read between the lines here, what I'm admitting is that I am sometimes attracted to men. (Collective gasp.)

Story time! When my girlfriend was first coming out (before we were dating), she said to me one day, "But Kelsey! What if I come out to all of my family and then I end up marrying a man?" And I said to her, "Lisa, are you attracted to me?" To which the obvious response is "yes." And I said, "Then stop worrying about it."

But it's a legit fear, folks. I've spent the last two years coming out to people. That's a lot of time and effort.

I got drinks with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were talking about my lesbian-ship. (Yeah, that's a word.) And I explained this convoluted I-think-I'll-probably-be-with-a-woman-but-I-can't-guarantee-it business and that's when he said it. "You're not even a real lesbian!"

Well shit.

Is that true?

I'm not going to lie to you friends, I'm attracted to the sexiest man alive (which those closest to me either love or hate about me). I'm attracted to some men, sometimes. It happens occasionally.

So here I was, in the midst of another identity crisis - but I was much more mature about it this time, because this time I had a support system. So I talked to every queer identified person in the world and asked them what they thought. (What? You don't believe me? We have a listserv. There's a club. We talk.) And as I was waiting for all of their responses, I came to my own conclusion.

It's my own freaking identity! If I feel like lesbian is the word that fits me best, then I'm going to own it, damn it!

But it has left me with some questions. Why is it so freaking hard to be somewhere on the middle of a spectrum - whether homosexual or heterosexual, female or male, Democrat or Republican? What's with the black and white? What's with the one word answers to open ended questions?

Back in the day when I was in college, I remember reading an article about a woman who identified as a lesbian and married a man. She continued to identify as a lesbian even after the wedding. At the time, I was puzzled by this, but recently I've come to realize the importance of having an identity to which to cling, regardless of who you marry.

But what’s so wrong with calling yourself bisexual? Unfairly, maybe it’s because of the stigma bisexual identified people have to deal with. Maybe it’s because they are seen as indecisive or promiscuous. Maybe it's because there are assumptions on the part of some queer people and straight people alike that bisexuality doesn't exist. Or maybe, in this woman's case, she just felt her identity was a lesbian.

I’d like to say I live under the title of lesbian because it fits me perfectly, but I don’t think that’s true. I've chosen it because it is probably the word with which I most closely identify, but also because it gives me a group - a community I adore - to belong to. And maybe because it’s easier than other options, easier than the gray, somewhere-on-the-spectrum explanation.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

With love,
Kelsey

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After the Elections: Let's Talk About Love

It’s the day after the elections, and my Facebook and Twitter have been bombarded by statuses and Tweets exclaiming either exhilaration or bone-deep disappointment.  Sitting in class this morning, I listened as people either aired their angsts or sat in glee of their perceived victory.  While a part of me is relieved that the whole mess of an election is over for now, mostly all I feel is frustration so intense it almost brings me to tears.  I feel this way not because my candidate won or lost, or because my ideals were upheld or dismissed.  No, I feel this way because all of those Tweets, statuses, and conversations are showing me exactly what our country is still missing.  In the wake of some of the most vicious, bloodthirsty campaigns I have ever seen, I think we as a people need to take a good long look at ourselves and really see what it is we have become, and what we need to do to change it.  You’ve heard it before, and I’m saying it again.  Our society is broken, and it’s going to take a lot more than politics to fix it.
Remember him?  Nice guy.
To that end, I want to talk about love.  I don’t mean “Romeo and Juliet” love, or I’m-on-fire-for-you love.  I want to talk about good old-fashioned, all-inclusive, unconditional, world-changing, fire-in-my-heart, Jesus-kind-of-love.  Yeah, I’m going to talk about Jesus.  If you’re reading this and thinking “Oh great, a Bible-thumper” or “No! Not Jesus” let me just stop your train of thought right there.  First off, you obviously need to read most posts in this blog.  Secondly, even if you don’t believe that Jesus is God Incarnate and the Savior of the World, I think we can all agree he was a pretty decent guy with a really good message.  And since so many people during this election process have been throwing around Christian “ideals”, I think it would be a good idea to look at the man himself.  What Jesus says about Love in the Gospels is a message I think our country really needs right now, whether or not you won last night.                                                
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (NASB John 13:34)
            What kind of love are we talking about, exactly?  It’s not an easy kind of love, but it is an all-consuming one.  It’s the kind of love that keeps you from judging someone based on what they look like, or where they stand in society.  It might not lead you to the most popular choice, but it is the kind of love that makes you listen to someone and get to know them before you come to a conclusion about their character.  This is the kind of love that keeps you from turning your back on someone in need.  The kind of love that causes your heart to ache when you hear of a grave injustice in the world, and then that ache drives you to do something about it.  It’s the kind of love that doesn’t shut out people who have been deemed “undesirable”, but rather seeks those people out because you recognize their importance.  This is the kind of love that demands you respect someone not because of what political party or ideology they hold on to, or if you agree with them about certain issues, but because they are human and you are human. 
Jesus healed the lame and the sick, gave sight to the blind, dined with tax-collectors, and let the little children come to him.  He reached out to the marginalized, the “undesired”, the people society pretended didn’t matter.  Was Jesus wealthy and influential?  No.  Was he a great political leader that everyone rallied around?  Not really.  Jesus was simple, a poor carpenter who caught the attention of a few people in his society, but he saw that the world was broken and change needed to happen.  He believed everyone deserved love and respect, and specifically paid attention to the people in his world that needed it most.  In the end, his beliefs and his teachings about love and acceptance got him killed…but we are still talking about him to this day.  What if our society was like that?  What if we actually gave a damn about the people around us, even the ones we sometimes wish would just go away?  What if we weren’t so focused on being right all the time, or being in charge, and instead focused on the members of our society who need our help the most?  What if we didn’t think about what political parties people aligned themselves with, but instead helped those in need and accepted people’s differences simply because it is the right thing to do?  What if, just for a moment, we didn’t think about ourselves?    
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”  Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NASB Mark 12: 28-31)
            Jesus holds up “love your neighbor as yourself” as one of the most important commandments, second only to the commandment that there is one God and you should love God with everything you have.  The commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” even beats out murder and honoring your father and mother!  In this passage, Jesus is relaying to his listeners that, next to God, love is the end all be all.  It’s not “love your neighbor as yourself if…” or “love your neighbor as yourself unless…”  No.  The message is “love your neighbor as yourself” no matter what.  The end.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Well, in the past few years our country has been doing a shit job of this.  Even Christians, who are supposed to adhere to what Jesus has to say, have allowed themselves to be swept up in the negativity and brokenness of a two-party system that only pits people against each other.  What if we did listen to this message, though?  Or one like it?  What if we, as a people, adhered to a message of compromise, compassion, and understanding instead of the currently popular one of “us versus them”?  What if, instead of thinking of the other party as the enemy, we thought of them as a partner?  What if (and this one is really crazy so brace yourselves) we treated everyone with the respect and dignity we would want to be given in return?  Did I blow your mind with that one?  It’s okay…take a moment to collect yourself before you read on.
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (NASB Luke 6: 27-28)
            Why did we let it get this bad?  During the entire campaign process, I was disgusted by the low-blows and out-and-out attacks the candidates threw at each other (you should read my post about political ads to get the full extent of how awful I thought all that was).  What disturbed me more, however, was how the American people treated each other.  Neither side is guilt-free for stereotyping, name-calling, finger-pointing, or just plain ignorance when it came to the people of the opposing party.  I have no doubt that feelings were hurt, and friendships were fractured if not completely broken.  And for what?  To elect someone they don’t have a personal relationship with into a seat of power from which he most likely CAN’T fulfill everything he promised because too many factors go into the governing of this country.  
This video kind of sums up the whole campaign.
Yes, people want change and people want equality for all, which are very good things to want to work for.  This is all well and good (I’m not going to lie, I was really hoping certain people wouldn’t get into power after several very inappropriate and idiotic comments about rape), but it is not worth destroying relationships and people over!  Change can happen without being nasty about it.  Debates and campaigns can happen in a respectable manner that doesn’t attack a candidate on a personal level, merely a political one.  And they don’t even have to attack!  There is a saying, “Kill them with kindness”.  If a candidate presented themselves in a way in which they treated their opposition with respect and civility, I would be much more inclined to choose that person because they didn’t feel the need to publicly humiliate their opponent.  But that just doesn’t happen anymore.  The American people feed into the attack ads and low-blow campaigns because we respond to them.  We eat them up like they’re the truth, but they’re really more like shit-popsicles, filling at first but they leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and a nasty gut-ache later.  People are divided and just refuse to work together if they are not one the same side, and the whole nation suffers for it.                
 
            I have presented a lot of questions in this post, and not a lot of answers, but that’s because I don’t have them.  As much as I hope and pray that things will get better, I don’t know what is going to happen in the next four years.  I do know that change needs to happen, and a little love would go a long way in this country.  We have an opportunity to steer the country in a better direction, but we have to stop fighting and actually work together.  As I finish this post, I can’t help but wonder “what would Jesus do” if he was here now?  Most likely, he would curse a whole lot of fig trees and start flipping tables left and right before settling down and telling us we are all idiots who need to get over ourselves and work through our shit.  And he would be right.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Horror: The Problem With Costumes

Leaves are trickling down from treetops. Pumpkin ale is being consumed in mass quantities. SEC football is consuming life here in the South.

It's October my friends... And apparently it's almost over. That also means Halloween is quickly approaching.

So let me be candid with you:

I don't particularly like Halloween.

I had a really terrible experience as a kid where I was out trick-or-treating with some friends and got egged in the face by a drive-by group of older boys. It was actually pretty traumatic and was one of the few times in my early adolescence where I swore openly [and very loudly] in public because it was incredibly painful.

Eggs. Cook them. Don't throw them.
I also have never really been all that jazzed about dressing up for such occasions. When I was little I wore the same 101 Dalmations costume for 3 years in a row because A. I still fit into it, and B. I just didn't want to wear anything else. I never really put effort into the whole costume thing. Most of the time I/my mom made my costumes, and even then it was like, "Meh, Halloween again." The candy part is a different story though.

But there's something about Halloween nowadays that I just don't understand: The costume industry...and women. Or maybe more appropriately said, "the sexualization of Halloween."

Every time I walk into/by a Halloween costume shop, there is a starking polarization of gendered costumes. And sometimes, it really makes me want to throw up. From children's to adult's costumes, there seems to be tailoring to quantify gender differences. Particularly, adult women's costumes.

For the most part, everything geared toward women is a "sexy [insert typically non-sexy profession here]" outfit. It kind of makes me want to go: Really? Please. -- Seriously though, is a tight-fitting, low cut V neckline somehow supposed to make me/women want to buy that pleather police officer get-up? I think a larger, subtextual issue here is the way particular genders are targeted with specific kinds of costumes.
  • Males can be traditonal "boy" characters, but females can be the same character so long as it's structered into a "dress" with sequenes and ruffles. For example:
    • Men are doctors, women are nurses (even though there's an enormous increase in men currently entering into the nursing field; not to mention WOMEN ARE ALSO DOCTORS)
    • Boys are superheroes, girls are "pink" superheroes (that is, if their mothers even let them be superheroes)
    • Then there's what is pictured below...

What if I want to wear the Cookie Monster onesie?!?!?

Hopefully, you get where I'm going with this.

But there's something else going on here that is problematic:

I've heard a lot of people say that Halloween is the one time of year when females can dress "slutty" or provocative and "get away with it." That apparently this "holiday" gives women free liscense to wear minimal clothing and not feel shameful for doing so.

Now I'm not saying dressing sexy is a bad thing. In fact, I support the embracing of sexuality in general as a positively, liberating and necessary exercise for overall health and well being for all persons (regardless of gender/orientation). But in a lot of ways, the costume industry is turning women into sex objects by positioning the bulk of costume designs toward this sexy, fem-dom piece of eye candy (pun intended) and/or asserting traditional gender roles/stereotypes. And on top of that, the cultural notion that Halloween is the only time of year where it is appropriate to display such sexuality (sexuality that has been structured a particular way by the available costume choices)... WHAT?!

THIS IS NOT OK.

If you want to show off your body, cool. It's no business of mine to say what a woman or anyone can/can't wear and when. There might be certain circumstances where clothing choices should be mediated in respect to the occasion, but who really gives a damn otherwise? In the case of Halloween costumes, not every outfit needs to be positioned in a way that makes "sexy" or archaic gender roles the only option for women who want to partake in the Halloween tradition and festivities.

Of course there are exceptions to this: Not every costume out there shows skin or is suggestive in a variety of ways. Hopefully, if there aren't any adequate store-bought options, people can get creative and dress in a costume they feel proud in (and if that happens to be a "sexy" costume, then kudos).


Friday, October 19, 2012

"Women's" Issues


From Amherst's terrible dealings with a rape (or many rapes) on their campus to the grotesque statement that "some girls rape easy" to the "Top 10 Ways to Get Away with Rape" flier found in a men's bathroom of Miami University, it's been a rough week in the news.

With the election right around the corner, we're hearing accusations on both sides of the aisle about how each candidate handles "women's" issues.

Interesting, politicians. What exactly is a women's issue?

Is it abortion and birth control? Whether or not Planned Parenthood will continue to be funded by government money? How many women have jobs right now? Something about single parents and guns?

I don't know about you, but I'm awfully sick of hearing about the "women's vote," as if all women will be voting the same way in this election.

Why are politicians only targeting female voters now? Why in the world haven't they been trying to win everyone's votes for their whole campaigns? And why is it assumed, by politicians and by the media, that only women care about so-called "women's" issues. That only women will be swayed one way or the other by how a politician will handle policies concerning women?

These issues - from rape to birth control - are issues that concern all of us. Just because you don't take birth control doesn't mean you shouldn't be concerned about it's access for those who want to use it. Just because you may be at a much lower risk of being raped simply because you are a man doesn't mean you shouldn't be concerned about those who are.

We should be outraged at the attitude about rape in this country. All of us should be outraged. This isn't an issue only for those who have been raped, only for those who fear rape, only for those who are statistically more likely to be raped. The minute you minimize this to a "women's" issue is the minute you dismiss it as something men don't have to care about. 

I don't think all men are rapists. That isn't what I'm saying at all. I'm saying most men aren't rapists. I sincerely believe that most men think sexual assault is a horrific act. But when we hear men - men who are elected officials- say shit like "some girls rape easy," we know that all is not right in this country.

When we find a flier called "Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape" in a men's bathroom we know something is wrong.

These aren't just "women's" issues. Just because the population most at risk of being raped is women, doesn't mean men should turn off the news when the topic comes up. When the media casts these huge issues as only women's concern, they do this country a great disservice. These are issues that affect everyone in the United States (and beyond). These problems need to stop being labeled in such a way that makes people believe only women have to be concerned.

We should all be concerned.

Not just because we all have mothers and sisters, but because we're all human, damn it.

Why isn't anyone on the news curious how men are voting on so-called "women's" issues? Have they forgotten men will be voting in this election, too? On the very same issues women will be voting on?

Or is it because politicians spent their entire campaigns worrying about men's votes, so they have to spend the last couple of weeks on "everyone else?"

The media is essentially telling men to close their ears when something concerns women comes up. This attitude on "women's" issues is how we end up with bullshit like "legitimate rape." We need everyone to be informed - especially people who are making decisions about this countries' policies.

These are issues concerning women that we should all have thoughts about. This doesn't mean we control women, or tell them how to think or how to act. It means we all get informed on issues that affect those around us. Try talking to the people who are affected by the issue at hand. 

Love,
Kelsey

P.S. Consent is sexy, and so is communication.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I am a FEMINIST.



I am a feminist because I believe woman are equal to (not superior to) men.

I am a feminist because I believe sex is what you make it, not something inherently good or bad.

I am a feminist because I am not ashamed of having a vagina.

I am a feminist because I don’t believe “Eve” is proof that women are inferior or should be submissive.

I am a feminist because I believe a woman’s “place” is wherever she wants it to be.

I am a feminist because my uterus can sync up to the moon and to other women’s uteruses, and that’s amazing and magical.

I am a feminist because I don’t want our future daughters to worry about a wage gap.

I am a feminist because I see strong, powerful women like Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard and I am inspired, not threatened.

I am a feminist because I believe no one in the world can make any decision about a fetus/baby/clump of cells inside of a woman except that woman in that situation, no matter how I feel about abortion.

I am a feminist because I love men, and I think all people deserve a partner in life, not a servant.

I am a feminist because it’s sexy.

I am a feminist because it's not okay when people paint female politicians as "dykes," "man-haters," "emotional," or "hysterical" when they would never talk about male politicians that way. When they ask Hillary Clinton what designers she likes but would never ask a male politician what kind of suit he wears.

I am a feminist because I will not repress or stifle myself to make someone else comfortable.

I am a feminist because liking sex does not make someone a nymphomaniac or a slut.

I am a feminist because I don’t think anyone should need to avoid going out at night because they might get raped.

I am a feminist because I believe your boyfriend or husband shouldn't control what you wear, who you hang out with, or what you believe.

I am a feminist because I've been controlled, and I am never going back.

I am a feminist because when I’m home alone at night, I’m scared, and I shouldn’t have to be.

I am a feminist because I believe in equal rights for ALL, regardless of the color of their skin, the person they love, their religious faith, or their genitalia.

I am a feminist because my Grandma ran for Iowa State Senate in 1982, and lost because she was a woman.


I am a feminist because of everyone who died and sacrificed so that I could have the right to vote.

I am a feminist because I love the color pink, cooking, wearing dresses, and I shave my legs and armpits... and that's okay.

I am a feminist because I am offended when politicians talk about girls "faking rape" and how women can avoid rape pregnancy with magical vagina juices.

I am a feminist because I am not a sex object, something for you to stare at as I walk by, or a seductress just by being a woman.

I am a feminist because I believe gender roles are harmful.

I am a feminist because I am made in God's image.

I am NOT a feminist because I hate men
want only women to rule the world
hate makeup and pink and anything slightly feminine
I am NOT a feminist because I want hairy limbs
and to have sex with women 
(because all feminists like pussy)
and because men are gross and who needs them?
I am NOT a feminist because Eve tricked Adam,
so my goal is to trick all men.
I am NOT a feminist because I don't need anyone in my life
and men are just for using
and I want to kill babies with my unmanacured nails.
I am NOT a feminist because women shouldn't be
stay at home moms or love their kids or spouse.



I am a feminist because I believe in equality, and that women are people.

Why are you a feminist? Are you not, and if so, why not?


Love - Madie

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Beauty and the Beast": Reclaiming the Beast as the Good Guy

 

Watch the prologue to get you started :)

 
The idea for this blog post came to me when I was watching Beauty and the Beast with my roommates.  Somehow, we started talking about some of the negative interpretations people have towards the movie, and I found myself defending the film.  I don’t even remember how the conversation started, but I felt so strongly afterwards that I knew I had to share my perspective with the world.  So, lucky you all get to read it.  First off, I will admit to a bias: Beauty and the Beast is my FAVORITE movie…ever.  I have the lines and songs memorized, and collected various toys and figurines in my childhood (and present young adult life) that had to do with the movie.  Bias aside, though, I think it is a movie worth defending.


I'd be pissed off too if I had to spend my teenage years looking like this
The common negative message that is taken from Beauty and the Beast is “if you love him enough, he will change.”  To people, this movie seems to imply that a girl can change her man even if he is in some way abusive.  This is obviously not a message that we want to give to our young people, especially young girls, but I honestly do not see that in Beauty and the Beast.  Okay, okay, I suppose I could see the whole “her love will change him to a human” thing running along those lines, but I think a lot of people give the Beast a hard time, and he doesn’t deserve it.  Belle changes what he looks like, but not who he is.  I would like to offer a more positive interpretation.  Let me break it down for you.  First off, let’s look at the Beast instead of Belle.  If you pay close attention to the movie, you figure out that the Beast was eleven when he was cursed (the rose is supposed to wilt when he is 21, and in the song “Be Our Guest”, Lumiere sings “ten years we’ve been rusting…needing so much more than dusting…”).  Not only does the enchantress’ actions seem a little hasty (what eleven year old is really going to know what love is?), but you realize he spent his very confusing teenage years as a beast with no other human interaction (because, you know, everyone else in the castle is a piece of talking furniture).  OF COURSE HE IS PISSED OFF!  Also, wouldn’t you be wary of travelers when the last one to visit your home changed your species?  So, forgive me if I am willing to forgive the Beast’s couple of temper tantrums in the beginning of the movie.

Let’s bring Belle into the picture.  Does anybody else notice that she doesn’t fall in love with him until after he becomes less of an asshole?  He doesn’t change his behavior because she loves him and her love has some magical healing quality, he ultimately changes how he acts because he loves her…he just doesn’t know how to show it.  It has been ten years since he has encountered a human, and he probably never had many encounters with women before Belle.  He doesn’t know how to act, so he is demanding and yells a lot at the beginning because it is what he is used to.  When he sees that his actions actually drive her away (she literally runs into a wolf-infested forest in the middle of the night to get away from him) he realizes he needs to rethink his behavior. 

The Beast is never a bad guy, and really has a huge heart.  He is just awkward and very self-conscious in the beginning of the movie, angry at the world and what has been done to him, and it makes him lash out at those around him.  Belle is the only person who doesn’t take his shit.  He has lived his whole life with servants jumping at his commands, and people being afraid and intimidated by him.  When Belle refuses his command to attend dinner their first night together, his response is a temper tantrum because no one has ever refused him before.  He also is in a panic because he is running out of time to break the spell, and Belle is most likely his last chance.  He overreacts, but this is in no way appealing to her.  She is actively trying to avoid being around him.

The major turning point for the two is when Belle runs away.  Again, she willingly rides into a dark, dangerous forest in the middle of the night to get away from the Beast after he goes berserk on her for sneaking into the West Wing, his private domain (which he forbid her to go into).  She is attacked by wolves, but had she not been, she would have kept going and would never have gone back to the Beast ever again.  The wolves surround her and she tries to fight them off, but there are too many.  Suddenly, the Beast appears out of nowhere and begins fighting off the wolves.  There is a bit of “why was he following her?” floating in the back of your mind…he could have realized she would fall into danger, or again, panic that he wouldn’t be able to break the spell without her could have motivated him.  Whatever the reason, it doesn’t negate from the fact that he risks his own life to protect her.  I’m not going to lie…this is my favorite part of the movie.  Then, when he has won and collapses into the snow because he is so hurt from the fight there is a moment where she almost leaves him there!  She turns back to her horse as if to keep going, but hesitates.  Finally she goes and drags him back to the castle to tend to his wounds.  So, what lesson can we take away from the movie so far?  If a guy is a jerk to you, leave his ass!  And unless he does something epic like SAVE YOU FROM A FREAKING PACK OF WOLVES, don’t give him another chance.

The great part about this whole rescue thing is that Belle doesn’t swoon at his feet and say, “I’m now madly in love with you!”  She is not an idiot.  In fact, they get into a fight almost right away!  Belle is cleaning the Beast’s wound that he received from the wolves, and he is a bit of a baby about it and yells at her, but she yells right back.  He blames her for going to the West Wing, and she shouts back that he should learn “to control his temper”.  Belle is no pushover, and the Beast knows she has a point.  The next section of the movie shows a blossoming friendship between the two.  Belle realizes that the Beast is not as rough and beast-like as he first appears, and the Beast recognizes that if he acts more like a human being, she will treat him more like a human being.  He acts a little more civilized, though he definitely stumbles along the way, and starts wearing shirts.  They come to care for each other, that much is for sure, but neither make mention of love yet, and the Beast seems to be falling faster than Belle.
A WHOLE FREAKING LIBRARY!
Let’s pause in the storyline to do a quick comparison with the other suitor in Belle’s life.  Gaston is, by all accounts, a dick.  He wants Belle only for her beauty, and would rather see her barefoot and pregnant in his kitchen (or giving him foot-rubs by the fire as he quite bluntly puts it) than living out her dreams.  Gaston, early on in the movie, even criticizes Belle for her constant reading, saying “It’s not right for a woman to read.  Pretty soon she starts getting ideas…and thinking!”  The Beast, on the other hand, knowing how much she loves books, gives her his WHOLE FREAKING LIBRARY as a gift.  In a scene that was cut from the original movie, the Beast even takes her up on her offer to teach him to read.  Gaston thinks Belle’s father is crazy and uses Maurice to try and manipulate her into marrying him.  The Beast realizes that Belle cannot be completely happy if her father is not well, and he lets her go at an incredibly crucial point in the story to be with him (more on that later).  Gaston is handsome and everyone fawns over him (except Belle of course), and this just feeds into his considerable ego.  The Beast is, well, a beast and people tend to fear him before they get to know him, so he is cautious and unsure of how to act around others.
This. Is. Adorable.
So, let’s return to the actual storyline, when things start to reach their climatic end.  Everyone remembers the lovely scene of Belle and the Beast dancing together in the ballroom with Mrs. Potts singing “Beauty and the Beast” in the background.  Classic, wonderful, but it’s the scene that comes right after that I am most interested in right now.  The Beast asks Belle if she is happy…because he gives a damn…and she says yes, but she misses her father.  Wanting to make her happy, the Beast gives her his magic mirror to check in on ole’ Maurice with.  Maurice, having set out to find and rescue his daughter because he believes the Beast to be a monster, is seen collapsing in the wood from sickness.  Belle is obviously concerned about her father, and wants to go to him.  The Beast…wait for it…let’s her go!  Even though she is still technically his prisoner having promised to stay at the castle for the rest of her life, and even though letting her go pretty much guarantees his curse won’t be broken and he will stay a beast forever, he lets her go.  He.  Lets.  Her.  Go.  Why, do you ask (because Cogsworth certainly does)?  The Beast’s answer is simple.

“Because…I love her.”

 The Beast has fallen so selflessly in love with Belle that he is willing to give up his very humanity so that she can be happy.  He is willing to give up the humanity of everyone else in that castle as well!  Belle doesn’t know about any of this…she doesn’t know staying with him and loving him will break the curse.  He doesn’t tell her.  The Beast never tells her about the curse and how it can be broken.  She leaves…and she leaves so easily, without giving any indication that she will come back, that you wonder if she is actually in love with him yet.  The Beast’s heartbreaking roar as she gallops away doesn’t even make her pause.  Of course, she eventually does come back after being locked away by Gaston, who then leads the townspeople on a man-hunt…or beast-hunt, as it were. 

Now things are really getting intense.  The Beast doesn’t put up a fight, initially, when Gaston barges into his room and shoots him with an arrow.  Really, though, what is there left for him to live for?  He can’t change back into a human because the woman he has fallen completely in love with has left.  Sure, he could try to live out the remainder of his days as a beast, but the past ten years of it haven’t been that great, and the townspeople knocking down his door to kill him just because of his appearance is probably not that reassuring either.  It’s only after he sees Belle charging towards the castle that he gets a little pep in his step and starts whooping some serious butt.  Do note, dear readers, that unlike many other Disney movies (or lots of non-Disney movies, because it’s a popular theme) the Beast is technically not saving Belle from anything (except maybe a crappy marriage).  She was captured, but the teacup Chip got her out.  Did she have to go back to the castle?  Nope.  No one was guarding her, or had put a spell on her.  She didn’t have a prince coming charging in to fight her dragons.  Belle goes back to the castle to try and stop Gaston from killing the Beast.  She wants to rescue the Beast!

I , for one, would not want to be on the receiving end of that!



There is nice little mini-lesson that can be learned from the Beast and Gaston’s showdown.  When the Beast starts fighting back, he obviously is going to win because, come on…he’s a beast.  However, when he has his hand around Gaston’s neck and is dangling him over the edge of the castle, pretty intent on dropping him, he doesn’t.  Even though it ultimately would have saved him a knife to the back, the Beast releases Gaston and snarls, “Get out”.  That’s a positive message.  No matter how much you are provoked, just walk away.  Of course, Gaston still ends up falling off of the castle and dying anyway because he stabs the Beast, who rears back in pain and knocks Gaston into the air.  That’s an accident though.  The point is, the Beast is a role model.
           
The ending then, of course, has the Beast dying with Belle kneeling over him.  As he breathes his last, tears spring to her eyes and she begs him not to die, softly proclaiming her love.  Then magic marbles fall from the sky, the Beast turns into a Prince, and they live happily ever after.  The End.  It’s nice and sweet, and everyone is happy.  So, yes, her love does change him in the end…but it changes him physically, not mentally or emotionally.  He did that all on his own, and Belle would have happily walked away and never looked back had he not changed his treatment of her.  She was able to get past his beastly appearance to see the big heart he had always had underneath.  That is the intended message of this movie.  Look beyond the physical to the beauty beneath.  And that is a message I think our world really needs right now.  So, let’s give the Beast a break…he isn’t the bad guy.

Until next time!
Erin Broich

Enjoy the original theatrical trailer before you go :)

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