Three Things Women Need to Stop Doing

There are a few things I commonly hear from other women that consistently drive me crazy. These are the top three:

1) Bashing women who wear make up to the gym.

I’ve seen women on social media actually saying that women who wear make-up while working out should be beaten to death. To which I say, what?

Why on earth do you care when and where other women wear make-up? Does it affect you somehow? I’m not sure where that kind of anger comes from, but I’m betting if you do that it’s because you’re one of those people who constantly compares your looks to those around you. Heads up, there will always be people both prettier than you and uglier than you in a room. Get over it and stop hating people for it.

If women wear full make-up to the gym, I’m guessing they’re insecure with the way they look without it. Or maybe they just forgot to wash it off. It’s really none of my business and doesn’t affect my exercise in any way, so I don’t really care. I don’t understand why you do.

2) Saying they only have guy friends because, “girls are too catty.”

Every time I hear a woman say this I automatically assume they’re the one who’s catty. Yes, women can be melodramatic and mean. So can men. Men can be lying, manipulative jerks. So can women. But giving a single personality trait to an entire, multi-billion population of people is called prejudice, and usually people who think that way are ignorant or sociopathic.

I think when most women say this they’re looking to convey how laid back and cool they are. Maybe they think if they call other people catty then they seem less catty. If you do this, know it doesn’t make you look that way. If you can’t get along with a single other female that is a red flag to everyone around you.

3) Expecting men to pay for things

If you’re a woman, imagine this for a second. You’re on a first date with a guy that hasn’t been going great. There have been awkward pauses all dinner long and at one point he went on a 10-minute rant about the annoyances of living with his mother. The check comes and he makes no move to pay for it. It just sits there.

After 15 minutes of this, filled with more awkward silence, you suggest splitting it. He seems surprised and insulted, but reluctantly agrees. Later on, through a mutual friend, you hear he’s been telling everyone what a horrible date it was, topped off by the fact you didn’t even offer to pay for dinner.

I tell women to imagine that, because I bet most men have experienced it at one point or another, except they might even knuckle under and just pay for the whole thing anyway. For some reason when a woman suggests splitting the check she’s being polite and an awesome date, but if a man does it he’s rude and a horrible one. Wouldn’t you hate it if every time you went out with a guy, whether you ended up feeling attracted to him or not, you were expected to drop $20 on him, if not more?

A guy (or girl) who offers to pay and refuses to let you split is being generous. You shouldn’t expect that generosity anymore than you’d expect a stranger on the street to randomly hand you a fiver.

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A Dose of Cynicism on Supreme Court Rulings

We’re celebrating the Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage a little too much.

Don’t get me wrong; June 26, 2013 was a good day for marriage equality. But the overwhelming optimism gives me the just absolutely shocking sense that people – even people whose lives are directly affected by these decisions – are not bothering to read the majority opinions, let alone the dissents.

Instead, you read a tweet that says a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional and Prop. 8 was struck down, and you go on your merry way.

You shouldn’t do that.

The decisions of the Supreme Court are open to interpretation. You can read all the media coverage you like – this blog post included – and you still won’t know all the implications of the court decision on gay marriage. Besides the clear ruling that DOMA cannot be used to deny federal benefits to same-sex couples, no one is entirely sure what this means for the future of gay marriage. Anyone who tells you they are sure is either lying or has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

Most people who were happy to hear the news of the court’s decision are probably imagining that we’ll soon have a federal ruling on gay marriage. Those people probably also didn’t read Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seven-page long diatribe about how marriage regulation has historically been a state power.

Again: Kennedy, who ruled in favor of striking down DOMA in a case decided by a one vote margin, went on for seven pages about how marriage regulation is a state power. That doesn’t bode well for a federal ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Then you’ve got one of the last sentences in Kennedy’s opinion, which reads, “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

For those allergic to legal speak, he’s not protecting gay marriage in general. He’s specifically protecting those unions that state laws protect. Court opinions are meticulously poured over before they reach the public. No word is put in there by accident. And Kennedy wanted to make it especially clear that his opinion was not paving the way for a federal statute.

Now let’s throw in the Prop. 8 decision. This one’s even more complicated, but the important thing to note is that the decision had absolutely nothing to do with gay marriage. At all.

The case was dismissed back to the district court’s ruling, which did say that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional. Most people know by now that that means the decision is only limited to California, and even that’s not set in stone yet.

(You can skip this part, just explains the reasoning of the ruling a bit more) *The reasoning behind the decision hasn’t been widely discussed, likely because it’s so mired in legal speak. I’ve helped to cover the Supreme Court for two summers now, read scotusblog religiously and generally consider myself a pretty smart person. But I’d need either a lot of time and a bottle of aspirin or a law degree to understand the entirety of the Prop. 8 majority opinion and dissent – let alone pick which side I agree with.

It comes down to the question of whether or not a party in a lawsuit needs to suffer injury from the lawsuit in order to carry it forward. The majority of the Supreme Court said they do, the minority said they don’t. From what I could surmise, both sides had good points.*

The important part is that focusing on the argument they did allowed both sides of the court to totally sidestep the gay marriage issue and keep the ruling limited to California, which is likely what at least part of the majority wanted.

But based on the way the sides separated, with Roberts, Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan in the majority and Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor in the minority, this decision really gives no indication on who would support the federal legalization of same-sex marriage.

*For those who don’t know: Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito are considered the conservative justices. Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor are considered the liberal justices, and Kennedy is more independent. As you can see, they’re all across the board on this vote.*

That means DOMA is the main case to use to predict a future decision on a federal law for gay marriage – if it comes to the court, which it likely will at some point. If four justices ruled for DOMA, I think it’s safe to say they’d rule against gay marriage.

Roberts, Scalia and Alito specifically say in their dissents that they think DOMA is constitutional. Thomas joined with both Scalia and Alito in parts. Scalia also sided against a majority that made sodomy legal back in the day.

Kennedy, the swing vote of the court, ruled against DOMA, but only after expressly outlining marriage as a state issue. Three of the four liberal justices then ruled to pass on Prop. 8.

Call me a cynic, but that doesn’t inspire confidence for a federal ruling allowing gay marriage anytime soon. Even the justices who would likely support it seem to prefer that someone besides them will have to answer the question.

Reading the opinions for yourself plus some actual experts at www.scotusblog.com would be best. Here’s DOMA, and here’s Prop. 8.

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Why Anti-Gay Marriage Sentiments Sound Absolutely Ridiculous

As the Supreme Court of the United States hears arguments today and Wednesday over the constitutionality of illegalizing gay marriage, it’s important to keep some arguments against gay marriage in mind.

First, legalizing gay marriage would threaten the sanctity of same-sex marriage. Two men or women who have made a lifetime commitment to one another getting married would make a mockery of Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage, Newt Gingrich’s three marriages, Britney Spears’ 55-hour marriage and Rush Limbaugh’s four marriages, along with every time someone gets drunk in Vegas and decides to pull up to a 24-hour chapel.

Second, the Bible clearly states that all forms of gay marriage and homosexual relations are sins. The same section of the Bible also says a man touching a woman while on her period is cause to exile both the man and woman from society. Also, that marring the body, such as getting a tattoo and piercings, and cutting the hair are sins. All of those things are illegal, so if we legalize gay marriage we’d have to face the disastrous possibility of legalizing all of those ideas.

Speaking of the Bible, we obviously base almost all of our laws on what religious texts say, and we shouldn’t deviate from that now. Since the Torah outlines clear instructions for kosher food it’s illegal to eat shellfish and pork in our country. And of course there are the laws that state everyone must honor the Sabbath Day, since it’s part of the Ten Commandments, and that drinking is illegal, since Islamic texts forbid the consumption of alcohol.

Gay marriage is unnatural, and Americans have a rich history for banning ideas and objects not considered part of nature. That’s why the United States government banned inventions such as plastic surgery, air conditioning, chemical treatment of plants and eyeglasses.

Homosexual marriages also don’t produce children, and everyone knows the only purpose of marriage is to produce children. That’s why America doesn’t allow infertile people or senior citizens to get married, and all couples sign a legally binding contract before they marry promising their government that they will have at least one child. Republicans were, of course, instrumental in passing legislation requiring that contract, because they love it when the government sticks its nose in citizens’ personal affairs.

We certainly don’t want homosexual couples to adopt children either, because there are so few children in orphanages and foster homes in this country, and we really should save those children for straight couples. Also, gay parents will invariably only raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

Discrimination has a rich history in this country. Those who promoted discrimination based on race and gender years ago are heralded as heroes in society now. If the Supreme Court wants to join their ranks they’ll rule Prop. 8 and DOMA constitutional.

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Having it All

Every reporter knows that there are some interviews that touch you in a certain way you’ll never forget, whether because they were profoundly beautiful or profoundly sad. They’re someone else’s story that becomes a part of your own.

One of mine was with a woman who works at JPMorgan – a successful woman in her 50s with a relatively high-level job at the company. She’s also married and has no children. She had the following to say about that:

“I regret it everyday.”

She said it bluntly, unprompted, stating it as a fact she had accepted long ago. It’s replayed in my mind countless times since then.

In an odd way, I tried to reason with her, get her to take back that awful statement. I asked if she would trade it all – take a huge hit on her salary, give up her promotions, the job she loves so much – for a child.

“In a heartbeat.”

I suggested adoption, wondering why she hadn’t explored that option if she was so desperate for a child.

“I’d be approaching 70 for the kid’s high school graduation. I couldn’t do that to a child.”

This is the dilemma every woman faces. Society tells everyone that the key to happiness in life is a supportive family and a fulfilling job, then tells women to pick one. They can’t have it all, and if they somehow manage to cheat the system and get it they should consider themselves extremely lucky.

Many women from my generation, at least the ones I know, get carried away with their desire for a career. Some make jokes about having kids, saying they dislike most children anyway so they’re fine with sticking to a career. I’ve made those types of jokes myself. Maybe it’s true for them.

It isn’t for me.

That interview sticks out for me because I worry, desperately, that I was talking to a future version of myself. I don’t want children anytime soon, but I do want them someday. At the same time, I can’t imagine giving up a career, my ambitions, my professional life. And in my chosen career especially, the fast-paced atmosphere of journalism, part of me really believes I can’t have both.

And then it makes me angry, because men can. Men aren’t discriminated against in the workplace for having kids, they aren’t pressured by their peers to take time off work to care for their children, judged for hiring a nanny. They don’t grow up with regret, wishing they could give up part of their career for a child. This worry that haunts so many women doesn’t even cross a lot of men’s minds.

I’m not talking about workplace policies either, since that’s a whole other conversation in and of itself. Ignore policies on maternity leave and discrimination against women who have children, and just look at how society treats this issue. Women are still seen as the primary caregivers. And even though in a lot of marriages both the man and woman work, a woman is usually expected to be the one to quit her job, or at least take time off.

An Elle/MSNBC.com survey found that twice as many people thought that their female bosses’ children interfered with their job compared to male bosses. Why? Really, someone try to answer that for me, because I don’t get it.

When a couple decides to have a child, men have a responsibility to tell their wives that this is a 50/50 deal. Women should not feel alone in carrying this burden – hell, women have to carry it for nine months so maybe men should give them a break altogether when the baby is first born (joking). Women should hold men to this standard. And if he refuses, maybe women should reconsider being with men who feel their own happiness is superior to their spouses’.

The JPMorgan woman said by way of advice that if you wait until you feel ready to have a child it will be too late. Maybe women would feel more ready if they felt less alone.

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The Friendzone

I’ve had a handful of male friends over the years who’ve admitted to developing feelings for me when our relationship had been strictly platonic before that moment. While not in and of themselves a problem, those confessions can sometimes lead to a larger issue – one that drives me and many women absolutely bonkers.

The timeline usually goes something like this: you’re friends for awhile, and as friends you confide in one another, share interests and hopes, spend time with one another, etc. Somewhere along the line romantic feelings develop, and whether they’re simply sick of keeping their feelings to themselves or they’re now mistaking typical signs of friendship as signs of romance, your friend decides to confide he has feelings for you. In this hypothetical, you don’t return them and tell him so. There’s some awkwardness, but you’ll both get over it and hopefully return to the former friendship sans damage.

As I said, that’s not the problem. The problem is the next part that occurs much more commonly than it should – the guy starts complaining to others that he’s been “friendzoned.”

I despise that word. Defining it doesn’t really lend to its true meaning – at its basic level it means one person has feelings for someone who only thinks of them as a friend. But it’s the connotation that matters. When guys complain about women friendzoning them, it isn’t just a lament of their misfortune; it’s commonly used as an insult to women in the sense that she had no right to friendzone him.

That’s the true problem. There’s a sort of sense in our society that if men are nice to women, if they perform favors, buy them things and generally act politely and with respect that women owe them their affection, and ultimately, sex. It’s an attitude no doubt still taking its roots from the days when women were seen as property, but one that has absolutely no place in society today.

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This is almost a strictly male idea. I’ve met men, many who on the whole I would generally consider good people, who have a subconscious idea that if they’re nice to women, but women snub their advances even in a polite way, that those women are bitches. Women, on the other hand, normally just feel insecure and rejected when snubbed. Sure, sometimes feelings of rejection lend themselves to anger and a desire to insult, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who believed a man owed her sex because she was kind to him.

I’m not trying to say all males believe this idea. I’m trying to say that it’s an attitude that pervades the general male psyche, and I believe calling attention to it is the best way to cut it out. Women who also think this way should cut it out as well. No person owes anyone else sex – not even your significant other. Those types of thoughts lend itself to idiotic ideas such as laws of the past that stated it was legal for a man to rape his wife and the rape culture we experience today.

Note: I’ve been on a feminist kick lately and am planning to post one piece every day until Friday on some aspect of modern sexism. I don’t mean any of it to be offensive, and if any guys (or girls) do find it offensive I welcome comments so I can think about them while writing future posts. Just trying to show men a female’s point of view and how I believe we can improve society. I also appreciate any suggestions people have for future posts this week!

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Political Leaders Should Follow One Religious Example

About 750 years ago, Pope Gregory X decreed that future popes would be elected by locking all cardinal electors in a room and not permitting them to leave (referred to as seclusion cum clave – stop snickering, it’s Latin for “with a key”) until two-thirds of them agreed on a new pope. The whole process is called the papal conclave, and is today hosted in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

The longest papal election previous to this process was three years, fraught with politics, disagreements and religious egos. The longest papal conclave was just over four months.

Our own political leaders should take a note from the Catholic Church on this.

We’re all tired of hearing about the fiscal cliff. Obama makes a joke proposal to Congress Republicans, they make an offer back that was less preposterous but still not quite serious, both sides say they’re ready to compromise even though they clearly aren’t and when we inevitably fall off this cliff they’ll each blame the other side.

I say we lock them in a room.

Get some respected economists from both sides of the aisle, let’s say two who identify as Republicans and two who identify as Democrats, maybe an Independent (if you can find one). Lock them in a room with Obama, Boehner and Reid, and tell all of them they can’t come out until they agree on something that Obama will sign and Boehner and Reid will push in their respective legislative bodies.

All they’re doing right now is meeting with people who already agree with them, sending off a highly partisan proposal, then getting exasperated that the other side doesn’t like it. Why on earth wouldn’t they just meet all together and try to come up with a compromise? Why, instead of actually doing something that will give us some results, do they insist on playing politics while our economy hangs in the balance?

If you worked a desk job and your boss told you to finish a project and that you can’t go home until it’s finished, would you start goofing off and take your time? Of course not, you work hard and you get it done as soon as possible. You want to go home, see family and friends, watch TV with a cold beer or a glass of wine, sleep, whatever. Let’s throw the same motivation on our nation’s leaders.

A lot of people think politics are complicated. They’re not. You can actually apply common sense to most political processes, but some officials would rather play petty blame games than get things done, because it might mean they look better in the next election. If Obama and Boehner want to act like incompetent five-year-olds, I say we treat them like five-year-olds.

Put them in a time-out until they resolve the argument.

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Retail’s Day of Hell

Thanksgiving is a relaxing day filled with family, food, naps and football. It’s even better as an adult, when you can take part in the better aspects of cooking in the morning and early afternoon, then settle in for a 2-hour, food-coma nap on a plush couch after dinner while the kids do the dishes.

There’s only one damper on the Thanksgiving mood for a certain population: the dreaded Black Friday. The bane of every retail employee’s existence.

I’ve worked in retail going on five years now, so I’ll tell you firsthand that as you camp out in front of a store on this horrible day, as you complain about the cold seeping into your bones and wonder aloud, “why can’t that store just open their doors already? Don’t they see us suffering out here?” know that those employees are counting down the minutes until they open the doors like a convict on death row counts down the minutes until the poison is coursing through his veins.

Once those doors open you’ll come rushing in. If you didn’t get there early enough you may have to wait even longer, since the store might reach capacity. You’ll grab the item you wanted and rush to the register, hoping to avoid a line. If you can’t find what you’re looking for you’ll demand the information from an employee still trying to overcome the horror of the stampeding crowds. You’ll become frustrated the longer you have to wait, having already stood in a line to get into the store and not wanting to wait longer to get out of it. You have other shopping you want to get done, and if you don’t hurry the items you need might be gone.

Those are all logical concerns. But remember as you think them, you choose to be here. You are gaining something from coming into that store, and no one forced you to brave that line in the freezing cold.

The employees are a whole other story.

Employees earn no extra money for working on Black Friday. They work 9, 10 or 12-hour shifts on a hard concrete floor and aren’t allowed to sit down because that makes them look lazy (as if they’d even have time to sit down on Black Friday anyway). And if you think working 9 hours at a desk job and 9 hours at a retail job are the same thing, you are grossly naïve.

Stores are filled to capacity on Black Friday. That means amid the clothes racks, wall partitions and registers are hundreds of people. Employees are stuck in this environment, dodging people who all have some kind of question or demand for them, feeling a chokehold of claustrophobia settling into their chests. They stand on non-supportive concrete, feeling their feet and lower back gradually descend into a constant, almost numbing pain. Customers yell at them that they should’ve stocked more of this, or that this should’ve been listed on sale and other various things employees have absolutely no control over. Customers call them names you expect to hear at a truck stop. In short, it’s retail hell.

I’ve seen Black Friday break people. You know those people with a constant gleam in their eye, a smile on their face and a bright hello to everyone they see, the ones who just kind of brighten up a room? I’ve seen the gleam snuffed out and the smiles die on their faces, replaced by the deadened cringe of utter and complete exhaustion. I can’t count the number of fellow employees I found crying in the back room or bathroom because some entitled middle-aged woman freaked out on them. The level of exhaustion caused by Black Friday makes most employees regress to the emotional maturity of a 5-year-old by the end of their shift.

Given the choice, employees would choose not to work on Black Friday. But they aren’t. It’s a sometimes spoken rule of retail that if you want to keep your job, you work on Black Friday. I had a manager who once told me she went into labor on Black Friday, and they still asked her if that meant she couldn’t come in. It’s downright insane.

It really isn’t any fault of the customers as a whole. The corporate offices of the stores offer insane deals, and any person in their right mind would come running. Then those offices see more chances for profit, and the time the stores open slowly inches earlier and earlier over the years, until we arrive where we are now with most stores opening at midnight. I’m not saying people shouldn’t take advantage of Black Friday, or if you do you’re some kind of Satanist.

But keep in mind as you shop that those employees are having one of the worst days of their year. Try not to bother them with questions and requests unless it’s absolutely inevitable. Some employees may be incompetent, but most are just exhausted, so don’t yell at them. Try to be nice, ask them how they’re doing, tell them you appreciate them taking the time to help you.

I checked out one woman on Black Friday a few years ago who had a box of candy canes. She told me funny stories about how she used to work in retail and how horrible the Black Fridays were. Then as she was leaving she handed me a candy cane with a bright, “Happy Holidays!” before ushering her kids out. I don’t even particularly like candy canes, but I could feel myself getting slightly choked up simply because it was such a nice gesture in a day full of greed and contempt.

Be the woman with the candy cane this Black Friday.

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