Defriending Friends

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

Keep your friendships in repair.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love Facebook.  But after a full year of socializing through FB, I have taken a summer pause to evaluate my “Facebook friendships,” relationships which are not all traditional or non-virtual but which can as easily become dysfunctional.  Reviewing and cleaning up my FB network took both time and reflection – but all worthy relationships require diligence, purpose and care.  Facebook relationships are no exception.

Let me emphasize that I love Facebook.  Like people who use several rolls of aluminum foil a month, I am a “heavy wrapper” when it comes to Facebook:  I like to share photos, status, articles, funny stuff, news, family matters and posts from this blog and others, often several times a day.  I like to read where others are and what they find of interest.  I don’t mind the deluge of posts from heavy wrappers like Elizabeth Scalia or Leticia Velasquez – neither of whom I’ve met but both are bloggers who share posts and links on Facebook everyday, all day.  I enjoy light wrappers, too – friends or family members who only occasionally post a tidbit, peak or comment, made precious by its rarity.

I’ve met some wonderful New Feminists and new friends on Facebook, connecting through mutual friends or “cold calling” to be friends because they wrote something interesting, provocative or memorable.  I’ve joined the community support for heroes like Travis Mills and followed interests ranging from Snowshoe Magazine to Beauty and the Beast to New Feminism.  I have FB friends who post recipes, tattoos, prayers, military videos, political quotes, vacation photos, cute puppies, health alerts, and pleas to add one more “like” or one more donation to a favorite cause.

I especially love comments – that tell-me-what-you-really-think space where a post becomes a connection, maturing into a discussion with FB friends and strangers.   I get a buzz from the occasional snarky comments I receive from people who experience something I’ve posted emotionally, even personally, as though I posted specifically to aggravate them.  I appreciate these comments – and doubtless, I make them myself.  This is the buzz of engagement, an intentional sparring of differences, where we are invited to another point of view and “like” can mean, “I hear you,” not “I agree with you.”  I value what I learn in these exchanges and how relationships – based on blood, shared experiences or simple fascination – prevail and no one defriends each other, at least, not for long.

This is the healthy side of Facebook, I’ve concluded, well worth preserving and sharing – and protecting.

To protect the health of my FB network, I have decided to set boundaries on my network.  I have implemented two criteria for defriending family or friends on Facebook.

1.  Abusive language.  Call me sensitive – many people do – but when snarky becomes abusive, it’s time to part company.  I recognize that posts or comments with pointed insults, name-calling or cursing are truly “just words” on FB and, often, reflect a user’s passing mood, alcohol level or frustrated passion, but I am not an “idiot” and my opinions are not “asinine” and if a “friend” thinks otherwise, that person is not a friend – real or virtual.  Even on Facebook – perhaps especially on Facebook and other social networks – word choice recognizes and honors the dignity of the other person, or not.  I have no interest in comments and posts that invalidate, denigrate or verbally assault groups or individuals, perpetuating online personal dysfunctions.  To remain FB friends with such users enables behavior that destroys and dismantles – not nurtures and builds – community.  All human communities will have multiple differences, even disputes – but they are guaranteed to escalate in hostility when we turn the other into an opponent, combatant or object for defeat.

2.  One-sidedness.   Lopsided friendships are always suspect, typically characterized by boundary issues that leave one person anxious to please another who is needy and without personal resource.  We’ve all seen or known these situations: where one person never seems able to say “no” just as the other person can’t resist asking one more favor – or where one person works pathetically to win affection that is withheld but not foreclosed.  FB, I discovered in my summer review, can foster a similar “one-sidedness” that I almost did not notice:  FB friends who never post, never comment, never share but amply consume information about other people.  There may well be situations where lack of mutuality is relatively harmless – but I decided to give focused consideration whether the FB eavesdroppers upon my life are people who I really ought to be having real relationships with.  Defriending FB friends because the friendship is not mutual, I hope, will define the reality because, without virtual contact, we will either reach out for face time, or we won’t.

I am only half way through summer.  Facebook – how it connects me, how I use and misuse it – remains in my near sights.  Possibly, I’ve just begun to wrench this social tool, and when to defriend friends, into proper position.

Weight Watchers

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

Many of you may have seen pictures like this one floating around on Facebook or through email threads.   Often, these vintage ads are contrasted with unflattering pictures of rail-thin models or celebrities of our current generation.  There will then be some sort of caption like:

Wow. How times have changed!

The post will usually get thousands of “likes” and comments about how wrong of a turn we have taken and how right they had it back then.  There will be bashing of thin women, some quite nasty, (e.g. a woman without curves is not a REAL WOMAN) and all of it will be considered entirely appropriate.  After all, if you are thin, you must either have an eating disorder or you’re a stuck up model or celebrity who deserves the criticism anyway.

It makes sense why such feelings have developed.  Too many of us have watched our friends, our daughters, our mothers, our sisters beaten down by the pressure to be thin.  We’ve heard horror stories.  We may have even lived them.  We’ve seen beautiful women give up everything, even sometimes that which made them so beautiful, because they have been pushed into an insecurity about their weight.

When we’ve seen this happen or had it happen to us, when we know what it’s like to be told that a number defines your worth (whether through peers or through the daily assault of the media, or the subconscious push of a chemical imbalance) we naturally want to put up our defenses.  We want to do whatever we can to stop such a lie.   And so we may rejoice in ads such as these because they are the extreme opposite! And it would seem that the extreme opposite of a lie would be the truth.

The problem is, glorifying an ad like this does not end the lie.  It merely perpetuates it.

I’m sure we do it in good faith, without thinking that anyone could be offended.  After all, the idea that there might be some women out there who are thin and insecure– women who may be skinny but feel way “too skinny” and are unable to do anything about that–seems crazy!  We don’t think that a girl like the one in this ad exists.  We may not think that it’s even possible to be unable to gain weight.  And we don’t truly believe that a thin woman could feel ugly, un-feminine, or un-sexy.  So we think it’s okay to tell her that she should feel that way– okay to bash her in the hopes that that bashing might build up the women who are not skinny.  It’s the same thing that plays out with the “popular girl” in a school.  Regardless of how nice or mean she may be, regardless of how insecure or confident she may be, she is going to be bashed because people think she can handle it for the sake of the girls who are unpopular. We do this with big football teams when they play smaller teams– we root for the underdog and figure that because the other guy is not the underdog, we can boo him all we want.

But booing the other guy isn’t how you win.  It’s not how you gain your own confidence and it’s definitely not how you promote theirs.

For the past thirty or so years, skinny has been “in.”  So has being tan.  So have countless other trends and fads.  So naturally, those who are not skinny, those who are not tan, those who are not blonde or brunette or highlighted or curly-headed or rich or poor or whatever the current trend may be, are the underdog.  They start out being criticizied and put down.  Eventually, there are enough of them and enough people hear their plea that they develop a group of people who will stick up for them and defend them.  Eventually, rooting for the underdog will become standard and a trend, itself.  Now, the trend regarding weight is shifting again.  ”Curvy” is becoming “in.”  Skinny, as can be seen by these Facebook postings, is out.  One day, it might circle back around just like it did a few generations ago.  In the end, these trends are silly, frivolous and should be rather irrelevant.  The reason they are relevant to us is because we are insecure.  And female insecurity is no passing trend.  It is a terrible reality.

But these sorts of ads– this “mean girls” support of the underdog will not end it.

Female insecurity will not end until we stop bashing the people on the other end of the spectrum.  We will not feel comfortable with our own weight until we are comfortable with everyone else’s.  We will not feel comfortable being brunette until we are okay with all the blondes being blonde.  And we will not feel comfortable with our own beauty until we can see the beauty in other people and be happy for it.

I don’t claim to know much about eating disorders.  But I consider myself to be fairly knowledgable about what it feels like to be a girl.  When I see someone say that whatever it is that I am is ugly or un-sexy it hurts me deeply.  I know that women are supposed to be beautiful, so when I see an ad where a girl that looks like me is called ugly, my womanhood is wounded.  I don’t feel like “a real woman.”  And we’ve all felt like this.  And when we feel like this it makes us feel better to put down someone else.

But I challenge women to be more courageous.

When I was in elementary school, I was jealous of the short girls.  I was tall, often taller than the boys, and so in class pictures, I had to stand in the back while the rest of the girls sat all cute in the front.  I know that back then I didn’t want those girls to look cute.  But I could have at least tried.  If I had tried to let go of my inner anger towards them I think I would have developed a lot more confidence and had a healthier opinion of myself.  But instead I learned the game of women.  I quickly learned how to be mean, even if only interiorly.

But the truth is, even if the game produces a quick self-esteem boost, it will not last. The insecurity will only come back all the more harshly.  And it certainly doesn’t make us any more beautiful.  In fact, when we rejoice that another woman is any less beautiful, we literally make ourselves less beautiful.  Because we taint our hearts.  And the heart is the most beautiful thing we have.

I know that some people may post such an ad to promote girls being healthy as “back then they had a better view of what was a healthy weight.”  But regardless of which generation was healthier, these ads miss the point.  They aren’t about health, just like most weight-loss ads today aren’t.

They’re about reaching the trendy number.  Playing off women’s insecurities.  Defining women by how sexy a man may find them to be.  We know women are more than numbers and more than sex appeal so let’s stop playing that game of which woman, skinny or curvy, is the “real” one.  Ideally, all women should strive for a healthy weight, but the ease of that task differs on all ends of the spectrum.  And before we can even get into what a healthy weight is, we must first discern what a healthy heart is.  A healthy heart is not jealous and a healthy heart is not vengeful.  A healthy heart takes what it is given and rejoices in the beautiful and the good, even if it is not its own. 

New Feminism Mission Statement

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

The following New Feminism Mission Statement for the recently created New Feminism Facebook Community was released today.  I participated in the drafting of this statement which brings together a wide variety of faces and approaches to the work of New Feminism.  You can join this community at Facebook by searching “New Feminism” and clicking on “New Feminism, Cause.”

We, the women of the New Feminism Movement, come together on this site/page to unite our cause upon the following principles.

1.  We come together to liberate woman, in her naturally designed femininity, not only from masculinization, but also from denigration as sexual object, commercial commodity or disfavored gender.

2.  We believe that women have a unique voice and role in protecting the dignity of the human person and creating a culture that values the life of every person, regardless of race, age, gender, physical ability, faith or any other category invoked to dominate or marginalize.

3.  We reject the imitation of masculine models of success and domination and acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of society.

4.  We embrace a wide variety of projects that seek to achieve true equality and incorporation of the feminine throughout society.

5.   We seek to introduce a new paradigm of feminism, whereby woman and the female virtues (i.e. Empathy, Interpersonal Relations, Emotive Capacity, Subjectivity, Communication, Intuition, & Personalization) are valued as fundamental to the health and sustainability of the human family.

We acknowledge there are many faces, many approaches within this movement including philosophical, secular, religious, moral, economic, medical, business, familial, and other perspectives whereby a woman expresses and becomes most fully herself.   In this forum, we all come together to share and be united in the cause of New Feminism.

Worldwide Eggsploitation: Egg Donation and Exploitation of Young Women Results in Death

Jennifer Lahl

For Immediate Release

San Ramon, CA/July 13, 2012News is just breaking in India about Sushma Pandey, a 17-year-old young woman who died in 2010, two days after her third egg “donation.” Her death is being attributed to the procedures used to extract eggs from healthy, desirable young females like Ms. Pandey. These eggs are often resold to affluent westerners for use in commercial production of their children. Her post-mortem report states she had “one abrasion, four contusions and a blood clot in the head, plus six injection marks” as well as “congestion in the ovaries and uterus.” The possible cause of her death was listed as shock due to multiple injuries.

This most recent exposure of the daily exploitation of females offers yet another wake up call to the truth of the real, repeat, and often lethal harms of invasive egg removal procedures, which masquerade under the lie of donation. These transactions are anything but “donations” as young females — nearly children themselves — all over the world, desperately fall prey to offers of money like those made to Ms. Pandey.

Calls for regulation by physicians in India will do nothing to protect young women who seek to “donate” their eggs because they are in desperate need of money. Regulated exploitation is still exploitation — using young women as egg farms for affluent westerners wanting children.

Dr. Allahbadia, one of the drafters of a new Assisted Reproduction Technology Bill, wants to raise the minimum age for egg donors. But how does being older mitigate for the health risks of egg donation? It doesn’t.

Kathleen Sloan, feminist leader and human rights advocate who serves as a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) comments:

“The list of known health dangers to women who provide their eggs is extensive. It includes Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome from the profusion of synthetic hormones and fertility drugs such as Lupron, estrogen (linked to breast and uterine cancers, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots), and progesterone they are injected with; ovarian torsion; and kidney disease — and those are just the short-term risks! How many more women will have to die before India and the United States, the two countries where the out of control fertility industry is allowed to endanger and exploit women unimpeded, take action? No country can claim to respect women’s human rights while simultaneously turning them into commodities subject to life-threatening harms.”

Jennifer Lahl, writer, producer, and director of the award-winning film Eggsploitaiton states,

“What happened to Sushma Pandey is happening to women every day, all over the world. The infertility industry knows the seriousness of the health risks, yet objects to any oversight, to long-term studies, and to regulation, simply because it will compromise their profits.”

For more information, visit Eggsploitation.com

Media Contact: Jennifer Lahl
President, The Center for Bioethics and Culture
+1-510-290-3891
jennifer.lahl@cbc-network.org

Babies Aren’t Accessories

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

We like to sleep in, go on last-minute vacations, and pull all-nighters working on projects we care about. We’d rather spend the money we do have on dates, not diapers. ~Nona Willis Aronowitz, 27 years old.

Have babies become another in a checklist of cost items for young women?  Are they juggling the “baby option” with the “mortgage option,” the “cruise option” or the “new job option”?  Have contraception, egg-freezing, sperm-on-demand and other baby-timing technologies tricked our young women into thinking that having and nurturing a child is another “To Do,” to be scheduled amid the demands of their career?

Ms. Aronowitz – a 27-year-old journalist – seems to think so.  She recently wrote:

Deciding when to have children is a riddle of figuring out the right age when neither my ovaries nor my career prospects will wither.  Why shouldn’t we wait until we’re financially secure and emotionally mature to have children?

How many young women think that having and nurturing a child competes in purpose and satisfaction with a job promotion?  Did these young women miss Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” message that nothing else a woman does trumps the “maternal imperative” of nurturing children?  Slaughter’s explanation for giving up a high power government job is worth repeating.

Deep down, I wanted to go home.  I wanted to be able to spend time with my children in the last few years that they are likely to live at home, crucial years for their development into responsible, productive, happy, and caring adults.  But also irreplaceable years for me to enjoy the simple pleasures of parenting—baseball games, piano recitals, waffle breakfasts, family trips, and goofy rituals.

Breaking the comfortable routine young married professionals often find themselves enjoying – finally independent, with some disposable income, stably removed from the stress of dating and sport sexing – can be challenging.  It’s often a wonderful stage of life, as the caterpillar unfurls her first set of wings.  The baby you always thought you wanted – you always intend to have – can suddenly seem like an expensive, cloying threat.

Young people often don’t know that they will never really grow up, mature into the satisfactions of adulthood, until they have moved beyond themselves.  Most young women don’t know that having a baby will be the single most profound change of their lives; or as one author put it, “Making the decision to have a child . . . is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”  This “maternal imperative” is the wisdom of women – the sort of folklore older women like Slaughter used to pass from generation to generation.

It’s hardly surprising that many young women like Ms. Aronowitz sincerely believe that having a child depends on the right combination of income, job security and government programs.  Progressive feminism has infused their youth with the illusion that a baby is another accessory and that women happen to be the humans stuck with gestating them.  These young women have heard very few professionals like Slaughter call the bluff as she did in her recent Atlantic piece – a piece Slaughter wrote because she could no longer hawk the illusion to the next generation of women.

Ms. Aronowitz’ circumstances suggest another reason that some young women miss the wisdom passed from mother to daughter, the female wisdom about what deepens a feminine life, what unveils feminine satisfaction and significance.  Ms. Aronowitz herself was a birth postponed by her parents until “late” – and she then lost her mother early at age 64.  As Ms. Aronowitz painfully shares, “Losing my mother in my formative years was gut-wrenching, and all of my grandparents had died by the time I turned 25.”   It’s hard to learn what older women know when there are no older women in your life.

“Babies, my dear Ms. Aronowitz,” I and other nurturing women would tell her, “are not accessories.  They cannot be tacked on last minute, as time is running out, like a beach cottage you always wanted.”  

Babies are not made manageable one day by the “free and ubiquitous” child care or the easier “job market” Ms. Aronowitz wishfully thinks will move “having a baby” up on her To Do list.   No, these will not preserve the “last minute vacations” and date money Aronowitz prefers.  They will not make balancing a career any easier.  Babies still wake up needing you for hours at night.  They throw up on you unexpectedly as you head out the door for a meeting.  They stare mournfully into your eyes through a 103° fever, limp in your arms.  Babies find ways to draw from your heart protective longings shockingly beyond imagination and appallingly beyond control.  One of my own babies – when all else failed to pry me from a dogged determination to litigate full time – learned to speed dial my office number by age 36 months and whisper, “Me misths yous mommy.  Come home peas.”

Our young women are entitled to the truth, not an illusion.   Having a child may well be something a woman decides not to do, but it’s not an item you can expect to juggle like a new job, mortgage or car, a function of timing, dollars and favorable government programs.  No, babies are not an accessory.  A baby will take your life away from you – and hand back something so unexpected and magnificent that you will tear up your youthful To Do with a laugh, infused with the stunning wisdom nurturing women share.

Nothing Grey

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

The reason to read – and the reason not to read – 50 Shades of Grey are identical:  it isn’t real. 

It’s a fantasy.  It’s a dark, erotic tale about a guy named Christian and his domination of Anastasia, a tale that includes spankings and beatings.  Not surprisingly, the people who seem most to like this book relate the unreal, disturbing fantasy of Ana and Christian’s relationship to reality:  “I started reading it and almost instantly fell in love with Christian, he can be over bearing at times but really he just needs the love and attention a good woman can give him.”  People who know better, who know that these fantasies have no relation to reality, call Ana and Christian’s relationship “domestic abuse.”

Women have long indulged sexual domination fantasies – just as they have criticized these fantasies as immoral and politically objectionable.  Women’s conflict over fantasies featuring their own subjugation as a source of sexual pleasure began the moment women admitted to having sex drive in the first place.  Sexual domination fantasies make (some) women crazy:  some with desire, others with repulsion.  For some women, the push-pull conflict itself causes interest, like sneaking Godiva chocolate during a diet. 

Consider Nora Ephron’s typically witty 1975 essay “Fantasies” from the aptly named collection Crazy Salad.  Here was a woman admittedly conflicted. 

I have never told anyone the exact details of my particular sex fantasy.  I once told almost all of it to my former therapist; he died last year, and when I saw his obituary I felt a great sense of relief.  Anyway, without giving away any of the juicy parts, I can tell you that in its broad outlines it has largely to do with being dominated by faceless males who rip my clothes off.  It’s terrific.  

Ephron shared her fantasy to argue that women should reject domination ideation and give “sexual behavior and relations between the sexes” a chance of changing favorably in the wake of modern feminism.  “It is possible,” Ephron pled, “through sheer willpower, to stop having unhealthy sex fantasies.”  (Crazy Salad, p. 16).

Others, like Camille Paglia, have rationalized women’s indulging in subjugation fantasy on the theory that aggression, eroticism and power inequities are intimately and biologically linked.  The Roman Catholic Church would concur that, by virtue of man’s fallen nature, disorders of desire and fantasy are gravely tempting, but, like Ephron, the Catholic Church and many other religions favor the discipline of self control and rejection of unhealthy sexual thoughts and practices. 

While both politically and religiously incorrect, female domination fantasies have the added problem of being totally unhinged from reality.  Rape fantasies may be captivating and thrilling, but rape never, ever comports to the fantasy.  To the contrary, in the real world, sex by domination – that is any form of sexual interaction that occurs against the will of another person – is no fun at all:  it strays naturally toward violence, self absorbed pursuit and complete objectification of the victim.  In realty, sexual domination is not fantasy play – it’s physical abuse.

Ask Kim Basinger who turned a book similar to 50 Shades of Grey into the 1986 film 9 ½ Weeks with Mickey Rourke.  Filming that movie – characterized by its “none-too-subtle overtones of sado-masochism” – was reportedly “terrifying” for Basinger who found acting her role as Rourke’s sex slave anything but sexy. 

Or read up on the nasty scandal being covered by Salon.com within the sadomasochistic-bondage communities where participants self-identified as “submissives” find themselves in the awkward position of publicly complaining of being raped:  not pretend rape (which is “fun”) but real rape (which is not fun).   Grasping at credibility, the women being really raped insist that “we’re talking about real abuse here, not . . . ‘consensual non-consent’ that the scene is built around.”  While the fine line may seem foolish to outsiders, the difference between pretend nonconsensual sex – called “play” – and real nonconsensual sex – called “assault” – demonstrates the dramatic and fundamental difference between the fantasy of it all and the abusive, decidedly unsexy reality.  The two cannot co-exist in real time. 

These woes of “kink and bondage” women bring us back to 50 Shades of Grey:  to read or not to read? 

I think not.  Material featuring the humiliation and subjugation of a woman, while tempting in the dark corners of the mind, is ultimately dangerous simply because we are so easily tricked into relating its abusive content to reality.  When both secular and religious figures are in agreement on the unhealthiness of a course of behavior, when even the people who try to convert the fantasy to reality admit complete failure, there’s nothing grey about it.  I’m not going to read 50 Shades of Grey.