A Thank You and Baby Steps Toward Activism

It was while I was still in college that I really became “progressive.” It wasn’t the classes I took, though toward the end of my college career I finally took a few that challenged normative views. But I only took those classes toward the end and prior to that my classes really didn’t challenge any of my views, which were pretty in line with what society dictates (though my views at that point were still a little outside of that narrow box; they were’t very much so and they weren’t very informed either).

A friend initially gave me a link to Tiger Beatdown. At that point in time Tiger Beatdown was a Sady-only production. The posts I initially read were her take-downs of Judd Apatow movies, and she wrote some beautiful posts, hilarious and eye-opening.

It was that simple, small action; that friend linking me to Sady that changed everything for me. I devoured everything on Tiger Beatdown and then I wanted, craved, needed more. At that point in time Tiger Beatdown still had a blog roll in the sidebar. I checked them all. I know that Womanist-Musings was there, which I now read regularly.

I’m not sure if I also got to these other sites through Tiger Beatdown but one way or another I found Feministe, Feministing, Racialicious, What Tami Said, Sociological Images, Hoyden About Town, Shapely Prose, Shakesville, Dances with Fat and more. Most of those I still read regularly. Many more have been added to the list and some I read less than every day now.

My world expanded, shifted, grew. I started learning about feminism, really learning about it. I learned about racism, really learned about it. I learned about fat activism and healthy at every size, which were things I hadn’t even known existed prior, so entrenched had I been in the cultural narrative that tells us fat equals unhealthy.

I needed to read, think about, and discuss all of it. I spent hours of every day (and still usually do) just reading these blogs. I also started looking for more of the literature outside of blogs that had influenced the people whose works I was now reading. The Feminine Mystique. Judith Butler. Bell Hooks.

During the past two years my world view has changed so much and so drastically thanks to these blogs, thanks to Sady Doyle and the fact that she wrote funny, quippy posts that made real feminism easy for me to understand, easy for me to jump into.

In these years of learning I really just focused on educating myself, and to a degree those whom I interact with regularly. Things that I never noticed before in media became obvious; gender dynamics, stereotypes, racism. I didn’t comment on blogs in this time; I don’t think I could have added to the intellectual discourse and I knew I didn’t know my 101 enough to wade in. So I just absorbed. I became the proverbial sponge.

The sponge that is me is no longer dry or just barely wet however. I still take in more and more everyday; I still have so much to learn. So so so much to learn. However, I think the time of just reading and absorbing having been enough for me has passed.

My New Year’s Resolution was to find more ways to really be an ally, to really be progressive and to be an activist. Educating myself was the first step but now comes the work. That is why this blog exists. I can no longer simply sit on the sidelines; I must wade into the foray.

My beginning steps shall be small, but everyone must walk before they run. I have started this blog in an endeavor to push myself; to write more about the injustices I see in the world. I’ve begun commenting on the blogs which have meant so very much to me. I comment partially in an attempt to add to the discourse but also to show my support for the very hard and the very real work they do. I’ve also started donating to some of these blogs and also to more non-profits out there challenging  society. I’m signing petitions and writing to my congressional representatives. I’m writing letters to businesses.

All of these are small acts I know. As Shakesville would say I’m raising my teaspoon. For now it will remain a teaspoon but I hope it can grow. Soon it will be a regular spoon and maybe even someday a ladle.

So Thank You from the very bottom of my heart to all of you out in the world who have been teaspooning tirelessly for so very long. Thank You to all of you who wrote so that I could learn and grow. Thank You.

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Eschewing the term “Pageant Mom”

I decided to make my first real post here about something that has been rattling around in my brain for a while.

Recently a good friend of mine and I were taking a class together. This was a fitness class and the class had between 10 to 15 people in it. Of the people in the class ages ranged from around 11 years old to around 40 years old.

At the beginning of the first class, one girl entered a bit late with her mother. The girl looked to be a teenager; I would guess she was around 15 or 16. Her mother first apologized for their tardiness, explaining they had gotten lost on their way to the studio. This was the first class in the session, so we were at the time arranged in a circle on the ground and had just finished introducing ourselves.

The girl joined us on the ground and introduced herself and the class moved forward. During this time the mom found herself a spot along the wall and continued to watch for a while. These classes were each an hour and a half long, I don’t believe the mom stayed the entire time but she probably stayed for the first 30-45 minutes. My recollection isn’t perfect and I phased her out after a while, so it’s also possible she was there for the entire class period, I can’t be certain.

Anyway, during this at some point my friend who was taking this class with me turned to me and whispered, “She seems like a total pageant mom, don’t you think?”

I don’t remember what I responded at the time. I think I simply didn’t respond at all and instead tried to focus on our instructor or acted distracted. The question threw me off. This friend is someone whom I consider quite well-versed in social justice and feminism and yet I found the statement at odds with many of my core beliefs.

The question placed judgment on a mother, a mother whom we knew nothing about. It seemed inherently judgmental and it used a term, “pageant mom,” which I think is extremely gendered and sexist.

We had no idea what the situation was with this mother and daughter. The classes we were taking were unusual and something most people have never done (low-flying trapeze) so it seemed completely reasonable to me that this mother would choose to stick around and check it out.

Further, even if it hadn’t been something so unusual, it was still a new situation, a new studio, and the daughter clearly knew no one there. Perhaps the daughter had asked her mother to hang around for a while in case she found herself immediately uncomfortable and wanted to leave? We had no ability to judge their dynamic in that environment.

Then, there’s the fact that she chose the term “pageant mom” specifically. “Pageant mom” i s a gendered term, inherent with a devaluation of femininity and performing femininity. The term refers to a very specific style of parenting, one that I believe is not inherently relegated to mothers, even though the term itself ignores the fact that many fathers may also participate in this sort of behavior.

Now, this is not to say that I support pageantry and the performance of femininity in that manner. I don’t. I believe that pageantry, beauty pageants, child beauty pageants, cheerleading and many forms of dance teach young girls that their primary (and possibly only) value lies in performing femininity to acceptable standards. They teach girls and women that their values lies in looking and acting in certain ways, they sexualize and objectify women. I am against all of these things.

However, the term “pageant mom” specifically is still something I believe we must fight against. It supports the culture we have of judging and shaming mothers; no mother is ever good enough and they are always found wanting, they are constantly on trial by the public for their actions. The term ignores a fathers’ role in promoting this sort of culture and how a father may be just as involved.

While there may be a similar trend to “pageant moms” among fathers who push their sons (or daughters) to be extremely good at sports we do not see a similar label forced upon them. We do not call father’s who attend all of their sons practices “trophy dads” or “sports dads.”

We cannot ignore this gendered element of the term “pageant mom.” We cannot ignore how it devalues the feminine. It does not devalue this in a critical way, it does not force those using it to consider why these pageants may be bad. Instead it simply allows us another avenue to shame mothers and to devalue the feminine. We cannot ignore the way there is a lack of a male equivalent to this gendered term (my hope of course, would not be the creation of a male equivalent to this term but rather the eradication of this term altogether).

So, while I do think there is much wrong with the sexualization and objectification of our children, specifically young girls I still think the term “pageant mom” is one we should fight against. This term does not further our fight against these things, but instead is another way for us to find mother’s wanting. We should critique and fight against these norms, but not through the use of reductive language, which I believe does more harm than good.

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An Introduction, of sorts

Hello to any random internet perusers who stumble upon this. Hopefully you’ll navigate away soon as there’s nothing here yet.

This post is an introduction of sorts. Once upon a time I was relatively familiar with WordPress but time seems to have left large gaps in my memory. Hopefully in a couple of days I’ll have regained some skill and I’ll revamp the way this blog looks. For now, well no one should really be reading this anyway, so whatever.

As for my introduction, I’m going to call myself AndromedaCat. Obviously that’s not really my name, but for now it’s what I’m choosing go by. As for what I’ll be writing about in here… who knows. There are approximately eighty billion things I’m interested in, covering a wide range of topics, and I have yet to decide exactly where within that spectrum I want to focus my writing in this blog.

For now I guess just know that I may write about social justice issues, feminism, science fiction, pop culture, fashion, cats (because really… the internet is a place to talk about cats. and watch cats. and look at cats.), sex, porn, Star Trek, fanfiction, Health at Every Size, reading, romance novels, board games and media. That’s clearly not the entirety of my eighty billion interests but it’s a good catch-all for what I’m likely to write about.

Onward!

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