girl, or girrrrl? or gurl? or woman? or lady? and other rants

This has been said hundreds of ways by countless people.
This isn’t a new topic.
It’s probably all been covered by better writers.

But being a girl can be difficult as fuck. Especially when facing the criticisms of other girls.

To be fair, I haven’t experienced too many moments of inferiority and doubt as a girl, and most of those moments have occurred in the last two years of my life, while studying to be a teacher. But I want to share some that have taken place in the last two weeks and have created a lot of tension in my own head.

First, what do I call myself? Am I girl? Am I a woman? Am I a lady? What am I? What word does society approve of most that will create a balance of self-respect and power, while maintaining what I consider to be my core characteristics and ideals? Does it even matter? Am I the only one who thinks of this?
I have always liked ‘girl’. To me, it still symbolizes where I am in life.

Oh yeah. I went there. So for this blog and for your knowledge, I prefer ‘girl’. On we go.

On Tuesday, the Republican-led House of Representatives banned a bill that would allow women to receive abortions at the 20-week mark. The bill was nearly unanimous in its decision; only 6 Democrats voted for the bill and only 6 Republicans voted against it. Despite the fact that President Obama said he would veto this ban immediately, saying it violated a woman’s right to choose, the vote caused a stir.
Of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, women hold 78 of them. That is just under 18%. Of those 78 women, 59 are Democrats and 19 are Republicans.
Let’s break this down.
435 seats = 100% of the representation of the House.
78 seats= 17.9%
59 Democratic women= 13.6% (and about 75% of the female representation)
19 Republican women= 4.3% (and about 25% of the female representation)

4.3%.
The vote was 228-196.
This means that even if all 19 Republican women voted on this bill to side with their political party, over 200 of the votes were from men.
I’ll be generous and add in the 6 votes that were Democratic were women too. So that’s 23 votes from women, in theory.
But, that still leaves 205 men.
205 men being able to decide what a woman’s body can and cannot undergo.
So, as a girl, this pissed me off.
And I did the stupidest thing I could have done.

I voiced my opinion on a forum.
GOD DAMMIT WHAT WAS I THINKING.

On Facebook, I subscribe to my local news. They posted the decision and I responded. I’m walking into fire, people.
Here’s what I wrote:
“It is entirely a woman’s choice. Do not put this into the hands of rich conservative men who wouldn’t understand the extremely difficult choice at all.”

Why did I put this? Stupid Kate.
I got 11 “likes” for this comment; 10 women and 1 man. Go one guy!
Here’s the honest-to-deity response I got back:
“and how about the women who do understand the difficult choice? you are NOT thinking of you and your baby, once you get pregnant you ARE NOT just YOU anymore! Anyone women or man so says that there is nothing wrong with it and is A WOMENS choice, are the type of people who would have no problem doing drugs while they are pregnant because to them it’s not theirs and their babys body it’s just theirs!! YOU kind of people make me sick!”

My favorite part is the accusation that I will do drugs when pregnant.
It reminds me of this:

“Mom, dad. This is Billy.”

I should mention that the response I got back was from a woman.

Next item up for discussion:
video games.

I am a proud gamer. I love video games, and I love talking about video games. I attend the conventions, I subscribe to the magazines, I fight the gamer fight! I am also a Dungeons & Dragons nerd. I have a sparkly pink D-20 and I’m proud of it.

Video games are fucking brilliant, aren’t they? I could go on about them for hours.
So as you gamers know, E3 was last week and PS4 swept the streets with Xbox One’s shitty presentation. Both systems showed some cool games, though. Like Killer Instinct! Xbox One had a live demonstration of this fighting game featuring a male and female player just fighting it out; the female player had never played the game before.
Let’s watch, shall we?

(Skip to :35 to start hearing the dialogue I’ll be discussing.)
Many people took offense to the comments by the male player, and I can’t blame them. They were offensive and kind of rapey. I don’t think this guy meant for them to be that way; I honestly think he would have said that to a male player too, which doesn’t make them any less rapey, but I certainly don’t think he planned to sound so creepy.

But this doesn’t even offend me that much. Because as a female gamer, I’ve had to deal with sexist cliches and gender stereotypes for years.
Let’s take a look at Suikoden. If you don’t know the Suikoden series, it’s an excellent JRPG story that spans five games (although Suikoden II is the best and the most difficult to find.) In these stories, a young lady named Jeane serves as your rune “mistress” who provides you with magical items and advances the plot of the game.
The original Suikoden was created in 1995, with the fifth game coming out in 2006.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of Jeane’s character.

Suikoden I
Jeane01

Suikoden II
S2-jeane

Suikoden III
cf97fa3e

Suikoden IV
S4-jeane

And Suikoden V
Jeane0

YEAH?!

So we have the same character over five games, over 10+ years of gaming technology and graphic enhancement…and the end result is less clothing and a more blatant “fuck me” face?!
Phew. Gotta take a deep breath before I start becoming shrill.

I know my point has been made thousands of times throughout the gaming community, and a lot of gender equalization has occurred through the creation of strong female characters. Right now I’m playing The Last of Us, and Ellie is an amazing female character who can hold her own but still shows vulnerability and depth. I’ll admit, I’m hard-pressed to find more female characters than male characters who can be considered ‘developed’, but it’s understandable. The gaming industry is dominated by male playersOHWAIT that’s not true. A nearly equal amount of women and men play console and computer games.

I give you a challenge. Google a game called “Dragon’s Crown”; it’s not even out yet. It’s developed by Atlas and Vanillaware, the same people who made the amazing game Odin Sphere. When you Google this game, find me an image of a female character that is dressed appropriately for a battle situation and is drawn to create a realistic female body, even by gaming standards.
Go. I’ll wait.

Did you find this?
2342142-sorcererandamazon
The art director for this game is male. Who’s surprised, raise your hand.

I could go on about the inequalities in gaming for hours, but I’ll move on to my final point.

Teaching.
Yesterday, the head of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, Karen Lewis, issued a statement that accused “rich white men” of being racist and using black and Latino students as platforms for their white agenda. Karen Lewis has been the head of the CTU for three years and successfully led the CTU in their teacher’s strike in the fall of 2012, something I followed very closely. Karen Lewis has done a lot of good for teachers’ rights and will likely make my profession more accessible and accredited in Chicago for years to come.

But Karen Lewis is a bit of a firestarter.
And Karen Lewis doesn’t necessarily represent my views as a female educator.

I have had a very difficult time in graduate school with regards to learning the politics and bureaucracy of the education system in America. In large, teaching is still thought of as a female profession, and it has a history. Women weren’t offered equality for the longest time (and arguably still aren’t in many respects), and teaching was one profession they were able to excel in. In the 1950s and 60s, at the height of the Cold War and fears over communism and war in Vietnam, female (and male) teachers were producing some of the best and brightest classes America had ever seen.
Then something changed. The profession was no longer viewed as a powerful and esteemed one, and many of the best teachers left the classroom to pursue more financially beneficial and competitive positions.
Now it’s 2013 and America is so far behind in global education. One of my professors told us a story about her experiences with the state board: (paraphrased)
“I was confused as to what these people expected, so I asked them. They said, ‘We have to beat China! We need to become the best nation on Earth again!’ Yeah, because that’s what we need. Global excellence. How about starting in the classroom and getting all of our students to an acceptable reading level?”
Forgive me, but our education system is in the shitter, and becoming a teacher is scary.

Did you know less than 25% of men represent the K-12 teaching population in Illinois? This is actually a decrease from 1999, when men accounted for about 28-29% of the teaching population. (source: Chicago Tribune) So…it is a female-dominated profession. Filled with female ideas and female beliefs and female decisions.

So,why are we failing? And why is this profession considered weak? And why are many of the state and national decision-makers male? Think Arnie Duncan…

Why are so many teachers blaming politicians and white men and rich conservatives? And more importantly, do they have a point? Or is this further creating a barrier between the problem and the solution to our education system?

Karen Lewis isn’t my favorite person. I don’t really like her at all. She’s rude, a publicity hog, and she says things that make me want to take to the streets shouting “I’m not a racist! I don’t use black and Latino children to push my agenda! This woman does not represent me!”
But, do we need a firestarter in the CTU to be noticed and to draw attention to the issues at hand? I didn’t think about this position when I first read the article in question, and my fiance and best friend (both men) had to point out the other side.
Malcolm X didn’t create a revolution by using politically correct phrases and speaking softly. He was a radical, and his views weren’t always the consensus of the oppressed, but they got the point across and they raised the nation’s attention.

And we need the attention in Chicago, especially after the strike threw us into a negative light across the country.
These two images come from opposite sides of the political spectrum. One is from the Detroit News editorial page, from a columnist who considers himself to be liberal and in favor of the Democratic Party. The other comes from the National Republican  website.
chicago-teachers-union

091112_UnionFatCatsChicago_UFSCOLOR

I won’t tell you which is which.

How is it that the woman who I agree with the least amongst all of this bullshit is still the strongest representative? Why is this?

Being a girl can be hard. Being a girl can be scary. Being a girl can bring out the worst in others.
But through this blog, I’ve discovered that being a teacher can be a genderless achievement, and it should be treated as one. Because both men and women can be amazing teachers, and both need to be in our system.

Keep it real.

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One comment

  1. lemonmem · June 19, 2013

    Yeah I feel like you always have to step lightly into new situations when you’re a woman…you never know when people are going to be scary or horrible, outwardly or inwardly.

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