Tag Archives: Leslie Knope

It’s Galentine’s Day and I’m a Feminist So Let’s Talk About Feminism

Today is Galentine’s Day.

You’ve never heard of it?

I’ll let Leslie Knope, my favorite character from one of my favorite shows, Parks and Recreation explain.

After all, she created it.

It’s about “ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair minus the angst, plus frittatas.”

So let’s start by celebrating Leslie, who is my hero even though she is a fictional character.

I love her because she’s smart, funny, ambitious, opinionated, tenacious and yes, just a little bit annoying in her idealism. But perhaps most importantly, I love her because she doesn’t apologize for being any of those things.

She’s a great role model for women and girls, and hell, everyone.

She’s also a proud feminist and so am I.

The fact that I identify as a “feminist” shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve said it probably hundreds of times before and one of my blog’s categories is literally “All the Cool Kids are Feminists”. It has been a category for years.

So this isn’t a new thing for me, what is new is this feeling I’ve had lately (that I am by no means proud of) that I shouldn’t say I’m a feminist.

That I shouldn’t say it because it might offend someone, because they might not understand.

People are not liking the word “feminist” lately.

When I hear the “F word” I think of someone who advocates for the equality of all people. (With that in mind, here’s a link to a old, but good article that explains  intersectional feminism far better than I ever could.)

When other people hear the word “feminist” they seem to hear “man-haters” or “whiners” or “Trump haters” or for some reason I really don’t understand “ugly, women who don’t shave their armpits.”

I’ll talk a little about these definitions.

But first I want to be clear about where I’m coming from when I say I’m a feminist.

I think a big part of why, as a society, we seem to have a hard time relating to each other lately is that we’re not even working with the same definitions of words.

We assume we know what someone means whey they say they’re a feminist or a Republican or a Christian or a supporter of Black Lives Matter.

We see a label and ascribe a definition to it – based on what we think it means, not based on what the person we’re talking to thinks it means. We make assumptions. (And we all know what they say about assumptions.)

Basically, we’ve become big fans of oversimplification lately. (Or maybe we have always been big fans of it but I just didn’t notice until now.)

But oversimplification doesn’t work because if there is one thing people are not — it’s simple.

People are confusing. They’re complicated. They are sometimes contradictory and frequently frustrating.

And though, on the surface that may seem like a negative thing, if you look a little deeper you can see it’s actually a good thing. Because people are complicated – that means their views are complicated too. That means things aren’t always black and white. That means there is usually more agreement and overlap in ideas than we give ourselves credit for.

Lately, it seems like if you say you’re a supporter of one thing, people automatically assume you’re against something else.

For example, if I say I’m a feminist (aka pro-women in this example) that must mean I’m against men. If I say I’m a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, that must mean I hate cops. If I say I’m not a fan of Trump that must mean I’m a whiny Hillary supporter who is just complaining because my candidate lost.

Sorry, it’s just not that simple. Life’s not that simple. People are not that simple.

Because, the thing is, I can be a feminist and love men and women. I can support Black Lives Matter while still believing that our law enforcement professionals are an incredibly important part of our society and we should value their work more. I can be a critic of Trump and Hillary.

People are complicated so we have to try harder to understand where they’re coming from and we have to try harder to communicate where we’re coming from too.

So here’s what I’m trying to say when I say I’m a feminist:

I’m saying that I believe traditional gender roles are limiting for everyone and there’s still more work to be done in terms of achieving full equality. 

Emma Watson (aka Hermione) explained the problem with traditional gender roles much more eloquently than I ever could in her speech to the United Nations in 2014. (It’s an old video and a long video, but it has an important message which I also wrote about at the time.)

She starts the speech by talking about what I’m going to talk about now – that “feminism” is not “man-hating.”

I don’t understand this misconception. If anything, I think feminism does a better job of honoring men than sexism does.

I’ll explain.

In a sexist world – things are pretty simple, by design. Men and women fit into very rigid gender roles that tell us what it is acceptable for each gender to do and be. (Also, it goes without saying, this is a very hetero-normative worldview.)

We all know these rules. We’re taught them from an early age. Men are to be smart, strong, ambitious, career-minded, brave and aggressive. Women are to be gentle, friendly, sweet, selfless, moral and focused on caring for others.

These roles or rules give both genders a raw deal. Because we’re all capable of being all of these things and we should all be free to be these things without judgement.

As a feminist, I believe that men and women are equally capable of making good decisions and treating others with kindness. That is the opposite of man-hating.

If anything, sexism hates men, or if not hates them, definitely thinks they’re dumb or less capable of basic decency than women.

Sexism operates under the idea that men’s bad behavior is something that can be explained away wholly by their gender. That’s why sayings like “Boys will be boys” are so popular. That’s why when men talk about sexual assaulting women we hear people talk about it as “locker room talk” that every man does.

Sexism teaches us that this behavior is a normal and it should be expected and tolerated because that’s just the way men are. It teaches us that men aren’t capable of being decent human beings and it’s up to women to preserve the moral integrity of society. That’s why women have to have stricter dress codes because you know how men are, always thinking with their penises.

Ummm no. Men are smarter than that. They’re better than that.

Not all men view women as solely sexual objects. Not all men sexually harass women. Not all men talk about harassing women in locker rooms. Some men just change in locker rooms and talk about normal stuff like people do, because some men are nice.

The average man is good and decent and that’s the way feminism views him.

I don’t think I’m more capable of making good choices than my male counterparts simply because I’m a woman – I think we’re equal.

That’s sort of the point.

Okay, now we’ve reached another point where I’ve seen a lot of disagreement lately particularly among women.

Please let me explain where I’m coming from.

When I say I’m a feminist, I’m not saying that I don’t think men and women are equally capable. As I’ve explained, I do.

I am not saying men and women don’t have equal opportunities. In many ways, we do. We’ve come a long way.

Yes, we have the right to vote. Yes we have the right to pursue the careers of our choosing. Yes, we even have the right to be president.

But you don’t have to stop believing in something just because you’ve achieved some of your goals.

Life is more complicated than that. Equality is more complicated than that.

And we’re not equal yet.

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the U.S. population, women are not equally represented in politics, business or entertainment.

These three groups shape our country’s laws and provide us with the products and media that are a large part of our daily lives.

And, just math-wise, it’s clear there’s not equality here.

  • It’s 2017, our country is roughly 240 years old and we’ve never had a female president. (This isn’t a pro-Hillary thing. I’m just saying it’d be nice of we had a lady in the White House at some point.)
  • There are only 20 women in the Senate out of 100 senators.
  • Since 1917, when representative Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to serve in Congress, 325 women have served as U.S. representatives, delegates or senators. (That may seem like a lot until you remember that Congress has 535 members and it’s been 100 years since 1917). 
  • Roughly 20 Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. Yeah, just 20.
  • Women made up 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic movies in 2016.

There’s still work to be done. 

And that touches on another complaint I’ve seen about feminism – that women who call themselves feminists want to be handed things. That they’re lazy. That they’re whiners.

Maybe that’s what some of them are saying, but I don’t think that’s what most of them are saying and that’s certainly not the brand of feminism I support.

And, it’s not the kind Leslie Knope would support either. I don’t know Leslie, because yeah, she’s not real, but I’d imagine she’d be behind the “let’s get to work” brand of feminism.

So what does that mean?

To me, it means supporting other women (particularly politicians, if I agree with their policies). It means supporting the work of female directors and other women who make good entertainment about smart, strong, female characters. It means working with young girls to let them now that they are capable of being anything they want to be.

And it means, not tearing other women down.

Which is one of the saddest things I’ve seen come out of the recent debate about feminism.

I’ve seen women who don’t identify with the feminist ideology saying that feminists have attacked them, saying feminists have called them a disgrace to women or something similar.

That’s not what feminism is about and if people calling themselves feminists did that to you or made you feel that way, I’m sincerely sorry. But please know these people don’t represent feminism as a whole and they don’t represent me.

 

But then I’ve seen people on the other side, people who don’t identify themselves as feminists, imply that feminists are lazy, or whiners or ugly girls who are just sad they can’t get a date.

This is equally sad and it needs to stop.

The name-calling needs to stop.

Because if Mean Girls taught us anything, it’s that this type of behavior is the freaking worst.

It’s “girl on girl crime” and it doesn’t help any of us. Here’s a video of Tina Fey, I mean, Ms. Norbury, talking about it. And yeah, the video’s long but it has a good point.

We’re all better off when we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down and Galentine’s Day is a perfect time to celebrate that.

P.S. You can also celebrate but giving to some neat organizations for woman and girls.

P.P.S. I know it’s annoying that I keep plugging charities, but I don’t care because sometimes a little annoying is good for us. Leslie taught me that.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Agree to Disagree Better aka Let’s Leslie and Ron This

I don’t know if this has been going on for years and I was just too caught up in my own shit to notice or if this is really, truly new.

But, as a society, as a country, have was always been this bad at talking to each other? Have we always been so incapable of respectfully disagreeing? Have we always argued so fervently to be right rather than to be understood and to understand?

Because if it’s always been this bad, I hadn’t noticed and I’m glad for that, because now that I have, let me frankly say, it’s really annoying me.

And before you think I’m talking about only about politics here – let me be clear – this is not a blog where I’ll be picking sides and assigning blame. I’m talking about basic human decency here, just regular old everyday manners, just garden-variety being nice stuff.

Not to get all Hufflepuff with it (though,yeah, I’m totally a Hufflepuff) but can’t we all just be nice? Or, well, nicer, at least…

To be clear, I’m not asking for some sort of “everybody hold hands and let’s sing Kumbaya” sort of thing. (For the record, I would never do that because I hate that song and also holding hands.)

I’m just saying, we, (myself included) are probably going to need to practice disagreeing, because if the campaign season taught us anything, it’s that, these are divisive times and well, the issues we disagreed on then are probably not going to go away any time soon.

So maybe we should talk about how we talk about them. (That was sort of meta, but please just go with me here.)

If we don’t want to totally drive each other crazy during the next few years, we’re going to have to learn to respectfully disagree.

We’re going to have to try harder not to jump to conclusions about why people think what they think and do what they do. And instead, we need to simply ask them. Then we need to listen, really listen. Not so we can better counter their argument, but so we can better understand their argument.

It’s going to be hard. But I think it could be worth it, because we could actually end up learning something about each other and maybe ourselves in the process.

I understand I’m sounding very pretentious and self-important here and I’m sorry. I’m not saying I’m good at this stuff myself. I’m not.

I’m stubborn and dramatic and one of the most most irrational and (sometimes surprisingly scary) people you could ever get in a real argument with. But I’m just saying I’m going to work on it. Or at least try to work on it.

And yeah, I’m probably not going to be great at it but I’m gonna give it a shot.

Basically, I’m going to try to learn to disagree with people the way Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson do.

(Don’t be fooled by the photo of Leslie and Ron below. He’s just pretending not to like that hug.)

leslieandron-blog

If these two people (who are on the complete opposite ends of the political spectrum) can not only respect each other but also sort of be best buds, we can all probably manage it too.

P.S. Yes, I know Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson are fictional characters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all aspire to be as cool as them. Because, damn, they’re cool.

P.P.S. Here’s a video of Ron Swanson, drunk on Snake Juice, dancing. On a loop. Because I think we can all agree this is amazing.

 

Prove We’re Better Than the Worst of His Words

It’s no secret – I’m no fan of Donald Trump, our very-recently-announced president-elect.

I don’t agree with his policies and I think he is temperamentally-unsuited to be president of the United States.

But, I have been quite literally out-voted so it’s time to move on. Donald Trump is going to be our next president whether I like it or not.

It’s an understatement to say I’m disappointed. I’m more than that – I’m sad and frightened for our country. Trump has endorsed and celebrated so many things I disagree with, so many things that fly in the face of everything I believe makes this country great.

He has deliberately and repeatedly promoted divisiveness and an “us versus them” mentality that has made large swathes of the population, his future populace, feel unrepresented, and worst of all, unwelcome.

That’s not okay.

Now, let me be very clear here – I do not think that everyone who voted for Trump is racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. For me to label an entire group of people based on one choice is unfair and, frankly, the same thing I’m angry at Trump for doing, so I won’t do it here.

Besides, I’m sure several people I know and even love voted for Trump and I’m sure they had their reasons. They have their right to vote for whomever they choose for whatever reason they choose. That’s the beauty of being American.

It’s hard to see that beauty now though in what has been, let’s face it, a pretty gross last couple of months. We’ve been divided and angry and overwhelmed by negativity.

And now that the election is over, we can choose to act differently – regardless of who we voted for tonight.

We can choose to spread kindness and inclusiveness. We can choose to be better.

We can start now by reaching out to the same groups that were marginalized and insulted in this ugly campaign season.

We can let them know they’re not alone, that we support them, that, hell, there’s not even a “them”, there’s just an “us.” That we’re in this thing together.

Because the thing is, I don’t think we all agree with the nastier things Trump said. Heck, I don’t think even all of the people who voted for Trump agreed with all the things he said.

And now is our chance to prove it.

And we don’t need to do the stereotypical millennial thing where we blog about it (I recognize and appreciate the irony), tweet about it or just generally whine about it on social media.

We need to put our time and our money where our angry, post-election tweets are. We need to actually do something.

So today, take a moment to give  back to your fellow citizens who were most negatively affected by this election cycle.

Below is a list of state-wide and national organizations that support and/or empower refugees, Latinos, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, girls, sexual assault survivors, and interfaith organizations that prove that,  yes, people from all religious backgrounds really can get along.

No matter who our president is, we can choose to make our country a better place each and every day.

It starts now and it starts with us.

Yes, I’m aware that was corny as hell but if we can’t use corny as hell at a moment like this, when can we, eh?

Local and National Service Organizations to Check Out and Support

P.S. Just because I need a bit of encouragement and comic relief right now, here’s a little visual encouragement from Leslie Knope my favorite fictional politician (who I not-so-secretly) wish was real.

leslie-knpe

We got this guys, we’re what Leslie would describe as a bunch of “beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful muskox”- es? or oxen? basically whatever the hell the plural of muskox is, probably, just muskox. That’s what we are.