Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dear World Series Pt. 1 "You're pretty, but......."

Dear world,

If you want us to believe we're all naturally pretty, stop telling us we need to wear makeup, that we shouldn't ever aspire to leave the house without it. Stop telling us that, "You're pretty but....." Stop comparing us to our sisters and friends in terms of physical appearance.

We don't all have to be pretty but beauty shouldn't determine who gets treated with dignity and who doesn't.

"Oh, but that's how the world works." Bullshit. It has to start with someone. Fix it. Stop being lazy/cruel/apathetic and fix it.



Friday, January 31, 2014

I Am Young, Married, Feminist..........And Not Sorry

Not sorry :)
Apparently, this piece by Amy Glass, entitled "I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids and I'm Not Sorry", has been flying all over the Internet yesterday. The premise of Ms. Glass's article is made clear by her title. She does not believe feminism should value women's choices equally and wants to make it clear that doing your family's laundry is nowhere near as "important" as pursuing a STEM career. Also, literally "anyone" can get knocked up or get married, according to her. Well, as a feminist who chose to marry young and pursue her dreams, I feel sorry for her.  I feel sorry that, instead of using her philosophy to help change the world and make it better, she chooses to hold onto what little crumbs of power she has and that she feels she can't make choices that would make her happy instead.

I understand the frustrations that come with being a woman with career aspirations. The constant questions of "don't you want a family?" (while your male peers never have to worry), the contradictions from society expecting you to be educated and working, yet still desiring of male companionship (even if you don't desire men), the need to still worry about your looks because, despite our education, it's clearly about shoes and makeup for us. It's terrible. But, here's what else is terrible: the fact that our society expects us to view work as our primary God-to which we sacrifice our friendships, relationships, dreams, and even our health, both physical and mental. The fact that the people who work in professions that contribute the most to society will never see a decent paycheck, much less secure employment or bonuses. The fact that people who can't work are seen as useless even if they contribute much more to their relationships and communities. The fact that, because care taking is viewed as "women's work," it will never be valued, even though it's what enabled our species to stay alive.  The fact that Ms. Glass feels her worth doesn't derive from her being, but rather from her doing and that she's not alone. Those are all much greater problems in our society-not whether women choose to stay home and do laundry (and, even then, many women feel they don't have a choice if they have kids-how much does daycare cost, again?).

As for whether getting married or pregnant is "so easy"-just because something is the dominant path does not mean it's necessarily the easy path. There are many people in this country who are legally barred from marrying the person they love (and, even if not, face quite a few social consequences from choosing to be with them). There are folks who struggle with infertility and face the possibility of never having kids, even if they want them. Even without those barriers, there are those of us who struggled to make our choices. I've been privileged enough to where legal marriage and the choice to have kids have not really impacted me in such significant ways-but my own journey toward marriage was hardly easy, nor did I make it nearly as flippantly as she suggests. For what it's worth, there are plenty of immature folks in their thirties and forties who get married or pregnant at the drop of a hat and don't care about the real significance of their choices, while there are plenty of young people who think deliberately about their family choices.

Ms. Glass's "feminism" does little more than encourage a utilitarian society to further devalue human life and strengthen a system which has decided it has little use for anyone but the dominant group.  If she is serious about making changes, putting a little more thought into her views, particularly before she poses them to the public, is strongly recommended. Otherwise, she's more like the enemy she claims to fight against.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holiday Season-Responses to Uncomfortable Questions

Now that we're in the throes of the holiday season, young adults everywhere are finding that their family asks uncomfortable questions.  Careers, love lives, politics, religious beliefs-it feels like sometimes, everyone wants to know your private business and share their opinion of your life with you.  The kicker? They don't actually want to know your private business but, when you don't see people for a long time, they're unsure of what to ask you. How do you handle this?  Well, here's a little cheat sheet.

Question: So, what are you going to do with that degree/what's your dream job?
Answer: Well, I'm currently doing X, I'd like to do 2X in the future, but I'm happy where I am/am currently looking at X and I'll share more when I have news. So, how about that bean dip?

Question: How's your job search? You still haven't found a job? You need to do XYZ, etc.
Answer: Well, it's tough out there, but I'm still working hard on it. I'll share news when I have some.  By the way, have you tried the gravy?

Question: Are you seeing anyone? How's your dating life? (If single) When are you getting married/starting a family? (If coupled)
Answer: Well, I'll share news when I have it!  (Now, if you really want to shut that whole thing down, put on a sweet, pious look and say, "Well, it's really up to God!" Of course, that only works if your family isn't religious and you are).

Question: What do you think of the election/Did you support the President? You know he's socialist, etc, right? Or, you know all Republicans think X, right?
Answer: I understand why you might feel that way but I know politics can divide during a time when we're supposed to be united.  I'm happy to discuss my views with you more at another time (if you feel up to it and feel that they're looking for an honest dialogue, rather than a fight). Anyway, my mom makes the best cranberry sauce!

The key to surviving the holiday season is to remember that your relatives do love you and are probably just trying to understand more about you.  Make sure that you at least talk about something you're excited about-whether you've taken up a new hobby, found a great community, etc.  The answers I've given are for those topics that can truly be dicey, though sometimes, people don't really understand that they're being inappropriate. It's often hard to know what to talk about when you don't see someone more than twice a year, especially if you have a tight knit family, though I can speak from experience when I say that it's also hard to not take certain questions personally.

At the end of the day, if you have a home to come home to, food in your stomach, people who love you and others, you're more privileged than most of the world.  Be grateful if the most trouble you have with you family are annoying questions. With that, I wish you a happy and warm holiday season. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

A few words of advice for those beginning their careers

You probably think I have no bearing to talk about this. After all, I'm a fairly young professional myself.  I just got my first career building job offer (yay!) after a year of temping and a couple more of volunteering and waiting tables.  I want it to be known that I don't consider myself an expert on hiring, planning your career or getting your shit together.  However, I did find a couple things helpful in this process-both in terms of figuring out my career and in getting my life together in general. I hope they help you.

Read your offer letter CAREFULLY and make sure that your negotiated salary and benefits are in writing. If it's not in writing, it didn't happen (by the way, for you young'uns, that should be your life motto from the moment you get your first financial aid package. Or job offer, regardless of what you're doing. Or apartment. Or, really, anything that could impact your life).

By the way, don't you ever think for a second, "Oh, my manager/HR said they'll take care of it." Your manager and HR department aren't in charge of your career. You are.  If you want something, you need to ask for it and you better be prepared to back it up, preferably with accomplishments more than "loyalty" or seniority. Do I think this country's fair to its workers? Absolutely, I do not.  I think of getting my dual citizenship with the EU every time I read about our minimum wage or lack of paid maternity leave.  All the same, because of that, you have even more at stake. Don't be afraid to look elsewhere if your job is "stable" (in the world of at-will employment, it's not) and don't be afraid to change your path if you find you're on thin ice.

It also wouldn't hurt to build a strong network of people and to be a person of integrity.  Yes, there are powerful folks who will screw everyone over but, until you're that powerful, your reputation is a currency. Don't waste or underestimate it. And, if you do get that power, remember what it took to get there and pay it forward. No matter how powerful, wealthy, or influential you become, you're never too important to give back.  Guess what? Even a good portion of our millionaires realize that. Don't believe me? Ask Warren Buffet and Dave Ramsey. While you're at it, pick up some Dave Ramsey books.  Too many people in this country go broke when they don't have to.

These aren't only my thoughts but part of a journey of figuring what I want in life.  Whatever we want, we have to figure out how to get there while remembering who we are in the process. This post may seem like it's mostly about careers and it is, but it's also about life.  Let's live it well. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Quiet Time

My life is relatively quiet right now.  I go to work, keep a budget, attend Mass every Sunday, sing in a church choir, attend social events, exercise, train my voice and spend quality time with my future hubby.  It's lovely, in its own way.  It's nice to come home to one person, keep a regular schedule, to have time to contemplate and be creative, to actually finish a book and to sip a glass of wine slowly and carefully.  It's nice to have a regular community of both young folks and older folks coming into our lives.  It's nice to focus on fun but relatively mellow tasks such as planning my wedding. It's nice to have a job where I can focus on my long term career and also reap necessary benefits such as health insurance.  I have to say, I'm grateful for the quiet.

I haven't always been. I've gotten used to chaos.  In the past few years, I've managed to hold down a demanding job and live on my own while attending college, spend a quarter of a year in a foreign country, question my faith as well as my ethics and sexuality, deal with crazy housing and travel situations, visit a Native American boundary,  deal with underemployment, make close friends only to lose some of them and experience some trauma along the way.  Right on top of that, I found myself falling in love and deciding to commit to him for life.   The lows may have been low but the highs were like standing over a waterfall in Kenya-well worth every possible risk that may have led to the adventure itself. 

It's hard to get used to the quiet.  It's not easy to adjust to the ordinary.  I keep wondering when the next big thing is coming.  However, I am starting to appreciate what peace and quiet feel like.  I'm realizing I need this in order to prepare for whatever comes next.  I need this to grow strong and to develop myself.  I need this in order to become who I am more fully. 

Still, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I'm Conventionally Beautiful......And I Hate It

By society's definition, I am conventionally beautiful.  I'm a white woman.  I'm young.  I possess a body type that is coveted in our society.  I've been told I have a great smile.  I don't possess any physical disabilities or disfiguring characteristics.  Of course, that should be important right?  What is a woman, if not beautiful?

I friggin' can't stand it.

First of all, my physical appearance is something I did not attain.  It says nothing of who I truly am or have become on the inside.  One can have straight teeth, perfect skin, and shiny hair and still possess an evil soul.  Further, we portray beauty as something that can be attained through discipline and hard work.  While exercise, healthy food, a carefully selected wardrobe and the right hygiene products can help a person feel good and can lead to improvements, it cannot guarantee that we will attain the looks so coveted by society, which segues into my next point.

Beauty is very narrowly defined by our society.  The attractive woman is always white, with very few exceptions for women of color-usually when they want to portray someone as "exotic" (and they still largely have European facial features and straight hair).  She always has a tiny waist and hips, with minimal body fat, yet manages to carry a large wrack.  She never has any physical disabilities or experienced disfiguring effects of a disease or accident.  When was the last time you saw a woman with a wheelchair on the cover of Vogue?  Or a woman with a missing limb? Yeah, that's right. Never. Maybe once. In addition, she is always young.  Why else do middle aged men, with wives of the same age, feel so free to joke about wanting to make it with a teenager?  Once you hit forty, you may be the mother of a beautiful daughter, but you're no longer beautiful yourself.

Why is it so problematic that we have such a narrow definition of beauty? The problem is, while men are valued for what they contribute (particularly if they're white/Christian/straight/middle class/able bodied and minded), women are solely valued for looks alone, followed by fertility.  Our destiny is contingent solely on having the ability to get people to want to glance at us. Our ability to have a fulfilling career, a loving partner and a happy life is contingent on people not being repulsed when they see us.  

But, I benefit from it.  Why should I hate it?  I hate it because I know I'm a pregnancy/car accident/illness away from losing my ability to be seen as a human being.  I don't want to be known for my looks.  I want to be known for what I do.  Why is that so hard to understand?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Financial Freedom is Freedom

I've always been interested in personal finance.  During my last two years of college, I worked as a waitress and paid for my own apartment.  Ever since, financial independence has been crucial to me.

I'll admit, I have not been perfect. I'd always been a saver (case in point, my relatives beg me to do "something fun" with gift money) and I tend to have a general idea of how much is in my bank account at any given time.  However, I never had a written down budget and I find that I can spend money on stupid stuff (I'll forget to pack sufficient snacks and need to make a Starbucks run during the course of my day). All the budgeting templates I would find online were complicated and I felt I couldn't use them at points when my income was irregular.  Also, living on a volunteer stipend and later supporting my partner while he found work left me feeling a bit lean on cash.  I thought, "Oh, I can do a budget later, when my job situation is more stable!"  However, I learned that living paycheck to paycheck was just too stressful and I needed to change.

I got a Dave Ramsey kit for my birthday and that really changed the way I thought about money.    I learned not only that I needed to save money-I learned how.  I learned how, exactly, to allocate my cash each month, which goals I should strive for as I save (an emergency fund first, pay off all debts next, etc.) and even what insurance I would need (I had no idea ID theft insurance existed, much less that it was necessary).  It also has forced me to look ahead into fellowships I can qualify for when I choose to go to graduate school-no more debt for this chick!

I learned that, even in this economy, it is possible to get ahead financially.  Even when wages have stagnated and jobs with full benefits are difficult to come by, it's possible for us to make choices that allow us to get ahead.  It is challenging. It involves very careful planning and living well below one's means (for us, that means not going to our favorite restaurants).  However, if it means I can spend my life pursuing my dreams and live well with my companion (not to mention set my kids up well for school), it's worth it.  Further, as someone who is committed to social justice, it would allow me to give more of my resources to work I believe is important. 

We may not be able to control our jobs or the economy.  But if there is the smallest barrier I can place between me and the chaos of life, allowing me to ride the wave even if I can't stop it, then I have the obligation to do so.  I always want to help others-but I need to use my own oxygen mask before I can help others with theirs.  If you can, I'd encourage you to do the same.