Modern Love and the Trouble with Soulmates

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by Melissa Brooks

I was once a love-forlorn little girl. I harbored a seething desperation to grow up just so I could find my soulmate. It seemed nothing in life could ever possibly match the ecstasy of falling in love that I witnessed in songs, books, movies. In Disney’s Cinderella, I was captivated when our heroine and the prince first locked eyes and gravitated to one another immediately. Without a word they begin dancing, enchanted with one another and oblivious to the world around them, sharing a harmonious, telepathic duet: “So this is love. So this is what makes life divine. The key to all heaven is mine.”Continue Reading

Why Can’t Women Just Get Along?

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by Melissa Brooks

When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, I rented a bedroom in a house co-owned by a middle-aged woman and her twenty-six year old son. The son didn’t live there, but the mother did, making her simultaneously my landlord and roommate. Three weeks went by and despite the awkward set up, I thought things had mostly been going okay. No arguments had ensued and we regularly asked after one another’s wellbeing. I made sure to clean up after myself, stay out of the way, respect her privacy and be quiet. So it came as a shock when one day she spontaneously started yelling at me, boldly proclaiming that “this situation” wasn’t working for her and she didn’t like me. Confused by what I had done to offend her, she boiled down her hostility to a single trite creed:

“Women can’t get along.”

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Tomboys Can Wear Dresses, Too: Why We Must Stop Dismissing Femininity

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by Melissa Brooks

The perks and pitfalls of being a tomboy

When I was a kid, being a tomboy was cool. It seemed every girl in my grade claimed to be one whether they really were or not. My friends and I argued about who was the most authentic tomboy. I remember challenging my friend Jennifer’s authenticity because she wore dresses. “Tomboys can wear dresses, too!” she spat back.

We tried to act tough, which amounted to pushing the boys or stealing their baseball caps. We underwent “boot camp” training on the playground, during which a kid named Mike put us to a series of tests assessing our toughness, such as flipping off of the playground’s 6-foot-high metallic bridge.1 I remember feeling triumphant as I overcame my fear and did it, and feeling more triumphant as the-too-girly Jennifer couldn’t work up the nerve.

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You are More than your Vagina: Lessons in Cissexism

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by Melissa Brooks

Part I: Acknowledging your own cissexism

Although transsexuals have long existed, they have not long been at the forefront of public consciousness. While mainstream society is finally beginning to acknowledge and openly discuss trans issues, trans people remain very much marginalized and continue to be persecuted. Most cissexual  individuals—those of us whose gender identity matches the one society assigned us—have such a limited understanding of the trans experience because we grew up learning limited definitions of gender, biological sex, sexuality and sexual orientation that fail to account for trans people. As a result, even the best intentioned among us inadvertently harbor cissexist ideas—the belief that transsexual genders are less legitimate than, and mere imitations of, cissexual genders.Continue Reading

Escaping Hell: Sexual Horror in Titanic, The ShiningScream

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by Melissa Brooks

When I was a little kid, I didn’t understand the role periods played in reproduction. I didn’t know sex had anything to do with penetration. My understanding was only that it involved two people rolling around together, kissing and moaning, and that it was a cardinal sin unless it occurred between a husband and a wife in the privacy of their bedroom.Continue Reading

Why the Feminist Question Matters

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by Melissa Brooks

Like so many celebrities before her, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting has been making headlines for disavowing feminism. To recap, this is what she said when asked if she considered herself a feminist during a recent interview with Redbook Magazine:Continue Reading