To All Women on this Mother’s Day

If you are a woman who has given birth to a child and are raising him or her to the best of your ability…

If you are a woman who was brave beyond belief and allowed someone else to raise your child so that he or she might have their best chance…

If you are a woman whose body and mind has been ravaged by the pain of losing a child…

If you are a woman who opened your loving home and arms to embrace a child who was not born of your womb, but is, nonetheless, your child forever and ever…

If you are a grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, or friend who has graciously accepted the awesome responsibility of raising a child…

If you are a woman who struggles daily with the knowledge that she is unable to birth a child…

If you are a woman who may want children some day, but are not quite ready…

If you are a woman whose plans do not include motherhood…

If you are a woman who is fighting to marry the person they love and be recognized as a loving and legitimate family, worthy of bringing up children…

If you are a woman who is struggling to be recognized as a woman…

To all women on this Mother’s Day:

You are amazing people in your own right. No matter the status of motherhood, you are valuable and worthy of honor. You are eshet chayil: woman of valor.
I feel privileged to share in the experience of womanhood with you. I feel as such because women are strong, courageous, intelligent, capable, fragile, imperfect, and determined.
We are women.

We are fighters who push through our failures and rejoice in our triumphs.
We are women.

We are quiet helpers and we are emphatic advocates.
We are women.

You Need to Respect Her No

It should be more horrifying when we hear of a women who was raped or sexually assaulted, and the first questions out of people’s mouths are: Did she say no? What was she wearing? Was she drunk? What did she do to lead him on?  It should be more horrifying, but it’s not.  It’s a part of the rape culture in which we live.  It’s commonplace. It’s normal.  On the bright side, it does seem that most people agree that sexual assault is a problem in this country, particularly on college campuses.  What is maddening is that people cannot agree on how to prevent rape. A largely accepted idea is that the onus is on women to protect themselves from assault.  While there are some practical things women can do to defend themselves, like learning self-defense, never leaving a drink unattended, and never accepting a drink from someone else, it quickly spirals into victim-blaming. You mean she was stupid enough to walk away from her drink to pee, and then she was drugged and raped? Well, I feel bad for her but, seriously, what else did she expect?  Society then adds on more victim-blaming shit, like what I mentioned before- did she say no?, etc.  At no point does it occur to people that, rather than placing the responsibility on women to not be raped, we should be placing responsibility on men and teaching boys not to rape!  Rather than questioning whether or not she said “no” assertively enough or if she actually meant “no”, we should be teaching males to respect her no.
Raising girls with expectations

Image via Huffington Post

As a mother with two girls, I’ve wrestled with how I would prepare them to live in a world where people like those in the fraternity at Texas Tech, who created the above banner, exist.  Quite frankly it makes me hope that, some time within the next 12 years, they’ll just be able to download college courses to a chip implanted in their brains.  I’m sure that I’ll share some common sense wisdom on how to try and stay safe: never leave your drink unattended; always be aware of your surroundings; get the fuck out if your Spidey sense starts tingling; go for the groin and yank until he’s a castrato.  But there’s one thing that I never want to teach them, and that is that how they feel and saying “no” to something is meaningless.

Girls tend to be taught, whether directly or through social cues, not to assert themselves or make waves.  As women, we learn it’s much more important for the common good to stuff our negative feelings and not make a scene.  And heaven forbid that we hurt someone else’s feelings by putting ourselves first.  Unfortunately, this learned behavior can sometimes be found in scenarios leading up to sexual assault.  Women don’t always put up a fight because they don’t feel like they can.  Men don’t listen when women say no because they’ve learned that their “no” isn’t important.

Because of this, I began telling my girls to respect people’s no’s.  Whenever Rachael gets up in Zoë’s face, I remind her to back off and listen to Zoë yelling, “Nooooooooooooo!”  Whenever Mike continues to tickle the girls after they’ve said “no” or “stop”, I gently remind him that they’re saying no and that he needs to respect that.  My hope is that this will instill in them the knowledge that their feelings and their no’s have value.  I want them to know that it’s right to expect others to respect their boundaries.  I want them to never doubt that their bodies are their own, and that no one has the right to invade their personal space or touch them without their consent.  Even Mike, their pediatricians, and I request their consent before touching them in their genital area, (for medical exams or if we need to investigate physical discomfort complaints.)  I think one of the great benefits of teaching them this is that I’ve heard them say it to others; they have said it to friends who are not listening when the girls have said “no” or “stop”.  How much better would this world be if we all began telling our children to respect one another’s no’s?

 

 

 

Top image source

Geek Girls

I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t know what to make of me. I feel equally comfortable gasping over a gorgeous dress or pair of shoes and correcting someone when they quote Star Wars incorrectly. I have a deep emotional investment in both Hokie football and Doctor Who. I’m a 33 year old woman who is positively squeeing over the fact that, when Mike and I go to Orlando in a few months, I’ll get to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I love super hero movies and think Phil Coulson, (or Clark Gregg even) should be my freebie. I get giddy when I fuck up someone’s Munchkin battle. I was shocked when someone told me that her child dressing up as Spock for Halloween was weird. When someone says they’ve never seen Lord of the Rings, I stare at them blankly because I literally can’t comprehend how that can be true. (Not figuratively. Literally!) I was bothered for several days after Chris Hardwick was wrong about something in Star Wars on @midnight. I didn’t tweet him about it, though. I’m a geek, not a dick.

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Photo by Victory Comics

I was a geek before I even knew that word described me. I was a geek back when the word still had a negative connotation and it was weird that my favorite movie, as a 12 year old girl, was Return of the Jedi. Fortunately, geekery has become culturally normative.
Unfortunately, it’s still weird that I’m a girl woman and a geek. I interact with other female geeks so often that I sometimes forget that it’s still not always okay to use the words “Star Trek” in a sentence. Seriously, you will never encounter a more baffled group of people than upper-middle class suburban moms after you’ve said something geeky.

I’ve been fortunate in that no one has been aggressive toward me for being a geek, but there are plenty of women who have endured verbal and sexual assault and threats of physical and sexual violence. (I won’t even link to the Tweets she screen capped and tweeted because of how upsetting they are. They are truly horrific.) But I have been on the receiving end of stares when I’ve walked into a tabletop gaming store. I have been excluded from gaming, either because the guys didn’t think I’d want to play or didn’t want me there. There have been times when someone has assumed that something geeky belonged to Mike. I have been hurt when people have suggested, or flat out said, that the things I like are stupid or juvenile. And it’s not just me.

“Going to a video game store, the male employees act completely befuddled and stunned when you start speaking intelligently about games or asking pertinent questions that make it clear you are a serious gamer.”

“We also get comments about how we must just be pretending to snare a guy.”

“Yeah, I totally spent months farming materials in Warcraft just to ‘impress a guy.'”

“I ran into a bit of opposition doing admin work for an iPhone game that was a mmorpg. Because I was female, they automatically assumed I didn’t have authority or that I didn’t know as much as the guys.”

“I got a lot of, ‘run along and let the big boys talk'”.

“I’m in database and software engineering… Most of my experiences haven’t been negative but just weird/’you know guys don’t get this crap’. Recently joined a new guild on WoW and a guy immediately has to ask me my hair color.”

“I play a fantasy-style iPad game where you can make your character female, but the NPCs still refer to every character as “sir” or “lad” or the instructions are phrased like your hero is male. It can’t be that hard to program for both options, but it feels like they assume everyone playing is a guy, whether their avatar is male or female.”

“I’ve gotten “you’re too old to like Harry Potter” once or twice…”

I hope that we female geeks will continue, or even begin, to be open about who we are. Even if you’re not a geek in the stereotypical sci-fi/fantasy sense, be passionate and transparent about what makes you happy. Whatever your obsession, be it music, theater, knitting, books, cooking, or fantasy football, be proud of it. May we all be so lucky as to love something enough that it causes us to twitch when someone says something incorrect about it.