I actually started crying during a work-related meeting last week.
Thankfully, I was with a group of women who understood my melt down.
An employee with a local domestic violence program was sharing how her agency has been dealing with the local fall out from accusations against now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
They’ve experienced a significant increase in the number of calls from women who needed to talk about incidences they’d kept quiet for decades]. Their efforts to convince Senator Joe Manchin to consider how his confirmation vote would impact rape and domestic violence survivors had been frustrating. And then there was her story about the teenage girl who had called insisting that she had to meet with a counselor immediately.
The girl said she had been sexually assaulted by a boy at her high school, but her parents wouldn’t believe her. At least she was convinced they wouldn’t believe her.
They had, after all, spent the past few days calling Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, a liar. And they had insinuated that a teenage girl should have known better to go to a party where there was drinking.
The girl pleaded for a counselor to listen to her story then speak to her parents. She believed they were more likely to listen to a professional than they were to her own daughter.
Listening to that story is what made me cry.
Only days earlier, a childhood friend had shared via social media her story of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.
And I hadn’t known.
I had spent countless nights at her house and gone on trips with her family. I had coveted her canopy bed, her horses, her boat and her ability to fit in with the popular kids.
And the whole time I’d been comparing her seemingly cool life to mine, she had found safety and reprieve in my childhood home.
Only decades later would I discover the vast chasm between the reality of her life and the one she presented to the rest of the world.
Which is actually true for most people.
We can never know the full truth about someone else’s life but only what they choose share.
But we should all feel safe sharing our own truth without being shamed or blamed or dismissed when our reality doesn’t match what other people want to hear.
So here’s to the truth sayers, the people who believe them and the people who won’t tolerate those who want to silence them.
You are my tribe.
When I was a kid, I never really got the Virginia Slims “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” advertising campaign.
Maybe that’s because I associated it with cigarettes, and I had been (thankfully) brainwashed that cigarettes were very, very bad.
But now I get the genius in that marketing plan. I’m still not a fan of cigarettes, but I am a fan of how far women have come in the last century.
Take, for instance, the Facebook post I woke up to on Sunday morning.
A friend had tagged me in an article about women and cycling in 1895: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/01/03/donts-for-women-on-bicycles-1895/
Realizing how far women really have come is a guarantee that I will smile.
Day 306: Recognizing How Far Women Have Come Day 305: Creative House and Yard Decorations Day 304: The Power to Forgive Day 303: Marrying Someone Who Always Knows How to Make Me Smile Day 302: People Who Sport the Breaking Bad Car Magnet Day 301: The song of the whippoorwill Day 300: Coming Home Day 299: Clean Water Day 298: Blue Bells Day 297: Listening to Books When Driving Long Distances Day 296: Walking in the Woods Day 295: The Warm Sun on My Face Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day Day 292: Dreams Day 291: “What a Wonderful World” Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home king with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs Day 287: The View From Above Day 286: The Wisdom of Mr. Rogers Day 285: The Princess Bride Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277: The Smiling Cow Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils Day 269: April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music Day 267: Country Roads Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260: Nostalgic Theme Songs Day 259: Appreciating Life’s Rewards Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers Day 257: The arrival of Spring Day 256: Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer Day 255: Thoughtful Husbands Day 254: The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean Day 252: Conversations in Cars Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect Phrase Day 243: Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi Day 241: Contagious Smiles Day 240: Oklahoma Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check Day 237: Only 28 days in February Day 236: Genuine Signatures Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234: The Words “Happy Birthday” Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents Day 232: “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224: Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated Day 212: “The Soul” Quote Day 211: Rubber Ducky Day 210: Tracks in the Snow Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days Day 206: Dogs Playing in the Snow Day 205: Descriptive Phrases Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help Day 200: Boys and Their Toys Day 199: The Most Important Person Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children Day 196: Being Told I’m Young Day 195: Good News Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be Day 191: Matt Groening Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work Day 187: Funny Phone Calls Day 186: Healthy Lungs Day 185: Reality Checks Day 184: Coincidence Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories Day 180: A soak in a bathtub Day 179: Optimism Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes Day 173: Family Acceptance Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song Day 170: Positive People Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids Day 168: Jealous Pets Day 167: Family Christmas Recipes Day 166: Church BellsDay 165: School Holiday 164: Unexpected Grace Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control Day 162: Anticipating a good story Day 161: Hope Day 160: When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment Day 159: Surprises in the Mail Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial Day 157: A Garage on Winter Days Day 156: Real Christmas Trees Day 155: Being a Parent Day 154: Selfless People Day 153: Nelson Mandela Day 152: Memorable Road Trips Day 151: Great Neighbors Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself Day 149: Love Letters Day 148: The first day of Advent Day 147: The Breakfast Club Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude Day 144: Watching My Dog Play Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met Day 142: When Our Children Become Role Models Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness Day 140; People Watching Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage Day 136: Postcards from Heaven Day 135: Mickey Mouse Day 134: Generous Souls Day 133: I’m Moving On Day 132: A Family That is Really Family Day 131: A Personal Motto Day 130: Mork and Mindy Day 129: The Bears’ House Day 128: Veterans Day 127: Doppelgangers Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky Day 124: When History Repeats Itself Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122: Helen Keller Day 121: The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song Day 120: Sheldon Cooper Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends Day 117: Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season Day 115; Life Experience Day 114: Changes Day 113: The Wooly Bear Caterpillar Day 112: The National Anthem Day 111: Parents Who Care Day 110: Good Friends Day 109: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss Day 108: A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades Day 105: The Peanuts Gang Dancing Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language Day 103: The Electric Company Day 102: Doing the Right Thing Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green LightsDay 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of HayDay 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
I was once told that members of Generation X don’t have any heroes.
We are the first generation that experienced the real-time exposure and humiliation of preachers (Jim Baker) and politicians (Gary Hart).
We are the first generation that experienced around the clock media scrutiny, the paparazzi and the loss of privacy.
But I disagree that we don’t have heroes. Our heroes are just different.
My heroes are the women who fought for equal rights. My heroes are the women who shared their own struggles and believed in me. And my heroes are the women who cared more about the needs of others more than their own needs.
I am incredibly fortunate that I personally knew many of these women.
I am also fortunate that others wrote books.
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books.
Harper Lee never wrote another because she never had to.
She said everything that needed to be said in To Kill a Mockingbird, and each time you read it, you discover a new truth.
Her one masterpiece always makes me smile.
Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green Lights Day 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s Victory Day 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His Masculinity Day 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of Hay Day 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still Remember Day 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessons Day 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
I always appreciate when someone else gets outraged. That’s not to say I ever want someone to get angry. But since I’m usually the person loudly stating my opinions or expressing indignation at some injustice, I can relate when others do the same.
I was getting my hair done the other day when another woman was waging a battle.
“My unemployed uncle,” she said, “is posting the most ignorant comments on Facebook. “He’s collecting unemployment and complaining about people who use food stamps. He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.”
The woman typed something into her phone as she talked. “It’s not even food stamps any more. There are no stamps. It’s called SNAP and you get the benefits on a card.”
She typed something else then put down her phone.
“You would think,” she said, “he would know better than to make those comments when he knows I’ll see them.”
The woman who was speaking is knowledgeable, well spoken, hard-working and generous. She recently donated a half-day spa treatment to charity, and she won’t get paid for the hours she provides the service. She made the donation because the charity helped her when she was a teen mom.
“When I was a 17,” she said, “I had a child, was working and going to school. I was anything but lazy.”
A few minutes later, she picked up her phone again.
“Oh this is priceless,” she said. “He just posted that there should be special stores for people who get food stamps. He thinks those stores should be specially stocked with low-price items and no beer or cigarettes.”
As she typed in a response, another woman said, “Well I have to agree that people shouldn’t be allowed to buy beer and cigarettes with food stamps.”
“They aren’t,” several of us said at once.
Granted, SNAP recipients can use their cards to buy food and use cash to buy beer and cigarettes. Unfortunately, those are the minority everyone notices. What we don’t notice are the people like the older woman I saw the other day using coupons with her SNAP card.
The conversation led to a short educational session about how people actually can’t buy beer or cigarettes with their SNAP cards. Neither can they buy toilet paper, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, toothpaste nor other necessities that aren’t food. Everyone agreed that the federal program would be more beneficial if it operated more like WIC, which provides vouchers for specific, healthy and nutritional food.
“What did you say back to your uncle?” I finally asked.
“I suggested that if he thinks poor people are such a problem, then maybe we should have special schools just for poor kids. Not only that, but we need to stencil the letter “P” for poverty on all their clothes. You know, we should make sure we marginalize them so they don’t have any hope at all.”
For the remainder of my hair appointment, no matter what the topic, we kept coming back to the concept of special stores. People who sing off-key in public? Special stores. Rude people? Special stores. Snobs? Special stores. Wait, they think they already have them.
As I was scheduling my next appointment, I asked the woman if her uncle had responded to her latest comment.
“No,” she said, “He must have figured out that you don’t mess with someone who has received food stamps. Some people might think I was a drain on society and never contributed anything, but I’m pretty sure I have.”
Everyone in the beauty shop agreed with her.
I’ve been feeling rather sorry for Condoleezza Rice lately, and my sympathy has nothing to do with the fact that she will be forever associated with the George W. Bush administration.
I feel sorry for her because so many people want to turn her into a measuring device.
“How can the Democrats claim there is a war on women? Condoleezza Rice proves that’s just propaganda manufactured by liberals who are pandering for women’s votes.”
“Condoleezza Rice demonstrates that any woman can succeed if, instead of relying on the government, she just applies herself.”
While I take issue with those statements, I have no problem with the woman who inspired them. I admire Condoleezza Rice. She’s a smart, accomplished and successful woman. Even though I may not always agree with her politics, I do believe she is a fantastic role model for young woman across our nation.
I just don’t believe that she’s a yardstick .
I’ve spent most of my life trying to break my innate tendency to compare myself to other women. I’ve compared my looks, my body, my talents, my personality, my lifestyle and my parenting skills to others. Instead of embracing my unique blend of strengths, weaknesses, quirks and experiences, I simply saw my flaws and failures. I don’t want that for my daughter or for any other female. And I don’t want them to judge women who don’t possess the talent, intelligence or opportunities to achieve what others may define as success.
Yet they are hearing that, because some women have reached the top, all others have to do is simply “try harder.”
That was certainly the message from those who opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
If only working hard were a guarantee of an adequate paycheck and the appropriate recognition. In reality, the workplace is a harsh and very unfair place. I’ve worked hard only to watch those who didn’t zoom right by me. I’ve seen pretty women take advantage of their assets and maneuver their way past others into better jobs and higher paychecks. And I’ve seen the “good old boy” network benefit those who already had the advantage.
While great strides have been made for women in the workplace, the dollars still tell the story. In 2010, the U.S. Census American Factfinder indicates that 17.9% of families with children were living below the poverty level. That number jumped to 39.6 for families with a female head of household. Despite the increase in the number of men who are taking on active parenting and caregiving roles, nothing will ever change the fact that women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth. And now, their ability to even make decisions about that has been under fire by people such as Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who doesn’t even understand the biology of conception.
Condoleezza Rice has never married nor had children. I have no idea–nor is it any of my business– whether this was a conscious decision or just the result of the many choices she made throughout her life. I do know that she never had to make arrangements for child care, leave work early to pick up her child at school or miss important meetings when a child was sick.
And I’ve never heard anyone claim that she was an underachiever or compare her to women who have careers and children.
But maybe that’s because some yardsticks are defective and only measure what the user wants them to show.
This week, Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown was banned from the House floor for uttering the name of a body part.
She, unlike her male colleagues, actually has that body part.
Personally, I’ve said the word countless times. I’ve taught my kids that it’s an appropriate word, unlike the slang terms that are often used. I’ve even attended a play that features the word in the title and in the script.
But I don’t want to get banned from writing or labeled an extremist, so I’m not going to actually include it here.
I know that’s sad.
But sadder still is that, in 2012, a woman was reprimanded for saying it.
I shouldn’t be surprised. This has been an especially bad year for women.
Access to birth control has been threatened. Equal pay for equal work is being discounted. Ridiculous and invasive medical procedures (procedures that actually include the banned word) have been considered for legislation.
And women who stand up for their rights have been called sluts (because that is apparently not as offensive as a the name of a body part) on a nationally syndicated radio show.
I’m not just feeling belittled and a bit angry, I’m feeling frustrated.
I thought women were making progress. I thought the country was making progress. I thought individuals were important regardless of how much money they make, where they were born, what their sexual orientation is or, most important to me, what sex organs they were born with.
But since we are now engaged in a debate about what words are and are not appropriate to say during a political debate, I’d like to propose five that shouldn’t be part of any discussion.
1. Socialism. In recent years, this term has been used to perpetuate divisiveness and bitterness. It is being used to suggest that it is not American to believe those who have more resources have a responsibility to help those who are struggling.
2. Obamacare. I don’t believe that access to health care should be the responsibility (or fault) of one particular party or individual. It’s about all of us. Health care reform is complicated and hard to understand. But quality, affordable health care is also critical (and currently not accessible) to too many Americans. I have family and friends who have had cancer, high blood pressure and chronic sinus conditions. These are all pre-existing conditions that can drive personal health-care costs sky high. Most of my professional life I’ve been in jobs that either didn’t offer health insurance or offered it at an incredibly high price. I’m a very hard-working person, and I take extreme offense at being told that I don’t deserve the same access to health care as some one who has a different employer. Let’s be rational and talk about the issue rather than about specific politicians and leaders.
3. Christian. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have the greatest respect for God, religion and faith. But America was established on religious freedom, and we are going backward when we make any one religion the basis for laws. Of course our laws should be based on moral and ethical principles, but most religions are based on strong values. Let’s not marginalize people of different faith by holding up Christians as the only religion that counts.
4. Undeserving. This word makes my heart hurt. By using it to broadly describe any group of people is unfair and incredibly biased. It is also very effective. It allows some people to pat themselves on the back for being deserving while belittling people who are different. People hit hard times for a wide variety of reasons, many of which are beyond their control or rooted in a childhood that never gave them a chance. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t set expectations for people or encourage them to take care of their own needs. But lets provide them with skills and opportunities rather than blame and labels.
5. Penis. If vagina isn’t allowed, then we shouldn’t be allowed to say penis either.
Whoops. Did I just say vagina? There go any hopes of a political career.
Hopefully, I will still be allowed to share my thoughts and opinions. And hopefully this post doesn’t get deleted as a result of actually naming a body part.
There are times when I wish I could be one of those women content to accept that the world is unfair and that some people are more important than others.
If I could actually believe that, life would be so much simpler.
The problem is that simple bores me and unfairness angers me, especially when it’s perpetuated by people who use inequality to meet their own need for influence, power and/or sense of security.
Even though I hate discrimination of any type, my personal experiences are limited to dealing with sexism. And lately, we seem to be moving backwards on that issue.
Women are facing more sexist attitudes than we did when I was in my twenties. At least it feels that way. Maybe because when I was younger, I attributed personal slights to my being inexperienced. But now, I’ve got a whole lot more experience yet the attitudes and behaviors persist. And women are having to fight battles I thought we’d won years before.
Admittedly, I’ve been more passive than I should be.
Perhaps it’s because protecting myself has sometimes outweighed standing up for what’s right. Or perhaps it’s because sexism can be so subtle that people have made an art form of camouflaging it. Or perhaps it’s because the issues are just too confusing.
Take, for example, shoes.
I recently heard that a woman who wears high heels (but not too high) is taken more seriously in the workplace than a woman who wears flats.
As someone who would sleep in high heels if it were feasible, you’d think I’d find this piece of information encouraging. Not at all.
The whole issue is absurd. The height of a woman’s shoe shouldn’t matter at all as long as she can do her job. But apparently it does. And since women have a lot more choices than men when it comes to footwear, we are also more likely to make decisions that can distract from our skills and abilities.
The same can be said for words we use to describe ourselves. Take, for example, the word feminist.
There are those people who picture a feminist as a woman who hates men, doesn’t shave her legs, dresses like a hippy and has extreme points of view about reproduction.
Umm.. no. As a feminist, that doesn’t describe me at all.
I love men. I shave my legs. I wear make-up. I’m not an extremist on any subject, and I even let my daughter play with Barbie.
Being a feminist has nothing to do with how I dress or who I love.
It’s about taking time to question how women are being treated. It’s about ensuring that, when other factors are equal, women are given the same opportunities as men. It’s about pushing people to think about how fair they are being.
Would the salary be the same if a man had the job? Does a woman really have the same opportunity to break into the “good old boys’ network? Is the spouse’s employment relevant?
Ironically, as I was writing this, my daughter looked over my shoulder and asked, “What exactly is a feminist?”
“It’s someone who believes women should have the same opportunities as men,” I said.
“Duh,” she said in a voice and manner that only 10 year-old girls can get away with.
“Exactly,” I said. “Duh.”
And hearing that one word come out of my daughter’s mouth put the fight right back in me.
Watch out world, this feminist in high heels is on a mission to ensure life is more fair for her daughter.
I’m beginning to think that America suffers from bi-polar disorder when it comes to issues related to sex and relationships.
Either that, or we are simply a country of hypocrites.
Since I’d like to believe we aren’t a bunch of hypocrites, I prefer to blame our attitudes and behavior on something else.
But whatever the reason, we are definitely a country of extremes.
On one hand, the United States continues to have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world: a rate almost three times that of Germany and France and over four times of that Netherlands (http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/419?task=view). On the other hand, we have a really difficult time talking to our children about sex and sexuality.
Years ago, I felt completely beaten up when I was battling the issue of “abstinence only” education versus comprehensive sex education. But then, the issue got personal: I had children, and I want them to develop safe and healthy attitudes.
This means providing them with as much accurate information as possible. This also means providing them with the tools to use that information wisely and to feel comfortable talking with me about anything. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll help find it.
But I’m learning that’s often the exception. A lot of parents want to avoid any conversation. Period.
They freak out when certain body parts or behaviors come up in conversation, and they attempt to steer the discussion elsewhere.
This is ridiculous considering what our kids are exposed to every day in the media. I remember when 8:00 was reserved for family friendly television programs. Now, it’s hard to find anything on network television that doesn’t center around sexual humor and innuendo or that doesn’t portray casual sex as the expectation rather than the exception.
I’ve found myself explaining more to my daughter between 8:00 and 8:30 than at any other time of the day. But the discussion also becomes an opportunity to share my values, which I hope she and her brother eventually appreciate. And I hope both my children understand how self-love and independence are far more important than being in a relationship, at any age.
But that’s not easy, especially with girls. While the public service messages and textbooks are telling girls they can be anything, the rest of the world seems to be broadcasting that being in a relationship is what they should be striving for.
I was recently at a birthday party for a 10-year-old girl who was crying because her boyfriend had broken up with her. She had just turned ten, and she was crying over a boy. I just didn’t get it, and when I don’t get something, I ask questions.
First, I asked my daughter. Always her mother’s daughter, she said she didn’t get it either.
“Some of these girls always have to have a boyfriend,” she said. “It’s stupid. They waste so much time on that rather just having fun with their friends.”
I agreed, but, in a concerned manner, approached the mother about the issue. Her response? “I know, she’s heartbroken and will be up all night worrying about it. Hopefully, she’ll get over him soon.”
Get over him soon? At (barely) ten?
But then, I should have known better. This comment came from a woman who, recently re-married, has a signature on her text messages that reads “I love (the name of her husband).”
I’m thinking maturity regarding relationships isn’t her strength.
When I told a friend about how the girl didn’t enjoy her tenth birthday party because she was upset about losing her boyfriend, his response was, “They are just imitating what they see adults do.”
That’s what scares me most of all.
Despite efforts to build their self-esteem, I’m afraid the predominate message girls receive is that being in a relationship is a measure of who they are. Is that why so many woman are involved in abusive relationships? Is that why one in four women will experience domestic violence in her life and why an estimated 1.3 million woman are the victim of physical assault by an intimate partner every year? http://www.ncadv.org/.
But I can’t blame the media too much. They simply sell what people are willing to buy, such as magazines with pictures of unrealistically beautiful and barely dressed women on the covers. Apparently, our country is fine with seeing pictures of half-naked woman while in line at the grocery store, but is struggling with issues of breastfeeding in public: http://healthland.time.com/2011/12/27/the-nurse-in-why-breast-feeding-moms-are-mad-at-target/?xid=gonewsedit.
We need laws so mothers can breast feed their babies, but we are forced to look at “stars with cellulite” while buying milk?
I understand that we all get mixed messages, but our country is one big mixed message, especially when it comes to the human body, sex and relationships.
If it was up to me to resolve the issue, I’d say we need to start with some honest discussion about what we really value rather than what we pretend to value.
But then, I also know Americans have a love/hate relationship with honest discussion.
I’m guessing that’s also part of our disorder.