Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's been over a week since work started back up, but my body still has a serious case of vacation time. I never did grow out of that adolescent need for ridiculous amounts of sleep, so the day I get out of work, I go back to sleeping for 10 or more hours at a time. What this means, though, is that I end up going to bed much later that I would ordinarily. Now that I'm back into the full swing of things, though, I'm waking up super early, but still going to bed around midnight. This leads to Not Enough Sleep.....boo.....

Anyway, that's entirely not the point of this post, so I'll get on with it.

I had a really fascinating and interesting conversation with my best friend the other night. She's working on an "assignment," if you will, though it's not for a class or academic pursuit.

She asked me if I have an experience, or thought process, or set of goals that I think are integral or quintessential to my existence as a woman.

I have to admit, I was stumped.

I am going to turn this question over to you, readers, to answer or otherwise chime in on your thoughts on the subject.

I eventually came to the conclusion that no, I don't think I do have anything that I think of as quintessential to the experience of woman, because I honestly feel that as soon as we start to assign things as the very definition of a whole group, we will alienate those whose experiences differ. I think that the spectrum of human life is so great that we can't accurately pin down one thing (or a couple of things) and call it universal.

An older lesbian couple at Molly's synagogue responded to the question with "Well, we all have to pee sitting down. That's pretty universal."

Much as I'd like to sit and sulk that I didn't come up with such a funny quip, I'd like to hear from you all.

The other problem that I see is that many of the existing definitions of womanhood are very much tied to patriarchal ideals. The definitions of mother, caregiver, supporter, whatever, have been imposed on generations of women. Either that or we have been defined, again by patriarchal society, as objects, things, communal property, lays or otherwise LESS THAN.

The inception of feminism sought to throw all that out the window, level the playing field and allow us to be fully independent and individual. We can choose whether to define ourselves as creators, givers of life or nurturers if we choose (no, Rebecca Walker, feminism does not think badly of these things), but if we choose otherwise, that's our prerogative. The feminist movements have attempted to achieve the goal that Martin Luther King set out: to be judged by the content of our character.

I've been thinking about this conversation for several days, now, and have been compiling some reading material for Molly. I've been trying to put together a list of blogs and sites that might help sort out the desire for a sense of personal worth and belonging versus an imposed set of roles and regulations.

The first thing I thought of was, of course, The Woman Identified Woman. "Molly" is straight and married, so the life experience identified within will not immediately recall her own life, but the document is important and significant nonetheless. Besides which, I'm not sure how many people our age are familiar with The Woman Identified Woman (outside of women's studies departments, which neither of us attended), and so I feel a duty to keep it in the collective conscious.

One phrase that really resonates for me is this:

As the source of self-hate and the lack of real self are rooted in our male-given identity, we must create a new sense of self. As long as we cling to the idea of "being a woman, '' we will sense some conflict with that incipient self, that sense of I, that sense of a whole person.

I have encountered enough confusion in trying to define myself that trying to fit that definition into a group identity has been nearly impossible. But that may not be the case for everyone, and so, again, I urge you to share your thoughts.

Many people are working to define themselves in a way that is more real and inclusive than what society expects of them, and they have some really interesting things to say:

First, a vocabulary lesson and round-up of frequent questions from the folks at "Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog:"


Next, a stop at one of my blog favs, Bitch PhD:

"My feminisms:"

A big challenge of all of your ideas of surrounding parenthood (not really a propos, but interesting nonetheless):

Moving on, we move over to body issues....(ugh, I know, do I even want to go there....)
I have lots more to say on that topic, but for now, I'll just link to Wimn's Voices (from the organisation Women in Media & News), which shreds several articles in mainstream publications about how plastic surgery makes everything better. Except it doesn't, and the articles are misogynist and misleading.

Again, not entirely on topic, because I'm not linking to a specific post, is What About Our Daugters. Focusing on issues faced by African American women, and featuring a section called the "Michelle Obama Watch" (which calls out all the dehumanizing crap flung at her), this blog is a really great addition to the internet universe.

Last (for now) is a little gem known as Dinosaur Comics. Yes, that's right, dinosaurs. In comic form.....Okay, shut up back there! I can totally hear you calling me a nerd and a dork. Stop.

The Male Gaze is a phrase flung around quite a lot, which has come to mean anything in the life of women that gets viewed from a male perspective. It originated as a film theory, though, and Dinosaur Comics explain that to us.


So, dear readers, (if I have any left after my crazy long post christmas stupor hiatus) please chime in, if you feel that you have a "quintessentially woman" experience (any mention of menstruation, however, will be met with sarcastic eye-rolls and imaginary bonks on the head with wet lettuce). If you have other resources to recommend, please do so.

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