Feminism

How to write a dress code for boys

Have you seen this?  This completely unsurprising supposedly-directed-at-both-genders-yet-curiously-female-centric dress code for a prom at a *gasp* Catholic school?

Yeah.

The inevitable discussion is of course all about misogynistic body-policing vs. good and common sense, summarized with one word in the usual way: modesty.

Look, the school absolutely has the right to set the tone they want for the event.  So they want a formal, respectable prom where everyone is dressed with taste and elegance?  Good for them.  But why the single-minded focus on the women?  I assume there will be guys there, correct?  And there are expectations for gentlemanly dress and appearance, correct?

Oh, wait –

“Young men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo, suit with a tie, or sport coat and slacks with a tie.”

That’s it?

Really?

But the women get pages – pages – of examples?!

“But Athena, there’s just so much more variety in women’s clothing – that’s why the women need the additional focus!  And there’s only so many pages because the school is just so generously providing examples so that there’s no confusion about what’s allowed!”

Yes, they are providing examples!  Good for them.  I have no doubt that those examples were provided in order to make it crystal clear to girls exactly how to follow the dress code.  But here’s the problem: all of those models are a size 2.  Further, prominently featured in the dress code are subjective statements such as, “Dresses should not be excessively tight,” and “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not,” and even a flat-out admission that “Modesty is admittedly a subjective interpretation.”  In short, there is zero guidance for curvier girls regarding the overall look that would be considered acceptable for their body type, which means that there is a lot of room for disagreement between school administration and a student making a good-faith attempt to comply.

“Really, Athena, this is really nothing different than a fashion magazine showing young adults what to wear to job interviews!”

Err … yes it is.  In particular, a guide for men’s interview clothing would discuss recommended color combinations, the proper fit of clothes, a provision that clothing should be wrinkle-free, and many other details that, in total, yield a professional, put-together look.

Speaking of detail, it’s time I get to the point of my post, which is –

How to write a dress code for formal dances without being sexist (i.e. in such a way that compliance for women and men is equally burdensome with roughly equivalent ratios of good sense and arbitrary rules)

For women

I don’t think anyone needs my help writing a dress code for women.  So let’s skip this part.

For men

  • Men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo or a suit with a tie.
  • Jackets should hang off the shoulders in a dignified manner without being too big. Jackets must be worn at all times to preserve the dignity and formality of the event.  Jackets are allowed to be unbuttoned while dancing or seated but must be buttoned at all other times.
  • Vests are optional, but if worn must be color-coordinated with the tie and the rest of the outfit. Vests must remain buttoned at all times.
  • Ties are required. Ties may either be in the necktie or bowtie style and must be properly tied; clip-on ties are disallowed.  If a necktie style is chosen, the bottom of the tie must hang to between the top and the bottom of the belt buckle when standing up straight.  Neckties may be no more than 3” wide at the widest point, and bowties may be no more than 2” wide at the widest point.  Ties must be worn and properly tied at all times and may not be “loosened”.
  • Belts are required. Belt buckles may not be more than 2.5” in diameter and should not be ostentatious in appearance.  Belts should be color-coordinated with the rest of the outfit.
  • Pants should not be oversized nor excessively tight. Pants should hang to the ankle when standing.  Pants may touch the top of the shoes but should not touch the ground when standing up straight.
  • Dress socks and dress shoes are required. Athletic shoes and/or athletic socks are disallowed.  If you have a medical waiver allowing special footwear, you must bring your waiver with you to be allowed into the dance.

The overall look should be formal and tasteful, properly fitted, not oversized, and not excessively tight.  Men wearing wrinkled or improperly fitting clothing will not be allowed to attend.  Tastefulness is admittedly a subjective interpretation, but one which we have a duty to uphold.  Students should therefore err on the side of formality and good taste and not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards.

Guidelines will be strictly enforced.  Students, including guests, not in compliance with the dress code will not be admitted to the dance.  There will NOT be a loaner clothing option.  Having been specifically forewarned, we expect nothing less than full cooperation from students and their parents on this issue.


General notes

We understand that there is a degree of judgment in fulfilling the provisions for good taste and modesty.  We further understand that what is acceptable to one school official may not be acceptable to another.  Because we reserve the right to strictly enforce the guidelines, yet we want to minimize misunderstandings and disappointment inherent in strict enforcement of subjective guidelines, we are available to pre-approve your outfit.  From (date) to (date), text a picture of yourself in your proposed outfit to XXX-XXX-XXXX.  If you receive a response of “approved,” simply show the approval to anyone who challenges you the evening of prom.

If you are unable to attend for any reason, your ticket cost will be refunded to you.


 

There – see how easy that was?

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Professor Kelly’s kids: Our reaction

You’ve all seen this by now, right?  If you haven’t yet, here you go.  Enjoy!

In addition to the pure “awwww” factor, it’s been very encouraging to see the collective reaction!

Some quick observations:

  • We have in front of us a very smart man who is an expert in South Korean policy, and yet what do we know about him?   What do we think about his intelligence and expertise?  We don’t care, because we love his kids.  Usually that’s a thing that happens to women, so it’s nice to see some equal opportunity here.
  • The mother has been described as superwoman with ninja skills for the way she quickly wrangles the children. And deservedly so!
  • Lots of other working parents expressing solidarity. Working from home is fantastic, but adorable interruptions are always a risk when you work from home with small children!
  • Not once have I seen anyone blame him or his wife for “losing control” of the kids. And that’s awesome!  Are we finally learning that one can’t control children 100% of the time?
  • Not once have I seen anyone blame him for the audacity to have children AND a job at the same time. Another win!  Is it possible that we are accepting that people are complex and have multiple priorities simultaneously?

But isn’t anyone curious about what Professor Kelly actually said?  Just me?  Well, no matter – here’s the full BBC segment anyway:

And one final thing I noticed: the interviewer ended with, “You’ve got some children that need you” as the kids have continued to scream in the background.  Usually directed at women to dismiss their professional value, but here it’s directed at a father who is clearly adored by his kids.  We should all be so lucky to be so accomplished and so loved!

Here’s toward being that much closer to a world where both men and women are celebrated, both for their professional accomplishments AND their parenting!

heres to you

If you don’t feel loved, it’s your fault

And a Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!

I’ve seen a couple versions of this message over the years in various places, and I hate it.  It’s nothing but the typical behavior-policing misogyny that you see over and over again from conservative religious types.

To be clear, I believe in God – 100% convinced He exists and He loves us based on the various logical arguments, philosophical arguments, historical evidence, scientific evidence of various miracles, and the occasional clear-as-day perception of an overwhelming Presence from time to time.

But this type of post is not helpful.  At all.  If you’re convinced that God is real, the absolute WORST thing you can do is conjure up emotionally manipulative bullshit and slap God’s name on it. All you’re going to do with that is drive people away when they see it for the victim-blaming poison it is.  Off the top of my head, here are the most obvious toxic messages embedded in this very short article:

  1. Fun-loving personalities are “desperate” and “attention-seeking.”  Exhibit A: The stock photo used for this piece.  With their modest clothes, tasteful makeup, joyful smiles, moderate portions of wine, and no men anywhere in sight – what exactly are those girls doing that could possibly be offensive?  To anyone?  Also, some people are naturally more flamboyant and attract more attention than others, and guess what?  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  How about we not insult them with derogatory terms, mmkay?
  2. Reasonable expectations are “begging for attention and affection.”  Because we gals are just so needy, ya know?  How about we stop pretending that there’s something wrong with people who need attention and affection from their loved ones?  Yes I said people instead of women on purpose – because there are plenty of men who thrive on affection.
  3. If you experience completely normal feelings of loneliness, it’s your fault.  Because God loves you.  QED.  If that doesn’t work to make your feelings of loneliness magically vanish, it just means you need to be beaten over the head with the Catechism a few more times.  Hell, even the newly canonized St. Mother Teresa had some spiritual dry spells where she didn’t feel loved by God.  So where do you people get off telling normal, non-canonized people that there’s something wrong with them for feeling the exact same way?
  4. Your needs for human interaction (which you were created with) are irrelevant. When you make a friend or start a relationship, be sure to consult your crystal ball ahead of time so you know whether or not the relationship will work.  If it doesn’t yield a flat, emotion-free, passion-free courtship … err … I mean chaste of course … and end in marriage, it’s clearly your fault for “settling.”  Emotional and social needs are a thing, and it’s very damaging to pretend they aren’t real.
  5. You think you know what you want, but you don’t.  You need someone else to tell you what you really want because your feelings aren’t real.  Not directly stated in this piece, but strongly implied with the references to your suffering, your free will, your unwise decision to “settle.”  More explicitly stated by the female half of this couple, who in her pamphlet addressed to young women says, “You think you want sex, but you don’t; what you really want is love.”  It’s very damaging to create or encourage a dissonance between your intellect and your desires this way.

So what’s the answer?  I don’t have one, other than, “Sometimes life sucks and you can’t do anything about it.  I’m sorry.”  Once you confront the truth of this, you’ll have a better shot at where to go from there.

Sexism is ugly

I am very angry at the moment.

I bet you think you know what I’m going to say here – I mean, as the devoted reader of my blog that I’m sure you are, it’s no secret that I’m a staunch feminist.  I’m basically a pro-life feminazi(*).

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today.

My husband got yelled at for being an inadequate parent.  What did he do?  Oh he’s a stepdad.  That’s it.  That’s literally the reason he’s an inadequate parent.  Never mind that the biological father, the “real” father, of the child in question is an asshole (which is, incidentally, why I don’t even talk to him anymore after the divorce).  Never mind that it was my husband who potty-trained this child, who tried to teach her ABC’s before kindergarten, who drives her to school when she oversleeps and misses her bus, who taught her how to do laundry and dishes, who taught her how to cook mac n’ cheese for herself, who keeps a secret stash of pop tarts in the house for her(**), who plays the Wii-U with her, who taught her how to work through frustration and bad sportsmanship …. No.  None of that matters.  Because he’s a step-dad.  He’s not a “real” parent.

And we all know how men just aren’t any good with children that aren’t, you know, theirs, right?  It’s just a universal biological fact, totally hard-wired in, and we just can’t expect men to do what doesn’t come naturally, right?  Except when they actually do things that blow this awful stereotype out of the water, and then we don’t believe what we’re seeing.  Can’t be possible.  I don’t need to look at the evidence because the evidence doesn’t matter anyway.  It’s just a known fact.

In other news, it’s “just a known fact” that the world is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth.  But here’s the difference – the earth isn’t offended because of faulty assumptions about it.  It just keeps on being (roughly) spherical, rotating and orbiting around the sun and generally being its bad self.  It’s one of the perks of being, oh I dunno, a planet that doesn’t have to actually interact with people to do its job.

But when you make assumptions about my husband, you hurt his ability to be an effective parent.  You question everything he does and you tell him he’s wrong just because he’s a stepdad, you don’t just hurt him.  You also hurt me, because I need him to be effective in his role in order for me to be effective in my role as a provider and breadwinner.  You also hurt my children, because they see that it’s okay to treat their dad like that, and because you tell them that he’s not “really” their dad, despite the fact that he’s a better dad than the person you would consider the “real” dad.

No one questions my ability to be a parent.  Because I’m female.  Because I’m their mother.  As if there’s some something magical in my ovaries that grants me the ability to be a parent.  Here’s a clue:  you know why I’m a good mother?  Because I have actively worked at doing things a good mother does every day for the past 12 years.  Practice makes perfect – THAT is what makes me a good mother.  And I get lots of practice.  But here’s the thing – my husband has had a lot of practice being a dad.  It has been his full-time job for over 6 years now.  He knows what he’s doing and I trust him.

How dare you assume that you’re going to have a different conversation with her mother?  How dare you assume that he and I didn’t decide things together as her parents and caretakers?  What kind of an idiot rants and raves about the supposed limits of men’s capabilities and then verbally skewers the embodiment of the person who is better than apparently every man they have known?

I have a radical idea – how about we interact with people as individuals instead of judging them on what’s between their legs?  Never ranted about that before or anything.

(*) I have always thought the term “feminazi” has a lovely ring to it, ever since I heard it on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show as a kid, and I will probably never retire it.

(**) I’m not supposed to know about this, so SHHHHHH!!! Don’t tell my husband.

It’s a woman’s world, apparently

I read a few related things lately, and some thoughts started rolling around.  Just so you get a sense of the overall sentiment that I’m responding to, the things I read are here, here, here, and here.  I’ll cherry-pick some quotes at the end, but first some general thoughts –

So it seems that for thousands of years, people (male and female) basically trudged about their business because we collectively lacked the spare time to contemplate how we each got a raw deal in the social order.  Then women started to speak up.  Now whether this was because women got the worse end of the deal or because women can communicate better – not a debate I want to have right now.  The fact remains that feminism happened.  “Pardon me, sir, but wouldn’t it be jolly good if I could own property in my own name?  While you’re at it, it would be really awesome if I had access to the same employment opportunities men do so I have an option to get my children and myself out of an abusive marriage without starving to death.  And if you’re feeling REALLY generous, you can start judging me on my capabilities as an individual rather than what’s between my legs.”

So there were some sputters and starts and even today there is STILL some resistance to these basic ideas, but by and large women got what they needed.  And women also got affirmation and encouragement for however they wanted to express their femininity – whether it be with lace and fake nails or short hair and weightlifting. (I’m oversimplifying because I don’t want to write another 300 pages.  And if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t want to read another 300 pages, either. )

And men didn’t get that encouragement – it was presumed that men didn’t need any affirmation.  After all, they were the default.  And the default isn’t ignored, per se – it’s taken for granted.  The default doesn’t get recognition or affirmation for being the default.

Also, they never asked for it.  The age-old stereotype of men being dismissive of their wives’ feelings and neglectful of their wives’ needs … now men are talking about how THEY have dismissed feelings and neglected needs, too.  How does it feel?  Do men take this as a lesson in how to be a better human being?  “Gee, maybe women have a point about needing affirmation and maybe I should not be a jerk because now I know how it feels.  And maybe I should be a grownup and ask for what I need.”  Some men take it that way, but other men react like “Women are eeeevil!  How dare they get their needs met!  What about meeeeee?”

So – are men getting what they need?  Some men don’t think so.  The world has become too “feminized.”  Men need to be MEN!  Masculinity is GREAT!  Men have NEEDS!  And oh by the way feminism is EVIL because it ignores and diminishes the needs of MEN!

Slow down – let’s back up a bit.  The whole point of feminism was that women are not all the same;  women have different interests and abilities and should have the freedom to pursue them and should be paid the same as a man doing the same work.  But the idea behind the emangelists(*) is that in the most important ways, men ARE all the same.  That’s a big reason there’s such a huge disconnect between feminists and emangelists – women fought for the right to be seen as individuals instead of a monolithic bloc and now men are fighting for the right to be seen as a monolithic bloc.  Do you see why this doesn’t make a lot of sense to feminists?

Maybe we should do a better job of affirming EVERYONE in a way that recognizes their contribution as individuals and allows them to own their unique masculine or feminine identity.  Susie being the breadwinner for her family is a valid expression of her femininity just as Johnny being the stay-at-home parent is a valid expression of his masculinity.  Samantha is “woman enough” being a professional bodybuilder and Jack is “man enough” being a nurse.

Sure, men can be valiant conquerors with majestic beards and BIG MUSCLES – if that’s how you want to be a man, so be it.  What you don’t get to do, though, is pretend that YOUR masculinity is the ONLY way to be masculine.  You ALSO don’t get to advocate a return to the “good old days” and dismiss the very real problems of a system where women don’t have the same legal rights and recourse as men do.  You don’t get to pretend that your needs and priorities are hard-wired in and universal to males as a whole.  ASK for what you need and find a spouse / companion / group of friends that provide those things.  And turn around and provide what your spouse / companion / group of friends need, too.

(*) I’m speaking of the best, most genuine, intellectually honest representations of both feminism and men’s rights.  But because men’s rights is inextricably linked with extremism in my mind, I’m going to refer to it as “emangelization” after one of the sites I linked to – New Emangelization.  Also because it’s a catchy-sounding name.


Now to the cherry-picking:

From Cardinal Burke:

The Church becomes very feminized. …The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.  Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.

Last I checked, there was still a dude in fancy liturgical vestments oh, I dunno, acting in persona Christi and saying the Mass.  And that’s not nothing!

But to Cardinal Burke’s actual point, there’s a pretty detailed post and discussion of this on a scale broader than the Catholic Church over here on patheos.  When I think of my own parish, there are a lot of women involved as religious ed teachers (of which I am one). But I think that probably has more to do with how gender roles still work in our society as opposed to a “feminization” of the Church.

Of the women who are teaching, the vast majority of them are retired / stay-at-home parents / work part-time, so they have MUCH more flexibility with their time. Relatively few of us women have full-time work and still volunteer. But of the men who volunteer, ALL of them have full-time work and still volunteer; there are probably an equal number of men and women who have full-time work and still volunteer.

So to me, the irony is that the solution to the “problem” of “feminization” is more feminism – free men and women from the constraints of gender roles and you will likely have a different gender distribution.

Also from Cardinal Burke:

The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time.

A couple of things are going on here – first, I think there’s a lot of assumptions here about what is “natural” and universal and what is encouraged.  Even as a kid in elementary school, I got along better with the boys than the girls.  I played soccer and kickball with the boys at recess, and I read He-Man books with the boys during free time.  My involvement in these activities didn’t seem to bother the boys at all, and they certainly didn’t “drift away” over time.  Second, there’s an idea that because the girls do something better than the boys, the boys become discouraged and give up.  Why?  I thought Men™ liked challenge and competition and liked to conquer things?  Why wouldn’t the boys let the girls’ skill inspire them to get better?  So clearly we’re a little fuzzy on what, exactly, the universal nature of Men™ is, if such a thing exists (which I don’t think it does).

Again from Cardinal Burke:

Men are facing great temptations, particularly, as I mentioned due to pornography and confusion about sexuality and desperately need to be taught how to battle these temptations in Christ.

As a former teenage girl, I can tell you that a teenage girl’s sex drive is all-consuming and makes it VERY difficult to do anything productive some days.  But the message I got from church and the other pro-purity materials that got passed around my circle was that women don’t have sex drives.  Not really – women might THINK they want sex, but they REALLY want love.  But because men have SUCH a sex drive, it’s up to the girls to protect the boys from themselves through modesty and through always having to be on guard and always having to be the ones to say “no” to sex.

It’s all well and good to say that men are “facing great temptations,” but even now the “great temptations” that women face are COMPLETELY ignored and dismissed with a “Oh you just don’t UNDERSTAND.  Men have it SO much worse.”  Purity messaging hasn’t really changed at all in the last 20 years.

So I have to protect the boys from themselves but I get to wrangle my sex drive on my own without even an acknowledgment that it exists?  Color me unimpressed.

More Cardinal Burke:

Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women.

You don’t get to dismiss the possibility of domestic violence with a verbal wave of your hand.  For some of us, domestic violence is a reality we lived through, and the ONLY reason we are alive and successful today is because of the “radical feminism” that pushes for things like equal pay for equal work, daycare assistance programs, and women’s resource centers.

Yes – women’s resource centers.  If you have more obligations put on you, you need more help.  Statistically, if a woman is abusive, the man leaves with little to no ill effects; he goes and gets another place to live with the uninterrupted income from the job that he had all along and generally moves on with his life.  When a man is abusive, the woman is left destitute.  Oh – and she has to take care of the kids, too.  So she needs to feed them, and she needs to secure childcare, and she needs a place to live -and all that requires money that doesn’t have.  Child support (when you can collect it) generally doesn’t even begin to close the gap.

When we say things like “structuralized sexism,” we’re not trying to be mean.  All we’re saying is the Way Things Are™ set up by men back when it was ONLY men’s priorities that mattered and there was ONLY ONE WAY to be a man works very well for men (duh).  That’s why there’s no men’s resource centers – the whole world is your men’s resource center.

And one more from Cardinal Burke:

We have to be very clear with men about purity, chastity, modesty and even the way men dress and present themselves. Men’s behaviors and dress matter, for it affects how they relate to the world and it affects the culture. Men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children.

YES!!! Did you see that?!!! Cardinal Burke just said that MEN need to be modest, too!!!  I’m so glad to see someone FINALLY say that men need to be modest and it’s not just women!!!!  I’m sorry, am I using too many exclamation points?!!!!

From the comments on the Breitbart articles (here and here):

Women are horrible!  I’ve had so many awful experiences with women who expected the world from me and didn’t give anything in return!  Today’s women are worthless.  I’m done with women!  And some bitter, angry feminist will probably come along and call me a ‘whining man-baby’ for speaking the truth!

(A mixture of paraphrasing and combining sentences from several different comments, but the general idea from multiple people is captured fairly.)

“Whining man-baby” – you know how you get that label?  By whining like a baby when you’re a grown-ass man.  So you had a bad experience with a woman or two – good for you!  Welcome to life, where sometimes people are assholes.  Now grow up and get a grip on yourself.  If I were to take a page from your book, I would be ranting and raving about how ALL men are horrible just because I was married to ONE man that was horrible.  What if I came on here and whined about how ALL men are sociopathic assholes that would let their wives and children freeze to death?  ALL men create secret bank accounts and yank money away from their stay-at-home spouses so that they have no money for food?  ALL men throw dishes and glasses around the house when the food you make isn’t exactly what they like – and then the nicks in the drywall are YOUR fault?  ALL men unhook the phone before they start shoving you around so you can’t call for help?  What if I came here and started whining because ALL men are just like my experience with ONE man?  Hmmm?

Fortunately, I’m smarter than that.  You know that spiel about judging people as individuals and not what’s between their legs?  Yeah – I actually practice what I preach there – imagine that!

In closing, 

– There are multiple, varied, valid ways to be manly.

– There are multiple, varied, valid ways to be womanly.

– Assuming “feminization” is a problem, the way to fix it is more feminism.

– Ask for what YOU need.  You have no basis for assuming that what YOU need is what ALL men / women need.  If you do that, you would be wrong.

– Men, women are assholes sometimes.  I’m sorry you’ve been through that, but get over it.  If you don’t want to be lumped in with all the asshole men out there, don’t lump all women in with all the asshole women out there.  Goose, meet gander.  I trust you’ll get along.

Agree?  Tell me in the comments.  Disagree?  Keep it to yourself.  Just kidding!  Tell me that, too – nicely, please.

Why The Men’s Rights Movement Is Garbage

Men’s rights must-read

The Belle Jar

I need to take a moment here to talk about the Men’s Rights Movement, because there seems to be some confusion. Actually, there seems to be a whole lot of confusion.

Over the past little while, I’ve had a number of people challenge me on calling out men’s rights activists (hereafter referred to as MRAs). “But men are oppressed too,” people say. “Feminism is sexist, and it teaches men that masculinity is wrong.” “Straight, white men aren’t allowed to be proud of themselves anymore.” “If you believe in equality, then you should want men to have the same type of activism as women.” “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

First of all, yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But let’s not pretend that all opinions are created equal – some are based on fact, and some are total bullshit. Like, I could tell you that I believe that vaccines…

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