My 3 Wishes

This past weekend, I had the honor of being a part of a weekend workshop on how to affirm young people’s identities.

For part of the training, we listened to the song “3 Wishes” by J Cole and came up with our own three wishes around relationships in our lives. More than having everyone wish for world peace or a world without racism, our wishes were more concrete, more personal and for me, gave me a sense of power in my life. What can I control even it just begins by acknowledging a wish?

  1. I wish to trust my emotions more. I’m slowly feeling more confident in my homo-romantic identity and I think I’m getting to a place where I’m interested in exploring romantic relationships and being vulnerable.
  2. I wish my brother loved me for who I am as a queer autonomous woman and not just as his sister. I do not want to be the exception to the rule for his homophobia and misogyny.
  3. I wish to trust my friends more and trust that they will love me despite my imperfections. I do not need to be perfect all the time.

What are your three wishes? What do you wish for your relationships? I’m learning that the more I can affirm myself, the more I can affirm the young people I work with each day.

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Books By Women: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Instead of a blurb on the back of my copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle  (originally published in 1962), Penguin Classics instead included the opening lines of the novel:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had […] I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

And because I have a soft spot for female protagonists, especially female protagonists who talk about the weird and the bizarre as if it were normal, I had to buy this book. Yet, it is probably one of the strangest novels I’ve ever read. It is at once a mystery novel (what exactly happened to Mary Katherine’s family?) as well as a study of a town, mob mentality and forgiveness.

It’s a Shirley Jackson novel.

That name didn’t mean anything to me either when I bought the book, but Johnathon Lethem explains in the introduction that most people have read Shirley Jackson and just don’t know it. Shirley Jackson wrote the short story “The Lottery.”

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle has the same fantastic use of a small town setting to create a world and a culture, and the same suspenseful build up, allowed to grow that much larger in a novel, than is possible in a short story.

Yet, I’m not sure if I enjoyed it. I would recommend it for its weirdness without expressly being speculative fiction and because Shirley Jackson is a brilliant writer who can write on similar themes across her work and still have them nuanced and fresh. But I’m not sure I enjoyed the novel. I would have to read it again and see if the characters struck me more intensely the second time, or if the plot holds a greater resonance than on the first read.

It’s definitely worth reading, but I’d be interested to know if you come away with the same odd longing for something more that you’re not quite sure how to describe.

Keep on reading! Up next: The New Jim Crow.

From Beyond the Women’s College Bubble

There are so few environments in the world where if you turn to the person to your left and the person to your right, chances are they will identify as a feminist. The women’s college I graduated from was such an environment. Though not perfect, everyone discussed queer issues and combating rape culture as the natural and logical way of being in a human being in the world. There is some nasty racism that needs to be addressed, and there are nay sayers who refuse to watch their language around pronouns and accessibility issues.

And yet. I am a product of a women’s college bubble.

I recently read a post on a high school friend’s facebook page about how she’s a prominent feminist organizer at the University of Toronto and is afraid for her life. Just as their classes were starting there anonymous online bloggers and people on Reddit made threats made about shooting feminists on campus, both students and faculty.

One user named “Kill Feminists” wrote the following on 5 September 2015:

Next week when a feminist at the University of Toronto tries to ruin your life with false sex rape allegations, rent a gun from a gang and start firing bullets into these feminists at your nearest Women’s Studies classroom.

A Reddit user agreed:

go into the nearest Sociology or Womens Studies classroom next week, and fire bullets into the Professor’s head and spray bullets all over the room until all the feminists are dead.

And though the university increased security and sections of the Canadian news media, as well as Feminist news media, like Jezebel, are covering the issue, as of September 11, The Globe and Mail decrees in its headline: “Police Find No Credible Threat After University of Toronto Investigation.” 

That’s that then, right? Wrong. This is terrorism and feminists are still afraid.

This fear is thankfully not what I experienced as a feminist in college, but I need to recognize that this is the day to day life of many feminists. Whether I know you personally or we have never met, I want to take a moment and stand in solidarity with you, the feminists who live this struggle and press on through this very real and terrifying threat. I want to do more for you and with you.

To all the feminists who organize and work toward a more just world, thank you for all that you do.

L’Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

Happy Jewish New Year! This will be my first year away from my family as well as away from an organized Hillel during the High Holy Days.

applesandhoneyAnd though this is the first year I have a vehicle and (officially) independent, I still am not necessarily free to go to High Holy Days services. As was the case at my college, my job dictates that if I take a day off for a religious holiday I am taking a personal day. This wouldn’t be a problem unto itself, but under Christian hegemony, those who are of the Christian faith (most denominations at least–there are exceptions to everything) have their holidays off work and school as a matter of course. No one has to worry about losing a day of work or catching up on school assignments because they celebrated Christmas or Easter.

Yet, one of my friends is making me rethink how I can celebrate, even if going to a synagogue is currently not an option. They sent me a link to tips and projects for a DIY Rosh Hashanah.

I want to send this post out as holiday greetings to anyone who’s interested in a sweet year ahead and also to start thinking about our options in celebration, whether we’re religious or not, whether we have a community, want a community, or just want to dip some apples in honey for a sweet new year.

L’Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

Why Battle of the Sexes is the Wrong Analogy

9ec7708d-d2fa-406a-bccd-89df1f0192cfOne of the ways we can all work towards a more just and equal society is being conscious of the language we use. Where do common phrases come from and who uses them? “Battle of the Sexes” was not a feminist slogan. It became common from misogynist Bobby Riggs, who challenged female tennis player Margaret Court and then Billie Jean King to tennis matches. Bobby Riggs may not have invented the phrase, but the misogynist connotations hold true today, no less than they did when he played (and lost) against Billie Jean King in a fight to prove which sex was superior.

Here’s why this phrase doesn’t hold water for feminism and is particularly harmful today.

  1. Battle has a male connotation. To describe moves toward gender equality as a battle imposes violence and a long history of male dominated warfare. It’s not that women never participated or participate in wars, or that men are naturally more aggressive or prone to violence. However, to present the movement as a battle places it firmly in masculine territory. Women are excluded from the conversation before the conversation has even begun. For more information on how words are gendered and a feminist space in the English language take a look at The Feminist Dictionary as well as Dale Spender’s book, Man Made Language
  2. Battle means there’s a winner and a loser. A battle is a zero-sum game. One side wins and gains the spoils of war and the other side loses and capitulates. Therefore, if women win equal rights, men have to lose their rights, which is not accurate at all. Relinquishing privilege to stand on equal footing is very different than being moved to second class citizenship and landing in the place of the oppressed. Without Patriarchy, there wouldn’t be anyone in the place of the oppressed.
  3. The sexes refers to only two sexes. Theoretically the phrasing “Battle of the Sexes” could refer to a multiplicity of sexes, but typically this phrase is used to put a distance between men and women as two separate ends of a spectrum. The “Battle of the Sexes” pits men against women, and clings to traditional gender norms and the sex binary. Until we drop words that are exclusionary we’ll continue to view media representations that place men with the power tools and women with the hair dryer.

I cannot speak for all feminists, nor do I claim to. But I’ve heard people casually throw around the phrase “Battle of the Sexes” when speaking about feminism as if the two are one and the same. They’re not. And believing the feminist struggle is a zero-sum game doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m currently searching for better words to describe the feminist movement that don’t talk about it as a battle or a fight but I too am trapped within male language.

So, You’re Jewish

download (3)I was riding the train home tonight and spoke with one of the passengers about his glasses. I told him that I needed new glasses. He nodded, paused the conversation, then asked, “Are you Jewish?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so.” he nodded again as if proud of his Jew-dar. He asked me, “Is she Jewish too?” He meant the woman sitting next to me, a woman I had never met before.

She told him she wasn’t and he said, “Oh well, I was right fifty percent. Fifty fifty odds.” He was smiling as we both got off the train.

I don’t know what to make of this conversation or this man. I don’t understand. I didn’t do anything that should have singled me out. Maybe I look Jewish. I don’t know. My Jewish education taught me to fear Antisemitism to a debilitating extreme. My great-aunt reminds me to be afraid but also proud of my heritage but also conceal that I’m Jewish because it’s dangerous. I don’t want her to be right. I live with enough repressed fear walking around as a woman with the audacity to travel alone. Living under rape culture is enough to be afraid of.

I didn’t feel threatened on the train, though maybe I should have. I don’t understand what happened. If anyone has any insight or advice, please let me know. I appreciate it.