Opening my hope chest

Dear Dad,

I’m having a great time in my new home. Work is going great, and I’ve been working on cooking more and expanding my kitchen repertoire at home.

Part of what’s helped me so much with this culinary goal is the contents of my hope chest that Mom brought out in January. Most of all, I’ve been using the stoneware casserole to cook meatballs. My latest attempt included soy sauce and chopped onions, and they were irresistible.

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It’s interesting for me to be using my hope chest items, intended for new married life, even though I am unmarried. But I am grateful for them, and I think it’s a timely twist on the hope chest tradition.

Normally, these household items were destined for newly-married women to begin their adult lives. But women are getting married later than ever, and it’s no guarantee that I’ll ever be married. However, I have embarked on my grown-up, independent life, so this fine cookware is extremely useful to me.

I can’t help but revel in this twist on a patriarchal tradition: Instead of me serving as the cook and housekeeper to a man, I am taking charge of my own life. I cook my meals for myself, and then take the leftovers to my job for lunch.

Why, I’d even support hope chests for all children, to be given to them when they leave for college or start out their first full-time, grown-up job away from home. It’s a celebration of adulthood and independence.

Love, and thanks for the cookware,
Victoria

 

What happens when an older supermodel shows off her bod

Dear Dad,

Have you seen Cindy Crawford’s latest photoshoot (click the link to admire)? She looks great! The 48-year-old supermodel posed unretouched in lingerie, and I am completely in love with the shot.

Her stomach is not tight. It shows some wrinkles and her thighs are wiggly too. But that’s part of why I love this photo so much. It reminds me of many of the women in my life who are beautiful and shining and age just makes them more radiant, like Mom.

Unfortunately, I found out about this shoot from a Twitter user who was shocked(!) that Cindy Crawford’s looked like someone who is nearly 50. In fact, he argued that her body was not as “amazing” as it should be for someone who “was one of the MOST beautiful women in the world.” He “expected more.”

It’s a tragic example of how harmful our society’s portrayal of women is. We’re so retouched and judged for our looks that when a woman reveals her natural body, people react by shaming it, insulting it, and saying how disappointed they are.

I, for one, love this photo. It serves as a reminder that women are beautiful at any age. And I hope those who see the photo get the message that tummy pooches, soft thighs and wrinkles are not something to be ashamed of.

Age is beautiful.

Love,
Victoria

A wild MGTOW appears!

(Trigger warning: misogyny, mention of sexual assault)

Dear Dad,

It’s been a nice long dry spell, but I got another hate comment on my blog. This one was from a MGTOW, or Men Going Their Own Way, but since he used hate speech (calling women “whores”) and didn’t actually respond to the post he commented on (nothing said about Katniss, archery or representation of women in the media), he violated my comment policy and I didn’t approve it. (The comment policy is a pretty handy guideline when it comes to sifting criticism from hate speech.)

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However, I want to bring him up, Dad, because he is a good example of some of the violent misogyny that exists in the world. I was familiar with the term MGTOW before he began praising it in his comment because I read We Hunted the Mammoth, a very handy guide to “the new misogyny,” or internet misogyny (This is a good example of MGTOW ideology). MGTOW is a mindset that says men are better off without troublesome women, and all their false rape accusations, child support and alimony. Unfortunately, instead of actually “going their own way” and leaving women be, they show up in inboxes of women like me, ranting about how we can all “burn in Hades” (actual quote).

I bring this up because there was one line in his rant that struck me as very telling and important:

Women have nothing to add to my life but the opportunity to have sex.

He then goes on to rage about false rape accusations and STDs, but I went back to this line because of how telling it is. You see, this man does not believe that women are actually people. They are not human beings with histories and goals and ideas. To him, women can’t offer friendship or help on a project or even a humorous joke. They are sexual objects (and sexual objects that apparently come with a lot of traps).

It’s hard to accept, but there is a segment of the population that believes that I am not a person, deserving of rights and respect and individual dignity. There are men who see me only as a hateable sex object.

And this is part of why feminism is so important to me, Dad. People still exist who think that women are not worth as much as men. And as more vocal supporters stand up for equality, it seems more virulent hatred comes from those who do not want things to change. (This man even talked about how lucky women had it in the 50s; you know, when they couldn’t pursue most careers and marital rape wasn’t recognized. It was obviously a swell time for women.)

I believe advocating for feminism is creating change for the better (just this week, Men’s Health South Africa agreed to purge itself of pick-up artist manipulation articles), and I will continue to stand up for my beliefs, because I am a person, and I deserve respect.

With hope,
Victoria

When our strong women characters get written out

Dear Dad,

Have you seen that archer viral video going around? It’s pretty cool. Archer Lars Andersen has studied old paintings and manuscripts to better understand forgotten archery techniques, and demonstrates how to shoot quickly and accurately through a host of challenges. It’s really mind blowing, and satisfies my interest in archery and history in one fell swoop:

However, I have one issue with this, and it’s not with the video; it’s with the way the video is being written again. I first noticed it in The Nerdist’s write up of the video. The article said on-screen archers are popular right now, citing Green Arrow, Hawkeye and Legolas. True, all these are on-screen archers, but Katniss Everdeen, one of the most popular fictional characters with a bow right now, was completely forgotten.

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Another article, from bleedingcool.com, was titled “Move over Hawkeye, Green Arrow, and Legolas, there’s a new archer in town.” These archers are “pretty darn cool,” but again, Katniss doesn’t get a mention.

And it’s not that Katniss is unpopular. None of the three Hobbit movies, released around the same time as The Hunger Games films, have grossed as much as the dystopian trilogy about the archer girl from District 12. Covergirl even released a makeup line inspired by the films (which made me a little uncomfortable considering the books’ attitude toward fashion and frivolous consumption but I digress).

But I suspect that is part of the problem: Katniss is a woman. She’s feminine and in our society, feminine is considered superficial and less important than masculine things. Katniss is a dynamic character, with strengths, flaws and goals, and she’s good enough with a bow to fight her way out of an arena. She did make an appearance in the video, briefly, in a segment about how movie archers shoot wrong, but in coverage of this viral video, she is forgotten.

This is erasure, Dad. We have a female main character known for her archery, and yet male supporting characters get mentioned when discussing archery in film and television. I can’t help but be reminded of the female scientists who are not taught about in school in favor of their male counterparts. This casually forgetting strong women lowers women’s visibility. It tells other women that our stories and accomplishments are not as important as men’s, and it erases our history for the girls who come after us. As a child, I didn’t think women could be funny because I didn’t know any great female comedians. I didn’t think women could be scientists because instead of Rosalind Franklin, we studied Watson and Crick.

It’s a small thing, I know, but I would have liked to see Katniss mentioned in these articles. I would have liked to see women represented.

Love,
Victoria

It’s okay not to shave

Dear Dad,

As a woman who has been razor-free for six-ish months now (and almost two years on my armpits) I get pretty upset when I hear the same old tired myths about shaving repeated over and over again. And one I’ve been hearing a LOT lately is that shaving makes your hair grow back thicker. I heard it on the radio last week, I hear it from friends and family, and it is driving me nuts, because people always use this reason to justify why they must continue shaving.

Let me take one moment, right here and now, to clarify this myth: Shaving does not make your hair grow back thicker. Shaving DOES NOT MAKE YOUR HAIR GROW BACK THICKER.

What actually happens, according to science, is that hair is tapered at the end, so that when you blunt-cut it with a razor, it appears to grow back thicker because the part of the hair you see next is the fat base part.

There’s also the fact that, for a lot of women, we’ve never seen what we look like unshaven. I started shaving in seventh grade, before I hit puberty, when my legs had just the faintest wisps of peach fuzz and my armpits were completely bare. Of course, when I stopped shaving, my hair grew back thicker. I’d matured! I’d started growing hair in places I didn’t before!

Even after a decade of shaving my legs almost every four days, I don’t have a coat of fur:

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This isn’t to say that people should stop shaving. If a woman likes shaving, she should go for it! I love the way my legs feel when they’re freshly shaved. But I also want to challenge societal norms that say that women’s body hair is unsightly or gross. In my ideal world, women would shave if they wanted to, or grow out their body hair if they felt like it, without judgment, similar to the way you grow out your beard or shape your goatee, Dad. Heck, maybe women could start shaping their armpit hair the way men shape beards! That would be awesome!

Basically, my message to women is this: Hair doesn’t grow back thicker after you shave. It just grows back. So shave, or don’t. The choice is up to you. And you can stop shaving or start shaving whenever you want.

Love,
Victoria

Scrutinizing the media’s treatment of race

Dear Dad,

Happy MLK Day!

I’ve been reading a book on gender discrimination in sports lately, and one of the things that struck me about it was the declaration that social scientists strive to “make the familiar strange,” that is, make us question the things we take for granted, things that often maintain systems of inequality.

So today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., I’d like to talk about media treatment of race.

We live in a country in which media narrative reinforces that some people are more innocent than others, or that some lives are more valuable then others. For instance, comparison of treatment of black victims versus white suspects and murderers shows that white people are treated sympathetically, hailed as “brilliant” or “polite.”

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Black people who have been killed, on the other hand, have any prior run-ins with the law dragged out, as if they deserved it. Trayvon Martin’s school suspensions were even under scrutiny.

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Similarly, a recent bombing outside an NAACP office in Colorado Springs went almost unreported by the media until Twitter brought it to attention. Charlie Hebdo was grabbing all the headlines, while a terrorist attack on US soil that mercifully didn’t hurt anyone goes unnoticed. But with the racial tension in the country right now, this story should have been reported.

Days after the Paris massacre, Boko Haram killed 2,000 people in Nigeria, destroying an entire village, and yet newspapers are still running in-depth profiles of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists on their front page and relegating Africa to a small spot inside.

It’s important to be aware of world events, and just as important to be aware of which events the media is choosing to focus on, Dad. Coverage sends a message about whose lives matter most, and that message is unmistakably that white lives and US- and Eurocentric stories matter more than other narratives.

I’m thankful that in this age, we have a tool that allows us to connect directly to others and reach out and be more fully informed and critical of the stories we read. And I’m hoping a critical readership can help elevate the state of the news.

Love,
Victoria

P.S. I’m just one white woman trying to raise awareness. For a great resource on race and the media, check out This Week in Blackness.

On big life changes

Dear Dad,

Yesterday, while driving, I saw one of those light-up road signs. “CAUTION” it flashed, and then just “CHANGE AHEAD.” I thought how fitting that was right now.

As you know, I’ve just taken a new job, and it’s absolutely a dream. I’m working creatively and in academia and I’m completely thrilled by the level of enthusiasm and commitment to education of my coworkers. But my decision to take this job wasn’t without sacrifices. When the position was offered to me, it would mean leaving the county I grew up in, leaving my friends, and leaving my boyfriend.

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This goob right here is so supportive.

We talked about the decision, and the distance, and even though he told me again and again he would miss me, my partner also told me that he knew what a big opportunity this was for me, and that he was happy for me. And I knew that I didn’t want to surrender my career for a relationship. So we’re working it out long-distance.

My boss found out this week that we’ve been dating a little less than a year, and her response was, “Wow, that’s amazing. Not many people would leave a new relationship for a job.”

And that’s been the dilemma for a lot of women for a very long time now. Many women do give up their careers for their husbands and their families, or limit their opportunities for their partners. For decades, the big question in the media for career women has been, “Can women balance work and home life?”

I’m grateful that women’s rights have advanced to the point where I have good job opportunities and can pursue the path I want. And I’m grateful to my partner for understanding and valuing my achievements. I’m hopeful that soon all women will be supported in their endeavors, be they in the work field or the family field. I know for me, my partner’s support has meant the world in this big change.

Love,
Victoria