Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FFB: What I've Learned

Hello, all!

I missed last week's FFB post because I was busy-- and I nearly missed today's, too. So, with 40-something minutes to go in the day, I'm sitting down and writing this.

Over the past month, the wonderful ladies of the FFB have shown me what "feminism" is today. It isn't just about women's rights-- but the rights of everyone. It's about seeing clearly, seeing how the world nudges us in certain directions and trying to understand the implications of yielding to them. It's about knowing your role-- the role you are expected to have and the role you DO have, and knowing what role you WANT to have. It's about embracing who you are, making the choice to stand for something. It's okay to wear dresses and frills and lace and to feel beautiful, but it's also okay not to shave your legs or wear baggy clothes or hide yourself because that's how you are most comfortable.

The modern feminist movement isn't one of extreme action. It's small behaviors and watching, speaking up when you see the traces of sexism or gender bias or stereotypes, and trying to do something about it. It's about not being afraid of the title "FEMINIST", because you may not see yourself as that or you may be reluctant to accept a word that has such a history and stereotype to it, but knowing what you stand for anyway. Feminism today isn't just for women-- it's for everyone that has been limited or pushed or prodded into becoming someone or something they didn't choose to be. Because feminism today is about making a choice for yourself. Choosing your role or your title or your clothes. It's about communicating and reaching out to others, being open to discussion but willing to fight for the truth. It's an all-encompassing movement: you may not be able to pick a Feminist out of a line-up, but that doesn't mean that they aren't or couldn't be.

This month has taught me that feminism isn't a movement of the past. I can be a feminist, and I don't have to be ashamed of it. I'm allowed to write about my feminism and express my views and embrace the opportunities I have been given-- and acknowledging how lucky I am to have them. I haven't had to fight for these things; other generations, other women-- stronger women-- have fought for my rights and my voice and my body to be my own. But their work isn't done, and I can take up their cause, their words, their mission, and translate it into my own life and the world where I live.

Feminism hasn't died. It's changed and altered, sure, but the spirit of change and community of feminists is still here. We're all over the world and we may never meet, but we are united in this.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

FFB: Fashion & Feminism

Hello, all!

So, today is the big blog event day! The FFB's question for today is the big one: How do you express your feminism in the way you dress?

Admittedly, I'm not a fashion blogger, and few people would believe that I have any sort of interest in fashion. The thing is, I care about how I look and how I present myself to the world. I think that is why fashion (and personal style) is important, but I am still unsure of how my beliefs and how my stylistic choices interact.

I've been trying to figure out the answer, though, and the best thing I have is that I show my feminism by dressing for myself. I dress in a way that makes me feel confident. I have my own style, even if I can't always define it very well.

In case you missed it, I'm young. I still have a lot to learn about what the world, and even though I am interested in fashion in the sense that I am interested in the perception others have of you, it seems rather difficult to figure out how your thoughts translate into fashion.

I used to be one of those girls that wore t-shirts and jeans every day-- running t-shirts, mainly, but also ones from vacations, and occasionally ones that proclaimed my political beliefs. My favorite t-shirt, I'd say, was the "1 Sky" organic cotton one that my dad picked up for me at some environmental fair. I have no issues with wearing clothes that proclaim directly what you believe. But, though I was always comfortable and happy in those, I was afraid to wear my (really fantastically designed) OBAMA shirt, because I was afraid of the debate that would inspire, simply because it was a VERY direct statement of my political beliefs. I didn't feel like I had the right to wear it, because at the time, I was too young to vote anyway.

Since then, I've resigned those shirts to running-wear (makes sense, at least for the running shirts)-- partially because I don't feel the need to force myself to look pretty or anything when running, and when I'm running, I feel confident. I'm not ashamed of my beliefs or my body, and wearing shirts that label me clearly as an environment-loving liberal are not silly or stupid. But they made me feel awkward and like I would be attacked for the passive expression of what I think is important.

Again, I'm not discrediting that, but these days, I dress to feel confident. I dress according to my whims and emotions; some days, that means a shirt that says "OBAMA" across it over a very pop-art inspired picture of his face. Most days, however, I dress more-or-less like a European. My style has been influenced heavily by my time in France, and so I dress in a way that makes sense for me based on those experiences. I dress according to the weather, and in a generally sensible manner-- but I want to feel pretty.

Sometimes I wonder if I follow fashion blogs a bit too much. Maybe I pay too much attention to clothes and people and style, especially since few people would recognize me as having that interest. Is it damaging to look, to be inspired, or to covet things? To allow myself to fall into something that is stereotypically "female"?

I don't think that's the case, though. I think that it is okay to love fashion and style, without it being my only interest. I am not a stereotypical female, and just because I have an interest in clothes and appearance, does not make me superficial or vain or any of those things. If anything, that interest allows me to live in a way that I enjoy and to feel good about myself while doing so. I don't care about such things because I'm supposed to, and I think that's what makes the difference. I dress myself not to please others-- I mean, I wore a Hogwarts uniform to school one day when it wasn't Spirit Week-- but to feel happy and confident about myself.

Maybe I can't define my style, and maybe when people see me they do not automatically see "FEMINIST" emblazoned across my shirt, but I don't have to have that direct marker to be a feminist. I can feel pretty and strong in a skirt, and appearances aren't everything anyway. I am a feminist not because of my clothes, but because I know what I believe and I won't allow myself to follow stereotypes blindly: I choose my clothes, and I choose my beliefs. I can choose feminism and fashion without feeling like a mindless follower-- I choose both for myself, not because I am expected to, but because I want to.


Find the other posts on this topic here, check out the FFB here, or find links to some of the past posts here!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Staying Informed

Hello, all!

I don't have time to keep up to date on all the news. I hear about most things from the internet, but rarely do I actually poke around enough to actually understand what is going on in the world. But since Japan is dealing with a major disaster right now, I want to be informed. I can't just allow myself to be blind to current events, not in a world where everything is fast-paced and there are major issues to be addressed and environmental disasters to confront; problems to solve.

Sure, I may be busy, but what is the excuse for not staying informed? I am a citizen of the earth. I live in a country where I have the right to vote now-- my voice has power now. And I haven't been living up to my duty to understand the details of what is happening here in the United States and abroad; I have been living in the bubble of my own life. I can't do that anymore. I cannot allow myself to be blind, seeing only what people tell me about when the situation is desperate or what I see for those few seconds of the day when checking my email.

Anyway, I'm trying to learn. To see what is going, understand what it means, and what the consequences are. But part of me is still using the (other) excuse that I don't know where to look. That's a complete lie, because, again... the internet.

- The New York Times. (Because I feel that this is most legitimate way to stay informed.)
- My local newspaper. (It's not the best, but it does have local news.)
- Google News. (So convenient!)
- Greenpeace. (Call me a crazy liberal, but Greenpeace does have current news about environmental issues.)
- The Nation. (For political news. Besides, we recently learned about the Nation in AP US History!)
- Earthjustice. (To know about political campaigns regarding the environment.)
- Educated Earth. (Granted, I just found this today and need to poke around a bit more, but it seems like a pretty good place to get news.)
- Congress.org. (To know about what is going on politically.)

The things I want to know about are related largely to politics and the environment. I want to know about things that I am passionate about, and things that affect me. So, that's what I'm going to do. Since I can't be uninformed, I am going to seek out information on topics that are important to me, and I won't shy away from supporting causes that I think are just.

Have you heard about the House of Representatives bill that would cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood? I'm sure you've heard about the Union bill in Wisconsin by now. What about the situation in Libya and Egypt? Do you ever think about Haiti? Darfur? You should know what's going on in Japan. Do you know about the bills that are currently in Congress that attack the Endangered Species Act?

And if you do know about those things, what are you going to do about them? Does it matter to you?

I might be 18, still in high school and relatively limited in what I can do to help out, but I can stay informed. I can write letters to Senators and Representatives, I can volunteer, I can vote in elections, but most of all... the thing I CAN do every day, is to read and be informed.

So, what do you read to know what is going on in the world? Do you look for certain types of news or certain issues?

What will you do to help?


Monday, March 7, 2011

FFB: My Body Entirely

The start of a cross-country race.

Hello, all!

So the FFB topic for today is really just to discuss one of the topics that have been addressed in the discussions on the group page. One of our discussions was about body image and plastic surgery, and since I've been doing track, I've been thinking a lot about body image.

I am a runner, and I have been for the last four years; running has completely changed how I see my body and I will not allow myself to hate my body. I might not like all the features of my body, but every imperfect bit of it is part of me. Running has given me the ability to look at myself not in terms of beauty but in terms of function-- I am healthy. I'm strong and capable of movement.

My elbows are bony and my calves are too big, my thighs are impossible to fit into pants, and I am not built to be a runner. Yet I am, despite that... My elbows allow my arms to move, pulling me forward faster; my calves stretch and contract with each step, carrying me up and down hills; my thighs are mostly muscle, propelling my runs. I am not these pieces of myself; I'm a whole. Every part of me has a function. My body is a beautiful, efficient, running MACHINE.

My body carries me on journeys-- across the globe (mostly in a plane, but STILL), up a mountain, around a track, down a street, up a hill, across a stream; distances farther than I used to believe I could run. I am not the fastest, but I can move fast, every part of me screaming for oxygen and straining. And at the end, I may be hunched over and struggling to breathe, but I survived, despite the pain. My body allows that. It enables my adventures, and it endures ridiculous amounts of pain as I push myself to some new limit.

That's why I don't understand plastic surgery. Not fully, anyway. I can understand wanting to perfect your body, but for myself, it would never be an option. I could never forsake the body that is healthy and strong. I understand feeling like you're not good enough or not pretty enough, but can you not see, when you look at yourself, how beautiful you are? In function, if nothing else?

I mean, obviously, there are exceptions. Maybe it isn't about body image, but a medical thing. If it is necessary, then yes, go for it. But I think that plastic surgery and our negative views of our bodies are feminist issues.

Everywhere around us, we are compelled to think that our bodies are flawed. That we are flawed. That our hips are too wide, our bellies too fat, our arms too flabby... the list goes on and on. If you told me to name 10 imperfections about my body, I could probably make a list in 10 seconds flat, but that isn't how I want to live. I don't want to be critical of my HEALTHY body, to allow myself to submit to these insane rules of how my body should look when I know that the way my body looks isn't the most important thing about it. I can't allow myself to be brainwashed into thinking that I am not good enough and that my body is not up to the standards of society.

What if my standards of beauty are different? What if all I want from my body is the ability to run and to feel free?

Can you look at your body and appreciate it for what it is; it's strengths and weaknesses? That's you. All of it. Everything. Your body, your terms. Improve upon it if you must, but it is better to be healthy and accepting of your body than hate yourself. And maybe it's just the runner in me, but when you move, feel it fully. Sink into every joint and jiggle and take a deep breath-- feel how your body flies over the ground or stumbles along, how your lungs expand and sweat covers your skin. Embrace it, how alive your body is-- how it is nothing fake. You are fully real. You are fully yourself.

Run. Breathe. Dance. Sing. Hug. Do something, move. Your body doesn't have to be anything else. It can do everything you need it-- or want it-- to, and you don't have to feel bad about it.

That's all I guess. Just what I've been thinking about, and my view on it.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FFB: A Feminist Icon

Hello, all!

So, it's the big day. The FFB blogging event (Feminist Fashion Bloggers). And I still have no idea who to write about.

Not for lack of icons-- or feminists-- we've been studying the 20s and 30s in AP US History at the moment, and there is no lack of strong women that changed the world in history. The problem for me is narrowing it down to one woman who inspires me. I keep coming back to the same ideas though: my "feminist" icons might not be feminists at all. They were strong, individual women with goals. They made a difference in the world despite limitations or expectations, and in whatever way, they made their voice matter.

Since we're currently studying the 1930s, I was thinking about Eleanor Roosevelt. Or maybe even Amelia Earhart... Margaret Sanger... there are so many to choose from. But as always, my mind strays towards the kind of woman I admire: authors. (Well, and fictional characters, heroines... but that would need its own post altogether.)

Namely, two authors-- Rachel Carson and J. K. Rowling. You should recognize at least one of those names, and if it's the former, you are officially awesome and we should be friends. J.K. Rowling would be a fun icon, but Rachel Carson... well, she changed the world. And if you don't know her, you should know about her.

I did a paper on Rachel Carson in 8th grade, which is why her name always comes to mind. She was an author-- an environmentalist, actually. She wrote a book, Silent Spring, that opened people's eyes to the problems that pesticides cause, the damage they inflict on ecosystems. She went to college, something unusual for her time; she studied marine biology and worked for the government. When she noticed that something was wrong, and voiced her opinions-- she was ridiculed. The media, the chemical industry, and even the government was cruel but she was strong. Her words sparked something in the people that read them-- a response. A reaction, and a desire to do something. Rachel Carson was more-or-less the beginning of the modern environmentalist movement, having convinced Congress to pass legislature that regulated pesticide use for the environment and for the inhabitants of the earth.

Again, I don't think she was a feminist. But her words and her life were dedicated to the pursuit of a worthy cause, which is something that the feminist movement has been doing for a long time. Any person-- male or female-- that has ever fought passionately for their beliefs, especially when faced with severe opposition, is an icon in my book. Rachel Carson just happens to be a female.

For me personally, though, Rachel Carson is an icon. She was a writer, as I still hope to be one day. But more than that, it was her words that made a difference in the world, and my ultimate dream is to be an environmental lawyer, and if I can achieve that... I'll be walking in her footsteps, in a way. Using my words to enact change, to fight for my beliefs and to fight for the environment. A cause I think is always worth the fight.

So, I leave you with one of her quotes.

"If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."

(That quote is from here. Information about Rachel Carson can be found here.)

A bientot!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February Round-up!

Hello, all!

I just blogged every day for the month of February. If you missed one of the posts, here's the list here!

Feb. 1st: Return to Middle School-- musings about who I am now versus who I was in middle school & the passage of time.
Feb. 2nd: Forgotten Posts-- a list of things I had written about in the past that I had forgotten to publish.
Feb. 3rd: Guest Post: Claire on Music -- Claire talks about music and learning to play instruments.
Feb. 4th: The Seven Stages of Procrastination -- a short list about how I go about procrastination.
Feb. 5th: A Barely-Golden Sky -- a short narrative inspired by a picture.
Feb. 6th: Super Bowl Sunday -- where I reveal how I spent my day. (This one is really insignificant.)
Feb. 7th: That Kind of Day -- a day when everything felt odd and I once again retreated to the library.
Feb. 8th: Warning: (Religion) Rant Ahead -- exactly what it sounds like.
Feb. 9th: The Math Class Narrative -- where I share a narrative I wrote about my math class.
Feb. 10th: Wrock Concert -- where I reveal what I was actually doing on February 9th, and share a wizard rock song.
Feb. 11th: Five-ish Friday Links -- where I share links to sites I spend way too much time on, and things you should know about.
Feb. 12th: Secret Project! -- a short post about how I spent my day sewing, though I have yet to actually finish the video I promise in the post... whoops... (This one is insignificant, too.)
Feb. 13th: Lost Ideas -- musings about inspiration folders and ideas that we lose.
Feb. 14th: Happy I'm-Single-On-Valentine's Day -- where I talk about love, just not the romantic kind, and why I like Valentine's Day... and write a list of people ten people I love.
Feb. 15th: An Excerpt from the Locket -- I share an excerpt from my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel.
Feb. 16th: Balance -- musings about my New Year's Resolutions, how to prioritize, and my inability to do so.
Feb. 17th: Incoherent Poetry -- a short poem that describes my day.
Feb. 18th: Feminism -- where I rant about what I think feminism means.
Feb. 19th: Simplicity -- an even shorter, incredibly simple poem.
Feb. 20th: To New Readers & Old -- where I thank you for reading, and reveal that I have no idea what this blog is anymore.
Feb. 21st: The Inevitability of Death -- musings about death & our fear of it.
Feb. 22nd: The Senses -- where I talk about the senses, sight, and perception.
Feb. 23rd: Highway -- I find a poem I wrote in 2009 and share it.
Feb. 24th: An Unsurprising Confession -- where I reveal my love for Shakespeare.
Feb. 25th: 100 Happy Things -- in honor of my 100th blog post, I write a list of 100 things to be happy about.
Feb. 26th: Out of my Comfort Zone -- I blog after an awkward dance and muse about trying new things.
Feb. 27th: Mindless Reading -- where I share my shameless pleasure of reading books that don't require me to think.
Feb. 28th: Nearly March -- where I unveil the new blog design, talk about what to expect, and ask you what you want me to blog about!

Well, happy March, everybody! I'm glad you stuck around for NaBloPoMo, and if you're a blogger, you should definitely consider doing it some month-- I promise, it's not nearly as scary as NaNoWriMo!

Question for today:
- What was your favorite post from this past month? Why?

(Mine, in case you're wondering, is the 100 Happy Things.)

A demain for the FFB event! :)