Archive for: 2010

Topic: What is a Feminist?

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

Me.

I consider myself to be a feminist but I honestly don’t think about it very often.

It’s just a part of who I am.

When I was a teenager, the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was in full force.  My mother was an adamant supporter of the ERA and attended public rallies and marches to push the cause forward (with me in tow), but the movement took another turn toward public policy, instead of a constitutional amendment.

Even so, the effect on our family was dramatic.

Until then, we had been a pretty traditional family.  Dad went to work.  Mom stayed home.  The kids kept quiet.

And then my mom started listening to the Gloria Steinem’s and Jane Fonda’s of the movement, and soon after…we all became feminists.  My dad, my mom, my brother and me.

It changed the way we thought about traditional roles and responsibilities.

We adopted new ways of thinking and new ways of acting toward each other.  As a consequence, the stereotypical roles of women and men in a family, in business, in politics and in life in general, began to explode wide open.

And for the first time, I was told – OUT LOUD – that as a woman…I could do anything.  Be anything.  Want anything.    And from that…my potential – my future – was blown wide open.

So to me, a feminist is someone who:

  • Thinks a woman offers value to the world, as a woman.
  • Doesn’t believe a woman must compete to BE a man…because BEING a woman is perfect as it is.
  • Believes women are fully capable of doing anything they want to do, assuming they are willing to work at it to become proficient.
  • Believes that compensation should be paid fairly for the quality of work done…regardless of sex.
  • Strives to be tolerant of others and expects tolerance in return.
  • Believes there is no such thing as inequality between the sexes…just lovely differences that offer value and fullness to both.

Being a feminist is a part of who I am.  I don’t think about it.  I don’t feel I have to fight for it.   But I have spent my entire adult life trying to honor the gift of feminism that was given to me by my parents and by the times.

I don’t take it for granted.  I guard it with my life.  And I raised my children to be feminists so that they would be the type of people who tolerated others, believed in equality and realized that they could do anything, be anything and want anything, regardless of their sex.

So far, I think I’ve done a damn good job with that one!

I have my degree in Women and Gender Studies from the University of Colorado.  I didn’t choose that as my major because of the crazy amount of career opportunities (obviously).  I chose it as my major because I loved it.  I loved studying people and society, and the things that we all do that we don’t even think about.  I loved looking at the world through a different set of lenses.  A pair that’s more attuned to the rights and wrongs that we all commit.  A pair that sees things differently than most people.

That lens, most of the time, was Feminism.

Being a Women and Gender Studies major got me a lot of shit.  I heard every joke and rude comment in the book.

“Oh really?  I studied women in college too.”

“So is that, like, sewing and cooking and stuff?”

“Does that mean you’re a lesbo?”

I think that the term “Feminist” scares a lot of people.  I met lots of people in college who hated that word, for a variety of reasons.  Some hated it because, in their mind, it was too radical.  Some hated it because it was too “hippie”.  Others wouldn’t use it because, originally, Feminism (First Wave) was incredibly racist.  And some held the idea that Feminism was something to hate, to look down on, to not take seriously.

I learned dozens of definitions of types of Feminism (most of which I forget because I loathed my Feminist Theory class… I am in no way claiming to be an expert).  And I learned what “being a Feminist” means to me.

And there’s a big, huge point I’d like to make about Feminism.

I truly believe that it’s about more than just a definition that somebody else makes for you.  It’s more than a one-size-fits-all label.

It’s what you make it.

Of course, I believe that there are certain things that Feminism must include.  Most notably the belief that women and men are created equal.

(NOTE: I’m not saying women and men are the SAME.  That’s an important distinction.)

The other thing that all definitions of Feminism must have, I believe, is the belief in a woman’s right to choose.

Now, I’m not JUST talking about abortion, here.  I’m talking about Choice for everything.

Which brings me to my personal definition of Feminism.

I believe that women have the right to choose anything that they feel is right for them.  As long as that choice doesn’t hurt others (and let me be clear that I do not include “fetus” in the definition of “others”), then I believe that women have that right.  (I also believe that men have that right, but I feel like we rarely deny (straight) males their right to choose.)

If a woman wants to have babies and marry her high school sweetheart, that’s her choice.

If a woman chooses NOT to have kids, or to never get married, that’s her choice.

If a woman wants to join the army, become a teacher, a lawyer, or model, that’s her choice.

If a woman wants to dye her hair, pierce her nose, go barefoot, or never wear a bra, so be it.

And, what a woman does with or to her body, is HER CHOICE.

When it comes down it, THAT is feminism.

Treating women any less than men is inherently NOT Feminist.  Believing that women should strive to be men is inherently NOT Feminist.  Hurting women is inherently NOT Feminist.  Judging women because they are women is inherently NOT Feminist.  Being racist, homophobic, or classist is inherently NOT Feminist.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that.  We can debate whether or not a woman can actually choose to be in adult films, or get paid for sex.  And we can debate whether or not a Feminist can be a conservative Christian or stay in an abusive relationship.  There are even theories that one cannot be a Feminist and eat meat.

(Me and my salami sandwich tend to disagree with that one, but still…)

But I’m not here to debate.

At least not right now.

I grew up in a household that never overtly defined itself as “Feminist”, even though we all are.  My personal definition of Feminism includes components and beliefs that I’ve been taught my entire life.  Equality.  Choice.  The right of every single person to live in a safe environment.

I never had to question those things.  They were the rules of my world.  It wasn’t until I got to my later years of high school, and then college, that I realized that everyone isn’t raised with the same values.  That there are (lots and lots) of people out there who are AGAINST all of those things.  I think it really hit me when my family and I (plus Mike) went to D.C. for the March for Women’s Lives.  Walking through the capitol, having very angry MEN yell that I was a horrible person, really made it clear to me that my family wasn’t the norm.

And I think that’s why I gravitated to Women and Gender Studies.  Because I wanted to know why people fight so hard against those things that I think are basic fundamentals of humanity.  Why people hate.

(In case you’re wondering, I never found those answers.  I found clues, but the truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out.)

But I did learn why it’s important for me, and others, to stand up and believe in equality, choice, safety, and everything else that Feminism stands for.  Because it’s important.  It’s important for women AND men, little girls AND little boys.  It’s important for everyone.

Topic: What do you do to relax?

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

First, I have to stop.  Stop moving.  Stop doing.  Stop being…busy.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in perpetual motion.  Always moving – but hopefully – moving forward.

Then there comes a time in every day when the movement begins to slow.  And eventually…I can stop.

And then I can start relaxing.

I really don’t have a hard time relaxing.  It comes easily and naturally once I stop.

But…and there’s a BIG BUT…I can’t relax for too long.

I get bored.

Maybe that’s because I equate relaxing to all things restful.

Things like reading or watching TV or even knitting (which is only a winter relaxing activity because it just seems to only make sense during cold, cloudy days) are restful and relaxing for me…but all that sitting makes me bored after an hour or two.

Unless of course I imbibe in a glass of wine, or other available “calming” substances (yes…it is what you’re thinking).  Then…I can relax for many more hours at a time.

But eventually, I still get fidgety.  I start thinking about all of the things I should, could, must be doing when I stop relaxing.  And once that happens, I end up chucking the whole relaxing thing and go into perpetual motion once again.

Maybe my problem is that I don’t do anything requiring physical movement while relaxing.  I know people who have hobbies that require actual movement and physical effort, like hiking mountains, or doing Yoga or baking batches of cupcakes…and they consider that stuff relaxing!  While I consider that stuff physical labor.

There are also people who find it relaxing to exercise (God Forbid), and for the life of me…I don’t get that one at all.   There is absolutely NOTHING restful or relaxing about exercising to me.  It’s pure and simple physical labor and it is exhausting!

I know!  It would seem to be a good fit for me with the whole perpetual motion thing and all…but I’m all about getting shit done…not just movement for movement’s sake.

I also equate relaxing to comfort.  Comfortable clothes (which I call my “grubbies”), comfort food (give me a burrito and I’m in total relaxation mode) and comfortable activities like lying on the couch reading or watching TV.

I mean really, if I’m gonna stop moving for awhile, I might as well do it in comfort!

And rest.

Otherwise, what’s the point of relaxing?

I don’t have a hard life.  I don’t have a whole lot of stress or responsibility or problems.

(Jealous?)

The majority of my stress comes from my own brain.  I stress about random events, other people, and different situations that I have absolutely no control over.

(Not so jealous now, right?)

(OK, maybe you are.  THESE ARE RHETORICAL QUESTIONS.)

But really, barring the occasional crazy parents donating/receiving organs, I have it pretty easy.

Since I live this relatively easy going life, I’m able to relax a lot.

The things that make me relax aren’t very unique or special.

I like reading, watching (too much) TV, and screwing around on the Internet.

I know some people who relax by exercising (gag me), or cleaning, or doing productive things like crafting some amazing thing with fabric or food.

But for me, those things belong on a very nasty looking to-do list, and not on my relaxation radar.

(Though if exercising and cleaning were on my list, life would be so much easier.)

(Plus, I’d be thin and live dust-free.  WIN.)

I think that there are certain things that must happen if one is to relax.

First: comfort.  Jeans, dresses, or anything that requires me to wear a belt, just won’t do.  Baggy pants and over-sized shirts are incredibly important when relaxing.  Also, a comfy place to lounge.  The couch is great, but if you can get in a chair that reclines, life is really awesome.

Next requirement: a blanket.  Even if it’s summer, I need something to curl up with.  When it’s warm, I grab a lightweight scarf or sarong.  When it’s cold, I grab a fleece blanket or THE GREATEST INVENTION OF FOREVER, my Snuggie.

(Do NOT judge me.  It’s a freaking blanket with sleeves, people.  You totally don’t know what you’re missing.)

Finally: quiet.  I’m at the wonderful time in my life where I don’t yet have tiny humans running around my home, so making the house quiet it fairly easy.  Except when the dogs are being naughty themselves.  But then it’s as simple as blocking the dog door off (so they’re locked in the house and therefore can’t run outside and yell at the entire neighborhood throughout the day) or closing the blinds (so they can’t see (and bark at) the other creatures who have the audacity to walk near our house).

When all of those things are taken care of… well, life is pretty damn relaxing.

Topic: “OMG – I look/sound just like my mother!!”

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

I do actually.  Both look and sound like my Mother.

OY.

When I was younger I was always mistaken for my mom on the phone.  Once in awhile that was fun (as in tricking sales people to thinking I was her and getting her appreciation for fending them off).   But as a teenager, when someone would call and ASSUME I was my mother, I would always make it sound like it was a HUGE imposition, and respond in a dull teenage drawl with “NO…it’s not Del, it’s just Cindy…I’ll go get her” and stomp off to get my mom (‘cause we weren’t allowed to shout to tell her there was someone on the phone).

But mostly I hated it when people told me I looked like my mom.  Don’t get me wrong.  She was the cutest mom of all the mom’s I knew, and looking like her was not such a bad roll of the dice (no offense to my dad…but we all know I did better on that one!).    I was just trying to figure out who I was, and what my look was going to be…and sometimes it felt like I was just a carbon copy of her…only 4 inches taller and many pounds heavier (she was a teeny little thing, damn her).

As I’ve gotten older however, I’ve realized I look more and more like her every day, and it doesn’t much bother me anymore.

In fact, I kinda like it.

I have short blonde hair like she did (we never did find out her “true” color…but we’re never gonna find out mine either, so what the hell).  And, a round face like she did.  And small, thin lips…and virtually no eyelids (like her), but somehow…it seems to be working better for me these days.

But mostly…I have the same hands.  I look down at my hands now, and see my mom’s.  I used to love her hands.  They were small and warm and loving.  And now I think I have them too.

(Luckily I haven’t inherited the arthritis that bent her fingers and restricted her ability to use them effectively, but I always thought they were beautiful nonetheless.)

The thing that used to irk the hell out of me, though, is when she ended up in my head…and her words ended up coming out my mouth.

What the hell was that all about?

I’d be in the middle of a conversation with someone and out of the blue would come one of my mother’s “isms.”

There were hundreds of them.

I remember once (when Ally was about 3 years old) I was trying to explain something to her and she kept asking “Why?” every time I gave her an answer (like EVERY 3 year old on the planet)…and without hesitation, out came the mother of all of my mother’s “isms” …”Because, there’s no bones in ice cream!”

OMG!  Where did that come from?  My mother used to say that to me and my brother ALL the time when she didn’t want to give us any more of an explanation.

Me:            Mom, can I go to Nancy’s to sleep over this weekend?

Mom:            No honey…not this weekend.

Me:            Why not?  I don’t have anything else planned.

Mom:            It’s just not a good weekend honey.

Me:            But why?

Mom:            Because there’s no bones in ice creamthat’s why!

END…OF…DISCUSSION.

I was so outraged that I had used this tedious, outrageous tactic on my own little girl that I stopped my conversation with Ally…picked up the phone, called my mother and shouted “GET OUT OF MY HEAD WOMAN!”

Needless to say she was both a bit shocked at my call, and a bit pleased that her w-is-do-m had rubbed off on me!

When Ally got older she researched the whole no bones in ice cream thing and found out that there’s gelatin (which is made out of bones or something) in ice cream, and blew the whole thing out of the water…and COULDN’T WAIT to tell my mom.

My favorite “Del-ism”, however, is one that’s now being used by hundreds, if not thousands, of people who came into our sphere of influence over the years.  It’s the “Tell the Pilot to Drive Carefully” ism.

I know.  Pilots don’t drive planes.

It was just her way of telling someone to have a safe flight.  But, somehow when she said it, it was more than that.  It was a safety net she threw over you to make sure absolutely nothing bad would happen to you on your trip.   And it always made me feel safer.

So I started to say it to absolutely everyone I knew who was going on an airplane.

As a family, we say it to each other (individually mind you) when we get on the plane.   It sounds like a little chorus of well-wishing as we make eye contact and softly utter the words Tell the Pilot to Drive Carefully simultaneously to each other.  (Brian always hated it but humored me by saying “TTPTDC” every time we flew).

I even used it at work within my company and it became a “thing” with my staff.  At first, I think they (the collective “they” over 23 years with the company) thought I was crazy.  But I gotta tell you, there wasn’t anyone who left on a business trip who didn’t make it into my office to get their own Tell the Pilot to Drive Carefully before venturing out to the airport.

And now, after all these years, it absolutely warms my heart to hear someone outside of my family (because my family members are just expected to say it), tell ME to Tell the Pilot To Drive Carefully when I’m leaving on a trip.

Yeah…I look and sound like my Mother, and there are still some times when I do a double take in the mirror or have to stop myself in the middle of a sentence, and recognize that the words I’m speaking could easily have come out of my mothers mouth (and probably did sometime during her life), but instead of wanting to change my look, or shout and get her out of my head…I find that I get this warm glow filling my heart instead.

In Loving Memory of Del Kram…I hope I look half as good as she did, and that she never leaves my head.

I remember sitting with a girl on the floor of a high school gym, waiting to be picked up from a day at summer camp.  I can recall quite clearly that we were discussing why Jonathan Taylor Thomas was the hottest boy ever.

(He totally was.)

My mom walked in and started coming over to us.  As she approached, the girl next to me looked at my mom, then looked back at me, and said, “That’s your mom?  Are you adopted?”

“Um… no.  I look more like my daddy?”  What is a seven-year-old supposed to do with that?

(For a split second I actually thought to myself “OHMYGOD MY MOMMY ISN’T MY MOMMY.”)

(Again, I was SEVEN.)

Which parent I look most like depends on who you talk to.  Talk to people that grew up with my mom, and they swear that I look exactly like her.  Stand me next to my dad and his side of the family, and I look just like them.

I grew up being told that I looked just like my dad.  We have the same darker coloring, and when I stand with his sister and my cousins, we are all clearly related.

It takes a little bit more to realize that I belong with my mom’s side.  Her blond hair and shorter stature sort of throws people off.

(Notice I referenced your “shorter stature”, Mom, and didn’t just call you “short” or “little” or “small”.  Because I’m polite.)

I would go out with my mom and grandmother and nobody would think I was theirs.  Not that I blame them.  What would you think if you saw two small (well, TINY is more appropriate when referencing my grandmother) blond women, and me, towering several inches above them with dark brown hair, black eyebrows, and skin a few shades darker.

My brother is a pretty clear mix of our parents, though, and him and I clearly look like siblings, so at the end of the day we all look pretty cohesive.

When you see the four of us together, all of the pieces fall into place.

I think that my personality and mannerisms are a pretty good and even mix from both of my parents.  For example, I have my dad’s dark sense of humor, and my mom’s (slightly warped) view of life, and I’m perfectly happy with these things.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, actually.

BUT, there are certain things that just throw me off.

Like how I make this sound when my dogs are doing something bad.  It’s this “uh-uh” sound in the back of my throat that I break out if the dogs are inching towards an open door or trying to sneak away a napkin from the table.

(My golden retriever LOVES napkins, so I make the sound a lot.)

It’s an automatic reflex noise that drives Mike crazy, but (no matter how many times Mike claims that it does nothing) it works, damn it.

A few years ago I was at my dad’s house with the dogs when they did something naughty (the possibilities of what exactly they did are too vast for me to remember those details), and my dad spun around.

Is your mom here?”

Wait… what?

Well, shit.

It’s not a huge deal, but how did that little thing worm it’s way into my head and manifest itself?  Years of hearing my mom make similar noises at our dogs (or my brother) (but NEVER me) (because I NEVER did anything wrong) (seriously)?  Is it genetic?

Do we all end up like our mothers NO MATTER WHAT?

I think this blog has been really interesting because it’s shown how much we ARE alike, whether we realize it or not.  Like how we pick the same songs for our personal musicals or both have a slightly unhealthy relationship with shoes or both procrastinate (note: it’s Sunday evening and neither of us has finished this post for tomorrow).

There would be worse things in life than being told that I look or sound just like my mother.  I’m still young enough that it hasn’t taken over my life (yet).  I’m sure that once I have kids the similarities will be numerous, and I’ll be calling her daily to scream at her for screwing with me.

And who knows?  Maybe I won’t just look or sound like her, but also start dancing and someday be able to throw kick-ass parties.

Again, there are worse things that could happen.