Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Advice, Friendship, Gender, Quick Read

After spending the weekend with some old friends, it got me thinking about the fluctuation of friendships.  I grew up singing this folk song at Girl Scout camp and it has always stuck with me.

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old
One is Silver and the Other is Gold

With my quarter life crisis in full swing, my friendships old and new carry a lot of weight these days because we lean on each other for support.  Having just moved to the city, I’ve been spending time with lots of new people and old friends I didn’t see as often when I lived across the water.  It got me thinking how friendships, bonds and connections with people are constantly changing throughout a lifetime.  When we’re young we think friendship is a concrete, forever thing.

I love the portrayal of female friendship on the HBO show Girls.  My friends and I are most definitely their target audience, and they hit the nail on the head with the weird quirks that come with female friendships in their 20’s.  The BBC article below reflects on the importance of female friendships and how they’ve been portrayed in TV and movies of the recent century.

Girls - 2014
(click on picture to read article)

For women, being social is part of our make up.  We feed off of the people around us and are changed and affected by those relationships.

My point being, people come and go, cherish them all the same for what they contribute to your life!

-S

Surprising Find at the Starbucks Roastery

Gender

Last weekend I went to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room which is fairly new to Seattle. I was excited to see how they roasted the coffee beans and created the different brews. All my friends have raved about it and I even know some people who go every weekend. What I didn’t expect, was to be more interested in the restrooms.

WP_20150208_13_33_25_ProI was confused while I was walking towards the restroom and saw people do a double take. Stopping in their tracks and looking around dumbfounded. When I got closer I realized why: Starbucks had unisex restrooms! You wait in line with everyone else until one of the many large stalls opened up– and this idea was so foreign to people they awkwardly looked at each other to verify that they were allowed to be standing there. You might not understand why I am so excited about this but I have a reason why. When I was in college, I was taking classes in the dance department. One day between classes I was sitting at a bench outside the restrooms and a faculty member was giving a new student a tour of the facilities. I was watching the student stop in her tracks and say “The restrooms are unisex?” She went on to tell a story about growing up and people questioning which restroom she should be allowed to use. I don’t want to share the personal story in detail, but instead this learning: Creating a space that is cognizant of diversity allows people to be comfortable and thrive. You will never understand what this entails until you learn about the trials and tribulations of all walks of life. I would never have looked at a restroom the way I do now if I had never heard that story. I still have a long way to go until I even begin to understand how she feels in those situations but I hope it helps me start to create a better world for her.

Diversity in Hollywood

Essay, Feminism, Gender

I am someone who gets invested in stories. I get sucked into books, especially series, and I recently realized I prefer this new age of television (ability to watch full seasons via Netflix, Hulu, etc) to movies. This new age of television has also brought a much needed touch of diversity with more and more lead characters, writers, and show runners who are not only Caucasian, middle-aged, men. Even though I am drawn to these new shows, cable television has definitely missed a few steps along the way.

Going through the current major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC), diversity is starting to take hold, but usually as an addition and very safe. The Mindy Project was lauded for featuring an female who is Indian as the lead, but most of the rest of the featured cast is a Caucasian boys club. Modern Family features a gay couple, but most of the cast, including the couple, are middle-class Caucasian. The Big Bang Theory shows off the stereotypical Caucasian (and Indian) “nerds” and the dumb-blonde Caucasian woman. It finally (sort-of, almost) got its act together when adding the smart, nerdy Caucasian women. I will give it props for showcasing a character who is (most likely) on the autism spectrum.

Some outliers include Fox’s Glee (in its last season) who tries to “champion the underdog” by showcasing characters who are transgender, bi-sexual, gay, disabled, etc. ABC’s Black-ish features a middle-class African-American family.  We also have a saving grace in Shonda Rhimes, whose series include Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy. They all have strong, female leads. They also feature ethnic and sexual orientation diversity. They definitely aren’t perfect, but I feel they are some of the only series where diversity is effortless.

Cable television isn’t perfect, nor does every show have to be a perfect depiction of diversity. But, I am now looking towards new television outlets to set the bar.The change from traditional cable networks to other content creators and providers has allowed for a more thoughtful and daring look at diversity. Maybe there is less red tape. Maybe they don’t have to rely on ad revenue. It is clear that they have more freedom to explore. Here are some quick examples of these shows:

– Transparent on Amazon: Transgender father, tackles gender identity. Female creator and producer who enacted a “transfirmative action program” that favors hiring transgender candidates over cisgender applicants. All the bathrooms on set are gender neutral.

– Girls on HBO: Created, produced, directed, written, and starred by Lena Dunham. All four leads are female, not just sex focused a la Sex and the City.

-Orange is the New Black on Netflix: Mostly female cast in a woman’s prison. Tackles ethnic diversity, gender identity, sexuality, and represents people of different socio-economic backgrounds.

– Looking on HBO: Unfiltered view of 3 men’s lives who are gay in San Francisco.

This has got me thinking: maybe I am staying away from movies because it hasn’t transitioned as quickly as television. I have no interest in the fifth Transformers movie especially after watching the opening scene with Megan Fox in the sequel. I am clearly bored of the Spider Man reboots, every Iron Man, X-Men, Avengers, Wolverine, Thor, Hulk… wait there are still more Marvel movie franchises I haven’t listed? They must be making so much money… anyways, I digress. Where is the diversity? Reese Witherspoon started her own production company because Hollywood was lacking in movies with “clear, female voices”. Interestingly enough, most of my to-see movie list for the last year wouldn’t exist that company: Gone Girl and Wild.

It is your call Hollywood, how quickly are you going to catch up? I guess I am just going to continue sitting here, binge watching Netflix until you do.

I am woman, see me do all the dirty work

Feminism, Gender, Workplace

When I find myself  in a room full of women at work, I get uncomfortable. You may be thinking, “Jenna, what are you smoking? All you do is complain about there not being enough women in tech! You should be happy!” Au contraire, mon ami. When I find myself in these situations it means one thing: this meeting is about housework and no men showed up to the cleaning party.

There are certain tasks that are outside of normal “work” work which I classify as dirty work. For example, I helped plan numerous events last year which was executed by a v-team. We planned holiday events, cultural potlucks, outreach events, etc. Sounds like fun, but it is really all dirty work. The team was volunteer based and comprised of about 12 women and one man whose job was to cook the meat at the potluck. I am currently party of a diversity and inclusion v-team for all of IT (20k people) in my company and there are about 25 women and two men.  With the current diversity statistics in tech, this disparity just doesn’t make sense. What’s even more interesting is that this extra work isn’t helping women in the eyes of their colleagues. It doesn’t even help them get promoted. Women help more, but benefit less.

The number of meeting requests I send out, emails I compose for others, events I plan– it has almost become insulting. Why should someone with a bachelors degree be spending so much of their day finishing these tasks? Especially when my male counterparts don’t. I will admit that I am the reason this has happened. I volunteer to help. Someone has to do the job. Why is it then, that it is usually women?

Lies to stop teaching girls about sex

Feminism, Gender, Sex Ed

Recently I came across an article by Julianne Ross on mic.com called “17 lies we need to stop teaching girls about sex.” Immediately after reading it, I retweeted it with a “Yes!!!!!” Because, although we have come a long way in this country as far as sexual freedom goes, there are still unhealthy myths that make sex more fraught and confusing than it needs to be.

Here are some of my favorites from Julianne’s list, followed by some additions of my own.

1. Virginity exists. False. “There’s no clear universal concept of virginity, and people should be able to define meaningful markers of intimacy for themselves.”

2. Hymens are a sign of virginity. False. “Hymens usually become worn down throughout adolescence and can be torn by everything from jumping on a trampoline, to horseback riding, to simply playing sports.”

3. The first time is going to hurt — a lot. It doesn’t have to. “Maybe if we stop telling girls to be terrified of the excruciating pain of their first time, things would be a little more comfortable for everyone.”

4. Too much sex will stretch you out. This is a tired, harmful myth that serves to make women feel guilty, used, and less-than if they have a lot of sex. “The truth is, women differ in size just like men do. The vagina is like a rubber band,” and will expand as need be but will ultimately settle to its natural size.

Here are some more myths I think we should retire once and for all:

1. Boys have higher sex drives. The truth is, sex drive varies from person to person, regardless of gender. This lie not only makes girls feel shameful and different if they have a high sex drive, it also harms boys who feel they are not living up to expectations.

2. Girls don’t masturbate. The concept of young boys (and men) masturbating is seen as commonplace and is often joked about, while female masturbation is scarcely mentioned, as if it doesn’t exist. Sex education in schools should include information about self pleasure. Masturbation is healthy and natural, and kids should be told as much.

3. The end goal of sex is the man’s climax. Yeah, we get it, the biological purpose of sex is to reproduce. But since sex is about so much more than reproduction, why not focus on the woman’s climax as well? Why don’t we teach young people that the woman’s orgasm is as important as the man’s?

4. Birth control doesn’t work all that well. Scare tactics are so 20th century. Can we move on now? While it is important for kids to know that birth control is fallible, the focus should be on maximizing its efficiency — not telling kids abstinence is the only way to go. Both boys and girls should be motivated to use birth control as responsibly as possible, rather than being convinced it doesn’t work and opting out of it entirely.

5. Sex is a big, scary, life-changing decision. Sex is not a one-way escalator you can’t get off. It is a decision that young people should feel good about if they do it responsibly and with someone they trust. And once they start, nothing is forcing them to keep going. If you have a breakup or decide sex isn’t for you or you’re not ready yet, you can put it aside until it feels right.

~

Let’s remove the guilt and shame from sex and help everyone have safe, smart, and satisfying experiences.

Did you have sex ed in school? What were you taught?

-L

(Again, here is the original article that inspired this post.)

Gender Norms in Dance

Dance, Gender

Let’s talk about gender roles in dance.

All styles of dance have traditional gender norms. Ballet showcases the women, while the men in ballet have been teasingly called the “tote and carry,” just there to lift. Social dances have the men leading the women, while once again showcasing the women and making sure they look good. Nowadays, the contemporary styles have begun to stray from the norm and have challenged the status-quo of the older styles. For example, Fosse had his male and female ensemble members dance the same choreography with the same stylistic intentions. Look at this video of dancers from Chicago doing All That Jazz and see how every person on stage was dancing exactly the same.

Seeing this change has helped me start to think about and challenge gender norms in dance. But an important lesson while teaching has made me think differently.

A few summers back I was teaching introductory ballet and tap combo classes for 4 to 7 year olds. One week it was Prince and Princess themed. The boys were given capes and crowns, the girls were given wands and tiaras. The boys were marching, the girls were skipping. The boys were bowing, the girls were curtsying. Nothing was out of the ordinary.

Before class the next day, the mother of one of the boys came up to me. She said that her son was torn up after class the day before because he wanted to wear a tiara but was too embarrassed to ask. He was experiencing confusion around what was expected of him and what felt normal. I was dumbfounded. I had never once considered this as something one of my students would be battling.

Now I teach all my young students how to march, skip, bow, and curtsy. If we dress up, I encourage mixing and matching, even dressing up myself to make others feel more comfortable with it. I want to encourage dancers to become their best selves.

However, you have to take all of these things with a grain of salt. If you want to dance in classical ballets, you will have to learn to embrace those typical roles. If you want to dance in Chicago on Broadway, you will have to learn to let go of your preconceived notions of what your gender should dance like and learn Fosse’s style.

I don’t see these norms changing anytime soon, but as teachers we should prepare students for anything. — J