Friday, September 21, 2012

Owning up to our own feminism

This started as a comment on a friend's blog.  The friend was writing about something private, moderately heavy, and directly related to her identity as a woman.  She felt compelled to add, at the end, that
"I mean, you guys know that I'm not like an extreme feminist or anything, and right now I don't even feel anger toward the male race in general..."
I'm not writing this to call her out.  This isn't about her, which is why I'm staying away from not only her identity but the topic of her post (which is not mine to share).  This is about that attitude.  The need women feel to make that kind of apology.  Because that's not the first time I've heard a woman add that kind of caveat.  Or the second.  Or even the 100th.  I've heard it so many times that it almost seems normal.

Except it shouldn't be normal for women to say things like that.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Contraception, Catholicism, and feminism

One of the central tenets of the Catholic faith (and indeed, of pretty much every major religion) is the primacy of human dignity: a deep and abiding respect for the full humanity and intrinsic value of every person on this Earth.  That reverence for human dignity, which truly is at the center of Church doctrine, is one of my guiding principles.  It is one of the main things my faith has taught me.

And when I say a reverence for human dignity, I mean a reverence for the full humanity of every person.  Applied to women, this means a respect for the dignity of their uteruses.  It also means a respect for the dignity of their minds, their mouths, their hands, and their feet.  It means respecting women as fully human on every level, and as such both valuing them and engaging with them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Frustrations: the bishops and birth control, grad school and Good Friday

Most of the time, I don't find it much of a struggle to be both liberal and Catholic.  My conscience is clear.  Both identities affirm my values and challenge me to grow as a person.  Both push me to look beyond myself and to care for the world around me.  Neither is easy, but both are personally rewarding.  Internally, I am at peace with the allegiances I have chosen--enough so that I am comfortable recognizing them as allegiances.

But maintaining both identities can be frustrating on occasion.  I am lucky enough to have a large group of friends who share both my political religious values (whether specifically as Catholics, or simply as people who belong to an organized religion and try to live according to their faith).  But sometimes I feel caught between a secular world with a fierce concern for social justice and an deep skepticism of organized religion, and a religious world with an equally deep and abiding skepticism of the broad goals of social equality that my liberal friends take for granted.

Right now I feel caught in the middle.  Caught between a Church that seems to be proud of trumpeting its utterly gothic attitudes about women and a secular world that has little room or respect for religious practice.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"It'll put hair on your chests"

In my graduate program, men outnumber women by a 2:1 ratio, more or less.  Women make up 30% of my class, which is pretty normal, both in my department and in economics graduate programs generally.  There are a few programs where the gender ratios are even more skewed (Maryland comes to mind), but that's generally how it goes.  And I will say, the schools are thinking about it.  Most of them want a higher proportion of women, though they vary in what/how much they're willing to do to attract them.  It may not be seen as super-high priority, but it's an issue that departments are well-aware of and that they take fairly seriously.

My department's faculty is similarly skewed, except somewhat worse.  Again, this is the case in almost every economics department, not a particular feature of my school.  In fact, my program is notable for having a couple of very high-profile women faculty (though sadly one of them just left).

Honestly, most of the time I don't notice that I'm surrounded by men.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On being a victim

I was robbed last week, a couple of blocks from my apartment.  On a well-lit street, and at the extremely reasonable hour of 8:45 PM, in a place I'd walked literally at least a hundred times before, often late at night.

I was unhurt.  I lost my purse and its contents: my wallet (and everything inside it), my keys, my (new) iPhone, and (ironically) my bible.  The robbers were more interested in getting away than they were in hurting me, for which I am thankful.  At the time, I was shaken, but also boiling over with indignation.  That indignation strong enough to carry me through a couple of days, so strong it held me together.

It's now been five days, long enough for it to have sunk in to a greater degree.  Long enough for other things to surface through the indignation.

And I'm sick of it.  I'm tired of this already.  Tired of how I've felt since it happened.  Tired of being jumpy and unfocused, of sleeping weird hours.  Tired of battling anxiety anytime I walk anywhere (which I've forced myself to keep doing), especially after dark.  Tired of giving wary looks to people on the street who don't deserve them, but that I can't stop myself from giving.  Tired of assessing every heavy-set man with dark hair and medium-light skin who I see on the street, comparing him to the man who grabbed my bag.  Tired of feeling my heart rate spike whenever a jogger rushes past me, or I see anyone running on the street.

I hate feeling this way.  And yet I can't control it, can't stop it.  I want to move past it, ignore it, keep living my life.  I want to be stronger than this, don't want it to affect me.  It wasn't really that bad.  I wasn't injured, wasn't violated, wasn't explicitly threatened.  So many people have survived things that are so much worse.

And yet... I still have to process this.  It doesn't really matter that I don't want to be affected like this: I am.  The fact that I don't have time for it is irrelevant.  I need to work through it.  I probably shouldn't be so angry at myself for being so bothered.  Except I am... because somewhere in my head, I'm at fault for letting it bother me.  I feel ashamed for being so weak, for being so shaken inside.  And further, ashamed of myself for feeling ashamed.

I'm not familiar with being a victim.  It's not a role I've ever sought, and luck hadn't forced it on me before this (which is some extreme luck on my part, I recognize).  At some level, feeling powerless in this way is a new experience for me, at least (or especially) as an adult.

If anything good comes out of this, I hope that it will make me more thoughtful and empathetic if (when) in the future anything remotely like this happens to one of my friends.  That if nothing else, it will give me a better understanding of what other people might need.  To give other people the support I am having so much trouble articulating my need for.  Because that, at least, would be a recompense of real value.