W: “I strrrrruggle with the intersectedness thing”

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in?  Emotional spaces?  How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

 

Physical/Emotional:

Realized again this month I have a fragile sense of safety. Thought I was absorbing the sadness around me after Sandy and Boston, a week each time of feeling unable to cope. Realized I was feeling fear. Related to being Jewish, the particular way I was raised because I have no Jewish friends who seem to feel the way I do, or even close it seems, out of many. physical and emotional.

Emotional:

Felt unsafe, the exact word I used to describe it, in my college department. Afraid of 3 male colleagues. In the last year, I stopped checking my mailbox till after 5:00 when one who’s office was there would be gone. I didn’t want to be alone with him. So there was a little physical fear, actually. Didn’t feel afraid of 2 women colleagues who treated me similarly.

Class:

I very often feel more secure, as a woman raised in a middle-class “professional” family, than does my partner, a man raised in a poor family whose 4 sisters and brothers and parents didn’t graduate high school (except him).

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women?  How do you think others perceive you physically?  What elements contribute to these perceptions?

 

I can tell you what I notice in other women’s appearance:

I notice how fit and “firm” they are, regardless of weight. (I have no idea if this is relevant.)

I notice how grey hair “ages” women or doesn’t; my brown hair is 100% fake.

I’m transfixed by plastic surgery on women’s faces. Oh, didn’t need to say “women’s.”

I think others see me physically as middle-aged, plump, often Jewish but not always.

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman?  Safe, unsafe, targeted, ignored, harassed, invisible?  Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

 

I feel, like, fine walking outside. Not sure I did as a younger woman, in terms of verbal stuff. Have felt safe physically going back at least 30 years (of 57), I think.

 

At a Mika concert with my daughter last week (who insisted on standing nowhere near me, so I looked like I was alone) I felt VISIBLE because of my age. In a good way. Kind of an intimate night club, and when Mika played first notes of each song, we all cheered. But after 3 notes of one, I was the only one around me who could i.d. the song, and I got props! Took great care in how I dressed. Tho who knows how what I chose to wear was perceived. I was going for hip but not “young,” whatever that is.

At my college, I felt invisible, again the exact word I used. First noticed it when I was rushing to class pulling an overflowing briefcase and trying to balance armful of other materials and no one held the door for me. I think students literally didn’t see me, middle-aged woman.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you?  I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

 

strrrrruggle with the intersectedness thing. Just have never been able to grasp it. Or articulate it. How embarrassing is this.

Love the word “woman-ness.”

 

Advertisements

A: “Maybe I’m just a hothead”

4/10/13

1) i feel mostly safe in the world, physically and emotionally (though, intellectually, i know that the universe is NOT looking out for us, esp. for women!)–and this despite the fact that i am a woman, because i am old, white, straight, well-to-do, w/ a history of safety. @ dinner the other night, my cousin and oldest friend (having just told her “childhood trauma story”) asked me to tell mine, but i said i didn’t have one. i really do not. i was raised in a web of safety, which pretty much has held.

2) i enjoy watching beautiful women; i enjoy watching my daughters and daughter-in-law and daughters-out-law and students dress and preen. i myself feel old, and heavy (AM old and overweight), don’t like to see myself in the mirror or photos–except, occasionally, when a snapshot catches me laughing and engaged w/ others. i think others think i have a kind face, listening ears, but am old and overweight. i have developed some adult acne and am conflicted about whether to bother w/ the expensive creams to treat it–seems like fussing about such things is past….

3) i generally feel invisible when walking. i live in center city, and often walk home alone late @ night, but really don’t feel unsafe (though i lately joined the neighborhood watch, and started monitoring all the assaults/realizing how frequent they are, which has altered my complacency a bit…)

4) i was raised to be a lady (wear dresses, cross my ankles, lower my voice, do what i was told) but have always fought that particular middle-class/wanna-be high class inscription of womanhood–the more so as i have aged, and come increasingly into a sense of who i am and what i can do. i wrote this lil essay for our 360 last fall; it says a lot about my sense of power and agency, and about the complexities of identity that contribute to that; i think it speaks to a # of your questions:
http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/thats-called-privilege#comment-139652

M: “I don’t often forget my whiteness or middle-classness in relation to my woman ness”

4/10/13

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in?  Emotional spaces?  How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

i feel safe at home and at work, physically speaking and also emotionally (not sure if that’s what you mean), and i feel pretty safe in most areas of suburbs and city up till maybe 10 pm, less so after that if along.  i know that i feel safer as a woman now that i’m older, even though i’m not sure this makes sense.  i also think that my race and class privilege have something to do with my feeling of general safety  in the world.

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women?  How do you think others perceive you physically?  What elements contribute to these perceptions?

hmm, well i generally feel pretty good about my physical appearance, and i think i appreciate a fairly wide range of appearances in other women.  in terms of others’ perceptions of me physically, i think it depends so much on who the others are and their contexts.  especially in terms of body weight – perceived as ‘small’ especially by larger women.  also i think i’m perceived as relatively young-looking for my age, not sure whether/how this relates to viewer and her/his context, though. 

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman?  Safe, unsafe, targeted, ignored, harassed, invisible?  Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

usually pretty safe and ignored, much more than when i was younger i’d say, but also true that i’m in less and less varied places probably than when much younger.  but even so there’s some variation with how dressed, more with who i’m with and also time of day/night.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you?  I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

intersection of woman-ness with race and class is most evident to me most of the time, especially race, i don’t often forget my whiteness or middle-classness in relation to womanness, in fact those other identities tend to come to my awareness first but i do think my sense of my own gender is deeper than i sometimes think.  now, getting older, and also working with young people, i’m also pretty aware of age, and what it means to be a getting-older, white, m-c woman, how the age dimension orients me differently in relation to others, to my own wishes and concerns, etc.  i tend to take my sexual orientation for granted, though less so when i’m around others who don’t share it, or even don’t take it for granted.  and ability, hmm, in some ways i take it for granted, like more socio-politically, but in relation to age i also really value my physical ability, and do think about not always having it.  i don’t think that much about learning ability in my life, but do in the context of my work.  and think of mental health a fair amount but maybe not so much in relation to gender.

J: “It’s like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way about my own body because I’m loaning it out at the moment.”

4/9/13

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in? Emotional spaces? How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

I tend to feel unsafe in certain public spaces when I’m alone. I didn’t always feel this way, but it’s fairly recent that since I’ve been pregnant (currently in my 7th month), I tend to feel more vulnerable. This is especially true here in the south (living in SC – if you can believe it). I actually don’t feel that way as much when I’m visiting back in the Philly/Jersey area. I think it has more to do with the culture down here. It’s very conservative and women are more obviously objectified or ignored (one or the other).

Before I was pregnant, I worked as a waitress for over 16 years. I felt incredibly unsafe in the restaurant environment. A lot of it has to do with class, but it was mostly about being a woman that led me to feel this way. In fact, the more that I learned about power dynamics, oppression, and sexism, the worse I felt about my position as a server. I felt kind of like a whore because my income was based on whether people liked me or not (although it was really based on what kind of a tipper they were to begin with). Because restaurant owners only pay 2.13 per hour, it felt to me like I was nothing more than a charity case – even though I worked in some pretty high end places and learned how to provide excellent service. It’s just an internal feeling I always had.

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women? How do you think others perceive you physically? What elements contribute to these perceptions?

I used to perceive myself as attractive, but had some minor things that I would have changed about myself if I could have – although nothing too drastic. I tend to think that most humans feel that way. Before I got pregnant, I had gained 25 pounds fairly quickly and felt like I was inhabiting a different person’s body. Now that I’m pregnant and have gained another 25 pounds on top of that, I feel disgusted with my appearance. I get really annoyed when I express how I feel about myself and someone tries to talk me out of it. That seems a bit insensitive and unsupportive to me. It’s like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way about my own body because I’m loaning it out at the moment. I do, however, keep that in perspective – because I have made the commitment to have this child and therefore my personal feelings about how I look are sort of silly right now…since I know it’s only temporary. I feel a bit worried that I might be stuck this way, but I’m extremely motivated to get back into shape after he’s born.

I don’t really measure myself up to other women because I was raised by a crazy woman who always told me I was ugly and I learned how to ignore a lot of the opinions of other women. I really don’t know how other people, in general, perceive me – except from what they say directly. Pre-pregnancy, not many people would comment (besides sexual/romantic partners). Now that I’m carrying a baby, it feels like everyone (including strangers) feels like they have permission to comment on my body. A lady at the bank insisted that I must be having twins and was very quick to tell me how “huge” I am.

I find certain women incredibly attractive. I think I have a “type” that I’m specifically drawn to when it comes to sexual attraction. I have no idea where that comes from, but all I can say is that petite women with small boobs that have a certain style, certain features, and a certain personality really turn me on. Although I don’t really label my sexual orientation as anything, I’d have to say that on the KInsey scale I’m leaning a bit towards the middle, although I’m mostly hetero-identified.

Aside from sexually attractive women, there are plenty of other women I find physically attractive because I appreciate the diversity of beauty in general. I don’t really follow a lot of the typical standards of beauty because I’m not usually a fan of the barbie doll look. I think that understanding media literacy helps me to say, “fuck that.”

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman? Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

It does depend on where I am, who I’m with, and who else is around. Mostly I feel vulnerable though, unfortunately. I really don’t want to feel that way – especially being a feminist. I want to feel empowered and strong (which I’d like to think I’m still empowered and strong, despite vulnerability at times). It’s just that once my eyes had been opened to sexism, there was no going back. I learned that at a young age instinctively, but then I studied about these things as an adult and it only added more to what I was already feeling inside.
I’m happy that I’m a woman. I enjoy being a woman very much and I love women, but I don’t like feeling like I have to prove my intelligence or worth (outside of what my body may be worth) constantly.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you? I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

For me, personally, it’s always been my woman-ness and my class placement in society. I suppose there’s also a mental health component that is very much a part of me. I grew up in an abusive and highly dysfunctional household. So much of who I have become is in response to being female, growing up blue collar, and being raised by a woman who has many serious pathological issues.
I think that I’m lucky to have had a rebellious spirit. My family looks down on women (which is one reason why they are SO happy that I’m having a boy – and that grosses me out to no end that they have this preference). And I ended up a feminist. My family doesn’t understand why I’m still in school, but I am working on a second master’s (and racking up student loans that would make a doctor have a heart attack). And, lastly, my mother’s pathologies continue to haunt me and affect me, but I have differentiated myself enough to understand that I will never be like her in those ways.

K: “it’s hard for me to think about misogyny without thinking about how damaged men are the ones who create damaging situations for women.”

4/8/13

 

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in? Emotional spaces? How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

i feel safe in my home. not only am i physically safe here, but i am emotionally very safe within my marriage.  one of my favorite things about my home and my marriage (which for many intents and purposes are the same space, one being the physical embodiment of the other) is that i feel completely accepted. i also feel (and this may sound odd), genderless. i’m just a person here and my husband and son are just people too. i can do stereotypically feminine things like bake cookies or stereotypically masculine things like re-tile the kitchen floor and it’s just what *i* do, it doesn’t have to stand for anything or mean anything to anyone beyond that there are cookies to eat and the floor looks awesome. not sure if that makes sense.

not having been any other sexual orientation or race. i’m not sure i can reflect on how those things would be different there. sometimes i think it would be even more awesome to be in a same-sex relationship because there are NO prescribed gender rules, but i’m sure there are other complications i can’t imagine.

i do think that our SES (more education level than income for us) helps because my husband and i both grew up in worlds where men have a wide range of identities to choose from, not just “be strong and build stuff” — because we come from very knowledge/education-based families. we also both had stay-at-home dads when we were very young (which was even less common in the 1970s than it is now) so being smart or great with the laundry is just as masculine (or feminine) as anything else for both of us. and so the freedom my husband has to feel like he’s still fully masculine even when he is not the breadwinner (as he is not right now), does not excel in athletics/manual work, or takes longer to do his hair in the morning 🙂 allows me the freedom to enact whatever feminine identity appeals to me. i don’t have to worry about hurting his feelings or making him feel somehow emasculated. i feel for boys/men who grow up without this freedom, and by extension the women who love them. it is not hard for me to see how hunting and other “manly” things take on so much meaning for working-class men who have been sold a version of “man” that hinges on strength, primarily through breadwinning…in this economy, those men have nothing but violent past-times to make them feel whole, and it f*cks things up for them and everyone else in their lives. it’s hard for me to think about misogyny without thinking about how damaged men are the ones who create damaging situations for women.

as for unsafeness, i’m not wild about parking garages at night.  🙂

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women? How do you think others perceive you physically? What elements contribute to these perceptions?

i have no idea how others perceive me physically (except my husband, who i can tell finds me attractive). i lived for our 4 years in nashville without a full-length mirror (not by accident, this coincided with pregnancy and my first 3 years as a mom) and it was extraordinarily freeing. we have one full-length mirror now but it’s in morgan’s room and i look in it exactly once per day (in the morning, to make sure i’m actually fully dressed, not always a given i’ll remember two socks, etc.) and i don’t miss it. i think being over 35 (!) and someone’s mother has allowed me to go back to the way i felt in childhood — i’m just a person in a body who has THINGS TO DO! so who has time to think about how it looks? i’m surrounded by women most of the day at work, and the things that stand out to me about my students is how young and skinny they are, how effortless their beauty is, particularly when they are in class, not all dolled up to go out, just wearing sweats and thinking about things.

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman? Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

i think my age (again) plays a role here. i can remember, in my 20s particularly, living in philadelphia, feeling the male gaze in public spaces very strongly. sometimes i enjoyed it and other times i did not. i went through a phase where i thought muslim women have it all figured out because they control who gets to perceive them sexually (by covering their hair). unfortunately, in my later years i’ve come to see that less as empowering and more as central to a rape culture — the hijab (as i understand it) is worn because of a belief that men can’t/shouldn’t have to control themselves when they can see women’s hair. and that’s messed up.

but back to now, i just feel busy most of the time, pre-occupied with things i have to do or ideas i’m grappling with. i almost never go out at night bc i’m busy being someone’s mother. i also don’t live in a city, don’t take public transit, hate to shop, and almost never go to bars anymore, so i don’t spend much time in so-called “public” spaces…i spend most of my “outside” time on the playground at my son’s school with almost exclusively other moms my age. sometimes i walk across campus but there i am constantly struck by how much i feel like i should be one of the college kids walking around, not someone who is old enough to be their mother!

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you? I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

as is captured in my responses above, i think, the intersection of woman-ness and age has been most interesting as i’ve gone from adolescence to adulthood to mommy-dom. sometimes i miss the feeling i used to have that men were paying attention to how i look, but most of the time i’m too caught up in the business of living to worry about it, and i think it’s freeing that i don’t care much about how i look at preschool dropoff in the morning (sweats and a hat? yes please!) because i’m not trying to impress anyone or get laid.  🙂  a friend once told me how excited she was to be turning 30 because no one expects you to look good after 30 so you can stop worrying about it. indeed. also, not sure if you ever watched “six feet under” but in one episode, kathy bates’s character convinces another character (also a woman in her late 50s/early 60s) to shoplift at a nice department store — she says “women our age are invisible, so we can get away with anything” — so true. my mom is that age (and single) and very bitter about it, but it doesn’t bother me now so i can’t imagine it will when i’m her age. i think my marital status has a lot to do with my gender-based perceptions w.r.t. myself.