Space babies

I ♥ football. Although I was really grouchy about this year’s Super Bowl because I was still bitter about my Falcon’s loss in the playoffs, I still watched the game. And the commercials. And I know there is A LOT I could say about how women are portrayed in these ads, but I’ll let you peruse the game day dialogue at #notbuyingit for your fill of that.

One (ridiculously adorable) commercial got me thinking about something else. First, if you haven’t seen it, watch this car commercial with cute human and animal babies.

Adorable, right? (In case you didn’t watch it, a little boy asks his dad where babies come from and dad tells a fantastical story about a planet full of babies that each day get rocketed to earth to find their parents.) All of us parents have had that moment of panic when faced with a tough question from our child. Your tongue caught somewhere between figuring out an age appropriate response and your own discomfort.

Uh…uuuhh…

So I’ve got a solution for you! It’s a win-win. It buys you time, prevents you from having to make up space babies, AND it’s a chance to start a great conversation with your kids about healthy relationships. Try this: “That’s a good question, little Tommy. (sweaty palms on the steering wheel, deep breath) And it’s a little complicated to answer, but I know that often babies come from two grown-ups who love each other very much and want to start a family. What do you think it means when two people love each other?” Answers will certainly vary and could be quite comical. But it will open the door to a conversation about what healthy relationships look like, and get you out of stumbling over body parts and mechanics. For the time being. You’re welcome.

Ending violence – let’s do it!

Here at Can You Relate we often talk about our desire to prevent domestic and sexual violence—to stop it before it ever starts. But what does violence prevention work look like? How do you actually promote healthy relationships? Our friends at the YWCA of Pierce County (Washington) share what they’ve been up to.

Beloved community

This week we are all abuzz about beloved community at our annual conference in Yakima, WA. In a beloved community, everyone has a role to play in ending domestic violence and helping build skills for healthy relationships.

This morning, over 350 of us gathered together to talk about the possibilities that beloved community offers our statewide movement. We had some fun with YouTube clips, small group discussions, and instant polling. Check out what we had to say and join the conversation by leaving a comment!

How long have you been a part of this movement?

What does beloved community mean to us?

What is standing in the way of us building beloved community?

What a difference a day makes!

Does life get any better that this? I’ve worked in the anti-violence field for a bazillion years and it was fabulous to watch my daughters, their friends, their moms, their dads, my husband, and 980 other people I didn’t know all running and walking and having a good time at the first Refuse To Abuse® 5K at Safeco Field. Everyone was having a blast because healthy relationships are fun for everybody. So much more fun than the grim side of unhealthy relationships.

In the span of one day, a mix of people who’ve probably never thought much about domestic violence, became excited and eager to promote healthy relationships. As runners and walkers streamed by me, it was remarkable to hear “thank you for what you do, it’s important that you are here.” The goodwill I felt all around me was tremendous.

It is thrilling to imagine how we can build upon the goodwill and connection of the race participants to spread the word for change right here in Seattle. People talking about our shared hopes for our children and loved ones—happy, fun, and joyful relationships today, this minute, this moment—what a difference a day can make!

Start talking

Our friends at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence  are doing some incredible work on promoting healthy teen relationships and are featured in an article in THE New York Times!!! I’m thrilled for them and moreover I’m thrilled for the teens (and all of us!) who are benefitting from their work.

Start Strong and other programs dedicated to promoting respectful and loving relationships are all doing something great. And surprisingly easy. They’re starting conversations with young people. We can all do this! And you know what? We all should.

It’s as easy as checking in with the young people you know. Start by asking if they or any of their friends are dating. (Now, I know kids don’t say dating anymore, and dating isn’t the same as when you and I were young…but here’s the scoop – brace yourselves – we’re old. And most likely anything we say that isn’t a word we would typically use to talk about dating will make us sound, well, old. So just go for it. They’ll know what we mean.) Go from there. Ask them what kind of person they’d like to go out with. Or if they are dating, “How’s it going?” “Do you have fun/feel good about yourself when you’re with this person?”

Ultimately just keep the conversation open. Keep checking in. If we all do this, just think of all the opportunities we’ll be opening up for when the first “uh-oh” happens, or even better when the first “OMG, I’m so in love” happens. Either way, let’s start talking.

Universal domestic violence care

Wow! I am so inspired by all the neato stuff we’re working on with our partners across the state―from Building Dignity in our emergency shelters, to focusing on Housing First, to helping ensure there are protections for ALL victims, and also working to prevent domestic violence.

Yeah! This is the new wave of our collective work.

This feels like a time of many changes, a time of re-thinking old ways and imagining new ways, and a time of expanding―even as budgets and resources shrink. It’s hard, it’s hectic, it’s complicated…and it’s time.

I like to think of us―as a movement, as a community, as a country―as moving towards Universal Domestic Violence Care, a spectrum of services and supports to help people end abusive dynamics and create healthy, nurturing, equitable relationships.

In our healthcare system, we have emergency rooms―and those will always be necessary, because emergencies will always happen. But, we also have community clinics, and primary care providers, and specialists. We have places and services for people dealing with a short-term problem and also for those who are managing serious and chronic conditions. All these pieces are needed to help people be healthy and well.

We know that victims of abuse need emergency shelter and legal protections. But we know they also need more. We are steadily expanding the types of help available for survivors, their children, and for abusers. Just like with healthcare, we have recognized that prevention and early detection are a better approach than waiting until things become a crisis.

Rush – you’re really making my job as a mom hard!

Photo by Gage Skidmore

It’s 6:45 am and the morning hilarity is on. My back is to my teenage daughters as I scramble eggs, yell out reminders about packing up homework, and try to listen to the morning news on NPR. Wait a minute, what are they talking about? Who is a prostitute, who is a slut? My girls are both talking at once, reacting to a snippet of the morning news roundup. They want to know why Rush Limbaugh is apologizing for calling a college student names and wanting to watch her have sex. They’re confused. Isn’t contraception a good thing? Isn’t it smart to prevent a pregnancy that you’re not ready for?

Thanks Rush, really. I spend lots of time with my daughters trying to untangle the double messages they receive. Like, what is considered beautiful and sexy; when is having sex appropriate; who controls their body; and what is a healthy and respectful relationship. And now this.

If Sandra Fluke, a smart, thoughtful, law student advocating for women’s access to contraception is publically called hateful names historically used to silence women’s voices, what does it mean for my girls? What will they think about the next time they want to speak up for themselves? What will they think about the role of women in the public discourse? I don’t want them to believe or even think for a minute that because they are female their opinions, experiences, and actions are in any way diminished.

Come on, can’t we have a discussion about access to health care and contraception without vilifying women and girls’ choices? After all, last I heard, the use of Viagra was a legitimate medical option for people without ovaries.

Rihanna and Chris

My recent discovery of Spotify has me wading back into the world of pop music for the first time since Salt-N-Pepa were on MTV (does MTV still exist?) With the recent sparks flying around Chris Brown and Rihanna’s latest collaborations, I thought I would take a listen to their music. I discovered that I’m not a fan, but you certainly can’t miss the passion in their songs. And yet it’s alarming that this passion sounds a lot like violence. Blogger Yolo Akili is right on when he says “Pop songs about love sound more and more like war every day. And that should be frightening to us all.” Pop music has often been criticized for its portrayal of women and relationships, and most of the time for good reason—but that’s another post entirely.

Today I’m talking about Rihanna and Chris Brown. Maybe it’s just industry smoke and mirrors, or maybe there is still passion and even affection between these two. Either way, I was struck by the lack of compassion for Rihanna as the public opinion swirled around their new collaborations. Here’s a newsflash: people who have been abused often have contact with their abusers after they leave. Sometimes it’s about kids, but often it’s about reconnecting, giving a second chance, knowing the good in a person and hoping for a better outcome.

I’m not in any way minimizing what Chris Brown did. That was despicable. But Rihanna reconnecting with him, whether personally or professionally, does not equal her accepting or condoning the abuse. I’ve heard the outcry that she’s a role model for young women… what is she thinking? What are we thinking that we are holding her responsible for exemplifying the kind of relationship we want for our kids? Why aren’t we saying that it’s Chris Brown’s responsibility as a role model to not use violence to control his partner?

Although I am alarmed by a lot of what is being said, I’m glad people are talking about it. Let’s keep the conversation going. Reese Witherspoon is talking to her kids about it. Talk with the young people in your life and ask them what they think. Did you know a recent study found that most teens said they knew what a healthy relationship looked like, but didn’t expect to be in one? Come on, we can do better than that!

The perfect valentine

Valentine’s Day takes new meaning for me as I celebrate it with my second-grade son and his classmates. What are we really celebrating during this super-commercial holiday? Romance, or love? By whose definition? Who’s included and who’s left out on this day? And what do I want my son to learn about both romance and love?

Thinking about these questions in the context of the past few weeks, which brought the Komen kerfuffle, the joy of marriage equality, and the horror of Charlie and Braden’s deaths, inspired me to imagine what I hope my son and his classmates will experience in their lives:

  • You can marry who you want. Or don’t get married. It’s up to you!
  • You get to choose whether to have kids, and how many.
  • You’re gonna learn skills for having great, healthy relationships―both at school and from all the adults in your life.
  • Your government, the child welfare system, and your community will give everyone in your family really good help during times of trouble.
  • Your family matters, whatever it looks like.

Happy Valentine’s Day, son. Mommy loves you!

Year in review

First post of the year (again) and I thought I’d take a moment to reflect. Last January, I wished for some simple messages to accompany our collective efforts to end domestic violence, and lo and behold, I got what I asked for! It turns out that “Domestic Violence is preventable!”

It sure is.

While there are lots of explanations for the pandemic of violence against women and girls, there aren’t any acceptable justifications. It happens, but it doesn’t have to.

We actually can stop this violence before it starts―by promoting healthy relationships, shifting culture, building skills, and addressing root causes of violence.

So as a new year begins, I’m excited to reflect on the paths that we laid this past year―paths that will bring all of us closer to a world where boys and girls know that they are loved and know how to love, gender doesn’t define how we treat each other, and everyone experiences healthy, loving, and safe relationships. We made great progress in 2011: highlighting new ways to talk about prevention, learning about teen relationships, talking with our own kids, sharing messages about respect, joining national ventures, and making plans to end violence against women and girls.

We (yes, that includes YOU) are now in a position to make incredible leaps forward. Onward to 2012, huzzah!