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

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The Leaky Boob

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Medela

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Black Women Do Breastfeed

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Lactation Matters

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NAPPLSC

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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!

On Safe Spaces for White People

Life after the Orange Menace (OM) has been…interesting. The response from white women have been especially revealing. It’s almost like they only just realized how very fucked up this nation is and are desperately trying to figure out what to do.

Hence, the rise of, “Safe spaces for white people,” to work through racism in the shadow of the OM. I know what y’all are thinking…I bitch when privileged folks don’t do anything, then I bitch because I don’t like the efforts privileged folks are making.

That is true, this is America and my right to bitch is my right! Deal with it.

I’ve received two invitation to “heal whiteness” in as many weeks. These “workshops” challenge participants to examine the meaning of whiteness and white privilege while resolving the guilt and shame of white supremacy.

Sounds good right? White people need to do this type of work, post-haste.

unmasking-whiteness-2017-flyer

However, in the case of this particular workshop, it is neither run by or even using content created by people of color. At least not directly. However, for $200 you can get to the business of working through personal biases in “safe” (ie white only) spaces. Without any help (or interruption) from actual marginalized people.

This is like asking the fox to guard the hen-house.

Like, asking police to investigate their own brutality.

Where are the checks and balances?

Why do white people need safe space to work through the trauma they are inflicting (consciously or not) onto black people?

When a friend of mine reached out to the organizers they refused to engage. Her questions were not aggressive, they simply asked about the need for “safe space” while doing this work and how they planned to assess progress if there were no people of color to defer to:

Is your assertion that white people are strong enough to be racist, but not strong enough to talk about the racism that they do?

You have acknowledged that the ethics of doing this work might be challenged on the basis of your whiteness and the fact that you are charging money, my question is more essential. What are you healing? What part of white people has been traumatized and by whom?

Is your assertion that if white people receive healing, they will become nonviolent? What evidence/criteria are you using to measure this?

Does this healing work translate to patriarchy/sexism? Can men become nonviolent by these methods?

These are valid, legitimate questions that were left unanswered. Which makes me questions the validity of this entire endeavor.

I’d argue that the world is overflowing with safe white spaces and there is no need for these retreats either way. Every time one turns on the TV, sits down to watch a movie, or read, whiteness is centered in almost all of it constantly. The world has been made a safe space for white people.

 

The truth is, this well-intentioned effort looks like nothing more than a self-centered, self-congratulatory cash grab. I see you.

For the record, oppressed groups don’t have the privilege of “safe space” to learn about their oppression.

1,094 Bias-Related Incidents in the Month Following the Election – Southern Poverty Law Center

there-are-currently

Working to dismantle white supremacist systems is grueling and uncomfortable. It requires drifting further and further from our comfort zones into truly diverse spaces. Mistakes will be made and we will be checked for those mistakes. Sometimes, without any care for our personal feelings because, the truth is, my personal feelings are not more critical than actual people, facing actual dangers.

It took me rejecting a lifetime of dogma and replacing it with new, more accurate information to get this. I am still unpacking a lot of internalized misogynoir, sexism, and yes, white supremacist attitudes. I learned to shut the fuck up long enough to listen and learn from groups of people more oppressed than me.

Anything, I know about anti-racism work, any awareness I’ve gathered, any understanding I have found, has come to me by the grace of black voices, almost always women, willing to document, write about, and explain their oppression.

As a woman of color, who has experienced my fair share of racism, I still benefit from a hell of a lot of privilege. Acknowledging my privileges keep me safe and then using them to center marginalized people is how I redistribute my power. AMPLIFYING BLACK WOMEN means I am centering them, not myself in this movement. A movement they birthed.

My pantsuit nation post is filled to the brim with indignant people asking why Safety Pin Box owners think they should profit from their advocacy. Meanwhile, white women, a demographic which already enjoys an abundance of safe spaces and opportunities, to choose from, are lining their pockets with profits from these “white healing spaces.” Without being asked where the profits are going or why they deem themselves worthy of profiting from their advocacy in the first place.

So basically, fuck your double standard.

White women should be supporting safe spaces for oppressed groups, instead of self-segregating for profit. White women should be working, daily, to turn themselves into safe spaces by first and foremost, centering vulnerable groups in their social justice efforts. White women should be paying black women for the educational content necessary to make these workshops effective.

Finally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, white women need to learn how to play the best supporting role, not the lead, in this fight for liberation. Anything less is uncivilized and narcissistic as fuck.

On Living Life in Survival Mode

I have been sitting here for a full five minutes trying to figure out how to lay this down without sounding like a bitter bitch! How can I truly capture the edge of my seat existence without sounding every bit as angry about it as I am? Years of societal condition has taught me that failure at finding financial security is because I just haven’t worked hard enough.

Bootstrap mentality has made it so my worth as a person is tied to my financial success and poverty is attributed to my own failings as a human being and not the parasitic corporate structure sucking the life out of good, hard working people like my husband and I.

Hard work and gumption will makes your dreams come true is the mantra of the bootstrapper and he picks himself up and dusts himself of with his trust fund money just to prove his point. I believed that too though. I truly believed that. I started working as a teenager and I have not stopped since. There has not been a job beneath me. I have bussed tables, slung wares on the street, cleaned toilets, dedicated countless hours to hard work. My corporate career is no exception. I have built an incredible network of colleagues over decades. My resume is legit. Not a single lie on it!

I’m a hard working woman, I should be a millionaire.

Hard work + “gumption” is not a secret formula to economic prosperity.

I’ve got both and all it’s given me is a stubborn and persistent will to live. It keeps me surviving.

I think about that a lot. In fact, I’m obsessed with it. I can’t stop doing it.

Surviving.

Lord knows that looks different for everybody. Surviving for me looks like happy children not feeling the weight of our financial stresses.

survival-chart-1That takes a ton of masterful surviving. I am an artist at surviving. I make it look effortless. Like a ballet. Balanced and finessed, the perfect lighting, full of flair. A masterful show intended to make all the heavy things feel light as air. It’s slight of hand. I recognize the extra I have to be to pull it all off and I put the spotlight there, instead of my pain over never having enough. That’s the trick to surviving. Making the pain wait until there’s time. The pain believes me but what a fool because there is never time for that. Survival mode means there is always something to do, some plans to make, some move to orchestrate to make it through the day.

I know what you’re thinking…but, I promise you, I love my life and I regret none of my choices. I am not in a happy deficit. On the contrary…I laugh easily, I find joy in every place…that’s another trick of surviving…forcing yourself to see joy in things most find annoying.

The wind in my hair. The rain on my face. The chaos of raising six kids.

Incredibly gifted, insightful, intuitive and compassionate kids. They are my super power.

The truth is living in survival mode is bitter business. The absolute truth is, hardworking people are always one illness or catastrophe away from falling apart. I envy folks who have it “together.” All their entire needs met always and consistently without thinking too much about it. The truth is, I’ve had a few periods in my life where the work was abundant and I didn’t have to worry about silly things like bills. I had free time then too. I made plans.

I know many, many people in my circle who can relate to this. They are brilliant, intelligent, talented people. None of us getting what we are worth. That’s exactly how I know existing in survival mode has less to do with my own personal failings and more to do with the deck being stacked unfairly against a working, woman of color like me.

That’s just the truth and it was a truth I am grateful to have come to, cos that’s the last trick to living life on survival mode, knowing my worth and holding to it without compromise, without apologizing for my existence ever. My basic needs can’t be met because society is flawed as fuck and uncaring and critical of my poverty.

That’s not my fault. I’m fucking fabulous. Fight me!

A Woman’s Worth

Raise your hand if you work in corporate America and have spent time trying to, “prove your worth.” Employers love to question what their employees, “bring to the table,” rarely offering up any real gourmet dishes of their own.

Spoiler Alert Corp. America: Healthcare is my right as a human being, your benefits package isn’t *really* impressive given that context. If you are a black or non-black woman or femme of color there is even less at the table for us.

Continue reading “A Woman’s Worth”

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”

I’m Beautiful, Deal With It #beautifullikeme

The other day, I walked past the mirror, naked, as I have done so many times before on my way to the shower. I’m four months post partum. Things have had plenty of time to “settle” by now. My 40th birthday was a day or two away and I was on my own mind. I’ve changed since my twenties and thirties. The outside is the least of it.

The vision of me kind of stopped me in my tracks.

My ass, I immediately noticed, was double the size it was twenty year ago. All those bitter 40 yo bitches I encountered in my twenties were right, everything changes when you turn 40. But, was I really mad about it? Society tells me I’m supposed to be. All the media everywhere say, I have to run out and deal with my fine lines and grey hairs. That is, unless I am ready to be put out to pasture, in which case, I’m to grab my complimentary crocs and bifocals and have a nice day.

Whatever.

I don’t feel any urgent need to deal with my fine lines and rest assured, you wont catch me in crocs and “mom jeans” any time soon, either. I will not go quietly into old age like a simpering cow off to slaughter now that the farmer sees no more use for Betsy. Like, Betsy, I’ve still got plenty of time and a strong desire to slay all day.

I stared at myself a good long while, turning, pulling, pinching and kneading all the soft, round, dimply bits. My breasts, once high and mighty, are now too large and sag under the weight of themselves. My husband appreciates this and I appreciate him for that. They are working breasts now but, still really beautiful. My body is beautiful.

It looks lived in and loved.

My dimples are deeper and the beginnings of laugh lines have sprouted up around my eyes. My belly is soft and my hips are pudgy but I still sashay and sway, firmly rooted in my womanhood. This is the way my body is supposed to look. Soft and inviting and powerful all at the same time. I’m not spending a single day this summer fussing over the idea of a “summer body.” Instead, I’m going to go about my business being sexy as fuck. This is the body I have, winter, spring, summer, and Fall. I’m not changing it, unless I feel like it

My body has been the gateway to life itself more than once. My body continues to nourish life. My body has earned the right to wear any damn thing I please and society’s beauty standards can be damned. You will not tell me how I’m supposed to look. I don’t have anymore fucks to give about your beauty “Don’ts,” I don’t care about the rules.

I stood in the mirror looking at my stretch marks and cellulite and the parts of me that jiggle when I move and got tired of feeling “unpretty.” I decided life is too short for all that. I did one final spin and started looking at myself, not from the perspective of modern beauty standards but, through my very own eyes. I’m beautiful. Full. Stop.

I’m not beautiful for being 40.

I’m not beautiful for being a mother of six.

I’m not beautiful for a short girl, Latina girl, mother of teenagers.

I’m just beautiful, not like you, like me.

I will no longer hide perceived imperfections. No. My beauty standards don’t come from Vogue or the Kardashians or the vloggers who insist contouring is like a face lift. I don’t need a face lift . Instead I’m owning and embracing, boldly displaying, all of me. I’m gonna shimmy and shake my sexy, fat ass, with pride and the world is just gonna have to fucking deal with it!

                    #beautifullikeme

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 Gap and Black Girl Magic

Fuck you Gap. Black girls are magic. Black Girls Matter. Black. Girls. Are. Magic.

I was minding my own business this weekend. Getting my home into some semblance of shape after having a new baby a few weeks ago. I was working pretty hard and felt I deserved a break. So I took one and as per usual logged into Facebook to see what was going on. To my shock and horror this is the fuckery that greeted me:

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Your ad campaign aimed at making young girls see themselves as whatever they can dream of set little black girls up to be arm rests for adventurous white girls.

You suck and everyone who isn’t a racist asshole knows it.

I want to thank Fatima LaJuan Muse for bringing this troubling content to my attention. She breaks it down on her Facebook page so succinctly here. The Root has also done a piece on this here. They have said much of what needs to be said regarding this controversy in better ways than I ever could.

Instead, I want to talk about it in the way I talk about a lot of things around here. This is what lazy content looks like and we deserve better. Our girls deserve better.

This is what content looks like when there is no diversity behind the scenes. Without a black person and other non-black persons of color working in collaboration, with mostly white people, there is no one who can say, “this is inappropriate, people are going to feel a way about what is depicted here and I’ll tell you why”

Without that input we get this unedited, white person version of what (white) girls are capable of being – a dancer, gymnast, adventurer and what (black) girls are capable of being – A prop? Arm rest? Inanimate object? I’m not sure who this was supposed to inspire but in me it evokes something wholly maternal and viscous.

I want to snatch this baby girl out of this photo and tell her, she’s better than an armrest, she’s MAGIC!

 

As I’ve said so many times, representation matters. It matters how we see ourselves reflected in the pages of magazines, on TV and the big screen and (white) America has done a shit job of showing the depth and breadth of who we are as a wholly colorful civilization (see #oscarssowhite).

To flip through a magazine, channels on a television, or any movie trailer in the last 80+ years would lead any alien society to believe this earth is full of mostly dominant white people with a smattering of subservient brown people.

I’m not even exaggerating. According to a 2014 Women in Media Report, white people are cast in lead roles more than twice as often as people of color, and white film writers outnumber minority writers 3 to 1. In 17% of films, no black people had speaking parts.

So, ads like this just reinforce and validate this disparity with a giant exclamation mark thrown in for good measure. I can’t even begin to tell you what an image like this does to the mind of a young black girl, who will spend most of her life questioning her worth and her place in a world that consistently tries to deny her humanity. It is wholly degrading and wholly despicable.

If you are a smarty, and if you are reading my blog I know you are, you know what I am going to ask next – please boycott The Gap – please reach out to them through any means necessary and voice your outrage.

Shout out their shame on Twitter or Instagram

Contact them via Facebook or email

You can even write them a strongly worded letter the old fashioned way:

Gap Inc./Synchrony Bank
PO Box 965004
Orlando, FL 32896-5004

Put your power as a consumer to work and let The Gap know they fucked up and we aren’t having it!

 

Finding Myself with a Baby Strapped to My Chest

It’s the early hours of the day. No one is up, not even the sun and I’m trying to figure out what to write to all of you. To be honest, I don’t feel like I have anything critical to say. Nothing that hasn’t already been said on the interwebs ad nauseam already. Yet, there is so much I haven’t said here.  I’ve been compartmentalizing on this blog, trying to keep parts of myself separate. I want to be professional and I want to appeal to many different women without offending any, which is freakin impossible.

I should get personal here, I should reconcile all sides of myself in this space, it’s my space after all.  I should be able to share all parts of myself in my writing. It’s like a leap of faith though. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out on a ledge during high winds. It’s really tough to be vulnerable and at the mercy of creeping trolls that will revel in trying to take me down a peg. I want to get political and social here but I’ve been afraid to push y’all away. Really though if we are friends, you are going to love me even when we disagree.

There are big changes happening in my life and in the world and I want to explore every bit of it. I want to call out bad behavior, especially from the media (I’m looking at you Fox News) and I want to celebrate smart people doing smart things in the world. I want you to know me, warts and all. I want to know myself, warts and all. I’ve had some writer’s block, which really isn’t about having trouble finding words and all about me having trouble finding myself.

Finding oneself through a decade of change feels impossible.

Me, finding myself
Me, finding myself

In the first year of my thirties I welcomed my son into the world. I buried his grandmother that year too. Death is like a long, cold, and desolate winter and birth is like the first bud on the tree in spring. When winter and spring happen inside you at the same time, it’s exquisitely painful, literally bittersweet and even the best laid plans couldn’t survive it. My thirties churned with turmoil and change. It would take me an entire decade to finally calm the fuck down.

I ended my thirties, the way I started it, swollen with life and promise and shadowed by death. As we awaited the life of our little girl we said goodbye to her grandfather. There’s something poetic in it, something poignantly cyclical about ending a decade of my life the same exact way I began it, inside my own body, nurturing life, and mourning death.

I’ll be forty next month, a new decade but the same me. I’m approaching it with little regret and a whole lot of hope. Hope that things stay the way they are right now, at least for a little while. I hope for success with my writing. I hope the people who have been in my life, all my life stay for the rest of it and my new friends become old friends.

I don’t know what to expect exactly but I know there will be change. My daughter is a wee bit over two months old now. I can expect her to grow fast and I can expect that I’ll lament over where the time is going. I’ll be sending my eldest two to college and my baby to kindergarten around the same time. I’ll be growing too and my greatest hope is that I’ll stay growing with all of you.

Sincerely,

ME

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