Tuesday, September 22, 2009

National Equality March

In nearly two weeks, a very important event will occur in the DC area. Thousands of people, gay and straight alike, will gather on the National Mall in DC and march for full equality.

For me, this is obviously a very important event. One of my friends is coming down from Jersey, we're going to make signs, probably paint ourselves, and march for our rights. But this event also raises questions and frustrations that inevitably come with being gay. First of all, the fact that we even have to march for our rights still makes me upset. I feel like Obama has let us down in a way; here we thought we were getting a progressive, equality friendly president, but we haven't had the type of progress we hoped we were getting with Obama in office. Change will never come overnight, and nor will it come without some sort of impetus, from our community as well as from our allies. It feels as if promises were made to our community, and here we are, still waiting for bills such as the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Bill and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to pass. Understandably, our nation is in a difficult place right now; reforming our health care system and ensuring our country doesn't fall into another Great Depression clearly take priority. But in my mind, that is no reason why our nation can't keep the debate on these issues moving forward, instead of stuck in some sort of stalemate.

Another issue which worries me is apathy in the community in general. Warning: that which follows is a very lame example, and also is proof positive of what a real dork I am. I avidly follow Top Chef, not only because I enjoy cooking, but also because two lesbians (and a gay man!) are contestants on the show. A few weeks ago, the Elimination Challenge required the chefs to cook for a "His and Hers" Bachelor's Party (exactly what that is, I still don't understand...why have your parties TOGETHER? Anywhoo...) One of the lesbian contestants, Ashley, was fairly furious, to the point where she was filmed as stating (something to the effect of) "I think it's bogus that we have to cook for a bachelor's party when there's three of us who can't participate in the institute of marriage." Clearly furious. However, the other lesbian contestant, Preeti, stated, "I feel kind of lame that I'm not more fired up about it." Here we can see the anger and the apathy that permeates our community. On one hand, I know this event will be an amazing opportunity to meet activists from across the country. But there's also the bit of the skeptic in me, who thinks that this will also be an excuse for lots of gay people to converge on our nation's capitol and get drunk and party...basically a Pride in October as opposed to June. (I'm fine with it being a healthy combination of both, and let's face it, we know how to party!) I suppose my concern is that the less serious will drown out what we are actually converging on the Mall to accomplish. We WANT and NEED to be seen as equals to all Americans, regardless of race, class, sexuality, gender, gender expression, etc. It's our time to tell Americans we will stand up to the hate and bigotry that we live with, fear, and internalize every day. We will overcome.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Welcome back to my own blog!

The last few months have been an absolute whirlwind. I can't believe the last time I posted here was on V-Day! Ridiculous. Obviously, a bit of an update slash explanation is in order!

Around the end of March, a good friend of mine and I went to a job fair in DC. From there we hatched a tentative plan to perhaps move down to the "District of Awesomeness" as my friend (and now current roommate) calls it. At the end of May, my lease in NJ was up and I moved to Silver Spring, MD. My friend went on a mission trip to Malawi in the middle of June, and when she returned, we resumed our apartment hunting. The very first apartment we saw, we knew we loved, and we signed the lease. We are now currently in NoVA (Northern Virginia) living the DC life. And we both love it!

So that is the excuse behind my very-behind posting. In terms of finding a job, Washington DC is much more friendly to us entry-level, want to save the world candidates. I've been on a few interviews, and was even offered a fellowship. I turned the fellowship down because the woman I interviewed was not so professional; I had a creeping feeling in my gut that this was not where I should be. Plus the money wasn't right. Unfortunately such crappy reasons as money will hinder me from taking things like unpaid internships or low-paying fellowships...I have rent to pay!

So while I am still working at Starbucks (yuck) I am still trying to pursue my dream. I'm also taking advantage of our fairly extensive library system here in NoVA and reading quite a few good books. At some point very soon, I'll have to review them a little more extensively, but one I've finished recently is Oranges Are not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterstein. Currently, I have Insecure at Last by Eve Ensler on my bedside. Both are excellent! More information on them both to follow, when my Internet isn't nearly so shotty!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Honor of V-Day

Saturday, February 14 is not only just Valentine's Day. It is also V-Day, a worldwide movement of people dedicated to raising awareness about violence against women. The campaign was begun by Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monolouges) eleven years ago. She travels the world, often with another noted activist, doing speaking tours, concerts, etc in order to raise money and awareness. This year, V-Day is focusing on women and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Why write about this? First of all, gender based violence is something which lies close to my heart. I volunteer at my local domestic violence shelter, so violence against women is something I think about often (unfortunately). Last night I was reading a book, Family and Friends Guide to Domestic Violence while on my shift, and the author made it very clear that domestic violence is not just a gender issue: it's a human rights issue. That made me pause. Of course it is a human rights issue! To me, it's fairly simple: women are humans too; therefore, violence perpetrated against them in whatever form (beatings, FGM, stonings, etc) is a human rights issue. But do we ever think of domestic violence as a human rights issue? I believe it is framed more as a personal issue due to the private nature of domestic violence. This framing makes outsiders less likely to intervene and more likely for women to feel isolated in her position, not sure which way to turn for help. How is it that we can easily frame the incarceration of prisoners at Guatanamo naval base in Cuba as a human rights issue, but we cannot do the same for a victim of domestic violence who was brutally beaten by her husband, and her son managed to capture the violence on tape? (One would think that the videos were this man's meal ticket to jail: he only was sentenced to nine months) The question with which I am now struggling is how do we change the perception around domestic violence to a human rights issue?

I'm not sure what the answer is. Maybe treating women more like humans is the answer? Again, perhaps the answer lies in a reframing of the issue of domestic violence. Great strides have been made against domestic violence in this country in order to force the issue out of the private sphere and into the public, but more work needs to be done on both the home front and at the international level. In honor of V-Day, reflect on the women around the world who suffer from gender-based violence. Go to the V-Day website and read one article about women in the DRC. Go to the website of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch and read an article about violence against women in any country. Take a stand against the massive human rights violations happening every day across the world. This is not a private issue.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


One thing I worry about with this blog is that it will seem discombulated, as if there is no one real theme or thread tying all the posts together. Having never blogged before, I'm not really sure if it's a bad thing if there's discontinutity from one post to the next. My first post focused on equal pay, this post I want to focus on sexuality. What's the theme? Just my passion for thinking about/discussing these issues.

This might come off as more of a venting post. This focuses on many discussions I've had with various friends about how sexuality is perceived in America. The problem? Sexuality is seen as being dichotomous: gay or straight, black or white, with no room in the middle for something else. I believe in sexuality (and gender!) as being a spectrum; less of an either/or type of deal, and more of a fluid concept. Some people are straight-they are only interested in members of the opposite sex, they know that, they embrace it, that's fabulous. Some people are gay,
queer, homosexual-only romantically involved with members of the same sex. But what of the middle? Why isn't there more of a discussion of bisexuality in this country?

Is it that people fear bisexuality? That "crossing the line" so easily makes it possible for all people to love whomever? Or maybe it's that bisexuals don't fit the same sorts of stereotypes that gay people do...they move "under the radar," in a sense? However, even in the queer community bisexuals are a minority. Are bisexuals not "gay" enough?

I think much of the problem lies with the fact that being gay is not at all entirely accepted or understood in this country (and that's putting it mildly, in my humble opinion). Any sexuality outside of heterosexuality is seen as the "other." Thus, being gay is wrong, and being bisexual is downright inconceivable. Why not stay on the side of privledge? Why can't this person just chose a side?

I'm not entirely sure what the point of this sort of ranting is all about. I guess it's coming from my experience, as a girl who dated a boy and then finally came to terms with the fact that I'm primarily attracted to women. I've found that people need to know where I fall on the spectrum, and interestingly, whether or not I would date a man again. It comes from my bisexual friends coming to me and talking about how difficult it is to come out to their friends, or talk about their bisexuality with their families, because no one seems to understand their feelings and they're frustrated over the lack of recognition that their sexuality is legitimate. Am I making any sense? Thoughts?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lilly Ledbetter and the Fair Pay Act

President Obama has been in office for about a week now, and he's already signed into law a fairly substantial piece of legislation designed to close the equality gap between women and men. Lilly Ledbetter worked as a supervisor in a Goodyear plant for years and was paid substantially less than men at the same level as she and even less than men who was technically her subordinates. She never discovered the disparity until years later. She tried to sue the company, and her case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court. They basically told her, "Sorry, you can't sue because so many years have passed." The legislation Obama signed into law is designed to make it easier to sue for wage discrimination.

Obviously, this is a great step towards making men and women more equal, at least in the workplace. In the United States, women earn 76 cents for every dollar that a man makes. Fair, much? How is a woman supposed to advance herself in this world if it's already worked into the system that she will be paid less than a man? I think what bothers me that I wish there was a way for pay to be equaled out. Women shouldn't be forced to sue in order to earn the same wage as a man; it should be standard that women and men make the same wage.

Another thing that irks me that sort of goes hand in hand with this recent development is the jobs created by the stimulus plan. Many of them deal with the revitalization of our infastructure, and, as a faithful follower of Rachel Maddow, I'm able to tell you that our infastructure is in terrible order and definitely needs a major overhaul. BUT the problem is that these jobs are CONSTRUCTION jobs. Male-oriented industry, anyone? More inequitable pay issues, anyone? Will the United States ever be able to move past the 76 cents to every dollar problem that currently plauges American women (American women, indeed, but also women around the world face a similar issue, although the ratios are different: for example, I believe in the European Union the ratio is 84 cents to every dollar...goooo Europe!)

As per usual, I'm frustrated. The Lilly Ledbetter act is a giant step forward for women to be able to fight unequal wages, but will it actually help to close the gap? I feel like the legislation is a great way to be able to say, "Look, I did this for women!" but as to whether or not women will be bringing home more pay at the end of the day is another story. I guess in my nice little world inside my head, companies would recognize the threat of the Ledbetter Act and work to even out the wage disparities between men and women. In my perfect little world, the Ledbetter Act would quickly become obsolete.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Welcome to Humanist Musings, and thanks for visiting. I am Alexandra, and this is to be my forum for discussion around human rights, specifically LGBT and women's rights.

Before I fully explain the intent of this blog, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I just graduated from Drew University in Madison NJ with a Bachelor of Arts in Women's Studies and Political Science. While I loved studying Political Science, and fully consider myself a geek with regards to which I religiously follow the news, women's and gender studies was where I truly found my passion. In the United States and across the globe, women are not fully equals to men, and both women and men are persecuted simply because they are attracted to people who happen to be the same sex. To me, these facts are abominable. In a world where all are theoretically created equal, there is no reason whatsoever that these types of persecutions should exist.

So what does this have to do with blogging, and why am I doing this? In a nice place inside my head, I'd like to be an activist, a writer, someone who draws attention to the grave disparities in society, begins a debate surrounding those issues, and brings about change. Since I have yet to find my post graduate dream job, this is my own way of starting my activism on the local level. This is my way of engaging with the issues, of using the theory I learned at Drew in order to look beyond what is being reported in the news. Also, this is my opportunity to learn and investigate-what are the issues in the first place? What's important, and why?

Just a side note on the name of the blog: anyone will tell you I'm a huge feminist. It's true that through feminism, I found my passion and to a certain extent, my sexuality. However, feminism can be restrictive and is not entirely all inclusive. Therefore, I consider myself a humanist, and hopefully my posts will reflect this about me.