Saturday, September 27, 2014


A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my guy friends about football. He's not a football fan (more of a baseball/hockey fan) and wanted to know why I continued to support the NFL given the recent events surrounding multiple players and domestic violence. He felt that as an avowed feminist, I should boycott the sport until actual change is made within the organization. I disagree completely. I don't believe that boycotting the NFL will actually have an impact on the organization. The NFL and other organizations (not just professional sports) need to take a look inward at the structures of their organizations and their leadership to change. Fans and supporters need to participate and keep pressure on these organizations to do the right thing and to enforce rules and policies in a consistent and fair way. Forty-five percent of NFL fans are women. We do the sport, fandom, and women a service to to work from within rather than boycott.

I also believe that the issues facing professional sports (it's not just the NFL y'all) don't start the second a player joins a team. It's not just people like Goodell who say one thing but do another, it's a larger culture of complacency, hero worship, and ignorance. It starts in places like Steubenville and ends in places like the NFL or NBA. I do agree with my friend that Roger Goodell needs to go. I don't think the NFL can move forward with him at the helm.

But I don't want to talk about the NFL today. Enough has been said about it and I'd rather spend time talking about Hermione Granger, I mean, Emma Watson's UN speech for the solidarity movement HeForShe. Here's the video so you can watch her elegant and powerful speech.


Watson makes some excellent points about the role of men in the feminist movement. Feminism is not about man-hating. It's about equality. Men and women are not equal in this country (or most countries for that matter). This is not my opinion - it's a fact. Have we made strides towards equality? Certainly - more women are in government, leaders in the business world (including many Fortune 500 companies), academics and researchers in all fields, and creative forces in across the arts. But the reality is that we still make less money than our male counterparts in most fields. Our bodies are literal battlegrounds. And by the way, if you're raped, abused, or otherwise violated, somehow it will be your fault.

We teach young girls and women that their only value is in how they look and what boys and men think about them. As my ninth grade English teacher told me, a woman can only be funny, pretty, or smart; she can't be all three. Some of the most anti-women people I know are other women.

I'd like to be able to focus on Watson's message and the messages of other feminists out there. The problem with that is we're not allowed to just do that. Because Emma stands for something they disagree with, Internet trolls decided that it would be cool to threaten her with the release of nude photos. It was announced earlier this week that this was a hoax but the fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter if it's a hoax. The threat was and is there. Women, feminist or not, experience threats of all sorts on the Internet (as do men who support these writers or are feminists themselves). It could be a threat of the release of photos like what's happened with Emma Watson or threats of rape and physical harm. I've read dozens of accounts of authors and bloggers having to leave their homes because some fucking (sorry Mom) jerk posts their address on the Internet and another fucking jerk has threatened to come to their house and murder them. This shouldn't happen to anyone in any situation.

Only Madeline Kahn can truly express how I feel about this:

The pure hatred that is spewed by these cowards with keyboards is incomprehensible to me. I literally (and I mean literally) cannot understand it. I have the same reaction when this happens in conversations about race, sexuality, and religion too. I don't get it and I can't help but wonder what's wrong with people.

Civil discourse seems to be dead these days. Instead of being able to discuss our differences in opinion like rational beings, it seems that the trend is to debase, threaten, terrify, and demean. I can't stand for this and you shouldn't either. Regardless of how you define who you are and what you believe about equality, you should not resort to violence (verbal or physical) to get your point across. That doesn't prove that you're powerful. In fact, it proves that you're scared of losing what power you you have (or believe you have).

We all have to take action if change is going to occur. I thought of a few things we could all try to do that aren't overtly feminist so if you can't get beyond that word, maybe you can get behind being a decent person. Let's try these out for a bit and see what happens:
  • Stop gossiping. I'm bad about this but a small thing like not passing on that thing you heard about that woman you don't really like at work or school or wherever stops the cycle of negativity.
  • Use language that means something not demeans someone. Tina Fey said it best in Mean Girls, "Well, I don't know who wrote this book, but you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores." 
  • Agree to disagree. I have said this before on this blog. If we don't agree on something and our disagreement leads to a heated discussion that's going nowhere fast, I'd rather just switch topics to something less controversial like the fact that Tom Hiddleston is the absolute best.
  • Be nice to people. It takes more energy to be mean and negative. And it's more stressful to you. The Dearborn police can put it on their patrol cars so you should practice it in your daily life. 
  • Talk to the girls and boys (and men and women) in your life about appropriate ways to communicate. It is not okay to teach either girls or boys to react with violence (words or actions) when they don't agree or get what they want. That's the type of "education" that leads to the exact issues feminists, domestic violence advocates, and human rights advocates speak about. Domestic violence issues don't start with the NFL; they start in places like Steubenville and on playgrounds where extreme bullying are played out day after day.
  • Stop putting the burden of behavior on a specific group of people. I shouldn't have to adjust my behavior or clothing because some guy on the street or at my office can't focus on his life because I wear a shirt that shows off the female body that I have in a way that is appropriate for work. We could also apply this logic to guarding my drink in a bar and walking alone at night.
  • Speak up. I am also guilty of not doing this as often as I should. Be brave - say something. It might not make you popular but it means you're doing the right thing.

This isn't complicated. It's common sense and the responsibility of all of us if we really want to live in a civil society.

The flames on the side of my face have subsided for now. I feel a little better now that we've talked this out. I also found this article on my favorite fictional feminist, Leslie Knope, and it brightened my day. There's hope for us yet.

This fall on the Island: It's time to celebrate Gilmore Girls just in time for the rest of you to finally watch the show since it's being released on Netflix. We'll Rock the Suburbs and take Metro to Tyson's Corner to explore all of the things one can do without having to spend forever driving there. And of course, I'll be prepping for National Novel Writing Month so you never know what little nuggets I'll throw on here.

Clue image
Police car picture by me

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