Category: Real Women


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. 🙂

I came across the following AP story earlier today: “Slutwalks” Put Provocative Message On The Street.  The story is by Russell Contreras:

BOSTON – This social movement really gets around.

An international series of protests known as SlutWalks, sparked by a Toronto police officer’s flippant comment that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped or victimized, is taking root in the United States.

Some women and men who protest dress in nothing more remarkable than jeans and T-shirts, while others wear provocative or revealing outfits to bring attention to “slut-shaming,” or shaming women for being sexual, and the treatment of sexual assault victims.

“It was taking the blame off the rapist and on the victim,” said Nicole Sullivan, 21, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and an organizer of the SlutWalk planned here for Saturday. “So we are using these efforts to reclaim the word `slut.'”

The police officer made his comments in January to a group of York University students at a safety forum. He later apologized, but his comments were publicized widely on Facebook and Twitter. They inspired a march in Toronto last month that drew more than 3,000 people, as well as SlutWalks since then in Dallas; Asheville, N.C.; and Ottawa, Ontario.

In addition to Boston, marches are planned in cities including Seattle; Chicago; Philadelphia; Reno, Nev.; and Austin, Texas.

“The event is in protest of a culture that we think is too permissive when it comes to rape and sexual assault,” said Siobhan Connors, 20, of Lynn, Mass., another Boston organizer. “It’s to bring awareness to the shame and degradation women still face for expressing their sexuality … essentially for behaving in a healthy and sexual way.”

The events are similar to “Take Back the Night” rallies and other marches that aim to bring attention to sexual violence. But there are key differences.

SlutWalkers have danced to hip-hop, worn T-shirts with the word “slut” and held signs that read “sluts pay taxes.” Some women have skated around on Rollerblades in lingerie, while their male supporters wore shirts reading, “I love sluts.”

The rallies typically end with speakers and workshops on stopping sexual violence and calling on law enforcement agencies not to blame victims after sexual assaults.

In San Francisco, SlutWalk organizers want to make their protest a family event.

“Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends,” the SlutWalk SF BAY Facebook page announces. “Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us.”

Connors said organizers had initially planned for about 100 people to attend the Boston event; by Thursday, more than 2,300 had responded to a Facebook shout-out. Another 2,000 people have similarly committed to attend the SlutWalk Seattle on June 19.

“Everything happened organically,” Sullivan said.

The officer who made the comments, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, was disciplined but remains on duty, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said Thursday.

“We said at the time that his comments were entirely unacceptable, that they didn’t reflect in any way what we train and teach our people,” Pugash said.

Pugash wouldn’t comment on the movement the officer’s comments have spawned.

The Boston SlutWalk group has had to delete several “inappropriate comments” about women and faced criticism from a group that promised to organize a counter “Pimp Walk” in Boston, Connors said.

“We think it was put there as a joke, but it’s disturbing that a number of young people still feel that way,” said Connors, referring to sexist comments left on the page.

Pages dedicated to other cities’ SlutWalks also deleted inappropriate comments.

Connors said the Boston SlutWalk will start at the Boston Commons with protesters marching around the area and will end with a roster of speakers.

As a matter of general principle, I support the idea behind the SlutWalks.  Far too often, women are told that rape is not a crime but instead, it’s a misunderstanding.  If only we dressed appropriately or watched what we said then apparently, rape would be a nonexistent crime.  When a woman is raped, she is first expected to prove that she’s not a “slut.”

(And, let’s be honest, this point of view is not exclusively male.  I’ve seen firsthand that women are just as capable of being as judgmental and narrow-minded.)

If the idea or the name “SlutWalk” seems to be extreme, it’s simpy a reaction to the extreme circumstances that we find ourselves expected to deal with on a daily basis.

Most of the criticism directed towards the slutwalks is that — by dressing provocatively and embracing the term “slut” — the Slutwalkers are, in fact, trivializing the issue.  And to that I say bullshit.  No, none of the men who show up to leer at a slutwalk are going to have their attitudes changed.  But maybe it’s time that we admit that it’s too late to try to change men.  Maybe it’s time that we, as women, admit that we need to change our attitude that somehow, we’ve brought our victimization on ourselves or that we should be ashamed of who we are. 

Until we are willing to stop playing the victim, we will continue to be victimized. 

At the same time, I do have to say that I have no interest in reclaiming the term “slut.”  You guys can keep the word.  I’m perfectly happy with “independent.”

(Right before I started to post this, the story on Yahoo was updated to report that Gabrielle Giffords might not be dead, that she may indeed be alive and in surgery.  So, I’m posting what I originally wrote but I’m just going to say that details are still coming out.  Here’s the latest version of the story, or, at least, the latest as of my posting this.)

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, was shot in the head and, it was initially reported, killed a few hours ago.  She was in Tuscon, doing some sort of constituent event.  The guy who shot her — described as being either in his teen or early 20s — was arrested after attempting to flee.

Not surprisingly, details are pretty sketchy right now but already, you can either go on twitter or read the comments left on Yahoo (or any of the news services) and you can find the usual gang of asshole zealots from both sides of the political divide.

The left-wingers are going. “Tea Party!  Palin!  Tea Party!” with such gleeful abandon that it almost seems as if they’ve been waiting for something like this to happen so they could go, “I told you so…”

Meanwhile, the right-wingers are going, “No, it was a liberal who shot her because she was a moderate…” and again, I have the same reaction to them that I have to the left-wingers.

And then, you’ve got the nuts who are saying that she deserved to die because she was in politics and all the rest.

Meanwhile, never mind the fact that a human being might be dead.  Never mind the fact that her husband may have just lost his wife.  Never mind the fact that her parents may have just lost a daughter.  Never mind the fact that 6 other human beings were killed by the same shooter and that others were wounded.  No, never mind any of that.

Who needs respect for the dead when there’s a bunch of empty rhetoric to be shouted out by a bunch of people who know nothing beyond their own prejudices?

And before I start having to deal with any asshole zealots accusing me of being a right-winger or being a left-wing or anything else, let me say that this has nothing to do with what Giffords’ politics may have been or whether or not I agreed with them.  Nothing.  I know next to nothing about her beyond what happened today.  I don’t know who she is as a person but I do know that nobody deserves to be shot in the head.  Murder is murder, whether the victim is good or bad and whether it’s being carried out by the individual or the state.

This is one reason why I hate dealing with self-annoited political activists.  So many of them think that they can use a bunch of slogans and posturing to cover up their own deficiencies as human beings.  Not one word of sympathy for Giffords’ family from the online zealots on both sides of the political spectrum.  Instead, just a bunch of “See, I told you so!” bullshit.  I don’t care how any one of them may have voted in November, it’s disgusting.

Today, as I sit here typing this, I am incredibly proud of myself and it’s for the silliest of reasons.  Still, pride is pride.

It’s been a running joke in my family that “Lisa Can Not Cook.”  And, to be honest, most of the jokes started with me.  All of my life, I’ve been convinced that I am incapable of cooking.  My mom was a great cook.  My three sisters are all great cooks.  My aunts are all great cooks.  But me, I couldn’t cook.  Put me in a kitchen and you’re going to have a fire.  If the recipe says a table spoon of salt, then you know that means Lisa Marie is going to dump an entire cannister into it. 

As one of my older cousins once told me, “It’s a lucky thing you’re pretty, Lisa, because nobody’s going to marry you for the food.”

(Strangely enough, hearing that said didn’t make me feel particularly pretty or lucky.)

But last night, I wanted to cook for my friend Jeff because 1) he was out of town for the holidays and I missed him a lot, 2) every time we’ve ever gone out, he’s paid for me and I suspect like he’d probably be a millionaire by now if not for me, and 3) when I told him about what happened on Monday, he was there for me without a second of hesitation, complaint, or doubt.  Because of his job and the fact that we’re always going out to eat, he doesn’t get many home-cooked meals.  So, I wanted him to have one and I wanted to make it for him myself.

But I can’t cook, right?

Turns out, apparently, I can.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m ready to be on TV competing for my own restaurant or anything like that and I did have to get my sister Erin to help me out a little bit so I can’t really say that I deserve that much credit for it but still, dinner last night turned out to be pretty good.

Or, at the very least, edible.  And edible is a lot more than I thought I was capable of doing.

As for what Erin and I made, it was Chicken Risotto using one of my mom’s old recipes and I know that Chicken Risotto really isn’t a big deal or anything (because on Hell’s Kitchen, they’re always saying, “Who can’t make a risotto!?”) but I was still so incredibly proud when I saw it being successfully moved from the stove to the counter to eventually the kitchen table.

I guess you could say that chicken risotto was my mom’s signature dish.  It was what everyone always asked her to make if the family was getting together.  And, I’ll be honest — I’m not a gourmet.  I’m not a “foodie” or whatever you call them.  I don’t know if everyone in the world can make a chicken risotto.  For all I know, it could be the simplest dish to prepare ever.  I know my mom always acted like it wasn’t a big deal to make but I always loved it and so did everyone else.  And, even more importantly, I could tell that she always took a lot of pleasure and personal pride out of seeing how much everyone else loved it.

So, I don’t know if making Chicken Risotto is a huge accomplishment.  All I know is that I did it, I’m proud of myself, Jeff enjoyed his meal, and I think my mom would be proud of me.

Though, I also think, she would probably have noticed that I put in a little bit too much salt.  I noticed and I’m sure Jeff and Erin noticed but they were too nice to say. 

And for that, I love them.

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.

I had a strange morning today.  I woke up, I stumbled out of bed, and I promptly walked into the bedroom wall.  Luckily, my nose shielded my face from the impact.

As I sat on the edge of my bed, holding an ice pack to my nose and feeling like a total idiot, I turned on my MP3 player and the first thing I heard was Patti Smith.

So, it wasn’t really that bad of a morning.

Here’s one of my favorite songs of all time, Patti Smith’s cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”  

Incidentally, I once played this song for my mom because both she and the song shared the same first name.  She asked me to turn it off as soon as she heard the “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.”  Still, even though she didn’t care much for it, she never gave me a hard time for liking it.  At the time, being young and stupid, I don’t think I realized how unique that actually is when it comes to music and the generation gap.

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?”

Well, here we are.  It’s Labor Day, 2010.  Was it everything you hoped it would be?

It wasn’t for me, largely because I originally thought that Labor Day was yesterday as opposed to today.  My sister Erin informed me of my error on Sunday morning as we drove out to my uncle’s place.  Apparently, Labor Day Weekend is a separate holiday from Labor Day.

Personally, I tend to take my holidays for granted.  It’s rare that I ever give much thought to why we celebrate a holiday.  I just celebrate it.  This is especially true as far as Labor Day is concerned.  Seriously, what the Hell are we celebrating?  I checked on Wikipedia earlier today and, having read the article, I can still say that I have no idea.

The nearest I can figure is that Labor Day is the day when the middle and upper classes honor the lower class by taking a day off work.

Personally, I’ve always found that just the name “Labor Day” brings to mind some dreary state-enforced holiday in some Marxist dictatorship somewhere.  That’s one reason why I always make it a point to observe Labor Day by wearing red underwear.

Both me and Erin have spent this Labor Day at my sister Melissa’s house where we’ve had the honor of babysitting our niece Shannon while Melissa was at work. 

If anyone deserved to have this holiday off, it’s Melissa.  Melissa is a little over four years older than me and she is one of the strongest women I know.  Back when I was just a painfully shy little girl who hid her face behind a mass of red hair and who spoke with a humiliating stutter, Melissa was my protector.  Anyone who so much as even thought about picking on me was running the risk of inviting the wrath of my big sister. 

I remember growing up, I always wanted to be strong and confident like Melissa, even though I would certainly never actually tell her that.  And now, two decades later, Melissa’s is still my hero and my role model.  When I watch her with Shannon, I feel like I understand what it truly means to be a strong woman. 

But still, Melissa — like most Americans who are lucky enough to have a job right now — had to work on the day that is meant to honor her.  Now me, I would have probably thrown one of my patented spoiled-little-brat fits if I had to work today while everyone else got to take off.  And I imagine if I had, Melissa would have been the first person to tell me to knock it off.  I have never heard Melissa complain about having to go to work every day even though I know she’d rather be home with her daughter.  I have never seen Melissa indulge in a single second of self-pity even though I know that she, as a single mother, has to deal with things that I probably can’t even begin to imagine.  When I talk to Melissa, she doesn’t tell me about her daily frustrations or difficulties.  Instead, she tells me how much she loves her daughter.  Well, that and she usually tells me not to stay up so late.  She’s still protecting me and I don’t tell her enough that I love her for that (even if it does drive me crazy at the time).

Out of me and my three sisters, Melissa has always been the one who most resembled our mom.  Melissa’s got mom’s beautiful, dark hair (I used to be so jealous!) and her earthy laugh.  But she got something else too.  Ever since mom left us, I’ve come to realize that Melissa inherited mom’s strength and courage as well.  Though Melissa and I have very different interests (I can spend hours talking about Big Brother and Project Runway whereas Melissa might turn on her TV once or twice a week) and we certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on everything (if you ever see the two of us starting to talk about politics, hide!), she’s still the strong, brave woman that I hope to some day become.

As I sit here in the living room, typing on my laptop, I can here Melissa and Erin setting the kitchen table for dinner.  After we eat, Erin and I have a long drive back to our place.  So, I’m going to go eat with my sisters and then I’m going to hug my niece and say goodbye.

And later tonight, before I go to bed, I’m going to think about how lucky I was to spend today with Melissa, Shannon, and Erin.

For me, that’s what makes this day special.

Happy Labor Day.

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.

Yesterday, in between writing poetry, ranting on twitter, and watching Big Brother, I also took some time to catch up on the latest in international news.  This story, from CNN.com, especially caught my attention:

Paris Teens Charged in Bare-Breasted Robberies

Paris, France (CNN) — French police believe they’ve gotten to the bottom of a series of robberies in which teenage girls exposed their breasts to distract men withdrawing money from Paris cash machines

(….)

Police say that on August 7, a man inserted a card into a cash machine in central Paris to withdraw money when two young females approached him and asked for money. The girls waved a newspaper at the man in an attempt to distract him, but the technique didn’t work.

So the girls tried another strategy: One of them bared her breasts and put her hand on the man’s genitals while the other took the opportunity to withdraw 300 euros, police said.

The story goes on to state that the two girls, both under the age of 18, have been arrested for the “crime” and are accused of taking part in two other ATM robberies.

Now, to me, it’s pointless to read any news story online without then reading some of the comments that others have posted concerning it.  To me, those comments — usually made by people who remain anonymous and therefore feel safe expressing what they’re really thinking — are usually the real story.

The majority of the comments were predictable examples of “Thanks for the mamaries” type humor.  There were quite a few comments that were apparently left by a guy who is so insecure that he felt the need to even let the Internet know that he’s such a robust heterosexual that he could literally spend hours talking about how much he likes to stare at boobs.  As I said, nothing surprising.

And then there were a few comments that had an oddly defensive tone to them.

For instance, ttruth2 stated, “girls can’t be too smart….the guy would have paid 1000 euros……..”

BusterHymen (yeah, nice online name, asshole) adds, “This isn’t news. This happens in any given strip club nightly across america…”

txntv suggests, “Since they were the type of girls that are quick to flash and grope, it seems the victim could of talked them into ways of “earning” the money.”

That comment apparently inspired Guest26094 to contribute this: “hahhaha prostitution is legal if you’re a woman stealing from men in the form of cars, dinners, dates, marriage, etc.”

I started to post my own response to him, asking what it was like to be a 33 year-old virgin still living at home with mom but I decided not to.  He may be a pig but he’s also a guest, apparently.  And, being a Southern girl, I’ve been taught to treat guests politely even if they’re total “dumbfugs” (as my cousin Erica is fond of saying).

Finally, Buttersnap7 snaps, “You have to be a sucker to let that happen to you. Someone getting money out of me better have a gun. Not a knife, a gun. And, certainly not breasts. I’m a little smarter than that. Women have been using their “goods” since the beginning of time, and men have been weaklings in regards to it.”

Tough words from a man named Buttersnap.  “Women have been using their goods since the beginning of time…”  Perhaps but so have men.  It’s just that we happen to have different goods.  Men seem to have no trouble with the “goods” except when we use them to our advantage.  Is Buttersnap upset that “men have been weaklings” or is he upset because we know it?  Men love to obsess on how to use our boobs but seem to resent it when we do the same.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not attempting to make a claim that these girls were engaged in a revolutionary act or to try to hold them up as feminist icons for the 21st Century.  But then again, sometimes the truest acts of revolution are unintentional farces that reveal a greater truth.

Consider the comments that I mentioned above.  The majority of them seemed to be fixated on the point that the girls could have made more money doing the same thing dancing in a strip club or selling their bodies to any man who wanders by (never mind, of course, that prostitutes are the favored victims of sadists worldwide).  Perhaps they could have.  They could have made more money and the men could have retained the illusion of control (“she’s dancing for me,” “she did exactly what I paid her to do…”)  But they didn’t.  One of them chose to lift up her top, the other one chose to grope the man, and in the end, the man lost both his money and, briefly, his power.  And perhaps that explains why this seemingly odd little story invoked such a reaction from some of the people who read it.

To me, the point of this story is not that a girl bared her breasts to rob a man at an ATM, a man who already knew that the girls were after his money.  The point is that it worked.

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