Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

Chris Christie, sweetheart

Whether or not Chris Christie intended his remark — “Something may be going down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.” — to be sexual and misogynist, this is a really absurd statement for his spokesperson to make:

“It’s just a ridiculous interpretation and a wild stretch.”

Is it really ridiculous? Really a wild stretch? Let me tell you, there is no shortage of offensive remarks in the world, so it’s not like there is just this idle pack of people, waiting to pounce on any perceived slight. When feminist websites and smart writers identify something as offensive, they’re doing so in an educated, thoughtful, experienced way. It would be wise to pay attention.

Instead, Michael Drewniak says it’s a ridiculous interpretation. Yes, you feminists are just crazy.

And whether or not Christie intended it to be sexual really doesn’t matter, because it’s not about him. Once those words leave his mouth, he loses ownership of meaning. The best way to ensure that your words have your intended meaning is to be as clear as possible. Christie was not clear (or, in my opinion, he WAS clearly trying to be demeaning, but altered his words to be suggestive so he could deny being demeaning. Yikes.)

He has to take into account how his words could sound before he says them. He has to take into account the fact that a woman could be in the audience, hear that closing word — sweetheart — dripping with sarcasm, degradation and male power, and think that it means he is saying she’s not worth much more than going down on somebody. Because it’s possible she’s heard that remark before, and it’s possible that the previous person said he was only joking or didn’t mean it or whatever, but it was still an insinuation of a sexual act. It’s definite that Chris Christie, as a man, enjoys a lot of privileges and has never endured social sexual oppression the way women do, every day, in myriad ways. He thinks he is entitled to say things like “sweetheart” because he is a powerful man. And that is really the wild stretch, here.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

As a daily visitor to the Gawker family of networks, I will occasionally poke my head into Jalopnik’s garage. While I wish I didn’t need to own a car — mostly because of the expenses involved — I still like automobiles, and the site runs some very cool stuff.

But when I visited there today, I found this article about the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle.

In a little over a decade Volkswagen saw its Beetle transform from Adolf Hitler’s dream of the “people’s car” to the foulest of all marketing slurs — a “chick car.” Does the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle finally provide a more manly solution? We drove it today to find out.

I wasn’t all that surprised to read that lede in a review about the new VW Beetle. That critique of the car is well known and widespread. With the, as Jalopnik put it, “old New Beetle’s flower vase? Funky pastel colors? A body shape with the same side profile as the three-breasted alien hooker from Total Recall?” it’s not hard to imagine someone taking those as cues that it’s a ‘Chick Car.’

But I think the term — and how it’s valued — says more about us than the cars. After all, VW didn’t exactly market the car as exclusively for women. They marketed it as a new hippie machine. A car for artists, romantics, adventurers, and wits. It’s a car that will make you happy.

Yet that generation of Beetle is still somehow a Chick Car.

The label undoubtedly has a lot to do with how the car looks. It’s soft around the edges, doesn’t have a menacing stance, it has a happy face. It has the flower vase. It’s cute. And for those reasons, the Beetle is called feminine.

That’s not necessarily a criticism. Cars have a certain element of gender expression — they have faces and body shapes. But the thing about gender is that, with people, it doesn’t have to be binary. People can express themselves in masculine and feminine ways that don’t necessarily match their biological sex, and to varying degrees. That could also extend to automobile design.

And if the same characteristics of masculine and feminine apply to car design, you could, for instance, posit that a Beetle is a very feminine car and a Ford F-350 is a very masculine car.

A lot of cars would fall into the middle of that spectrum because the person-to-car parallel isn’t perfect. Cars stop looking and acting like people at a certain point.

But there is some similarity, and if you’re using the adjectives masculine and feminine merely as descriptors, fine, I can deal with that. I’m most bothered when they’re used a key words for bad and good, thrown out there as coarse value judgments.

Let’s go back to the Jalopnik article and one graf that stuck out to me.

Sure, a car with a feminine side can be a novelty at first — especially if it strikes a chord with a public looking desperately for anything reminiscent of times gone by. But keep the design around too long and it’s tantamount to sales suicide.

First, I’m not sure if that’s true. Jalopnik cites massively reduced sales numbers as proof that the Beetle’s femininity is to blame, when there could be loads of other reasons. It could be that most people nostalgic for the old Beetle got a new one, and don’t need another fix. It could be that the economy stinks and there are better options. It could be that the car is just old and boring, like many, many other models.

But let’s say Jalopnik’s right in stating that the Beetle was too feminine for its own good. I wonder why that is. Why is a car with a feminine side, a Chick Car, only good enough to be a fad and a temporary sales boost? Why couldn’t it be marketed to the masses over the long term? Why is Chick Car a slur?

It’s not because so-called Chick Cars are inherently bad. Bad cars come in all shapes and sizes.

I’d guess because many men would rather not drive a so-called Chick Car. And because men have traditionally (and still have) held buying and owning power disproportionate to population, alienating them means you stand to lose a lot of sales.

Personally, I think it’s a bunch of rigid gender role baloney.

Calling something a Chick Car is only insulating for men because it insinuates that you’re effeminate and/or gay, and oh, God, when will society be done with that being an insult?

My old car was a 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit, which was called “cute” by a friend when we got some coffee last year. Initially I was embarrassed. Why? Because I’m male, and my ideal car should be a granite-solid beast with Space Shuttle power and jungle cat prowl. It should make you pee your pants when you see it in the rear view and shoot testosterone out the exhaust. So the myth goes.

The Rabbit was not quite like that. It was fun to drive, reliable and had loads of utility. Hell yeah, it was cute, and I loved it. My desire to put my money toward other things is the only reason I don’t have it anymore.

But I’m not here to advocate for some androgynous automobile utopia. People should be free to drive what they want and can, without absurd labels like Chick Car. That decision shouldn’t meant anything other than “I like this car.”

I am, though, wondering something else. If indeed it’s not profitable for an auto manufacturer to have a so-called Chick Car in its lineup, why aren’t we examining the reasons for that? Why aren’t we plotting an authentic remedy, rather than seeing masculinity as the cure?

Read Full Post »

Normally, I like the features and columns produced by Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. He’s a good writer and reporter, and his material is usually original and fresh. Unfortunately, what he wrote today is flat wrong, irresponsible and made me angry. Let’s get into it.

Alexi Ogando barely met the woman who cost him five years of his life. He didn’t get her name. Wouldn’t recognize her face. She still doesn’t seem real.

She haunted him. Ogando, one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, spent half a decade isolated from the world that was supposed to be his because of her.

That sounds pretty serious. And it certainly places the blame on this mystery woman for whatever happened to Ogando. Because of her. So what happened?

In 2004, Ogando married the woman he didn’t know. At least he thinks he did. He was among 30 young Dominican players who agreed to participate in sham marriages which played a vital role in an elaborate human-trafficking scheme. The new brides piggybacked on players’ work visas to get their own in the United States, then were farmed out by the scheme’s perpetrators as prostitutes or cheap labor.

Flames, flames, on the side of my face.

Essentially, Ogando was promised money to go along with this human trafficking scheme, but instead never got that money and was denied a work visa into the United States. How is that the woman’s fault again? You know, the woman who was farmed out as a prostitute or cheap labor?

All of what I quoted is part of an opening to his feature. The opening ends with a quote from Ogando saying he didn’t have anything to trust in but God, and this, from Passan:

Until another woman came along. She gave him her name. He learned her face. She was undeniably real.

And before his career vanished, she saved him.

Passan is seemingly aiming for parallelism, casting the first woman as The Villain and the second, Charisse Espinosa-Dash, as The Savior, who helped Ogando get into the United States. Ogando is now a very successful and talented pitcher for the Texas Rangers, and it’s worth reading how Espinosa-Dash helped resolve the case. It’s worth reading the frustrations of the Rangers and, especially, Ogando, who is certainly a victim.

He lost years of his life because someone preyed on his naivete, offering a couple thousand dollars to do something that cost him valuable time.

But you know who else is a victim? The unnamed woman. Espinosa-Dash recognizes that, saying in the story that Ogando and other players caught in the scheme “were just as vulnerable as the ladies being trafficked.”

And I think Passan knows that the woman was also a victim. But in the name of story structure he decided to turn the woman into the perpetrator, making her responsible for Ogando’s lost years.

The end of the story is a quote from Ogando saying that he gets to decide his future, “Not her. Not anymore.”

The only thing is, she never had any say in Ogando’s lost years, or any say at all; the human trafficking scheme did. While it doesn’t make for as good a narrative structure, it’s the truth. And the mystery woman might have haunted Ogando’s dreams, but using her as bookends for the story and saying Ogando was denied a visa “because of her” makes the woman out to be some dastardly mastermind, which she is certainly not. Not when she was treated worse by the same scheme.

After all, Ogando has a prized arm. He was fortunate that his talent provided a way out of the Dominican Republic and into the United States. We know what happened to him. Not her.

Read Full Post »

There’s a certain kind of face people make when they casually dismiss something. They don’t ignore, or say no thanks. They recognize that you’re trying to tell them something or present them with an idea, quickly know they don’t want to hear about it, then contort their faces into this expression to let you know that they’re not going to let you waste their time with, well, whatever it is you’ve got there.

It’s a versatile expression, I must admit. It can look like a sneer, it can look like a scoff, and it can look like a smirk. And I’ve seen a few varieties of it in the last few months while tabling for A Woman’s Place.

Part of what I want to do with this fund-raising project is keep my supporters involved, because that makes the whole experience enjoyable and informative for everyone. And cycling race reports are nice — you’ll see many of them — but I also want to illustrate what it is I actually do when I volunteer.

In order to volunteer at all I had to go through training. The version I did this winter lasted six hours, split over two sessions. There’s a more extensive (45) training that would allow me to work directly with AWP’s clients, but there was no way I would have been able to swing that with my work schedule, and you know, bills and all.

Still, I can be involved in a lot of ways, one of which is tabling. Essentially, it’s going to different events and setting up a table with a tri-fold board and lots of information about AWP’s services and domestic abuse in general. It’s a great way to let people know about AWP and be involved in the community.

I’ve done it twice, and if you told me in November that I’d be at a bridal show in February, I would have told you that’s way too fast to get engaged. And actually, that’s what most people thought when I told them that’s where I was that Sunday. Bridal show? You’re getting married?

Yep. Surprise! I’m getting married and didn’t tell anyone. I have to wonder why it’s so unbelievable that an engaged guy would voluntarily go to a bridal show.

Anyway, it was the first time I’d tabled and I had to set everything up myself — another volunteer joined me during the show, but I was flying solo for the first hour or two. I was so nervous I became gregarious, which is something I do when I feel uneasy. I do it on planes when we’re about to take off, and make a lot of five-minute friends that way. And I did it at the bridal show. As a consequence, now I know a whole lot about limousine services, Homewood Suites, and the current state of affairs in cake decorating techniques.

But my worrying was unfounded. Most people were receptive and, in fact, a lot of folks were looking for our table (we were collecting dresses for the thrift shop benefiting AWP, and collected two car loads worth of them.)

I also ran into two people I didn’t expect to see — my dentist, who is a hilarious human being and managed to make a root canal fun, and a girl I hadn’t seen since freshman year of college.

The other time I tabled was at a wellness fair at a local college. That time we were situated across an aisle from a woman who was a Lyme disease expert. I’ve never seen so much information. She had pamphlets, fact sheets, a computer presentation, an award-winning documentary. The whole spread covered two or three tables, and more impressive than the volume of information was her passion for spreading it. If she saw an opening to tell you something about the disease or correct a myth, she ran through it. It was impressive.

Now, tabling twice doesn’t make me an expert. But it did notice a few themes.

First was the number of people who I’d try to engage in conversation only to have them tell me they know about or have used AWP’s services, or have assisted AWP’s efforts in the past. That’s both encouraging and saddening. Encouraging because that’s one more person who knows about the organization and can be part of that Fibonacci tree, and encouraging because they found help through AWP. But also saddening because I don’t want people to have to require the services. In a perfect world, all relationships would be healthy and respectful.

The other thing I couldn’t help notice was that look I wrote about above, and I saw it at both events.

The bridal show put the AWP table in a small alcove, along with tables for a limousine service, a wedding planning company, a hotel chain, and a local inn. Show-goers typically started at one end of the nook and circled around to the other side, and by the time they got to our table, more than a few grew this perplexed look, as if to say, “Wait, what’s this have to do with weddings?”

But because there were so many people attending this bridal show, groups of people were often left standing around, waiting to gain access to a particular table. That meant they were often left standing in front of our table.

At one point, a large group of young women entered the Alcove of Fun — there had to be about a dozen of them. And, of course, some of them were left standing in front of the AWP table. I tried talking to one, who told me, “Sorry, I don’t care about that.”

Other times during the show I heard women say, “Oh, I don’t need that, my boyfriend/husband doesn’t beat me.”

The wellness fair provided a different twist. Being on a college campus, most of the people there were college kids trying to scope out the different fitness exhibits. And then they’d stroll to our aisle.

It’s hard to describe the look almost every guy who walked by gave me and the other volunteer. They saw the “A Woman’s Place” sign affixed to the top of the tri-fold board and instantly dropped whatever interest they might have had. It’s a very withering look.

We managed to engage a group of guys in discussion, and they really had no idea what to say. One of them told me that the name of the organization was discriminatory to men, which is apparently not a unique statement. It’s also not true, because AWP offers its services to men.

A little later, we were talking to a girl who was genuinely interested in AWP. Her boyfriend came up moments later and made a joke about her abusing him.

Those parts of the wellness fair definitely got to me, because the attitudes I saw from the guys there were very reminiscent of attitudes I saw when I attended an all-boys’ high school. You can sense the privilege, which affords men, particularly young heterosexual cisgender men, the ability to go throughout life cocksure and with swagger. It was like they saw AWP’s efforts as a big joke, and I was at a loss for how to connect with them.

That’s something I need to work on — finding ways to engage people who aren’t necessarily familiar with AWP or domestic violence. Because the table is open to anyone.

Everyone should care about domestic abuse and violence, and everyone should want to have healthy relationships be the norm. Of course, should is a tricky word. There are so many issues people should care about, and there are so many tables asking for attention. I’m not trying to say everyone has to make it their top priority.

But to pretend that eradicating domestic violence is not important is a shame, because it affects a lot of people. And to give that look is to pretend it doesn’t even exist.

Read Full Post »

Readers of this site know that a new post usually means you’re getting at least 800 words of…something. I have a post category called “fruit,” for crying out loud. Well, this is not 800 words. But it is important.

Most, if not all, of you know that I’m a competitive cyclist. But some of you might not know that over the winter I became a volunteer at A Woman’s Place, the only domestic violence organization in Bucks County.

Since I started, I’ve gone through one of AWP’s training programs, represented the organization at various events, picked up a weekly volunteer shift, and participated in a food drive. It is a fantastic organization that provides service and support for victims, and also has programs for education, outreach and advocacy.

So I want to help out however I can. And that’s how cycling is involved.

What I’ve come up with is a results-based fundraising program. Basically, donations are determined by how well I do in races. Participants sign on for the season and donate at the end. Any prize money I win also goes into the fund, and every cent of every donation goes toward AWP. I’m funding registration and gas money out of pocket, because it’s just right, and I would anyway.

I plan to do 8-10 races, and will provide race reports on here, as well as on my cycling team’s website. Information on donations and a tentative schedule are below.

Why am I doing this? Why do I care about what AWP does? I have a lot of reasons and could be long-winded in explaining them. But abusive relationships get to me. The isolation they cause makes me want to hold out a hand. Myths about domestic abuse make me want to get on a soapbox and scream. An abuser’s motivations make me want to set people straight on power and control and privilege and respect and what a healthy relationship looks like.

And it all breaks my heart just a little. But that I can afford. And I can also do something about it, so here I am. I do care, quite a bit, and that will be my motivation.

I sincerely appreciate people who sign on for this. If you’d like to commit, let me know at mpg167[at]gmail.com. Getting top results will be extra challenging because I moved into a more advanced racing category this year. Crashes, bad luck and bad form have funny ways of getting in the way of good results. Wins and top fives may be rare, but I’ll be trying my hardest.

Sincerely,
Mike Garvey

Donations*:
Top 25: $5
Top 15: $10
Top 5: $20
Win: $25
*I’ll add this. I have no idea how well I’ll do. I don’t expect many top 5s and wins, but in the event I stumble across great form and the final tally is more expensive than you thought, I would happily accept an amount you’re comfortable with.

Tentative schedule:
5/14 – Smoketown Criterium
6/11 – Tour of Mt. Nebo
6/12 – Luzerne Criterium
6/18 – Bethlehem Criterium
6/19 – Cargas Criterium
7/3 – Rodale Park Criterium
7/24- Liberty Criterium
7/31 – Robeson Twp State Road Race
8/7 – Doylestown Circuit Race
8/21 – Wilkes-Barre Twilight Criterium

Key Links:
A Woman’s Place
Guy’s Racing Club, my awesome team
Guy’s Racing Club blog

My email, again: mpg167[at]gmail.com

Read Full Post »

Half a week is not a long time. Well, I suppose it depends on perspective — waiting five days for a restaurant chef to cook your meal qualifies as “long” — but generally, that’s not a long time. Still, it’s long enough to throw me into cycling withdrawal. I have been on a brief hiatus while my bike is in the shop for five days, probably begging mechanics to convince me not to ride it so hard, and it’s been weird.

Luckily, the professional cycling season is in full swing to keep my mind occupied. This past weekend there were several tuneups for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the spring’s biggest races. And they did not disappoint.

On Saturday, Fabian Cancellara won E3 Harelbeke after catching two breakaway groups and riding them off his wheel. It was vintage Cancellara. Here’s a video:

If you don’t have nine minutes to spare, or don’t feel like listening to nine minutes of Flemish, here’s a shorter version:

Cancellara’s win put the cycling world on notice: he’s in great form and the favorite for Flanders and Roubaix.

Then, on Sunday, another rider let the cycling world know about being in form: Emma Pooley.

You probably thought I was going to say Tom Boonen, didn’t you? Boonen won Gent-Wevelgem, and he may be a threat after all for the big spring classics, blah, blah, blah.

For people who follow professional cycling, the media focus is placed primarily on men’s cycling. I don’t think I’m saying anything new. If you play Word Association and say Armstrong, most people would say Lance, not Kristin. People know Contador, Schleck, and Cavendish, but not necessarily Vos, Wild, and Abbott. Myself included. I just had to look two of those women’s names up.

Men’s cycling has a longer history, and TV coverage of professional cycling is devoted mostly to men’s races, at least in the United States. I’d love to have some US station show E3 and Gent live, and not have to go online to find a streaming channel with grainy footage. But I’d also like to see the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, which Pooley won with a 69km-long breakaway.

I don’t care who you are, that is tough and a great accomplishment that should garner more attention than it did.

Writing about this makes me think about media attention and how something generates interest. Let’s use a massively successful sports organization, the NFL, as an example. It generates tons of interest for many reasons, one of which is the physical spectacle. You don’t have to be a Seahawks fan to enjoy that Marshawn Lynch video above.

But the NFL also wouldn’t so successful if it didn’t have rivalries, franchise histories, and statistical records. The same applies to other American professional sports leagues, and it also fits cycling.

Fans like the sport because of the sprints, the breakaways, the climbs. They appreciate how tough it is to win a long one-day race in crappy weather, marvel at the legs and smarts required to take a sprint, and know the punishment of a grand tour. It is an immensely fan-friendly sport at all levels.

But at the most elite levels, cycling would not generate the amount of interest it does without history and human interest.

Consider the 2011 Paris-Roubaix. It suddenly becomes a lot less interesting if you don’t know the history of the race and mythology behind the cobbled course. What if you didn’t know that Cancellara is a dominant rider and Boonen won it three times? Imagine watching the race if you had no idea that Garmin-Cervelo built a team to win it, and that George Hincapie is to P-R what the Red Sox were to baseball before 2004.

Essentially, if you strip away the context and the history, it’s just a bunch of guys racing 260km over a brutal course. And while you’d still be interested, you’d have to develop your rooting interests from scratch.

That’s how I feel with regard to women’s cycling. I’ve spent the last eight years or so reading about professional cycling, but it was always about the Tour, Lance, and men’s events. I don’t have much of a clue about primary women’s races and top riders. And I don’t know precisely where to place the blame for that. A few options:

A) The sport itself. Most of the sponsorship dollars go to men’s teams and supporting men’s races on TV. Also, there is not a great number of top events, both abroad and in the states.

B) Culture. The sports world largely considers women’s sports and female athletes to be illegitimate, or at least second class. Additionally, there has not always been a framework for women to be athletes, and that framework is still not widespread.

C) The media. News outlets devote most of their resources to covering the men’s pro peloton.

D) Myself. Until recently, I wasn’t trying very hard to find news about women’s cycling.

E) All of the above.

Like a lame and easy multiple choice question, the answer is E. It almost seems like a circle of blame. But I do think a lot of it hinges on C.

You could say that the sport can’t be blamed, because sponsors won’t randomly give money to something they don’t think will be a good investment. But there’s a lot of opportunity for growth in women’s cycling, and some sponsors do support women’s cycling programs.

You could also say that the media can’t be blamed because news outlets often don’t have the resources to cover everything. Lord knows that’s true for many news staffs. But it’s not equitable at all, and I don’t buy the argument that you devote coverage to what’s popular. You’re the media; you decide what’s newsworthy.

And you could say that I can’t be blamed because I was raised in a society that vastly favored men’s sports. But even after realizing this, I’ve never demanded better coverage of women’s cycling.

Nothing will be equal until there is a cultural shift. The women’s cycling fan base will not grow without consistent exposure from media sources, but it also won’t grow if people continue to think it’s inferior. Of course, it’s not inferior. It has the same qualities that makes men’s cycling exciting.

So the attitude needs to be “Let’s check out the women’s race,” not “Oh, it’s the women’s race.” Do I think the same number of people who like men’s cycling must like women’s cycling, and with the same passion? No. But I do think women’s cycling must be given the same advantages as men’s by everybody.

Read Full Post »

Today is International Women’s Day, and also Feminist Coming Out Day. Well, I have hesitated to say it before, but I am a feminist. Yes, I am. Why? Well, why not? Why would I not be in favor of striving to live in a society in which women’s accomplishments or failures are not attributed to the fact that they are women, in which they actually earn as much as men for equal work, in which they are not constantly judged for their looks, in which they have full control of their own bodies, in which society does not tell them certain jobs are for them, in which gender roles are not thrust upon them from birth, in which they have the freedom to embrace anything and not be put down or shut out, in which even progressive men do not get to decide what’s good for women, in which it would not be notable to have a female president or CEO or senator because it happens frequently, in which victim-blaming does not exist?

As a man and a feminist, I have to recognize how my privilege directly relates to ways in which women are disadvantaged in society. So as I sit here and declare that, yes, I am feminist, allow me to let you know what this feminist has looked like across the years.*

(*Trigger warning — Not sure if it’s necessary, but better to be safe.)

Fifteen years ago

I’m in grade school. During recess, the guys usually played some sport, because that’s what middle school-age boys do during recess. Except for that one girl, who usually joined us when we played soccer. She had shorter hair and liked to play hard, and I’m not exactly sure where she fit in. She didn’t display characteristics we had been taught were female, and she couldn’t be a boy. And if you didn’t fit into that binary, well, you weren’t doing gender roles properly.

Ten years ago

I’m a junior in high school, sitting in Latin class, having just finished a hard exam for a hard AP course. The kid next to me remarks that he punched a hole in the exam and raped it. This was an all-male Jesuit place that bred class and male privilege, including in me. Not everybody displayed that behavior, but I wish now that we had been introduced to feminist principles when we talked about becoming men freshman year. I wish I had recognized what an awful thing that exam remark was, and said something.

Eight years ago

I’m a freshman in college, on the phone with a girl I’m sort of seeing. She said that her friend had been taken advantage of by my friend, both of whom were drunk after a party. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I didn’t speak to that friend again. This was about a year after a good friend told me of her sexual assault through coercion, and also my first real introduction to drunken hookup culture — an innocuous name for something with real problems and, often, lack of consent.

The girl on the phone also mentions that her name is based upon the fact that her dad wanted a boy.

Later in that school year, there is a rape off campus. Later yet, a distraught girl asked me if I thought she was ugly because people had told her that so often.

Six years ago

My mom convinces my sister that she should major in a subject that will allow her to be financially stable. It’s a necessity she knows from experience, because you do not want to put all your eggs in a partner’s basket only to have the weaving come undone.

Five years ago

I’m in my mom’s car, having just gotten off the train. Several hours earlier, my doctor told me over the phone that I had no testosterone in my whittled-down, emaciated body. Even he was shocked. It answered some questions about why I looked the way I did and raised quite a few more. I was so shaken I had to leave my internship for the day. So I boarded the train with dozens of other people and rode home alone. And when I got off that train and climbed into the car, I melted into my mother’s arms.

Here I was, a college graduate with two degrees, a grown dude, crying to my mom, wondering if I was a man.

Three years ago

I scoff when my sister tells me she wants to build a fence.

Two years ago

My sister’s in grad school in the city. She tells stories about guys rolling down their windows to throw cat-calls her way. She also tells stories about a gas station attendant who asks if she has a boyfriend, if she’d get out of the car to show off her body. She laughs. But I don’t know any guys who have to put up with that.

At this time I’m working in the newsroom of a sports news service, but I’m at home when a friend tells me there’s a video of Erin Andrews on the internet. And she’s naked. Turns out, it’s a video taken through the peephole of her hotel room by a stalker. People go on a victim-blaming spree, saying that Andrews does tend to wear revealing outfits, much like they blamed her when some hack reported that she wore a sundress to a summer baseball game.

A year ago

I start to read Jezebel regularly. I’d wasted many hours on Gawker, and only occasionally flipped over to Jez. But the more I visit, the more I tend to want to visit. It starts to influence how I think about things, and I start to think about feminism and gender roles more and more, also because I have a very good friend who thinks about them as well. We talk about them a lot.

Still, the stories come. During the span of a few weeks in the fall, I deal with stories involving a Florida football player who texts his girlfriend that it’s “time to die,” a Mets pitcher who violates a restraining order by texting his girlfriend dozens of times, a quarterback who texted pictures of his penis to a woman, and a quarterback who is accused of sexual assault for the second time. During the same football season, TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz gets blamed for wearing a tight shirt and jeans into a football locker room. She apparently forgot her burqa. Co-workers refer to women’s college basketball games as “the bitches.”

This year was the tipping point. I started this site to write about some of this, and think about volunteering at a domestic violence shelter. While investigating how to volunteer with one organization, I discover that its site has an escape button that automatically leaves the web page. In what sort of world is this even necessary? I start to volunteer.

*****

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of feminist issues throughout the world, but all the episodes have helped shape how I think. I view feminism mostly through a sports prism at the moment, because that’s what I deal with on a daily basis, though I continue to hear personal stories from friends and read a great amount.

So what does this feminist look like? Someone who wasn’t always one, who has been terribly wrong and full of male privilege. But one who does not think feminism = man-hating, one who has used principles of feminism to resolve body-image issues, and one who is still learning about it every day, committed to being progressively better. Because I am a man after all, not a hero, not a savior or anything like that. Just a small piece in the feminist puzzle. To paraphrase Tony Porter, my being a complete man depends on each woman being a person, as I am.

Today

Someone in my newsroom mentions that ESPN announcer Doris Burke should stick to announcing women’s basketball. When I press him on the issue, he admits he’s never listened to her call a game.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »