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Monday, March 22, 2010

Health care reform! Finally!

So it's official, we have healthcare reform. I have admittedly mixed feelings about it. No public option, no single payer option, no coverage for undocumented people, oh and that little bit about drastically reducing access to abortion for women (particularly those women who ALREADY have a difficult time gaining access). But... we won, right..?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oblivious allies

So I've been dwelling a LOT lately on the allies in my life, how they do/don't support me and others that are targeted by oppression. I have an incredibly difficult time identifying with targeted peoples, I was raised to work hard and keep your chin up, don't complain and whine about things you can't change, good people get what they deserve in life, we are not of this world anyways right, yadda-yadda, etc. Basically, these are fucking excuses for internalized oppression (for targeted people) and internalized superiority (for privileged people). I'm a woman from a rural area that largely consists of middle-to-lower class people, the vast majority of which are blue-collar workers. It's strange to be partially targeted and partially privileged according to which aspect of my identity one is referring to. I'm a woman, but I'm white. I'm from a lower-middle class home but I'm straight and cis-gendered. This leaves me dual roles as both ally and targeted person. And I bet you can guess which one I feel most comfortable identifying with...

I am not the BEST at acknowledging my privileges in life, I'm much better at it than I used to be, but it's a constant struggle to keep that shit in perspective. It's important that as an ally to women (and men) of color, lgbtq peeps, working class folks, etc, that I respect the different forms of oppression they face that I am completely exempt from. Yes, some allies do get flak for standing up for targeted peoples, BUT that is NOT oppression. That is the price allies occasionally pay for going against systemic oppression, whereas targeted people pretty much always deal with that crap.

I have a friend who is a white straight cis- male from a middle/upper-middle class background (he claims his parents don't make that much money, but I've seen their giant house and both of them have college degrees, and have invested money in his name... sooo ya). As one of the few male friends I have right now, and one of the ONLY close friends I have who is a card-carrying hard-lefty liberal, we often end up talking about 'isms. Or I just tend to bring them up around him a lot. Anyways, most of the time he at least pays me enough lip service to make me think "well he's got it! a straight white guy who isn't a douche!" But then he'll say some COMPLETELY colorblind, sexist ridiculousness that just makes me want to scream. I've talked to him a lot about the role of an ally, and in no uncertain terms have said that I expect him to behave like one, that he shouldn't just assume that we're on the same page and that if he SAYS something offensive I will take it at face value rather than waiting for the punchline. He knows all this, and yet he still complains to me about how hard it will be for him (a white male with a master's degree) to find a job when I (a white female with a bachelor's) have been working a dead-end job for the past two years, sending out resumes and praying for a chance to get into the my field of choice. I realize that there is definitely privilege in both of these positions, but for some reason, he doesn't notice the inherent differences between them. It also fails to register that all the jobs open to him pay about $20,000 more per year than the jobs available to me. I could probably list several hundred more small advantages this guy has had over me that result in a higher probability for success and freedom in life than I will ever achieve, but my point here is to say that allies should be aware of this stuff, that I shouldn't have to remind him at every step of the way that he has a leg up on me and thusly, shouldn't complain to me about the trivial struggles he faces. It's completely insensitive and smacks of ignorance.

The worst part of all of this, is when I confront him with his un-allyish behavior, and he gets defensive. I really don't do it that often, although he may disagree, but I'm a firm believer in picking your battles. I am careful to distinguish between his words and actions, and try to specifically point out what I found problematic and why. I refrain at all costs from calling him, the individual, sexist/racist/adultist/etc. I try to remain calm, rational. Still, calling him out puts me in such a vulnerable position, I don't want to lose my ally, and I don't want to be misunderstood as perpetuating some killjoy femi-nazi stereotype.

The difficult part is, that he is still my friend. I DO want to be a good, supportive friend and "be there" for him. I want to be able to listen to his woes like he (usually) does mine and feel empathy for him. It makes me wonder if other people I'm an ally to feel this way about me; that if only I'd quit talking about how hard it is to be [insert privileged identity here] I'd be a decent friend to have around. I'm gonna keep trying with this guy, there's potential, and if I don't show him how to be a good ally, who will?

A little about me...

So I think that a little background on who I am is in order. First of all, to clear up any potential confusion, I'm a white cisgendered heterosexual woman. I'm in my mid-20s, I'm originally from northern California (or "norcal" as we affectionately call it), and I'm currently residing in Santa Barbara. I have a bachelor's degree in sociology, and I have two jobs: during the week I'm a cataloging assistant at a local library, and I'm a rape crisis counselor on the weekends. I'm a feminist and a recovering evangelical Christian. I have a big family that is an endless source of stress, entertainment and love to me (I'm sure I'll write more about them later!). I grew up in a rural area, in a very small town that generally doesn't show up on most maps; as a result I'm used to driving inordinately long distances just to do normal things like go to Target or see a movie or go bowling. I didn't start to connect everyday injustices to systems of oppression until my second year of college, and it would take another couple years before I began to get into social justice work and (gasp!) even become a little political. What can I say, I was a late bloomer.

Right now, I think I'm still struggling to find my footing in the social justice world. I feel like there is so much more I need to learn about and experience and understand before I could really accomplish anything. Also, I'm very very aware of my privileged identities, how they make navigating the world so much easier for me but also make landing a job doing social justice work quite difficult. However, I do understand the tendency for allies of marginalized communities to take over movements and play savior, or for movements to exclude communities or those with identities that just don't seem to fit. I get all that, and I understand why a social justice agency would hire a bilingual woman of color for a position instead of me. Not only do her personal life experiences give her such a better understanding of oppression, but she would be able to connect with targeted communities much better than I ever could. Not to mention that women of color still earn much less than even white women do here in the U.S.; I think that one of the ways social justice movements combat economic inequality is to provide jobs with benefits to women of color. It's a win-win. My ego, however, still gets butthurt over it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

For starters

Well! This is my first official post on this blog, my new blog "A Perfect Vagina"... not so sure about the name yet, but I suppose I was inspired by the recent vajazzling craze... or maybe it was all this stuff about labiaplasty in the media... iunno. One day, we will look back at these trends and hopefully cringe and laugh awkwardly, until the deafening silence takes over and we go back to reclining in our individualized hovering pods (our inevitable future I suppose). I would like to say that my lady parts are NOT at this moment vajazzled. Neither have my labia been ... plastied (?). I am au naturale, except that I pay a lady $40 a month to wax my pubes off. So, probably not au naturale in the sense of my pubes still being ON my pubis mons...

I think my vision for this blog is hopefully humor, and probably some feministy/socially just stuff as well, sandwiched between healthy doses of cynicism and random tangents. Good? Good! My first topic of Ever is going to be the female condom, because I have been reading about it EVERYWHERE in the BLOGOSPHERE lately.

First of all, I would like to say that I have never used this contraption, and that I definitely think something should be done to encourage people to cover their naughty bits during sex; I am staunchly pro-safe sex. However, I have issues with pushing this responsibility onto the receptive (as opposed to the insertive) partner. The female condom is being marketed as the option for the individual who is saddled with a partner who just refuses to wear a regular condom. WOW!!! That sounds like a borderline rape apology! It reminded me a lot of rape survivors I know who want to go on birth control "just in case someone rapes me again." I think the fact that this is supposed to be a major selling point of the female condom speaks dysfunctional volumes about the product. How can something that you use because your quasi-abusive dick of a partner prefers to bareback it rather than take your safety into consideration ever really be empowering and/or freeing? From this perspective, it's essentially a method self-defense against douchebags. Wonderful.

The other thing that bothers me about the female condom is that it seems to fall in line with the continued medicalization of women's bodies that we see all the friggin time. It's bad enough that women are expected to take hormones that fuck up our body chemistry to prevent unwanted pregnancy (and if, heaven-forbid, a pregnancy should occur... that's right, it's the woman's responsibility to deal with it). Now we're supposed to be responsible for barrier methods as well? Why is it that only the female bodies in the relationship must carry the onus for sex? Most of the sexually active women I know already purchase/carry male condoms with them. We do our part. But I guess that's not enough, because unless my partner's penis is able to feel a gentle moonlit breeze sans latex, his experience with me will just never be complete.

In conclusion, it's hard (hehe, sex pun!) to talk about the female and male condoms without putting it into context. There's this pesky thing called sexism around and it tends to penalize women and trans folks all the damn time. All I'm asking, is that men wear the condoms. Because they don't have to get pelvic exams or have periods or possibly push a baby through their crotches one day. I think that's a good compromise.