'race' post-feminist problems privilege

Does this Outfit make me Look Racist?

I’m a white lady, and sometimes I find myself engaged in friendly chit -chat with other white folks, who I don’t know. This happens in such places as the mechanic’s, grocery stores, bars, and most often, in my experience, the gym. In fact, I find myself talking to women working out next to me on the elliptical machines more often than I’d like. It’s actually very physically uncomfortable to maintain eye contact without hurting your neck, so I rarely initiate these conversations, but because I’m such a well-socialized girl, I will always willingly go along when I am invited into conversation. Frequent topics include such things as husbands, careers, grown sons that they would like to set me up with, and chores. But sometimes the conversation takes a turn towards the racist.

As other white people (or people who are perceived as white) might relate, there is an assumption that because I am white I am also racist or at least ok with it.  Today at the gym, I was talking to this other white lady, a teacher, who started making several comments about her students, attributing (what she saw as) their shortcomings to their ethnicity. “You know how those people are. They have no respect for women.”

Ugh. Right, because white dudes are always so respectful. Despite how clearly racist this shit is, I also know that fellow white lady probably doesn’t see it that way. In fact, I think it is fair to say that she might see herself in socially progressive or feminist terms. Because we live in a society that largely sees itself as “postrace”, it is often hard to identify the hateful things we say as racist.

I always find these encounters to be so awkward. My first instinct is to be like, “back off. I’m a Sociologist!” and tell them loudly that they are racist, and under no circumstances will I tolerate it.  Actually, no that’s a lie. I wish that were my first instinct. What I really want to do is offer a subtle critique of ‘white’ western culture, or change the topic altogether (perhaps like a successfully socialized –feminine- girl). This is what always happens.  I know that this is not the behaviour of an ally.   At the same time that I know this, I also know that a quick Sociology lesson will do very little to change attitudes. I know that I have to develop other strategies in these situations.


But, for the time being, I’d like to encourage other white people to see ‘not racist’ as the norm, and racist as the exception, because I don’t like having to deal with it. I know that this is certainly not the case, but… fake it till you make it.


So, if you don’t know, now you know.


I honestly can’t stop quoting 90s rappers today.  I’ve already worked in a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” today.


I should also mention that this post is totally saturated with white privilege. Yes, I am a white girl who is complaining that racism makes me feel awkward while I do cardio. Yes, that is a very privileged complaint. Racism doesn’t deny me opportunities, present economic barriers, make me more vulnerable to law enforcement, or make me feel unsafe. I realize this.


girly-girl post-feminist problems

What’s in My Bag!

In every issue US magazine runs a feature called “What’s in my Bag?”, where we get an “inside peek” at what lady celebrities keep in their purses.  This ground breaking hardcore journalism features expensive, tidy handbags laid on their side with a variety of products (that no one actually uses including the celebrity who they claim owns the bag), which are arranged to look like they’ve naturally cascaded from a $500 purse.  Then ‘Niki Manaj’, or ‘Tyra Banks’ explains why they “can’t leave the house without [whatever item]”. It also gives these celebrities the opportunity to clear up any confusion about the weird stuff that they have in their bag. For example, former Spice Girl, Mel B. explains that the diaper cream in her bag “Isn’t for her”. Good thing she explained, because we were all wondering, and doing some heavy purse judging.

I find it interesting that a feature like this exists in the first place. Why do we care what someone has in her purse? That’s like a super personal space. But then again, these magazines are always speculating on the contents of these women’s uteruses, so privacy, at least ladies’, is not something that we seem to value. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about my purse.  I think it’s time that all 4 of my readers know “What’s in my Bag”.

First, I’d like to explain that my bag doesn’t just function as a practical fashion accessory in the traditional sense. I actually use it as a transportable garbage can, and even sometimes as a pillow.

As you can see, I also have some very useful items:

  1. An Old-Ass Wallet: I bought it 6 years ago. I have a hard time reconciling the purchase of a wallet. I think all us who are short on cash do… It’s like, I buy a shiny new wallet, and then I have even less money to put in that wallet. It’s like taking two steps back. Also my wallet is like an even smaller transportable waste paper basket, which is why it is Costanza full. *if you don’t understand this reference you might be too young to be reading this! Just kidding keep reading!
  2. A Small Plastic Bag: I don’t know why it’s there, but it will sure come in handy if I have to (pretend to) pick up after one of the many dogs in my life.
  3. Bandaids: I had a ‘new-shoes’ blister on my heal in June.
  4. A Roller: I think I put that there when I was tidying up my living room, but was too lazy to walk it up to the bathroom where it belongs.
  5. Stuff from Restaurants: I literally hoard wetnaps and sweetners because I feel like I’ll need them one day. And, I have no regrets. I am one spilly and sticky girl, so I avoid sugar and often need quick clean ups. I also use wetnaps to clean the interior of my car.
  6. A Glow in the Dark Condom with a Tickler:  A friend of mine found it in a late night dinner bathroom vending machine, and naturally thought of me. I can’t bring myself to throw it away due to its sentimental value.
  7. A Zip Lock Bag Full of Makeup: I also find it difficult to reconcile buying makeup bags when I’d rather spend my money on more makeup.  I’m also not classy enough to buy makeup in department stores where they give you cosmetic cases for free.
  8. Whiteboard Markers: Any teacher hates being stuck without one of these. Also, they’re great for destroying tasteless or offensive ads that I encounter in public washrooms.

So that’s my purse. I’d like to think that most women have purses that are more like mine, and less like the ones featured in tabloids.  But I have a feeling that most women find a ‘happy medium’.

If you would like me to report on the contents of your purse, or your uterus for that matter, feel free to drop me a line!

post-feminist problems

Why I’ll Probably Never be a Mother

I’ve never really been interested in having kids. I like children, and especially enjoy them during the pre-socialization age… not like a newborn, who isn’t aware of the world around them. They don’t even know that you’re there. I find no pleasure in interacting with creature that doesn’t know where she or he ends and I begin. But from 6 months on, they are hilarious. I feel like I’m watching humans in their natural state. They’re uninhibited like miniature drunkards… they stumble around, spew absolute nonsense, and approach strangers with outrageous opening lines like “I farted”, then they pass out in the dinner plates. They do all of this, and somehow avoid the obligatory morning text apologizing to all of their friends and family in the morning. They don’t need to ask “how did I end up in bed?”, because they don’t care.

When I was little, I had Cabbage Patch dolls, and loved them. But, I always liked to play the role of ‘aunt’ or ‘babysitter’ instead of ‘mommy’.  But, my preference was for Barbie Dolls over baby dolls. Those problematic little figures were much more fun.  Barbies had clothes, friends, properties, cars, boobs and an R.V. Her life was so much richer and complex than my Cabbage Patch Kid’s.  So, even from early on, motherhood was not something I ever wanted… maybe vaguely, in “at some point in the distant future” kind of way.

By my teens I became more resolved in my decision not to have children. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I think that a pivotal point for me was when I discovered a stack of Ob-gyn text books in my Grandmother’s basement.   She was a nurse during the 40s and 50s. These books were full of pictures of diagrams featuring crowning vaginas and forceps. There were perverse instructions about shaving off the mom-to-be’s pubic hair (this was the early 90’s, when pubic hair was the ‘norm’, so the sight of these hair free vaginas was jarring).  These faceless pubic hairless women in the textbook appeared to be passive, exposed, and absolutely degraded. Of course at that time, it didn’t occur to me that medicine might have made some advancement since the 50s.  So, I pretty much pictured myself having the same experiences as women who were giving birth to baby boomers.

Currently, many of my contemporaries are moving on to their second child.  I’ve had sometime to consider it, since I’ve lived through the first round of breeding.  It seems like only yesterday that we were in the abortion phase, but these ladies are pregnant and they have every intention of staying that way for at least 9 months.  So now when people ask me if ever want children, I feel pretty confident when I say “no”.  But, I’m not sure that this is entirely my choice. Those images from my grandmother’s books are still very accessible in my mind. While I know that pregnancy has come to be defined differently by the medical industry (but remains to be pretty troubling in many ways), I still can’t come to see pregnancy and even motherhood as something that isn’t full of oppression and degradation.  What I continue to find particularly oppressive is that women are continually seen as a threat to their fetuses and eventually their children.

First off all, pregnant women are treated like community property; strangers touch them, comment on their size, and offer unsolicited and morally loaded advice.  When they eat, walk, commute, or exist in public, people watch them, and pass judgments (verbally or not) regarding their choices.  Others are already assessing their mothering skills, and the degree to which these women jeopardize the health of their unborn.

Second, after the baby is born she is subject to even more of this bullshit in terms how to feed, change, love and parent the child. One of the most infuriating aspects of this is visible in discourses around breastfeeding. If women don’t breastfeed, they are accused of neglect or even abuse. When they do breastfeed, but do it “too long”, they are subject to similar criticisms. The norms that shape how we as a culture see a “good” mother are stiflingly narrow. Obviously, these critiques come from many different places; the medical community, strangers… and most tragically, other mothers…

The rise of Mother-on-Mother Criticism

So (reality) television portrays women as trivial bitches that simply can’t get along due to their crazy hormones and deep seated hatred of each other. This antagonism is natural and it occurs because there is fundamentally something wrong with women’s feeble unpredictable lady brains. The experts don’t know what it is, but women are delicate, fragile and beautiful, so what can we expect, really?

Right. But, as anyone who is a woman, or has women in their lives knows, this is horseshit. In real life, many women tend to have very supportive long-lasting friendships with each other.  Despite this empirical reality, motherhood in this culture has the power to tear women apart. This is absolutely structural, and not at all the result of hormones or a problematic constitution. As many people have pointed out,  the pressure to fit the ill constructed mold of perfect motherhood comes at the expense of so many other important dimension of life.  In addition to political engagement (“I’m not a ‘Mother First'”, Valenti, 2012) , being generous in our definitions of good mothers is also limited, and this ultimately pits mothers against each other.

Parents in general, but mothers to a much greater degree are made to feel so insecure about their relationships with their children. As I’ve said to my students many times, this is why I believe that shows like “Dance Moms” and “Toddlers in Tiaras” are so popular. This shit is like some weird form of parenting porn, which allows us to feel competent in comparison to those “awful mothers” featured (TLC and Slice are the ultimate anti-feminist networks, seriously, you could find more realistic and kind representations of women on youporn). This animosity continues in ‘real’ life as well. Basically, if we weren’t such jerks to moms, they wouldn’t feel the need to “cut others down to feel better about themselves” like the mean kid in elementary school did.

Needless to say, I feel like its badass to become a mother. Obviously, pregnancy, diapers, and all of that other stuff are a challenge (obviously). But, what I find most challenging about this role is the hostile culture in which pregnant women and mothers have to exist. And, I’m pissed about this. Maybe I would have liked to be a mother, and in another social context, maybe I would have chosen that role.

So, here’s my unsolicited, morally loaded advice; trust women and be more generous in terms of who you define as a “good mother”.  There’s lots of different ways to be a good mother and parent. Just don’t be a dick.

education post-feminist problems privilege

There’s no wrong way to be born

American Vice-President Joe Biden recently said that transgendered rights represent the “civil rights issue of our time”. As a Sociology instructor, and as a human capable of observing and processing information from the media, and my everyday life, I agree with him.

Often I can persuade my students to recognize racial, and even to some extent gendered dimensions of oppression. Many of them are also pretty sympathetic to gay and lesbian issues too. But, when I approach transgendered issues, I often come up against at best blank stares, and at worst angry sighs (every soc. Teacher knows the ‘angry sigh’).  When I actually talk about transgendered parenting, it becomes even more pronounced.  This brings me to the point of this post. I actually have two points. First, transphobia is exacerbated when trans gendered people boldly challenge the gender binary through non-normative parenting, and second, children are used as political pawns in justifying hateful and discriminatory discourse. These issues are highlighted in an interaction with my students during our last class.

I began to discuss the challenges associated with being a pregnant transgendered man. Incidentally, when someone who is not cisgendered, or whose sexuality involves non-heteronormative behaviour is expecting a child, we should all recognize that this parent, beyond any doubt deeply desires a child.  This is the case because ‘surprise’ pregnancies simply do not occur in such contexts. These pregnancies often take a great deal of planning, especially if a transgendered male has to stop taking hormones and engages in other preparatory actions. Anyways, students often become incredibly uncomfortable. There’s many reason why this might be the case. Here are a few:

  1. These individuals challenge traditional notions of both femininity and masculinity.


We often think of pregnancy as the epitome of femininity. I guess that on some level, this makes a lot of sense. Not only does the typical pregnancy involve the full use of the female reproductive system; uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and all of those other well-hidden organs, but it is also (typically) the first step towards ‘motherhood’. Becoming a (certain type of) mother is considered to be a successful marker in terms of obtaining ‘authentic womanhood’.


But, this is total bunk.  If we believe that fathers can be nurturing and capable of raising well-adjusted children on their own (they can be, and they are), we should recognize that gender roles shouldn’t be so rigid, because they don’t define us, and shouldn’t limit our ideas of ‘acceptable behaviour’ for men or women. Also, and this has been said before, not all cisgendered women are mothers, and not all mothers are cisgendered women.

  1. Children are involved.

We love children! We are all about kids. If we deem something as being potentially damaging to these completely innocent and helpless human beings, we lose our shit, and we often become morally indignant about the whole thing. For example, in class the other day, while I was talking about trans men and pregnancy one of my insightful students expressed some ambivalence towards this form of parenting:


“But, Miss… like isn’t that going to be hard for a kid? His dad carried her. Like in his uterus. I get transgendered rights, but that’s not fair to put that on a kid, you know?”



I responded to this student like this:


“Fair enough. But, I’m pretty sure that all of us are pretty disgusted by our conception stories. For example, over 30 years later, I am still working through the pain and disgust associated with my own conception: my parents totally had sex with each other. Now that conception story is a lot to put on a kid, you know?”


Seriously, who cares? Like Drake says, “we started from the bottom, now we’re here. We started from the bottom, now the whole team’s here.” Does it really matter how we entered the world? There is no wrong way to be born, and we are all a little uncomfortable with our own conception. That’s human nature. Besides, as much as we use children, and their best interests to fuel or “morally superior” politics, no one really cares about children. This is evidenced by the lack of universal childcare, the American deregulation of children’s media, and the dearth of support for mothers in our culture… *justtonameafew*


Anyways, that’s my rant for today.