Wednesday, September 21, 2011


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

As Cool As I Am...

Earlier this week I wrote a guest post for Be Cool Boys on being...well, what else? Cool.

And you know what?

I felt a little bit like a fraud.

Oh, sure - I whole heartedly believe in what I wrote about...about how being "cool" is all about feeling confident in yourself and your choices. I continue to preach this message to EZ in the hopes that he'll internalize it and it will be come his reality.

But my reality?

I still remember middle school and high school.

I remember having to wear a turtleneck underneath my genie costume on Halloween and how that one piece of fabric immediately zapped all bits of "cool" from it.

I remember my mom getting me the wrong kinds of leggings in middle school. She got me a pair with elastic footing, when all the "cool girls" were wearing ones that stopped right at your ankle.

I remember having glasses and braces in 9th grade and how I was certain that was the end of my social life (before it even began).

I remember only being able to shop at The Gap when they had big sales, and feeling that my "coolness" level somehow shot up 10 points the days I wore my clothes from there.

And looking back? Those moments kind of sucked. But then...

I also remember going to the salon only days before high school graduation and having my hair sheared off,  leaving me with less than 2 inches of crazy curls and loving the freeing feeling that accompanied it.

I remember rocking a candy necklace as jewelry, and not even caring that it wasn't the silver or gold others sported.

I also remember shopping with friends at a vintage store for my prom dress and rocking the heck out of a strapless, sea-foam green, taffeta dress while everyone else wore variations on short & sexy.

And today, at 31, I go back and forth between the whole cool thing. I try to live what I shared with EZ. I try to project the confidence that I feel. But that can be tricky when I falter, seeing other moms in fashionable clothes, having it all together while I barely stumble through with a semi clean shirt and pair of jeans. (oh...that perfect mom myth is constantly my undoing!)

We all have off days, but most days I'm "on." I follow my own trends and style (which really is lack-of-style, but I own it, and that's cool...with me). I figure it's had to have made some sort of impact on EZ who rocks his own unique style of clothes. If we could just instill the notion that confidence = cool, then maybe we'd all have a lot more "on" days.

*I'd be remiss if I didn't include the fantabulous song from which I stole this blog title from...let it be the anthem for this post. No fear. Embrace the cool. (and really, despite the perfect or flawed outside...aren't we all somewhat similar inside?)


This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Liz

Liz Crossen
Full-time Student; Server; Teacher’s Assistant; Research Assistant
 Central PA

Liz & her sons

How do you define feminism? 

Feminism has taken on different meanings to different women in different historical and social contexts. As there is no blanket definition or experience of womanhood, so too there is no blanket understanding or goal of feminism. It is not a single oppression, ideology, or experience that makes up the whole of feminism, but instead it is the fragments, the discontents, the demand for recognition of the myriad voice and experience that shapes a woman’s experience, only then connecting it to the larger context. For me, when thinking of or discussing feminism and women, we must always say “which women?”

When did you 1st identify as a feminist? 

Oh, probably when I was very young. I think my generation, raised largely with the privileges fought so hard for by the previous generations, largely shies from defining as feminist. We tend to see these privileges as entitlements without understanding how fragile they are. So, growing up in a middle-class household where my sister and I were both given only our mother’s last name, both of my parents held advanced degrees and worked full time, “free choices” like abortion, birth control, work and educational opportunities, motherhood and all the aspects of it, etc were there for me without question, to take or leave as my own individual right. I believe I actually adopted the title for myself at 14 or 15.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 

My definition has absolutely changed, indeed quite significantly. For quite sometime, my personal feminism and what I believed feminism to be was this ideology of choice, an ideology so strongly entangled with American individualist rhetoric. I never really considered who could make these “choices” and this was in part because I could, I had the privilege of choice. I saw women as women who shared similar oppressions and the same oppressor without much complexity. Like so many women, my life experiences have shaped my relationship with feminism.

I had my first son when I was a junior in high school, eleven days after my 17th birthday. I had a guidance counselor who really did not want me in school, she wanted me to drop out, and I was only able to fight her coercion for so long. I finished out my junior year and got my GED that August. Leaving high school was incredibly discouraging and at that time, I gave up on higher education. I began apprenticing to be a homebirth midwife and that combined with new motherhood really gave me a feminist identity centered around choice more than ever before. Motherhood- my own, my mother’s, and the women I worked with- became my world, defining my feminism in black and white. I thought feminist motherhood was breastfeeding, homebirth or natural birth, organic foods, and even staying home as opposed to working out of the home. My mother told me I needed to go to school, get a degree, put my son in day care, and be able to support my son and myself if and when I left his father, who was becoming increasingly selfish and abusive. Along with some other dramatic life changes, my apprenticeship ended abruptly and bitterly, my future seemed to vanish. I needed a paying job, I needed to leave the boys’ father, and I began (very slowly!) gaining confidence to start school and choice gave way to necessity.

My feminism now has so little to do with choice. It is about my privileges and how those privileges contribute to the disadvantage of others. I am much more aware now that I have feet planted in two worlds, as many of us do and that we can be as much the oppressor as we are the oppressed.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it? 

I actually struggle some with openly identifying as a feminist because the negative connotations associated with it can close off possibilities for creating change before they even begin. When I say this, I am talking less about distancing myself from the angry, bitter, man-hating stereotypes and more the privileged, white-washed feminism that so frequently has and does dominate the mainstream. A lot of people believe feminism is not for them because issues most publicized like the pay-wage gap or “the mommy wars” for example mean little when you’re earning minimum wage and the concern is if you can put food on the table, not what food gets put on the table. So, I tend to discuss feminist issues, do feminist research, and be a feminist without first calling it or myself such.

What do you see as the future of feminism? 
I think with the increasingly conservative climate and serious economic issues in the US, there will likely, hopefully be a surge in feminist activism on a larger level. What we must remember and I fear we are going to learn the hard way is that any right we have was not handed to us and it is not an entitlement; these rights can be taken, they are being taken. I am not just talking about women because it is those who are not in power (those of us who are not white, upper/middle-class, heterosexual men) whose rights are the most fragile and the first to be taken, if they are not an illusion altogether. Social movements are born of necessity and it is hard to imagine how things could become more dire than now, though I know it can and I fear that is what it will take to force us from this place of passivity and compliance.

Liz is a mom to two boys, Makena age six and Judah age four, co-parenting with her partner Sarah, a dog named Solomon, and a cat named Wietzie Bat. She is about to finish her undergraduate degrees in Women Studies and Sociology with a minor in African American Studies and then hoof it to grad school.

If you would like to participate in this series, please contact me for more details! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Diamonds & Hammers...Oh My.

Because pushing stereotypical gender toys to toddlers wasn't starting early enough, Fisher Price has come out with a set of rattles, marketed towards babies ages 3-18 months.

Am I shocked or surprised?


Am I disappointed?


Princess Free Zone has already written up a well-thought out post explaining all the reasons these rattles are feeding into the problem of gender stereotypes (and nicely addresses the "So What?" argument I hear way too frequently).

Of course, I couldn't help but add my own two cents:

Let's break this down quickly. For anyone who has a kid (or anyone with a lick of sense), we know that a 3 month old isn't going to be swayed one way or another based upon a rattle. An infant girl isn't going to play with her faux diamond, pink, plastic rattle and cement her membership in the girly-girl club, nor will an infant boy demand a trip to Home Depot for some tools of his own after gnawing on his hammer rattle.

So why am I getting so riled up about this?

It's because of the fact that Fisher Price feels that babies this young are already categorized by gender and should be catered to as such. They compound the issue with the accompanying phrases on the packaging.

Sweet Baby Girl  vs.  Busy Baby Boy

These just play into the falsehood of how some of society views babies: Sweet, docile baby girls versus loud, active baby boys. Toys that reinforce this notion simply perpetuate the falsehood.

I'll let Fisher Price in on a little secret...a 3 month old baby girl has no real concept that she's playing with a faux diamond rattle. In fact, she has no idea of the weight that little rattle in her hand actually possesses. Yet, as she grows up, those ideals will continue to be reinforced, over and over again - through toys, clothes, TV shows, movies, and more, until she gets to the point where she starts to buy into it, whether she truly believes in it or not.

Our kid's will be inundated with stereotypical gender messages throughout their entire childhood. Being a new parent is exhausting enough, do we really need to tire ourselves further by dealing with gender stereotypes this early out of the gate?

There are plenty of other options out there...

EZ chomping on a wooden rattle at 3 months old. No diamonds or hammers here!

And really, the mama in me is also kind of against these types of toys in general because...why? Why do babies need all this stuff (another post for another time, to be sure).

EZ playing with a favorite "toy" - a spoon.

Our consumerist culture has pushed us to the point where diamond rattles for 3 month old baby girls is somehow acceptable. If trends like these catch on, I'm almost fearful of what comes next...

(Toy manufacturers...please don't see that last sentence as a challenge. Really.)

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Avory

Name: Judith Avory Faucette
Age: 26
Occupation: blogger/writer/activist/non-profit professional
Location: Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC


How do you define feminism? 
My personal definition of feminism is "radical opposition to patriarchy."  This is a little different from the typical man/woman centered definition, since I'm not binary-gendered myself, and I also think that it's more logical to talk about feminism in all its incarnations by centering the discussion around patriarchy.  Patriarchy is a big, underlying structure that hurts us in so many ways.  Although it's "male," it isn't just about men--it's about things like narrowly defining gender, limiting ways to practice masculinity and femininity, and depending on binary identities, as well as institutionalized racism, incarceration, oppression, xenophobia, colonialism, war, and many other "big bads."  I use the phrase "radical opposition" because it's very difficult to practice feminism without attacking the underlying structures of society.  My feminism is about boldly challenging the media, educational institutions, the military-industrial complex, and the government.  A couple of years ago, I renamed my blog Radically Queer to reflect this focus to my feminism.

When did you first identify as a feminist? 
I didn't claim a feminist identity until midway through law school, in my early twenties.  I had a very narrow understanding of feminism, as something that was mostly about equal pay and related issues.  Over time, I started to engage online and learned that feminists were digging into all sorts of issues of interest to me, from queer cultures to the rights of women of color to activism for pregnant women to anti-poverty and prison abolition work.  The anthology Yes Means Yes (eds. Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti) was my feminist "click" moment, when I started to see how misogyny and patriarchy have operated unseen underneath my life pretty much from Day One.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
Yes.  As you can see from the above two questions, it's become broader.  As my own gender identity has shifted from female to genderqueer, I've started to understand how "gender" isn't just about men and women, and how patriarchy is damaging to everyone.  Of course, simple sexism does occur, but I think it's important for feminists to focus on the most marginalized people in our communities, including queer people, trans people, people of color, immigrants, poor people, people with disabilities, incarcerated people, etc.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?  
I've actually experienced more resistance from social justice folks than from what I'd call "anti-feminists."  At first, I would say things like "I think you probably are a feminist but just don't realize what feminism is doing now."  I've changed my tune, because although a lot of feminists are focused on racism and classism and imperialism and queer/trans issues, there are also a lot of upper-middle-class young white women in Brooklyn who operate the big feminist websites, and some (not all) of those women have said some pretty shitty things about marginalized communities.  So now I'm more encouraging of people doing great work, whatever they identify as, and I specifically identify myself as a queer feminist or radical feminist, because that's an important distinction for me.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I hope that feminism will continue to focus on marginalized communities and intersections with other areas of social justice work.  I also hope that feminists with resources will put funding towards the great grassroots work that's going on all over the world in local communities, and that we'll continue to challenge each other when we make a faux pas.  I also hope that feminism becomes more sustainable, that it's something we can make a full time job of if we so choose.

Judith Avory Faucette is a queer feminist legal activist and the voice behind the blog Radically Queer.  Avory also runs Girl w/ Pen and writes a monthly column at Gender Across Borders.  Zie is published in the Journal of Gender, Race, and Justice and has a JD from the University of Iowa.  Zie writes and speaks about queer feminism, international human rights, sexuality and the law, and non-binary genders.  You can follow hir work @queerscholar on Twitter.

If you would like to participate in this series, please contact me for more details! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quick Hit: Peter & Jane

My folks have been renovating their house, which in turn means lots of boxes and bags of stuff end up at my house because, "we don't want in anymore - get rid of it! we thought you'd like it."

And for the most part, I do! They've given us a bunch of great cookbooks and a ton of books that either my brother or I used to read all the time. However, in the latest batch of books I found this gem:

A reading primer from 1964 that I had never seen before.
My love for all things nostalgic kicked in and I immediately started flipping through it, leaving the pile of Curious George and Magic School Bus books to be sorted through later.

It's not that I'm surprised, really. I kind of assumed Peter and Jane were going to hit those stereotypical gender roles over our heads something fierce, but I held out a little hope that maybe...just maybe, Jane would toss on a pair of overalls and Peter would pick out a stuffed puppy.

Thankfully, only five minutes after I had flipped through Play With Us, EZ ran up to me and insisted we read from the stack of Eric Carle books that had also shown up in this particular box from my mom.

Bugs in my kids literature? Sure. That, I can get behind.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How To Make A Baby

This guest post was written by a friend who is frustrated, angry and tired over a process this is supposedly there to help her. She wanted a platform to share her story and I was more than willing to do what I could. While creating a baby for some is as easy as one fun night, for others it's not as simple. And for other's yet, it's a painstaking journey...

We have been going through this crazy process to try to make a baby—build our family. We are two thirty-something women, who have been together for over 11 years, married for over 5 years, own our own house (or at least the bank does for another 20+ years), live in semi-rural New England with our two cats, have post-graduate degrees, and a huge community of loving friends and family that support us from one mile down the road to the West Coast, across the globe, and many places in between. We are financially stable, have good professions, physically healthy, and emotionally (in general) stable. We are culturally Jewish and identify with spiritual teachings from many religions, including Judaism. We have a garden that can sometimes successfully group tomatoes and squash, and we often forget, or simply don’t make the time, to weed.

Our lives have included their fair share of strife and difficulties, just like many, if not most, other people; and at times we have dealt with it better than others. But trying to make a baby has been no small feat. First off- we had to decide on where we would get our sperm. After debating known versus anonymous donor, we opted for a cousin, so that our child would be biologically related to both of us. I am going to be the birth mother with my partner’s cousin’s sperm. We had only the most positive experience and response when discussing this with her cousin- him wanting nothing more than to help us have children. I am ever so grateful for his loving kindness. Now to get the sperm to my egg… he lives out of town, so if he isn’t in town, we have it shipped, overnight, in a kit that keeps it viable for 24-48 hours (thank you

Either we inseminate at home, or I go to my midwife who washes it, spins it, and inserts it past my cervix [Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)]. We know the timing, or hope we get the timing right, because I chart my temperatures and cycles daily, pee on ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) every so often, and sometime I even go and get an ultrasound to quadruple check. This is all because I am blessed with irregular cycles, for which they have found no known direct cause other than possibly Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), although blood tests do not confirm this diagnosis.

So we have been doing this for 20+ months. Friends I was trying to get pregnant with are celebrating their babies’ one-year birthdays. Please, don’t hear that as complaining- it is wonderful to celebrate their lives and it is also a reminder of how long and difficult this has all been.

We started with one midwifery clinic and had an awful, unprofessional experience there. One midwife reprimanded me (for what I still don’t understand), while I was in the stirrups butt naked. She ended up taking a leave and has retired early—something that validates my experience and saddens me for her difficulties. We switched to another midwife center and have received loving, compassionate, and accepting care. I text my midwife when I get a positive OPK and we schedule via texting. We share 1-2 hours a month while she cleans the sperm and I warm the wash.

After six months of trying on our own and 14 months of IUIs, we decided to consult a the local hospital’s reproductive medicine center to see what our next options were. Having completed one cycle of clomid that made me feel so crazy that I thought I was going to jump off a bridge, I needed to know other options. We met with Dr. L, who immediately told us what my health insurance would cover before laying an eye on me. We told her we had a known donor who had been tested for STIs and HIV and with whom I had been inseminating with for 20 months. She commented, “You know we don’t like that here.” She did not look at my charts, my cycles, my medical history, or my wife in the eye. She told us to go right to IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and switch to an anonymous donor because it would be more efficient. As if our donor decision has not been well thought out and emotionally involved.

Dr. L stated numerous excuses as to why they would not work with us with a known donor unless we quarantined the sperm ($) at a sperm bank ($$) for six months to test it twice ($$$) for STIs, and then freeze the sperm and ship it ($$$$) to their facility. She said it was a waste to do it that way because it would cost over $5,000. [Which at this point in time I would pay $5k for a child in a heartbeat.] I will comment that the actual cost of this is more like $3,000, but the fact that it is put off for six months just because I am not married to him feels ridiculous. Dr. L explained that due to the guidelines that the hospital follows, while a heterosexual couple could move immediately to IVF, a lesbian couple has to quarantine the sperm for six months, even if the individual has been exposed to the sperm prior to IVF. Basically, if I had to come to the clinic with just the donor and we said we wanted to have a child I would have moved to IVF IMMEDIATELY without having to pay any such sperm bank costs.

We argued these points, but to no avail. We were met with even more blatant discrimination (oh did you know, by the way, that sperm banks certified by the ASRM [American Society of Reproductive Medicine]- which this clinic only accepted sperm from- you can’t be a gay male—or rather you can’t have had sex with a male in the past 5 years. There are hundreds of other rules too about being out of the country, so on and so forth, but having sex with a male was #1). Then there was Dr. L’s comment about how we needed to go to counseling (I’m a psychologist) to deal with our “issue.” I inquired about the subject of “issue”—my infertility or the way we are choosing to make our family and was told the latter. And don’t let me forget the moment where my wife told the doctor that we knew it was not her intention exactly, but we felt discriminated against by her actions. She replied, “It’s okay for you to feel that way.”

Dr. L claimed that they could not separate the social (my state-recognized marriage) from the medical (my inseminations with the donor) because they had a “moral obligation.” She explained this with an example of a family in which children had been removed from the home and how the hospital would have a moral obligation not to offer that couple IVF. We, as two women with a known donor, were being compared to a family in which children were removed from the home for abuse and/or neglect. This was Dr. L’s attempt to have a “mutual agreement” as to why the hospital would eventually deny us equal services that would have been offered had I been a married heterosexual woman, a single woman with a male partner, or had I simply just come in with the donor and said that we wanted to have a child (a.k.a. lied—kind of like we are forced to do on our federal tax forms, but I digress…).

Needless to say, they denied us services for what we believe is discrimination based on how we are choosing to create a family. She neglected to send us her policies as we requested and it took over four weeks for me to get a copy of the records I requested and testing I had done there. They charged me $3.25 for the copies after billing my insurance company over $1,000 for the two 30-minute visits and even more for testing. (I had a Hysterosalpingogram [HSG] done and while they gave me a time to arrive, they took me 90 minutes later than my scheduled time. When I inquired, I was told to take deep breaths and relax (have I mentioned I am also a trained yoga instructor?), even though a sign in the waiting room stated “if you are not taken within 15 minutes of your scheduled appointment, please inquire with the receptionist.” Oh, and I was told to take 800 mg of Ibprofen 30-minutes before the procedure which I was now concerned was beginning to wear off.)

Finally we are done with this clinic, and while we are considering letter writing or letters to the editor, we cannot expend our energy on it until we have a child. We really just want a baby - one that is of both of our genetics, and for some reason this is so confusing to the reproductive medicine center at our local hospital.

So we try a second reproductive clinic. This one is two hours away with a satellite office one hour away. We don’t hesitate to go. We are treated with significantly more respect—find out that the owner/medical director is an out gay male—and are allowed to more forward with IVF, with just a few stipulations. 1) We need a contract by a lawyer, reviewed by my wife’s cousin’s lawyer, stating the financial/parental responsibility of the to be child; 2) the donor needs to attend one session of counseling to prove that he knows he is making this decision (have I mentioned that he is a scientist, his father a lawyer and his mother a psychologist?); 3) he needs to have blood tests, again, within 7 days of depositing his sample or “donation” if you will- he has to freeze his donation ($) so that they can ship it ($$) to our facility; 4) I need to have additional genetic testing and infectious disease screening, as well as proof that I have been vaccinated and/or exposed to a host of childhood diseases. I have already had 2 rounds of genetic testing, 3 rounds of hormonal panels, 2 rounds of thyroid panels, 2 rounds of glucose screening, 3 rounds of infectious disease screening, and 2 rounds of blood type screening; 5) I need to have a physical within one year of IVF- apparently they only really need to listen to my lungs and heart, and even though all the reproductive doctors are physicians (and wear stethoscopes around their necks), none can listen to my heart and lungs without a separate appointment; 6) pap smear within a year (thankfully I did that!); 7) hormonal panel on day three of cycle (done!); 8) uterus cavity examination (I have had not just one but two of these) and… screeching halt… 12 cycles of IUI with three cycles using follicular stimulating hormones. Well, even though I have been trying for 20 months, thus exposed to sperm for 20 months, there is a chance that my health insurance company won’t accept that and that they will only count IUIs and unfortunately I have only had 10. (Again, if I were hetero- no problemo!). Oh, and even though I ovulate on my own without difficulty (irregularly, but only 1 out of 18 cycles have been anovulatory), they want to stimulate the heck out of my ovaries so that my hormones are out of whack for the two months BEFORE IVF. I was recently put on an anti-diabetes drug (metformin) for the PCOS. I am hoping that the insurance company will count that because I start a new job next month and the following month my wife has ACL surgery, so I really don’t want to go crazy for all of that. (By the way, my mom has breast cancer and went through surgery, chemotherapy, and now radiation while I was going through all this, finishing a doctoral program, writing and defending a dissertation, my wife had her ski accident, and more people in my life died than I can easily count.) It has been a year of trauma, topped off with disappointment, frustrations, stress, and discrimination.

So here we are, I’m in weekly acupuncture, taking herbs, trying to prepare my body for an onslaught of hormones, waiting to hear what my insurance company, not my doctor or midwife, will dictate about my treatment. I have to get permission from more adults in power for making a wanted child and yet 16 year olds are not taught about protected intercourse and find themselves unknowingly and unwittingly pregnant with little support from anyone, let alone the FDA, ASRM, or any other institution. Why is the government so interested in making this so difficult for us but not in preventing children from mistakes that can’t be undone?

Yes, I am frustrated. I’m sure it is partially a mask for the sadness and monthly disappointment. I don’t know how much longer I can do this and yet I can’t imagine not having children. Three ideally, although I can’t see myself doing this part again. My new mom and pregnant friends have told me that the nine months feels like forever. At this point, it doesn’t feel so long.

I’m not saying that it should be perfectly easy for two women to have children. I’m the first to admit that this isn’t supposed to be simple. I chose to marry a woman (note language here) but I didn’t choose to be discriminated for it. I just think that Dr. L could have been kinder. It was so clear we made her uncomfortable—but I’m a human and like many others that she has helped get pregnant, I want a child. She wasn’t thinking of what my experience was because she was too stuck in her own discomfort to see past it to ours.

I never expected it to take this long and yet somehow I trust that when we finally have a child, it will all feel right that we had to wait this long. I know that there are children out there, whether born yet or just in spirit, that will choose us as parents. I just wish that institutions didn’t get in the way quite so much.

At this point, I would happily take twins because it would mean we were done with this process. Happily.

In closing, it has been emotionally tolling and draining—but it will all be worth it when we hold that child in our arms for the first time.

Abigail Levy, a pseudonym used by the author to protect her identity, is a psychotherapist and has been married to her spouse for 5 years. They reside in New England. A shorter version of Abigail's story originally appeared in The Rainbow Times