Archive for April 2012

Today I was told by my bestie Lisa that she experienced harrassment on campus this week.  I immediately put on my “oh no you didn’t” face and cocked my head to the side.  The story she proceeded to tell me horrified me and I suddenly pictured myself with a purple cape on coming to her rescue and kicking the perpatrators in the balls.  Pissed does not begin to describe the feeling that was bubbling up inside me.  This is my best friend who has suffered an injustice, but even if it were someone I didn’t know, I would be just as pissed.  Let me set the stage for you so you can understand my horror at this occurance.

Victim: Lisa – beautiful woman in her mid 30’s walking to the gym on the college campus where she works; currently changing her diet to try to get to a weight she feels is healthy for her body type; on her way to meet with her trainer who is helping her figure out why she injures herself (obviously not on purpose) after a few months of working out.  She has a healthy grasp on body image and the media pressures on women to be thin, etc… and is by no means attempting to look like the airbrushed models in the magazines.  The average woman is a size 14 and she is well below that.  No one in their right mind would refer to her as fat.

Bastards 1 & 2: Two college guys sitting on a bench on the path to the gym.

Lisa: Hi! (being friendly as she always is)

Bastard #1: (elbows his friend and nods towards Lisa) “Yeah, I like it thick like her.”

Lisa: (looks back at them) “What?!”

Bastard #2: “Actually, no I don’t. Moo.”

Lisa: (in shock and very hurt turns back around and keeps walking to the gym)

Anybody else say OMG WTF?!  Anybody else picture themselves as a superheroin swooping in to save the day and kick some balls?  Let me reiterate that Lisa is no where near the word “fat”.  This is a result of our culture valuing airbrushed models that we’re told are beautiful by those who want to sell us products and get our money.  This is also a result of our society giving guys a free pass to act like complete jerks.  This is also a result of women’s self-esteem being so low because of all the harmful messages our culture/media send them that they starve themselves to an unhealthy weight just to “fit in” and look similar to those airbrushed models who don’t event look like that in real life because they are photoshopped!  Then guys grow up thinking that’s what women are supposed to look like and when they don’t they take it upon themselves to put us in our place to make themselves feel powerful and superior.  FUCK THAT!

Women are too valuable to let ourselves get caught up in this vicious cycle.  They’re distracting us with media images and harassment from participating in our culture as subjects making great changes and bringing us to a place of equality and justice for all.  This is a form of oppression because while we’re busy buying all these products to make us look (or try to look) like they say we need to we’re giving them our money and our power.  The “beauty” industry is a $40 billion industry.  They don’t care how they’re catchy tag lines affect our self-esteem, only that it makes us buy their products.  Imagine all the things you could do with the money you spend on lipstick to plump up those lips, lip liner to define those plump lips, mascara to give you fuller lashes (or thinner depending on the trend) eye liner to make your eyes pop, eye shadow to give you that dramatic look, eye brow pencils to fill in those gappy or thin eye brows, foundation and powder to keep the shine off your face (your natural glow?), bronzer to make you look like you spent a relaxing week at the beach, blush or “cheek stain” to give you a rosy glow (something you may have already had before applying all these layers) and hair color to cover any greys and look like the latest celebrity crush.  I’m sure I forgot something.  You see, I don’t wear makeup.  Not a stitch.  I’m rebelling.  I only wore it for High School Proms and Homecomings, the last few months of high school (might as well use it up after Prom), and the last time was for my wedding in 2005.  I’m not telling you this to cast judgement.  I’m telling you my experience and to show you it can be done (find a partner, get and education, get a job, etc…).  Life does not require makeup.  Otherwise both men and women would be wearing it.

I haven’t even begun to mention the weight loss industry.  Weight-reduction programs, diet foods, drinks, pills, etc…  The weigh loss industry racks in 33 billion of your precious dollars every year. (http://loveyourbody.nowfoundation.org/factsheet.html)  “In 2001, 8.5 million people had cosmetic procedures.  Of those 88% were women.” (http://loveyourbody.nowfoundation.org/factsheet1.html).  In 2008, Men’s Health magazine reported that Richmond, VA was the #7 “nip-and-tuck capital” of the U.S.  That’s right down the road people!  Norfolk, VA was listed as #75!  We made the top 100 woohoo! (NOT)  If you buy magazines, flip through them and count how many weight loss ads there are as well as how many make-up or other “beauty” ads you find.

Still think those media messages I keep referring to are a bunch of hullabaloo?  Bull!  Open your eyes people!  They’re stealing your money and kicking you in the face while they do it.  You wouldn’t let someone do that in person so why the hell are you letting them do it from the comfort of their fancy office?  Right?  If you were mugged and assaulted you’d press charges and send the cops after them.  Why is this any different?  You have a voice, use it!  Write letters to advertisers and tell them why you won’t be purchasing their products anymore.  About-Face.org has some great examples of people who have done just that.  And, they list the mailing addresses that you need to do so.

Those bastards who harassed my bestie are a product of our culture.  Let’s talk about masculinity for a second.  Our culture and our media tell me to be strong, save the day, kill the bad guy and women (only the ones who look like the “ideal”) will flock to you and throw themselves at you letting you fling them back in the pack when you’re done with them.  They’re told women are object there for men’s pleasure.  No wonder they don’t value us.  No wonder they harass us on the street.  They’re told that’s how men behave and let them get away with it.  They’re told don’t cry or be sensitive and be a man (which I would argue that such behavior is anything but manly – I call these deviants “guys” because calling them a real man would require them to behave as such.  My husband is the perfect example of a real man.  But I digress).  Have you seen the ads aimed at college guys?  “Liquor ’em up, boys, and they’ll be your playthings for the night!”  Anybody ever heard of consent?  A person cannot legally consent to sexual activity if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, whether voluntarily or not.  And yes, that’s the law in Virginia too.  So basically these ads are promoting rape.  Hey dads, do you really want your daughter to experience this?  No?  Then do something about masculinity in our culture!  Speak up for god’s sake!  This is not just a woman’s issue.  This is a human issue.

And what the fuck do guys do to impress us once we’ve gone through all this self-torture to look beautiful for them?  They harass us on the street and tell us everything we’ve done is not enough.  And they’re right.  Nothing we do will ever be good enough in this culture.  Because those beauty standards are impossible, even for models.  We pick each other apart because of our own insecurities because of the “rules” of our culture.  But those rules are fluid and changeable if we speak up and do something about it.  Just having the discussion out there has created all sorts of waves in the industry.  Dove has a “Campaign For Real Beauty”.  Glamour magazine has committed to not use photoshop so much on their images (I’m hoping they’ll keep that up.  More on that later once I have a chance to analyze.)

So back to the harassment of my beautiful bestie Lisa.  I can guarantee most of us have experiences something like this.  So what do we do?  We arm ourselves against it until our culture changes so we feel safe walking around in the world.  Because women are tired of being harassed a group got together and created the Hollaback website and app.  http://www.ihollaback.org/  Go check it out and download it on your phone if you have one of those.  Basically they collect women’s stories and pictures in a “safe and sharable way” which “brings attention to this long-ignored issue” and the goal is to shift public opinion and behavior.  You can literally see on a map where women experience harassment.  If enough harassment occurs in one area, this is something you could bring to your law makers.  So many possibilities!  So when this stuff happens to you or a friend, don’t just let it go!  Tell someone!  It may inspire them to write a blog post and share with their friends who share with their friends, etc…  (Like I’m doing)  Or it may add to the larger picture in an area where women experience a high volume of harassment and get policy and law makers to get off their patooties and do something about it.  Again another example of how using your voice can change our world.  You are more powerful than the beauty industry would like you to believe.  Wake up and smell the revolution! 

Another thing you can do it tell your girlfriends that not only are they beautiful the way they are, but how strong, capable, intelligent, special they are.  Compliment them!  Don’t pick them, yourself, or other women apart.  Let’s change the image of women from objects to subjects and participate in our culture instead of letting it dictate to us what we should and shouldn’t look like, how we should or shouldn’t behave, and what we can or cannot do in with our one life.

As for the guys who harassed my bestie, I only have one word: Karma.  Or, as my momma calls it “come-up-its”…they’ll get theirs.  I have faith in the universe and humanity that this injustice will be righted.

I’m thinking I should get myself that purple cape… 🙂

(Photo: My bestie Lisa.  See, isn’t she beautiful!)



(Disclaimer: views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of my own and do not represent that of anyone I might work for)

If you’ve been paying attention lately you are aware that there is a war on women.  If you are not aware, it’s time to wake up.  Republicans across the country are trying to (and have been) pass laws that tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.  Mostly this centers around reproductive rights.  From transvaginal ultrasound requirements before abortion in Virginia (which was changed but a law was still passed requiring an ultrasound) to telling doctors in Arizona that they can lie to their patients about the health of a fetus if they think you might get an abortion based on that information.  This is really scary stuff!  It’s like all that work that our mothers did in the 2nd wave of feminism is now turned upside down and we have to fight the same fight.  They’re even threatening access to birth control!  You know what bad men (not all men, just the bad ones and the women they’ve brainwashed) do to women in our society?  They sexualize us at a young age (have you seen the girls clothes in Wal-Mart lately or watched Toddlers and Tiaras?), pressure us into having sex before we’re ready (and the incidence of rape in our culture is outrageous), and tell schools they can only educate us about abstinence (which does not work when there is constant pressure to have sex and be sexy, but not too sexy, in order to have men’s approval or “fit in”).  Now they’re telling us we don’t have a right to access to affordable birth control, and if we get pregnant we should choose adoption (like that’s an easy choice) and if we choose abortion we’re going to hell.  If I’m going to “hell” for making my own decisions then I’ll be in good company.  As I write this a very appropriate Everlast song is playing on the radio.  See lyrics below:

“Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love
He said don’t worry about a thing baby doll I’m the man you’ve been dreamin’ of
But three months later he said he won’t date her or return her call
And she sweared god damn if I find that man I’m cuttin’ off his balls
And then she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walkin’ through the doors
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner, and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose
Then you really might know what it’s like”

I’ve been talking about this with friends but I felt it was time to make more of a public personal statement about this whole war on women.  I’m not sure that many will read this, but I need to use my voice so here it goes.

When I turned 18 I asked my mother to help me get birth control.  I had never had sex before but I was in a committed and loving relationship with the man I knew I would marry (and I did).  I was also going off to college and I was aware of the horror stories about women getting raped in college (and in the real world too).  I now know that 1 in 4 college women will be raped in their lifetime.  Birth control won’t protect you from STD’s/STI’s, but I could at least prevent a pregnancy if something horrible happened to me.  I’m a girl scout, I like to be prepared.  So on the pill I went thanks to my supportive mother.  I was very responsible (as I was with everything else) and took my pills on time, something that was at times a challenge given that all kinds of stuff happens in college to distract you.  I managed not to get pregnant until I was ready.

I finished my B.S. and M.A., got married, and got a job.  After working and being married a three years my husband and I decided we were ready to have kids.  We made an appointment with my OB/GYN just to get some information on the whole process and things we could do to prepare.  We obviously knew sex was the way to get pregnant, but I wanted information on prenatal vitamins, how long we should try before we worried if it didn’t work, etc…  Turns out that within a month of that meeting I got pregnant!  We were sooo excited!  We posted a picture of FB of us holding a little Led Zeppelin onesie.  We used that same onesie to tell our families the good news.  I made my appointment with my OB/GYN to get an ultrasound at 6 weeks to confirm pregnancy and to make sure everything looked good. 

That’s when things started going down hill.  I started to have spotting before my first appointment.  I called my OB/GYN and they brought me in to see my midwife Sharon.  She told me spotting was normal but that they would check me out to make sure everything was ok.  The urine test came back positive but it was light so they were thinking it was just because I was very early.  I hadn’t had any pains in my side so they were thinking it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy.  However, they couldn’t pic up a sac in my utuerus with the ultrasound.  They sent me to get a blood tests (which I am NOT a fan of…I pass out easily) a couple days apart to see what my HCG levels were and if they doubled/tripled which would mean my pregnancy was progressing as it should.  Well the numbers only went up a little bit so I had to get a few of these blood tests.  They called me in for another ultrasound after about 4 blood draws to see if they could pic up the sac.  They said they were worried I might have an ectopic pregnancy (stuck in my fallopian tube).

Sure enough, the fertilized egg/fetus got stuck in my right fallopian tube.  If it were to stay there it would get bigger and basically explode in my tube.  That meant serious health risks and the possibility of not being able to use that whole side of eggs for future pregnancies.  Thank goodness I was so on top of things because with me being so early on I was able to get a shot which would eventually expel the pregnancy and I would not need surgery.  If I were further along I would need surgery and other really scary things could happen like death.  While I was at the dr’s office I think I was in shock/numb and just going through the motions.  I knew what I had to do and I trusted my doctors.  They took very good care of me.  I was able to hold in my emotions until I was at home.  I was so disappointed!  Bill and I had planned this pregnancy and did everything by the book.  Things like this just happen.  Ectopic pregnancy is pretty common (as is miscarriage) but most women don’t know about it.  That’s why it’s so dangerous.  Thank goodness I have good insurance that paid for me to get done what needed to be done to save my life and that of my future children.  If Republicans had their way, I would not have had access to that shot and would probably be sterile or maybe dead as a result.  I read a story about a woman this morning who was 22 weeks and her water broke and because of the laws Republicans had passed her doctor could not deliver or abort even though she had an infection.  She had to wait 10 days to deliver on her own and then watch her baby (which she had planned and wanted) gasp for air and die.  This resulted in her not being able to have children in the future because of an infection.  I can’t even imagine the pain that must have caused her.

I had a few days of really painful cramps as my body and the medicine did their job of expelling the sac.  My mom came and stayed with me and took care of me while Bill was at work.  Otherwise Bill was taking good care of me.  He really was wonderful through the whole process.  Work was wonderful too.  They gave me the time off that I needed to heal.  I blogged about the whole experience and found that several of my friends had a loss as well.  They talked to me about it and really appreciated that I was putting my story out there so other women could see it wasn’t taboo to talk about.  Knowing you’ve got folks in the boat with you is a comforting feeling.  I am very aware that there are many women that aren’t as lucky as I was.  There are women who don’t have health insurance or supportive spouses or bosses.  We need to change our culture so that all women are able to have access to good health care and time off from work to heal.  We also need to hold men responsible for their part in the reproductive process.

A month or so later Bill and I announced that I was pregnant again.  I didn’t wait until I was out of the first trimester like many folks tell you to.  If something was going to happen again, I was going to talk about it because it was healing for me and also for other women.  That time I made it through the whole pregnancy and now have an amazing three year old son Jackson.  He’s so loving and smart and curious and a huge joy in my life.  After Jackson was born I got an IUD for birth control at my 6 week checkup (thank you insurance).  I didn’t have to think about taking a pill everyday and I couldn’t feel the IUD in my uterus.  It’s a great option!  A couple years later when we were ready for our second child I made an appointment with my OB/GYN to get my IUD removed so we could try for baby #2.  A few weeks later I was pregnant! 

I’m now 7 months pregnant with our second child and looking forward to the joy this one will bring to our little family.  This is what planned parenthood looks like.  Bill and I decided as a team when we would have kids given both of our academic and professional goals.  We were responsible and luckily had access to birth control which is only 99% effective but we managed not to have any slip-ups.  I was able to survive an ectopic pregnancy because I have health care providers that care about my well being and don’t have an anti-woman/anti-choice agenda.  Now Republicans are trying to strip away these basic rights and it is detrimental to the health of women, children and our society as a whole.

If you have not been previously paying attention then I encourage you to do so.  If you have a story that you’d like to share about how having the basic right to choose your reproductive health care has helped you, then I encourage you to do so.  Use your voice!  If we don’t, they will certainly take it away from us.  Republicans are nostalgic for the days when women were barefoot and pregnant housewives who had no academic or professional goals.  There are still women today who are stay at home mothers and housewives but that is their choice and I commend them for it because it is hard work.  Women have come to far and fought to hard to go back to a time when we had no choices.  We make an amazing contribution to society and they haven’t seen all that we’re capable of.  I believe women are the answer to a peaceful world and we can’t reach our full potential (or the full potential of our society) until we quash their war on us and secure our basic rights.  We can do this with our voice so speak up and get organized!  There are plenty of groups out there supporting women’s rights that you can support and get involved in.  Believe in yourself and your inner strength.  Don’t let them take us backwards.  We are worth more than that.  Let me hear your voices!

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