celebrating the International Woman

Once a year, we are celebrated. Happy International Women’s Day! Inspiring quotes are brought up. Women of color are being recognized we say. (Even though this Pandemic has shown that those who have been left behind and disproportionately so are those same women of color). Donate to women lead organizations we say. Then we get back to our respective places, playing the game we’ve been taught to play for so long we forgot what the rules were in the first place. Being a human being requires equanimity. We have been at this game for far too long and we seem to lose more ground each year that passes. Each year we profess to want to see the world truly change.

I would honestly be ok with a one to one ratio. I don’t want to have more than men or to be valued more than them. I don’t believe my work is more valuable. I believe it is just as valuable. I’m not sure I want equal to men either. Equality still means we have to work harder, speak louder and say more just to be half as understood.

I want to be received as a hard working professional, a woman with integrity who isn’t pandered to, patronized and dismissed because and only because I seemingly need help. I don’t need help, I want people to listen. I want my non paid labor to be accepted, acknowledged and recognized as work. I want my successes to be of my own merit, and my failures not to be the failure of all women. I want to collaborate to elevate, not to compete in order to prove that for some reason we are not on the same team.

Raising human beings is work, taking care of your elders is work, Cooking for a family of 3,4,5 is work, cleaning a household is labor which is almost too often shouldered by and only by women. Let’s be honest here. We’ve worked so hard to prove we can seemingly do it all, because we had to, because we played a game we didn’t have a part in designing; and in the end we’ve neglected the premise of having the necessary support to do it WELL.

The structure of how society chooses to accept women is so contradictory it’s driving us further apart than bringing us closer together. Just look at the supportive comments on any social media feed that features a woman in a position of power. I don’t want the obligatory child I’m supposed to have, be the exact same thing that keeps me away from the job I need, the career I want and life I deserve. I don’t want the only project worthy of recognition to be my marriage and breeding credentials. I don’t want to be seen as a vehicle for humanity’s salvation or it’s hard on. I don’t want to be agreeable, timid, quiet, I don’t want to be undermined in public and in private as being difficult because I don’t agree with the status quo. I don’t want communicating better with men to achieve a better outcome to be perceived as selling out. That’s not equality, that is not celebration.

We have learned to define ourselves in reaction to, in connection to, and in a space created by men. When we do get over it, and create our own spaces they are not treated as equal to those we’ve reluctantly had to occupy because of lack of choice. Even spaces created for and by women are in connection, subsequent to, or in response to the status quo. That is not progress, that is not women being celebrated, that is being forced to see ourselves only through the lens and opinions of the other.

How can we celebrate? What aspects of our achievements, our success, our experience, femininity, aging, sexuality can be discussed freely and openly that don’t highlight our struggle to be recognized? What belief systems do we recreate, replicate and blindly repeat, and which ones do we do away with in order to fortify, and be who we always knew we were. Ourselves.

We are shaped by the women before us, we owe deep gratitude to those who invested in us, helped us think for ourselves, while paving the road for progress and change. The road is not smooth. Breaking down the structures of the pastis an ongoing, often perilous battle. We are also shaped by the ones who will come after us, as we commit to live by example and be the change we seek. It’s not easy, it’s not a catch phrase, it’s not a meme. We don’t just need one day. We need it every damn day.

Recognize, Celebrate, Unite.

I don’t owe you Sex- Part. 1

When sex is seen as a favor for good behavior what do you do?

I have often been placed in this predicament (as many women have) when either men I’ve gone on a date with or have been with for a certain amount of time, feel it’s their god given right to get sex just because they did something “nice” for me, or they felt I owed them. In their mind sex is some sort of reward. And by nice I am not talking about saving my life, or buying me a very expensive car, which in this case heck why not right? (just kidding!) But to those who do, more power to you.

I’ve wondered how this expectation came about. Is it their upbringing? Is it society in general? Is the prevalence of transactional and power play sexual encounters just a male mentality? In all the instances of “expected sex”, I wondered (as many women do), If I owed these men something, because that was the approach or the explanation given to me. This implied, or expected reward for good behavior sent me into a moment of self reflection. Did I invite this? Do I owe them some sort of explanation as to why I don’t want to have sex with them? Is this really being asked of me? And what allows for such an expectation?

Looking back at the events that lead to these still unanswered questions, I have yet to understand how the dynamics between men and women are formed, in allowing such expectations to exist, and why we accept living in a society that still creates them.

Case №1 — New York fall 2013

New York fall 2013. Having freshly arrived a few months earlier, I was still bouncing around from home to home and job to job. I was still insecure about my decision to drop my life in Athens, and live in a new city with absolutely zero job prospects. My surviving skills needed sharpening while sustaining myself on the very little money I had saved up. After feeling somewhat settled in and with the help of friends, I found a part time job as a dog walker for a company in Manhattan, but this was hardly enough to keep me afloat. Unlike many Greeks emigrating to the U.S I wanted no part in asking for handouts or favors; I knew full well what working with, and alongside Greek business owners could entail. Just because I was Greek, didn’t mean I cared to or wanted to immediately work in the Greek community, and despite my general rule to stay away from the insulated world of the Greek-American diaspora; I had a need to connect with “my people” and maybe find a better job suited to my education and skills.

After many inquiries and searches, I was introduced to an up and coming Greek American social coordinator, banker, and well known fixture in the Greek American community. Having spoken several times about potential job opportunities, we agreed to meet up in person, after maintaining email communication for several months.

After a pleasant dinner at a Greek restaurant in Astoria, and a somewhat general but also flirtatious conversation, he paid the bill and hailed me a cab to where I was staying. As we continued our conversation and fun banter in the backseat of a cab, he proceeded to corner me and get as close to me as possible. After trying quite a few times to kiss me, and repeating several times that we could end up at his place to fuck. I pleasantly thwarted his advances, and in the end pretty much had to push him off me with a smile. Beyond the dinner I had zero intention of sleeping with this man, and made zero allusions as such.

I got out of the cab, sent him on his merry way and pretty much knew I would never see him again. Upon arriving at my home I got a text message. “Why did you have dinner with me and let me kiss you, if you didn’t intend of having sex with me? You mislead me and that was a waste of my time.” It got me seriously thinking what exactly in my demeanor, our conversation or agreeing to go to dinner with this man gave him the idea that I was open to any kind of further contact? Did he think he was paying for sex with dinner? Or that a dinner was enough to warrant some sort of sexual favor?

This is not the first time or the last time this has occurred, and to be clear not all situations end up like this. Not all men or women for that matter are that manipulative, yet the idea of sex as a commodity never really appealed to me and certainly not as a reward for “good behavior”. I have experienced instances where, seemingly powerful people, and men in particular; like to wield their power in a sexual way and for the most part do so without repercussions. Those same people feel that sexual reward is par for the course, while blatantly stating that: “if I buy you dinner, take you out, get you a cab ride home; or do you a favor, I’m getting what I paid for, and If you don’t comply, I’m wasting precious time If you don’t deliver.” In all these instances, of sexual powerplay, I was never in a position of power. I was either broke, in some need, or seemed lesser or weaker than I actually was. This clarified in my mind what all sex, and power play games have in common.

Blatant insecurity.

Despite any unpleasant interactions I’ve experienced over the years with situations like this; I never felt I had to repay any dept or favors. My experiences did however make me think twice before accepting any further dinner invitations.

Share your story or stories of predicaments like this – I’d love to hear from men and women who might have been placed in similar (unwanted) reward sex situations.