News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Check out this powerful PSA on teen dating violence. It was made by a group of middle school girls from East Texas. Jezebel interviews them about this, their other activism, and their dreams for the future.

 

Mass incarceration in the US is disturbing for many reasons, but a new book focuses specifically on the negative impact of parental imprisonment on children. The authors point out that even if we can change current practices there is already a “lost generation of kids” deprived of their parents, which is exacerbating the already deep race and class differences in America.

Beloved icon Leonard Nimoy passed away today. Though most people knew him only as Spock, he was a bold, multi-talented artist and activist. Bustle pays tribute to his commitment to feminism throughout his career.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

At 17, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. “This award is courage and hope for me and all those who fight for education.”

Shonda Rimes was honored this week and her response has all the humor, drama, and emotional intensity of a good episode of Scandal.

Roxane Gay writes a lyrical defense of bad victims over at The Toast.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Give the Gift of Peace this holiday season! Participate in Jacksons Food Stores’ Doves for Peace campaign. Over $170,000 has been raised so far.

Athlete, actor, and author Terry Crews had some great stuff to say about feminism this week: “I kind of relate it to slavery…the people who were silent at the lunch counters, when it was the black lunch counter and the white one…and you were quiet. You were accepting it. Same thing with men right now. If you don’t say anything, you are, by your silence—it’s acceptance. I’m not going to be silent.”

Feministing asks: How can anyone push survivors to report to the police this week?

And Chescaleigh kills it, as usual, with some quick tips on how to support people fighting for justice.

Yay for feminist teens!

I spend my life working on women’s rights, so when I heard my daughters talking about the Feminist Union club at their high school I couldn’t wait to hear more!  What on earth was this? Their answers filled me with joy! Sixty-six people showed up (about 1/3 young men)—the room was overflowing into the hallway.TIWAFLL-Shirt

The first meeting was action-packed. They all answered the question: “What is the first word you think of when you hear the word feminism or feminist?” My girls said “It was actually kind of fun,” and a chorus of “Ooooh, that is hella deep” spontaneously erupted over and over again. Then they watched 50 reasons why I am a Feminist and shared their own similar experiences.

Future topics were suggested ranging from what feminism looks like in other societies to misconceptions about feminism and domestic violence. Ground rules were covered and they all agreed: you don’t have to identify as a feminist now; maybe you will eventually, but it’s okay if you don’t.

And they even made some real change. After one of their teachers overheard them discussing gender neutral language: “Try not to say guys for everyone. Try saying beings, peeps, y’all, people, beans instead,” he changed his usual “See ya later guys” to “See ya everyone” as his class ended.

I am so proud of the young people who have organized the group and are coming together. So much happened in 30 minutes. Why can’t I get this much done in a workday? Our community is in good hands with this rising group of thoughtful leaders!

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

The Army just released new regulations that specify “unauthorized hairstyles.” Thousands have signed a White House petition challenging the racially biased restrictions. “While the Army certainly isn’t the first to impose these kinds of prohibitions, it may be the most egregious example, considering that the 26,000 black women affected by AR 670-1 are willing to die for their country.”

What does the science documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and social justice have in common? Neil deGrasse Tyson. A must-read for the feminist science fan.

The White House has a new PSA about sexual assault as part of the 1 is 2 Many campaign. What do you think of it?

El cortometraje de Disney Get a Horse (Consigue un Caballo) no es solamente una caricatura animada (Disney’s short film Get a Horse is not just a cartoon)

GetAHorseHace como un mes, fuí a ver la película Frozen (Una Aventura Congelada). Antes de la película la audiencia fue entretenida con un cortometraje animado de Disney llamado, Get a Horse (Consigue un Caballo). En el corto vemos a Mickey y otros personajes cobrar vida gracias a la magia de la tecnología en 3D. Uno puede decir que la caricatura tiene cualidades artísticas excelentes, pero para muchos de nosotros que crecimos mirando caricaturas de Disney, el contenido no fue nada nuevo. ¡Eso fue lo que exactamente me hizo pensar en que @$%#^& estuvo pensando Disney cuando creo este corto en el 2013!

¡La trama va más o menos así: Mickey es felíz siendo Mickey bailando y jugando con sus amigos hasta que Minnie (la compañera de Mickey) es sexualizada y secuestrada por un villano! El despliegue visual del cuerpo de Minnie siendo mal manejado y maltratado por el secuestrador fue perturbador. La caricatura entera fue violencia sexual vendida a nosotros como arte. A pesar de aquellos presentes que estábamos conjeturando como lograr que el proyector dejase de continuar, también muchos se encontraban riendo fuertemente y golpeando los pies en el suelo con deleite.

Get a Horse (Consigue un Caballo) ha sido nominada para un Oscar, y de ganar, será más promovido, será aclamado artísticamente, y podría inclusive inspirar a la creación de otros cortos con contenido similar. Tú podrías optar por ver esta situación como algo benigno, solo una caricatura animada, y que no amerita mucha preocupación. En ocasiones yo también opto por ignorar mi radar feminista y miro cosas que son violentas o tratan a la mujer como un objeto. Sin embargo, todavía espero un nivel más elevado de responsabilidad. Espero que cuanto más educación reciba la gente acerca de cómo la violencia afecta a nuestra comunidades, ésta será erradicada o por lo menos no tolerada. Lo que me deja sintiéndome sin esperanzas es ir al cine y ver que Disney, con la ayuda de la tecnología de hoy, reintroduce la trama sexista y de violencia sexual de algunos de las caricaturas de los años 70s (setenta). Todos los comentarios que he leído acerca de Get a Horse (Consigue un Caballo) han sido positivos. La gente parece amar la idea de que sus hijos y nietos sean introducidos a los personajes animados con los que crecieron. Yo puedo entender el de gustar e inclusive amar algunos de los personajes y películas de Disney. Sin embargo,  creo que es imperativo que los adultos demanden tramas que no perpetúen o normalicen la violencia sexual a nuestros niños. Se lo debemos a ellos y a nosotros mismos.

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A month ago I went to the movies to see Frozen. Before the main movie, the audience was treated to a short film called Get a Horse. In the short we see Mickey and several other characters come to life with the magic of 3D technology. One can say it had amazing artistic qualities, but for those of us who grew up watching Disney cartoons there was nothing new about the plot. Which is exactly what made me wonder: What the @#$% was Disney thinking when they created Get a Horse in 2013?

The plot goes like this: Mickey is happy being Mickey and dancing and playing with friends until Minnie (his gal pal) gets sexualized and kidnapped by a villain! The visual of Minnie’s body being mishandled and mistreated by the kidnapper was very disturbing to me and others around me. The whole thing was sexual violence sold to us as art. Despite those of us who were wondering how to stop the projector from going any further, there were many laughing out loud and stomping their feet with delight.

Get a Horse has been nominated for an Oscar and—if it wins—will get more promotion, be artistically lauded, and may even inspire other shorts with a similar plot. You may want to choose to see this as something benign, just a cartoon, and not worth the fuss. I do sometimes turn my feminist radar off to watch things that are violent or objectify women. However, I still expect a higher level of accountability. I hope that the more educated people get about what violence does to our communities, the more it will be eradicated or at the very least become intolerable. What leaves me feeling hopeless though, is going to a movie theater to see Disney bring back the sexist and sexually violent plots of some of the 70’s cartoons with the help of today’s technology. All of the comments I have read about Get a Horse have been positive. People seem to love the idea of the characters they grew up with being introduced to their children and grandchildren. I can understand liking and even loving some of the Disney characters and movies. However, I think it is imperative for adults to demand plots that don’t perpetuate and normalize sexual violence to our children. We owe it to them and ourselves.

Dependence, independence, interdependence

A fascinating article in the New York Times describes how some single mothers identify as Republican. Here are people who have not created traditional families, or for whom the traditional family structure has failed, and who are disproportionately in need of government supports like food stamps. And yet, about 25% align themselves with the party of “traditional family values” and small government. singlemom

Why? As a single mother friend of mine says “I am not looking for more independence” as she raises her young son; and sometimes it seems like that’s what progressives/Democrats have to offer. The emphasis on equality in work and educational opportunities leaves some of us feeling as if we should achieve economic success while at the same time providing a fulfilling family life for our kids, too—all by our liberated selves. The bar is just higher and higher, and that does not feel liberating.

My friend knows she needs interdependence—neighbors she can count on to watch her child so she can run to the store or work late (and vice versa); people to bring her food and help care for her little one when she is sick; involved grandparents who will help nurture a strong sense of family. The fact that she has someone dependent on her makes interdependence necessary, and more that that, attractive.

I think mainstream feminism has missed the boat on this point. The emphasis on equality in public life: politics, workplace, finances, on women having access to the social goods and opportunities men have has put the movement at risk of devaluing the work traditionally done by women: nurturing children, caring for the frail and elderly, building community networks. Too often, progressives and feminists have let conservatives “own” these issues in public debates, or make it sound as if prioritizing caregiving and prioritizing women’s liberation are at odds with each other.

A lot of social policy is based on the idea that everyone is an independent, rational adult who can choose whether or when to connect with other people. What a fascinating fantasy. This assumes no pregnancy, no children, no frail elders, no dependents, no dependency. Just as medical research that assumes everyone is a male aged 18-40 isn’t particularly useful to women, social policy constructed on the assumption that we are all independent atomistic individuals doesn’t tend to work too well for infants, single mothers, parents, adult children taking care of elderly parents, and those who need assistance from others to live their lives.

The fact is everyone starts out a very fragile, vulnerable baby. And as parents know, carrying a pregnancy and giving birth is exhausting, challenging and even dangerous, and just about everyone needs help with the process in order to live and have the baby live. And most of us are going to spend the end of our lives in need of profound assistance from the people around us. In between, we may have periods of illness or injury where our survival depends on others.

In reality, dependence and taking care of those who are vulnerable are deeply integral to the human experience and should be finely woven into everything about how we think of organizing every part of our society. For example, this hospital emergency room.

Conservatives claim ownership of “family values” yet their vision involves enforcing traditional gender roles. But liberalism and feminism leave some feeling like they have to do it all on their own, and they are not measuring up if they can’t. So here is the challenge for all of us as we shape public policy:

  • To always keep in mind dependents and the people who care for them. Whatever choices we make or aspirations we hold must take into account and work for them.
  • To find ways to support caregiving that do not rely on oppressive gender roles and do not require caretakers to sacrifice their economic well being, social connections, or status.
  • To realize the deeply human task of caretaking requires qualities and skills our public lives sorely need: patience, thoughtful observation, empathy, and respect for the dignity and value of those whose abilities differ from our own.
  • To keep in mind that liberation actually means that everyone, men included, gets to participate in the important task of caregiving—because it is only then that the full range of humanity is available to them.
  • Not all equality has economic measures—some of it happens in places where the rewards and challenges are immeasurable, yet profound, like parenting or helping an elder die with dignity.

The most recent wave of feminism had many tasks. Two big ones were to secure equality in the public sphere and to redefine the very nature of what it means to be human. To do the latter, we must embrace and affirm the fact that we are all dependent at different points in our lives, and the profound and loving work of taking care of dependents (traditionally women’s work) should be valued and shared among men and women.

To create beloved community, our vision must include non-oppressive, liberatory ways of maintaining connection, dependence, and interdependence.

Leaning in

I cried at work yesterday. I found myself overwhelmed, feeling like a failure. Turns out I’m not the only one who had this kind of day. I came across a post about Sheryl Sandberg—who says it’s OK to cry at work—and her new book Lean In. I haven’t lean-in-coverread the book, but am so fascinated by the media blitz that I’ve been clicking from one article to the next. Some are hailing “Lean In Circles” as feminism, revitalized. It’s Girl Power, grown up.

But others say that she is blaming women for not being better at climbing the ladder. Sandberg responds that she is simply identifying behaviors that typically hold women back so that we can recognize and change not only the behaviors but the reasons why they exist. OK, that doesn’t sound so bad…

Maureen Dowd criticizes her for not knowing the difference between a social movement and a social marketing campaign. She claims Sandberg’s elitist approach is not going to reach those women workers who are in low wage jobs. CNN ran an article on how Sandberg’s framework completely disregards the working experiences of single mothers, who “couldn’t lean out if they wanted.” OK, also a lot of truth there.

There is little agreement on how to take Lean In. But I’m not sure the top is the only place we should set our gaze. I’d like to see a system that supports and honors women in all levels of employment by offering adequate paid family and sick leave. I’d like to see employers create good policies and protocol for supporting employees who are experiencing domestic violence. If “Lean In Circles” can contribute to that kind of change, that would be a success.

Con la camiseta bien puesta (Wearing my values)

(scroll down for English translation)

En mi proceso de ser una mejor mamá y aprendiendo a educar con amor incondicional a mi hijo, he adquirido ciertas herramientas. Una de las cuales es el entender la importancia de aplicar las 3Cs– constancia, consistencia y congruencia – en todo lo referente a mi hijo. También, he descubierto que esto lo puedo  llevar a todas mis relaciones, particularmente la que llevo conmigo misma. Toda relación humana implica un esfuerzo constante.

superwomanPero bueno una cosa es hablar de las 3Cs y otra muy diferente llevarlas a la practica en mi diario vivir, y especialmente como feminista en un mundo patriarcal. Y por favor, con feminismo no estoy hablando de odio al hombre, en lo absoluto, tengo un marido al que amo y un hijo varón al que adoro! Hablo de la convicción de que hombres y mujeres tenemos derechos a las mismas oportunidades. No obstante, ayer por un momento pensé que mi vida era más facil antes de comprometerme como feminist. Sin embargo, no puedo simplemente cerrar mis ojos y darle la espalda a mi compromiso, fingir lo que no soy y participar conscientemente en el patriarcado! Simplemente no puedo, ya desperté y no hay marcha atrás, o tal vez haya pero no me haría felíz. Verdaderamente creo que hombres y mujeres merecemos tener los mismo derechos y oportunidades en todo momento y a todos los niveles.

OK, entonces, el punto es, ¿cómo ser leal conmigo misma? y ¿como vivir mi feminsmo dia a dia? Porque no puedo ser femista en mi trabajo, luchar por la equidad y llegando a casa, quitarme la camiseta y dejar esos valores en la puerta. De hacerlo le estaría dando a mi hijo un ejemplo contradictorio sobre la lucha de género, de equidad y del verdadero feminismo. Tiendo a jugar el papel de la “mujer perfecta” donde trabajo, soy ama de casa y una mamá disponible las 24 horas. Y por supuesto esto no funciona y agota física y emocionalmente. Cabe añadir que definitivamente no esta dando el ejemplo de equidad que yo aspiro para mi pequeño. ¡Así que la camiseta la llevo puesta todo el tiempo! De esta manera, al final del día cuando veo a mi pequeño hijo de 4 años ser testigo de como día a día trato de mantener mi camiseta puesta, me siento orgullosa pues desde su privilegiado mundo tendrá la oportunidad de cambiar este sistema patriarcal desde  adentro, aportando con su ejemplo de vida a una mejor sociedad.

Y a tí, ¿te es fácil llevar la camiseta puesta?

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In my process of trying to be a better mom and learning how to parent with unconditional love, I have obtained some tools and skills. For instance, I have learned to use the 3 C’s—constancy, consistency and congruency—with my son. Recently, I discovered that the 3 C’s can be applied to all my relationships, including my relationship with myself.  After all, all relationships require hard work on a daily basis.

But it’s one thing to talk about these 3 C’s and another very different thing to use them in daily life, especially as a feminist living in a patriarchal world. Please, do not misunderstand me. I am not talking about hating men, not at all. I have a husband that I love and a son that I adore. What I am talking about is my conviction that men and women should have equal opportunities.

Nevertheless, I had a moment yesterday when I realized that in some ways my life was easier before feminism became such a key part of who I am.  Of course, I can’t just close my eyes and betray myself by deliberately going along with the patriarchy. I just can’t. My eyes have been opened! I could go back to my old self, but I would never be happy. I truly believe that men and women deserve the same rights and opportunities—all the time, in all ways.

OK then, my question is how can I be loyal to myself and live as a true feminist every day? I can’t be fighting for equality at work, and then go home and leave those values at the door. I don’t want to mislead my son about what equality in a relationship looks like. I tend to take on the role of super woman, trying to work, and take care of the house, and be there for my son 24 hours a day. Of course that doesn’t work, and I exhaust myself physically and emotionally. Clearly that is not giving my son the example of equality that I aspire to.

So I am re-committing to living out my feminist values 24/7! And at the end of the day when I see our 4-year-old observing me as I figure this out, I feel proud. Because from his privileged world, he will have the opportunity to change this patriarchal system from within. My example at home will provide him with skills to make a better society.

Now tell me, are you living your values 24/7? How is it working for you?

Honoring Adrienne Rich

Photo by Léna

When Adrienne Rich died last month, it made me think back to my twenties when she rocked my world. Ms. Rich wrote incisively and shockingly about the complexities of women’s lives. She dared us to use our power (personal and political) to upend everything that was understood or accepted as ‘for women.’ It was the early 1980’s and I was trying to figure out the mundane stuff like how I was going to pay the bills. I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted a future that was rich in creativity and productivity―not just marriage and motherhood.

I wanted to live a ‘feminist worthy’ life but I wasn’t sure what that meant. Adrienne Rich is one of the women’s voices that made a searing impression. The essay titles in her book of nonfiction, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence were provocative : “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying;” “Motherhood in Bondage;” “Conditions for Work: The Common World of Women.”

She held up a vision of a social movement that I wanted to be a part of “a politics of asking women’s questions, demanding a world in which the integrity of all women―not a chosen few—shall be honored and validated in every aspect of culture.” I wanted to find a community of women (and later men) who shared my aspirations. Without the dreaming and writing of women like Adrienne Rich, I would not have known what I was missing or what was possible.

I and all the women and girls I hold most dear owe a debt of gratitude to Adrienne Rich because she made me brave, and encouraged me to question and think. And now I’m teaching my girls to do the same; Ms. Rich would expect nothing less.