Women creatives

Happy International Women’s Day!  In celebration of women, the work we do, and the world that we shape, here is a round-up of artwork and ceramics by women makers that I’ve been loving lately.

There is something feminine and strong about these paintings by Bernadette Marie Pascua.  She is a multi-disciplinary artist based in New York City.

Humble Ceramics, created by by Belgian-born artist Delphine, offers artisan pottery made with mindfulness and intention in South Los Angeles, one small batch at a time.  I love their Alder tumblers.

On Society6 you can find art prints by Tracie Andrews, an abstract artist based in the UK.  The considered colors and shapes make me smile.

Bobby Clark is a Scottish artist and photographer who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.  Her latest artworks “explore the symmetry and balance of shapes, creating minimal studies of shape composition,” which I find both meditative and inspiring.

I covet this small half mesa bowl from OATMEAL.  Elise Birnbaum is a maker and founder of OATMEAL, where objects are designed and made with care in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — ethically and with respect for the material and the people they are making for.

Support women, support artists.  Happy International Women’s Day.

 

On men, power, and a yearning for something better

small_woman_symbolI wrote this all in a rush of words about a year and a half ago, just to get it out of my system for myself.  I think perhaps it’s time I shared it, as it remains as pertinent as ever.  #metoo

  –C.M.D

I’ve got this very particular kind of yearning going on.  Expansive.  A yearning in just about every area of my life, small and large and in-between.  I had an unpleasant epiphany that I am not sure I have the energy to write out, about men and power and women.  I realized that even though I consider myself lucky to have never been assaulted, some of my most embarrassing moments as a young girl were because of men and their behavior — and I finally realized they were not my fault.  Because they were not overtly sexual or “abuse” it never occurred to me to frame these encounters this way, but a great blog post on Cup of Jo and an excellent piece by Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker on how men implicate their victims in their acts made me rethink things.

“…one of the cruellest things about these acts is the way that they entangle, and attempt to contaminate, all of the best things about you. If you’re sweet and friendly, you’ll think that it’s your fault for accommodating the situation. If you’re tough, well, you might as well decide that it’s no big deal. If you’re a gentle person, then he knew you were weak. If you’re talented, he thought of you as an equal. If you’re ambitious, you wanted it. If you’re savvy, you knew it was coming. If you’re affectionate, you seemed like you were asking for it all along. If you make dirty jokes or have a good time at parties, then why get moralistic? If you’re smart, there’s got to be some way to rationalize this.”

–Jia Tolentino

Joanna Goddard mentioned that every woman has these kinds of moments, and that we all seem to consider them “nothing” because they are so pervasive in our daily lives.  Her account of being a harassed and kissed by her boss at only 14 years old made me cast farther back in my memory than I ever have when thinking about whether I have had issues with men being inappropriate (until now I have only considered my life as an adult).  I was so surprised to realize that yes, I have, and that they are some of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood.  That I was sweet and shy was not my fault — what kind of man thinks it is appropriate to tease a 5 year old about having hair on her legs?  Are they already supposed to be hairless, the better to attract?  To be sexy?  I was mortified, petrified, and so, so ashamed of my body, for reasons I did not understand. And I hated every moment that I had to sit in that truck next to that man.  Why is the ability of a man to say whatever comes into his head so much more valuable, more legitimate a need, than the comfort and perception of safety of the woman (or girl) he feels the need to speak to?  Likewise I was uncomfortable and embarrassed to be asked about Morro Bay by a man in Home Depot.  I had never been to Morro Bay — the jaunty hat I was wearing was a souvenir I was given, and I liked that it was a sailor hat.  I hated being approached by a stranger, and hated being put on the spot.  He felt large and loud and looming.  I don’t think I ever wore that hat again.  Typing it out or trying to describe that encounter… it seems relatively innocuous.  But I think there is something to gut feelings, and in hindsight… well, he was certainly not offering to help me find my parents.  And that is not including all the microaggressions that are just “nothing” to us.  The older men who have called me diminutive names.  The harassment I got from boys my age in school.  The boy in 2nd grade who would chase me around the playground, for example, so instead of playing I spent my recesses hanging around the yard duty (who did nothing to stop him from hassling me).  The boy in 5th and 6th grade who would taunt me with ”monkey legs” during P.E., who left me, again, mortified about my body.  But insults and harassment mean a boy “likes you.”  If you complain, you’re told “boys will be boys,” and what’s the harm?  Is it any surprise that we grow into women who don’t speak up?

It is somehow terrible to realize and freeing to consider — that these embarrassments were not because I was too shy, or to naive to get the joke, or too sensitive, or overreacting.  The women I was so sad for in the Weinstein bombshell — those articles that made me feel ill — they are all of us.  I am part of that.  I am a women that blames myself.  It is so insidious and cruel, to turn the best things in us into liabilities, into faults, into reasons why we deserved what we got, what we get. And in a twisted way, it almost makes me feel more helpless.  To know that, albeit in comparatively small ways, men have successfully made me feel small.  And they have made me feel responsible for that smallness.

I don’t know what the answers are. I want so desperately to believe we have come a long way, that things are better than they were, but then I see the way these courageous women are belittled when they speak up.  “Why did she wait so long to say something?” “Why did she accept a settlement?” “She must have been in it for the money.” “She was asking for it.” “Welcome to Hollywood.” I am left with such melancholy, that there is so little regard for half the world’s population.  That I am a part of that half.  I should be respected as a person, regardless of whose daughter or sister or friend or wife I am.  I should not only matter in the context of the men I am related to.  Add this yearning to the rest of the pile.  I am a pile of aching yearnings, big and small.  I am yearning for something better.

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?