The Truth About Breastfeeding*

Breastfeeding seems to be a polarizing and controversial subject for some reason. It’s weird that people care so much about how I feed my kid. Hypocrisy abounds around the politics of the breast. I’m not really wanting to open that can of worms but I just feel it needs to be acknowledged. I especially want to acknowledge Westernized conceptions around breastfeeding and how it erases women of color especially but that’s for another day and another post.

*Ok, second of all… every woman has their own unique experiences around breastfeeding and there is literally no wrong path through it. This is about the truth of breastfeeding for me. This is for my daughters and maybe other women just beginning their journey. To have another side. As with everything else on these pages, it centers my own perspective.

I have six kids, three of them came out of my body, I breastfed all three to varying degrees of success and failures but the journey I’m here to talk about is with my youngest, she’ll be 1 tomorrow and what a year it’s been!

I want to say that I encourage breastfeeding, it’s an inexpensive way to keep your baby healthy and well fed. I will provide plenty of resources at the end of this for your reference and review.  I think every woman should try to if they are able but, if you don’t or can’t, that’s cool too. I’m not here to be sanctimonious.

G took to nursing from day one. Her latch, though shallow, was solid and she produced plenty of wet diapers to show for her efforts. I felt really grateful for this because I know, from my own experiences, this is a struggle sometimes.

I took a baby led approach to nursing, she let me know when she was ready and my body adjusted. That is how it has gone all these months. We fell into a pretty solid routine naturally and unless she is sick or something else is off, we stick to it regularly. She nurses a couple of times morning, afternoon, and night.

At 6 months we introduced solid foods, which she also took to enthusiastically.

I began to take a baby led approach to weaning. She tells me when she is ready.

I never expected, her being my last child, I’d want to stop before she did.

A year later, juggling 5 other children and a husband with a chronic, at times debilitating condition, has complicated this journey. I’m tired and there are times, I just don’t want to relinquish control of my body to a part-time nipple terrorist, who is entering mischievous toddlerhood and inclined to give me a good bite!

Sometimes she fights sleep and thrashes in my arms, with breast in her mouth, I’ve received several fat lips from head butting while breastfeeding. I’m tired y’all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ready to be done with a feeding and she’s like, “nah, I’m gonna hang here with your titty for a quite a bit longer, you may want to cancel the rest of your day.”

*sigh*

The guilt just reading that back to myself, for saying it out loud, it eats at me. She’s my last child, I will never have this experience again. Shouldn’t every moment be magical?

prince

That’s not how this works, that’s not how anything in life works, at least not for me. It’s bittersweet. For the most part I am prepared to sit and nurse, happily cuddling my baby while she nestles down to nurse. Often, I move in to kiss her forehead and silently thank the universe for the moment.

Other times (most especially at 2AM), I grit my teeth through the experience, bone weary from a long day, from a year without a full night’s sleep. I grit my teeth and want her to be done….in those times her suckling grates on me. Making me, all of a sudden, possessive of my body, my breast, my nipple.

When she is fighting sleep, whining in my arms, irritated but unwilling to self-soothe, demanding I be at her beck and call. When her belly is full and she doesn’t need to nurse for hunger, rather for comfort, so she keeps popping on and off the breast like it’s a pacifier.

stop

It’s hard to admit this. I don’t want to discourage women from this path. I just need to be honest, this path isn’t always easy. It demands things of not just my physical self but psychologically too. I’m not necessarily, the most naturally, selfless person. I have to work at that. Even as a mother, a role that requires tons of sacrifice. I resent that sacrifice sometimes. That’s real talk. breastfeeding isn’t divorced from that.

It’s not always rainbows and butterflies and while, I’m not pushing her off the breast, I am trying to figure out how I can gain more control of my own body. I have a tremendous support system in my husband and my children and my village is amazing. That helps. When embarking on this journey, it is so important to build a support system. It helps get you over the bumps in the road. There will be some.

 

As promised here are some great breastfeeding resources to help you along your journey!

Kellymom

kellymom

Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine

academy-breast-feeding-medicine

World Health Organization – Breastfeeding

who2

The Leaky Boob

leaky_boob

Medela

medela

Black Women Do Breastfeed

bwdb

Lactation Matters

LactationMatters.png

NAPPLSC

NAPPLSC2.png

Over all this has been a rewarding experience, I have been allowed to bond with my girl in deeply meaningful ways. I’m proud of my working breasts!

Open Letter to Pantsuit Nation

Dear Pantsuit Nation,

You definitely don’t know me. I have been a silent observer of your closed and mostly “private” Facebook group for a few weeks now. Watching you grow into an influential collective. Over 3 million members strong! Your brand is storytelling, especially post-apocalypse. It seems now that the Orange Menace is inevitable…you want to amplify voices affected in the aftermath. Continue reading “Open Letter to Pantsuit Nation”

The Truth about Empowerment

Over the past month or so Kim Kardashian posted an old, nude photo to her Instagram account (this isn’t news, she markets her body like I market my motherhood, successfully).

Photo courtesy Kim K IG
  Photo by Kim K IG

It’s lead to a slew of think and opinion pieces. Everyone from bloggers to my manicurist want to go out of their way to shred her sense of decency. Blaming her for everything from corrupting the minds of young girls to setting the women’s movement back decades. Spoiler alert: our government is doing that in spades all on their own.

I use to be on the “I hate Kim” bandwagon cos, “fuck that bitch, she has no substance.” I changed my mind. Upon some honest reflection, I decided, I have no reason to hate her. A fellow mother and a successful woman (regardless how she won that fame) she is doing what we all do and have done in order to know ourselves better. She’s just living her life.

Her and I are about as far apart as two women can get and I’m ok with that. She’s not my cup of tea. The truth is, nudity isn’t for me, I’ll probably never post pics of my battle-scarred body, riddled with stretch marks, as a means of feeling empowered, though other women do and should if it suits them. That’s just not my brand. I don’t have Kardashian’s lighting or cosmetics budget. It doesn’t mean I have the right to bash and begrudge anyone else for that brand of empowerment.

Society makes it so that there is always an “us v. them” situation with a shit ton of internalized misogyny thrown in for good measure. One only has to tune into morning television or scroll through social media feeds to get a daily dose of shame. There is always someone, somewhere making my womanhood a competition. Shaming someone in order to pick themselves up, like it’s their job and in some cases it is. You can’t be Modest or sexy. If you’re a working mom you are selfish and we all know *presses sarcasm button* stay at home moms are lazy. Oh and if you don’t want to be a mom you’re an evil wench who hates kids. We take a side and we work hard to disparage and shame the “opposition” but really who am I or any of you to fucking judge?

My empowerment is rooted in my selfish need to feel wholly good about me.

I ate this cupcake for breakfast and it felt good
Like, I ate this cupcake for breakfast and it made me feel good about myself

My empowerment comes from being able to define, without shame, my own ideas about feminism in the modern world. I don’t need an advanced degree in women’s studies or to be an expert in women’s history, either. Though I’m sure there will be a slew of people looking to shame me for being an ignorant, embarrassment to my fore-mothers.

I believe feminism is about equality for both men and women, of all races, orientations, abilities, and spiritual beliefs. That’s the only damn requirement necessary for being a feminist.

My point is, I need women to stop putting their personal brand standard on others in order for them to meet some individual criteria of womanhood. I need us to be ok with being empowered however we see fit without being expected to be some sort of monolith for women’s rights.

The truth about empowerment is we are allowed to feel it through any means necessary. Unless you find empowerment through the oppression of others, than you can jump right off a freakin cliff.

The Transgender Community Deserves Unconditional Love 

Love is not a privilege, it is a basic, fundamental, and critical right. Every single one of us is deserving. Love requires only that you let it be. That you ask nothing more of it, that you expect nothing in return. Love by virtue of it’s grace is without condition. It just is, you either do or do not, you either will or will not. When you make it conditional you minimize it and turn it into something else, something selfish. That’s not to say that if you love someone or something harmful you should accept it. You can love unconditionally and you can put conditions on how you expect and deserve to be treated.

Our only requirement on this planet, in my humble opinion is that we treat others the way we ourselves expect to be treated. That’s it, all the other stuff we do to each other, making comparisons and judgments, setting impossible expectations for each other, that comes from our own ideas about how love “should work.”

I understand life requires certain conditions in order to set appropriate boundaries. It is my firm belief, however, that love is boundless and liberating when we do it “right”. Unconditional love is a super power that every person can tap into but there are some rules…

  1. Save judgments for God, the Fashion Police, and actual judges.
  2. Never withhold compassion or empathy.
  3. Be generous with your love.
  4. Be honest and kind.
  5. Learn to see, then accept, then celebrate differences.
  6. Love yourself and others the way you wish to be loved in return.
  7. Seek to uplift, never tear down.
  8. Have faith in yourself and humanity.
  9. Never expect others to think, react, behave, or live like you.
  10. Learn to live and let live, no matter what, no matter who, no matter how (if this confuses you, see commandment #1)

I suppose you could apply this to any single relationship in your life, whether professional, platonic, or romantic. However, I want us to apply these commandments to complete strangers, people we don’t know and may never know. In fact, send that kind of love to people in the Transgender community especially Trans People of Color. A community in danger because they are being seen as unworthy of love, safety, protection under the law.

  • 19% of people have experienced domestic violence at the hands of a family member because of their transgender identity or gender non‐conformity. Of those cases:
    • 65% had attempted suicide, compared to 32% of those who had not been abused
    • 48% experienced homelessness, a rate four times higher than those who were not abused (9%)
    • 47% reported drinking or using drugs to cope with mistreatment, compared to 19% of those who had not been abused
    • 29% had engaged in sex work, a rate four times higher than those who were not abused (7%)
  • 29% of transgender and gender non‐conforming people reported being harassed or treated disrespectfully by police officers
    • Transgender people of color reported much higher rates. Source.

I wish that I could put my heart inside everyone else, so they could see the divine light in themselves. At the end of the day, I only have my words. I can’t really teach you how to love but until then #6 is going to have to do, I promise to keep loving you the way I want you to love me in return and maybe, eventually, everyone I love will love like me.

If you want to do more than love and accept the transgender community unconditionally, you can step up and advocate for them too. To learn more visit The National Center for Transgender Equality.

interview_questions

Where are Women Safe?

I am more than woman, more than mother, more than what is between my legs and I will not be defined nor minimized by it. I keep asking the same question over and over, a question no one can seem to answer definitively. “Where are women safe?” not on college campuses where 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, where they must carry the weight of sexual assault like a mattress. Where are women safe? Not at home since approximately 4 out of 5 rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.

RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization crunched the numbers

1-in-6 copy

Here’s the math. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)–there is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

There are 525,600 minutes in a non-leap year. That makes 31,536,000 seconds/year. So, 31,536,000 divided by 293,066 comes out to 1 sexual assault every 107 seconds.

One sexual assault every 107 seconds…Where are women safe?

I have two daughters, 14 and 7, they are both at risk. I am raising them in a world where they can at any moment become victims of some kind of sexual harassment or assault. Preparing for this is not possible. There is no real way to explain the risks of just existing in a space without instilling a traumatic amount of fear and paranoia inside of them. On the flip side, you are doing a disservice as a parent and by your children if you don’t speak to them about it.

No amount of wishing the world wasn’t the way it was is going to prevent ugly things from existing. Ideally, my girls and I would be able to go anywhere without ever feeling even an inkling of fear for our bodies or lives. This is the way I want the world to be for all women but reality paints a different picture, a picture in which a woman or girl is victimized every 107 seconds.

Where are women safe? My immediate answer is “With me, at arm’s length or closer,” but that ever agitating “reality” insists I can’t possibly be everywhere, always, forever. So we talk, we tell the truth and we do it compassionately. I am not an expert at sexual or child psychology, I am a mom – I’ve put in my 10,000 hours and then some, I’m an expert at momming. Here’s how I address the dangers of sexual assault with my children.

  1. Sexual assault is not a “girl’s problem” – this isn’t a burden for us to carry, this is a reality for us to be aware of. Our girls are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior but their own. Men and boys are responsible for their own impulses, desires, and behaviors. That’s the first basic lesson I provide my children – we are responsible for our own choices and the consequences.
  2. Nothing you wear, say, own, no place you go, nothing you do justifies unwanted attention. Sexual predators are bullies. Recognize them and stay away. This is a good opportunity to point them out on TV, in video games, current events where applicable (i.e. the Chris Brown assault of Rihanna was a serious teaching moment about violence against women).
  3. I will believe you, I will not shame you, nothing you do, now or in the future, will ever stop me from loving and protecting you. Never be afraid or ashamed of my judgement because I will not judge you. If someone hurts you, touches you, makes your insides feel yucky, even if it’s someone you love and trust, tell me, I will believe you. I trust you implicitly.
  4. The world is a patriarchy and women have to demand respect and equality unapologetically. This is neither fair nor right but until we figure out how to fix it we must face it. There are some men who look at women as objects, there are some women who look at themselves as objects. Expect more for yourself without judging others and don’t allow yourself to be disrespected.
  5. Don’t be afraid to protect yourself, at all times. No means no and if you say it and it isn’t heard then you are within all of your rights to defend yourself with any and every tool/weapon at your disposal.
  6. You don’t have to smile at anyone, at any time of day, no matter who is asking you. You don’t have to shake a hand, give a hug, or kiss unless you want to. You are in charge of your body and everything you do with it until the end of time. The choice is up to you and only you.
  7. Don’t be afraid to speak up, use your words and boldly identify your feelings. “No thank you, I don’t want to,” or “I’m sorry to hurt your feelings but I am not interested”. Hurt feelings aren’t permanent but the shame of being manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do lingers for quite a while.
  8. Be responsible for yourself and responsible for each other. Women (and the brothers, fathers, cousins and guys who respect and love us) absolutely should stick together and look out for each other in the world out there. According to the statistics I mentioned above, no one else is really doing that for us. Be aware, talk to each other, talk about sex and love and trust with each other.
  9. Raise your sons to be responsible for their mother’s, their brothers, their sisters. Teach them to be courageous citizens of the world. Teach them to respect themselves and women and honor the individual above the gender or any other superficial thing.
  10. You are precious, you are valuable, you are worthy, and you matter to me. Your mind, your soul, and your presence is a blessing to the world. Carry yourself through the life carefully but unapologetically.

Where are women safe? Are they safe in your heart, in your home, in your community, where you work, or play? If you are having a hard time confidently answering that question then follow it up with “How can I help ensure women are safe everywhere?” because in the time it took me to write this post more than 68 women were sexually assaulted. Our girls deserve better, we all do.

If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) – Free. Confidential. 24/7. You can find more support or learn more at RAINN.

 

feature photo Keep my heart safe by MoonlessNightGirl Deviant Art

Five Ways to Nurture your Intuition

intuition_definitionI have been fine tuning my intuition for years, sometimes it’s loud and obnoxious and very easy to hear. Other times I have to be still for a long time to get any message at all. I think of my intuition as an extension of myself, I need to exercise and nurture it to keep it in good health, to keep it sharp.

It’s vital to develop and nurture your intuition, if you take care of it, it will take care of you. It’s part of self-care and while it may be tricky to listen to and trust yourself it is critical to your well-being. So today I’m dedicating this post to intuition and ways to nurture yours:

  1. Trust yourself: We all make mistakes, open ourselves up to the wrong people, and we’ve all been let down. There’s nothing wrong with us, we are living and learning. We often think of intuition as a magical thing but really it’s about hunches and those are formed based on our past experiences. So with every mistake, every let down, you are learning about the triggers, people, and circumstances that are harmful to you. When you encounter those situations again, your intuition – that first voice or gut feeling – will kick in like an alarm, warning you. Listen to it and trust yourself to know better because you do know better.
  2. Meditate: Being still is the key to knowing what your inner voice sounds like or how to tune into your gut feelings. It’s not easy at first. I’ll be the first to admit, stillness is not one of my strong point, I am accustomed to busy-ness. However, it’s a critical step in nurturing your mind, body, and soul. There are many techniques you can employ in your meditation journey. You don’t have to be a yogi you just have to be still and know how to breathe. It’s challenging, clearing your mind takes incredible discipline so at first this might prove to be more frustrating than helpful but stick with it, it’s worth it. My tips are as follows:
    • Make this a routine part of your day – pick the same time, every time – I do this before bed every night
    • Turn off the TV, phones and anything that might interrupt you
    • Breath and focus on the sound of your breath or the chirping of birds or dripping water (I love meditating on rainy days)
  3. Keep a journal: I am a writer, journaling is an essential part of my life and it’s always come rather easy for me. I realize this isn’t easy for everyone to do but you should try. There is a certain amount of freedom and empowerment by getting things out of your head and onto paper (or your laptop depending on when you were born). I know myself better because of this process and by knowing myself better I am able to trust my intuition immediately, without question. At first you will write about things, what you did, who you saw, where you went. If you keep at it, though, you will eventually move past that and begin to explore your feelings around what you’re doing, who you keep company with, and where you’ve been. This is when it gets good. You can read back on it, meditate and learn from it, and through it find the confidence to trust yourself better.
  4. Remove toxic influences: Whether it’s people, places, or habits, a toxic lifestyle crushes you and numbs your intuition. Cleanse your life of anything that may be damaging to your spirit. Discovering what is toxic in your life will mean incorporating the first three tips on this list. Take an inventory of your life through your meditations or by reading your journal. Note any patterns of bad behavior, triggers, or people who might be harmful. Be honest with yourself about it and above all, trust yourself to know better. This might be the toughest thing to do. It might mean walking away from what is comfortable and familiar but life begins on the other side of your comfort zone so take a leap of faith. Believe in yourself.
  5. Love yourself unconditionally: This is the most important tip I can give. When you love yourself, flaws and all, it is that much easier to trust and listen to yourself. No one knows you better than you, no one will give you the honest advice you really need better than you. It starts with tip #4 and it continues with daily practice and lots of discipline. This is the most cliché tip on the list. my big kumbaya moment, the key to all things is self-love. Everything good in your life will stem from it, including a sharp intuition. So work hard at this, practice everyday and be kind to yourself.

intuition_infographic

 

What does a Modern Feminist Look Like?

I’ve said before that modern feminism is complicated. There really are no rules and women continue to redefine the feminist movement everyday. Fifty years ago the movement focused around reproductive rights – abortion rights to be more specific – and cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut helped pave the way for Roe v. Wade.

Today, as ridiculous as it may seem, we are still fighting for our reproductive rights but, the fight looks a little more diverse than it did before:

nuns

Pictured above is the National Coalition of American Nuns…”we want to make clear that the sin is not a person using birth control. The sin is denying women the right and the means to plan their families.” That is what modern feminism looks like, it’s versatile, we are past the days of feminists as man-hating, butches.

Modern feminists come in every color, shape, size, and even gender:

feminist_looks_like1 feminist_looks_like2
Modern feminism is about raising your voice, speaking your mind, and expressing yourself without fear. It is about standing against forces that seek to oppress and limit women and pushing for social, political, and economic equality. I am proud to be a feminist today because there is still much to fight for and much more to do.

I am in good company as the modern feminists below can attest:

As reported by News.Mic, the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) in Brazil unveiled a shocking statistic: over 65% of surveyed respondents said that, “if dressed provocatively, women deserve to be attacked and raped.” Even more upsetting is that over 66% of those who participated in the survey were women. As you can imagined, this sparked outrage in modern feminists everywhere but in particular, Brazilian journalist Nana Queiroz. She created a Facebook page with the hashtag #NãoMereçoSerEstuprada, or #IDon’tDeserveToBeRaped. Within 24 hours over 32,000 women — and men — joined the page.

Meanwhile, in Nairobi hundreds of women took to the streets to protest after a woman was attacked by men and stripped in public for wearing a mini-skirt.

The Guardian covered the protest and reported a video had emerged online. In response many Kenyans took to social media uniting under the hashtag #MyDressMyChoice. There is also a Facebook group Kilimani Mums organizing “miniskirt protest” in central Nairobi to defend their right to wear what they choose.

kenyan_protestors

Fighting for the right to make choices for our bodies is critical to the modern feminist movement but a modern feminist knows it’s about more than taking up specific causes. Much of modern feminism is about doing what hasn’t been done before and breaking down stereotypes that persist.

Meet Prof Maryam Mirzakhani,

myriam

An Iranian mathematician Prof Mirzakhani – who teaches at Stanford University in California – is the first woman to win the Fields Math Medal, ending what has been a long wait for the mathematics community. Her seminal research focuses on shapes called Riemann surfaces. These are convoluted mathematical objects that can be analysed using complex numbers.

“Women are doing so well now in mathematics that this is just icing on the cake, it’s the sort of thing which will really catch the public’s imagination – and as a result I think it could have quite an impact on a new generation.” – Prof Alison Etheridge, lecturer in applied mathematics at the University of Oxford

This is Malavath Poorna – she is the youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest.

Malavath

Malavath hails from the Pakala Village of Srikanda Mandal, the daughter of agricultural laborers. When asked about whether she understood the difficulty of scaling Mount Everest, she responded “I know it fully. I have some idea of it after trekking Mt.Renock. I will prove it. and prove it she did. She recently sat down with the Times of India to discuss this amazing accomplishment. Her story is worth reading and truly inspirational.

Modern feminism takes on many forms in the 21st century and it can mean many things to different people. Whether you’re a mom breast-feeding in public or running the most marathons ever, set goals and meet them, this pushes the feminist movement that much further every single day.

Many thanks to Buzz Feed for their recent post on 10 Badass Women you Probably didn’t Hear About in 2014 for inspiring this post.

Six Ways to Love Yourself Better

maya_quoteYou deserve to be loved and accepted for who you are.  If no one has told you, then I am glad you found my blog because I get to tell you. None of us are perfect. So, get that out of your head now, the perfect version of yourself already exists and it is you right now.

Sure, there is always room for improvement but growth should come from a place of gladness to be you. Don’t feed into societal pressures, media at large doesn’t provide a diverse perspective on beauty. Celebrity worship wont help you either because we aren’t suppose to live up to an image or idea of perfection, rather we should aspire to live up to being the best versions of ourselves.

If you are having a tough time finding the love you so rightly deserve, you absolutely MUST love yourself first! In the very beginning, it will feel weird or “off” because we aren’t used to loving ourselves unconditionally. That’s ok, like anything worth having, self-love takes practice, patience and plenty of discipline.

  1. Do a personal inventory and clean shop. Surround yourself with people who love you more than you love yourself. Find people who will be nothing but supportive, encouraging, accepting, and honest. Keep them close to you, hold them tight. They will lift you up when you are down. Anyone who cannot do that for you should be ejected from your life immediately. How can you tell if someone isn’t good for you? Take stock of the way you feel when you think about someone in your life. Are you uneasy, doubtful, stressed, unsure, insecure or any version of those feelings? If so, they need to go.
  2. Hush the critical voices in your head. My inner voice is constantly nagging and criticizing me. It takes so much effort to still the voices that creep in to sabotage me. It turns out that women in general suffer from an acute lack of confidence. Studies show that men tend to overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. Even when their performances do not differ in quality. So, we must make constant and steady efforts to quiet our minds and the voices that tell us we can’t.  Everyone has their own way of doing this, I write through my pain and self-doubt, while others meditate or practice self-affirmations.  How you quiet your critical voices is up to you but figure out how to manage it and practice daily.
  3. Forgive yourself. We make mistakes, some times repeatedly before we learn from them. To be human is to be flawed and part of loving yourself better is loving the flaws too. This means forgiving your past, forgiving those who wronged you and most importantly, forgiving yourself. How do you do this in practice? Be conscious about your thoughts, be present and speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone you love, with kindness and compassion.
  4. Care for yourself. Self-care is active participation in enhancing the quality of your health. Adults work too much, if you are a parent  you prioritize your kids, if you are a caregiver with an ill or elderly loved one, caring for them takes precedence. Usually we put ourselves last on the list if we even make the list at all. Living this way can burn us out. Loving yourself better means caring for yourself daily. So make time to unplug from the world and plug into yourself. Charge your batteries through activities of self-care – yoga, a day at the spa, a bubble bath, or any healthy activity that leaves you feeling good inside and out.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others. You are uniquely you and no one else on the planet can be that. Embrace yourself wholeheartedly, the great things about yourself and the not so great things too. If you walk into a room and begin sizing people up and making comparisons, STOP! See tip #2 and hush those voices immediately. Rather than pointing out all the ways you are different form everyone else, find the similarities. You’ll be surprised at how much you have in common with everyone around you.
  6. Celebrate the little things. Every day I wake up and drag myself out of bed is a victory. It should be so for you too, life is a gift and it is meant to be celebrated. It’s easy to be proud of our big accomplishments, graduating, childbirth, a new job or promotion and they deserve to be celebrated too. But loving yourself better is about feeling good for the little things as well as the big things. The little things happen much more often. Dance to your favorite song or pat yourself on the back for getting dinner on the table. Most important, cheer yourself on daily for managing to keep it together when everything seems to be falling apart.

Above all else, remember this, when you are surrounded by darkness and you cannot see the light, it is because the light must come from within. You must be willing to shine, perhaps your light will illuminate the darkness for someone else.

self-love

My Rules for Modern Feminism

Lately the feminist movement is front and center in the news, our social media, and the public psyche.  Issues like equal pay, rape culture, and catcalling are getting daily attention and I think that is fantastic.  I identify as feminist, proudly so!  I have two daughters and three sons and I am trying to raise all of them to be proud feminists too.

feminism200I provide daily reminders to my kids like “color and inanimate objects do not have gender” and “boys and girls can do anything they choose, gender does not limit your dreams” these are common lectures in my home.  I’m an advocate of equality.

Everyone has their own idea of feminism and what it means to each of us.  It is truly a personal thing. We all have our own journeys to take. I read a lot about these ideals, media outlets share their own opinion on the role of women and men in perpetuating the feminist movement.  There seems to be a lot of “rules” most of them contradictory….you can’t pose nude…posing nude is empowering etc.  It’s downright confusing!

In order to help us clear up some misconceptions, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the topic at hand…modern feminism and share my rules of conduct:

  1. Anyone can be a feminist and everyone should. By definition feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. It’s really that simple and there really isn’t much more to it, do you believe that men and women should be politically socially, and economically equal? Congratulations, you’re a feminist! Now go out and advocate for that equality because we need you!BeyonceFeministQuote1200-1024x1024
  2. Don’t perpetuate sexism. Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination based on someone’s gender is as anti-feminist as you can get but to be clear, it doesn’t only happen to women. We do it to men too and if we expect equality then we have to acknowledge that sexism isn’t exclusive to women and stop doing it all the way around.  You can’t be mad at a movie like Showgirls or Burlesque while chomping down on some popcorn at your local theater’s showing of Magic Mike. Am I right ladies?
  3. Our bodies, our choice.  This isn’t just a slogan for pro-choice activists.  That “slogan” holds true whether you get plastic surgery, twerk, pose nude, or decide whether or not to carry a baby full term.  There is no grey area around this, we can’t be feminists and shout “our body, our choice” while shaming Renee Zellweger for alleged plastic surgery. Nor can we judge Nikki Minaj for her Anaconda video or any woman who poses nude for anything, anywhere!  Their body, their choice, whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant.
  4. Stop the slut shaming.  Recently I made the case for removing this word from our vocabulary all together.  If you are confused as to why I feel this way, read rule #3 above.  We live in a time where women have more freedoms than ever before, I am speaking as an American and I realize this isn’t the case for all women world-wide.  At the same time we still insist on labeling certain behaviors as unsavory but none of us are in a place to judge. We can’t call ourselves feminist while shredding our sisters for choices they make with their bodies.
  5. Let’s stop judging each other all together.  Everything from “who wore it best” lists to “hate it or love it” polls beg us to judge each other based solely on our looks.  The fashion police, worst dressed, best dressed, hot or not, it all needs to stop.  We can’t move forward as feminists if we continue to feed into these types of judgments. Every time we tune in, buy the magazines, fill out the online polls, we set the modern feminist movement back decades. It’s immature and hurtful. Could you imagine if every time you got dressed and left your house there were cameras waiting to capture your look and then turn it over to the masses to judge?
  6. Stop telling us how to be feminists.  There is no doubt our fore-sisters paved the way at a time when being feminist was very dangerous.  I also believe that in order to know where we stand we must know where we’ve been and we can learn a lot from those women. But times have certainly changed and as we walk the trail they’ve blazed we must acknowledge the differences in our movement versus theirs. feministsYes, there are many things that threaten our cause and it’s important to pick up the torch and stand up for our rights, reproductive or otherwise. It is also important to do it our own way. We are not our fore-sisters and feminism in the 21st century means something different then it did in the 19th and 20th centuries.  What those differences are is up to each of us to define for ourselves. We have to stop imposing our ideas of feminism on each other.  See rule #1 – all you have to do is believe and advocate for equality, how we do that is up to each of us individually.

 

Remove Slut from our Vocabulary Now

slut_memeTIME Magazine got it all wrong when they suggested removing the word ‘Feminist’ from the dictionary.  We need that word more than ever! Especially when catcalling and victim blaming seem to be the order of business these days.  I have been thinking on this for some time trying to figure out a more appropriate word that deserves to be extinct.

Recently, while perusing my news feed, a friend of mine asked whether it was wrong to have slut shamed a character on her favorite reality television show and I decided…that’s the word…SLUT…it should be removed from our vernacular immediately and here’s why:

There’s no such thing:

Like every monster in the fairy tales we read growing up, the slut is a mythical creature that only exists in the imagination of those telling the tale.  Just like the big bad wolf, the hungry giant and the evil dragon, monsters who represent traits we should avoid, like anger, greed and gluttony, the slut is used as a cautionary symbol too.  Slut is a monster that represents lust and as many of us ladies know lust is a trait “good girls” should avoid, or at least that’s what society keeps trying to tell us.  At the end of the day the slut is a myth, a cautionary tale intended to keep us in line, lest we be labelled. Don’t buy into it, it’s a marketing ploy and just like the dragon, the giant, and the big bag wolf, there is no such thing as a slut. Trust me, women are allowed to make their own choices and as science has already explained, casual sex might even be good for us.

Sex is nothing to be ashamed of:

Despite what your catholic school nun might have taught you, sex is a healthy expression of desire. As long as it is consensual, it’s ok to have it with whomever you want. Up until now the message has been “only men are allowed to pursue their desires”.  I have a newsflash: Women like sex too and that is nothing to be ashamed of. I am grateful to characters like Samantha from Sex and the City who embraced and pursued her desires with gusto.  She’s a great role model on how to live and love sex on your terms without shame.

Slut is just another form of misogyny:

Society really, really hates women who really, really love sex. We judge them swiftly and harshly by slapping the slut label on them to put them back in their place. Miley Cyrus is a great example of this, she is often labelled a slut.  How dare she want to explore her sexuality and express her desires publicly?  Women are supposed to be chaste and even if they like sex, they are only supposed to share that with their partner behind closed doors.  This misogyny  doesn’t only come from men, it comes from other women too, women who probably fear the label so fiercely they police other women’s behavior and compare it to their own as a gauge of how perfect they are in comparison. Stop it! Women have the right to explore their sexuality in whatever terms they want. Their body, their choice!Miley+Cyrus+Miley+Cyrus+Performs+Perth+Iqap-E8QSR-l

Being lustful does not exclude you from being a feminist:

Recently my idol Annie Lennox made a comment about twerking and feminism. Specifically, she said “I think that this overt sexuality thrust — literally — at particular audiences, when very often performers have a very, very young audience, like 7 years old, I find it disturbing and I think its exploitative. It’s troubling. I’m coming from a perspective of a woman that’s had children.” and while I really want to agree with her, I can’t bring myself to do so. I am a mother too and it is my job to put into context what my children are exposed to.  Modern feminism is a complicated thing, women want to be sexy and they want to be strong but it seems like we can’t be both without one side or the other calling us sluts for expressing and exploring sexuality either through song, dance or fashion.  This isn’t fair and while I do agree to some extent that women are being sexualized in the entertainment industry (often at an early age) – shaming them for it doesn’t further the movement.  It only divides us.  Sure, there are many other ways for women to express their strengths and sexuality that don’t involve twerking but, we should allow girls the freedom to figure out what that is on their own. It’s up to parents to put it into context for our kids, not the entertainers. One women’s choice may not be right for all women but she can do what she pleases without being shamed for it. Whether it’s posing nude, twerking, or embracing androgyny as Annie does so well.

It’s an extension of rape culture:

It’s a critical time for women, we are fighting for our reproductive rights, equal pay and a cease and desist on rape culture. Women are deciding what they want, when they want it, and how they will get it. When we slut shame our sisters we participate in the very rape culture we are trying to put a stop to.  When women are labelled a slut we are telling the world that she is asking for trouble, we are blaming her for any harassment that might befall her for having the nerve to be sexy. I often hear the phrase “you can be sexy without being slutty” but where is the scale that helps us determine when a thing is sexy and when it is slutty? It’s ignorant and foolish to put terms and conditions on a woman’s sexuality.  It isn’t for society to decide our behavior for us. Labeling women as sluts is like putting a target on her back for men to prey on. It’s dangerous and hateful and we should throw the word out as swiftly as possible.

What are your thoughts on the word slut?