Saturday, August 17, 2013

Good Morning World!

The boys are happily playing trains and cars just across the room. I've got some cheerful music playing on the radio and I have made some major progress on a long term project I have been working on for months. All I need is another cup of coffee.

I am feeling pretty good about life. It is a glorious thing to feel this way. I am profoundly thankful.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I'm a Feminist.

I had a hard time sleeping last night because of how angry I was over the treatment that these young ladies had gotten for standing up for their rights. I get furious over the blatant disrespect, harassment, and verbal abuse that young women are routinely subjected to. The tired old excuse of 'boys are just that way' makes me so angry that I have a hard time seeing straight.

I get furious when I hear people say that feminism is a 'finished' thing. (I have the same response when I hear that said about racism too, by the way.) The fight for equal rights is not going to be finished until people are judged on the merits of their work and behavior, rather then their appearance. It's not going to be finished until harassment of women under the guise of flirtation is no longer tolerated. It's not going to be finished until women are getting equal pay for equal work. It's not going to be finished until people look at a stay at home mom and acknowledge how much hard work she does, and the value of her contribution to society, rather then saying she's 'just a housewife.'

When the subtle and gross insults that insinuate that one gender is less then another are eradicated from our language, perhaps then we can begin to engage in an open discussion of what gender is really about. When people stop upholding the double standard that men can be bare chested in public with out criticism but women being bare chested is obscene, perhaps we can begin a real discussion about what is decent dress and manner of behavior for a setting. I could keep listing off injustices subtle and gross until I'm blue in the face and I wouldn't begin to scrape the surface of this pervasive problem.

Feminism is not about decrying men or putting them down. It's about creating a culture where gender matters about as much as your toenail clippings. It's about creating a society where people are considered on the merits of their behavior, actions, and ideas. I'm not a feminist because I am angry or because I hate men. I'm a feminist because I see a fundamental problem in how our society operates and that I must take action to correct it.

I want my sons to grow up in a more just world. The only way that is going to happen is if I take steps to make sure it is in my home and in the people we associate with. Boys are not born misogynistic. They are taught this. We need to teach them a better way.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Conscious kindness.

I've been doing a lot of thinking today about what it means to be kind. It's especially difficult to do when you are upset or in an otherwise unpleasant mental space. I have been struggling today with a decision on how to handle a situation that brought up a lot of unpleasant feelings. As I examined the feelings, I found myself making a determined effort to let go of them and treating them like physical sensations.

It was a bit frustrating at first. A part of me wanted to throw in the proverbial towel and just let myself be all angry and hurt. I then asked myself, was that the kind thing to do? It was less a matter of being kind to some other person and more one of being kind to myself. When it was all said and done, I came to the conclusion that wallowing in anger and angst was a cruel thing to do to myself.

So, I returned to observing the sensation of anger and angst. Somewhere in the midst of this, the hold of those feelings waned. It was no longer nigh on all consuming. I then moved from observing the sensation to getting to the root of it. I named what I was feeling and then identified the cause. Once I established what the cause of the feeling was, I carefully considered what each possible way to address the cause that came to mind.

My recurrent question as I looked at the costs and benefits of each action that was 'is it just?' and then it was 'is it kind?' It took me a while to sift through the emotional response that each considered action brought to the fore. I found myself rehearsing arguments with people, regardless if those arguments were even going to happen. I found myself considering what would be sufficient to make the people who had upset me regret doing so. I found myself considering petty retorts that while temporarily satisfying would have only proven to exacerbate the problem.

The thing that I surprised myself with, however, was that even as I explored the actions that I didn't believe to be fitting (because I decided that any possible solution that came to mind had to be carefully examined before being discarded), I wasn't judgmental towards myself for thinking of them. I disengaged from criticism by way of looking at what the emotions at play behind the response that I considered were.

It took me a significant portion of my afternoon to get down to the roots of all the feelings involved. I carefully examined each possible solution that would address the primary problems. When I finished examining them all, I put each one through my two bellwether questions (mentioned earlier). Once I found the solution that met both requirements, I decided that I was finished with my exploration. The conscious exploration of what was both a just and a kind solution just served to further cement in my mind that I choose to be a kind person.

Kindness is mistaken by some people for weakness. In my relentless pursuit of the best solution to the problem that evoked the negative response from me, I realized that it takes great strength to remain kind when the situation evokes a passionate desire to be seeking retribution, even under the guise of being just. It's less a matter of wrestling with something external at that point and struggling against yourself. I think that kindness won this round because I consciously chose to remain kind despite what other options there were.

The temporary satisfaction that might have come from cutting retorts just wouldn't outweigh the long term complications that would have come from it. It also would have been something that I would have regretted. So, I chose kindness.