Emma Watson's UN Speech #HeForShe

If this is the sort of thing you follow, I'm sure you've seen the speech Emma Watson made at the UN in support of the #HeForShe campaign. Unfortunately, #HeForShe is a dumb name. We're struggling in the name department as far as gender equality goes. Regardless, I'm encouraged by the target audience of the campaign.

Male voices are super important in the feminist movement; as redundant it is to call male voices important, I mention it just in case that's unclear (and because I'm a panderer ;)).

The first time I heard a man talking excitedly about a female-fronted band (NPR All Song Considered), I felt thrilled. Up through college, female musicians were never spoke of that way. They never quite reached the status of cool.

During the final of the Women's World Cup in 2011, I was in a packed bar in Portland, everyone on their feet for the American team. It was the first time I participated in a crowd of people that were in no part sneering at women's athletics. It felt novel and wonderful to have men praise these player's ability - to really cheer for them - rather than oggle their looks.

Playing pickup basketball at the gym, a guy on the other team joked to me "Make sure you go easy on [the guy you're guarding]". I was the only woman on the court. I laughed, thought nothing of it. My brother, Nick, though, immediately spoke up. "Actually, she's pretty good." I considered how the joke the guy made was in the mutual assumption that, as a girl, I sucked at basketball. It was awesome that Nick stood up for me.

All you have to do is be male and say something slightly pro-lady and I will get a tick of adrenaline. It's really powerful.

Which is good because we need that power. Part of Emma's (my pal, Emma's) speech that was obvious and remarkable:

"I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.

"But sadly, I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to see these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality"

I was talking with some friends about gender inequalities in Botswana. The oppression of women is a major factor in the ongoing AIDS epidemic in that country. It isn't culturally acceptable for women to insist on condom use or to expect their partners to be faithful. Young girls often rely on older lovers as a source of income. In addition, domestic violence is an ever present (but taboo) reality. Gender inequality for these women often times costs them their lives.

While we were talking about the situation in Botswana, my male friend, whom I love and have known for a long time, felt attacked. He said he was tired of us "man hating". I was surprised. He is a good person.

Gender inequality is tricky. Some prejudices seem to be reduced as people form relationships. For example, people who are homophobic are often swayed by getting close to someone who's gay; they're less afraid, less hateful. This doesn't seem to be the case with gender. Everybody's close to a woman.

Men seem to have a tendency to align with their gender rather than the people who are closest to them. Please guys, fight this impulse. Don't shut down the conversation.

My friend, who felt attacked when we criticized the gender hierarchy in Botswana, spoke in support of the status quo. It's logically not his position, but that's where we're letting our emotions, our allegiances, lead us.

Another part of Emma's speech:

"Statesman Edmund Burke said, “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”"

A couple of years ago, I fought hard against the notion that the feminist movement needed any male voices. I didn't want women to have to rely on men in order to enact change. Now, though, I've embraced the idea because it seems like guys might actually speak up. I've seen it happen.

So if you do get to speak up, do. It'll make me so excited.


Defensive Line

I was talking to my friend, Jamie, yesterday, about the recent domestic violence cases in the NFL. Within weeks of one another, Ray Rice knocked his wife unconscious and Adrian Peterson beat his four-year-old with a stick.

A video showed Ray Rice pulling Janay Palmer's unconscious body from an elevator. To be clear, Palmer was conscious when she entered the elevator, but the Ravens and the NFL wanted to give Rice the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what his 5'1" fiance did to deserve it? Who knows how she left him no choice but to cold clock her? They suspended Rice for two games.

Adrian Peterson was suspended for one game after he whipped his son until the boy bled (including severe injuries to the boy's leg and scrotum).

Both of these men have been dealt harsher punishments from the NFL since then.

I'm assuming you've heard about these stories.

Speaking of violence against women and children, I don't care if you, person reading this, think you are a good person. I hope you feel like a good person. I don't want you to feel bad or uncomfortable, but that is emphatically not the point. Resist the impulse to get defensive, if you can, because this matters a lot.

Violence against women and children is a demonstrable fact, and we live in a society that is slow to respond, reluctant or unwilling to step in on behalf of those who suffer from it. Our response, is to blame the victim, to lament the ruined future of the accused, to rage about the feminization of U.S. culture, to argue that men have the right to hit a woman, or to give up, to concede that violence against women and children is inevitable.

The epiphany I had while talking to Jamie is how we can change all that. Domestic violence will go away when all parts of society find it unacceptable. It's like in soccer when a defense holds its line; as long as nobody falls back, they can keep their opponent offsides, away from the goal. The NFL could be part of that line. Needs to be part of that line.

Former NFL player Cris Carter said, regarding the Adrian Peterson case, in a room of men that mostly disagreed with him:

"Take him off the field...Take him off the doggone field. Because you know what? As a man, that's the only thing we really respect. We don't respect no women, we don't respect no kids. The only thing Roger and them do—take him off the field, because they respect that."

What if the NFL, that totem of masculinity and wholesome Americanness, considered the lives of women and children more important than football? What then? Maybe we could get other bubbles, other segments of society, on board. At once discouraging people from assaulting women because of the consequences and teaching everyone else what has what value.

The most revelatory thing about this is that I can picture it. The is the most-watched league of professional sports by far. It is a powerful organization. Get the right commissioner in there. Things can really change.


First Wedding

Mitch and I had dinner with some friends we hadn't seen in a while. They have two kids ages five and three. They had just gotten back from a trip to Chicago; one of their sisters (Scott's) had gotten married.

It was the first time their kids had been to a wedding, and it happened to be a same-sex multicultural one. It's their template, now, for what weddings are like.

The three-year-old, Zoe, has taken to grabbing her mom's hand and saying, "Now we are married." I tear up about it because it makes me think that maybe some of our problems will go away.


Talking Jesus

I found out in college that people in Christian communities dropped Jesus and God into everyday conversations. People like college students, who were not pastors, talking about tests or boyfriends or intramural games.

I grew up in a Christian home. Went to church twice a week. But my parents were never Jesus talkers. Hot topics of conversation were libertarian politics, household insulation, and how much my dad hated being in the army. (In New Zealand they don't insulate their houses, like, at all. My dad was appalled.) We'd pray before dinner, but a prayer of rote. "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest..." None of this personal or emotional interfacing with the big JC before prandial repose.

My mom comes from good German-American stock, who, as a rule, talk about nothing. And my dad grew up in a house next door to a Lutheran church and across the street from a Presbyterian one. His mother sent him but attended neither.

Mitch and I recently moved in with my brothers in Fort Collins. They (my brothers) have a bastion of Christian community. People going to church two, three times a week. Sunday morning service, Life Group, Discipleship Group, family dinner, camp volunteering, church planting, marriage counseling, singles group. And as much as Fort Collins is a college town with the requisite debauchery, it is a veritable church buffet.

What I'm saying is, we're back around people talking Jesus.

Not that this is bad, but even as a life-long Christian I find it hard to fit in. I'm not sure when to God drop if we're not talking about religion. "Boy, do these carrots look God-intended rotten. How long ago did we, by the grace of Jesus, buy them?" It's like when I was new at swearing I just throw the ol' fuck around everywhere. (But with practice and observation, I have become adept, I would like to think.)

Somebody said to me, yesterday, "I really feel God speaking to me through this community." and I thought, What does that mean? I have to check out of these conversations because I feel like people are talking in code. All I hear is "I am Christian; I am Christian." I'd ask them to clarify but don't want to expose myself as one of the uninitiated.

My annoyance with mentions of faith leaping through all topics of conversation, I'll be honest, could rapidly be turning into resentment. I don't want to be a linguistic Byzantine, an outsider to the truly faithful. I don't want to have to prove that I'm a Christian while I'm talking about those jeans that I really like that have gone missing. I feel bad about myself for it.

If God has a conversational Google alert set up for His name, he's getting very few hits from me, and I hope He's okay with that.


There's a Limit to My Empathy

Friends keep recommending all these things for me to watch or read. I thought it'd be fairly obvious, but I have to tell them the reason I STAY AWAY.

Catcher in the Rye - guys, this is a book about a boy. That's like expecting me to read About a Boy. He goes to, like, a school with boys and talks a lot about what it's like to be him. I just can't relate. I shouldn't have to; I'm obviously not the target audience.

And then there's The Great Gatsby, which everybody says is such a classic. But I've never been a young man who's moved to Long Island. How do they expect me to connect with this character, to care about him? I don't know, male characters are a guy thing.

Brothers Karamazov? I mean they're brothers: my point exactly.

And then in TV, there are shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Do I look like a man? Is that the problem? Am I not womanly enough for you? Why do you keep recommending stuff like that?

The Godfather, Fievel Goes West, Fight Club: these are films tailored towards the male demographic. They're dick flicks. No thanks.

It's not like I don't get why these things are made or why people watch them. Boys need entertainment, too.

But I have books that are meant for me: Hunger Games, Gone Girl, and To Kill a Mockingbird once somebody told me that Scout was a girl.

I like shows like Broad City and Girls... you know, female humor.

So to all you people out there trying to get me to watch guy stuff, stop wasting your time. Who do you think you're kidding, anyway?


Traveling for a Year

When I was in Botswana with Lindsay we met an English/Kiwi couple who were out traveling for a year. It put my two-week trip to Africa to shame. Even when Mitch and I were on our six-week trip, we met loads of people who were traveling for longer periods. Leaving for months at a time seems to be a thing.

Something I like to think about - a game I like to play, really - is where I would go if I had a whole year to do it. If I had a month to spend in each country, which 12 countries would I go to?

Here are some cool itineraries that I've come up with:

The east coast of Africa to eastern Mediterranean trip:
South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece
The south east Asia to India trip:
Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka
(Talk about great food and scuba-diving opportunities.)

The west coast of South America to Central America trip:
Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala 

It's a goal of mine to travel for a year (not that I'd be able to do it anytime soon). Other goals include "become employed" and simple ones like "write for television" and "make lots of money". All in good time, my pretties. All in good time.

What 12 countries would you visit?