Tag Archives: feminism

I’m a Barbie Girl…

So… I have this old Glamour Magazine Subscription that I have had for years and whenever I get a new issue, I find myself practically busting blood vessels out of frustration at the content. I first subscribed to Glamour back in the 90s because it, to me, was the anti-Cosmo. Cosmopolitan was all about “Do this to please your man” or “try this to make him moan,” basically making women into drooling, fem-bots whose only goal in life was to please their partner of the night. Glamour was different… it was empowering women to go out and make something of themselves and rule the world. Glamour still has that at it’s heart, but it seems to have morphed into Glamour’s wanna-be tag-along friend.

Glamour still writes about the hard hitting issues, but it usually involves women in “those other” countries. Women facing brutality because of religion, Female Genital Mutilation, Women getting torched because their husbands don’t want to be married to them any more, etc, etc. But then it will turn around, and white-wash serious issues that their readers may be facing. Some of the things in the September issue that just pissed me off:

pg. 266 Talks about the Birth Control that your OB/GYN uses (IUD.) Explains how it works with respect to sperm motility/ sperm environment. Where it is placed, how effective they are, price, if your guy will feel it and how it feels getting the piece inserted, but NOTHING about the SIDE EFFECTS or who SHOULDN’T use one! From American Pregnancy Association:

An IUD should NOT be used by women who:

  • Have or ever had cancer in the uterus or cervix
  • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • May be pregnant
  • Have pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Have a history of ectopic pregnancy
  • Have Gonorrhea or Chlamydia.
  • Are not in a mutually monogamous relationship

Potential side effects from using an IUD include:

  • Mood changes
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Pelvic pain
  • Cramping (copper IUD)
  • Increased bleeding during menstruation (copper IUD)
  • Nausea

Emphasis mine, because if you have read a Glamour or Cosmo, you know that a mutually monogamous relationship is NOT the norm.

pg. 274 Article is titled: “Everything you don’t know about your Lady Parts… but Should!” and had a pic of a nude, from the waist down, woman holding a rose at her mons pubis. Pg. 277 starts a series of questions from readers about their “lady parts.” Because Vagina is too much to say. And has pictures of subliminal vaginas (even one in an orange cross-section.) One question in the section was about vaginal discharge and how it changes throughout your cycle. Now, I know that not everyone is anti-birth control like I am, but wouldn’t this be a great jumping off point to even mention Natural Family Planning? But it’s probably better that it was not… back to the whole monogamous relationship thing. The closest they came was to say that, “after you release an egg, discharge gets cloudier and thicker. ‘All the better for catching and trapping sperm, which your body naturally wants to do.'” Wait… my body is giving me natural cues that aren’t masked by synthetic hormones?? No. Way.

There is a redeeming factor in the “Lady Parts” article. Have you heard of “The Barbie?” Yeah, me neither, before I read this article. The Barbie is a type of female genital cosmetic surgery in which the total labia minor (the inner lips of the vulva) are surgically removed. WTH?! But it gets better, doctors can continue on and remove the fatty mons pubis (the mound you see when you look down at your toes and you are nude) via liposuction and the prepuce of the clitoris (protective skin around the clitoris.) Thank You, Porn Industry.

In case you were wondering, the World Health Organization defines Female Genital Mutilation as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” If it walks like a duck… and sounds like a duck…

Pg. 375: The Piece de Resistance… The number one thing HE wants in bed. “Fellatio, blow jobs, going downtown, giving head…” The article goes on to talk about how great it is and how empowering it is and how only “10-20% of women felt disgusted or bored by it.” The article runs about 2 pages long, with a nice Red Rocket popsicle melting for a graphic along with “Blow Job Milestones in History,” but only a narrow side bar about the RISKS associated with Oral Sex. Hmmm.

So, yeah. Glamour I am so over you, but at the same time, shame on you for filling the heads of tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings about how this is what an empowered woman looks like. In your pages, female empowerment means sleeping around (just make sure you have the “right” birth control,) getting your dues at the office (but don’t be a b*tch about it,) and doing it all (as long as you keep him happy in bed.) Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to my Good Housekeeping.

(But I will say, without Glamour, where will some of my posts come from?)

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Filed under feminism, political, Tuesday

How Formula Marketing Came to Be: A Bit of Satire

Scene: The year is 1939. War is raging in Europe We are in a high-rise office over looking the big city. It’s late. There are two men sitting inside, wearing suits and ties and smoking. Because, after all, smoking is cool. 

Man 1: So, so, so! (Slapping Man 2 on shoulder) How’s fatherhood treating you?

Man 2: The boy is great! He’s quite the little man, I’ll tell you. Strong, happy but you know what? He takes up all of my wife’s time.

Man 1: (Guffawing) And that’s a bad thing? Take my wife, please!

Man 2: No, I am serious. Every time I look at her, she’s holding him or playing with him or cooing at him or feeding him. He’s only three weeks old, but it’s as if he’s more important than me! The feeding is the worst part… those used to be my toys. (He looks wistfully out the window.)

Man 1: But she’s still fulfilling her wifely duties, right. After all, that’s her job too.

Man 2: (makes a rude noise) NO. Because whenever I start in on her, that baby starts crying or smacking his lips and she’ll push me off to “comfort” him. And when he finally does go to sleep, she tells me that she’s (takes on a whining tone) “tired” and “doesn’t want to be touched anymore right now.” Fine. I won’t touch her, but I have needs too, dammit! (hits the table with fist.)

Man 1: Wow. That baby’s taking over everything. You can’t even touch your wife anymore. (starts laughing)

Man 2: You know it would be just better if there was a way for her not to feel so worn out. I think it’s all the milk the baby takes from her. He’s sucking on her every two hours.

Man 1: You know, that sounds familiar… hold on there, sport. (takes a drag of his cigarette and walks over to a paper-strewn desk. Begins to rifle through the papers.) Here it is! This was submitted a few weeks ago and I didn’t know where to go with it. It’s for an artificial infant feeding mix.

Man 2: How’s that?

Man 1: According to this, it’s based in evaporated milk and has a bunch of other stuff thrown in. I don’t know the science, I am just supposed to sell the stuff.

Man 1: Who’s it for?

Man 2: It’s supposed to be for mothers who can’t make their own milk, but it’s just not selling.

Man 1: If I could get some of that to my wife, I might get her in bed once in a while. I mean if that evaporated milk stuff is as good as her milk and it can buy me some time with her, I am all about it. When is the ad campaign due?

Man 2: (Takes another drag.) It’ll be tight. I have to make the pitch in 2 weeks.

Man 1: OK, let’s work on this. Because you know that  am not the only man out there cast out like a dog because of the baby. We need to figure out a way to make the regular way of feeding seem inconvenient and lower-class. We need to make this stuff sound futuristic and better because it’s made in a factory. How about this, we spin it so that we “Dads” can get more involved (snorts) because we can “help feed the baby” giving our wives more time for themselves! Do you think they’ll buy it?

Man 2: We’re smoking aren’t we? People will buy anything if you sell it right.

(Scene)

OK, yes, this was a little satire…  but for a little history: From Wikipedia:

In parallel with the enormous shift (in industrialized nations) away from breastfeeding to home-made formulas, nutrition scientists continued to analyze human milk and attempted to make infant formulas that more closely matched its composition.[4] Maltose and dextrins were believed nutritionally important, and in 1912, the Mead Johnson Company released a milk additive called Dextri-Maltose. This formula was made available to mothers only by physicians. In 1919, milkfats were replaced with a blend of animal and vegetable fats as part of the continued drive to closer simulate human milk. This formula was called SMA for “simulated milk adapted.”[10]

In the late 1920s, Alfred Bosworth released Similac (for “similar to lactation”), and Mead Johnson released Sobee.[10] Several other formulas were released over the next few decades, but commercial formulas did not begin to seriously compete with evaporated milk formulas until the 1950s. The reformulation and concentration of Similac in 1951, and the introduction (by Mead Johnson) of Enfamil in 1959 were accompanied by marketing campaigns that provided inexpensive formula to hospitals and pediatricians.[10] By the early 1960s, commercial formulas were more commonly used than evaporated milk formulas, which all but vanished in the 1970s. By the early 1970s, over 75% of babies in the United States were fed on formulas, almost entirely commercially produced.[4]

When birth rates in industrial nations tapered off during the 1960s, infant formula companies heightened marketing campaigns in non-industrialized countries. Unfortunately, poor sanitation led to steeply increased mortality rates among infants fed formula prepared with contaminated (drinking) water.[19] Organized protests, the most famous of which was theNestlé boycott of 1977, called for an end to unethical marketing. This boycott is ongoing, as the current coordinators maintain that Nestlé engages in marketing practices which violate the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

I read something somewhere and it much more succinctly sums up the whole breastfeeding/ formula feeding debate. While breastmilk is superior, Formula is not bad. Formula has helped countless babies over the years who otherwise might have fared worse. Formula Marketing is the problem.

Now, people could say that breastfeeding doesn’t need to be marketed, because it’s always there, but what does need to be marketed is how breastfeeding is a normal activity and not sexual and not deviant. We need to market that if you want to breastfeed your child, and you need help, find help and we need to market where that help can be found.

When I was pregnant with The Bear in 2006/7, I remember on my first office visit walking out with a book about fetal development and formula samples. No information about La Leche League or other breastfeeding support groups, nothing. On one of the later visits, when I made my breastfeeding intentions known, I walked about with the “Just in Case” sample bag with the cute little “Breastfeeding Kit” tag. It was a shoulder bag filled with formula samples… just in case I needed it. Again, nothing on breastfeeding support.

Why do moms fail with breastfeeding? Because they don’t have help and they don’t know where to find help. I chatted with a young mom at the park last week. She had a four month old with her and she nursed baby for one month. When I told her I was a volunteer working with nursing moms, she told me that she stopped nursing because baby would choke, cough and pull off whenever she tried to nurse, so she thought that something was wrong with her milk! (Any thoughts as to what was going on? Sounds a bit like oversupply to me.) Had this mom been with a group of  other breastfeeding moms she might have been able to nurse her baby a little bit longer, maybe even to her goal of six months.

I know that it sounds like a radical departure for a self-professed lactivist, but again… formula in and of itself if not bad. But the marketing sure is. And I am sure that sexually-deprived ad men are not to blame for formula marketing, but it does make for an interesting plot device, no?
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Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win “The Invisible World!” Click here to find out how to enter. I’m drawing the winner tomorrow!!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under breastfeeding, fathers, feminism, food, funnies, wednesday

Top Ten Things to say to encourage a nursing mother

It’s Time for another List!! Part of me is thinking about making Thursday my “List Day.” My post about breastfeeding this week kind of got me thinking about some of the other “booby-traps” that moms run into, and negative comments tend to be right up there. Honestly, I think it’s because people just don’t know what to say to a nursing mom. Here’s an idea: Just talk to her like you would any other mom. The fact that she is nourishing her child with breastmilk shouldn’t sway your conversation (and that applies if she is nursing right next to you or just nursing in general.)

Top Ten Things to Say to Encourage a Nursing (or Any) Mother

10. You are doing great!

9. What can I do to help you out right now?

8. Can I make you dinner tonight?

7. Would you like a glass of water?

6. You been nursing for (2 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 months, 3 years)? Congratulations!

5. Nurse where ever or how ever you are most comfortable.

4. Your baby looks very happy/content.

3. Any amount of breastmilk your baby receives is fantastic for his health.

2. Formula and Breastmilk can work together, it doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing.’

1. I am here if you need me, even if it’s just to listen.

I know that it sounds kind of counter-intuitive, coming from a self-professed “lactivist,” but I have really been thinking about why I began breastfeeding and why I wanted to help other mother’s breastfeed. I believe that breastmilk is superior to formula but I am also a realist knowing that not all moms will make the choice to stay home with their children (or that it is financially feasible.) So if I mom decides that pumping her milk for while she is away is too much of a hassle and would rather use formula when she is away, that is what works best for their family.

But there is the flip-side, I do believe that more should be done to remove some of the barriers that impede the efforts of nursing mothers. I mean, you figure if a mom wants to nurse her child exclusively for 9 months and goes back to work when the baby is 3 months old, she’s requiring time to pump for 6 months. When that comes up, all of a sudden there are calls about how it’s not fair that this mom has to have:

1.) time to pump

2.) a private location to pump that’s not her car

3.) storage for the milk (optional)

I think back to when I was working (before teaching) and our workplace was smoke-free, when the smokers could go out willy-nilly to have a “smoke-break” in addition to their mandated breaks. Did I think that it was fair that me, as a non-smoker, didn’t have that luxury? No, I didn’t think that it was fair, but to be honest, I was happy that I wasn’t saddled with a nicotine addiction, so it was a wash. But we have to remember, fair does not mean equal.  When I was teaching, I used an easy way to illustrate this: Is it fair that I have to wear glasses while my BFF has perfect vision? No. Should I stop correcting my vision or should she wear corrective lenses so we are equal? No.

When my DDs were little, they both wore a cheeky one-sie that we bought in Chicago. It read:

” Thank You for not giving my parents unsolicited advice.”

I think new parents are so bombarded with advice, that they forget to follow their God-given instinct. Mothering is hard enough as it is and we make it harder by always wanting to either out-do each other by being the “better mother” or by thinking that somehow we are doing something wrong because we are not following the latest expert advice to a “T.”

But I think the best thing you can say to any mother is:

You baby/ children is/ are beautiful and you all look very happy.

And that’s music to any mother’s ears.
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What’s the best or worst advice you received as a new mom, nursing or not? Share below!!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under breastfeeding, family, fathers, feminism, lists, mothering, Thursday

Don’t let appearances deceive you

Earlier this Spring I gave a lecture, along with another breastfeeding mom, to a series of high school classes. The class was on child development and the teacher was a breastfeeding advocate, but having no children herself, was having a difficult time answering some of their questions. So, she contacted the organization that I am a member of and we set up the talks.

I was super excited about the talks because it had been almost 4 years since I had left the classroom and while I love my life as an at-home-mom, there are days that I do miss teaching. Taking the opportunity to it’s fullest, I put on my best “teacher-like” outfit: pencil skirt, black twinset, nude calfskin platform pumps, and pearls. I even had my cutest two accessories with me: The Bear and The Dragonfly. (The teacher was 100% on board with us bringing our kids because she felt it could make a clear point about how mothering is 27/7/365 to the students. I, admittedly, was having trouble finding child care as the first class began at 730a and the school was about 45 minutes from my house.)

We walk in and start chatting with the students and one of the girls says to me: “Cute shoes!” I am a shoe lover and since I am a size 12, I don’t go hog-wild with purchases, but I tend to buy quality over quanity usually because there isn’t a large quanity of 12s out there, so I was very flattered that she noticed my shoes. I thanked her for her complement and she followed up with this comment:

“You guys don’t look like breastfeeders.”

Huh? “Look like breastfeeders?” My curiousity, of course, was piqued and I asked her what a breastfeeding mom looked like. She responded, “Well, kind of like a hippie.” At that point the bell rang and I made a mental note to come back to that, but I kind of forgot. For some reason this exchange popped into my head this weekend and I figured it would make a great blog post/ discussion.

Part of me wonders if some mothers have difficulty choosing to breastfeed because they feel that you have to bring all the rest with it. What is all the rest, you may ask? These are the things that I’ve heard from others, plus some of the things that I’ve incorporated into my own life:

Organic food

Gardening

Attachment parenting

bed sharing/ co-sleeping

homeschooling/ unschooling

cloth diapering

forgoing makeup

Gentle Discipline

not looking fashionable… just looking like a “mom”

smelling like patchouli (I am still not sure what that smells like.)

staying home with the kids

But do you really want to know what you need to make breastfeeding successful? A pair of lactating breasts, a baby and a support system. The rest is just details. While it’s true that breastfeeding and natural living and natural/ gentle parenting tend to go hand-in-hand-in-hand, breastfeeding is not dependent on your knowing what essential oils are best for what use, or where to find the best deals on amber necklaces. People may try to make you feel as if you are less of a mother if you are not breastfeeding AND making your children’s clothing AND tending a garden AND using the family bed AND homeschooling, etc, etc, etc, but one thing to remember is this:

every family is different

Each family makes the best choice for their particular situation and comparing what your family does to what your BFF’s or your WEF’s does (WEF= worst enemy forever) or what the Queen Bee at your kid’s school does will do nothing but keep you awake all night grinding your teeth in frustration. When in doubt, ask yourself these questions:

Am I happy?

Is my partner happy?

Are our kids happy?

Are we healthy?

Are we safe?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then there’s a good chance you are parenting just right. (So, I know that was kind of a trip down the rabbit trail, but it all kind of goes together.)

Back to breastfeeding appearances? A breastfeeding mom looks like any other mom out there, she just has fewer bottles to carry around.

And what does this breastfeeding mama look like?

Everyday Look (if I’m not at the gym)

I’ll admit it. I am all about makeup, doing something to my hair or wearing a fascinator (crafted by moi, of course!) For me, it’s the little accessories that make the outfit. And come July 11, I will have been breastfeeding for 4 years.

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What are your thoughts? Has the breastfeeding culture, without intention, alienated some moms or made breastfeeding more complicated by setting unspoken standards?

Pax Christi!

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Filed under breastfeeding, feminism, life, sunday

Summertime Modesty: Not Impossible!

It seems as if this week has been all about body image, gender and modesty. Wow! Well, let’s round it out!

Modest dressing is easy enough to do in the wintertime; especially if you live in chillier climates but come summertime, it seems as if all sensibilities kind of go out of the window! Yes, summer is hot but that’s no excuse to stop dressing modestly, if that is your goal.

For me, when I put an outfit on, I ask myself if I am dressing to attract the attention of men other than my husband. If the answer is yes, I change. Maybe you are one that that standard is not for you. You may feel that we as women should not be responsible for the eyes/ actions of men and I wholeheartedly agree, but when I said my marriage vows, I promised to forsake all others and in my mind, if I’m dressing in a way that is disrespectful to my husband or our marriage, I am not staying true to my vows. (I am sure those advocates of the SlutWalk** might take issue with my opinion, but I digress.)

So, if you don’t care what your outfit represents to the world about your marriage, ask yourself, “Would I want my daughter to wear this?” because as her mother you are her biggest influence. If you have sons, ask yourself what message are you sending to your son about women?

Actually, take that last statement and apply it to all of your children, how does your dressing affect their perception of women?

Without further ado, some modest dressing tips for summer:

Undergarments


1. two words, Flesh toned! Light, unlined pants, that are more popular in the summer, are notorious for showing your undergarments, so if you don’t want the world to know you’ve got your polka-dot panties on, don’t wear them or make sure your trousers are lined.

2. Camisoles make great layering pieces, especially when dresses show a bit too much décolletage. The lacy topped once even make your tops that much prettier.

3. Make the half-slip your friend. Seriously. You would be amazed at what “Mr. Bubble Sun” will show when shining through your dress. (That’s DD1’s nickname for the sun.)

Dresses


1. I’m taller so I especially love the maxi dress trend. But it even works for those not so tall ladies. Find a tailor if needed or take the dress up on your own. (If your dress has a major or busy print, you might want to take it to a tailor and have them take it up at the waist rather than just hem it.) What I like about dresses is that they are easier to put on than a tee and shorts and you look that much more put together, plus they are breezy!

2. I personally follow the rule of “one set of limbs out at a time.” So, if I am wearing a  sleeveless dress, I like the hem to be longer. If the dress is shorter, you’ll find my cardigan or wrap not far away.

3. I think it was Stacy London who said it but: “short+tight+shiny=cheap.” and I don’t think she meant garment cost.

Shorts

1. If you can see where your buttocks meet your thighs, those are too short.

2. If your shorts look painted on, they are too tight. I don’t care how thin you are.

3. (Butt) Crack is Wack.

4. Skirts make a great alternative to shorts, but can be hard when you have little kids and you play on the ground with them, but you can make it work.

Tops

1. Bra straps were never and will never be a fashion statement. Whoever said they were lied to you.

2. Bikini tops at beach: good. Bikini top while running errands far from beach: bad.

3. Polyester and Spandex blends make for bad choices.

4. If your shirt proclaims to the world that you are a “MILF” or “Hot Mama” or “Sexy WIfe” you might want to re-think that. In fact, re-purpose that shirt for cleaning around the house. In fact, just make them cleaning towels.

And above all else: BUY WHAT FITS! Ignore that little evil number or letter denoting the size. When I am shopping, I tend to take three of an item into the dressing room. The size I think I wear, one down and one up. Different garments wear differently and different manufacturers size differently. Ladies’ garment sizes are not the same across the board and are  sized very arbitrarily. If the tag bothers you, cut it out or cover it up. An item that fits well will flatter you so much more than that coveted size X. (And make friends with your tailor because they can do wonders with fit!)

Dressing modestly is not about hiding your body, but it is about presenting your body and yourself in a way that command respect from those around you as a person and not a piece of flesh for pleasure. And the ironic thing is, modesty can lend itself to sexiness. Stay with me here: Think of some of the most smoldering movie scenes (Titanic, when they are on the bow of the ship, comes to mind for some reason.) They are hot not because of what they are showing, but because of what they are not. InStyle magazine interviewed fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld earlier this year who said that the sexiest part of a woman’s body is the curve of her lower back. (for the life of me, I can’t find the issue!! But he drew a little sketch with it and everything, it was great!)

And above all, if you are a church goer, please dress for church and not the beach or the club! I know that we are not supposed to judge and if I find myself becoming distracted, I really should refocus on the cross but come on! Yes, it is fantastic that you are at Mass, but shouldn’t you give Christ respect by dressing well? I am sure that it’s a throw-back to my Baptist upbringing, but we never went to Sunday Services in anything less than our… Sunday Best, and I continue that with my family. Yes, you could meet a fantastic mate at church, but do you really want to lure him or her in by being scantily clad while listening to the Word?

So, keeping in mind that these are all my own opinions, I hope it does help you with the tricky summertime dressing!

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**While I agree with the premise of Slutwalk (i.e. no woman is ever asking to be raped by her attire, her behavior, her state of mind) I take the same issue with the recapturing of the term “slut.” When I was teaching, girls called each other sluts and bitches all the time, as terms of endearment. Really? That’s where we are? The English Language has how many words in it and those are the ones that we are choosing to use with one another?

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, feminism, Friday, manners, modesty, mothering

A few Words Wednesday: Shirt or no Shirt?

I just wanted to share a little scene I saw yesterday at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It really plays in well with our discussion about gender and all things girl and boy. We were in the Children’s Garden and there they have a little splash fountain area. It was hot yesterday… over 95 degrees and humid, so it was the perfect oasis! OK, here you go:

MOM (to her two children, boy about 5, girl about 3): OK, Have fun you two!

(Son takes shirt off. Daughter starts to take hers off.)

MOM (to daughter): Oh, no, no, no! You can’t take your shirt off. You have to leave your shirt on.

DAUGHTER (in tears): WHY?

MOM: because… because… boys can take their shirts off and girls can’t.

DAUGHTER (still trying to take shirt off): <Inaudible through tears>

MOM: If you keep trying to take your shirt off, we will have to leave

DAUGHTER: (more tears)

MOM (to son): you don’t need your shirt off, put it back on. It will dry if it gets wet.

SON (whining): I don’t want my shirt to get wet!

MOM: (big sigh)

At this point, DDs decided they wanted to play in the sprinklers with this mama. So, we went.

(Now my little editorial… her son had a pretty intense sunburn and maybe should have a shirt on more often.)
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ETA: Now, this mom might have wanted to teach her daughter about modesty, but it really wasn’t the best argument. But as moms, we’ve all been there. Where do you think “Because I said so” comes from?

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, feminism, manners, mothering, wednesday

Guest Post: A Gender Neutral World

The following is a guest post written by a good friend of mine. Hope you enjoy!

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A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook the other day and it really got me thinking. These parents are trying to raise their 3 children, 2 boys and one child whose gender has not been announced to the world, in a gender neutral world. I, too, have chosen to raise my daughter, now 7, in a gender neutral world. But I also understand that a lot of what makes people male or female is engrained in us and I am not just talking about certain genitalia and hormones.

I have re-read the article multiple times and have decided that there are some similarities between myself and these parents.

  1. I, too, gave my daughter a gender neutral first name.
  2. I have also allowed my daughter the freedom to decide who she will choose to be. One day it will be a pretty, pretty princess and the next day it will be a hard rock/punk girl.
  3. My daughter can also pick out her own clothes from either department in the store. In fact, for Christmas 2010, her new pajamas and robe were straight from the traditionally “boys” department and featured skulls and candy cane shaped crossbones.
  4. I, too, hope that one day my daughter will live in a world where people can make the choice to be whoever they want to be and society will be fine with that choice.
  5. I also agree that children receive messages from society that encourage them to fit into existing societal boxes.

But that is about where the similarities end. My daughter knows she is a female as do all of my family and friends. I wanted to combat the pretty princess toys and pink “girlie” outfits. Well guess what? I lost and lost big time. As much as I didn’t want my daughter to be the girlie girl, she pretty much is. Don’t get me wrong, she loves to hang with the boys on our street and play superheroes, but give her the chance to wear a dress, a pretty hair bow and paint her nails…yes please!

I am all for raising kids in a gender neutral world…I was raised in one. There were no such things as girl specific toys or boy specific toys; I saw my dad cook dinner just as I saw my mom do yard work; and when I was little I had the primary colored room and my brother had the pastel colored room.

I wonder how the family and friends of these parents feel – I guess since no one else can change a diaper for fear of discovering the baby’s gender, they may not mind! I do have one major issue (okay more than one, but this is the one that I will touch on) with how these parents are raising their two older boys, it isn’t the fact that they have long hair and wear pink, but at 5 and 2, should they be responsible for explaining their parent’s choices to the outside world? Talk about undue pressure for little kids. Why should a child be the one to correct a person if said person gets their gender wrong? Maybe the parents could take responsibility for this, but then also add a caveat such as “Jazz and/or Kio are boys, but we leave it up to them to decide what they wear and how their hair is styled.” When people, especially over the phone, mistake my daughter for a boy, I don’t go, get her and make her explain that her name can be either a girl’s name or a boy’s name. I just very politely (and sometimes not so politely especially to people who should know that she is a girl, like the receptionist at her doctor’s office) say, “She is a girl.”

There were multiple occasions when I had to correct people on my daughter’s gender when she was younger, maybe they thought she was a boy because she didn’t have much hair until she was at least 2, but more likely it was because she was in dressed a fire truck outfit (her dad is a firefighter) or once when she had on khakis. My retort to the person after they asked why my baby daughter was in khakis was, “Well, don’t adult women wear khakis?” That quieted her quickly!

As a strong and independent feminist, did I balk when all my 4 yr old daughter wanted for Christmas was a Barbie? Yes I did. But did I march into Target and buy one for her? Yes I did. Okay so it took me about 30 minutes because I would pick it up and five minutes later go put it back down again. That cycle repeated itself multiple times. Why did I do it? Because it is what she wanted – my daughter knows why I am not pro-Barbie, but was so thrilled that Santa got her one that year. So it made my going against my feminist sensibilities okay.

But in my traditionally rebellious fashion, I will more likely buy the “boy” version of the toy before I buy the “girl” version of the same toy. Like this past Christmas, as I was wandering aimlessly around Toys R Us trying to locate the oh-so-coveted Zhu Zhu Pets, I was pointed in the correct direction by a salesperson, but before she told me where to go, she asked, “Is it for a boy or a girl?” My traditional answer came out, “Well it is for my daughter, but it doesn’t matter.” I proceeded to buy a “boy” one instead the overly girly pink or purple version. And FYI, the “boy” version was on sale and the “girl” version wasn’t – that also helped me to make my decision!

The same thing happens at McDonald’s when I, on the rare occasion, will treat my daughter to a Happy Meal. More often than not, my daughter would rather have the “boy” toy. But I always do ask her which one she would pefer. So when the person at McDonald’s asks, “Boy or girl?” I have learned not to say, “It doesn’t matter”, but instead, “Boy”. Because then my daughter will be happy with the toy. It has happened once or twice where I have had to exchange the toy because the cashier has taken it upon themselves to give us the “girl” toy.

But with me it doesn’t just end with toys and clothes, my daughter knows that men and women are equal and in a household (and in the workforce), the men and the women can and should do the exact same things in an equal fashion. Or at least divide the household chores in a way that makes both partners happy. Luckily, she has my parents to model this behavior for her.

It also extends to the societal norm that I probably despise the most…shaving my legs and underarms. Now I will do both, not on a regular basis and usually for a special occasion, but do I curse it every time? Yes. My daughter knows that she can choose to shave or to not shave and exactly why I feel the way that I do feel about shaving. It is because there is no equivalent societal norm that men are forced to follow. People will say…men have to shave their facial hair. Do I prefer a cleanly shaven man? Yes (mostly because the stubble can hurt when kissing!), but do I look down on a man because he chooses not to shave? No. Does society? No. But do they look down upon women who choose not to shave? Yes.  Remember the Julia Roberts hairy armpit incident?

The eldest boy, Jazz, was asked whether some choices that have been made for him upset him (because even though his parents truly feel that they are leaving all the choices up to him, they aren’t), he nodded his head yes. I hope that the parents are happy and okay with whatever choices their 2 boys and one as of yet unknown gendered child make as they grow up.

I am all for raising kids in a gender neutral world, but like everything else, do it in moderation! You want to have well balanced children and I wonder how balanced the children of these parents will truly be. It would be very interesting to come back to these children in 20 or so years and see how they have fared. To see if they are still keeping with the tenets that were taught to them by their parents or whether societal norms have crept in and overcome their childhood teachings. And to what degree both of these different and opposing teachings/norms have had on their lives.

Societal norms be darned as far as I am concerned, but I also know when to pick my battles and realize that some just can’t be fought!
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Hope you enjoyed this guest post. Feel free to leave any comments or feedback for the writer below!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under feminism, Guest Post, life, mothering, Tuesday

Embracing your Inner Hairy Beast

**Warning to readers: This is a post about body hair (including pubic hair,) hair removal, the media and the overall effect on the self-image of women. You have been warned.**

Hair, flow it, show it/ Long as God can grow, my hair

Those iconic words are from the musical “Hair.” Now, I don’t know much else about the show except that the song “Age of Aquarius” came from it and since I am an Aquarius, I’ve always liked that song. But since this post is about the biological material, hair, and not the show, I’ll let you find out about the musical on your own if you are so inclined.

So, I have a confession to make. I am a hairy beast. I say that in all honesty and acceptance and it’s meant to be funny and not at all self-depricating but it’s very true, I am a hairy beast. I have hair on my nose, my arms, my legs, my fingers and toes. I have hair that runs along my jaw and these stubborn wiry chin hairs. I have a ‘stache and a hairy tummy. I blame the genes on my father’s side. After all, most African and Native American tribesmen aren’t overly hairy, but those Neandertalic ancestors of mine from Northern Europe? Yup, hairy beasts. After all, it’s cold in Northern Europe.

I first started shaving my legs in the sixth grade and that was after quite a few years of torment from classmates about my hairy limbs. Want to make an eight-year-old cry? Start calling her “The Wolfman.” For a while, when I was in high school, I was even shaving my arms which, honestly, was just a hot mess (that didn’t last too long.) Waxing of facial hair (eyebrows, upper lip and chin) began when I was 16 or so. Waxing of more “sensitive” body parts started happening when I was in college and when I was 25 I discovered “threading” for the removal of facial hair. Bleaching, Nair, Nads, the scrubby pumice stone thingy, I tried just about every fad out there for hair removal. I convinced myself that after X number of times of waxing, the root would die and the hair would stop growing. (For the record, I am 31 years old which means I have been waxing parts of my face bi-monthly for 13 years… but someday they’ll stop growing.) I shutter to think about the amount of money that I have spent on hair removal. I am kind of glad that I never looked into laser hair removal as I was talking to a woman about it a short time ago and she shared her story of how she shelled out over $1000 for treatments… and it didn’t work! Waxing and threading are both painful and temporary and yet, I keep paying for these masochistic sessions. Why?

I consider myself to be an enlightened, progressive, self-assured woman, but I still want to look good and I want to be accepted and being a hairy woman is not accepted. It is not accepted in this culture… in fact, I can’t really think of any cultures where it is accepted. But I have to say, I had my moments of crazy when my drive for acceptance intersected my drive to be seen as desirable and I succumbed to what was and still is considered to be the hallmark of beauty… the Brazilian Bikini Wax.

I received my first Brazilian when I was 21 or so. It was 2001 and “Sex and the City” was still pretty popular in mainstream culture. I considered myself to be very open-minded and sexually aware so men’s magazines were not strangers to my eyes (besides, everyone had access to the Internet in their rooms so it’s not like one had to travel far to find images.) The message that girls like me were getting was “Your pubic region, as it is, is gross and guys really prefer a cleaner look.” Stop and take a minute to think about that… GUYS prefer a cleaner look. (OK I am sure there are some girls out there who like the cleaner look as well, but I am writing from my POV.) So, in my effort to be as desirous to the opposite sex what did I do? I marched down to a beauty salon and allowed a complete stranger to smear hot wax on some of the most sensitive parts of my body and then unceremoniously rip the hair out, until I resembled a pre-pubescent girl. But do you want to know what no one tells you about the Brazilian Bikini Wax? Without the presence of pubic hair, there is major chafing that happens. When hair grows back, it itches uncontrollably and hair has to be 0.25 inches long before you can wax again. Pubic hair does not grow straight, it kind of has a mind of it’s own and in-grown hairs look disgusting and can become infected. And Brazilian Bikini Waxes? Expensive. I kept up this vicious cycle for almost four years. FOUR YEARS!!

But beautifying your nether regions has become big business. Google “Vaginal Rejuvenation” and you’ll get information on plastic surgeons who will, for a fee, tighten your vagina and nip and clip back your labia (minora and majora) making your lady parts look prettier, just like women in magazines or in film. I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you the last time I looked at my vulva so I don’t know if I’d consider it to be pretty or not. Now, granted, some women may experience labia that cause them pain because of how far the labial folds protrude, but I guess for me, if it’s not broken, I’m not going under the knife. And the funny thing is, despite all of the testimonies from doctors extolling the virtues about vaginal rejuvenation, absent are the stories from the women who experience recurring pain and discomfort after their surgery. (For those stories, check out American Plastic by Laurie Essig. I was able to get it at the library.)

OK, so if you’ve gotten this far, you might be asking yourself, why is she ranting on and on about this and sharing all of this information with us? Here’s why: DD2, my Dragonfly, is a hairy beast. Has been since birth. It was one of the first things that we noticed about her after my OB plopped her naked, vernix covered body on my chest. She has little furry shoulders, a strip of hair that runs down her back, quite the unibrow and for a while she had a very hairy forehead. I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for her. Who knows? The hair might dissipate as she grows older, it might not. What am I, as a mother going to tell my daughter if she comes to me crying because the kids are making fun of her because of her hair?

I don’t know because I chose to conform to the norm. But consider the words of Sheryl Crow: “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” True? False? Something between?
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For the record, I still shave my legs and underarms (more frequently in the summer… once a week as opposed to maybe once a month,) and I still wax and pluck facial hairs. And it still hurts.

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, feminism, monday, mothering

CarLashes… just another part of The Pink Ribbon Culture?

Earlier this week, I took the Swagger Wagon into the dealer for a three-month check up. Yes, I know how insane that sounds, but they told us to bring her in after about three months just to make sure that everything was doing OK, tires were holding pressure, battery its charge, fluids not leaking. The check-up is included in our warranty so my only cost was my time and effort.

My original plan was just to drop of my van and head to a friend’s house for play with the rental car but The Dragonfly got sick so my friend was aminable to The Bear coming over to play solo. The van check up was to only take 15-20 minutes, so we waited rather than getting the rental. While in the lobby, my eyes spotted… something. Actually, I saw it when I pulled into the lot but I thought that it was some sort of sales gimmick. This is what I saw:

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WTH?

I just finished reading Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health by Gayle A. Sulik, Ph.D and the irony was not lost as to what I was looking. Pink. Eyelashes. On. A. Car. I get the van dropped off and head inside and my suspicions were confirmed. The product is called “CarLashes” and they come in black or pink and have clear or pink crystal “eyeliner” that is sold separately. The pink ones at my car dealership are tagged with the additional information to “Show support for Breast Cancer Awareness with our PINK lashes!” Is this what Breast Cancer Awareness has boiled down to, a way to sell women anything while at the same time making them feel altruistic? According to my most recent read… yup.

The basic thesis of Pink Ribbon Blues is this: the pink ribbon culture has brought cancer advocacy much attention but there has not been an effect of improving women’s health. I first began to hear the term “Pink Ribbon Effect” when I was trying to find out why the Catholic Church and Susan G. Komen Foundation were at loggerheads. Looking more into things, a complicated web begins to be woven among cancer advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies, cancer patients and their families and the consumer and her money.

According to the author, breast cancer “survivors” are in constant “battle” with and for their lives and daily wage a “war” against cancer. The language choice is not accidental, as the prototypical breast cancer survivor has to play the role of the “she-ro:” always optimistic, always thinking of self first and, if the first two do not apply, a certain level of guilt about not being she-roic enough (Chapter 6.) In addition to making survivors into she-ros, the choice of the pink color hyper-feminizes the roles of women, basically boiling them down to just their breasts and equating their worth with their breasts. In the words of Audre Lorde:

A kindly woman from Reach [to] Recovery came in to see me, with a very upbeat message and a little prepared packet containing a soft sleep bra and a wad of lambswool pressed into a pale pink breast-shaped pad… Her message was, you are just as good as you were before because you can look exactly the same. Lambswool now, then a good prosthesis as soon as possible and nobody will ever know the difference. But what she said was, “You’ll never know the difference,” and she lost me right there, because I knew sure as hell I’d know the difference… (pgs. 340-341)

This focus on having breasts and keeping breasts (and thereby keeping external appearances of what it means to be a woman in Western culture) also leads to cute slogans and breast cancer awareness events: Blogger Boobie-Thon, T-shirts that read “I love breasts,” “Stop the war in my-rack,” “Tatas are awesome” (for the guys.) According to the author:

Sexualizing women in the name of breast cancer is only one of the detrimental consequences of many pink ribbon campaigns. They also infantize women and emphasize their traditional social roles. Teddy Bears, rubber duckies and M&Ms are used to comfort and pacify children, yet companies sell them to grown women in the name of the cause. (pg. 373)

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you do know that I have no problem with being feminine and embracing my feminine nature, but I do have to say that I am inclined to agree with what the author is saying about how breast cancer awareness does overly sexualize women. Why don’t we see much by way of testicular cancer or prostate cancer? Is it because these parts of the male anatomy are not secondary sex characteristics and therefore not easily marketable? Why aren’t we selling Action Figures or Toy Cars to Men to raise funds for those cancers?

But, you may ask, tons of money is being raised and going to research to get rid of this disease, right? Well…

…the American Cancer Society publishes facts and figures on cancer in the United States, including incidence and mortality. From 2000 to 2006, the number of invasive cancers rose from 182, 800 to 212,920… The number of breast cancer deaths estimated each year from 2000 to 2008 has averaged 40,314. (pg 59)

The argument could be made that the number of incidences has increased because more women are getting tested earlier and getting diagnosed sooner, but questions remain about mammography including its accuracy, benefit and the long-term effects of radiation exposure. Add this to “pinkwashing,” the tactic that some companies use in which they raise breast cancer funds while at the same time divert attention from the potential hazards, such as producing toxins or chemicals, that may contribute to the disease. Hmmm… kind of like this?

Mmmm… fried chicken. Perfect for combating obesity (which is a breast cancer risk factor.) Oh, there’s some grilled in there too.

So what’s a gal to do? I don’t know. I guess don’t base your shopping habits on where monies may or may not be going. I’ll admit it, I have been a Pink Ribbon shopper (Estee Lauder makes this fantastically flattering pink shade, and I can’t wear pink well and it’s offered during Pinktober… oops, I mean October) but I will say my motivation was mostly for the color. Will we see more transparency in the major breast cancer fundraising efforts? That would make things easier for people to donate. I mean, if you know more about where your money is going, you might be more inclined to donate without the need for a pink thing-y, or to donate just to make yourself feel good about doing your part in the war on breast cancer. From page 375:

The generic survivor has become so central to pink ribbon culture that any survivor will do. A name on a T-shirt or a pink hat is all we need to happy fight the war on breast cancer. The personal struggle of the disease is left on the sidelines, transformed into a transcendent story, or left back at home where no one will ever see.

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Pink Ribbons: Cute or harmful? Do they really do the job or are they just placating the masses? What do you think? I’ve been told I need to read some happier books, by the way!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under feminism, life, political, wednesday, world

Nomad

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a reader. I love to read and I will read just about anything and everything. I am a fast reader and I can tear through a 300 page novel in about 2 days if all circumstances are right. (Plus it helps that the Dragonfly tends to be a lap sleeper so that affords me usually a 2 hour block in the afternoon in which I am sitting in my rocker with the child and a book. It’s lovely!) As I’ve gotten older, I have found my tastes evolving from mindless fiction to non-fiction novels… especially biographies and auto-biographies.

I most recently finished Nomad written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms. Ali was born into a Muslim family in Somalia. She left her family and fled to the Netherlands when her father decided she should marry a cousin living in Canada, who she had never seen. Once in the Netherlands, she learned the language, the culture, worked odd jobs and eventually became a translator and a member of Parliment, before immigrating to the United States. She speaks highly of assimilating cultures and traditions into the majority, rather than allowing ethnic enclaves to exist and to perpetrate centuries old traditions that are not mallable to Western thinking.

This idea that immigrants need to maintain group cohesion promotes the perception of these people as victim groups requiring special treatment. If people should conform to their ancestral culture, it therefore follows that they should also be helped to maintain it, with even their own system of legal arbitration.

In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn’t translate into a rich mosaic of colorful and proud peoples interacting peacefully while maintaining a delightful diversity of food and craftwork. It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance and abuse. (pg. 261)

Ms. Ali is an atheist but tolerates the Christian God more so than the Muslim Allah (which is kind of funny because in the end they are both the same God.) She does challenge those who fervently believe in the laws of Islam, especially women, who she believes should be doing more for other Muslim women:

On campus after campus I would stare in despair at these confident young men and women, born in the United States, who had so manifestly benefited from every advantage of Western education yet were determined to ignore the profound differences between a theocratic mind-set and a democratic mind-set… These students seems to lack a basic human empathy for other Muslim women- women who are just like they are but who cannot speak in public or even go to school. If they lived in Saudi Arabia, under Shari’a law, these college girls in their pretty scarves wouldn’t be free to study, to work, to drive, to walk around. In Saudi Arabia girls their age and younger are confined, are forced to marry, and if they have sex outside of marriage they are sentenced to prison and flogged. According to the Quran, their husband is permitted to bear them and decide whether they may work or even leave the house; he may marry other women without seeking their approval and if he chooses to divorce them, they have no right to resist or to keep custody of their children. Doesn’t this matter at all to these clever young Muslim girls in America? (pgs. 133-134)

Perhaps the cause most dear to Ms. Ali’s heart is the rights and dignity of women, especially when is comes to honor killings, female genital mutilation, child marriage and veiling. I do get the impression that she sees Muslim women who choose to wear the veil as still being repressed by the men in their lives, and who knows, maybe they are. But you know what, this all got me thinking. Do you want to know what honor killings, female genital mutilation, child marriage and forced veiling have in common? They are all legal in some countries and in the eyes of devout Muslims, can be interpreted as part of Shari’a law and used to support the subjugation of women. For these same devout Muslims, Shari’a law trumps that of Western laws, including US law. (Please note: it is very hard to find a neutral source discussion Shari’a law and women, so I include two separate links here and here. Both are biased, each in either direction.)

Many times, in discussing my pro-life views with people, they inevitably state one of two things: “If you don’t like abortions, don’t get one” and “If it was that bad for women, it wouldn’t be legal.” This brings me to this conclusion: Just because something is legal, does not mean that it is right. Just because it is legal to grind off your 4 year old’s clitoris, remove her inner labia and part of her outer labia and sew her vagina closed, doesn’t mean that it’s right. Just because it’s legal to marry your daughter off as soon as she begins menstruating (so as best to preserve your family honor) doesn’t mean that it is right. Just because killing your 4 year old because she underwent a gynecological exam after an allegation of molestation is legal doesn’t mean that it is right. (Ms. Ali is very pro-choice but she does comment how she appreciates how the pro-life and pro-choice camps in our country, for the most part, can discuss this difficult topic without resorting to violence.) But the question remains, where are the Western feminists in this fight?

There are many factors as to why Western feminists are not jumping fully into this fight for Women’s Rights. One is the threat of violence that stems from the more fanatical forms of Islam. Another is that Islam is headed by men of color and there is the issue of Western ideals being imposed on men of a minority status. Another is Western countries, in fear of seeming colonial or otherwise oppressive, do not want to force others to assimilate to that particular society’s norms.

For the longest time, I was really against the thought of assimilation. Thinking that if people make the choice and fight (or pay) to come to the US, the least that we can do is let them hold on to their cultural identities. But I do believe that there is a fine line between holding onto family traditions from the old country and completely distancing yourself from those in your “new” country, preferring ethnic enclaves on Western soil, with rules and laws to match. Is there an easy answer? As with the best questions, not really.

Ms. Ali mentions one way to push back is to engage in dialogue and to ask tough questions. She was raised in an environment where question asking was not permitted and met with violence rather than answers. From page 215:

Free Speech is the bedrock of liberty and a free society. And yes, it includes the right to blaspheme and to offend.

and from page 212:

All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not.

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Have you read Nomad? What are your thoughts? Is Ms. Ali just trying to bad mouth an otherwise peaceful religion or is she telling the hard truth? The next book I am reading is Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. Grab it from your local library and join me!

Pax Christi!

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