I’ve written 66 posts and featured one guest writer in the last 52 weeks. We’ve parsed many of the issues as they’ve come up during this very odd year, politically speaking, and dug into some standard stuff in feminist discourse as well: bodies, feelings, power. This post about the BS ways people construct “political correctness” might be my favorite of all of them.
The biggest highlight for me in the last year is the TF community that’s begun to grow, both on this blog and on social media.
I cannot thank you all enough for coming by and reading what I’ve written; I’m deeply grateful for our ensuing conversations, and for your company and friendship. Truly. What began as my own outlet for my thoughts with this post and which really got rolling here when I took on the garbage hires at the NYT’s opinion desk has developed into much more than I imagined, and I’m so glad.
After consulting with some fellow bloggers, I’ve decided to open up a Patreon for TF’s first birthday. While this might look like I’m just monetizing the blog (not, in itself, necessarily a bad thing), the goals I have in mind are a little more complex.
First, I’ve opened the Patreon to support the costs of running TF. Hosting, domains, various this and thats including image licenses add up. Second, I’d like to begin a fund for potential contributing writers. Writers are not compensated enough or frequently for their work, and if I’m going to think about soliciting others to pen pieces I’d like to be able to offer them something for their time and effort.
The other goals I have are a bit more amorphous and involve, essentially, paying me to do this. Those are long-distance ambitions, tho, but I figured I’d put them up.
My favorite are these: smart ass stitchery designed and made by yours truly. You get to take your pick and customize if you’d like. I hope you’re as excited as I am.
So to close, this birthday is, for me, about gratitude. I appreciate our conversations, our shared thoughts, and all of your support. And if you choose to join Erin from Reaching for FI as one of my Patreon supporters, I’m extra super grateful. This is your shoutout, Erin! You’re the best!
So in the last week modern medicine has evidently gotten some decent results road testing hormonal birth control for men. It’s still very much in the study phase but the pill functions by lowering testosterone dramatically but suppressing potential side effects (lower libido, breast growth) by including other chemicals that mimic what testosterone does. I’m a little ashamed to say it, but part of me laughs pretty heartily at stories like these in which the potential side effects may limit eventual production and taking of the drug, given how much women on birth control have tolerated over generations. We had to fight to be able to have access to the stuff, and it routinely mucks about with our systems, but we keep taking it: the costs are much higher for us than for men, generally speaking, without it. Continue reading Hey, Let’s Talk about Birth Control (part 1: History)
When I first started Tenacious Feminist, I wanted to sell stickers and use the proceeds to fund my hosting services and then donate the remainder to Planned Parenthood. Alas, I only sold a few. I think I put the proverbial cart before the horse–trying to sell merch, even for a good cause, before I had much going on on the site or even a Twitter following. Continue reading Score yourself a TF sticker!
Skin changes throughout life, and while I’d hoped that my smooth and supple post-teenage acne stage would last forever, it hasn’t. I’ve got a skin issue I can’t seem to remedy or find easily online so I started looking at getting a facial. This impulse runs pretty much contradictory to my fairly public stance (twitter-public, anyway) on beauty regimens. I love makeup and now that I’m older I use really nice moisturizers and the like, but I try not to be vain and try not to spend serious money regularly on vanity-related things. But my face is making me crazy. Continue reading My Face Wants Me to Make Weird Choices (plz send help)
Well, folks, today is a much better day than I anticipated, as the ACA remains the law of the land, Medicaid remains intact, and I won’t anticipate my premiums skyrocketing more than usual next year. Let’s talk about health care anyway, and then maybe we’ll get a politics-light weekend.
Health care is a feminist financial issue.
The “Health Care Freedom Act” drafted at lunch yesterday but GOP senators and voted on around midnight last night permitted states in most cases to strip away the essential benefits the ACA determined. Many of those benefits apply to women. Free annual gynecology visits and maternity care (I’m not sure of the cost there–still copays? no copays?) and just two examples. The big one, hard fought, was accessible, free birth control. You still needed an insurance plan for these benefits (another issue–access and affordability are still not what they might be, or are in other countries) but still: that the ACA mandated coverage of basic women’s health needs was a tremendous jump forward. One of the reasons Mr Tenacious and I have the plan we have (work-sponsored) was because it became super affordable once, for example, my annual gyn visit was without copay, since it’s the only regular appointment I make.
When women’s health care is affordable and guaranteed, women are able to do much more in their lives. When we control our own fertility, we can make sound choices about our futures. We can plan our careers; run for office; and create families with children when and if we want them, not just when it happens to happen. While there has been a lot of rhetoric about why the ACA is bad and needs repeal, this point hasn’t been explored so much: that repeal is directly oppressive to women and their advancement. Perhaps that isn’t so much an accident, though I feel like a conspiracy theorist suggesting so.
During the second world war, the government sprung for day care all over the nation to facilitate women’s work in factories. When the war was over, rather than have a debate over the merits of better sex parity in the workplace and ignoring that many war-working women wanted to stay working, the government shut those free daycare centers down, lickety-split. The consequence was that women stopped working. The lack of women’s health provision (among so many others) in the various repeal-and-replace bills feels similar. While the ACA promises more social, political and work advancement for women when they don’t have to worry about unintended pregnancies and undetected cancers, the r-and-r bills shut those paths down.
A small coincidence that women who left the GOP’s position on health care faced threatsfrom their party (those are three separate examples: two involving violence).
While you may be healthy and able-bodied now, that doesn’t guarantee you will be forever. In the same way singles like me pay for schools for kids I don’t need (I have cat–she rejects education), we pay into health care so as to cover those of us who need it. If we learned nothing from this week’s health care roller coaster, it’s that we all need more women in the senate and the house. We need good, accessible, affordable health care for them to do so. All we need is the political will for both.
I think you all know me enough at this point to know that I don’t avoid contentious issues and that I like to argue. I am a teacher by trade, so I see it as my mission to educate when I can, regardless of audience and situation. This means I do a fair amount of arguing, for example, about feminism and politics. I use various theories as both example and support. Lately the amount of work I’ve been doing on this front has been mammoth, and I’ve figured out that even for me, there’s a point at which I have to walk away.
A Sucker for Punishment?
Those of you who follow me on twitter have seen glimpses of this process. A good friend invited me to join her in a group founded for cross-political discussion but without namecalling or harassment. I thought this was a great idea, as I’ve been wanting to understand how people who voted for the current president feel now that he’s been in office a bit. I wanted to know why they felt as they do–not just their feelings, which, frankly, I don’t have much patience for, but what those feelings were grounded in. So, if someone said “he’s great!” I wanted a “here’s why–examples 1, 2, 3.” And specifics, too. Not just “he’s good for America” or somesuch. I like sources.
At first it was fun, mostly because I like to argue. I like to marshal my sources and ask questions. But it slid downhill fairly quickly and has ended in a bit of a tire fire when I made the decision to walk away.
The “Red Pill”
After spending an inordinate amount of time in this group daily (friends and I noticed that it was only those of us on the liberal side who tended to be so invested and so attacked), repeated invocations by the group’s founder that we should all watch a “documentary” called “Red Pill” put me pretty close to the edge. The poster insisted it had nothing to do with Men’s Right’s people, that he didn’t know what that was, that we were being intractable by refusing to watch it (we argued it was like a movie about race relations by the Klan–no). We walked him through what the MRA movement is, and we said, yes, there’s some points that make that are valid, only they’re grounded in flaming misogyny (for example, it’s troubling that men have a hard time getting custody because of stereotypes). We shared links about all of this, including a particularly resonant one from Everyday Feminism.
And still, he dug in, got defensive, and would not ground any of what he was saying in evidence.
The convo devolved further as discussion over feminist theory was then “used” against us (“if feminists hate FGM, they must love Trump’s travel ban!”) (he was serious). And those we were arguing with never used sources to make their case, never did their own googling. The whole thing took so much energy. I don’t mind spending lots of energy on discussion, argument, and education, but not when I’m a) unpaid to do so and b) doing so with people who refuse to seek even remotely the same standards of truth, sourcing, and then criticize what sources others provide, all while refusing to even do their own searching.
So. Mr Tenacious and I took a few days’ vacation on the water and when I came back, I decided to walk away. The nail in the coffin was when someone asked why people had a problem with the president’s commission on “voter fraud.” When I gave him an NYT summary, he said the NYT was unreliable. For one thing, he just wanted a summary of facts and reasons–why would this have been a problem? For another, he refused to google. He also refused to say why the NYT was unreliable. I threw my hands in the air and called it a day. (I have had real issues, incidentally, with the NYT lately. But they’re reliable for reporting.)
I Like Me, so I Stopped
My departure was a form of self-care. If we can’t dialogue because you refuse to, my refusal to engage is asserting my time is better used for other things. Like watching this Christmas rerun of the Price is Right. One person commented on my final thread that, “I don’t debate in here cause a lot seem to just want to show how educated they are or how much research they do or how much better they are because they can use big words and talk in circles.” Well, I’m out of the circle now. I like myself too much to waste my time here.
If you, like me, are in it (the resistance to this administration, education, feminism) for the long haul, you need to know to pick your battles. You’ll need to self-preserve for a good while, so don’t let people bait you. I’m not afraid of other opinions (though one member of this group suggested I’d prefer Soviet-style media control, lol). But I am afraid of losing my mind.
Take care of yourselves! A key to tenacity is moderation.
We’re back with round 2 of Ten Things Feminism Isn’t, numbers 6-10. Here we address issues beyond the stereotypes of feminism included in numbers 1-5, getting into more complex issues. If you missed round one, you can find it here.
6. Supportive of women candidates just because they’re women.
This is a tough issue. Feminism believes all women have a right to equity, bodily autonomy, and so forth, including women who speak against it (point 4 on the original list), but that does not mean we support women who run for office and the like just because they’re women. It doesn’t mean we publicly support all women just because they’re women. Women who campaign on principles aligning with racism, sexism and homophobia have a right to what feminism represents, but will (generally) not be supported by feminists. See, for example, the recent Georgia run-off race. Had I been a resident in that part of Georgia, I’d vote Jon Ossoff in a heartbeat over Karen Handel, as he is far more representative of my beliefs in a safe equitable world for all people than Handel, whose platform was homophobic and the like. Assuming women feminists vote for other women just because they’re women is biologically essentialist and insulting.
7. Globally focused on primarily American values.
I’ve talked about this before on Tenacious Feminist—what we call colonial feminism. Feminisms are varied, and particularly varied by geography and culture. Feminism here in the states has an ethos and goals particular to our location. Several other feminisms share elements of it. But we as American feminists should never assume our goals are the be-all-end-all of all feminisms, and let feminists in other places determine their feminism. This approach is particularly problematic when American feminists assume, for example, that women in predominantly-Muslim countries feel religiously oppressed, and then give advice accordingly. That’s not feminism—that’s colonialism.
8. Unwelcoming to nonbinary and trans folk.
This can’t be further from the truth, though I suspect theory and practice are two different things. It’s not an experience I can personally speak to or presume to speak to, but feminism as a movement has a vanguard that tends to be much better at merging practice and theory, and others who tend to be, um, slower. For example, well known global feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian author, made the following comment: “When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is that trans women are trans women. … If you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men, and then sort of changed, switched gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman, and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”
Adichie justly faced a tremendous response, as her comments implied trans women aren’t women; her comments also suggested that growing up desiring to change genders still placed those boys in a privileged category, which denies all the pain and challenge those boys faced as gender dysmorphic. In any case, her clarification of her remarks insisted this was an argument about language; trans women and allies felt otherwise. Adichie might be a very well-known and articulate feminist, but she’s not at the vanguard on gender issues at all. As Teen Vogue author Morgan Jenkins in a stellar response piece noted, “Despite her international literary acclaim, her knowledge, just like everyone else’s, has its limits; she may be an incredibly accomplished woman whose work speaks for itself, but she is human and will fail, just like the rest of us.”
I’ve heard this one a lot, particularly from younger women who—mercifully—have grown up without overt harassment. But the problems feminism addresses—patriarchy, inequity, pay disparity, health care disparities, rape culture, and so on—are all systemic. One can indeed get through life without experiencing catcalling, though I’ve yet to meet that woman; but one who grows up in America is in the American system, and patriarchy is pervasive in our economics and culture. When I start drawing this stuff out with young women, they often begin to see their own experiences differently. In some cases, they experienced catcalling as complimentary; over time they come to see it as part of a structure that gives men power over public spaces. We all need feminism.
10. Full of cat ladies.
Actually, that’s probably true, though we love dog people, too.
What makes a show feminist? Is it the perspective it takes? The way in which women interact with each other, as well as with male characters? The dialogue? The “female gaze”? Today I’m going to sing the praises of a show you’ve quite possibly never heard of—Wynonna Earp—a fabulous feminist show on SyFy that has all of these things, plus some.
“Well, sure, that makes sense”: Worldbuilding and Mythology
The premise of the show is this: Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) is the latest in a line of heirs of Wyatt Earp. It is her job to defeat the Revenants, demonic reincarnations of the people Wyatt killed as a nineteenth-century lawman. They resurrect every time a new heir comes of age. She lives—of course—in a town called Purgatory, and she’s a hard-drinking mess who takes to her new task reluctantly. Recruited as a deputy by the ultra-classified Black Badge branch of the U.S. Marshalls (think Mulder and Scully, Western-style), she is the only one who can put the Revenants down, using Wyatt’s original gun, Peacemaker.
By now I’m sure you’ve got an eyebrow raised. After all, you note, Wyatt Earp didn’t even have children! He had no heirs! Ssh! Stop thinking so hard!
Eye Candy Everywhere
Wynonna’s circle is small. Her main ally is her sister, Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), who may be my favorite character, as she uses her historical knowledge to fight demons. Wynonna’s other allies are her Black Badge boss, Dolls (Shamier Anderson), and Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon), granted “eternal longevity” by a heinous witch. Both of the men are eye candy in different ways (you might not dig Doc unless you’re into that Tim Olyphant in a cowboy hat kind of look).
In contrast to so many shows with female eye candy, however, these characters are also well-developed. Imagine. This kind of setup plays with the idea of the female gaze; instead of the male gaze (in which most people and things are set up in a way to convey and create male pleasure), women are clearly in control.
And while I haven’t read the comic book on which the series is based, a quick eyeballing of one of the original renditions of Wynonna will suggest some serious differences.
Wynonna herself is shamelessly sexy, and she self-consciously wields her sex appeal as a tool on at least one occasion—when that doesn’t work, she sends in Doc to do the same. It’s that kind of playing with expectations which makes the show charming and resonant. It’s willing to take risks in departing from the usual women-and-men playbook, risks they pay off in spades.
“When I See Something I Like, I Don’t Want to Wait”
The sexual tension on Wynonna Earp contributes further to its feminist perspective. You might be expecting Wynonna and either of her male sidekicks to be oozing the stuff, but in fact the thickest sexual tension on the show is between two women: Waverly and a new cop—Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell). That’s right—the cop is Haught (pronounced hot). My husband calls
them HaughtWave. (You’re welcome.) It’s a refreshing change from the usual pace of these kinds of shows, and the dialogue between Waverly and her boyfriend, Champ, compared to her dialogue with everyone else gets to the point quickly: women are more than just pretty things.
“I was just thinking I needed another man to tell me what to do today, and here you are. Awesome.”
Which gets to the next point: some of the writing on this show is fantastic. Wynonna is no damsel—we’ve watched ten episodes and she’s only been in active distress once, but because she’s the only one who can use Peacemaker, she always has to save herself, a refreshing change. Doc once remarks, “She ain’t anybody’s but her own,” which pretty much sums up Wynonna’s self-reliance at the end of the day. The female characters are legitimately strong and complex, rather than just one trope (strong) or the other (vacant/undeveloped/always in distress).
In addition to the above, check out this delightful snippet:
Champ: How can somebody so pretty be so smart, huh?
Waverly: Because they’re not mutually exclusive.
It’s that kind of feminist writing that might remind viewers of early Buffy the Vampire Slayer and keep them coming back. If you’re into campy feminist demon westerns, this is the show for you.
Is this you? The Street reported this week that as female breadwinning grows, so does financial anxiety. They report that women tend to a) earn less than men and b) worry more about money than men and c) worry about retirement more than men. It would appear that money–duh–is gendered, or at least sexed. Nine out of ten women, they say, are the main support of their families at some point, and many women support themselves alone. Having some sense of what money you have, where it is going, and where you might change those paths to meet particular goals (so long, student loans), brings at least some sense of calm. My free Budget and Spend Spreadsheet is here to help.
I am the primary breadwinner in our household and my husband has fluctuating income as an adjunct professor (we should talk about labor exploitation in academia some other time, as well as women-as-breadwinners ). We’ve had some hefty expenses over the years—hello, front steps needing replacement; sick tree in front yard; kitchen reno we sloooowly did ourselves—but we never quite seemed to be getting ahead. Mind you, we are very, very fortunate; we’ve been extraordinarily lucky to live comfortably since I started my job in 2008. Even so, I was surprised that every year our balances seemed to be exactly where we started, and our credit cards were constantly in use, creating high monthly balances we paid off.
Where did the money go? I expect I’m not alone in my wonder here. Many Americans don’t keep track of their funds, and the stuff they buy—little and big—add up over time (google the “latte factor” –the idea that buying expensive coffee frequently is a money pit). Many Americans don’t budget, either. I was one of them, even after my financial adviser suggested doing so. Budgeting seemed like a pain to do, and it could bring up some painful truths I did not want to face. So I ignored her.
But ignoring my advisor’s advice and my own internal monologue telling me something could be better meant that I wasn’t making my money work for me. Spending it with no plan is fun sometimes (buying new front steps less so), but it came with an opportunity cost—that money might be put elsewhere, better used. I had no real way of knowing. Those Target runs might have added up to something more consequential.
Good thing I like spreadsheets.
I built this one originally for me in a much simpler form. This version features all the bells and whistles I’ve added in five months of working on and with it. William Buffet (evidently) once said that what you spend is what remains after you save (thanks, feministfinancier.com!). So let’s get a handle on what we’re actually spending. And maybe—if we’re feeling brave—consider a budget, so as to better save.
This Budget and Spend Spreadsheet allows you to do both. It’s set up with pre-build categories for both expenses and income, so you can just punch in some numbers and get rolling. It’s also got blank spaces for new items. That’s just the main sheet. Subsequent sheets are set up for each of those expense categories; you just punch in the number you allowed on sheet one at the top of each subsequent sheet and enter your expenses in that category as you go. For example, there’s a sheet for dining out. Say you allot $5k/year for that (you crazy minx, you)—you put that number in at the top and fill in the rows as you go and it does the math for you, allowing you to see what you have on balance to spend.
I like spending down. Beats spending up.
If you run out of rows, you can always add some with the edit function. Then copy the last cell that contains a number derived by the formula (that is, the last one that math-ed correctly), copy it, and paste it into the new boxes below. That’ll keep your math going.
The very last sheet is a net worth sheet. This is a fun little element that lets you track your net worth over time. Net worth, simply put, is assets minus liabilities. On my own personal sheet, for example, I have our house as an asset with its approximate value (somewhere in between Zillow and the town’s recent revaluation) and what we owe on it as liability. The difference between them isn’t just equity, it’s part of your net worth. There are areas for 401k balances, bank accounts, student loans, car loans, the whole kit and caboodle.
The sheet is entirely editable, so if you want it to have different themes, different topics, or math in different ways, you can adjust it for your own consumption. It contains a number of comments that will help you fill boxes in. Feel free to send any questions along to me as well at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you talk about this spreadsheet—and please, talk about it, on your blog, your twitter, your instagram, whatever!—please link back. It’s creative commons copyrighted to me.
Just a reminder: I AM NOT A FINANCIAL ADVISOR. You can take whatever I say with a grain of salt. I’m sharing what has worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. I am not responsible for any action taken based on my posts.
Last week we talked about our relationships with money, looking at their origins and considering how they play out in how we handle, save, and spend. This week, we’ll take the next logical step: let’s talk about our relationships with stuff.
It seemed no coincidence to me that the pre-recession era, marked with the growth of McMansion subdivisions and the rise—as well as the fall—of the Hummer also seemed to feature the growth of storage centers. Now I’ve never fact-checked this, but I don’t remember seeing more than the occasional, isolated storage center when I was a kid. But in my early adult years, these places seemed to multiply like rabbits and take on gargantuan proportions. They’re eyesores, and always led me to thinking: what has caused such a demand for these? The answer: stuff.
I myself have a mixed relationship with stuff.
I have, if I’m honest, a real love for Sephora. We are book keepers. I wax and wane in terms of clothing purchases. We have a mess of a basement full of god knows what.
I’m working on thinning out this mess, putting stuff in the garbage bin and in a yard sale pile. If I can make a few bucks and clean out the basement, I’ll be a happy camper.
Some folks fill their emotional needs with things.
Others feel caught up in the race to have the newest-best-fastest car, phone, you name it. Mercifully, I am not one of those people. I’m not a must-have-this-tech person; I have a bare-bones phone (I’ve only had a smartphone for about a year, and had a flip phone until then), an older-model iPad I got through work, and a work laptop. I reason that these things do what I need them to do, and so I’m generally pretty happy with them and certainly unwilling to spend more money to upgrade them. I tend to fill my emotional needs with chocolate rather than iPhones.
For a long time I was easily lured in by those “here’s $10 off $25” coupon deals to places like DSW. One day I bought a pair of shoes accordingly and brought them home to find I already had a pair just like it. That’s when I began to really reconsider the shopping choices I was making, and the reasons I was making them, and why I made them when I had little disposable income to make them in the first place, nevermind when my economic position improved. (I also wonder about the gender and sex breakdown of all of this, tho I haven’t done the research, in terms of who gets what kind of advertising and who then takes advantage of it.)
Since then, I’ve tried to save more money and spend what I do on experiences.
Eating out is still a money pit for me, but I’m working on it. I still feel that as long as I’m enjoying the experience of dining out, it counts for more than a pair of shoes I don’t need.
So here’s today’s question: why do you buy what you choose to buy? Do you buy just for fun? To satisfy emotional longings? To meet concrete needs? To take advantage of deals when they present themselves? How might these categories overlap? Do you spend money you don’t have in order to meet any of these categories? What’s the opportunity cost* in such spending, whether you’ve got the income or not? How might all of these questions revolve around sex and gender?
Down the road we’ll prod these questions further as we start to map out better uses of your cash than stuff, or figuring out your cash-stuff balance.
*a fun economics term that refers to the other things you might have done with the money (or time, or whatever) spent.