Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Women, the media, and depression

I had the opportunity of being a guest on Tears to Triumph on blog talk radio as a media consultant discussing images of women in the media and depression, thanks to Candace Sandy of Souls of My Sisters. Have a listen and share your thoughts.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How to Date a Feminist (Redux)

I recently read an eHow article titled "How to Date a Feminist" and I have to say, it's probably the worst How-to article I've ever read, mainly because I wouldn't follow their steps to date a feminist and I am one! So here's my suggested How-to guide to dating a feminist:

1. Don't assume that because she's a feminist she either hates men or is trying to be like one. Instead, ask her what that term means to her. You'll get to know her and she'll think you're smart for asking.

2. On the first date, avoid misogynistic humor. This usually entails not repeating anything from a Vince Vaughn movie. Or your ideas for a Vince Vaughn movie. Don't worry--eventually you can probably get her to watch Wedding Crashers with you (although I can't guarantee she'll enjoy it), but don't expect that to win her over on the first date.

3. If she mentions working for women's rights in any way, do not disparage her efforts. Be open to seeing her perspective, even if you respectfully disagree. The key word here is respectfully. While you may think that date rape statistics are inflated, commenting that she works with liars if she's a rape crisis counselor is not respectful (this is a true story that happened to me).

4. Read an article about women's issues. Just one. Really, one is enough to open your eyes. It can be about anything, and chances are, there's probably some way women's issues combines with your profession, even if you're in finance or construction. Plus, by reading one article, it'll give you good date talk, which might then lead to good pillow talk.

5. While I wouldn't expect any guy to read the entire syllabus from a women's studies course (even I skipped out on some of those readings), it may behoove you to think about what you would put on a men studies course. The greatest shame in college campuses nowadays is that women are challenged to think about their roles in the world and how to break out of stereotypes while men are not. Tell her that and it might get you laid.

6. Support her career aspirations. No wise woman is going to be all about her career. Most of them just want to enjoy family and career the way men have been for years. But being a supportive man who thinks about her career strategically and gives her sound counsel makes you a true catch and can also lead to some really great intellectual foreplay.

7. Support her personal growth. This is just sound relationship advice and not specific to feminists, or women for that matter. The key is not to be self-absorbed and to understand that there are just as many women as men aspiring for greatness--help her be the better version of yourself and she'll probably help you do the same.

Now the only trick in all this is paying the bill. I still have no idea what the rules are on that one, and even my own preferences change. I always offer because I don't think men should always pay, but I also think more highly of the guy who argues a bit to pay for me, not out of some antiquated notion of gender roles, but just out of kindness, the way my friend Jenna and I argued about the bill today. But that's me. I know other feminists differ on this. The one thing I do know is that a feminist is unlikely to be the type of woman who puts out on the third date simply because you paid for 3 dinners--you're going to have to work a bit harder than that.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"The little dictator"

In 2007, I attended a conference where Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel peace prize winner and human rights lawyer from Iran, was supposed to speak. Unfortunately, her visa got held up and she couldn't make.

Last night, after two and a half years of following Dr. Ebadi's activities and reading her compelling autobiography, I finally got to see her speak at Asia Society. Jody Williams, the Nobel peace laureate from the US, once described Dr. Ebadi as "the little dictator," a reference to both her short stature and impassioned way of speaking, and I can now confirm it's an accurate description. Despite the use of a translator (which always dilutes one's speech), anyone privileged to see Dr. Ebadi speak will know she speaks with every fiber of her being (the only other person I've seen come close is Elizabeth Warren, head of the TARP oversight, on consumer protection).

Because I didn't go in my professional capacity as a member of the press and didn't record the event or take notes, I don't want to reiterate what Dr. Ebadi said last night lest I get my facts wrong. But since I also didn't get to thank her, I would like to do so here and share with readers my favorite story about her that I read in her autobiography, Iran Awakening.

When one of Dr. Ebadi's friends decided to flee Iran (some years after the Revolution), Dr. Ebadi went to her friend's apartment. The friend was trying to sell her things and had placed price tags on much of her furniture. Dr. Ebadi went around pulling the price tags off just as her friend was putting them on, trying to convince her friend to stay in Iran. She explains, 'if everyone goes, who will be left?'

This may seem like an innocuous story, but I always remember it on the days when I'm tired or frustrated with the lack of progress in some area. Clearly, that's how much you have to love a country and a culture and your cause to stay and fight against all odds. And how can I ever be tired when Dr. Ebadi is fighting so tirelessly at an age when most people are contented to retire in an easy chair and play with their grandchildren?

So thank you, Dr. Ebadi. The world needs more dictators like you.