Watching Dr. Phil in Sweden: Homesickness & the Power It Holds
Texting back & other ways my lack of self control has failed me
Being Single with Shingles
Cry Baby: My First Three Years in School
So Your Mom Has Brain Tumor…
‘Why Are You Here’ & other questions you’re asked while abroad
Crying on the Ubahn: A Guide for Twenty-Somethings Living Abroad
Carbs on Carbs on Carbs: A Cookbook
Me, Myself, & Ice Cream: On having IBS in a Ice Cream -Crazed Society
Imposter Syndrome: I SURVIVED
Opinions About Pop Culture: I Have Them & Think You Should Agree
When You Are Too Invested: A Royal Fan’s Confession
From Tampons to Chocolate & Beyond: The Glamorous Life of a Copywriter
I Know. I Speak Funny in German.
Freedom, Free Refills, & Free Wifi: Why I love America
101 Ways to Ruin A Date
Say It Like You Meme It. The Sixth Love Language: Memes
Just Kick It: How to fix your appliances when you’re too lazy to call someone
Why Worry? Because that’s how my brain was wired: A Memoir
I Use My Fork As A Knife, & other ways I have offended people unknowingly
Last weekend I found myself wandering around the bookstore, as so often is the case. I was absolutely excited when I saw they had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest book of essays, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.
In it, Adichie writes to a friend who asks her how to raise a baby girl as a feminist. This book is Adichie’s response. It’s gentle yet sharp; succinct yet poignant; and reads as though it’s a letter from your best friend.
The main proposition of “Dear Ijeawele” is that feminism is a project that necessarily binds mothers and daughters, and that raising a daughter feminist has as much to do with what you tell yourself as what you tell her. Ms. Adichie’s first of 15 suggestions places a mother’s freedom and growth at the center of a daughter’s feminist education.
“Be a full person,” Ms. Adichie writes. “Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood.” (The New York Times)
As an aunt, a once particularly conservative girl from the American Midwest, I found this book incredibly powerful. It made me face a few aspects of my own missteps and helped me reevaluate a few of my former philosophies and internalized patriarchal beliefs. And, more than anything, it helped me understand how to change my behavior in hopes of not instilling the same misbeliefs on my nieces & nephews.
Below are some of the lessons which most affected me.
“Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not “if only.” Not “as long as.” I matter equally. Full stop.”
“Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional fenable equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing, and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not.”
“Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Find ways to make clear to her that I marriage is not an achievement, nor is it what she should aspire to. A marriage can be happy or unhappy, but it is not an achievement. We condition girls to aspire to marriage and we do not condition boys to aspire to marriage, and so there is already a terrible imbalance at the start. The girls will grow up to be women preoccupied with marriage. The boys will grow up to be men who are not preoccupied with marriage. The women marry those men. The relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other.”
On being “liked”:
"We teach girls to be likeable, to be nice, to be false. And we do not teach boys the same. This is dangerous. Many sexual predators have capitalized on this. Many girls remain silent when abused because they want to be nice. Many girls spend too much time trying to be ‘nice’ to people who do them harm. Many girls think of the ‘feelings’ of those who are hurting them. This is the catastrophic consequence of likeability. At a recent rape trial, the woman raped by a man said that she did not want to ‘cause conflict.’ We have a world full of women who are unable fully to exhale because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable."
"Show her that she does not need to be liked by everyone. Tell her that if someone does not like her, there will be someone who will. Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like or dislike. In her teenage years, if she comes home crying about some boys who don’t like her, let her know she can also choose not to like those boys."
On “doing it all”:
“Our culture celebrates the idea of women who are able to ‘do it all’ but does not question the premise of that praise. I have no interest in the debate about women doing it all because it is a debate that assumes that caregiving and domestic work are singularly female domains, and idea that I strongly reject. Domestic work and caregiving should be gender-neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can ‘do it all’ but how best to support parents in their dual duties at work and at home.”
On standards and differences:
“Teach her never to universalize her own standards or experiences. Teach her that her standards are for her alone, and not for other people. This is the only necessary form of humility: the realization that difference is normal.”
“Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world.”
“Teach her that to love is not only to give but also to take. This is important because we give girls subtle cues about their lives – we teach girls that a large component of their ability to love is their ability to self-sacrifice. We do not teach this to boys. Teach her that to love she must give of herself emotionally but she must also expect to be given.”
Last night, as I do most Monday nights, I crawled into bed, gummy bears in hand, and watched the latest episode of GIRLS. Usually it makes me laugh; sometimes it makes me rage-y (MARNIE IS THE WORST). So I wasn’t expecting anything too extraordinary. (I mostly watch because I love the recaps and commentary on the Man Repeller.)
But this episode was p h e n o m e n a l. Phenomenal in its timing. Phenomenal in its social commentary. Phenomenal in its telling of millions of women’s stories. Phenomenal in its response to so much of today’s public discourse and victim blaming.
To sum the episode up: A prominent author asks Hannah to come over to talk after she publishes an article about his predatory ways. He plays the victim card over and over again until winning Hannah’s forgiveness. Then he abuses it.
Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker of course, puts it a thousand times better than I ever could.
The key to “American Bitch,” Sunday’s scathing and timely episode of “Girls,” is the compliments. “Hannah, you’re clearly very bright,” Chuck Palmer, a novelist celebrated for his confessional work, says. “I could tell that from the first sentence you wrote.” He reads the sentence, as Hannah struggles to hide her pleasure: “ ‘If one more male writer I love reveals himself to be a heinous sleazebag, I’m going to do a bunch of murders, create a new Isle of Lesbos, and never look back.’ ” “You’re funny!,” Palmer says. “That’s a funny sentence.”
This initial intro scene was enough to make me put the gummy bears down and pay closer attention. As the episode progressed, the more I wanted to crawl inside myself and cry, while simultaneously wanting to run outside and scream THIS THIS THIS.
In certain ways, it’s a classic exchange between an older artist (rich, decadent, in print) and a younger artist (poor, moralistic, online). Chuck scores some points: it’s the women who throw themselves at him, he argues, because they are seeking stories to tell. Who really has the power, he asks: the zitty older virgin—him—or a beautiful young model? Hannah resists those arguments; she scores her points, too. “I’m tired of gray areas,” she tells him in disgust, when he waves off any sense that he’s even powerful. She shares a story about having being groomed by a grade-school teacher, another older man who selected her, making her feel chosen and special (a story that’s one of Lena Dunham’s own real-life stories, which she wrote about in her memoir). Chuck sympathizes. Eventually, he asks Hannah about herself—as, he suggests, a form of ethical payback for the exploitative relationships with his fans: he never really listened to the other young women, but now he’ll listen to her, see her as a person, in order to make up for it.
This scene made me cry.
Because I can count not one, but two teachers (one a professor), and a boss from a restaurant I worked at in high school, who would all rub my shoulders or touch my waist without my consent.
The first time it happened I was in elementary school and didn’t realize how inappropriate this behavior was. I’m lucky in that it never went further, and I was ignorant to know what this meant.
The second time was when I worked at a restaurant and the regional manager came over as I was working on the cash register and placed his hands around my waist. I immediately turned to him and told him to “please don’t touch me,” and I was fired a week later for a random reason. When I was fired I told my manager about what had transpired, and what was no doubt the reason for my being fired, and asked if I could have the contact information to file a sexual harassment suit, he told me “no such thing exists.” Though my parents encouraged me to take it to the corporate offices, I decided to just let it go.
A few years later, in college, a professor came over to my desk while I was working on a story and put his hands on my shoulders and rubbed them. I spun my chair around and told him to not touch me. He laughed it off. I reported it to the Dean. I have no idea if he was ever disciplined. But I’m glad I said something. Both to him and the higher ups.
These weren’t the only occasions this occurred, and I’m sure they won’t be the last (what a tragic reality to admit).
Being a female in today’s world, though we’ve come incredibly far, continues to be a incredibly difficult thing to be. Often I’m asked why I so strongly believe in the women’s movement and why I march. My response could be summarized into one simple sentence:
I march because I never want my nieces or nephews to have their shoulders rubbed predatorily.
Because this one sentence says so much more than the words used. Because this one sentence says everything.
I started collecting quotes I liked on thinkexist.com around 9th grade. This was pre-tumblr, pre-blogging–or rather, my discovery of. But I loved the inspiration I gathered and filed away into neat little folders on my account. It’s where I would go when wallowing in the throes of whatever highs school heartbreak I was experiencing that week. It was as though those quotes could snap me out of it; a smelling salts of reality, if you will.
Then I discovered blogging.
I happened upon inspirational blogs during what I would argue were “the hay days” of inspirational blogs. I was immediately hooked. So many souls with similar hopes sharing their bits of wisdom and finds as if we were all on a team, cheering each other on with advice and proverbs of sorts.
Then Tumblr came along and things shifted a bit. But this didn’t affect the main blogosphere too much. The two actually coexisted brilliantly–almost complementing one another somehow.
And, of course, Pinterest.
Which may have taken a bit away from the main blog stream, however, I’d say it created a hybrid of mediums, making it easier for people to draw inspiration from multiple sources in one spot. My mom, for instance, can’t manage navigating through a blog roll. Well she can, it’s not that she’s incapable. She just doesn’t have the patience or time to go through them, one by one.
Understandable. Life happens. Blogging is a part of life. It is not your life.
But I digress.
In the last few years a shift has occurred in the blogosphere. And not one that is particularly positive. First it was the influx of sponsorships, and, when done ethically (proper acknowledgement of said sponsorship, etc.) it was seen as being a smart, savvy way to make money while running your blog–still is. Still can be.
I get it. The blog world got it. No big deal.
And then, little by little, design blogs became live advertisements for scotch tape, mommy blogs began shelling bleach pens, and salad dressings were being hocked on party planning blogs.
And again, money. I get it.
But then affiliate links starting trickling their way into everyday posts.
I saw a post about a recently passed author which included links to some of her books. Links that, when clicked, earn the blogger money. Besides this being, in my opinion, a bit tacky, there was absolutely no disclosure to the links.
I have seen endless bloggers “curate” gift guides only to provide an endless list of gifts with affiliate links to product after product. 90 percent of the time these links are not disclosed.
My university’s School of Journalism had extensive courses on ethics. In said courses we discussed whether or not you could accept a meal comped as a food critic and had endless debates on accepting gifts of any kind from sources. We listened for hours about the importance of proper sourcing and the importance of your credibility as a writer, editor, etc. I always thought these debates were excessive, often baffled that people couldn’t draw a line between right and wrong–how conflict of interest was such a difficult concept for some, and how it could affect your reputation in media.
Then I looked at, about, ten “big name” blogs. And I was flabbergasted by the numerous things so glaringly unethical. What’s worse, sometimes even illegal.
Do I think the FTC will actually hold these bloggers accountable and we can soon look forward to an “Orange is the New Chevron” miniseries of said violators? No. Do I think it’s still incredibly tacky and a little offensive that some bloggers think I’m dumb enough for such click bait to pad their pockets, literally? Absolutely.
The problem with this new formula for success — though wildly lucrative for the blogger, from what I have researched — is the fact it dilutes the quality of content, diminishes the trust with readers. Blogs I once looked to for inspiration and new ideas have become one big advertisement.
Is this post really endorsing X because you liked it? Or did you get $ for a quick mention and photo of your using it?
It’s become a guessing game.
I understand that these blogs have become self-described brands. There’s no harm in branding your online presence. It’s actually quite a smart move. But if you brand yourself as a business, you have to start acting like one.
I’ve heard the argument many times from these bloggers that “magazines are like one big advertisement!” This is true. But magazines have to follow regulations, pay their writers legally, and are held accountable for their content. Magazines receive endless amounts of negative feedback, as any publication does. It’s part of the game. If you’re selling a product, your consumer will expect a product of quality. Magazines also report their earnings in their taxes. (Which I’d be surprised if many bloggers do this at all, when applicable.)
These magazines, in turn, do not flood to their proverbial twitter soapboxes and cry “bully!” when their product/content is called out.
The difference with these blogger/brands is that they love to toe the line.
One week it’s all sponsored content, because “they’re a business, after all.” The next week they are “just being brave putting their lives out there!”
Unfortunately, with the internet, some negative comments are neither constructive, nor particularly eloquent. But there are a lot of constructive, poignant comments on many “brand” blogger posts that are deemed “bullying” and that is absolutely ludicrous.
I remember my first creative writing workshop class at college. I remember the tears stinging my cheeks as my writing was ripped apart. And I’ll never forget the comment scribbled in pen across the title page of my first piece: “A lawn mower manual was more exciting than this drivel.”
I also remember my friend calling my bullshit when I said I was being bullied.
She looked at me across the lunch table and said, “Anna, get used to it. We’re writers. This is what we signed up for. Do you wanna get better? Then remember the comments that stung the most next time you’re writing. If it stung it must have been on to something. Was your story boring as a lawn mower manual?”
And, in fact, while writing this I can already feel it venturing into “lawn mower manual” material…
The point I’m trying to make is this: if you’re in the business of blogging, in the literal sense, take pride in your work. Respect your readers. Don’t put more value on a dollar than your reputation. And, if you are putting it out there, own it. Not everyone will like you. You will get heartless comments sometimes. You will also get comments that are constructive, learn from these.
The good news is this: not everyone has to like you.
But people will respect you a whole hell of a lot more if you respect yourself enough to have pride in what you put out there.
As the brilliant Nuala O’Faolain once stated: “Stand by it.”
That’s the blogging we used to see; That’s the blogging that I miss.