Monday, July 29, 2013


 Yesterday's post got me thinking of a lot of different things. One of those things is feminism. I've already written that I am a feminist and a proud one at that. Yet feminism seems to be a movement so fiercely hated that it even takes me aback.

I understand where that hatred is coming from. Radical feminism has stolen feminism for the rest of us. The definition of feminism is:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. It is not female superiority over men nor is it supposed to be men-hating. Quite the opposite. 

As a feminist, I completely denounce the works of Valerie Solanas, Susan Brownmiller, Robin Morgan and others like them. I have had many male figures in my life that have influenced me in very positive ways so I think most guys are freaking awesome. However, it doesn't change the fact that I realize that we live in a culture that degrades women.... even if we have made progress iu leaps and bounds to change that.

To be honest, I'm not that much of a fan of third-wave feminism. I much more appreciate first and second wave feminism that fought for women to have legal and social rights. That fought for women to be allowed to vote, divorce without stigma, be treated as equals, have a right to an abortion, not have to put up with sexual harassment, and have job options besides the ones outside the home. 

If you don't think feminism is still needed in Western society...
But we're still not equal. Socially, we're horrible. Our media, as I mentioned yesterday, is completely biased against women. It promotes rigid gender roles as well as a macho culture that hurts men as well as women. Women are not represented in the media and are held to different sexual standards. There are double standards when it comes to treatment of the sexes, double standards that hurt men too. Economically, women still are not paid the same amount of men although the reasoning for this is still very complicated. Not to mention, a woman's right to receive an abortion is being threatened daily, especially in certain states like Texas and Ohio. Politically, women are allowed to vote but we're still underrepresented in politics (most politicians are white males).

I'm reluctant to use the words "patriarchy" and "misogyny" unless I feel that such strong language is warranted. Those words imply something insidious and deliberate and when it comes to sexism in America and the Western world, I don't think that's the case at all. However, if you look at a lot of societies especially many in the Middle East, these terms absolutely could be applied. The Western world is very advanced when it comes to equal rights compared to its counterparts. But we can do better and if we can do better, why should we refuse to? We should be making this world the best it can be, not stopping until we get there. 

I think prejudice is linked. Racism, classism and homophobia is linked to sexism. It's all oppression. The term "patriarchy" is overly simplistic. I think the better term is "kyriarchy", a term acknowledging this complexity. It isn't true that in society all men are treated better than all women. For example, kyriarchy goes like this: White, straight, rich, Christian men are at the very top of this pyramid. White, straight, rich, Christian women are below them. Below them are black, straight, Christian men and then women of the same description with their homosexual counterparts probably of similar standing. The lowest in this pyramid, of course, are poor minority women (and possibly poor gays?). I think you get the point. 

For this reason, in addition to being a feminist, I also consider myself to be an equalist, a human rights activist, and a secular humanist. I suppose I would even identify myself as a masculinist if I didn't believe that the MRA (Men's Rights Activism) movement if I thought MRAs actually cared about equality of the genders from a male perspective (from what I see, though, it seems to just be a movement to hate on feminism). I want rights for everyone. When I see injustice, I want something done about it regardless of the party hurt. Many people are no longer identifying as feminist because of feminism's bad reputation. But I still believe despite everything that it's a worthwhile cause to identify with. Given the inequalities still besieging women today, I believe that it still should be relevant.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Blurred Lines"... Of Consent?: Misogyny in the Music Industry and Media

Like every song churned out by the major music industries, "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke is pretty much on every radio industry you listen to. It has a catchy beat and the guy can sing. All's good, right? Talent has come to the music industry? Think again.

Upon closer inspection of the lyrics, I realized what exactly the title referred to. Consent. "I hate these blurred lines. I know you want it," Thicke sings. "Good girl." The saddest part is I'm not taking it out of context. This song is talking about the "blurred lines" of consent when it's not clear whether or not she is actually capable of consent and when consent is not clear. In other words, it's rape.  Thicke refers to the girl he sings about as "the hottest bitch", an "animal" that he needs to "domesticate" and of course "a good girl" for submitting to his questionable sexual activities. TI finishes off the degrading of this nameless girl:  "One thing I ask of you/ lemme be the one you back that ass into/ Had a bitch, but she ain't bad as you [...] I'm a nice guy but don't get confused, you're getting it." Essentially, this girl is not seen as a human being with feelings, not worthy of respect. She is an object and her consent (or lack thereof) doesn't seem to matter. Despite what the fact that he knows he's raping her, he's still a "nice guy" just giving in to what he sees as normal sexual behavior. The music video further demonstrates what the song is trying to portray. The "nice guys" are donned in suits and ties while the stupid "bitch[es]" stare up at the camera with vapid expressions on their faces, wearing plastic wrapped skimpy clothes in the censored version and nothing at all in the uncensored one. The men are the sophisticated, presumably competent ones while women are presumably their rudimentary counterparts. In essence, they're the objects that these men are trying to capture for their own gratification, the plastic further demonstrating this.

But this isn't normal sexual behavior. This song isn't promoting good, albeit sexual, fun. It's promoting rape.I know a lot of feminists make big deals out of stupid crap and get easily offended over sex/ relationships and anything resembling male sexual behavior but I'm not one of them. I don't like how easily feminists throw a powerful word like misogyny (hatred towards women) around when only mild to moderate sexism (stereotypes, bias and prejudice/discrimination against women) has been shown. I'm not someone "easily offended" and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I can't help but take offense at this song and it's hard to see it as singing about anything but rape. And this song isn't just sexist; it's misogynistic.

This song and its accompanying music video is only a small piece of the picture. The music industry and the media is on a total sexism/ misogyny bonanza. Hip hop and rap has been totally overrun with lyrics about "bitches" and "hook ups"; pop is a bit more subtle, having female stars sing only about having sex and being drunk with men having sex with women and also being drunk. Women are being objectified at a much higher rate than men. There's a serious dearth in strong female characters in the media; women act and look only a few numbers of ways and in a few numbers of roles while men act in much more varied ways. And that's a problem. 

There's nothing wrong with a little bit of objectification. I know, I know, I shouldn't say that but it's true. These women are consenting to be objectified; people attracted to those in question are happy. And, I admit, I swoon just as much over the Abercrombie and Fitch models as any other girl does, personally. However, the problem comes when you exclusively objectify women; that is to say, only show them in a sexual way. When you don't show them in any other way or in any other role. Rather than showing women as sexual beings who can have a good time every once in a while, they are shown only as objects. And when these "objects" show that they too have sexual feelings, they are punished and labelled as "sluts". Not to mention, as I said before, men are not treated in this fashion. Occasionally, men are shown as sexual objects. However, they are also shown in a variety of other roles in the media and in film as well when women are not. Men are shown as sexual beings; women are not. The sexes receive two completely different kinds of treatment.

There's nothing wrong with having a ditsy blonde or any other stereotypical woman, either. But the same issue applies. When these stereotypes are the only thing that are there and not evenly applied, that's a problem.

The Bechdel test perfectly demonstrates women's role in a male-dominated media. If you've never heard of the Bechdel test, essentially it's as follows: two named women in a movie have to have a conversation about something other about something other than a man. They only need to have one conversation and it can literally be about anything even about some stereotypical conversation about something like shopping lasting any amount of time. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. Famous examples of movies that fail the Bechdel test include: Transformers, Hangover and even a great many deal of  Harry Potter movies. The movies that usually do pass this test tend to have women as the female protagonists rather than a movie with a male protagonist that shows women as equals. If you do this test and replace "female" with "black", it's even worse. A lot of movies will get out of the claims of racism, sexism, etc. by having the one token black and/or female character. However, this character's exclusive focus is usually on the main character and they have little to no life outside of the main character.

These kinds of messages are obviously very much harmful to women and girls. They may be implicit enough not to be responded to directly. They begin to see themselves as they are represented and they work so hard to conform to these stereotypes. Many of them, feeling the presence of these messages, even turn to slut-shaming and pressuring their peers into this lifestyle, making themselves indirectly responsible for their own oppression. It's a vicious cycle.

It's not easy on guys, either. Men are affected in even subtler ways. With models of good behavior hard to come by, it's easy for guys to disrespect women in the same manner as they've been shown. With sensitivity seen as uncool and feminine, men are pressured to shunning their emotional sides. Patriarchy affects them too and often backfires. Because of this, men are discriminated in divorce cases, domestic violence cases, etc. The media might view women as stupid, overly emotional sexual objects deserving of sexist treatment but they also view men as bad spouses, bad parents and cruel, insensitive, "macho" people. After all, if women are told that even the slightest baring of skin meant that they are "asking for it", what does this say about men? What message does that send them? Implicitly, this says that they are such disgusting animals that they cannot restrain themselves, even if it means horribly impacting the emotional welfare of the women they are assaulting. And that's not fair on them either. For these reasons, men have even reason to be outraged by these messages as women do.

The media isn't everything. However, it is the mark we leave behind and the lens we view ourselves through. It is what we consume every day, the messages we put on repeat. It affects us more than we think. Is this really what we want to leave behind? What we want to feed ourselves? This is pathetic and we can do better. I'm not even touching on the racism, homophobia and general prejudice the media also demonstrates. If enough people take a stand, things can change.

With their misogynistic messages, Robin Thicke and similar musicians are a part of the problem. You and I can be a part of the solution.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Getting My Hair Washed in My Kitchen Sink

 Having your head dunked anywhere is always an interesting experience. Having your head dunked in the sink by your sister because it's too dirty to present to the public... Yeah, that's even more interesting.

That's how I started out my morning. I had forgotten to take a shower the night before. It wasn't like I hadn't taken a shower the night before that or the night before that. This was only one day without showering. But still, to my chagrin, my hair made me look like a total grease monkey. Yeah, I knew I have naturally oily hair but it has never been this bad.

Unfortunately, my mother, sister and I had a shopping trip to go on. I needed to do something and I needed to do something quickly! I tried to put my hair in a hairstyle that would avoid attention but, unfortunately, given my short hair I knew that would be difficult to do.

My sister came to the rescue. She told me to lower my head and she would wash it. It seemed crazy. But what other choice did I have? So she led to the sink downstairs and shoved my head under the faucet.Then she pulled me up by my hair, forced shampoo on it, and told me to close my eyes. I tried not to flinch as she forced her fingers through my hair, so hard she was close to give me bruises. Then she shoved it under the faucet again and scrubbed all the more until she could get it out.

When she was done, she wrapped my head in a towel and laughingly told me I looked like a Muslim. I gave her a look and tried to stop my hair from soaking my shirt as the water dripped down my face.

"You couldn't have taken a shower last night, could you?" she said.

I shook my head.

We laughed.

Mom told us to get going because we had already wasted enough time so we did.

My bad!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Today, I had a full body massage for the first time. And I have to say that it was an absolutely refreshing experience.

She rubbed my back first, running her fingers all over my back. They were magical fingers! It wasn't just a simple glossing over me like it is when an amateur massages me but it was the perfect varying of pressure across me all over the place.

But it wasn't just my back! A full body massage included massaging my legs, arms, face and neck too. Ahhhh! I never even imagined all of those places that she would go on my body or how those would make me feel. I could practically hear the angels sing as she went all over me.

My neck is the most sensitive area of my body being as that's where stress accumulates (although I don't have that much stress in the summer but still). So naturally it felt the best there, especially since she almost seemed particularly specialized in that area. Surprisingly, it also felt amazing when her fingers massaged my face too, especially my sinuses and cheekbones.

She even handled my surgery scars well, her fingers equally as sensitive and smooth as she was over the unaffected parts of my body. And, admittedly, my legs probably would have benefited from a shave but whatever.

It's a shame that massages are so expensive, especially with the tip involved. The world would be a better place if everyone got a weekly massage because it seems like the world has a whole lot of stress. But I'm at least appreciating mine

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Importance of Characters

 Characters are what make and break a story. Sure, a good plot will keep you charging forward and zipping through the pages but characters are really what will make you fall in love with the story. In so many ways, they're the very crux of the story.

This is why they're so hard for us writers to write. Of course, there are two kinds of stories: plot-driven stories and character-driven stories. In plot-driven stories, the characters are more of an afterthought. Still important, of course, but in plot-driven stories, the plot is the most important feature. Think Harry Potter. In character-driven stories, the plot is more of an afterthought with the development of the character centerstage. Think Catcher in the Rye for this one. I've written both kinds of stories in both novel and short story form.

Surprisingly, characters in plot-driven stories are more difficult to develop. In character-driven stories, they usually just spring up fully-formed. But in plot-driven stories, I have to work harder to think them up or at least to find them. But even though plot is the driving element in plot-driven stories, characters are still incredibly important. 

In plot-driven stories, characters are the ones to essentially drive the plot. A character's narration can even change how the reader perceives the events in the plot. Maybe plot is the number one reason people keep reading, but good characters are essentially what make them stay. Good characters accentuate a plot and a story.

Plus, readers are total suckers for characters they like. Those important characters are the reason why they remember a book. And that's what you need to live for as a writer. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Staying Home

Since I've come home from camp, that's pretty much all I've done: stay home. I wish there was something more interesting that I could offer but alas that really is all that I've done. I've essentially alternated between the gym and my house, pretty much not doing very much at all.

Obviously, staying home is a million times different than doing all of those activities. It's different than camp, job, etc. It's a lot more free and I get to do what I want to do. There's practically no structure, no rules besides my mother's basic demands and everything.  

It's a little dull sometimes, a little slow, though. Obviously, there isn't nearly as much going on. My mind isn't nearly as stimulated. I feel a little bored sometimes like I'd rather be doing anything but be at home. The gym helps with that a bit but not really. 

At the same time, though, that almost feels good. My mind almost gets to relax. I get to experience a little bit of a break, not having to worry about anything at all. I also feel much more well-rested than when I'm not at home. I also get a lot of writing time in (or sometimes not that much of all when I'm not all that into it). In a lot of ways, it's great and in a lot of ways not. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Coming Home

 Hello, hello, dear readers. Long time no write on this blog for me. And that's because I've been at camp for the past two weeks just writing, writing, writing away.

But no more. Now, I'm actually home. Home after two weeks away from home.

Already, it's so strange. It's like I have to assimilate into an entirely new culture somehow because home is so different than camp. It's like a different culture.

Of course, I was happy in a way to come home. How couldn't I be? I loved camp and all of our super fun experiences and everything and sometimes, there was so much going on there was no time to think. And yet at night, I would think of my family. Or the longing would settle so deeply in my chest when I would talk to them that I just couldn't breathe. I was having the time of my life but my, did I miss them so. They were (are) my world and I was living without them.

And yet... At the same time, I was finding myself in that camp. I was able to be myself among people and that was a learning experience for me. I was also having the time of my life, using all of the opportunities I was given the best that I could. I got to talk to R.L. Stine for God's sake! The most important people of The New York Times! My group and I got to talk to some of the cast of Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Sleeping Beauty (the ballet)... And wow! The people there were fabulous, the activities were fabulous and I learned so much writing wise too. I had to tear myself away from it and, even though I missed everyone, I didn't want to go. It's hard to have the best two weeks of your life end, to leave the people you're so close to.

Home is so different. I'm having to adjust to a slower paced way of life, more monitoring, etc. But at the same time, in many ways, I'm glad to be back (my rats are certainly glad I'm back). Even adjusting from the cities to the suburbs is incredibly difficult.

And, of course, in addition to being back home, I'm back on the blog too.

So here I am. I'm back. I'm home.

This was the program: