Friday, April 29, 2011

Link Love!

In the vein of a few of my favorite sites (Gender Across Borders & Go Fug Yourself to name just two) I've decided to do a Friday link round up where I'll share links to things I've been into the past week. I doubt there will be any sense of semblance or theme, but hopefully you'll find something new and fun.

* Word clouds are awesome. Ones about the heavily gendered toy market are awesomely frightening, though sadly, not surprising.

* "Spring is finally here" is reason enough for me to attempt this cake in a jar recipe ASAP. Yes. You heard me right. Cake.In.A.Jar. But since I'm not a fan of food dye, I'm crossing fingers and toes that my local food coop will have a suitable substitute.

My friend Char started a new blog. She's a bi-coastal gal that's also a pop culture addict. Check out her snarky, yet funny observations at Char In Charge.

Oh how I wish I lived near any of the six cities on this tour. There is something so magical, nostalgic and yet so fresh about it. It seems like their tour diary will have to suffice for now.

With all the ridiculous hullabaloo re:President Obama's birth certificate, I am extremely thankful for the funny folks at The Onion for providing a much needed laugh.

It's no secret that I watch a lot of inane television. It doesn't take much to get me hooked. However, I normally don't go for those singing competitions. Yet, somehow I found myself really into The Voice. It's refreshing to see a competition show that doesn't allow people to make fools of themselves for entertainment's sake, but rather celebrates and encourages talent in a unique way. While I don't see myself watching this on the reg, I definitely will pop over to their site to view some vids.

* Oh, right...there's a wedding today, no? While I might not have been up at 6AM to watch the wedding live,  you can be certain I'll be checking in periodically to my fashion blog of choice, Tom & Lorenzo, where my two favorite queens will be dishing on the fashion and frivolity of the royal wedding!

Song that's singing to me this week: The Decemberists - "June Hymn"

Do you have some link love to share? Leave it in the comments below, please!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Interview: Cheryl Kilodavis

A few weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Kilodavis, author of the highly acclaimed book, My Princess Boy.

What started off as an interview for an article quickly turned into what felt like a conversation amongst old friends who started plotting bi-coastal play dates for their sons. While I would love to share our entire two hour phone chat with you all, my transcription skills are sorely lacking. However, I have managed to transcribe some of my favorite moments between us... (My bits are in the regular font and Cheryl's are in purple italics)


What prompted you beyond encouraging your own son to actually writing the book?

I needed a was really sort of a selfish move. I went to the bookstore. We do everything with books with teaching both of my kids and having conversations. And to my surprise, there weren't any books that focused just on young boys who love to play princess. It was more focused on gender confusion or sexual orientation, and my son was two at the time when he started showing interest in things pink and sparkly. So I thought, I'm not going to introduce that at two, you know? He's way too young. 

After going through my own process of acceptance...because I initially was redirecting. And then finally my older son, he just says to me "why can't you just let him be happy?" and I realized that it was my issue. That I was uncomfortable, so I was trying to really control Dyson to be what would make me comfortable versus what was making him comfortable. So, the book is really a result of my journal entries and because there weren't any books out there I went to the local copy shop and printed it out and started giving it out to his teachers and any playdates...anybody that would have time with Dyson. I didn't want them to be with him and crush his spirit. Really the book was a way to say that exclusion hurts and when you make comments it hurts and will you just accept me for who I am.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Princess Boy: BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Back in January I came across a video of Cheryl Kilodavis and her son Dyson being interviewed on the Today Show. I watched with rapt interest as Cheryl described her son as "her princess boy," because of his love of all things pink and frilly. Not only did Cheryl fiercely defend Dyson and his choices, but she went a step further, writing a book to help in the battle for tolerance and understanding.

Cheryl's book, My Princess Boy, is a short and sweet reminder that while we're all different, we all want to be accepted just the same as anyone else.

My Princess Boy - by Cheryl Kilodavis

Stumbling upon that clip was more than serendipitous, as I had been working on a post about my own princess boy. It was both comforting and reassuring to see that there were other mamas out there who had similar boys and were just as proud of them as I am of EZ.

As time went by, I was happy to see Cheryl on a few more talk shows and websites, promoting not only her book, but the message of acceptance. I was encouraged by Cheryl's story and was so happy to see more dialogue about breaking down stereotypical gender boxes, even if it wasn't neccessarily couched in those terms.

Then, as luck would have it, about a month or so ago, I somehow finagled myself an interview with Cheryl as part of some research I was doing for an upcoming article. Through a flurry of emails with her publicists, we settled on a time and I eagerly awaited our phone date. I had no idea what to expect and what we would talk about beyond the few questions I had for her.

Two hours (and 3 dropped calls) later, I had not only interviewed somebody I deeply respected, but I had gained a friend in the process.

In the world of parenting it can be hard to find folks that share similar thoughts and values, and it can be even harder to find ones that speak so freely and so loudly about them. My Princess Boy is the perfect was to easily share those ideals in a simple, yet powerful manner.

If you haven't yet had a chance to check this book out, now is the time to do so! I am offering up a free book giveaway for one copy of My Princess Boy. With colorful drawings and a beautiful message, this book is a must-have for those who want to continue to spread the message about unconditional friendship, differences and acceptance. Perhaps you know a Princess Boy in your life or just like to read about princesses in general.

HOW TO ENTER: All you need to do is comment below by Saturday, April 30th. I will randomly select one comment on May 1st as the winner and you will receive a hard copy of My Princess Boy soon after.

*Also - while bits and pieces of my interview with Cheryl made it into the article I've written, there was so much more from our chat that I wanted to share, and will be writing up a good chunk of it to post later this week. I found our talk inspiring, and think you will as well, and I hope you come back to check it out!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Cleaning My House Makes Me Feel Like a Feminist

Truth time: I have no clue what this blog post is supposed to be about.

Do you ever just jot down an idea in hopes of returning to it later? I do that all the time with blog posts. In fact, if you saw my "edit posts" section, you would find a whole host of unfinished posts, just begging me to come and finish whatever thought I had started way back when.

For instance, this post was started in April of 2009. 2009! I have no idea where I was going with it, and the few sentences I had already written down within the post didn't give me much to go on:

"I guess today's blog title is a bit of an overstatement. It would be more truthful to say that cleaning my house doesn't make me feel like any less of a feminist."


Fair enough I suppose. I still agree with that, but am really curious where I was headed with those thoughts two years ago.

Instead of trying to sleuth it out from the dregs of my mom-riddled brain, I think back to when I read The Feminine Mystique for the first time. I was in high school and didn't quite grasp the concept of having my own home and what that entailed. I nodded along in agreement with Betty as I vowed never to allow my identity to be tied to how clean my house was. I would not become trapped behind a mop like countless suburban housewives seemed to be! My youthful outrage was palpable as it propelled me to learn more about feminism and even pushed me towards focusing on Women's Studies for my Masters. I read more and absorbed even more from those around me.

While along the Masters path, I took a wonderful course that focused on advertising and gender. We spent a good chunk of time dissecting various ads from the 50s and 60s that were the epitome of everything Betty Friedan was struggling with.

I don't. I just ignore them. 

Phew. Thank heavens for Schlitz.

I can only imagine the meeting where the term "femineered" was coined

This women, er...cartoon... look absolutely hopped up on something. Cleaning fumes?

Going back to the original title of this post...I have to admit something. I loathe cleaning. I really, really do. I find little pride in having a spotless house, and much prefer one that looks used and lived in. Sure, I try my best to keep dust bunnies and stains at bay, and it's as clean as any house with a four year old can be, but I just can't get into spending hours each day getting it in tip top shape.

In fact, I'm still waiting for the reality of Rosie to happen.

Although, let's be honest - the amount of stereotypes rolled up in one robot was pretty amazing

And while I enjoy the choice that feminism has helped provide me regarding being out in the workforce...or not... I have yet to quite grasp just what it has to do with cleaning my house. When I find out, I'll let you know asap, but if you figure it out in the meantime, clue me in...please. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Every spring the Civil Liberties and Public Policy program at Hampshire college puts on their annual conference. I've been fortunate to attend a handful of these weekend events, and after a 2 year hiatus, managed to make it to their 30th anniversary conference.

There are many aspects to the conference, but one of my favorite parts are the various workshops offered throughout the weekend. I attended a few of them, and I'm sure I'll be processing out loud (via the blog) about them eventually. However, the one that is still stuck in the forefront of my mind is the "Femininetastic" workshop.

Perhaps it's because I recently wrote about labels and how we and others perceive ourselves, or maybe it's because I find myself constantly thinking about the issues brought up in the workshop. The short blurb that attracted me to the workshop in the first place stated,
Femininetastic! What does it mean to be a woman in the feminist movement, and how can we create communities and a culture that affirms and empowers our own activism and lives? Speakers will discuss how they have defined, challenged and embraced different models of being a feminist today. (Speakers: Paris Hatcher, Kathleen Adams, Wyndi Marie Anderson*, Toni Olin-Mignosa)
What was interesting is that the workshop started off in a different, but just as compelling, manner. Moderator Wyndi Marie Anderson began by discussing not only what it means to be a woman in the feminist movement, but started delving into the issue of femininity.

Searching google image for "femininity" brings up some interesting photos

All throughout the workshop the topic of femininity as it relates to feminism was brought up. Both the panelists and those in the audience kept ping-ponging between the two topics of femininity as well as creating community within the feminist movement and the two intersected heavily at times.

As I listened to the various women on the panel, as well as the questions and comments being thrown out by the audience, I couldn't help recall the recent blog post I wrote about labels. Finally, I raised my hand and stumbled through my jumbled up question. I asked if they had any thoughts on how the term "feminist" has come to be seen as a dirty word, and what can we do to help encourage those who say "I believe in all these ideals, but I'm not a feminist..."

Thankfully, the women on the panel all seemed to understand me, and had interesting things to say. Kathleen Adams had shared her story about creating Momma's Hip Hop Kitchen, a yearly event that celebrates women via music and art. She talked about using Hip Hop as a way to reach out to those who might not otherwise fin themselves at an event put on by feminists. She said that once there, most people realize how they truly do strive for the same goals as the feminist movement an find it easier (and perhaps more palatable) to absorb via a comfortable medium.

Some people in the audience also had some interesting thoughts, including a woman who works for a university's student center and tries to get the various women's groups to include the Greek system in events, as a way to bridge the two groups and perhaps create some unity and understanding rather than exclusion.

I left the workshop with some thoughts to process, new ideas to mull over, and even having met somebody new (who came up to me after the workshop ended to continue talking about a point I brought up). The one thing that I've always loved about the annual CLPP conference is the energizing boost it gives me. I feel ready to take on the world...whether that means ranting against people who feel that pink nail polish will destroy society as we know it or tutoring/talking with the teen moms at the place I volunteer or even helping my son learn to ride his two-wheeler. Let's hope this momentum I've got going sticks...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pregnant In Heels

There's this new "reality" show on television right now, and even before I saw a clip of said show, I made a promise to myself that I it. Not because I thumb my nose at scriptless yet still crafted shows about pseudo-celebs, Drag Queens, Top Chefs or even 20-something strangers picked together to live in a house and have their lives taped. No, in fact, I eagerly DVR many of them for later consumption, much to my husband's dismay.

However, without even having watched a second of this new reality show, I knew that if I even devoted an ounce of my time to it, I would be become incurably frustrated and perhaps even throw a shoe or two at my TV (hence preventing me from watching any other horribly delicious reality television).

The show in question is Bravo's latest... Pregnant In Heels. The name itself told me more than I needed to know. The best I got during my 9 months of pregnancy was "Pregnant in Flip Flops" (okay, there were probably forays into "Pregnant in Boots" and "Pregnant in Slippers." This was in my pre-Ugg days, after all).

However...if there was ever a show called "Pregnant & Hooping," I'd be the 1st one to sign up

I knew from the title alone that I would find contention with this show, and not the good kind where you're shouting at the screen because your favorite contest on Project Runway has just been Auf'd. No...I knew that there were most likely philisophical differences between the moms-to-be on the show and great, in fact, that it would only serve to frustrate and annoy me.

Yet, somehow I failed. Perhaps it's because I let myself linger a little bit too long after the ending credits to the Real Housewives of Wherever, but there it was. Pregnant In Heels was staring me right in the face. Yes, I know I had a choice, and I exercised it. I changed the channel. But as I surfed the other ones, a nagging thought in the back of my mind kept pulling me back to Bravo.

What could it hurt? I wondered.

Oh, it hurt. It hurt a lot.

To be fair, I only ended up watching no more than ten minutes of the show, but those ten minutes made an indelible impression.

The clip I saw included a mother in her 3rd trimester who wasn't enthused about losing a 2nd guest room for a nursery (which she feared would be "too babyish" for her taste), and a couple who utilized the help of a focus group before hosting a dinner party for the sole purpose of choosing their son-to-be's name.

I couldn't find the remote fast enough after that. I'm not sure what happened in the last fifteen minutes of the show, so I'm not sure what name was chosen (Asher, Bodhi & Tucker seemed to be the big contenders) or whether or not the other mother came to terms with giving up her extra guest room for her baby.

The rest of the night I kept thinking about what bothered me so much about this show, and I think what did it was the unrealistic bar it sets for pregnancy. There is already plenty of pressure for pregnant women and new moms, that there's no need for more. While you can argue that Pregnant In Heels is more fantasy than reality, I can guarantee that there are women who walk away from an episode internalizing what they see.

I tried to decide who was at fault (because it's always easiest to place blame somewhere). Is it these mothers who have these ridiculous demands, treating their children-to-be as possessions rather than actual people? Is it Bravo who continues to put out these types of shows while promoting these over the top notions? Or perhaps it's the viewers who can't stop watching, which...if that's the case, then I certainly take on some of the blame.

While I can honestly say that I won't be seeking out another episode of Pregnant In Heels on purpose, I also can't promise to look away if I accidentally land on it again.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Handsome In...Any Color

I figured it was perfect timing for this post, especially hot on the heels of the whole "Toemageddon." In addition to allowing my son to have his nails painted, I've also been known to allow him to wear barrettes in his hair, pink clothes and even the occasional twirly skirt. *Insert shock and horror here.*

It's true...I've been known to complain about the lack of diversity in boy's clothing. I admit to sometimes leafing through catalogues, a bit envious of the color and options afforded to little girls while boys clothes don't seem to go beyond the typical jeans, sweatpants, plaids, blues & greens. While I can sometimes find a gem hidden between the racks in most big name clothing stores, it's usually more frustrating than fun.

In addition to my own desire to diversify EZ's wardrobe, I had embarked on some research for an article I wrote on gender stereotyping. I began a search for retailers that took the leap and offered clothes that just might eschew those carefully created gender boxes.

I didn't have to look too far at first. It just so happens that my own sister in law designs a children's clothing line that truly embodies the essence of being a kid without further promoting antiquated gender stereotypes.  Created with eco-friendly materials and a whole lot of love and imagination, Handfull offers a wide variety of choice, making it easy for parents of both boys and girls. There are no limits on colors or appliques, and very rarely are specific items marketed towards one particular gender.

You can be certain EZ will be rocking this shirt and I might even put in a request for a "mama size" one
Rather than being labeled by gender, the clothes are geared towards any kid with a love of color and creativity. The clothes themselves are simple, with appliques ranging from animals, nature, music, and more. There is literally something for every interest.

One of EZ's favorite sweatshirts is his Handfull banjo hoodie

Going one step further beyond simply offering an alternative choice, online store Handsome In Pink was created by two mothers, specifically in reaction to the limiting clothing choices found in mainstream retailers. Their mission statement is simple, yet seemingly profound in a time when little boys are being targeted for painting their toe nails.

 We believe that colors (such as pink and purple) and active imagery (such as firetrucks, tool belts, and electric guitars) belong to everyone and should be mingling, not dividing up along gender lines. 

Handsome In Pink certainly lives up to its ideals, offering a variety of cute onesies and shirts for  both kids and adults.

Being able to find a pink shirt with a truck on it might just be the answer for a parent who's son is super into trucks, but also loves the color pink. It's hard enough to find clothes for kids that aren't part of some overly-branded line or basically a walking advertisement for Disney and the like. To be able to find gems like these companies that sell tolerance and acceptance along with their clothes...well, that's the sort of style I dig.

Do you have a favorite retailer (both online or otherwise) that offers a choice beyond blue for boys/pink for girls?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Raise Your Hand!

How many of your Facebook friends have been admitting their hooker status lately? By my count, I have over twenty.

Sure, this latest push by Planned Parenthood for support is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it certainly gets your attention. All they had to do was use words that had been spoken against them and BAM! Instant media campaign.

This Thursday, the House and Senate will be voting on a bill that will strip Planned Parenthood from all federal funding, and they can use all the support they can muster, especially in light of all the disparaging and false remarks being spread. If you haven't already done so, please contact your representative and let them know that Planned Parenthood is more than some of the media and politicians purport it to be.

And if I can't convince you, then perhaps these gentleman can...
(Yes, gentlemen. Not so surprisingly, many men are just as pissed off over the fact that Planned Parenthood is in danger of losing funding)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Danger: Sparkly Toes Ahead

Careful. These sparkly toes may end society as we know it.

I had a couple of other posts almost ready to toss up describing a workshop I attended at the inspirational CLPP conference this past weekend, and yet another post expressing (more) outrage at the attacks against Planned Parenthood. However, those two got pushed aside when I read this article.

A week ago I posted about J. Crew and how they included a picture of a Jenna Lyons (who I've come to learn is an executive director of J. Crew!) painting her son's toenails. I mentioned how a few people on J. Crew's Facebook wall had some snarky comments, but that overall, the picture was well received.

I apparently spoke too soon.

While I'm almost hesitant to link to the Fox News article that vilifies J. Crew, Jenna, and these photos for fear of spreading these ugly untruths, I have to believe that if you're reading this blog to begin with, you're aware enough to know what is fact and what is not.

The most disheartening aspect for me is that the author of the Fox News article is a psychiatrist, and so the fear that some people might take his word as gospel is very real. The author of the article, Dr. Keith Ablow, insinuates that by allowing her son to paint his toe nails pink that Jenna Lyons is planting the seeds of gender identity confusion in her child.

That line of thinking is completely mystifying in my mind. How is allowing a boy to paint his toe nails any more confusing than allowing a girl to play with toy tools? Both actions buck the stereotypical gender norms society has become overly comfortable with, but do either really jeopardize young children's gender identity?

There were many parts of Ablow's article that caused my blood pressure to rise and see red. While many of his points incited anger, some just left me scratching my head.

The fallout is already being seen. Increasingly, girls show none of the reticence they once did to engage in early sexual relationships with boys. 

If anybody can explain to me how allowing young boys to paint their toe nails or dress up in princess costumes relates to young girls engaging in sexual relationships with boys at an earlier age, I am all ears. Ablow continues with his rhetoric, confusing me even further... will be a very big deal if it turns out that neither gender is very comfortable anymore nurturing children above all else, and neither gender is motivated to rank creating a family above having great sex forever and neither gender is motivated to protect the nation by marching into combat against other men and risking their lives.

The fact that my son plays "family" and lovingly cuddles his dolls (as well as paints his nails and dresses up on occasion) actually gives me hope that he will be a loving, caring and nurturing father (if he so chooses to be one). I don't think that by allowing young children the freedom to express their creativity and imagination is going to risk the breakdown of the "great American family," nor will it diminish the numbers in our armed forces. To connect to blurring of gender lines to these issues is jumping a huge gap with very shaky support.

What pains me the most is that here is a person with a voice that reaches many and he's essentially using it to preach that "different is bad." This sentiment is incredibly scary in a time where we've seen a rash of attempted (and sadly, successful) suicides amongst teenagers because they've felt bullied for being different. While it may not be blatant, the undercurrent of bullying in the Fox News article is certainly present, and I found myself unable to stay quiet about it.

Hopefully there are those of you out there who feel the same way...that allowing a boy to paint his nails or wear a dress won't actually be the end of the world. In fact, it just might be the beginning of a better one, filled with compassion, understanding and acceptance.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fingers & Toes

A friend recently steered me towards J.Crew's Facebook page, which had posted a link to one of their employee's "weekend pick's." It sounds innocuous enough, right? Beyond colorful cardigans and sensible slacks, what could they include that would shock a handful of people?

Apparently, the staff member in question shared some photos of her hanging out with her son and painting his nails (in hot pink no less!). There were a few comments on the Facebook page that questioned why a young boy would want his nails painted and other comments sharing their disapproval.

One thing I have learned as the mother of a four year old, is that if the kid doesn't want to do it, then it most likely isn't going to get done... and it will certainly not be done with a huge, happy smile on his face as was seen in the photograph. We can safely assume that this young boy actually wanted his toenails painted.

And after that such a stretch to not only believe, but accept as well? I sat there, reading the comments and shaking my head, thinking...yes! I should blog about this. But the more I thought about it, the more my head hurt. I just don't get it. If somebody could explain it to me, I'm all ears.