Favorite Quotes

“I’m not going to betray my heart and sacrifice myself on the fires of your expectation.” –C. Ara Campbell

Photo by Natalie Grono

C Ara Campbell

Thank God my husband is too compassionate and egalitarian to criticize this “Day Without a Woman” strike – AKA another day where Matt Walsh is woefully wrong

[A response to this.]

Yesterday was the “Day Without A Woman” strike. The idea was that women were supposed to abandon their jobs, their families and their household duties for the day in order to protest how we elected a man to President who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and how even in 2017 women are still unequal in this country.

As was the case with the Women’s March in January, most of the people involved in this demonstration are VERY sure why they’re involved. They saw their country elect a man who said he could grab their genitals and get away with that, and it makes them feel unsafe, unrepresented, and just plain mad as hell. From my conversations with my fellow feminists who either supported or participated in this strike/boycott/it seems most of them KNOW that they’re speaking out against very real and lived INEQUALITY.  When asked how they’re unequal, they are able to articulate very compelling reasons from their lived experiences of all the little ways every day in which they are marginalized, oppressed, ignored, abused, misrepresented, and devalued by modern society. So for once men have to pick up the slack for women instead of the other way around.

The organizers of this protest had concise, consistent, and articulate messages about what they aimed to accomplish yesterday and their goals for the future. Those goals are very connected to women’s issue’s because women’s rights are human rights.

The official unity principals, which serve as the foundation for yesterday’s strike, include a women’s right to access reproductive health care and have her and her doctor make decisions, not conservative asshats with a blog, LGBTQIA rights, immigrant and refugee rights, and environmental health. It’s clear why these issues were included in the Day Without Women platform because women are affected by every single one of these issues every.single.day.

A few thoughts on today:

1. Serious, productive women have to put up with inequality every day even though they don’t have time for that nonsense

Women do most of the unpaid work in this country, whether that’s raising families or caring for their aging Baby Boomer parents, and are expected to do that work with very little support from their male partners WHILE ALSO WORKING A FULL-TIME JOB.  Because men have the option to opt-out of this work because they know the women in their lives will pick up the slack, ensuring their lives will continue on basically as normal for the most part. When you get the feminist mom demographic to go on strike, you really are grinding the social engine to a halt because feminist moms are raising their children, participating in activism, carrying the loads for their families, and working outside of the home, and boy howdy, do they know how to organize and get shit done.

Days like yesterday make me even more thankful for my husband, who grew up in a generation and religion steeped in patriarchal control and he still rejected gender roles and has chosen to be an egalitarian partner and committed father with great enthusiasm. My husband can’t even say the word “feminist” without feeling so grateful that he has was raised by a strong woman, was taught how to respect women by his father, is the brother to some strong-ass women, is married to a tough-as-nails woman, is raising two daughters to be strong women, and raising two sons to reject patriarchal control and respect the hell out of women.

When I asked him what he was doing to commemorate “A Day Without Women,” he told me he was going to wear red to work, support the women in his office who would like to participate in the action, and donate to causes that directly impact the lives of women. He’s far too much of a grown, mature, adult man, to denigrate women, to mock their protests for more rights, and not support every woman’s effort to gain more equality. And thank God for that.

My recommendation to any young woman discerning marriage: ask your prospective husband how he feels about modern feminism. If he laughs, RUN FOR THE HILLS. The last thing you want is to be married to a misogynist who expects you do all the emotional labor in your family, raise your children with little to no support, while he reaps all the benefits of your hard work and never has to lift a finger. Praise Jesus.

2. This once again benefits the women it’s supposed to help.

Fortunately in the education system, mature feminist Baby Boomers make up a significant percentage of the staff at many public schools, particularly on the east coast. That’s why some of the biggest school systems in America shut down yesterday to accommodate the hundreds of feminists who value their equality and know that fighting for their rights means they are fighting for the rights of their students as well. Again, women’s rights are human rights.

Unfortunately because of lazy and sexist men and their harmful, non-family oriented policies, thousands of working mothers, many of them low income, will be forced to call out of work or shell out money for childcare. The women who would have liked to participate in yesterday’s events and who couldn’t afford to take part in them, will be the ones who pay the price, because men sure as hell won’t. The Patriarchy will keep humming along as normal, oppressing our nation’s women by enacting laws that take away women’s reproductive rights, marginalizing the already oppressed, taking away the rights of trans women to use the bathroom, paying women of color even less than they pay white women, refusing asylum to refugee women, failing to protect women who are currently experiencing domestic or sexual violence, manspreading and mansplaining, while misogynist, conservative men sit in their Ivory towers looking down at women complaining for not using their inside voices like the nice ladies to. As usual.

3. The men married to women need to step up.

Many articles have been written over the past week explaining what men can do to support yesterday’s strike. As it turns out there was and is a lot they could/can do. They can pick up the slack with childcare. They can support  the women in their office if management tries to punish them for their participation. They can march with them and provide security against the men who wish to enact violence to them. If they’re attorneys, they can provide their legal services for free to those women who were arrested for protesting. They can teach their sons and daughters about consent. They can not grab the genitals of other women just because president trump bragged about it. They can speak out whenever a sexist joke or story is told. They can listen to their wives when they tell them about their experiences with inequality AND BELIEVE THEM even if they have never experienced it themselves. These can and should be doing these things today and every day. Sadly, a depressingly low number of men will not do any of these things even though patriarchy hurts them as well. Even sadder, is when women denigrate the work of other women by criticizing their tone or tactics, etc. because women are the gatekeepers of patriarchy and the only real way to have power as a women is through soft power.

Mothers should be supported in self-care and filling up their own well so that they can continue to care for their families. This is called maternal feminism. If that means leaving their family for a whole day as a political statement, what a wonderful role model she is to her children in standing up for her rights.  Workers usually go on strike because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that their employer is oppressing them. If you’re going on strike from your family, is that because your children and husband are oppressing you? PROBABLY. Why isn’t your husband supporting you more? Why are your children expecting you to do everything for  them? Why isn’t every member of your household responsible for the upkeep of that household? Why isn’t your partner being a better parent to your shared children?

I’m so glad that my  husband isn’t a Matt Walsh type. It makes me feel pangs of by-proxy-embarrassment for his wife for allowing their children and herself to be disrespected in this way.

What can a husband do for a wife who wants to go on strike from the family? PICK UP THE FREAKING SLACK. He can show that he is committed to being a better partner by being a leader in changing his actions to be more respectful, accommodating, and supportive of his wife.  He can be a man, in other words.

4. YOU AREN’T EQUAL. DON’T EVER STOP UNTIL YOU ARE.

Women need to absolutely and 100% protest for equal rights because they still do not have equal rights.

  • The Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t been passed after 40+ years.
  • Women still make remarkably less on a dollar than the men, and even less if they’re a woman of color.
  • Only 3% of rapes are ever prosecuted and just last year rapists like Kobe Bryant were lauded as heroes because they can put a ball in a basket good.
  • Women cannot hold positions of ministry in many churches.
  • Rapists can sue their victims for custody in most states.
  • About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence, and 75% of the victims were killed as they attempted to leave the relationship.
  • The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.
  • Women pay more for common household items than men to. Just ask your shampoo bottle, shaving cream, BIC pen.
  • Women are underrepresented in government. Only 20% of Congress is comprised of women.
  • Women are in the minority in business, accounting for only 17% of board members and 15% C-suit executives, and 5% of CEOS at Fortune 500 companies.
  • Women are the minority in news media.
  • Women still shoulder more of the household burden, much like Matt Walsh’s poor wife. Working moms are more likely to be saddled with childcare duties than working fathers, even if both spouse work equal hours. And they’re also more likely to bear the burden of doing chores around the house.
  • Female soldiers face alarming rates of rape and harassment.
  • Young women experience inequality in high school sports.
  • Retired women are twice as likely as retired men to live in poverty.
  • Women of all age are more likely than men to live below the poverty line especially single mothers with deadbeat ex-spouses who don’t pay child support.
  • In STEM fields, women make up less than 30% of employees.
  • Human trafficking is a crime that vastly affects women.
  • Women suffer the worst when poor water quality and sanitation is jeopardized because of menstruation.
  • There is a luxury tax on tampons, which if you didn’t know, are a necessity not a luxury.
  • 1 in 5 women in the United States have been victims of sexual assault in their lifetime compared to 1 in 71 men.
  • 1 in 7 women have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime compared to 1 in 18 men.
  • 1 in 4 college women are being sexually assaulted before they graduate, forcing them to delay their education or drop out of school, while schools participate in cover ups. We have an epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses.
  • Women face rampant discrimination and harassment in the workforce, like being kept out of leadership roles or certain fields entirely, not being properly accommodated or supported while pregnant or after giving birth, and sexual harassment is a major issue is non-female dominated fields.
  • Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.

[Statistics sources here, here, here, and here]

Feminism is the only thing that has ever offered help. This, perhaps more than any other reason, is why everyone should take feminism seriously. Especially today and every day thereafter until there is gender equality for every woman and girl.

Feminist are out there fighting for everyone’s equality. Please join us.

How I really feel…

As a child my mother worked very hard to teach me to be an independent person. She came from the era that women couldn’t rent an apartment, buy a house, hold a credit card or bank account in their name without a father or husband’s consent. She wanted her children to be able to take care of themselves once they left her home. My mother and father both had childhoods where they had to work hard and they both grew up with a good worth ethic. They never wanted to have children who were helpless.

It was because of this I learned that when it comes to my actions, my thoughts, my words…I am responsible for myself.

It’s because of this belief that I’m really tired of the lie that gets told in (mostly) religious cultures that says men are so base, vile, and corrupt that they cannot control themselves when it comes to their sexual passions. And because of this we women must cover ourselves up so as to not excite these men because they can’t help themselves. And if they do help themselves, it must be the woman’s fault, right? Wrong.

This idea isn’t new. The Victorians were so proper, a glimpse of an ankle was provocative. In some Muslim countries women are forced to be covered all over with burquas. Apparently in American religious contemporary society, a picture of a teenage girl not wearing a bra on Facebook is so shocking a mother has to write a shaming post about it telling these girls to keep away from her sons. The subtext being these sons are in no way capable of moderating their own reactions and mommy must do it for them.

Am I crazy to think that men are human beings and, therefore, capable of controlling themselves? Millions of men walk around this planet every day who are able to restrain their sexual passions and not act out on every sexual impulse that invades their brain. You’ll have to excuse me for not thinking that all men are just potential rapists waiting for the right trigger. The reason why I give men so much credit is because I know too many wonderful ones who are able to control themselves.

I think there comes a time in all of our lives when we realize that the only person we can control is ourselves. We can’t make people dress or act in the way we want them to. We can’t make them cater to our desires. We can’t make women cover up so as to not entice heterosexual men. Heterosexual men are going to be attracted to women that they are attracted to no matter what they wear. And, if I might add, how very self-centered of anyone to think that everyone else should cater to them.

I hope, with all sincerity that if a mother of teenage sons sees a girl on Facebook posting a “selfie” she finds provocative, she teaches her sons to control their own passions. Once they leave her home they are responsible for themselves. They need to be able to conduct themselves around women with propriety and respect. The way she does this is by teaching her sons that girls are human beings. Like Nate Pyle says, they need to be able to “see” women as human beings regardless of what they’re wearing.

The world doesn’t revolve around one single person (no matter how much Donald Trump wished it did) and we can’t expect people to be perfect and never make mistakes. I’m bothered by anyone who states that someone doesn’t get a second chance with them and then proclaims to be a Christian. I’m so grateful for the people who have given me a second chance. I  know that there are some people who will never give me a second chance, and that’s fine. That’s their loss. But I want everyone to know, you’ll always have a second chance with me. (Unless you continue to try to hurt me or someone I love. I do have boundaries).

“Jesus wasn’t about perfection. He was all about redemption. He said that he didn’t come to save the righteous, but the fallen. He gathered around him the prostitutes, tax collectors, and other ‘broken’ members of society and delighted in their company, not in the company of the self-righteous pharisees who stood on street corners exhibiting to the world how ‘perfectly’ they kept the letter of the law.” -Lorian Franklin Dunlop (someone I’m lucky to call a friend)

There might be people in this world who look at teenagers on social media and judge them as not worth their time based on a “selfie” they posted. They might decide that their sons or daughters shouldn’t be allowed to interact with these people any more. They might decide that these kids don’t ever deserve a second chance. They might feel superior to these kids because “they’re so perfect.” I’d like to remind them of my friend’s Lorian’s words and know that how you treat “the least of these” is a reflection of your character, not theirs.

That’s right, teenage girls who were shamed on the internet this week for daring to take a picture of yourself with pouty duck lips, what anyone has said or written about you is a reflection of their character, not yours.

And so I leave you with this, as my children go out into this world I want them to know that they are only in control of themselves. And if someone can’t get past the way their body looks enough to see the person behind the body, (their sparkling personalities, their wicked senses of humor, the kindness they show to others) and only seeks to make a sexual object out of them, that sin is not on their heads. There is no way that they dress or act that can cause someone else to sin. None. They are only the guardians of their own virtue, not anyone else’s.

Because Jesus.

sunset friends

Like a Girl

I’m really, really tired of the fact that being called a girl or a woman is the worst insult you can throw at a boy or a man. There is nothing shameful about being a girl and a woman, so why is it so insulting to be called one?

I was thinking about this recently when I was watching “The Sandlot” with my kids. I triple love that movie and part of it was filmed in my hometown. I’ve loved that movie for 20 years, but there is one part that has always bothered me. When Ham is trading insults back and forth with the rival baseball team his penultimate insult is to tell the other player that, “you play ball like a girl!” Everyone is shocked! How dare he go there? THAT WAS THE WORST DIS IN THE HISTORY OF TIME!!!

What does that even mean? This movie is set in the 1950s during a time where America had a professional girl’s baseball team. Shouldn’t playing ball like a girl be a compliment since back then there were professional female ball players and they were just kids in a sandlot?

There is a company in Salt Lake called Pick n’ Pull and they have rather annoying radio commercials. In one of their commercials the two guys in the ad are arguing over telling each other’s secrets. One of them shouts out at the end the other guy used to ride a girl’s bicycle that was pink. So what? What about him riding a “girl’s” bicycle as a child should be embarrassing or shaming? He got to ride a bike as a child. Congratulations, you’re richer than 90% of the world’s population.

Speaking of bikes, my son rode his sister’s bike to school the 2nd day of school because his scooter is broken and he didn’t want to walk. He was mercilessly teased on the way home. He came home bawling his face off because people were so mean to him about riding a “girl’s” bike. My daughter’s bike is black and just has a tiny butterfly sticker on it. Why the hell does it matter so much what bike he rode to school? Why is supposed to be so humiliating for a boy to ride or have anything remotely feminine? The sickening thing was that the child who teased him the most was a girl. It makes me sad that at a young age she is internalized the message that being a girl is wrong and shameful and she should attempt to humiliate any boy who does anything remotely feminine. It makes me so angry.

I’m still trying to figure out what “like a girl” even means! One time this kid told me I ran like a girl. My response? “Good because I AM a girl, dumbass.” Why was this kid trying to insult me by saying that something I was doing was feminine? What is so wrong with being feminine? What is wrong with being a girl? What is wrong with being a woman?

NOTHING!!!!

So, dear culture at large: stop trying to insult boys and men by saying they are girls. It’s not an insult to be a girl. Stop calling them names like the p-word that rhymes with wussy and all the other “delightful” euphemisms for female reproductive parts.  There is NOTHING wrong with being a girl. There is nothing wrong with being feminine. There is nothing weak about being a girl. There is nothing shameful about being a girl. There is nothing wrong with having a vagina and the ability to bring forth life. That, my dear, is the very essence of strength. (Pop 4 kids out of your reproductive parts and we’ll talk about whether you can use the p-word as another word for being weak, bucko).

So boys and men, next time you’re insulted by being called a girl or a woman, think about why. Think about it. Sit with it for a minute.  Is it because our culture has sold you the lie that it is shameful to be feminine? That it is shameful to be a woman? The culture is wrong. The culture is misogynistic and hates women, otherwise being called one wouldn’t be such an insult to you. Just like being a more masculine woman is not insulting. One gender is not better than the other (I’m totally aware of intersexed and transsexual people, but I’m talking generally here and I could write a whole other post about why transwomen are more likely to be killed and/or hurt because of transitioning to a female).

Next time someone tries to insult you by saying you’re “like a girl” in some respect, turn around and say “thank you!’ Because there it nothing wrong with being a girl. Nothing. And I refuse to let my children grow up in a world where being half the population is considered an insult.

 

 

Why I AM a Feminist, part 2

Almost 3 years ago (March 2010) I read a post by the infamous Mormon Mommy blogger, cJane Kendrick, about why she is not a feminist.  It inspired to me write my own post about why I do identify as a feminist, but it took me 15 months to write.  On Monday cJane published a post about why she now realizes that she is a feminist and why she claims that title.  She cites growing up believing boys were better than girls, her abusive first marriage, and working out an egalitarian marriage with her current spouse that has helped her evolve her views in her life.

How I came to feminism was much, much different than cJane’s.  I didn’t grow up believing boys were better than girls.  In fact, both my parents strove hard to teach me that boys are not better than girls, girls are not better than boys, and that girls were every bit as capable and smart as boys are.  My mom worked for the federal government in Washington D.C. for 10 years and was the first woman to go against dress code and wear a pantsuit to work.  My dad was raised by a strong, hard-working woman and has three very smart and capable sisters and has always shown that he believes in equality of the sexes (and by equality I mean of equal worth).  Because of my parents, I was raised to believe that I could be and do anything I wanted.  The truly shocking thing for me was going out into the world (you know, the cold harsh world of elementary school) and having people treat me like I wasn’t as smart, capable, and strong as the boys because I was a girl.  And this has pretty much continued whenever I have left the safety of home and family my entire life.  Like the boy who laughed at me at church because I said my dad was at home doing laundry, (“boys don’t do laundry, you idiot!  That’s a girl’s job”), or my Geometry teacher who on the first day of  my sophomore year explained to the class that us girls should expect a lower grade than the boys because girls’ brains just can’t compute Math the way that boys’ do, or when I was expected to do the dishes in my cooking class because I was the resident keeper of that magical vagina that makes dish washing possible, or when I got into the adult world and found out people’s expectations of me were based on my gender and not on my capabilities or interests.

Feminism to me has always been about choice.  In cJane’s article she talks about the growing pains she and her husband went through when figuring out parenting responsibilities and that ultimately they have a system now that works for both of them and respects and honors each other’s life paths.  That is great for her and shouldn’t we all be allowed to decide what is best for us and our families without some 3rd party trying to enforce gender roles or what they think the “ideal” is on us?  Shouldn’t my husband and I get to decide together that both of our educations and careers are important to us and work together to support each other in pursuing those things?  While co-parenting, while sharing household responsibilities, while being partners to each other?  Why should my life fit into some box because someone else said so?  And if someone wants to pursue a more traditional path, shouldn’t they be allowed to do that without judgment?

In my last post about why I’m a feminist, I listed some reasons why (and I apologize because switching to WordPress from Blogger made it so it did not format the same and it’s not as pleasing to the eye as before).  Here are more reasons I have accrued in the last year and a half.

  • Because a 14 year old in Pakistan named Malala Yousfzai was shot by the Taliban on October 9, 2012 for demanding to be a girl and receive an education.  
  • Because I read Half the Sky this year and it changed my life.
  • Because I care that women are being sold into sexual slavery all over the world, including my own country, like they are chattel and not real human beings with real lives, emotions, and pain.  They are treated like objects of someone else’s base pleasure and discarded and used like trash.
  • Because this past election season men like Todd Akin (R-MO), Richard Mourdock (R-IN), Roger Rivard (R – WI), Joe Walsh (R-IL), Tom Smith (R-PA), John Koster (R-WA), and Paul Ryan (R-WI), made some horrifically awful statements about rape, pregnancy, and women.  But what restores my faith in humanity are the voters who turned out in droves to tell these men to stop talking about rape and women’s bodies like we’re too stupid to understand science, fact, research, and duh, our own life experiences.
  • Because a 20 year old newly married girl with no life experience told my sister-in-law she wasn’t doing the right thing for her child by working full-time and going to school.  Because 20 year old newly married people with no children and no life experience should be considered the experts on what’s best for individual children and their families.
  • Because I’m tired of man splainers trying to tell me what I really mean, what my experiences really are, and what I should think and feel and believe and say and do.  Stop it, man splainers…it’s really old.
  • Because it really bothers me that at McDonalds my kids can’t just have “the toy” they have to say whether they want the “boy toy” or “girl toy” as if toys had genders and it is only acceptable for boys to play with one type of toy and girls another.
  • Because I should be able to leave my house and not worry about being sexually assaulted, but that’s just not a reality for women.
  • Because 11 year old girls (little girls) are being blamed for being gang raped.
  • Because I am a human being with autonomy over my own body, thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge and I allow all other human beings domain over their own lives as well.
  • Because I’m a child of Heavenly parents who love me and my sisters just as much as they love their sons.

So, I have to say brava to cJane.  Not because she came out as a feminist and all, because I read her blog regardless of how she self-identifies, but because she is a famous Mormon woman who has been speaking her truth a lot recently (her political leanings, her abusive first marriage) and it takes a lot of courage to speak your truth and let people say what they will about it. It’s not easy to have a big platform that reaches an audience of hundreds of thousands and invite them all to judge you.

Book Review – The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

I read this in February but in honor of my friend Joanna being on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on August, 9, 2012, I thought I’d post this review somewhere other than on Goodreads.

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American FaithThe Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith by Joanna Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brooks’s memoir of growing up as a Mormon girl in the orange groves of Southern California is one of the most personal memoirs I’ve ever read.  As a Mormon girl myself, there was much in this book I could identify with.  Not growing up in a particularly religious home where Mormonism was worn as a badge proud upon our chests, I couldn’t really relate to how Brooks describes her devout childhood.  However, Brooks description of her time at BYU and her faith transitions after that is something that is very close to my heart.

It felt like my heart was weeping while I read the last few chapters of this book as Brooks describes what it is like to be a liberal/feminist in a very conservative church.  While she was at BYU people would leave alcohol on her doorstep because she opposed the Gulf War.  They’re reasoning was that opposing the war was already an act of apostasy, so why not take it the whole way?  This is a mentality that I’ve never understood.  Just because we have political differences, does not mean I’m any less a member of this church.  Brooks describes how hard Prop 8 was on her, being both Mormon and a Californian, and this is something I could perfectly relate to.  How do you rectify your God given feelings of love and acceptance for all of God’s children with direct mandates from your church?  I related to Brooks’s struggle, and her last chapter gave me a lot of hope.  I refuse to give up, and so has she.

Brooks was at BYU the same time my sister was there, and they were actually friends and involved in the feminist group on campus.  Because my sister has such a fondness for Brooks, and because I’ve gotten to know her through online interactions with her blog, “Ask Mormon Girl,” and we’re Facebook friends, I regarded this novel with much more warmth than I would have reading a total stranger’s memoir.  Basically, I’m saying I’m already biased for Brooks, so it’s not a surprise I would love her book and give it a good review.  Ignore my bias, and know that it really is a wonderful, brave book.  Brooks has a lot of chutzpah living her live to publicly when Mormonism and questions about the church are on the forefront of so many minds right now.

View all my reviews

Book Review – Half the Sky

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women WorldwideHalf the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Women hold up half the sky.” –Chinese Proverb

No other book I have ever read has affected me the way this book has.  This is a non-fiction book written by two journalists who are married who describe what it is like to grow up as a girl in much of the world.  Kristof and WuDunn were journalists covering world events and human rights violations when they discovered that 200 million women are missing from the world.  That’s 500 times more people killed than in the Holocaust.  They were covering events like Tiananmen Square and being outraged that something that horrific could happen to ordinary citizens in China, when they learned that because of gender discrimination as many infant girls die unnecessarily every week in China as protesters who died in Tiananmen.  Every year, another 2 million girls disappear because of gender discrimination.  Gaining that knowledge led them to a crusade of telling the world these lost girl’s stories.

Kristof and DuWunn split up the book into different sections, the first dealing with twenty-first century slavery.  There are more slaves in the world in 2012 than there were back during what we commonly think of as the time of slavery during the African slave trades.  In these chapters, Kristof and WuDunn recount how common it is for peasant girls in parts of Asia and the Middle East to be kidnapped and sold into brothels.  There they are slaves to the brothel owners and are often raped and beaten into submission.  They are given drugs to make them compliant, but also far less tempted to run away when they become addicted.  Little girls as young as 8 years old are sex slaves in brothels.  This happens in 2012, people!  How is this acceptable?!

The next few chapters, Kristof and WuDunn talk about mass rape as often a weapon of war against women in places like Africa and the Middle East.  There is no faster way to break a civilization than to rape women to show how weak a culture is.  Many times these women are gang raped and tortured to bring dishonor to a family.  The worst place to be a woman in the world right now is the Congo where it is estimated that 90% of the female population has been raped.  Kristof and WuDunn feature the stories of a few women who have spoken out against being raped (often victims of rape are raped again if they go to the police by the police, are shamed into killing themselves to save the family honor, etc.) and have done things to fight back and change their culture and how their culture views rape and women.  Rape is more effective in killing a woman than actual poison.

Next Kristof and WuDunn talk about maternal mortality and how common it is for women to die in childbirth around the world.  Any American reader should be shocked that our own maternal mortality is much higher than it should be.  These chapters were my favorite because the authors discuss different heroes in the world doing something to help women give birth and survive.  I’ve  been a huge fan of Dr. Catherine Hamblin and the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital since she appeared on the Oprah Show for the first time over a decade ago.  We Western women probably have never heard of a fistula, let alone live with something so easily fixable but so debilitating to African women. A fistula is a small hole that is formed in the vagina during obstructed labor that either creates a hole to the bladder wall or rectum, causing the victim to leak urine or feces constantly and uncontrollably.  Dr. Hamblin treats fistula patients in Africa giving them back their dignity, their families, and their self-worth.  Kristof and WuDunn talk about how easy it is to give women access to good maternal medicine and how it is just not a priority in some countries.

The next section of the book deal with ways to help poverty-stricken countries and women.  Micro-lending through organizations like Kiva has done much to improve the quality of life for the women and men mentioned in the book.  Kristof and DuWunn do a good job of describing what kind of aid actually helps, and what hurts.  This was probably the most inspiring section as the authors chronicle ways that these countries have been helped through charitable entities.  It has been proven that when you empower women, give them equal voice and say, that countries and culture profit for the better.  You cannot discriminate against half your population and expect your country to succeed.

This book does a fine job of interspersing statistics and facts in with stories of real girls and real women.  I found these stories so readable and fascinating that I couldn’t help but feel sucked in to their worlds.  And I have found a new shero, Dr. Tererai Trent, a one-time victim of domestic violence, poverty, and illiteracy who went from being a cattle-herder in rural Africa to a woman with a doctorate degree.  As a reader, I wept with these women, rooted for them, and was immensely humbled by their stories.

I felt my American priviledge just dripping off me with every page I read.  Why did I deserve to be born in American?  Why aren’t I living on the Saharan desert struggling to survive in my mud hut, raising more children than I can handle, being beaten by my husband because that is his right, possibly being infected with AIDs, and not even having the ability to write my own name?  This is a reality for millions of women and here I sit on my laptop doing nothing.  Until I read this book.  Kristof and WuDunn have inspired me to give of my money, time and voice to help change the lives of these women for the better.

In the Appendix of the book, Kristof and WuDunn list organizations that the readers can get involved with to start helping these women change their lives for the better.  I love that the book is named after the Chinese proverb, “Women hold up half the sky,” because you cannot discriminate, eliminate, silence, rape, and kill, half the population of the world and not have devastating consequences.

I beg, implore, plead with you to read this book.  It will change your life.  I promise.

The book ends with one of my most favorite quotes:

“You must be THE CHANGE you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Ghandi

View all my reviews

Women of the Civil Rights Movement

Ella Baker.

Fannie Lou Hamer.

Septima Poinsette Clark.

Coretta Scott King.

Ruby Bridges.

Diane Nash.

Do you know these names?  They are a few of the integral women of the American Civil Rights Movements.

When I was a sophomore in college, in one of my English classes the major project for the quarter was to write a research paper on any subject of our choosing.  We had to submit three topics to our professor, defend our top subject, and then she decided what we should write about.

I only had one subject:  The women of the Civil Rights movement.

My argument:  We frequently hear about the men of the Civil Rights Movement, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, etc.  But so often the only female name you hear from the Civil Rights movement is Rosa Parks.  And yes, she was an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement, especially being the catalyst for a lot of change in Birmingham, Alabama, but who are these other women?  I want to know the women.

My subject was immediately approved by my teacher.  She asked me why I was so interested in the Civil Rights Movement.  I guess all she saw of me was a 19 year old little white Mormon girl from Utah.  Why should I care about the Civil Rights movement, right?  Ahem.  I explained that my mother lived in Washington, D.C from 1960 to 1973.  She lived the Civil Rights Movement.  She would often tell us stories about driving home to Silver Spring, MD from her job at the USDA in D.C. and both sides of the beltway would be burning.  She hated the 60s because it was so scary.  That’s why I’m interested.  This is my history, and my heritage, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from in America or your race or ethnicity, we ALL should be interested in the civil rights of our fellow human beings.

(I was pretty assertive as a 19 year old, for those of you who are wondering if I was always like this…)

So who are the women I listed above?  I was delighted to find out so much about these names I had never heard of before.  This paper began to mean so much more to me than just a research project I had to do for an English class.  I can’t find my paper now.  It was written in 1997.  But I remember their names.

Ella Baker

Ella began working for the NAACP in 1938 and her work with the Civil Rights movement spanned 5 decades.  She worked with the prominent leaders of the movement, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.  She was involved in Montgomery Bus Boycott, was a staffer for the Crusade for Citizenship (a voter registration camp), worked for student de-segregation with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.  She died in 1986, but was honored with a US Postage Stamp in 2009.  One of Ms. Baker’s most famous quotes:  “Remember, we are not fighting for the freedom of the Negro alone, but for the freedom of the human spirit, a larger freedom that encompasses all mankind.”





Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie’s activism started in the 50s organizing the Mississippi Freedom Summer and became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party.  Fannie was deeply religious and soft-spoken and often used Bible verses in her speeches.  She ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965.  She worked at a grassroots level as well, and helped start Head Start, the Freedom Farm Cooperative, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Poor People’s Campaign.  Fannie died of breast cancer in 1977.  Ms. Hamer’s most famous quote is: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Septima Poinsette Clark

Septima was born in 1898 and was an educator as well as a civil rights activist.  Her father was born a slave and after the Civil War he worked as a caterer. Her mother refused to let Septima become a domestic for a white family.  Instead, Septima graduated from high school and became an educator without a college education at that time.  In 1919, Septima taught at Avery Normal Institute, in Charleston, S.C., a private academy in for black children.  It was here Septima started her work with the NAACP.  She then went on to earn her Bachelors and Masters degrees and worked with noted Civil Rights Activist, W.E.B. Du Bois.  Septima is most known for starting Citizenship Schools which taught black adults in the Deep South how to read.  Septima worked with many health organizations.  In 1979, President Carter award Septima with a Living Legacy Award.  Septima died in 1987.  Her most famous quote:  “I have a great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking.  I consider chaos a gift.”

Coretta Scott King

Coretta was the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped lead the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  Coretta was part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped pass the Voting Rights Act in 1964.  Her most prominent role in the movement was after her husband was murdered as she continued his work and his legacy as the new leader of the movement.  As a new leader of the movement she founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and broadened her focus to include women’s issues, LGBT rights, economic issues, world peace, racism, poverty, and war.  Coretta was a published author and educator.  In the 1980s Coretta worked to end apartheid in South Africa.  Ms. King died in 2006 and was eulogized by former President Jimmy Carter.  My most favorite Coretta Scott King quote:  “Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience.  I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.”

Ruby Bridges

Ruby was born in 1954 in New Orleans.  In 1960, Ruby’s parents answered the call from the NAACP and volunteered to have Ruby integrated in the New Orleans school system.  She is known as the first African American child at an all-white elementary school in the South.  Ruby walked to school every day despite protests from parents, citizens, and backlash the landed her father jobless and her share-cropper grandparents turned off their land.  Can you imagine how brave Ruby must have been?  Can you imagine that courage of that 6 year old girl?  I can’t think of Ms. Bridges without tears coming to my eyes.  Ruby currently lives in New Orleans and there have been many books written about her and movies created about her life.  My favorite Ruby Bridges quote:  “I now know that experience comes to us for a purpose, and if we follow the guidance of the spirit within us, we will probably find that the purpose is a good one.”

(edited to add…)

Diane Nash


Diane was born in Chicago and attended Howard University.  She was a part of the most successful act of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement – The Freedom Rides.  As a college student, Diane was successful in desegregating lunch counters in Nashville, TN.  Her activism did not stop there.  When the Freedom Riders decided to cut their rides short (because of outrageous violence and deaths), Diane, and other Nashville college students, promptly decided they would finish the trip.  Her courageous act caught national attention.  Robert F. Kennedy, himself, begged her to stop (fearing more violence and deaths).  Her response was to say everyone who was going on the Freedom Rides had signed their last Will and Testament the night before.  Diane was also integral in the Selma Campaign (a non-violent Army to combat church bombings), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and has been the subject of two books and numerous documentaries.  Diane continues to advocate for the civil rights, the rights of the poor and impoverished, and for the rights of children.  My most favorite quote of Ms. Nash’s is:  “Every time I participated in segregation, like going into a ‘colored’s only’ bathroom, I felt like I was agreeing that I was inferior.  And I’m not inferior.”

To find out more about these remarkable women, click the links on their names above, or check out this article.

Beauty on the Outside counts too, Boys

(This is my response to this article found here….MUST READ FIRST)

Beauty on the Outside counts too, boys
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among men. On Facebook and in conversations with boys, I’ve heard boys embrace supposed masculine liberation and tell us that they’re handsome no matter how they look. Before I have to dodge a flurry of thrown wing tips, let me clarify: Yes, you are handsome. You’re a son of God, and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. But . . . you shouldn’t let the “beauty on the inside” argument hinder your quest to achieve your physical ideal. Some boys I know tell themselves it doesn’t matter how they look because they’re handsome on the inside, and then they just . . . well, let themselves go.
 
If you are truly happy with the body you have, I’m glad for you. We should recognize that none of us is going to have a perfect body, at least not at this stage in our eternal existence. (Or maybe you already do have a near-perfect body. Congrats. You should still keep reading.) Men, we gals will accept that not all of you are body builder models if you accept that few of us have managed the physique of any of the models in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

I’m sorry if I come across as harsh. There are also plenty of people who go the opposite direction and become Ken dolls with personalities as bland as the plastic dolls they so resemble.
 
President Kimball said, “How nice and easy would it be if we had a magic wand! But we haven’t. You might take a careful inventory of your habits, your speech, your appearance, your weight, . . . and your eccentricities. . . . Take each item and analyze it. What do you like in others? What personality traits please you in others? Are your pants too short, too long, too revealing, too old fashioned? Does your weight drive off possible girlfriends? Do you laugh raucously? Are you too selfish? Are you interested only in your own interests?”
 
See boys, a prophet of God told you to hem your pants, get with the latest fashion trends, and stop driving off potential girlfriends with those ugly mugs (it’s called a facial…you have no right having imperfect skin). Stop being so interested in only your interests and start being interested in what we women are interested in. Geeze, boys.
 
President McKay said, ‘Even a barn looks better when it’s painted.’” Hear that, men? Paint your darn barns already.
 
Boys, a little regular exercise and some healthy eating habits will be a good start toward becoming that reasonable paragon. Go running. Take a racquetball class. Get off the couch and stop eating Cheetos and instead pick up a book and use it to do some weight lifting. I think you’re capable of filling in the rest of this list yourselves (but if you’re not I’d be happy to offer more suggestions). I really believe that once you set your physical goals on something that we women will approve of and if you work to reach them, we both can be satisfied with the hot stud you’re becoming.
 
What do you think? Am I off base? Do I have unreasonable expectations for boys?