18 December 2010

Discrediting Rape Survivors: The Same Old Story

Strong warnings for sexual assault triggers, especially those having to do with discrediting sexual assault survivors. Self-care is a radical act. Take care of yourselves.

If you haven't been following the accusations being leveled against Julian Assange (founder of WikiLeaks), here's a very quick breakdown:

  1. Julian Assange has been accused of raping two women in Sweden. You can see more detailed information (with double-plus trigger warning) here.

  2. The website that Assange has founded has also come under serious scrutiny and legal threat from a handful of countries

  3. Assange is being held on an extradition notice in London (NOT on the charges themselves) and was denied release on his own recognizance because he's a flight risk - which is obvious, since he fled Sweden to avoid having to come up on these charges.

  4. Progressive journalists, most notably Michal Moore and Keith Olbermann, spread incorrect information about the charges (including that it is a crime to "have consensual sex without a condom" in Sweden) and dismissed the charges as false and politically-motivated.

  5. Many people, largely consisting of feminists, sexual assault advocates, and activists, demaded an apology from Olbermann and from Michael Moore

Things that have been taken away from this:
  • Keith Olbermann blocked critics from his Twitter ... no! closed it down ... no! is using again, but only to talk to the people who aren't criticizing him.

  • The hashtag #Mooreandme continues to be an active topic on Twitter with many individuals demanding an apology from Michael Moore

  • An unestimatable number of people believe that Olbermann and Moore's statements were statements of fact and have moved ahead as if they were

I have little that's new to add to this, honestly. Certainly, it is assured that these charges are being pursued because of political motivations - most conservative estimates show that less than 6% of rapists will spend any time in jail and nearly all of those that are pursued for legal charges will in some way have to do with political motivations - whether it's the skin color of the rapist (men of color are disproportionately brought up on charges even though 52% of rapists are white) or the category the rape falls in.

So the claims that it is unusual for a man being charged with rape to be white, middle-to-upper class, and powerful? Not exactly fucking news to me.

I was trained as a rape advocate when I was 19 years old. However, I was 12 years old the first time that I advocated for a survivor of sexual assault, when a friend of mine told me about the guy who had raped her on a date two nights before. She was scared to tell anyone, even though she had three classes with him and was sick to her stomach at the idea of seeing him while she was trying to learn, because he was popular. He had power.

All rapists have power. That is, in fact, the motivation of rape - to leverage that power against another person.

I don't know that the charges of the two women in Sweden are true - I wasn't there. What I do know, however, is that the public vilification of these women - whether from some Gomer on Twitter, some asshole on the bus, or Michael Moore in public view - is hurting rape survivors. It is not only damaging to these two women, but to every single survivor who has ever had someone tell them that our story didn't matter, that nobody would believe us, that we didn't matter.

Yes. We. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I have been an advocate, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a body between a survivor and a doctor who wants to take a rape kit without a medical advocate present.

I have heard more firsthand experiences of sexual assault than anyone should ever hear and spent more time at Take Back the Night, in hospitals, on the phone, on the internet, and simply making tea and saying "I believe you" than I can even recount.

Every single survivor I've ever spoken to has had someone tell them that they don't matter, that they're powerless, and that nobody will believe them. The last thing that we needed was for some of the most visible members of the American Left media to take on rape apologism like it's a new fad.

So, for what it's worth, I want to tell all of you: Your voices matter. Your stories are heard. And no matter how much someone tells you that the person who hurt you was too powerful to touch, know that we're listening.

And to these men on the left who can't find it in themselves to admit that you can like someone's political motivations and still have to take seriously charges of sexual assault: Shame on you.

You owe us an apology.

05 December 2010

Just call me shameless

I have had a hell of a long relationship with Ani DiFranco's music. I bought my first Ani CD in 1996 (new, in fact, to the CONCEPT of CD-buying, as I'd only had a CD player for 3 years and primarily listened to the Beatles and mix tapes).

I bought "Out of Range" on a whim - I was hanging out in a music store where a friend worked. He knew that I liked Tori Amos, Concrete Blonde, Nine Inch Nails, and Leonard Cohen. Basically, he knew I was pretty open to what I was listening to. He threw a used copy of "Out of Range" in my pile and offered to give me an extra $2 off if I'd give it a shot.

Weirdly, the first time I listened to the album, I wasn't really feeling it. I shrugged, figured I'd only spent $7 on it, and threw it in the pile. It wasn't until about six months later, that summer, when I was probably sulking in my room and trying to figure out what to do that night, that I put in the album and it just ... clicked.

Thank god I fell in love with Ani DiFranco's music when I was angry 16-year old with access to the internet, because I immediately fell as much in love with her politics and her story as I did with the music. When Ani DiFranco started making music at 18, she made the conscious decision to not play the major label game. As a teenager, she started Righteous Babe Records and released her own music, on her own terms. And, as the label grew and as her fame grew, she picked up other artists, spoken word artists, and old anarchists like Utah Phillips and released their albums, too.

Here she was, a young, openly-queer woman who had said "fuck it" and MADE IT WORK.

I think that was the primary draw for me, a young, not-openly-queer, feminist girl in Montana who just wanted people who understood.

Ani and I have had an off-and-on musical relationship since then - not because "her old stuff is better" or any nonsense like that, but because I have moments in my life where acoustic feminist alt-punk-folk-rock is more and less my thing.

Ani DiFranco will always be summers, driving the first car I'd ever owned with the windows down, singing along at the top of my lungs. Today is an Ani DiFranco day. I want to dig out my old CDs and spend the day listening to feminist music and build a little bubble around myself to remind myself what that feels like.

20 November 2010

Transgender Day of Rememberance

On November 28, 1998, Rita Hester was murdered in her home just outside of Boston. She was stabbed multiple times, likely by someone she knew. Her murder was horrible and affected an entire community of people who knew and loved her.

Murders happen all the time and, all the time, they affect friends and family members. The thing that sets Rita's murder apart from some is that she was a transsexual woman, someone whose identity, life, and mental health were all called into question after she was murdered. Rita's life was made invisible so that a tabloid-style news story could take its place.

This happens every day. People whose gender or sex presentation doesn't fall within acceptable social boundaries and those who are perceived as non-normative are regularly in danger. They may experience interpersonal violence, verbal violence, stalking, threats, snide comments, questions of the validity of their identity, and a range of treatment from strangers from confusion to rage.

This doesn't mean that it's a horrible life to be a transgender person - many life happy lives with friends, partners, gainful employment, and families. It does, however, mean that every person whose life dares to cross boundaries may be in danger.

If they are hurt in some way, their legal challenges generally go unanswered, their murders go unsolved, and their voices go unheard.

Today is the 12th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day set aside to remember those that were killed as a result of anti-transgender hatred and is held in November to remember Rita Hester.

This year, we remember Brenda of Rome, Italy; Wanchai Tongwijit of Phuket City, Thailand; Mariah Malina Qualls of San Francisco, California; Estrella (Jose Angel) Venegas of Mexicali, Mexico; Wong of Bernama, Malaysia; Myra Chanel Ical and Gypsy of Houston, Texas; Derya Y. of Antalya, Turkey; Fevzi Yener of Şehremin, Istanbul; Dino Curi Huansi of Parma, Italy; Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar of Queens, New York; Toni Alston of Charlotte, North Carolina; Ashley Santiago Ocasio of Corozal, Puerto Rico; Azra of Izmir, Turkey; Chanel (Dana A. Larkin) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Angie González Oquendo of Caguas, Puerto Rico; Sandy Woulard of Chicago, Illinois; Imperia Gamaniel Parson of San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Victoria Carmen White of Maplewood, New Jersey; Justo Luis González García of Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico; Irem of Bursa, Turkey; Stacey Lee of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Emanuelly Colaço Taborda of Parana, Brazi;, an unidentified trans woman in Jakarta, Indonesia; an unidentified trans woman in Chihuahua, Mexico; an unidentified trans woman in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic; an unidentified victim in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico; two unidentified victims in Sheikhupura, Pakistan; and all the other trans women and men around the world who lost their lives to transphobia this year, whose faces we never saw, names we never knew, and voices we never heard because they were living in societies that did not value them as people.

Fear and hatred of trans people is not limited to violent action - often, in many ways, it is characterized by inaction. Because there are no federal employment protections for trans people and precious few state protections, they are more likely to be under- or un-employed and have a lack of access to health insurance. They have trouble finding doctors that will treat them with respect for their identity and presentation. They are at a higher risk, because of these factors, for later discovery of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Robert Eads is one of the transsexual men who payed the price for our social and medical apathy - he died as a result of ovarian cancer after being refused treatment by two dozen doctors who refused out of fear that treating a transsexual man for ovarian cancer would damage their reputations.

Take a minute and think about that. Think about how many people find out they have ovarian cancer in a year. Now imagine any of those who are cisgendered or cissexual (1) women being refused treatment by two dozen doctors. Can't imagine it? It's because it doesn't happen, not to those of us whose gender or sexual identities match those expected by society. It doesn't happen to me because my ovaries are matched with a beardless face, a higher-octave voice, and presentation "appropriate" for females in my society.

And yet, Robert Eads died because he didn't have the privileges afforded to me.

Apathy, inaction, "jokes," hateful statements, and fists all can kill. Today is the day that we remember, but every day should be the day that we act to address and stop the fear and hatred of transgender people.

(1) Cisgender or cissexual refers to a class of gender or sex identities formed by a match between an individual's gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one's sex. Cisgender is a neologism that means "someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth", according to Calpernia Addams.

19 November 2010

It Gets Better ... IF

In the wake of the It Gets Better Project, a project that I participated in, there has been a groundswell of people telling LGBTQ kids that It Gets Better. Politicians such as Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Barak Obama have made videos. Public figures such as Cindy McCain and Laura Bush have weighed in. The NoH8 campaign, employees at Facebook and Google, celebrities, and everyday normal people like me have made videos. And over and over again, we tell kids that it gets better - that bullying ends, that many birth families will love you, that you will find a chosen family, that you can be happy.

And I think that matters. But I also think that it matters to acknowledge that those things don't happen automatically.

Conservative estimates suggest that between 20 and 40% of homeless teenagers are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. In my time at the Local Youth Homeless Shelter, I saw a higher percentage than that. Queer kids' families are not always going to accept them. It's a shitty truth, but it's a truth. Queer kids' classmates and teachers will not always protect them. They will not always be able to attend dances with their partner of choice or have their photos in yearbooks wearing their clothing of choice.

They won't all graduate college and fall in love.

We can't promise them any of that. We want it for them. I got all of that and I am incredibly grateful and lucky and I KNOW that.

But I think that it's disingenuous for us to be promising a better world to queer youth without doing something to help make that world better. Whether that means that we participate in mentoring programs, become foster parents, volunteer at queer youth centers (or any youth centers - queer kids are everywhere), donate food or money, give time or money to suicide prevention hotlines like The Trevor Project, or give time to the agencies that serve homeless youth - we should all be doing something. I should be doing more and I damn well know it.

We don't have to stop telling queer kids that it gets better - I sincerely hope that it does for every one of them. But I do think that we need to do whatever we can to make it more likely that "better" actually happens for any of them.

10 October 2010

SUNDAY SAVORIES: Chickpea mushroom curry and samosas

Yeah, remember when I thought I would post one of these every week? HAH! However, this was a good night's cooking.

So, some friends have an annual party called "Around the World." They supply the place, the drinks, and punchcards - going "around the world" is drinking drinks with different alcohol bases. Sounds kinda like a grownup frat party - but then there's the FOOD. For entry to Around the World, you have to bring a non-American dish to share. Every year (for me), the food is the most memorable part.

This year, I went with Indian. I LOVE vegetable samosa, but hate how expensive they are in Spokane (in Manchester on Curry Mile, I could get them for next to nothing). Now I know why they're expensive: they take FOREVER.

I adjusted about 4 different samosa recipes and just gave it a shot. And! They turned out. When I realized that the dough I had made would only make 12 samosa (and there are a LOT of people at Around the World), I also threw together this curry.

Vegetable Samosa

2 large baking potatoes
1 package of frozen peas and carrots
1.5 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala powder
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
salt to taste

1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat - next time, I might try chickpea flour)
1 container of plain yogurt (about 6 Tbs - I used Greek yogurt)
1/2 tsp salt
a little water

1 egg, beaten

Peel the potatoes and either bake or boil until tender enough to mash.

While the potatos are boiling, mix the pastry dough. Mix the flour and salt and then integrate the yogurt - this is messy and inexact, but you want an elastic dough that is neither sticky nor too dry. Don't worry if it's not working at first, because this dough doesn't need to rise, you're going to knead for 5 to 10 minutes, which is about how long it took me to get it to the right texture.

When the potatoes are done, mash them, leaving some chunks of potato. After they're mashed, integrate in the spices and the peas and carrots (defrosted by now, hopefully). This is best done with your hands, so just let the potatoes cool a bit.

Pull a piece of dough a little larger than a golf ball from the lump. Roll it in your hands to get an even ball shape. Flatten it with your palm and lay it on a floured surface. Roll it out until it is roughly square or circular, then put a little less than a teaspoon's worth of the stuffing in the center. Take your eggwash and put it around the edges of the dough. You're going to seal these to one another by making a kind of tri-fold hat shape. Or whatever! The shape doesn't really matter.

Put a piece of parchment or tinfoil in the bottom of your baking pan. Put the samosas in, leaving room between each one. Put into a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes.

I'll post the curry recipe later!

02 October 2010

It Gets Better

In the last month, five youth's suicides because of bullying have been heavily publicized by the media: 15 year old Justin Aaberg, 15 year old Billy Lucas, 19 year old Raymond Chase, 13 year old Asher Brown, and 19 year old Tyler Clementi.

Four young people whose deaths are likely directly related to bullying due to their real or perceived sexual orientation. And how many more are there? We know that LGBT youth are at a disproportionate risk for suicide, homelessness, and risky behavior. We know, but what does the LGBT community do?

One thing we do is support organizations like Odyssey Youth Center in my hometown and support the Odyssey Masquerade, a fundraiser to ensure that LGBT youth have a safe, supportive place to go and food to eat.

Another thing we can do is let them know that things get better. When I saw that Dan Savage was spearheading a campaign for LGBT teens called "It Gets Better," I thought that maybe I could put aside my antipathy for his fat-shaming, woman-hating bullshit that comes out every once in a while. And I did.

30 August 2010

You're not outraged by this?

On the internet and in-person, I been talking around Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC yesterday. It seems like everyone is talking about it. And, although I consider myself a person with a diverse social group, I do have to admit that I do not have a social group wherein I'm finding many people who support the theory of the rally or the rhetoric that surrounds it.

In my extended family, I absolutely do have people who probably support this rally. I know that my partner's uncle believes that Glenn Was Right (except for the fact that the rally wasn't Christian enough). So it's not like I don't have the opportunity.

The thing that has struck me about many of these conversations is that people expect me to be outraged. They expect that I will have a litany of condemnation for this rally, for the rhetoric espoused, and the impacts these kinds of events could have.

And, certainly, I have a certain amount of sadness. I would be remiss in my position as a human being, let alone an educator, to not comment on the horribly racist and classist displays of rage that were applauded in DC this weekend. I would be giving in if I didn't note that rallies such as these were thinly-veiled excuses for lancing of hateful boils that will poison our society.

And then people ask if I'm outraged and all I can think of is this (problematic) response by The West Wing's CJ Cregg.

Am I outraged? I'm barely surprised.

This is coming from a man who is a stand up comedian who has explicitly stated in interviews in the NY Times that he's "not a journalist" and is "just a radio clown." This is coming from a man who has tried to translate his fake punditry to being a legitimate leader of the American Right. This is a man who has condemned families of victims of 9/11, insists on saying that President Obama has a "deepseeded hatred for white people," and who regularly wallows in conspiracy theories. This is a man who the far-right politicians and pundits condemn as racist and dangerous.

This is a man who makes money off of our attention, who preaches hatred as a standard to bear. This is a man who draws scarily-large popular following of people who don't appear to know that schools can no longer require children to say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the late insertion of the term "Under God" to catch Communists in the 1950s, who insist on believing that President Obama was foreign-born (which he tangibly is not) and that he is a Muslim (a faith he has never claimed). Because Glenn Beck does most effectively what we, as a culture, respond to - he trades on fear and ignorance.

On October 28, 2010, Glenn Beck brought together a rally where white, middle-class, conservative people were given a platform to vent their rage at a world that largely benefits them. He attempted to coopt the American Civil Rights movement and claim a "return" to a kind of values that never existed while riling up xenophobic and racist anger against others.

Am I outraged? No, bloggers. That is Glenn Beck, and we give him the power to do exactly what he does.

We watch his television shows, we listen to his radio, we buy his fear-mongering. We respond to what Glenn Beck does in a way that makes it effective. And it keeps happening.

Until that changes, I don't have the energy to be outraged. Just sad.

08 August 2010

Black Happy at the Knitting Factory

There's something about a local or regional band, one that was at least as good, if not better than, the stuff that was on the radio at the time. For a lot of people around my age who grew up in the Northwest, one of those bands was Black Happy.

Black Happy is a band that is frequently mis-categorized, which is very likely a part of the reason they never hit outside of this region. They're a kind of rock/metal band backed with horns. So ... are they ska? Nope. Punk? Not really. Skunk (again, a term that only existed for a very specific time period)? Nope.

They're just Black Happy, this goofy little band from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho who most people couldn't help put love once they actually heard them.

Because of a Facebook fanpage titled "Black Happy should reunite," the 8 original members came together this month for a five-show reunion tour through Seattle, Portland, and Spokane. Yes, apparently, change can come from the internet. And, thus, the mini-reunion tour begins.

I had the opportunity to catch the last show of their tour last night at The Knitting Factory in Spokane, WA (a venue that I do NOT love). I haven't attended a show since I broke my leg last summer and I wasn't certain I could handle the front of the show - I'm still pretty brittle and re-breaking my leg was not the way I wanted to enjoy the show. I did, however, and I'm really glad I did.

I didn't get into Black Happy while they were still together - 1992-1995, I was still in Kalispell, MT. I had heard of them and, I think, I'd listened to Friendly Dog Salad at one point, probably in my friends Nate and Cody's apartment (do you remember your first friends to get their own place? That was Nate and Cody). My musical taste was all over the map in the mid-90s - Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, TONS of ska, Nine Inch Nails, Leonard Cohen, Bad Religion, The Ramones - and I'm actually not sure that I would have appreciated Black Happy as much then as I did later.

I really got into Black Happy a few years after their breakup - 1997 or so - after I'd moved to this area. One of the things that I found most intriguing was the way people talked about this band, like they were their friends, their family, THEIR band. And, in a lot of ways, that's what you're allowed to be when you're a small-town band that is dearly loved in your region but unheard of outside of it.

For a short period of time, Black Happy was our band. And, for a few days this month, they were again. The show was fast, it was high-energy, and it was exactly what I'd always imagined seeing them live would be like.

Sure, we were all a little older. Sure, the punks in the crowd were, like me, mostly normal-hair colored and had dug our old chucks out of the pile of work shoes and running shoes for the gym. But there was no shame in being an aged punk - we were all in it together.

And it was fun as hell.

If you've ever wondered if you should go to see your old favorites, worried that it might be ruined? Take a chance. It was worth it this time.

04 August 2010

How to Be Alone (a poem)

How to be alone, a poem

This is truly one of the most beautiful poems I've heard and the video is gorgeous, as well.

you'll find that its fine to be alone
once you're accepting it

Marriage Equality and Prop 8

Today, Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California's Proposition 8 today, the proposition that declared that the only marriages recognized in the state of California would be those between a man an a woman, also invalidating the 18,000 marriages that had been performed in the state between two men or two women.

In his landmark decision, Judge Walker declared that Prop 8 fails in its responsibility to advance any rational bias in its construction, stating that "Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples."

My relationship with marriage equality/gay marriage/whatever I'm supposed to call it now is complicated. A few years ago, was the coordinator of a political coalition in my area that fought for many political and social equalities from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) folks. As often happens with those kinds of coalitions, one of the major issues that members were focusing on was marriage equality. Part of that came about because two of the plaintiff's in the 2006 suit to challenge Washington State's "Defense" of Marriage Act were on my coalition.

In March 2006, their challenge failed. And I held a rally that allowed people to express their disappointment and their rage, despite the City of Spokane refusing to issue us a permit and having no location for the rally. And people were upset - they felt marginalized, like their lives were lesser than others. And that was awful to watch.

But it was also strange to have people assume that I shared their rage and their pain. While I could see it, while I could sympathize with it, I didn't. I don't.

I want marriage equality because I realize that there is a gay man out there right now who is being refused access to his partner in the ER. I want marriage equality for the two women who are terrified that one of them will die of cancer and the other will have no legal relationship to their children. I want marriage equality so that my friends don't have to leave the country because they can't marry their foreign national partners and help them get green cards, so they don't have to pay millions of dollars more over their lifetimes to have the same lives, so they don't have sheafs of make-shift legal paperwork to give themselves the pretense of equal rights.

I want those things and I know that access to the legal institution of marriage in the US is the most expedient way to those goals.

But what I really want? Is for the institution of marriage to have no legal meaning at all. For people to be able to determine their own medical authorities, those who will receive their social security (for as long as it lasts), those who parent with them, those who they share finances with, those who can visit them in the ER. I want to take away the legal rights associated with marriage and divorce that from the social institution.

Because I don't actually know that the state has any business in my personal life, let alone my sex life. And don't forget - as long as a marriage isn't consummated, it can still be annulled in the US. Legally, if you don't screw, the marriage didn't happen.

I want the government out of my bed and out of my pants and out of everyone else's, as well. It's illogical to continue a legal institution that doesn't serve a benefit to the country as a whole and, frankly, is kind of creepy in the way its implemented. And this is not in spite of the relationships and marriages that people I respect have, but because of them. I want those relationships to have more meaning than legal chattel.

But that's a long-shot goal. That's something that won't happen for a long time, if ever.

So I remain cautiously happy at Judge Walker's decision. Not because I want to marry, but because if anyone can, we all should be able to.

03 August 2010

Haitus: Over

I apologize for being MIA for a bit there. I've been working on my second master's thesis, enjoyed floating the river that runs through my city, working 10 hour days, and reading.

I've been doing a LOT of reading.

I've also been soliciting donations for the annual Masquerade fundrasier for the amazing LGBT youth center in my (small) city, Odyseey Youth Center. It's been awesome to see the support of the local community and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy soliciting donations for auctions. It's one of the things I'm best at - connecting people who care about an issue with ways that they can help.

I have some posts in the queue, one about ABC Family's Huge, one about academia's points of disconnection with student affairs, and one about collaboration.

They're coming. Thanks for sticking around.

07 June 2010

Sarah Palin: Feminist?

In the last couple of weeks, feminist and progressive blogs have exploded with Sarah Palin's claim that she is a feminist. Many people say: No! No, she can't be a feminist. She's anti-choice. Palin is anti-woman.

And, while I sympathize with these viewpoints - I, myself, have been a feminist with the view that there is no such thing as feminism that denies women reproductive freedom - I have to pause.

Who the hell is the feminist identity police? Who gets to say who is in and who is out? Where is that line drawn?

Because there have been feminists doing and writing things that I find abhorrent since the dawn of the term feminist. Lets not forget our own history here - this is the movement that has had various factions or members:
  • Kick lesbians out of consciousness-raising groups in the 1970s because of bad PR and the "Lavender Menace"
  • Abandoned voting rights for American women of color during US and UK suffrage
  • Punished and loudly proclaimed that femmes and butches were not welcome in the movement
  • Accused trans women of being "psuedo-women" who violated women's bodies in their transition
  • Completely ignored a horrifying history of forced sterilization on women of color
  • Ostracized mothers and parents and told them that their children were not welcome
  • Condemned sex workers and working class women surviving peripherally through the sex trades
  • Took their "knowledgable Western feminist" ideals to other countries and denied women their own voices

And this is a partial list. Want me to go on? Half of these things have happened with prominent feminist figures in the popular media and blogs in the last year. I don't get to distance myself from the likes of Mary Daly's horrifying transphobia or the Lavender Menace of the 1970s, no matter that I find them as appalling as anything (yes, anything) that Sarah Palin has said.

Western feminism has a load of problems, all versions of it. Although I identify as a queer radical feminist with strong postmodern socialist leanings, that doesn't mean shit to the average person. The distinction between me and all of the people I just described is meaningless to most people and, although I disagree deeply with what they say, they are feminists. Feminists with bad politics? Certainly. Bigoted feminists? Absolutely.

But, in some ways, I'm with RMJ's post, at least in part: Sarah Palin is a feminist, actually - because she works against women. I'm not claiming that it's uniformly true, but to condemn her simply because she has the sins of our foreparents (and, frankly, an amazing number of our contemporaries) and because she is a conservative is to erase the deeply-problematic history behind an identity that means a lot to me.

I don't like that Sarah Palin is a feminist. But, then again, I don't like that a significant number of prominent bloggers are feminists. That doesn't mean they aren't, just that I wish that we could more clearly delineate a movement that they wouldn't want to spread their awfulness through.

But we haven't. And to ignore that is to put our heads in the sand, never to fix the problems.

09 May 2010

Sunday Savories: Patatosalata

Apparently, with the coming of spring, all I want to do is make Greek-style foods. This one was taught to me by Maria, the woman who owned the cafe I worked at for a year in the UK, Cafe 306. Maria was a crazy, nosy Greek lady who INSISTED (loudly, shouting, in fact) that I call my parents on the day of the London Underground bombings in 2005. Even though I was in Manchester, Maria insisted, saying: "Your family is American. To them, it's all the same."

And, much like when she pushed veg on our customers, she was right. It's why Maria was allowed to be pushy with everyone - she was pretty much always right.

Maria's Patatosalata
8-10 red or yellow waxy potatoes
3/4-1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, crushed (I do more like 5)
Roughly chopped fresh basil to taste
sea salt

Scrub the potatoes, but leave the skins on. Boil them in hot water for approximately 10-15 minutes - you want them done, but still pretty firm. Pour cold water over them until they are cool, then chill them. Ideally, chill for at least an hour (this keeps the skins on).

While the potatoes are cooling, roughly chop as much basil as you like - I usually do quite a bit.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper with a whisk.

Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Toss with the dressing and cool for another 15 minutes, minimum. Best if left for another hour.

This is the most refreshing, light, delicious, easy potato salad I've ever made and it's a staple for our summer foods.

02 May 2010

Sunday Savories

I'm starting something new! To add to the relative strangeness of what I blog about on this platform, I'm adding in Sunday Savories. This is to serve a dual purpose - to highlight something that I make that I know that I love AND to provide a platform for people to share their own recipes. I know that I get tired of my own cooking every once and a while, and things like this always add to my repertoire when other people share.

Also, honestly, I made this recipe up last night and I don't want to forget it.

Greek-Style Orzo Pasta (Salad)

The reason that this is called a pasta (salad) is because, when hot, it's pasta - probably a good side dish, since it's not quite full enough for me to make it a standalone meal. But, when cold (which I'm eating right now), it might even be better and is a delicious pasta salad.

12 oz. dried orzo pasta (this would be delicious with rice, too)
Approx. 2 cups of greek yogurt (unflavored)
4 large-ish cloves of garlic
8 oz. fresh spinach (frozen would probably work)
Appprox. 4 oz. of feta cheese
10-12 kalmata olives (less, more, whatever)
Lemon juice to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

Cook the orzo - about 5-6 minutes past the rolling boil.

While the orzo is cooking, pull out a large sautee pan. Coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil and heat up. When it's hot, throw in your chopped garlic, then TURN THE HEAT DOWN TO MEDIUM. Seriously, garlic burns fast.

Start throwing your spinach in, stirring regularly. You want to wilt the spinach at first, not cook it proper.

Because I wasn't sure of consistency, I started pulling out the spinach when it was as wilted as I want and putting it in a bowl, then putting more spinach in. After cooking 8 oz (a bag) or as much as you want, throw the rest of the spinach in the pan on LOW. Slowly stir in the yogurt (non-greek would probably work, but not be as lovely texture) and KEEP stirring. Also stir in the crumbled feta. Put in some olive oil to keep things moving (just a little bit, or it'll get too oily) and salt and pepper a SMALL amount.

Stir into the cooked orzo, checking that the orzo is coated but not swimming in the "sauce." You might add another dollop or two of greek yogurt, might add some more olive oil. At this point, put a generous squirt or two of lemon juice on top and stir in (maybe 1/3-1/2 of a lemon's worth?). Stir again.

Chop your kalmata olives (or do this before, but I always forget) and stir in. Let sit for at least 5 minutes to settle. Taste.

Simple, but SO. GOOD.

What have you been cooking?

24 April 2010

I'm Krista fucking Benson: I'm seeing the me you see

Like many people whose identities contain some aspects of oppression or underrepresentation, I often find myself apologizing for myself. When a professor in my graduate program tells me that I did a good job or that I'm helpful in class, I often find myself minimizing my knowledge and contribution.

When a faculty member tells me that I have helped their students, I find myself staring at the ground and mumbling.

Because, in the culture I grew up in (and as the person within that culture I was socialized to be), one simply doesn't say "Yes, I'm amazing." You hem and haw and belittle your own awesomeness in the service of some larger sense of humility.

Well, I'm finally realizing (finally, just 30 years later) .... that's bullshit.

Minimizing our own awesomeness is just like apologizing for nothing - we are taking away from the enormous successes that we have. We are apologizing for that success before it ever happens, coloring our world(s) with self-effacing words that obfuscate our real amazingness.

I mean, think about it. How often have you heard someone who can really, really sing say "Oh, I USED to be able to sing" or "It's not a big deal?" How often have you seen someone whip up a website in 20 minutes that would have taken you 15 hours (and looked worse) who minimized that task?

How often have you wished that these people would just see the amazingness of themselves?

I have wished it more than once. On my arm, in fact, I have a memorial tattoo for a friend who never did see herself the way I saw her before she died, far too young.

I wish you could see the you that I see

So I'm trying. Because I think that what we do matters more than what we say, I'm trying to figure out what it takes for people who have been historically and systematically silenced to say "This is who I am and who I am is amazing"?

That's what's being explored right now at Shapley Prose and Tiger Beatdown. Now, I have admittedly had issues with both blogs in the past. I imagine I will again. I have not suddenly become a convert to some kind of worshipful religion.

But this idea? The idea of standing up, of putting your stake in the ground and saying "This is who I am and this is what is amazing about me"? This is incredibly paradigm-shifting. Because we dismiss the damaging forms of humility and stand up and recongize our own awesomeness.

So I'm Krista fucking Benson. I'm a fantastic career counselor, a good teacher, and a strong academic. I understand theory and methods easier than most people understand multiplication tables and I will eventually be an amazing faculty member. I'm a good girlfriend, a fantastic friend, and I cook a mean green curry.

I'm Krista fucking Benson. Recognize.

12 April 2010

Feminism/Womanism and The Cracks In My Movement

Ever since I was 17, I've called myself a feminist. Feminism, as a matter of fact, has been central to my concept of myself. Absolutely, the way that identity has manifested and focused itself has shifted with time - as I became more aware of my own privilege and power and unpacked my knapsack, much of the focus I had as a young feminist seems, at best, naive and often actually offensive.

But that process was still important - the transition from one concept of feminism to a more justice-oriented feminism that included awareness of and pushing against oppression of all kinds was an important part of my identity formation and, therefore, something that I hope to see feminists of all walks of life going through.

But they don't. WE don't. And I have no choice but to admit that my chosen identity, the people that I call my people, have issues.

We have long-standing issues with race, as well as with sexuality, ableism, with tokenizing transgendered and intersexed individuals, and with a host of other issues of intersections of power and privilege. Like it or not (and I don't), I have to admit that this movement is still largely for and of white, middle-class, straight (or straight-appearing), traditionally attractive, able-bodied cisgendered women.

I am not all of those things, but I am enough of them that I blend. And, absolutely, there are people within the feminist movement who have found their home there without fitting into those identity categories. But there are plenty of women who feel the way that Renee Martin does, that feminism has no room made for her or her life.

And ignoring that, engaging in some knee-jerk "nuh uh! no no no, we HAVE BLACK FRIENDS, TOO" bullshit doesn't fix the fact that we feminists, we've got issues in our own movement. And plugging our ears and saying "No no no" doesn't solve it. It makes it worse.

08 April 2010

Cease Fire

For my entire adult life, I have been trying to find a way to discover a healthy relationship with food, size, and exercise. I've known my background was disordered and that I simply didn't have motives that worked particularly well in any of those areas. When you've been an eating-disordered woman with periodic exercise disorders for an entire lifetime, it becomes hard to break those motivations.

And then I broke my leg last summer. I've never had a serious break in my body before and I've definitely never had what amounted to 6 months of casting and physical therapy to get me to a place where I was operating at 90% strength and 40% flexibility. Yes. 40%.

That doesn't seem like a big deal until you start thinking about the ramifications. Because I couldn't move my leg at full flexibility, I limped at all times (this is not entirely past-tense, I still limp). Limping causes permanent changes and damage to muscles and joints. It also means that I can't walk as far as I used to be able to, I still can't run, and at the end of a conference in Boston when I wanted to dance at the Big Gay Professionals Dance (yeah, really), I had to sit in a chair and watch. Because I couldn't.

Having a shitty relationship with your body definitely carries a whole new meaning when your body won't do what you want it to do or what you're used to it doing.

I realize this is obvious to those who have experienced a different kind of disability than I've lived with my entire life and for that, I apologize for my privilege in being surprised. But I was surprised. I still AM surprised.

Lately, I've been struggling with my own internalized ableism and the way that I react to the levels of invisible/visible disability I am living with. And I think that's good, although potentially very boring for my loved ones.

But I have found a plus to this whole ridiculous situation - I finally have a healthy motivation for exercise. Because when I use an eplitical machine at least 3 times a week? I walk better.

It's that simple. That immediate. When I go to the gym at my university and I spend at least 30 minutes on that machine and, ideally, some time lifting weights, I limp less (sometimes not at all), I stretch out my tendons so that I can walk farther without pain, and I walk more smoothly even when I am limping.

I've never had this. I've never had a tangible reason to exercise regularly that was immediate and completely disconnected from the size of my ass or the numbers on my jeans. And it's amazing. It's nice to plan activities out that are making my body better and know, really know, that it's not about all of the crap that sits in the background for me with exercise. I go. I walk better. I feel better.

It's amazing. This must be what it's like to do this without all the crap. And although it's not gone, it's not forefront anymore. I'm not saying I'm grateful for all of the accompanying pain, but there is one good side-effect to this experience of brokenness that I've been living with - I'm finally trying to come to a cease-fire with my body's war against itself.

17 March 2010

Transgendered Lives

I have, for a lot of reasons, become the ad-hoc lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer career-specialist in my office. There are a tremendous variety of things that this means, effects that LGBTQ identities and lives can have upon employment, education, and life experiences.

But one of the other things that mean is that I annually offer an LGBTQ Issues in Career Advising training to my office. It's awesome that I work in a place that this is something that is welcomed and, in fact, requested by others and it's also sad that it's notable.

One of the issues we spend a lot of time on, every time I've done this training, is sex-gender-sexuality-identity, how they're different, and what this means for transgender identity/ies and what transgender identities mean for employment.

This video is what I plan on using for the next trainings I do. It's excellent starting point on transgender and genderqueer identities and EVERYONE should watch it.

28 February 2010

Letter to Me at 17

Dear Krista:

Holy shit, kid. You're going to grow up. It seems impossible now, like you're always going to be stuck in that life, stuck in that town, stuck staring out at a future that you'll never touch. But you're not stuck. You're just waiting, just like everyone seems to wait at 17, but you won't hear that now.

So if you hear anything, hear this: You will get out.

It's an amazing world that you're going to see. You're going to get your heart broken, you're going to travel to places you can't even imagine, you're going to make friends you couldn't live without, you're going to learn to tell stories. You're going to become an academic and you're not going to become a lawyer and, even though you're happy, it's going to take you a long time to accept that not being a lawyer is okay.

You're going to make mistakes, you're going to struggle, and it's going to be good.

Somedays, you're going to eat a meal without mentally tabulating the caloric intake and you're going to exercise until it stops feeling good.

You're going to get less well and youre going to get more well.

Mostly, you're going to live.

I'm not going to tell you that you won't hurt - there will be people who mean the world to you that disappear and people you think matter that you end up asking to leave. You will make friends who could last a lifetime who last only a year or two and you will have friends that celebrate knowing you for 18 years.

You will still be friends with Anna Brady.

Your heart is bigger than you think, angry girl. That doesn't mean that you have to apologize for your rage right now - it's what you need to surivve - but don't think that you'll have it forever.

The first lines on your face will be from laughter and thought, not from sorrow.

If I could give you any advice in the world it would be these things:

1) Stop obsessing about size - your weight, your clothing size, the inches of your waist, nobody but you really cares. And the ones who do care ... they're stupid and you don't like them, anyway.

2) Don't apologize for being smart - someday, it's going to be the thing you're most proud of.

3) Don't hide how different you are - you're bad at it and you're awesome.

4) Don't worry, you're going to have the friends that last someday and they will surprise and amaze you and they will always make you laugh.

5) Don't worry about crying - everyone does it. You should do it more.

6) Don't think you know where you're going - 13 years later, I'm still not sure. But now, I'm okay with it.

7) You're going to get hurt by people you love. Don't stop loving.

But I can't give you advice, anyway, angry girl. Because if I stopped you on the street at 17 and brushed your bright red hair away from your face and said these things to you, you wouldn't hear me.

That's okay. It's okay to be angry, too.


You. Just older.

Stumbling to the ... end of a quarter

I had a whole thing about this quarter and how hard it's been, both working for the university and in my own academic work. But that was boring and I realized that if I didn't even really want to write it, nobody would want to read it.

So! Instead. A video exploring gendered representations in children's cartoons in the 1980s and 19980s. I think that my girlfriend would probably have something to say about her dismissal of My Little Ponies (seriously, she's VERY knowledgeable about the collecting habits of this children's toy), but I don't know that she would disagree with the premise.

So why is it that male characters are expected to speak to everyone, but women only to women? Is it Laura Mulvey's male gaze? I'm not certain - although there is some value in what she is saying, I don't know that the gaze is the entire explanation, nor particularly accurate. So what is it, then, about our culture that makes characterization so static - female characters aren't just unidimensional, they're limited to a handful of characterizations.

And, really, what do we do about it? What can we do about it?

22 February 2010

And now you think "That's the way it's gonna be."

I kind of want to move in with Gabby Sidibe (of Precious fame) because of quotes like this:
I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don't like myself, there's no reason to even live the life.

And there's so much more awesome there! Every interview I've read with her has been amazingly charming, but this one made me smile a lot: Living the Life.

10 February 2010

Body Positive at Any Damn Size

All right. We're going there. I've been stuck on bodies lately and I keep treating this like it is a continuation of the journal that I had for 9 years running - like there's context, like there's an archive to get information to give some sort of background. There's not.

I come from a long line of disordered eaters and I followed in that fine tradition - I, like generations of big-hipped ladies before me, was an excellent anorexic.

But this isn't about that time, something I have blogged extensively about and might again, if I ever feel like it. This is about what it means to be "healthy."

I'm having a lot of struggles with reactionary body-hate I hear every day. I hear it at my work, I hear it in my graduate classes, I see it online, and I sometimes even get to revel in it while having a drink after work with friends. And I feel like I get weird side-glances during a lot of it because I'm not thin anymore. I'm not exactly fat, either - and no, that's not me bragging, just being accurate - but I exist in a body that looks a lot like many women's bodies, with a belly and an ass and larger breasts and thighs that rub together.

Now, I love all of ya'll who are exercising more and eating better and making your lives feel good. Seriously. I want to high five every one of you, because we SHOULD move our bodies, we SHOULD eat food that has recognizable food it in, we SHOULD like the way we feel.

But that doesn't have to be correlated to size. And, often, it isn't. I'm not going to name numbers, not because they're shameful, but because I honestly don't know them. When I started into recovery for my eating disorder, the first thing that had to be thrown out was my scale.

But I was sick when I was thin. I have certain heart concerns that I would never have had, I was anemic, I had no energy, I was a caffeine-pill junkie, I developed a pre-ulceric condition at 17, I had constant headaches and pain ... I was hungry. I was hungry and supplementing pills and cigarettes and cup after cup of coffee and Diet Coke and gum for food, with a steady influx of disordered exercise where I more than once FELL DOWN while running because I was so lightheaded.

When I was a size 6 or 8, nobody ever asked me how much I exercised. They didn't ask me how many vegetables I ate, they didn't condescendingly note the exercise habits that they did see. They just assumed that thin=healthy, so I must have been good.

I wasn't.

I'm sick of the pseudo-science being thrown around that obesity/my fat ass CAUSES things - thanks to a reminder of quantitative research methods from my class 11 years ago (because I turned around and got old), I now remember the way that popular media throws around the term "cause." The ONLY causal relationship that is scientifically significant between obesity and health?

The fatter you are, the less likely you are to go to a doctor. That's it. They may be able to show a correlation between weight and some diseases, but the only CAUSAL relationship? Is how often people go to doctors.

And you know when the last time I went to the doctor (the doctor, not my surgeon or PT for my broken leg)? It's been years.

This isn't saying that I don't want to hear about health. I love hearing about the new vegetable recipe you've tried or how beginning runners get over that initial feeling of disappointment. I enjoy when people talk about getting stronger and moving better.

I like to hear about the night you went dancing last weekend and didn't stop for three hours.

But lets not talk about pants size, okay? Lets not talk numbers and weight and BMI and all of that shit that doesn't really matter.

Tell me what you are and what you love, not some useless set of numbers. Please.

09 February 2010

Oh, Spokane

A lot of people who live in my city don't particularly like it here. I think it's because many people have grown up here and need to move away.

Me? I'm from Montana. Spokane was the Big City for me when I moved here in 1998.

There are a lot of things I like about this place: decent numbers of trees, easily-accessible nature, weird little indie stores that probably wouldn't manage to stay open in a larger city. Hell, we have a river that runs though the middle of town.

One thing that I do NOT love, however, is Spokane's love affair with parking lots. Have a historical building? Let's tear it down and pave us another parking lot! Have open spaces? Let's pave it!

And now, a church on the lower side of one of our wealthier neighborhoods (which isn't saying much, Spokane is pretty much working-class to the CORE) is trying to push through a variance on building code to tear down a bunch of buildings in a historical neighborhood. Why? Of course. Because we need a PARKING LOT.

The strange thing about Spokane's obsession with parking lots is this: we have plenty of parking. We are not New York City or even Seattle or Portland - there is plenty of on-street parking in residential neighborhoods and light commercial areas. In what passes for a "downtown core" (it's reviving, but it's not exactly bustling), we have three large parking garages that I can think of.

One of the most awesome things about Spokane is the weird, quirky character of the town. We're in danger of losing it for one damn parking lot after another.

04 February 2010

Cyborg Bodies

Believe it or not, I don't spend all of my time thinking about resumes, bodies, or fashion (though it probably seems like it to those who read my academic work). In the last couple of days, I've been returning to a text that I have found useful in a lot of contexts to work with ways that it can tease out different aspects of what I've been focusing on lately - fashion, bodies, queerness, the academy, and me (at heart, isn't most academic work about the academics themselves?).

The text is Donna Haraway's Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Haraway's background is interesting - she started as a feminist-socialist biologist and has since kind of slid into a poststructured, postmodern position against some pretty traditional feminist stances rooted in biology and binary politics and identities. In this book, she specifically advocates differntial politics for "inappropriate/d others," a phrase borrowed from Tinh T. Minh-ha which refers to a historical positioning of those people who refuse to adopt the personae of "self" or "other" offered by the dominating narratives of identity and politics. For Haraway, these inappropriate/d others are often those most dismissed in the world - women, people of color, members of ethnic or national groups which are considered "primitive."

Some of us, she says, become "cyborgs" - a chimera or intentionally-created hybrids of both the natural and the mechanical or constructed. This allows for room for many of us to move outside of binary concepts - Am I this way because I was born this way or because I was taught to be her? - and start to find a place in this hybridity.

The rejection of binaries has always been an attractive thing to me - to deny that people are one or the other, never both and certainly neither has an appeal that rings true in my experience of the world. It may be the baby punk that still lives somewhere inside me, but having someone tell me who and what I am, what that means ... it chafes.

What would it mean, then, for my body to be a cyborg body? How does that play into the discomforts I've been mulling over for the last couple of weeks with fashion and professional identity and queerness?

There are obvious constructs at play here -- "professional," "academic," "grown up," "woman," "queer," "feminine," so many others -- and many of them are at odds with each other. There are also things that I might want to call "natural" -- the concept of my own sexuality that I choose to call queer, the physical presence of my body. The tensions exist not just in the biological-to-construct parts of this story, but even within both groups. It is not as if my biology is rejecting the constructs or the constructed is rejecting my body; something far more insidious is happening. Each of the parts pulls at the others.

Even the tension of what clothes I put on to go to work this morning live within these points sometimes pulling and sometimes pushing at one another. A lot of people probably find this either ridiculous or depressing, but I am pretty sure that I find it comforting - I've always wanted to have explanations, theories, possible ideas that help the world make more sense.

And if the world, if it's this cyborg body, if it's the way that we construct ourselves, then it's not just me.

25 January 2010

Clothing, Redux.

Tonight, I had a conversation for the fosterkidlet of some friends. She's 12 and, goddamn, is 12 hard. And she is AWESOME. She is doing an awesome program to increase civic engagement in junior high and high school students in DC this spring and we were talking about whether she was excited about it.

"I guess so," she said, shrugging.

"You're NOT?" I said, amazed.

"No, it sounds cool, but I'm not excited about the clothes."

Apparently, students are expected to dress appropriately - no jeans, no Uggs, business-casual at least.

So the friend-fosterkidlet and I made a pact - we'd go shopping together to find stuff that was awesome that made us both feel good.

Maybe I need to start at being 12 years old and not hating myself as much. Maybe.

23 January 2010

Clothing, Bodies, Gender, and Professionalism

I've been trying to write more ... substantive journal entries, at least to make up for the fact (or to validate) that I'm writing fewer of them.

Since I started at my job at the university as a career advisor, I've been struggling with professional clothing and the ways that they affect perception of me as a professional and my own concept of myself. This will only be exacerbated when I start instructing next quarter.

Clothes are more than a little fraught for me. They always have been. Unlike my academic-fashionista kin, I have not always loved clothes. I wasn't someone who was really clever with pairings or daring with how I dressed. I just ... wore clothes.

The history of my discomfort with fashion is bifold and it's the oldest queer girl story in the book (or one of them, at least); it's about gender presentation and body dysmorphia.

Right? It's like a highlights reel of every substantive post I've written over a decade of blogging. But just in case you've missed that decade (which every one of you has, unless one of you has managed to find my old hand-coded journal from 1998), I'll review.

Fashion and Body Dysmorphia
I have never had any clear idea what my body looked like. From the time I was seven and decided I should just eat fruit for breakfast (which quickly became nothing by the time I was eight) to the full lifetime of taking a range of six sizes to the dressing room not just because clothes are inconsistent but because I honestly cannot see if I am a size eight or a size eighteen.

This makes fashion a little bit complicated. You know all of those articles, probably even useful ones, that talk about "good jeans for those with big thighs?" or "How to maximize your body shape?" I, basically, am not sure what column to look at. Combining the lack of understanding of my own body with my total inability to know what size I am basically results in shopping being a horrifying experience. Every pair of pants I try on, every shirt that doesn't button over my breasts (which is most of them) is like a personal failure. It is the world saying "Yup, you're still doing it wrong."

So I didn't do it. I have found a fair number of slacks that look okay and some t-shirts and sweaters that fit okay. There are a couple of skirts that fit right and I'm most comfortable in knee-high boots. So I make it. But it's not like the bloggers at Threadbared, Academic Chic, Fashion for Nerds, Blue Collar Catwalk, Bright Side Dweller, or any of these other pre-professional/professional women who look pulled together and genuinely seem to enjoy fashion.

Gender Identity and Fashion
Which leads to the second point of discomfort. As much as I love the aforementioned blogs, they're all variations upon femininity and femme-ness. Which is great, but it's not necessarily me. Occasionally, sure, I'm interested in some kind of queered femininity, often pairing something softer with some kick-ass boots or something, but in an average day, I'm not comfortable being that girly. I'm not masculine-presenting, exactly, but I am uncomfortable with compulsory femininity and, in a lot of ways, I'm not feminine.

This is, of course, complicated by being an out, queer woman who is partnered with a woman. Even in the notoriously liberal higher education field, assumptions are laid upon both of us in terms of presentation and expectations.

And so my options in professional clothing diminish. Because it seems like the options are the currently boring look I'm rocking or too consistently feminine.

This is, of course, oversimplification and hyperbole. Unfortunately, I have a lack of role models. So I pull together what I can, trying to take the ideas I get from blogs and people whose clothing I like and doing what I can with it without sacrificing what feels right to me.

So I've done a few things. I'm learning better skills of accessorizing, I'm trying new color combinations, and I'm trying to have fun with this.

But it's a pain in the fucking ass. And some days like today when I've spent a while trying to find fun, funky, sorta-punky clothing combinations that still look professional, I kind of want to wrap my whole body in a blanket and call it a day.

But there are other days, too. So maybe I'll just finish dying my hair, tie it back in a bright green scarf, throw on a purple long-sleeved shirt and some dark jeans with my knee-high black boots and maybe that will work.