Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting the Fifty Shades Series

Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and I once showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”

I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I’ve ever met has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I also devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people had to Google “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

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When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books, Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. Until one year ago (exactly, oddly enough), I not had sex in six years. Furthermore, I’d only kissed five people, ever, and that includes a stranger who pecked me on the cheek on New Year’s Eve. I am not asexual, far from it. I was just never interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I saw no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure wasn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that when I was treading water in a dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it wasn’t so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. While I’ll admit that for an America drowning in debt, financial freedom might be it’s own fantasy, I’m still not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is the sole appeal of the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience. This article suggests a somewhat circular logic for the over 30 bracket, in particular: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I was known, at one time, to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call shenanigans. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the spine injurt. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.

  • I originally posted this on March 5, 2015.
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The Apathetic Bride

As a child, I was not especially girly. This might come as a shock to my frequent readers, considering Jake and I just recently had an argument as to whether or not glitter can be my second favorite color. Spoiler alert: he’s wrong.

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Perhaps I’m simply overcompensating in adulthood, because when I was little, I was bound and determined to be a tomboy. I “hated” baby dolls, Barbies, dresses, and the color pink, because naturally you couldn’t like Disney princesses and climbing trees. Regardless, I loved my Water Baby, because it didn’t feel like a doll, but a real baby and I wanted my play to be as realistic as possible… which is precisely why I stuck my baby in the microwave to heat up the water, after my mother refused to refill it. While my mothering instincts might have left something to be desired, it wasn’t for lack of interest. Just like most other little girls, I felt that biological drive and genuine desire to be a mom.

I suppose my first romantic fantasy had the same lead as that of every other 90s girl: Jack Dawson. Of course, it took me a bit longer to realize that Cal Hockley was the real hero of Titanic, but all the same… at age 10, I began to dream, innocently (put your dress back on, Rose, you just met this man), of falling in love. Despite this, it would be another six years before I even considered my own wedding, and as an assignment in a marriage and family class, at that. Now, before you go mocking my undergraduate degree of family and consumer science education (or home-ec), I’d like to clarify that this was a budgeting and planning exercise. Weddings just happened to be on topic with the course, as we calculated the cost of catering and venues and attire. While I’m sure this was fun (and a little harmful) for the girls who grew up fantasizing about their dream weddings, for me, it was just… illogical.

Teacher: “You have to include boutonnieres for the men.”
Me: “Why? You can have a wedding without those.”

Even when I planned my first wedding, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care about this entirely unnecessary party. In hindsight, I’ve considered the possibility that this was simply because I was getting married for all the wrong reasons, and there may be some merit to that. On the day of my wedding, I remember trying to picture my life five years later and thinking that I couldn’t see myself married then… that maybe this was the wrong path… that it was too late to do anything about it. Few believe me when I tell them this, since I didn’t actually say it at the time, so they insist that the only reason I don’t care about my pending party is because I’ve already had a wedding. Y’all, I swear on the Deathly Hallows that the next time someone implies that my second marriage counts less than the one I entered before I could legally drink, Imma cut a bitch.

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Weddings have just never been my thing. On our first date, I told Jake as much… and he was baffled as to why. In every other way, this man is a stereotypical country boy. He loves hunting, fishing, drinking, football, and taxidermy. He has such a thick southern accent, that he sounds like a racist cartoon character. The man’s a downright parody of himself… and he loves weddings, so much so, that he’s attended at least fifteen over the years and has been in half of them. Jake thinks it’s absolutely worth it to spend $9,000 on a party. I’m marrying Katherine Heigl from 27 Dresses and I’m… Sheldon Cooper.

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Hate is a really strong word for how I feel about weddings. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I don’t mind the idea of looking back on a big celebration to declare my lifelong commitment to Jake, in front of all of our friends and family. It certainly means a lot more at 29 than it did at 19, to me and to the audience. I’d do it just to make Jake happy. It’s just… I want to be a wife, not a bride. I don’t need or really even want all the fuss, especially when the tradition and industry surrounding weddings… kind of sucks.

Weddings and wedding planning are typically very sexist. It takes a lot to tickle my feminist bone, but I resent that I’m supposed to plan this shindig, just because I brought the vagina to the party. I want to go to the caterer, who Jake told me was shocked that I’d “let” him decide the menu without me there to hold his hand, and remind her that it’s 2017. I love Jake’s mom, but I think it’s completely unfair that she and everyone else think my father should pay for an elaborate party that his adult daughter doesn’t really even want. It’s not because it’s my second wedding, either. It’s because I bring in $50,000 a year and I don’t need my father to inventory his livestock so he can pay some man to take me off his hands, because women are such a burden. If we want a party, we can pay for a party.

To be clear, it’s not any one person being sexist. It’s the wedding industry. Societally, we talk sooooo big about female empowerment and some pretend sisterhood where I owe more to a random woman than a random man, because somehow equality (?), but the second a woman gets engaged, all of that goes out the window. I’m criticized for my own traditional relationship and gender role (my boss once joked that I was “gender conforming”), which effect only me, but now it’s not only okay for me to ask my dad to pay a literal dowry, but mandatory. No longer are the sparkle and the glitz and the bright colors grounds for mockery, but celebrated… by the jewelry and bridal stores, who want my money. If I say I want to maintain a certain body image for Jake, I’m doing a disservice to all womankind, but my wedding is in three months, so it’s just assumed I’m on a diet of laxatives and self-loathing, to look good for everyone else. The idea that I’m not allowed to be traditional and feminine (aside from the language), unless it’s wedding season, is utter bullshit… and a marketing ploy.

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Zetus lapetus, are weddings expensive. After my first and only wedding dress shopping trip, last summer, I’ve refused to go on another. I was thrilled when my bridesmaids chose their own dress online and ordered it sight unseen. As for my dress…. well, I’m getting married in three months and I don’t even know what I’m going to wear. I’m not really that concerned about it, either, because I’ve been shopping online and all the dresses look the same. It’s my first communion all over again. For realz, y’all, the only difference I can even see half the time is price. The same white, A-line, floor length, strapless dress, either runs for $800 or $2,300 and no one is going to remember it, either way. In fact, none of the stores even make anything as low key as the lacey, tea length, sleeved dress I had in mind. They’re so well stocked in taffeta and tulle, I’m never sure if I’m looking at bridal gowns or pageant dresses… and I’m not even going to pretend I’ve ever had that much grace and poise.

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I’m sure I’ll order the dress I’ve had my eye on from Etsy in two weeks, and if I don’t… so what? I can find something on Modcloth in the last month if I must. It’s a dress I’ll wear one time and it’s likely I’ll only vaguely remember doing so, because that’s the thing no one tells brides: they’ll be so stressed and wired the day of their wedding, that when it’s all said and done, it’ll be a fog of memory. They’ll have looked forward to the day their entire lives, shed tears of frustration over ridiculous arguments during the planning, spent thousands of dollars on flowers and centerpieces and videography and all those other things I refuse to purchase… and it’ll still be a haze. The only people who’ve ever truly enjoyed a wedding are guests, and so I maintain my apathetic stance: I don’t care and if it’s my day, why can’t I bring my pets?

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To the Women Who Tried to Ruin My Career

At 25 years old, I’d just begun my career as a real librarian, in my current system, when I excitedly accepted a second job at the neighboring library system. Within two months, I was informed that I wasn’t “a good fit” and that I’d worked my last day there. I was never late. No customer ever complained about me. I did everything I was asked… except go to my immediate supervisor’s house for spaghetti with the rest of the team, share Pinterest recipes, and sport an “I’m With Her” t-shirt. That’s right. Instead of valuing diversity in her staff, this woman sought employees who were just like her, a modern day Heather willing to abuse her power to the detriment of the community she served.

In time, I realized that not being “a good fit” was quite flattering and ultimately the best thing for my career, because it allowed me to hone my skills within my own system. Even in that beloved system, however, there once reigned a Regina George… the girl who poured the pigs’ blood in Carrie… a Cersei Lannister, of our very own.  Indeed, this woman was… psychotically vindictive, in the truest sense. She ruined careers when people mispronounced her name. She permanently transferred librarians to branches across the city, with less than 24 hours notice and no explanation. She planted her favorites in positions of power and pulled their strings like the fucking Puppet Master. She even tried to keep my boss at the West Side Library  from hiring me, because I’d had a poor interview for a different job. It was a joyous occasion the day Cersei pissed on the wrong boots and was demoted. It was downright freeing when she and many of her minions retired soon thereafter, to practice augury and gnaw on the bones of kittens.

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I’d like to think these women are the exceptions. The rhetoric these days would have us believe we’re are all far too evolved from a half century of breaking glass ceilings and opening our own pickle jars to still be facing such deliberate workplace sabotage. It remains true, however, that one of a woman’s greatest battles toward professional success is simply… other women. Perhaps this is evolutionary and stems from a time when we each tried to prove ourselves the most valuable gatherer, in an effort to snag the best hunter, but we are long overdue to pull up our big girl panties and crush our baser instincts.

Had the aforementioned Heather and Cersei had their way, I would be… well, I don’t know exactly, because I can’t fathom the goal behind destroying the career of a random 25-year-old fresh out of grad school. Maybe they knew every detail of the devastation that would result from their actions. Maybe the fantasy hadn’t extended that far. All I’ve ever known for sure is that there was something broken inside these women, which required them to tear down another to feel accomplished. Now, years later, I have a simple message for them:

Thank you. Thank you for showing me the worst possible scenario of who I could be as a professional woman. Thank you for inspiring me to be better at a job I hated than you were at a job you treasured like the One Ring. Thank you for the strength it took to build people up, despite the fact that I spent my lunch breaks crying in my office. I could’ve let the wounds of others fester, with the reasoning that I didn’t cause them, but instead, I worked to heal those around me. I could’ve scoffed at the personality traits and communication styles that differ from my own, yet I worked to not only understand, but translate. I will have been a manager for eleven months, to the day, when I step down into my new position as just a librarian, at the East Side Library. I’ll leave the North Side Library in the city, to work in the tiny town of Jackson, under the same library system. I’ll rarely see these people again… and I’ll be leaving them better than I found them. If I’d never cried from the abuse of powerful women, I might never have made a difference in the short time I was one myself and for that, I am thankful.

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I hate my job.

Library page: “You know who’s just a fantastic boss? Belle. She always knows everything that’s going on in the library. She walks around and sees what needs to be done and talks to people. She really is great at her job.”

Ngo, other supervisory librarian: “No, you are really good at this. You have a great balance with the staff.”

Brett, my boss: “You are just doing an awesome job. You’re also the only person who is ever willing to disagree with me and that is so valuable to me.”

It really sucks to be so great at something I hate so much. I am every sports movie cliché I’ve ever seen.

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Center Stage is a sports movie.

20% supervisor and 80% librarian. That’s what I was told the supervisory librarian position would be, when it was created and I applied in November. On Thursday night, I got off at 9:00, stopped by my favorite ice cream place for chocolate frozen yogurt and discovered too late that they’d given me a chocolate and vanilla twist. Jake was staying with me and had long since gone to bed, but came into the living room to find me quietly weeping over frozen yogurt.

Jake: “What’s wrong?”
Me: “Vanilla frozen yogurt doesn’t taste like anything!”
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Jake: “What’s really wrong?”
Me: “I hate my job! I have everything I ever wanted: the job, you, and I even got a cat and I am just so unhappy. I dread going to work. I never thought I would feel this way about being a librarian, but I don’t even get to be a librarian anymore! I spend a minimum of twenty hours a month in meetings and the supervisory librarians just decided we need to have another weekly meeting, between just the three of us! We sit down and have a meeting about something we just talked about in another meeting, even though we haven’t had any time to work on it since said meeting, and if I have to tell one more grown ass adult to do their fucking job, my brain is going to bleed out my ears and they gave me the wrong ice cream!”
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He wants to create an app that translates Crying Girl into English.

I love being a librarian, y’all. I love planning and putting on programs, weeding the collection and ordering replacement materials, helping little old ladies realize they can do this iPad thing, teaching twenty-somethings to make a resume, assisting ex-offenders in their job searches, and giving the rare well-behaved child a sticker. I used to be so excited when my copy of American Libraries came in the mail and now I hardly even look at it, because it’s officially a magazine full of articles about awesome things that I don’t have time to do.

Last week, I e-mailed the third grade teachers at the Catholic school just up the street from the Northside Library, where I work. I wanted to know if they’d like to take part in a pen pal program, with the nursing home I visit monthly. I received a reply immediately, that they’d both love to participate and, together, they had about 40 students. My first thought was one of excitement. The second was that I didn’t know if I had the time to devote to an 80 person pen pal project. I went to college for seven years, took out $150,000 in student loans, and I don’t have time to do the enjoyable parts of my job. I don’t have the time to talk to customers about their favorite books, to sign someone up for summer reading, to consider rearranging the collection, to make book displays, to fill out the checklist for that digital scrapbooking/online dating/adult coloring class I want to do. No. My time has been scheduled for supervisory librarian meetings with our manager, my one-on-one meetings with my direct reports, my one-on-one meetings with Brett, my one-on-one meetings with the other supervisory librarians and now our group meeting with each other; none of which I singularly despise, but rather have a growing resentment toward for taking so much of my time.

Jake: “I’m sorry your job sucks right now.”
Me: “My job sucks all the time. I just don’t talk about it.”

I immediately realized just how true that was. When I started in January, it was natural to be overwhelmed. In about mid-April, I thought I’d started to get the hang of all this manager stuff. I only had Ngo and Brett to consult with and the Supervisory Series training came to an end, freeing up much of my week. I wasn’t yet required to meet monthly with my direct reports, do evaluations, or address workflow and personnel issues, so the bulk of my management responsibilities involved making the page schedule and entering programs into the calendar. 20% supervisor and 80% librarian seemed about right. Then, the reality of my position settled in, along with all of the additional responsibilities. In the last couple of months, I’ve realized that aside from that six to eight week respite, I have hated my job since I started.

I have a more or less private office. I have my own laptop. Brett gives me the go-ahead on most of my ideas, even when they cost money. He solicits and respects my opinion. I love my coworkers, even the ones I have to supervise. I live in the cheapest part of the country and pull in about $50,000 a year, at the start of my career. I am really good at my job… and I hate it. I’m no longer waiting for the dust to settle on this new position. It’s management and if it continues to evolve, it will only become more managerial. I got my MLIS to do a job that should require an MBA. I have skipped over being just a librarian and unless I step down, I will never get that chance. I will forever supervise those I envy, because stepping down could mean that I never get the opportunity to move up again. It could mean that everyone assumes I was reassigned by force, because I failed. It would mean telling my dad that I gave up all the momentum of a management opportunity to be just a librarian.

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Well, so… fucking… what? I am not going to spend the next two and half years crying over frozen yogurt and yearning for all the missed opportunities of being a librarian, to hit some arbitrary number that will look good on a resume, just in case I want to be a manager again. I didn’t work 60 hours a week and go to grad school to hate my job, just because modern society expects intelligent women to hit the corporate ground running. I have amazing momentum with my system. I could manage my own library inside of three years and that’s not what I want. So, after discussing it with Jake, I decided to apply for an open librarian position at the Southeastern Library, in Cherokee. Cherokee is a more rural city inside the same county as the other libraries in the system, with a population of around 10,000, even smaller than Shetland. I could have the small town existence Jake and I imagine and still make $50,000 a year. I can do adult and senior programming and be just a librarian.

Jake: “Babe, I’m totally fine with whatever you wanna do. I couldn’t do what you do… being people’s boss? That would drive me crazy. I just wanna make sure you know that if you leave a management position, you may not be able to get another one.”

This is the point that keeps coming up. It’s a legitimate possibility, despite my conversation with Brett, in which he told me about prominent women in the system stepping down at some point and rising to even higher positions, later in their careers. It’s one thing to work in management for five years and step down to care for children. It’s another to last eight months, before burnout. At this point, however, if I have to choose between never being manager or never being just a librarian, there’s no contest. So, after another meeting, where everyone agreed that we needed more meetings, Brett asked for a moment to discuss why this idea upset me so much. Apparently, it’s not normal to get teary-eyed over meetings.

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Me: “Maybe you’re all exactly right and we do need more meetings. Maybe this is just about me, because every hour I schedule for management duties is another hour that I don’t get to be a librarian. I never got to be just a librarian. At best, I left a substitute teaching job in the day, to be a half time librarian in the evening, and it was exhausting. So, I wanted to tell you that I applied for the librarian position at the Southeastern library, in Cherokee.”

Brett was unbelievably supportive. He told me he’d miss me, because I’m great at my job and everyone else is too intimidated to tell him what they think. He told me he’d give me a fantastic reference and that he understands that I have to pursue what I want for my career.

It’s a hard thing to do, make a decision that will change your whole life. I don’t have to leave the Northside Library, where I have great coworkers and a great boss, where I’m making connections in the community, and working from a semi-private office. I could stay in familiar surroundings, continuing to commute from Shetland… or I could make a change, move to a new library and a new city, for the chance to enjoy my career again.

“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.” – John Steinbeck

Are we seriously having this conversation in 2015?

Y’all know I’m a librarian. It’s in the URL. It’s in the tagline. I practically introduce myself with it to everyone I ever meet, in person and online, because I am the old guy declaring “What you do, is who you are.”  Maybe it’s because I’m so passionate about my job. Maybe it’s because everyone in my family has that mentality. Whatevs. Just as some people are doctors and proud, nurses and proud, lawyers and proud, I’m a librarian and proud. It took seven years of college and an embarrassingly high amount of student loan debt for me to earn this title, so it feels pretty redundant when I have to ask that people not fucking mock it. 

I get that to other people, who don’t work in the field, it doesn’t sound like the coolest job. Fine. They’re wrong, but fine. Regardless, I’m horrified by the number of men who contact me on online dating sites and openly insult my career.

“So you’re a librarian, huh. I bet that’s tough with the internet now.”
Why, because you Googled free access to Ancestry.com, the entire archive of National Geographic, free e-media downloads, books a 14-year-old boy will actually enjoy and receive credit for in class, a complete resume that will get you an interview, and that news article about your grandmother from 1956? Google is a keyword search. If anything, the ubiquity of Internet access has given me more to do, because most people’s research and fact checking skills suck, because of GOOGLE. Obviously, if I’ve just gone into this field, it’s not dying. Perhaps you should Google that.

“I don’t think I could work in a quiet library all day. I’d get so bored.”
Thanks for calling my job boring, even though I clearly love it enough to include the title in my screen name. By the way, at first glance, “oil” has me on the edge of my seat.

“I didn’t even know there were still librarians.”
“Obsolete.” I think that’s my favorite pet name.

“It takes a master’s degree to do that? Why?”
Please. Inject a little more dismay into that question. Obviously, if it’s required, it’s necessary, and there are respectful ways to ask about my specific duties.

“My dad tells people I have a master’s degree, even though I’m not finished with school yet.”
“I’ll bet he doesn’t tell them what it’s in.”
Dude, did you just tell your date that her dad is secretly ashamed of her? It’s been two years since that date and I’m still at a loss for words beyond “bag of dicks.”


There is a flash flood in my pants, right now.

The responses toward my bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences are just as appalling.

“What’s the technical name for a home-ec teacher? Domicile Engineer? LOL.”

As frustrating as these misunderstandings are, I’m relatively used to them. I’m happy to explain why I needed a master’s degree to be a librarian or sing the praises of family and consumer sciences, when asked politely. I love talking about my work. I’m horrified, however, that anyone thinks it’s okay to talk down to me about my field, especially when I’ve already explained what it entails. Just last week, I was trading messages with a man on Plenty of Fish. I’d told him all about my field, how I had to get my MLIS to work in the position I love, and that I was trying to work my up to full time, because it’s extremely competitive.

“So, are you planning to make a career out of it?”

Um… what? Is this an attention span issue? I just explained that. Also, dude, you just told me you’d be working again “when oil picks up,” so I really think there are more pertinent questions regarding your career than mine. No one would ask a nurse if she was planning to make a career out of it. No one would ask a teacher that.

Karol: “Yes, they would. ‘Are you just doing this until you get married and have kids?'”
Me: “Fine. No one would ask a biologist that. No one would ask an accountant that.”
Karol: “What you mean is that no one would ask a man that.”
Me: “Ew. If that’s the case, then just ew. It’s 2015!”

You know, it’s really something that never crossed my mind. I thought people mocked my career because of a stereotype. Then again, there’s a pretty persistent stereotype among accountants, too, and they require less education than librarians. Sure, they’re assumed to be boring, but even with e-filing options, no one insists they’re redundant. Everyone concludes there must be more to the field than tax time, so why don’t librarians get the same respect? Why, before insulting me, don’t these men think ‘Wow. I’ve clearly got the wrong idea about this’? Well, according to Karol, the reason I’m not taken more seriously is…

Google this: “vagina gif”

It’s a frustrating idea and I sincerely hope Karol is wrong. Could it really be that the reason so many men mock my passion is because I’m female? Are these comments actually an effort to diminish my accomplishments, because I brought my ovaries with me? Is the “sexy librarian” line not only tacky, but actually a 1950s slap on the ass? Are we seriously having this conversation in 2015?

Ultimately, I’m just pleased to have met men who are impressed by my level of education, admire my passion for my career, and are open to learning more about a topic they don’t understand. It has happened, as many times as (if not more than) the above incidences. I can just let the probable sexists continue ranting about how they can only meet gold diggers and be thankful that they’re so transparent.

Still… ew.

 

“We need to get you a man!”: How to Get Throat Punched by a Single Woman

The other night, as I was leaving the library with my coworkers/good friends, Janet heard me badgering Dana about how she needed to get a smartphone so we could properly fangirl over Outlander. What Janet didn’t realize was that Dana and I regularly text message about this series and there’s a major delay, so we’d previously discussed her plans to get a new phone. Because of this, we’d even been looking at them online earlier that evening as I joked about what a disservice she was doing me with her 1999 technology. Really, though, I was just encouraging Dana to take a plunge she’s been planning for months, when Janet jokingly snapped:

“Oh my gosh, Belle, get a boyfriend!”

The good news is, I don’t throat punch my jesting pregnant friends. The bad news is, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this statement and after a while, it’s kind of begun to fill me with rage.

You see, there really is just no good reason to say this to a woman, not even…

… when we love our pets… 
About a year ago, I posted a picture of myself cuddling the dog on Facebook, with the following caption:
Top 5 things I say to my dog, that I can never say to my kids.
1. I will put you on Craigslist!
2. Get off me. I don’t love you that much.
3. No. You don’t need any, Fatty McFatfat.
4. I will skin you and wear you!
5. Shut up. No one cares what you think. You’re adopted! 

Most people just liked the photo or commented that they weren’t surprised, but my cousin decided to declare, on a public forum, “We need to get you a man! You are having way too many conversations with your dog!” I only commented that my dog was much better company than my last date, since Facebook is a public forum, but I did so while seething.

Don’t MAKE me come through this computer!

For starters, to everyone who has ever spoken the above sentence, “we” ain’t gotta do shit. You are not my gal pal. You are not my matchmaker. You can mark we right off of your to-do list, because I got this. 

Furthermore, if getting myself “a man” means I no longer talk to or cuddle my dog, then I’m sorry, but there’s just no room in my life for one. My dog is used to cuddles and ear tugs and Midnight Dance Hour. He wags his tail when he hears my voice, even when I’m threatening to put him on Craigslist. I’m not going to suddenly neglect my pets for dick. If that’s how things work in your world, then I feel sorry for your dog.

… when we love our best friend…
Every person in my life gets one lesbian comment about Gail and I before I commit a federal crime. Fortunately, Gail’s been living with Terry for a couple of years now, so the risk is pretty low these days, but comments like this were rampant in high school. I get it. I wore a lot of overalls back then and our high school was somewhere between Mean Girls and Varsity Blues, but believe it or not, I have heard suggestions since graduation and all I have to say is, them’s fightin’ words.

You know who listened to me fall apart when my ex-husband burned down our house and killed all of our pets… and slept in my car with me the Thanksgiving I drank eight Long Island Ice Teas and finally confessed that my marriage was over… and talked me out of joining the Air Force while I wept over a pizza cookie after failing my graduate portfolio… and has hugged me during every single mommy drama for the last 12 years? Well, I’ll tell you one thing. It sure as hell wasn’t some boy. 

I’m not fond of the “you’re just jealous” tagline, but in this instance it fits. There is no possible reason for someone to suggest that what I have in my friendship with Gail is anything beyond sisterly loyalty, other than a lack of understanding that it is possible to love someone that much when you don’t share a bloodline. In fact, if you’re suggesting that my being attached means no more PJ and Dog days at Gail’s house, then you just don’t understand friendship in general. Most importantly, though, it is not my duty to get a boyfriend to prove my sexuality to anyone.

… when we have cool hobbies…
One of the most common scenarios in which I hear someone declare that a woman “needs a boyfriend” seems to be when they’ve done a damned good job of proving they don’t. Perhaps your single friend taught herself to cross stitch, took up community theater, designed her own cosplay costumes, planned a trip across the world alone, or bought tickets to ComiconMaybe she just crocheted a sweater for the dog on a snow day, while binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and making herself sick on Easter candy… ahem. 

Whatever the interest, it seems an excuse to insist it be replaced with… what exactly? Sex? If I’m in a relationship, I won’t have time to crochet because of sex? What, am I dating Christian Grey? Do people in relationships not have individual passions and obsessions and hobbies? Can I not hateread alien erotica while he tinkers with his computer? Must we spend all that time cuddling, fondling, and saying ‘I don’t care, whatever you wanna do”? Y’all, I felt suffocated just typing that.

… when we actually want a boyfriend…
So I’ve shared another disastrous dating attempt. It was the one who tried to sell me weight loss pills… or maybe the one who didn’t technically have a job… or the one who told me he lived in a room and the “homeowner” was present. [Spoiler alert: It was his dad. The homeowner was his dad.] For some reason, I’ve opened up to you and shared some of my laughs and frustrations in the dating world and now you’ve finally come to a conclusion: I need a boyfriend.

Why thank you. Thank you so much for closed captioning my pain.

If you are involved enough in someone’s life to know that they’re tired of being single and actively dating, the “you need a boyfriend” comment is particularly obnoxious. You’re just reaffirming the idea that a woman’s life is incomplete without a man, that there’s not much to enjoy in the meantime, and that she’s in a game of musical chairs and the music is about to stop. Even if you believe these statements, your contribution is redundant at best. It is not helpful. Set her up with a friend. Offer to help her take pictures for her online dating profile. Encourage her hobbies. Don’t tell her how much it’s going to suck to die alone.

… when you have no idea whether or not we actually want a boyfriend…
Believe it or not, there are women who refuse to ruin a perfectly good song by fighting over a chair. My friend and coworker, Carla, is one of them. She’s in her mid-thirties and perfectly content to be single forever. She goes to plays, teaches herself obscure hobbies, and is easily the most well-read person I have ever met. That last one is a feat in my field. Telling her that she needs to find a man is, at best, confusing…

… and at worst, implies that her very complete and satisfying life is less, because she’s doing it solo. I am not Carla. Sometimes I wish I were content to dance alone, but I’m not. That doesn’t mean everyone needs or wants a partner.

… when the clock is ticking…
A woman’s life is incomplete without a man. There’s not much to enjoy in the meantime. She’s in a game of musical chairs and the music is about to stop…

Oh go suck a bag of dicks. My uterus is not riddled with IEDs. There is not an expiration date on living a happy and full life, even if my definition of that changes over time. Perhaps, instead of being presumptive and judgmental, we should all be a little more open to the many different lifestyles people choose. Perhaps, we should be a little less concerned with the wear and tear on someone else’s genitals, because as I said this is not a we situation.

The Top Three Worst and Best Women of Fiction

In the last fifty years or so, we ladies have focused a great deal on female empowerment. I don’t want to call it feminism, because that term seems to mean so many different things to different people. No, the idea to which I refer is something much simpler: women matter and their choices are their own. So, throughout the years, numerous efforts have been made to depict strong women in media. Some of these have been Rant of Rage abhorrent, while others have become the product of my obsessive fangirling: i.e. the only reason Gail could ever tell you who Buffy and Angel were… and Nathan and Haley… and Jamie and Claire…

That girl stuck by my side even after I made her play the Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game… and described in detail my plans for who would be together in my Sims game. There were charts. To be fair, though, she did talk about politics an awful lot for a fifteen-year-old girl. I cannot unhear those National Youth Rights Association tangents.


Pictured: not us

So, not only is it a librarian job requirement to be able to name strong female leads (or pathetic attempts at them), but it’s also a side effect of my media tunnel vision. I present to you, the worst and best women of fiction.

*** Spoiler alert if you’re unfamiliar with any of the titles… duh. ***

THE WORST

Carrie Bradshaw – Sex and the City


She’s horrified that someone doesn’t love her as much as she loves herself.

I graduated in 2006, from a Southern suburban high school. Like any misfit in overalls, a turtleneck, and ribbon-laced combat boots, I found common misfit ground with the three gay guys in my graduating class. At the time, this pretty much required me to have seen every single episode of Sex and the City; therefore, I am fully informed in my loathing of Carrie Bradshaw. Now, don’t misunderstand me, here. I am not anti-Carrie because of her sexual freedoms. In fact, Samantha was probably my favorite of the four characters. No, my issue with Carrie was her absolutely unforgivable selfishness.

Gail and Malik have always defended Carrie in this argument, insisting that her impossible self-absorption was the point. I get it. Real women are flawed. Miranda is a workaholic. Samantha is emotionally unavailable. Charlotte is painfully idealistic. None of these compare, however, with the utterly horrifying extremity of Carrie’s self-absorption. For example, there was the time she…

1. … cheated on her boyfriend, ultimately breaking up with him on her friend’s wedding day.
2. … got angry with her boyfriend for insisting she stop seeing the man with whom she cheated.
3. … threw a tantrum when one of her best friends wouldn’t loan her money after she’d spent years proving she was bad with money.
4. … knowingly slept with a married man, then confronted his now ex-wife for telling people about it, after causing her to fall down the stairs and break a tooth.
5. … became so focused on the materialism and fame of her wedding that she completely ignored the groom’s vocalized discomfort over both.
6. … blamed one of her best friends for her having been left at the alter, despite having ignored the groom’s vocalized discomfort.

These are just the plot points I remember from ten years ago, but they certainly qualify as evidence that Carrie Bradshaw was an absolutely disgusting and offensive portrayal of a woman who chose to forgo the suburban soccer mom path.

Andrea – The Walking Dead


This gif is just so watchable, because she’s tied up and gagged.

One of the best things about the current apocalypse craze is the chance to see some badass heroines. I mean, what woman wouldn’t want her daughter to look up to the brave and selfless Katniss Everdeen? That gal had moxie, y’all. Sadly, however, some of the efforts toward a strong female lead have fallen far short… as with Andrea.

When I first started watching The Walking Dead, I knew little about the fan preferences, such as the fact that the audience violently hated both Lori and Andrea. Just a few episodes in, however, I was confused. Why was everyone so sympathetic to Andrea over her loss? For realz, yo, it’s the zombie apocalypse. Every person in this camp has lost everyone they’ve ever loved in the last thirty days. Rub some sand in your vagina and get on with life.

As the show progressed, it was painfully obvious that the writers wanted Andrea to become the fan favorite she was in the comics… and failed. Instead of holding her own with the men, as guardian of the camp, she accidentally shot a member of her own team, got left behind after the zombie attack, and ended up solely dependent on Michonne for protection, putting her and everyone in their makeshift family in grave danger, because of Andrea’s idiotic decision-making skills. By this point, I can only assume the writers had given up hope on “Team Andrea” t-shirt sales, because they killed her off, despite the fact that her comic book character is currently alive and well. Personally, I don’t think she went painfully enough. I wanted her eaten from the feet up for being such a weak and selfish representation of a woman in crisis.

Robin Scherbatsky – How I Met Your Mother


Stab her. Please stab her now.

Robin, Ted’s obsession in How I Met Your Mother, was originally driven, confident, straight-forward, and disinclined to pursue a traditional family life. She was initially a decent portrayal of a woman who didn’t know exactly what she wanted, but knew exactly what she didn’t want. As the series moved along, however, she quickly became overly brash and masculine, calling to mind the 1990’s ball-busting career woman stereotype, in an ugly gray power suit. You can’t be successful and feminine. You have to burp in public and eat ribs in your sleep.

Despite everything she claimed to want, Robin ended up repeatedly dating Ted, a man who clearly specified that he had completely different goals in life. She met a few men along the way, always ending things for horribly insulting reasons, and eventually ended up dating and even marrying/divorcing one of Ted’s best friends. For realz? You’re breaking up the band, Yoko! In addition to mistreating the people closest to her, we even got to see Robin’s outright abuse of a friend, as she treated her like a hated slave for comic relief.

Ultimately, in a show with only two leading female characters, one of whom was an artistic, sweet, kindergarten teacher, who married her college sweetheart, it was just insulting to women to see the only portrayal of a career-minded single gal as a flighty, self-absorbed, butch, bitch. I won’t even mention the fact that The Mother was just a stand-in for her, making the entire series a complete waste of time, as Ted does eventually end up with her.

THE BEST

Endora – Bewitched


She doesn’t need a man to make her drink.

When I was little, I watched an unhealthy amount of television, particularly during the Nick at Nite Block Party Summer event. I am pretty sure that I was the only eight-year-old who not only watched every single episode of Bewitched, but considered it an absolute favorite. In hindsight, however, I will say that I couldn’t have chosen a better woman to look up to than Endora.

By today’s standards, Endora was independent, diabolical, and unafraid to speak her mind. The fact that her character existed in the 1960’s however, makes her an even more impressive heroine. She was all of the above and she was powerful in a way no other character was, male or female. She was more powerful than Samantha, Aunt Clara, Uncle Arthur, Cousin Serena and even able to go head to head with her own husband. Furthermore, despite the understanding of the time, that a woman essentially becomes her husband’s property, Endora never let go of her insistence that Darren was attempting to quell a natural part of her daughter. She was willing to concede to her daughter’s wishes (mostly), but at no point did she back down and tell Darren that it was acceptable to stifle Samantha. She was relentlessly mischievous and meddlesome, often stealing the show in a time when women weren’t usually able to do so.

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter Series


I’d have totally practiced those spells, in secret.

As a librarian, there are a lot of reasons I despise most of the reading programs implemented in American schools. One of the primary reasons, though, is that I was assigned a 9th-12th grade reading level in the 6th grade and was only allowed to receive credit for books at an 8th grade level and higher. Translation: I could read Harry Potter with the other kids, but I couldn’t get any credit like the other kids. Well, Hermione Granger is absolute proof that there’s more to be had from reading than an improved vocabulary.

I desperately wish I’d read the Harry Potter series in middle school, reading points be damned. Not only was I obsessed with magic, even then, but I’d have benefited a great deal from knowing Hermione Granger. School always came effortlessly to me, pretty much until graduate school and I’ll tell you right now, that doesn’t make you the most popular girl in the 6th grade… especially if you’re willing to announce it to the room in true Hermione Granger style. I have never been willing to deny my intelligence and will, to this day, quote Professor Snape and admit that I am “an insufferable know-it-all.” I mean, it’s pretty much a job requirement now. Not only was Hermione smart, she was also loyal, brave, more than capable of overcoming That Awkward Stage, and she could throw a decent punch. More than anything, though, I needed someone to tell me that it was cool to be smart, as opposed to punishing me for it by not allowing me to read Harry Potter for credit.

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Gaia Moore – Fearless)


If I try this, I will accidentally stab myself and die.

I was actually pretty torn on this one. I wanted to say Gaia Moore, from Francine Pascal’s Fearless series. She was a seventeen-year-old badass with no fear and an inability to relate to her peers and coupling my inability to relate to my peers with no fear would have been the shit. You, my readers, likely have no idea who that is, though. Instead, I’ve chosen a heroine that was both similarly and equally significant to me: Buffy Summers.

At fifteen, I climbed on the Buffy Bandwagon pretty late in the game, just as the series ended. It started with watching a few episodes before school and quickly morphed into saving my pennies to buy all of the seasons on DVD and constantly quoting it to Gail as she read The Communist Manifesto in our Pre-AP English class.

“Does this sweater make me look fat?”
“No. The fact that you’re fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple.”

Buffy Summers was the perfect representation of a woman who could be both feminine and strong. She was a babbler who said the wrong thing a lot, hung out with the misfits, and just really wanted to be normal, despite having a pretty rocky home life. At fifteen, I related to that in a huge way. Not only that, but Buffy never pretended to be less than she was. Not once did that gal hand over a pickle jar that she could damned well open herself. Buffy taught girls to be proud of what they bring to the table and to own it, even if the boys quail. She was also an endlessly selfless character, giving up all hope for a normal life to save people. Furthermore, she was just a generally good friend, daughter, and whatever the hell she was to Giles. Sure, she was kind of a shitty girlfriend, but even that was a lesson that sometimes, love doesn’t go the way you want and life goes on… because Joss Whedon is kind of an asshole.

quote-q-so-why-do-you-write-these-strong-female-characters-a-because-you-re-still-asking-me-that-joss-whedon-277715

Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting Fifty Shades of Grey

Provocative title, isn’t it? Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and in my last entry I showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted as of late, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”


I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I know has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I’m also reading The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen; and I devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people just Googled “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

fiftydollars

When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books (spoiler alert: it ain’t good), Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. I am 27 years old and I have not had sex in five years. Furthermore, I’ve only kissed five people, ever. I am not asexual. I’m just not interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I see no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure isn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that in the current dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it’s not so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. Regardless, I’m not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is what appeals to the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience, particularly the over 30 bracket. This article actually suggests a somewhat circular logic: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I have been known to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call bullshit. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the broken spine. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.

How You’re Empowering NO ONE

I don’t call myself a feminist. I don’t call myself anything. I just don’t think that respecting other people’s decisions and hoping for the same needs a title, especially not one with such vastly different definitions… most notably, it seems, ones that completely contradict this statement. Gaily, now… Gaily loves the word “feminist.” Gaily has a tramp stamp of the word feminist. The semester she took a women’s study course, I wanted to push her out of her ’97 Bonneville… but that’s because she was insufferable, not because she was wrong. See, Gail! I SAY NICE THINGS!

Gail sees feminism as an expression of female empowerment to truly do whatever we want in life… only with a lot more words, citations, and angry ranting.

As much as I provoke her, though, we do generally agree on this topic. I’m down with her definition and the many people who share it. I am not, however, down with the ACLU’s definition that I can’t have a dissenting political opinion without discriminating against women.* I’m not down with Wendy Luhabe’s claim that it’s empowering to stay-at-home moms to suggest their contribution is worth exactly 10% of their husband’s earnings and every family needs to follow the same financial model.* I’m not down with the gals who think LEGO is anti-women for creating gender specific toys*. I’m not down with a lot of “empowering” statements made in the name of misguided, so-called feminists. For instance:

Educating women on keeping themselves safe is not vicitim blaming.

If you keep up with current events at all, I’m sure you’ve read about the nail polish that was created to prevent date rape. Pretty simply, the polish will change color when it meets a laced drink, warning the wearer not to sip. That’s great, right?!? No. Apparently, not. According to some, this effort is completely misguided. In fact, one activist responds to this development by stating that “we need to think critically about why we keep placing the responsibility for preventing sexual assault on young women.”* Waaaait, a minute. Did you just tell me that it’s anti-woman to protect myself? We prepare men to defend themselves all the time, usually starting with some kind of exotic personal combat lessons at age 4. Teaching a man how to ward off a bully or a mugger is commonplace, but women? Noooo. We should use passive, ladylike if you will, methods to teach people not to attack, instead of taking our fate and safety into our own hands. Women have been taken advantage of, as the generally physically weaker sex, since the beginning of time. FINALLY, someone has stumbled upon the brilliant idea to ask that bad guys just not be bad anymore.

Victim blaming is a disgusting tactic. Telling your teenage daughter that she shouldn’t have been alone in that boy’s dorm room, as she sits on the exam table crying, is horrible and you should have your mommy card revoked. There, however, is nothing wrong with a freshman orientation that warns young women about being in dorm rooms alone with strange men. Encouraging women to take self-defense classes, carry pepper spray, use a gun, wear detective nail polish, is no different than teaching a man to prepare and protect himself. You are not moving us forward or building us up by fighting these things. You are weakening us, by teaching us to put the responsibility for our safety on others, male or female. Yes, it is important to teach young men that no means no, but why can’t this be done alongside a discussion about watching your drink and not walking home alone? Can we not both empower men and women? Did I wake up in 1954 where only the boys get to take karate lessons? Are you fucking kidding me?!?! 

It is not empowering to tell me that my vagina makes me easily susceptible to brainwashing.

Recently Mayim Bialik posted an article about why she hated Disney’s Frozen.* To sum things up, she felt it wasn’t as feminist as people claimed, because there was a love story and that it was even guilty of man-bashing, because the villain is male.* This is hardly the first anyone’s ever heard of the irrevocable harm of Disney Princess movies. It seems every mommy blog has an opinion on the subject. That’s not all, though. Little girls are also in danger from Barbie, LEGO, and shirts from The Children’s placePsychology Today even published an article about the damaging effects of the Twilight Saga. As a society, Americans are just petrified of the influence our female children are getting from the entertainment industry.

Hold on, just one second…

he man

liono ninjaturtles goliath_gargoyles_by_jrmcleod-d5hpkiz

There. I’d like to introduce you to the men of my childhood. Up top, there’s He-Man. Next, Lion-O. Then, of course, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello (not pictured: Leonardo). Finally, Goliath. Did you, perchance, notice any commonalities here? Yes, yes, indeed, I think there might be one. What could it be…? Oh, there it is! Even the gargoyle looks like he’s got roid rage! Do we care? Are there any Time magazine articles on the dangers of 80’s cartoons on male body image? No. I’d love to say that the reason is because we’ve found other, more admirable traits, in these characters. They’re heroes, y’all! Who cares what they look like, when they inspire our boys to want to save the world?!?! But the same can be said for Barbie’s career success, Cinderella’s work ethic, Bella Swan’s literary fascination. So… what’s the difference? Why, we’re women, of course. Our fragile pink brain matter is just so susceptible to the negative influences of toys, that we need a national boycott against LEGO.

Let’s not stop with toys and movies, though. Nope. According to the National Organization for Women, “persistent stereotypes that steer women and men toward different education, training and career paths” are a true threat to our livelihood in general. They’re actually the entire reason I make less money than a petroleum engineer! I haven’t favored care giving careers my entire life, such as when I wanted to be a nurse, a teacher, and finally a librarian, because of my choices and individual personality. It’s because I’m weak-minded and was busy doing my nails, reading Teen Beat magazine, and desperately trying to work up the courage to ask Danny to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. Gail didn’t choose not to go to college, because she didn’t want loans with no clear career path. It’s because she was never told that she could be a paleontologist or a computer engineer.

paleontologist barbie

computer software engineer barbie

Hmmm…

Even when presented with the statistical facts that the wage gap is closer to 5 cents on the dollar than their reported 21, NOW is there to remind me that I’m not really in control of my own destiny, because I’m a woman. Wow. I feel so empowered. Maybe, Barbie is just a doll. Maybe, Repunzel is just a story. Maybe, some women want to be stay-at-home moms, or nurses, or dare I say… librarians. Maybe, if your daughter is getting the wrong ideas from Disney movies, Barbies, and our society as a whole, you just need to spend more time with your daughter.

My political opinions are not anti-woman, just because you disagree.

You can disagree with my libertarian, pro-life stance. We can even still be friends. We all have different values and opinions and that’s fine. That goes both ways, though. You cannot insist that, because I don’t think the government should regulate healthcare, I want to hold women back by refusing to pay for their birth control and abortions. If you’d ask before making these assumptions, you’d realize that I’m just as against paying for teeth cleanings, back surgeries, and biopsies for anyone. You cannot tell me that, because I acknowledge that science considers a fetus a completely unique life form, I am anti-woman. My pro-life stance is entirely scientific, not religious, and I resent the implication that I can’t form an opinion without a priest telling me what to believe. I have not quoted scripture on this issue and I will not. My argument is secular. Your disagreement does not equal my sexism or religious intolerance.

Similarly, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, if I believe that a private business, which does not receive any taxpayer dollars, does have the right to discriminate for non-life saving services (baking a cake, printing a t-shirt, hosting a ceremony), it’s because of my church attendance.* It couldn’t possibly be that I don’t think the federal government should be micromanaging private business. There’s no way I’ve considered all angles, like the fact that a car dealership could refuse my service because I’m a woman. Except… I have. Nowhere in the constitution was I granted the right to a car. It’s not there. Nor was I granted acceptance into an all male university or service in a restaurant where someone thinks my dress is too short. If a business employs completely despicable tactics, such as these, I simply do not feel that the U.S. government has the right to play recess monitor.

It’s alright if you disagree with me on these issues. I’m not looking for a political debate. Your insistence that I have, once again, been brainwashed by men or faith… that I have no right to my own opinion without joining some kind of war on women, though, is offensive. No matter how vehemently you disagree, you cannot decide what my motivations are or insist that I just haven’t thought these issues through. I am a strong and intelligent person and refusing to acknowledge that and my right to my own mind is not empowering.

In short, I am not opposed to the word “feminist.” I am simply opposed to anyone who tries to “empower” women by telling them how to live and think, while calling it feminism. It is not empowering to tell women to leave their protection up to someone else. It is not strengthening the female cause to declare that little girls can’t play with gender specific toys without their fragile minds crumbling to the influence of a patriarchal society. It is not building anyone up to insist that any woman who disagrees with your political viewpoint is the victim of male mind control. Perhaps, instead of tearing each other down for our self-defense classes, Cinderella obsessions, or voter registration cards, we should work on building each other up… you know, empowering.

https://www.aclu.org/using-religion-discriminate

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/13/living/mothers-salary-wendy-luhabe/

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/09/lego-friends-triples-sales-to-girls-despite-feminist-critique/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/26/students-develop-nail-polish-to-detect-date-rape-drugs/

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/08/25/3475190/date-rape-nail-polish/

http://www.kveller.com/mayim-bialik/mayim-bialik-why-my-sons-and-i-hate-frozen/

http://www.sparklingadventures.com/index.php?id=667

http://newsfeed.time.com/2014/02/06/barbie-lead-designer-blames-moms-not-dolls-crazy-proportions-for-girls-body-issues/

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/09/lego-friends-triples-sales-to-girls-despite-feminist-critique/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychologist-the-movies/201111/relationship-violence-in-twilight

http://time.com/3222543/5-feminist-myths-that-will-not-die/

https://www.aclu.org/using-religion-discriminate

There Is No War on Women

That’s right. I said it. I’ll say it again. There is no war on women.

inspire

Fine. Perhaps I need some qualifiers. There is no legal war on modern day, American women… says this modern day, American woman.

Up through recent history, I would have vehemently disagreed with the above statement. For most of time, physically, women were the weaker sex, by nature; while intellectually, women were the weaker sex by design. Both ideals were perpetuated on a global scale. Not until 1870, were married American women allowed to own property. In 1918, Great Britain granted the vote to women over 30. It was 1920 in the U.S., before women finally won any rights to vote. Britain then took a few leaps back, deciding acts of lesbianism shouldn’t have the same punishment as male homosexuality, because women were too naive to comprehend such behavior. In the U.S, it was not until 1960 that the FDA approved birth control pills, which was leaps and bounds ahead of Great Britain’s 1974 availability.

Depending on your theological beliefs, man is potentially seven million years old and the institution of marriage (as we think of it today), is estimated to be around 4,000. Still, I was five on July 5, 1993, when it officially became illegal, in all 50 states, for a man to rape his wife. That’s right. Twenty-one years ago, women were still considered property of their husbands, in the same sense as a fleshlight. So… I am not saying that there has never been a war on women, in this country. I am saying that it has been won.

Where, exactly, am I hearing of this “war on women”? Well, let’s start with… 

The Trivial Crap

Recently, some very successful women have declared that they’ve been held back (clearly, Condoleezza Rice) by the male sex for calling them “bossy.” I’m not going to write about how ridiculous this is, because so many other bloggers have already covered it, but to sum it up, these women are demanding that we stop using the word bossy. This is a thing, y’all! This is a pretty minor issue, sure, but isn’t that a point in itself? Have we run out of evidence of a “war on women”, so thoroughly, that we have to ban words that are completely gender neutral, while enabling young girls to blame their failures on mild extrinsic factors? I’m sure this one will blow over quickly enough, but I’m also sure some equally stupid movement toward “gender equality” will rise up, drastically favoring women; such as when parents were appalled by The Children’s Place’s distribution of a t-shirt implying that girls would rather dance than do math.

children's place

Admittedly, it was a terrible idea, but was it the horror that mommy blogs made it out to be? No. Especially considering that little girls will still wear this to school.

boys are stupid
“Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them.”

Given the choice between the two, I’m really more concerned that one shirt incites violence, than I am that the other declares shopping to be more fun than equations. Why is there no emphasis on the villainization of little boys and how that affects them? Why are we only supposed to be concerned with the mental health of our little girls, with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, when society regularly tells little boys that they need to look like Chris Hemsworth in Thor? How is self image even gender specific?

The Glass Ceiling and Equal Pay

Alrighty then. Let’s address a less trivial issue.

– glass ceiling –

noun

an unfair system of attitudes that prevents some people (such as women or people of a certain race) from getting the most powerful jobs

Well, the woman whose life has been so irreparably damaged by a fairly innocuous insult, that she must start a movement to ban words – suck it, first amendment! – is the COO of Facebook and worth $1.05 billion. I think Sheryl Sandberg’s very existence kind of covers the issue of whether or not women can find “the most powerful jobs.”

What about everyday women, though? They still only make .81 for every dollar a man makes, right? Well, no… not really. When this subject comes up, I have to remind myself that Research for Fun is not a game normal people play. I’m a librarian. I’m a researcher by trade and by heart. This topic happens to be one of my favorites to study and in fact, the 81 cents on the dollar statistic is intrinsically flawed, because it’s figured by averages and nothing more. Many studies show that when all factors are considered, such as the fields women choose, the hours they work, leave time, priorities such as pay vs. working conditions, et cetera, the perceived “wage gap” closes itself. The differences remaining are often so negligible that they can be attributed to aggressiveness in pay negotiations and things of that nature. While a man will probably choose a more stressful, time consuming, but lucrative career path, such as petroleum engineer, a woman is still more likely to choose something in a caretaker field, with more vacation time, steadier hours, and lower pay, such as librarian. 
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Reproductive Rights
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Finally, the biggest claim I can find that declares a “war on women” is made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in regards to an attack on women’s reproductive rights. Before 1936, it was more or less illegal for a woman to learn about birth control, as the topic was considered “obscene” and banned from distribution through the mail. Today, for better or for worse, any 12-year-old can perform a Google search and walk into a drugstore to grab some condoms. As a society, we don’t hoard information on the subject at allWhereas a woman’s doctor might have been able to tell her father or husband if she was using contraception 50 years ago, now HIPPA laws mandate doctor/patient confidentiality, no matter the individual’s age or marital status. Those issues were an “attack” on women’s health and reproductive rights and are, clearly, no longer the norm. In regards to abortion, not until 1971 did Roe vs. Wade actually grant a woman the right to the procedure (as long as the fetus was not viable outside the womb), without explanation, in defense of her privacy. 
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Now, I am not going to debate abortion here, because that is not my point. My point is that abortion is debatable, as a moral issue, not a gender issue. Nationally, 51% of Americans consider themselves pro-life and the make-up of pro-life men vs. pro-life women is actually at about 50%. These people, both men and women, are not attacking women. In their minds, they are protecting the innocent, and don’t want to personally fund their destruction. Regardless of your take on the issue, you cannot argue that these laws are gender biased, because their proponents are distributed fairly evenly, between the sexes. Yes, a woman is the only one who can get pregnant, so these laws target her. By extension, however, a man is the only one whose potential child can be disposed of without his consent, so these laws target him. The presence of gender, does not make the subject gender.
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ACLU also mentions “medically unnecessary ultrasounds.” Define unnecessary. Personally, I feel that any medical procedure, should be thoroughly explained. When I miscarried, I had to look at an ultrasound of my emptying uterus, as the doctor explained what was happening. I had to look at the bloody fucking wandbut it’s too much for someone to be informed about what’s happening to them by choice? I’m not suggesting anyone play clips of crying babies as they perform these ultrasounds, but that’s not what’s being done, either. “Here’s the heartbeat” is hardly the same as “here’s the eyes you will never see open.” If that is what your doctor said to you, then get a lawyer.
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So there it is. There is no war on women. Sure, there are still some kinks to work out of the system, but I don’t think we gals are unique in that. A gentleman at a gun store once responded to my request to look at a Springfield .45 XDM with “You don’t need to be messin’ with that.” Was it sexist? Yes. Was it a declaration of war? No. When I Google image searched “international abuse toward women”, I found pictures of decapitated heads shrouded in burkas, children undergoing female circumcision, and women in various stages of recovery from acid attacks. We’re awfully quick to throw around the word “war” in a society where both of these things are pretty universally abhorrent. Perhaps some households, some religions, some small sects of society hold strictly traditional gender roles, but if they’re forced on adults, we consider it abuse.
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sexist children's book
“Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.”
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In the 70’s, When my Gramma’s boss found out that she was going back to school, he told her that he didn’t care what degree she earned, she would 
never be an accountant. Today, though? The only job I can’t hold is King, and I don’t think any American is entitled to that, anyway. Every now and then, my Gramma will say longingly “Women can do anything, today.” Yet, as a society, we don’t seem to see it. We’re too busy demanding equal pay for kindergarten teachers and physicists. Personally, I chose a less lucrative field. Some claim that that’s because women are socially programmed to do so, and to that, I say fuuuuck you. How dare you tell me that, because I’m a woman, I’m not intelligent enough to form my own opinions and set my own priorities? How dare you say that to any woman, be she the stay-at-home mom or Sheryl Sandberg, herself? I didn’t become a librarian because someone called me “bossy” when I was little (and they totally did) or because society told me I wasn’t capable of more. I wanted this, because I’m an intelligent and capable adult. So, suck it. 
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The same goes for this reproductive rights argument. If you’re not happy with the fact that a woman can get a medically safe abortion in all 50 states, you need to have a sit down with my great grandmother and her wire hanger. No. That’s not a joke. I’m not entirely sure what more you want out of abortion laws, but I am certain that my views on the subject are not an attack on women. Again, how dare you say that I’m not capable of forming that opinion on my own, that it’s some brainwashing accomplished by man as they feel the need to assert their control over the female body? How intensely arrogant that I can’t just disagree with you, while remaining fully informed. I write this blog for fun and I’ve got over15 citations listed. I promise, I’ve done the research.
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From what I can see, the only “war”…
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acid attack
Acid attack. Still wanna go with that word?
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… on women, that I’ve experienced, is when other women tell each other that they’re making the wrong life choices. (No, that doesn’t apply to pro-lifers in general, because they feel they’re considering a different life, that cannot speak for itself.) Despite the fact that I’ve survived a wretched marriage, obtained a master’s degree, begun a professional career, and cared for myself financially and physically for years, I’m making less money than men, because I was programmed to do so. Similarly, that girl from high school, who wants to become a professor, surround herself with cats, and never get married or have children? She’ll change her mind. She’ll see the light and realize the right way to be female.
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It’s not possible for me to have a different interpretation of the concept of “life.” I just must not be informed of the biology behind Plan B and can’t defend an innocent without attacking “all women.” On the other side of the debate, a woman can’t take Plan B, without being called an irresponsible slut or being told that if she gets pregnant, she asked for it. It is possible for us to have differing opinions without insulting each other. From what can see, it’s not men flinging these comments. If there is any remaining war on women, it is being waged by women.
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Citations

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html

http://www.mmu.ac.uk/equality-and-diversity/doc/gender-equality-timeline.pdf

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/aprilholladay/2004-12-10-

http://bigthink.com/dollars-and-sex/the-origin-of-marriage-and-the-evolution-of-divorce

wonderquest_x.htm https://www.rainn.org/public-policy/sexual-assault-issues/marital-rape

http://banbossy.com/

http://www.parents.com/blogs/parents-news-now/2013/08/07/must-read/the-childrens-place-apologizes-for-offensive-girls-t-shirt-2/

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glass%20ceiling

http://www.forbes.com/profile/sheryl-sandberg/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/04/16/its-time-that-we-end-the-equal-pay-myth/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-abortion-timeline,0,7911413.story

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/us-abortion-map/

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/314640/abortion-and-gender-gap-numbers-ramesh-ponnuru

http://www.gallup.com/poll/118399/more-americans-pro-life-than-pro-choice-first-time.aspx

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/01/no-women-don-t-make-less-money-than-men.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/us-abortion-map/