How to Be a Woman in Twelve Easy Steps!

Women, amirite? This past year has been a banner year for feminism. From encroachments upon women’s health (abortion rights, birth control access, etc.) to privacy issues (nude photo hacking, street harassment, etc.), the Internet has spilled much proverbial ink about these topics, and I’ve obviously shown myself to be something of a lazy blogger. However, lately I’ve felt outraged every single day about something having to do with being a woman. Men, I’m not discounting your experiences or pressures (and I can gladly say that I’m not acquainted with any men who behave like sexist animals), but being a woman is exhausting. There are issues that affect us every single day that do not apply to you. Fortunately for everyone, I’ve come up with a handy, foolproof list on how to be a woman.

1. Be skinny.
2. Don’t be too skinny. So basically don’t be tall or flat-chested or anything like that. And muscles? So bad.
3. Don’t diet, and even if you’re not on a diet, don’t eat salad.
4. Be alluring and sexually available. Show off your body and bask in the attention you receive!
5. Don’t have sex. Ever. Except with that one guy. Otherwise you’re a slut.
6. Don’t take nude photos. Only self-absorbed whores take explicit photos of themselves.
7. But hey, show him your tits. Just one. For the road. Because he misses you.
8. Be flawless and ageless. There is no reason why you can’t look as good at sixty as you did at twenty.
9. Don’t wear too much makeup. At worst you look like a clown, and at best you’re just being deceptive.
10. Don’t use fillers or have plastic surgery. Why would you give in to societal pressure like that?
11. Never complain about your experience as a woman, because if something bad happens, you probably asked for it.
12. Smile! But if you forget this one, don’t worry, at some point a man will remind you that you’re much prettier when you smile.

In reality, there’s only one step to being a woman: identify as one. That’s it. Now if only we can remind ourselves daily to shrug off all the pressure, we can worry less about ourselves and hope that others mind their own business as well.

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International Day of the Girl Child.

When I moved to New York, I was desperate enough to be hopeful. I had been working for nearly a year at a newspaper job that paid me just over nine dollars an hour. One of my superiors harassed me on a daily basis, criticizing everything from my work to my shoes. She called me in the middle of the night to berate me and embarrassed me in front of my peers. When I reported her behavior, I was told that it wasn’t “personal” and that I should tolerate her attempts to sabotage my professional career, all for little more than minimum wage. I lived with my parents. I paid only the interest on my student loans. I saved and went out little and amassed enough to get me to New York City, the beacon of all things creative. The first month without a job was breathtaking. I went out often to breathe in this new place was that now my home, filled with so many parks and stores, colors and shadows, shores and claustrophobic roads.

The second month, I grew desperate. I applied to any job I could. I had no experience handling food, but I decided to go to an open call for Subway employees. It would be something, I told myself. It would only be temporary. I was embarrassed to walk into the narrow shop holding my resume with its useless Latin and Greek praises–summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Tau Delta. I sat down with the owner at one of his small tables, but he didn’t even glance at my (over)qualifications. “You should know I don’t hire girls,” he said.

I was stunned. “But that’s illegal.” My protest sounded weak even to my own ears. Why would I want to work for a man who would hate me for lacking a Y chromosome? Because I had to pay my rent and student loans. Because I had to eat.

“Girls cry whenever there’s a problem. They cried every day here. They do not work. Are you going to cry?”

I didn’t cry. I left the shop enraged that I had wasted $4 of my rapidly dwindling funds on the round trip. The worst part of this story? I’m one of the luckiest girls in the world.

Sexism comes in so many forms that we ladies have to harden ourselves to it because we do not have enough time, patience, or sanity to confront all of the issues we encounter on a daily basis. A man almost ran into me at a door two hours ago because he wasn’t paying attention. He apologized and quickly added, “I only look at the women I’m interested in.” Excuse me? As a white, arguably middle class American who isn’t exactly skinny or the conventional version of “beautiful,” I encounter sexism that is most frequently based on my looks or my so-called ability to do a job. This is unacceptable, and yet I’m fortunate for the privilege. We live in a world where some girls are considered property. Families sell their daughters into prostitution, into rape. Female babies are murdered because male children are more desirable. There isn’t enough time and there are not enough words to depict the atrocity that happens around the world every day to girls specifically due to their gender.

We do not deserve this. We were not born weak or lesser or lacking. We are beautiful in spirit and do not need to have perfectly symmetrical faces and white teeth and impossible hair in order to have worth. We are just as capable of being intelligent, productive, strong, creative, and remarkable as our male peers. Magazines should not be telling us how to wear skirts and get skinny enough to resemble a heavily manipulated impossibility; they should be teaching us empathy. We live in a society that makes a killing on fostering doubt and unhappiness. (Are we the Photoshop proletariat?)

Today is the second annual International Day of the Girl Child. This is not a Hallmark holiday created to make you buy a card. The United Nations came up with this. Girls around the world suffer due to lack of access to education, healthcare, and other opportunities for personal advancement. They are taught to marry, to reproduce, to obey. The laws and punishments that stand in the way of some of these obstacles are horrific. You may think it’s a world away and just too much drama to bring into your own life, but what you don’t have to imagine is someone’s brutal reality.

I’d recommend some charities here to help out, but honestly, to do the research on your own is an empowering and humbling process. If you can, please reach out and help out the girls and women of countries less fortunate than your own. If you don’t have any money to spare, as so many feel today, volunteer. Get involved. Just tell one girl around you how much she means to you. Strive for equality every day. Then maybe eventually I won’t have to write posts like this.

Why Is Everything Sexist?

It’s not easy having a unisex name. Roughly half of folks read my name and assume I’m a guy, and the other half responds with “Really? I’ve never known a guy Casey. I always think of it as a female name.” Then there are the few stragglers who assume that since I am denied a Y chromosome, my name must be manipulated into the more feminine “Cassie” or, worse yet, “Cassandra.” The occasional hopeful has asked me what my middle name is in order to establish firmer gender grounds. Alas, while “Jo” is the female spelling, it is also short for nothing. Said out loud, my name is pretty damn neutral. Simply presented, such as through writing, people assume what they will, and I’m sometimes met with surprise…even disappointment for not being a dude. I assure you, I’m bummed too, guys. Bras are really expensive, not to mention the other costs associated with being a woman.

Why am I leading in with that blurb? Because I’ve seen gender bias all my life. It’s everywhere, and it sucks. Sometimes I can suspend my disbelief and righteous fury in order to actually get through the day without blowing my lid. After all, I am a fan of horror films, and those can be notoriously sexist. But really, honestly, I have to ask: why is everything sexist now?

It’s not new that our lady popstars are critiqued mostly on how they look and how capably they can gyrate their bodies than how they can sing. That’s what autotune is for, right? It’s also not new that there’s a tendency for male lyrics to subjugate women in rather disturbing ways. But for the love of God, every time I hear “Blurred Lines” on the radio, my impulse to shake my shoulders along to the catchy beat is defeated by my absolute disgust. “I’ll give you something to tear your ass in two”?! I know I can’t speak for the entirety of womankind, but I personally like to be able to sit down from time to time, and I’m much more interested in someone who doesn’t serenade me with ‘sexy’ threats. If you haven’t seen the comparison of Robin Thicke lyrics to the words of rapists, please give that link a click. The overlap is beyond creepy because the song is too. Then you have the music video where topless women dance around fully clothed men who need balloons to tell the world that they have a big dick. They’ll claim that it’s all in good fun. To that I say: your penis is likely very small, and your brain smaller.

It’s not that this video is worse than decades of hip hop, pop, and rock videos with women dancing in little or no clothing. It’s just that we’ve made so little progress that this can be crowned “The Song of the Summer” with uncensored nudity on YouTube (because ART), but parodies that subvert men in similar ways are decried as being sexist, going too far, hating men. If you tell a woman that she wants to have sex with you when she doesn’t, and you act on that impulse no matter what her opinion is, she is an object to you, not a person. You are the problem. You can laugh off how “charming” and flippant Robin Thicke is, but the guy has appeared with naked women on multiple occasions for press, claimed his wife insisted, put his hand on another woman’s ass (and likely did much more), and gets away with it because he’s a guy. When Miley twerked all over his body, she was the one crucified, even though his Beetlejuice outfit was arguably more garish than her PVC flesh colored bikini…thing. If it sings like a creep, leers like a creep, and fondles like a creep, it’s a creep.

But let’s move away from music before my brain explodes. I never had a vested interest in Robin Thicke’s music anyway, so of course I can roll my eyes and shake my fist. What about something I enjoy? Well, folks, I have an example for you there as well. When I moved to New York City all by my lonesome, it took me a while to find a job. In the midst of the depression that came from all my rejected applications, I had only Netflix to keep me company. That was when I first binge-watched Dexter. As I’ve said, I love horror, so I’m used to separating my lady senses from the rest of my brain to enjoy a bit of gore. There are some spoilers from here, so tread lightly.

Dexter’s appeal is its emotional manipulation: the coldhearted serial killer trying to pass as normal while doling out his moral justice to more heinous criminals. We want to see him defeat the Big Bads and take out some other guys on the way. Dexter was driven to kill by seeing his own mother hacked to pieces when he was just a baby, and he tends to take a firm stand when women are raped and/or murdered. What could be more feminist than that?

Well, a lot. Women on the show only exist to be victims, nags, or love interests, often occupying more than one box. Even when women are a threat to Dexter, they inevitably meet their doom in a rather convenient way. The show was even gracious enough to give Dexter’s adoptive sister Deb some super incesty feelings toward her brother-from-another-mother, because the poor girl didn’t have a bad enough time falling in love with pretty much anyone who would die a horrible death anyway. For the record, the incest thing doesn’t work as well on a modern show as it does on Game of Thrones.

So this is the last season of Dexter. I believe it ends Sunday or the week after. I’m not sure since I stopped watching. I’ve made it through the incest, the women who die for Dexter, the rape victim who physically throws herself at Dexter for saving her, the serial killer he couldn’t dispatch because she was just too damn sexy. Now? I’m just over it. Of course when a long-lost daughter turns up to give Masuka a bit of well-deserved back story, she works in a topless restaurant. (The actress who plays her, by the way, is 21. Gotta get those barely legal tits in there!) I’m not going to moralize and tell women what to do with their own agency, but as the show winds down, it’s apparent that women only exist to fall in love with Dexter (the equivalent of falling in love with a monotonous piece of cardboard that is a really shitty father who’s never around) or stand in his way. It doesn’t matter how many women appear to save Dexter only to be murdered in a terrible fashion. All we’re supposed to care about is Dexter getting away with it, preferably with his leggy blonde who returns to him even though she’s wanted for murder and really ought to avoid the city where she committed her crimes. It makes no sense, and I’m sick of women only existing as accessories on an increasingly poorly written and plotted show. Don’t tell me the ending; I’ll roll my eyes at Wikipedia instead.

So Modern Culture, yes, we’re free to take off our clothes and be free, but could you please, please give us an option between being sexy or being utterly ignored? We can take things in stride–we have to every day just to avoid having strokes on a biweekly basis–but give us a fucking break. Not all of us want to hump wrecking balls naked to get attention.

People: what a bunch of bastards.

Forgive the title; I’ve been watching a lot of “The IT Crowd.”

During my recent spell of unwellness (documented here in no short measure), I’ve had a lot of time to just read. As a reformed journalist, I am a news junkie, but at the first hint of feeling poorly, I am reduced to consuming simple sentences with lots of pictures. Pop culture becomes my fix. Accordingly, I have a few rants, and they all center on the same focal point: being a woman.

First of all, I love Nigella Lawson. I her to hug me and use her free hands to back a cake behind my back as we become girly pals. When photos recently emerged of her husband clasping her throat and twisting her nose in public, I felt shocked. These are disturbing actions to happen in public, to be documented rather than stopped, and to be distributed. Worse yet was the response by some readers/viewers. I saw many articles where people said we mustn’t jump to conclusions and he was probably just feeling her glands, as though reaching across a dinner table and squeezing each gland with either four fingers or a thumb were perfectly normal. I’m all for our legal system’s “innocent until proven guilty” approach, but I loathe that we’re living in a time when people call for the death of a whistleblower (name one, any of them, and it’s true) while saying we should try to place ourselves in the shoes of a man who makes his wife cry in public.

Sadly, this isn’t surprising. For as much as we scream, fight, reproduce, work, and write, we’re still living in a World of Men. Jezebel contributor Lindy West pushed back against men in comedy making unfunny, malicious rape jokes, and what did she receive in return? Read for yourself the vitriol thrown her way. If she infringes upon a male comedian’s right to talk about a hypothetical rape, she’s stomping all over their rights and must be silenced by being murdered, by being raped, or by being reminded that she is too fat/ugly/stuck up to be raped since nobody would ever want her (because obviously rape is about sex and not at alllll about power). Rape is obviously one of the darkest things that can happen to a person, and people use humor to cope with darkness, but we’ve reached a point where the joke’s on the victim, not the horrible person who just couldn’t keep their penis (or hand, or object, or WHATEVER) out of another person’s body. It’s not funny, and if people keep conditioning themselves to think it is, then we’ll have even worse sexual assault statistics. I already have multiple friends who were sexually assaulted. You probably do too. Is that okay to just accept? (The answer, by the way, is absolutely not.)

You can’t even escape this in entertainment.  Women are sex objects everywhere, meant to be looked at critically (and approved of or cut down) and consumed. The fact that we have a whole “Law and Order” spinoff dedicated to sexual assault is telling, and you can’t even get new shows without rape cropping up. Special shout out to “American Horror Story” here, which had rape in both of its seasons so far! But it doesn’t just have to be about rape or something so blatant. I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, but when Alice Eve stripped her perfectly toned body down to her matched underwear FOR NO REASON, I felt angrier than any other point in the movie. (If you want to argue that James Kirk also loses some clothing, I’ll remind you that he was with multiple women at once, making him not the object but the objectifying party since I’m sure he wasn’t courting them all for polygamous marriage.) Film studios shouldn’t apologize about such scenes after the fact; they shouldn’t include them in the first place. I’m really not bothered by sex scenes or tits, but we have reached a saturation point, and only Michael Fassbender seems to be fighting back with some full frontal of his own. Shame was viewed as either brave or deplorable, but women are expected to lose clothing without a peep.

Linda Holmes’ blog over at NPR shows that the problem gets worse. We lady folk want an alternative to being objectified, but we don’t even have much of a choice other than not going to the movies at all. The last movie I saw was The Purge, and I would argue that the women in that film hold their own against the men (though they take time to build up the nerve). I’ll confess I kind of hated Bridesmaids because it did have a spectacular female cast, but the lead still needed to turn back to good old baking and a man in order to be happy! (Apologies to Chris O’Dowd. I’d want you at the end of a movie too.) We consider it progress when one woman kicks ass in an ensemble flick, or we tell ourselves that we ladies don’t have to be defined by romantic comedies since we too can enjoy the movies men do. I promise you, I loathe rom com and adore me some horror, but when wildly popular shows like “The Walking Dead” make their female characters incredibly annoying before killing them off (as opposed to in the comics, where they are people rather than whining moving targets), I get really fed up.

So you can’t really deal with TV or the movies. Surely there’s music? My Twitter feed has been obsessed with Kanye West’s leaked album. The media’s abuzz with it. I decided to read some articles about it since Kanye’s not my cup of tea. As an aside, if you go into a coffee shop or restaurant and ask them where your damn croissants are, I fucking hate you. End of. Back to the point, behold these lyrics: “I wanna fuck you hard on the sink/ After that, give you something to drink/ Step back, can’t get spunk on the mink.” Look, I get it. I get that he’s supposed to be this egotistical rich guy with a god complex who thinks that he can own anything, from fashion to women. I get that a lot of rappers are like that. But does that make it okay? No. It’s gross. It’s not amusing swagger. This guy just had a little girl and is engaged. Regardless of how I feel about Kim Kardashian, I wouldn’t want her to be treated with that power complex. Those lyrics don’t hint at rape, but it’s like they’re looking across the dancefloor and smiling coyly at it. If you aren’t a sexist, why don’t you just stop writing sexist things? It’s not entertaining. It’s not cool. It’s not swagger. And if you’re just “trolling,” then you’re pretty desperate for attention and have an empty life that mink won’t fix, even if it has a little sperm on it. By the way, jackass, it’s your own ejaculate, so you deal with it.

I’d go on and on about other people who have sexist lyrics, not the least of which Rick Ross with his song “U.O.E.N.O.” that actually DEPICTS rape, but fuck, I’m exhausted.

So what can we do about all of this sexism? Well, we can talk about it. We put up with this shit every day, from the way people talk to us to how we’re made to feel about ourselves, so we should let it be known. The majority of men out there are pretty cool dudes who don’t like making anyone feel like shit, and they wouldn’t want to be aligned with any of these actions. We have to build a network and push back. It’s not about “Leaning In” since that book was basically bullshit for anyone making under six figures a year. We have to challenge the frivolous and call out those who would excuse crimes against women as mere misunderstandings, amusements, or whatever. The act of rape isn’t funny, and many jokes about it aren’t. Domestic violence is not the victim’s fault and shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. We’re more than half of the fucking population, and so to the shitty guys out there, vocal minority that you are, grow a pair of balls and learn how to respect us. If you’re so threatened by women speaking out, that might just make you a pussy, and what’s worse than being associated with a female sex organ?