about sarah, life

My Year in Review: 2016

My Year in Review: 2016 sarah.blog

With 2016 coming to a close, I thought I’d share another recap (like in 2015). It was way easier last time because I blogged so much last year, so at the very least, writing this post was a good reminder that I’d like to document my life more. Good thing I’m starting a Bullet Journal right now. 😉 And I solemnly swear to post here at least 48 times in 2017. (Can you tell I’m watching Harry Potter?) Read on for my monthly recap and a list of the places I visited this year.

Here’s a month-by-month recap of what I was up to (as far as I can remember):

January: I visited Phoenix for a work team meetup, plus spent a few days of roadtripping around the state, including to Sedona and the Grand Canyon, with two teammates.

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Cold afternoon at the Grand Canyon.

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February: We kicked off our master bathroom remodel. It got demolished (down to the studs and subfloor!), then slowly put back together. (See the before here.) I also wrote about the anxiety I was surprised to experience during the remodeling. I still owe final after pictures, but here’s a sneak peek. (And I promise to share some photos soon!) I also fell in love with Hamilton this month and then started a team rotation at work that lasted three months and enabled me to learn a ton about WordPress themes.

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A real shower!

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Continue reading “My Year in Review: 2016”

feminism & equality, pop culture, television

Veronica Mars: Iconic Feminist Show and Teen Girl Detective

Veronica Mars: Iconic Feminist Show and Teen Girl Detective

Veronica Mars is one of my favorite television shows, and the title character is a fantastic depiction of a smart, vulnerable, brave, fallible young woman. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend setting aside some time and watching the entire series. (If you’ve got Amazon Prime, it’s available for free there right now or it’s less than $20 per season.)

Below I analyze a few episodes from the first season of Veronica Mars, in relation to feminist theory (and just because I love it).

About the show

In Veronica Mars, the main character, Veronica, attends school while moonlighting as a private investigator. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to come back later, unless you’re one of those people who love spoilers.) Set in a fictional, affluent town called Neptune, California, Veronica Mars frequently covers issues of race and class division, and feminism is addressed through the struggles and triumphs of Veronica and her friends.

Veronica is a cute, blonde, white girl from California who viewers may assume is more surfer girl or spoiled brat at first, rather than the snarky, tough, girl-detective she actually is. Season one starts after Veronica has experienced a major upheaval: the murder of her best friend and subsequent firing and loss of status of her Sheriff father. It also depicts her rape after being drugged and her attempt to discover what happened to her and who’s to blame. Through flashbacks we see how she transforms from the sweet, naĂŻve girl she once was, to the street-wise, sleuth we meet at the start of the show.

“Pilot” – episode one

In the first episode (“Pilot”), Neptune High’s teenaged motorcycle gang is bullying Wallace, a new student. When Veronica tells the leader, Weevil, to leave Wallace alone, Weevil replies, “Sister, the only time I care what a woman has to say is when she’s riding my big ol’ hog and even then it’s not so much words as just a bunch of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ you know?” Instead of responding to Veronica’s request or ignoring her to continue picking on the new guy, his instant reaction is to belittle her as a woman, although it has nothing to do with the ongoing conflict. Weevil’s instantaneous, reflex-like response points to a lack of understanding (or care?) as to why such a comment is not okay.

Veronica Mars Pilot, Wallace Snitch Flag Pole

Gender is tied to certain cultural beliefs and representations and these establish how relations between women and men are occur and are understood.1 Weevil’s immediate disrespect and gendered attack on Veronica expresses his belief, whether intentional or not, that men can and should hold power over women. The idea (and real force) of men having power over women exists throughout society, and here Weevil has clearly internalized the idea that power is based on gender, which tainted his interaction with Veronica as well. 2 (Don’t worry. He learns.)

“Meet John Smith” – episode three

In “Meet John Smith,” Justin, a fellow student at Neptune High, approaches Veronica with a made up case as a guise to spend time with her. He asks her to locate his father, who he believes to have died a decade before. Veronica finds him, to Justin’s surprise, and when Justin’s mother hears about it, she acknowledges that his father is actually alive but tells Justin to forget him.

In spite of his mother’s warnings, Veronica takes Justin to meet his father and they find out he is now a transwoman. When Justin was five-years-old, his mom learned of his dad’s wish to transition, and not only divorced him, but also told their son he was dead, rather than allowing father and son to continue their relationship. When Justin sees his father again for the first time in ten years, he recognizes her (his father) as the woman he frequently assists at the video rental store where he works, although it’s over an hour drive from her house.3

It’s no secret that heteronormativity and gender binarism,4 including the belief that people fall into two distinct and complementary genders with natural roles in life, exists throughout our patriarchal society. And due to their overall position of power over women, men have long used their power to control women’s lives, including through threats of separating them from their children.5 Here Justin’s mom used her power over Justin’s father to deny him access to his child when he expressed his true identity as a woman. Did giving up his manhood mean he, later she, became secondary in rank to Justin’s mother, a person recognized as a woman at birth? Would a court system have treated each of them equally and fairly, as two women and biological parents, regardless of their individual gender identities throughout each of their lives?

As often as we hear of LGBTQ equality in the news, until recently it had been quite rare to hear the ‘T’ within that group addressed specifically and purposefully in relation to acceptance and ensuring equal rights, so it’s not hard to imagine that a court system would favor Justin’s mother (the “real” woman) in a custody battle even now. In fact, there’s no need to imagine it. Google “transgender parent custody battle” and you’ll see pages of stories about trans parents losing their children simply for being trans. Not abuse or neglect. Just gender identity. Veronica Mars acknowledges this sad fact.

“Like a Virgin” – episode eight

The patriarchy influences what women wear, the food we eat, and how we care for our bodies. The woman of the nineteenth century was idealized for delicacy, agreeability, and sexual passivity, and the rules that instructed women’s daily lives were specifically addressed and put into words. These days the so-called rules are often less direct and are more likely to be conveyed through images throughout society that instruct us on acceptable body shape, facial expressions, beauty standards, and behaviors.6

Veronica Mars Purity Test Locker gifIn episode eight (“Like a Virgin”), an online Purity Test containing detailed questions about sexual experience makes the rounds at Neptune High. As one girl explains, “Anything under sixty is really slutty.” A boy sitting nearby replies, “Unless you’re a guy.” The lower a person scores below 100 on the test, the less pure they are. When Cole admits to having scored a 91, a friend cracks a joke that Snow White, a Disney princess, got a lower score. Right away it’s clear that the acceptable scores for boys and girls are different. (Veronica, a frequent target, got a fictitious 14.)

When the Purity Test website starts allowing people to buy the results of others to see their scores, numbers are painted on corresponding lockers and accusations fly. Cole’s girlfriend, Meg, gets a 43 painted on her locker, although she says she never took the test and has always claimed to be a virgin (an impossible feat if that score is true). To save face, Cole7 later tells their friends that Meg is “good at everything she does, and she does do everything.” Meg continues to protest the score, but no one listens to her (except our favorite girl-detective, Veronica) because Cole has managed to hit certain societal cues, such as all boys and men being highly sexually active and “good girls” trying to cover up their secret, slutty ways.

“M.A.D.” – episode twenty

Similarly, in a later episode (“M.A.D.”), a girl named Carmen tries to breakup with her longtime boyfriend, but he blackmails her instead. He forces her to continue dating him, including the continuation of the physical aspects of their relationship, by showing her that he has a video of her simulating a sex act on a popsicle while in a hot tub. She has no memory of the night it was filmed and had no idea anything was ever recorded until he uses it against her. His threat to post the video online and email it to her parents and classmates works because he’s reinforcing the idea that girls must behave a certain way or face the consequences when they don’t (even if, like Carmen, it’s due to being drugged and secretly filmed).

The modern day requirements of what it means to be a “lady” were not being met by Carmen in the hot tub and rather than knowing he shouldn’t have filmed her or threatened her with humiliation, he uses his power over her and her shame in being “unladylike” to get his way.

Veronica Mars with camera season 1

The trend continues…

In later seasons of the show, Veronica Mars continues to address serious issues head-on. The show’s real power comes in through Veronica, dedicated righter of wrongs, who takes on each of these issues, digs until she finds the truth, and saves the day. While it’s full of tough situations for Veronica, her continued perseverance and determination sees her through. The show allows her to confront issue after issue and provides an outcome in which the cute, teenage girl gets to come out on top.

Although many of the lessons are often at the expense of Veronica and other girls on the show, the reaction to them is what makes Veronica Mars particularly adept at dealing with them. (Plus she teaches her fair share of lessons through the cases she solves too.) Veronica and others may be victimized at times, but she never lets herself or anyone else be tossed aside as a nameless, faceless, powerless victim.8

Footnotes:
1: Joan Scott, “Deconstructing Equality-versus-Difference”
2: Charlotte Bunch, “Not by Degrees: Feminist Theory and Education”
3: Aww. She drives so far every week just to see her son!
4: Definition of gender binary
5: Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”
6: Susan Bordo, “The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity”
7: Ugh. Cole is such a weak, loser-dude. Own your score, bro!
8: Because she’s awesome.

about sarah, life

It’s my birthday!

I turned 34 today.

And here’s what I did:

  • slept in
  • lounged and drank iced coffee
  • ate a taco at Torchy’s
  • got a manicure and pedicure
  • read a book in bed
  • went to dinner at Liberty Burger
  • had a movie night at home

It was a great day.

feminism & equality, news & politics

Justice Sotomayor is Right.

When I saw the news of Alton Sterling being killed by police last night, I was reminded of a dissent I’d recently read by Justice Sotomayor. I have a feeling the story the police give about why they approached Sterling, and why deadly force was used and is okay, will not being something with which I agree. Extrajudicial execution is NOT OKAY and it’s against what we’re supposed to stand for as Americans.

Each time, this is heartbreaking, for every victim of this kind of treatment by police, and every black person who watches these things happen over and over and feels hurt, less welcome, less cared for, and that they are treated as less than fully American. It breaks my heart, and I’m watching from the view of being white. I can only imagine what it feels like from the other side, and it’s too much.

And I know there are police officers out there every day not doing these horrible things, but even when acting within the law, our punishments have gotten out of control. Expecting citizens to be okay with being stopped anytime and forced to answer to a cop for seemingly no reason is ridiculous. And decades long prison sentences for theft, in which no humans were harmed or threatened, are horrific. It’s stuff. But that’s a topic for another day.

###

On June 20, the Supreme Court’s decision in Utah v. Strieff weakened the Constitution’s protections against unlawful police stops. The ruling said that evidence found could be used in court if the officers found an outstanding arrest warrant during the stop.

Sotomayor’s dissent is not directly related, but there was a line that stuck out to me and following the Sterling story today reminded me I’d wanted to document it here so I’ll remember it later and forever.

Her dissent is powerful, smart, and important. Here’s a small piece:

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.
* * *
I dissent.

(Bolding mine.)

And this little bit again, just to make sure you didn’t miss it:

We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.

The canaries in the coal mine. And we can’t breathe.

We’re lucky to have her on the Court.

  • Find SCOTUSblog’s coverage of the case here.
  • Grab a PDF of the official decision here.
  • Read The Atlantic’s recap and praise for Sotomayor’s dissent here.
my house

I have a new bathroom, y’all!

Soooooooo, you may recall we’ve been working on a full bathroom remodel (like, the down to the studs, I could see the dirt under the house, city permit kind) and it’s ALMOST DONE. We’re being kinda lazy/slow about it right now, since we’re able to use it and it’s lovely and glorious in there, but will wrap it up fully soon.

So, here’s the list from a while back with lots of new lines crossing things off.

Master Bathroom To Do List:

  • Obtain permit from city.
  • Demolish everything!
  • Install all new plumbing/fixtures. 
  • Update electrical & add outlets/lights.
  • Install sheetrock & paint.
  • Build new shower.
  • Tile shower, walls and floor.
  • Replace door, including new hinges and knob. (Need to install knob!)
  • Install new window. 
  • Install vanity with sink & cabinet. 
  • Hang mirror.
  • Install toilet paper holder. 
  • Hang hooks.
  • Pass all city inspections. (One more to go!)
  • Add finishing touches!

As you can see, we’ve mostly cleared the original list. So, what’s left?

  • Touch up the wall paint.
  • Install baseboards and paint.
  • Paint door and window trim.
  • Install the door knob.
  • Add some art or something to the walls.
  • Hang a window treatment of some sort for privacy.
  • Decide on a shower door and order/install. (Using a curtain for now!)
  • Pass the final city inspection.

I’ll probably also pick out a small plant for the countertop and buy some new towels. 😀

So, now that I’ve recapped what we’ve done so far and what still needs to happen, let’s check out a quick reminder of what the bathroom used to look like:

OMG MY EYES. It was so small, and smelly, and leaky, and we never used it. And when I say “small” I feel like you’re not imagining how small. The photo on the left is the ENTIRE BATHROOM (the toilet is right behind that door) and I took the photo on the right while sitting on the counter because that was the only way to get the toilet and shower sort of in the photo because they were so close.

Now that we’ve given up two small closets to make the new shower and left the original square footage for only the vanity and toilet, it feels so spacious in there! And the shower is fantastic!

I mean, look at this:

bathroom_progress_vanity
Instagram

Yay! That tile is perfection.

And a corner of the shower:

bathroom_progress_shower
Instagram

Love it in there! The shower is so nice and the drawers are soft close and sigh. It was sort of horrible and I had so many stress dreams and it’s not even done yet, but I’m a fan!

Full tour, details of what went right (and wrong!), and sources coming soon.

pop culture, television

Watch The Mindy Project ASAP

Friends, have you subscribed to Hulu so you can watch The Mindy Project?

If not? WHY?

how-dare-youmindyproject

Because I canceled my account about two years ago, in a cable-login-required fury (nevermind that I have cable, it was the principle of the thing!) and only got it back when Mindy made the switch to Hulu-only. That annoyed me at first, but watching this one show is worth it, to be honest. (And I even pay for the no commercials upgrade. ILY, Mindy Kaling.)

What I’m saying is: The Mindy Project is worth the monthly price of Hulu all on its own. And then you can also watch other stuff if you feel like it.

But really just watch Mindy:

<3

my house

The Living Room Bookcases are Almost Done

Hi! 😀 I hit 366 days straight of blogging on April 11 and then I decided to break my streak to avoid accidentally starting to aim for two years straight. I had to really break it by not posting for the last several days so I would get over it, and you have no idea how many times I almost blogged. But it’s broken for good, so I’m back now. Hello.

So, I think I’ve shared this photo here before, but this is what my living room looked like when I bought my house and the wood floor was waiting to be installed before we moved in. It was mostly original to 1960, except that inset carpet had been replaced I guess, but that didn’t make it any less horrifying.

IMG_0103

When we first moved in, I filled the shelves with as many brightly colored and pretty things I could find around the house to bright up the very brown room and hide those mirrored backs while I waited for the chance to update the room.

Then we covered the floors and ripped everything out to get new drywall installed and bookcases built in around the fireplace.

livingroom-newdrywall1

And ta-da!

LR-bookcase-painted

The fireplace brick is gray now and it has new all-black doors. I’m waiting for the paint on the shelves to cure so I can clean it all up and fill the bookcases up, and oooooh, I love it so much even before I get to put my books away. It’s so bright over there (and in the whole room) now.

I’ll share the room (in color!) once I can fill up the shelves. Because the other side (with my beloved teal sectional) is looking pretty fantastic now too.