Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cat cafés: Eat among cats!

Today I acquired some life-altering information:

There is such a thing as a cat café.

"Excuse me, please stay out of my tea."

You go, there are cats there, you can buy food, you might need to pay an hourly fee.

There are about 100 cat cafés in Japan. Apparently their popularity stems from most landlords in Japan refusing to allow tenants to have cats.

As far as I can tell via Google, there are no cat cafés in the United States.... yet. Should I take a break from college and start one in MA? This is a real consideration. I imagine that there would be a huge market for this around here. I would definitely go to one!

Notice the cat furniture in the window inviting cats to display themselves to passersby
I think the attentiveness of the cats may be a bit exaggerated here.

Very similar to the above photo, but the cats and humans have swapped roles.

"Some cat cafés feature specific categories of cat such as black cats, fat cats, rare breed cats or ex-stray cats."

If I decide to open a cat café, I would like it to be basically a normal café (with great vegetarian food) that just happens to have cats. And there would be no hourly fee unless problems arose. Anyone interested in being my business partner?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Talking about menstruation!

I spend about 1/5 of my time menstruating. Most of my sick days are due to menstrual cramps. I get period blood on my fingers when I remove/insert my menstrual cup.

My period is a substantial part of my life.

So why is it taboo to talk about something that is a substantial part of the lives of every female in the world?

You'd Think We'd Never BledBook: Avoiding the Topic of Menstruation Since 1903
From Adventures in Menstruating

"Your health worries explained: Let's all just pretend there's nothing down there!"

This reminds me of the many unsatisfying experiences I've had with doctors on the topic of my vagina, including having to teach my doctor what a menstrual cup is just a few weeks ago (they're not that uncommon!).

In my opinion, our culture's unwillingness to talk about menstruation oppresses females in a lot of ways:

1. It sends the message that this bodily function is gross and unmentionable, which discourages females from loving their bodies.

2. It fails to educate girls about menstruation. Some girls never hear of menstruation at all before their first period (and therefore assume they're wounded, which can be traumatic).*

And the conversation that our culture does have about menstruation focuses on sanitary products, not the significance of fertility or womanhood.

*This info is from The Body Project.

3. It produces men who lack an understanding of menstruation.

4. It leaves females unskilled at talking (and questioning) about their bodies because they have not learned comfortable (or any) words to identify their body parts.

"Women still struggle to find a vocabulary that does not rely on Victorian euphemisms, medical nomenclature, or misogynistic slang." -Joan Jacobs Brumberg, The Body Project
I totally struggle with finding a vocabulary to talk about my body. What do I call my vagina? "Vagina" sounds a bit too medical, "pussy" is a word people use to insult each other, and any sort of euphemism is totally against my passion for bluntness.

There is a movement called menstrual activism, radical menstruation, menstrual anarchy, or menarchy that strives to change the ways that menstruation is dealt with by society.

Menstrual activism may include:
-Speaking openly about periods
-Challenging negative attitudes toward menstruation
-Campaigning for more environmentally friendly sanitary products
-Campaigning for safer sanitary products

"Do we have to regard our period as something dirty? Do we have to greet a girl's first period with silence?" -Chris Bobel

Pagan menarche ceremony
Some cultures have rituals for menarche (a girl's first period) that celebrate the girl's rite of passage.

I can see how the above photo might seem silly to a lot of people -- white, Western women imitating tribal rituals that they likely have no ties to. But I think there is good in it. It can be a good thing for people from one culture to adopt the practices they value from other cultures.

A menarche ceremony:

1. Helps a girl to feel welcomed into the world of womanhood (through the sharing of stories, the celebration of womanhood, etc.).

2. Provides a girl with an opportunity to contemplate the weight of her newly found ability to make babies.

3. Fosters solidarity and bonding among all of the women and girls involved.

4. Creates an opportunity for those who have had their periods for a time to share stories -- funny stories, embarrassing stories, stories of lessons learned, etc. which can help the newly menstrual girl gain an understanding of menstruation in an emotional and spiritual light (as opposed to learning just the medical facts, like how to use a tampon).

5. Brings meaning and gratification to the life-changing event. If a girl's first period is not acknowledged beyond the purchase of sanitary products, it may feel unfulfilling (like when it's your birthday, but it doesn't feel like your birthday).

6. Helps a girl to feel more in tune with her body and nature by allowing this naturally occurring event to dictate when a ceremony will take place.

To clarify:

Do feminists hate men? I'd estimate that most feminists do not hate men, though some might. Feminism is "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary), not the theory that any gender is better than another.

Do I think a menarche ceremony is the only meaningful way to address menarche? No, I just think it can be a good way to do it, but I'm sure that some girls would prefer not to share this experience with friends and parents' friends. Of course, a girl's preferences and feelings should be central to how her first period is addressed.

Activists combat the notion that menstruation is gross:

A piece from Ingrid Berthon-Moine's collection of photos of women wearing menstrual blood as lipstick
"consider the idea of tasting your own menstrual blood" -Germaine Greer

Ingrid Berthon-Moine's "Red is the Colour"

Painting using menstrual blood

Why do I think these quirky artistic endeavors are worth mentioning?

1. They send the message that menstruation is beautiful. They feel to me like celebrations of womanhood and menstruation.

2. Since switching to a menstrual cup (instead of tampons/pads), I have been looking for ways to use my own period blood (because a menstrual cup collects it in the cup, rather than absorbing it into fluffy material). Menstrual blood seems potentially useful -- I've considered using it as a dye. I hadn't thought to use it as paint, but that seems like a worthwhile project. It makes a point and it is free paint (paint is expensive!).

3. I think art is a powerful form of peaceful activism.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Everbody is a genius, again

Over a year ago, I posted an image I had made of this Einstein quote:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Albert Einstein

I just came upon this other person's image of the same quote: