Sunday, November 25, 2012

These Haters Can't Hold Me Back: A Third Anniversary

"People either really love me or hate me." - Me 
"Yes, I've noticed." - Lane
The most valuable takeaway from the past three years of writing about other women's accomplishments has been creating a sense of accomplishment for myself. Even though I'm sharing my words and thoughts with many people, and constantly referencing "CalistaJones" in my daily life, I view the experience as very personal and internal. This is why any positive feedback is relished. I take it as justification for being me. Justification for thinking thoughts and stating opinions. Fuel to the fire, so to speak.

As I was regaling Lane with my job history and explaining to him about employers who either loved or hated me even though my performance was the same in all positions,  I expanded this determination to include most people. Now, I'm not naive enough to think there isn't any gray area, whether it's friends of friends who tolerate my presence, those who brush off my eccentricities as "Just Julia", or legitimate broken relationships. But for the most part it seems, without rhyme or reason, you're either for me or against me. 

My mom just loves me, Lane just loves me, my best friends just love me, my blog fans just love me. This doesn't mean they see me as flawless (hardly), it just means they love me despite my imperfections, despite my "Just Julia"-ness.  And as Lane wisely pointed out, (which I believe is very true even though I hate it because I want to be better than this), because of the high amount of love and adoration I've luckily received just 'cause, I tend to fixate on those who, umm, don't like me just 'cause. 

As hard as I may try to embrace the lyrics of Lane's current fav rap "These haters (radio edit) can't hold me back"*, the haters tend to hold me back. My brain just won't let them go.  More than a need to be liked and accepted, I have a desire to be understood and a belief that when I'm disregarded or disliked, it's based off of a misunderstanding. As a coping mechanism, I either lament a misstep I may have made or I zero in on the lack of depth and intelligence in the other party. For instance, after the election, as I watched my friend count depreciate on FB, I worried I had a been a little too "Julia" with one of my more popular updates:

All the rape idiots are losing!!!! woo woo!!!
Like · 

But now, evermore gleefully pleased with our feminist victory, I've decided anyone who bowed out of my Facebook life that day is a big time sore loser, with little appreciation for facts, truth,  knowledge, and goodness. Obviously, not an appropriate place to settle but trying to understand the other side or simply letting it be is less satisfying in the short term. I seem to be stuck in a never ending cycle of "Wait, is it me? Oh no, no, it's totally, totally, you." Which is the antithesis of progression, thus a progressive's worst nightmare and not where I want to remain. It's a false sense of overcoming your opposition when you just write them off as insignificant or take their rejection of you as feminist street cred. 

Much like "Julia, the person", Feminism, the movement, finds itself on a love/hate plateau. For those who embrace the doctrine and identify as feminists, there is little tolerance towards those who either actively work against gender equality, ie. Rape Idiots, or for those who clearly believe in the basic tenets of feminism yet refuse the label because of its negative connotations. An extreme, "You're either with us or against us" scenario. No gray area! In either case, it's clear misunderstanding is the cause and "Well fuck you then" is not the solution. So what to do...

As the year winds down and I look back at all of the great achievements in the last twelve months, I just want to do more. I want more posts on HelloGiggles, I want to tell more stories at The Moth, I want 60,000+ page views, and certainly I want to complete more posts. With regards to my blog, wanting more is exactly where I should be. In the Abraham Lincoln documentary "Lincoln", one historian suggests that Lincoln was never satisfied with his accomplishments even when he was in the White House and this trait is why he was incredibly successful. Now, I'm no Lincoln, but obviously I want to keep achieving. I want to make sure my achievements are farther reaching than"just" those who love me. I want to work to bridge the gap between what Feminism actually is and what "Feminism" has been demonized to be. 

The theme for this upcoming year will have a "No man is left behind" approach. (I love repurposing military quotes.) I don't want the haters to hold me back, but the idea of leaving them behind without doing as much as possible to encourage them to move forward with me seems to be regressive. We'll all be in the same future after all. I want to use my collection of women to show anyone who thinks feminism to be inherently at odds with "traditional values" or set to destroy white men how truly wrong that misunderstanding is. More people could be on board with the message if they just saw how misled they've been by this idea that change determines everything that is or once was to be wrong. My belief in gender equality does not mean your desire to change your name after marriage is a problem in and of itself or that society as we know it should be obliterated. It just means I see more sides to humanity than "Male" or "Female" and believe inclusion and acceptance will benefit us all. 

It's not hard to find examples of the "Feminist Stereotype". When women began protesting Reddit for allowing posts with photos of unsuspecting women's upskirts, the below "Feminist Nazi" Meme was created:

There were several other variants with the same theme all touting this idea that women have it SO good, we just like to make a fuss just 'cause. YOU'RE POSTING PICTURES OF OUR BODIES WITHOUT OUR CONSENT!!!! How is that not just cause for a protest!? Setting aside the Reddit issue, an identical meme was created by feminists to contest the clear stereotype and misrepresentation of the original: 

I don't know why people fear feminism or think it is just a bunch of confused women yelling. In my attempts to understand the other side, the best answer I can find would be the popular rigid belief that women can only be happy with their traditional status OR erratically enraged by it. Another either/or, no gray area situation. But that is just not true. Human beings, regardless of gender, have varied likes, dislikes, and experiences. Feminists are human beings so even with their shared beliefs, they represent a wide variety of people.

While I may be an imperfect example, I certainly am a multifaceted feminist. I am in love with a heterosexual white male so I clearly don't want "them" to become disenfranchised; a common misconception. And just because I want more than pink for girls and believe a woman's "place" is anywhere she damn well pleases, I personally love cooking, cleaning, and homemaking and can understand why someone would CHOOSE to focus on those areas. In fact, out of my parents three daughters, I am the most outspoken about feminism while also upholding more of our family traditions. Example:

My Swedish Heritage Christmas

Traditions like these remind me of my family so they are important to me. I choose to spend time baking our recipes and hanging our decorations because it feels nice. When women choose to uphold conventional attributes in addition to protesting the establishment, it shakes up the unfavorable characterization of feminists which makes people feel uneasy. The collective OCD of society doesn't like it when women color outside the lines. This female juxtaposition is often manipulated into a hypocrisy, thus permitting the stereotype to persist and memes like the "Feminist Nazi" thrive as a result.  

Feminists have always twisted negative imagery to our favor.
BUT! You can be a traditional person who questions traditional ideas. These traits don't have to be exclusive to one another. Even though I liked cooking a classic turkey dinner for my loved ones this Thanksgiving, I also like learning more about the transgender community and how Evangelical Christians were pro-choice in the 70's because of Biblical interpretations yet to be manipulated by Evangelical leadership set against feminists and homosexuals. This isn't a new wave or a change from typical activism as feminists have never been the negative, one dimensional male haters they've been portrayed as in the media. The point has always been to expand the definition of an "acceptable woman" and extend opportunities.

There are good and comforting parts of our past that should be preserved, but there are better parts of our future that can only be created by questioning and editing what is already accepted. It's all about finding a balance. Many tend to focus on the fear of losing privilege when they really should consider all they will gain from progress. There are so many women (and spoiler alert: men ;) who are shining examples of what can be gained by intentionally questioning comfortable "norms" in the name of bettering life for all. 

So maybe, if you've written off this blog (me) before as a waste of your time or in direct conflict with your core values, you should give it (me) another chance. Let's work on understanding one another and appreciating our differences as a way to come together. Maybe this won't be the most successful theme yet but I'm excited about it. And if you've been a long time follower and Julia supporter, THANK YOU! I promise it's just going to keep getting better! 

For fun, by the numbers:

50 Posts totaling 88,939 words = basically a book! A slowly written, slowly read book. Cool!

*In no way shape or form are Rick Ross' "Hold Me Back" lyrics a feminist approved manifesto or Lane's favorite rap. ;)

Example of "intentional questioning" by an 8 year old girl:


  1. I love this post and blog for numerous reasons:
    1. Your inclusion of Rick Ross.
    2. People mostly love or hate me as well.
    3. Way to not leave the haters behind, I could learn something from you on that one.

    Congrats on 3 years, keep it up or a scathing post about you by the Chocolate Puma could be in order. (kidding!)

    (Not really)

  2. Turning this blog into a book is a great idea.

  3. I love your blog and have always loved you, despite the short hair debacle of 2011.

  4. Absolutely loved this! I've loved you since I found this and can't wait for what's to come!