Feminism Is For Lovers

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yes, this man has helped make me the woman I am today. No, that doesn't make me any less of a feminist. 

In addition to the literature classes that I normally teach at a fine arts high school in Birmingham, next school year I am starting an elective called Women and the Media. Think journalism meets women’s studies. And last week a friend of mine sent me a link to a story that I immediately added to the syllabus. 

All Hail the Queen by Tamara Winfrey Harris is an article about pop icon Beyonce and explores why so many of my fellow feminists have qualms about welcoming Queen Bey into the fold. This is a discussion that’s been going on for years with some feminists claiming that Beyonce fails to truly empower women because they believe she relies too heavily on her sexuality for her success. But that’s a proverbial dead horse I don’t care to beat today. That’s not what this post is about.

The other thing that has had some feminists in an uproar was Beyonce’s decision to title her latest tour The Mrs. Carter Show, a nod to her husband Shawn Knowles-Carter (better known as hip hop mogul Jay-Z).

Harris quotes Jane Martinson of the Guardian who wrote in a February 2013 op-ed, “There is almost something subversive about waiting until the strongest moment of your career, which is where Beyoncé finds herself now, to do away with the infamous glossy mononym in favour of a second name your own husband doesn’t even use.”

Harris also points out that Beyonce, during an an interview with Oprah Winfrey before the premiere of  her Life Is But a Dream documentary, said this of Jaz-Z: “I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man.” 

Dodai Stewart of Jezebel responded with this: “Wouldn’t you like to believe she’d be amazing whether or not she went home to a man? (She would be.) It’s a much better message when she talks about how powerful she is as a woman and what a woman can do—without mentioning Mr. Carter.”

But Harris, in her article, counters statements like these and writes, "Being a feminist in the public eye should not require remaining aloof about relationships, including those with men who have helped shape who you are."

I couldn't agree more. To me, feminism is for lovers. 

Personally, I find Beyonce's relationship with her husband quite empowering. First of all, it's obviously a marriage in which equality is important considering their decision to combine their names to create "Knowles-Carter." 

Secondly, being an ambitious, artistic woman and a devoted wife is hard work. The balancing act can sometimes be as tough as a tight rope walk. The more examples we have of women who can make their careers and their husbands a priority, the better.

A marriage is one of the most important and one of the most formative relationships a person can have. Why is it anti-feminist for a woman to say her husband has contributed to who she is as a person and as a professional? Like Bey and Jay, my husband and I have been together for 10 years (including the boyfriend years). That's nearly a third of my life. Of course, he's helped shape who I am! And I’m sure he’d say I’ve had an impact on who he is today too.

My husband makes me a better writer, a better teacher, and a better human being. Saying that doesn’t mean I suddenly don’t believe in the equality of the sexes, which is what feminism is truly about. In fact, our relationship is a great example of equality. We share household duties. We make important decisions together. And we fully support each other’s goals and respect each other's wishes. And having such a relationship makes our marriage stronger because we are true partners. What feminist wouldn't celebrate a marriage like that?

This post was also published on my new blog on The Southern Coterie, "the social network of the SOUTH." This online community is for Southerners and all those who love the South. 

Monday Motivation: How to Use Your Writing Gifts for God

Monday, May 27, 2013

For two years now I have led women's small groups through my church. These groups have been on various topics but have all basically been bible study nights that I've held on Monday evenings at my apartment.

This summer I wanted to do something different, but couldn't quite figure out what to do. Each time I'd come up with an idea I'd quickly realize why that idea wouldn't work. A friend of mine suggested I not lead a small group at all this summer since I am, you know, starting a magazine. That's kind of a big deal and will keep me plenty busy. But still, I felt called to lead.

Then one morning during my personal quiet time of bible study and prayer it came to me -- lead a small group for women writers, host it at various local coffee shops, and call it Words With Friends!

I immediately came up with the brief description to include on the online small group directory:

Do you like to write, blog, or journal? Join us this summer for fellowship, quiet time to write, and discussion on how we can use our writing gifts for God.

Still I had my doubts. This seemed too easy. Was this actually an idea from God or was this my own selfish, sneaky mind concocting a way to hang out in a coffee shop and write and call it ministry?

And as the launch date for the summer small group semester got closer, I also started to panic as I realized that I didn't really know what to tell woman who wanted to know how she could use her writing gift for God. Personally, I look to blogs like She Reads Truth and Jamie the Very Worst Missionary for inspiration, but what if blogging isn't your thing? Then what?

My prayer on Saturday had been that I'd receive some sort of inspiration for my small group at Sunday's church service. So I go to church and Steve Blair, a minister at my church, takes the stage to deliver a message that's about ...wait for it... using your gifts for God! I wanted to run laps around the sanctuary I was so excited.

To me this was confirmation that my small group idea truly was from God.

So how can we writers use our writing gifts to serve God? The answer is quite simple really. We must use our writing gifts (or any gifts) to serve people. This will look different for different writers. For me I serve others primarily with See Jane Write. For you, you it may be through a blog. Or maybe you're meant to tutor a student who needs help with composition. Or maybe you can start a creative writing program for at-risk teens or a "write to wellness" workshop for women struggling to cope with hurtful past experiences. The possibilities are endless.

My Words With Friends small group is not limited to women who are members of Church of the Highlands. If you live in Birmingham and you're free on Monday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m.  I'd love for you to join me. We'll meet at various local coffee shops. Meetings begin June 3. If you're interested email me at javacia@gmail.com.

Write on and keep the faith!

How to Be a Southern Woman

Monday, May 20, 2013

I didn't own a cast iron skillet
until a friend bought me this one for my 32nd birthday.
Does this make me a poor excuse for a Southern woman?
"You are not a real Southern woman!" my mother-in-law said when she learned that I'm not a fan of collard greens. How could a girl born and raised in Alabama not like collard greens, she asked. 

Though my mother-in-law was joking, this wasn't the first time I was accused of not being a true Southern woman and it certainly was not the last. I'm a liberal feminist who doesn't want children and who hates to cook. By the stereotypical notion of what it means to be a Southern lady, the only thing Southern about me is my drawl. And some folks even claim not to notice that, which is crazy because I can add extra syllables to words with the best of them.

Though I did feel quite at home when I lived on the West Coast and in the Mid West, I am glad to be back in Alabama, back in the Deep South -- my true home. And I love being from the South. I am proud of my roots. I am proud to be a Southern woman, and, yes, I am a real Southern lady, at least by my own definition. 

I am the woman who understands the value of family, food, fashion, and faith. And this is what makes me a true Southern woman.

I may not want children, but I still value family. I believe in honoring my parents and my husband with all that I do. My brother is one of my very best friends. And, as I've mentioned before, I get really annoyed when people say to my husband and me, "Don't you two want to start a family?" We have traditions, great memories, and unconditional love for each other. We are a family.

And I keep my family fed, even though I don't like to cook. And if you come to my house, I'll feed you too because I believe in Southern hospitality. And I believe that people bond best over food, which is why if you want to hang out with me I'm going to always suggest we go out for brunch, lunch, dinner, or any other meal I can think of.

And when we do go out, my outfit will be cute. In the South dressing inappropriately for an occasion is considered just downright rude. Thus, down here fashion isn't about vanity, it's about good manners. So if you've invited me to an event in July, you better believe I've already started thinking about what I'm going to wear.

Though I am liberal on several social issues, I am a woman of faith. I'm a church-going gal and proud of it. My relationship with God directs my decisions and colors my worldview. Albert Einstein once said "There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle." I believe everything is a miracle and I believe that because of my faith in my God. 

And in case you're thinking I should have added football to my list, I have that covered too: Roll Tide!

Proud Southern Lady!

This post was also published on my new blog on The Southern Coterie, "the social network of the SOUTH." This online community is for Southerners and all those who love the South. 

My Writeous Week

Monday, May 13, 2013

Even though it was quite horrifying to see my big head taking up a whole page of a magazine, I am extremely honored to be featured in B-Metro's women's issue this month. The article is about my wrote with See Jane Write and you can read it here.

Last week was an exciting one for See Jane Write.

Birmingham-based authors Irene Latham, Kathryn C. Lang, and T.K. Thorne

On Tuesday we hosted a panel discussion on publishing. With more than 50 people in attendance, the event was a huge success. Click here to read a recap of the great information our panelists (pictured above) had to offer.

And on Thursday I hosted a See Jane Write planning session and the first See Jane Write Magazine staff meeting.

Big things are certainly in store!

May Intentions

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Even my iMadeFace avatar is ready for summer break. Less than four weeks to go!

There's something about turning my calendar to a new month that reenergizes me. I know it's silly. Nothing has really changed in my life simply because it's now May, but I'm excited nonetheless.

I used to post my intentions for the month on this little blog of mine and I've decided to bring back that tradition today.

This month I intend to...

Exercise every day. I've been trying to do this every month this year and every month I fail. But you know what they say: if at first you don't succeed...

Anyone want to help me grade papers?

Keep calm during end-of-the-school-year chaos. Yesterday I nearly had a panic attack as I looked at the stack of papers I have to grade, especially when I considered that this pile didn't even include the 65 research papers I'll be lugging home Monday afternoon. My heart started to race and I found myself being short with my students. It was time to chill out.

And I plan to maintain peace by spending at least 15 minutes of quiet time with God first thing, each morning. Philippians 4 says if I pray, the peace of God will guard my heart and mind. So I'm going to sacrifice hitting the snooze button because I believe this is true.

Spend more quality time with my husband. People who know me well know that I am an extremely goal-oriented and ambitious woman and I'm fortunate enough to be married to a man who is just as driven as I am and who supports all my endeavors. But all these lofty aspirations mean hubs and I don't spend nearly as much time together as we should. Even when we attend local events together we're usually not side by side but can be seen working the room solo, busily networking like any good power couple should. But this power couple needs to power down a bit and spend time working on our most important enterprise -- our marriage.

Clean and organize every room of my apartment. People assume I'm a very neat and organized person because I generally appear put together, because I meticulously plan out my day with lists, and because I'm married to a neat freak. It's a façade. In reality I'm a complete slob. When my husband goes out of town I live like a frat boy with clothes strewn all over the living room and empty pizza boxes stacked on the kitchen counter. Of course, the place is spotless when he returns home. But when he goes out of town at the end of this month I'm going to spend the entire week he's gone cleaning and organizing. (But I'm still eating pizza for dinner.)