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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Inspiration by Impact: A Highlight of Three Modern Female Musicians

three female musicians framed alongside one another
Left to Right: Liz Harris, Quay Dash, Kelly Moran

By Remington Jensen

For decades the work of female musicians has been undermined by the work of their male counterparts, yet in the 90s, 00s and now the 10s that will soon move into the 20s the music industry — and music as a whole — is straying away from an ongoing landscape that has been long dominated by men. The transition however could not be possible without forward thinking and passionate musicians, and in this article I have decided to take note of a few of these creative female producers that to me are pioneering this changing battleground of sound!

Continue reading “Inspiration by Impact: A Highlight of Three Modern Female Musicians”

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

By Kate Ringer

I have been vegan for three months now. I know I am not perfect, I know I have made mistakes, but I have been doing the best that I can.

Copy of image2
A drawing by Suzanne Ringer

Veganism has been on my radar since high school when one of my friends started a vegan diet. She claimed she was doing it for health reasons, but I quickly saw just how unhealthy she was while doing it, barely getting any of the nutrients she needed, and I thought she was absolutely crazy for attempting it. Just a few years later, I came to college and I joined the rock climbing team; suddenly, I knew many people that were vegans. These people were nothing like my friend in high school; they were strong and healthy, I frequently saw them eating nuts, fruits, and vegetables while I snacked on potato chips and candy. They weren’t doing the diet for health reasons, they were doing it for environmental and moral reasons. At first, I was incredulous; how could anyone cut all animal products from their diet? That meant no pizza, no cupcakes, no milkshakes! My favorite foods were macaroni and cheese and tacos, and I knew I could never lose those things. I had heard of vegan cheese and other substitutes, but I was wary. Those crazy vegans claimed that their food was just as good, but I knew that couldn’t possibly be true.

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Dr. Edith Stein: Philosopher and Holocaust Martyr

By Vicky Diloné

Writing for this blog has opened me up to new thoughts and ideas. I am challenged to think critically about the issues surrounding women and humanity as a whole. I am a believer that in order to find solutions to problems, definitions are needed. What is  woman? I told myself, “I know what it is to be a woman, at least I know that I am one.” Besides exploring my gender with science, I wanted to know what it means to be a woman from a philosophical point of view.

I recently went to a lecture about the nature of woman and was introduced to the works of Dr. Edith Stein. She was an early 20th century philosopher whose research focused on women, empathy, and “feminine” traits. As I researched her life and read her lectures, I found the explanation to what I hadn’t been able to put into words before.

The Jew, the Atheist, and the Believer

st edith
Stein as a young women

Stein was born in in 1891 in Breslua, Germany, which is now in modern-day Poland. She was the youngest of eleven children and her parents were devout Jews. She was very close to her mother and was considered her favourite. Life circumstances, including the death of her father, led her to become an atheist by her teens. “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying.”

Stein was academically brilliant, studying German and history at University of Breslua, and later philosophy at Gottingen University. She was particularly interested in women’s issues and was a self-described radical suffragette. The subject of women in a professional setting and religious living became her focus later on in life. In 1915, she served as a nurse in WWI, where she was deeply disturbed by the sickness and death she witnessed. After a year, Stein returned to school and earned her doctorate summa cum laude with her thesis “The Problem of Empathy.”

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Porn: Addiction and the War on Women

By Vicky Diloné

FTND_TriggerWarning

When looking into the sex industry, abuses can be found. There is mention of sexual assault and rape in this post but nothing explicit. Several of the links do contain graphic content used to illustrate the realities of the industry. Proceed with caution.

Every day, we are bombarded by sex. In advertisements for fast food or perfume, in TV show plots and music, sex follows us everywhere. At a time where it seems we are talking about sex more than ever, there is still a taboo that many are reluctant to bring up. Porn. Often confined to locker room talk with the guys, no one really talks about it in a critical sense. When was the last time you had nice dinner conversation about the good old topic of porn? How many would admit to family members or employers the amount of time watching people engage in sexual activity on screen? I think there needs to be a critical talk about pornography. I don’t mean from a religious moral standpoint nor do I want to talk about censorship. I want to talk about the science of the brain and the psychological and societal impact on men and women.

Defining Pornography

“I shall not today attempt further to define [obscenity]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it”

–former U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart

It’s important to define the problem before coming up with solutions. The definition of pornography or obscenity in general has been debated in courts for decades. For this post, I am using the definition Matt Fradd uses in his book The Porn Myth: “visual material containing explicit displays of sexual organs or sexual activities, whether real or simulated, in order to arouse erotic rather than aesthetic sensations.”

1_uWXnKgxUhCmvQQDQaVf-zgThe Addicted Brain

There have been many studies on pornography and Internet addiction with lengthy talk about how the brain reacts to certain stimuli and the chemicals released. Fradd provides a concise explanation on how pornography triggers addiction:

“When researchers compared brain scans of porn users with scans of nonusers, they found that the more porn the person had used, the less his reward center activated when porn images were flashed on screen. ‘This is in line with the hypothesis that intense exposure of pornographic stimuli results in a down regulation of the natural neural response to sexual stimuli.’

With a dulled reward center, a person can’t feel the effects of dopamine as well as they used to. As a result, the porn a person is using can stop producing the same excitement it did before. This leads many users to go in search of more hardcore material to get a bigger dopamine burst.” Continue reading “Porn: Addiction and the War on Women”

Sex as Power

By Kate Ringer

God is a woman.

Who knew four words could be so subversive, so controversial? With those four words, Ariana Grande changed her career, probably forever. These words show us that when it comes to power, especially the extreme power of a deity, gender matters. Gender really matters. You can’t just ignore gender when it comes to gods, artists, or U.S. presidents. Those roles are reserved for men, and when you dare to say otherwise, there will be backlash.

If you have yet to see the music video for “God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande, I would recommend taking a moment to view it at this link before you continue to read. This video is filled with imagery empowering to women. In my personal favorite part of the music video, Grande literally breaks the glass ceiling with a giant metal hammer. The video also alludes to many classic artworks, recreating them with Grande at the helm instead of a man. For example, the last shot of the video shows a new version of Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. There is also a depiction of The Thinker by Rodin, in which Grande sits in the same posture as the thinking man while men throw gendered slurs at her, trying to tear her down. It is through these gender-reversed images that the viewer begins the realize how infrequently women are shown in positions of power historically. It is almost difficult to recognize how little representation there is until you are confronted with images that you have, amazingly, never seen before.

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Unshaved Armpits

By Kate Ringer

She is perched at the top of a steep, concrete step, the curve of her calf accentuated by the strain of her pose. There are her legs, tan and endless; a flip of a sleek ponytail; the seductive pucker of her lips as she peeks over her shoulder and leers at the camera; the strip of her flat belly, framed by her tight black crop top and the Daisy Dukes clinging to her waist; then, finally, her perfect butt, like two crescent suns emerging from the clouds of denim.

I am almost salivating, wanting to shout, “Damn, look at her butt!” but I keep my thoughts to myself.

I am not the best feminist.

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