House of Women

By Kate Ringer

When I was fifteen, I was sharing a bed with three of my closest female friends, cuddling and talking about our shared future as we lay in the dark. We later documented our plans in my journal. In the hopeful and whimsical fantasy typical of privileged young women, we believed that anything was possible; therefore we planned a future where we lived in a house entirely of women. We decided that we would share a big mansion, made possible by the combination of our incomes, and we would be each other’s lifetime companions. None of us would devote ourselves to a man in the long term, and we would be truly independent except for the girls that we would adopt and raise together. This house of women seemed like a utopia to us, somewhere we could be completely free to live our best lives, and where our daughters could develop through our shared motherhood into strong and confident leaders. Little did I know that in a way, this would soon be my reality.

Later that year my parents’ marriage met its inevitable demise. My family of five was reduced to a family of four – all women – though the youngest was only eleven at the time. Suddenly, I was pulled into my mother’s confidence, and I was free to do whatever I wanted in a way I had never been before. Our home life was by no means perfect, but we were so much happier that I frequently forget now just how unhappy parts of my childhood were. We were all incredibly busy; my mother was getting her Master’s degree, I was busy with school and with work, my middle sister was a cheerleader and a leader in her choir, and my youngest sister was devoting every spare minute to music and to art. We had never had a dog because my father hated them, but pretty soon we had a whole brood of animals and a perfect puppy. Our small home was littered with clothes and nail polish, our cabinets were filled with pads and tampons, books covered every spare table, and the neighbors could probably hear us singing along to Ingrid Michaelson well into the night.

When I go home now, not a lot has changed; we talk about what we’ve been reading and what we’ve learned, we share our ideas about things. We spend all day playing Yahtzee and other games, we run errands, we cook. There is something so freeing about the collective energy of women. When we are at home, we know that we can live according to our own rules, liberated.

When I first went to college, I joked that I would’ve rather lived in a fraternity than a sorority, that I never wanted to live entirely among women again. I could not have been more naïve. My days in a women’s dorm were not my best, I was insecure and just starting to come into myself, I felt as if I was constantly having to defend myself for being a feminist and an education major (little did I realize just how privileged I was to be constantly surrounded by women in my classes.) Living among women does not guarantee security if you have nothing to hold on to. In my first apartment, I lived with my boyfriend and two other women; I got so bogged down in the details that I failed to enjoy the beauty in that community. It wasn’t until I moved out that I realized just how much I had loved the best times I had there: the roommate dinners and game nights, cooking together, doing our homework at the kitchen table.

Now, over a year later, I find myself back in a house of women. Despite sleeping on the couch, I feel at home. The apartment is decorated with greenery, with posters of plants and tapestries on the walls. There are paper cranes hanging from the ceiling and a record player that frequently plays James Taylor or Fleetwood Mac. We are considerate with each other and supportive. Just this morning my roommate wished me luck on a test that I had forgotten I had. I know that I can trust them, I miss them when I don’t see them, and I am so happy to live there.

For much of my life, I have placed more value on romantic love than the love between friends. As I am primarily attracted to men, this means I have devoted much of my time and energy to the world of men (How can I gain his attention? How can I secure his interest? How do I keep him around?) The more time I spent at the mercy of this need to be noticed, the more powerless I felt. In contrast, I had a friend tell me recently how powerful it felt when she realized that other people found her attractive. She’s discovered that, for the most part, she can sleep with whoever she wants, and this has made her feel incredibly empowered. I would hypothesize that her power also comes from the women she surrounds herself with; she values friendship and independence more than she values romantic love. I have so valued romantic love that I have lost sight of just how important friendship, especially female friends, can be. Another friend, who chooses to live more monogamously, shared with me how she has always felt she can better connect emotionally to female friends, rather than a significant other. She only expects to have those deep, emotional conversations with the women in her life. Those relationships work to fulfill her alongside her relationship with her partner.

In Sandra Cisneros’ essay “A House of My Own,” she discusses writing The House on Mango Street and how it was only possible because she had a house all to herself. She was in constant conflict between what she wanted and what her family expected of her, “On the weekends, if l can sidestep guilt and avoid my father’s demands to come home for Sunday dinner, I’m free to stay home and write. I feel like a bad daughter ignoring my father, but I feel worse when I don’t write. Either way, I never feel completely happy.” This sentiment is echoed in All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister, a book about the rise of unmarried single women in the U.S. In a discussion of the value of friendship between women, she writes, “Female friendship was not some consolation prize, some romance also-ran. Women who find affinity with each other are not settling. In fact, they may be doing the opposite, finding something vital that was lacking in their romantic entanglements, and thus setting their standards healthily higher.” It was only in reading this texts that my experiences were suddenly validated: it is ok to choose women over men if that is what makes you happy. As Cisneros describes, however, we have been socialized for so long to value marriage and romantic love that it may be difficult to completely break free from those expectations.

Although there is certainly something to be said for the freedom of living alone, it is not a dream I have for myself. Living amongst women, and women alone, has given me a place to grow in a way no other lifestyle has. It is the perfect balance of companionship and independence. I have spent so many years putting men first. I want to be challenged; I want to be free. I want to put myself and my friendships first. Maybe that fantasy I had at fifteen doesn’t have to be a fantasy; maybe there is a world where romantic love isn’t the only answer to life’s questions. There’s a place for me among friends and equals, there’s a place in a house of women.

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An ASB with Community Cancer Services

By Madeleine Clow

From November 2nd to the 4th, I went on my first weekend-long Alternative Service Break (ASB). An Alternative Service Break is provided by the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action at the Department of Student Involvement at University of Idaho. I am an ASB Coordinator, and my job is to create relationships with community partners to promote engagement and relationship building between the community partner and our student volunteers. Our mission statement is, “The Alternative Service Break (ASB) program gives students the opportunity to challenge themselves and develop leadership skills through service across the globe, grounded in social justice issues, including urban poverty, racism and domestic violence.” Our program offers a variety of ASB trips that are held during weekend, winter, spring and summer breaks. Weekend ASB provides short-term service opportunities within a five-hour drive from Moscow, Idaho. Winter ASB is a more extensive service break where student teams travel abroad internationally. Spring ASB offers week-long service trips based in the Pacific Northwest. Summer ASB sends students domestically, throughout the United States, to serve our national communities. Weekend ASBs are costless to the volunteers. To be a

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volunteer, all you have to do is fill out an online application on orgsync. For longer trips, financial aid can be applied for. We want any students who want to participant to have the financial means to do so.

My first ASB experience was a weekend-long trip to Sandpoint, Idaho. We partnered with community non-profit, CCS (Community Cancer Services). CCS was originated in 2002

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The assorted hat collection free for clients of CCS

with the mission “to improve access to medical resources, spread information about public health in rural communities, and provided emotional support for individuals who have been affected by cancer.” We volunteered “at one of CSS’s largest annual fundraisers, “A Night to Remember,” to hear the stories of survivors whose lives had been forever shaped by the staff at CCS.”

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Dress Codes in the Workplace

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This topic isn’t something I’ve thought about much, mostly because dress codes haven’t affected me in my current work setting, and so the issue hasn’t bothered me for a few years now. But my friend, who is studying bio-chemistry on the east coast, recently asked my opinion on something. My friend has large breasts, she works out, and overall is a pretty stellar human being who happens to be gorgeous on top of it all. One day in the lab, it was very warm, as it sometimes is in lab settings, so before putting on her lab coat and getting to work, she took off her long-sleeved shirt to reveal the tank top she was wearing underneath. She thought she was in a professional setting.

She quickly realized that she was not.

Immediately, the men in the room were staring at her. This wasn’t anything new, and given that she doesn’t usually show her figure in such a way, she assumed it would pass as she put her lab coat on and tied up her hair for work. It didn’t pass. Continue reading “Dress Codes in the Workplace”

Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Continuum

By: Madeleine Clow

I began research for a presentation I was going to give in my Queer Literature class taught by Toby Wray, here at the University of Idaho, when I came across the concept of compulsory heterosexuality. Once researching further into the subject, I found it originated from an author, Adrienne Rich, who first developed the theory of

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A double Venus represents lesbianism

compulsory heterosexuality. What is compulsory heterosexuality? In literal terms: compulsory, meaning required or obligatory, and heterosexuality, referring to sexual relationships with the opposite sex.

 

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Adrienne Rich as a young writer

When Adrienne Rich wrote of compulsory heterosexuality, in her 1981 literary essay, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” she originally referred to the definition of a male-dominated society describing the only natural sexual relationship is between a man and a woman. Continue reading “Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Continuum”

Travel: Belong Among the Wildflowers

By Mikayla E. Sievers

As we approach the end of the semester, we begin to study for final exams, write papers, and complete class projects. Afterwards, some may plan to travel during the winter vacation. Traveling serves as a way to de-stress from school, open the mind to new ways of thinking, cure the soul, and participate in a cultural exchange. Traveling is fun, but It is important to remember to be cautious and safe. Anyone traveling should be aware of their surroundings, keep valuables either locked up or close, and have a plan of action in case something bad or unexpected happens.

Preparation is key to having a successful journey. I found it helpful to consult online resources about traveling as well as talking to people when I first began to travel. Online resources can also provide ideas about activities to participate in, the food, nightlife, and other details to know about the destination. I will share three online resources that I find helpful.

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Sex Talks: Plural

By Kate Ringer

Like many people of my generation in the United States, I got my sex education from the internet. Luckily for me, it wasn’t porn that I learned from, as it is for many teens. In fact, 42 percent of teens admit to watching porn in the last year, and the true number is probably much higher. I got my sex education from a YouTube channel called Sexplanations, which posted its first video when I was sixteen years old. I was lucky because this resource caught me just in time; I had not yet engaged in any sexual behaviors that put me at serious risk for psychological, social, or physical harm. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have benefitted from the information I learned on that channel about anatomy, birth control, menstruation, and other topics if I had been exposed to it a lot earlier.

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Purchase this book at https://www.amazon.com/Care-Keeping-You-American-Library/dp/0613113837 

I have to give my mom credit, she tried to give me and my sisters the information that we needed. She probably went above and beyond what many people get from their parents. When I was nine years old, she gave me and my sisters a book called The Care and Keeping of You. I came back to this book time and time again when I had new questions about what I was experiencing while I went through puberty. My mom even got me my first bra around that time; I wanted one, but I definitely didn’t need one. However, when I got my first period, I was so embarrassed that I didn’t tell my mom for over 24 hours, subsisting on a couple of pads that the nurse had given us at school. I wrote her a note and gave it to her when those pads were gone, running from her room to mine so I wouldn’t be there to see her reaction. I don’t know if I have ever been so ashamed.

Continue reading “Sex Talks: Plural”

The Things I carry

Carry

Women all over the world carry objects, purses, keys, water bottles, pepper spray, knives, tasers, and even concealed weapons for self-defense. We also go to and from places in groups, we “dress accordingly”, we mind our manners, and we even avoid certain events or areas, such as Greek-row at night, just to feel safe. I walk two blocks to my car after work, and I always try to be on the phone, or carry something that I am mentally prepared to fight back with. It’s a scary world we live in and even in the nicest neighborhood anything could happen. Furthermore, statistically speaking, anything is more likely to happen to women, regardless of our measures so what can we do?

Frankly, we shouldn’t have to do anything. Robbers, attackers and rapists don’t care who you are. If they target you, you are a target, there is no getting around that. However, there are measures we as women can take to defend ourselves, and though we shouldn’t have to, it’s better to know how to do it and not need it than to need that information and not know it.

From a young age I was taught how to box. My Dad is a large man, a gentle giant, and he thought that around age twelve, that I should learn how to defend myself in some way. You know when I began to go out on my own around the neighborhood, when I started hanging out with boys, and pre-emptive puberty was beginning to rear its head. It was fun, it was great exercise and I loved spending that time with my Dad. Then, there were times though he would get really serious he told me, “Hit them, make noise, and try to run away. Aim for center mass, (Groin, stomach, throat, head, nose, eyes, ribs) and, if you can’t run you keep hitting them until they can’t hurt you,” I asked him what he meant by that. He looked at me his tone getting stern, “Boug, if someone pins you and want’s to hurt you, you knock them unconscious. That might not work though, if they’re going to get up and try to hurt you before you can get away you hit them and don’t stop hitting them until they can’t. If someone wants to hurt you and you can’t get away, you try to kill them,” That stuck with me, and the boxing with my Dad suddenly became something else. As an adult this is a terrifying concept, and as a kid I couldn’t put it into words. I couldn’t fathom fighting someone off yet alone killing them. Taking a life? What did that mean?

Now that I’m older, I still don’t know that I could it. I certainly don’t want to but if someone wanted to hurt me, what could I do?

My Dad is not a violent man. My Dad has always been my safe space and protector. He fears for me on a level I am still only beginning to understand and in this world we live in I finally understand his point.

Unconscious people wake up, men fight through tasers and pepper spray, law enforcement of any kind is trained to do that, and then what? Most of the time they’re that much angrier. So how do we fight back? How do we learn?

When I was eighteen, I chose to take self-defense classes. These classes are offered at certain gyms, and on campus. It was empowering, and our class had primarily women students. I taught some of the basics to my friends. I learned how to disarm someone. It brought me peace to know my own capability, but it still wasn’t as easy when my sparring partner was a man larger than me because I couldn’t get the same momentum and I had to learn to adjust.

In the moment I don’t know that I could adjust. I really don’t, and it terrifies me. I wish women didn’t live with this fear but we do and while I’m not going to say learn self-defense, that’s your choice, but it’s not a bad idea. Learn how to throw a punch, don’t be afraid of hitting, get down get dirty, be a nasty woman, be dangerous because we live in a dangerous world. Don’t do it for fear though. Do it for you. Bring yourself peace of mind, tell your friends in your groups, at bars, show them how to fight in short skirts and how to disable someone reaching for their hijab or other religious headcovering.

Studies have shown that most attackers/rapist are cowards, and if you can fight back and make noise even for a few minutes they will run away and that could save your life. Your life matters, what you do with it matters and if you can protect it for a few minutes you could save it yourself. If you don’t want to learn self-defense though, it’s not your fault. Let me repeat that. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT WHAT AN ATTACKER DOES OR DOES NOT DO TO YOU.

Even the most prepared women can still be hurt because, as much as they try, there will always be someone stronger, bigger and more prepared for the fight than they are. Self-defense training will not magically make you the best or more able, but it might just give you the leg up to get out of there and that’s all that really matters, and sometimes it’s as simple as hitting someone over the head with your metal water bottle.

Please stay safe. I hope you never need any of it. I wish we lived in a world where I felt I didn’t need it. Right now though we do, and I hope this helps inform you.