Blender

The Male Gaze Has Pretty Strong Arms And An Erect Penis

I slipped into a pair of jeans, a loose fitting t-shirt, and old Keds I found getting cozy with some dust bunnies at the back of my coat closet. I made a face at myself in the mirror, slinging my bag–a relic from my college days–over my shoulder. Dressed in decade old clothes, sans pearl earrings, watch, and lipstick, I felt vulnerable.

I was dressing, or rather under dressing, for a dentist’s appointment. The location of their office wasn’t sketchy per se, but as a woman who was about to be alone in unfamiliar territory I figured being nondescript was best. I even left Atticus, my iPod classic and constant companion, atop my dresser. Just to be safe.

The fact that I felt all these precautions were even necessary was incredibly upsetting. Why did I have to dress down? Why did I have to leave Atticus behind? Why are men not responsible or held accountable for their urges?  With those thoughts in my head I went on my way.

The bus ride was uneventful and as I stepped onto the curb I was feeling much happier. Summer was in full swing and for once, I was ahead of schedule. I only had a few streets left to navigate from the bus stop to the dentist’s office and having gone over the directions the night before I was confident I would get there without a hitch.

Somewhere between the first right and the third left turn, I got lost. My phone, which was mildly dependable at best, had died. No Google maps; no way to call. Still, I had about half an hour and some memory of where I was supposed to be heading so I walked on.

I’d been wandering around empty streets in a mild panic that was starting to transform into anxiety when I finally thought I recognized the name of the street I was on.

As I was trying to recall whether it was supposed to be a right or left from this street, I looked up and saw a man heading towards me. He seemed harmless enough so I kept walking, planning to cross to the other side before he got close enough for his features to be discernible. He must have taken wide strides because he had planted himself in front of me quicker than I had anticipated.

“Why you alone, pretty mami?”

I averted my eyes and attempted to walk around him, but he was one move ahead of me blocking my way when a voice crept up from behind me.

“Where you goin? We’ll take you there.” His last sentence seemed to wrap itself around me. I felt my skin crawl.

Before I had sense enough to get away, they were on either side of me,  forcing me to walk in step with them. They bantered about my hair, my body, and the tight grip I had on the strap of my bag, entwining me in tobacco breath and the stench of man sweat.

They foresaw my every attempt at quickening my pace or falling back by circling around me. It was an empty street, though fairly open, so I knew they were leading me someplace else.

“Don’t worry. We’re gonna show you a good time,” they jested.

I cursed myself for leaving my can of pepper spray–the one my boyfriend had gotten for me in spite of my protests that it was unnecessary–and for not printing out the directions.

I concentrated my gaze on the road searching for other pedestrians, a passing car, an open window. My two “bodyguards”, as they referred to themselves, had slackened their pace and were veering right, gesturing to each other. I took the curve in the road and their distraction as a chance to run and slipped out from in between them.

I ran, directionless, hammering my feet onto the pavement, unsure if they were running after me.  Sweat and angry tears stung my eyes, blurring my vision. My ankles threatened to snap and my legs were beginning to cramp, but I kept on running, turning down more empty streets. It was the honk of an oncoming car that stopped me. I had run right in to an intersection. The volume seemed to be turned up around me–the heat, roaring engines, laughter, birds chirping–exploding in my eardrums, pecking at my skin.

When I finally walked through my boyfriend’s apartment door, I was exhausted, defeated, and trembling. I knew I had been lucky, but I was livid. I was angry for days after–angry at being told it was my fault, angry that I was afraid of leaving the house alone, angry at the two men that harassed me who would continue to assault other women, and angry at the the culture that made them believe they had some kind of right to me, my body.

Women in ads are part of the problem. They’re there to be leered at, desired, and consumed either wholly or in part.

9321_web-ad_7 5958_american-apparel-ad-amsterdam-nowopen-061 suit-supply dolce-gabbana-gang-rape-adThe two men who harassed me seemed unable to differentiate me from the women in those ads. If it’s socially acceptable for them to leer at and lust over those women, then it’s acceptable for them to direct those same feelings towards me. Like the women in the ads, they saw me as an object of their pleasure and felt justified in doing so. They didn’t care about the revulsion I felt towards them, my thoughts on religion or politics, or that I prefer Sour Patch Kids to M&Ms. I was there, they were there, and therefore they had a right to me. After all, I am a woman–a sexual object, a thing to be consumed and possessed.

With so few women occupying decision-making positions in media–roughly 5% (Status of Women in the Media, 2014)–it’s no wonder female representation is the way it is.

It’s not going to change as soon as I finish typing this and my anger from that day still burns. I felt then, as I feel now–helpless. I don’t remember their faces. I can’t walk the streets in search of them so I can blind them with my pepper spray and kick them in the groin before turning them over to authorities. I wish I could. It would make me feel better, certainly, but it wouldn’t change anything. More men like them would crop up before the bars even closed behind those two.

I began writing this without a clear direction in mind. I knew I wanted to set it down after months of not dealing with it. I was lucky, and it made me feel guilty. Guilty for running away, for not remembering their faces, for letting them go knowing that I was not their first, nor would I be their last.

My boyfriend taught me how to box after that so I take some measure of consolation from the knowledge that I can land a pretty damaging right hook. My dad always told me to close my fist and aim for the throat, but I think it’s better to just run.

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Barney’s Spring 2014 Campaign Features Transgender Models

The fashion industry is known more for its narrow conception of beauty than its inclusion, but Barney’s New York has taken a step towards changing that with their Spring 2014 Campaign,  entitled “Brothers, Sisters, Sons, and Daughters”.

The campaign shot by photographer Bruce Weber features 17 transgender models from differing backgrounds.

It’s not perfect as the models featured all still seem to stay within sizes 0-4 (size 6, max–maybe) nevertheless it’s commendable for helping to break stereotypes and strengthen social acceptance of the trans community.

The models were photographed surrounded by their friends and family and share their stories in a video series, including a short film, for Barney’s The Window. Their stories and photographs speak volumes about human connection, love, passion, and perseverance–qualities everyone can relate to regardless of gender.

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For more information click here.

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Step Aside, Wonder Woman.

A gigantic THANKS to Tarah (Adorned in Armor) for nominating me for…

versatile-blogger-award“The Versatile Blogger Award is an award given to you by your blogger peers, for writing quality posts that have somehow touched them, having good quality photographs, and the uniqueness of the subjects covered. The award is to honor the bloggers who bring something special to your life.”

You, Tarah, have made me feel all fuzzy inside and very Wonder Woman-like.

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The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are:

Display the award certificate.  
Announce your win and thank the blogger who nominated you.  
Present deserving bloggers with the award.  
Link your nominees in this post and let them know of their nomination with a comment.
Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

It’s my turn to award the following awesome bloggers with their very own Versatile Oscar:

oscar.jpgStories From the Belly

Other Sashas

The Good Greatsby

Bunny and Pork Belly

The Grown Up Kids

Brad Young Art

My Dog Ate A Lightbulb

Chronicles of an English Grad

Be warned! This award has been known to cause severe changes in appearance, an obsession with shiny gold objects, hissing, and split personalities.

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7 “Interesting” Things About Myself:

1. That’s me pictured above after having this award for a couple of days. I did warn you.

2.  I am pretty obsessive over things I like. I once ate spaghetti everyday for two months–lunch AND dinner. My favorite song is on loop until I absolutely abhor it. If I like you, beware, because you will never be rid of me, my precious.

3.  My very first shipment from Amazon contained 20 books. This was obviously before I thought Amazon was evil.

4. There was a very sad time in my life where I was more of a Quinn than a Daria.

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5. I accidentally set a wicker table on fire at my favorite coffee shop. I couldn’t go back for weeks. It was a very sad time in my life, but not sadder than when I was a Quinn.

6. I really, really like mermaids.

7. Just. The Hiddles. I can’t.

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Thank you again, Tarah for thinking I’m versatile!

If you guys have suggestions for other deserving blogs, let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for interesting people to follow!

Tittynope!

Now that I’ve got your attention, I just wanted to apologize for my fleeting presence here as of late.  I’ve been busy working on something exciting, which will hopefully come to light very soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been swimming in a pool of unwritten words and here’s one to float on:

Tittynope–is not a denial of a woman’s buxom bosom, but rather a noun meaning a small amount of anything that is leftover. Come to think of it, a tittynope is what remains after I’ve removed my Victoria’s Secret push-up bra (hah).

To my followers who have stuck around–thank you for being such amazing tittynopes! Okay, stopping.

‘Til the next post!

The Fem-pire Strikes Back*

When Miley Cyrus chooses to wear the label Feminist, it’s not only surprising considering she usually favors pasties and panties–it’s a tad disconcerting.

On the one hand, it’s thrilling when any woman waves the feminist flag without shame, but on the other hand, Miley Cyrus isn’t exactly the Joan of Arc most feminists are looking for. Sure, she’s not ashamed of her sexuality as no woman should be, but she also isn’t doing anything to make women who already consider feminists extreme any more inclined to think otherwise. Some women believe that whether she, or any woman, identifies as a feminist or not is irrelevant so long as they believe in what feminism stands for.

I disagree. It’s important for two reasons:

1. Identifying as a feminist is met with the same disgust as admitting you enjoy molesting little children or running over your neighbor’s noisy dog. Thanks to Rush Limbaugh, “Feminazi” is a thing and we all know there’s nothing like a Hitler association to scare people off. Now while those things are despicable (Hitler and Rush Limbaugh included); feminism is not. Women shouldn’t be afraid of calling themselves feminist, but they are.

2. Most women see feminists as a cult of angry, unshaven lesbians, whose favorite past time involves roasting men over a pyre of their collected bras not without first relieving these male sacrifices of their genitals–to be used as strap-ons during the post-pyre orgy.

Feminism clearly needs a rebranding. After three waves–the first in which we won the vote, the second where we influenced the Roe vs Wade decision, and the third where we’re not only presently fighting against the criminalization of pregnancy, mutilation, and rape, but we’re also questioning inequality and discrimination within our own movements–you’d think feminism would have a better rap and women would be climbing over each other to further the vagenda.

But they’re not. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and celebrities like Bjork and Lady Gaga all have their reasons for not wanting to be called feminist, which are echoed by most women:

1. Feminists really, really hate men.

Nope, not true. While there are probably some who do–every group has its borderline extremists–most of us don’t. We may dislike certain established patriarchal paradigms, but we certainly don’t hate men. There are a lot of good ones out there like Tom Hiddleston and these guys.

2. Feminists are so negative. All they do is complain and promote a culture of victimization.

It’s great that you get to wake up in the morning and not have to worry that today is the day someone is going to take a machete to your vagina and circumcise you without anesthetic. I’m also happy that you don’t have to worry about being burned by your father for talking to your fiance before your wedding day or being forced into prostitution. The reality, however, is that most women are living in a culture of victimization. If those seem alien and foreign to you, then just take a look at this and this. It’s not about playing the victim. It’s about acknowledging that these abuses exist when they shouldn’t and doing whatever it takes to eradicate them–complaining ’til our voices run dry or otherwise.

3. Feminists look down on women who choose to leave their careers to be a housewife or a stay-at-home mom.

The operative word here is choice. Feminists love having choices. That’s why we’ve fought for longer maternity leaves, better benefits, and flexible work days. Whether you choose to be a working mom or a stay-at-home one, what feminists want to be sure of is that it was YOUR choice and it wasn’t forced upon you by someone else or because you had no other option.

4. Identifying as a feminist infers that equality isn’t a natural state.

Um, in case you hadn’t noticed–IT ISN’T. Scroll back up to #2 and reevaluate. Sure, it’d be fantastic if we lived in a utopia where all men looked and thought like Ryan Gosling and Tom Hiddleston and women could walk through a dark alley alone at night, but instead we live in a world where a 47-year-old teacher who rapes his 14-year-old student only serves a 30 day sentence. By the way, he was also a multiple offender and his 14-year-old victim took her own life. The sad truth is, is that while feminism has come far since women first kicked up their skirts and said enough is enough, we’re still not where we should be.

For all those reasons and more, it is important that women wear the “feminist” label with pride. Whether or not you think Miley Cyrus is the best thing to happen to feminism since free birth control, take the time to sift through all the myths that surround feminism and learn its real meaning.

Feminists are people who believe in equality. Feminists fight against prejudice, oppression, and abuse. A few wayward Christian or Muslim extremists don’t stop most members of those religious groups from identifying themselves proudly as Christians or Muslims and the same should apply here.

I, Michelle Linette Lim, am a proud feminist and I hope you will be too.

*The Fem-pire Strikes Back: The New Feminist Wave is Here

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I’ve Always Depended On The Kindness Of Strangers

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The Philippines needs your help.

Typhoon Haiyan, known to Filipinos as Yolanda, has left destruction in its wake. An estimated 9.5 million people have been affected by one of the strongest storms to hit the planet. Reports are predicting that more than 10, 000 lives have already been claimed by the storm. Thousands of people have been left stranded and homeless. Roads, establishments, and crops have been destroyed. I’ll refrain from posting graphic photos here, but there are countless heartbreaking photos online of places like Tacloban City that were one of the first to be hit badly by Haiyan. Hundreds of dead bodies cover the streets. Survivors are devastated, lost, and hungry. Reports of looting have already started. Scared, tired, and hungry people wander the streets like zombies in search of food and any form of relief from the tragedy.

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The extent of the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan has made relief and rescue efforts challenging, but hasn’t stopped the Coast Guard, Policemen, and civilians from helping out.

Philippines embraces super Typhoon Haiyan

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Typhoon Haiyan has brought grief into the hearts of Filipinos (like this personal account here and report here). As Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire said, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I hope that wherever you are in the world, you can spare a bit of your time and effort to help my fellow countrymen out.

Here’s an updated list of relief centers gathered by Rappler.com. Five minutes of your time can make a world of a difference to the victims of this tragedy. My brother works for the World Food Programme (WFP) and he just informed me that there is also a dire need for potable water in the Haiyan-affected areas so while food is much-needed, water is an equally vital donation too. You can help through the WFP here.

Filipinos are a resilient people with ready smiles and open hearts. Haiyan may have destroyed homes and taken lives, but no tragedy can break the Filipino spirit. You have my gratitude in advance for all the help you’ll give. :)

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Copyright 2013 Michelle Linette Lim. All rights reserved.

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