How Frequently Do You Feel Unsafe?

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Over the weekend one of my close friends, Sarah, was visiting.  We had deep and fun conversations, many of them revolving around women’s issues—particularly the lack of feeling safe in certain circumstances, men feeling they can act familiarly with us even when they don’t know us, and the things we females do and think about because of the simple fact that we are women.

A few examples are:

  • Walking to the car with your keys or a sharp object in your hand;
  • Checking under and in the vehicle before getting in;
  • Being hyper-aware of who is behind you, especially when alone;
  • Feeling unable to adequately defend yourself if needed;
  • Etc., etc., etc.

The issue of unwanted attention from men dominates, by necessity, far too many conversations.  However, I think many of us fear the (almost) inevitable dismissal if we mention it to authority figures (leaders, etc.), because historically that is how society handles claims women make about men.

This leads to my own, recent, experience.  I was in a church service where I knew many of the attendees.  However, there was someone with whom I was unfamiliar sitting two rows ahead of me.  Towards the end, he turned around, made eye contact, smiled, and winked at me.  Instantly, anything amiable I felt (I rarely feel animosity towards strangers) evaporated and was replaced with a sense of invasion of privacy by a stranger.  When he got up a few minutes later and walked by me, I was on guard in case he tried to make physical contact.

I know it probably seems absurd to jump to feelings of fear of someone walking by you and touching you—but as a female, I know that it is not far-fetched.  I know we live in a society where familiar physical interaction (hugs, pats on the arm, shoulder rub, etc.) are “normal.”  But, none of the above give permission to invade a person’s bubble without their permission.

“Personal bubbles” can even expand beyond physical and into the non-physical.  In my experience, winks are fun when given and received by people with a mutual understanding of a relationship of some kind (friendship, family, partner/spouse, etc.), but when given by a stranger, it is a sign of flirtation.  People have the right to go about their business without fielding and/or ignoring unsolicited advances from strangers.  Females should be able to go to school, the store, the park, a place of worship, etc. without feeling unsafe or objectified.

What are some ways you handle unwanted attention from men?  Do you talk with people who could facilitate change about the situations that make you uncomfortable?  If so, what is their response?

P.S. I’m aware this is not solely a female problem, but the majority of the time it is.

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Feminist Isn’t A Bad Word

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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

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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?

The Politics Behind Marital Name Changes

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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)!

Weekends: Work and Play

(Throwback picture from last year’s trip…hiking in the mountains!)

It’s FriYay!  Unlike some, the weekends around here are not always relaxing.  This weekend is going to be a fun blend of play and work.  We are planning to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to Boone, enjoy bagels at my favorite bagel place, Boone Bagelry, wander around, and enjoy lunch wherever A chooses (it’s his hometown).  Then, it’s off to perform with a quartet for a wedding at Grandfather Golf and Country Club.

Do you have any Boone recommendations?  We haven’t been in over a year, so if anything good has popped up, we’d love to know!

Next week is going to kick off in a historical way: the Solar Eclipse!  Are you traveling to get in the direct line of it?  Or, are you satisfied with a partial view?  I’m driving to South Carolina to see friends and the whole eclipse.  I think A and one of his friends are going camping somewhere between Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC to see the eclipse as fully as possible.  I don’t have glasses, though.  Maybe I’ll just do it the vintage way—with a box.

Whatever you do this weekend, I hope it is fulfilling and fun!  Be safe watching the eclipse (it’s only a moment, and you need your eyes forever).

Being Community and Environmentally Friendly: How Do You Do It?

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Today was kind of a big deal.  I got a recycling container from town hall (no more long, stinky trips to the county recycling facility), I went into our local arts center and museum and introduced myself (so many ideas!), and now I’m sitting at my favorite local coffee shop drinking my first ever London Fog (I may be a convert)!

Something I learned while working as a newspaper journalist is the value of connecting with the people in a community—on all sides.  Whether you live in a cute, small area or are navigating your way through an amazing and huge city (I’ve done both), building a community is important—we all want to belong and have those spaces where we can enter and be known.

A few ways I’m doing this is attending monthly town meetings, going into places and intentionally meeting people, and doing my work in a public area instead of in my bedroom.  Also, I’m trying to make environmentally conscious decisions while I’m out and about (a real coffee cup!).  Here is to taking steps for an environmentally and community friendly lifestyle.  Here is to getting involved, meeting people, and becoming known.

What techniques do you use to get to know people in your area?  Do book clubs work?