Our Minds Scare Them, So They Attack Our Bodies

Photo by: Gabe Gomez NYC
(The brilliant women in my life who support me, love me, encourage me, and push me.)

How many of us have young girls in our lives who look up to us (women) as an example?  On my maternal side, I am one of fourteen granddaughters/great-granddaughters in my family (for scale, there are ten grandsons/great-grandsons).  On my paternal side, I’m one of four females and three males.  Of those eighteen, there are six under the age of ten.  When I interact with them, I have the opportunity to influence them.  The question is, what kind of influence will I choose?

In 2011 I read a blog based on an article that has stuck with me every since.  A Cup of Jo talked about the HuffPo article by Lisa Bloom dealing with how to appropriately talk with little girls.  It deals with the way people address them and what they place value on, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Stereotypically, what is the first thing you want to do when you see an adorable little girl in the cutest outfit?  You want to compliment the way she looks.  I’m with you!  My little cousins are beautiful—but, more than their beauty they are hilarious, intelligent, witty, and observant.  That’s why, from the time I read that article till today, I do my best to ask the young girls I encounter about their interests, school, books, outdoors, anything other than their attire.  It’s hard, though!  Habits are hard to break.

As Bloom put it, “What’s wrong with that? It’s our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn’t it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem? Because they are so darling I just want to burst when I meet them, honestly.”

Here’s why it’s important to break the habit and start talking about things other than clothes and appearance: “Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.”

Imagine, then, the frustration I (and others) feel that as girls grow into young women they are still overwhelmed with the magnifying attention that is constantly placed on their clothing in settings where they are supposed to be growing as contributing human beings (like school, religious settings, clubs and organizations, volunteer situations, etc.).

Earlier today I read an article (one of how many?) dealing with a girl whose male history teacher berated her in front of the class about her clothing and her body shape/size.  It stated, “The teacher reportedly told Anderson she was in violation of the dress code and should be shopping at plus-sized stores. He then went on to lecture the mortified high school student in front of the entire class on how ‘smaller busted women could get away with more than larger busted women,’ the lawyer said in a statement.”

The girl’s mother addressed the issue on Facebook with the following. “I refuse to put my daughter in a situation where her self esteem is completely destroyed. She is there to learn. This whole time she was missing out on an education while we were all sitting in a room discussing her boobs. How often does this happen to your sons? Seems like another way to keep girls uneducated.”

How long are we going to continue allowing people’s and institution’s ideologies harass and abuse females?  How long will we allow the double standard and sole-focus regarding women’s appearances to be the main conversation?  When will say enough is enough?  This is why we need feminism.  This is why females have to support each other, because if we tear each other down, we have taken out our allies.  Our intelligence is not based on the head coverings or crop tops we choose to wear, it’s based on what is in our minds and hearts.



Feminist Isn’t A Bad Word

Over the weekend A and I went to Winston-Salem, NC for a quick trip to meet with friends.  Winston-Salem is also where he went to high school and undergrad, so he takes me to his old haunts whenever we’re in the area.  This time, he introduced me to McKay’s used bookstore.

It has such a great selection of books, movies, CDs, and more.  But seriously, the books.  So good!  I had to practice self-control, because our home is turning into a library (not a bad thing—just a space issue).

However, I’ve really wanted to grow my knowledge of women studies, feminism, etc., and the best way to do that seems to be starting “at the very beginning” (to quote Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music—which I did sing while leaving the store).  So, when I found a great copy of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan with an intro by Anna Quindlen, I grabbed it!

One of my sources of extreme frustration is when I hear or read females (teenage, young woman, woman, older woman—doesn’t matter) say they don’t need feminism.  They typically add that equality isn’t an issue in our country, and that things are far worse in other parts of the world.

I agree…to an extent.  Women in the United States do have more equality than women in, say, Saudi Arabia.  However, as one who has experienced sexism in the work place, social life, etc., I have to advocate for the rights of women—even the ones who say they don’t need it.

Growing up, I thought “feminist” and “feminism” were bad words.  I equated feminists with man-haters.  I never imagined I would become a feminist.  However, in college I encountered three young women, peers of mine, who helped shift my perspective.  Thanks to them, and others, I look for ways to protect myself and other women from patriarchy—whether imposed by men or other women.

We all know the stereotype of females being called “catty.”  That needs to go away, along with the words “nag”, “whore”, “hoe”, “bossy”, and many other terms and phrases that, when used in association with women, are meant to “put her in her place.”  We need to start, from a young age, showing support, advocacy, love, and encouragement to our fellow ladies!  Women supporting women has the potential to create a huge cultural and social shift.  Let’s do this together!

What do you do to help influence the way the world interacts with and treats women?  How do you support the girls/women in your sphere of influence?  I believe it’s an ongoing, reconditioning of how we view the world around us and how we interact with it.

The Stone of American Ethnocentrism


Currently, there are hurricanes wreaking havoc, potential changes to DACA striking fear in young Dreamers, a president who uses far too many adjectives, and the ongoing battles for social justice in areas of race, gender, and religion.

I told you—it’s a lot.

Today, I am pledging my support and action to those with DACA status.  I say this not out of obligation to sound socially aware, but because I worked with DACA students applying for college, saw their hard work and outstanding records, and witnessed the great disadvantages they have, even with legal and vetted status.

Don’t allow the fear-mongering message of Jeff Sessions be what you think about when you envision Dreamers.  Instead, think about young people, twelve years or older, who were brought to this country by their parents and made the United States home.  If deported, they will be sent back to a place that is their country of birth and (probably) little more.

The Department of Homeland Security and The Department of Justice should consider renaming themselves if they feel threatened by less than 800,000 young people who contribute to the infrastructure of this nation.  They work, they file taxes, and have clean records (read this report from factcheck.org).

In the words of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “We understand what’s going on in Washington. And we know that when bullies step up, you have to step to them and step to them quickly. And that’s what we’re here to do today. … By definition, DREAMers play by the rules. DREAMers work hard. DREAMers pay taxes. For most, America is the only home they’ve ever known. They deserve to stay here.”

The United States was created by the invasion of illegal immigrants who terrorized the people living here upon their arrival.  These invaders are many of our ancestors.  How, then, can we do anything other than work to find ways to welcome and empower others fleeing oppressive and dangerous situations—especially when our government is likely one of the reasons they had to leave?  Unlike our forefathers, they are not coming to take over and terrorize.  They are coming to find safety and freedom.

After all, let he/she/they without out sin cast the first stone.

What Should Our Long-term Response Be To Natural Disasters?

Photo taken between Beijing and Tianjin, China (but we have it in the U.S., too)

It’s wonderful to see the outpouring of love and support from so many around the country for the victims of Hurricane Harvey!  When in crises, people rally.

Listening to NPR two days ago really helped me understand what people are facing—even water animals moving out of their habitats (like alligators) make the flooding more dangerous.  While working out yesterday, I watched this short clip from my favorite news source, Democracy Now! The War & Peace Report, which outlined the current situation and key issues.  I highly recommend taking 6.5 minutes to watch it.

Beyond the obvious issues those in flooded areas are facing is the greater problem of the impact damages are having on the people and environment.  As the Democracy Now! story points out, an Exxon Mobile refinery has been compromised, releasing chemicals into the air, with a threat of explosion.  This is scary!  We don’t need more chemicals in the air causing sickness, birth defects, and more.  Additionally, the pollutants in the air will hurt the water, vegetation, and so many other things we rely on.

Sustaining the health of the natural environment is crucial to sustaining life on earth.  If we continually put out disgusting elements into the air and water, what we partake from the earth will be disgusting.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are a reality of nature.  But their intensity is growing—and we can only look to ourselves as the cause.  When unnatural things are put into the environment, the chemistry changes.  The conversations we need to start having with each other, over dinner, at our council meetings, and in the State and Federal governments must revolve around these issues and what steps we can take individually and collectively to lessen the impact.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the hurricane, weather changes, environmental issues, etc.!  Have you felt the impact?

For the Love of All Things Fresh


Starting back in college, I used to think to myself, “I could be a vegetarian…if it wasn’t for the occasional times I really crave meat.”

Then, I started becoming more aware of healthy foods, eating as well as possible, etc.  But, my sweet tooth won more often than it should (sugar post for another day, because that’s a whole other topic).

Before my husband and I were married, we watched Cowspiracy together.  It was fascinating (I took notes while watching).  So many things I’d never thought about regarding food and agriculture were presented to me—and made perfect sense.

So, upon arriving home from our honeymoon, I became an ethical vegetarian.  It was a unique way to kick off married life, but a great way for my husband and me to bond over new recipes, the cravings that would hit when the smells of summer grilling drifted through the window, and finding the best ways to get proper nutrition.

Fast forward a little more than a year, and this week we are getting first hand experience with home grown stuff: gardening, chickens, goats, etc.  It’s fascinating.  I’ll share about my first chicken experience later this week, because one of our favorite things is fresh eggs from local chickens (I’m kind of obsessed…and have been for years).  Since we are chicken sitting…we want to eat eggs three meals a day.  But we won’t.

I know I’m not alone…I’d love to hear your healthy eating/vegetarian/chicken/garden stories!  After all…we are what we eat!

The Politics Behind Marital Name Changes

Photo by: Gabe Gomez NY

I started my feminist journey during college (I know, stereotypical, right?).  It’s constantly evolving as I become more aware, change perspectives, and learn what “feminism” means for me.

One issue that was a real struggle was changing my name.  As stated previously, I didn’t get married straight out of college, and I had worked and done things with my birth surname.  My name is a connection to my family, and changing it felt like erasing that person and connection.  Also, there’s the issue of people not recognizing someone with a name change—an issue men just don’t get.

So, there I was, months, weeks, and days away from my wedding, unsure of what name to choose.  In fact, I may not have decided until after the wedding.  Regardless, I’m pretty well versed in the philosophies of name changing by this point.  I hyphenated, because it allows me to stay connected to my family and connect to my husband and show my love for him.  I’ve avoided making it official, though—because time and complexity.  Socially I’m hyphenated, legally…not so much.

I’ve researched various ways to change my name.  I know about the websites for changing my name—but it doesn’t seem worth it to me because the complicated stuff I have to deal with.  Social security and DMV stuff I can handle, it’s the passport and visa questions that are intimidating me.  There are so many things to consider and items to check off—men have it so easy.

Did you struggle with your name change?  Did your husband consider changing his name to yours, creating a hyphenated name, or an entirely new last name?  I read this interesting article on The Knot that talked through various options, including pros and cons, for same-sex couples.  I’d love to hear your experiences (and tips)!

Meditating on the Eclipse

Before much more time passes, I want to reflect on the eclipse a bit more.

We started popping outside at 1:13PM to see the eclipse. I remember putting on my glasses and looking up for the first time—it was like photos I’d seen, except it was real. 

Over the next 1.5 hours, I noticed new and different things. A bird squealing strangely and flying away. Shadows through the tree leaves making crescent shapes on the ground in kaleidoscope fashion. The eerie light as the moon covered more and more of the sun—it wasn’t like dusk…it was like a simulated effect for a film. 

Then, as it reached totality, the temperature dropped and the crickets began chirping loudly. We stood and stared (safely) in wonder. Around us, we heard fireworks exploding and people whooping. It was as if the entire neighborhood and beyond had stopped to behold the phenomenon of nature. In that moment, we were all humans, smaller than the greatness on which we gazed.  

Afterwards, my friends slowly went back inside. I stayed out, standing still, soaking in the environment and all that had happened. Goosebumps were on my arms. I acknowledged the glorious display of God and nature we had seen. 

Then, turning, I walked back inside. The event over, but the memory still bright in my mind.