A Camping Story

A Camping Story

Every woman has a story that involves men and being scared and/or intimidated which causes the woman to change and/or adjust her plans.  This is not a new thing, #notallmen and the response #yesallwomen are very typical of how discussions of gender inequality go in respect to these stories.

Breaking out of typical starts with how the story is told and continues with how the story is received.

This story starts with a camping trip that myself, a friend, and her two small children went on.  We originally planned to stay two nights.  The first night the guy from the next campsite invited himself over to say hi.  Turns out he was quite drunk and toed some lines with the children that made my friend very uncomfortable.  Eventually we sent the kids to bed and used that as an excuse to kick the guy out of our camp.

Pause on the story (because it doesn’t end here).  Before you start to “solve” our camping dilemma… yes there were some things my friend and I could have done differently, and yes there were some things the guy should have been more conscious of, and yes there was a bunch of campers who did NOT stop by to say hi so we recognize that most male campers did not invade our space.  Who we are and what we value change what we could have done to avoid the situation – the possibilities are endless – but we did the best we could with what we knew and what we believe.

Back to camping… the next day we changed to a different site in the same campground and had a lovely day.  That is, it was lovely until we were finishing dinner and my friend noticed the guy from the previous night driving multiple times around the camping loop.  He then proceeded to stop and set up camp directly across from us.  This creeped us out to the point where we immediately packed up and went home despite already having paid for the second night of camping.  The best possible spin we could find for his behavior is that he thought he was protecting two women camping with kids.

Gender equality could help avoid situations like this, or at least make it more obvious if we should have been creeped out.  Ideally in a gender equal society the guy would have asked if we wanted him to keep an eye out for us.  Ideally in a gender equal society we would have been able to ask him to leave us alone (no excuse needed) without feeling there was a risk of escalating the situational danger.

When telling a story of gender inequality, like this one, there are so many “moral to the story” options that are counter-productive to actually forwarding the cause of gender equality.  Often stories can come across as blaming or woe-is-me.  Also, when hearing a story of gender inequality like this one, it is so easy to try and solve the situation or disassociate from the circumstances (i.e. “That would never happen to me, I’m smarter than that.”).  Often responses can come across as victim blaming or defensive.

If we can tell a story without blaming a group or stereotyping.  If we can receive a story without feeling attacked.  If we can reach deeper to the social cause of the situation and recognize that gender equality is so much more than equal opportunity.  If we can do these things and then change our behavior toward those around us then we have started on the road to a more equal society.

 

What is your response to the story?  Do you think I told it in the spirit intended with this post?  How do we break out of typical?  How do we recognize and change our behavior?

 

 

Selling a Home!

Selling a Home!

In my last blog I mentioned home renovations, well… life went sideways for a few months as we renovated my husband’s townhome and put it on the market.  I’d say it was his bachelor pad and all that implies… but in our culture that brings to mind pool tables, unclean bathrooms, stale pizza, and empty beer bottles.  While Dan, my husband, DOES have a higher dirty threshold for bathrooms than I do, the reality is that the bathrooms were clean and in 10 years of living there he’d collected almost two rooms worth of Lego and quite a few unfinished projects.

These projects ranged from steel poles he was planning to weld together into a 40 foot radio tower to a master bathroom renovation.  We put the steel into storage but the bathroom – which was torn out down to the studs – needed a bit more time and effort.  The bathroom became my responsibility and as a result I now can install concrete board and dry wall, did a pretty epic job on tiling, and even know how to get a mirror cut down to size.  All tasks not typically associated with a woman’s capabilities.

The master bathroom – I’m now of the opinion that all bathtubs should have a book/wine ledge:

Blog 07 - master bath

So if I was doing the bathroom, what was Dan doing?  The tasks only he could do.  Either of us could tile and drywall, but only he could decide how to pack up the mounds of Lego or which projects should be given up.  Most couples find a division of labor and planning that works for them, though this might shift over time or with a particular project.  Whether that division falls along traditional gender lines or not, as long as it works and maintains a healthy relationship then I say good for you!!

Dan and I found pretty quickly that renovating a home is a real relationship test – even if you divide out tasks.  I typically made sure we were fed and did the long-term planning in addition to the master bathroom project.  Dan was in charge of all his material goods, the downstairs bathroom (which was also halfway unfinished), and random design details which he absolutely had an opinion about.

Dan’s bathroom design – he designed the look and installed all the tile work and fixtures:

Blog 07 - down bath

That’s another social expectation gender-bender for us… unlike the stereotype for men, Dan has very strong opinions about design and fashion.  Also unlike the stereotype for women I typically don’t care, or more often have no clue about, what goes together.  (As an example my sister still pokes fun of me for wearing my pants tucked into my socks as a kid, “because it’s warmer”.  What can I say, I get cold easily!)

The thing is, people are proud and excited for me when they hear I built a bathroom.  People do not have the same level of excitement when they hear about Dan’s carefully thought out color schemes and designs.  I believe that if we’re going to cheer for women entering the stereotypical male domain, we should cheer equally as hard for those men entering the stereotypical feminine domain.

 

What do you excel at that’s not typical for your gender that you wish people would be proud of and excited about?  Or do you excel at something that’s minimized because it’s typical for your gender?  Share a time where you were proud and excited for someone else who displayed skills associated with the other gender!

 

 

Current Events – Career Options and Touch

I’m in the process of getting my massage license in Washington state.  Since I originally had my license in another state I never took the national test (MBLEx) and went to take it today.  It dragged up a lot of memories of massage school.  One thing I remembered is that there were only three men in my graduating class, and about 7 times that many women (the opposite ratio of my engineering school).  I don’t know where those men are today, I can’t help but think that massage therapy is probably one of the most difficult professions for men to make into a viable career. 

 Massage therapy is based in touch, and while it’s socially acceptable and appropriate for women to touch whomever (men/women/children) in a care-taking manner, most touch by a man is viewed as sexual or a competition.  While the woman-handshake in work settings can become awkward, so too can the man-hug become awkward in almost any situation.  Handshake turned half-hug anyone? 

 Recently men in the Netherlands started photographing themselves holding hands with other men to protest anti-gay violence.  (Ok, maybe not so recently given that I originally wrote this blog a month ago then my life became overrun by home renovations.  Anyway…)  Hand holding is not owned by women, or children, or the LGBT community.  It seems to me that this protest has a second unintended consequence…. of hopefully normalizing the image of men holding hands.  The more we see it, the less we think of it as something odd, the less we think of it as odd the more willing we are to accept that men can touch whomever for reasons other than sex or dominion.   

 So… massage therapy.  The worry I hear from some women on why they don’t want a male therapist is that they’re already feeling exposed, being in only underwear or nude, on a massage table.  Men are threatening by social expectation and size, add the social expectation that men tend to touch for sexual or competitive reasons and you have a situation where many women are unable to relax.  And who wants to walk out of a massage saying “WOW my muscles feel awesome even though I wasn’t able to relax!”? 

 The double whammy for male massage therapists is that some men don’t want to go to one for the same reasons as the women… they’re feeling exposed and assign the same social expectations to male touch.   Because of these social expectations some men receiving massage have difficulty distinguishing between arousing and caring touch themselves, which can lead to even more confusion and uncertainty.  And so male therapists are left with few male clients, and few female clients… which does not a career make.

 

Do you agree or disagree with the limitations I see on male touch?  And what other careers are tough for men to break into?  (I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)

 

Limits of Confidence

Limits of Confidence

Confidence, while usually considered a good thing, actually can limit the free will of those around us.  Many people are confident in the life choices they have made (rightfully so!) and that confidence leads them to (incorrectly) think that their way must be the best or only way.  Therefore, when giving advice that person will often give advice based on their own life choices, which is where the limitation occurs.  Because the person taking the advice is NOT the person giving it.

 At one point in my past I left a cushy office job to be a full time martial arts instructor.  I was expecting my office co-workers to be excited for me because I was excited about the change.  Nope.  The general consensus was that I was making a terrible life choice.  It took me a while to realize that my co-workers thought I was crazy because they were putting themselves in my shoes and had decided that they would have to be crazy to make the same decision.  They were confident in their own life choices and rejected the decision I was making.  There was no allowance for me being a different person.

 You also see this consistently in internet comments.  A recent question on twitter about married people eating alone with a member of the opposite sex garnered many comments.  What struck me about the comments is most followed the same line of thinking as my co-workers did.  Everyone was confident in their own life choices to the point of dis-allowing any other possibility working for a couple. 

 Even more interesting is that many of the commentators noted that their marriage was the most important relationship they had, to be protected at all costs.  They had opposing ideas of how to go about that protection – be friends with the opposite sex, not be friends with the opposite sex, and everything in-between – and the “you’re doing it wrong” comments flew both ways.  Dig to the heart of the matter and one might realize that only 1 person needs to agree with each individual’s argument… the person married to that individual.

 To judge a married (or dating) person on their choice to spend time – or not spend time – alone with members of the opposite sex is to judge that person by our own life choice standard.  To say that we’re all the same.  But we’re not, each person is an individual with dreams, life choices, and personality of their own.  Just as each individual has a vision of what their gender means to them. 

 And so it only makes sense to use gender individualism as a replacement term for feminism (in terms of gender equality).  Because each person should be treated as an individual, and we’re being specific about gender.  And because aiming for female equality, while a much needed and worthy goal, is too small a target when all of humanity is lacking equality.    

Free Will

Free Will

What does it mean to have free will?  Is it merely to have a choice available to you [Ref. 1]?  Or is it the freedom to make that choice and feel no judgement or pushback? 

 I grew up with parents that let us kids make our own decisions.  I’d say they let us make age appropriate decisions but that’s a loaded statement if there ever was one…  so to rephrase, my parents taught us to make decisions and then stepped back and let us fly or fall or, as I’ve found is usually the case with decisions even as an adult, stumble through.  They did their best to not judge but support, even if our decisions directly disagreed with their own choices.  In other words, we had the reality and not just the appearance of free will.

 I never realized how rare this was, maybe I still don’t know because I see explanations all around and I feel the need to give them myself.  What’s interesting is how I feel the need to justify having a low end car to save money – clarifying that I’m saving for vacations – when talking with well-off friends, and I feel the need to justify – or not mention – having splurged on heated leather seats when talking with friends who struggle to get by.  It’s the same car, just different social circles and expectations.  When was the last time you felt the need to justify a decision or lifestyle to a friend?  A coworker?  A loved one?  And can it really be called free will if your choice is judged and pressure placed to choose a particular way?

 My car falls firmly into the category of “first world problems”, yet we all have our own “car” as it were.  What is your “car”?  It can be as sneaky as “keeping up with the Jones’” or as blunt as being told “no, you can’t play with the boys”. 

 That second one happened in my 8th grade P.E. class [Ref. 2].  We had 8 girls, of which I was the only athlete, and about 20 boys.  I had played soccer for over 9 years at this point and knew the gender separation our teacher insisted on was not reasonable from a skill standpoint.  So when it was the boys turn to play I just… played.  Stepped out onto the field and played.  There were some complaints, and some boys wouldn’t pass to me, but enough would and no one stopped me.  Rather like what women in the STEM [Ref. 3] fields experience today.  I was allowed to play, or at least not stopped, but what about the boys?  Were any of them able to NOT play?  And if I took the ball from one, would he be made fun of because “you got beat by a girl”?  Never mind that I had training he didn’t have.  Never mind that I had athletic aptitude he didn’t have.  Never mind that gender didn’t actually matter in this case.  Our instructor took the lazy way out, the social expectations way out.  The double standard that boys are athletic and girls are not way out and effectively set us all up for failure.

 I had limited free will, the boys had none.  These ideas can and do co-exist.  The free will to choose not to play – or to choose to play! – for both genders needs to be addressed for gender equality to prevail.  Because free will starts with having the choice, and grows with that choice being one where either outcome is socially acceptable.

 

References:

1)      Free Will: free and independent choice; voluntary decision
Source:
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/free-will?s=t

2)      PE: also known as physical education in the public school system, which in my experience usually consisted of gym teachers attempting to teach game rules to kids who 1) already know them or 2) don’t care and will stand in the middle of the playing field gossiping

3)      STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math. 
source: https://www.ed.gov/Stem

Current Events – Reproductive Choice

Note: Every third blog is planned to be my thoughts and reactions to some sort of current event that is going on in the world.  Please leave comments or contact me with topics you’d be interested in hearing!

 

Since I’m based in the USA, the easy answer for this current events blog would be the Trump presidency.  But I’m sure there are already books and books about it, and ultimately it feels like a cop-out… the easy and superficial answer… like swiping a finger-full of icing off a cake but not actually taking a bite.  So, let us begin as I mean to continue, with the heavy cake.  Today’s cake is reproductive choice. 

 I recently got into a polite Facebook discussion regarding abortion.  No sarcasm, it actually happened.  No one changed anyone’s mind – the polite discussion was miracle enough for one day – but what strikes me about the whole abortion debate is that very few people are realistically talking about men’s rights and roles in regards to reproductive choice. 

Pro-life supporters want to protect every innocent human being [Ref. 1].  Pro-choice supporters want to fight for reproductive freedom [Ref. 2].  The debates and arguments I’ve heard often center around the woman and child.  Men (presumably) had something to do with conception of the child and yet they are missing from the discussion. 

If an accidental pregnancy occurs, society generally expects the man to “do the right thing” and get married.  And yet the ability to make a child is no guarantee that the couple will be successful in marriage – the success of which affects all three people, mother, father, and child.  This societal expectation appears to have originated when patriarchal society set down rules to protect women, and their children, who were dependent upon the men in their lives [Ref. 3]. 

Many women now have a greater capacity to depend on themselves.  Much more so than any other time in the last few hundred years – not equal to men, but greater than it was.  Yet men are still expected to provide by means of marriage.  In a society where divorce is not taboo and co-parenting is a term that many have heard or experienced, marriage is still the golden standard response to an accidental pregnancy.  Let that sink in for a moment. 

Why are we not having debates about the many ways co-parenting can exist?  Why are we not having debates about the many options both men and women have when it comes to a shared child?  Why are we not talking about men’s reproductive choices?

According to Chip and Dan Heath the first villain of decision making is narrow framing which limits options [Ref. 4].  When it comes to men, pregnancy, and children, society’s narrow framework starts at the beginning and continues right on up through it all.  Even the very beginning has limits for men as they have only one choice of reliable temporary birth control – condoms.  Though really, they have two choices if you count abstinence and three choices if you count trusting your partner’s choice of birth control.  And while I’ve trusted the significant others I’ve had in the past, I’ve NEVER trusted any single one them enough to give them all responsibility for birth control.  Becoming a parent is a huge decision and one where I want full control.

Why do men not have that same level of control?  Why, if society expects men to take full responsibility for a pregnancy they helped create, has society not provided men with multiple options of reliable temporary birth control?  For that matter, why is “full responsibility” relegated to financial support of the mother and random pickles and ice cream runs at 3am? 

Let us start the change.  Let us start by asking the men around us what reproductive choices they feel they are missing?  And what choices would they like to have? 

And then, to own the issue, ask yourself how we can start to make those options a possibility.

 

  References:

1)      National Right to Life (NRLC)
Source:
http://www.nrlc.org/about/

2)      NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation
Source:
https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/about

3)      Shotgun Weddings
Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun_wedding

4)      Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Source: book:
http://heathbrothers.com/books/decisive/

Who am I to Speak?

Who am I to Speak?

This is the part where I tell a tale of epic hardship and how, through the principles I’m espousing, my life turned around and I’m now living happily ever after and have started a crusade to share my path with others.  Yup.  Um.  I got nothing.

Truth to tell my life has been privileged.  I grew up in a safe neighborhood, had two siblings to play and argue with, my dad was the breadwinner with a steady job, and my mom stayed home while we were younger.  It was expected that us kids would go to college and become contributing members of society, at which we’ve mostly succeeded.

That’s not to say I haven’t experienced hardship, because I have, or loss, I’ve been there too.  But I have knowledge holes on both ends of the societal and monetary spectrum.  What I do have to offer comes not from a glorious life turn-around, but rather a series of quiet events.

There are depressing quiet events.  The consultant who accepts answers from a male co-worker but not me… even though we used the exact same wording.  The boyfriend who feels emasculated that I earn more money than he does.  The martial arts training partner who refuses to hit a girl.

There are uplifting quiet events.  The co-workers who have always judged me by my merit rather than gender.  The couple who has successfully traded primary parenting responsibilities every couple of years.  My husband who has no problem acknowledging me as an equal in martial arts skill.

Mostly I find the depressing events are based in fear and expectations and the uplifting ones are based in respect and a certain willingness to throw societal expectations out the window.  What are these societal expectations that define an event or get thrown out?  In current society, I see men who are struggling with an old set of expectations on how to act and be a productive member of society.  I see women who are not sure how to achieve gender equality, partially because they all have a different idea of what that looks like.  One thing I see missing in these and other instances is an understanding that HAVING a choice is more important than the actual choice a person makes.

I want to spread that opportunity to choose, because the more people who have a choice the less there is to fear in what others choose.  I want to challenge the status quo of societal expectations, adjust them until the only expectations are ones based in knowledge of the person.  I want to be a vehicle of change, but I cannot do this alone, because alone I am just another person throwing societal expectations out the window.

 

So, who am I to speak?  I am simply a voice.

The more important question is: Will you listen, evaluate, debate, and discuss what you hear?