366 Project- Week 16

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Can’t Spell Manicure Without M-A-N

Last Thursday, on the drive home after picking up the kids at school, Jack asked me to paint his nails. To say I was surprised would be an understatement- he has been staunchly anti-nail polish since he was about 3 years old and decided it was only for girls. But he didn’t offer any reasoning, which only means he must have wanted to keep it private. 

He initially wanted green polish, but Friday was supposed to wear purple to school day (disease awareness or something), so we ended up going that route. 

  
I have to say, it took a few days to get used to. I’d like to think I’m pretty good about not encouraging traditional gender stereotypes with the kids (except for long hair on boys which I absolutely DESPISE), but it was strange seeing painted fingernails on my son. In part because it was so different, but primarily because it accentuated the fact that he has much more elegantly shaped fingers than any of the girls do. Seriously. The kid has the most perfectly oval nail beds. 

And I’m happy to say that no one has made a big deal out of it. He got a couple questions at karate from other kids wondering if he had them painted for a reason, and I think a couple little girls at school laughed when they first saw him. His response?

 “You can’t spell manicure without man. There’s nothing girly about it.”

Thats my boy- no lack of confidence there!

Posted in growing up, Jack, nails, parenting | Leave a comment

Behold, A Rant Of Epic Proportion

I am a woman. I have three daughters. Obviously the issue of female equality is important to me. But I have to say that lately I’m getting a little fed up with the propaganda I’ve been seeing, because it is ALL centered on what we should be teaching our girls. Where are the boys? Why aren’t we focused on teaching them about equality too? It really doesn’t matter how empowered we make ourselves as women if the male segment of society doesn’t change as well. 

A few days ago there was an excellent post from Mighty Girls on facebook about teaching our girls to stand up for themselves conversationally. That they need to learn the phrases “I’m still talking” and “I just said that,” and be comfortable saying them so their ideas and voices are heard. And while this is absolutely an important message, it’s only half the issue. Where’s the part about learning to listen and respect the person talking? 

Standing up for yourself only works if the other person respects your stance. 

The last time I was interrupted (and bothered to point it out to the offending party), I was promptly scolded for daring to monopolize the conversation, and asked how the other person was supposed to know I wasn’t finished speaking just because I paused to take a breath. That when one person ceases speaking, even if it is only as punctuation, the other person has right to just jump right in with their own 2 cents. Because “that’s how conversation works.”  In this instance, standing up for myself had zero benefit, except to exacerbate the problem and leave me feeling even less respected and heard than before. Because no, that’s NOT how conversation works. That’s how you speak to someone you have no intention of actually listening to- you just stay silent and concentrate on your own thoughts and what you plan to say next, jumping in as soon as possible. In a real conversation, between equals, one person listens with full attention to the person speaking, making it easy to ascertain when they are pausing for affect or if they have actually finished their thought. And improving the quality of your reply, because you are able to address the actual comment rather than your assumption of what it was going to be. As a culture, we do not listen to understand; we wait to reply. I love the campaign to help our girls find confidence in their voices, but unless everyone learns to become a better listener, they still will not be heard. 

Moving on, I’d like to address the new song by No by Meaghan Trainor. I love the message behind this song (basically telling guys that hit on you to back off), although the song itself is pretty lame. And at first I was all jazzed up because here was a fun, pop way to start a conversation with my daughters about not having to be polite or accommodating to every guy who shows them interest. But then I thought back to my experiences out in bars and being approached, and I realized there’s more than just submissive conditioning behind why women don’t just blatantly shut a stranger down. You just never know when the guy you rejected is going to decide to wait for you outside in retaliation. Men are not taught to take no for an answer- and I’m not just talking about rape scenarios. They are taught to value perseverance – so it’s not really a surprise that they don’t back down the first (or tenth) time you tell them you’re not interested. In my experience, if a guy doesn’t respect your polite “no thanks” he’s not going to respect your “back the fuck off” either. I’ve seen a lot of women holding “no means no” signs, but I’ve yet to hear a pop song about respecting a woman’s wishes or see a viral video detailing how to teach your son to leave the girl that doesn’t want to date him alone. 

Twelve or Thirteen years ago, a book came out called He’s Just Not That Into You. Sort of a game free dating manual for women, it was all about not waiting around for a guy to change, or chasing after a guy who was less than 100% percent interested. Decent advice (understatement). Unfortunately no one seems to see the need to publish: She Said She Didn’t Want A Drink So Stop Following Her Around The Bar And Just Go Find Someone Else To Dance With. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to enlist a bouncer to stop a would be suitor, and everyone knows the first step to getting a guy to backdown is to tell him you have a boyfriend. These are not issues of women’s self confidence or teaching our girls to stand up for themselves. These are problems with boys not being taught to properly respect women or how to accept rejection with dignity. I know it can take a lot of courage to approach a stranger out in public, and I don’t think the guy should have to make the first move. But can we all agree that if you really do work up the nerve to approach that cute guy or that pretty girl, and they respond “thanks but no thanks” we just back away and move on? Once again the name of the game is RESPECT: respect others’ feelings as much as you do your own, and don’t take the rejection so personally. They didn’t kill your dog, they just don’t want to meet you. Their loss. Find someone who does. 

The final point unwanted to make was about a video I saw this morning imploring people to ‘take a stand’ against the body objectification of women. Again, I’m certainly not going to argue against this idea, but the video showed primarily girls and women standing up to demonstrate solidarity. I think there were two men in the entire video. And again I’m finding the lopsided approach misguided. As a culture we place a huge amount of emphasis on appearance, more so for women than men, and this clearly results in many girls feeling pressure to look a certain way. Absolutely let’s all take a hard look at our own behavior and biases and help teach our girls that their outer qualities in no way reflect their inner being. Show them that intense focus on their looks to the exclusion of all else diminishes the other values they have to offer. But come on. We’re not going to just stand up one day and say “I won’t be objectified” and change everything. Taking a position against stupid cosmetic issues like over zealous lip plumping or whether or not a woman has a thigh gap might stop girls from objectifying themselves, but it’s hardly going to change the culture as a whole. That’s going to come down to changing our beliefs that our opinion of other people in anyway matters, and once again, that discussion needs to include the male segment of society. It needs to say sure, it’s totally fine if a woman doesn’t shave her legs or wear skirts, or if a boy wants to wear purple nail polish. But it also needs to say that it is still fine for a woman to want big breasts and long blonde hair if that’s how she truly likes to look. A large portion of what we view as objectification is us projecting our own insecurities and opinions into others. An image of a young girl in a bikini that seems overly sexualized and inappropriate to one person might seem innocent and carefree to another. Treating women as people rather than objects is going to require permission for each of those opinions to be valid. 

Okay. I think I’ve rambled on long enough, and likely lost the thread of what I was really trying to say. Basically, I’m frustrated that I don’t see more of an effort to include everyone in the equality conversation. Respect cannot be seized where it is not given, and focusing the message of feminism on half the population will only get us halfway to our goal. Every little girl out there already sees herself as a fully realized person, so all we really need to do is avoid telling them they aren’t. And that means teaching the boys, too. 

Posted in personal musings, run-ons, social commentary, unjustified opinions | 1 Comment