Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THE MAMAFESTO HAS MOVED!

If you're wondering about the lack of posts lately, it's because The Mamafesto has moved. We're now being powered by Wordpress instead of blogger and you can find us there. You should be able to subscribe vis email or RSS over at WP as well, and can still find us via www.TheMamafesto.com.

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

Name: 
Liz Crossen
Age: 
23
Occupation: 
Full-time Student; Server; Teacher’s Assistant; Research Assistant
Location:
 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.


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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?

No.

Am I disappointed?

Yes.

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

Avory


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 gayspermbank.com).

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Blue Milk


Name: blue milk
Age: 38
Occupation: Economist/Writer
Location: Australia

The blogger known as blue milk

How do you define feminism?
The belief that men and women are equal combined with an understanding that there is a systematic form of oppression working against women. My friend has a definition that I like, too, and that is that feminism is any time a woman speaks the truth about herself and her life.


When did you first identify as a feminist?
My first memory of actively identifying as a feminist was when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I saw an advertisement on television for men's deodorant and I remember trying to reject the sexism in that ad with my mother. Unfortunately my precocious feminism alarmed her - she'd been raised mostly by a single father and her own feminism wasn't all that pronounced at that time. And she was also, by then, a single parent herself (my father left us when I was about 10 years old); my mother had this fear of rearing "man-haters" on account of how difficult we were all finding our lives in a female-headed household in poverty. But my feminism must have come from somewhere and my mother has this sense about her that the rules don't necessarily apply to her, and in that I think she really fostered in me a belief that obstacles, including the patriarchy, could be overcome.

Without the resources to understand it properly at age 12, I think a whole lot of intersections of oppression suddenly became apparent to me and formed the basis of my feminism - poverty, bigotry, classism, ageism, homophobia, misogyny, sexism and .. sexual harassment, oh man, at around this same age I started receiving lots of unwanted sexual attention from men and boys and it was scary. It was also disorientating, because the sexual attention also presents as a kind of new power, and it's the first power you've ever really experienced with adults as a child, though of course ultimately it is a power mostly used against you.

(My feminism has taken years and years to really get to a point of understanding other intersections of oppression well, like racism and ableism and sizeism and transphobia. I am hoping to fast-track my children's awareness of privilege and oppression so they don't have to wait until they're nearly 40 to get all that).


Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
I have become a lot less black and white about things, I see many many shades of grey in the world now. I think by the time you get to your late 30s you've surprised yourself (and perhaps, disappointed yourself, also) more than a few times with how you've responded to particular situations where you previously held very strong (hypothetical) views. And motherhood, my god, particularly if you're having babies in a heterosexual arrangement, you're almost certainly making compromises and choices and being judged in ways you never dreamed possible for yourself.

There are a couple of core feminist issues that I've flipped back and forth on so many times that I'm back to where I was 20 years ago - the sex industry is one of those. I probably started out with 'prostitution is exploitation' in my childhood and then I was 'sex worker supportive' by my late adolescence and then I was back to 'prostitution is exploitation' in my 30s and now in my late 30s I'm back to 'sex worker supportive'. In the end, as much as I believe that there are huge chunks of the sex industry that are terribly exploitative and that I would like magically ended tomorrow if it were possible, I still think any feminist approach to sex work has to have room for the different voices of sex workers, themselves - remember what I said about my definition of feminism being women speaking the truth about their lives? There is no denying that some workers don't find their jobs exploitative at all. I just cannot find justice in a feminism that discounts the voices of those women (and men).    

This is one of the reasons why the Internet is a scary place to be a feminist - because your feminism probably naturally evolves but the Internet records everything. Take a position on something and you can never let that go, even when you change your mind years later.


Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
All the time, identifying as feminist isn't easy - feminism represents agitation for a shift in the sharing of power and with that comes new 'winners' and new 'losers', there's a lot at stake, and some people will either outright oppose that or else be kind of terrified of it because it's change - but I have been identifying as feminist since I was a teenager so I can say that it does get easier with time and practisee. Plus, I have built myself this little feminist utopia so pretty much everyone I socialise with on and off-line is feminist or feminist-leaning and I misguidedly feel like the revolution is completely winning and I'm on the stronger side. Having said all that, I work in a very male-dominated workplace where being 'left-wing' can be a source of ridicule. Teasing is how Australians flirt (it is also how Australians bully so it isn't always friendly), and I have had years to get comfortable with being teased about my feminism.

And there's the thing with Australian men, they are quite chauvinist, it's true, but women are strong here, too; maybe because of that hyper-masculine culture we have to be, and as a result I think we punch above our weight as a country in terms of feminism. Also, in Australia, men socialise exclusively with their male friends a lot (that's why there is such an obsession with sport in this country) and women socialise a lot separately with their female friends, too, and in some ways I think this has actually provided fertile ground for feminism. Female friendships are highly valued by women, and so then solidarity and an understanding of common experiences happen as well.


What do you see as the future of feminism?
A big part of the future of feminism is reconciling with and empowering motherhood, it is certainly the unfinished business of feminism. The motherhood movement will be at the forefront of the next wave of feminism, mark my words and check back with me in twenty-five years time. I'll bet I was right.

If you want to include any picture of yourself, please email me a link or file. if you have a bio (with links to your own website, twitter, etc...) feel free to include that as well!


This writer is an economist who writes about motherhood from a feminist perspective, she is the author of the blog, blue milk. She has presented at conferences on motherhood, work and family, feminism, and social media; has written for magazines and newspapers, and has had her work quoted on television. She is a contributing author to the  book, The 21st Century Motherhood Movement: Activist Mothers Speak Out On Why We Need To Change the World And How To Do It. She is also the mother of two children.  She might sound like she has it together, but she so very much doesn’t. You can follow her on twitter @bluemilk.


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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back To School

Note the plethora of books in the butterfly net. He's ready.
Almost every day for the past week has started the same:

"Do I get to go back to school today?"

***

When EZ was around two and a half, we started making the rounds to various preschools in the area. We were less worried about getting him on the baby-genius track, and more concerned with giving him a few mornings a week to interact with his peers while mama got a few hours to regain her sanity. If he happened to learn anything while there, even better.

We're lucky to live in an area saturated with schools - private, public, charter - you name it, we've got it. Almost every educational philosophy is represented, and the choices really are limitless (as long as your bank account is limitless as well...).

I started off by checking out one preschool in particular, intrigued by what they seemed to offer. EZ is a January baby, making him just short of that supposedly magic 2.9-by-September cutoff that many preschools adhere to. Perhaps it was my mistake to look at schools who abide by that rule, but there we were, meeting with the director of the program anyway.

She watched as EZ played with some toys that were left out as she described the program to me. Then, she pulled me aside and said that while she'd love to have EZ attend, they are pretty strict with their age minimum.

Had the conversation ended there, I probably wouldn't have thought twice and possibly would have even sent him there the following year. 

But then...

"And it's good anyway. That way, he'll be even older when he starts next year, making him on track with the other kids in the class, especially the girls."

Excuse me? 

Of course, I asked her to clarify.

She talked about how boys are naturally slower learners, how if he started this year he'd be behind and frustrated and wouldn't enjoy himself.

If I knew how to arch my eyebrow in that awesomely pointed way, I totally would have. Instead, I thanked her for her time, scooped up EZ, and left.

While I'm sure this director must have met students who fell into that description, she hadn't met EZ yet. Not really. She didn't know what he could or couldn't do, but because he's a boy, she already had a preconceived notion of what he was capable of.

And that totally sucked.

Now granted, I know that all of our kids are special snowflakes and when they do something it's the bestest thing ever and better than any other little kid doing the same exact thing. No, seriously, when EZ pooped in the potty for the 1st time, I almost held a parade

But, for me, this is beyond being fiercely protective of my son because he's mine, and more about this general idea that boy are intellectually slower than girls that has seeped into our society (and by extension - school systems).

I'm not suggesting that there aren't biological differences between boys and girls. I know there are. Books have been written about these difference suggesting they begin as early as the womb, and studies are always looking at the differences between male and female brains. However, regardless of the biological differences between the sexes, acting upon these theories in a way that could potentially affect them negatively in an educational setting makes me bristle.

I want a teacher to look at my child and see his potential, and not rely on the generality that boys are slower learners - that already puts him at a disadvantage. It could be as subtle as not starting to work on reading or math sooner, or over compensating with over the top attention when he manages to do something correctly.

In the end, we chose a school that happened to be a perfect fit. EZ's teachers look at him as an eager kid, full of questions and potential. They don't teach towards his gender, and in fact, in the two years that he's been there, not one teacher has made a comment about the supposed slow pace at which boys learn, or how he learns "as a boy." We've had discussions about his struggles with fine motor skills and his accomplishments in reading. Neither time were those skills, or lack thereof, connected to the fact that EZ is a boy. They were simply presented as "this is how your child is doing."

This Friday, EZ finally goes back to school. He's beyond happy, and I'm thrilled knowing he'll be walking into a classroom that views him as an individual, rather than a sum of his parts.

EZ at his birthday celebration (blowing out the "sun") at school last year

Monday, September 5, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Julia


Name: Julia Famularo
Age: 30
Occupation: doctoral student
Location: Connecticut/Washington DC/Asia
Any other relevant tidbits you'd care to share: news junkie, musician, adventurer

Julia, wielding her lasso of truth since 4 years old

How do you define feminism? 
An innate belief that women deserve the same rights and privileges as men, no matter where they’re born, where they live, and where they work.

An appreciation of the contributions that women make every day, large and small.

A concern for the welfare of other women.



When did you first identify as a feminist? 
Since before I can ever remember! I’m quite fortunate to have a mother who has always encouraged me. Growing up before the women’s rights movement, she was acutely aware of the societal limitations imposed upon women, and was determined that things would be different for her daughters. I consequently used to go around telling people as a young girl that “I can be anything I want when I grow up, except a boy.” If only I knew... ;-)


Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
I think that my understanding and appreciation of feminism has expanded and deepened over time. When I was younger, my main exposure to feminism was what I learned in school (who hasn’t done a book report on Susan B. Anthony?), read in the paper, or discussed with my mother.

As I grew older, I realized that there was far more to feminism than learning about the suffrage movement and lamenting that women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work. Feminism isn’t simply about the struggle for rights... it isn’t even simply about “struggle,” period.

To me, feminism is about considering how we as individuals and societies construct gender. It’s about rethinking gender roles and gender stereotypes that we encounter everyday. It’s about contemplating the choices we make and how they ultimately affect others: our family, our friends, and society as a whole.


Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it? 
Only from myself! There was a time in my life when I began to wonder what it really meant to be a feminist, and whether you lost your membership card if you weren’t out on the streets with protest signs. Then, to my great relief, I realized that our thoughts and actions all make a difference, and we’re all metaphorically on the front lines every day.


What do you see as the future of feminism?
I think that in the future, we’ll continue to break down barriers around the world. I believe that it’s particularly important for us all of us to educate ourselves and speak out against violence and discrimination against women in other countries. There are so many horrific practices that still exist, such as bride kidnapping, honor killings, FGM, and many others. Perhaps a good place to start is identifying at least one or two causes that are truly important to you, and thinking of small ways that you can make a contribution.


Julia M. Famularo is a Research Affiliate at the Project 2049 Institute and a fourth-year doctoral student in Modern East Asian Political History at Georgetown University. Recently, she had the opportunity to spend a semester at the State Department, working in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. She has lived and traveled extensively in the People's Republic of China, ethnographic Tibet, and Taiwan. You can find more from Julia at Project 2049


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

Friday, September 2, 2011

Schooled.

It's back to school time for most, and with that comes the excitement, nerves and anticipation of the first day.

Apparently, it also bring with it a huge helping of sexism.



JC Penny has made the news for selling back-to-school shirts for girls that reinforce the stereotype that as long as they're pretty, they don't need to worry about their intellect. My friend Melissa over at Pigtail Pals breaks it down and explains why JC Penny screwed up so poorly.

To their very little credit, JC Penny heard the backlash loud and clear and removed the shirt from being sold.

However, they continue to sell shirts that portray similarly sexist messages.

I guess girls are no longer taking Science, Math or History? BTW, I'm pretty certain I received an F in "shopping"

While most people get why the above shirts are offensive, many others have been espousing the whole "if you don't like it, don't buy it" notion. The problem with that is that folks don't need to buy it to buy into it. Just the fact that these shirts exist - pushing the stereotype that girls don't need to be brainy as long as they have their looks - reinforces a falsehood that some little girls might actually buy into.

Of course, I had to be fair. I went through all 22 pages of JC Penny's t-shirts for girls. Not all were this blatant. But, most of them did have qualifying words on them: Princess, Diva, Cutie, etc... Others had messages like "I heart bling." None besides a super cute & nerdy Hello Kitty shirt left me feeling all that groovy, to be honest.

I then decided to look through all 15 pages of the boys t-shirts. Hardly any had descriptive words. Lots of numbers and sports themed shirts, but not much was suggested beyond boys being "Rock Star!" "X-Treme!" or.... "boys."



What's with the disparity? The sad thing is, if I looked beyond JC Penny and compared other big box clothing stores, I'm certain to find similar trends. Girl style automatically equals commentary on looks and attitude, while boys' clothes tend to either be plain or lame.

I'm well aware that awesome kid-positive clothing exists out there. But these kinds of clothes are not available in big box stores where many people shop. These clothes are not the majority. But, perhaps, if more people are vocal about what they don't want to see on their children's clothes, perhaps retailers will start taking the hint...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Ashley

Name: Ashley
Age: 27
Occupation: student
Location: midwest
Any other relevant tidbits you'd care to share: you can find me tweeting @ashleyrebeccah

Ashley at age 4

How do you define feminism? 
I think feminism is about ensuring human rights for women as well as establishing full and equal participation in all aspects of society. I have heard it defined as equality with men but I don't think that's enough. There are many things that are different for women and men or only affect women, like reproductive rights, pregnancy/parenthood, domestic and sexual violence which women experience at much greater levels than men, etc. In addition, large numbers of women encounter even greater oppression due to the intersections of sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, cissexism, classism, and ageism, and I think in order to gain full human rights for women we have to eliminate all of these "ism's".


When did you first identify as a feminist?
I first identified as a feminist as a teenager. It was definitely a gradual thing but I started to recognize how I was treated differently because of my gender. I grew up in a conservative, Catholic family and attended Catholic schools and I began to feel that women were treated as lesser in the Catholic church and this extended into my home life because of my family's strong religious beliefs. I then started to seek out more information about forms of discrimination that women faced which is where I learned more about feminism both in the US and in other countries.



Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
I wouldn't say it's changed as much as I have solidified what it means to me.


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 definitely experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist. I think men (especially cis hetero white males) are resistant to feminism because they don't want to give up any of their power. When women are resistant I think it's often because they have been conditioned to believe things are fine as they are. In addition, talking about feminism means challenging beliefs, both other people's and my own, and I think that can be difficult to stomach. I'm not really sure I handle the resistance in any particular way but I definitely don't give up on my beliefs even when they seem unpopular because I strongly believe in justice for all people.


What do you see as the future of feminism?
I know some people think feminism is dead but I think it is still very much alive and has taken on a variety of forms. One thing that concerns me is when feminists criticize other feminists when they are exercising the right to make their own choices, like the choice to change their last name upon marriage, to wear makeup, or to do any other number of things which are sometimes viewed as oppressive or anti feminist. I think if we are truly serious about fighting for women's rights we have to support one another and work towards ensuring that all women are truly free to exercise their rights and make their own choices. If we are trying to decide for other women then they are not free and I don't think we are any better than the patriarchal society that tries to impose upon them to begin with. I also think for the future of feminism we need to work towards recognizing that it's not just about sexism but about all of the intersecting forms of oppression that women face. I think many women don't identify as feminist because of this exclusion and so moving forward we need to work on making sure the feminist movement is inclusive.

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An Abortion Story

Krista, who I met via my This Is What A Feminist Looks Like series, graciously agreed to do a guest post for me, especially after I had found out that she had been a patient of the late Dr. George Tiller. Krista originally shared this post as a speech at a Planned Parenthood event.

Krista at 15


In 1986 I was 15-years-old and I was pregnant.

That's an easy statement to make now, but it was a reality that took me months to accept.

I was in love. I honestly thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with him....until he broke up with me.

The next month my period didn't come. I thought it was because I was upset over the break-up.

The month after that, I was in denial. It couldn't happen to me. We had been safe....most of the time.

The month after that I accepted I was pregnant.

But I wasn't allowed to date yet, so how was I going to tell my parents I was pregnant?

When I finally told them they were angry, disappointed and concerned.

We talked about my future and what I wanted.

I wanted to go to college. And I knew I was not ready to be a mother at 15-years old.

My mother took me to the Planned Parenthood in Peoria Illinois.

After an examination the doctor said he could not perform the abortion.

I was more than 21-weeks pregnant.

Our only alternative was to travel to Wichita Kansas and the Women's Health Care Services clinic.

The same clinic Operation Rescue and other anti-choice protesters targeted for years.

When we pulled up to the gated clinic only one silent protestor stood outside.

I was relieved, but I was also scared.

The staff was kind. They smiled and treated me and the six others in my group gingerly.

They were other teenagers like me.

There was a 20-year old beauty pageant queen. She told me she was getting an abortion because the Miss America rules stated she could not have a child.

There was a couple in their 30's who made the difficult decision to terminate a planned pregnancy because the child was stricken with a severe birth defect.

The same birth defect that had already claimed one of their children.

And there was a 12-year-old Hispanic girl who didn't speak English.  She looked terrified.

The staff explained that over the next week we would take pills to induce labor and abort our fetuses.

We all stayed at a local motel.

We ate together, we cried together and we supported each other.

My contractions started in the middle of the afternoon.

I couldn't keep food or water down.

The pain increased as the contractions got closer together.

By the next morning I was in agony.

I don't remember much about the moment when my pregnancy ended.

Just the nurse who told me to push.

On the long drive home, my breasts started producing milk. My body believed I had given birth.

Before we left the clinic, the Doctor talked to all of us about our futures.

When the Doctor looked at me he paused and quietly said I reminded him of his daughter.

My doctor was Dr. George Tiller.

In 2004, I saw Dr. Tiller again at the March for Women's Lives in Washington D.C.

I cried and thanked him for giving me a future.

I felt empowered knowing he was on our side.

On May 31, 2009 Scott Roeder shot and killed Dr. George Tiller.

The doctor was at his church serving as an usher during the Sunday morning service when Roeder shot Dr. Tiller in the head.

That single gunshot closed the Women's Health Care Services clinic permanently.

I want Dr. Tiller's legacy to be something he said, "Abortion is about women's hopes and dreams and potential, the rest of their lives, abortion is a matter of survival for women.

Krista today

Krista is married to an amazing, supportive man.  They have two dogs who fill their lives with joy. You can find Krista on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Becky

Name: Becky Sumber
Age: 36
Location: Westchester area, NY
Occupation: Manager in the Service Coordination Department of an agency that serves people with developmental disabilities/mom
Random/Important facts: mother of a young daughter and son.

Becky
How do you define feminism?
Feminism to me is knowing that women don't need to fit into any particular gender role, and that that only limits on women are their own aspirations. I experience feminism now mostly through parenting my kids; raising each of them to just be who they are and to do what they love. Feminism isn't just about women having the freedom to explore and enjoy traditional male gender roles (being the breadwinner, working in male dominated fields, etc), but also about embracing things that may be considered traditional female gender roles (being nurturing, soft and feminine) if that's what they enjoy and if that's what feels right.

When did you first consider yourself a feminist?
In college I took a women's studies course and identified with a lot of the themes. I grew up in a household where, when she could, my mother stayed home to take care of me and my siblings, but when she needed to, she also worked, obtained an advanced college degree, and moved her four children into a better living environment as a single mother. Without realizing it, I was raised with the assumptions that a woman can do and be anything that she wants to, or anything that she needs to.

Has your definition of feminism changed over time? 
I think having a daughter reinforced my ideas, and forced me to think about them more concretely, as I've tried to raise my daughter to know that she can be whoever she wants to be and that her voice is important. I've extended those thoughts to my baby boy, who I will raise to be comfortable with who he is, & to know that women can be equal partners with their mates. I think that, as I've watched my daughter grow, I've become more aware of making sure my kids know they don't have to fit into any sort of gender stereotype; that they are perfect just the way they are, however they wish to express themselves, and that they can do and be anything that makes them happy.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think there is and how do you handle it? 
I actually can't say I have experienced resistance. I haven't ever felt like I couldn't do or be something just because I'm a woman; or that I have to do or be something because I'm a woman. I've also been lucky to work in a very female-dominated field where women are commonly leaders and in upper level positions.


What do you see as the future of feminism? 
I think the future is feminism. I see a world for my kids to grow up in where women are equally accepted and respected for any choice they make in their lives, whether my daughter wants to stay home and raise children, obtain an advanced degree and work her way up the ladder in a male dominated field, build a remote control car or dress up in unicorn costumes and have tea parties. All are valid and valuable choices.

Becky and her husband Jon live just north of NYC with their two young children. She works in the field of developmental disabilities and juggles work and domestic goddess duties with the finesse of a clumsy circus clown. She loves live music, going to bed early, hiking, bad reality TV, and vegetarian cooking.

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

All Tied Up

It was just another week working with my girls...Okay, they're not actually mine, but after over a year of tutoring them, it can sometimes feel that way.

And...it's never really just another week. While I'm there to tutor, I come away from my time with them having learned a thing or two as well. I'm also almost guaranteed some amazing conversation.

***

"Miss. How old do you have to be to get your tubes tied?" asked one of the girls in between fraction problems.

I looked at her with a blank stare, never having had the opportunity to even contemplate that question. "Um...18? 21?" I guessed, but really had no clue.

"Yeah, I think 21," another girl chimed in, and soon a handful had added their opinion.

(For the record, I later looked it up, and the legal age is 18, but various practices can sometimes refuse to perform the procedure on young adults who have never had children. A post for another time, to be sure...)

The girl in question (19) only has one kid - a little boy. Yet, she seemed resolute in her decision that she was done having kids and wanted her tubes tied.

I was curious as to how she came to that choice.

Her son's father is in and out of the picture and she lives with her mom and siblings, an all too common scenario for these girls. And maybe it's because of that. Or maybe it's because her son is teething and slept like crap, or had a tantrum, or ruined her favorite necklace. Whatever the reason, she decided that, still in her teens, she is done. No more kids for her.

I thought back to when I was 18. The sky was the limit for me. I was off to college, excited, anxious, curious, full of possibility. I couldn't imagine making such a decision. But then again, I wasn't in the same situation.

I'm not denying the fact that maybe she does know. Maybe she really knows that she doesn't want any other kids. I mean, I know (at 31) that we're sticking with just EZ, so why can't she know?

I thought about all of that, but still, I asked her if she was really sure. The thing that caused me to keep talking was the permanence of it all.

That was the other thing I remembered about being 18. Like the time I got my belly button pierced and then it got all crazy infected. That scar I have is permanent. Such a poor analogy, but there you go. Things we do when young stay with us. A scar on my stomach is one thing, scarred up fallopian tubes? That's another.

So we talked. I didn't push, I didn't prod.

I did tell her I got an IUD the week before.

I told her I also knew I only wanted one kid, but...you never know.

Things change.

***

The other day I was back there and we were discussing something else - an article on mother/daughter bullies actually - and the same girl came up to me before I left.

"Hey Miss.."

"Yeah?"

"I don't think I'm gonna get my tubes tied. I looked it up, and it's a crazy surgery. Plus, you know. What you said."

And that was that. Off she went, cell phone in hand, gossiping with her friends as they downed a snack before heading to athletics.

Like any other teen...only not.

Friday, August 26, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Mary

Name: Mary Starr
Age: 47
Occupation:  Homemaker/Volunteer
Location: Kansas City, MO
Any other relevant tidbits you'd care to share:  When reading to my kids, I frequently switch the male-in-power gender roles to female.  Why does the doctor or the mayor always have to be a man?

Mary

How do you define feminism? 
"Equalism."  My definition doesn't involve man-bashing, simply working toward equal pay and respect for women.

When did you first identify as a feminist?  
When I was a kid in the '70s, my dad (somewhat) jokingly rang a bell for my mom to fetch his coffee.  I so wanted to tell him to get his own damned coffee!

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?  
I used to think being a homemaker and a feminist were mutually exclusive.  Now I believe one can still work toward equal treatment no matter one's work status.

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 experienced resistance from my brother and a former co-worker.  Some men seem threatened by the 'f-word' itself.  I explained that feminists don't want preferential treatment, merely equal treatment.

When I ended up having two sons, my brother commented that maybe (now) I would be able to understand men better.  Apparently he thought I was confused!

What do you see as the future of feminism?
It would be wonderful if the need for feminism were to become obsolete.  But considering that we still haven't elected a woman president in the U.S., we have work to do.

Mary enjoys taking Tae Kwon Do with her older son & acting silly with her younger son and her fiance, Mike.  She majored in Political Science and a favorite job was working for Children International, a child sponsorship organization.  She now considers with mild amusement the fact that her father thinks males are inherently more intelligent than females.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Krista

Name: Krista
Age: 40
Occupation:  Journalist
Location: Mid-South

Krista

How do you define feminism?
It's supporting women and women's issues.  Too many people believe feminism is about promoting women while putting men down, but that's not the case. They are shocked to learn men can be feminists too.  Feminism is about sending the message women are people.  We are capable of doing everythng men can do (except maybe pee standing up!).  We are so much more than incubators and maids.  We raise children and run countries.  It's about not blaming rape victims, allowing women real choices when it comes to birth control, equal pay for equal work and recognition of the huge contributions we make in the world every day.

When did you first identify as a feminist?
I can't remember a time I didn't identify as a feminist.  I grew up in a household where I was told I could do anything or be anything.  If I wanted to be President, I could do it.  It wasn't until I started school that I realized this wasn't the way everyone thought.  I was shocked. I never backed down from my goals and my parents always stood behind me.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
I don't think my definition has changed.  I feel the issues have changed.  They've gotten more complex.  (Maybe it's me that's more complex).  Everything seemed so cut and dry when I was younger, now I see there's not always one simple answer.  For instance - supporting women politicians like Sarah Palin.  Years ago my instinct would be to support her because she's a woman, but the truth is Palin doesn't support other women or women's issues.  There's nothing more frustrating then women who don't recognize and honor the fact they are where they are today because of feminists in the past.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
Yes!  On Twitter!  Someone said I shouldn't talk about birth control and abortion rights, specifically conception, because I was a feminist.  She automatically thought feminist meant lesbian.  After I stopped laughing I explained that while some feminists are lesbians, I was not.  I wear my "Ms.", "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like" and "I Had An Abortion"  t-shirts a lot.  They generate conversations and provide me an opportunity to share my story.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
 Unfortunately I see another backlash against feminism in the immediate future.  I hope this will inspire fellow feminists to speak up and get involved.  We cannot succeed unless we work together.  I see promise in the next generation, but it's up to women (including me) to help lead the way.


More on Krista:
I was 15-years-old when I got pregnant.  Dr. George Tiller performed my abortion.  Keeping abortion safe and legal is an issue I fiercely support.  If women cannot control their bodies and their reproductive health, they cannot control their lives.
I am married to an amazing, supportive man.  We have two dogs who fill our lives with joy.
You can also find Krista on Twitter.

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