No Privilege Without Sacrifice

No Privilege Without Sacrifice

A New York Times opinion piece by Karen Rinaldi is making the social media circuits at the moment. Unlike many others floating through digital channels, the title “Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness”, is not remotely misleading and is exactly the author’s point. No clickbait here.

You can read the article for yourself, but the essence of it is that by talking about the sacrifices of motherhood we perpetuate a sense of martyrdom that subtly oppresses us and prevents us from embracing our full identity as mothers. Which in theory, in a childless vacuum of fulfilled careers, full nights of sleep, clean floors, and privacy when you poop, that sounds ok I guess.

But, let me provide a reality check from the front lines. Whether it aligns with Ms. Rinaldi’s philosophies or not, sacrifices are happening. Every mother that I know is struggling to come to terms with the sacrifices of motherhood. I personally feel that I’m at my mental, emotional, and physical limit almost every single day. I’ve sacrificed my health, my body, and sometimes my sanity in the interest of providing the best I have to give to my daughter. And it’s a privilege.

Other moms I know are sacrificing careers that they loved and enjoyed because their domestic and financial situations don’t allow them to work and parent right now. New moms are sacrificing their comfort and rest to care for a newborn. Their body that was once solely theirs, is now solace, nutrition, and safety for another. The mental anxiety of figuring out how to take care of yourself in ways that don’t take from your child’s mental, emotional, and physical needs is taxing and sometimes feels impossible. Implementing it can be even more difficult and expensive to boot ($15-$20/hour for some time for yourself, plus whatever cost of drinks/massage/food/activity).  It is a sacrifice, that does not preclude it from also being a privilege.

Ms. Rinaldi claims to want to empower women with her message of privilege not sacrifice, and while I believe her intent, I’m afraid the results will be quite different.

By denying what mothers give of themselves, so deeply and with love, for their children, she is denying us the opportunity to acknowledge and validate our realities. On top of that, she’s opening the door for others to remove or deny their support as a society or community, chocking up our struggles to a martyr complex instead of what it truly is – a seismic giving of ourselves that requires the support of every single family member, friend, neighbor, employer, and government entity that we can get on board.

Mothers in America have a hard enough time getting the support that the rest of the developed countries of the world have as it is, without having our efforts undermined and minimized.

Being a mother is really the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never been so scared to mess something up in all my life. I had not anticipated feeling that way. Every single day I give everything I have to being the best mother I can. I fail, often. I make mistakes and even coping with the mistakes I’ve made is more energy and emotion I need to expend. I sacrifice free time, physical comfort, and career ambitions to be the best mother that I can. And the way that motherhood draws on every part of yourself means that motherhood is not “hard work”…”like every other meaningful aspect of our lives.” It is not the only life experience that requires much of us, but it is certainly another level of sacrifice for the vast majority of us, unlike anything else we have ever encountered.

But these sacrifices are slowly and surprisingly transforming me as a person and even on the days when I ask myself what kind of ridiculous hubris causes a woman to think having a child is a good idea, I still wouldn’t go back and make a different choice if I could.

Under the pressure of motherhood, I have become kinder, more resilient, more understanding of other viewpoints, more dedicated to social justice, and less arrogant. I have sacrificed taut skin, greyless hair, and perky breasts, but in return, I received a confidence and awe in the power and capacity of my body. I have sacrificed my free time and in return, I received a realignment of priorities. I have sacrificed my prior ideas of dignity and identity and in return, I received an ability to laugh at myself and embrace a complex and changing identity.

I can think of few privileges that do not also demand sacrifices of us. The most rewarding and enriching life experiences require something of us in order to be worth anything to us. Motherhood is an incredible sacrifice, and it is an incredible privilege.

 

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Raising Our Voices: Justice for Philando Castile

Raising Our Voices: Justice for Philando Castile

Being a Modern Amazon is about more than empowering women. It’s about how we as women can use our voices to lift up others and fight for justice for all.

I was sitting at work when I first found out about Philando Castile and saw the Facebook Live video that Diamond Reynold recorded. I immediately started crying and had to leave my office. I walked a few blocks away and called my mom because I just couldn’t process the blatant racism and police abuse that I had just witnessed. The bubble of white privilege that I inhabit had protected me from getting this close to it before. I can absolutely acknowledge that.

I was so deeply upset.  About everything, about the clearly race-based fear that caused the cop to shoot Philando and tragically take the life of a good man (a man so good they could only dig up virtues when they went looking for flaws). About his girlfriend who was so aware of the danger she and her daughter were in that she kept her voice controlled and used respectful language after the man she cared about was killed right before her eyes.

About the young girl in the back of the car who had watched it all happen and was so afraid for her mother that she felt she needed to advise her mom on how to behave and beg her to calm down so wouldn’t get shot.  A 4 year old was afraid that if her mother used swear words she would be shot. She was taking too much responsibility on her little shoulders that day.

It was an event that was so deeply, undeniably, unquestionably wrong that the only thing to be thankful for was that it happened in a time when technology would surely deliver justice to the victims. And yet… we’ve just discovered that racism in America is stronger than the video recorded truth that is directly in front of them.

Philando Castile’s murderer was acquitted despite overwhelming and extremely public evidence that the man he killed had done nothing wrong, had completely complied, and had given the officer no reason to fear for his life.

witnessed this injustice. If you watched the videos then you witnessed this injustice.

IF I WITNESS THIS INJUSTICE AND ALLOW IT TO STAND, IF I SAY NOTHING I AM WRONG.

witnessed this injustice. If you watched the videos then you witnessed this injustice.

So, I’m not going to use being white and feeling safe as an excuse to stay quiet.

I’m going to post on Twitter and Facebook #JusticeForPhilando every day for a year or until Jeronimo Yanez is found guilty.

We were all witnesses to a terrible crime. We need to speak up.

 

 

 

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.