My lady quandary.

I am in a lady quandary. And it's all Bernie's fault. 

I sent away for this bumper sticker about a month ago, around the time I decided that I would support Bernie Sanders in his race for President. I did my research, I talked with people who have followed the campaign more closely than I, and I came to the conclusion that he was the dude for me. 

But I can't seem to put the darn thing on my car. 

If I haven't made it abundantly clear on this site, I'm a woman. A feminist, even. I love few things more than railing against the white, wealthy, hetero-normative patriarchy. Putting a misogynist in his (or her) place gives my life purpose. So the idea of not voting for a female Democrat who is running for president, one who could totally win this thing, is not sitting well with me. 

I feel like a traitor.  I feel like a shitty feminist.

I have to remind myself it's about the issues: about true change for women of all stripes, thanks to the kind of economic policies Sanders espouses. But no matter how many times I repeat this mantra to myself, no matter how much sense it makes, my body is rejecting the idea of voting for yet another white dude when there's a woman in the running. 

Because symbols are important, too, aren't they? For nearly 250 years, women have watched man after man become president, with very little hope that someone of their own gender would have a shot or even be considered qualified to run. Seeing a woman in that office at last would be proof to little girls in the U.S. that, yes, they are allowed to be President. The dream would become something more tangible and worth pursuing, as I imagine it did for Black Americans when President Obama was elected. Who knows what kind of shift in consciousness this progress would create? 

The ability to point to the wall of presidents and say with finality that women, too, can be president gives me goosebumps on behalf of the girls this could inspire. But we are in the middle of such a political shit-storm that I can't rightly vote for a symbol without substance. Not this cycle. I am not alone in that mindset. There are lots of other women who, for history's sake, want to vote for Hillary but can't based on her policies and old-world politics. 

The good news for the tortured lady-souls out there: she is hearing our criticism and feeling the pressure. In the past months, she has come out as surprisingly progressive on prison reform and the Keystone Pipeline XL. The political landscape has changed, and simply being a woman is no longer enough of a platform to secure our votes. We demand real, measurable progress for women, and we're willing to put in yet another white dude if that's what it takes to get it. Hillary seems to understand now that the women's vote is not guaranteed this time around, not with someone like Bernie in the running, and this has pushed her to be more vocal and left-leaning on the issues.

Will any of this change of heart spill into her actual presidency, or is she pandering to those of us wandering into Sanders Country? It's hard to say. But watching Hillary's evolution as she learns what her constituents want is encouraging. I'm still Feeling the Bern, as it were, but if she comes out on top after the primaries, I will happily fall in line behind her, with the hope that our dissent has changed her for the better, and the resolve to hold her to the progressive promises she has made. 

In the meantime, I'll try to find the courage to peel off the back of that sticker. 

Give "beautiful" a rest already.

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for North Korea. 

Thousands of people in concentration camps! Fake, empty villages masking widespread famine and disease!  State-approved haircuts! How is this even real in 2015? I am equal parts fascinated and horrified by everything I learn about that place.

Today, though, I'm just horrified. And not about North Korea: about the Huffington Post's latest words on the country. The piece (which I'm not going to link, because it's pointless) is a slideshow of North-Korean women with the title: "Photos Of Women In North Korea Show Beauty Crosses All Boundaries." 

My audible reaction when I first saw the headline: "So f*cking what?"

As a human with eyes and critical-thinking skills, I can deduce that if life is hard somewhere in the world, women usually suffer the most. Imagine having your period in the middle of a refugee camp...or giving birth in one. Or losing children to starvation or AIDS. And let's not forget everyone's favorite war crime: rape! I can't imagine the women of North Korea are somehow exempt from the extra helping of suffering. So why in the world would this writer waste our time, and this opportunity, on something as trivial as beauty? 

Beauty. In this new and mostly awesome wave of feminism, it has become a term of empowerment. "All bodies are beautiful, and all women are beautiful. It doesn't matter how you look or what you wear; don't worry, girlfriend, you're beautiful, too!" The message sounds new, but it still exists within the tired, old framework that beauty equals worth, when it comes to women.

So I ask you today: Why do we all have to be beautiful? What does beauty have to do with anything?

Of all the curious/disturbing/surprising things about women in North Korea, why on earth should any of us give a crap if they are beautiful? Would you ever see a piece like this about the beauty of North Korean men? Or think pieces on how all men are beautiful on the inside as well as the outside? No. Because men haven't been conditioned to crave--need--that kind of affirmation. 

It's time to move the conversation in a new direction, away from outer aesthetics altogether. We need to find new ways to lift up women that don't involve telling them they are beautiful. And at the root, we need to stop raising our girls to need reassurance of their attractiveness.

Let's put "beautiful" to bed. Let's embrace more tangible, measurable reasons we are awesome: intelligence, humor, tenacity, strength, creativity. Let's raise our girls on a diet of meaningful words and see what happens.