July 8, 2012

Proud To Be Vaginamerican.

Image source.

Yes, I’m proud, and simply glad to be myself: a female-bodied person, true to my perceptions and sensibilities as I continue to discover what is right for me.

Just being myself creates space for what I believe in to survive.

I am a vaginamerican!

I don’t want to suggest that all Americans with vaginas (or appearing female) are the same. In fact, I believe that all individuals, including people with all unique features and characteristics of body, have a birthright to discover and define themselves for themselves.

This might be where some of the good news and potential for positive momentum exists in what appears to me at this time to be a rather challenging time to be alive while female-bodied.

Sometimes I want to hide in what seems good, and then I realize that if I am doing this at the expense of embracing a wider view then I am kidding myself, or essentially lying to myself.

No one person can solve the world’s problems, but I do think that we need to educate ourselves about what is going on in the world in an attempt to be able to make informed choices.

We need to communicate in ways that are helpful. So I don’t believe I have an answer, however, I have been shocked and saddened by some of the things that are known about our world right now.

It is useful to know the truth. I’ve been steeped in a yoga community that often practices “you make your own reality” type of thinking. While there is some truth in this, it is often oversimplified to excuse lack of awareness of hard things to know.

It is better to know difficult things that make up our world than to be fabricating our sense of reality from a small worldview that only takes into account things we like or things that feel good. This kind of denial leads to nihilism and depression in my experience.

In a long view, it doesn’t feel so good to focus only on what feels good in the present moment. Lack of regard for unpleasantness can simply allow problems to grow unchecked.

Some of what I’m going to share doesn’t feel good to know (or review if you have already heard), but I do think it’s good to know and think about. And this is just a short and partial listing of recent happenings that indicate a strong unkindness, in some cases brutality, toward beings in recognizably female bodies.

I have included news stories, statistics, and cultural happenings because all of these help us to define who we are.

Two teenage girls were shot in Texas, and found in a park on June 23 with gunshot wounds to the head. Mollie June Olgin, 19, died. Mary Kristine Chapa, 18, remains hospitalized.

Police have released a sketch of the single suspect in the shooting. This story bothers me so much. I want to say this kind of hunting and killing doesn’t happen in my world, but it has happened. That they were known by their friends to be lovers is prominently in the reporting, yet news sources are not calling it a hate crime.

When the character, Merida from the popular movie Brave doesn’t choose the quick path to marriage, reporters ponder and question her heteronormativity. And the movie is just not about her sexuality, but she is the first animated princess to not be defined by her romance with a man. Should I cut them some slack here?

I just think that we should allow Brave to be its own story. Why must we shoehorn everything into what we already think we know? And why can’t we enjoy a princess who is choosing her own path? Why must she be sexual in this movie?

Weightlifter, Sara Robles out-lifted every male and female American at the world championships last year and qualified for the U.S. Olympics team.

She is financially strapped because she cannot get the endorsement deals that help world-class athletes meet their expenses.

It appears that commercial sponsors aren’t interested because she challenges our notions about gender, and that females are or should be “the weaker sex.”

The wage gap still exists for women:

Overall they earn 77 cents for each dollar made annually by men and in some professions such as financial managers the number drops to 66 cents.

The downside of the wage gap applies to people appearing female, but people presenting as male including transgender men make more money according to a study.

“Transgender individuals also face significant wage disparities on the job. This is especially true for transgender women. One study found that the earnings of female transgender workers fell by nearly one-third following their gender transitions. Interestingly, that same study found that the earnings of male transgender workers slightly increased following their transition. As such, transgender men may actually experience a wage advantage rather than a wage penalty.”

The Invisible War, a new documentary that won an award at the Sundance Film Festival, highlights the institutional acceptance (through failure to pursue justice for victims) of sexual violence in the US military. According to the film’s website:

The Department of Defense estimates there were a staggering 19,000 violent sex crimes in the military in 2010.

I can’t help but wonder if some of this mentality of condoning rape went into shaping the latest Tomb Raider video game. Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg has explained:

“In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers. And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers will try to rape her.
‘She is literally turned into a cornered animal,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.;”

There has been backlash against the sexual assault theme, and an apology of sorts has been issued.

According to The New York Times, sex trafficking has grown and:

About 4,000 minors are trafficked through New York City each year…

And information was brought forth because progress has been made in breaking up a crime ring that worked from Pennsylvania to Manhattan.

“And in April, prosecutors broke up what they said was one of the first sex trafficking rings run largely by livery drivers, six of whom were indicted on charges of helping a father-son team traffic prostitutes between Pennsylvania and Manhattan. The drivers were accused of ferrying the women to upscale hotels and clubs to solicit clients, telling the women about clients’ sexual preferences, and taking a cut of the profits. The women, whom the operation’s leaders tattooed with their street names and a bar code, were allowed to keep a few dollars each night to buy food and other necessities, according to prosecutors.”

What I’ve shared here includes a light sampling of some of the stories that illustrate my concern about the freedom of American women to determine their own expression in the world.

Whether the stories are of women oppressed, shot down, underpaid, cultural forms that use sexual assault for entertainment like the video game, or even the wave of response that the heroine in Brave is lesbian, all of this comes together and paints a picture of how this society sees women. We don’t seem to respect what I see as a person’s birthright to define their self.

It gives me hope to understand what I value:

I value bodies, including female bodies, male bodies, and unique bodies.

I value the birthright for people to define themselves. People of all genders and body-types will tell us who they are and what they’re about. We would let the story in Brave stand for itself if we believed in the right for people to determine themselves. We would be supportive of all expressions of love, too. And those two sweet teenagers lives would be continuing happily in a world that valued this.

I value consent. All parties must agree for an activity that affects their bodies. I even love it when someone asks me if they may hug me. I can enjoy the hug more when I’ve agreed to it. And I like asking someone if I can hug them. This kind of thing is valuable to me.

I know these values are not held across the structures in power at this time, or even considered important by all people. But I am still hopeful and proud because I exist. It might seem small, but it claims some amount of territory for what I believe in. I also know some others who believe as I do. It helps.
Image source.

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