Saturday, August 20, 2011

Girl Things

I read a post recently over at No Seriously, What About Teh Menz that really got me thinking about how I view my own femininity and, more specifically, what I think other people think about my femininity.  Though I am not a "high femme", I wear makeup, dresses, and jewelry even if I am not dressed up.

But this post isn't about looks, it's about interests.  I like a lot of stereotypical lady things: cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, and weaving.  These are just things that I like and am good at.  I'm not very good at sports- never have been- and I just like doing quiet, solitary activities where I work with my hands.  The precision of baking and weaving especially appeal to me- an outlet for perfectionism I suppose.

There have been moments where I feel a little ashamed that I like these types of activities because they are associated with women and femininity.  I'm a feminist I'd think Aren't I supposed to go against traditional gender roles? But my aversion to running/balls/wind/loud noises/wildlife/places without bathrooms kept me inside, happily crawling around on the floor pinning sewing patterns on fabric or carefully weighing ingredients for a cake from scratch.

Then it occured to me that if I were a man, all of these activities would be considered revolutionary because they do go against what is traditional expected from men.  So it would be ok if a man were doing these things?  This changed how I thought about this quite a bit.

I never did these things because it was what I, as a woman, was suppose to do or like.  These are just the types of activities that I'm good at.  My mom taught me to sew when I was young because sewing was a big part of her childhood.  My grandmother made all of my mom's and aunts' and uncles' clothes when they were children (six kids total!) and my mom made all of her own clothes until she was about 30.  This was because she grew up with no money and the only way to have cute clothes was to make them herself.

My mom was taught to sew because she was a girl and girls were supposed to know how to sew.  But that is not why my mom taught me how to sew.  It was something important to her life history and she wanted to pass that along to me.

I don't worry about not being a good enough feminist anymore because I'm a lot more comfortable with who I am as a person.  I like the things that I like because I like them.  Simple as that.  I like that when I sew or cook I hear my mom's voice in my head with the endless tips and tricks that she told me over the years.  There is no sense in me pursuing activities that I don't really like just for the sake of breaking through what is expected of me as a woman.  I barely have enough time for the hobbies I love, let alone taking on new ones that I ultimately have little interest in.

I love the things that I do and maybe that is the most "feminist" and "revolutionary" thing I could do.

Friday, August 19, 2011

All I Can Take

Trigger warning for sexual assault.  Some details have been changed (not the important ones).

Megan was crying over the phone.  She never cries. "Can I come over?"

I tell her to come and start walking around my apartment, nervously preparing.  I am usually on the other side of a tear filled phone call.  When she arrives she is wearing the new dress we had picked out together the weekend before; that night she had won an important award for her work.  Her face was streaked with black and she didn't say anything at first.  I held her, standing in front of my door, while she sobbed.

We sat down and she started wiping off her face and nervously smiling.  "I'm being so silly."

"What's up, baby girl?" I tried to speak as softly as I could without actually whispering.

"Something happened with Kevin."  She swallowed and smiled again.  "We were hanging out last night and I didn't want..."  She wrapped her arms around me and started crying again.

She and Kevin had been casually seeing each other for almost a year.  Megan doesn't really want a serious relationship and Kevin was the perfect guy to not have a relationship with.  He is the bartender at a bar right next to where we both live and because he works a lot he didn't demand too much of her time.

"What happened?"  I tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and she smiled again.

"I'm being so stupid, it's not a big deal," she said, looking away. "So he came over after work last night, right?  And we're hanging out and he's all like, 'let's do it' and I was like 'uh, no, not tonight' and he was like 'oh come on, let's have sex' and I was like, 'no, it's not going to happen'.  That goes back and forth for a little while and I thought he got the picture.  I mean, I wasn't even drunk or anything.  I said he could crash with me because it was already like 4 in the morning and when I... when I..."  She took a big, shaky breath. "When I woke up he was fucking me and when I told him to stop he said that he was almost done and so I... I didn't do anything."  She looked at me out of the corner of her eye.

"That shouldn't have happened, ok?  That was wrong of him."  Had to keep my cool.  I used a soft voice  and asked her if it was ok for me to put my arm around her.  She smiled and said of course.

"It's not a big deal, I don't know why I'm so upset."

"It is most definitely a big deal and it is a completely and totally normal reaction to be upset. That shouldn't have happened."  I didn't use the r-word.  I thought it would just upset her more.

"I just... Why did he have to do that?  I mean, really, like why?"  Most of her makeup had been rubbed off, but she was still in her dress and heels.

"People do that because they want power, he shouldn't have done that."

"It's just so dumb.  Like it's such a dumb thing to do." He voice was squeeky and trying to sound normal. "I'm being so stupid."

"No, you're being really brave, like really really brave just by telling me."  I looked at her tear streaked face and wished I could have been that brave.  I never told Megan about when I was raped.  I couldn't even believe that it was rape for over a year.  I didn't go to her crying, I cried by myself.  I wanted to tell her then, to make her feel less alone, but I didn't because I still wasn't brave enough.  "Megan, look at me."  She looked up and her eyes were deep and dark. "You are a special and worthwhile person and I love you."

Light flickered across her eyes. "Really?"  She really didn't believe that in that moment.

"Really.  You are strong and brave and I love you so much.  I know that you feel wronged and violated and confused and stupid and silly and like it's you fault but it's not, I promise you it's not.  And it's so completely normal to feel all of those things when something like this happens, ok?"

"It is?" Her voice was so small.

"You did everything right, ok?  He is the one who fucked up here, not you.  He made the mistake, not you, ok?"  I felt so powerless.  Because that's the thing about rape, it is not just the survivor that has to deal with it.

I kept it together until she left that night.  I felt all the things that she felt because she is my best friend and I feel all of the things she feels and she was raped.  She was raped by someone she trusted and knew and who knows all of our friends.  My best friend was raped by someone that worked two blocks away from where I live, at a place where our friends congregate.  My best friend was raped and it broke my heart because I couldn't stop it or fix it or or take away her pain because I was powerless.  He didn't just make her feel powerless, he made me feel that way too.  She is my best friend.  She has been there through so much of my shit and she was there for me when I was raped even though I never told her, she was there for me.  Maybe she knew, maybe she didn't, but she is my best friend and she is always there for me so it didn't matter why I was so messed up for so long.  My best friend was raped and my sister was raped and I was raped and a couple of my cousins (male and female) and like so many people because it's everywhere.  And it's easier for me to deal with it when it's me, but when it's those that I love I... I don't have any control or power.  I try to say the right things.  I try to listen and be there.

It just doesn't feel like enough.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Hate Doctors

I was reminded a couple weeks ago about how much I hate doctors.  I had forgotten because for the last few years I had been going to the Planned Parenthood for all of my medical needs because 1. they are competent, knowledgeable, and nonjudgemental and 2. they were covered by my old health insurance.  My new insurance does not cover any out of network doctors and so I can't go to the Planned Parenthood anymore.

I miss them so much.

My new doctors is..... a doctor.  She'll have to do.  I went in because I have decided to go on birth control and I wanted to talk about my options.  There was definitely some judgement on her part- when I told her that some of my friends had gotten pregnant while using the pill she said that they probably just didn't take it right and when I told her that I didn't want an IUD because it was icky and creepy, she looked at me like I was an idiot.  I get that my feelings about IUDs are not rational, I know that. But when I talked to someone at the Planned Parenthood about it a couple years ago, I told them that I was worried about it getting ripped out of my body if I walked by a big magnet and they calmly (and remarkably, with a straight face) told me that copper was not magnetic.  No judgement whatsoever.

My new doctor told me about how the pill worked and gave me an information packet.  I looked through it while she went to check on a test I had taken and I saw that the pill actually interacts with a medication I take for bipolar disorder.

"Um, I have a question," I said when she came back into the room. "It says here that this could interact with some seizure medications and I take one and so...."

"You have seizures?"  She started typing and looking at a computer in the room.

"No, I have bipolar disorder, but one of my medications can be used for seizures."  I kept my eyes on a poster behind her head that showed different types of birth control used throughout history.  A lemon was one of them.  "I wanted to ask you about that because I know that the pill can affect people's moods and since I'm bipolar I was worried."

"You'd have to talk to your psychiatrist about that."  She looked up from the computer. "It says that there is a chance that it will make that medication less effective, but you should definitely talk to you psychiatrist about it."

"That seems like a bad combination." Causes moodiness AND make my medication not work? I thought.  It's going to be a "fun" fall.

She gave me several pamphlets which I made the mistake of reading in the middle of the night on the first day on my period.  Totally freaked out.  I came to the conclusions that I was most definitely going to die, no matter what choice I made, and that I should just give up heterosexual intercourse forever.

A couple weeks later I went back into see my doctor and she was a lot friendlier.  Maybe I had judged her a little too harshly.

"I don't mean to push the IUD onto you," she said after I told her that my psychiatrist said that the pill would make my medication 50% less effective, but that I could up my dose if I wanted. "I just really think that it is the best option for you."

I knew she was right.  But logic and reason don't change the fact that it makes me sick just thinking about getting an IUD.  I haven't heard anything bad about them from friend- only good things in fact.  With the exception of the terrifying pamphlets, every source of information about an IUD tells me that it would be a perfect option for me.

And yet, and yet, and yet.

It is not a completely rational decision.  Yes, it could be.  I could suck it up and get it and just deal.  I have intellectualized many other things before, why not this?  But I... I am the one who has to live with it.  It is going to be inside of me at night when I can't sleep or when I have a cold, or when I finally fall in love again.  I know in my head that I won't feel it, but I cannot convince my heart of that.  Is it ok to be irrational about these things?

My doctors isn't the one to talk to about these issues, she is not equipped.