5 Things to Stop Caring About

Life can be stressful. Life can be chaotic. Life can be hard. The biggest kicker, though, is that sometimes we make life harder on ourselves. By indulging in negative thoughts or memories, prioritizing toxic people, living in the past, we hurt ourselves in the present and delay our happiness in the future. I’ve been working a lot on reshaping how I spend my mental energy. How I talk to myself. What I am spending my time thinking about. Being intentional about catching myself in a negative spiral and changing the game. It’s not always easy. But it’s important work. I’m trying to retrain my brain to think differently. So this week I thought I would share the five things I am working on changing. Take a look:

1. Those Painfully Awkward Moments.

Remember that joke you made in a meeting that didn’t land? Or that answer you gave in class that was definitely wrong? Or that time you thought someone was waving to you but it was actually to someone behind you? Those painfully awkward little moments that your brain likes to recall as you are falling asleep or enjoying some quiet time and now suddenly your heart is racing. Those social blunders that were embarrassing in the moment but that was seven years ago and no one but you remembers them, let alone dwells on them. Even your bigger blunders are probably still only note worthy to you. It’s time to let those go. When your brain starts to remind you, catch yourself and tell your brain that happened years ago and literally no one cares any more. Take the power away from those awkward moments by reminding yourself that it wasn’t as bad as you remember and it is well in the past now.

2. What People From Your Past Are Doing.

I’ll be the first to admit that Facebook stalking is a semi regular event. Social media makes it all too easy to take a passing “hmm I wonder” and turn it into a two hour rabbit hole investigation of what people from my past have been doing. Ex’s, former friends, old coworkers, past roommates, former classmates, all people who are in my past for a reason. And yet, the curiosity gets the better of me every time. It’s natural, though very unhealthy, to look for validation through comparison. But it’s a temporary, fleeting validation that leaves us emptier than we started. It also distracts the focus on your own life. You don’t need to compare your journey, your goals, your accomplishments to anyone to be happy. And, in fact, doing so is hurting your progress. My suggestion? Block those people you find yourself checking in on. That way the next time you are tempted to see what they are up to, you can’t. Eventually you’ll break the habit of even wondering what those people are up to and you won’t be distracted by it any more.

3. Pleasing Everybody.

It’s a cliched lesson, but I think I will spend the rest of my life relearning it. No matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone. There will always be people who take and take and take but never give. There will always be people who are too wrapped up in themselves not noticed anyone else. There will always be people stuck in the comparison game and they will never be happy for you. It’s time to stop worrying about those people. Your life is yours and you have to live it the way you know is best. So keep focusing on your dreams and your goals, keep treating others the way you want to be treated, and when someone shows resentment or expresses grievance over you simply living your life, you now have permission to involve them in your life less. Making time for people who hurt you regularly or openly root against you is silly. It doesn’t matter if they are coworkers, friends you’ve known for years, family, or even romantic partners. Your time is valuable and your mental well being is important. So stop wasting your time trying to please people who can never be won.

4. The Worst Case Scenario Game.

I’ll be honest, I am a fan of this game. Especially when I have a lot of anxiety about a situation or feel a lot of pressure. Sometimes saying your fear out loud can take some of the power away from it. But too much of anything is a bad thing. And I realized recently that I never play the Best Case Scenario Game. My what ifs are always negative. I’m always preparing for the worst, anticipating the worst, assuming the worst. And not only is that way of thinking depressing and unhealthy, it’s exhausting. I find I am always worried, always anxious, depressed far more often. All because I am far too indulgent in my fears rather than focusing on my hopes. I used to justify this way of thinking by saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. But what if by dwelling so much on the worst I make the worst inevitable? What if by spending more time focusing on the best, preparing for the best, even planning for the best, that made the best happen? So now, when I catch myself playing the Worst Case Scenario Game, I make myself stop and think about what the Best Case Scenario could be instead.

5. Where You Should Be in Life at X Age.

Again, comparison is a dangerous habit that pretty much only leads to depression. Just because you aren’t married yet, don’t have kids, haven’t gotten that degree, don’t have that professional title yet, doesn’t mean you are falling behind or failing. School was very structured, and it gave all of us this false illusion that the rest of life would be too. But there is no order of events, no timeline to follow, no progress report, no big moments you need to hit by a certain time. Plenty of people followed “the plan” of getting married young to someone they weren’t actually compatible with, had kids even though they weren’t ready to be a parent, or worked their way up the ladder for a career they didn’t want. Too many people do what they are “supposed” to do without considering if they want to do it. And too many people feel like they are failing at life because they aren’t doing what they are “supposed” to be doing right now. But the most freeing moment in life is when you realize that you get to call the shots for your life and you get to decide what path is right for you.

Why is it so easy for our brains to think negatively, to be stressed or anxious or overwhelmed, to focus on comparisons or the past, but we doing the opposite takes so much work? I’ve been wondering that a lot lately as I’ve been working on intentionally changing my patterns. When did those patterns form, I wonder. And when will they change? It’s hard work, it’s consistent work, but it’s good work. And hopefully it will stop being work someday and start being a way of life.

Darci

Captain Marvel’s True Villain

Warning: All the spoilers! 

“I have nothing to prove to you”.

That was the moment that Captain Marvel may have become my favorite super hero.
Captain Marvel is a story about a woman named Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) who has amnesia. She is a noble warrior hero for the Kree, and during a mission she finds herself on Earth. As she attempts to finish her mission and reunite with her crew, she discovers the truth about her past and her current circumstance.
Her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) has been training her to be her “best” self, claiming that she must learn to control her emotions and learn to fight without her powers, otherwise the “Supreme Intelligence” will punish her.
Once on earth she learns that she received her powers during an attempt to prevent Yon-Rogg from stealing powerful technology, and that the Kree have been trying to suppress her powers ever since. Yon-Rogg has been controlling her, wanting her to stay under his power, and does so by making her question her reality and her gifts. He has her convinced that her powers are her weakness, and that if she uses her powers she will be punished.
And to anyone who has been mentally abused, this story hits a note that we can all relate to.
There are many things I enjoyed about Captain Marvel. I loved how confident and sassy Carol was. I love that the central love story was between two best friends, and that there wasn’t a trace of romance in the movie. I loved watching an alpha male (Fury) immediately trust and defer to a woman. I loved the climactic battle staged to No Doubt’s “Just a Girl”. And I loved that the true villain of the story was gaslighting.
Abuse is more than just a physical form. Many abusers use mental techniques to overpower their partners, such as gaslighting. The abuser will consistently manipulate their victim into questioning their own sanity, their own reality. And this device is extremely prevalent within the relationship between Carol and Yon-Rogg.
At the beginning of the film, we learn that Carol, known as Vers at this point, has a device implanted to her head. Yon-Rogg claims the device is giving her the powers that she has, but if she cannot learn to fight without those powers the “Supreme Intelligence” will take those powers away from her. As they train he continues to tell her that she is not strong because she cannot beat him without her powers. That her emotions are making her weak, that her desire to know about the past she has forgotten are distracting her from fulfilling her full potential.
But here is the real kicker: that device implanted on her head is actually suppressing her powers. Yon-Rogg, the Kree, the Supreme Intelligence, none of them had anything to do with giving her those powers, and have everything to do with trying to keep her from discovering them.
This is a common occurrence in mental abuse. Abusers tell their victims, “you will never be good enough” or “you are nothing without me”. Gaslighting is done to trick victims into believing they are weak and worthless, which makes the moment when Carol reclaims her power and freedom in full force a very cathartic moment.
After Carol has defeated the Kree and the battle is over, she faces Yon-Rogg one last time. And he falls back on his old tricks. He is counting on his conditioning to kick in and for her to submit to him. He demands she faces him without her powers and prove that she really is stronger than him. And she blasts him down without skipping a beat. “I have nothing to prove to you” and drags him away. No grand speeches, no huge statements. And my eyes filled with tears.
How often have women been told throughout our lives to get a grip on our emotions? How many women have been told to not act upset when they were wronged? How many women have been called “crazy” for having emotions? For centuries, the perceived unreliability of women’s emotions kept us from owning property, voting, promotions, fair wages, or having basic control of our lives. And we have internalized all of this. We believe we aren’t strong, we aren’t worthy, we aren’t good enough. We have all experienced gaslighting.
Watching Captain Marvel claim her freedom, watching her face her true enemy with a calm confidence,  was such a cathartic experience for me. She saved herself, she embraced every part of herself that she was told to suppress, and she broke free from her mental prison.
-Darci

GUEST WRITER: Online Dating

Want to be a Guest Writer for Angry Feminist? Let me know! 

I am new to the dating scene.  I haven’t been here since 2009, and let’s be honest, I didn’t really date then either.  I’ve been in a monogamous relationship from then until now, and the whole premise of dating has changed since I was looking last.  Everything seems to have moved to dating apps. There’s always a new one, and my social media ads are flooded with promises to find me “The One” or at least someone to keep me entertained.  It’s a strange world, and I’m not sure what to do with it other than dive right in, with my friends scanning the waters for sharks.

This whole online dating thing feels like a video game.  If you hop on Bumble (which I have) or Tinder (which I haven’t) you have a seemingly endless number of guys at your literal fingertips who you judge based almost solely on their first picture.  If that first picture doesn’t immediately turn you off, maybe you look through the others and see if they wrote anything interesting in their bio. “Something interesting” means they have the same generic list of enjoyed activities that I do.  I like reading, music, dancing, and watching reruns of The Office at all times. These are pretty low bars for connecting with someone, so really it’s just a constant influx of “Hot or Not.” And even weirder is knowing that presumably all these men are out there playing the same game with my pictures.

It has happened a few times now that I “match.”  Someone played the game and agreed that I have similar interests to them and I passed the “Hot or Not” test.  Then we get to play the game of “how do you talk to a stranger on the internet.” I hate this game. With a passion. I struggle.  Mightily. Not being able to read facial cues, see if they laughed or not, not being able to present my own social cues with expression, intonation, inflection, makes communicating very difficult for me until I actually know someone.  I’m highly sarcastic but rarely feel like that translates well in text. I dislike using emojis with people I don’t know, as they can come off pretty childish, and I judge men who use those as their primary form of communication. But despite all these lacking levels of communication, maybe half of the men who swipe right ask for a date.  Which brings the next level of weirdness to the situation as a woman.

I am a hyper vigilant, small-ish framed, 5’8” woman. I have no doubt in my mind that if someone wants to, they can easily overpower me. Which means that actually meeting these strangers from the internet whom I have judged via pictures comes with a certain amount of anxiety about my own personal safety. My friends and I came up with some ground rules as I started this, to make sure I was as safe as possible.

-I always meet in a very public place.
-I do not tell anyone where I live or work.
-I do not tell them my last name. I made this mistake once and instantly regretted it. He did not take the rejection well and edged towards stalking.
-I let my friends know if I am going on a date, and
-If it’s late at night or nearing dark hours I let them know his name and send a photo. Just in case someone needs it to investigate my disappearance.

Again, I’ve always been hyper-vigilant.  I’m very aware of the dangers of being female at night, and always have been.  Most of these are common sense to women. Many of these things are just how I have always lived, but with the added danger of meeting strangers and living alone, I’m even more cautious about them. I strongly suspect that none of these issues cross men’s minds, unless they are one of the conscientious men who look at those things for the woman they want to date. Again, not for their own safety.

Despite all this weirdness, I have managed to meet a few guys. So far the dating experience itself has been interesting.

My first date who got a repeat was Monday Guy.  Monday Guy was thus dubbed because he would consistently ask for a date on Mondays (creative, I know).  Monday Guy was wildly attractive, very in shape, intelligent, and held a conversation well for a first date.  I thought he would be fun, until our second date. At this point, he waxed poetic about the joys of being able to hunt and kill things, hit other men, and just generally know that he could handle himself in an attack situation due to his Jiu Jitsu training. This is all fine and dandy, but became an issue on the walk back to his car.  He went out of his way to swagger through a group of motorcyclists standing outside, and I cannot emphasize the word “swagger” enough here. He intentionally went out of his way to walk directly through the middle of their group. Even better was that it was the wrong street, and his car was not actually parked there.

Needless to say, that was our last date, but not because I didn’t try for another. No, at this point, I was still putting up with what I thought might be the expected level of asshole in a cute guy.  We all have faults, and I assumed machismo was his. I asked to hang out again, he gave me a maybe, then ghosted. I was upset at first, as this was the first guy I had dated and thus the first guy to reject me.  After a few days, I recognized how toxic his attitude was, noticed more of the things he had said that were deeply problematic, and felt much better about no longer being in contact. I learned not to put up with assholes.

Next was Tractor Guy.  We had some great dates that always involved live music.  He was fun, kind, and great to talk to. He was also overly attached and emotionally messy very quickly.  After two dates, he started waxing poetic with actual poetry, which was incredibly uncomfortable for me. He wanted to lend me books and borrow books from me.  He sent me a collection of recipes with the “healing spiritual properties” of various fruits and vegetables (as in “figs will open your heart and heal emotional wounds” type properties).  He’s clearly a really sweet guy, but was ready to jump right into a full fledged relationship after a couple dates, which was not what I was looking for. After the recipe incident, I sent him the classic “I appreciate your time but I think we’re looking for different things” text (which I first drafted with my friends to be sure I wasn’t being insensitive).  He wished me well and we moved on with our lives.

Move on to Aladdin, thus named because looking like Aladdin was all he had going for him.  Younger than me but not by much, his profile made him look well traveled and well educated with a master’s degree.  All true, but he neglected to say that he lives with his parents “except on the weekends.” I cannot tell you how confused I am by that statement.  Where does he live on the weekends? I did not ask. He walked me to my car, tried to put his hand up my dress while kissing me. When I stopped him he cracked a joke about me being a prude. I told him to walk away and did not talk to him again.  Disturbing as that experience was, it’s something most women can relate to. Somehow this stranger that I had met two hours before thought he was entitled to my body and had the right to cut me down for having boundaries.

The next date had the same problem, with 6’8” Professor.  Again, touted himself as an intellect, well educated, nice guy.  We met for a date in the middle of the day, kissed at some point, and he slid his hand onto my ass in broad daylight in the middle of a bookstore.  I moved his hand. Later he did it a second time. I moved his hand and told him I wasn’t comfortable with that level of PDA. On our goodbye, he did it a third time and laughed.  Clearly my boundaries were a joke, and something that he didn’t have to respect. I am grateful this date was in a highly populated, well lit area. I am grateful I didn’t give him a second chance.  My “No” was clearly heard and just as clearly ignored by someone a full foot taller than myself. I did not feel safe.

Farmboy was a beautiful air force guy who seemed incredibly nervous on our first date, which was flattering.  He didn’t try to kiss me, which made me feel like my boundaries were being respected. He got a second date, and I realized that what I had mistaken for nervousness was actually just his personality, which was disturbingly reminiscent of my ex.  He continuously guided the conversation to point out how good he was at certain things. We went to a bar with very niche decor, somewhat horror story-esque (think Poe more than slasher), and sat in what can only be described as thrones. He talked about how much he loved the bar, how great he thought everything in there was, from the black ceilings, walls, floors, drapery, and candles to the taxidermied animals.  I politely nodded along but had very different opinions, which when he asked about, he then proceeded to negate and tell me why I was wrong with that opinion. He attempted to manipulate my emotions and actions multiple times throughout our date. I ended it after recognizing why this pattern felt so familiar, and told him we would not be seeing each other again. At this point, I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to read people as well as my ability to turn someone down without being mean.

My most recent experience was the strangest and most worrisome.  I’ll call him Angry Guy. We got drinks and talked for about three hours, during which time I enjoyed the conversation but noticed some red flags and did not feel any real attraction to him.  However, he seemed like a nice guy, so I gave him my number and told him he could see me again. That night turned into a lot of texting from him, and I started to second guess my decision. He seemed to be getting very attached and somewhat territorial after one date.  He asked for two more dates within the week, and when I said I was busy he cracked jokes about my popularity on Bumble and how I should try not to let anyone else impress me before our next date. He assumed I was going on other dates, but was already setting a precedent that I shouldn’t.  Things he had told me on our date came back that I had somehow overlooked at the time. For instance, thinking it’s appropriate to tell me on a first date about how his ex called the cops on him because he was burning pictures of them in a barbecue while drunk is definitely a reason to get out of there fast.  But I laughed it off and chalked it up to crazy exes even though HE WAS BURNING THINGS WHILE DRUNK AND SHE CALLED THE COPS.

I never said I was smart.

After I reevaluated spending more time with this guy, I sent another “Hey, I appreciate your time, but I’m actually not feeling it” text and expected a similar response to my previous rejections.  What I got instead was hours of progressively angrier and more accusatory texts that continued sporadically from 8 pm to 6 am. His first text was reasonable and asked for clarification about what had changed my mind so suddenly, which I replied to.  The following texts declared me cold, heartless, confused, told me what a missed opportunity this was and I would end up regretting my choice, that we should still be friends, etc. When I didn’t respond to any of his texts, he sent a similar message on instagram because surely the issue was that I just wasn’t seeing his texts.  He told me I had misinterpreted his interest, that he wasn’t actually as interested as he seemed and we should go on another date. This is strange logic. He told me he was out drinking with a buddy and that’s why he sent so many texts. When I woke up to another text the next morning stating that I was cold and cruel, I blocked him on every platform I have. Lesson learned about not paying attention to very obvious red flags.

Gentlemen, these are not acceptable behaviors.  Why anyone thinks that guilting someone into a second date (or third, or twentieth) is a good idea, I will never understand.  The appropriate response to “I’m just not feeling it” is to say ok and move on. It’s not up for discussion. It’s not a debate.  I do not know you, I owe you nothing, and I have no interest in keeping you in my life. Drop it.

Online dating is strange, but I’m learning.  I’m strangely growing more confident through it all.  I’ve discovered that I am decent at reading people, and I have learned to trust my instincts.  If something feels off to me, it usually actually is. I’m learning to pay attention to how people treat me and have it mean something.  I’m learning how to give and accept rejection gracefully, and experiencing firsthand people who haven’t yet. I’m learning to spend time with myself, and feel strong in my independence.  Yes, dating is fun, but it’s not the be-all end-all that it’s often made out to be. I’m glad I can say I tried dating apps, but I’m happy to give them a break. I’m logging off for now.

 

-Victoria

Punching Down

Do you ever stumble upon a phrase that helps you articulate something you just couldn’t quite define and suddenly it all clicks?

That happened to me recently when I discovered the term “punching down”. I was reading a movie review for Isn’t It Romantic that compared the film to another recent rom-com starting an unconventionally attractive woman I Feel Pretty. Very similar plot lines, but this reviewer felt very differently about the films. She said Isn’t It Romantic was smart, hilarious, and most importantly it doesn’t punch down.

And as soon as I read that, it clicked. That’s what I don’t like about certain comedians, certain movies, certain television shows, certain politicians. They punch down.

So what is punching down? Punching down is when someone of a higher rank, a position of power, a person of superiority makes a joke at the expense of the less powerful or an oppressed group. You might also refer to this as cheap shots, or making someone the butt of the joke.

Or as I like to call it: mean humor.

Punching down is used to make someone or ones feel small. It’s used to downplay, to belittle, to shame, or to dismiss all disguised as humor. Basically punching down is someones way of justifying being a total asshole by claiming it’s just a joke. And quite often, it doesn’t work out so well for the joker.

Remember when Jesse Watters on The O’Reilly Factor went to New York’s Chinatown to interview Chinese-American’s and proceeded to ask horrifically racist questions (do you know karate, should I bow, can I get a foot massage, and mocked their broken english)? It was meant to be humorous, it was meant to show the apparently inherent hilarity of the Chinese culture, when really it was just blatant racism against a group of minorities.

Punching down is all over the place these days. Most women’s issues are punched down (who would want to sexually harass you), our current president does it all the time, Conservatives and Republicans think it’s a fun way to go after the Democrats. Using humor as a way to discredit real issues like sexual harassment or racism just shows that you are a sexist or a racist, not that you are funny and certainly not that these issues are real.

Things that are really funny punch up. Instead of wasting their time going after people who are typically the minority or the oppressed, they go after people with tangible power that’s being abused. A basic element of humor is that your best stuff will come from going after people that are bigger than you.

There has been a lot of critique of comedy over the last few years, claiming that we are all too sensitive and everyone gets offended too easily. What can we even joke about now? To which I say that is absolute bullshit. Making fun of the weak has never been funny.

Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondence Dinner routine was funny because she went after a powerful establishment with meticulously researched critiques and take downs. Amy Schumer making a rape joke about Hispanics isn’t funny because there is no data to back her up, so she is just further perpetuating a false stereotype of an oppressed group.

Using comedy as a tool to abuse the already abused isn’t just deeply unfunny, it also reveals a lack of understanding of how power is structured. And that is the root of what is really being called out right now. Women and minorities face daily battles and uphill challenges, and those need to be taken seriously. And the biggest factor to be addressed is the abuse of the power structure.

Making jokes about it is not the solution.

Using humor to put people down, make people feel small, silence people, and downplay real issues isn’t funny. When you punch down, you aren’t making a joke, you are part of the problem.

 

 

-Darci

Pixar Gets Feminist

I love Pixar. It’s a well known fact about me amongst my friends. Pixar has always been innovated and unique in their story telling, and their new venture is no exception. SparkShorts is their new platform of short films, which the company’s website explains is a new program designed to feature “new storytellers, explore new storytelling techniques, and experiment with new production workflows,” adding that the shorts will be “unlike anything ever done” at Pixar. This is a platform for new artists to create freely. And it’s fabulous.

SparkShorts first short Purl is all about women in the workplace, and it’s one to pay attention to. It’s clear from this first short that they are looking to discuss a more serious subject matter than usual. I love Pixar shorts, and even find some of the more recent ones quite profound (La Luna and Piper were particularly moving). But SparkShorts is going deeper, digging into the issues facing society today.

In the short, a ball of yarn named Purl tries to get – and keep – a job at a new workplace, but has trouble fitting in because she is literally and metaphorically “soft,” represented by a ball of knitting yarn placed next to human men.

Check out the short here!

The short opens with Purl, the most qualified resume of candidates, landing an entry level job at a prestigious company. Purl has enthusiasm and hope as she decorates her desk in “soft” things, like knitted patterns, and attempts to join in on some water cooler chit chat. Then Purl tries to navigate a meeting by joining in on the conversation and being a team player, but her colleagues insist on an “aggressive” approach to “win”.

So despite being smart and capable, Purl feels out of place and ostracized because she is different from her male dominated work place. So her solution? Conform to the work environment and masculine expectations, literally re-sewing her “clothes” into a suit. There are plenty of metaphors here, but the most obvious one: to thrive at a company, Purl has to lose any semblance of her femininity.

But everything changes when Lacey, another female, joins the team. At this point, the pair seem to recognize that their femininity and unique qualities are actually an asset to the workplace, and they shouldn’t have to conform to succeed.

Kristen Lester, the director, said that the inspiration came from Lester’s experience being in the field of animation. “My first job, I was like the only woman in the room, and so in order to do the thing that I loved, I sort of became one of the guys. And then i cam to Pixar, and I started to work on teams with women for the first time, and that actually made me realize how much of the female aspect of myself I had sort of buried and left behind.”

Purl is very relatable for many women in the work force. In a world where masculine qualities are preferred for leadership, but only when they come from men, women are left behind constantly in the work place. As women continue to point out the atrocities in how we are treated, shorts like Purl help communicate our circumstances.

What I love most about this short is the ending.  That by women supporting each other, by women embracing their strengths, by giving women more opportunities in the work place, the experience improves for everyone.

Pixar is set to release two more SparkShorts this month, and I am looking forward to seeing what they do next.

 

-Darci

Toxic Masculinity: Should Men Be Better? 

Gillette made an ad suggesting that men could be better. And then the internet exploded.

I watched the ad before diving into articles and comments and opinion pieces. You can watch it here if you haven’t seen it already.

The ad illustrates “Toxic Masculinity” through examples of young boys being bullied, sexual harassment, catcalling, a man speaking over a woman in a meeting, and the “boys will be boys” line. The second half of the ad then goes on to call men to be better, with Terry Crews suggesting, “men to hold other men accountable”. And then the men in the ad go on to break up fights, stop their friends from making women uncomfortable, all while being seemingly pleasant men. The ad implies that men should be behaving better and redefining masculinity, because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.

And oh boy, were some men angry about this ad.

It’s not surprising that this caused controversy. Despite the fact that women have been pointing to the problem of toxic masculinity long before #MeToo, I’m not surprised that in 2019 the majority of people still want to deny that there is a problem, let alone that they might be part of the problem. Self reflection is hard, conflict is hard, and change is even harder. Sure enough there were lots of “Not all men!” cries when this ad came out, lots of comments about how it’s too generalized, or that this doesn’t apply to me specifically so it’s not relevant.

So let’s break it down shall we?

What is Toxic Masculinity?  
Toxic Masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of ideas about the male gender role. Defining masculinity with exaggerated characteristics of violence, sex, status, and aggression. Toxic Masculinity is a result of cultural masculinity taking control; where strength is everything and emotions are weakness, “feminine traits” – which can range from emotional vulnerability to sexuality – can take your “man” status away, when sexual conquests are how a man establishes and reaffirms his manhood.

Here are some defining beliefs of toxic masculinity:
-Interactions between men and women must be competitive, not cooperative.
-Men can never truly understand women, and men and women cannot be just friends.
-That REAL men need to be strong and showing emotions is a sign of weakness, unless the emotion is anger.
-That men can never be victims of abuse, and talking about it is shameful.
-That REAL men always want sex and are ready for it at any time.
-That REAL men solve their problems with violence.
-The idea that any interest in things that are considered “feminine” would be emasculating for a guy.

First of all, not all men have Toxic Masculinity. No one is or has ever suggested that. However, pretty much everyone is impacted by Toxic Masculinity. Men and women alike.

A lot of socializing went into the development of Toxic Masculinity. Men don’t start out toxic, and not all men become toxic. Are these men just a product of their environment? Perhaps. But this socializing has lead to a drastic problem that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t really matter which came first, the toxic man or the toxic environment, because the problem exists in both people and environment and needs to be addressed overall. Maybe you aren’t aware of your behavior, maybe you are just doing what you were taught, but either way there is a Toxic Masculinity problem that is affecting women AND men in a very negative way.

In my mind, I would almost think that defining Toxic Masculinity and pointing out the characteristics and how it hurts MEN would be a relief for men. It’s a growing understanding that societal pressures are just as high and damaging to men as they are to women. Suicide rates are high in men, and that is not a coincidence. Basically what we are saying is Hey, #MeToo wasn’t just about women, this behavior negatively affects you too. Bullying, boys will be boys, swallow your emotions, treating women like objects, that isn’t good for men either. Toxic Masculinity isn’t a woman’s problem, it isn’t a man’s problem, it’s a human problem.

Acknowledging that there is a problem, that men need to be better, is not admission of guilty behavior. Being part of the solution doesn’t mean you need to be a drastic part of the problem. But being complacent in this issue is contributing to the problem. Standing by and watching a problem persist and doing nothing because it doesn’t directly affect you is contributing to the problem.

It’s time for all of us to reflect on how we can be part of the solution. Bullying does not need to be a normal part of society, sexual harassment does not need to be a socially acceptable thing. We could all make little changes that would completely shift the dynamic. And the biggest thing we can all do is lead by example. We need to be allies for each other now.

So what can you do to be part of the solution?

 

-Darci

4 Healthy Habits for the New Year: Feminist Edition

You know the saying: New Year New You! Your social media is probably flooded with New Years resolution articles and goal making ideas and new ways to do this and that and more! And I thought I should add my voice to the noise. But of course over here, it’s not just about dieting or financial planning or hitting your gains goals, it’s about empowering women. So here are four new habits to consider for the new year to make your life more positive AND more feminist!

Tidy Up Together
Have you watched Tidy Up on Netflix yet? Or maybe you read Marie Kondo’s book when it came out a few years ago. I’m obsessed with her. As a Type A over thinker with anxiety, she is like candy to me. I’ve watched each episode and teared up each time. What stands out to me most is how the dynamics of the relationships evolve through each episode. I’ve talked about emotional labor before and how it is drastically imbalanced in relationships. And what I love about this show is how it helps each family discover that together. By tidying up together each family member discovers they can be doing more to create a healthy dynamic. For the women of the household, they realize what a disservice they do for their families by trying to do everything for everyone. And for the men and children, they realize how stepping up and taking responsibility in their home completely transforms your environment. I love cleaning and organizing, it’s my happy place. And I love seeing her tips and tricks at work in real homes. But what I am loving most is how Marie Kondo helps each home so graciously come together. Don’t just purge your wardrobe and make a quick run to Goodwill, find ways to tidy up the emotional labor balance at home.

Stop Saying Sorry So Often
Many women apologize profusely. Society has conditioned women to remain small, quiet, and unobtrusive. And so we apologize when we ask for what we want, we apologize when we stand up for ourselves, and we apologize for what other people do. And we need to stop. Just because society wants us to be small, quiet, and unobtrusive doesn’t mean we should be. Start noting when you are apologizing for things that are beyond your control or not your fault or not actually bothersome and find new ways to respond that don’t involve apologizing. Things like, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention” or “unfortunately I will not be able to attend” or “If I may say…” are all polite ways of communicating without implying that you’ve done anything wrong.

Affirm Things Other Than Beauty
My cousin had her son just over a year ago. And he is the most adorable child I have ever met. He has a belly laugh that will make your heart skip a beat, a smile that will make you melt, and a personality that will have you swooning. It’s hard not to gush over him. But it’s very important to my cousin that she affirms things other than his looks. Every time she catches herself or others (like me) calling him cute or handsome or adorable she starts affirming him in other ways immediately. You are smart, you are kind, you are brave, you are thoughtful. And it’s so powerful. We should all be doing this, because wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your other attributes acknowledged and affirmed? I don’t think there is anything wrong with complimenting an outfit, or hair style, or what not. But it’s so easy to compliment a physical appearance. It’s time to go deeper and affirm each other’s character.

Stop Being So Polite
When you really stop to take stock of it all, women really have been socialized to be societies doormats. And quite frankly it’s not doing society any good. I know I struggle with saying No to people all the time, and I know plenty of other women who feel the same. I have several friends who struggle to turn men down for a date, and I’m constantly asking why (I know why)? You didn’t like him, you aren’t attracted to him, and he annoys you. So why do you feel obligated to continue seeing him? Just say No! But here’s the real quicker, my friend finally does say No and the guy loses his shit. Abusive text messages and bullying, until I finally convince my friend to stop responding and block the guy already, so he goes and finds her on Instagram and continues the charade. All because after one silly coffee date he can’t handle being told No. Society has conditioned girls to be nice to boys, but we never conditioned boys to be nice to girls. So we grow up into women who fear hurting strangers feelings, and men who feel entitled to everyone and everything they come in contact with. So it’s time to break the cycle. It will be ugly at first. But after a while maybe men will realize that it doesn’t kill them to be told No and life really does go on.

Resolutions can be very self involved. In fact they are mostly meant to be self involved. And self involvement can be good, until it turns into self absorption. So while you focus on New Year New You, maybe fine one way to be better to the people you interact with each day. Don’t just put effort into yourself, put effort into your community.

-Darci