Sunday, August 24, 2014

More then enough

Hear the Song 
Hear the Song

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An all female band called the Mrs’ was at the BlogHer conference.   They opened for Kerry Washington, after both Guy Kawasaki and Ariana Huffington spoke.  These are former rocker chicks who suddenly found themselves married and with kids.  They realized that there was no music on the radio that represented their demographic (not exactly a surprise) and decided to change that.  Quite laudable.  After all, they are more than just mommies, or mommy bloggers.  (Yet call themselves the Mrs?  I am hoping this is an ironic point).
Their single is called “Enough” and is meant to be an anthem for women in their demographic.  Women are 52% of the population and a good majority are mothers, so this should be an easy sell, especially to a feminist like me.  And it is.  I really want to support them.
I think what they meant to say was “enough” of the crap that are constantly being fed by the media our partners and our colleagues.  Tired of being told you are not smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, techie enough, whatever enough.  They were tired of buying in, threw their hands in the air and yelled “Enough: Enough of you and your limiting message. I AM enough, and screw you for telling me that I am not.”  Indeed, one of the lyrics is “No more telling me who I need to be.”
Okay, I get that. And, again, laudable.  I feel that way, too.  But I am still bugged.
To further their message for all women, they had a booth at the Vendor Hall that handed out stickers for the bathroom mirror which said “You look amazing.”,  and “Whatever you are doing, keep it up,” and “You are enough.”  They also had a magic mirror booth to say things to the gazee that women don’t say to themselves, positive things about self worth and beauty.  All great things, and I was on board, sort of.  Yet, something about it bothered me.
It seems so limiting to say ‘”I am enough,” as if that is all that I am capable of.  I am upset that these women are mitigating their own self-worth.  When I first heard this message I was disturbed.  I don’t want women to say “I am enough”, I want them to say, “I am MORE than enough, and you are the problem because you can’t get that.”  The way it is now, women are the problem because they can’t get that they are enough, because they are too busy comparing themselves to what they themselves and others think they ought to be.  What is worse it that the anthem comes off as a rebel song.  That sucks. That sucks that the rebellion is even present or necessary.
It gives rise to the reason that BlogHer exists in the first place. Women don’t think they have the chops to be tech dorks, and the tech dorks are quick to let them know they agree, and call these women posers.  So women have to come together for solidarity to combat this.  If 52% of the population are women, then we are NOT a special interest group, and should not be treated as such.  To be relegated to be being just another Girl [mommy, crafty, fashion, pick your title] Blogger is again, limiting an all levels.  I write because I have something to say.  And I use technology because I am an intelligent articulate person in the world. Not because I am a fake geek girl who just wants a platform to bring attention to myself.
The whole fake geek girl thing is just stupid anyway. How do you get to a place where your argument is that I pretend to love technology just to attract a nerd boy?    Again, limiting, and this time you expect me to buy in.  The best rebuttal to this that I have seen was featured on Upworthy and has two nerd boys talk about why the concept of a fake geek girl is ridiciulous.  It is logical and well thought out in its conciseness, explaining yet again that women are more than capable of being techie without wanting to date the boys, or having to be the nerd version of a Supermodel
Technology is a tool that is gender blind.  Being a nerd should not have the idea of genetalia attached to it.  The boys do this.  Not the girls, and this is once again why the Mrs wrote their song and once again why I take umbrage. It is this kind of false attribution that creates a culture in which I have to defend my nerdiness, because the truth is, I AM kind of a cool girl.  But I am ALSO a nerd, and also a jock, and also crafty, and also lots of things.  To quote Whitman, "I am vast, I contain multitudes."  Do not confuse me for a one dimensional object that shocks you with an opinion, or worse, a capability.  And don’t expect me to suddenly feel as if I have to defend myself to you because I am all of those and more than good enough at one thing.  This is my problem with Mrs.  I am so so glad they are coming into their own, and rock ON, Sisters!!   I am already there, and I think a lot of women of my generation are too.
So I get the idea.  I get the anthem.  But I almost think that by putting it out there more attention is brought to bear on why we limit ourselves then how we don’t have to.  It almost becomes an angry self-limitation. And I am bummed about this.  And I am bummed that they have to feel this way.  I do think the problem is the buy in of women.  I also think it is easier for women to buy into this because the pressure to be perfect IS directed at women.   My suggestion is to put the onus where it belongs, not on ourselves, but on those who are creating the pressure, and lets not buy THAT.  Pointing it out when someone wants you to be who you are not is a great message.   To say you are only enough, is not.  We are all more then enough.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BlogHer 2014 and what I learned



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 The dude with his arms in the air on the screen is Guy Kawasaki.  I waved at him.  He waved back.  I felt cool for five minutes until I realized he probably didn't recognize me. ( I sit with his wife in church sometimes) Ah well, take your moments where you can.



I attended BlogHer in San Jose this year and at first I felt a little intimidated.  I still feel like that teenager in her room, tongue between the teeth making the zine that only her friends see.   Because really, how arrogant is it to have a blog that you think people want to read?  I am trying to play with the Big Girls, and found myself watching their every move with huge luminous eyes.  What I discovered was pointed out to me before I ever even got there by a wise woman friend Mamagotcha who told me everyone else was gonna be all weirded out too, and try to remember the idea of the Imposter syndrome.  Atfer banging my head against a wall once I realized she was right, I began to love being there.  

In fact, I was MEANT to be there.  Like divinely. Yes, I was too.  God reached down and smote me, until I finally got my ass out of the house and drove to the next town to attend.  And if you have never been smote, it is no joke.

I discovered lots of stuff:  for instance:

The term “scads and scads” is hilarious when said in a South Boston accent. (said by Amy of Cranberry Blogs)

Bloggers have boundaries, e.g. things they won’t write about.  Seriously.  I know if you ever read Jenny Lawson of www.Thebloggess.com it does not seem like it, but they do.

Sometimes elevator pitches aren’t sexy even if you show your boobs (from Maria Killam)

Sometimes the fit isn’t right.  When that happens, be gracious about it, and then rip them to shreds on your blog.  Anonymously, of course.

All women are beautiful once they become who they are.  I looked around at lunch on the first day to see this with new and wonderous eyes.  I never would have realized this in my twenties and am so grateful to be in my own body and my own space.  It changed my attitude and viewpoint for good.

The first rule of blogging?  Write what you know and never say no to a topic that flits across your tiny mind.  It will be brilliant.  And if it is not, meh, there is always tomorrow.

A fourteen year old feminist who is my new hero Bethany Huang

Be unapologetic.  Haters gonna hate.  Write it anyway. You can always block them.

And finally,

So. Many. Many bloggers HATE Gywnyth Paltrow (including me).  (This will be a rant post another time).  I overheard three things and a chorus of assents that led me to this conclusion.  
 1) "Does anyone even understand what this “conscious uncoupling” bullshit even MEANS????"
 2) "Hey! got a shot of Chris Martin feeding his kids a big ole pile of fries at an In-n-Out in LA.  I am SO posting it.” 
 3) “Of course she calls it Goop.  She is inarticulate.”



{flops on bed}  I had the BEST time.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Say Something, I'm giving up on you




Photo by GraceAdams

The #yesallwomen campaign has brought up so much deeply held finally said out loud shame from women. Reading it brings tears to my eyes. The mini stories are devastating. Yet I know that only half of the stories out there are being told.  The rest are still buried because of the Thing that all women are taught:  The first rule of being a girl is to shield ourselves from the vengeance of men. We try to shield ourselves by being the kind of women they won’t hurt.  Although, that gets tricky.  The criticisms that we aren’t doing it right include too fat, not pretty enough, too intelligent, too dumb, too accomplished to be worthy of anything but scathing derision and hatred.  We must be punished.  If we are doing it right then we owe them sex. At least, a blow-job. We must be used.
I have heard this story too many times.  I have heard it from my students who are just trying to get to class.  I have heard it from girlfriends who are just trying to have a glass of wine, with each other.  I have heard from the female engineers who think problem solving is fun.  I have heard from the 12 year old swimmers who are trying to figure why suddenly men think their bodies in swimsuits are different from last year.  I have heard it and heard it and heard it. And yes, I have experienced it.
When I used to teach I would set up this scenario; “Okay ladies, it is 10 o’clock, after class and you are walking to your car.  You hear a sound behind you.  How many of you shift your keys in your hand or pull out your cell phone and begin talking on it loudly so someone will know what happened to you?”
            Almost all the hands go up.  Once one didn’t.  I asked curiously, why not?  She held a black belt in three different martial arts.  She held a different form of protection, and while she stated she would not shift her keys, she did shift her body weight “just in case.”  
She was killed two summers ago, by her live in boyfriend.  
I cried at the service and thought that what this means is that women know and understand that some men, for no distinct reason, are always going to hate us.  We will never know why and can never name it, other than to recognize that it is a Thing, and it is a rape-driven ethos within our culture. It is easy to blame the group that is seen as “less than” you, and to therefore hurt them.  For men, who have been in privilege for so long, and have gotten there by force, this means women are the problem
And I do mean all men, because no matter how enlightened, or self-aware, that you claim you are, there is some portion of your primal brain that will pop up when you least expect it and throw down the “I deserve more than you because, I am a guy” bullshit.  Straight White Guy Chris Roberson admits it in his blog: and I know this to be true. 
I know this because I have seen my brothers do it.  I know this because I have seen myself do it.  The collusion in one’s own oppression is a fearsome thing, and as much of a feminist as my mother and grandmother were, they were still victims of their historic moment.  I currently live in a world where whole classes of schoolgirls in Nigeria are kidnapped, and even though we know who did it, the perpetrators feel JUSTIFIED in their actions. After all, they threw a handful of coins on the ground as payment for their booty (not a funny pun). And when the UN finally stepped in, I cheered, silently, because I don’t want to be too strident in my feminism.  Not because I am not solidly feminist, but because I am job hunting right now, and don’t want to destroy my chances by male hiring managers.
And this makes me tired.  I don’t want to worry about what kind of man I might be working for, or who might be hiring me.  I’m done with teaching about this to men and women in order to recruit male allies who get rewarded for having the same views I do.  This just reinforces the hierarchies of patriarchy and elevates masculinities.   I want to trust that the man I am hired by gets that I am brilliant and amazing or he would not have hired me.
This also means I am tired of the  “Be a real man” memes. Because the bottom line is I don’t care if you are a Real Man.  I want you to be a Real Person.  Just be a fucking person with all the good that entails, and there is no need for labels.  You will already get it, and have the compassion and empathy that so many don’t.
Men’s Rights Activists rage against child support, no-fault divorce, single mothers, and laws protecting women from domestic violence. They believe we live in a "gynocentric" society where women are the (with)holders of sex. Because of this, women have all the power and men are utterly victimized.  So, sex equals power.  Obviously, men aren’t getting their fair share of bullying, and something must be done about these arrogant women who want opinions, lives, and a say so in their sexual lives.  And if they don’t get these things, they will kill us.  Or at least the feminists among us.  One wonders what they will do when a man self identifies as a feminist.  Is he then in danger?  Because feminism is a philosophy, not a set of genatalia, as Pharrell Williams seems to think.
            And then I hear in my head that I am blaming all men for the actions of a few.  It isn’t that simple.  The best analogy that I have heard for this is the bowl of m&ms being held out to women.  10 percent of them are poison, but you don’t know which ten percent, and M&Ms are your favorite candy, so “go ahead, have a handful.”  No, not all men are willing to rape, but all women are still afraid of the ten percent that are.   Even the nice guys blow it sometimes.  Because they can.  That is part of the privilege we afford them.  But I can’t.  I can’t make that mistake.  It becomes dangerous when I make the mistake.
I just experienced this with a friend from high school who posted a pic of a dog ready to sniff the bikini bottoms of two truncated women along with the headline “you bet I am going to sniff that.”  When I protested, at first mildly, it became a shit storm.  This guy is one of the nicest, most gentle open-minded guys with a transgendered partner, and he STILL posted it as a “joke.”  The problem is not the nice guys, it is the culture that thinks this type of collusion is funny.  The problem is not the guys who speak up, it is culture that rewards them for doing so.  The problem is not the guys who remain silent, it is the culture that lets them.  The problem is not the guys who are abused themselves, by either gender, for their issue is the same as womens’ – the fundamental spirit of this characteristic violence within our culture.
So now that we have named the problem, and finally, finally, finally started the conversation that many of us have wanted to have for years, where do we go from here? As people, we need to exorcise the gender exercise, and learn to empathize.  I don’t know where to start except in my own little corner, maybe even with me, as I recognize my gender discrimination both given and received, my primal brain that does revert to stupid violent ego driven bullshit, and my anger about this all. Above all, I need to keep talking.  I need to keep engaging in the conversation, without blame.  Join me

Monday, April 14, 2014

So. .. BE NICE



 Recently, I attended a fantastic conference in San Francisco aimed at young designers and “How to Make it in the Design World” (HikeCon). Almost to a person, the speakers had a common refrain: Be Nice and Be Humble.  Do the small things, cuz’ none of us all that big of a deal.   
I absolutely agree with this advice, much as I did the first day of my Engineering program when one of the faculty said, “Remember, your reputation begins now.”  I even tweeted and retweeted this advice, because I think it so important. All of the organizers of the Conference were gracious and kind.  I spoke highly of my weekend, but especially of them.
Aha!
I got it.  I mean, I sort of had it before, but I really got it.
I began to think about way these people, many of whom are my age and older, are saying this over and over.  I began to get curious and realized that once again; people don’t know how to be people in certain circumstances.
            I don’t think it is there is fault to be assigned around this.  I think it is an evolution of society.  Parents were so concerned with their children’s self esteem that they over inflated it.  They got trophies just for showing up, whereas that was the LEAST of what I had to do to get a trophy.  The “I deserve a break because I showed up” mentality is prevalent in young designers, especially with all the swag in the goodie bags that we are given just for showing up, or the amazing products that we take for granted.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not going to tell you tales of how my childhood was better than yours, or how I had to walk three miles in the snow both ways barefoot, uphill, and that these hardships made me a better person.  I throw my share of snark and sarcasm, like any other intelligent, articulate feminist in today’s world.  I work on not judging others, like EVERYone else in the free world.  But I am nice, and I have manners.  I have the old fashioned kind where I send thank you cards for everything, and drop a cake on your doorstep in times of trouble, and sometimes just sit quietly and listen.  You will always have a cloth napkin at my house, and I will never point out your bad manners or tell you that you are hard to work with. There is almost always a smile on my face. I can just hear you now saying ”Yeah, that is because you are from the South.”
Maybe.
It is true that portions of my childhood were spent in the South.  Other portions were spent in other places, small towns all.  I am lucky enough to still know some outstanding amazing people from all these places (Thank you, Facebook).  One of the main things that most of the small towns have in common is the concept of manners and being nice.  In fact, the NY Times just wrote an article about how Thank you notes and manners in general are “On Trend.”  I laughed out loud.  Where I am from (EVERYwhere that I am from), they were never passé.  Maybe it is because small towns need manners more than large cities do.  You may never again run into the person you were rude to in New York, but I guarantee that you will in a small town.  You don't have to like that person or ever respect him or her, but you really do need to treat them well.
Design is a small world.  Your reputation began long before you thought about it.  Good manners go a long way in most societies. Studies show that well-mannered people are more likely to get ahead in the world of business, more likely to be liked, and they also find themselves more commonly invited as guests and welcomed in society. 
 In the design world, the Small Town of Corporate America, we have something called empathy maps or persona building and the people who do it well are the people who have the most empathy and are also, not by coincidence, the nicest. 
The Corporate world is a Big City, and is, ironically, finally recognizing that rudeness feels bad.  The construct that business isn’t personal is stupid and selfish.  Business is personal because the ONLY thing that matters is relationship, in the design world, or in the real world.   
So, be nice.  Learn that the best design is the one that people respond to, resonate with and feel something about.  You can only design this way if you understand how people think and feel.  You can only understand this by being nice.  Do it even if you are not a designer.
 
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Carrying the Women

Daffodils and Tulips
My whole life I have carried the women of my family in clay pots.  When the first of us came to America from Holland, she carried the tulips of her family, the narcissus of Christmas and the daffodils of spring.  To me, the daffodils have always signified hope.  Hannah waited until her Scottish husband brought her home to the house by the sea in North Carolina, and began to plant, hiding the bulbs behind the house so the sea winds could not tear at them and we could enjoy them if we ate outside.  As a child I imagined her long fingers gently splitting the bulbs, and replanting them so that the colors were present to get us through the winters. 
Every daughter was taught to carefully place chicken wire over the bulbs in October and November so the squirrels would not dip their little paws into the ground and gobble up the nutty goodness of tradition.  We were shown how to coerce the bulbs into throwing forth a green shoot, then another, then to sit back and await the gloriousness of flower in the cold, then warm sun.  These same flowers had bloomed every year for a very long time.  I don’t know how many generations before Hannah, and at least eight after her.  I don’t know the names of all my female ancestors, but I do know Hannah’s
            When the fury of Hurricane Hugo shook our tiny island, my grandmother knew in her bones that this was the storm that would rend our family to shores away.  She was like that.  Before she packed the china and crystal, she dug up bulbs and replanted them in terracotta pots, which she then distributed to all the women in our family for safekeeping.  I was in California going to graduate school, and got a box in the mail.  When I talked to Nana, she told me what she had done, and why.  She was right.  Hugo tore apart the house, the land and the shore my family had known since Hannah.  I cried for poor Hannah’s house, my Nana who died that next winter, and resolutely vowed to make sure that the women in my family always had a home.
            This year, as I work the earth, still in California, I think of my mother, dead just two months.  My tears warm the bulbs, coaxing them to bloom, so I can see my mother’s smile once again. I miss her terribly, and suddenly understand about hurricanes and tradition.  I think about what it must have taken for Hannah to arrive in a new country with nothing but remnants of the earth in her pockets, trying to weather the storm life had thrown her, just as I too am trusting the earth to show me hope.