How Men and Women Cripple Each Other

I think about gender roles a lot.

I’m very proud of my Lady Gaga post and it was written out of love for my two transgendered friends. Transgenderism is interesting because it proves that the difference between men and women is more than physical. When a person born with male parts knows that she is a female, who can contest that?

Now that I’m at University of Michigan, I think about what it means to be a woman. Now that I’m getting married in 8 months, I think about what it means to be a wife. My favorite wedding blog (A Practical Wedding), which isn’t really about centerpieces and wedding trends but more about the psychological transition from singlehood to marriage, had this excellent post about being a wife and mother. It’s about a book Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about female roles in the family. This part was reeeeally illuminating to me:

“She talks about her mom quitting a career that she loved, because her father couldn’t handle not having her home to take care of the kids and the house.”

I hear this kind of thing a lot. That men are so invested in their careers, they need their wives to take care of everything else in their lives (the home).  Meg goes on to write

“I worry when I hear about most of us* doing the bulk of the chores around the house. Not because we have to, but because we want to (“I just care more about cleanliness than he does, so I need to take responsibility for that.”)”

She also writes about how we praise women who sacrifice themselves for their kids. There’s the general idea that our society completely depends for its survival on mothers’ sacrifices, yet we don’t put any real value on this. The post is about women losing themselves, “having to scrape bare the walls of their own souls” in order to serve their families. This is not what God meant by giving. Giving is supposed to edify the giver and the receiver.

I hear about it a lot; I hear about men who never learn how to cook a meal for themselves, men who claim they don’t know how to clean or do other domestic things. I saw a guy pushing a stroller the way people walk their bikes – to the side of his body, with one hand. They don’t want to associate themselves with feminine “tasks.”

(Please grant me my generalizations, because there’s truth to them)

Is this because of how men are “wired” biologically? Or is it a cultural cripple?

Let’s flip it around. I hear women in my class, all the time and EVERY DAY, apologize before giving their opinions. I see my classes dominated by men, I see men with wedding bands who never talk about their wives but talk about getting married as a check off the list.  I hear insensitive remarks in general, not even just about women, that go unnoticed. Women are crippled in academia, and probably in the work place (I haven’t had a legitimate fulltime job – don’t get me started on my cleaning job with Maid to Order). When women cross over into “man territory” they seem to have to assimilate to mannish mannerisms. When men cross over into “woman land,” they get called “sensitive” and sometimes, by immature people, “gay.”

I want to tangent on my last sentence. I think this is hugely relevant right now.  Anywhere in the media where a guy is acting strange, dancing, or being generally comfortable with himself, he gets a lot of “you’re gay” thrown at him.  Anywhere a guy alludes to anything feminine, a joke has to be made about it. Sometimes I think that men are more crippled than women. They’re emotionally crippled. They’re so afraid of being seen as gay or feminine, which are synonymous with weak, that they force themselves along “safe” constructs of manhood. They have to dress a certain way, like certain things, not say certain words, all out of fear of being like a woman.

Being like a woman, like our mothers who taught us much of what we know and did so much for us, that’s the greatest fear for a man.

What does that say about actually being a woman? It sort of says that it’s a necessary evil. It says we are making sacrifices just by being who we are. It says that we need affirmative action and protection because we have it so hard or because we’re weaker.

What does this do to our work? It removes the elements we think are “feminine” – sensitivity, holism, empathy.

What does this do to friendships? It makes women compete against each other and boy-girl friendships unnatural (“you guys should date already”).

What does this do to children? It teaches them that they should only be a certain way, and if they vary from that, society will punish them. Hence, to the ones who bravely cannot help but be themselves, it means a lifetime of unnecessary troubles.

What does this do to the church? It gives us a false picture of who God is. It masculinizes God, the creator of sexes. And God is all-powerful, so we then associate (subconsciously) power with masculinity.  (My favorite priest pointed out that part of the curse in Genesis is that men will have power over women. The curse of patriarchal society.)

Finally, what does this do to marriage? To make marriage work, we have to either break the mold or buy into it. Both have extreme repercussions.  One makes society constantly question us, the other continues the cycle of men and women crippling each other.

I’m not against societal structure. Clearly I’m not – otherwise, I would not be entering the institution of marriage. I just think we should be growing up, in a way. Maturing. Transcending these norms and accepting each other and ourselves for who we are. Admitting our weaknesses. Enabling each other to do what we really want to do.

Everyone should read that post from A Practical Wedding. Tell me what you think.

The Return of Kimscape and Why I’m Back

Well. Let’s start with why I stopped posting.

I felt I was either repeating myself about urban planning issues or writing about the various things I’m interested, giving my blog zero cohesiveness.  Then, I went to graduate school and as you might imagine, it is crazy busy! It’s also a lot more of a competitive atmosphere than I expected or like. I thought about dropping out every day for the six weeks.

Then I got an e-mail from SMART. Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation. I had applied to work-study with them at the beginning of the year and they just hired me two weeks go.

The more I learn about this cooperative group, the more excited I get. It is exactly what I have been looking for. It is an unpretentious, holistic approach to transportation solutions globally. It’s all about collaboration and the idea that no one is an expert on everything and we all bring the pieces of the puzzle together.  And they’re affiliated with U of M? How is this possible? Academia has gotten ridiculously competitive and individualistic – ownership of ideas, research, and work is the most important thing to people and I really believe this has stunted our progress in America.  No one wants to work together, especially across disciplines. We’re too compartmentalized and need to realize that we can’t fix anything without trying to see the whole elephant.

So right now I’m just learning up on what SMART has been doing, watching a lot of videos from their past two summits. I can’t wait to meet all the people. I can’t believe what an amazing opportunity fell into my lap. What a godsend.

SO, I want to write again. Especially with this upcoming election. I forgot to register to vote. I feel pretty bad.

I want to say that the peppercorn I can take away from this Tea Party Movement is the idea of looking to our founding fathers for inspiration of how to move forward. That is probably a misinterpretation of the TP movement, since I think they want to move backwards in time, which is impossible, but it is my interpretation none the less. The founding fathers were complete radicals. They dreamed up a new system and just did it. They wrote that constitution. They went out on a limb. They claimed freedom and rights for themselves, even if they didn’t include everyone at the time.

No one these days has that genius or audacity. Protesting and internet campaigns are drops in a bucket. They are weak and meant for mob-mentality. Power should not be given to the people just because there are a lot of people who feel the same way. Power should be given to innovative solutions. Power should be given to the most amazing ideas out there. Boldness should mean standing up for an equitable future and then making it happen. Not simply by voting for a “lesser of two evils” candidate, but by completely overhauling a system that has been failing us for years. We are more than a system! Look at the reasons you may hate political talk, those of you who do. It’s not because it goes over your head, it’s because you know it’s just a game that doesn’t get you anywhere.

The real political movement is how you live your life. What stores you go to, how much you drive, how you treat people, what church you support, and what movies you watch, books you choose to read. Gay romantic comedies are the best indicator of our shifting politics. Lady Gaga is a supreme indicator that things are shifting.

Let backwards be backwards and continue working for a better future for our kids.

 

Is Democracy Really the Best Form of Government?

I’m having my doubts. Our system of government is run by majority. But I have been proven time and again that majority movements are erroneous and not intelligent (the classic argument that Jesus was crucified by majority vote). And it implies that the minority thought pool does not deserve what it wants simply because less people want it.

Democracy would work if people were basically good. But people are basically selfish and greedy and that will never change. Please debate me.

EDIT:

After some WIKIPEDIA research, first: I need to read Plato. Second: I really think the “Popular Rule as a Facade” idea has some weight to it. Do we have as much control as we think? Even if the government let us do what we want under the checks and balances of our system, the media and movements of common thought are dictating us as we let them. My ignorance and apathy are a danger unto myself!

Third: Why shouldn’t we be inventing completely new systems for ourselves? Our founding fathers did. I want to start over.

The Town Hall Meeting Model

I watched a healthy dose of Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report last night, with some good friends. These episodes were focused on the town hall meetings Obama held across the nation about the health care plans. People bringing guns to these, yelling at the microphones, Nazi accusations…at first I was thinking, wow, Obama’s attempt at bringing community organizing and small governments back to democracy is not working.

But yes, it totally is!

In my community building class in Chicago, we watched videos of town hall meetings. We watched people passionately confront their local leaders and demand what they wanted. It not only worked, but it was inspiring and interesting and fun.  I’m glad people are pissed about healthcare. I’m glad people are scared that public transportation may lead to socialism (haha) and I’m glad they’re lining up in droves to protest what they think is right. Or out of fear. Whatever. They’re involved. They may be reiterating O’Reilly’s hyperbolic statements, some of them, but at least they’re doing it directly and not on their facebook (haha).

When Obama won, I didn’t want the Rebublicans’ voices to be silenced. I think their fear is unfounded, though, and I want them to confront it face-to-face, voicing it and hearing a human voice respond to them, instead of getting it drilled into their head from a radio show and pondering the fear into their hearts at night. It’s good when people feel they have a voice (power) again. What we all really want to avoid here is a backlash, whipping too far in the opposite direction of what happened from 2000 to 2008. So we have to listen to the conservatives.

Still, they can leave their guns at home for goodness’ sake!

Critical Hindsight

The blog world is strange. I feel I have to dig up interesting stuff and try to sell stuff and I feel I’m blogworshipping some Google God, trying to get as many hits as possible. Boo on me. It’s an exhausting endeavor. I used to just write what I wanted to write, when I was a teenager, and it came out all moody and indie and I tried to reference David Bowie in every paragraph, trying to prove to my peers that I am actually cool on the inside. But I look back on that old me and find her cute, just like the Bush supporters were cute, just as the highway and parking lot builders were so cute, thinking cars were our futures. Cute. None of these people could help it, including me.

Alexis Bledel’s going to be in a movie (probably cliche, probably a flop, but she’s SO CUTE!) about being a graduate and moving back home and not finding a job. WOW. That sounds familiar! It is incredibly difficult to stay motivated and to keep growing up when I live in the house I was born in. And I’m the youngest. Let me spill about my novel, too. I look back on what I’ve written and cringe at my dialogue. Oooo it’s bad. It sounds so natural in my head but on paper it’s like a Star Wars movie. Or Gran Torino. Anyone else notice how rotten the dialogue in that movie is? And the blatant Christ figure scene??? SO blatant, Clint. Clint have mercy. Anyway, I hope my mind can pull this novel through about 200 pages. I really hope it turns out good. And I hope it’s not the only one I’ll ever write.

Do you think good and evil actually exist? Actions that seem good at the time end up doing harm usually. But there has to be some sort of good. Art must be good. Sure, novels have come out and sparked entire movements of thought, but I can’t label any of those movements good or bad. The Modernist movement made some ugly buildings but it also produced some sweet design and it was direly needed after that opulent era. We will always look back at our personal past and criticize. We will always look back at our nation’s history and criticize. But who could have helped it? No one could have stopped the Industrial revolution from polluting our cities, even if we had known.No one could have stopped me from hating the world in high school. (That’s what breaks my heart about unhappy teens. They’re forced to be miserable by a bad upbringing until they can learn to be happy on their own. That needed self-awareness doesn’t kick in quickly enough.) There is only this moment; we can only do what we can.

I do know pain and joy exist. The latter is hard to recognize. I’m trying to connect with it more.

Ugly America–Time to Reevaluate

We are forced to nod in agreement when someone says “If I want to live this way and do these things and I have the money to do it, hell, why shouldn’t I?”  What can we say to this?  If people can afford to live in mansion-like new houses with big lawns and ample garage space for their nice cars, why shouldn’t they?

Someone actually asked this in my class last semester. This has become an American mantra. Every part of our system bows down to what is affordable. We can’t even donate money to causes without fundraisers to give us some sort of entertainment in return.

But can we reconsider what we want from life a second?  Why do we love Europe so much? Why is it every college girl’s dream to visit it?  The sense of history?  The beauty of the towns? Why not make that a reality in America? Why do we feel this need to get away every few months?  We should be building places we want to be, inside and out. Americans love DIY home improvement, but beyond their front yards, it is generally assumed that nothing can be done. I don’t think anyone really loves driving that much, unless they are joyriding with their friends. I don’t see why we are fiercely defending this way of life when it is killing thousands of people in car accidents a day.

And as a second blow to our mantra, we are starting to not have the money to do what we want anymore. Our economy, within our communities, is based on services. We don’t produce goods anymore. Other countries do that. All we can do is create tourist destinations and make money off people from the suburbs and developments who don’t know they hate their neighborhoods. Holland, Michigan’s main source of revenue is from tourists at Tulip Time. Thus, the downtown 8th street has become cutesy and is teetering off the edge of realistic living space. People don’t see this area as a legitimate place to live.

What is legitimate then? Developers tell us we want to live in houses that have easier access to cars than to people, away from businesses and away from poor people. People either want a big city or the big country. Suburbia in some ways was an effort to squish the two together. But it sucks. Rural land just sits there–farms don’t really exist in America anymore. Not in any pleasant sense, at least.  Where do you really want to live, and why? Why do we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter? Most of us need community. We need people, beyond family and church. We want a role in society. What is society anyhow?

The question isn’t if you have the money to get what you want, it’s about the want–what’s your real dream?