Friday, October 15, 2010

Self -Rescuing Princess

I've learned several things while traveling and performing in this children's tour. I know that most Oklahoma towns will have nothing to do, but they will always have a Sonic. I know that we don't say "butt" or" bottom" anymore, but that children should now be told to sit "on pockets". And I've learned that you should never, under any circumstances, sign autographs on children's hands. (I must have been really tired that day.)

But one of the most exciting, uplifting things that I've noticed is that girls in Arkansas are AWESOME. Today at our show, two self-assured and polite third grade girls came over to talk to us while we were putting up our set. The girls had digital cameras, notebooks, and press badges with them and asked if they could interview us. They explained that their school had a press club and that they wrote news stories and took pictures of interesting things that were happening at their school. I can't really do justice to how awesome these girls were, but they just oozed cool. They were articulate, fun, and motivated. They took a bunch of pictures during the show and then came backstage after to tell us how much they appreciated us coming to their school.

At another school in Arkansas, a four year old at one of our shows was wearing a shirt that said, "This is what a feminist looks like". and today a second grade girl had a t-shirt on that read "Self-Rescuing Princess".
I had never seen a "Self-Rescuing Princess" t-shirt before, I think the closest my age group came to were those lame "Girl Power" shirts. Hey, I'm not trying to bust on those tees, because I can assure you that I sported one frequently, but what does "Girl Power" even mean? Now it strikes me as one of those lame throw-away phrases that only got popular because the Spice Girls made it seem like some sort of 21st century feminist sentiment.

I wonder if they have Self-Rescuing Princess t-shirts in adult sizes...

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up

This past weekend I visited Houston to see two dear friends get married and to visit with a bunch of other wonderful people. I was also able to see The Alley Theatre's production of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan :The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up.  Like most kids, I loved Peter Pan when I was growing up- suspense, adventure, flying (even though I was deathly afraid of heights it still seemed like a thrilling possibility), eternal youth, Wendy's crush on Peter, Tinkerbell's crush on Peter, my crush on Peter- I loved it all! I hadn't re-visited the story in quite some time, and I'd never see the J.M. Barrie version, so while a lot of the magic from my childhood was still there (and sword fights are always badass) I was mostly intrigued by the strict gender roles the play condones and encourages.

The play begins with Mr. and Mrs. Darling going out for a night out on the town. The children are preparing for bed and Mrs. Darling is having a difficult time saying good-bye to them, concerned that something will happen to her children if she's not there to protect them (even though they are under the capable watch of the family maid, Liza).  It is obvious that she is loved and respected in her role as mother and clear that she enjoys it. Mr. Darling seems like he's dying to get out of the house, but Mrs. Darling like she would just be content to stay in and be with the kids.

The kids go to sleep and the Darlings leave and we get our first glimpse of Peter Pan. He tries to get his shadow back on, but can't seem to figure out how to make it work and he starts crying. Wendy wakes from her slumber, "Boy, why are you crying?" Pan explains that he can't get his shadow back on. Wendy launches into mothering mode and grabs a needle and thread (I mean, Peter Pan can fly, so why should he know how to sew?) and fixes the problem in a matter of seconds.

Pan invites Wendy to Neverland to act as a sort of mother to all of the lost boys. Why are there only lost boys in Neverland and no lost girls? Apparently, as we're told by our narrator, girls are too "clever" to fall out of their prams and they are the kind who like to grow up.

Wendy and her younger brothers fly with Peter Pan to Neverland. Wendy has a rough trip- one of the lost boys shoots her right in the chest because Tinkerbell told the poor kid that Wendy was a bird and needed to be shot. Apparently, Tink is a heinous bitch that would rather see a little girl die than have someone steal her man-boy.( However,later in the play when Peter's life is in danger, Tink downs that poison without a second thought, because what would Tink be without her man...err...boy.)

Wendy recovers and the boys build her the house of her dreams (gotta provide for the little lady, ya know) and she begins to "mother" them, even though she is only a child herself. The boys love listening to Wendy tell stories and they clearly respect her, just as the Darling children respect their mother. Wendy is elevated to an almost goddess status, and while it's great that the guys respect her, there is such a clear separation between them and Wendy is not free to just be one of the kids.

Fast forward to much adventures (where all the boys get the badass sword fights, maybe next time Wendy) and Captain Hook meets his demise and  the Wendy and her brothers decide they must return home to their parents. Mrs. Darling has been mourning for her children, yet faithfully waiting for them to come home. Mr. Darling? Well, in his anguish he decided to switch places with the family dog and live, literally, in the dog house. (What silly bastards men can be!)

The kids return home, happy from their adventures but grateful to be with their family again. Wendy is worried about Peter being motherless, and Mrs. Darling reminds her daughter that she needs a mother and can't be worried about mothering someone else. However, Mrs. Darling agrees to let Wendy go visit Peter Pan for a week each year to do his "spring cleaning".

Peter Pan returns each year (except for the years when he forgets, you know how those man-boys can be) and whisks Wendy away to Neverland. Eventually, Wendy grows up (as the kind who like to grow up tend to do) and in her place she sends her daughter Jane...and then Jane grows up and sends her daughter and so on down the line. As the narrator cheekily tells us, the girl visits Peter Pan every year (except for the years that Peter forgets) to do his cleaning and tell Pan stories about himself, because those are his favorite stories. Ooooo goody! That sounds like a great vacation! I get to clean for a whole week and tell some self-absorbed guy stories about himself? Where do I sign up?

And what about Wendy's brothers and the other males who decide that they're going to become men and not stay boys forever? Well, in this production at least, they become soul-less, unhappy corporate mongers. No wonder they're unhappy...if they stayed in Neverland they could have escaped responsibility forever and had some little girl come every year to do their chores and pump up their egos.

As we were walking out of the theatre, my friend Russell said that he desperately wanted Wendy to go over to the window that Peter was hovering outside, lock it, and say "Grow up, Peter". Wendy ( and future generation Wendys) becomes an enabler, someone who not only allows but encourages Peter to shirk his responsibilities.

Are males really incapable of taking care of themselves? Certainly not. Are females really doormats who would love nothing more than to wait on someone hand and foot? Nope. Both roles can be fun to play every once in awhile, but Peter Pan: The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up paints such a polarized, strict picture of gender roles that it's not good for anybody. Especially the kids.

But, hey, on another note---have I mentioned that the sword fighting is badass?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

If Men Could Menstruate

When I took my first women's studies class, we read an essay by Gloria Steinem entitled "If Men Could Menstruate".  It's thought provoking and biting, but also really freakin' hilarious. The first time I read it I thought about how many times I'd been ashamed by my period. How embarrassed I would get when I would clumsily rummage through my extra large purse and tampons would come spilling out. The feeling of awkwardness I would have when I had to buy them at CVS. How when I would unexpectedly get my period and didn't have a tampon with me I would covertly ask a friend for one and she would surreptitiously pass it to me as if she was handing off crack cocaine. And perhaps my favorite of all time---when I had to play a basketball game with tolilet paper stuffed into my pants because I was too embarrassed to tell my dad that I had gone through "the change".

Now, I'm not saying having my period is something that I'm always thrilled about---I don't like the cramps, headaches, overall feeling of ickiness and I hate spending money on tampons---but I'm working on not being apologetic about it anymore. In fact, I'M MENSTRUATING RIGHT NOW! (There, that didn't feel so bad, although it was probably unnecessary for me to yell it.) I'm mentruating right now. (Yeah, that's better.)

So I present to your Gloria Steinem's glorious essay...she says it better than I ever could.



If Men Could Menstruate

by Gloria Steinem

A white minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into thinking that a white skin makes people superior - even though the only thing it really does is make the more subject to ultraviolet rays and to wrinkles. Male human beings have built whole cultures around the idea that penis envy is "natural" to women - though having such an unprotected organ might be said to make men vulnerable, and the power to give birth makes womb envy at least as logical.

In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it.

What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?

The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:

Men would brag about how long and how much.

Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties.

Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts.

Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shields - "For Those Light Bachelor Days," and Robert "Baretta" Blake Maxi-Pads.)

Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve in the Army ("you have to give blood to take blood"), occupy political office ("can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priest and ministers ("how could a woman give her blood for our sins?") or rabbis ("without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean").

Male radicals, left-wing politicians, mystics, however, would insist that women are equal, just different, and that any woman could enter their ranks if she were willing to self-inflict a major wound every month ("you MUST give blood for the revolution"), recognize the preeminence of menstrual issues, or subordinate her selfness to all men in their Cycle of Enlightenment. Street guys would brag ("I'm a three pad man") or answer praise from a buddy ("Man, you lookin' good!") by giving fives and saying, "Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!" TV shows would treat the subject at length. ("Happy Days": Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row.) So would newspapers. (SHARK SCARE THREATENS MENSTRUATING MEN. JUDGE CITES MONTHLY STRESS IN PARDONING RAPIST.) And movies. (Newman and Redford in "Blood Brothers"!)

Men would convince women that intercourse was more pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself - though probably only because they needed a good menstruating man.

Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. How could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics, or measurement, for instance, without that in-built gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets - and thus for measuring anything at all? In the rarefied fields of philosophy and religion, could women compensate for missing the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death-and-resurrection every month?

Liberal males in every field would try to be kind: the fact that "these people" have no gift for measuring life or connecting to the universe, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.

And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine traditional women agreeing to all arguments with a staunch and smiling masochism. ("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly. "Your husband's blood is as sacred as that of Jesus - and so sexy, too!": Marabel Morgan.) Reformers and Queen Bees would try to imitate men, and pretend to have a monthly cycle. All feminists would explain endlessly that men, too, needed to be liberated from the false idea of Martian aggressiveness, just as women needed to escape the bonds of menses envy. Radical feminist would add that the oppression of the nonmenstrual was the pattern for all other oppressions ("Vampires were our first freedom fighters!") Cultural feminists would develop a bloodless imagery in art and literature. Socialist feminists would insist that only under capitalism would men be able to monopolize menstrual blood . . . .

In fact, if men could menstruate, the power justifications could probably go on forever.

If we let them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"I like it on the..."

If you're as much of a facebook stalker as I am (and you're probably not if you're a healthy individual), you may have noticed women posting provocative statuses- "I like it on the floor"..."I like it on my kitchen table"..."I like it right on my bed"... etc. during the past few days. No, these aren't the locations where women like to have sex, it's an answer to the question "Where do you like to put your purse?"

I didn't know what was up with these statuses, so I googled the phrase "I like it on the facebook statuses" and quickly learned that these statuses were meant to garner attention because October is breast cancer awareness month. Sounds good in theory, breast cancer awareness is important. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women (right after skin cancer) and 192,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. (2,000 men are diagnosed each year with breast cancer as well.) It's certainly important to get the word out there, but I think some of the statuses that I saw clearly missed the point of the whole exercise.

One girl's post (I think she was an "I like it on the floor" gal) got the attention of one of her male friends, and he asked what was up. She responded by saying something like, " hahaha I can't's a big world wide secret". I also noticed the status a friend's boyfriend-- "women are stupid". I checked out the thread and he explained that he was annoyed because women were posting these statuses and he had no clue what it was about. A male friend of his commented, "yeah, what is that all about?" and then he responded with something like, "I found out what it was some stupid thing from sisterhood of the traveling pants of the yaya sisterhood or something". clearly some people are missing the mark a little bit. If this is supposed to promote breast cancer awareness, shouldn't someone have clued these guys in? (Yeah, I suppose they could have googled it like I did, but not everyone is as nosy as I am.)

Also, is the best way (only way?) to get attention for a women's cause to sexualize it? Last year those participating posted the colors of their bras. Maybe I'm putting too much faith in humanity, but I think that just as many people would be interested in breast cancer awareness month as would be interested in the color of my bra or where I like to put my purse.

So, I think I've come up with a compromise. T-shirts that read (on front) "Feel your boobs...or someone else's!" (on back) " but make sure you ask first"  Provocative and sexualized enough to get some attention, but direct enough for everyone to know what the hell we're talking about. I mean, it is breast cancer AWARENESS month not Sexualized Cryptic Inside Joke on Facebook Status month. (That's in March.)

Click here

By clicking, sponsors give money for mammograms.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My grandma is pretty freakin' awesome.

*I wrote this post for a blog I started on myspace (yes myspace still exists and yes it still sucks) about two years ago. My mam is one of the most amazing women I know...*

My grandma, or "Mam" as we like to call her, is a kickass lady. She was a janitor at my high school for a bunch of years, and she’s the kind of woman that all of the kids were obsessed with. But, as she’s getting on in years as grandmothers tend to do, it is becoming more difficult to know what is going to pop out of her mouth.
This morning, my mom, sister, brother, and I picked up my grandma for church and dinner at my aunt’s house. As soon as we saw her, she plopped down into the front seat, a plate of food and several Easter baskets in her lap, and proclaimed "I HAVE AN EASTER STORY!" We all listened up, wondering if it was going to be an old favorite or something new that she had drummed up. She promptly launched into the story, "It’s an Easter story about a’s a funny story about a duck! When your Uncle Chewy was little, he used to crawl into the sewer drains, you see. And he would sit there and wait for awhile, and when he would hear somebody comin’, he would lift the lid off just a little bit and let out a ’QUACK!’ Now let me tell you, he sounded just like a duck. JUST LIKE  a duck...I don’t know how he did it. So the people would be walking down the street and your Uncle Chewy would just sit there, going ’QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!’ and nobody ever knew it was him."
Now, as far as I can remember, this was a new story for my grandma. It’s been awhile since we’ve heard completely new stuff from her, so I was excited to see what she would whip out for the rest of the day.
Mam certainly didn’t disappoint us. She brought out all of my old favorites, which include saying that every morsel of food she tastes is "luscious" and doing her famous "Pistol Packin’ Mama" routine. Now, I don’t know if "Pistol Packin’ Mama" is a staple among other families, but it is a tradition that is cherished in ours. My mam whips out her dentures, throws them on her napkin, and sings "Pistol Packing Mama" while miming an acoustic guitar. When we were younger, this was met with shrill, horrified shrieks from me (and later on my little brother and sister) because Mam didn’t look like Mam without her teeth in. Now, I’ve gotten over it, but it still is a little jarring to see my grandma sans her false teeth.
But Mam had one more original for us today, and it was a goody. My cousin’s baby, an adorable 2-year old named Jack, had joined us for the festivities. My grandma (his great grandma---holy geez I am starting to feel old) decided she was going to find an inventive way to get his attention, since nearly every person in the room was clamoring for it. My grandma stared at Jack from across the room, and said (in a voice that sounded like a mixture of a hobbit and a troll-woman) "GIMME THAT FINGER!!"
My sister, brother and I were all sitting together on the sofa, and we all just sort of looked at each other with a ’what the hell is going on i’ve never seen this before is mam all right’ glance. But Jack didn’t seem to think there was anything strange about this statement at all and went barreling over to my grandma. She quickly swooped him up and plopped him in her lap, yelping again, "GIMME THAT FINGER!!" She then proceeded to pretend to nibble on his fingers, saying, "That’s my finger...(switching to his other hand) no that’s my that THAT FINGER!!" Jack squealed in absolute delight, and was the happiest I saw him all day.
The moral of the story? You can take all the "Mommy and Me" classes you want, force your child to listen to "Baby Einstein," play Mozart for your child while he or she is still in the womb, and set up "play dates" with well behaved children all you want, but sometimes, all your kid wants to do is play "GIMME THAT FINGER!!"

Mam is cool.

A document in madness

Ophelia- pure, beautiful, punching bag, pawn, innocent, crazy, Polonius' daughter, Laertes' sister, Hamlet's lover, victim, lonely, caring, passive...

Hamlet's Ophelia is one of Shakespeare's most famous "heroines" yet we know very little about her. She is only in 5 scenes in the play and during her only soliloquy she describes Hamlet's apparent assent into madness. Ultimately, Ophelia goes "crazy" begging Gertrude and Claudius to listen to her songs and proceeds to drown herself. Ophelia is silenced, but it doesn't really matter, because no one was ever listening to her in the first place.

Now, I'm not saying I identify with Ophelia in a big time kind of way. I've never had a boyfriend go apeshit and kill my father (fingers crossed that will never happen), but I can identify with feeling misunderstood and at a loss for how I can make myself heard and understood.

I'm not sure exactly where I want this blog to go, but I'm all right with that for right now. I want it to be a forum to celebrate and deconstruct what it means to be women. Women of different socio-economic classes, races, religions (or no religion), sexual orientations, ages, professions, political affliations, etc. 

I want my blog to open and expand my mind (and others' too hopefully) but I also want it to be fun! So feel free to post/comment on anything that you think might be somewhat relevant (really, I have a very large scope of what's relevant at this point).

Let's let the Ophelia in each of us (whoever that may be) to stand up, speak out, and have a little fun on her own terms. She deserves it for a change.