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.

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Life Lessons I Learned from #AftonStrong

#AftonStrong

It’s so much more than a hashtag. #AftonStrong is a cause close to my heart.

Afton Wallace is my second cousin on my mom’s side. Her dad, Rob, and my mom are first cousins. My grandma and her grandpa are brother and sister. Afton and I share great-grandparents. I think that’s how second cousins work.

Afton Wallace is more than just my second cousin. In the last year Afton has taught me to live more fully and love more deeply. She has taught me about courage and fortitude. She has taught me what a real Superhero looks like. She’s half my age but has taught me about the kind of person I want to be: strong, brave, fearless, positive, inspiring, formidable, optimistic, loving, generous.

Afton is a senior in High School in Mississippi. Afton was her high school’s Homecoming Queen last Fall, she was named Miss Warren Central High School, she was voted Class Favorite, was the captain of her swimming team this year,  scored a 33 on the ACT (that’s the 99th percentile), earned a full-ride scholarship to BYU for this Fall, took AP classes her senior year, and is graduating with honors this month [1] . She is quite a smart, accomplished young woman. But the truly remarkable thing is she has done all of this while battling Stage 4 Ewing Sarcoma, a very rare childhood bone cancer that is very aggressive [2] [3].

Afton was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma on May 22, 2014 and was only given a few days to live. Afton had tumors on her pelvic bone, spine, liver, and kidneys. She immediately started chemotherapy and radiation and her progress far exceeded doctor’s expectations. In January of this year we thought things were starting to turn around when doctors declared her to be in remission. However, a short month later Afton relapsed with a significant tumor on her brain. In March scans showed that Afton has numerous tumors growing throughout her body. Since last May, Afton has spent over 120 days in the hospital, undergone 45 radiation treatments, and received 70 doses of chemotherapy. [2]

And through it all Afton has “just kept swimming,” her motto from the movie Finding Nemo. Swimming is something Afton knows well considering she has been competitively swimming since she was in grade school and was a star athlete on her swimming team. Afton’s positive attitude in the face of insurmountable odds has inspired thousands of people, including me, her older cousin. On her Facebook page, Afton Wallace #mymissionisremission, she and her parents post countless videos of Afton singing after chemo treatments and pictures of her bright, smiling face [4]. Afton acknowledges she has her hard moments as well. “You can have breakdown moments cause everyone has breakdown moments, and sometimes you have them every day,” says Afton. “But you have to keep a smile on your face to make it through. You really do.” [1]

As I have watched my sweet cousin face this impossible battle over the last year I am continually humbled by her optimism, good humor, and ability to give to others during, which should be some of her darkest moments. As part of her occupational therapy, Afton has been crocheting infinity scarves and donating them to a clinic for abused women in California. She also reaches out to other cancer patients and lifts their spirits. Anyone would be justified in being angry at their situation and not want to help others and maybe sometimes Afton does feel that way, but she does not show it publicly and instead her generous spirit shines through every time.

8-life-lessons-from-helen-keller-13-728

This quote by Helen Keller is one of my very favorites. If anyone had reason to give up and wallow in the unfairness of life, it was Helen Keller. Instead she overcame all her disabilities to be a social justice warrior and an iconic and inspirational American. This quote exemplifies Afton to me. Afton has opened a new doorway for the human spirit. Before her, I never knew that a young person could be so hopeful, optimistic, brave, wise and mature beyond her years, and heroic. She has reminded me just how precious and beautiful life is. She has taught me to never take a single day for granted. Her parents, Rob and Sheri, have taught me how precious our children are and how to be a rock of strength when everything inside you is crumbling to pieces. The Wallaces have taught me what true courage looks like. They have taught me more about unconditional love, sacrifice, and faith than I could ever learn from any book. And like I said at the beginning, Afton has taught me to live more fully and to love more deeply than I ever would have before her diagnosis.

Sadly, our hearts all broke last Friday, May 8th, when Sheri made the announcement that Afton’s latest CT and PET scans showed that her latest chemotherapy was not working and her tumors have tripled in size and dramatically increased in number. There are no more standard treatment options available to Afton and her body will not be able to recover enough to participate in a clinical trial. The doctors believe that Afton has less than 3 months to live. [5]

I read the news when I was checking Facebook on a break and I broke down in tears. I cried for Rob and Sheri and the devastation they must be going through. I cried for Afton’s siblings, Kaylynne, Abigail, Scott, and Katie. I cried for Afton and for the life and future she deserves. I cried for Afton’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, 58 first cousins, extended family, friends, and hometown of Vicksburg, MS.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair when this happens to those who want to live the most and have the most to live for.

I thought about Afton and what I could do to help, and there’s nothing I can do except contribute to her GoFundMe page [6]. I thought about how selfless and giving Afton has been through all of this. I remembered that she always felt better after having blood transfusions, and though I have never done it before, I made an appointment for the very next day with the Red Cross to donate my blood. I learned that my blood will help save the lives of three people. If I can’t save Afton’s life, I can at least help someone else. [7]

Despite the odds, Afton is not giving up and neither are the people who love her. We don’t give up. We just keep swimming and we petition the Lord constantly with prayers for continued miracles.

I can’t let myself think far enough ahead into a future that doesn’t include Afton. If and when she passes from this life, whether that’s 90 days or 90 years from now, Afton will leave a great legacy of love, courage, optimism, enthusiasm for life, endurance, strength, grace, and success.

emerson[8]

Afton your life has been a success because you made the lives of those who love you better by simply being you.

There are no words in the English language adequate enough to express my deep love and gratitude to Afton and her family. They are a miracle, and through the atonement of Jesus Christ, no matter what happens, we will all be together forever. There is no mutant cell that could ever take that away. Because of His grace, cancer will never win. It can destroy a physical body, but it cannot harm an eternal soul.

Don’t give up. Never quit. Just keep swimming. Just keep smiling. Just keep loving. Give more. Love more. Live more. Enjoy more. Seek out joy. Look for miracles. Never let go.

Those are the lessons I’ve learned from my dear, sweet, younger cousin.

“…unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

This article is posted with the gracious permission of the Wallace family.

The article was featured on The Huffington Post where Afton herself picked the beautiful pictures that were featured. RIP Beautiful girl.

Sources:

[1] MS NEWS NOW | WLBT, WDBD (http://www.msnewsnow.com/story/28949637/afton-wallace-her-fight-for-life)

[2] The Vicksburg Post (http://www.vicksburgpost.com/2015/05/03/just-keep-swimming/)

[3] WebMD (http://www.webmd.com/cancer/ewings-sarcoma)

[4] Afton Wallace #mymissionisremission (https://www.facebook.com/aftonwallacemymissionisremission?fref=ts)

[5] Facebook post (https://www.facebook.com/aftonwallacemymissionisremission/posts/447679728744143)

[6] GoFundMe – Afton Wallace (http://www.gofundme.com/tf5qfc)

[7] American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/blood)

[8] Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson

For Whom Mother’s Day is Difficult

Mother’s Day is this Sunday and we will collectively celebrate the women who either gave us life or raised us. We will make phone calls, or take them out to lunch, send them flowers, buy them meaningful cards, and express gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us.

Except some of us won’t be doing any of those things on Sunday for a variety of reasons. There is a small club of us for whom Mother’s Day is difficult. This post is for us.

Mother’s Day is difficult for those of us who have lost our mothers, either through death, estrangement, or other reasons. It’s difficult for those who deal with infertility and Mother’s Day is just a reminder of what we don’t have. It’s difficult for those who have lost children and it’s a day that reminds us of what we used to have.

I remember the first Mother’s Day after my mom died. I was 8 months pregnant and completely dreading that Sunday. We all met up at the cemetery to see my mom’s headstone for the first time. She died six months previously and the ground was too hard to install it earlier. I think we went out to lunch afterwards. I can’t remember. Grief has a way of erasing memories. Self-preservation at it’s finest. The next month I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and my mom wasn’t there to hold my hand this time.

Mother's Day

The advertising industry doesn’t realize how hard this holiday is for some of us. They don’t realize how triggering it is to see the umpteenth commercial about the perfect card/flowers/fruit bouquet you should send your mother. They don’t realize how triggering it is for women who are experiencing infertility, or are childless due to life circumstances, to see commercial after commercial reminding them that they’re not a mother when they desperately want to be. And unfortunately some bloggers are devoid of empathy and compassion and like to shame those of us who have deep-seated hurt around this day.

That is why we need to be patient with our tender little hearts. We need to do some self-care and allow ourselves to feel what we feel, without guilt or shame. (For self-care I like to take baths and read, exercise, watch silly movies with my kids, and make snarky jokes). If Mother’s Day is difficult for you for any reason your feelings are valid. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad for feeling bad. Give yourself the same empathy and compassion you would give your best friend. Celebrate, or don’t, however you choose this day. For this one day, it is all about you and your tender heart. Protect it.

I acknowledge that I am incredibly lucky. I have four children whom I love and who love me. They keep talking about the things they are making at school for me or the present they all want to buy me to celebrate me on Sunday. They are so sweet. What I want to do on Mother’s Day is gather them around me and embrace each one of them and tell them just how lucky I am to be their mother. They are such good kids with such big hearts. I also have a wonderful mother-in-law, who has always treated me like one of her own kids and is just about the best grandma in the whole world. I have no problem honoring her on Sunday and thanking her for all the sacrifices she has made for her family. All the things she has given to us to help us make our lives better.  All the times she has cheered us on and picked us up when we’ve fallen. Even when we’re ungrateful or don’t acknowledge just how special she is. Sometimes angels masquerade as people, and she is one of them.

mother day

However, Mother’s Day will always be bittersweet to me. No matter how thankful I am to be a mother and to have had a wonderful mother and mother-in-law, there is a part of my heart that will always be missing. It’s in the shape of my Mama Sue. On this day I will wear the necklace I gave her on the very last Mother’s Day we celebrated with her when none of us knew she was sick. I will lay flowers on her headstone and I will thank my God above that one of the bravest, funniest, most loving people I’ve ever known gave birth to me. But I will also mourn because I wish she were here for me to tell her why I’m so grateful I was lucky enough to be her daughter. Alas…alas…

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of us, the motherless, the neglected, the infertile, the childless, the discarded, the abandoned, the weary, the sad. This day is for you too.

This post was featured on The Huffington Post