Monday, December 17, 2012

Barefoot Disney Princesses

Finally watched Brave last night and realized that Merida is the most recent Disney "princess" to be shown barefoot.  Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Wendy, (is Alice shown barefoot?  She's not a princess but she's an animated Disney leading lady), Maid Marian, Eilonwy, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Esmerelda, Jane, Mulan, Megara, Lilo, Kida, Tiana, Rapunzel and now Merida.  Belle is the only one who isn't.
Each one is shown barefoot in relation to being either lower-class (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Tiana, Jane, Esmerelda, Lilo, Mulan Pocahontas, Ariel, etc.) and/or ass-kicking (Maid Marian, Eilonwy, Jasmine, Megara, Kida, Rapunzel, Merida).  To be shown barefoot generally, though, is a sign of vulnerability - Wendy is the only one who emphasizes this.  Some would even call it sexual.
It just seems strange to me that there would be this trend.  Whether it's to make the animation more simple or more creative, I couldn't say.  I'm just curious as to why, and why Belle (and Alice?) are the only ones who aren't shown barefoot.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Galena, IL and Sexual Fantasies

A native Chicagoan, I’ve been taking trips to Galena IL my entire life.  It’s a gorgeous rural territory, rolling hills with elegant cottages and very few people.  I came here with either parent at least once a year until Feb 2007, my last visit.  Life (monogamous relationships in which selfless maintenance took place of self-love) just got in the way.  The birthdays of my lover and I, though, are very close to each other and as we now live 200 miles apart, we agreed to come/cum here..

As a child, I was a near-constant daydreamer.  Inner fantasies kept me going and 99% of them took place in Galena.  This wasn’t an intentional decision, my mind just settled here.  Upon puberty, my daydreams became more erotic.  Most of my imaginary stories involved overly dramatic, highly romantic sexcapades there.  I figured that these would someday become my honeymoon, as I’d certainly keep myself clean until marriage XP

And now I’m actually having my Galena sex vacation.  The resort doesn’t ooze seduction, but the relaxing atmosphere and utter seclusion welcome it.  And our cottage has a jacuzzi!  This actual sex vacation doesn’t line up at all with my adolescent daydreams, mostly because there’s no interest in marriage and we don’t look like actors in early 90’s music videos (think Total Eclipse of the Heart and I Would Do Anything For Love).  Fantasies, not just a teenager’s, rarely involve emergency runs to the general store or watching South Park when you’re exhausted from sex or wet willy wars - unless you’re into that kind of thing.  Those imagined stories wouldn’t be as great in real life anyway, as it’s much more romantic to imagine someone who would do anything only for your smile/orgasm than to actually deal with such a person in real life.  Fantasy serves its purpose, arguably because it’s unrealistic, but this trip has been absolutely incredible even with reality :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Painting Consistency

Summer '98, I picked up the paintbrush and acrylics that had been in my mother's storage for decades and just started painting. No prompts, no education, I just began painting. That's the only consistent thing between my life then and now.

My goal, until late college, was to marry and have children.  As a 12 year old in an extremist parish, it was expected that I would marry within six years and then have a baby less than two years after that.  Travel, feminism, higher education, writing, etc. didn't fit into any of that.  If I could tell my self fourteen years ago about my life now, she would be terribly disappointed and shocked at my independence.  It took breaking ties with unhealthy, abusive people to understand personal control, self-reliance and self-love.
Painting would be the only thing of my life now that would please my 12 year old self.  It all started with random experimentation.  I found that I was able to communicate things that can't be put into words, though my reading and writing were already at a 12th grade level.  And I did it for myself.  Kept alone indoors whenever I wasn't in school, this was a way of making my inner world come alive.  That hasn't changed, though it's a way of communicating with both others and myself rather than primarily as a means of self-soothing escape.  My 12 year old self would be thrilled that I have a bachelor's in art and that I create almost daily.

My second painting, a mural in my bedroom.  No prompting, no reference, I came up with this completely on my own:
wall mural

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Milwaukeean originally from Chicago, I'm very interested in moving to Albuquerque next year.  Milwaukee's population size is perfect for me, and it's almost the same as Abq's.  Low rent on studio apts, good job availability (I'm fine with starting off at a call center until I get more settled), bike friendly and queer friendliness are my priorities.  I understand that Abq has terrible drivers, gangs, drugs and a high crime rate...but I've lived 22 years in Chicago.  Any advice?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


In 11 days I'll turn 27.  Despite certain bullshit, the mid 20's aren't that bad.  Right after college, everything was awkward and terrible.  College drops you right on your ass and you're supposed to be an adult now but you have no money and you don't know what you're doing without some kind of set framework - it sucks.  Then things calm down and you can party and figure out what your actual options are.

When I was a kid, I was led to believe that I'd marry before 20, preferably at 16.  Once I reached 14 and 15 and not only had no suitors come along, but also my peers told me that I was so ugly that the only way anyone would have sex with me was through rape (they didn't know that this was actually happening at the time).  I was distraught, thinking that I was unlovable and had failed my authorities by not fulfilling their mandates.

Once I figured out that marrying by 16 is usually a horrible idea and that my education came first, I set my goal to 28 for both marriage and parenthood.  My mother was heartbroken.  I'd find a monogamous partner, we'd have fun and explore the world, we'd gradually intertwine our lives codependently, then we'd marry and have kids.  After a few attempts at this, it finally dawned on me that monogamy is not for me and codependency nauseates me.  Marriage and parenthood hold no appeal.

Although I shed all age-related goals and my personal wants have changed dramatically - they may again, who knows - that marker of 28 still holds significance.  It was an arbitrary choice: I watched Friends and thought it was what normal young adult life was like and they were all around 28, right?  Nevertheless, onwards to another year of adventure!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Anyone who's ever watched Looney Toons and other hokey children's cartoons are probably familiar with scenes in which a small tumbleweed rolls across the scene to signify boredom.  The visual equivalent of crickets chirping, a tumbleweed emphasizes the emptiness of what's happening.

In real life, small tumbleweeds like that, about the size of a basketball, roll around so long as there is a slight breeze and/or slope.  Fullgrown tumbleweeds, however, can grow to the size of a pickup truck, and it takes powerful gusts to roll them across the landscape.

Tumbleweeds are actually trees with very shallow roots.  Their branches grow very low to the ground and in a round shape, holding in thousands of seeds.  When the wind is strong enough, the tree dislodges from its spot and rolls across the landscape and the seeds scatter - kamikaze propagation.  Larger tumbleweeds can cause terrible destruction in high winds, as rolling dries out these trees and they shatter explosively upon impact.

A tumbleweed will see many remarkable things on its travels across the desert, only to continue the cycle of shallow roots and self-destroying reproduction.  Would one come to rest on rock rather than sandy soil, the cycle would be broken.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Body Positivity: Figure Drawing

My cousin-in-law is an artist and, when I was 11, she began taking me to a figure drawing studio every other Sunday.  This continued until the studio closed six years later, but then I took honors art classes in high school and those involved figure drawing.  And then I kept doing figure drawing throughout college.

It took a few years, especially since my mother poked my belly and called me fat when I was in middle school, but this exposure to naked bodies dramatically changed my beauty standards.  In figure drawing, the most interesting bodies are "flawed" - fat, saggy, scarred, and marked.  Drawing different bodies so frequently shifted my understanding of the "ideal" body, so I rejected the mainstream standards in favor of every body.

The best way to develop body positivity, especially in children, is to see every kind of body in a welcoming setting over a long period of time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sexual Objectification EDITED

I admit that I was frustrated and flustered when I wrote the original Sexual Objectification blog entry, therefore it isn't well written.  Here is the edited version, beginning with some definitions:
sexualization: prioritising the sex, sexuality and sexiness of a person.
sexual objectification: treating a person as a sexual object.
feminism: the belief that people of all genders and sexes should have equal opportunity and choice.
the women's movement: the history of feminism, particularly in America in the 1960's/'70's

A friend posted this on her facebook.  She and her peers are religious, involved mothers and they all commented about how relieved they are that being religious, involved mothers combats early sexual objectification.
I pointed out that I was under the impression as a child that I would marry by 16.  My mother and the mothers who volunteered at my Catholic school (which, I discovered much later on, was an extremist parish) all emphasized that little girls should prepare for marriage constantly until they're at the altar - sexual objectification was encouraged, though in manners less obvious than skimpy clothing.  Religious, involved mothers can do more damage than good - another lady commented about how her mother actually pushed her in the opposite direction and hated sexuality.
Nobody in this discussion on the article replied to my point, but eventually one of them commented "It's as though the women's movement created more objectification than less of it."

Because of the correlation between the women's movement and shifts in advertising, this can appear as a causation.  In the years leading up to the women's movement, sexual objectification in advertising was minimal - women still appeared in advertising as service objects, only fully clothed.  The levels of sexual objectification, particularly of women, in mainstream advertising are at a disturbing high today in American culture.

However, women were more sexually objectified, to the point of being considered property of father/husband before the women's movement.  Higher education was discouraged for a woman because it made her a less serene servant - and nobody saw the problem in proclaiming this conundrum bluntly.  Women themselves chose to abandon education in order to objectify themselves.
So I replied to this lady " the women's movement made it illegal for a husband to rape his no."  What more obvious example is there that the women's movement gave women human status?
She replied "that's a law, this article is about culture."

.....WHAT?!?!?!?  Don't most laws come about through cultural shifts?!?!?  The women's movement is incomplete, it isn't finished.  It gave women choices, that's what feminism is.  However, because woman-as-sex-objects are still very highly valued in our culture - as evidenced by advertising - many women make the ill-informed choice to objectify themselves.  I argue that a choice made without awareness of other options isn't an autonomous decision at all, which is the difference between sexualization and sexual objectification.  If you want me to elaborate on how I know these women's decision-making, please ask.
Feminism is still working to elevate women's minds to equal societal value.  I hate to say it, but the women who choose to be sex objects, as opposed to sexual human beings, are perhaps the biggest obstacle to feminism.

And yes, I'm aware that my privileges are showing...I'm working on it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Street Harassment

I got off the Megabus at 12:45am and had about a mile to walk to my hotel in Chicago. The streets were almost empty and I was walking briskly.

A black Mercedes Benz from Connecticut, with 3 young men inside, drove by and slowed down when they saw me. I was crossing a large & empty intersection and they very slowly turned, right behind me. The front passenger leaned out his window and called “hey sweet ass. Sweet tart ass.” Had I stopped, slowed or turned around, they would have been able to grab me. Instead, I ran onto the sidewalk. I was walking east and this street was a 1way going west.

THEY CIRCLED THE BLOCK. When they pulled over by me again, a huge crowd of partiers was right next to me so I guess they realized what a bad idea it was to bother me.

This was horrifying.

Sexual Objectification

A friend posted this on her facebook.  She and her peers are religious, involved mothers and they all commented about how relieved they are that being religious, involved mothers combats early sexualization.
I pointed out that I was under the impression as a child that I would marry by 16.  My mother and the mothers who volunteered at my Catholic school (which, I discovered much later on, was an extremist parish) all emphasized that little girls should prepare for marriage constantly until they're at the altar - sexualization was encouraged, though in manners less obvious than skimpy clothing.  Religious, involved mothers can do more damage than good - another lady commented about how her mother actually pushed her in the opposite direction and hated sexuality.
Nobody in this discussion on the article replied to my point, but eventually one of them commented "It's as though the women's movement created more objectification than less of it."

At first glance, that line of thinking isn't illogical.  Magazines, commercials, billboards, etc. show highly sexualized women, which didn't exist before the women's movement.  Women in advertising back then were still objectified and portrayed as stupid, only they were fully clothed.
However, women in general were more objectified, to the point of being considered property of father/husband.   Higher education was discouraged for women because it made her a less serene servant - and nobody saw the problem in proclaiming this conundrum bluntly.  Women themselves chose to abandon education in order to objectify themselves.
So I replied to this lady " the women's movement made it illegal for a husband to rape his no."  What more obvious example is there that the women's movement gave women human status?
She replied "that's a law, this article is about culture."

......WHAT?!?!?!?  Don't laws come about through cultural shifts??!?  
The women's movement is incomplete, it isn't finished.  It gave women choices, that's what feminism is.  Because women are still valued most highly as sex objects, many women still CHOOSE to fulfill that.  Feminism is still working to elevate women's minds to equal societal value.  I hate to say it, but the women who choose to be sex objects are perhaps the biggest obstacle to feminism.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sex Positivity Interview

A reader of this blog recently emailed me a request for an interview of my opinions on sex positivity. I was ecstatic to oblige and I got permission to post the interview here:  

A.B.: How do you define sex positivity?

Me: Sex positivity is harmonious with enthusiastic consent. Both involve a strong sense of self, awareness, communication, and respect for other consenting adults. A positive attitude about sex, both what one is having (or not having) and in general, educates and opens minds. Sex is more enjoyable when it is enthusiastic and positive - not fluffy bunny happy-face positive, but positive in the sense that the participating consenting adults are aware, respectful and pleased. This is not to say that asexuals and virgins can't be sex positive. The actual act of sex is only a part of sex positivity. Body positivity, respect for identity, intersectionality and inter/intrapersonal literacy are all other parts as well.

A.B.: When you lived in Edgewater, did you feel it was a sex positive place? Why or why not?

Me: It's difficult for me to say whether or not Edgewater was sex positive, except in comparison to Jefferson Park, where I grew up. Sex shops such as Tulip (would that count as Edgewater or Andersonville?) and Early 2 Bed never would have made it into Jefferson Park, nor would gender-aware businesses such as Kitchen Sink and Graham Cracker Comics - shout out to Shanna, who's a guru of comic books and feminism. In this sense, Edgewater is sex positive. I also had an art show as part of the Edgewater Art Walk in October 2011, which was technically PG-13 but with more racy ideological themes. Aside from these individual places and experiences, particularly in comparison to other more conservative/Victorian neighborhoods, Edgewater didn't seem to have much of a centralised community awareness. I have friends in Edgewater who don't tend to participate in in the community, and I know outsiders who make a special effort to participate.

A.B.: Where do you think the expression and enjoyment of a healthy sexuality tie into the grand picture of women’s health?*

Me: One can better enjoy sex with education, which involves sexual health. Many women don't have comprehensive sexual education about their own bodies, which is a health issue. When a woman doesn't comprehend her own body, how can she decipher her cycle, understand what angle of penetration is most pleasing to her (or penetration at all), or love her body at all? For example, many clinics and gynecologists will not give IUDs to women who are not already married with children. This practice declares that pleasurable sex is allowable only after one has reproduced sufficiently and in legally recognised monogamy. Firstly, very few women know about IUDs in the first place; secondly, how many women in that situation would continue to search? Or would know where to look? Or know that their states might provide financial coverage for both the IUD itself and its insertion procedure? Or whether she should get a Mirena IUD, Paragard IUD, or use another method? Reproductive health is a branch of sexual health, though the emphasis is stronger for women. The difference between vaginal and clitoral orgasms isn't valued as much as how an egg gets fertilised in our society (and even education on that is poor). The emphasis is on reproduction, not pleasure. While it's true that this information is important and protection from unwanted pregnancy is necessary, awareness should continue beyond that. A woman can take a birth control pill - regardless of her knowledge of how it affects her body - to keep from getting pregnant but still might not orgasm during sex and not know why. Resources for that understanding are fewer than for birth control, which is still too little.

A.B.: On your blog, you talk about sex positivity as a prevention technique. Can you expand on this?

Me: To better understand "prevention technique," I'll elaborate on exactly what is being prevented. There are many layers of sexual assault/harassment, none of them "better" or "worse" than another. There is the commonly perceived scene of a masculine stranger forcing a woman into something sexual; to be certain, this does occur and it is horrifying. There are also respected authority figures or seemingly-platonic intimates who use their relationships, sometimes unknowingly, to manipulate the trust of one for sexual ends. And then there is sexual coercion, given into in order to avoid a fight or to maintain a relationship. Sex positivity is not a shield against sexual harassment/assault, but it can both enhance one's awareness of a situation - particularly one's role, responsibility, options, lack of responsibility - and be a healing agent. Through sexual enthusiasm (again, not necessarily pertaining to the actual sex act), one can transcend from victim to survivor. Many people use this as a way to take back control in sex, whether as a dominant or a submissive or vanilla or asexual or "born-again virgin." For a survivor, sex positivity erases the taint on sexuality brought about by an assaulter. A "sex negative" mindset relates sex to shame and guilt (not in a consensual, bdsm way). When this connection is made, coercion and manipulation tend to be more effective. This isn't to say that a survivor in this kind of a situation is to blame: chances are that the survivor doesn't know that "no" or "yes" could be said and respected. Sex positivity as a cultural awareness opens communication and makes sex a discussion between consenting adults, personal sex positivity involves a consciousness of options and what one actually wants.

* I'm defining women's health as any health issues (mostly sexual health) that are of concern to anyone who identifies as female. I suppose an issue I'm also grappling with in the article is how typical discussion of women's health is kept narrowly to reproductive rights and resources, and I want to explore past that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I just read this: "I was just googling to try and find some perspectives on women going to work with hairy legs. I couldn’t find much. I found an article from a woman who used not to shave her legs but now does; she believes it’s unprofessional, slobbish and ugly not to. And then I found an article, apparently trying to be “satirical”, from some bloke Yahoo contributor stating that women who don’t shave their legs don’t get raped. I.e. “rape can be prevented IF you are prepared”; “what guy is going to rape you if you have hairier legs than he does?”, etc. etc. ugh. So I’ve abandoned the google search now. This whole thing is so depressing." I haven't shaved my legs or pits in 18 months and that isn't going to change anytime soon. I don't wear pants or tights to hide it, I shouldn't have to. Nobody at work has ever said anything, they don't care about how anyone looks so long as you don't reek. My lovers either love my hair or don't care - generally, they appreciate most that I use my time and energy for more productive things. It's HAIR! It doesn't do anything other than grow and keep you warm, which I need since I'm cold all the time. What people do with their hair, whether on their legs or heads or crotches or pits, is nobody's business but their own. No amount of hair is gross. Self-love, whether one's personal comfort is hairless, trimmed or free-flowing, is more important.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Women's Politics...again...???

I recently watched the Penn & Teller's Bullshit episodes about abstinence, teen sex and family values. They pointed out something poignant about the conservatives involved in these topics: they're not accustomed to having people disagree with them. There are, in fact, subgroups in this country that are so cloistered that any foreign lifestyle is completely unknown. The higher-ups who oppose abortion, for example, may very well be unfamiliar with anyone who's open about a beneficial abortion (or who's life was made unbearable by not being able to get one).

And then this happened:
Scott Walker signed bills that:
- Block insurance companies from covering abortion
- Remove contraception from the sex education curriculum
- Overrule the objections of the Wisconsin Medical Association to interfere with doctors on counseling women on abortion
- Eliminate the states key protection for women trying to get equal pay for equal work.

These are symptoms of a large national shift which had most visibly arisen when the House nearly removed government funding from Planned Parenthood (which gave me a free pap smear and IUD thankyouverymuch).

Don't get me wrong, Scott Walker is a fucking idiot. No argument there. But I wonder if other politicians have really just been sheltered from people who benefit from Planned Parenthood, from comprehensive sex ed, from access to legal and healthy abortions (and who talk openly about it), etc. Where are the loud feminists? Who's upfront and vocal about what our lives need when a "traditional marriage" isn't an option or even wanted? Ask a few people who don't relate to feminism to name five things Hillary Clinton supports, if they know who Jessica Valenti is, why so many Women of Color refused the SlutWalk, etc.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spreading Books

Up until the middle of college, I was an avid television watcher. On average, 5 hours of my day were spent watching tv. I also read happily - whenever I was in a place where tv wasn't. I thought that my love of tv was normal, and even took pride amongst my classmates that I was "allowed" to watch so much.
It was only after graduating college and getting rid of tv that I realised how damaging this addiction was. I wasn't "allowed" to spend the majority of my waking hours outside of school watching tv, I was put in front of the screen because it was a convenient way of getting rid of me. Other people were considered threats to the authority of my guardians and tv kept me from realising just how few people were in my life.

In high school, my obsession with tv had finally become clear to my mother as a destructive force. She told me, especially when I began thinking about college, that her friends in college read and discussed books as entertainment. It didn't seem to occur to her that it wasn't the motivation for literature debate that I lacked, but the fellows. My friends and I in high school were Wiccan and we exchanged many books on that, but any socialising outside of school was forbidden to me. People will leave tv on to "make their pets feel less alone" while they're at work, it was used the same way for me.
Still, whenever I wasn't at home, I took every opportunity to read. And exchanging books with my friends, however small the genre, delighted me. This continued in college, though I was irked by how many people in this supposedly advanced academic atmosphere loathed reading. More often than not, recommendations were never taken nor followed up with discussion. My poor professors, who couldn't get most of their students to read the material, let alone ENJOY it.

Only within the past year (graduated college 05/09), have I found a social circle in which books are passed around and enthusiastically discussed. Middlesex by Eugenides, Lolita by Nabokov, The Bell Jar by Plath, Where Good Ideas Come From by Johnson, Sex at Dawn by Ryan & Jetha, The Morning After by Roiphe, The Hunger Games by Collins, Good Omens by Gaiman & Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment by Pratchett, Sacred Clowns by Hillerman, Siddartha by Hesse, John Green, The Secret Garden by Burnett, Anne of Green Gables by Montgomery, Karen Armstrong, Jessica Valenti, The Ethical Slut by Easton & Hardy, etc.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wisconsin Women's Health

Illinois Healthy Women provides medical insurance coverage for my reproductive/sexual health - they paid for my Paragard IUD in full.

Minnesota has a similar program. Unfortunately, I’ve lost the contact information for the person I knew who had gotten her free IUD through that.

I have many friends in Wisconsin who want similar coverage for IUDs. Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation doesn’t provide this, Wisconsin Well Woman Program works only with menopausal women, and all my searching keep leading back to Planned Parenthood.

Any information regarding birth control coverage in Wisconsin would be very helpful. Or any state for that matter, we could make a map of states’ coverage!

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Satan You Can't Have My Marriage/Children" by Iris Delgado

These two instructional books, "Satan You Can't Have My Marriage" and "Satan You Can't Have My Marriage" by Iris Delgado, are carried in the bookstore where I work. People are free to believe whatever they want to believe and pray whatever they want to pray, but both of these books blame rape and incest on the wife/mother not consenting to her husband's sexual demands.

"Satan You Can't Have My Marriage" explicitly states that a good wife never says no to sex with her husband, no matter how she feels (page 50).

"Satan You Can't Have My Children" tells the wife/mother that it is her responsibility to teach her daughters modesty. If the wife/mother doesn't consent to her husband's desires, it's her fault for driving him to molesting their daughter(s). Also, no matter the daughter's age, she should never be allowed to sit in daddy's lap because it will drive him past the brink. (page 31)

Again, I respect a person's belief in whatever - this is where I draw the line. It would be nice if customers had the critical thinking skills to resist the messages in these books but, considering their fascination with Kim Kardashian, they don't seem to be functioning on that level. Also, having been raised by Catholic extremists, I've been there: when this is the only reality known, one doesn't question following it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Egalitarian Catholic Spirituality

The Virgin Mary is worshipped throughout Catholicism almost as much as, if not more than, Jesus. A few years ago, a large group of Catholics actually petitioned the Vatican to elevate Mary to Jesus' level - they were turned down because that's not how theology works.

The hierarchy and doctrine of the Church have a long history of misogyny, heterosexism, and mistreatment of women. Women must be subservient, silent, obedient, and serene breeders (if not chaste virgins for life).

In practice, however, particularly among the lower classes, the spirituality of Catholics is more woman-centric. Check how many shrines to Mary are in your neighborhood, how many rosaries hang from rearview mirrors (or that people wear, which a good Catholic isn't technically supposed to do), how many Mary/rosary tattoos you see. Then all the Catholic woman saints and leaders: St. Joan of Arc, Dorothy Day, St. Barbara, Mother Theresa, St. Ursula, Princess Diana (I'm aware that she was Anglican, but that didn't stop my childhood parish from praying to her), etc. In spiritual practice, Catholicism gets rather egalitarian.

The hierarchy may topple from the scandals in a largely secular world, but people will continue the rituals, symbols, traditions, etc. of Catholicism. Which means the worship of a female icon isn't going away anytime soon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Vagina Monologues

The V Day Campaign, the season in which The Vagina Monologues performs, is upon us again. Formed 14 years ago and still going strong, The Vagina Monologues (the play, the book, the movement) balances validating activism, unity, good humor, and welcoming. Through story-telling, awareness is awakened: the personal is still political.

I first read The Vagina Monologues in spring '04, right around the time I graduated high school. Until reading it, I thought that I was malformed and diseased - too mortified and ashamed to talk to anyone about it. The controversy around The Vagina Monologues, years after it began, had sparked my interest in my budding feminism. Oddly enough, I was working as a receptionist in a Catholic parish office when I first read it! (I also read Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix at that job!) Before reading Eve Ensler's magnum opus (opa?), I was honestly not aware that anything between my knees and my neck existed. My physical self-awareness was sparked by The Vagina Monologues, and by no means am I alone in that.
From there came The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, CUNT by Inga Muscio, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, flannel menstrual pads, menstrual sponges, menstrual cups, vibrators, sex positivity, trans advocacy, and everything I have going on today.

Spring '09 was the first time I actually saw The Vagina Monologues play, which I co-assistant managed at my internship at The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center. My all-women college, Alverno, also hosted a student-run performance as well - it was ridiculously difficult to get a performance approved there!! You'd think that an all-women college would have been among the first places to advocate anything that supports women's awareness, but they were so afraid of being pegged as a "lesbian school".
Before seeing the play, The Vagina Monologues really felt like a private, personal, secret thing of my own. It was MY experience, shared with others who didn't seem real. Sitting in FOUR sold-out shows, though, opened up the doors to this community. Matrons, young girls, transwomen, lesbians, sex workers, rape survivors, virgins, allies - all these people seeking validation and finding community. It was a powerful thing, which made The Vagina Monologues more real as a social force powered by shared experience.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Socialized Men and Woman, Service Professions

Among the major differences between socialized men and women, at least in America, is between our options. For men, many career options are presented, including service professions (more specifically, the military and clergy). They have an array of informed choices at their disposal*. For women, though, the only career option is service. A woman must make her own alternative options, fighting her way down that path the whole way.

* though certain career/life professions, such as homemaker and nurse, are considered emasculating for a man. After all, why would a man knowingly choose a woman's role when it's clearly subservient?

Full, Free Documentary: Miss Representation

The thing is, and I thought this when I interned at Project Girl, it isn't entirely "the media's" fault that depression and eating disorders are so prevalent - a strong support system in an individual's life can help overcome that influence. But altering mainstream standards is easier than providing personal support to millions of people.

Monday, January 9, 2012

My ParaGard IUD

I got the ParaGard IUD ( for FREE the other day, thanks to Illinois Healthy Women ( and Planned Parenthood (

Step 1: I applied to Illinois Healthy Women. Other states, such as Minnesota, have similar programs that cover costs for female reproductive health. This was roughly a 2 month process since they had to process all my paperwork, including my low income.

Step 2: Upon receiving my Illinois Healthy Women card, essentially an insurance card, I had a consultation at Planned Parenthood for the ParaGard IUD. I knew that I didn't want anything messing with my hormones, and the ParaGard is just plastic with copper coils. Upon getting the information from the doctor at Planned Parenthood, I decided to get it.

Step 3: The actual IUD insertion procedure. I had to eat and treat the morning like any other day, no fasting. The staff at Planned Parenthood gave me 600mg of ibuprofin and checked me to make sure I'm clean of STIs. For privacy and security, no guests were allowed past the waiting room - I have great pain tolerance, but I was nervous and wanted someone's hand to hold. Since I was texting my closest friends the whole time, I squeezed my cell phone.

Just like with a regular pap smear, I was all set up with the stirrups and speculum. This is uncomfortable for some people, but doesn't bother me. Then the doctor, with whom I was discussing sexual health the entire time (she loved me for being so well-informed and curious), coated my cervix with a numbing agent - this looked like brown vaseline. Next, she dilated my cervix with a metal rod about the thickness of a regular chopstick. This was the most painful part! I felt like I was having the biggest menstrual cramp of my life!

Finally, she inserted the ParaGard IUD. I had asked to see it before the entire procedure, it was much smaller than I was expecting: I'm very petite and the Y-shaped IUD was the size of my thumbnail. A string hangs out of it, outside the cervix for about an inch, so that it can be removed quickly and easily.

Step 4: Recovery. The entire insertion procedure took less than ten minutes, but the intensity of the pain made me nearly faint. I told the doctor that I felt like I was passing out and she greatly appreciated this - people pass out all the time, but they don't tell anyone so how can the doctor know whether this is normal or a diabetic seizure or something else?

I lay on the medical bed, free of the stirrups and speculum, for about 20 minutes until the dizziness subsided. There was no blood, but all the cramps felt like a much stronger version of my normal period. My periods are very light and I was glad that the doctor had warned me that they would be worse from now on (still better than pregnancy!). As soon as I was steady, I got to go. The rest of the day, my cramps were terrible and I mostly lay around in bed with more ibuprofin and hot soup. Two days later, I felt completely back to normal.

The ParaGard IUD lasts for 10-12 years. The copper wires on it irritate the uterine walls to great more buildup, so an egg can't implant. Also, the acidity of the vagina is altered by the copper so much that sperm cells can't fertilize an egg. At 99.5% effectiveness, the ParaGard IUD works more often than getting your tubes tied. It doesn't not protect from STIs/STDs or HIV/AIDS, only pregnancy. Again, the only drawbacks are stronger periods (spooting should be expected, but I haven't bled at all) and that menstrual cups ( can't be used. The ParaGard IUD is effective immediately, though the doctor told me to not put anything in my vagina for 24 hours - with all the pain I was in, I wouldn't have wanted to anyway.

So now all my condoms will be used only when toys are shared and with new male sexual partners.