Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"THE" Ring

I feel like i've been lying to you. Something big happened in my life a few weeks ago and i haven't yet shared it here. Dave and I have been together for 6 years and for the past 3 or so we've been debating the pros and cons of marriage. The pros included benefits like insurance, adoption, tax breaks, status as "next of kin," and the other 1,400+ legal rights given to heterosexual married couples in the United States. The cons included the inequity of marriage and feeling like we didn't need to prove anything to anyone about our relationship. We've often felt like, though we've been dating and living together longer than many married couples we knew, people didn't take our relationship as seriously since we weren't married. That's bullshit. But c'est la vie. Then in October the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled to equalize same sex marriage. Within minutes of reading the news my not-at-all-political mother called and said, "so does this mean you and David will finally get engaged?!" At the time i laughed it off, but i knew she was right, our families were jonsin for a wedding, and for babies. The wedding part we can handle, the babies they'd have to wait on. Though my brother and sister-in-law bought us some time by giving birth the the sweetest bundle of joy in the world, Judah, over the summer.

Dave and I got engaged January 1st. Besides being wonderfully happy to spend the rest of my life with the man i love, I am also excited to have a whole new world of wedding hoopla to explore, analyze, and write about! Discussing weddings from a feminist perspective will prove challenging. So here i'll start, at a good place as any, with the ever so important engagement ring... dun dun dunnnnnn

I think i figured out the formula to true marital happiness. The size of the ring = the size of his love for you. Right? Yea, i didn't think so either... but it's what they want us to believe.

The diamond industry is evil. But my dad is a jeweler. It's how he has made a living ever since we immigrated here from Russia in the 90's. Also, my great grandmother and grandmother both passed away and left me beautiful antique stones. I had little choice in the matter of a ring. I was getting one no matter how much i protest the symbolism.

Still, i need to be honest here. Though i wanted to show off my dad's talents and craft, i was very reluctant to wear a ring. I thought it would make me a hypocrite and all my feminist friends would disown me for it. I hate what engagement rings symbolize. The ownership, the "insurance" so he doesn't leave, the conflict diamonds, and everything else Feminist Finance mentions. Instead, i wanted a massage chair. This has been an ongoing conversation and i thought it unfair that i have to wear a symbol of ownership while Dave got his dream guitar as an engagement present from me. (See, now that you realize Dave got a kick-ass guitar all you couples that mocked our egalitarian relationship wish you'd changed your tune). I have always known i would get him his dream guitar when we decided to get hitched, because we should each get something substantial, not just me. So i wanted a massage chair. I wanted something expensive, that i wouldn't buy for myself, that i would love and use and appreciate. Something i couldn't wear on my finger, something that didn't symbolize ownership, something important to me. I realize my economic-privilege is showing here, i apologize for this.

A massage chair was out of the question. Like i said, my father is a jeweler. An amazingly talented, high fashion, well respected jeweler. I had to have a ring. Not just A ring but THE ring. Not having one was out of the question, so was the massage chair (couldn't we just gem-stone the hell out of the chair???) So if me wearing a ring was a nonnegotiable, i would have a say in this ring.

My ring is absolutely gorgeous. It's sparkly, it's unique, and most importantly it's meaningful. The center stone was my great grandmother's and the work is that of my father. I couldn't have asked for more from an engagement ring. Also, Dave is planning on wearing a wedding band throughout our engagement because my ring shouldn't represent i am "taken" while he is still "not." More the reason i love my feminist fiance.

But here's the catch: my ring was a size too big! So i am currently not wearing it while it is getting resized! Oh the horror!!! The first words out of everyone mouth as soon as D and I told them we are getting married were, "Congratulations! Let me see your ring." Or they'd automatically grab my left hand and pull it towards them. Or they stick out their hand, presenting their ring finger, expecting me to do the same as if i'm now a part of this exclusive girl's club. At first, before i can understand what was happening, i would stick out my hand too! When no ring was apparent their face would shift from excitement to disappointment, and then to pity. "Oh you poor thing," they'd think, "he doesn't love you enough to buy you a ring?" I never meant to offend anyone by not wearing my ring so i would quickly blurt out an apology, and that it's getting resized. They would let out a sigh of relief! "Thank god!" They'd think, "Thank god he loves you as much as that ring cost him!" But they never said that to me. Instead they demanded, "Send me pictures then!" I didn't. To be completely forthright, I only sent K a photo because she wouldn't let it go ;)

So what's with that? What if i don't want to be part of this exclusive girl's engagement ring club? What if my ring is incredibly special to me for so many reasons that have nothing to do with what the "engagement ring" symbolizes in America? What if i want to show my ring off, for what it means to me, but don't know how because of so much that is tied to it? What if engagement rings weren't linked to the amount of love = the amount spent on the ring? That's the exclusive girl's club i want to be a part of. The one where love is judged by commitment, honesty, and mutual respect. I've found some of that on OffBeatBride where i'm meeting more and more women in my position. Sick of what weddings have become and ready to reclaim what truly matters. Ready to be as unconventional, off-beat, non-traditional, and "tacky" as they want to be because it suits them and their relationships. Tip of the hat to you, ladies and gents, you're a pretty cool bunch :)

I apologize for the extremely heteronormative and classist post, i'm sure there will be more to come while we plan our wedding :/

EDIT: I read Feministing everyday, but somehow (and i have no idea how) i missed Jessica's engagement announcement! Check out her post and comment section, lot's of good stuff that i am struggling with as well.

Meet Dov Charney.

Yes. Please. Let's meet the asshole.

Dov Charney is the CEO of American Apparel. He has also had three sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him just in one year by employees. He also frequently walks around the office in his underwear and makes a habit of calling his female employees, "sluts," because he considers the term to be endearing and a normal part of "welcomed conversation."

I get it, companies need to be edgy to make it these days. But that edge doesn't have to come at the expense of objectifying women. When questioned on it, Charney claims his style isn't a shtik but rather a business model. He urges that, "the financial guys will miss an opportunity if they are offended by superficialities." Superficialities? Hmm, not so much. Putting up a billboard in the middle of Manhattan with an almost nude model bent over, facing the other direction is objectifying. No doubt about it and no superficialities either. And if the billboard itself doesn't bother you, maybe the fact that it was spray painted with, "GEE, I WONDER WHY WOMEN GET RAPED," will. Not that Charney can control what people tag his billboards with but he should hear the message loud and clear. Advertising like his perpetuates a culture of rape and victimization.

So, let's "Meet Dov Charney," the CEO of American Apparel.

The text on his advertisement (top of page) acquainting us reads, "Women initiate most domestic violence, yet out of a thousand cases of domestic violence, maybe one is involving a man. And this has made a victim culture out of women.” Wait, what? Where the hell is he getting his information? Because that's clearly not the case.

Also, since when do CEOs of companies make it a point to appear in the company advertising? And since when are they so creepy. He looks like a rapist and she looks like she's drugged. Not helping your point, Charney.

AA's clothing has gotten such mass approval for being made in "non-exploitative settings." In a way, that's true. Rather than being made in sweatshops overseas like so many other companies, AA clothes are made in an air-conditioned factory in LA and employees are paid a fair wage as well as receive full health benefits. I can't say anything bad about that, it's a shame more companies don't follow in AA's lead in terms of anti-sweatshop labor. But "exploitative" can mean other things, too. Like regularly being sexually harassed at work, being forced to laugh and cheer as your boss runs through the office in his underwear, and being called "slut" as a term of endearment at work.

More on Charney here...

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's Been a Long Time Coming

After an inauspicious start to our D.C. journey, my 6 days there left me inspired, exhausted, and hopeful for the future of our country. On our way to catch the bus from NYC, we got a flat in New Haven, sped down the Merritt, and jumped on a train we weren't sure was destined for Grand Central. Thankfully someone replied to my cat-lady like screams, "is this train going to NYC!?!?!!?" and we were on our way, a bit off but that much more determined. Dave and I backpacked through Europe a few summers ago and are used to public transportation. We also lied to almost everyone we met there about being Canadian. We were embarrassed to be U.S. citizens and wanted to avoid the snarky comments and dismissive glances from fellow travelers disappointed with Americans for "re-electing" Bush and invading Iraq. Standing among a sea of people chanting, "O-BA-MA, O-BA-MA" during the inauguration left me proud to be an American and hopeful for a future in which the U.S. is respected and esteemed locally and abroad. Each time the jumbotrons showed our new president, the 2 million people surrounding me on the National Mall cheered, applauded, chanted, and whistled with tears streaming down their faces. America was more than ready for this, we've been craving it.

Inauguration week in D.C. was not a place for those who feel claustrophobic easily. Everywhere we went there were lines, crowds, and people. The metro was jam packed. I took photos on Monday of the escalator in the L'Enfant Plaza metro stop - people were only getting out, going towards the National Mall, no one was coming into the metro at that stop. We didn't even attempt to metro in on Tuesday morning, we walked the 3 miles to the inauguration, attempting to avoid closed streets and excitedly greeting the military personell lining every block in twos. They smiled apprehensively but you can tell everyone was on alert, waiting for something to go down, hopeful it would not. My brother and sister-in-law live in NYC. They called and texted all of Monday about the importance of us having an escape plan, a place we'd meet at least 5 miles out of the city in case of an emergency. A safe place we can walk to, in case we were split up. I'll admit that we were a bit afraid, but the fear never outweighed our excitement and anticipation to experience the most historical and significant event of our lives to date.

We spent Monday fighting through crowds and waiting in lines. Dave and I went to the Holocaust museum because i had only been to the one in Boston and have heard amazing things about the one in DC. I was glad to see sections on Rwanda and Darfur and incredibly moved by the many exhibits on the Jews during and prior WWII. There was a room dedicated specifically to the people who aided Jews during that time, ones who hid neighbors in their attic, took in children as their own, stood up against the hatred. I also gained a new understanding of Jewish as a race/ethnicity. I always felt that being Jewish is more than a religion but had a difficult time intellectualizing or explaining it. Hitler had come up with a system to determine Jewish race. It was a list of characteristics and determinants of blood line. Jewish blood equaled evil blood, thus we became an ethnicity, not just a religion. But i digress... We met two very nice teachers from Tennessee in line for the Holocaust museum, we talked with them about politics, race, economy, Sarah Palin, education, and mostly our hope for a new tomorrow. It was touching how open and genuine everyone around us was. We don't get that much up here in the North East, it was a welcomed change.

We got to the National Mall Tuesday morning around 6:30. Still, we were so far back that all we saw of the Capitol was its silhouette. We didn't mind too much, we made sure to secure a spot near a jumbotron. After the 4 hour wait, everyone was cold, wind blown, and eager to celebrate President Barack Obama get sworn in. The anticipation was palpable. As Reverend Rick Warren took the stage, everyone around me remained polite. Though i heard some distant "boos" most onlookers listened respectively and a few nodded along. The woman in front of me praised the lord in prayer along with the Reverend's words. She raised her hands and let out a cry of "Hallelujah" when he said, "Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood but by our commitment to freedom and justice for all." Though he would not have been my pick for obvious reasons, his message was much more unifying than i expected. I was grateful for that, i did not want him to ruin this for me like the protesters outside the event tried to with their posters and chants of hatred and intolerance.

The crowd DID "boo," however, each time they showed Bush on the jumbotrons. Was it disrespectful? Sure. Ungrateful? Maybe. But it sure as hell was honest. Each time the screens panned across his face the sea of people broke out in hisses and boos. At one point everyone began singing, "nananana nananana hey hey heyyyy, goodbye."

I suppose it's better that we unite over a positive and beautiful example like President Obama than over our mutual hatred for a man unwilling to apologize for his actions or take responsibility for the circumstances our country is in. Still, the emotion and energy for both is powerful, empowering, and telling of what America is ready for. As President Obama took the oath and gave his speech everyone around me listened silently. The crowd hung onto each word. Nodding, tearing up, and eventually cheering; they began chanting "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!"

Needless to say it was a week of emotions. Hope and progress filled the D.C. air and the prospect of a brighter future was on everyone's mind. Though i realize President Obama will not be perfect 100% of the time, and he will make decisions that i disagree with, i do think he is exactly what our country needed. Not to mention he has already made some great calls. As a nation we have been craving a uniting force and a positive example who carries a message of peace, compassion, and hope. I am eager to see what our new administration, with the help of newly empowered Americans, is capable of.

We spent Wednesday walking around D.C. trying to get on TV. We followed around CNN cameras and walked behind newscasters without much luck. Finally we decided to go to the White House and wave to Barack on his first official full day in office, wish him luck if you will. I bought a button outside the White House on our way back to Jackie's. The button was black and white, with photographs of African American leaders. It summed up the week for me perfectly. The text across the top read, "It's been a long time coming."

It sure has.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Leaving for DC!!!

I am so sorry for my infrequent posts lately! For what it's worth, i'm working on a few great pieces including bullying among girls, future directions of the feminist movement, and tolerance.

BUT first thing's first: I AM LEAVING FOR D.C. TOMORROW MORNING!!! D and I are headed down to stay with my bestest friend, Jackie, for the week.

Will you be at the inauguration? What are your Obama celebration plans, in D.C. or otherwise?

If you see a freezing cold Russian girl in a red coat, say hello ;)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

IOU Blog Post

This isn't a real blog post, it's an IOU... Not sure what i'm talking about? Just ask Schwarzenegger, who's giving out IOUs instead of tax refunds to Californians. Hopefully they can pay their taxes with those IOUs, though i wouldn't count on it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Land of Milk and Honey

There are very few topics that cause similarly minded individuals, like those within progressive movements, to be at an impasse. The topic of Israel and Palestine is a very pertinent one. I’ve written about Israel before but I will admit my knowledge on the subject is far more limited than other bloggers that can better educate you. I will also admit that I have an openly difficult time navigating between my identity as a Jew and my usual pro-peace, anti-war stance. I often wonder whether my perspective would be different if I was not Jewish, if I had not known of friends and loved ones who’s lives were cut short by the Holocaust, if I had not felt so at home during my time in Israel, drunk off the land of milk and honey…

So it hurts, it genuinely and honestly hurts, for me to read the liberal, progressive, and feminist blogs I have grown to love and respect as they now stand firm with Palestine but remained silent when Hamas attacked Israel with over 2000 rockets in the last year (I’m looking at you Huffington Post).

I am scattered and am get testy as I attempt to post responses on various blogs. My comments get shorter and less eloquent, not doing the circumstances justice. I'll try to be concise here. Though I realize doing so might make me unpopular, I think discourse is crucial and hopefully we can all learn from one another. The current and past situations in the Middle East are not black and white. There are a lot of grey areas to consider, a lot of history, and a lot of passion and emotion.

The following are statements from posts and comments that I’ve read on other blogs over the past few weeks. I have responded to some at their place of origin, others I put aside, because they deeply hurt me or because I wanted to give the subject more thought. I would like to respond to many of these here, because like I said, doing it in various places doesn’t do the topic justice from my end.

It’s ok to eliminate Israel, or to give the land to Palestinians, because it was originally founded unethically by removing Palestinians from the land.

Well no, not exactly. Both Jews and Palestinians lived on that land. When the land became Israel, some Palestinians stayed (some did not). The ones that did stay were granted full civil rights as citizens for Israel. Many continue to live there today. The Palestinians that left, or the ones that protest the “land being taken from them” made that choice for themselves. So not only is this a false accusation but also it leaves out a crucial note that Israel was given to the Jews due to a massive religious/ethnic cleansing operation whose goal was to eliminate ALL Jews from the earth. We need to talk about solutions and many people have. From all the reading I have done over the past few days the only thing that makes sense to me is a two-state solution. However, this is something that Israel has been working towards for over 50 years but Palestinians won’t commit because they want Israel and Jews off the map. For good. How can anyone negotiate with that?

Israel has more military force. They should regulate it better and use it less because it is killing innocent children.

Like I said, I’ve always been adamantly pro-peace and anti-war. Each time I read that Israel has responded violently to an act of aggression I get a feeling of fear and sadness in the pit of my stomach. But if we are truly concerned about the innocent children that are being hurt why aren’t we just as angry at the Arabs that intentionally risk the lives of those children? Children are used as martyrs of terrorism, as shields during attacks, and indoctrinated to hate. Mickey Mouse and other cartoons are used as propaganda to teach children to hate and how to make bombs, with nails and straps, which they attach to their bodies. I ask this not to instigate but because I am searching for honest answers: what is an appropriate response to missile attacks against your land that come from Gaza? What should have been the appropriate response from Israel instead? Hamas has gotten us to the current situation we are in. Was Israel attacking the West Bank or Gaza originally? No. Hamas brought this on the Gazans, who I do feel terrible for because innocent people don’t deserve to live in this type of violence and destruction.

Israel is a bully and has never given up anything.

What?! Firstly, Israel gave up Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians. Also, in a peace agreement with Syria, Israel was considering giving up the Golan Heights which is not only one of the most beautiful parts of Israel but also would give the owner of the land the height advantage. Syria maintains close ties to Hamas and I hope to hell they don’t end up with the Golan Heights. Seriously, imho, Israel has given up too much already. Let’s not forget Israel is the size of Delaware… I completely understand that Gaza is in a really shitty current situation (that they have made for themselves but that’s another story) – they are living in a territory that depends on Israel for their survival, their food, water, power, etc, which gives Israel a lot of control. That is not a way for an independent people to live. However, every peace agreement that Israel has presented, Hamas has torn up and refused to negotiate new ones. How can any nation coexist with another who wants nothing to do with you and more than just that, wants you gone? Instead, Hamas has allied with Iran and have resorted to underground tunnels that not only smuggle in food and water but also rocket parts and ammunition. Hamas is no Hezbollah but it’s still incredibly scary what rocket parts and mortar shells can do, the destruction they can cause. The range of Hamas weapons has increased dramatically meaning they are getting help from somewhere (ie Iran). In addition to Hamas fighting a war with Israel, other countries are fighting a proxy war with Israel through Hamas. This isn’t fair to anyone, including Hamas and Palestinians who are getting the brunt of all the violence.

And a little something from Dave:

There are no easy answers and no easy targets. What really cooks my noodle is how many one-sided arguments sprout up when hostility resumes in that area. There is a humanitarian crisis and Israel is also defending itself. Dualism in general is a dangerous thought process that shows a lack of mental maturity and an inability to see problems as a larger, more contextual group of details. There are lots and lots of armchair sociologists/war tacticians that seem to know every answer and have the entire intimate inside knowledge of where to place blame. These people are, pardon my verbiage, full of shit. We all have our opinions. Mine is that this conflict is a larger proxy war similar to acts of communist aggression in places like Afghanistan. Iran wants to destroy Israel, but can’t, so it instead provides weaponry to Hamas through a complex series of underground tunnels. It’s a win-win scenario for Iran/Hezbollah/etc… because they can strike Israel and also claim that Israel is a cruel nation that practices genocide on the Palestinian. Meanwhile, where is the humanitarian support for Palestinians for the past 60 years? I know Israel provides lots. Israel also blockades. I’m aware of both. This issue gets only more complex the further you dig. Why can’t Iran/Syria/Lebanon/Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Jordan etc…provide land for Palestinians (check out what happens when you dig into this topic…)? There are so many questions and no easy answers. If you really want to do someone a favor (me), read carefully about this conflict. Don’t assume that someone with a PhD from Yale is right because he/she is a PhD from Yale. Don’t accept obvious bias from people. Get your news from a multitude of sources, and then begin to draw your own conclusions. Finally, realize that for most people who support Israel, that this is difficult. I see mostly two kinds of arguments: 1.) Israel is the heinous aggressor responsible for a multitude of death, famine, and disease…or 2.) I support Israel, but I have problems with how it conducts itself. There are few people that have the luxury of being entirely, 100% behind Israel. So, when I argue for Israel, I have to argue not only against the opinions of those that support argument #1, but also my own internal dialogue. No one is pro-war (except you, Dick Cheney…good riddance).