Get ready to vote!

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Despite all of my concerns for the world today, the tragic violence of yet another mass shooting, and the dismal reality of each day’s news, I am buoyed by hope.  Midterm elections are this November 6th, and I encourage each and every one of you to seize your power and your voice.  We all lose when we are silenced.  Your vote matters, and your voice matters.

Joanna Goddard shared four things to do to get ready to vote, including helpful resources to educate yourself if you are feeling a bit lost about where your polling place is, what the issues are, or even how to get to the polls.

I believe in us, and I believe in our country.  Remember, a journey of 1,00 miles begins with a single step.

(Photo via The Sunday Post 16th May 1911)

The power of girls

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With everything that is going on in the world right now, it is more important than ever to honor, recognize, and support the power of girls.  The New York Times put together a powerful piece in #ThisIs18, a kaleidoscopic accounting of what 18 looks like around the world.  What makes it especially powerful is that the photos and words are all from girls themselves.  I was humbled and awed by the conviction of these young women, and encouraged by their savvy, grace, and intelligence.  Take a look, and let’s celebrate girls and women not just on International Girls’ Day, but every day.  The future is female.

On women, money, and value…

Claire Cain Miller’s article on our failure to find value in work performed by women has been on my mind lately, even two years after it was originally published.  Why is it that we fail to find women — and by extension, the work that they do — valuable?  Just think about the rhetoric involved: in discussing breast cancer, we’re encouraged to “save the tatas.”  That’s cute and all, but what about the women attached to those breasts?  And consider discussions around sexual assault: we hear appeals from men who try to frame their perspective as uniquely feminist, because they are “fathers of daughters.”  Men are asked to think of how they’d feel “if it was their sister.”  What about thinking of women simply as people?  As human beings?  As individuals who have the right to safety and respect in and of themselves, regardless of if or how they are related to men?  In the same way that a woman seems to only be valuable in the ways she is related to or benefits a man, work done by women is similarly undervalued.

The “pay gap” women experience is well-documented.  As of 2017, women earn a median 81.8% of what men do.  And we should be careful to acknowledge that many women experience that pay gap much more deeply than others: median earnings for black women was only 67.7%, and Hispanic women a mere 62.2% of what white men earn.  And even though there has been increased awareness of this issue, progress towards equality has made only small strides at best.

Research has shown that there is a great deal more to the pay gap between women and men than women being paid less for equal roles and work.  In fact, it has been shown that work and professions considered “feminine” are, in fact, valued less in our society.

“…there was substantial evidence that employers placed a lower value on work done by women. It’s not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance… [it’s] just that the employers are deciding to pay it less.”

“Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”

Similarly, doctors in the U.S. are among the highest paid professions, but in Russia, where it is considered “women’s work,” doctors and other medical professionals are among the lowest paid professions.  While there is an overabundance of doctors in the workforce, I think it is clear that does not entirely account for the dismally low wages.  The majority of doctors are women, so therefore the work must not be valuable.

“…even though they require about the same amount of training as the American doctor… medical practice is stereotyped as a caring vocation ‘naturally suited‘ to women, [which puts it at] a second-class level in the Soviet psyche.”

As far as personal experience, I work at a heritage institution.  I often do similar coding work as other information technology professionals.  But you’d better believe that coding work done under the more “feminine” title of librarian gets a lot less pay — and regard — than a programmer or data engineer.

The patriarchal structure of our society has brought us to a staggering place: women’s work is not valued because women are seen to have little value.  When laid bare this way, it is hard not to be shocked.  So how can we change?  It is a complex and multilayered issue, one that clearly cannot be solved in a day.  Perceptions need to change.  Privileges need to be recognized and acknowledged.  And perhaps the more we are aware, the more we can push back against what has become the status quo.

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Sign in hallway, OC Women’s March 2017

 

Time’s up

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So, so important: The Galvanizing Shock of the Bill Cosby Verdict

“For all the fears that the #MeToo moment will be marked by overreach, the fact remains that a single instance of justice feels more surprising than several decades of serial rape.”

If you haven’t read this article by Jia Tolentino yet, I highly recommend doing so.  I, too, was surprised by the Cosby verdict last week — and with that surprise came the renewed realization that we still have much more work to do towards gender equality.   A man’s job should not be worth more than dozens of women’s safety.  A single moment of justice should not be more surprising than rape.  The thing men fear about being in prison should not the the thing women fear walking down the street every day.  Enough is enough.  If nothing else, this guilty verdict signals that our culture is changing for the better, even just in the past year.  Time’s up.

Getting warmer

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My visit to the Metamorphosis & Migration exhibit, Oakland Museum of California.

Yesterday on Cup of Jo, the fantastic Caroline Donofrio wrote about a five-word quote that she said changed her life: “Cool is an emotional straightjacket.”

Whoa.  Whoa.  That really got me thinking.  It really is.  How often do we censor ourselves for fear of what other people will think about us?  Maybe it is reining in enthusiasm about an interest that isn’t “cool enough,” or swallowing a sentiment because we feel obligated to “play it cool.”  Maybe it is putting down other women to seem like the “cool girl.”  Or maybe it is putting that favorite sweater/jacket/scarf/hat/whatever back in the closet with a sigh, wishing it were still “cool.”

The prospect of living my life in an invisible straightjacket seems terribly sad.  We are bombarded by admonitions to just “be yourself,” to “live authentically.”  But what does this mean?  I like to think I am forging my own path.  But when I get dressed in the morning, when I chime into a conversation, when I choose the restaurant for a group night out?  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the approval of others.

Perhaps this is a part of that ever-elusive self-care: to truly allow ourselves to be.  Be unique, be freer with our affections, be engrossed by the things that make us smile, be supportive of our fellow women without fear of not being “cool enough,” be unencumbered by what we think is expected of us in a million tiny ways.  Of course, this is an enormously difficult task.  But by recognizing this propensity for what it is rather than move invisibly constricted through our days , we can make an important first step.  Recognize that second-guessing, recognize the holding back, and act accordingly.

Caroline closes with his gem: “After all, the opposite of cool… is warm. Doesn’t that sound nice?”  It does, Caroline.  It really does.

 

Monday amusements

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Good morning and happy Monday!  I know “happy Monday” can be a bit of an oxymoron, so here are a few fun links to get the week started on a brighter note:

Internet work-spaces are a psychopathic pit of lies.

What?  I always put my pristine caseless iPhone face-down next to three paperclips for maximum productivity.  You know, near my Emotional Support Pineapple.

 

The British Museum of your stuff

My feelings as I walked through the British Museum encapsulated in the most hilarious way.  No, we didn’t steal this!  “Chain of continuous possession being impossible to establish, the ownership of the object has reverted firmly and decisively to the museum.”

 

New erotica for feminists

“He says that he can see I’m smart because I have enormous books… [I] spend all night fantasizing about his insightful commentary around non-linear plot structure.”  Swoon.  Sigh.  Is it hot in here?

 

 

In honor of women

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“The Future is Female” T-shirt, The Reformation: From the Word to the World exhibit, Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

#MeToo

#TimesUp

#WomensMarch

#Feminist

This is our time.  This is the time for all of us to stand up and be heard, to feel empowered, to love and be loved, to look forward to a better day, to create a better future for all women.  This is the time for us to stand up and take a bow for the hard work we’ve put in, for the tears we’ve shed, and for the miles we have walked.  This is the time for us to take a moment for ourselves, to breathe deeply and close our eyes, to square our shoulders and move up and out into the light.  This is the time for us to be heard, to be respected, and to rise up into a place of equality.  This is our time.

Happy International Women’s Day.  Stand up, and stand proudly.

On women, money, and shame…

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Last week I read an excellent article in Harper’s Bazaar about the culture of shame that still surrounds women and the money they spend on… well… basically anything that brings them pleasure.  Read it and ponder.  It resonated deeply with me, as I have become more and more aware this in my own life over the last several months.

I began musing over the fact that for years I have enjoyed nice accessories — handbags in particular, but also shoes or the occasional pretty wallet.  It is my one thing I splurge on, but thanks to the intense judgement of women and how they spend their money, I realize now that my enjoyment of them has consistently been tainted by the perception that I have been judged by others for that enjoyment.  In some ways, it it very easy to dismiss that feeling as me “just being sensitive” and “caring too much what others think.”  However, I think that kind of dismissal is an insidious form of gaslighting that ignores the real issue: women are consistently shamed for anything that brings them pleasure, whether it is sex, food, jewelry, a handbag, or even just a few minutes of time to relax.  The stigma attached to female pleasure — that it is decadent, unnecessary, overly indulgent, materialistic, or any number of other negative adjectives — is very real, with very real ramifications.  Jennifer Wright hit the issue square on with her observation that “monitoring what a woman spends her money on represents a new, sophisticated way of infantilizing women and reminding them that they’re too silly to know what is good for them.”

While I knew I was uncomfortable when people commented on my handbags, whether it was an offhand compliment or an observation that I must have quite a collection, I was not aware of how much I had internalized this cultural insistence on shame.  Spending money on myself was somehow shameful.  Everything must have utility attached, or it is egregiously indulgent.  A compliment as innocuous as “cute jacket!” might come my way, and I would reply how warm it was, because heaven forbid I just think it was pretty, or even worse, think I looked pretty in it.  Then I would be wasteful AND vain.  And overly self-indulgent.  And a drain on my husband and our household.  Clearly.

Nothing has crystallized this double standard of men and women and the perception of the money they spend than the recent experience of buying a new (to us) car a couple months ago.  My husband and I were both excited, but while he told friends and colleagues about it delightedly, I found I was embarrassed to even mention it to my closest friends.  Now I know exactly why that is: because it is socially acceptable for a man to spend money for enjoyment; for women, it is anathema.  Never mind that we had very practical reasons for our decision; a nicer car means high-fives for a man, and assumptions about gold-digging or materialism for a woman.  Rich or poor, women cannot seem to escape the toxic message that they need to enjoy less, take up less space, streamline their spending, take pleasure in less.

“If you can afford it, and it brings you a bit of joy, there is no reason to feel ashamed,” Wright tells us.  While it will be a long road until I can fully live this way, knowledge and working towards better is a good place to start.  As women we can rein in the ingrained habit of judging each other — and the even deeper habit of judging ourselves — one day at a time.