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.

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

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.

 

 

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

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