Two Seemingly Iddy-Bitty Inequalities That Take Their Tole (And What To Do)

1.) At my job tutoring at an elementary school, I find well-intentioned people constantly commenting on little girls clothing or appearance. It’s teaching them at a very young age that their value lies in their appearance. In one particular instance, one of the girls I had just finished a tutoring session with, exclaimed to one of my co-workers, “I just spelled a bunch of words!” My co-workers response was, “Oh! I love your dress! It’s so pretty.” The young girls smile evaporated and she looked down at her dress. I wanted to yell, “She was just telling you something she DID! Not how she LOOKS.” She was so excited and that excitement turned to confusion. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional appearance compliment, but when it makes up such a huge part of what people are seemingly valuing about them, it takes it’s tole. As Lisa Bloom points out in her article from the Huffington Post,

“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.”

The unhappiness Bloom is referring to is the rising rates of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and lowered rates of self-esteem in women that hinder achievements and progress that everyone could be benefiting from. And it starts at a young age.

On the flip side, little girls start conversations about their clothes or their make-up, or their new jewelry or accessory by themselves sometimes. Some of it is just because they perhaps like that kind of thing, and that’s fine. But much of it is coming from us who are reinforcing this idea that how they look is of the largest value and importance, above what they’re actually doing. When the kiddos start conversations like that I say, “Oh that’s nice. And how were swimming lessons yesterday?!” And switch it to something they’re proud of doing; Something they have an opinion about or an activity that sparks their interest. Nine times out of ten their enthusiasm increases and they are engaged in telling me something.

2.) At my other job, I discovered the best response to a customer making crude and/or sexist comments to me while I ring up their groceries. Luckily I’ve only had a couple of men who have done this. (An example is the time this guy looked me up and down and said those hip huggers look real nice on you while he stared at my crotch.) Side note, it’s usually much older men hitting on me, which is a problem in itself. I could be the mans daughter or granddaughter. How do these guys not realize those kind of comments are unwanted? Several of my co-workers, female and male, have talked about how inappropriate that is and how uncomfortable it makes women in general: How it especially throws you off your guard at work, with no place to go, having to be polite at your job. So here’s what I said to a particular customer who is notorious for making female employees uncomfortable.

“Oh, you know, I actually don’t appreciate those kind of comments, especially in my work space.”

He didn’t say anything but seemed taken aback. Since then, I haven’t had to deal with him coming through my line again.

 

Source

Bloom, Lisa. “How to Talk to Girls”. Huffington Post, 2011, web April 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html 

A Window into the Political Debate Over Women’s Reproductive Health

Anybody else a little frustrated with what’s been going on in politics for the past several years? Recently, Idaho Lawmaker Vito Barbieri, asked if women can just swallow a camera for a vaginal exam. Ummmmm, Vito, in case you weren’t paying attention in Basic Human Anatomy Class, the vagina is not connected to the stomach or intestines. And last year,  Republican Lawrence Lockman of Maine said, “If a woman has [the right to an abortion], why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t [in most cases] result in anyone’s death.” Yep, he really said that. And yes, he is someone who has the ability to pass laws that impact our lives and bodies.

When are we going to put a stop to this idiotic politics that threatens the integrity and health of women?

Oh, but he apologized, so it’s ok. And let’s not forget former Representative of Missouri Todd Akin, not understanding basic female anatomy either, who had this to say in regards to pregnancy as a result of rape. “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” Nope, not true dude. And people like this are still in office making laws about the female body.

Let’s check out this now-famous photo from 2012: Below is the group of people appointed for the GOP panel about birth control and women’s health in 2012. Notice how there isn’t a single woman on the panel discussing women’s health? That should be an obvious problem, but surprisingly, it didn’t occur to them to put a single woman on the panel discussing issues that directly relate to women.

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Photo credit: Think Progress

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that having a buffer zone, an area to protect patients from protestors, around abortion clinics in Massachusetts apparently violates protesters freedom of speech. When a women goes in for an abortion, she often has to walk past a crowd of people berating and humiliating her over a private decision she has made about her own body. Women are frequently in danger, especially if protesters are in close proximity. But now, in Massachusetts where the buffer zone has become almost obsolete, a woman might have to walk past a crowd that looks like this:

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Women are often in danger of being harmed by protesters especially if protesters are in close proximity and if there is no buffer zone. Not to mention the hypocrisy. Gail Collins, author and writer for the NYTimes, pointed out that the supreme court’s decision to allow protesters to stand right next to the clinic entrance where women walk in, is hypocritical.  “…the decision came from people who work in a building where the protesters aren’t allowed within 250 feet of the front door.” So, the decision to allow protesters to berate, humiliate and endanger women at close proximity comes from people who are protected from protesters at a 250 feet distance. 

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Speaking of hypocrisy, if someone is going to call themselves pro-life, wouldn’t you think they’d want to support the living? Although I find George Carlin a little annoying, I have to admit, he stated it well:

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Across the country, politicians and people are trying to get bills passed that would corrode access to abortions services. One such bill in Montana just a few weeks ago was introduced. Brittany Salley-Rains, outreach and education coordinator at Blue Mountain Family Clinic said this about the bill. “Let’s be honest about the intentions of HB 479. This bill is masquerading as a compassionate effort to prevent pain and suffering, when in fact it would create it for women in Montana.”

People are still trying to get personhood bills passed into law; bills that say life begins at fertilization, which would not only outlaw abortion but it could also outlaw birth control, plan b, and have other ramifications. Ted Cruz, the man who is, oh, I don’t know, running for president, is one person who supports personhood amendments, not to mention is against abortion for victims of rape and incest. (Just a side note, he also was one of the main people responsible for the government shutdown in 2013 that cost our economy $24 billion dollars. Thankssss a lot Ted Cruz.) Gail Collins, breaks it down what personhood means. “Personhood is an anti-abortion movement that holds that life begins at conception, giving fertilized eggs all the rights of a human being.”

I don’t think a fertilized egg should ever take precedence over the currently-living woman with human rights of her own. And I don’t think someone has the right to impose their beliefs on another person, especially when it means taking away their bodily rights and forcing them into motherhood. And I’m not alone in my thinking. 54 percent of people under 40 think abortion should be legal.  To be pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion. It means you’re pro-safety net and pro-human rights.

Although I really do get that people who call themselves pro-life are trying to come from a place of compassion, what they end up doing is harming currently living people and children. Like a 13 year old who gets pregnant and cannot support herself or another living thing. What about her life? Ideally, a girl wouldn’t get pregnant in the first place at such a young age if she wasn’t ready, and that’s exactly why we need methods of contraception and progressive sex education which are proven ways to prevent abortion, something most people who are anti-choice are ironically against.

Let’s not forget; abortion is an issue about an already living human being. It is about the woman herself who is already breathing and living and has human rights of her own. Human rights, like the right to make decisions about her own body and life. A woman is not an oven or an incubator. She has rights over her life. As justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human…” If I could hold a sign in front of protesters who protest abortion, it would say this:

Women’s lives matter. 

Sources:

Baumann, Lisa. “Lawmakers Weigh Bill to Increase Abortion Regulations” March 2015. Web. 2015. http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/lawmakers-weigh-bill-to-increase-abortion-regulations/article_bacd7564-bbc8-50cd-b5f2-26e5210b77ec.html

Chapin, Laura. “A Race to the Bottom on Women’s Rights: Ted Cruz’s 2016 bid epitomizes the GOP’s new abortion extremism” U.S. News. March 2015. Web 2015.  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/laura-chapin/2015/03/23/ted-cruz-ignites-2016-race-to-the-bottom-on-abortion-and-womens-health 

Collins, Gail. “The Eggs and Us: The Abortion Wars Rage On”. Nytimes. June 2014. Web. March 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/28/opinion/gail-collins-the-eggs-and-us.html

Johnson, Luke “Shutdown Cost $24 billion, Standard and Poor Says”. Huffington Post. Oct 2013. Web. March 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/government-shutdown-cost_n_4110818.html

Lauchman, Samantha. “Republican Lawmaker Apologizes for Saying Men Should be Able to Rape Women if Abortion is Legal”. Feb 2014. Web. March 2015.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/28/lawrence-lockman-rape-_n_4874586.html

Moore, Lori. “Rep. Todd Akin: The Statement and Reaction” Nytimes. Aug. 2012. Web. March 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/rep-todd-akin-legitimate-rape-statement-and-reaction.html 

Purple, Matt. “Under 40 Poll: Young People Are Still Pro-Choice” Sept. 2014. Web. 2015. http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/national/under-40-poll-young-people-are-still-pro-choice/nhP5y/#__federated=1

Silverstein, Jason. “Idaho Lawmaker Asks If Women can Swallow Cameras for Gynecology Exams, Question Goes Viral” Feb 2015. Web. March 2015. www.nydailynews.com/news/national/idaho-pol-asks-women-swallow-cameras-gynecology-article-1.2127025

Wittes, Benjamin. “Confirmation Wars: Preserving Inependent Courts in Angry Times” July 2009. Web. March 2015. 

Uncomfortable Encounter Turns Uplifting

What at first was an uncomfortable encounter ended up being an uplifting situation. So, this 50 something guy came through my line at the local grocery store where i’m a cashier. He started hitting on me, fiercely. When older men hit on me, it’s not a compliment, it makes me feel unsafe and insecure. When guys hit on me in a disrespectful way, I feel like I’ve been knocked down a peg, reduced to my body and it’s not a great feeling. So the guy put the merchandise on the conveyor belt, looked me up and down and glanced at my name tag, glomming onto some topic to chat me up about.

“Julia. Ya know, the Beatles have a song about you.” And he proceeded to sing quietly to me under his breath and then said “That’s a nice song, don’t you think?”

I just tried being professional throughout his attempts to flirt with me and tried not to make much eye contact. The singing could have been kind of funny if it weren’t coming from someone who had me trapped at my workplace and from someone eyeing me sexually.

Luckily, the encounter was brief but as he turned to leave he gave me one more look up and down and said “Wow, you’re looking real nice in those hip-huggers.”

Just a little comment; enough to make me feel vulnerable and enough to jab at my comfort and security. First of all, hip huggers? The phrase definitely told his age, but it was also a way for him to comment on a part of my body.

And I’m sorry to say, I think I had the classic response which was to look away and say, “thanks” uncomfortably.

I tried to shrug it off like no big deal, but damn: It made me really uncomfortable. But what made the situation uplifting was when I was counting my till in the count-down room and mentioned it off handedly to my co-workers, who were immediately appalled.

“What?!” One of them said, a nice guy who’s expecting a baby with his wife. “You can report him you know.”

And then one of my managers over heard our conversation as he was walking out the door and took a step back and said “What happened?” When I told him, he took it very seriously and encouraged me to call a manager over next time so one of them can pull the guy aside and tell him that kind of behavior isn’t tolerated at the Good Food Store.

The fact that they were all taking it so seriously and that my manager was making sure to put his female-employee’s comfort at the top of the totem poll was very encouraging. I felt rejuvenated. Yeah! it did make me feel like shit, and people shouldn’t be permitted to objectify others and make them feel unsafe. Other grocery stores would probably be inclined to say something along the lines of, “Well forget about it, he’s a paying customer” and put the customers demeaning persona ahead of the well-intentioned workers. But, not where I work!

At first, my posture slumped after the encounter and I felt demeaned, but after talking to my co-workers and manager, I felt empowered and more secure in the place of my work, knowing that they have my back and won’t allow creepers to be creepin’. I don’t deserve such creepy disrespect and neither do other people.

What would you say to someone who was inappropriately hitting on you at work?

 

Women’s Rights: What’s the Big Whoop? Part Two.

So women’s rights: What’s the big whoop in the U.S? I mean, don’t women already have all the rights they need? Short answer is nope. Things are pretty great for us here, but there are a lot of shortcomings too. When young girls are starving themselves to worship the unattainable “ideal” skinny body, something’s not right. When our society is shaming women for their sexual encounters and is perpetuating a culture that has become known as rape culture, we have a problem. When women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work… hmm, that’s an issue. When laws are still getting passed trying to say what women can and cannot do with their own bodies (like forcing them to be mothers) we have a problem. This is scary stuff happening in our own country. We’re talking about women’s basic human rights being chipped away. And the United States is the main role model for the rest of the world. Think about the implications of that.

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As I sit here writing this in the Barnes and Noble café, there is a mural of 11 famous writers and not one of them is a woman and only one is not white. There are plenty of great women writers (and non-white writers) that could be up there such as Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird or Jane Austen or Maya Angelou. But for whatever reason, this bookstore has no example of good female writers. It’s just one more example of the world we are surrounded by that hardly ever acknowledges the awesomeness of women. In a course I took in college, one of the theorists we studied had a good analogy for the subtle difficulties and discriminations that women face day to day. Sure, there are no female writers depicted in this mural. No big deal right? And sure, everything on TV represents women with having no interesting qualities except a hyper-sexualized body. No big deal right? And little girls play with big-boobed, skinny, white women barbies and cooking tools since there are few other options available. No big deal right? And there are way more derogatory terms in language to depict women than men and a plethora of words to put women down, but that’s big deal right? Well the analogy is this: A bird is not caged by one wire, but it is the multiplicity of wires that surrounds and encages the bird. Meaning, little things really add up.

I’m just so glad people world-wide are starting to take action, big and small. Women and men are standing up for women’s rights and saying things like, “look how messed up the media is.” Generally, I think people are becoming more aware of the issues. People are beginning to wake up and it is friggin’ exciting.

Women’s Rights: What’s the Big Whoop? Part One

Women’s rights: what’s the big whoop? I have gotten reactions from people that imply they don’t seem to see the big deal. But the problem is, they must just not know the gravity of the situation or the scope of the issue. When the subject is women’s rights, we’re talking about more than half of the world’s population. This includes people of color, people of different sexualities and economic backgrounds etc. etc. So why isn’t women’s rights the biggest priority? Why are issues concerning women swept under the rug? Really think about that question. Why? Luckily, society at large is starting to realize the importance of women’s rights. But some people still have a mentality like this: Women’s rights and feminism: that means bra burnings, man-hating and hairy, angry women, right? Riiiiiiiiight. ‘Cause we live in a sitcom. No. What women’s rights and feminism really entails is mainly just two umbrella terms: Equality and respect.

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Part of our journey as humans is to evolve as a species and to always improve upon ourselves by way of learning. So it doesn’t make sense to leave half our people in the dust does it? We can’t just sit around while sex slavery, female genital mutilation and bride burnings are happening on our planet and say “oh life is unfair.” Yes, life is unfair, but it doesn’t mean we cannot put a stop to human right’s violations. These are real people we’re talking about who are being deeply wronged.

To further my point, think about this: Scientists have recently discovered evidence proving that humans are hard wired for sympathy and compassion more so than aggression. The longest cranial nerve in our body that runs along the skull and downward is called the vagus nerve which, in huge part, sends signals to our brain that make us empathize with others. Think about it: Humans don’t have brute strength or inert, uncanny hunting skills like other animals but we do have strength in numbers and we keep each other alive by sympathizing with one another. We are hard wired for this, particularly due to the vagus nerve. We nurture and rear our young and rescue each other from burning buildings and save each other from natural catastrophes. That is how we have survived as a species. By protecting each other. Society at large often writes off war and aggression and says “oh well it’s human nature.” But is it? Actually, that’s not quite accurate. Humans are more hard-wired for compassion and helping behaviors than aggression. I_Am_documentary_2011_Poster

Ever notice how people become blind in rage? It is because the brain cannot properly function on an emotion that the body is not equipped to handle properly. Throw in some sympathy and compassion and the body says “now we’re talking, I know how to process this.” A great documentary called I Am discusses this in further detail and I highly recommend it. (click here to watch it free online.) This might have seemed like a digression in my writing but my point is this: Human beings are hard wired for compassion: So how, especially in the 21st century, are women’s basic human rights still being horrendously violated? We only have one planet which contains life, (that we know of) so why screw it all up and neglect and dehumanize half it’s people? It just doesn’t make sense.

It is deeply unnerving to consider the ways that there is a lack of respect over the female body in the states and around the world. To me, that is what much of it comes down to: respect. When U.S. politicians don’t respect and understand the female body, that is when they justify higher insurance rates for women because they have more body parts like uterus and ovaries. So? Why are female body parts not the norm? Those body parts, I’ll have you know, create human life. Shouldn’t we prioritize and respect it and keep those people healthy? I don’t see how hard it is to have an ah-ha moment of “Wow. This female body is capable of the miracle-of-fucking-life, we should protect it and respect the woman’s right to her own body.” But men and women alike in politics and organizations are still fighting to put laws on people’s insides. Weird huh?

So, Women’s rights and feminism means equality and respect. And sometimes, you gotta fight for those two things. Much of what I encounter are good people who just aren’t aware of how far the rabbit hole goes. They don’t know all the human rights violations that are going on world-wide and in North America. Be prepared, I’m about to get pretty graphic to establish just how messed up this rabbit hole of reality is. Take for example, the recent problems in Somalia. When you think of Somalia you probably think about pirates and famine, right? Well, let’s dig deeper. For a long time, Somalia has been considered the rape capital of the world. That in itself is devastating. But what makes things worse is it is a country that practices female genital mutilation.

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Photo credit: Sven Torfinn for the NYtmes

Many confuse FGM for ‘female circumcision’ and while this is a thing too, real mutilation is what happens commonly around the world. FGM, especially in Somalia, means mutilating the genitals in different ways including sewing the vagina shut, only to have a small opening for menstruation. Rape is already horrendous in itself, but a Somali woman who has a painfully cut clitoris and stitched vagina is going to suffer at the hands of a rapist exponentially. So women’s rights are being violated, yes, even in this day and age. Luckily there are organizations that are helping alleviate these problems like Sister Somalia. (Fun side note: my friends and I raised money for Sister Somalia. Can I get a woot woot?!) And what about slavery? Didn’t we abolish that a long time ago? Not sex slavery. Millions of girls and women are enslaved everyday, shoved into brothels, drugged and forced to be raped by ‘customers’ day after day. It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.

Much of it seems hopeless. But what we can do is this: talk about these issues and create awareness. We as people need to work towards solutions to get rid of these abominations being done to women and it starts with education. So that is the big whoop. Women’s basic human rights are being violated and we need to be aware of this in order to put a stop to it. Just by our world populace being more aware of these issues we can begin to dismantle these deeply rooted problems. You cannot fix a problem you cannot see.