Category: history


Showing off the legs in question

 

At the risk of sounding vain, I love my legs.  A few years ago, when I was complaining to my mom about the fact that I had inherited her nose, she cut me off by replying, “Yes, but you inherited my legs too so stop complaining.”  And you know what?  She was right.  I take a lot of pride in my legs and I enjoy showing them off.

At one time, of course, showing them off would probably have meant being accused of gross indecency.  Most famously, during the Victorian Era, it was considered scandalous for a woman to even show her ankles.  

Fortunately, especially for those of us who live in the Southwest where it’s usually just a little bit too hot and dry to wander around covered head-to-toe in several layers of clothing all in the name of public decency, times have changed.

Now, if you’re like me and you like to show off your legs then you probably know that there’s a lot of advice to be found online on how to wear a miniskirt without 1) looking trashy and 2) letting the entire world know what color underwear you’re wearing. 

A lot of that information is actually pretty helpful.

And then some of that information, like this video that I came across on YouTube yesterday, is from 1967…

That’s right, ladies.  The key to wearing a miniskirt is to make sure you carry your chastity board with you everywhere and try not to distract the men from getting their work done.

You’re welcome. 🙂

Advertisements

 

I'm using this picture because, quite frankly, I think it treats Bin Laden with all the respect he deserves.

Last night, as I watched the news reports about the death of Osama Bin Laden, I heard more than one reporter say, “Now, everyone will remember where they were when they first learned that Osama Bin Laden was dead.”

Myself, I first learned about it at 9:38 last night.  I was sitting on my couch in my beloved black Pirates shirt and underwear, watching the Celebrity Apprentice with my sister Erin and my friend Jeff.  We had already seen the announcement that President Barack Obama was planning on giving a speech at 9:30 and we were ominously informed that the subject of the speech was “unknown.”  Erin was concerned that we were about to get into another war, my (hopeful) guess was that he was going to announce his resignation, and Jeff suggested that he was just wanted to show Donald Trump who was boss.  Luckily, Erin happened to be on twitter and she was the one who first spotted the “Bin Laden’s dead!” tweets.

So, that’s how I first learned that Osama Bin Laden was dead.  I have to be honest, I wish the moment had been a bit more cinematic.  I wish I could say that the circumstances were more like being kissed by a stranger in Times Square on V-Day or something else with a similar romantic appeal.

But no, the reality of the matter is that when I first heard the news, I was lounging on my couch in my panties.  Fortunately, they were at least festive panties.

The panties I was wearing the night Bin Laden died

I do take some comfort, however, in the fact that I probably wasn’t the only person not dressed to witness history that night.  And regardless, history just happens.  It’s not something you can prepare for. 

What’s important, and  I say this as a confirmed bleeding heart pacifist who is opposed to the death penalty and who fervently believes that prisons should be more about rehabilitation than punishment, is that right now, I’ve never been prouder of our armed forces. 

And, in the future, when I’m asked what it was like to first hear that Bin Laden was dead, that’s the answer I’ll give.

I love tracking down and watching those old, amazingly sexist TV commercials from the 1960s.  You know the type — these are the commercials where a smug male narrator says stuff like, “For today’s modern girl, staying presentable and ladylike is even more important than it was in the past…”  or “Today’s modern woman knows that when her husband gets home from the office, only Farmer’s House Coffee will do.”

Of course, the main reason that these commercials interest me is that they’re not all that different from their modern counterparts.  For the most part, the commercials have become a bit more flashy and the men act a lot more stupid but the message of “If you want to be a real woman, buy our product and stop thinking so much” remains the same.

Here’s an old one from Pepsi that deals with the importance of remaining “beautiful, slim, and attractive.”  From the patronising tone of the narrator to the “ha-ha-women-love-to-shop” punchline, this is just so 1960s.

(I’ve always found it interesting that a woman shopping is somehow irrational while a man who spends his life savings on decorations for his car is considered to be perfectly normal.)

(Last night, I had a dream where I saw myself walking down a foggy street in Victorian-era London.  I eventually reached the run-down boarding house where I lived and I stepped inside and it was only as I stepped inside that I realized that in my dream, I was Mary Kelly, the final victim of Jack the Ripper, and that, by stepping into that house, I was essentially walking to my death.  Anyway, needless to say, that was enough to wake me up.

As for the historical Mary Kelly, she was a 25 year-old, redheaded, Irish Catholic, just like me.  She died on November 9th, 1888.  97 years later, I was born on November 9th, 1985.  Mary haunts me because she was so brutally murdered yet her murderer — to the best of our knowledge — was never captured and never punished.  Like far too many women who have failed to live up to the standards of her society, she wasn’t given justice and she’ll never receive it.  Instead, the man (or woman) who victimized her is a household name yet Mary Kelly remains forgotten.

Anyway, spending time thinking about this dream led to me jotting down the words below.)

Mary Kelly

A disengaged mind

Walking dark streets

Preying on us all

Listening for sounds

Of softly muffled cries

Hanging in the air

The dying of the light

You opened Pandora’s Box

You pulled out all I had

I lay on top of my bed

Lost in my sanctuary

The world entered my room

And stared inside of me

It’s Election Day and therefore, today seems like as good a day as any to share a few random facts and opinions about the history and role of women in U.S. politics.

(That clicking sound you hear is the sound of a handful of men all navigating away from this page at the same time.)

As I wrote on Women’s Equality Day, American women did not truly win the right to vote until 1920.  Before then, women could (and some were) put in jail simply for trying to exercise a right that we now all take  for granted.  Oddly enough, in most states, women could run for and hold public office.  They just couldn’t vote for themselves.

The first woman ever to be elected to any public office in the United States was Suzanna M. Salter who was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas in 1887.  She was 27 years old at the time.  She served as mayor for one term before retiring at the age of 29.  She lived to be 101 years old and never sought ran in another election.

Nellie Taylor Ross also lived to be a 101 years old.  As well, she was the 1st women to be elected governor of a state.  She was elected governor of Wyoming in 1924, succeeding her late husband in office.  She was defeated for reelection two years later but remained a prominent figure in Democratic politics.

The first woman ever elected to the U.S. House was Republican Jeanette Rankin, who was first elected from Montana in 1916.  She’s famous for opposing (and voting against) American entry into both World War I and World War II.  In both instances, her pacifism led to her either being voted out of or voluntarily leaving office.  While it’s difficult for me to accept her vote against entering World War II, she was a woman who consistently stood by her beliefs even when they weren’t popular and even when she knew they would lead to the end of her career.  That’s a lesson that several of our current government leaders would do well to learn.

The first woman to serve as a state senate majority leader was also the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court — Sandra Day O’Connor.

The first female senator was Rebecca Felton of Georgia.  A Democrat, she was appointed to the Senate in 1922 and served a total of one day.  The first woman to actually be elected to the U.S. Senate was Hattie Carraway of Arkansas.  A Democrat, Carraway was first elected in a 1931 special election to fill the seat that had previously been held by her late husband.  She later shocked a lot of people for running for winning two terms on her own.

Since 1922, 38 women have served in the U.S. Senate.  17 currently serve in the U.S. Senate.  In today’s general election, a total of 16 women (including incumbents) will be running for a Senate seat.  According to current polling, there should be a record number of women in the U.S. Senate after today’s election.  That number will still probably only account for about 20 to 22% of the total membership. 

(Meanwhile, 51% of the citizens governed by this 80% male Senate are female.)

Women have been running for President even before they were legally allowed to vote.  However, the first woman to launch a serious campaign for the presidential nomination of either one of the two major political parties was Republican U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine who ran in 1964.  Smith was followed by Shirley Chisholm and Patsy Mink (two Democrats who ran in 1972), Pat Schroeder (Democrat, 1988), Elizabeth Dole (Republican, 2000), Carol Mosely Braun (Democrat, 2004), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (Democrat, 2008). 

Clinton came the closest of that group to actually winning the nomination and, arguably, was the first woman to ever have a truly serious chance at doing so.  That said, it still wasn’t good enough to convince Barack Obama to offer her the vice presidency.  That role went to Joe Biden, a well-meaning, old school sexist if there ever was one. 

In fact, only two women have been nominated for Vice President by a major political party.  Geraldine Ferraro was nominated by the Democrats in 1984.  Sarah Palin was nominated by the Republicans in 2008.  In both cases, the nominations were dismissed as gimmicks and both Ferraro and Palin were subjected to criticism and scrutiny that had little to do with their qualifications (or lack thereof) and everything to do with the fact that they were women being judged by a male-dominated mainstream media.  Hence, Ferraro was attacked for marrying a charming guy who turned out to be a crook and Palin was attacked for the clothes she wore and her daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that either Ferraro or Palin was a good choice for the Vice Presidency or the Presidency.  Obviously, there are many legitimate concerns about Sarah Palin.  While I’m only familiar with Ferraro from history books, it appears that the same could be said about her.  My only point here is that rather than focus on the legitimate issues about either one of these candidates, the media decided to focus on their gender and judged them less on the issues and more on preconceived assumptions of the “proper” role of a woman in politics.

(That role, by the way, is to be a sexless, opinionless, and humorless cardboard cut-out with absolutely no history beyond the day they were first elected to public history.)

Though no woman has ever been nominated for the presidency by a major political party, many women have run for President on third-party tickets.  The first to do so was my personal hero, Victoria Woodhull.  In 1872, 34 year-old spiritualist, journalist, and free love advocate Woodhull attempted to run for President as the candidate of the Equal Rights Party.  For her troubles, she spent election day in jail.  The election was won by Ulysses Grant who, it is generally agreed, was one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history.

Since Woodhull’s day behind bars, approximately 25 women have been nominated for the presidency by a third or independent party, everyone from the National Equal Rights Party’s Belva Ann Lockwood (the first female attorney to ever argue a case in front of the Supreme Court) in 1884 to the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney in 2008.

The first woman to ever receive a vote in the electoral college was Theodora Nathan, the libertarian candidate for Vice President in 1972.  She received one vote from a California elector named Roger MacBride.

Both my Aunt Kate and my mom were fond of saying that if women were in charge of the world, there would be no more wars.  I don’t agree with that but then again, could Victoria Woodhull possibly have been a worse president than Ulysses S. Grant?

It’s something to consider.

Well, Halloween is over and, with it, October 2010 is now a piece of history.  It’s hard to believe that it’s almost 2011.  It’s even harder for me to believe that, in a week and one day, I will be 25 years old.  Bleh and Agck!  That’s something I don’t want to think about.  When I was still young and innocent, I always used to think of anyone over the age of 25 as being so old.  I mean, 25 means adulthood.  Ideally, 25 means that you’re now a member of society as opposed to being a ward of society.

And I want nothing to do with it.

I was tempted to tell everyone to just ignore my birthday but, hopefully, they know better than that because as much as I hate the idea of getting older, I love the idea of presents.  Since I’ve ruled out the idea of ignoring my birthday, perhaps now would be a good time for me to just start obsessing on the past and remembering when I was still young and full of hope.

For instance, I may handle my birthday by telling everyone what a wonderful Halloween I had way back in October of 2010.  Yes, I can remember that Halloween as if it was yesterday.  I can remember my friend Jeff picking me up that night.  He was a doctor and I was a zombie.  Even today, I can still remember the party we went to and how so many old friends were happy to see us and embrace us and we all laughed and drank and danced and flirted as if we had all the time in the world.  Ah, those long-distant memories of yesterday.  If I think about it long enough, I swear my ears still feel like they’re recovering from spending too much time near the gigantic speakers that vibrated with an almost tribal quality as they broadcast the music that kept the party going late into the night. 

And how could I ever forget the moment during that magical night when I smiled as coyly as one can while made up as a corpse and I said, “How about a little necrophilia?”  Yes, I had been waiting five years for an excuse to use that line outside of a morgue or mortuary-setting and finally, on that night, the stars just came together and the moment was right.

(That line, by the way, is from a movie called Brazil, which is actually quite good.  Another thing I have in common with Brazil is that we were both released in 1985.)

Little did I know, back then, that there could only be one Halloween, 2010.  And now, older and wiser, I look back at it and I only wish I had appreciated it as much back then as I do now.

Halloween, 2010.

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

Most people tend to be dismissive of commercials but I think they provide a handy time capsule of society.

For instance, did you know there was a coffee crime wave?

Fortunately, there was always a patriarchal representative around to set us all in the right direction.

I love my Aunt Kate and I know she loves me but often times, we have trouble showing it.  To a large extent, it’s a generational thing.  She’s a part of the generation of women who rebelled against a sexist society by burning bras, protesting outside of the halls of government, and never allowing any man to get away with casually referring to her as sweetheart, babe, doll, dear, or any other term that would have served to diminish her.  Because of the society she lived in, everything she did — from the clothes she wore to the jobs she took to the way she signed her name — had to be done in a way that rejected anything that would have allowed men to stereotype her.  My aunt is part of a generation of feminists that were and are often referred to as being “strident.”  But if Kate was strident, it was because she didn’t have much choice.  Anything less than stridency would have been surrender.

As for me, I’m a part of the generation that can afford not to be strident.  I’m a part of the generation that can be feminine because we want to and not because society is holding a gun to our head and demanding it.  I’m a part of the generation that takes for granted the freedoms that my aunt fought and suffered for.  While I tend to forget that my aunt grew up in a time when women had to fight, I think she sometimes doesn’t realize that just because I might spend a while getting my makeup just right, I’m doing that for me and not because it’s demanded of me by a patriarchal society.  As a result, me and Kate argue way too much and often times, I forget to thank her for making the world a better place for me. 

I’m happy to say, however, that Kate and I have found something that we totally agree on.  We both love Tim Gunn, the former fashion school dean who is best known for playing the role of mentor on 8 seasons of Project Runway and counting.  Apparently, Tim — yes, both me and Kate consider ourselves to be on a first name basis with Tim — was recently in Frisco, Texas on some sort of promotional tour.  My aunt was among the countless women who came to see and hear him.  Kate approached him afterward, told him how much she “respected” him, and she got a hug in return.  She said it was one of the nicest hugs she’d ever received and that doesn’t surprise me at all.  He’s Tim Gunn after all!

Why do we love Tim Gunn?

Tim Gunn knows fashion.  This goes without saying.  The thing that always impresses me about Tim on Project Runway is that he’s definitely a man of another generation yet he still respects the opinions and the fashions of my generation.  He’s that rare older man who doesn’t expect or demand that a woman in her 20s either dress like 1) our grandmother or 2) like we’re posing for the cover of Lolita.

Tim Gunn is gay.  Don’t doubt just how important this one little fact is.  As a woman, you are constantly aware that every guy you meet is, somewhere in the back of his mind, deciding whether or not you are — to put it crudely — fuckable.  Everything a guy says to you, you have to wonder: Is he telling me the truth or is he just trying to get in my pants?  And if he isn’t trying to get into my pants — why not?  Obviously, this can lead to a lot of confusion, stress, and hurt feelings.  But Tim, bless him, is not only gay but openly and obviously so.  We know he is only interested in looking at the clothes on our body as opposed to our body underneath our clothes.  Tim’s a man that we can actually trust and how often do you actually meet one of those?  At the same time, since Tim is a man, a woman doesn’t have to worry that he’s been busy hating her behind her back or that he’s been spreading lies and innuendo just because her ass looks better in skinny jeans than his does.  In short, Tim Gunn is the ideal platonic male friend.

Tim Gunn has been celibate since breaking up with his boyfriend.  They broke up 20 years ago.  In interviews, Tim has explained that he’s remained celibate because he’s still in love with his former partner.  Since I have tendency to go crazy if I’m celibate for 20 hours, it’s hard for me to imagine what 20 years of voluntary celibacy could possibly be like.  That’s not a life I would really wish on anyone but it’s hard for me not to read that and go “awww…” at the fact that Tim would apparently choose to simply be celibate as opposed to just doing it with someone who he doesn’t love.

Tim Gunn could spend hours in a fabric store.  How many men can you say that about?

Tim Gunn is always sophisticated but never a snob.  One of my favorite parts of Project Runway is when the show finally leaves either NYC or L.A. and Tim visits the finalists in their own hometowns.  For whatever reason, each season seems to feature quite a few designed who come from and live out in Deliverance country.  It’s hard to describe the delight I get from seeing Tim, in his perfectly tailored suits and not a hair out-of-place, discussing fashion while surrounded by sagging pants, beer bellies, manboobs, and rampaging cellulite.  In a world where belching has become an acceptable form of debate, there is something comforting in knowing that there’s at least one man out there who still makes the effort.  What’s even more appealing is that, unlike me, Tim Gunn would never (at least not in public) use the phrase “deliverance country” when talking about the people he’s just met.  There’s a lot of be said for a man who can be sophisticated without feeling the need to call attention to that fact.

Tim Gunn has one of the few hearts in reality television.  One thing about most reality TV regulars: they’re very quick to let you know what they think of each season’s group of contestants.  On Survivor, Jeff Probst always lets us know which tribe he considers to be the most pathetic.  Julie Chen often struggles to remember just who exactly is living in the Big Brother house.  Chris Harrison can’t wait for  the Bachelor to screw up his engagement.  Don’t even get me started on those two fascists that seem to be intent on giving everyone a heart attack on Biggest Loser.  However, Tim Gunn is always seems to be sincere when he sends the latest cut designer up to the workroom to clean his or her space.  With is warm hug and his apologetic tone, Tim has probably kept more than a few failed designers from committing suicide after having to listen to Heidi Klum tell them that “We’ve seen it before and, quite frankly, we’re bored…”

Tim Gunn speaks his mind.  Tim may be nice but he speaks his mind.  One of the best things about this current season of Project Runway has been watching Tim put judgmental, catty snobs like Gretchen and Ivy in their place.  Who didn’t cheer when Tim said he couldn’t understand why the other designers were meekly allowing themselves to be “bullied” by Gretchen or when he showed up at the workroom and told Ivy to stop accusing Michael Costello of “cheating?”  There are times when I wish I could have someone like Tim Gunn with me whenever I’m at work and I know I’m going to have to deal with the women who work in the office next to mine. 

Tim Gunn is willing to call the Kardashians “vulgar.”  Somebody had to say it.

Tim Gunn does the right thing.  One of the reasons why my aunt said she “respected” Tim Gunn is because of a recent  video Tim made in response to the recent suicides of several gay teenagers.  In that video, Tim talks about how he tried to take his own life when he was 17 and still coming to terms with his sexuality.  Here’s something else that me and Kate agree on — I respect Tim Gunn too.  It takes courage to talk publicly about something that painful.  While everyone always talks about how tragic suicide is, there’s still a stigma attached to actually admitting that you have ever been in that dark of a place.  That Tim Gunn — who certainly didn’t have to — chose to open up that part of his life says a lot about who he is and why he’s earned the respect of both me and my aunt.

Tim Gunn gave me and my Aunt common ground.  After me and my aunt had spent a little while talking about how much we both love Tim, we came to an agreement.  From now on, whenever she’s tempted to admonish me or I’m tempted to get an attitude with her, we are simply going to ask ourselves, “What would Tim Gunn do?”

They apparently did a study over in Germany that indicates that older people enjoy reading negative stories about younger people.  They say that the study suggests that old people are jealous of young people and get some sort of comfort out of hearing about how stupid we all are.  I’m not totally sure who “they” are but whoever they are, I’m jealous.  I’d love to have enough free time to actually conduct and publish a study about something as obvious as generational resentment.

Then again, it’s probably a mistake to just assume that all resentment can be linked to age.  We resent and fear those who have what we don’t.  The old resent the young because the young still have a life ahead of them.  The poor resent the rich because the rich have money.  The rich resent the poor because the poor have the whole street mystique.  The middle class resent the rich and the poor because at least they have an identity beyond just being bland. 

Unfortunately, with each passing the day,  it becomes more obvious to me that resentment is the major motivator behind most human actions.  Sometimes, that resentment leads to greater things.  Sometimes, you get a case where someone strives to do his best just to prove that he is worthy of success.  Far too often, however, it seems like that resentment is turned into either a life philosophy or a political ideology.  That’s one thing about human beings.  We’re very good at finding excuses for our own selfishness.  Suddenly, class resentment is renamed “populism” and paranoia and self-righteous anger is defined as “independence.”

Me, I resent whoever’s currently competing on Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  Because up until seven years ago, I fully believed that my entire life would be about dancing and standing on stage while waves of applause crashed over me.  But then one morning, I missed a step, tumbled down a flight of stairs, and ended up breaking my ankle in two places.  So much for dancing.  And that’s probably for the best because, even before that, I wasn’t really that good at it.  Once I stopped dancing, I started writing.  So, I think I can say that, in the end, it was a pretty good thing that I fell down those stairs 7 years ago. 

Still, whenever I hear anything negative about anybody who has ever been involved with either one of those shows, there’s a part of me that secretly smirks and thinks, “That’ll teach them to live my dream.”

The final paragraph of these type of essays are always supposed to offer up a solution for the problem or maybe some sort of dire warning about how the world’s going to wither and die if we don’t change our ways.  Well, I’ll offer up neither.  The fact of the matter is that there is no solution and there is no apocalypse.  There’s just human nature.

August 26th is Women’s Equality Day. 

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I’m happy to see anything that acknowledges that women deserve the same rights (both legally and culturally) as men.  On the other hand, it’s hard not to be dismayed by the fact that we apparently need a day to remind us of this fact.  To me, Women’s Equality Day is less about celebrating how far we’ve come and more about realizing that we’ve still got a very long way to go.

Women’s Equality Day is technically meant to commemorate the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  This is the amendment that brought universal suffrage to this country.  Until then, some states allowed women to vote and other didn’t.  A female citizen of Wyoming was allowed to cast her ballot while a woman in Pennsylvania could be arrested and jailed for attempting to exercise the same right.

Oddly, most states allowed women to run for public office but they didn’t allow them to the vote for themselves.  The first woman to ever run for President — Victoria C. Woodhull in 1872 — spent election day in jail specifically so she wouldn’t vote for herself.  Woodhull, by the way, is a personal hero of mine.

So, when did women finally gain, under the U.S. Constitution, the right to vote in every state as opposed to just some?

The 19th amendment was officially certified on August 26th, 1920.

Consider that.

The guaranteed, Constitutional right of women to have a say in their government is less than a 100 years old. 

In order for the 19th amendment to become a part of the Constitution, 36 states were required to ratify it.  The 1st states to ratify the amendment were Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin who all did so on June 10th, 1919.  My homestate of Texas was the 9th, ratifying on June 28th, 1919.  The 36th state to ratify the amendment was Tennessee on August 18th, 1920.  The last state to ratify was Mississippi who got around to officially ratifying the amendment on March 22nd, 1984.

It’s difficult for me to understand and imagine what it must have once been like for women like Victoria Woodhull, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Belva Lockwood (and many others).  These women devoted their lives to and risked both ridicule and criminal prosecution for the rights that I take for granted.  I cast my first vote in the 2004 presidential election and I’ve voted in 2 general elections since then.  All three times, it was something that I did because it was what everyone does on the 1st Tuesday of November.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have had the strength to fight for these rights that I now take for granted.  Honestly, it’s hard to say for sure.  Sometimes, it’s easier to just accept injustice than to risk being on the outside.  I’d like to think that I would fight but traditionally, women are not raised to fight and we’re made to feel as if we’re somehow to blame whenever we do.

For most of recorded history, women have been raised and encouraged to be dependent.  In return for being dependent, we’re given small gifts that are meant to somehow pass for a greater reward.  Far too often, we accept this because it’s what we’re used to and it’s what we’re secure with.  We’re told that men will take care of us as long as we’re willing to sacrifice our own individual ambitions and desires.

And, sad to say, a lot of women — even today — have somehow managed to justify that sacrifice.

It’s a sacrifice I’ve never been willing to make and for that, I may never be allowed to have what I’ve always been told equals safety and perfection.  But whenever I feel like I can’t go on or when it seems like it would just be so much easier to sacrifice my own dreams and just conform to someone else’s idea of who I should be, I remember Victoria C. Woodhull who chose to go to jail as opposed to accepting the idea of being a second-class citizen.  I remember Woodhull and all the other strong women of the past who fought for me to have the chance to be something more than just a supporting ingenue in someone else’s play.

To me, that’s what Women’s Equality Day celebrates.

And that independence is what I plan to celebrate every day for the rest of my life.

%d bloggers like this: