Hiatus

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I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that we’re taking a hiatus, as it’s pretty easy to guess due to the lack of new posts on this blog lately. The hiatus has been in place pretty much since the beginning of August, but unfortunately, I haven’t sat down to post about it until now. As you can guess, it was largely unplanned. My (Sky’s) grandma passed away at the end of July, and Ariela had some unforeseen circumstances come up as well. Because of these factors, we are unable to write up our own posts at this time.  While theoretically, guest content could fill this blog, it would most likely be sporadic depending on when submissions came in, and the effort involved would likely add a little too much to both of our plates. Therefore, I’ve decided to put the blog on hiatus entirely. We’re not sure how long this break will last, but it may be a few months until we can get back on our feet again. We both still love this blog and definitely want to continue it in the future, but for now, we’re going to let it rest as we get our personal lives in order. Thanks for understanding, and we can’t wait to see you again!

— Sky

On Being Both Smart and Pretty

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By Sky

On my latest foray into reality television, I decided to watch half an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a TLC show talking about the world of childrens’ beauty pageants. Naturally, I’ve heard lots of things about this show, and even on the Netflix description it says it’s “bizarre.” I expected the show to be disturbing because of the toddlers’ appearances, but the disturbance was more subtle.

In the first episode, one of the fathers says he is doing this pageant business to give his daughter opportunities. Mainly, college scholarships.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on.

I understand wanting your child to have a bright future, but using their beauty is not the only way.

The father from Toddlers and Tiaras made a comment about how when he found out he was having a girl, he immediately thought that he needed to get her involved. (I presume with the beauty pageant stuff.) It seemed as if he thought her only option in life to be pretty–never smart. Just pretty. And that was going to give her success in the world.

This revealed a disturbing commentary regarding our society: girls’ worth is wrapped up in their beauty. Rather than value our brains, our quick wits, our souls, our deep thoughts, we’ve decided to focus it all on outward appearance. Because that totally makes sense.

Where are the sons being entered into pageants so they can win scholarships? Why is it that to get a scholarship, little girls must be… beautiful? Whatever the hell that means?

What if this girl from Toddlers and Tiaras is extremely intelligent, and yet all she can see herself for is how pretty she looks because people have reduced her to her outward appearance? Wrapping a person’s worth up into how beautiful they are is a train on the fast track headed straight for disaster. So many people look at girls for their prettiness, our beauty. In doing so, they miss our souls. Our brains, our intelligence, and our hearts.

Another point that this brings up is that it seems that being pretty and being smart are mutually exclusive. I even fell into it myself earlier in this article when I worried the world would only see the pageant contestant for her looks, not her brains. Why can’t it be both? Why can’t we be both smart and pretty? Women are not three-dimensional caricatures–and that’s a message I wish I could proclaim clearly every fiction writer in America. Actually, every person in America, frankly.

I love the show The Big Bang Theory, but even that show sends a bit of an alarming message. Penny, who is arguably the hottest woman on the show, is seen as the dumb blonde. While Bernadette is pretty and a scientist, which I do appreciate, we then have Amy, who is extremely smart and yet comes across as the frumpiest on the show. (She also has the most unlucky sex life, no thanks to Sheldon.)

I understand that there are extenuating factors, such as Mayim Bialik’s personal clothing standards and the mindset of the writers and designers of the whole show. I do understand and respect that. I’m also not even sure that Amy should be changed at all, and it is refreshing to see a character whose looks aren’t emphasized. But I have to ask, what kind of message is that sending? That if you want to be a smart, scientific woman, you are doomed to a life of being perceived as ugly and undesirable? Why are these two things seen as mutually exclusive? Why is being “beautiful” (which is a highly subjective term) even a factor at all?

On the flip side, women who are pretty are not dumb. However, the beautiful yet stupid woman is is a trope and stereotype used throughout society and numerous characters, and it’s really sad Like I said: these two things are not mutually exclusive, and I believe we should have the freedom to be both, as well as any other adjectives we so choose.

I think we need a major overhaul of the way we view prettiness. It is not something that automatically makes you a woman, and it is not the only thing that makes you worth something. In fact, it shouldn’t even define your worth at all. It’s subjective; it is not reality, and it does not matter when looking at your worth as a person.

The only time it should matter when you personally look in the mirror and feel beautiful. Actually, when you look into the mirror and feel smart, sexy, intelligent, wonderful, and whole. You are a whole person, a human being. Not just a pretty girl. Not just a woman. You are a woman, and you are beautiful, and fabulous, and badass, and you are three-dimensional. (Feel free to insert any other adjectives in the past paragraph to suit you.)

You do not have to be pretty to win a scholarship, but you can be. You do not even have to be a “hot scientist” by the world’s standards, but you can be. You can just be a person: a woman, who is pretty, and a host of other adjectives. Be you.

I don’t want to bash those who do get scholarships from winning pageants. I’m not against being beautiful at all, and I certainly don’t want to imply that models or girls in pageants are wrong somehow. I’m more frustrated with the unrealistic expectations of beauty and just wish being “pretty,” by the world’s standards, wasn’t even a factor at all when it comes to determining the worth of a woman. The fact that we even have these measures of beauty is messed up. We don’t have to be just beautiful; we are not objects to look at. It’s not wrong to feel beautiful or to want to–I definitely do want to feel that way! I think every woman should feel beautiful. But the important thing to remember is that is not all we are. It is not who we are.

Anyone who pretends to think you’re ugly, unpretty, or undesirable is ridiculous and should be quieted immediately. You are already beautiful. You are beautiful, completely and thoroughly. Embrace it. Forget the world’s standards are beauty, and know that you are pretty, smart, beautiful, and all of these things–simply because you exist. There is no standard you need to pass. In our finite human minds, we fall into judging people too quickly. I’m sorry for that. But that’s not your fault, it’s theirs. If someone can’t see you–all of you–for who you are, they clearly have no taste whatsoever. So you just keep being awesome.

Basically, just do what you do, and embrace the fact that you are a three-dimensional human being. There are no restrictions. Just be you. And if that includes being smart and pretty? You go for it, kid.

(The mutual exclusivity about girls not being able to be perceived as both smart and pretty was first showed to me by articles by others. I don’t remember the names now, but some of them quoted the Verizon ad campaign talking about girls and science, and I think it’s a powerful message. Check it out here.)

July 2014: A Recap

rn - quote 1 for realIt’s hard to believe it’s been a month since Radical Notion began. We’ve had so much good content from guest posters, and we’ve so enjoyed sharing their words, as well as ours, with you! I’d like to thank Laura Sook Duncombe, Shannon Deep, and Leigh Camacho Rourks once again for submitting to us and so bravely sharing their stories.

Here’s a recap of what went down this month:

An Introduction by Sky – July 1st

“…this blog is hopefully the first step of many. I’m gearing up to step forward, and this is where it begins.

I don’t know if I can change the entire world, but with me and my fellow women, I believe we’re going to try.”

Welcome to Radical Notion by Ariela & Sky – July 3rd

“Earlier this week, everything came to the point where we just decided to get it together and do something. And here you have this blog.”

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Every Young Woman’s Battle Is Not Mine by Laura Sook Duncombe – July 4th

“Girls already grow up afraid of men, who will harass, oppress, rape, and murder us—we do not need to grow up afraid of ourselves, too.”

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How Feminism Released Me From “Biblical Womanhood” by Sky – July 8th

“Feminism has liberated the twelve-year-old in me, the one that would rather carry a sword than a handbag, and wear a cape instead of a skirt.”

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Misogyny, or Not Misogyny? That Is the Question by Shannon Deep – July 11th

“Having a feminist boyfriend doesn’t mean that he sees the same production of Hamlet you do; it means that when you call out misogyny, he knows enough to say, as mine now does, ‘I believe you.'”

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Breaking the Rules by Ariela – July 15th

“I am breaking the rule that says I am ‘only’ a woman. Breaking this rule felt like jumping off a cliff; it gives me new life and expands the possibilities of my world.”

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Respect Yourself by Leigh Camacho Rourks – July 18th

“The only “respect” my breasts really need from me are check-ups, mammograms, and some armor if I decide to go in for a contact sport. The only respect they need from you is your lack of judgment.”

“The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina, with words by Sky – July 23rd

“My favorite line of her video is this: ‘And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.’ 

I’ve always wanted to be a warrior, brave and strong. But every month, now I can be reminded: I am.”

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Learning to Love Ourselves by Ariela – July 26th

“Why shouldn’t I love the curves that form me? It’s me, after all. Do yourself a favor, dear. Look in the mirror and even if you don’t believe it, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself how sexy you look. I can’t see you but if I know I would agree with you.”

Contribute

Radical Notion doesn’t have any guest posters lined up for August, so if you’ve been wanting to submit, now’s the time! We are looking for personal stories about how you’ve experienced sexism in your own life, as well as discussions about the way females are portrayed in movies, books, TV, and popular culture. We also accept examinations of how misogyny, sexism, and feminism affect our current culture. Please look at our submission guidelines and then shoot us an email at radicalnotionblog@gmail.com! We can’t wait to read your writing!

 

How Feminism Released Me From “Biblical Womanhood”

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By Sky

When I was ten, I started blogging. My first blog was hosted on a small homeschool blogging platform, and because I was so young, I was only allowed to visit blogs on the same site as mine. This arrangement was amazing and allowed me to make a ton of friends, but it also exposed me to a different niche of Christian homeschoolers than the ones I’d previously experienced.

This niche is hard for me to describe, though if you’ve been in it, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s often referred to as fundamentalist Christianity, or patriocentrism. This culture can be extremely oppressive to women, and is most often twisted in order to be that way. Strict modesty is encouraged. The idea of wearing skirts only is popular, as well as head coverings. Instead of dating, the young people are required to “court,” which is where the parents have a strong say in who the children marry. In addition, and perhaps the most awful, daughters belong to their fathers until they get married, are under their father’s “headship”, and often have little to no agency of their own. Getting married young was highly recommended, and starting as young as fourteen, women were preparing for their ultimate roles as wives and homemakers. (This can also fall under the term “Biblical womanhood.”) It was almost like going back in time, and as you can imagine, the ways that this belief set can go wrong are numerous.

Several of my old friends were among those who believed this way, and I wanted to fit in. So I became one of them for a while. Even though my parents were not encouraging me in this way at all, and often questioned what I was doing, I subscribed to this belief set in a lot of ways. I awaited the day when I’d get married and have an unrealistically perfect romance. (I still do, but to a much lesser extent.) I wore skirts only, and I tried to bake and crochet. These things were hard for me to accomplish, and it honestly was not what I was interested in. I look back on those times with mild embarrassment, and I wonder how I could have fallen for it. But I was young, and I wanted to be included. Call it the Christian homeschooling version of “peer pressure.”

But even during my time trying to fit in, I had a hard time with this sect of homeschooling. I still felt so out of place there. Instead of Jane Austen, I loved C.S. Lewis and fantasy. Instead of baking, I enjoyed blogging and writing stories. I had a secret longing for adventure. I didn’t like period dramas, I liked action and adventure movies! This was pretty hard for me to reconcile with my outer world. To be honest, I felt like less of a woman, which wasn’t helpful to my already-fragile self esteem. I remember having several impassioned conversations with my parents and possibly others where I expressed how frustrating it was. Even while trying to follow the rules, I was angry with them.

Somehow, I got out of the phase I was in. I got tired of the endless list of what a woman should be. I got tired of trying to aim for perfection. In addition, most of the friendships related to this culture ended, and I slowly drifted away from it. My old friends were replaced with new ones. I started wearing pants again. I wore skinny jeans and graphic teens instead. I’m okay now with being a geek. I don’t enjoy or want to actively pursue traditionally female pursuits like cooking and crafts, which I’m trying to be okay with. I’m not entirely comfortable in my skin, but it’s a lot easier now that I’m not trying to pretend to be something I’m not.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I know what feminism is. I don’t really know how I discovered it wasn’t a bad thing, but last year it crept up on me, and my beliefs have radically changed. Feminism has liberated the twelve-year-old in me, the one that would rather carry a sword than a handbag, and wear a cape instead of a skirt. Though I didn’t know it, that side of me is the feminist side, the one that wants to be free to follow whatever pursuits she wants, regardless of their “gender.” (I have to say, it’s my dream to go to a shooting range one day.)

I think back to when I was trying to fit the mold of “Biblical womanhood,” and it makes me sad. I don’t think forcing women to be submissive and homemakers only is the way to go. Please don’t misunderstand me: homemaking is a noble pursuit. The problem is that far too often women feel that it is their only option, and the patriocentric belief system can be so easily twisted. The mindset of “waiting for Prince Charming” is destructive as well, because it causes women to sit at home, “preparing for marriage.” Often this holds them back from experiencing everything that life has to offer.

I have feminism now, and I’m a strong believer in women finding themselves before they even consider finding a man. Homemaking isn’t your only fate, friends. Neither is “preparing for marriage.” Don’t subscribe to the notion that you are less of a woman because you are not with a man. (Don’t subscribe to the notion that you are less of a woman, period. There is not a checklist for things to make you a “perfect” or “Biblical” woman. This is not what God wants for us.) If you don’t want to get married, don’t. If you do want to get married, go for it–you are not less of a woman if you do get married, and a balanced marriage can have so much to offer. But until you do get married, you absolutely do not have to wait around.

In fact, I beg of you: please don’t wait. Don’t sit around waiting for a man in order for you to start living. Travel the world. Make a shit-ton of art. Write your first novel. Paint a picture. Cook and bake and read. Do things. Your life is not dependent on a man to come in and save you. Neither are you. You are whole and complete without a man or a list of “Biblical womanhood” requirements. You always have been whole and complete. And regardless of whether you get married down the line, or if you don’t, you have a life now. Go live it.

— Sky

An Introduction

The dam has finally burst.

After sitting through endless Facebook debates, articles, direct sexism, and infuriating current events, I can’t stay silent anymore.

We have a problem, and if you’re a feminist and you’re reading this, you probably already realize this. “All men are created equal”? Yeah, that’s the problem.

Women are seen as an accessory. It also seems to be a commonly-held belief that we owe men something. Our bodies. Our attention. Our smiles. We’re told to be sexy, but not too sexy. “Don’t tempt your brothers in Christ,” is a great phrase I heard a lot growing up. (No, it’s really not that great.) We’re told not to be straightforward, otherwise it’s seen as bossy. We can’t be assertive. We can’t be loud. We can’t have opinions.

We can’t be people. 

And I’m sick of tired of not feeling like I’m a person, like I matter.

So this blog is hopefully the first step of many. I’m gearing up to step forward, and this is where it begins.

I don’t know if I can change the entire world, but with me and my fellow women, I believe we’re going to try.