A Modern Amazon’s Take on Wonder Woman

A Modern Amazon’s Take on Wonder Woman

I finally saw it.

You would think I would be all over it as it’s obviously on brand, but I’ll admit I was thinking of all they ways they could really ruin a figure of female empowerment and I was reluctant to get excited, lest I find it blood boiling and disappointing.

This. Movie. Was. FLAWLESS.

Sitting here I cannot site many other female characters that I find this inspiring.  Other than Stephen Pressfield’s Last of the Amazons, most of the female characters I come across fall into some deep cliché of femininity and they can shine in spite of it. Or their empowerment must also be in direct conflict to my moral compass (e.g. Scarlett O’Hara, Jordan from The Great Gatsby, etc.).

Wonder Woman was an incredible experience for me. I recognized on the screen something that I’ve been striving to be myself, not a 6 foot tall goddess with superhuman powers and dazzling good looks, but a woman that does not exist in response to anything.

“I recognized on the screen something that I’ve been striving to be myself… a woman that does not exist in response to anything.”

It’s so easy as a woman with her eyes open to systemic misogyny and sexism in America to feel that her existence must be in response to those hardships.  I’ve felt that way since I was a young child. It started in elementary school with boys who thought it was ok to come up behind me at lunch and hump me, it continued in middle school with the boys basketball team attempting to corner me outside the locker room, it’s still happening when men restate my sentiments, sometimes verbatim, to applause when my own comments were summarily ignored.

These injustices, some small and some deeply hurtful, become a necessary part of our battle cry for justice and equality. We need to be aware of them and refuse to accept them. But our strength is not measured by our response to the injuries we suffer at the hands of men and sometimes complicit women. When I was younger I used to think that my strength as a woman was measured by how I could best my male counterparts and how vehemently I countered their sexist acts and words.

When I was younger I used to think that my strength as a woman was measured by how I could best my male counterparts and how vehemently I countered their sexist acts and words. But I realized that my feminine strength is so much more than that. In fact, it may be needed to address sexism, but its existence is entirely independent of it. In a world with no sexism, I am still strong.

Wonder Woman captured this beautifully. Nothing about her strength and prowess is in response to sexism directed at her. In fact, she doesn’t even deign to acknowledge the stupidity of those underestimating her, she just keeps moving. Because she’s got shit to do.

“We know exactly who we are and what makes us wondrous, and we’ll keep making progress with or without help.”

Diana walking across No Man’s Land as the bullets and bombs bounce off her is all of womankind. We come prepared for battle, we never stop fighting for our ideals, we know exactly who we are and what makes us wondrous, and we’ll keep making progress with or without help.

You don’t need to be a towering, superpower wielding goddess to be a Modern Amazon. You just need to know your strength and keep moving.

The Burden of Truth

The Burden of Truth

Amazon.com sold out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 a few weeks ago.  Amazon. Sold. Out.  I couldn’t tell you how many copies of the popular (it’s often required reading for high school English classes) book Amazon had, but it can’t have been a small number.

For those of us who have read Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 years ago, the last few weeks have inspired a visceral reaction of horror and disbelief.  What we are watching unfold in American politics is a scenario we’ve only been familiar with in the past through cautionary tales – dystopian novels that warn of the power of propaganda and information control or the very real cautionary tales of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, even modern day North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and his late father.

These cautionary tales are all very extreme (thus their gravity in warning).  But there are many gradual steps along the way to the genocide of 6-11 million people.  It often starts with a democratic rise to power.  And then small adjustments to the truth.  Perhaps a lie about the size of an inauguration crowd.  And as these “alternative facts” build up and for every individual who is unwilling to fact-check and dismisses others calling out the lies as “sore losers” a propaganda machine gains strength.

Fights have been breaking out on social media since election season started and both sides are occasionally aided and fueled by half-truths or full on lies.  This misinformation comes from well-meaning citizens and it comes from sharks just looking to make money off of clicks.  In a time when access to information has quite literally NEVER been easier, we cannot be content to believe only the information that makes its way to us.  We have to take our responsibility as voting citizens more seriously than that.

On every side of the aisle, on each coast and everywhere in between, we all have a grave burden to bear.  And as Jesus once said, the truth will set you free, it is our only hope to be set free as a nation.  We have to seek the truth.  

And that means, even if something seems to confirm your preconceived notion and it feels good to share/say, you have a burden to prove it is true.  To yourself and to others.  How can we bridge a divide as large as we have in our country if we cannot at the very least agree on the objective reality in front of us?

The potential for a very dark path lays ahead of us.  Exactly now is when we have the power to prevent disaster.  But, we have to slow down and make sure our anger is justified.  I personally believe there are many things that genuinely warrant outrage lately, but there are others that are the product of a jumpy, hyped progressive left, just like similar hyperbole has been coming from a disenfranchised conservative right.  We kill our credibility with our fellow citizens when we get up in arms about issues that are not in fact outrageous.

For example, recently outrage was circulating social media regarding T__mp referring to Black History Month as African American History Month.  People were up in arms, but when we look back several presidents in recent history had done this.  This doesn’t invalidate concerns that he has been fiddling while racism grows hot in certain parts of America if not actively fanning those flames for his own gain.  What it means, is that referring to Black History Month as African American History Month was not an example of that in play.

I truly believe that resistance to the current administration and their affect on our country and government is a just and worthy cause, but if we don’t put the truth above advancing our agenda we will lose.  It’s that simple.  We will lose the trust of our fellow Americans; even those guilty of the exact same behavior will use it as an excuse to ignore our message.  And we simply cannot afford that.

The fabric of Indivisible is fraying and at risk.  We must do everything in our power to move forward together in truth and justice.  These are the American values we all hold.

 

Asked & Answered: Why We Still Need Feminism

Asked & Answered: Why We Still Need Feminism

I was proud to march on Saturday with women all over the world.  And in the wake of the march both men and women have been quick to dismiss the march and our reasons for marching.

They say the fights of feminism are over (this is something I said once myself).  They say making signs and blocking traffic is a pointless display.  There are many reasons I marched on Saturday.

The quick list is for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, rights for people of color, to very publicly tell Kellyanne Conway that we do in fact care about seeing T–mp’s tax returns, to tell Muslim Americans that I think a registry is unconscionable, and to be able to tell my daughter that I didn’t sit at home when the women of this country were filling the streets to show our power, our compassion, and our resolve.

But, let me get further into why we still need feminism.

1. I’ve seen claims in blog and social media posts that American women have more rights than any other country.  This, actually, is not true.  There are many places in the world where it is much better to be a woman.  Out of 41 countries, America is the only one that does not provide paid maternity leave.   Our access to quality affordable childcare has become impossible for many families, meaning that mothers are faced with the decision to pay bills or leave their young infants in sub-par childcare facilities.  And yes, this does sometimes result in the death of infants.

2. Feminism isn’t entirely about legislation.  The truth is that there is still a great deal of inequality in the world.  Not all of it can or should be addressed by legislation, some of it just requires awareness and asking ourselves why. Why women still don’t occupy more political positions. Or why women don’t occupy more executive positions.  Or why women don’t  comprise more of the STEM workforce?  We have to be interested in finding answers to these questions.

For example, I have been made aware that one of the reasons there are fewer women in STEM may be a result of the way that female children are treated differently than male children.  That’s very interesting to me and on an intuitive level makes sense.  As a result, I’ve adjusted the way I parent my 1.5 year old daughter.  She has a toy tool bench and building blocks as well as dolls and domestic toys, and we avoid referring to “girls’ toys” or “boys’ toys.”

I’ve also read that people are less likely to say “no” to young girls than they are to boys, making them less likely to tolerate hearing “no” and pushing past rejection or resistance later in life.  As a result, I’ve adjusted the way I parent.  When she opens her green eyes wide and uses an extra sweet voice to try and get me to say “yes”, when I’ve already said “no” I stand firm.  I don’t want her to rely on emotional manipulation as a tool for advancement and if I reward it, I am setting her up to do that.  She is strong, kind, and smart, she doesn’t need any of that.

3. Sexism in the workplace is far from dead.  How can we say that we are equal if I say the exact same thing (we’re talking verbatim sometimes) as a man in a meeting, yet it’s dismissed coming from me and praised coming from him?

The only explanation is sexism and I know I’m not the only woman to experience this.  So many women have male coworkers and bosses comment about their bodies and dismiss their ideas and ask them if they are on their period.  This can’t help but have very tangible affects on our ability to earn and progress in our professions.

4. With Congress currently in the process of dismantling the ACA there is a good possibility that according to insurance companies being a woman will go back to being a “pre-existing condition.” I am not broken or sick just because I am a woman, and we should all be offended not just by the concept, but by the very real consequences it has to our access to affordable healthcare.

5. White, affluent or middle class men still get a pass for sexual assault in America.  David Becker, Brock Turner, Donald Tr–p, John P. Enochs, Austin James Wilkerson, and the list goes on.  Until they are truly held accountable in the eyes of the law and the public, we do not have equality.

Have we made progress in the past century since women won the right to vote?  Absolutely.  But social progress is slow.  

It took a full century after the abolition of slavery for people of color to get enough support to end segregation, and we’ve yet to see the end of systemic and institutional racism in America.  Our work is not done and we shouldn’t rest just because the easy to spot injustices were handled before our time.

I’m not settling for “good enough.”  I have a daughter.

 

Post-Election Manifesto of a White Christian Woman

Post-Election Manifesto of a White Christian Woman

Before we start, let me get all my demographic cards on the table.  I am a white Christian woman.  I am a mother.  I am not registered with any political party but I have voted in every presidential election after I turned 18.  I do not have a college degree, but I was given the opportunity.  I grew up somewhere between lower-middle to directly middle class.  We were never without the necessities, but we always ordered the cheapest entrée on the menu if we went out to eat.  I have lived during my childhood and adult life in both the busiest and most liberal metropolitan areas of our country and I have also lived in extremely rural and conservative areas of the country.  Without telling you my life story that probably gives you just enough information to make some assumptions.

This is a partisan free post and will be entirely devoid of the “T” word.  Regardless of how you voted, you can share and commit to this manifesto.

WILL NOT close my eyes or look away from the hateful events that a small but angry minority have committed in the wake of this election.

WILL NOT stand by quietly while another enacts hate or violence on others because of their race, religion, gender identification, country of origin, or sexual preference.

WILL NOT become bitter or complacent because my brand of change isn’t happening fast enough.

WILL listen closely to other’s stories of pain and will not discount them merely because that pain is not part of my own personal human experience.

WILL seek to love my neighbor as myself, and seek to know and understand those that I see as “other”as human beings.

WILL  struggle daily to eradicate self-righteousness because it hurts everyone including myself.

WILL express gratitude sincerely and as often as possible.

If we can agree on these, then we have a path forward.  I humbly ask you to join me in committing to these and thinking on them deeply.

 

 

 

Working Moms: Social Pioneers

Working Moms: Social Pioneers

The world is in a phase of social deconstruction.  Relative to the entire timeline of humanity it’s pretty new, but relative to our lifetimes this evolution has been happening for generations.  We’re deconstructing our world views, gender views, nationalist views, racial views.  Everything.  It’s healthy and it’s painful and it’s disruptive.

We’re in an interesting place right now because we’re still ripping up the old systems and we really haven’t yet established new ones.  It’s painful to acknowledge that the old, flawed systems, some of them, served necessary functions for society.  Today we’re talking about working moms, so let’s look at that.

Division of labor in the home seems oppressive now, but from an evolutionary standpoint it was a smart survival technique.  Humans were not always able to leverage technology in order to get necessary work done and most men are biologically more equipped for hard manual labor.

Leaving someone at home to protect and care for progeny while another hunted, scavenged, farmed, fought, etc. helped our species continue.  This is not an inherently oppressive system.  It makes sense.  And is in fact exactly what we do in the modern corporate world.  You hire people who have specific specialties and divvy up tasks based on individual strengths.

However, you don’t need me to tell you that due to human nature this system was made oppressive for all kinds of reasons like ego, religion, etc etc.  And in many societies, for a very long time, men became “superior” and women “inferior”.  Men – owners, women – property.  This played out in all kinds of ways and now here we are in 2016 ripping that kind of thinking out of our societies.

Women are refusing to be made to feel inferior.  It’s liberating and it’s empowering and it’s exhausting.

Yup.  There it is.  It’s EXHAUSTING.  Because we haven’t figured out a support system for this new way to be.  We’re literally figuring out how to make this work every. step. of. the. way.

The argument is playing out across the internet:

“You can have it all!”

“We can’t possibly have it all!”

And the real truth is, we don’t know.  We know that one person can only do so much and being a mother, a wife, an employee, and a person isn’t possible without support or superpowers.

For now, if we can afford it, we pay for support.  Or if we’re lucky enough to have family for support, then we have that.  But it’s still not ideal, the costs of childcare are astronomical and in America our screening for caregivers is often not up to parent’s standards. Employers are largely puzzled by how to handle all things relating to maternal employees.

Here’s what I hear over and over again from other moms though, “I hope that things will be different by the time our daughters are mothers.”

That’s where we have to focus.  When we advocate for a better social structure that benefits mothers, we aren’t really advocating for ourselves.  By the time any meaningful change happens I likely will not be having children.  But my daughter may.  Your son might.

Just like prior generations were advocates for a change that tore apart what was detrimental, we have to advocate for building up something that is beneficial.

Working moms – we’re social pioneers.  Let’s get to work building something better for the next generation of parents.

A Love Letter to Moms Who Supplement

A Love Letter to Moms Who Supplement

I swear this isn’t a lactation blog, really, I have other things to talk about.  But here we go again…

Dedicated to my dear friend Ann

Dear Supplementing Mom,

I see you.  I see you posting in Facebook groups desperately looking for some advice to boost your milk supply.  You’ve scoured KellyMom and plumbed the depths of Google and tried everything.  Maybe it was a tongue tie discovered too late, maybe your body had trouble recovering from a traumatic delivery, maybe there’s no damn discernible reason other than that life doesn’t work out the way we want all the time.  But you’ve heard breast is best and you’ve wanted so badly to give your baby best.

But here you are in the store, staring down the formula aisle with a pit in your stomach and a bad taste in your mouth.  You are doing what you need to do to provide your baby with the nutrition he or she needs to grow, and honestly, the breastfeeding/health community has often failed to support you before and after this tough decision.

First, I think you are a total goddess.  You are amazing.  You do the hardest thing every damn day for that little person.  It’s really easy to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing your goal.  You know what’s really hard?  Sacrificing the ideal because in this case the compromise is the heavy lifter who can get the job done.  For those of us who were afforded all the necessary resources and happenstance to succeed as breastfeeders we don’t have to confront what would happen if we couldn’t make our ideal a reality for our child (in this category, trust me it’s coming for us in something else).  For those who decide to quit and formula feed entirely there can be a relief, to no longer feel that pressure to make breastfeeding work.

Those of you that supplement will straddle that conflict and struggle we feel on a daily basis.  You give your baby the best your body will allow under the circumstances, and then where your body quits you do the right thing and get help.  You don’t make it an all or nothing scenario.  To acknowledge your limits, accept help, and continue to do the best for yourself and your baby is incredibly hard and incredibly honorable.

You are amazing.  Your child is lucky to have you as a mom.  And those of us who’ve had success with breastfeeding will one day find that we can’t always have what we want, even for our children who we love above everything else.  If there’s any guilt, hurt, or regret lingering from your decision to supplement would you kindly look it in the eyes and tell it to fuck off?  From me?  You’ve got more important shit to do Mama.

Love,

Modern Amazon

 

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.

-Walt Whitman, Continuities

 

Formula Proponents: Your Privilege is Showing

Formula Proponents: Your Privilege is Showing

Recently on Facebook a few women, including myself and a very well known breastfeeding advocate were called bullies for some comments we made against “Fed is Best“.  I really try to stay out of the Facebook fray as much as possible and instead compose my thoughts and frustrations into constructive posts here on the blog.  I guess I was feeling extra saucy last night when I jumped in to comment on Facebook.  So, of course being called a “bully” had me thinking about all the different perspectives and why some of us are so adamant about breastfeeding education.

While thinking about all this, it suddenly dawned on me how incredibly privileged it is to promote formula usage as an out from breastfeeding.  (Disclaimer (per the usual): I respect that there are a variety of reasons why babies DO need to be formula fed, and also I think that making moms feel guilty for formula feeding is neither constructive nor acceptable.)

Why is promoting formula usage a privileged perspective?

FORMULA IS EXPENSIVE.

There, I said it.  That shit is not cheap.  And for families who can easily absorb that cost (think somewhere between $1,000 to $3,000+ per year depending on the brand/formula your child can tolerate) it’s really easy to say, “Eh, I guess this isn’t working.  Formula it is!”  And if you have that luxury, then great.  It’s your choice to do that.

But when people are PROMOTING formula, they have to think about families that CANNOT afford this extra cost.

How about beyond the cost of formula?  For families who live in places with easy access to potable drinking water using formula is no big deal.  However there are many places in this world where clean drinking water isn’t available by just turning on the tap.

Let’s fast forward, baby is eating solid foods, hurray!  Well, now if you can afford fresh, healthy, organic food, then that’s obviously great for your child.  But for families who cannot afford to go to Whole Foods and drop $300/week for their family, breastfeeding could make a huge difference in the long term and short term health of their child.  Breastmilk is an immunity booster and a complete nutritional food.

So, when there are people who don’t want us to push breastfeeding education because they feel that just talking about the benefits of breastfeeding is automatically an act of war against mothers who use formula, it’s an obvious sign of privilege.

You can clearly afford formula, so for you, what’s the big deal?  But there are so many families for whom picking up a can of formula is not the easy option, and educating them on how to successfully breastfeed is PARAMOUNT to their child’s health.

**Edited 8/23/16 based on a constructive conversation with a reader and friend!

This totally cuts both ways.  Because, let me tell you, formula SHAMING is also a big sign of privilege.

Here are the advantages I had as a breastfeeding mother that are not widely available to all moms (especially in the U.S.):

  1. Paid maternity leave
  2. Money to hire a lactation consultant
  3. Healthcare that covered my breast pump
  4. A city with pump-friendly/breastfeeding-friendly ordinances (and an employer who enthusiastically complied)
  5. SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND A SUPPORTIVE SPOUSE (this is huge)

In the U.S. especially we are slowly becoming more supportive of working/pumping/breastfeeding moms, but as of right now it is still a huge uphill battle.  Moms in the medical field especially get a lot of push back from colleagues/employers, and if they work in emergency services the nature of their work can make it very hard to impossible to keep a regular pumping routine.

Remember that a child’s health, a mother’s health, and a family happiness rarely hinges on one thing.  I like to think that most breastfeeding advocates feel so strongly because they care about infant and maternal health for all.

But, even while we believe deeply in the bonding, healing and nurturing power of breastfeeding, we have to practice compassion, empathy and understanding.  Our daily reality is our own and we rarely know every challenge that other families face to give their children the best they can.  We have to have open, honest, fact-based and love-based conversations.