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! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Rachael

Name: Rachael Berkey
Age: 28
Occupation: Online Communications wiz & writer
Location: New England
Any other relevant tidbits you'd care to share: I read too much. Seriously, I'll read the back of a cereal box if there's nothing else around for me to read. I also love Star Wars. And The West Wing. And Star Wars. Did I mention I love Star Wars?

Rachael

How do you define feminism?
Feminism is confidence.

When did you first identify as a feminist?
I was born a feminist. It is an intrinsic piece of who I am. I honestly cannot pinpoint an age or a time; it's just always been part of me.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
I vaguely remember being horrifically confused when someone tried to tell me I wasn't a feminist. How the neckline of my blouse dictated my stance on feminism, I still don't understand. (Actually, I do. I just refuse to acknowledge it.) I didn't understand how someone could identify as a feminist and have the gall to tell someone else they weren't one because of how they looked. It didn't really change my definition but it definitely made me think about mine long and hard.

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 like to dress girly. I take good care of my body. I like cooking & baking and taking care of people. I also like to mainline Star Wars on a pretty regular basis. And I have no problem with women being photographed in skimpy outfits for the purpose of advertising, so long as it's tasteful...after all men are also photographed in skimpy outfits for the purpose of advertising too. Needless to say, I have always been challenged on my feminism. I fight back by enjoying my confidence, encouraging other young women to stand up for themselves, and by not caving to peer pressure to be catty and obnoxious to other women behind their backs.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I see the future of feminism in many shades of grey. Everyone is not going to agree 100% of the time. But so long as we all keep talking about it and talking to each other, there is always the hope that improvements can be made.

Rachel Berkey lives in New England where she writes, bakes whoopie pies, and spends all together too much time with her nose in a book. She moved there last winter after 4 years of working in Washington DC both in politics and for a nonprofit. She has an MA in literature from the University of New Hampshire and uses it as an excuse to always have a book on her person. You can find her babbles about reading, books and her own brand of geekiness on Wars, her on TwitterTumblr and most recently at HelloGiggles! 

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Sarah

Name: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser
Age: 47
Occupation: writer
Location: Northampton MA
Any other relevant tidbits you'd care to share: also, community do-er & mama to four

Sarah
How do you define feminism?
I define feminism as a belief that unless women deserve equality--a truth & an issue of social justice

When did you first identify as a feminist?
I am not sure I ever *didn't* identify as a feminist. But the experience that cemented me to feminism was definitely becoming unintentionally pregnant at 17 & realizing that without reproductive freedom my ability to make decisions about how my life could go wouldn't exist. Equal access to free choice about my life became so dear. I just GOT it. I needed to fight for this equality.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
I think I've mellowed & feel "bigger tent" about feminism than at the height of my activist years. I spent my twenties working in the reproductive rights movement. I thought you had to give it all -- or nothing. I don't see it that way at all these days. I see there are all kinds of ways feminism can be a powerful part of our lives even if it's not the central lens for every person.

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 never, ever have. It's almost like I love it too much to ever feel scared to identify as a feminist internally. I might not share with someone very conservative *all* that I've fought for in my activist life straight away, though.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I hope the future of feminism is to bring words like equality & justice to the fore again & again until we secure those very things.

Besides keeping a blog at the Valley Advocate, Sarah writes (& blogs) hither & yon, from Preview Massachusetts Magazine to Brain Child & points in between. To keep up on where she's writing, you can follow her blog's Facebook page. Sarah notes: I am on twitter (poorly) @standshadows (Avi disagrees & thinks Sarah is more than fun to tweet with!)

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

Monday, August 22, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Misty

Name: Misty Nelson
Age: 35
Occupation: Currently unemployed, but I have a Bachelor's in Environmental Biology and a Master's in Marine Science
Location: Missoula, Montana

Misty & her tall, dark, handsome fellow! 


How do you define feminism? 
Well, I could list a number of bumper stickers that I love that deal with this exact issue...but in my own words, I guess feminism is just a fundamental belief that women should be entitled to the same opportunities, privileges and freedoms that men are.  Not to say that men and women are the same - we are most definitely not! - but having a vagina shouldn't be a limiting factor in terms of what a person wants to do with their life.  Beyond that, there is a pretty wide range of activism levels - I consider myself a pretty outspoken advocate of equality in all things (race, gender, sexuality, etc., etc., etc.).  While I don't expect all feminists to be as vocal about their beliefs as I am, in order to be a 'true' feminist, a person (and feminists don't necessarily have to be women!) must live their life along these lines - you can't say you think one thing, and then vote for people/things that go against those beliefs; likewise, women who have achieved success or popularity by exploiting other women in any way are traitors.  For the record: Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are NOT a feminists.

When did you first identify as a feminist? 
I'm pretty sure I've always been one - I was always kind of a tomboy who liked to play dress-up once in a while. Still am, for that matter :)  I can't think of a single turning point when I said "Hey, you know what?  I'm going to become a feminist!"  I was raised in a household that gave me the freedom to be whoever I wanted to be - whether it was entertaining dreams of becoming a hairdresser, waitress, biologist, firefighter, whatever, and all I ever felt was love, support, and encouragement to do whatever tickled my fancy.  It's been a very eye-opening experience to grow up, get out of that bubble into the real world, and realize that the majority of women on the planet don't exist in that same plane.  So I guess I was born a feminist, and have just become more of one over time!

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
I think as I have gotten older, I've learned to embrace my femininity more.  To recognize that you can still be a strong, capable, intelligent, educated and opinionated person...and at the same time be sexy, emotional, nurturing, and fragile.  It's an interesting parallel (or duality perhaps) that the more of the world I see, and the more involved in women's issues I get, and the more outspoken I've become, the more I feel compelled to cultivate and love my own womanliness.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it? 
Never.  I think there are 'feminists' out there who give feminists a bad name, but I like to think that I'm counterbalancing that by being a feminist that doesn't hate men, or feel threatened by my place in the world, or complain about how unfair it all is.  I've done a lot of things that could be considered traditionally 'male' activities - fighting forest fires, field biology, competing in martial arts, rock climbing, etc. - and I excelled in all of them.  I think it's always easier to recruit people to a new way of thinking by walking the walk, talking the talk, and just being a good person in the process.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
Well, I hate to say it, but there is still such a long way to go.  The feminist movement will not have been successful until there is global balance when it comes to gender.  I realize that we'll probably never get to a place where women are no longer victims, but we should strive towards it regardless.  I love to imagine a world where women aren't raped, abused or mistreated; where cultures, religions, and governments treat all humans with equal respect and dignity, regardless of their genitalia, appearance, or beliefs; where young girls and old women alike don't feel pressure to be anything but the natural beauties that they are.

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

Link Love!


* "Pink Scare," (My article about the media panic over boys & pink) has been published in this month's issue of Bitch Magazine. They've also selected it to be one of the articles featured on their site! Feel free to hop on over there to read it, and drop a thought or two in the comments - would love to know what folks think.

My friend Sarah wrote about fruit, pie, and contests and combining all three for a good cause.

So...I still might be fangirling a little over the fact that Ritch participated in my TIWAFLL series. Mostly because his vlogs are cheeky and smart, which is a killer combination in my book! (but not always super safe for work language wise, just FYI). You should check them out.

Someone on Twitter linked to Postcrossing this past week, and I think it's just a brilliant idea. I still have fond memories of my pen pal from Manitoba, Canada when I was in 2nd grade. Getting postcards from all over sounds like so much fun, and a neat way to learn about maps and places around the world with the kiddo. Will be signing up soon for sure!

Why does TLC insist on producing the most enabling, vile shows they can come up with? This new one is about extreme excess as it relates to kids' parties (okay, so while I don't actually *love* this link, I just couldn't let it slip by without comment).

And just because I can't get this song out of my head, I'm sharing it with all of you... (also, how cute is it that Jay Leno is holding up a record?)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Ritch

Name: Ritch Ludlow
Age: 24
Occupation: Student and amateur vlogger
Current Location: North Texas
Birth Location: England

Ritch

How do you define feminism?
Feminism, to me, is a very broad term for people striving for social, political, and financial equality across all of humanity with a particular focus on how gender effects this.  Because the movement has been around so long and has so many different perspectives, identifying as part of the third wave of feminism is important to me.  I guess I might even call Sarah Palin a feminist...but I'd definitely have to call her a first wave feminist.

When did you first identify as a feminist? 
Probably when I was about 18.  I think I saw The Vagina Monologues when I was 17, and I started to become comfortable with the word.  Then in college I joined UNT's Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, and my life changed forever!

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
When I was younger, I saw feminism as a party I wasn't invited to.  Feminist friends I had at the time made me feel a little alienated, which, in hindsight, I think was a result of none of us knowing where men's roles fit into feminist activism.  I later realized that the problems I'd had with my gender identity and sexuality all my life was from a distinct lack of feminism in my everyday.  I rectified things accordingly.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
No, it doesn't seem to bother people, because, I think, it tends to surprise them and throw them off.  I don't fit their ideas of what a feminist is (female, lesbian, man-hating, anti-porn, angry), and I think that helps people keep an open mind when I talk about it.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I think technology is changing very quickly at this point in our history, and has the potential to eventually balance out the gender playing field completely.  In the grand scheme of human history, only now are physical gender boundaries starting to break down seriously (i.e. reproduction, choice, gender transitioning, etc.), and I'm excited to see where that leads us.  Of course, feminist activists will still be needed to guide our use of that technology.  All activists have to pay lots of attention right now and make sure we discuss all the new questions as they come.  There's no black and white answer to anything, and that's why the dialogue needs to be maintained, especially as things change.

Ritchard is best known on the web for his youtube vlog, as well as a variety of other artistic expressions which can be seen on his website, ritchardaludlow.com.




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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Food, Farming & Feminism

This was a guest post I originally wrote for my friend Ashley's blog, Small Strokes



Planting seeds, pulling weeds and harvesting greens...on the surface these activities hardly scream feminism, but when you dig a bit deeper, it's almost hard to miss the strong connection between food, farming and feminism. For me, it all boils down to a sense of self-sustainability: if I'm able to grow some crops and turn them into something both edible and nourishing, I've added just one more way to ensure both my independence and ability to take care of myself. There is also the slight satisfaction I get (beyond biting into a tomato picked straight from the vine!) knowing I that excel at something that is traditionally a male endeavor. 

This is the third year that we've planted our small urban vegetable garden. 


MD tending to our kale

We don't have an actual yard or lawn, and instead ripped out the few ornamental bushes the previous owners planted. With only a six by ten square foot plot of dirt surrounded by bricks, I'm able to grow broccoli, various types of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, kale, basil and mint. 




I can then take my veggies and herbs and turn them into delicious, healthy meals for myself and my family. While some might scoff at what I do and suggest that I'm conforming to a '50s ideal of the wife who stays home and cooks for her family, I find that it's completely the opposite for me.

Instead of playing into a stereotype, I'm actively transforming the notion of what a homemaker is with my little garden. I'm taking the power back, working hard, and choosing to eat my own produce rather than patronizing big box stores. Like the feminists of the '60s, '70s & '80s, I'm driven by the desire for self-sufficiency and autonomy as well as achieving personal satisfaction. Yet instead of heading out to the office, I head to my garden. 

The idea of small and even urban homesteads has only grown in recent years, with women raising backyard chickens, planting gardens and learning skills that had been put to the wayside for most, like canning, spinning yarn, baking bread from scratch, etc... Various books and articles have even been written about these women, showing that most have either Masters and Doctorates but choose instead to see their workspace within the home rather than outside of it. Author Shannon Hayes even went as far as coining the term "Radical Homemaker," when explaining this phenomenon and sharing the stories of women living this life. 

This idea of radical homemaking is not just for the middle-upper class, however. Every week I head to a nearby inner city to tutor teen moms who are working towards their GED. I'm there once a week, and in the short time I spend with them, I invariably get into discussions about their food choices. Bags of Doritos, piles of Slim Jims, huge bottles of soda and fast food containers litter their desks. The girls are quick to remind me that these choices are cheap and quick. I remind them that they have access to wonderful community gardens right there in the city (and even one tended to by the program they're in). While I may not change their eating habits overnight, they do get excited about the prospect of being able to grow their own food and control that aspect of their lives - something essential for these young women, many of whom feel that their lives have spun out of control. 

As for me? While I do still work part-time, albeit from home, the rest of my time is spent with my son either in the garden or working with the bounty we reap from it. In the summer we can freshly picked strawberry jam and in the winter we bake fresh bread. It instills a sense of pride in me that I'm teaching my young son all of these tasks as well. As a feminist, ensuring that he not only knows, but appreciates and enjoys having these skills is important to me. One day, hopefully, he will be the one wowing his family with blueberry pie and homemade pretzels. For now he's just happy getting his feet dirty along with me and eating broccoli straight from the stalk. 

EZ's dirty toes circa 2009

Killer Kale

This is my favorite way to eat kale (or any hardy green!). It’s both easy and super quick, making a great side to any meal. (You can also put some tofu or a fried egg on top of it and bam! - the perfect meal). It’s also pretty awesome because you can always change up the flavor profile (instead of tamari/soy sauce/sesame seeds you can use a little chili powder & cumin and add some black beans).

Wash and steam some kale. My favorite, which we grow in our garden, is dino kale. I don’t have a fancy steamer and instead just tear up a bunch of kale, add it to a saute pan with a bit of water and cover. Let it cook for no more than 5 minutes. You want the greens to still be a bright color and not super wilted and mushy. 

While the greens are cooking, toast a handful of sesame seeds in a wok. Add 2 teaspons of olive oil, a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a tablespoon of either tamari or soy sauce. Once the garlic is cooked through, turn off heat and mix in kale. Delish. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Ashley

Name: Ashley Lauren
Age: 27
Occupation: High School English Teacher and Freelance Writer
Location: Chicago, IL

Ashley

How do you define feminism?
I define feminism as women having choices, and feeling empowered to make those choices. This hasn't been radical enough for many of my feminist counterparts in some cases, but I don't necessarily think that everything you do needs to have a political motivation behind it. I think you need to critically think about the choices you are making and what they say about your beliefs, but I don't think there are "feminist choices." Some might say being a working mom, for example, is more feminist than being a stay-at-home mom, but when it comes down to it, you need to make the choices that work for you and your family, regardless of where they fall on a feminist scale. And, after weighing all the options, if you make the choice that's right for you, you've committed a feminist act. Sure, decades of feminists have fought for our right to work, be paid as much as a man, keep our names, not have children, etc. but that doesn't mean you have to do all of that just to be a feminist. (Hint: You don't need to burn your bras and hate men, either!)

When did you first identify as a feminist?
I think I always identified as a feminist, even though I didn't necessarily always have the vocabulary to do so. I grew up with a strong, independent mother telling me I could do anything I wanted to, and telling me to travel the world and get my PhD before I got married. That shaped the way I viewed the world and its injustices, for sure. However, I actually didn't start referring to myself as a feminist until college, and not outwardly until I started blogging a few years ago. That's when I started to acquire the language to critically analyze and discuss the injustices I saw.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
Like all good things in life, my definition of feminism has been flexible. It changes just a little bit with every life change I go through, growing to adapt to my needs. I believe that if you have a rigid definition of a belief, you'll find yourself in a place where you question that belief more often than not. Allowing your beliefs to be more malleable will allow you to shift your perspectives, which is, really, what feminism is all about.

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 have not experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist so  much as I have experienced resistance to some of my more feminist actions. When I decided to keep my last name after I got married, for example, someone actually said to me, "What kind of man would let his wife do that?" I handled that the same way I handle most remarks about my feminism: With sarcasm and truth. I said: "I'm sorry, does my decision affect your delicate sensibilities about how I should lead my life?" To which he said: "Well, it's your life I guess." At that point, I just rolled my eyes, which is also something I do a lot towards resistance. Sometimes, you just can't teach an old dog new tricks. (And I have a dog, so I can tell you that's actually true. :) )

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I truly see the internet as the future of feminist communities. With the power of Twitter, Tumblr, email, and RSS feeds, we can share information at the speed of light. Sharing information is how communities are formed, and the free information out there is actually really good stuff. Blogs are mostly self-hosted and self-published, and when you self-publish, you don't have to censor yourself to appease editors or publishing companies. When you read blogs, you're getting unfiltered information (or, at least, as unfiltered as the author wants to be). That is really important when you're talking about any movement.

Ashley Lauren is a 27-year-old feminist, social activist, blogger, freelance writer, and full-time high school English teacher. This stuff keeps her busy. She keeps her own blog, Small Strokes, about being a married feminist and how she navigates those murky waters. She also occasionally blogs there about teaching, because being a feminist teacher is sometimes tougher than being a feminist wife. She is also a Senior Editor for Gender Across Borders, a global feminist blog. She has walked in seven 2-day Avon Walks for Breast Cancer with her mom, is entering her sixth year of teaching, has her Bachelors degree in English Literature and Creative Writing with a teaching certificate, and completed her masters in English Studies in May 2010.  You can also follow her on Twitter or email her at samsanator (at) gmail (dot) com.


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

Monday, August 15, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Lisa

Name: Lisa Duggan
Age: 45
Occupation: WAHmom; co-founder, publisher, TheParentduJour.com; publisher of TheMotherHoodBlog (2009-present) and prior to that, in print, The MotherHood Magazine (2006-2008). Often found ranting on Twitter as @motherhoodmag
Location: New Jersey. Sigh.
Any other relevant tidbits you'd care to share: I fantasized about giving birth in the Holland Tunnel—so my daughter would have dual NY/NJ creds

Lisa


How do you define feminism?
A movement, made of people, devoted to the recognition of the financial, cultural, historical, physical and emotional burdens and limitations of being born a woman in this world, and who work to eradicate those limitations, and moreover, celebrate everything that is female.

When did you first identify as a feminist? Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
It was only after I became a mother that I identified as a feminist. Before that I was a mostly-secular humanist—identifying more with humanity as a whole. My activism was devoted to non-gender specific issues, like working for an AIDS organization, the New York Cares Coat Drive or joining the organic food coop. When I was pregnant, and then as a nursing mother, I started to experience the negative way, both subtle and overt, that our culture regards women and discriminates against them. I felt objectified (strangers touching my belly, brands bombarding me with mom-specific advertising); infantilized (I was treated as if I was infirm or incompetent, or both); and demoralized (my job of caregiver was viewed as less important than income earner, and therefore without economic—or any other value— and so I was not worthy of or interesting enough for a conversation with non-parents (read: former colleagues)).

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. I experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist when I was looking over my answer to question #1, because it seemed so…extreme and um, militant. But I got over my resistance when I was writing the answer to question #2, because then I recalled all the moments when I was subject to bias. And, still am.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I see the face of Joe Joe, the son of my friend Cat. A former marine and police officer, she quit her career in order to raise her son. Since he was a baby in her arms, she’s been teaching Joe all that women are and can be, and how to respect and love them, and she’s teaching Joe to expect to take full responsibility for his children, emotionally and financially, when and if he has them. My daughter will marry a man like Joe and their babies will be further emancipated. They won’t believe it when we tell them that there were once places in the world women couldn’t walk.


Lisa Duggan is a mother, graphic artist, writer, and the co-founder and publisher of The Parent du Jour and TheMotherhoodBlog. You may also read her very, very short stories on Twitter, as @motherhoodmag.


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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Link Love!

It's Friday! Make sure to play your cards right...

In last week's Link Love, I linked to an article on Jezebel where Beyonce shared her thoughts on why we need a new word for "feminism." Well, the Jezebel readership weighed in and...yeah. 

While this isn't new, I did stumble upon it this week so I figure it's fair game. Check out Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem baking a pie on The Colbert Report back in 2008.

Gender Across Borders has put out a call for writers for their new series: Tsk. Tsk. Stigma, Shame and Sexuality. They're looking for a variety of voices and the deadline is Sept 2nd - go check it out and flex those writing muscles!

* Larry David: Feminist Hero? What say you?

Blue Milk recently wrote a post on Game of Thrones and Attachment Parenting...super interesting and food for thought (and a bit spoilery if you haven't watched the series).

I've been spending way too much time over at turntable.fm lately. It has all the songs that sing to me and more. Being able to play DJ with a bunch of your friends (or new ones. Although to be honest, I've stuck with spinning some tunes with one particular fab group of people).

If you have any links you've been loving (other's or your own!), feel free to share them down below or over on The Mamafesto's Facebook page!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Chantal

Name: Chantal Hill
Age: 30
Occupation: Administrator
Location: London, UK

Chantal
How do you define feminism?
For me, feminism means recognising and rejecting the power binaries set up between people of power and people without power – I don’t define my feminism any longer necessarily through gender terms, as I really believe there is great strength in intersectionality. I define my feminism as the belief that the patriarchal hegemony is innately damaging and destructive to everyone who participates in it whether by enforcement or enthusiastic support, and that the arguments which come out of feminist discourses can offer a more constructive alternative path, away from patriarchy and towards a ‘better’, more thinking/thoughtful, more participatory, less judgemental and proscriptive society as a whole.


When did you first identify as a feminist?
Ha! Sooooo clich├ęd – aged 18 reading Adrienne’s Rich’s Song for the first time in an undergrad English class, and thinking, basically, “FUCK YEAH!”. And then being utterly dismayed when not everyone in the class shared my views on it, which I thought were blindingly obvious, hehe.


Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
Yes – I think I’ve sort of covered this in my first answer. For a start, for years I didn’t have a clue about my privilege(s), which I do now (or at least I think I’m learning), mainly from reading progressive feminist blogs such as Shakesville and from reading writings from people from totally different backgrounds to me – they have massively enlightened my own feminist perspectives. I have a much wider understanding of what feminism can mean in terms of how you can apply it to everyday life – the Bechdel Test, for example. I was heavily into linguistic feminisms when I was at Uni because it tied in so well to what I was studying, now I suppose my engagement is more through “real life” feminism, if that makes sense.


Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
God yes, all the time, and from both straight men and straight female friends principally. I have lost count of the number of boyfriends I’ve had who’ve basically laughed in my face when I’ve told them I’m a feminist, and said something along the lines of that I can’t possibly be a feminist because of any of the following: how ‘cool’ I am/how much I enjoy sex/that I’ve got a sense of humour/that I’m not gay/the usual bullshit. And when women are disappointed it is usually because they think I am letting the side down somehow – not being a ‘girlie’ girl (although outwardly I am quite ‘girlie’ in the sense that I wear make-up, skirts, heels etc), causing an argument in the pub when they would, I guess, rather swallow shit than ruin the entire afternoon (quote nicked from Melissa McEwan). I’m not judging anyone for that btw, I used to do it too. It’s hard to stand up for yourself when the prevailing mood is against you. I usually counteract by getting into a discussion, and if I can’t win them over or am feeling particularly inarticulate that day then I sometimes send them linkage from the feminist blogosphere. This doesn’t always work of course but at least I know I’ve tried to fight my corner. And at least I do fight that corner now, whether I ‘win’ the ‘argument’ or not. NB I would like to say of course that I have been happily surprised on some occasions when it turns out people share my views – and of course it’s especially wonderful when this comes from a straight, white, cis-gendered male friend! They get lollipops.


What do you see as the future of feminism?
I would hope to see more activism on the ground, not just on the internet (don’t get me wrong, I think the internet has been just so incredibly brilliant at disseminating feminist thought and creating networks of discourse and support across the whole world, I mean, that is pretty amazing, but at the same time it is just still all on the internet, a lot of it anonymously) but in the world – whatever you thought of the Slutwalks (I liked them FWIW), they meant that women were making themselves, and their bodies, and their voices visible on the streets of dozens of cities all around the world. I think we need more of that. And I would like to see our male allies be more vocal in their support – what is happening to reproductive rights in the United States is particularly frightening to me as it seems, from an outsider’s perspective (I’m Scottish), to be going backwards – it is in these cases that powerful men who agree with feminism’s basic tenets on women’s bodily rights (what, there are none? I bet there are some, I’m an optimist!) have to make their voices heard to – they have to add their voices to ours. I mean, how powerful would we be then?

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quick Hit: Transgender Child

Katie, a reader of this blog, sent me a link to a video clip about a 7 year old transgender child almost week ago, and I've sat on it, trying to figure out the best way to approach it.

In the end, I think it's best if I just share it and allow you all to take from it what you will. I will say that (in my own family) while EZ loves pink, painted nails & dressing up like a princess, he is also very adamant that he is a boy and is both comfortable and confident about that point.

For me, having a son who just happens to dig traditionally feminine things and dealing with a transgender child are two wholly different sides of a similar coin. I'm not trying to compare or contrast, just simply passing along this video (that - for me - is bittersweet)... eager to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Cat

Name: Cat Rocketship
Age: 27
Occupation: Writer, artist
Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Cat
How do you define feminism?
There are as many schools of thought on feminism as there are feminists, chauvinists, scholars and comedians in the world. But personally, I believe feminism isn’t a new mold for women to fit into. It makes me sad to see so many women, mostly young women, fret over whether or not they are “good feminists.” I firmly believe that being a feminist is no more complicated than the mantra that my dad instilled in me since I was tiny:You can do whatever you want. Never let anyone tell you that’s not true. My dad changed story characters to girls, uses the pronoun “she” in discussing hypothetical people of power, and never really let me know that there was a gender divide in anything. I also have to thank him for never making any job that a woman had of her own choosing seem undignified.

And you know where that got me? I’m a 27-year-old housewife. And it would be downright unfeminist of me to think that choosing to do what I do at this point is low, or limiting. You can do whatever you want does not continue on to say as long as you’re a doctor or an astronaut.

When did you first identify as a feminist?
I never identified as a feminist. I think I was just made one. My dad was as concerned with instilling me with a feminist outlook as he was with teaching me manners, diligence, and proper grammar -- so I grew up with an understanding that women are powerful. That my favorite characters could be reimagined as girls. That I should be careful not to squander my skills and that I would need to stand up for my self sometimes.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
My definition of feminism hasn't changed over time, though my understanding of others' views of it has evolved as I meet more feminists and come to understand how they view the world and the work left to be done. Though I guess I have begun to sought out readings and discussions on feminism as I've gotten older.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
The most resistance I've met comes from other feminists, especially after I started writing Hipster Housewife -- and even more after I wrote a post about feminism and being a housewife for Small Strokes, Big Oaks.

I recognize that I am very privileged to be able to say I will do whatever I want, and that not all women are in such a lucky situation. However, I have to believe that feminists didn't fight for my right to work outside the home -- they fought for my right to choose whatever path I may. They worked so that future generations would have healthier relationships, less fear, and more productivity.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
Hopefully, in the future feminism just...peters out. But I know that's a far-fetched dream. I'd love to see feminism be a less-dirty word to mainstream America -- and as that happens, to see the concept grow as something we are proud to export.


Cat loves the internet, and can be found all over it, but the easiest is @catrocketshipShe works as managing editor of Offbeat Home, blogs about her job as House Captain at Hipster Housewife, makes art, and runs monthly indie craft fest Market Day.


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

Sunday, August 7, 2011

PHENOMENAL

Today is Body Positive Day! And...I'm just remembering. doh. Despite having blogged that I would post today to check in with what I did to recognize this day, I completely forgot. No excuses, really. I just didn't remember.

We were too busy just...doing. Cleaning the house, reading books, riding bikes, making popsicles. It was a Sunday, you know?

And then, as it sometimes happens, my brain kicked in and I remembered. I looked back on my day and realized, you know what, despite not having remembered to actively be body positive, I totally was. My body lifted laundry baskets, had ticklefests with my son (trust me, a lot of muscles are involved in those),  rode a bike, climbed up and down stairs numerous times, and I even squeezed in a little yoga.

Ever since I became pregnant and had my son, I've changed the way I look at my body. I totally am on board with the thought that our bodies are awesome and capable of amazing, incredible things. They can run marathons, climb mountains, swim oceans, birth babies, and more. (I've only done 1/4 things I mentioned. But I imagine my body could do the other ones if only my mind had any interest).

Sure I have those days. You know the ones. Where nothing seems to fit, every mirror obviously has it out for you, and you don't even feel comfortable in your own skin. But those days pass, and as I age they seem to be happening a lot less (or is it that I care less than when I was younger?)

So, let's take today, and tomorrow, and the entire week, month, year and celebrate our bodies for what they can do and for how awesome they are!

There's also no way I could write a post about celebrating our bodies (ourselves) without including this poem:


Phenomenal Woman


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them 
They think I'm telling lies. 
I say, 
It's in the reach of my arms 
The span of my hips, 
The stride of my step, 
The curl of my lips. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

I walk into a room 
Just as cool as you please, 
And to a man, 
The fellows stand or 
Fall down on their knees. 
Then they swarm around me, 
A hive of honey bees. 
I say, 
It's the fire in my eyes 
And the flash of my teeth, 
The swing of my waist, 
And the joy in my feet. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered 
What they see in me. 
They try so much 
But they can't touch 
My inner mystery. 
When I try to show them, 
They say they still can't see. 
I say 
It's in the arch of my back, 
The sun of my smile, 
The ride of my breasts, 
The grace of my style. 
I'm a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

Now you understand 
Just why my head's not bowed. 
I don't shout or jump about 
Or have to talk real loud. 
When you see me passing 
It ought to make you proud. 
I say, 
It's in the click of my heels, 
The bend of my hair, 
The palm of my hand, 
The need of my care, 
'Cause I'm a woman 
Phenomenally. 
Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

from And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
copyright © 1978 

What's phenomenal about you? 

I'll start. My hair is all sorts of phenomenal...

...and I also love that I have the strength to bike my son to/from school/camp. 

Add yours down below!