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Am I A Feminist?

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There has been a lot of talk of “feminism” on the Internet recently. From Ray Rice beating his wife unconscious in an elevator and the horrifying reveal of the undercurrents of domestic violence in the NFL to Emma Watson speaking to the U.N. and advocating for the importance of gender equality. There has also been a lot of outcry (usually by men or ultra-conservatives) against any “feminist” agendas being touted in the aftermath of these occurrences.

Feminism-2-Definition             I wish I could say that I know everything there is to know about feminism and could say with conviction that I was or wasn’t a feminist, but I can’t. It’s too complicated of an issue with too many parties and opinions out there muddying the water so that it becomes to confusing and quite frankly, daunting to identify one way or the other. If you say you’re a feminist but you don’t totally understand everything the movement entails then you are seen as uneducated and a detriment to the cause. If you’re a woman and say that you’re not a feminist or maybe you say you’re a “humanist,” then you’re seen as ignorant and haughty. That you think you’re better than the women who identify as feminists. So then, what’s the right answer?

Feminism-3-Comic           I don’t think there is one. Not unless you have the time and energy to relentlessly study the current trends in feminism and it’s opposing movements. Most of us—men and women—are not like that. We’re struggling just to get through our day to day lives, and perhaps we are interested in the topic and wonder whether we are feminists or not, but we just don’t know if it’s worth the struggle to find out.

I do know some things though:

  1. Violence towards women is never appropriate. Domestic violence shouldn’t be tolerated in our society. And we shouldn’t make excuses for those who abuse (physically or emotionally) their “loved” ones.
  2. Feminism-4-Hannah-GrahamIt isn’t fair that an 18-year-old girl like Hannah Graham can’t make stupid decisions one night while in college and come home safe. It especially isn’t fair that people would rather say that it’s her fault—because she was drinking, because she was wearing a crop top, because she left alone—than address the real issue that someone did something to her. That she didn’t “ask” for it to happen no matter what she was wearing or doing that night. I’d like to know the statistics of men who go out on the town and get drunk while in college and are kidnapped and/or murdered versus women who do the same.
  3. Feminism-5-Emma-WatsonAn intelligent woman like Emma Watson that has been chosen as an ambassador for the U.N. should be able to stand up and make a speech about the need for gender equality without a vicious backlash from the Internet community. In fact, any woman should be able to speak her mind about gender issues in a public forum without being attacked. Isn’t that what free speech is? Don’t we get to have our own opinions? I don’t think she was shoving her agenda down anyone’s throat. She was using her elevated platform to address an issue that she found relevant and in need of being discussed.
  4. Fourteen-year-old girls (handicapped or not) should not be used as “rape bait” by school administration.
  5. People like Sam Pepper should not be able to harass women on the street, film it, and then call it “entertainment.” It’s harassment, plain and simple.

I can’t say whether I’m a Feminist or not. I like to think that I am, but I feel ignorant to identify as something that I don’t fully understand. What I do know is that I think women should be treated like human beings with basic human rights which I think include not being harassed, assaulted, sexually exploited, or judged for making immature and stupid decisions from time to time. I think our society generally expects those kinds of rights for men, so why not women? Isn’t that gender equality?

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What It Means to Be a Church

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a Steven Curtis Chapman concert at Busch Gardens as the finale for their Glory in the Gardens summer concert series. I even got to be in the VIP section because my Ambassador Blogger agreement with Busch Gardens has unexpected perks like that. I’ve never really been a big concertgoer. Actually, this year I’ve been to more concerts than ever before—that being three concerts. Yeah…I know. I have been to a concert for a Christian artist (Mandesa and MercyMe last year for work events), but my experience at the Steven Curtis Chapman concert was significantly different than anything I had ever participated in. I say “participated” because it wasn’t just a passive “listen to the music and smile and clap and dance because you enjoy it,” but rather, it was a worship service in the middle of a secular theme park with people screaming on roller coasters just feet away.

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Near the end of the concert as we (the audience) were singing and clapping along (in the pouring rain I might add), Steven Curtis Chapman yelled “Sing it Church!” It was at that point that the magic of the moment was broken for me. I suddenly thought, “He can’t say that. This isn’t a church. This is an amusement park that has no direct religious affiliation.” I figured for a moment that he’d simply forgotten what kind of audience he was performing for.

But then, I thought more, and no…

No, he hadn’t forgotten where he was or who he was singing for. He was singing for God. And so were we. And THAT, that is what makes a church. In that moment, singing in the rain and raising our hands in praise to God, we were a church.

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That experience reminded me that the Church isn’t a building or a gathering on Sunday mornings with other professed Christians. Sometimes those experiences can actually be the least church like moments in comparison. A Church is anywhere a group of people is gathered to worship and learn about God, to expand their faith, to pray together, to believe in wholeheartedness.

That particular night in Busch Gardens with the rain pouring down and people screaming their lungs out on roller coasters right next door was one that felt more like a Church than I had felt in a long time. It’s not that my Sunday morning worship services are not Godly or “Church-like,” but I help lead those services which for me means a lot of pouring out and I’ve found recently, not so much being filled back up.

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I think over the past year or so Church has become for me a struggle in terms of spiritual motivation. I’ve been craving that “refilling of my cup” but haven’t found an effective place or way of doing so. But that concert and Steven Curtis Chapman’s simple “Sing it Church!” reminded me that I don’t need to be in “church-Church” to have my cup refilled. Maybe that’s not even the place that will be able to effectively do it for me because of the particular roles I play there. It reminded me that Church can be anywhere, with anyone as long as God is the central focus. That night I participated in a beautiful worship service without even realizing it that filled and fired me up. I thought I was just going to a concert at a theme park but in actuality I was being taught and reminded of a valuable lesson about faith, Christianity, God, and the Church—God is everywhere, you just have to open your eyes to see Him.

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Your Brain and Fashion

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The first week of September has been really hot and so despite the fact that it’s after Labor Day and all the “Fashion Rules” that come along with it, I’ve continued to wear “summer dresses.” But gosh, golly, geez does it feel wrong!

It’s literally only a few days into September, and a week ago when it was August I felt no issue wearing “summery” things, but the minute September rolls in and the passing of Labor Day, suddenly I feel like I’m committing some awful fashion faux pas. Why does my brain trick me like this though? Technically it’s still “summer” until mid-September so why in the first week of September when it’s hot as Hades outside do I feel like I’m committing a crime for wearing neon pink and flowers or white shoes?

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Essentially I both scoff at and participate in the “rules of fashion.” I let them bother me before I decide on an outfit not just during in-between seasons (though that is when I have the most problems) but really all year round. I legitimately have to box up my “non-season” clothes so that I won’t be tempted or confused into wearing them. But why! It’s dumb and wasteful!

At the same time, I enjoy the “rules of fashion.” It gives me guidelines within which to work. It’s like being given a whole coloring book and being told to color in whatever you want rather than being given a blank sheet of paper and told to “create a masterpiece.” For a woman, fashion—style, whatever you want to call it—is (unfortunately and expensively) important. Men have two options: suits (or some dressy iteration of one) and t-shirts. It’s basic. It’s simple. I envy them. Women’s clothing is not so easy. There’s pretty much a different style for every situation and then there is the constant changing fashion. What’s “in” this season? The 90s seem to be making a comeback with combat boots, crop tops, plaid, and denim everywhere. So do you give in to the trends and buy new clothes that fit or do you just stick with what you’ve got? If you’re like me—that is someone who loves to experiment especially with my outfits—then you’ll be going shopping.

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But once you’ve gone shopping and you have your new fall wardrobe picked out, it starts to feel weird to continue to wear “summer” clothes even though the temperature and sun seem to confirm that you can without any problem. Because now you’ve transitioned your sense of style to a new season and even though it’s technically not autumn yet, you feel like it should be because your closet says its fall!

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Many of you are probably thinking, “Why does this girl care so much about fashion? Just throw on a t-shirt and go with it already!” And I wish it were that simple for me. Unfortunately, it’s not. Somewhere along the line my brain got (re)wired to artistically express myself through clothing and thus this monster was born! My brain does funny things when it comes to fashion and the seasons. I hate these in-between times because I don’t want to rush off summer, but I also don’t want to overstay my summer fashion welcome. (Is that even a thing? It’s probably not a thing.)

Where do you go? What do you wear? What season is it even?

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Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle and the Magic of Virginian Nature

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At first I didn’t want to read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle because it seemed too different and strange from the Wolves of Mercy Falls Series, and I loved Shiver and it’s sequels so much that I think I was afraid that nothing would be able to compare.  However, once I began reading The Raven Cycle, I almost immediately realized that I had more in common with this series than any I had read before.  Not because I’ve been to a boy’s boarding school. (That would be difficult as I’m a woman).  Not because I’ve grown up in a house full of wacky female seers. (That would also be difficult as everyone is my family is Baptist and scoffs at the idea of fortune-telling).  But because I’m an aspiring Virginia author who has described Virginia nature (and especially magical Virginia nature) in very similar ways. It wasn’t until reading The Raven Cycle and Maggie’s descriptions of Cabeswater that I realized how much Virginia nature has influenced my own descriptions of magic and nature in my short stories and young adult fantasy novel.  It was both affirming and exciting to see so many similarities in the work of an author who I intensely respect and enjoy reading.  And it also restored for me a little of the magic that I found in Virginian forests as a child and had, with time, dissipated as life tends to do to childish fantasies.

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Is Writing Every Day Beneficial? (Novel Writing: Month 8, Chapter 8)

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Well, writing chapter eight for my novel didn’t exactly go as planned. Or even as hoped. Although again I did finish! (Hallelujah!) It’s just that I’m finding it hard to devote as much time as I want to writing. I imagine this is the problem that most amateur writers have. Writing takes creativity. And creativity takes time and energy and freedom to experiment. You can’t just show up at your computer and expect Walt Whitman to flow out of your brain. (I mean, it could, but that would be plagiarism.)

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Experimenting is so critical to good writing. I know I’ve said that I want this novel writing project to be about learning and creating a lot of “word vomit,” mostly because I haven’t written a large volume or regularly for a long time. But I also need this experience to be an artistically enlightening. I want to know if this is still a story I’m passionate about and whether I should continue to pursue it. Do I want to write a full novel or series on the world of Kamerell? Does it have the potential to be an exciting story that other people would actually find interesting enough to read? Is it a story that demands to be told?

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Is there a “confused” or “I don’t know what’s happening” button on my keyboard?

            So I did the majority of this month’s writing in the last two weeks of August, and I feel like it was a bit rushed. I still covered everything on my plot point list, but I think if I’d had more time I could have fleshed out some of the details. It’s frustrating for me to only get to go half-in. And I know it’s my fault because I’m not allocating enough time to writing; however, I don’t want to get discouraged. I have to look at each month as a new journey and not dwell on the failings of the previous month. I think the best thing for me is writing a little bit each day. On the days that I feel more inspired I tend to write more, but when I let myself relax and say “Oh I’ll just write extra tomorrow,” it always ends in tears and two weeks of an ignored story. That’s just not going to be acceptable in September! So the goal for this month beyond just finishing the chapter is to write a little bit everyday. To create a habit where I don’t feel comfortable if I’m NOT writing. It will be another change and tentative step, but I think it will be incredibly beneficial for my writing process.

So…onward to September and writing every day! Hooray!

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