Saturday, May 4, 2013

Misbehaving and Making History

The fact that I'm blogging after getting less than seven hours of sleep and then working eight hours in the JCP salon just shows how motivated I am by Jenni's challenge to blog every day in May. Also, I get really annoyed by people who assume that everyone has the same sleep needs. You can make fun of my need to get eight hours of sleep every night when you have an incurable disease. Until then, shush. Finally, I was really tempted to put, "May the Force be with you" as my favorite quotation since today is May the Fourth, and everyone is hilariously tweeting "May the Fourth be with you." Also, one of my pet peeves is when people use the word quote, a VERB, when they mean quotation, a NOUN.
I have many favorite quotations. Some are biblical, like Galations 3:28 and Psalm 8:1-9. Others are song lyrics, like "Gonna dance until my feet can't feel the ground." But most of my favorite quotations, unsurprisingly, are by women and about women.

One of my pet peeves on twitter are misattributed quotations or worse--unattributed quotations. It's called google, people. Use it.

The second-to-last night with my three best friends in France, with our matching tattoos only 24 hours old.
I bet you thought Marilyn Monroe said that. Or Eleanor Roosevelt. I also bet you have no idea who Laurel Thatcher Ulrich even is.

If you're not well-versed in American women's history, then you don't really have a reason to know Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. On the other hand, I double-majored in history and French, and I concentrated (minored) in Women's and Gender Studies. Naturally my undergraduate courses led me to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a prominent historian of early American history and women's history.

When I was younger (read: pre-university), I didn't understand this quotation. I was very much your stereotypical goody-two-shoes who worked hard in school, held multiple leadership positions, attended church regularly, and genuinely got along with everyone. I took the opposite of "well-behaved" quite literally. Why would I misbehave? Why would I do something wrong?

I was still a little naive about breaking gender roles, even though I'd been challenging gender stereotypes and pointing out sexist biases for years. I was already a proud feminist, an identity supported by my parents, my teachers, and most of my peers. Aside from some good-natured ribbing, I hadn't received any criticism for my feminist beliefs. I totally thought I was completely under the umbrella of "well-behaved."

And then I went to university. I actually studied everything I had believed intuitively about feminism. The more I learned, the more passionate I became about gender equality. I finally shed my lingering confusion over the "sinful" act of same-sex relations.

I graduated. I moved to France. As much as my education had opened my eyes, living abroad completely turned my world around. 

I met an au pair who thought that women should choose between a career and children--if she wanted both, she was selfish. An au pair. Someone experiencing firsthand how to juggle a career and children by hiring outside help, with the cultural bonus of having a native speaker influence bilingual children. I didn't realize until then that young people could still think like that.

I saw genuine poverty that troubled my heart. I also saw organized, entitled begging that left me angry but confused.

I befriended au pairs who were openly bisexual and totally blase about it, making me wonder if I could ever have the courage to be that accepting of myself. I hid my sexuality under the guise of "hot girls making out to attract boys."

I discovered the excitement and the dread of male attention. I loved making out with guys in clubs--consensual sexual activity is hella fun. I hated guys honking at me, or sitting too close to me on the metro, or straight up sexually assaulting me. I had written a ten-page paper in French about three films by Agnes Varda, with my thesis revolving around the male gaze. I finally experienced firsthand (in French) what I had written (in French) just the year before.

I bought sexy lingerie, just because.

I traveled by myself, and everyone at home freaked out. Nothing happened to me.

I kept my intentional virginity a secret, because most of my teaching friends treated casual sex as normal and almost expected of young adults.

I never had a singular, defining "Ah-ha!" moment, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I had stopped being a "well-behaved" woman. More than that, I had stopped wanting to be a "well-behaved" woman.

The tagline of my blog is "A Christian feminist living outside the Virgin/Whore dichotomy." Although it does literally describe my beliefs as a Christian feminist and as a sexy demi-vierge, I like to think it expresses more than that. We are so quick to judge people based on a single label that we often forget how complex human beings are. I'm a walking contradiction only to people who think I can be defined by a single identity. 

Today, I challenge you to misbehave. I challenge you to live outside your comfort zone. Stand up for something you support, even if it's a taking a side on a controversial issue. Be true to yourself, even if it means disagreeing with someone you love or respect. 

You can't change the world if you remain quiet and well-mannered. 

So go out there.

Make history.


  1. a) I need 8 hours of sleep every night and I don't have an incurable disease, so GO BACK TO BED!

    b) I misuse quote/quotation all the time - and I'm a grammar snob! must work on that.

    c) THIS

  2. a) I'm so glad I'm not the only person who needs a full night's sleep. I've taken such shit for it in the past that I'm really defensive about it now.

    b) Beau and I argued about quote/quotation last night. I finally looked it up. Quote is generally accepted as a noun in casual English, but quotation should always be used in formal writing. I tend to stick with formal grammatical rules, unless I'm intentionally breaking them for emphasis (like when I start a sentence with "And" or when I don't write complete sentences).

    c) When I'm famous and interviewed all the time, I will insist on having my iPad with me so that if I ever want to share something profound, I can use google to cite the exact quotation and credit the right person.


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