Thursday, October 23, 2014

Effective Feminism, Justified Rage, & Why It's Okay When Things Suck

This post is going to contain a lot of dirty words and phrases. "Anger." "Insensitivity." "Race issues." "Feminism." Chances are, especially if you are a cisgender straight white male, you do not want to talk about these things. You do not want to read what I have to write on these issues, because you have the words "not all men" tattooed on your forehead and, because you have never in your life experienced discrimination based on your race, gender, or sexual orientation, you cannot comprehend that those things have ever presented an issue for anyone else.

(Read: if you just whined--aloud or in your head--that you are totally sensitive to minority issues and gender inequality, you completely missed the point.)


Feminism has become demonized and distorted by those who don't understand it. Men who feel it attacks their rights in some way refer to feminists as "feminazis" - a term so troubling I couldn't possibly delve into its significance in this post. Even some women have begun to campaign on a "why I don't need feminism" ticket, demonstrating a basic of ignorance of what feminism is.


Allow me to explain it for you. The definition, verbatim, is "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." If you are a man and you feel threatened by feminism, you are a misogynist, and you need to figure out what screwed you up so bad that you don't think women deserve basic human rights. If you are a women and you think you don't need feminism, then I suppose you're satisfied with lacking equality with--not superiority to, we're not trying to get a matriarchy on our hands--men.


However, feminism, while its definition is bright and shiny, is deeply flawed as a movement. Over the course of its storied development--which, again, too much to get into on this post--there have been major issues with its exclusion of ethnic minorities, trans women, and lesbian women. But I'm not here to talk about misandry (the opposite of misogyny, i.e. the dislike of and prejudice against the male sex) or any other perversion of the doctrine that gives us all a bad name. I'm here to advocate for intersectional feminism, or as I like to call it, effective feminism.


Intersectional feminism essentially calls for equal rights across the board--women of color, trans women, lesbians, and, yes, cisgender straight white women too. Feminism is SUCH a great idea, as equality always is. But in order for it to work, it requires everyone, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, to be equal. It's sort of in the term. Equality. For everybody. Okay, moving on.


A lot of people like to throw around the word "angry" as a means of belittling or attacking feminists. They claim that they are blinded by irrational rage and are blowing "small" things out of proportion. To anybody who says that, let me learn you a couple things:

  1. What you call rage, others might call passion. Learn the difference. And more importantly…
  2. Sometimes, we have a right to be angry.
Not to get too political, but when the government tries to legislate what women can and cannot do with our bodies (ESPECIALLY when that government is predominately male), or when women still make less money than men do for the same job (pretty please don't show me laws, because spoiler alert, people do illegal things all the time, including discriminating against women financially and socially in the workplace), or when women are ever considered less than solely based on sex, it's okay to get angry. This is directed at everyone. Men, don't you dare criticize a woman for being angry about something that is rage-inducing. And women, don't be afraid to express your outrage over injustice when it is seriously affecting your quality of life. It's all part of the patriarchal tradition of suppressing women's emotions; when they laugh at you, or they call you a feminazi, or make jokes about burning your bra, or tell you to stop overreacting--don't listen. Keep your head high. Be logical and be rational, but if you're angry, then be angry. You don't have to be "nice." You don't have to be "polite." Not when your rights are being compromised.

And now for my last point. Everything I've said so far is about when gender, sexual orientation, and race interfere with one's quality of life. But when I say that, I do really and truly mean quality of life. If a guy cracks a joke about women making sandwiches, he's an idiot, not a criminal. Just laugh it off.

Don't laugh off the big things. When it's clear that a culture of discrimination is surrounding you, you should feel comfortable taking a stand and trying to change things. If you feel that what you do or who you are is not being taken seriously, you can speak up. But pick your battles. If you scream at everyone who screws up with you, you'll lose your voice.

I am a black woman. Being a black woman, people say insensitive things to me literally every day. When someone tells me I'm "too white" or "too black," it used to really piss me off. Now, it gets an eye roll. Whenever I hear the phrase "not all men" in response to a comment I've made about male privilege, I feel the urge to berate the guy for his insensitivity (and sometimes, I succumb and I do). But we all need to learn to be less sensitive to things like this.

Sometimes people are mean. But remember what they taught us in preschool about sticks and stones?

Most of the time, words cannot hurt you. We all get so caught up in "skinny shaming" and "reverse racism" and even fat-shaming and "regular" racism that we forget about bigger issues. Someone telling me I don't act black is annoying. Michael Brown getting shot to death is a heartbreaking, unjust crime. Someone making a joke about women in the kitchen is dumb. Dozens of women getting shot to death because of a sexually-repressed misogynist is also a heartbreaking, unjust crime.

Discrimination due to things beyond our control happens every day and to varying severity. So if nothing else, here are your takeaways:

  • Feminism, and all equality movements, only work if they are intersectional. Promote effective feminism. Promote effective social justice.
  • If someone is doing you wrong and preventing you from living a fulfilling, happy life based on your gender, race, or sexual orientation, you are totally allowed to get angry.
  • Choose your battles and choose them well. You must fight. But make sure you know what you're fighting for, and why.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Playlist


October Playlist

Heyo! October is in its final days, which means it's time for my…drumroll, please…October playlist! I went to Cambridge to visit my brother at college last week, so I was listening to this playlist loads on the plane, in the library at his school, etc; let's just say these songs got a lot of mileage. Enjoy!

1. "Drowning" - 4:09
ALBUM: Goddess
ARTIST: Banks

2. "Let It Go" - 4:21
ALBUM: Let It Go - EP
ARTIST: James Bay

3. "I'll Be Good" - 4:08
ALBUM: Habits of My Heart - EP
ARTIST: Jaymes Young

4. "Run" - 4:07
ALBUM: Smother - Single
ARTIST: Daughter

5. "Lying to You" - 5:19
ALBUM: Birthdays (Deluxe Edition)
ARTIST: Keaton Henson

6. "Sideways" - 5:22
ALBUM: The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
ARTIST: Citizen Cope

7. "Watching" - 5:52
ALBUM: Ep1 - EP
ARTIST: JP Cooper

8. "Say You Love Me" - 4:17
ALBUM: Tough Love (Deluxe Version)
ARTIST: Jessie Ware

9. "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene" - 3:39
ALBUM: Hozier
ARTIST: Hozier

10. "Girls Chase Boys" - 3:41
ALBUM: Lights Out
ARTIST: Ingrid Michaelson

11. "Tighten Up" - 3:31
ALBUM: Brothers
ARTIST: The Black Keys

12. "Undisclosed Desires" - 3:56
ALBUM: The Resistance
ARTIST: Muse

13. "Let It Be" - 3:06
ALBUM: Let It Be - Single
ARTIST: Labrinth

14. "Unbelievers" - 3:22
ALBUM: Modern Vampires of the City
ARTIST: Vampire Weekend

And that'll just about do it for my October playlist! Hope you're enjoying the fall, wherever you are; Massachusetts in October is absolutely gorgeous and autumnal, and LA…well, it's always sunny here, isn't it? :) Expect more music (and life) posts from me in the near future, and keep an eye on my YouTube channel (youtube.com/jensenmcraeofficial), my Twitter (@mcraejensen) and my official site (jensenmcrae.com) for more updates about MY music! Talk soon. xo

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apply: A Definition (or 5)

Apply, v.

1. To make a formal application or request.

Gee, thanks, Google, for that utterly thrilling definition that is at once concise and provides no new information. Really?! To apply is to make an application?!
I digress.
The most applicable *cough* definition of the word "apply" right now is 'to college.' As in, I am sitting at my kitchen table, as I have been for the last two hours, waiting for my art supplement to upload to SlideRoom so I can finish off my application to my dream school. As in, since August 1st--the day the Common App launched--the bulk of my life and mind has been overtaken by the before, during, and after of applying to college. As in, on May 1st, I will finally know for sure where I am going, but until then, I will be experiencing such a huge range of emotions that I likely will have several (more) mental breakdowns. The first worldiest of first world problems. Oh, college. You silly, demonic little beast.
If you're in my shoes…first of all, I'm sorry. Second of all, we've got this! Only a few more months to go and then all of this is behind us!
Dear colleges: I am formally requesting that you admit me. Yrs, Jensen.

2. To be applicable or relevant.

Google's done it again. To be applicable?!
How does one manage it, in the year 2014? We live in the digital age. Every day we are inundated with more information than our feeble human brains can possibly process. Advertisements for shampoo that will make your hair salon-fresh after every wash, television shows about Kerry Washington saving the country from catastrophe, YouTube clips of a cat dialing 911, Yahoo! homepage articles about how ebola is SO TOTALLY IN YOUR HOUSE RIGHT NOW. We're used to it now, so everything gets swept under the rug. So how do we stay remembered?
I used to think that was the most important question in the world. How can I be applicable? How do I become relevant? Then I read The Fault In Our Stars, and I was still convinced it was the most important question, even after Hazel Grace tries to teach Augustus that being remembered is about quality, not quantity, of memory. Now, as I figure out where I'm gonna spend the next four years of my life, I realize that even though the stress, anxiety, fear, hope, and excitement I am feeling is amplified and overwhelming now, in a year and a half, when I'm well into my freshman year of college, I'll barely remember it. I'll be at some incredible school, swamped with work and music and activities, and I won't give a second thought to the arduous months that brought me there.
So if I won't remember this, what is arguably the most formative time in my life so far, how can I expect other people to remember me? When I can't even remember myself?

3. To put (or spread) something on a surface.

Finally, a definition that does not contain some iteration of the word 'apply' in it.
I just spent a whole paragraph convincing you that you can't expect other people to remember you. But…you should still try. You don't have to be remembered by everyone, or remembered forever. But you should strive to have an impact, to matter, in a small way or a big way. Not everyone is going to walk on the moon. Not everyone is going to win a Grammy (although I sincerely hope to myself). Not everyone is going to be the President or cure cancer or write the next great American novel. But maybe you'll be a second grade teacher, and you'll make some lonely little boy fall in love with learning. Maybe you'll get married to the love of your life and have four beautiful children. Maybe you'll give a homeless man five dollars every day and be the reason that he survives, or gets back on his feet. Maybe you'll buy someone a cup of coffee when they're having a rough day.
So spread yourself on this blue-green surface. Put yourself out there. Life is a lottery and every ticket wins. Throw yours in and see what you get.

4. To give one's full attention to a task; to work hard.

Every teenager in the world has heard the phrase "apply yourself" at least once. Or twice. Or a million times. It's late April, in the horrible end-of-year-slump we all face, and you've got a precalc problem set to tackle and APUSH reading to annotate (or, y'know, skim) and an English essay to rewrite, but when you get home, you drop your six-ton backpack angrily on the ground and lay facedown on your bed. And one or both of your parents come in your room and they ask what's wrong, and you say you don't want to do your work. And they say, come on, honey. Just apply yourself.
Well, I hate to break it to you; they're not wrong. You should apply yourself, when you've got lots of work to do and you don't want to do it, or you don't understand a difficult concept, or you're holding yourself back from a great opportunity that seems hard or scary now but will pay off later. But that's not all you should work hard for. Apply yourself to getting a good night's sleep, to taking a hot bath, to eating a delicious and healthy meal, to going for a jog, to listening to some really good music. Work hard at taking care of yourself and making yourself happy. The world expects a lot of you, and trust me, you CAN rise to the challenge. But it's not just about what the world wants. It's about what you want. Apply yourself to you, kid. It's your body and it's your life. You've got only got one of each. (That was almost YOLO…almost.)

5. To bring or put into operation or practical use.

Unless you're a solipsist, you know the world mostly exists outside your own mind. It's a rat race, a dog-eat-dog kinda game, and if you don't step outside your bubble, the world will keep spinning without you. Chances are, you've got a lot of interesting thoughts in your head, but unless you take them from the intangible to the tangible, they won't get you anywhere. Bring yourself and your great ideas down from the clouds and onto the ground and you'll be surprised where they'll take you.
It's scary. Rejection and failure are scary. But I heard this great quote once, about how life is a series of decisions that narrow down your options. And not making the decisions? That's a decision, too. So whether or not you decide, your options keep narrowing.
Which is it going to be? Are you going to choose? Or are you going to let the world choose for you?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Artist Recs 4 U! (Vol. I)

Hey, all! So I've decided I want to post on this little number quite a bit more than I currently do and thought I'd do a little "if this, then that" for ya. If you're confused, don't worry, it'll make sense soon. Here are a few artist recommendations for you!

Below are ten artists with varying degrees of mainstream and critical success that span a few genres. I included 4 recommendations that I perceive as pretty close in vibe to the original artist, and then 1 'out of bounds' rec that might get you slightly out of your musical comfort zone while still staying true to your tastes. Check it out!

1. If you like Sam Smith, you should listen to…

  • Allen Stone
  • James Blake
  • JP Cooper
  • Daniel Bedingfield
  • Out of Bounds: Derran Day
2. If you like Bon Iver, you should listen to…
  • Benjamin Francis Leftwich
  • Sam Morrow
  • City and Colour
  • Jump Little Children
  • Out of Bounds: Hozier
3. If you like Ed Sheeran, you should listen to…
  • Jason Reeves
  • Nina Nesbitt
  • Natalie Holmes
  • Jay Loftus
  • Out of Bounds: Shannon Saunders
4. If you like Maroon 5, you should listen to…
  • Marianas Trench
  • Goldspot
  • Fitz & The Tantrums
  • Taylor Mathews
  • Out of Bounds: Jack's Mannequin
5. If you like The White Stripes, you should listen to…
  • Shakey Graves
  • Foxy Shazam
  • Dr. Dog
  • The Mountain Goats
  • Out of Bounds: Nana Grizol
6. If you like Charli XCX, you should listen to…
  • Echosmith
  • Ryn Weaver
  • Meghan Trainor
  • Kate Nash
  • Out of Bounds: Dresses
7. If you like Sara Bareilles, you should listen to…
  • Daughter
  • David Choi
  • Broken Fences
  • Matt Corby
  • Out of Bounds: Wet
8. If you like John Mayer, you should listen to…
  • Justin Nozuka
  • Jaymes Young
  • Charlie Simpson
  • Rufus Wainright
  • Out of Bounds: Front Porch Step
9. If you like Vampire Weekend, you should listen to…
  • The Oh Hello's
  • Peace
  • Walk the Moon
  • Josh Woodward
  • Out of Bounds: Sam Brookes
10. If you like Arctic Monkeys, you should listen to…
  • The Perishers
  • Imelda May
  • Hospitality
  • First Aid Kit
  • Out of Bounds: Gin Wigmore
That'll do it for now! I might post more of these if I think of others but this is a pretty lengthy list! Stay tuned for another installation of 'Artist Recs 4 U,' my artist and album reviews, my random musings on life, and of course, my monthly playlist. October began today, and I've already got a couple great tracks lined up to play ad nauseam for the next 30 days… ;)

See ya soon! xo