The marriage quandary

Dear Dad,

It seems I have come to a new stage in my life. No, it’s not my big impending move, or the new job, or my fast-approaching 25th birthday. It’s my friends’ Facebook posts. Over the past six or so months, they’ve all seemed to have one thing in common: marriage.

Whether it’s being bridesmaid or bride, groomsman or groom, everyone these days seems to be in weddings. One weekend in August, I counted seven individual weddings in my Facebook feed. In the last two days, two different couples got engaged (congrats, guys!) and everybody seems to be pinning to wedding boards. And when I wasn’t watching the mass matrimony on Facebook, I was working at an inn that seemed to have a different magical ceremony every weekend.

I confess, I’m getting swept up. Like when I was a kid, I’m daydreaming about a big party, a big, sparkly white dress, cake… I’ve even caught myself planning a reception mixtape, and I’m not even engaged.

And yet, I have to wonder at how much societal influence (especially Facebook) has to do with my interest in marriage. I am in a happy, loving, committed relationship. I don’t need to put on his last name to prove it to anyone, but I fantasize about it.

Even as I get swept up in the romance, weddings still remind me of all the women-as-property traditions that we cling to in this society.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/44f/69320406/files/2014/12/img_0109.jpg

Many women still believe their boyfriends should ask their fathers for permission before proposing, for instance. Men have told me its “respectful,” but respectfully, Dad, it’s not your decision to make; it’s mine. And the father “giving his daughter away” is a leftover of the transfer of goods that marriage once was. (Mental Floss has a great roundup of the origins of traditions, ranging from superstition to patriarchal rite.)

As I watch many of my friends take their vows, I long for that for myself, and also question why we hold on to so many patriarchal traditions. Why should I take a husband’s name? Do I even need to marry him? Isn’t pledging devotion between two people enough?

I’m not the only feminist who struggles with this. In fact, feminists are torn on the question of whether marriage can be redeemed from its origins. Some believe a feminist getting married is a betrayal, while others argue the very personal decision can change marriage for the better, as married feminist Lisa Miya-Jervis explains.

I guess all I’m saying, Dad, is I don’t have all the answers. As I’m moving forward and entering a new stage in my life, I’m still struggling to figure out what decision is right for me. And whether I marry or not, my decision is framed by patriarchy and a long history of marriage, so I’m thinking carefully before I make it.

Love,
Victoria

Advertisements

Picture of a girl gamer

Dear Dad,

Merry Christmas! How were the holidays? Sorry I couldn’t be with you. How was all the loot? Did baby brother get the video games he asked for?

My day was pretty relaxing. Made some Christmas lunch/dinner, called you and the fam (as you know), and chilled with the cats. I kicked back in the afternoon and played some Destiny.

As I was running a strike with a couple of random players, I realized that my perception of all the other players was male. I realized this as I rode my speeder behind a female hunter into the depths of the planet Mars. No matter the gender of their character or the style of their armor, I just automatically assumed that the other players were dudes.

I wouldn’t say this is an internalized misogyny so much as an internalized, unexamined sexist assumption. Though female gamers and game developers are more vocal then ever about our place in gaming, I still encounter sexist opinions about women who play games, even in myself.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/44f/69320406/files/2014/12/img_0108.jpg

All kinds of people have played video games since their inception, including women.

So what can I do about this, Dad? My response is twofold: I’m going to stop seeing the people behind the controller as exclusively male, opening myself up to other genders; and I’m going to keep writing about my own gaming experiences, because even though I’ve played video games for almost two decades, it’s the voices of other women in gaming that have shown me how diverse the medium can be.

Next time I’m running a strike in Destiny, I won’t assume the people on my team are a couple of men. And when I change my perception, I start to feel a little more welcome, too.

Love,
Victoria

Mansplained at a GameStop

Dear Dad,

I just had the perfect experience that summarizes mansplaining, and I am still seething.

IMG_0101.JPG

If you’re not familiar with “mansplaining,” it’s when a man takes it upon himself to explain, often in a patronizing manner, something to a woman, and often he’s telling her something incorrect or that she already knows. The term was coined because of Rebecca Solnit’s fabulous essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” in which a man at a party started unknowingly describing her own book to her, a book he hadn’t even bothered to read.

My own experience came when I went into GameStop today to buy a gift card. I play games. I love gaming. I frequent GameStop and I haven’t once had a negative experience in their stores, but as I crossed the threshold to purchase my gift card, I had a nagging feeling that something bad would happen to me, a girl purchasing not games, but a gift for another gamer.

It started when a customer, standing at the counter, asked what I was in for. I told the clerk a gift card and he walked to the back of the store, I assumed to get one. But the customer was standing near a rack of gift cards and offered me one, as I reached for it, he pulled it back and sort of laughed, joking with me as if we were flirting. But the message was clear: I was the “little lady” and he was in charge of the situation. I tried to smile and be polite, hoping if I played the role he expected me to, he would knock it off.

The clerk returned with a holiday gift card, and I turned my attention to him, hoping not to interact with the presumptuous customer anymore. He rang me up and we discussed holiday shopping, the rising cost of books. I told him how when I lived in France, paperbacks only cost a couple euro, as opposed to the ten or fifteen dollars you have to drop on paperbacks in the US. The customer butted in to say, “That’s still four bucks.”

I turned a dead stare on him. I was totally done humoring this man, who was smiling smugly as if he’d outsmarted me, put me in my place.

“Yeah, but that’s compared to twelve dollars for a cheaper book here,” I said.

“Which is like six euro,” the clerk added helpfully, I suppose in case this man were struggling with division.

I thanked him and left the store, full of anger. From the minute I walked into the store, this man turned his attention on me, and I would have been happy to interact with him if he hadn’t been constantly humiliating me and seeking to put me down. He tried to explain international currencies to me when I brought the topic up and demonstrated a history of dealing with other country’s monies.

I was mansplained at a GameStop, and as a girl who games, this was one incident that made me feel unwelcome and unsafe. If one good thing came out of this, I’m grateful for the clerk, who made me feel welcome, equal and respected.

Love,
Victoria

On mistakes and growing from it

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking a lot about growing, and making mistakes. Do you remember how much of a perfectionist I was as a child? How much I wanted to please others? I remember the first time I got a B+ on a math test in sixth grade; I was crushed.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve struggled to learn that mistakes are part of growing up. Sometimes, you have to take your lumps to learn a lesson. Sometimes, mistakes permit a breakthrough greater than you could have imagined. I found this TED talk very encouraging. It helped me focus on not being afraid to fail:

With this blog, that’s always been a part of my approach, as well. I’m aware that this is the phase in my life where I separate from my parents and define myself. I’m trying to do that as gracefully as possible, but also, separation hurts. It’s a tearing of our bonds so that they become something new.

I’ve hoped our letters could give us a chance to define that separation and feel out the bounds of our new relationship. I delight in our conversations. I’m sorry when I hurt you.

I hope in my life, as well, I continue to grow and reevaluate my goals, ideas, perceptions and beliefs. I look forward to the future.

I love you,
Victoria