Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2 Reasons I Don't Call Myself a Feminist

Personally, I don't identify as a feminist. I identify as a gender-equality advocate. And no; that's not a synonym. Feminists are gender-equality advocates, but not all gender-equality advocates are feminists. There are two principal reasons I draw the distinction.

1) Feminism is often defined as merely "the belief that women are people," and by that rather broad standard it becomes absurd for anyone to NOT identify as a feminist. But the writer in me takes issue with that definition because I think it ignores some of the fundamental connotations of the word. I don't identify as "feminist" because I feel that would be presumptuous; because I believe the word "feminist" necessarily implies a kind of courage that is demonstrated by a deliberate and conscious rejection of a lifetime of being told that there is something inherently inferior about you because of your gender—the kind of courage required to voice your thoughts and opinions despite being mercilessly programmed to believe that your thoughts and opinions are less valid because of who you are. I don't call myself a feminist because I feel that doing so detracts from or even trivializes that courage.

2) Feminism is not merely an idea; feminism is a community...and I did not feel welcome in that community. I suppose it's something of a cruel irony, but in a nutshell I got tired of feeling like my thoughts and opinions were less valid because of who I am. And I got tired of being told that it was my fault I felt this way: that I needed to "recognize where these women were coming from," or that I needed to develop a "thicker skin," or that I needed to "make an effort toward empathy." I got tired of being told "Don't take it personally" by people who believe that "Don't take it personally" is dismissive and insulting. And finally, I got tired of feeling like there must be something wrong with me for feeling this way. I kept reminding myself that I wasn't doing this because I wanted brownie points or pats on the back; but then I remembered that I was doing this because I wanted to make a difference…and I didn't feel like I was making a difference.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Friendzone but Didn't Ask Because You F*^#@ing HATE the Word "Friendzone!"

...And by "Everything You Wanted to Know" I really just mean these 3 things. Sorry. Or you're welcome, I guess.

So there have been a lot of conversations about this lately, but every time I've discussed the topic with one of my female friends I've found that she harbors a few important misconceptions about what men mean when we talk about being Friendzoned. The Friendzone is a concept that doesn't translate well from guy-speak, so this blog post aims to address what I feel are the three most common misunderstandings.

Note that this list does not, and was never intended to, address the validity of your perceptions. No one is contradicting your feelings, only your assumptions. I also recognize that this general explanation doesn't cover everyone, and again it was never intended to. This is Friendzone 101; the advanced course is for people who feel they already have the basics down.

Feedback from both men and women is appreciated. Tell me what you think I got right, and tell me what you think I got wrong.

Misconception #1. He isn't blaming you. If anything he's acknowledging that he can't control your decisions, but in the end this isn't about you at all. I know it feels like this is about you, but it isn't. It's about him. This might be hard to accept, but that's the simple reality of the situation. Yes, I know you've seen the phrase "That bitch Friendzoned me!" all over the place, but you know what? The majority of those are written by women who don't realize they're accidentally perpetuating a Strawman. (On the off chance you aren't familiar with the term, look it up, because it's pretty useful to know.) So I repeat: the Friendzone is not about you. It's about him. He is not blaming you.

He is blaming himself. He's blaming himself because a Real Man™ wouldn't be in this position; a Real Man™ takes what he wants, and a Real Man™ can get any woman he wants. And he knows that this is bullshit. He knows that the Real Man™ is his patriarchal programming telling him that a woman is just buried treasure, and that if he follows all the directions on the map then a smart, beautiful, wonderful woman will jump into his arms ready to live happily ever after. He can't articulate this as well as you can, but he still knows it.

So now he's blaming himself for blaming himself, because he knows that this isn't how the world works; and even though he's miserable, he doesn't think his feelings are valid or even acceptable. He's been taught since childhood that his emotions are a sign of weakness, and now he's blaming himself for being weak. He isn't sure why this makes him weak, but he feels certain that he must be. The other thing he feels certain of is that a woman who he cares about and whose opinion he values doesn't think he's good enough, and he doesn't know why.

Which brings us to...

Misconception #2. He was not being nice because he wanted something in return. He was--and still is--actually nice. Most of the time, he honestly wanted to cultivate a friendship with you before pursuing a relationship. He also (rightly) felt like "Hey, I thought maybe we could be friends for a few months and then I'd self-consciously suggest that I was interested in something more" would be a monstrously creepy icebreaker.

Your friendship was never a consolation prize or a stepping stone to the relationship he "really" wanted with you. He wanted both. And what's more, he thought you wanted that also: a relationship with somebody that's also your best friend. He thought that was you, and now he knows better. So maybe consider biting that first reflexive barb and cut the dude a little slack, because that's a cold slap in the face no matter what sex you are.

He was never pretending to be nice. He was actually nice. He just didn't understand that there's more to it than that. So when he blurts out, "but I'm a nice guy," he isn't trying to argue with you, and he isn't trying to change your mind. He's trying to understand, and he's horribly frustrated because a minute ago he thought he had it figured out.

The truth is that he has no idea what women find attractive beyond "nice." He doesn't have your wealth of experience living in a world that caters to the opposite sex. The only thing he knows about what you find attractive is what you tell him; and most women don't seem to give their guy friends much information in that area. You didn't tell him that you're interested in guys who play European football and speak fluent Italian. You didn't tell him you're looking for a man who will stay up all night watching horror movies with you. You didn't tell him that you're attracted to guys who can make quiche and drink tea instead of coffee.

You told him that you want a guy who's "nice." And he was nice.

So he thought he met all of the qualifications, and now he feels not only hurt, but misled. You didn't mislead him, and he knows that, but he still feels misled. So now he feels stupid for letting himself be misled, and even more stupid for not realizing that there was more to it than being "nice." And this was his fault for not asking...but that's not what he needs to hear right now; he feels bad enough about himself already. And the last thing he needs is for you to start berating him for pretending to be nice in exchange for--you already did that, didn't you? Well fuck. I told you not 5 minutes ago that this isn't about you. You're allowed to feel like you're being blamed, and you're allowed to feel manipulated. But you're not allowed to take it out on somebody who already feels worthless. For the last time: the Friendzone isn't about you; it's about him.

Finally, Misconception #3. Perhaps most important of all: at its core, the Friendzone is a joke. 90% of all male references to the Friendzone are--at least partially--tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, the Friendzone is a joke that always hits too close to home. The Friendzone is a joke that is not funny. It's a joke that we know is not funny, but we tell it anyway...because whether it's funny isn't the point.

When a woman's heart is broken, she has options regarding how she wants to deal with that pain. She can cry, she can get a makeover, she can buy herself flowers, she can invite her friends over for a therapeutic self-pity session, or in extreme cases she can weep into a bowl of ice cream while watching The Notebook in her pajamas. Some women do some of these things. Some women do none of these things. Some women do all of these things simultaneously, which frankly weirds me out because of the superhuman coordination that would be involved in...veering off topic. Sorry about that.

Men don't have these options; societal norms and gender-related expectations have taken them away. So when a man's heart is broken he's left with only one method for dealing with that pain: the only way he's been allowed to deal with pain since childhood.

Walk it off.

And that's hard. Like really hard. But as is so often the case, laughter tends to be the best medicine. Even forced, half-hearted laughter. Even weak, self-depreciating laughter. Even a feeble chuckle while the tears of pain and humiliation are running down his cheeks makes it the tiniest bit easier for him to walk it off.

That's where the Friendzone comes in; the joke that isn't funny. Because the only way he knows how to deal with his pain is to pretend it doesn't hurt...until one day it actually doesn't hurt. So he pretends the joke is funny and he laughs just a little, because laughing is more acceptable than crying. Crying validates what he's feeling and makes it real, and that isn't what he wants. He wants to minimize his emotions until they are so unimportant that he doesn't hurt anymore, because that's what walking it off is all about. But to walk it off, he has to start walking...and that's what the Friendzone is for.

Because the Friendzone isn't a place; the Friendzone is a symbol. It's a symbol of realization: of that moment when he recognizes that you are never ever getting back together ever. It's a symbol of that moment when he's reminded that the Real Man™ isn't real. It's a symbol of finality; a symbol of the crushing self-loathing that comes from feeling like he isn't good enough--which is a feeling he's never allowed to admit to anyone. And most importantly, it's a symbol of resilience: he's at rock bottom, but as long as he can pretend to laugh about his feelings, they don't have the power to control him and he can eventually walk it off.

So we raise a glass to our brother in the Friendzone. We do it because that's the only gesture society allows us to make. We do it because the Friendzone is the culminating testament to how badly society fucks men up inside: with this gesture, we momentarily come together as a symbolic support group for people that aren't allowed to have support groups. We do it because we know what he's feeling, even though he can't tell us; we've all been there before. And most of all, we do it because that gesture--hollow and tongue-in-cheek though it may be--makes it the tiniest bit easier for him to walk it off.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Been crazy busy...

So I do realize that it's a really long time between blog posts. But I'm taking fulltime + one class at school, and that's keeping me pretty busy. On top of that I'm hunting a job to get me through this summer, and I'm working on a book. My Creative Writing class has me convinced that this is what I'd like to be doing for a living, so I need to get that started as quickly as possible.

So nothing major to report. Just been busy with school. Shout-out to my loyal readers (both of them, I guess) who have stuck with it and kept checking back this whole time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

iBear reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I just got back from a midnight showing of the first Hobbit film, and it was phenomenal stepping back into Middle Earth under Peter Jackson's guidance. The movie was a three-hour cinematic extravaganza. I had read several other reviews, but I realize that many visitors to my blog may not have done so, so I will try to refrain from too many references to what someone else has written.

*Initial Disclaimer* I saw the film in 2D, and at 24 frames per second. I cannot and will not comment on the new format in any way.

The prologue was exceptional. Ian Holm's voiceover provides the absolute perfect narration for the story of the Lonely Mountain and how the Dwarves lost this greatest of their ancestral kingdoms. My only complaint was that we didn't see more of Smaug: I understand completely that he's being saved for the second film, but several parts felt like a little too much effort was going into hiding him from the audience. But the shots of Thorin and Balin were especially effective, as they help establish the two as peers among the Company. Where the other Dwarves see this as an exciting, danger-packed adventure, only Thorin and Balin appear to actually appreciate the full weight of their undertaking.

As the perfect addition to the prologue, we see an understated and even casual appearance by Elijah Wood's Frodo--I don't know if we should give credit to digital effects, makeup wizardry, or simple genetic lottery, but Wood doesn't seem to have aged a day in the eleven years between films. The setting is instantly and concretely established: we are back in Jackson's Hobbiton, and it quickly feels as though we never really left.

Martin Freeman is an absolute joy as Bilbo; his comedic timing couples with a very powerful sincerity that frankly I had not been expecting--he immediately is Bilbo, all the silly, uncertain, and endearing qualities of the character shine though across the entire film.

Sir Ian McKellen barely needs mentioning after his astounding performance in the LotR Trilogy, but one thing must be said: McKellen has repeatedly remarked that he much prefers Gandalf the Grey over Gandalf the White, and this film underlines that distinction perfectly. Gandalf here is once again the heartwarming, grouchy old codger that fans fell in love with in the Fellowship.

That brings us to Richard Armitage as the legendary Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage delivers a simply masterful performance, and Peter Jackson starts us off perfectly (I'm going to wear that word out entirely before the end of this review...) by introducing us to Thorin separately from the other Dwarves. There is an exceptional line written by Tolkien himself in the Appendix to The Lord of the Rings:

"The embers in the heart of Thorin grew hot again, as he brooded on the wrongs of his house and the vengeance upon the dragon that he had inherited. He thought of weapons and armies and alliances, as his great hammer rang in his forge; but the armies were dispersed and the alliances broken and the axes of his people were few; and a great anger without hope burned him as he smote the red iron on the anvil."

Armitage makes us see this--and feel it--with every movement he makes and every word he speaks. In him we truly see King Thorin the Second, but a king in exile...and it eats at his heart with every passing moment.

So what worked...and what didn't? The Unexpected Party itself was phenomenal...but I admit I was mildly annoyed with Bilbo's sudden decision to up and run after the Dwarves. It lent the character a strength that maybe he needed, but it looks to run against the character we established the night before. It comes down to a sudden, impulsive decision, and that doesn't quite work with Bilbo for me.

Still, the moment is quickly over and we're swept along to Balin's account of the Battle of Azanulbizar: a stunningly effective piece, though for my part I had a fleeting wish for the battle to be more structured and less of a backdrop. But the main point of the flashback is to put Thorin's character into perspective: Thorin Oakenshield is very much an epic hero, stepping up to take his place among the ranks of Achilles or Odysseus--I would even argue that Thorin Oakenshield is the only such epic hero to appear in person within the narrative of The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings. Knowing what awaits him in the story's finale (brilliantly foreshadowed with the prologue's depiction of his grandfather) is almost heartrending.

Roast Mutton was staggeringly wonderful. Almost identical to the book, with the addition of the trolls threatening Bilbo to force the Dwarves to surrender--coupled with a moment of legitimate suspense as we wonder whether Thorin will submit or not to save Bilbo's life. Jackson also has Bilbo himself stalling the trolls until dawn, along with a very effective moment wherein Thorin is the first of the Dwarves to realize what he's up to and silence the others' objections.

Radagast's storyline was wonderful--though the spectral Ringwraith struck me as just a bit...cartoonish. :/ Sylvester McCoy was exceptional in the role, lending a strong dose of humor and hinting at why Saruman holds him in such extreme scorn.

The White Council was absolutely brilliant--and I really enjoyed seeing this laid-back version of Elrond. In the LotR Trilogy, Hugo Weaving received the lion's share of "doom, gloom, and ominous" exposition, so to see a warmer Elrond was very satisfying. Christopher Lee here presents a glimpse into Saruman the Wise--and yet also the haughty. Surely we're seeing here the pride that comes before his fall.

The Goblintown scene was a breathtaking action piece, and yet in story terms was monumentally overshadowed by the Riddles in the Dark interaction between Bilbo and Gollum. I have a good-natured gag about vying for the title of coolest man ever born on April 20th, but a lot of that depends on Andy Serkis stumbling...and it's not happening yet. (Could you stop being badass for like five minutes, Serkis??) Gollum was a groundbreaking character ten years ago when The Two Towers was released...and now he's better. Like...much better! The Riddles in the Dark scene will rightly be remembered as the highlight of the film...and the entire film is essentially one big highlight reel to begin with.

The later interactions between Bilbo and Thorin were unbelievable. The Hobbit's reappearance after the mountain crossing set up one of the most emotionally powerful scenes of the movie...only to be eclipsed just a few minutes later. The final scene with the two, standing on the Carrock after Bilbo has stepped in (way over his head) to save Thorin's life was downright beautiful.

And once again, we're left with a little bit of a tease with Smaug--though I really enjoyed setting up the thrush knocking on the stone. If I have one complaint about the Hobbit, it's that we have to wait another year to see part 2.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Been a while, so catching everybody up.

I completed my first full-time semester of school in over ten years last month...with a 4.0 GPA and therefore a partial scholarship for Fall.  And yes, I'm bragging about it on my blog because I'm more proud of that than I thought I would be. :)

Been sick this week.  No, make that SICK this week.  Some kind of nasty sinus infection that took my voice, hearing, and will to live...and I've only fully recovered one of the three.  

And then tonight I can't sleep.  For the first time in four days I'm not secretly contemplating what a relief it would be to die during the night, and I can't get to sleep.  Go figure, huh?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Finals week...

...But I promise I'll get back to blogging after everything's less insane! :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Daylight Savings Time starts tonight!

So once again, we will observe the yearly ritual of setting our clocks forward one hour in the ridiculous hope that this will somehow make the day last longer...