Beyoncé, “Partition” and female role models

In the week since its launch, the Ban Bossy campaign has been making waves online. I’m not interested in talking about Ban Bossy, but I’m interested in the celebrities who have jumped on board to endorse it, and the notion that these celebrities are good role models for young girls. Namely, I’ve got a few thoughts on Beyoncé.

(I’m hesitant to tear into this topic, because if you’ve been awake since December, you know there are myriad facets to Beyoncé—the woman, the entertainer, the eponymous album, among others—that it requires a hell of a lot of context to talk about her in a way that is balanced and fair. I’m going to try, but this is me acknowledging that I’ll likely fall short somewhere.)

Have I been drinking the Yonce Kool Aid since her super-secret album dropped in December? Maybe I’ve been sipping on it. Full disclosure: I am a fan of Beyoncé, the artist. I grew up listening to Beyoncé as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child. By the time I got to high school she had broken out as a solo performer. And now, years later, she’s a solo performer megastar, a mom, a wife and a self-proclaimed modern feminist.

A lot’s changed since I was bopping to “Bills, Bills, Bills” on my Walkman en route to junior high. In particular: Beyoncé’s age. Beyoncé’s life stage. Today, she’s a 32-year-old married mother of one. Her latest album speaks to her maturity, with songs about marital conflict, jealousy, her daughter, and yes—sex.  Read more

Misogyny Monday: 7 Flaws With A Man’s 7 Flaws He Likes In Women

I’ve been in blog hibernation for almost a year now, but I just thought of a new feature that could bring me back on the scene: Misogyny Monday. Or maybe just a Misogyny Monday, May 6, to get things moving.

It was around noon today when I took my lunch to my desk and started scheduling and reading Tweets for work. I’m a sucker for all kinds of Twitter bait, and the headline “7 Flaws I Like In a Woman” predictably hooked me.

I don’t know how I expected the article could be anything more than misogynistic drivel, but I read it. I got irritated (again, predictably) — being a career-oriented risk-taker is the trademark of a flawed female? That’s news to me.

I looked into the author, Mark Manson. He runs a “self development website designed to help men adjust to the necessary social and sexual realities of the post-industrial, post-feminist and post-modern era.” He also penned a piece on the Thought Catalog titled “Why Is Every Woman You Date A Crazy Bitch?” (That tidbit presented without comment.)

So, for good measure, here are my 7 (or more) flaws with Mark Manson’s 7 flaws he likes in women.

1. “She’s Slightly Neurotic” 

Girls who are slightly neurotic feel right to me for two reasons: for one, if there’s something I should be worrying about, but I’m not, they’ll always catch it.

I am slightly neurotic. I’ve told myself that past relationships were successful because of the yin and yang between my neuroses and his laid-backness. There’s something to that, but only to a degree.

If you should be worrying about something, then you should be worrying about it regardless of whether I — your girlfriend — advise you to worry about it. I’d rather be with a guy who already knows his staggering credit card debt is a problem, than a guy who really appreciates it when I advise him that it’s a problem.

Manson sounds like he’s looking for a mother, or a life coach; not a girlfriend. Flaws I don’t like in men: inability to prioritize or recognize when it’s time to worry.

Ah, but it’s not just about what your woman can do for you, it’s what you can do for her:

And secondly, when they’re worrying about something that’s unnecessary, I enjoy being able to help them relax and feel more secure about it. It’s a nice dynamic, as it makes me feel needed and they’re always appreciative.

They’re always appreciative? Are we still talking about women (human beings, for those of you keeping track at home), or have we started talking about house plants and domestic animals? Read more

Further ramblings on narcissism

Hi, blog. It’s been a while.

I haven’t made an effort to write here lately. My focus this summer has been so insular, I figure it would be useless to blog. I get tired of thinking about what I’m doing, and others get tired of reading it.

It’s been a year since I reflected here on one of Joan Didion’s essays and I’m still in the same rut. I will never not see myself as a narcissist, even with all the self-loathing I harbor. (It is possible to be both narcissistic and self-loathing. Just look at how many sentences I start with “I,” and then how many blog posts I write about social ineptitude, self doubt, etc.) And I will never not view that narcissism as an ugly quality, even when it occasionally propels writing that helps me, be it through leading me to a new understanding or mere catharsis. I always punish myself for my narcissism by relegating it to the pages of paper journals and private Word documents.

It’s evident that my self-loathing carries more weight than my narcissism, which is why I don’t end up blogging: I have no business writing about myself for an audience for the umpteenth time and nobody wants to read my drawn-out thought processes. Not when they could be clicking through animated GIFs or Googling nearby laundromats or watching porn.

But today I’m allowing myself to channel Narcissus. I need to write. It’s been so damn long, I don’t really remember how to do it. And this is embarrassing (to me, at least), but today’s kick in the pants comes from a Thought Catalog article.

Lookin’ good.

Read more

In case you doubted that sexism still exists…

…let’s take quick peek into the world of Internet commenters from my sweet home, Chicago, on this article.

Sara Glashagel, 27, a special education teacher who is the wife of Antioch’s head football coach, allegedly got hold of an administrative password and inflated the grades for 64 students — 41 of them football players, authorities said.

[Antioch police Chief Craig Somerville] said that while most of the students whose grades were changed were football players, many had no eligibility issues; other students did not participate in any extracurricular activities.

“Our understanding is that some changes were made to make it less obvious, so it wasn’t football players only,” Somerville said.

—Chicago Tribune, Nov. 22, 2011

The article brings to mind what I think is an important and timely topic, especially in wake of recent events: the stranglehold of football programs on our nation’s schools, high schools and universities alike.

And hey, wouldn’t this be a great time for Internet comment boards? Community members could discuss how the overemphasis on athletics may be compromising academics; or, if they don’t think that, they could say why it isn’t. Democracy! Free speech! Public forums! Changing the world, one productive comment at a time!

LOL just kidding, let’s talk instead about how freakin’ HOT this chick is with her tig ol’ bitties.

Read more

That time Joan Didion kept me up all night

“…We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be different, just this side of self-effacing … Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout.

And so we do. But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable “I”…

- Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook”
1966

My literary hero, Joan Didion, in earlier days. (Photo courtesy of nndb.com)

My literary hero, Joan Didion, in earlier days. (Photo courtesy of nndb.com)

I read this essay in bed the other night then couldn’t fall asleep. It started to sound similar to what I struggle with in my part personal/part public writing—this feeling that I’m interrupting all the interesting people, all the ones who truly warrant my respect and unwavering attention.

The idea that Everyone is more interesting than me is one that I’ve pounded into my own head, or at least tried to, silly as that may sound. But I often doubt my own commitment to the mantra. How can I believe that I’m inherently uninteresting but continue to write about myself—a subject that I shamefully devote so much energy to—without veering into a vomit-worthy public display of narcissism?

That question has plagued me since I started this blog. Now, as I’ve begun blogging about my move to Spain, I’ve become exponentially more aware of how easy it is to meander from introspection into narcissism.

A bit of background: I’ve always been a prolific journal-er, whether it was online or in a notebook, and I always kept those thoughts in a private place (yeah, you could call it a diary). But when I studied abroad last year, I decided to create a public blog.

It’s a popular thing to do when you’re 20 years old and spending a semester in Europe… the kind of thing that would be #1 on a list of Stuff Expats Like. But my study abroad blog had its value. Writing to a perceived audience held me accountable for posting regularly. I like reading back now and recalling those experiences the way I felt them at the time, not the way I’ve distorted them in my memories. Of course, there was so much happening that semester that didn’t make the blog—so much that has been distorted in my memory because it was far too intimate to publish for a potential audience of friends and strangers.

When I thought about all this—the benefits of the public blog and the absence of intimate details—I got cynical. Because really, what’s the point of a blog that’s just a Diary Lite?

Although, if I did what Joan Didion says we’re raised to do, I would stay absorbed in other people’s proverbial trout 100 percent of the time. I wouldn’t even think about my own trout, much less blog about them. Didion’s only offense was keeping a private notebook. Mine is much worse—it’s this blog. It’s every blog I’ve ever had. It’s a public display of Me focusing on Me, and I publish it eagerly and frequently, hoping somebody might read it. And that someone might comment, if I’m being honest.

It feels dirty no matter how I spin it, although I want badly to justify it, because I genuinely enjoy this kind of writing. I mean, Jesus—any dummy with a computer and an Internet connection can be a “published” writer (see: me). The blogosphere won’t collapse if I neglect to write something maudlin about that-time-I-made-a-super-big-life-decision-to-go-to-another-country. Seventy million other 20-somethings have already written it, just in different words, at MySuperBigLifeDecisionOmg.freeblogsite.com.

Dear diary, Today I felt so many emotions! My life is like a highway. I just wanna ride it all night long. God, that sounds familiar...

Dear diary, Today I felt so many emotions! My life is like a highway. I just wanna ride it all night long. God, that sounds familiar...

But here I am, still hacking away at it. Every now and then I’m compelled to write about a subject that’s both personal and purposeful, something that might be relatable to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. I felt like I accomplished this in my Ke$ha piece.

But I often don’t feel I accomplish much with my personal blog, other than keeping myself entertained. Maybe it’s an age and maturity thing. Maybe I’m still trapped in the mindset that my experiences are wholly singular and unique and that I can’t build a bridge between my life and public issues. Maybe I occasionally do build that bridge but I don’t realize it.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve been struggling with this philosophical/ethical question that I don’t quite know how to articulate. Is anyone else feeling this way? Did I just build a bridge from my personal life into a common issue? Or am I certifiably insane? Probably both.

And yes, it’s a tinge ironic that I wrote about how I wish I weren’t such a narcissist by talking about myself at length. Around 700 words worth of Me-talk, to be exact.