Ideologically speaking

(TW: violence)

Dear Dad,

I enjoyed visiting you and the fam in Minnesota for Christmas. You know I always love a chance to get a White Christmas, throw a few snowballs, before returning to the warm climes of California.

A photo of a woman, bundled in jackets, sweaters, scarf, sweatpants and a hat, standing on top of a snow-covered playground structure.

Wearing my haphazardly slapped together snow outfit on a winter excursion. Can you tell I don’t actually own snow clothes?

I also enjoy our conversations, even though this Christmas’ debate was a particularly tense one, which wasn’t aided by the fact that we hopped around from topic to topic like a cat on the nip. I’d like to return, however, to our discussion on ideologies, especially since it relates so much to discussions we’ve had before on this blog about ideology and “lenses.”

Your second blog post to me was on this same topic, describing ideologies as glasses that one views the world through: They shape how we perceive our reality. I’ve thought often about this comparison, and about where this metaphor falls down. Even with a feminist worldview, for instance, my perception could vary wildly from that of Beyonce, Gloria Steinem, and Jessica Valenti. What I’ve experienced and learned, read about and watched, all has an impact on my own personal ideology, which is an amalgam of classes I took, advice from friends, my own contemplations, and my reading.

I guess what I’m saying is, we all have our paradigms. Sometimes, we put a name to them and call them an ideology, to let people know we fall into the same camp as other individuals we admire. I proudly say I’m a feminist because it’s a quick way to let people know that I stand up for women’s rights. But my feminism is something I keep revising and evolving in and growing. I proudly claim the title, but if one day, I find one that suits me better, I can discard it in favor of that one.

All that being said, you were right when you wrote that ideologies can warp reality. In our discussion over the holiday, Dad, we talked about the frequency of shootings in the U.S. You said that the San Bernardino shooters espoused a violent Islamic ideology, but that other recent mass shooters were simply mentally ill and in need of care. I thought on this on the plane ride home, and for the whole week, and I can’t agree. I think in our country’s narrow focus on terrorism as an Islamic threat, we don’t acknowledge that there are other ideologies present in the fabric of the United States that can lead to violence as well, regardless of the mental health of the perpetrator. Charleston shooter Dylann Roof, for instance, took a gun to African-American churchgoers because he believed he was defending white women. This man espoused a radically white supremacist worldview. He wasn’t just some “crazy.” His vision was warped by lenses of racism and a twisted sense of patriotism. Similarly, the Planned Parenthood shooter in Colorado declared afterward that there would be “no more baby parts,” clearly influenced by pro-life rhetoric about the health care provider. His view of right and wrong was distorted by a pro-life movement that led him to believe the only solution to safe, legal abortion was to kill those providing it. Maybe it’s difficult to see a pro-life person lumped in with radical Muslim terrorists, but all of these shooters have an ideology, a distorted worldview influenced by their experiences and the information they receive, that led them down the path they took. To write the non-Muslims off as “crazy” anomalies is to obscure the path to a solution.

And that’s the conclusion I’ve come to after a week of stewing, though I’m sure, with time, my vision will continue to develop and I might have to adjust the prescription on my lenses a little. Thanks for the food for thought, Dad, and happy new year.

Love you,


Thoughts on Thank You

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-esteem lately. As a young woman, and a feminism, it’s something that I’ve worked to grow and bolster in myself, as well as worked to help others grow. I’ve blogged in the past about my body, and written a lot about body positivity. It’s one way I work through my own complicated feelings about my body, as well as, hopefully, show other women that it’s okay to love your body exactly as it is. I even had a friend message me recently to say she quit shaving her armpits and loves it, and to thank me for being vocal on the issue and giving her the courage.

A photo of a white woman with pink hair sitting on a rock on a beach looking out toward the sea.

Learning to love every curve, crook, and fuzzy patch of my body is a continuing process.

As part of being positive about my self and the corporeal form I inhabit, Dad, I also strive to speak positively about my body. When someone compliments an outfit, or my hair, or some physical aspect, I try to thank them, instead of shrugging it off with, “Ugh, my boobs look so dumpy in this though,” or some other negative, self-deprecating comment. This reinforces for me that it’s okay to be happy with my body just the way it is, and it’s also gracious. (Though I’m not perfect and don’t always stick to this goal…)

My goals in not tearing myself down weren’t always noble, though, Dad. I think it started first as a misogynistic rebellion against the stereotype that girls are always complaining about their appearance. I saw it in the locker room in middle school: One girl would sigh, “Ugh, I’m so fat,” and her friends would rush to reassure her that she was totally not. And to be honest, I was jealous. It seemed like the prettiest girls were always complaining about their looks and getting accolades, and so, in rebellion, I didn’t complain about my flaws or insecurities. Because I wasn’t a “shallow girl like the rest of them.” Internalized misogyny can be complicated.

Since then, I’ve worked to improve my relationship with my body, and with other women. Instead of feeling myself superior to others of my gender, I focus on learning to love every curve, crook, and fuzzy patch of my body, and speak out about it publicly to encourage others to fearlessly do the same. It’s a little bit making amends for my old opinions, and a lot bit dedicating time and energy to being happy with me as I am.

I still get jealous, though, Dad. This week, I saw a friend on Twitter praising someone else as cute. The person’s response was essentially, “No! I’m not cute! I’m gross!” Which was met with, “Of course you’re cute! You’re so so cute! The cutest! Everyone, tell her how cute she is!” And part of me was hella jealous. Part of me wondered if instead of meeting the occasional compliment with a “thank you,” I responded with, “No, I’m really not!” I would be given even more praise and adoration. Part of me wanted to sigh and bemoan how very fat I am so that someone somewhere would reassure me that I’m totally not. I still get insecure and I still get jealous of other women and I still get petty, sometimes, try as I might to uphold values of sisterhood and self-love.

I think for now, I’ll keep saying thank you, if/when I get compliments. And I’ll fight the urge to get jealous of other women. And remember that I still have a long ways to go.


On big life changes

Dear Dad,

Yesterday, while driving, I saw one of those light-up road signs. “CAUTION” it flashed, and then just “CHANGE AHEAD.” I thought how fitting that was right now.

As you know, I’ve just taken a new job, and it’s absolutely a dream. I’m working creatively and in academia and I’m completely thrilled by the level of enthusiasm and commitment to education of my coworkers. But my decision to take this job wasn’t without sacrifices. When the position was offered to me, it would mean leaving the county I grew up in, leaving my friends, and leaving my boyfriend.

tom and vicki

This goob right here is so supportive.

We talked about the decision, and the distance, and even though he told me again and again he would miss me, my partner also told me that he knew what a big opportunity this was for me, and that he was happy for me. And I knew that I didn’t want to surrender my career for a relationship. So we’re working it out long-distance.

My boss found out this week that we’ve been dating a little less than a year, and her response was, “Wow, that’s amazing. Not many people would leave a new relationship for a job.”

And that’s been the dilemma for a lot of women for a very long time now. Many women do give up their careers for their husbands and their families, or limit their opportunities for their partners. For decades, the big question in the media for career women has been, “Can women balance work and home life?”

I’m grateful that women’s rights have advanced to the point where I have good job opportunities and can pursue the path I want. And I’m grateful to my partner for understanding and valuing my achievements. I’m hopeful that soon all women will be supported in their endeavors, be they in the work field or the family field. I know for me, my partner’s support has meant the world in this big change.


On categories

Dear followers,

I’m working on organizing the blog, and categorizing posts to make them easy to search and navigate. Up until now I’ve kept them all “Uncategorized” for the sake of ease, but I’d like to divvy them up by topic, so I’m soliciting your input!

Right now, the three topics I’m considering are “Media Critique,” “History,” and “Personal,” but some posts aren’t included in those categories, such as posts in response to my father’s response blog, or posts about body image and sexual harassment.

So I’m welcoming feedback. How would you like to see the blog organized? What categories would you like?

Thanks for the support!


On why I’m a feminist

Dear Dad,

Mom called to say you’re upset. She said you feel like I don’t appreciate you? And I thought at first it was about the poem I sent her on Mother’s Day, but she said you’re worried I’m a feminist. Like I don’t respect tradition, or that I don’t value the way I was brought up.

I’m here to tell you, Dad, that is absolutely not true. In fact, when people ask me about why I’m a feminist, how I became interested in researching feminism, I think my upbringing deserves the most credit.

You taught me to think for myself, to question authority. You raised me to look critically at issues. All those dinner table debates, with me arguing against the death penalty, for instance, and you playing devil’s advocate? I had to really examine both sides, understand all the arguments, logical, ethical and emotional, in order to come to an informed conclusion about what I believed was right, and then defend my position.

You taught me to pay attention. I always admired the way you were home in time for the news, and when you weren’t watching the news you were reading, books, papers, magazines, Internet. And when you couldn’t read you were listening to talk radio.

You taught me to respect myself, and to dream big, that I could reach as high as I wanted. And you taught me that women deserve respect.

It was only when I got out into the world that I saw how wide the gap between how women should be treated and how they really are treated was. And I started asking questions. And I started paying attention. I read everything I could find on the subject. I read the feminist points of view, and I read the MRAs that made me physically ill.

And I decided I was a feminist. And it’s thanks to you.

And if this is about the poem I wrote for Mom, I’ve written poems about you, too, Dad. But it was Mother’s Day.