Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd share these two gorgeous photos of spiderwebs that my mom took recently. I love how you can see the morning dew on them! 



And if you'd like something a little more serious, check out last year's Halloween post about why dressing up as another race/ethnicity/culture/marginalized group is not ok! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fight For The World You Want

loving this quote I stumbled upon this morning...

"Fighting against the world that we don't want is a critical first step, but fighting for the world that we do want is where liberation truly begins." - Courtney Martin

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Feminist Wedding: My Engagement Ring

Last week, I wrote about how I'm beginning to plan a feminist wedding. But in reality, the planning process began before we were even engaged. It began by thinking about what we wanted to do for an engagement ring.

Ever since college, I've known that I wanted a vintage engagement ring. This is primarily due to the fact that I don't want to support the diamond trade or buy conflict diamonds. I can't stand the thought of funding rebel groups such as The Revolutionary United Front, who have a well-known history of violence (especially of violence against women and girls). To me, it seems too difficult and expensive to distinguish between conflict diamonds and "legitimate" diamonds, and the entire diamond trade - even the "legitimate" one - still seems to intersect with issues of colonialism and exploitation in ways that make me uncomfortable.

Which brings me to my second reason for wanting a vintage engagement ring: I don't need or want my engagement to be marked by an exaggerated display of consumerism. It seems like there is something inherently wrong with the idea that making life-long promises to a partner you love MUST be marked by spending thousands on a diamond, and I detest the way consumerism has become inextricably tied to the decision to spend your life with someone else. To make matters worse, this consumerism is also intrinsically gendered. The idea that the man must save up thousands of dollars (in 2011, the average engagement ring cost $5,200) in order to buy a ring that will dazzle the woman into saying "yes" seems a little too similar to a bride price (the amount of money or property that a man and/or his family pay to the parents of a bride). I don't need to be bought, thank you. A man shouldn't need to prove his worth via the size of a diamond. And the decision to get engaged should have nothing to do with how big of a diamond you put on your finger.

Of course, one could eschew the entire tradition of the engagement ring entirely. There is no real need for it, after all. If any of you have done so - Bravo! But, if you still want a little something sparkly without all of the baggage and expenses that comes with a diamond ring, I think a vintage engagement ring is the perfect way to go. There are really two options: you could buy a vintage engagement ring (Brilliant Earth and BHLDN both have some gorgeous ones) or you could use an old family ring (or convert something like an earring into a ring). Both reuse materials and don't support the diamond trade, and buying a vintage engagement ring often costs significantly less than buying a new ring. If you use an old family ring, you're not buying anything!

I have always loved the idea of using an old family ring because of the history it embodies, the eco-friendly nature of it, the ethical aspect, and the fact that it is FREE. So after remarking to my mom that I wanted something like a ring she wore (a gift to her from my grandmother), she said I was more than welcome to have it! And sneakily, this past June when we all got together to see a Red Sox game, she gave the ring to Brett who hid it until the proposal. I am absolutely in love with it. I love that it is unique, and beautiful, and old. I love that it was a gift from my grandmother to my mother, and then my mother to me, and one day will be a gift to my daughter, granddaughter, or great-granddaughter. I love that the ring is a symbol of love and family - both of my old family and our new one, my heritage and my future.

My ring! :-) 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Feminist Wedding

B and I! Photo Source: Joanne Warger Boland, photographer extraordinaire

When I got engaged, I promised I wouldn't turn this into a wedding blog. And I'm promise I'll stay true to my word!

That being said, I know that it will be helpful and fun (to me at least) to write about the entire wedding planning process. Writing always helps me process my own thoughts, and wedding planning is a crazy and overwhelming process. Writing about it will definitely help me stay sane!

Besides, I think there is really something amazing about turning patriarchal traditions into feminist ones. About exploring wedding customs, traditions, and rituals from around the world. About looking at what weddings have looked like throughout history, and recognizing that the "traditions" and "must-dos" espoused by many wedding blogs and even family members aren't really that traditional at all (people have not been renting tuxes from stores in malls since the dawn of time). I think there is something powerful, liberating, and romantic about tearing down the commercialized Wedding and throwing your own wedding, a meaningful celebration of love where you get to marry your best friend and then do something fun afterwards to kick off married life (in our case, eat tons of cake and dance until we can't anymore).

I also think its an incredible experience to sit down with your fiance and think through all the symbols and rituals that surround marriage. To determine what - both as individuals and as a couple - you find meaningful and what you find problematic. And to figure out how you convey that to the world and to your families. It's very good practice for life post-wedding! As one of my favorite aunts said recently, "It's your wedding. And your life. So you two do what you want to do. Make decisions together as a new family. And then let your respective families know what you've decided. If they don't like it, they can all get over it. But don't change your life or miss out on things you two wanted to do to keep other people happy - even when that other people is us." That was a long quote, and she's said it to me about other things even pre-engagement, but Brett and I remind ourselves of it quite a bit so it was worth quoting in its entirety.

Also, besides all these serious, feminist thoughts I have about weddings, I have to confess that I simply love wedding blogs. Even the not-so-feminist kind. I love the pretty photos and the creativity and love that goes into weddings, especially DIY weddings. I love seeing how people make weddings uniquely theirs. And I really love seeing how people plan weddings on a budget; the decisions they make, the things they cut out, and the cost saving tips they come up with along the way (everybody says a wedding will cost way more than you expect it will. I always thought I would be soooo savvy that it would cost less than I had even thought it would. That was stupid of me. They're out-of-this-world-seriously-what-is-wrong-with-this-industry- and-who-are-these-people-spending-this-much-money-on-cake expensive. Cost saving tips matter!!!).

So, like it or not dear readers, be prepared for some wedding stuff over the next few months. And if you have any thoughts, suggestions, tips, or advice, please always feel free to share in the comments or shoot me an email!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

[Molly] The Last Name Project



In this new series co-hosted by from two to one and The Feminist Mystique, we will be profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry. The goal is to explore how individuals make decisions about their last name, and to highlight the many possibilities. We will be posting profiles periodically and encourage you to stay connected via FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.  If you would like to participate in this series, email Danielle at danielle [at] fromtwotoone [dot] com or Shannon at hill [dot] shannonp [at] gmail [dot] com.
  
The following post is from Molly Westerman, a parent, scholar, radical, feminist, educator, and birth nerd. She writes at firsttheegg.com, a feminist resource on pregnancy, birth, and parenting. 

When I was twenty-one, I met this guy and was pretty smitten. On a road trip two months later, he and I discussed everything under the sun, including the question of Last Names When One Marries Someone. Although we were already madly in love, we kept the conversation hypothetical. But it wasn’t much of a discussion: there was no way in hell, we agreed, that we or anyone who happened to be marrying either of us would be changing any surnames, thank you very much.

Eric and I shared this assumption. But Eric was, and is, more emphatic about the whole thing. He’s a historian, after all, and the historical resonance of the femme covert, of marriage as the transfer of not just a woman’s property but of a woman as property, of her loss of her legal standing and identity along with her original name … well, all that sits heavily with him. With me, too, but more absolutely with him.

Intellectually and politically, we are both suspicious of the rhetoric of free choice and interested in the structural and institutional forces that constrain people’s choices. It’s hard not to notice that the vast majority of hetero couples who want ‘a family name’ choose the male partner’s surname. Sometimes specific factors of personal history or values make that the best option; sometimes the couple outright acknowledges not wanting to swim upstream; but often, friends making this choice insisted that they just coincidentally preferred the man’s name. This obliviousness to the historical and cultural pressures at play in one’s decision, to the larger statistical realities in which this individual drama plays out, worries me.

On top of all that, I’m just knee-jerk sketched out by group identity. I know many people really want to get married and have kids and be “The Whomevers,” but I am not one of those people. To me, it feels like a slippery slope from “introducing, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Whomever” to those scary posed photos where every family member is wearing matching turtlenecks and jeans. I wasn’t in a sorority, I don’t belong to a church, I will never root for a sports team, and I just cannot co-create The Whomevers.

So when we got married a couple years later, we kept our names. At the time, most of our friends were graduate students in the humanities; they saw our decision as normal. Now we live in Minnesota, where people are too polite to say anything even if they think it’s weird.

Two years after the wedding, my enormously pregnant body put the whole surname situation back in the spotlight. We had to figure out not only first and middle names but also last ones. Hyphenating our particular names would be unwieldy and ugly (trust me). I was unwilling to have a family in which everyone but one parent shares a name: and which name would that be, anyway? We decided to go with an entirely different surname for our children: one that echoes both our names’ German origins and reminds us of a beloved family member.

Beyond feeling comfortable for our family, our unusual name situation has benefited me in an unexpected way. A few years ago, in the midst of a major career-change-slash-existential-crisis, I dropped my anonymity and started blogging under my full name. This openness has meant a great deal to me and would have been impossible if we all shared a family name. Because my name is just mine, I can play with the lines of my own privacy without clearly identifying the other main characters in my life.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Presidential Debate Recap

Judging from my twitter and facebook feed, anyone reading this probably watched the presidential debate last night. But, let me just say, GO OBAMA! And also, wtf Romney?!

There was no trace of Obama's sleepy, almost defeated attitude that was the hallmark of the last debate. He seemed confident, appropriately aggressive, and relaxed. Romney, on the other hand, seemed so aggressive that at one point I feared they might break into a fist fight. And when he wasn't being aggressive (or interrupting the moderator and refusing to obey the rules) he had that silly Cheshire cat grin on his face. He has also developed this fun little strategy where he never really answers a question and instead endlessly recounts his 5 point plan.

To me, there were five key moments in the debate that stood out.

1. Obama's response to Libya.
Romney seemed cheap.

2. Romney's plan for equality in the workplace.
Romney's plan for equality in the workplace basically goes like this: he will make so many jobs with his magical economy that companies will actually be forced to hire women. He also thinks that women should have more flexible schedules, because he knew a woman once who had to go home at 5 every day to make dinner for her kids. Equality means getting to leave earlier than the men so you can make dinner!

Also, when trying to convince voters that he respects and advocates for women, he told a fantastic story about how he had women's groups go find qualified women (they're like unicorns!) and then looked through "binders full of women" before finding some that were adequate. The way he talked about women's rights was nauseating and, not surprisingly, it didn't seem genuine or progressive.

3. Romney says he thinks all women should have access to contraception.
This left me speechless. Romney has said that he is against the contraception mandate that would require all employers, including some religious organizations, to provide insurance coverage for contraception. He called it "an attack on religious liberty." Romney also supported the Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer to deny insurance coverage for contraception based on religious or moral grounds. His running mate, Paul Ryan, wants to criminalize abortion and some forms of contraception. So when Romney stands up there and pretends he believes that all women should have access to contraception - and pretends that he is some champion for women's rights - it is laughable.

4. Romney doesn't think limiting access to weapons would help solve the issue of gun violence. But he thinks more people getting married would totally work! 
When asked about his position on gun violence, and specifically asked by the moderator why his opinion on limiting access to certain types of guns had changed, Romney basically went on a rant about single parents and how they are ruining America. Forget guns! Single mothers are the reason youth violence is an issue!

5. Romney thinks that China is the WORST.
China is at the center of Romney's axis of evil, apparently because they have counterfeit stores there. THE HORROR! We're talking fake ipads people! I almost felt bad for China with all of Romney's anti-China rhetoric last night.

Someone should take Romney to Canal St. so he can spend the next debate talking about how he has found the second worst place on earth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

[Abby] The Last Name Project


In this new series co-hosted by from two to one and The Feminist Mystique, we will be profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry. The goal is to explore how individuals make decisions about their last name, and to highlight the many possibilities. We will be posting profiles periodically and encourage you to stay connected via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  If you would like to participate in this series, email Danielle at danielle [at] fromtwotoone [dot] com or Shannon at hill [dot] shannonp [at] gmail [dot] com. 

The following post is from Abby, who lives in Los Angeles with her programmer husband, toddler daughter, and rather haughty cat.  She loves tacos, stripes, and chronicling her latest obsessions at http://officiallyobsessed.net

I’m Abby, and my husband is Evan.  We were both raised by liberal, progressive (but not activist) families with mothers and fathers who both worked full-time.  While I don’t think either of us knew the word “feminist” as children, I can guarantee that we both grew up thinking of equal rights between men and women as a given societal ideal, not a particularly radical idea.

When we first started dating in college, I was already identifying myself as a feminist based on what I was learning in my Communication classes.  Evan studied Computer Science, but when we’d talk about what I was learning, we quickly bonded over sharing the same ideas.  Remember how exciting it can be the first time you uncover completely new ideas?  I think the only thing more exhilarating is when you learn that your favorite person shares your perspective!
Over the next few years, we also realized that our relationship didn’t have to cleave to traditional notions of coupledom, and that whatever we chose to pursue as a couple was our choice alone.  Move in together?  Our choice.  Combine our finances?  Our choice.  Separate for six months?  Our choice.  Not every decision was easy, but when we decided to get married, after being together for 4.5 years, we knew that neither of us wanted to take each other’s surname.  
Sometimes, this is what perplexes people the most: why wouldn’t I want to take his?  (I’m pretty certain Evan doesn’t get asked the reverse.)  I’ve never stated my true feelings in response, but I will here: while I feel it’s an intensely personal decision, I also think that it’s patently unfair that I’m expected to take Evan’s name when every other aspect of our lives and relationship are thought to be generally equal.  There are plenty of other good reasons out there, but there’s mine.
At the same time, I’ve always loved the symbolism of words, and Evan loves naming things.  We both recognized this as an opportunity to do something new and unique to us that would signify the start of our family.  To me, marriage is the public declaration that this person, who previously was my dearest love, is now that and my family.  So we decided that, in lieu of us taking the other’s name, a new name would be the best path for us.  Because our surnames didn’t sound good combined, we felt free to go with something completely new.
We had a lot of fun over the next year or so trying out different last names before landing on Phoenix.  The name’s advantages: the symbolism with regards to our start as a new family, the fact that the name was neither Asian (my culture) nor European (Evan’s), and how nice it sounded with our first names.   We’d whisper our new names and break out into huge smiles – a sure sign that we were making the right decision for us!
When we decided to start trying to have a baby a few years ago, we knew that part of this was easier for us than if, for example, we had each kept our surnames. Our girl Zoe has our last name, and my only (very light) concern is if she grows up hating her name, she only has us to blame, as we personally chose all of it!
We still come across reminders that our choice is atypical, like when Evan explains that he has a “maiden name.” But for the most part, after six years of marriage, our names now seem pretty normal to us… just as they should be.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

14-year-old Blogger Shot By Taliban

Malala Yousafazi, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who blogged about daily life in the war-torn Swat Valley, has been shot in the head and neck by the Taliban.

Photo Credit: Veronique de Viguerie, Getty Images
Nosheen Abbas, of BBC Urdu, told NBC news that Malala was "very passionate about education, and she spoke about that a lot to me. It angered her deeply when girls' schools were closed, and she was affected, and her class fellows were affected..."

Malala was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize in 2011 for her writing.

The attempt at her life is a terrible act of violence. Nobody should be shot for expressing and writing their thoughts. And nobody should be shot over women's right to education.

Stay strong Malala! The world needs you.

For more information, and to watch a short documentary about Malala, click here.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Hi!

I've missed you. And I've missed writing.

I know I don't need to make any excuses for my little blog break but just to fill you in, over the past three months I've been busy moving, job hunting, getting used to a new job, playing with (and potty training) our new puppy, getting engaged, and attempting to figure out how to plan a wedding.

It has been a fun and crazy couple of months.

But finally, it feels like things are getting "back to normal." Everything isn't so new, the puppy doesn't need to go outside every five minutes, I feel like we have some sort of routine, and my initial panic that we would never find a wedding photographer that cost less than a new car is over.

I've missed writing more and more these past few weeks, and am happy to say that I plan to be back with regular posting. And while I promise this isn't going to turn into a wedding blog, I'm looking forward to sharing - and hopefully learning - about feminist wedding ideas (and budget tips)!

xoxo,
Shannon

[Melany] The Last Name Project


In this new series co-hosted by from two to one and The Feminist Mystique, we will be profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry. The goal is to explore how individuals make decisions about their last name, and to highlight the many possibilities. We will be posting profiles periodically and encourage you to stay connected via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  If you would like to participate in this series, email Danielle at danielle [at] fromtwotoone [dot] com or Shannon at hill [dot] shannonp [at] gmail [dot] com.  

The following post is from Melany, a high school history teacher living in California. 

I have been married for just over a year and we are currently raising two feline children, but plan to start a family of human children within the next ten years. I identify myself as a feminist, which my husband constantly mocks me for, and I come from a family filled with divorces.

I often imagined as a young girl that I would get married – and what I thought about the most was not the wedding details or who the man would be, but instead what my last name would change to. Growing up I was very distant from my father, and from his family for the most part. He had been an alcoholic since he was a teenager, and I became an angry teenager who was bitter that he had abandoned me. I could not wait until I was an adult who could find a man to love me the way my father never did and take my husband’s new name in place of my father’s.

This was my mindset when I became an engaged to the man who is now my husband. I had every intention of ditching my dad’s last name as soon as I could and taking the last name of the love of my life. I of course gave my dad the conciliatory call to tell him I was engaged, but I had no intentions of having him walk me down the aisle, and quite frankly, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to invite him to the wedding given the comments he made while he was drunk at many other big family events in the past.

And then everything changed. Not overnight, but my dad began go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
completely on his own accord for the first time in his life. He had been in treatment many times in the past, but it was always as a result of a threatened divorce or as a result of a court order. He told me that it was my engagement that inspired him. He said he realized that I was about to be married, and he had missed my whole life up until that point. He told me he wanted to get healthy to be there for when we had his first grandkids. He also began reaching out to me more, and apologized to me for the first time in his life for what he had done to me and to our relationship with each other as a result of his drinking. He met my fiancé, and for the first time, actually remembered meeting him afterwards.

We began talking more on the phone, and I decided that I would invite him to the wedding, but I would still have my mom, and not him, walk me down the aisle. My one year of engagement became a pivotal point in my life – I was reconnecting with the man I wanted to do away with so badly while at the same time I was getting ready to make the biggest commitment of my life my new man.

My husband and I talked about the last name change. He was fine if I kept my “old name,” but was not open to creating a new name together or taking my name. While I have feminist tendencies, this was perfectly fine with me as taking my husband’s name matched my original childhood plans. We plan on having children, and I did not want them to have a hyphenated name that combined their parents’ original last names, and I wanted to have the same last name as my children. Based on everything up to this point, the big decisions were made– my dad would be invited to the wedding, but my mom would walk me down the aisle, and I would take my husband’s name.

And then everything changed. And this time, it was overnight. My dad was taken to the hospital by an
ambulance about a month before our wedding. He was conscious, but in a lot of pain, and the doctors didn’t know exactly what was wrong with him. He was put in the Intensive Care Unit and over the next three weeks he was transferred in and out of ICU, went in and out of consciousness, and eventually was in a coma and due to an internal problem, complications from surgery, and a lifelong of drinking. He had organ failure and the doctors told me that if he did wake up that he would most likely have permanent brain damage. The hospital staff suggested that we take him off of life support – and since he wasn’t married at the time and I was the oldest child, it was my call on whether to take him off of life support or keep hooked up to machines fighting for a shell of his old life. I talked to one of his brother’s that had been showing up a lot at the hospital, my mom, and my husband, but ultimately it was my decision. My dad’s brother that had been there for the duration of his time in the hospital suggested I wait until after the wedding to decide so that I didn’t have to plan a wedding and a funeral at the same time, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around making my dad wait to die so that I could start my new life. About a week before the wedding, I made the decision to let my dad go and began making arrangements for his cremation and funeral while managing my final bridal gown fitting, hair and make up tests, rehearsal and dinner, and all of the other things that go along with planning your own small wedding. When we went in to get our marriage certificate a few days after my dad’s death I decided that I would keep my original last name and add my husband’s last name. No hyphen, no middle name change, just a new addition to the end. As a teacher with a long last name, most of my students just call me by the first part – my original last name. It always makes me feel more connected with my dad and remember our past. Losing my dad forced me to accept our past relationship as it was, and I am now very glad to have kept that whole part of my identity rather than abandoning it for a false reality of a new start at life.