Mother’s Little Helper: The Feminine Mystique’s Impact on Inclusive Suffering

“’Things are different today,’
I hear every mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper”

(“Mother’s Little Helper,” The Rolling Stones)

Now, I’m not a mother myself, but I feel that I’ve met enough of them in my life to feel justified in saying that mothers feeling unappreciated and overworked is dece. Over half a century ago, (because this has been going on for that long and longer), Betty Friedan wrote a little book addressing these very issues, called The Feminine Mystique, which is largely credited with sparking the second wave feminism movement. Good for Friedan and her book.
The Feminine Mystique has been critiqued for, among other things, how narrow its subject and intended audience is. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making something for a small audience or writing about a very uncommon subject. You can write an advice guide for former US Presidents on what they should do after the Oval Office. That’s an audience of five right now. You can craft an encyclopedia on Northern White Rhinos, of which there are ten still living. There’s nothing wrong with a small subject pool or a select audience. And while I won’t argue that Friedan was wrong in her choice to exclude anyone not straight, white, affluent, and female from her message, that cannot be the sole reason we decry the book.

That Damn Donna Reed
Through a somewhat roundabout series of events, I ended up starting to watch Gilmore Girls (and I couldn’t really stick with it). One episode that sticks out to me is the one where Rory, her mother Lorelai, and her boyfriend Dean watch The Donna Reed Show for their movie night. Lorelai and Rory provide constant, witty, sarcastic dubbing for the viewing, mocking how devoted Donna Reed and her TV daughter are to keeping the house cleaning and baking “an endless string of perfect casseroles” (Gilmore Girls, season 1 episode 14). When Dean comments that he thinks it’s a nice family concept, Rory uses the second half of the episode to show Dean how strange a 50’s nuclear dinner is, except that they both enjoy the evening and Rory learns that the real Donna Reed was actually quite revolutionary in the world of television.
Why do I mention Donna Reed?
For starters, The Donna Reed Show is a very clear example of both what a good deal of 1950’s home life was like and how we want to remember it having been. More to my point of not liking the book’s message, just because you think that how someone is living their life is wrong doesn’t mean that they have to join you in your sentiment, and you saying that your view is the correct one because you believe it to be that way is childish. Is The Donna Reed Show dated? Yes (it’s literally set in the 1950’s-60’s). Should we condemn how different women live their lives? No (society expects women to be everything all at once, so maybe we should focus on that). It’s good to go to college, it’s good to cook dinner for your family, it’s good to have a career, and it’s good to be a stay at home parent. A better book to The Feminine Mystique would have been Give Women a Choice in Their Lives.

On the Origins of Non-Straight People
On to the main event. I imagine that if you were to sum up every person that was part of any marginalized group, they would outnumber non-marginalized people several times over. And because we’re a species that has divided itself into fabricated groups, we feel the need to compete to be on top, we accept as an ingrained concept that not everyone can rise to the top together, we fight for ourselves and maybe our children or friends if we’re feeling generous.
To this point, Friedan, decides to spend a good portion of one of her later chapters “analyzing” and condemning homosexuality. I.e. she devotes a large portion of text to oppress a marginalized group while talking about how bad it is to be part of a marginalized group. “Homosexuals often lack the maturity to finish school and make sustained professional commitments” (Friedan, 229). She then goes on to explain that the Kinsey report found that homosexuality was least prevalent in college graduates and most prevalent in male students with a college diploma or less. And not only are gay men less mature and afraid of commitment, but they are discussed in the chapter entitled “The Sex Seekers,” a chapter in which Friedan discusses how women under the feminine mystique attempt to use sex as a way to feel fulfilled in their daily lives, but that it just manifest to hurt them, their marriages, and their relationships with their children. In fact, did you know that homosexuality is actually caused by an overbearing mother “who lives through her son, whose femininity is used in virtual seduction of her son, who attaches her son to her with such dependence that he can never grow to love a woman,” (229)?
Basically, homosexuals are a byproduct of female oppression, so when women are finally liberated, the evil that is homosexuality will be over. Awesome.

We Can’t All Have Freedom. Duh.

I’m not saying that it’s ever ok to marginalize anyone, but if it was just Friedan having her opinion, that would be one thing. It’s quite another to publish your opinion and then have that work become a central tenant of an entire social movement. Whether it’s cis white gay guys acting like they’re the only members of import under the LGBTQ+ banner or white middle to upper class women who can’t see how single women of color have issues that need to be addressed as part of feminism, Friedan’s work has helped to influence a culture where people only want to fight for people who look and live exactly like they do.
God forbid we be inclusive.

A Longer Explanation

What follows is another tale of a student who took an LOA and wasn’t working for a fancy engineering company.

I try not to publish my own personal stuff on Frankly Speaking and that’s just my own weird thing. I’m not sure at what point I’m over-sharing or just talking about stuff that no one really wants to read.

But when people ask me “how was your LOA” or “what did you do for your LOA,” in most cases, I don’t really want to get into explaining exactly what I did, either because I don’t have time to sit down and walk through the process or because I know that they’ll just be like “oh, cool” without really knowing what I’m saying. I say that it was good and that I took some AHS classes. Sometimes I’ll even include that my parents moved and I had to build a steel cable fence around the entire perimeter of the yard. But I stop there, and I’ve finally realized I’m not doing justice to the last 8 months of my life.

My name is Jayce Chow. I’m 22 years old, I’m a junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, and I’m a transgender man.

For those of you that don’t know, transgender is the label for when you don’t feel like your gender (typically man or woman) is aligned with your sex (male, female, intersex). In my case, I’m female by birth but feel like a man. Many trans people socially transition by dressing differently, going by a different name or pronoun, and physically transition through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or surgery. One thing to note is that none of these changes are required for someone to be trans.

I began socially transitioning the summer following my freshman year. I sent out a school wide email letting everyone here know what was going on, asking them to use a different name and different pronouns. (For those that are curious, there was no problem with the name, but humans are remarkably steadfast in their pronoun usage).

Anyway, on to the LOA. By March last year, 6 months of hit or miss pronouns had really started getting to me. I began talking with an LGBT HRT clinic near my parents’ house, and found out that they would need me to be frequently available for various blood tests over the course of a 6 month period. That ruled out starting hormones over the summer.

And so it was in a hotel room in Seattle that I called my mom and asked how she would feel about housing me for the summer and then some.

That was the plan. Go home, hopefully be able to start hormones. But I’m also very old for my grade and wanted to graduate before I was 24 (I started preschool a year late because my mom thought I was too antisocial, and I got waitlisted at Olin and took a gap year). The solution was to take summer classes.

Thankfully, one of the colleges near my house had a decent set of summer classes. I took Intro to: Intellectual Property Law, Children’s Book Illustration, History of Children’s Literature, Writing for the YA Reader, Screenwriting, and Creative Writing. I even got my AHS concentration out of it.

While taking these classes, I was cleared to begin hormone therapy. That involves injecting .5mL of “depo-testosterone” into a muscle in my thigh every week. Testosterone can change the pitch of your voice, metabolism, body fat distribution, body and facial hair, blood pressure, head hair, and mood. Any and all of these are fairly arbitrary, but most guys see some moderate improvement in most, if not all, areas.

And it took a few months to see any changes. During that time, I was waiting for September to roll around to meet with a surgeon for a top surgery consultation. Top surgery refers to removing breast tissue from a patient’s torso. This can be done as easily as lyposuctioning out a small bit of fat to a full double incision mastectomy (what I had).

This was the change that I had been looking forward to for the longest, so getting a surgery date was an incredibly happy moment. Aside from having a general fear of needles being in my veins (just needles anywhere else are fine) and my anesthesiologist telling me the anesthesia could kill me, surgery went off without a hitch. (side note: many trans men fundraise to cover the cost of top surgery because their insurance doesn’t cover it. Mine does, but it’s also a “disaster plan,” which means that the deductible is designed for someone going through cancer and is rather high).

The feeling of not having something on my chest was incredible. And it wasn’t strange for me. It didn’t give me pause; I wasn’t self conscious about stand up paddle boarding with my shirt off a few weeks later.

I got to wear shirts that I had given up on for how dysphoric they made me feel. I was able to literally roll out of bed and leave the house having overslept for an appointment without having to bother to take the time and bind my chest.

I finally physically felt like me.

The last big hurdle I crosses on my LOA was getting my name and gender legally changed. If anyone has ever experienced a legal name change, you know it’s ridiculous. There is so much paperwork and so many forms, and most American citizens have 3-4 forms of identification that all have to be handled separately.

Going to court and getting a form signed by a judge was easy. 3 different DMV visits because of unacceptable photocopies and the fact that their website doesn’t give you actual information is hard. Getting a new passport when you can only make an appointment via phone call and the lines are perpetually busy is hard. Updating your birth certificate when you literally have to send away for the form because God forbid you print it off the Internet is hard.

But I did it. That’s the biggest thing, for me. I got through one of the strangest periods of my life, and I came out a lot happier.

People still occasionally use the wrong pronouns. There are still days where I look at my body and wish it was different. I’m still a little hesitant when there’s ‘guys’ and ‘girls’ and ‘me’ and I don’t quite know which group I’m supposed to be in.

These things will become less prominent issues as time goes on, but they’ll probably always be there.

So. What did I get out of my LOA?

I got a new name. I got voice cracks, acne, and body hair. I got a new chest.

I learned that while time waits for no one, waiting for time isn’t an option either. And as many middle-aged adults will tell us (though generally in regard to travel), we’re not gonna have the time to do this stuff later.

I needed to get on with my life without the setbacks of my body. It only took 8 months and some make up school work. Just a really long sick day.

If you have any questions and are vehemently opposed to Google, feel free to come talk with me. I’m happy to tell you about my experiences while reminding you that I do not speak for the entire trans population. What I will not talk about: whether or not I’ll have more surgery; if I’m “done” transitioning; my sexuality. Maybe someday I will, but for now, I’m happy saying that some parts of my life are private. Thank you for reading. I hope some of what I’ve said has at least caused you to think.

Oh, Hey There, Olin

Letter From The Editor, better late than never, right?
Hello to the 80 some- odd first years and exchange students that I’ve never met before (and in the case of the exchange students, never will…).
How are you liking Olin, and how is the work load treating you? (Just wait until literally half the school tries to print posters on the same night, and one of the poster printers is broken).
For those of you that either don’t check your emails or just don’t care that much about what I write when I send out Frankly Speaking, I’m not on campus this semester. But because I’m not working or studying abroad or volunteering or doing any- thing remotely useful, y’all still get Frankly Speaking. Aren’t you lucky?
And now I get to nag you about contributing to this newspaper that magically shows up around the first of the month. SIDE NOTE: huge thanks to Mitch Cieminski and Justin Kunimune for editing and printing and folding and distributing. They do a lot to make this paper happen; as in, it wouldn’t be sitting in the Dining Hall without them.
Frankly Speaking also doesn’t exist without sub- missions. If you like writing, drawing, creating puzzles, spouting opinions, telling stories, or even rambling on in complete gibberish, SEND IT IN FOR PRINT.
This is a newspaper of, by, and for the people. Your submissions are not vet- ted, censored, or restricted. Some pieces need to lose the occasional word/sentence/ paragraph for clarity and/or formatting, and as always, I reserve the right to request that poems be kept to a mini- mum.
But if you want to write an op/ed praising the analogue computer or draw a maze that leads the reader through the margins of the paper to eventually find a series of key words that spell out a secret message, IT WILL BE PRINTED.
Just submit. You have nothing to lose, and all the recognition/notoriety to gain.
Jayce
P.S. I have this random column of space, so I’m go- ing to impart some wisdom that I’ve gained from working on a house with structures built by less-than-commend- able people.
Do not use nails. Specifically, don’t use nails on structures that may need to be replaced or when the nail will be at an angle that will make it nigh impossible to be removed from.
Don’t use four different types/sizes of nails to secure a singular piece of hardware. Don’t use the wrong nail for the wrong job. Don’t hammer the nail until the head is flush with the metal bracket.
Just use screws. Screws go in and come out easily. Screws are your friend. Screws love you.
<3

So Long, Farewell

Welcome to Finals Week.

I’ll start this one the same way I did last year: “In two short weeks, the Class of 2016 will be graduating, leaving Olin to join the real world.”
A few others (myself included) will be leaving for a little to a very long while, to broaden their horizons, take a stab at a job before graduating, or for personal reasons.
Regardless of who you are and whether or not you plan to spend the whole summer on campus or only visit once in a blue moon, I have one request for you: write, and write often.
Last November, I received a post card from David Pudlo ’15. It was a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge with a hand drawn bicycle on it.
The back contained a Frankly Speaking article with advice to first years, and Oliners in general.
This was not the first alumnus contributor Frankly Speaking has ever had, but it was the first time (for me, at least) to have received an article in a format other than Google Doc, Word, or email.
Everyone at this school knows how to write. We all had to take an AHS foundation class, after all.
I’m not asking for 1000 words in the middle of finals week (although I will note that this is the largest issue of the year, even during one of the busiest times).
If you have five minutes during your commute this summer, jot some words down on your phone.
If you’re sitting through another meeting that has run long over its time box, pretend like you’re attentively taking notes and write a short story.
If you’re waiting to meet someone for coffee and they haven’t shown up yet, write a mini article on the napkin.
I try to write as little as possible for this paper, because that way it acts as a venue for people in this community to voice their thoughts and opinions. I can’t do that without articles.
So whether that’s a Google Doc at 3AM or a postcard from the city you’re living in or a snap shot of that cafe napkin, I’m happy to publish what you write.

Now, onto the fun nitty gritty details.
As I said earlier, I’m not going to be here next Fall. Frankly Speaking has two wonderful distributors, Mitch Cieminski and Justin Kunimune, who will be printing, folding, and handing out the paper on the night preceding the first weekday of the month.
Because I would love for them both to not want to quit after the first month, articles are going to be due a bit earlier this semester (I will send out a schedule in the email).

There you have it. Good luck outside of Olin, even if it ‘s for the few short weeks until the dorms reopen. And again, write.

Read Me

Tldr; Frankly Speaking needs a new Editor, sorta.

Long: I (Jayce Chow, Frankly Speaking Editor-in-Chief) am taking an LOA next semester (Fall 2016). ‘So what?’ you might ask. Well, for those of you that stumble bleary eyed into the Dining Hall of the first weekday of every month and DELIGHT in seeing editions of Frankly Speaking littering the tables, it means that will no longer be physically possible. ‘So you want one of us to take over Frankly Speaking?’ Well, no, not entirely. I spent a year learning how things work from my predecessor (Lyra Silverwolf). I have spent the better part of this academic year tearing my hair out on the given day that I decide to lay out the paper as articles fail to fit, I haven’t yet received final drafts, or people decide to pull their articles. It’s a long a frustrating process that has taken me time to refine. What I am asking for are people to fold and distribute. I can lay out a paper just fine from anywhere in the world. I can’t fly to Boston once a month just to distribute fold 8.5×11 sheets of paper. ‘But what if I’ve been meaning to get involved with Frankly Speaking and just never got around to it?’ Heaven forbid someone else wants to work on Frankly Speaking. (In reality, I’d love to have you. Email me and we can talk).

‘How would this work?’ You should email or talk to me. Then I can walk you through the process of printer settings and quantities and how to fold and where to distribute. Then next year, you will get eight emails from me. Four of them will contain the final draft of Frankly Speaking that you need to print and distribute on or before the eve of the first weekday of each month. The other four will have text in them for you to email out to the community, along with a digital copy of each issue.

So there you have it. Hopefully at least one of you will decide to step up to the plate. Don’t let the physical editions of Frankly Speaking die.

Farewell Senior Editors

In two short weeks, the Class of 2015 will be graduating, leaving Olin to join the real world. This means that we will be saying goodbye to basically our entire editorial staff. So before they head off into the world, I would like to take a moment to thank them for their work, and to wish them well in their endeavors.

Thank you to Julianne Jorgensen, Morgan Bassford, and Allie Duncan for looking over the paper before it was published and catching our little mistakes.

Thank you to all of our contributors; your articles and insights will be missed. Special thanks to Elizabeth Mahon for the Video Game Trivia column.

Thank you to Kai Austin for editing, layout, Not XKCD, and maintaining the website.

Finally, thank you so very much to our wonderful Editor in Chief, Lyra Silverwolf, for seeing the paper through its fourth and fifth years and for joyously announcing the first weekday of every month.

I’m good at writing neither goodbye’s nor conclusions, so good luck, we will miss you, and thank you for Frankly Speaking.