Confessional With Love Addict: Feminism

At the McDonald’s playground when I was seven, a little boy guarding the ball pit told me girls weren’t allowed to jump in. Disappointed, I returned to my mother who was sitting, reading, and waiting for me to finish running as wildly as my adrenalin would allow. Without a word, I started eating my plain hamburger and confused with my tired spirit, she asked why I wasn’t playing. I informed her of the Keeper of the Ball Pit and because I was a little girl, I had to wait for him to leave.

My mother, a woman who has never let a glass ceiling or any pair of balls stand in her way, asked me if he owned McDonald’s. I replied that I didn’t think he did. She asked if I thought he was better than me because he was a boy and I was not. I replied that I didn’t. Standing up, my mom told me to put my hands on my hips, march up to so-called guard and let him know what I thought.

And so, I did. After putting him in his place, I then pushed him off his perch, and dove into the balls, without looking back.

I didn’t know then my mother was a feminist and it wouldn’t be until college that I claimed the title for myself, but I’ve never been one to discount my value because I’m a woman. I’ve often been amazed by the women who fought (and continue to fight) for social, political, and economic equality, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Sanger, Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner  Truth. It was an early sociology of women class that sparked my inspiration in historical and modern movements, and eventually led to a minor in sociology, specialized in women’s rights.

My background and my interest led me to start the weekly Confessional with Love Addict on feminism, with Michelle from Washington D.C.You can find her blog here. Below, we chatted about feminism and how it relates to the 20-something of today and dating.

Lindsay: Thanks for submitting such a great idea. Let’s start with the basics. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Michelle: Absolutely! I studied Women’s Studies and worked on The Vagina Monologues all four years of college, and during that time I really realized the power and strength feminism has. Identifying with being a feminist has helped me realize so many things about myself, and it’s so empowering. I feel like I truly began to love myself when I started calling myself a feminist. I don’t understand how being called a feminist can have a negative connotation in some circles, when it’s something that should be celebrated and recognized as an incredible social justice movement.

Michelle: With feminism carrying a somewhat negative connotation at times, do you think being a feminist intimidates men?

Lindsay: I think it intimidates the wrong kind of man, yes. It is surprising to me the lack of guys who accept their positive viewpoints toward women. It is rare – even in progressive cities like New York and Washington D.C., where you live – to meet men and women who step up to the plate and call themselves a feminist. As you said, the word carries the idea of the stereotypical second-wave feminist who burns her bra and condemns men completely. But, if you’ve studied feminist theory, you’d know there are varying degrees and levels of feminism, and calling yourself a feminist in very basic terms just means you believe women should be treated equally to men and given the same opportunities in all areas of life. I think the wrong kind of guys can be scared of a woman who calls themselves a feminist because it means she’ll spark up a heated discussion if he asks her to wash the dishes. But really, that’s feminism in a nutshell – she just needs to be given the choice and not be asked to wash dishes because that’s her role or her place, but if she wants to wash, she can. If she doesn’t, she shouldn’t be told to do so because she has a vagina.

Lindsay: Since we’re talking about dating and feminism, do you claim your feminist values when on a date? Or in a relationship?

Michelle: I think that with my personality, it’s pretty obvious that I am a strong advocate for women’s rights. I definitely don’t mask my feminist beliefs while on a first date, but I don’t preach about them either. Although I am proud to be called a feminist, I don’t want it to be the only thing that defines me. I have never masked my feminist values while dating someone, and I have no problem calling out sexist behavior, but for a lot of people, they have never taken the time to think about women’s issues and the impact they have on our society. This doesn’t make them sexist–it just opens more opportunities for discussion and understanding (hopefully). I think that in a relationship, it’s necessary to talk about all kinds of topics that are important to each other, and for me, some of these topics are women’s issues. I have found that since I have structured my beliefs in those of feminism, I have become a better girlfriend. I care about the men I date, but I always have my values and goals put first–this focus has made me worry about things less, trust my instincts more, and appreciate my partner more. I feel like with my feminist values, I think of relationships less as a “I need my boyfriend! I need him to be happy!” mentality, and more so as “I really respect my boyfriend. I like how we work together to enrich each other’s lives”.

Michelle: Do you think feminism is hurting or helping women in the world of dating?

Lindsay: I don’t think feminism is talked about enough in relation to heterosexual relationships. We all know the marrying age is getting older, divorce rates are at an all-time high, and though we shy away from it in the media, domestic violence is growing too. Young girls are encouraged to believe they can have it all, but are we teaching them to fight for more than it all? To break through ceilings and to start relationships demanding what they want? Do women believe they can be in a relationship and be a feminist and attract a man who is okay with that? Or maybe, even date a feminist themselves? I’m not sure – it isn’t something my friends and I talk about consistently or something I write about, and I’m thinking needs more conversation. It doesn’t hurt the world of dating to be a feminist, but it means you’ll attract a different – and in my opinion, better – standard of men. I personally, will no longer date a man who doesn’t call himself a feminist.

Lindsay: I know I have dated a man who is the opposite of a feminist, though not for very long. What about you?

Michelle: I have actually been totally fortunate to have been in relationships with men that are respectful and supportive of feminism. This isn’t to say that I haven’t heard them say something derogatory or inappropriate about women, however. The best way to counteract that is to, of course, not ignore it. If someone you’re dating says or does something sexist, it’s important to point out their behavior and why it offends you. If you let something slip once, your partner won’t know it bothers you, and it could happen again. Honesty and respect is vital in all facts of relationship, not just when it comes to gender equality. Luckily, my boyfriends have always understood that I am a woman first, and their girlfriend second. I don’t think I could ever date someone who didn’t celebrate my fierce, independent, womanly self.

Want to have a confessional with Love Addict? Read how you can here.

The Jungle of Having Single Sex

When my mother decided it was time to have the “talk” about where babies come from – she steered away from an actual discussion completely. Instead, she handed me a book, told me to read it, and should I have any questions, she’d be happy to answer them. So, I laid on the grass in the middle of a Carolina summer as a rather inquisitive 10 year old, read every last word on every last page, and the only confusion I had was quite simple.

“Mom, he puts it there?” I asked. “Yes, sweetie,” she replied. “But why would anyone want to do that?” I doubted, and she reassured me, “It is a natural thing. You’ll see.”

And so, I did.

Being a single gal in the city, as your versions of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte will tell you, also means being a woman with needs. And as much as we’d like to cross our legs, pat our lips, and say with intent we don’t think about such naughty things – the truth of the matter is sometimes we really want to have mind-blowing, no questions-asked or excuses-made…sex. Perhaps girls just wanna have fun, but sometimes, we just wanna have sex, too.

But for many women, myself included, there may not be such a thing as “no strings attached.” Try as we may (with the encouragement of our good friends tequila and vodka) to be nonchalant sexual vixens, there’s something about exposing ourselves emotionally and physically that makes us leech onto the partner watching. There are some Samantha’s out there who have the ability to be more casual about the whole she-bang, but even the Sammie’s get their heart (or pride) damaged a bit from time-to-time.

I’m not sure if it’s due to the journey, me growing up, or just the reality of an “adult” relationship – but Mr. Possibility is the first man who I’ve been able to sleep with and not let my emotions get the best of me. Admittedly, there are definitely some feelings there – or I would have never cared about  his explorations overseas – but when we made the move from platonic to sexual, instead of thinking “Oh my God, if I never hear from him again, my number just went up for nothing! What have I done? Does he actually really care about me or was it just sex?” – I realized that regardless if anything ever came to be with us, I enjoyed an experience. And if he never called me back, I’d promptly write him off as a dick (no pun intended), move on with my life, and have at least a great New York sex story to tell my friends.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all run around our respective cities (countries or small towns) and spread our legs to any man who is intrigued – but why do we always hold ourselves back from encounters because we’re afraid of a walk of shame that may never lead to a walk in the park? If we’re friends with someone, if we know someone well enough, if we trust them, and we see potential for something more – shouldn’t we see if the connection is in every area? Or maybe if we don’t even see possibility in romance, but the chance for a raving romp, why don’t we allow ourselves to act upon it? Why can’t we decide not only what we want in a relationship, celebrate our singleness and sexuality, but also give ourselves enough credit to demand incredible sex (instead of lack luster). Maybe even more importantly –  why can’t we excuse ourselves for having desires that are totally normal and dare I say it, healthy.

There seems to be this thin line between taking up for ourselves, choosing our independence, and our dignity, and giving ourselves enough freedom and forgiveness to discover those sides we keep hidden away – for fear it won’t look good or we’re feel awful in the post-orgasm haze. I mean, in an earlier post, I talked about how my mild make out session with Mr. Unavailable made me feel a tad bit dirty and entirely guilty for something that’s not even really…bad.

Am I, or was I, placing a double standard on myself? I had wants and I fulfilled them, so why should that be something to be ashamed of? Do we think that men are the only ones who are brave enough to navigate the jungle of having single sex?

Yesterday, I went on a photo shoot for my magazine at a new modern, luxury bowling alley in the city (yeah, believe it) – and each room represented a different part of New York. Some of the cover shots were in the “Times Square” room which featured neon-lights that read “Pussycat” and a red curtain. The idea was to have the business owner straddling the two lanes, holding two bowling balls, with the lights lit behind him.

To get the lighting accurate, the photographer asked me to pose in the frame until she got it right. Of course, because it said “pussycat” and with my last name, she asked me to act like an animal and be sexy, just for fun. So in my red sweater dress, I posed, clawed, and made seductive faces, and we both giggled as she went through the raw footage. As I was watching the slideshow of photos, I realized: sometimes it just feels good to be sexy. To own, to define, to take pride in the fact that you’re a sexual creature.

I’m not sure where I stand on friends-with-benefits, no-strings attached relationships, or the notion that women (and some men) can be careless about sex without getting their feelings hurt. And if Mr. Possibility would have turned his back on me or if I felt like I was used for sex, I know I would have felt cheap and disposable. I may never be a seductress who can prance on the top of bars or flutter from one bed to another without blinking an eye – but I’m also not ashamed of my desires to be pleasured. Part of love, after all, is making love.

Men may be typically labeled bachelors and players, while women are called sluts and fluseys when sex is a hobby for them outside of a relationship or marriage – and both sexes may be judged for their decisions to come and to go. But it isn’t about what other people think or what’s acceptable or unacceptable.

It’s about what we think. And we get to decide how to associate sex and self-image as individuals. Sex is act-by-act, and each time we knock boots, it’s a case-by-case situation – no generalizations apply. The reasons for guilt or the negative tags tied to doing-the-deed without careful consideration, are usually not from the outside world (because they don’t know about our adventures unless we tell them). Those feelings are based off the pressure and the stigmas we place on ourselves. So on the journey of learning to love who we are – why don’t we give ourselves some more liberty?

Because sometimes, even if we get hurt or we lose a little confidence, if we trust ourselves, our gut, and our instincts (not a guy, not the world), then we know that no matter what we do, we can be certain we did what was best for us at that particular moment.

And the rest of it – be damned.