Olympic fever

Wilma Rudolph, OlympianI stayed up way too late last night. I love the Olympics and cannot break away once I start watching. I’m so proud of the women from all over the world who compete—women on every team this year for the first time in Olympic history.

There is so much to say. I could write about Title IX, and the opportunities it created for women athletes. Or about the research that shows that girls who engage in sports are more bomb-proof when it comes to abuse—with a stronger sense of self and their own personal power. Or about the great ways that men are engaging in violence prevention campaigns through sports.

Nah. I’m going to write about fashion.

Don’t you think Misty and Kerri were looking a tad overclad as they took to the sand for their volleyball match? I wondered if it was just too chilly for their regular “uniforms”—as the pair calls their bikinis—or if jolly olde England is imposing a dress code.

Watching the pair muscle through their matches reminded me of a recent conversation with my brother-in-law. He’d just finished up work on a dissertation committee for a woman researcher seeking her degree in fashion design (who knew?). Turns out activists come in all professions.  God knows we need someone shaking up women’s clothing.

She studied active adult women and their experiences shopping for athletic wear—clothing for running, walking, cycling, etc. Can you imagine? She found a lot of dissatisfied women. And a gigantic untapped market of those of us who will never fit into a size 0, or 00. Women who strive to stay active—even as companies don’t even try to make clothes that fit our bodies and that we look good in.

This particular researcher took a teaching job in West Virginia—with the stipulation that the school purchase plus size manikins for her students to use when designing.

How about it Nike, Columbia, Adidas? If you make it, we’ll leap tall buildings in a single bound to buy it. And maybe we’ll smash some sexism along the way.

“So, what do you do for a living?”

Whenever I tell someone what I do for a living, I get one of these responses:

  1. they look at me real hard to figure out if I am a crazy raging feminist that they need to be afraid of, or
  1. they say, “Wow, good for you,” or “I could never do that,” or “That must be so depressing,” or
  1. they quickly change the subject.

But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe instead of saying that I work to end domestic violence, I should just say, “I’m an optimist.”

Say what?

Domestic violence advocates envision a world where domestic violence doesn’t exist. We really and truly think it doesn’t have to happen. We believe this so much that we continue to enter into relationships ourselves. You’d think after hearing terrible stories day after day, that all of us would swear off relationships. Not so.

I can’t think of anyone that I have ever worked with in nearly 20 years that has said, “You know what, it’s just not possible. It isn’t worth looking.” Nope. Instead advocates help people pick up the pieces and dream of something better. Then they go home and try to do the same for themselves.

What optimism! I love that we envision a just and loving society. I love that while we see the bad and the ugly, we work for the good and the beautiful. I love that our work is moving towards preventing violence, not just supporting survivors. I believe that we can end domestic violence. I really do. I guess I’m an optimist!

-Ilene Stohl, our economic justice & prevention coordinator

I love football

The Super Bowl has come and gone. But it’s left me thinking about masculinity and violence. Don’t assume I’m just another woman trying to rain on the manly mans’ celebration of blood, sweat and crunchy helmets. I love football. Seriously. I miss the Sunday afternoons on the couch, hollering at the TV, rooting for my team.

You know what else I love? Peaceful homes and couples who treat each other with kindness.

Now, I know the Super Bowl doesn’t cause domestic violence. Abuse happens every day, regardless of a football game. However, I do think that abuse in relationships can be linked to the qualities that we value in men in this country. Jackson Katz talks about this in his commentary on Ben Roethlisberger. Acting tough and treating women poorly is usually the best way to avoid being labeled weak or called some, um, colorful feminizing insult (as if being compared to a woman is the most terrible thing for a man).

After the Super Bowl, the director of a violence prevention organization in Iowa received death threats, death threats, just for running this ad suggesting that we can prevent violence by raising our boys differently. Let’s just dwell for a second on the irony here.

How about we make it perfectly normal for men to be kind, gentle and respectful? These qualities are not exclusive to women and we should value them more than aggression and brute force. There’s a great place for all that to stay — on the football field.