Friday, April 30, 2010

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

This book was honestly the first piece of feminist literature I have read. It didn't really tell me anything I didn't know, per se, but it did emphasize and coalesce thoughts and ideas in my mind.
The hypothesis of this book is that people (the book points at men, but realistically women are involved, too), for a myriad number of reasons, mostly religious, are obsessed with female virginity. Girls are seen as having this magical thing called virginity, which the author argues is technically undefinable, which must be "saved" for their husband. This idea creates a number of problems. Firstly, girls (and women) do not have ownership of their bodies, creating a situation where women will not become educated about health care, family planning choices or prevention of STDs. Secondly, girls who no longer have this magical virginity are seen as "damaged goods" or less worthy of pretty much everything (family, relationships, etc.). These rules generally only apply to "innocent looking white girls" as opposed to any "women of color". These ideas also create an odd relationship between women's value in society and their sexuality, which, when you think about it, is really strange. Why would what you do in the bedroom have anything to do with your job, or your life outside the bedroom? For some reason, however, sexuality is tied to morality. This book makes a lot of valid points, has sufficient footnotes (although not extensive) and is written to a younger generation. I wasn't totally thrilled with the way the book was written. Being an academic, I tend to like books that are well written and well cited. I am also a bit snobbish and like to read books by authors who should be an expert in their field. Valenti writes like a blogger, and I found the whole book to be written like one long blog post. Not bad, just different from my academic reading. I did, however, really like this subject matter. In case you are wondering, here is my opinion on the whole thing:

I grew up attending private school all the way through high school. I know where a lot of these ideas in this book are coming from. I saw them firsthand, saw them developing over time into something that is now marketed and paid for by our tax dollars. I started high school at this really tiny Conservative Christian high school in a town near to where I grew up. There were literally less than 30 kids in my freshman class. The people were nice enough and I quickly made friends with a girl called J. J was a little different, wore "grunge" clothes and has pierced ears and a streak of blonde in her dark hair. Although people liked her, she didn't really have many friends, definitely no girlfriends. She told me one afternoon that one of the teachers had molested her the year before, when she was in 8th grade. I'm not sure what exactly had happened, but when I got there, the teacher had been relieved of teaching duties and was transferred to the "administration office". As far as I know, he was never punished. Even then, I remember a attitude of "she wears weird clothes and does her hair weird so she must have deserved the molestation somehow". I don't remember being bothered by this attitude at the time, but I certainly am now.
At this same school, we had PE last period. All the girls changed in the bathroom and headed out to the soccer field. I remember some girls coming in late to change, having just met their boyfriends behind the dumpster for a quickie bj. This was shortly after signing the "purity contract" with their pastor and parents, swearing before Christ to stay a virgin until marriage. Needless to say, I did not sign said contract, and there was no pressure from my parents to sign it.
After I left the school, the married Algebra teacher got a 16 year old student pregnant. The last I heard, he had left his wife and had gotten an apartment for him and the 16 year old and the baby. I wonder how they are doing now?
After we all graduated (I switched to a new school in my sophomore year), I returned to a friend's house for a big graduation party, including all the people I had started high school with and some others who were a class above or a class below us. The girl's parents were out of town, so we all spent the night at her house and drank wine coolers and hung out. At some point in time, the girl who gave the party, G, was looking for her boyfriend, F. F was nowhere to be found, although he did turn up sometime later. He had taken another girl, A, back into the bushes behind the house for a little hanky-panky and had left her there. It turned out to be my job to help A on with her panties, as she was too drunk to get them on properly.
In high school health class, we were blatantly lied to about the effectiveness of birth control methods and how the pill works. And the teacher was supposedly a nurse!
I've also been on the receiving end of quite a bit of the virgin/whore dichotomy. I have a pretty outgoing personality, and I like to meet new people. I've been accused of being too flirtatious, of being slutty because I want to go dance on the dance floor, or being a whore because a lot of my friends are guys.
Most of these stories are harmless, silly things that happen in high school (and, arguably, beyond). The thing that concerns me the most is the hypocrisy. The telling people one thing and doing/living another. Hypocrisy is the number one reason I highly dislike organized religion, and would never subject my children to any of it's bs. I would rather be up front with my children about sex. About birth control, condoms, STDs, the whole thing. Be up front, educate yourself and then at some point, when your kid grows up, they have to take responsibility for themselves. And you have to trust that you gave them a good enough education that they will insist on using a condom, or getting yearly checkups, or advocating for women's health. I'd hope to raise responsible, socially aware kids than kids that are so ignorant they don't know if a blow job can get them pregnant (trust me, I've had this conversation....).
As a biologist, the thing that concerns me the most is the lack of education. The dirty lollipop or the dirty piece of tape, the idea that a girl (or woman) is "used" - the whole thing is ridiculous and disturbing. Along with the paternal ownership of a girl's body - the whole idea is just inane. And, call me silly, but I'd want my kids (or anyone else's kids, for that matter) to be equipped with as much education on subjects as possible, before they are faced with the decision to have sex or not have sex.
The upside? I've started reading more about this whole "feminism" thing. Turns out? I guess I am one :)
Commentary an reviews can be found here.

Haiku "Yogging - I think the J is silent" Friday

Prepping for Broad Street
A ten mile run from north
to south through Philly.


A race including
Thirty thousand people wow!
Largest ten miler.


All I can think about
jog-jog-jiggity-jog from
my Dad's running days.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know what a huge fan of used book stores I am. While visiting Colorado last summer, Alex dropped me off at this great book store called Poor Richard's in downtown Colorado Springs. (As an aside, I'm not really sure why I feel the need to describe where / when I obtained this book, but, for some reason, in my mind, the book and the experience of vacation are inextricably linked). It was my perfect idea of a store, with a used book store, a coffee shop that sold delectable confections and also wine and beer. I loved that place and could have stayed there for much longer! Anyways, I picked up The Awakening by Kate Chopin while there. I'm not sure where I first heard of this book, but I do remember it was a controversial book at the time it was published (late 1800s). I'm a big fan of controversial books - anything that gets people riled up is usually a really good book, right? And this book was a really good book. The Awakening is about Mrs. Pontellier, an upper class housewife in New Orleans society. The book opens upon Mrs. Pontellier summering on an island with her two children and her husband. Her husband periodically returns to New Orleans to continue working, while Mrs. Pontellier stays at the resort with the children (and their "nanny" - Chopin actually calls the childrens' nanny a "quadroon" which was acceptable terminology at the time, but I feel is somewhat unacceptable terminology now - there are many examples of this throughout the book, which I suppose is a risk one takes when reading historical literature). At the resort, there are many families vacationing, and the reader is introduced to many social niceties and interesting dialogue, especially a lot of sayings in French or French Creole. The story is of the "awakening" of Mrs. Pontellier - that is, she discovers she is her own person, that she has her own feelings and her own self worth and that no one owns her or can tell her what to do, not even her husband. The awakening occurs gradually, over a several month period, and Mrs. Pontellier ends up shunning different societal traditions, realizing that she is in love with a man who is not her husband, and discovering that she is able to do things on her own, which is very much appealing. She somewhat abandons her children, abandons her household, leaves her husband to his trips across the country and lives her life for herself for a very brief period of time. I thought this book was brilliant, and I thought it illustrated well a struggle that women still have to this day. The idea of societal pressures, the pressure to "look good" (in whatever way you want to take that, physically, financially, job-wise, etc) and the pressure to have the perfect household, the perfect kids, the perfect marriage, etc. contrasted with what you, the individual wants, where you want to go, what you want to do with your life and how you want to portray yourself. These are all very pertinent issues that I struggle with on a daily basis. The Awakening is brilliantly written, if a bit old fashioned. It gave me a glimpse into what life might have been like over 100 years ago - and it illustrated the struggle we all still continue with. I identified with Mrs. Pontellier on many levels, and I nearly wanted to pull her out of the book and make her real so I could have a conversation with her. Chopin was a wonderful writer who received absolutely no credit for her controversial novel - I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What a Week Haiku Friday

Rollercoaster ride
emotional and happy
feeling lucky, sad.


Home is so quiet
muffled, silent, only breath
Moue misses sister.


On my finger, a
ring, signifying a new
start, life together.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We're Engaged!

It's been a whirlwind week, that's for sure. So many things going on and so many emotions. I'm not sure I've taken it all in yet. Alex and I got engaged last night. I now have a fiance. I am a fiancee. How odd. Hasn't really sunk in yet. In case you'd like to know, here's the story.
I got home last night soaked from the rain and not having an umbrella. Alex had the kettle on for me so I got into my sweats and had a cup of tea and just sat for a bit. Alex suggested wine and pizza for dinner, so I changed back into my regular clothes and we headed out to the liquor store and the pizza joint. As we got to the pizza place, Alex stopped me and said something to the effect of, "We've been going here for a really long time, right?". I turned back to him and he had a ring in a box and he asked me to marry him. Not down on one knee, just having a conversation. It was over in a flash. I was giggly and also sad and weepy. He was all proud. It was super cute. We got our pizza and went home and called family and friends to let them know.
It's been a long time coming, I'm sure everyone knows that. We've been together for 4 years, and have been living together for 3. My parents are thrilled, and his are as well. I've been having permagrin for most of the day. The ring is a diamond, but it's called a "raw" or "unfinished" diamond. It has a ton of occlusions, alot of brown and gray flecks in it. We picked it out at a jewelry store here in Philly and asked the guy to make us a ring. It came out exactly as I wanted it to. It doesn't look like a traditional ring, it's unique, and nobody thinks it's a diamond! Love it! Oh, and I'm petting my cat. That's why it looks like I have a pelt underneath my hand Haha!
So, that's the story - no date set, no place booked, nothing is planned. I hope to get the PhD before we walk down the aisle. All we know is that we'd like our family and friends to be there and that Randi's a matron. Of honor, of course. Haha! LYLAS!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Romeo and Juliet

This review is of The Acting Company & The Guthrie Theater's Romeo and Juliet at the Annenberg Center on Penn's Campus.

Last night, we made the HUGE mistake of attending Romeo and Juliet performed at the Annenberg Theatre here on campus. I have to admit, like most Shakespeare, I have a soft spot for this play. We read it in high school, and I remember the satisfaction in finally being able to understand it after long classroom discussions. Both Alex and I were understandably brain dead after such a terrible day, but we both thought that the last Shakespeare show we had seen had been so amazingly good, that we might want to see this show. The company putting on the show was billed as "Tony Award Winning", so I thought it couldn't be bad...However, we the theatre kept sending out ads by email on discounted tickets, special "meet & greets" with the actors and other incentives to come see the show. I received a phone call that my tickets had been majically upgraded from the balcony to the orchestra section (when does THAT ever happen?). And the lobby was eerily quiet when we arrived for the show - the audience seating was nowhere near full. The show was billed as "modern", or as "trying to teach a new generation about Shakespeare". OK....I'm not sure what that means, but considering I was probably one of the few people who enjoyed Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, I thought that this billing couldn't be a bad thing, right? The show started with the traditional dialogue,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean."

I was so excited to hear that opening - brought back so many memories. However, all of the cast was dressed in, say, late 1800s-ish formal wear. Not super modern, right? And how would that costuming appeal to "a new generation"? OK, well, maybe I'm being too picky. No, wait, it seems the men are dressed in linen suits that are wrinkled. The womens' outfits fit oddly. As in, maybe they were padded or something (not like they are wearing a bustle, but perhaps an odd corset? Huh. That seems weird. Right? I mean, costumes made out of linen seem like a really bad idea, but most backstage areas have garment steamers, so that should have been taken out right away. And any stage production (especially, I would imagine, a "Tony Award Winning one) would have a tailor to fit costumes to the actors, right? And then the dialogue started. There is something to say for Shakespeare. He really knew what he was doing. I mean, the words and poetry are so beautiful, even with horrible actors saying the lines. It literally sounded like amateur hour, perhaps a show put on by the local high school or junior high. Romeo was whiny and ridiculous, not overly dreamy and romantic. Juliet had a pitch to her voice that was unbelievably annoying. I think she was trying to "project", but just ended up shouting. The Nurse, who is somewhat of a comic relief, was (holy lord) shouting on the top of her lungs. Mercutio was (methinks) trying to portray a "gangster type" as well as a "comic type" as well as a "pimp type". It was a little much. There was a guy who was wearing sunglasses (perhaps for youth appeal?) and appeared drunk most of the time - oh, and had no lines. Odd. The dialogue was said wrong. Things like "silly girl" were added to sonnets. There were pelvic thrusts involved, and several mocking gestures to boners. I realize that Shakespeare was written for the proletariat, and that such writing was crude in manner and suggestive in dialogue. But, I much more appreciate subtlety than outright crudeness, especially at a play billed to be for the "younger generation". I could go on and on, I am sure. But I will call it at that.
Needless to say, we left at intermission, along with, as far as I can tell, half of the audience (which was not a big audience to begin with). I am not sure what type of acting is required to act Shakespeare, but I feel that, in general, it requires real talent. These sad amateurs might have been wonderful at a more "modern" play (hardy-har-har), but for this, lacked real talent and understanding of what the words and poetry are trying to portray. Romeo and Juliet had no chemistry. There was no reason for them to be together, and Juliet was portrayed as a child, running and skipping about in mock high-heels. Its unfortunate that this was such a bad show. The first bad show we've seen at this theatre in over two years. Just, whatever you do, don't go see this show.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lonely Weekend Haiku Friday

Alex has gone to
cycle in West Point for the
Penn Cycling Team.


Home alone for the
weekend, whatever shall I
do? Haha funny!


As if I don't have
exactly one million things
to do any day!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bad Boys of Dance

Holy Moly, you guys. I am turning into a teenage girl again! Bear with me....

Last night, Alex and I went to the Annenberg Theatre on campus to watch the Bad Boys of Dance. I was pleasantly surprised to see their performances were to popular songs that are super fun to dance to, such as "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas, "Bad" by Michael Jackson, "Crazy" by Prince and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. There were two parts to the show. The first part of the show was a story, about a guy and a girl and falling in love and how relationships are hard. The boys were dressed in jeans and colored T-shirts, making them look exactly like a Gap commercial. Their choreography was not as technical as some that I've seen. There were fewer interactions among the men, more physical lifts and tumbling. And MAN, were they STUNNING! Seriously! Very, very beautiful. Very. Did I get my across? Haha!
There is one woman in the show, Adrienne Canterna-Thomas, the wife of the founder, Rasta Thomas. She is full of energy, a great addition to the show, providing a lot of fun and distraction. The men dancing each had some particular talent - like tap dancing, tumbling, classical ballet. They have really stunning bodies, they completely interact with the audience, mostly by yelling, mouthing the words to the songs, or winking or making some funny faces or dance moves. The whole group is so energetic and so lively, I almost wanted to join them on stage. The lady next to us nearly did. She was dancing in her chair, a few times I thought she would end up in Alex's lap! The show is energetic, athletic, super cute and very attractive. AND? If you cheer hard enough, the do an encore performance to "I'm too Sexy" by Right Said Fred. Shirtless. And we were nearly in the front row. Teehee!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Invention of Lying

I'm not sure why this movie appealed to me so much. I think, mostly, I loved, loved, loved the cast. I also thought it was a funny premise for a movie - that the whole world exists and no one tells a lie? Hysterical, right? Well....actually, I'm not sure what it was. Alex called it "cute". I thought it was "nice", maybe? I'm not sure. There were definitely some funny parts, but sometimes the dialogue was more awkward than funny. I mean, you can only tell Ricky Gervais that he's chubby so many times before it gets kinda tired, and eventually, pretty sad. And Jennifer Garner can only talk about masturbating so much before it gets somewhat uncomfortable, right? I guess, perhaps, this movie is not meant to be funny. Or, perhaps, it's not meant to be so much a comedy as a commentary on life in general, I suppose. The story goes that Ricky Gervais lives in a world where no one can lie. He falls in love with Jennifer Garner's character, who promptly tells him that she is out of his league and would not be going on any more dates with him. He gets fired from his job and has no money and has no idea what to do. He then finds out he is able to tell lies. What follows is a somewhat bizarre turn of events. His mother is dying, and he lies to her, telling her that life doesn't just end, but it continues on (in a somewhat modified version of the Christian idea of heaven). People overhear him, and the entire world camps out, waiting for him to tell them what he knows about death (and life, I suppose), turning him into a bit of a "Messiah" figure, so to speak.
I'm not quite sure what the idea was behind this movie. It was a tad slow - reminded me a bit of "Pleasantville" or other movies like it, where the characters are so naive and boring. Jennifer Garner's character keeps telling Ricky Gervais that they are not "genetically" compatible, and that she does not want to have chubby, snub nosed, little kids. Which, honestly, made her a somewhat unsympathetic character. I didn't really like her much - and I really, really love her usually. Ricky Gervais was mostly just depressing (although, I am assuming, this is what he was going for) and the whole movie just seemed to be an ill-thought through rom-com. I am a bit on the fence about this one. The cast was really good. But I'm just not least it wasn't very long...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Random Tidbits

  • Signed a lease on our new place - so super nice! A jacuzzi tub, a backyard (city style, but still really nice) and 1.5 baths! Woo hoo! And cheaper rent than we pay now, to boot! Yay! Will be living a but farther out from school (about 3 miles), but that's OK. I think I'll become a bike commuter.
  • Hurt my heel running. I guess I do have something in common with Achilles.
  • Did not run at all this weekend. Kinda bummed out about that.
  • Found Oxnard Strawberries at Reading Terminal this weekend. Bought 4 lbs and made some Strawberry Shortcake with fresh whipped cream - YUM!
  • Watched The Invention of Lying and really liked it - more on that later this week.
  • Made plans to go to Yellowstone with practically the whole family. Poor Alex, he'll be dragged along on a memorable, family filled Model T vacation this fall.
  • Finished my taxes and sent them off. Phew!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Polar Opposites Haiku Friday

Good and bad, sad and
mad. Looking forward, glancing
back. Where to go next?


Life's never as you
thought, never perfect, always
messy, surprising.


Growing up, moving
on: new place, new neighborhood
On to the next step!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Current Pet Peeves

For whatever reason, I'm a bit snappy lately. Not sure if it's the fact that it's gorgeous weather outside and I'm stuck inside with an endless list of experiments to do. Or that we're moving in about a month and I'm not at all prepared. Or the myriad number of things I should be doing instead of killing time reading the internet. Who knows? Therefore, I present a list of things that bug me:

  • Tiger Woods - anything and everything Tiger Woods. I could honestly care less about him, his golf game, his misogynist golf club where he's playing or the fact that he missed his son's first birthday. Hello? You're the jackass that decided to screw everything in sight! You're the one who screwed up, you should pay for it. I don't feel one bit bad for you and I wish your wife would take you for all you're worth.
  • The local news here in Philadelphia. No matter what station, no matter what time, the news is SO bad. The stories presented are not presented well. There are blurbs (short, with very little detail) about SERIOUS CRIME here in the city. However, apparently, because they involve minorities or poor neighborhoods, the get little, if no, air time. Instead, I have to listen to a nearly 5 minute discussion about "going green" while having sex. Seriously - they said NOT to use latex condoms! Hello, HIV?? STD?? Anyone??
  • I hurt my hell somehow. I have no idea, but I'm sure it has something to do with my flip flops and walking about a hundred miles in them (whoops!). Now, my heel is killing me, I am back to wearing actual shoes and I have dance lessons with Alex tonight. Ugh. My entire life is walking - to/from work, all over my lab and my workplace. And every step hurts. Plus, I need to continue training for this 10 mile run in less than a month. Great.
  • We have a paper towel dispenser in our bathroom at work. The paper towels are on a roll and sometimes the paper towels get stuck, or need to be re-loaded in the dispenser. Does anyone on this floor do this? I fix it every day. Is it hard to fix? No. Sometimes, I just wonder about people.
  • Now, I am not usually one to complain about the weather. For the last few days, it has been gorgeous and amazing and lovely. However, it has been 90! Don't get me wrong, I like sunny warm days. But seriously? 90 in the beginning of April? Holy moly - what will summer have in store for us?
  • I am so irritated about the way people are allowed to treat kids. I am not OK with a school deciding to cancel prom simply because a girl wants to bring her girlfriend. I am also not OK with kids not being able to express themselves in school. Granted, anything promoting hatred should not be allowed. But wearing clothing that depicts your religion, your sexual orientation, your identity should be fine. Even is it's screaming "I'm gay!". It would do a lot of people a lot of good to open your fucking eyes and see the world around you. A gay kid is not a threat to the fabric of society. But ostracizing one is.
All right, I think I'm off my soapbox for now....