Saturday, June 18, 2011


Last October, Gabby Schultz wrote a wonderful webcomic about arguments about sexism on the internet. I dug it a lot, but I was always bothered by the lack of men on the "Isn't this all kind of sexist?" side. I personally have a ton of male friends who care about learning more about rape culture and dismantling their own preconceptions so they can always genuinely treat women as equals, and I think men like this should be recognized and applauded. When I posted something along those lines online, a friend agreed with me while pointing out that the comic was also missing women on the "Shut up with your crazy, biased, lesbo opinions" side.

This is important because I have traditionally never, ever acknowledged that those women exist, despite ample evidence to the contrary. I ignored their presence because I couldn't begin to understand the idea of anyone actively participating in a system that did not benefit them. Recently, I have reconciled this apparent contradiction.

For the past six months, I have had the misfortune of being bombarded with the opinions of incredibly sexist women on a regular basis (I will not elaborate on the circumstances). They refer to all men as juvenile, clueless, lazy, useless, etc. as though it were a matter of fact and claim that these inherent failings of men are the reason they do a disproportionately large amount of the housework and child raising and rent paying. They also claim they have a right to play mind games and make passive-aggressive remarks to their husbands/boyfriends/baby-daddies because they're women and that's just what we do.

As obnoxious as I find enduring this near-constant misandry, the experience has forced me to accept the existence of sexist women and, in turn, has been providing me with invaluable insight into why sexism is so commonplace in our society.

Like any idea, sexism thrives both because it is institutionalized and incredibly popular. While I've always understood that sexism is popular among men because it provides them with power and privilege, I now understand that sexism is popular among women because it provides them with security.

Now, I'm not talking about the kind of security that having health insurance or a livable wage provides, I'm talking about the kind of security people get from never taking risks. The kind of security that comes from being in a rut.

By telling women that all men are inherently brutish, sexism provides the perfect justification for the actions of partners who are dead-beats or abusive or just not compatible. In doing so, women are convinced that taking the risk of leaving their partner and attempting the supposedly terrifying lifestyle of the single woman (or mother) is not worth it, because any man they could meet in the future would have the same range of flaws. By creating the notion that putting up with men is a burden that all women bare, sexism provides women with the comfortable delusion that they never need to change because improvement is impossible.

I stand by previous statement that no one would actively participate in a system that did not benefit them, but I can longer assume that those benefits will not be abhorrent.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I've never been a huge fan of Apatow Productions. This is not to say that I have anything against their movies, just that, with the exception of Superbad, the humor doesn't resonate with me. However, Kate Beaton gave Bridesmaids a very positive review on her Twitter feed and many others have been calling it the female counterpart to The Hangover. This idea intrigued me, not to mention the fact that all the main characters were women and the script was written by two women. I had high hopes.

I must admit, I was disappointed. Despite some hilarious sequences (in particular, the one on the airplane and the one where Annie, the leading lady, tries to get Officer Rhodes' attention), its overall quality made me wish I'd downloaded it instead of paying for a ticket.

The main thing that made this movie fail for me was how predictable the female relationships were. Annie's antagonist was the bride-to-be's new best friend Helen. They spent most of the movie competing with each other because, hey, that's what women do, right? The portrayal of every main characters' sexuality was equally boring: Annie compulsively had unfulfilling sex with a "hot" jerk because she was afraid of being single. Supporting characters Becca and Rita each had husbands who they didn't enjoy sleeping with (due to inexperience and lack of communication in one case and rape in the other). In fact, the only character who actively enjoyed and sought out sex was Megan, the fat comic relief who was allowed to become a bridesmaid only because she was the groom-to-be's sister.

The unfortunate reality is that this interpretation of female relationships and sexuality is the mainstream, so I've come to expect it from most movies. I was hoping this one would be different, like Waitress or Mean Girls or Whip It, but instead it was a well-crafted comedy that failed to accomplish anything of interest.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Worse than a soundbite

Kansas recently approved legislation banning their health insurance providers from covering abortion under general health care plans. Women in Kansas now have to take out separate health care policies in addition to their regular ones if they don't want to pay for terminating an unwanted pregnancy out-of-pocket. This is about as sensible as making people take out separate health care policies for dealing with broken bones or genital warts1.

I've seen a few pro-choice websites harping on the fact that, when asked if it was reasonable to expect women to take out these abortion-specific policies before they were impregnated through rape or incest, Kansas Rep. Pete DeGraaf said "I have a spare tire on my car." While I understand that this inflammatory statement is a perfect summary of the attitude that avoiding rape is the woman's responsibility2, I feel like some of these blogs are focusing so much on this soundbite that they're missing the bigger issues here.

First, Kansas has passed legislature which guarantees that the abortion rate won't change, but that the rate of women who die from back-alley medical procedures will. I know this is obvious to any pro-choice advocate, but, considering how many states are adopting similar policies, I think it's important to remember how horrifying the reality of illegal abortion is.

Second, most women take responsibility for not being raped every day. We never walk home alone at night, we meet blind dates in public, we don't get shit-faced at parties where we don't know anyone. How effective these choices are is debatable, but the point is that many women's lives are shaped by thoughts of how to avoid being assaulted, sexually or otherwise.

While I would never argue that people shouldn't take reasonable precautions to protect themselves, it's important to remember that most men do not spend large portions of their lives worrying about what they can do to not be attacked. Most men also don't spend large portions of time thinking about how important getting consent from their partners is. When you consider these things along with the fact that rape survivors almost always blame themselves for their attacks, it seems like most of America agrees that women should prepare themselves for being raped, as DeGraaf suggests. In my opinion, that idea is much more horrific than any soundbite.

1 Oh wait, those are her fault too.

2 Because men and boys and trans folk don't get raped. Nope.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The magic is in the hole

At 10:15pm on Tuesday March 30th, my train left Emeryville, CA for Portland, OR. In addition to the beautiful landscape, I also noticed more nerds on this train than usual; passengers were reading comics, talking about javascript, and watching Battlestar Galactica on their laptops. This was not surprising, as the headquarters for Darkhorse Comics is a stone's throw away from Portland, but it was refreshing none-the-less.

On Wednesday March 31st, I explored the Portland neighborhood of Sellwood, which was a wonderful fusion of hippie and geek culture.

On Thursday April 1st, I went to Things From Another World, the comic book store owned and run by Darkhorse Comics in the neighboring town of Milwaukee, OR. Although well-stocked, browsing was made difficult by the fact that most of the comics were just like Laura Palmer; wrapped in plastic.

That night, my host and I enjoyed dinner and drinks at the Muddy Rudder, a pub with live music and a friendly atmosphere which reminded me of similar establishments in Vermont. In fact, I think it was at this point that I decided that Oregon just might be the Vermont of the West Coast.

On Friday April 2nd, my host and I met some of my friends at Slappy Cakes, a diner where we drank cocktails and made pancakes on a hibachi grill.

I had a drink called Whiskey For Breakfast.

Afterward, I decided to make my way downtown in search of the highly praised Voodoo Doughnut's. In retrospect, I shouldn't have walked most the two miles between the establishments because, by the time I got there, the cold drizzle had turned into cold rain (my most hated of all weather types) and I was so grumpy and tired that I was ready to call it a night. However, it was absolutely worth it for a chance to try their Cap'n Crunch doughnut.

Pic stolen from this guy.

When I tried to go back on Saturday to get some more for my train ride, the line for Voodoo Doughnuts was out the door and down the block. While I don't think their regular glazed doughnuts are as good as Krispy Kreme's, everything else they make is head-and-shoulders above any other doughnut I've ever tried. Definitely check that place out if you're ever in Portland (or Oregon, even).

I must say, I really enjoyed everything about Portland except for the weather. Give me four feet of snow and a -30 degree windchill before cold rain any day (honestly, dampness makes me feel much colder). Aside from that, though, eating cheaply and well in one of the world's most sustainable cities was pretty awesome, especially considering how friendly and grounded most of the people were. I'll definitely visit Portland again next time I'm in the Pacific Northwest.

At 4:45pm on Saturday April 3rd, I began my 47 hour train ride from Portland, OR to Chicago, IL, but that's a story for my next post.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I can't think of a good April Fools joke so let's just move on

I arrived in Emeryville, CA at 4:45pm on Saturday March 27th. My host and I spent my first evening in San Francisco catching up and drinking entirely too much wine. The next day, as we walked around Golden Gate Park, I discovered that the Bay Area was the perfect place to be hungover because no one else had any more energy or drive than I did.

A beach near Golden Gate Park.

The tulip garden in Golden Gate Park.

Golden Gate Park.

The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

While I appreciated the reminder that the Boston/NYC attitude of "Hurry up! I've got places to be!" is needlessly stressful most of the time, something about San Francisco just didn't set right with me. I think this had to do with the fact that everyone managed to be happy and laid-back without also being friendly. Additionally, there are a crazy amount of homeless people; I assumed that there only seemed to be more than in Boston or New York City, as the warmer weather would make it very easy for homeless people to stay outside in San Francisco and therefore be more visible. Then I read the Wikipedia page on homelessness in America:
    The city of San Francisco, California, due to its mild climate and its social programs that have provided cash payments for homeless individuals, is often considered the homelessness capital of the United States. The city's homeless population has been estimated at 7,000-10,000 people, of which approximately 3,000-5,000 refuse shelter. The city spends $200 million a year on homelessness related programs. It is believed that New York, which is 10 times as large in population, has only few hundred more chronically homeless individuals.
That's pretty intense. Another thing that disturbed me (and I'm not claiming that these two social issues are correlated) was the shocking lack of policing. Now, I'm not in favor of wasting police time and jail space on prostitutes and potheads, but violent crime's another matter. I balked when my cousin in San Francisco informed me that only 30% of their city's murder cases get closed, compared to the national average of 61% in 2007 (figures from here).

As an aside, this pic sums up my views on the Haight-Ashbury area:

I left the Bay Area for Portland, OR at 10:00pm on Tuesday March 30th, but that's a story for my next post.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A few of my favorite things

I was so focused on racial and economic issues in my last post that I totally forgot to include this video of my host in Santa Fe trying to teach me how to cook with fire:

Heh, anyway, I arrived in Denver, CO at 10:30am on Wednesday March 24th, about 12 hours later than planned due to a pretty intense snow storm. My host and I continued north to Boulder, where the two feet of snow which had covered Colorado the night before was already mostly melted due to the elevation and the sudden 60 degree weather. This meteorological tendency combined with the beautiful landscape, friendly liberals, and prevalence of good breweries makes Boulder a utopian paradise to me.

Enjoying a growler of beer from the Mountain Sun Pub & Brew.

On Thursday March 25th, I got a haircut at the Lather Salon. This might not sound particularly interesting, but indulge me this retelling:

WOMEN BEHIND THE FRONT DESK: So you're ten minutes early, would you like a beer or glass of wine or anything?
ME: ...yes. Um, the wine. What's the minimum purchase for using a credit card?
WBTFD: Oh, it's on us.
ME: Oh! I - cool.
WBTFD: Well, it's not the best wine in the world or anything, but it's good chilled.
ME: Awesome. Um, is that a Wii?
ME: ...can I play it?
WBTFD: That's what it's there for!

Lather Salon in Boulder, CO.

Did I mention that my haircut cost $35? And they did a good job, too:

The crazy part is that my cousin who I'm currently staying with in San Francisco is friends with the woman who owns and runs the Lather Salon (I had no idea of this until after I'd already arrived in California).

In any case, as my stay in Boulder was unfortunately brief, here are some picks from the Colorado portion of the 32 hour train ride from Denver, CO to Emeryville, CA:

In my next post, I'll explore the Bay Area of California.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I knew I shoulda taken a left turn at Albuquerque...

I arrived in Santa Fe, NM at 7:30pm on Thursday March 18th. Although the landscape was absolutely beautiful, I quickly discovered that the city itself was dominated by wealthy, middle-aged art collectors. I have no use for that crowd, but luckily I was able to find the Santa Fe Brewing Co., which had a great atmosphere and delicious beer. I highly recommend checking it out if you're ever in Santa Fe.

Big Five Sampler tray.

On Sunday March 21st, I visited the Cochiti Pueblo on the Cochiti reservation, which was definitely the most depressing part of my trip so far. While the Cochiti Pueblo didn't appear to be any more impoverished than many of the small rundown towns I'd driven through in New Mexico, there didn't seem to be many businesses around to help improve things. From what I've read, the only sources of income for the Cochiti are from the land they lease to the small Town of Cochiti Lake, the revenue they get from their golf course, and the sales of "Indian wares" to white tourists in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. That last one might sound like a sweet gig, since we all know how liberal white people will happily empty their wallets for anything that's "genuinely Indian made" (which Indians? Who cares! It's authentic and clearly very spiritual), but 21.4% of families in the Cochiti Pueblo remain below the poverty line compared to the national average of 9% (figures from here). Whether that's because only a fraction of the Indian population can live well from selling their crafts or because all Pueblo, Apache, Navajo, etc. craftspeople have to undercut each other in order to scrape by is unclear to me; regardless, watching white tourists ignore this economic reality in favor of viewing Native jewelry and drums as bits of a noble culture they could buy depressed the hell outta me.

The covered walkway along the Portal of the Palace of the Governors in downtown Santa Fe, where Native craftspeople set up shop for tourists every day.

On Monday March 22nd, I explored Albuquerque, NM. While I enjoyed the area around the University of New Mexico, I couldn't find a part of that city which was not a strip mall. The ubiquitous pavement resulted in an oppressive heat that I couldn't imagine enduring in the summer, let alone March. Unless I was a student or employee of UNM, I can't think of a reason I'd spend more than an afternoon in Albuquerque.

Drive-thru tobacconist.

These assholes are everywhere in New Mexico.

A megachurch in an old theater? Oh, that's too easy.

An awesome house I stumbled across.

...with dinosaur statues in the front lawn!

I also checked out two comic book stores, one of which had a gorgeous mural on one side that would lose a lot if I posted a tiny version of it in this post. Luckily, you can view the original here.

After returning my rental car to the Santa Fe Airport that night, I packed up my things and got ready for my bus and train ride to Boulder, CO. But that's a story for my next post.