Category Archives: feminism & commentary

symmetry

In religion today, we talked about intuitively spiritual events — the clash of the mundane with the divine which creates religion. My professor tells me that religious experience doesn’t necessarily have to be reasonable. Actually, in the reading we’re doing right now, Rudolph Otto says human nature is inherently unreasonable (if I’m interpreting this correctly…). It’s strange to hear an academic speaking of religion in a way that isn’t concrete in the slightest; it’s frightening and comforting at once, if that’s possible.

On the one hand, it scares me because I am forced to accept that there may be facets of the human experience that cannot be explained by reason. It scares me to know that my professor, who has been in school longer than I have been alive, is telling me that I can’t reason my way into religious thought. I suddenly feel like everything is unstable and the floor was ripped out from beneath me. How am I supposed to wrap my head around this?

But my professor said once, “faith without doubt is madness. A mature faith can ask these questions.” Again, I don’t know what I am growing faith in, but I wonder if I am beginning to feel those inklings of intuition again that will eventually tip the first domino. It shows up when I take a moment to look at the symmetry in my life.

Really, it’s scary, although maybe it’s completely inconsequential. But how can I explain the prevalence of the number ’27’ on significant occasions in my life?
Or the ending of two sub-par relationships in the exact same place.
Or the fact that I now spend significant amounts of time each week at one of the first places I ever visited in Athens — a place I never thought I would return to.
Or my sharing a name (first or last) with people who eventually replace me.
Or the way my life seems to run parallel to another’s without either of our meaning for it to.

I’m running the risk of being cliche by posting this song, but…oh well. I can’t help loving Conor. And anyway, with this small bit of introspection I think I’ve earned some shallow interpretation of the title of a Bright Eyes song.

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a rant

about this housing community.

Their advertising is genius. A row of perfect, clean, cute looking cottages lines the top of the poster with a presumably African child beneath. The words “Live here…help someone here” convey Aspen Heights’s brilliant business model.

I can’t imagine you could be a living, breathing member of this student population without hearing about Aspen Heights. This new housing development boasts the best living situation available to college students: cottage style homes, private bathrooms, a neighborhood gym, and a pool – all safely within a gated community. And the best part? A portion of your lease goes toward helping African children.

I’m sorry, but does anyone else get a creepy Stepford Wives vibe about this place? It’s a nationwide business that is turning out these identical neighborhoods at college campuses all over the country, marketed perfectly for students and their budding philanthropic ideals.

I watched the video on the Aspen Heights website and I have just a little bit of a problem with the way they convey their message. Lifted straight from their Aspen Heights in Africa video: “a portion of every lease for residence through Aspen Heights goes toward providing housing and educational opportunities on the continent of Africa.”

Really? Well that’s cool, but I was planning on sending my money to help education in Asia. Or South America. Or Europe.

Africa is the only continent that we seem to collectively view as its own country – and one that is always in need of our help from over here in the U.S. There are 47 countries in Africa, and they all have their own economies, histories, and cultures. Aspen Heights’s campaign only reinforces the idea that Africa is filled with starving children covered in flies who have absolutely no hope or ability to help themselves.

To be fair, Kenya, the one African country Aspen Heights did name, is in a state of great poverty — 50% of its population lives below the poverty line. Yes, I’d say that definitely warrants some attention. Disregarding the brilliant but warped ad techniques that Aspen Heights has used, I’m all for giving girls more educational opportunities. I do commend them in at least providing the name of a school they fund. But I wonder how much of the money goes to this school and how much goes right into the fat pockets of the guys at the top of this company.

Rent for these lovely cottages is projected to be at least $500-600 a month, which is a little bit steep but I suppose it’s worth it when you’re paying for your monthly good karma. Here’s a thought. If you want to help out those in poverty — those who are missing out on educational opportunities — just take a peek outside your car window when you’re driving to class.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau released data saying that Athens-Clarke County has the highest poverty rate in counties with populations more than 100,000 in the entire country. 44.9% of the population lives beneath the poverty line and 100% of students in three Athens-Clarke County elementary schools are on free and reduced lunch programs.

My suggestion? Live in a house or an apartment that’s already in town, save some money and donate it to local charities or fundraisers that help the children in Athens-Clarke County. Volunteer in the elementary schools or at the Boys and Girls Club. If you live in Aspen Heights, yes, a portion of your lease will probably go to help some girl somewhere in Kenya — maybe — but I can guarantee that you will see more of an impact if you dedicated your time to helping out in your own community.

It’s a shame how apparent the economic disparity is in this town. You have some of the most affluent people from in and out of this state living right across the street from people who can’t even afford a school lunch. The solution isn’t to gate yourself off into yet another bubble of detachment, but to get out there, get your hands dirty, and actually do something real.

on a saturday night,

I wandered into a thrift store today on a whim and picked up Mona Lisa Smile. I’m not going to lie, I only grabbed it because I saw the words “art history” on the back and Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, and Maggie Gyllenhaal on the front. It was a beautiful movie with overtly feminist themes that I completely did not expect. But of course, I’m not complaining. It dealt with the idea that marriage and motherhood with both lead to death, an idea I’ve often struggled with. I’ve seen marriage as the death of my career, my creativity, my freedom, and my happiness. What the movie didn’t pay enough attention to, in my opinion, is the third possibility in the debate between family and professional life, which is the marriage of the two. I’d like to think that if I were to ever get married and have children, I would be able to maintain my career and my sanity. I think I’m just selfish enough for that. But ultimately, I think it makes you a better mother in the end if all of your efforts and happiness do not rest upon the success or failure of these little people with your eyes and your husband’s mannerisms. Anyway, I won’t talk your head off tonight about feminist approaches to having children.

I’ve had this one bottle of perfume for the last ten months — a boy bought it for me as a gift and so now whenever I spray it on I get flashbacks. That whole smell–>memory thing is so, so real. So I’d rather not relive those memories every morning. I went to a store downtown this afternoon and picked up a new bottle of perfume and had it gift-wrapped for myself. Happy birthday, to me? I still have two weeks, but I was in a self-indulgent mood today. Now that I’ve finished my movie and had my dinner, I’m just in the mood to sit in my bed for the rest of the night, read my books (Baby Love and Two Wrongs Make a Vice) and listen to music that was recorded before my parents were born.

It’s a nice night to spend with myself.

why i will date a feminist:

This is probably the first of many things I will write on the broad topic of feminism, which in the last year has become the major focus of my politics. First off, let me just say that my reasons for feminism are long and multifaceted — and probably for another post. Or a few more posts. But simply put, I am a feminist because I believe in equality. That is such a simple explanation, I know, but when it comes down to it, that’s what it is. I am a feminist because I believe that I should have the same opportunity as a man with the exact same competency as me, whether that is in a professional setting or in a group discussion. Also, feminism extends to other groups of people who have been subjugated or otherwise sent off to otherdom by the white middle class majority. It just doesn’t make sense that one group should dominate society in so many ways just because that’s the way it’s always been.

That was all broad. But okay. So in the last week, this blog has popped up on Tumblr. It’s called Feminist Ryan Gosling, and it is just pictures of of Ryan Gosling in various states of beautiful with the text of someone’s Women’s Studies flashcards pasted over it. In short, it is glorious. It is perfect. It is all I want in a man, with a little crooked smile added in. I think the idea of a feminist man is so wonderful to me because it shows that he is capable of empathy for a problem that will never actually affect him. He could  choose to ignore it and he could probably live a fairly normal life. But feminism in a man shows a degree of selflessness, of awareness, that yes, you were born into a state of privilege, and you recognize that not everyone was as lucky as you were, and you are doing your best to make up for that. A feminist man doesn’t wear dresses or lipstick, but he is not afraid to knit a hat for me. A feminist man can have a beard and fix the plumbing and also cook dinner and be willing to let me drive sometimes. A feminist man will pay sometimes and he will hold the door for me if he’s in front, and he will also listen to what I have to say and respect my opinion unequivocally. A feminist man would watch Amelie with me without feeling self-conscious. He would never use the word gay to describe something that isn’t actually gay. Like Amelie. A feminist man is attentive. A feminist man does not have unrealistic ideals of how a woman should look. A feminist man recognizes that I have dreams and passions too, and is okay with that — in fact, he encourages it. He would expect an equal amount of economic support from his partner. A feminist husband would clean the house just as much as the wife. A feminist father would learn to braid his daughter’s hair and allow his son to play with dolls.

Maybe you’re reading these descriptions and thinking “man, that actually kind of sounds like me,” or “wow, I think I would like that in a man too.” Ding ding ding. Maybe you’re a feminist. It doesn’t take that much to tip you over the edge.

I’m really trying to reach those friends of mine who are so afraid to use the F-word to describe themselves. More of you are feminists than you realize, and I’m really trying my hardest to break it down in a way that you understand. Feminism is not the death of chivalry. Feminism is not angry lesbians burning bras and hating men. Feminism is the simple desire for equality. It is the respect others’ differences without judgement.

Have I still not gotten through to you? Do you still hate feminists? Talk to me about it. Help me understand where you’re coming from. Because it’s only through communication and informed discourse that we’ll ever bridge these gaps.

how to be a runner.

1. Dress the part.

You thought that all you needed were your old tennis shoes? Think again. Brooks and ASICS are the only shoes a self-respecting runner would wear. If you aren’t spending at least seventy dollars on your trainers then you might as well head for the yoga studio.

2. Never, ever walk.

Don’t even think about walking. Instead, ridicule other runners who have to walk to fuel your own running. An inner dialogue like this should do the trick: “She thinks she’s a runner. HA. She’s a joke. Clearly she’s just out for a jog and she wants the football players to think she’s a real runner.

3. Stay aware of your surroundings.

Running is an exhibitionists’ sport and no one appreciates the difficulty of running like someone who can’t run. When passing a walker, facial expression is crucial. Look straight ahead and maintain an expression that is a perfect mix of unbearable pain and quiet smugness. You want it to say “Yes, I am doing the hardest thing of my life and you’re just eating an ice cream cone.” Or “When was the last time you sweat this much?” I guarantee you that the walker will feel worse about himself than he already does.

4. Talk about running all the time.

How else is everyone going to know how you spent forty five minutes on your Saturday morning? The thing is, no one knows exactly how often or how long you run, so the more you talk about it, the more they’ll infer on their own. And they’ll usually infer a lot more legitimacy on your behalf if you talk about it more. Case and point: If you talk about how you ran five miles last weekend to a friend, she will think “Man, Alex is the type of person who runs five miles like it’s nothing. She must be a real runner.”

Here are a couple of token phrases that are just generic enough that no one will ever ask any questions.

Before running: “Yeah, I’m thinking I need to take it easy today. Just a four miler after my mile warmup. I really don’t want to hit my peak too early in the season.”

After running: “You know, I just felt horrible today but I pushed through it. You know when you hit that wall of your pain threshold and it’s like, you gotta go through it or stay where you’re at. And I just pushed through it today and it was great.”

Honorable Mention

  • Be sure to shake out your arms every couple of miles. Runners do this when they realize they’ve been tensing their upper body muscles but no one knows if it actually makes any difference.
  • Take advantage of social media. A growing number of platforms are becoming available for you to loudly talk about what a great runner you are. Blog about your internal running dialogue, post screen caps of your route on google maps, and retweet Steve Prefontaine quotes.
  • Don’t forget to talk about your injuries. No real runner has a perfectly able set of legs and no one will respect you if they think you’re running on one. If you can’t manage to get injured, at least play up your asthma or run a day without socks and get a blister.

zingers

“Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts — your arrogance, your spite, your condescension — has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away, you zing them. ‘Hello, it’s Mr. Nasty.’ I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about.”

I almost feel as if I don’t need to go any further than this quote to explain how I feel right now. Nora Ephron nailed it perfectly in You’ve Got Mail. The characters agree that the momentary satisfaction you feel after zinging someone perfectly is not worth the residual guilt of what you’ve said. Every single word could have been true but that doesn’t mean you need to say them.

I’ve noticed that this is has become a bit of a problem. Someone will say something on the Internet and I will call them out. And not only do I call them out, but I feed on this sick adrenaline rush I get from stringing someone out online in front of everyone and forcing them into the dirt.

Wow. I just read over that and it sounds alarmingly like the elementary school bully. Am I a bully? Maybe sort of.

Maybe I just feel bigger and stronger than normally when I’m safe behind a computer screen. My face-to-face social anxieties fade away when I’m left with only a blinking cursor and time to craft a witty reply.

Maybe I fancy myself to be an online superhero, committed to exposing the wrong and the ignorant for what they truly are. I zoom around web pages faster than your computer teacher and proliferate justice for all.

Once, this boy posted DJ Earworm’s United State of Pop 2009 video on facebook. He tagged all of his friends in it and was telling people that he had made it. So I commented “hey, cool video.” And then I pasted a link of the video on youtube. It turned into this ridiculous and unnecessary drama which ended with him deleting my comments and unfriending me.

I can name at least two other times I’ve done this, and each time I get this rush from calling people out and exposing their inconsistencies to the world.

That’s sick, isn’t it?

Would I take all these things back if I could? I don’t think I would. I don’t feel regret for the things I’ve said, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel like a bully.

This is me trying to work out what’s going on in my overly emotional head right now.

sandy cheeks

Last semester, I rode my bike to the science library to bring an encouraging snack to a friend who was studying Chemistry all night. When I revealed the small assortment of pre-packaged snacks I’d brought in my canvas tote bag, his face reflected unintelligible dismay. He seemed put off by the snacks. I looked down and they were covered in sand, which he told me later he thought had been crumbs in the bottom of my bag. Yes, it was an incredibly sweet assumption and judgement on my personal hygiene. That relationship eroded fairly quickly after that night but surprisingly, the bottom of my canvas tote bag is still sandy. Despite my most diligent efforts to clear my belongings of pervasive sand, it somehow manages to stick around (and I mean stick) in the most inconvenient and unexpected places.

Joel from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind said that sand is overrated: “it’s just tiny little rocks.” When I look at sand, I see tiny rocks and shells, bits of coral, and colorful shapes that look like miniature blown-glass animals. I lie in the sun and as hard as I try to stay relatively clean, when I stand my legs are inevitably coated with a sugary layer of the stuff. Like a donut. But I can’t say how excited I get when, hours after leaving the beach, I run my fingers through my hair and I still manage to find bits of sand still stuck to my scalp. Is it the relief of knowing that I really was at the beach? –as if I needed more self-assurance than my sunburn and dried skin. Maybe it’s elation at finding something on my body that is safely out of the ordinary. What I do know is that I derive pleasure from the pervasiveness of my day’s experiences. My body is affected, be it permanently or not, and I like feeling as if the environment can mold me on a daily basis. Whether those changes are perceived as beautiful or whether they make me look like a homeless bum are up to whoever chooses to pass judgement. But generally, I see change over time as progress in a positive direction. As least I’m not who I was six months ago.

Because really, if you wanted a perfectly clean Snickers bar you could just buy it from the vending machine.

One-Upper

Every moment of the conversation is a contest. You shift through the files in your brain through every retold anecdote for a comparable tale recounting the even greater greatness in  you. Chatter among friends has suddenly turned into a tricky game of high wits; only the quickest and most daring will survive.

The lines of reality blur ever so slightly at first. If it’s for the sake of a good story, why not? No one will know. Eventually, reality becomes subjective. And then gravity is subjective.

You sit and you listen without really listening, only sensing the pause in the vibrations of the conversation that signal a gradual shift in the discussion. You see that shimmering opportunity and you take it, you run with it. You introduce a not-so-subtle topic centered the slightest bit left or right of you. Now, the only natural progression of the conversation is toward you. Your qualities. Your accomplishments. You feign modesty. It’s a good thing acting isn’t your aspiration.

Maybe people don’t see what’s happening.

I acknowledge you. Take this as a stern, knowing look in the eye.

speak kind to a stranger

Let’s talk Greek life for a minute. True friendship is a rare thing. As you all have probably gathered, I am a military kid. Army brat, if  you want to be specific, but I really do hate that term. I have had to uproot my life over and over again throughout my childhood, leaving best friends and trying to figure out how to adapt to a brand new culture. I am a pretty quiet person, and finding friends that I felt a strong connection with has always been a bit of an issue. But I must have gotten lucky over the years because I’ve managed to accumulate a mix of soul mates over the years who are now scattered across the globe. Coming to college, though, I decided that I wanted to guarantee a way to meet a group of friends. I know now that there’s no way to guarantee that, but I signed up for rush regardless. Even on the last day of rush, prefs, I wasn’t sure if I was the “sorority girl” type, but the thought of a group of girls who all wanted me was just…amazing.

On Bid Day, I’ll admit that I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into. I stood on that sidewalk and stared up the hill at a colorful mass of a hundred screaming girls. I didn’t know how I would ever feel comfortable in this group of strangers.

The next day, my big took me to Two Story Coffeehouse to meet my future best friends, Katherine and Margaret.

Sometimes I look at other sororities and wonder what it would have been like if I had gone there instead. I’m sure I would have been happy, but I would never trade the love that I’ve found here. After my lonely high school years, I am thankful every day to have found even one girl here who will place my well-being over her own happiness. I can honestly say that I haven’t felt this strongly about someone in a long time. It’s the kind of finish-each-others-sentences love that people pursue for years.

Finally, a word to all of you high school seniors. If you’re thinking about rushing, go for it. Greek life is what you make of it. I’ll admit, there can be an undesirable element to it. Girls can be shallow and catty, and a lot of people simply live their lives consumed in all that is Greek and all they can do to seem more Greek to others. If you go through rush, don’t pay any attention to websites like greekrank.com and collegeacb.com. They post arbitrary rankings of how “cool” each house is. Strangely, the houses that were placed at the top were the ones where I felt the conversation was most vapid and shallow.

But, to each her own. I only wrote this post as a testament to the small bit of legendary sisterhood I still feel when walking into chapter, exchanging passwords and repeating rituals that have been passed down for almost 150 years.

stream:

It’s really sad how many talented people there are out there.

I remember when I went to jazz camp in eighth grade, there was this girl who was so unbelievably cool, I couldn’t even conceive the kind of thoughts in her head. She talked about movies and books and music that I’d never heard of. He talked about making mix tapes of her own music for boyfriends who had tragically dumped her. She had bright blonde hair but the next year she died it jet black and cut it all off. She spoke French and wore glasses and made references to things that made absolutely no sense to me.

Facebook says that she went to a community college.

I mean, community college isn’t an absolutely horrible prospect, I suppose. It’s not most ideal either. She still has albums of her photography, mostly featuring the Space Needle in Seattle, where she ended up living. She wasn’t the only awe-inspiring (more) grown-up person from my camp. My counselors were hilarious and worldly beyond my comprehension, and they seem to be doing the same things they’ve always done.

I guess I’ve realized now that they were actually the original hipsters. Was there ever any legitimacy behind their identities? I really want to believe that a lack of direction and planning is to blame for their static existences, but if we’re being honest here, there are almost seven billion people in the world. How many of us can ever do something that will “matter” in the long run? I think that I need to redefine what it means to succeed. Not everyone will be remembered forever, and I just need to accept that I too will one day be forgotten. I think that’s why I write though. I want to believe that if I put enough of my self on paper, then a certain quality of me will never die, never disappear when my body is long gone. I suppose it’s quite conceited for me to think that anyone will want any record of my life once I’m gone, but I think that it’s simply of symptom of my fear of obliteration. Maybe the fear is jointed with my youth, and with that collegiate ideal that one can make a difference in the world; an ideal that has often departed most women’s minds by their thirties.

I don’t really know where to go from here.