Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Rachel

Name: Rachel Diroll-Zack
Age: 36
Occupation: Professional procrastinator, frustrated writer, Mama, wife, Domestic Ninja
Location: New Jersey

What Rachel looks least in her own mind!

How do you define feminism? 
To me, feminism isn't about putting women above men (as you will occasionally hear people claim). It's about undoing years, nay CENTURIES of women being seen as less-than, or secondary, or weaker, or what have you. It's about supporting and celebrating women and women's accomplishments on the same level as men. I once dated a guy who actually believed women were inferior. He would ask "where is the female Shakespeare? Where is the female Einstein?" (...we didn't date long.) You know where the females were/are? We tend to be the ones rocking babies and wiping butts and kissing boo-boos and making food and teaching our children the very basic of lessons that allow them to grow up to be Shakespeare and Einstein. So, for me, feminism is validation and recognition of the very real work that women have been doing for centuries.

When did you first identify as a feminist? 
I don't really know. I was raised by atheist freethinkers, and I was never told that I couldn't do or want or have or be something because I'm a girl. Well, maybe when I was around 10 and my mom pleaded with me to put a shirt on to go outside to play because I wasn't a boy. Little did she know I would be more or less flat-chested until I was about 25. Anyway, I'm not sure that I can point to a time or an event and go "a ha, that's it." I've always been this way, you see.

I think my experiences as a stay-at-home mom (OH MY GOD I HATE THAT TERM SO MUCH) have made me even more of a feminist than I otherwise might be. When I was working, there was a very real sense of "go along to get along" with regards to how much I was being paid and the work I was being asked to do. Now, however, I am much more fierce and vocal about what I do and how I feel about it.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
Oh, sure. When I was younger (teenage years, mostly) it was really a matter of putting on the boots and stomping around, you know? There was a bullheaded, in-your-face style working, definitely. Later on, I learned to listen a little more and yell a little less and it became less about GIRLS FIRST and more about "we're all people, why are there these discrepancies in the way we're treated?" That's when I started to ask questions.

Nowadays, I feel like feminism isn't so much about women only, but all people who aren't "first." Basically, everyone but straight, white dudes needs a little support. Like I said before, we're all people, so we should all be on the same level. I know in practice that is pretty much impossible, but it would be nice if we could all at least TRY, you know?

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
In college, I bumped up against some resistance when I pledged a fraternity. The fraternity was co-ed, and we did have a sister sorority (also co-ed), but at the time, their organization was a mess and the women in it were not really the sort of people I wanted to hang out with, so I joined the fraternity instead. Having to explain that to outsiders was sometimes challenging, and having to explain that yes, we considered ourselves "brothers" and not "sisters" was always a lot of fun. In my Women's Studies courses, that was constantly challenged by ladies who identified as much more radical feminists than I do. But for me, the fact that I even had that choice and made that choice was an expression of my feminism moreso than if I would have done the "normal" thing and pledged a sorority. But you know, feminism is as much about choice as it is anything else, and that was the one point I always tried to make.

Now, I find I struggle with it a lot more. I'm raising a girl, and there are lots of times when I have to stop and think really hard about what I'm doing and why. Is it for her benefit or mine?

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I would like to see feminism disappear, really. It shouldn't even be a thing that we think about. American society will probably never get anywhere near that ideal, but it would be great if it wasn't news when a woman runs for President. It would be awesome if there were more women CEOs of major companies, etc. But I don't see that happening. What I do see is our generation and our children being the ones to say "why?" or "this isn't fair." Teaching our kids that everyone is equally valuable and valued is the key thing.

Rachel is an ass-kicking, name-taking Domestic Ninja/Goddess who enjoys knitting, baking bread, playing Tetris, and having Rick Astley dance parties with the kid. She knows all the lyrics to most popular songs from the 1980s, regularly kick ass at Jeopardy, can quote the first 10 seasons of The Simpsons, and has been known to read Beowulf in the original Old English. You can find more about Rachel by visiting her website or following her on Twitter! 

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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Link Love!

Friday love in the form of a bicornate uterus...(not min though).  It's in honor of the IUD I just got in my own ute. Now we end the TMI portion of Friday Link Love. Carry on. 
Actress Rosario Dawson was featured in Shape Magazine, and shared some smart insight into the problem of body pressure on women.

My friend Ashley wrote about suburban vs. city living. Where do you land on that issue? (Me? I'm all over the place! ha. Get it? All over the place? Yeah...the heat might be getting to me...)

The NYTimes parenting blog, The Motherlode, talks about the science of sex and babies. Totally nerdy and interesting to me. Thought now I feel like there was some miscommunication going on, since I really had absolutely zero sense of what sex my baby was in utero (despite everyone claiming they knew it was a boy. Mom = zero. Everyone else = one. Awesome.)

Next up on my summer reading list: Reality Bites Back. Because if I'm not watching my crappy reality shows, I might as well be reading about how crappy they really are!

Thank heavens Stephen Colbert is around to give the smack down on the new Summer's Eve ad campaign that is both borderline racist and sexist.

Share your own links or link to things you've enjoyed this week down below!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Tara

This is the 1st post in my "This Is What A Feminist Looks Like" series. If you would like to participate, please get in touch! 

Name: Tara Sullivan
Age: 32
Occupation: Mother/Baker/"artist"
Location: Cape Cod


How do you define feminism?
To me feminism is: I'm as good as he is and so is she. It's breaking down stereotypes. It's tiling the bathroom myself. It's playing hockey instead of figure skating. It's defending the reproductive rights of all women. It's teaching my daughter that she can be anything she wants. It's not settling for less. 

When did you first identify as a feminist?
I was always a "tomboy". I always preferred catching snakes to playing dolls, but I think somewhere between grades 10 and 11 I started to really grasp the concept and identify as a feminist. I cut off all my hair. I stopped shaving (although partly because I was also boycotting gillette at the time). The riot grrrl movement taught me a lot. I owe a lot of my early education in feminism to Kathleen Hanna. Hah.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time?
Not really to tell you the truth. I think the only thing that has changed is how radical I am about it externally, if that makes any sense. What I mean is that it's no longer plastered on my car or scrawled on my hand with sharpie like when I was younger. I am still just as passionate about it, but it's not like that surge when you first identify and just want to scream it from the rooftops. 

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 been incredibly lucky for the most part. I sometimes attribute that to living in a blue state, but I don't know if that's really true. I think resistance to feminism is fear based. The fear of losing power, of losing control. I have a very hard time trying to wrap my brain around women who are resistant to it. I have a whole host of thoughts on the subject, but I won't go into it here because I get very upset and nothing I say about that type of woman will be very flattering. At best I think they assume feminists are angry "man haters" which is something I can only roll my eyes and scoff at.

The only person I can really think of who had that whole "Women belong in the kitchen" outlook was an old boss of mind. I handled it by getting into huge debates with him on a weekly if not daily basis. I'm not sure it was worth it, since he's still just as misogynistic as ever, but I couldn't keep my mouth shut. In the end I quit in a very satisfying way, but I should have done it sooner. 

What do you see as the future of feminism? 
I want to say I see us still making progress. I would LOVE to turn the radio on and not hear a bunch of men objectifying women. I would love for a woman to make as much as a man for the same position. And the optimistic part of me thinks that the majority of us are on that track, but then there is this entire backwards movement going on in our country right now. This giant backlash against making any progress as far as human rights are concerned and I worry that we are outnumbered. I worry that we are sliding backwards down the hill we fought so hard to climb. I worry that we're heading for a future much like the movie "Idiocracy". My hope is that we continue to make progress. That feminists will raise feminists and we just keep marching forward until it's just the norm, until we don't need to label ourselves as anything. 

Tara Sullivan lives on Cape Cod with her husband, amazing daughter and two adorable dogs. Aside from her family and photography she loves vinyl records, typewriters, vintage cameras, her ukulele, starting to write a novel every year and never finishing it, The Clash, robots, her old English 3-speed bicycles, the library, baking, Jeopardy, NPR, eating locally, and apple products.

You can find Tara all over the interwebz: 


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beautiful Boy

I never know what to expect with my son, and my parenting mantra so far has pretty much been: Expect the unexpected. 

And it's true. Just when I think I've gotten things figured out, he goes and changes things up on me.

Lately, it seems as if EZ has been way more body conscious than normal. Within the last couple of months he's become much more insistent on his need for privacy when naked around others, which wouldn't be something of note if this wasn't the same kid who refused to wear clothes for most of his first three years of life.

Just last summer on Cape Cod

His behavior has been most notable this summer as we go swimming nearly every day. He demands a rash guard, refusing to swim topless (although, from a sun protection stand point, I'm actually on board with this one!). Whereas before, he would toss off his wet swim trunks wherever he was when it was time to leave, we either have to use the bathroom or create a towel barricade so he can change now.

At the spray park a few weeks ago with his bff

He's even taken to insisting that his best friend (a girl) doesn't see an inch of him if he has to swap clothes/put on a bathing suit. Yet, he's still totally fine with taking baths together with her. Yeah, I've stopped trying to figure out how a 4 year old's mind works too.

Beyond this new found modesty (which we're honoring for sure), he's also much more aware and vocal about the differences in people's bodies...sometimes in a jarring way. EZ has taken to letting MD know that, "you've got a big belly, daddy."

In fact he's shared the same sentiment with my father when he was visiting last weekend, much to my father's amusement.

At first I thought he was being observational, but then he continued to explain that, "they probably got those bellies from eating too much junk food and sweets."

Now, it's not that he's fact, he's pretty much on the money, but it was his follow up thought that struck me.

"If I don't want a big belly like that, I need to stop eating junk food. I want a flat belly because it's better."

Sure, all of this can be chalked up to kids say the darnedest things, but it resonates a bit deeper for me. I started thinking about body image and how young it really starts.

Body image is something that has always been on my mind. Despite currently having a healthy sense of self, I've struggled, like many women, with my body image throughout the years. I've found that I've become much kinder and gentler with myself since giving birth (which is a whole other topic, perhaps for another time).

We're bombarded with media images on a daily basis, and given false images of what "perfect" should be, that I feel like I need to work even harder to encourage body-positive language and thought in my house.

Kimoralee Simmons on left/Heavily photoshopped ad of her on right.
Courtesy of Beauty Redefined 

Most people might say, "But you have a son! It's so much easier! You don't have to worry about all the stuff young girls will go through with body image."

And while they're right that I won't be facing the same struggles those with daughters do, I'm also not blind to the very real problem of body image issues and boys. While finding statistics and studies that focus on boys is difficult, the evidence is out there. Boys compromise 5-15% of those struggling with bulimia, and I'm certain that those numbers are under reported for a variety of reasons.

Beyond eating disorders, 60% of preteens and teens feel their lives would be improved if they could change their weight. This dissatisfaction with weight and appearance is not something that is solely reserved for girls, and while it may be more prevalent, the notion that boys can fall into the same trap should not be ignored.

Photoshopped muscles on tennis star, Andy Roddick
Courtesy of Beauty Redefined

In addition to boys succumbing to negative body ideals, I would also like to raise a son who is aware of what women deal with due to the subversive messages regarding body image in the media. I want him to be educated about these issues so that hopefully he will be a body-positive male who "gets it" and doesn't buy in to the falsified media hype of what is "beauty" and "perfection."

So, do I really think my son is headed down the path of not accepting his body or having a possible eating disorder? No, I don't. But that doesn't stop me from realizing that there are those who do fall into these traps. I know of one young boy who started obsessing over what he ate starting at 6 years old. His reasons all boiled down to how he perceived himself and how he felt others perceived him. At 6.

Sadly, he's not alone. The number of kids who "diet" is only growing and they're starting younger as well. Frightening stuff.

When EZ makes comments like that, I remind him that we eat healthy as a family, and that by eating our "growing food," we'll make our bodies strong and full of energy. I don't focus on how our bodies look, but rather the awesome things they are capable of. If we can build up a strong confidence in him at this age, then perhaps it will be easier for him to rebuff the thousands of images he'll see as he grows up that push another message.

Thankfully, I'm not alone. There are wonderful groups out there that promote and support body positive language and efforts. One of them that I've become familiar with, Beauty Redefined, has recently been in the news for creating billboards in their hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, that promote body acceptance.

Also, coming up: August 7th is Body Positive Day! Do your best to be body positive. Watch this video for inspiration. I'll check in that day with what I did. Can't wait to see what you choose to do! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like

I know it's shocking. The Mamafesto is a feminist.

I'm starting a new series for the blog, and I'm super excited that I just couldn't sit on it any longer (and by longer I mean the last two days...I'm awfully impatient!)

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like is a series that will profile feminists from all over. Inspired by the 10 Questions On My Feminist Motherhood over on the Blue Milk blog, this tumblr, and this video by the Feminist Majority, I decided I wanted to keep exploring, keep question and keeping finding the voices and faces of feminism.

This notion isn't new for me, and is in fact what I focused my Masters thesis on way back when. I went around the country videotaping interviews with women in their 20s, in hopes of better understanding how they viewed feminism in their lives. I combined that with research, text review, and my own collection of data (via emails/questionnaires/etc...) to look at the status of feminism in the lives of twenty-somethings.

I loved being able to attach names, faces, and most importantly stories to the statistics I had been collecting and studying. After completing my own questions for Blue Milk, I decided I wasn't done thinking about the concept of feminism, who identifies as such...and why. And so, a new blog series was born.

In addition to my regular posts, I will be creating posts that fit under the "This Is What A Feminist Looks Like" header. Each post will profile a new feminist, giving us a little glimpse into his/her views on feminism. With this series I hope to highlight a wide array of feminists...proving that anyone and everyone can be a feminist. While there may be stereotypes of what a feminist is, my goal is to use this series to break those down and showcase everyday people who just happen to be *gasp* feminists.

I already have a handful of wonderful posts ready to go, but I'm looking for more!

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions? Do you want to share your thoughts with us? If so, please contact me via email to get started.

I can't wait to share a variety of voices with you all. The first post in this series is set to launch later this week!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Are The Odds?

The other week I wrote a guest post for Blue Milk's blog. I absolutely love her fresh and candid take on motherhood, and was more than thrilled to answer "10 Questions About My Feminist Parenthood."

Not only did it give me a chance to really think about my own philosophies and parenting style, but it provided some great discussion afterward (via Twitter, Google+, FB, etc...).

There was one comment on Blue Milk's blog, though, that stuck with me...

"JB" wrote:

In terms of adult men, well I have somewhat figured out a process around that with my husband, and the unpaid work I do garners a great deal of respect and appreciation, which is communicated. However everyday when I do the dishes, basically because it makes sense to (even though there is no expectation that I do it) being feminist and a mum can feel somewhat at odds!

This resonated with me, mostly because I find myself at odds with this idea as well. Not a day goes by without some small passing thought on the subject, and I think any mother - feminist or not - has to have similar thoughts...right?

Trying to come to terms with the woman you are today versus who you were, especially with the addition of a child, can be tricky. If you've decided to stay at home, there's a host of feelings that surround that. Even choosing to work and parent must come with it's own set of conflicting feelings.

Do you ever feel at odds as a parent (either as a mother/feminist or even going from non-parent to a parent)? If so, how do you negotiate it?

Some days I can simply acknowledge the thought and let it pass. Other times I spend way too much time and energy focusing on it, wondering WTF this all means anyhow and am I making the right choice? and is this what it's all about? and what if I'm just wasting away my education? and what the heck's for dinner anyway?


I'd love to know if others join me in the sometimes but not always crazy...?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Link Love!

Melting heart of love in "honor" of the 3 digit temps on tap for today. Yikes.
A little eye candy never hurt anyone, and it's even cooler when it's actual candy (as well as pineapple leaves, shrimp tails, and more!) magnified to the point where you're not quite sure what you're looking at. Check out the gallery of photographer Caren Alpert for some creative takes on everyday food.

There is a new website called The Parent DuJour, and even thought it's less than a week old, I'm loving it already. Everyday they feature a new parent and their goal is that over the course of a year to share stories of moms and dads from around the world. Definitely check them out and maybe you can even add your story!

Have you seen the racist, sexist ads Summer's Eve has recently released? I definitely am NOT loving those, but I am loving the fast and furious response from folks. For the life of me, I can't even fathom who thought they would be a good idea.

* I'm pretty sure that Jon Stewart is the only person who could make me laugh about a Congressman calling a Congresswoman out for "not being a lady." Oh wait, Stephen Colbert can as well.

My friend Sarah wrote a great post about friendship & feminism. Makes me both cherish my current friendships and foster my newly found ones.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I have a soft spot for Acapella music. In fact, I'm already counting down to the new season of The Sing-Off. I also have a soft spot for '90s pop. Combine the two in an awesome medley and you've got the Song(s) that sings to me this week!

What's been on your radar this week? (And feel free to post links to your own stuff as well!) Share below or on The Mamafesto Facebook page!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Link Love!

A little love via Natalie Dee...b/c who doesn't love ice cream?

How about a little self-serving love this Friday? No...not that kind, get your mind out of the gutter! I created a Facebook page for The Mamafesto, so hop on over there are "like" it and tell your friends, neighbors, mail carriers and random strangers you pass on the street all about it! For every "like," a fairy gets her (or his!) wings. Promise.

* Michelle Bachmann continues to scare me, but at least Stephen Colbert makes me laugh a little over the absurdity of it all.

Despite the fact that I was stung by a bee this week (grumble grumble stupid weeding), I find these bee ear buds to be absolutely darling (via The Hairpin).

Not a huge fan of the article's title, but the concept is interesting. Can a feminist diet?

I have a piece that will be published over at The Hairpin later this month (oh, don't you worry, you know I'll make sure you all find out when it's up asap). If you've never checked them out, please do. You can read up on anything from 'snappy things to yell back at construction workers' to French cocktails, and their "Ask a Dude" column always gives me a chuckle.

The song that sings to me this week is actually a medley of Phish songs, and is the soundtrack for a fabulous (if not super fast and tweaky on the eyes) video that highlights the incredible weekend we had over 4th of July.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Link Love!

Back from vacation and ready to share the love...
Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely abhor the show Toddlers & Tiara's, but this? This I can live with.

I loved reading this post about pit hair from Bust so much that I had to comment. The picture is kind of awesome as well.

This list of top 100 kid's books of all time has been making the rounds. A bunch of our favorites are up there and a bunch of books that I'm "meh" about. What's your take?

Time for a little self promotion! While I was away, two pieces that I wrote were published. This first one is from an essay contest that I won and the 2nd is all about why we chose to have a doula attend the birth of our son.

The song that sings to me was one that was played this past weekend at the Phish music festival that we attended. It sums up the weekend perfectly.

Feel free to share links that you've been loving on in the comments!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Sometimes I wonder if my husband does things just so I have stuff to blog about.

A week or two ago he took EZ out for a bike ride and they didn't return until late in the day. I wondered what they had been up to, as we have lots of great little parks and special places to enjoy in the area. It turns out that they spent some time at a favorite toy store in town and returned with a butterfly net and...some sort of creepy, ugly, battle axe and sword wielding warrior action figure.


MD knew it wouldn't be kosher in my book either, because the first thing EZ said as he proudly held this toy out for my inspection was, "Daddy said you'd be upset with this, but that I could get it anyway."


EZ took his new action figure and ran away, already eager to terrorize a Lego village with it or something.

Action warrior in question

My first instinct was to grab the toy and toss it out in the next day's trash. My own "anti-violence" warrior rose up to resist this toy (ironic, no?). However, EZ had already grown quite attached to it and I could see that any effort on my part to take it away would have been met with a boat load of resistance, tears and grumpy dispositions all around.

So off he went to play while I had a little chat with MD. And talk we did. There was no fighting or angry accusations or lengthy tirades. He knew that I would more than likely be pissed about the action figure, but he felt that in the grand scheme of violent toys, that this was actually okay.

His main argument, beyond the fact that this was more of a fantasy toy than a real one (compared to a toy gun and the like, which he would never buy), was that he grew up with "violent toys" and he "turned out fine."

And it's true. He totally did. MD is not an axe wielding psychopath or even somebody who stomps on ants just for the heck of it. He doesn't yell or shout, use his hands in anger, and is generally one of the more peaceful people that I know.

But there's still some part of me that wonders...does that matter? Perhaps back in the '70s and '80s it was okay to have a so-called violent toy or two because we were only on the cusp of aggressive marketing and kid's shows were a little less intense (for lack of a better word). There also wasn't the immediacy of the internet or apps or other things that have us constantly plugged in.

My mind grew weary thinking of all the potential outcomes of playing with this toy. EZ really seemed attached. I tried in my own gentle way to impart to him why I disliked this toy so much. Yet, it didn't seem to make much of a difference. The plastic warrior had to watch him bathe and slept right next to him. It joined us at the breakfast table and on car rides. It even made it's way into EZ's backpack for our 5 day RV trip this past weekend.

And then...nothing. I haven't seen it since Monday, and he hasn't talked about it since. He's now pushing for a Woody doll (something that despite the abhorrent and fervent Disney marketing, is a bit more palatable in my book).

So where does that leave things?

I still wouldn't have bought it, had I been with him that day in the toy store, but I'm also not in the "this was irreparably harm his psyche and kind heart" camp anymore. That doesn't mean that I'm lining up to buy the next awesome yet violent toy, and neither is MD. I guess it becomes a case by case basis that will only occur more frequently as he gets older.

I just hope I have my own warrior inside of me to deal with it all.