Growth

IMG_0491My church back home met in a stadium we rented out every week. It was roomy and dirty and kind of like a maze, but it felt like home. Starting in middle school, I developed a group of friends that were dorky and kind and saw the world the same way I did. It was around this time that I started journaling, writing about the conflicts in my small world and the endless faith that I had. This church reached out to kids, did community outreach, hosted a musical and huge summer camp every year, and created a huge impact in Houston. Along with my campus, there were five others that followed one pastor’s lead. We were a mega church, though small for Texas standards. It was big and a little bit loud but it was home. 

I went into high school with a faith that could move mountains. I had so much hope and sincere belief that made the bad days not feel too terrible. I tried my very best to be kind and selfless, but I wasn’t very good about doing it for the right reasons. I took a little too much pride in my reputation, and saw my value as the amount of friends I had invited to church. I still had a strong connection to God, a feeling and knowledge that gave me hope and peace. But I started to realize what I might be doing wrong. 

This sort of awakening came with my dirty descent into liberalism. My opinions broadened, and I started asking more questions about what my parents believed and why. I realized that I lived in a sort of echo chamber where I wasn’t hearing a lot of perspectives. I heard from people who lived in nice neighborhoods and went to church every weekend and went on mission trips to Haiti and Belize and China. I looked up to them, but I started to realize how small my worldview was. I couldn’t imagine someone being content without having a relationship with God, or even someone cool with blatantly breaking the Bible’s rules. With my sort of feminist journey, I started to see the different perspectives around me. There were people who had been hurt by churches, even my church specifically, and I started finding friends willing to talk and question my beliefs. I was interested in the change, but it did come as a sort of challenge. If my perspective was widening, was I betraying the person I wanted to be? 

The easy answer is of course not. Seeing how other people see things, how others deal with faith and conflict and confusion, was so intriguing to me. I started getting hit with new trials. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and saw my friends around me struggling in school and life in general. It was so hard to continue the sort of blissful feel-good outlook I had before.  I still had my faith but it was harder to uphold. 

With that change came my sort of liberal struggle. I would bring my best friend to church and realize that this place, my home, was not without flaws. Their teaching methods started to grate on me, and the endless appeal to young people in a very outdated way stopped being endearing. 

The final step back was at camp, where I was a counselor for six middle school girls. I was a senior, and I had really planted myself in a worldview about education, equality and acceptance. The very first message of camp took place in a huge room with a stage in the center. They had a cool band, and games, and the energy level was high. The head pastor started teaching and the crowd was silent, the first time 600 middle schoolers could be tamed in millennia. I listened to the man that had taught me since I was the age of the kids with me, and fell into his smooth southern drawl. His lesson was about sin, how everyone does it, but he offered the solution of forgiveness through Christ. The problem was what he presented as sin. In a room full of young, impressionable kids, he put lying and bullying on the same plane as “gender confusion” and self harm. Instead of offering help, or a discussion about how to speak to God about these things, he just told them they were wrong. Of course, they could be saved, there was hope, but only if they could erase their sexuality or mental illness. 

We went back to the room afterwards and I had a sick feeling in my stomach, not sure what I could say to these girls without ranting against the pastor I was supposed to respect. Funnily enough, one of the girls brought it up. She was a little confused, so we talked about what he meant and how maybe, this man didn’t know everything after all. We talked about trusting God, and prayer and being kind to others, tackled racism and being kind to LGBTQ people, and had the most constructive conversation I could remember. 

In that time of what felt like loss of a home, I found hope. I realized that of my love for God was non negotiable for me, but I could find a new home. These kids, despite hateful messages, were kind and listened to new perspectives already. I could be like them. 

I’m going to a new church now where I feel more comfortable being myself. I see hope in the new pastor, in my recent journal entries, and in my new bible study. Past me, who was closed-minded and definitely not a feminist, probably wouldn’t love where I ended up. She is an important part of me, and so is my faith, but I’ve realized that I can still grow and change and live a liberal and progressive life while still loving God.


Amanda Donovan

Graphic Designer, What the F Magazine

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Being a Feminist Voter During the 2016 Election

suffragette-votes-for-women

Being a feminist can be hard. There are so many people telling you how you’re supposed to act, what you’re supposed to think, and who you’re supposed listen to. You want to be radical, but not too radical. You hunger for change, but change happens slowly, and sometimes it feels like that change will never happen at all.

As the upcoming 2016 election nears, people are trying to tell feminists the “proper” way to vote. There’s pressure from friends, family, random strangers on the internet–I know all about it. I’ve lived most of my life hearing about the horrible nature of all conservatives from my father and the disgusting tendencies of all liberals from my uncles, and it has always been hard finding my own path. Voting is already difficult, but add in the idea that feminists must vote for women, and we’ve got a problem. Call me crazy, but I thought voting was a personal decision.

For the first time in history, something incredible has happened: both Democrats and Republicans have impressive women vying for the presidency. It’s exciting and new, and both women have interesting platforms. Hillary Clinton (D) is using her history in politics, equal rights advocacy, and healthcare advocacy to gain voter attention, while adding in somewhat traditional liberal ideas. Carly Fiorina (R) is running with a strong background in business. She is focusing on political and educational accountability and believes innovation is the answer to many of America’s struggles.

Assuming the title of Feminist, others will, undoubtedly, expect you to vote for one of the women candidates. Because obviously.

However, it’s important to remember that you can be an advocate for equal rights without automatically voting for Clinton or Fiorina. Yes, Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have women’s best interests at heart every time they make a decision.

Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, spoke about putting feminists on pedestals. She said, “we demand perfection from feminists because we are still fighting for so much. [But] we go far beyond reasonable constructive criticism to dissecting any woman’s feminism and tearing it apart until there’s nothing left.” In telling feminists they need to vote for one of two women, otherwise they aren’t really feminists, we limit the ability of so many men and women who believe in equal rights to impact the world with their votes. Sometimes, choosing a woman to run a country can be the best way to fight for feminism. And, sometimes, choosing a man can be the best way to fight for feminism.

I have personally struggled with this idea throughout the race so far. I am a woman. I am a feminist. I want to see a woman in the White House. But I also want to vote for the candidate whose ideas I agree with most, who has my best interests at heart, and who will be the best president and advocate for me and the rest of America. And, it may be shocking, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I will be voting for a woman.

I’ve realized that the best thing I can do to fight for women’s rights when it comes to voting is to make an educated decision about who I’m voting for. In fact, without studying each candidate’s platforms carefully, I would have assumed that Donald Trump wanted to defund Planned Parenthood and Carly Fiorina, as a woman who needs health care, didn’t, but in actuality, their positions are reversed.

Now remember, I’m not saying Donald Trump is the best candidate for feminism. He may be (though I really, really don’t think so.) What I am saying is that it’s time to do our research and really get to know the candidates, hopefully without pandering and biases. And most importantly, it’s about time we realized that it is absolutely okay to be a feminist and vote for a man.

One day there will be a female president. That’s for sure. That woman could be elected in 2016, or she could be elected in 2020. What’s important is this: your vote matters, so do your research, check the candidates, and see who will be the best person for the job based on her or his viewpoints, not based on the incorrect idea that all feminists must vote for a woman president.

Don’t know which candidate best represents you? Here are some links to help you find the right candidate for your vote!

http://www.isidewith.com

http://www.cnn.com/specials/politics/2016-election

http://ballotpedia.org/Presidential_election,_2016

http://www.theskimm.com/skimm-your-candidate


Hannah Levine

University of Michigan, Class of 2016
B.A. Creative Writing and Literature
Digital Studies Minor

Featured Fem: Gayle Rubin at the University of Michigan

I know it isn’t Thursday (and this isn’t Instagram), but I still think it’s the perfect time for a #throwback. One of the most amazing women who attended the University of Michigan did so in the late 1960’s. But wait! This isn’t purely a throwback! She still teaches here in the Anthropology, Women’s Studies and Comparative Literature departments.  Who is this mystery Michigan woman, and why is she this week’s Featured Fem?

Gayle Rubin attended the University of Michigan in the late 1960’s and early 70’s – in the heat of the American Feminist movement. Rubin wrote feminist articles for the Ann Arbor Argus in 1968, and co-founded an early Lesbian Feminnist group, the Radicalesbians in 1970.

Well what else did she do?

In 1975, Rubin published an essay called “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex“, and it really put her name on the map. This paper is one of the most quoted essays in contemporary Feminist history. In 1984, Rubin wrote another groundbreaking essay, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality“.

What do these revolutionary essays say??

“The Traffic In Women”

[33] Rubin, G. (1975). The traffic in women: notes on the ‘political economy’ of sex. In R. R. Reiter (ed.). Toward an anthropology of women.

In this essay, Rubin investigates the origins of female oppression. Is capitalism to blame? This was a hugely popular idea of the day, but Rubin notes that it’s important not to forget that women are oppressed in societies that are not capitalist as well. As she searches for the source of a “political economy” in sexual systems, she also examines Lévi-Strauss’s writings about kinship. The idea of kinship notes the distinction between the roles of “gift” and “giver”, such as how women are given as “gifts” by their fathers, the “givers”, to their husbands in marriage. The kinship system turns biological males and females into the roles of “men” and “women”, and allocates a different set of rights to each, directly contributing to the oppression of women. Kinship helped Rubin come up with her innovative thesis on the distinction between sex and gender.

Gayle Rubin talks about this in her now classic theoretical essay, Thinking Sex. In fact, she has a whole graph designed that shows what is deemed “good” and “bad” types of sex. Heterosexual vanilla monogamists—are good. Not being married, doing it for non-reproductive reasons is like middle ground but not bad. Via http://krystalfawn.com/

“Thinking Sex”

The thesis of this essay is that the sexual is political.

Basically this means that a person is treated differently and inferiorly solely based on his or her gender or sexual orientation. Rubin defines a few specific terms that build up her argument. The first is “sex negativity”, the idea that if marriage, reproduction or love are not involved, sexual behavior is considered bad. Stemming from the Christian hold on Western culture, sexual activity is seen by the public as sinful. The second term is the “misplaced scale”, which is the idea that anything considered sexual is given an excessive amount of significance. For example, sentencing a man who engaged in child pornography to 50 years in jail and giving a man who murdered a woman 10 years jail time. Not to say that both crimes are not worthy of lengthy punishment, but looking at an example of the “misplaced scale” means that our society sees actions with sex involved as more intense than any other action. Both legally and culturally, a person cannot express sexuality without being scrutinized, while that same person can talk about religion or politics as much as he or she would like.

What else did this brilliant woman do?

In 1978, Rubin was living in San Francisco and she helped found the first known Lesbian SadoMasachism group, Samois. She became a sex activist and spoke at the 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality. In 1994 Rubin completed her PhD in anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Rubin recently published a book, Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader, on lesbian history, the feminist sex wars, sadomasochism, prostitution and pornography; it’s the next thing on my reading list and should definitely be on yours.


Tori Wilbur
University of Michigan