Monday, January 21, 2008

Ms. Understood

I always loved the bumper sticker that read, “Feminism: The radical notion that women are people.” I first learned about feminism in my junior year of college; why it took me so long I have no idea, probably because it wasn’t a popular topic in the ubiquitous patriarchy of prep school. Now, the older I get, the more single I become, alternating between relishing and dreading my freedom as a thirty-something single feminist in a society that doesn’t know quite what to do with me. What I hate is persistent inequality, the glass ceiling, and the question of whether or not the United States is ready for a female president. Why, in the age of supposed post-enlightenment, are we asking such an idiotic question? Compared to Dumb W, Clinton looks like a Mensa candidate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the neoliberal, smoke-blowing power couple on steroids, but could we possible get any worse in the White House?

What I also hate is the media’s portrayal of women and the messages sent to young girls that they must be stick-thin, big-breasted, and smart but not too smart lest they make their boyfriends look inept. We are taught to know and do all but appear as though we don’t know and can’t do it all. We are also taught to compete with other women, sometimes viciously, instead of engaging in sisterhood. It’s no wonder most of the women I know have no idea how to be strong and independent without being mistaken for ax-wielding bitch lesbians, how to be accommodating without being doormats, or how to fully appreciate their intelligence and beauty.

Fortunately I am not hate-full. What I love is that despite my emotional and romantic state I am truly not alone in my search for myself. I love that last week without intention I stumbled across bell hooks’ affirming and life-changing book, Communion: The Female Search for Love, which reminds me that I can embrace my femininity and feminism, and that I must do the hard work of learning to love myself fully in order to have healthy relationships with anyone. I’m starting with my feet, as hooks suggests, an oft forgotten body part which I think are particularly amazing considering they work hard everyday to get me from here to there.

Photo: These are not my feet, but I love this image. Credit: Sean Duggan.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Abbey Road

It's a wonder that westward settlers put their stakes in Southeast Utah. It's a no-man's land, prickly and anhydrous, with bright, burning days and steel cold nights. And yet the landscape is like no other east of the Colorado, the red rock virtually jumps out of the periphery like an absurd 3-D pop-up children's book, almost too fictional to be real, almost too red to be earthly. The sky with its infinite layers of every shade of blue stretches out beyond the imagination and loses itself behind the 2.5 mile-high peaks of the La Sal mountains.

Decades ago, this area was generally unknown except to uranium miners and cowpokes. Now Moab is a haven for weekend warriors, mountain bikers and hikers out to conquer the windswept terrain and leave their indelible mark upon the land. Of course, tourism requires paved roads, trash bins, and signs to stunt stupidity. Urban dwellers must be reminded to not feed coyotes or trudge upon the cryptobiotic crust that is elemental to the fragile ecosystem of the desert. How far we've come.

Edward Abbey wrote about his disgust for progression in Desert Solitaire, a must-read for visitors to this edge of the West. His other, more popular title is The Monkey Wrench Gang, a fiction-esque tale of a misaligned group of eco-raiders working against man and machine. Abbey did most of his writing in a quiet spot in the foothills of the La Sals, a rather special place named Pack Creek. I visited Pack Creek for the third time just a few weeks ago, walking in Abbey's dust, breathing in the memories of a place that once was. Every afternoon, as the sun tilted westward I would set out, bundled up, breath fogging up my glasses, and I would look out for the elk or the coyote or the bobcat I knew were on the lookout for me. Instead, I saw only signs: Seldom Seen Road, Abbey Road, and my favorite, Take the Other Road. As I rounded the bend behind our cabin I would imagine I lived in Pack Creek amongst the Aspen colonies, amongst the elk, coyote, and bobcat. And I could almost see the ghosts of settlers before me who knew well enough to put down stakes in this awesome land, this otherworldly and cavernous paradise, this dry and deserted Zion.