General post-feminist problems privilege sociology

Everyday Cart-ographies: Navigating the Tricky Terrain of the Grocery Store

Badvertising: None of these mofos are "ripe"
Badvertising: None of these mofos are “ripe”

*The pun in the title is sick (even though the metaphor isn’t perfect), so please get it. 

Nothing is more fascinating to me than the mundane activities of (my) everyday life.

Identifying, thinking about and ultimately navigating the unspoken, implied social rules in any given context is something that I find challenging, but also generally hilarious.

Since becoming a full-on grown up, one of the most challenging activities that I carry-out on a pretty much every-other-daily basis is grocery shopping. Despite all of this very regular practice, I am still incapable of conducting myself like successfully socialized human being while shopping for food: there elements of the entire experience that I simply do not understand. The following (non exhaustive) list outlines the largest sources of my grocery shopping confusion and frustration:

1. Carts: I hate carts. I hate them even more when I have to somehow locate a quarter to release one from a chain of them– so not only do I have to grocery shop; I now have to emotionally reconcile the fact that the grocery store doesn’t trust me not to steal the cart, which as I said, I hate. I almost always end up opting for a hand basket — if I actually manage to find one. Committing to a cart is similar to how it feels to switch from a cool sporty, agile car, to a clunky, but practical mini-van. No one feels hip when they’re pushing a cart, but sometimes your circumstances call for itThe hand basket often works out very poorly for me, because after a few minutes, it gets so heavy that I have to use both hands to carry it. That said, when I do end up with a cart (I usually cave if I have to buy a case of pop), I almost always find myself in/starting a cart jam. I get confused about who has the right of way, and question why we don’t have turn signals or brake lights, or hazard lights (because sometimes you just have to make an emergency stop). It’s always mayhem, and I end with major aisle rage.

2. Avocados: If you want to eat one today, you better remember to buy one 3 days ago.

3. I don’t know where anything is: Where is the sriracha? Is it in the (problematically labelled) ‘Foods of the World’ aisle? Isn’t all food “of this world”? Or is it with the condiments? Where do I find a meat thermometer? What about chapstick? Sundried tomatoes? Peanut sauce is always elusive. I have often googled “which aisle would _______ likely be found in a grocery store?” This works never.  I call for the implementation of a Dewey Decimal-like system, but for food. It just makes sense.

4. The Checkout Process: This really comes down to the cart again. When it is finally almost over and I get in line, and the person in front of me places the conveyor belt relay baton/grocery divider on the belt (do this, it’s rude not to), I have to make a decision: When I ultimately enter the narrow magazine, gum and candy bar-lined lane, do I stay behind my cart, or do I get in front of the cart, and awkwardly pull it? Being in front feels and looks odd, but it is much more efficient in terms of loading the groceries. I’ve actually asked cashiers what they recommend, and the consensus is that it is a very strange question.

5. Bags: I have a stash of reusable bags. We all do. But, I forget them 70% of the time, or I didn’t bring enough. When it comes time, and the cashier asks if I need to buy bags, my guilt and shame almost always lead me to proudly say “no”. It is at this point that I shove as much of the small items in my purse as possible (most will stay lost in there indefinitely), and pile the bigger items on  top of each other until they hit eye level. This leads to the worst walk across the parking lot ever, and I feel strangely raw and exposed, while peering out over my 50 pack of generic brand tampons, trying to find the car.

This is but one of the seemingly mundane, routine activities that leave me bewildered. There are plenty of layers to this, perhaps the most obvious being the gendered element of grocery shopping (like other unpaid work). I was, and continue to be a feminist. But, in my 20s, I thought that I’d be living this awesome, radical and subversive life, where I would be smashing the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy on the reg. Here I am in my 30s, for a billion different structural and personal reasons, leading a really, hegemonically white feminine suburban life, and I’m not complaining because I am privileged, but it wasn’t what I prepared for.

Super markets are kind of a metaphor for my life course: unpredictable, difficult to prepare for, and sometimes a little overwhelming…

and really not scary at all, but becomes that way when I’ve over thought it, and turned it into a whole thing, and probably I should just chill out. 

girly-girl post-feminist problems

“I’m Picky” is the single most annoying reason you give for being single.

You’re single. You’ve been single for a long time. That’s fantastic. I think that singlehood is great, and I sincerely admire people who can stay single for lengthy periods of time. I think that it requires a lot of independence and introspection.

I’ve never been good at being single. In fact the longest I’ve ever been able to sustain singlehood is about 3 months. When I am single, ‘single’ annoyingly becomes my primary identity. I probably drive my friends nuts with relentless declarations of my single identity. Starting sentences like, “As a single person, I….”, or “Now that I’m single, I…”  In fact, I would often find myself pausing for effect after telling people that I was single. I do the same thing when I tell people that I’m 33, expecting surprise and shock from my co-converser. I also tend to drink too much and take great satisfaction in receiving attention from way too young men… that might actually be a constant for me, but it is absolutely exacerbated when I’m unattached.

I used to think that this fact was the result of all sorts of psychological and social pathologies that I couldn’t even begin to understand. Now that I think about it, I probably have to be in a relationship to be tolerable to my friends, because, as I am just now realizing, I am an annoying asshole when I am unattached. I also have an “annoying” tendency to make out with their brothers, which tends to express itself when I am single.  So, really, if I want to keep my friends, I need to be romantically committed because their thresholds for dealing with my shenanigans is likely pushing its limit at three months.

But, it wasn’t really my intention to talk about me (my mother’s right when she incessantly tells me, “not everything is about you”). I want to talk about you, the single person (I am actively hesitating from using the term ‘chronic’ as an adjective, because singlehood is not a disease).  I have a bone to pick with those of you who tell me that you’re single because you’re “picky”.

“Picky” is a gross word.

When you tell attached people that you’re single because you’re “picky”, you are basically saying “I’m above that lowered expectations shit that you’ve got going on.”  Seriously, it’s insulting. Stop it. Even if you believe that it is true, stop saying it out loud, because you sound like an asshole. I don’t blame you for feeling obliged to manage the stigmas around being single, especially if you are a woman. It isn’t your fault that our culture frames single women in their 20s-40s as pitiful maladjusted creatures. If you don’t believe that this stigma exists, just look at the covers of the tabloids at the grocery store; on any given week, you will see a rich, famous, successful and beautiful woman being depicted as “alone”. We are supposed to pity her. Jennifer Aniston had more than her fair share of this bullshit. So, yes, being a single woman demands stigma management; it is sexist and awful. But, please find more creative ways of dealing with that stigma without being a dick.

Thank you.

girly-girl post-feminist problems

“Love Yourself” & Other Meaningless Clichés

Recently, I’ve been getting into listening to “chick lit” while I drive. Sometimes I have to be in the car for long hauls, and listening to a fluffy book on a C.D. distracts me from worrying about all the weird sounds that my car makes, and there is something about a pleasant voice telling you a story that is so comforting… regardless of how shitty the content actually is. The chick lit genre contains the stories that ultimately get picked up in “chick flicks”/romantic comedies, and they have all of the same ridiculous tropes (which Mindy Kaling nails in this post) and clichés that we expect from a move starring Hugh Grant.

Anyways, one of these clichés, which is of course not confined to chick lit, is the idea that women, before they can love anyone else, have to “love themselves”. This popular psychology is everywhere. It is the type of vacuous statement that well-meaning people give away freely. And when they do, they somehow convince themselves that they’ve said something profound. Good for them, I suppose. By the way, I have eavesdropped on entire conversations that consist exclusively of exchanging similar clichés, and have noticed that both parties seem genuinely stimulated. Kind of like this:

Converser 1: “Well, everything happens for a reason.”

Converser 2: “What goes around comes around; karma’s a bitch.”

Converser 1: “Well, it is, what it is.”

All of these clichés drive me bonkers, especially the first one, but I’ll save that for another post.

Returning to “love yourself”, I started to think about what that actually means, and what it means for women in particular. I, like other sociologists tend to conduct an informal ethnography every time I see my facebook homepage. I am starting to see a horrifying trend among some of my friends and acquaintances, who I think are trying to do just that; love themselves. And, I don’t fault them for that.

My homepage is literally littered with fitspiration. Some of it is outwardly hostile, like this one.  But, what concerns me more are the messages around fat-shaming, and the encouragement that women (and men too) are given to exercise to the point of physical illness.  Further, one doesn’t have to have acute critical thinking skills to look at this fitspo tumblr account  and notice that it looks a lot like a pro anna (pro-anorexic) community website. Just google it. There is essentially no difference in terms of the message or the imagery used.

Fitspo sends a dangerous message about what it means to care about yourself. What these memes really encourage is putting one’s current body through pain and anguish, in the hopes of obtaining a body that is worth your own love.

At best, fitspo doesn’t work, and it keeps women’s attention focused on their appearance and away from larger public issues. It is a fact that women whose primary focus is on their appearance have very little political efficacy.  To have political efficacy is to possess the belief that you can make an impact the world around you; that you are a valuable and active citizen. Naomi Wolf was talking about this shit in the 90’s. She called it ‘The Beauty Myth’, and it is tragically more relevant today than it was then. At worst, fitspo/thinspo is absolutely triggering for anyone who has, or is on the verge of struggling with eating disorders. It has the power to normalize and idealize some very sick and unhealthy tendencies.

Ultimately, this isn’t about “loving one’s self”. In fact it encourages us to be unhappy, distracted, and limits our capacity to be politically engaged.

education post-feminist problems

Douchey Teacher thinks that Female Teachers are Setting Slutty Examples

Among my limited talents is the ability to provide theoretical validation to just about any a feelings that my friends might have. If they get rattled by something that they see, read or experience, they sometimes come to me to help them put their feelings into productive commentary. This is particularly true when it comes to social justice issues. Through my academic training I have had the privilege of gaining access to terms and language that help me frame my experiences in the social world. It is a pleasure to help them out in this way.

I recently got together with a girlfriend who teaches in an elementary school. She was reading the editorial page of the Globe and Mail, where she saw a comment written in reaction to an article called “Debating the Great School Cover-up”, which discussed students’ clothing. She photographed it because she found the comment frustrating, judgmental and intrusive. She then sent it me.

Evidently, Don Cooper, a teacher from Toronto thinks that his slutty ass colleagues should not be setting such slutty examples.

For a woman, dressing to teach in our social context is difficult. As this this post from tenureshewrote points out, we have very narrow appearance norms to follow when we dress to face students and (sometimes judgmental) colleagues. If women are too polished, they risk being criticized for their vanity, and it is concluded that her “looks distract from what she is saying.” But, if they dress down, they risk being criticized for their apathy, and it is concluded that her “looks distract from what she is saying.”

This is an issue that many women in professional spaces confront. In a culture that encourages all of us to objectify women and perceive their bodies as objects of desire, but also as objects of disgust, it makes it difficult for women to perform their femininity appropriately. Folks like Don Cooper reinforce this idea that our bodies are inherently sexual, and that it is our job to erase any trace our secondary sex organs in order to be taken seriously. Otherwise we make ourselves into distractions.

“Attire is a touchy subject when you consider a woman’s perceived right to wear what she will” – Don Cooper

I am a little surprised that the Globe and Mail would publish such a misogynistic comment (just kidding, I’m so not surprised). But, it really is sexist. First of all, Mr. Cooper you are not talking about attire as much as you are talking about our bodies. No shit: it is “touchy” when an institution or a person decides to interject in your presentation of self. And, are you seriously suggesting that women merely “perceive” themselves as having “the right” to wear what they “will”? This right is no more “perceived” than the right to vote or have a fair trial. It is a right, regardless of perception, and to suggest otherwise is more than just a little troubling to me.

Perhaps we should encourage people like Mr. Cooper to re-evaluate his “perceived right” to comment about how his colleagues present their bodies.

girly-girl post-feminist problems sociology

On Love

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

There is no consensus when it comes to defining love. Poets, philosophers, scientists, and the writers of romantic comedies have put a great deal of effort into understanding why and how it happens. Despite their efforts, no one seems to be able to define, or explain it in a way that satisfies everyone.

My people (sociologists) would most likely talk about it as a social construction that carries with it great meaning in our culture. Then they would probably discuss how definitions and experiences of love vary according to time and space.  You would hear the words “context” and “problematic” a lot. Like a lot. One of us would suggest that it is a tool of the patriarchy, and another sociologist would agree with them, but also make a case that it is an invention of capitalism.

Sociologists aren’t very sentimental. In fact, they will with great pleasure de-romanticize love and any other human experiences that bring joy to people’s lives. They make wonderful friends during a breakup. Incidentally, they can also be pretty supportive when you’ve imbibed in any deviant behaviour, because by the end of the conversation, you will feel that the only things that you violated were a few arbitrary social norms.

But, I unlike my fellow sociologists, do believe in love in an organic and human way. While I don’t have a hard and fast definition, I can explain it…

Love is when you irrationally worry about your partner dying anytime you are apart from them. I know that I’m in love when he doesn’t text me back in a timely fashion, and I immediately assume that he is dead or near death. I know that I’m in love when I begin to work under the assumption that every time we part ways, it will be the last time I see him. For me, a key tell is when I opt to send texts like: “be safe” or “don’t forget to lock the door before you go to bed”, or “When was the last time you tested your smoke detectors?” instead of something sexy.

Naturally, I only feel that my love is reciprocated when I can detect a parallel brand of neurosis from him. I’ll often blatantly ask “Do you ever worry about me dying?” Until I’m satisfied that he is sufficiently irrational about my mortality, I feel my love to be unrequited.

I blame my family for this ridiculousness. Every time it rains or snows each and every one them sends a “drive safely, roads are slippery” text.


*I’ll never not think that feminist Ryan Gosling is wonderful. I worry about him.

'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.

girly-girl post-feminist problems

Masculinity and Sex Toys… My first ever NSFW post!

Ok, since I write under a pseudonym, I feel reasonably safe talking about something that is a little taboo, and perhaps a little sexual in nature. I need to preface this post in two ways. First, my perspective is not necessarily produced by my own experiences. Rather, since I have a slew of open-minded, loud mouthed lady friends, consider this post to be based on my informal ethnographic research on these wonderful women. Second, this post is 100% heteronormative, and I am fully of aware of that.


So, I want to talk about vibrators. Specifically, I would like to ruminate about the relationship between vibrators and masculinity in heterosexual sex encounters.  As a feminist (which I am, btw), I have an interesting relationship with them. It is pretty much general knowledge (thanks in part to the 2011 film, “Hysteria”) that vibrators were used to treat ladies’ sexual “dysfunctions”, in a very problematic, patriarchal and medicalized manner. Nonetheless, many women today have grown fond of these little devices.  While many of them use them solo, they are also used in dyadic sexual encounters, in the role of what could be considered a ‘little helper’.   I would argue that the inclusion of these little guys has given way to a classification of straight dudes that goes something like this:

*stereotypes and generalizations to follow


  1. The guy who gets threatened

This guy genuinely feels usurped or slighted by the vibrator’s sexy cameo.  When he looks at this little piece of plastic (or rubber, or metal, or whatever), he genuinely feels that he isn’t enough for his female partner, and that she is undermining him when invites little ‘Justin Beaver’ out for an evening.


This ‘type’ of dude is also likely to be ripe for Freudian analysis, believing that the penis is sacred, and must be revered as such. A vibrator will be considered sacrilege, especially when used in the presence of perfectly good penis.


Needless to say, he also might be likely to exhibit irrational signs of jealousy in other contexts, like bars and such social settings, where the threat of other presumed penises (they’re usually not overtly visible in social settings, so they are presumed) is present.


  1. The guy who gets lazy


Very different than the guy who feels threatened, and maybe a little possessive over his partner when a toy emerges during a sex sesh, this guy gets excited. But, his excitement isn’t about the possibility creatively using a sex aid, and exploring new fun things in bed.  He’s excited because he feels that the vibrator absolves him from any responsibility for female pleasure during both foreplay, and the ‘main’ event.


He doesn’t perceive this object to be something that can aid him in having some creative fun with his lady, he sees it as his replacement, and he’s happy about it.  No longer does he have to develop his sexual repertoire, because now they have robots to do that sort of thing.


He might not exhibit jealousy in other social situations, but he probably won’t rub your back without being asked, or enjoy intellectually stimulating conversations with you either. He’d probably prefer to watch an entire season of something on Netflix next to you on the couch. And that can actually prove to be a pretty relaxing evening.

  1. The guy who just gets *it*


In this little typology of het guys and sex toys, I would encourage you to see him as your favourite.  The presence of a sex toy doesn’t make him jealous, and it doesn’t make him lazy.  Rather, he sees the vibrator as his junior partner in the bedroom. He wants to see how his gal uses it, and is anxious to come up with new strategies. He takes sex seriously, yet is also playful. While he might enjoy the addition of a new assistant, this doesn’t stop him from being dynamic and innovative in the bedroom.


You may also find that this guy multifaceted and is curious and open minded about the world. He’ll probably be open to trying any type of food, and adventurous when it comes to your social life.


I post this realizing that this typology is not perfect. But, the point I’m trying to make, if any at all, is that our politics follow us into the bedroom, and they follow us out of the bedroom. I think that the way that het men interact with sex toys has the potential to reveal thing about his personality in terms of how he views the world, and his partner. Think about it!

That was a little Cosmo-esque, admittedly.