Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Homemade bread, attempt #1

In my efforts to remain occupied during the day, plus a desire to eat fewer additives and processed food, I decided that I would try to bake a loaf of bread. My success with cookies and financiers gave me a confidence in my baking skills, and I found a "super easy" bread recipe on Jamie Oliver's website. So I bought a package of flour, some yeast, and went to town.

Flour water everywhere - bread FAIL

As you can see above, the results were less than successful. I "broke the walls of the well," as Jamie so simply warns one against doing, and lo, my efforts were rendered for naught within about 5 minutes of beginning. Better luck next time I guess!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Thoughts on feminism

I'm going to out myself: I am a feminist. Few things rankle me more than mansplaining, workplace biases against women, and when I pay but the cashier hands the change to my boyfriend. (Seriously, the change thing happens way too often. That's MY money, you moron!! *deep calming breath*)

Thanks to Facebook, I came across a comic strip on everyday feminism and I had a strong reaction to it. It's entitled "Why Saying 'It's My Choice' Doesn't Necessarily Make Your Choice Feminist" and, in a nutshell, it argues that the fact that you made a choice (like whether or not to wear lipstick, which is the focus of the comic) isn't feminist; it's the reason behind the choice that matters. As the editors state in the introduction, “…is every choice we make inherently feminist – or are we influenced by misogyny?”

I have let this comic and its argument rumble around inside me for a week or so, and I can see the illustrator’s point, which I understand thusly: that some choices made by women are greatly influenced by outside factors, and are ultimately made in order to conform to a male-oriented societal expectation. Therefore, if we call any one choice that a woman makes a “feminist” choice without examining the external pressures that affected that choice, we fail to acknowledge the pressure to conform, and thereby validate it.

So yes, if someone starts wearing makeup because of one too many “you look tired” comments, I can see how that choice was influenced by an expectation to look a certain way in the workplace (or in society at large). I get it. A woman making the choice to start wearing makeup in this context would NOT call this a “feminist” choice. Does that then mean, however, that the woman in the office (or, more realistically, cubicle) next to hers is also NOT making a “feminist” choice of her own if she has worn makeup since she was a teenager?

There are so many societal expectations of women that I think it would be hard to pin down a lot of individual choices as being a woman’s own in the way the comic suggests. Women are told to be thin but healthy, pretty but not unapproachable, sexy but not a “slut” or a “tease,” demure but available, fun but serious, kind and nurturing but not a doormat, assertive but not bossy or a bitch, mothers but still fuckable, etc…the list is depressingly long. (Or in shorthand, as my good friend Melissa used to say, “Lady in the parlor, whore in the bedroom!”)

My point is, any woman trying to openly be herself will inevitably fall either into or outside of (or both at the same time!) all of the insanely contradictory expectations society holds for women. Therefore, if we are going to judge the motive behind each and every choice that a woman makes, are we not placing her into or outside of these categories without her having a say in the matter?  And are we then not also judging every woman as either “enlightened” or “tool of the patriarchy” at the same time? Aren’t women taught to feel guilty and be ashamed of themselves too much already? What does the term “feminist choice” even mean if a woman is told she can’t use it as she wishes?

Yes, it sucks that women have these expectations and pressures put upon them in the first place, but I don’t think it helps to point fingers at women who choose to meet – or happen to fall into! – these expectations and label them as something other than/less than “real feminists.” I think the better choice would be to stop calling any choice “feminist,” and allow women to live their lives without fear of being policed, judged, influenced, or labeled by anyone other than themselves.

After all, as Lily Allen so eloquently puts it, “It’s hard out here for a bitch!”

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Big Brother vs. American politics: the truth hurts

I was watching a Frontline episode the other day (Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA) when I was struck by how much the politics of Congress resembles the politics of Big Brother (a very guilty pleasure of yours truly). Here's what I came up with.

Big Brother:
A reality/competition TV show wherein a group of "HouseGuests" are isolated in a house under constant surveillance by cameras and microphones. The goal of this competition is to win the grand prize of $500,000. Each HouseGuest tries to compete for Head of Household, which grants them immunity for the week and the power to choose who is in danger of being "evicted" from the house and thereby losing the game. However, the HoH must also work with the rest of the HouseGuests to vote out the target he or she has chosen, so the power of HoH is somewhat limited. HouseGuests are also not allowed to be HoH two weeks in a row.

This show is also a kind of social experiment, as a "diverse" group of Americans with differing backgrounds and beliefs are forced to live together, confronting their differences and finding similarities in order to work together to further their own position in the game. The actual demography of the group is fairly typical, however, with bikini-wearing, thin, attractive white women and young white men making up the majority of the population.

Add two more (thin attractive bikini-wearing) white women and a white man and this is the cast for the season.
There's also a "swimsuit" photo available for all cast members...seriously.

A portion of the American government wherein a group of "Representatives" and "Senators" are isolated in Washington, DC under constant surveillance by the media. The goal of each member is to win re-election, thereby securing an annual salary of (at least) $174,000, as well as a lifelong pension for which they are eligible after 5 years of service. Many of these members of Congress tries to compete for the office of President of the United States, which grants them immunity from and the power to choose the direction of the country. However, the President must also work with Congress to pass the laws he or she wants, so the power of the Presidency is somewhat limited. The President is also not allowed more than two terms in office.

This group of elected officials with differing beliefs, who "represent" the populations they serve, are forced to confront their differences and find similarities in order to work together to pass laws governing the country, while also jockeying for the most airtime on the TV network of their choice, collecting money from lobbyists, and furthering their own position in the existing power structure. The actual demography of the group is overwhelmingly white and male; 74% of the Senate is white men, and 60% of the House is white men, compared to 31% white men in America overall. Additionally, 50.8% of congressmen and congresswomen are worth over $1,000,000, compared to all of America, where the median net worth is $44,900. The average age is 57 in the House and 61 in the Senate; the average age in all of America is 36.8 years old. (In fact, Sen. Lindsay Graham and Sen. John McCain have both admitted to never sending an email. Interesting.)

Damn, that's a lot of white dudes.

So it seems to me that Congress is just one big game of Big Brother, except the difference is that when Congress competes for power and money, it's the nation and its people who lose.