Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

The Mukluk Man: An Odd but Accurate Exemplar of How Assaulted Women Are Treated

It’s time to tell my story of the Mukluk Man. Well, more accurately the story is about Mr. Intense, but Mukluk Man factors in and makes for a better title. The story itself, though, is utterly representative of how women are “handled” when it comes to being treated poorly—and often criminally—by men.

Continue reading “The Mukluk Man: An Odd but Accurate Exemplar of How Assaulted Women Are Treated”

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Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

Equality: Believing in It Doesn’t Make It So

When my husband and I had our son, we knew we wanted him to see the world and its differences with as much love and as little prejudice as possible. We wanted him to know that people are both different and similar and that it made the world more interesting and beautiful. Continue reading “Equality: Believing in It Doesn’t Make It So”

Posted in Soapbox

Find Your Voice…and Use It

I’m a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, a show run by Shonda Rhimes. She is a powerhouse in the industry, and I love “hearing” her through her shows. She is strong, beautiful, loving—not claiming perfection or denying flaws—and definitely not afraid to speak up.

Continue reading “Find Your Voice…and Use It”

Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

When the Wolves Decide What’s Best for the Sheep

How one suburban Illinois board of education is illustrating a major problem in education.

Back when I taught and I would be introduced to someone as a high school English teacher, I almost always got one of two responses: Oh, you’re a saint—I don’t know how you do it or Must be nice to get out at 3:30 and have summers off…

The disparity in respect for the teaching profession is nothing new— Continue reading “When the Wolves Decide What’s Best for the Sheep”

Posted in Soapbox

Am I Really All About That Bass?

pop-art-bassSometimes I come late to the party on song lyrics. As a kid, there were some humorous misunderstandings of lyrics…wrapped up like a douche? don’t fear the reefer? (and I love my husband’s just like a one-winged dove…) It can make for an interesting twist to a song, for sure.

While the internet has certainly made it easier to find the lyrics, the meanings can still take me a while, too. Of course, songs—like any other art—can have various interpretations, but sometimes they’re pretty obvious (bang bang into the room anyone?) Occasionally I hear a song one way, though, and then on the umpteenth hearing of it, something hits me differently.

Such is the case with Meghan Trainor’s song, “All About That Bass.”

When the song came out, I loved it right away. For one, my husband is a bass player—and I AM all about That bass. And of course the song’s music is a whole lotta fun. But I also loved the message of supporting bodies with a little more “bass” on them, too. I’m in favor of anything that helps push back on the ridiculously intense message to girls and women to be stick thin—and not because I have my own “bass”—but because it simply needs to stop. Body image is a sore spot for countless women. Too many girls are starving themselves or sticking their fingers down their throats in an attempt to be thin, and the media continues perpetuating that “thin is in.” And as a society, we just seem to go along for the ride…because if it wasn’t working, the media wouldn’t keep pounding it so hard.

 

tomato-booty
from our garden a couple years ago…aka “booty tomato”

 

Recently my husband made “That Bass” his ringtone, so it’s been a bit of an earworm to me of late. And it was with a recent ring of his phone that something dawned on me. (I told you I can be slow.)

The one lyric I already knew I wasn’t a fan of was Trainor’s reference to the “skinny bitches.” After all, if we’re talking about accepting different body types, then it’s got to go both ways. Though I have never, ever, ever had the problem of being “too skinny” (or any kind of skinny at all), I know that some women do indeed have a hard time—for various reasons, including simple genetics—being what is considered average weight. And getting teased for being skinny hurts just as much as getting teased for being heavy. (This is another great instance where women should be kinder to one another for everyone’s sake.)

 

light-flare-bass

 

But hearing the song bubble up from my husband’s phone triggered a realization about another lyric from the song. When I heard the line “momma she told me ‘don’t worry about your size.’ She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” I thought WAIT! The message is still about what the boys like. Other lyrics reinforce that body acceptance is still “all about the men”:

Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
All the right junk in all the right places

I may be a little slow on the uptake, but once I really gave the song a bit more than a passing thought, I couldn’t help but see that the song is still sending the message that a woman’s body is defined, at least in part, by a man’s approval.

And that’s not okay.

 

blue-bass

 

Should women want to be healthy and fit—to be our best selves physically? Of course. But not because it’s what the boys like. We should want it for ourselves. And the goal shouldn’t be some unrealistic ideal created by Disney and Calvin Klein, but one where you simply feel good in your own skin.

And while the message of guys saying “more is okay by us” helps to battle against the pressure to be, as Trainor says, a “stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,” the message needs to go further. Far enough that we are who we are because WE like us as we are.

Sometimes when I write a post and my husband reads it, he’ll let me know that it didn’t really feel like the intended audience included my male readers—which is probably the case here. HOWEVER…I hope you guys don’t feel that way because you are part of the solution.

As the mom of a boy, one of my goals is to raise him knowing the true value of women—and that value doesn’t reside in our bodies. I want him to see gender equality as something that men should care deeply about, too—to understand it as a goal for all humanity because it is an inherent right for all.

So…I guess I’m not all about that bass after all.

Though I still enjoy the song, its message falls short. “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”…well…no, no—it’s not. There’s no such thing. And you’re still amazing.

 

All photos are my own.
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Posted in Soapbox

Reclaiming the Other F Word

“Oh, you’re one of those…” is a phrase I hear more often than I would ever expect to in this day and age. See, I’m a hyphenator. I chose to hyphenate my last name when I got married, and according to the kinds of responses I sometimes get, that makes me “difficult.”

That’s right—I wanted to keep my family name along with taking my husband’s last name. Pretty crazy, I know. But I never thought that that choice would carry with it a judgment for some people—and a negative one at that.

While women may have “come a long way, baby,” we still have a lot further to go. As I was thinking about this today, I decided to YouTube the old Virginia Slims commercial that made that phrase so popular. Ironically, the expression that came to symbolize women’s progress is merely trying to capitalize on making women want to smoke feminine cigarettes and be sexy while doing it. Progress indeed.

In my lifetime, I’ve learned that I better be careful in calling myself a feminist. That in doing so, it made me “anti-male” and bitchy. Though there may be a small contingent of women who call themselves feminists and claim that women are the superior gender, all I ever wanted was equality—as most feminists do. The only “anti” I am is anti-discrimination. If men were making less than women, having laws telling them what they can and can’t do with their bodies, being restricted from education in parts of the world, or dealing with the pervasiveness of sexual assault, I would be against that, too.

I am so happy to see the movement toward taking away the negative connotations of the word feminism and reclaiming it as the movement toward gender equality.

Emma Watson—the woman who brought the amazing Hermoine Granger to life—spoke so eloquently on this to the United Nations (that’s right, the U.N., baby!) As the U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador, she is launching a campaign called HeForShe where the goal is to empower both women and men to be who they are and to be treated equally. Simply put, she’s awesome.

The video is over 12 minutes, but…if you’ve got the time, it’s definitely worth a listen.

 

 

Another campaign that strives to empower young women is Always’ Like a Girl campaign. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out:

 

 

It shows the subtle—or not so subtle—undercutting of gender that happens without thought…and how young girls and boys can get the message that “like a girl” means “less than.”

I experienced a real life demonstration of how this message gets absorbed by young women over the summer. Every year we go to a beautiful place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where we see other vacationing families every year. Because I only get a glimpse of these folks annually, it is fun to see how the kids grow from year to year. But this past summer disturbed me a great deal. Girls who had only last year been happy to take to the softball field in a boys vs girls game and give it their best effort were now acting incapable and flighty. One girl let a ball roll right by her and said she didn’t want to break a nail…seriously. And, much to my dismay, that kind of behavior was consistent throughout the week.

What had happened in a year? Somehow they got the message that being strong and athletic was not feminine or desirable. It broke my heart because I knew that it had only been the previous summer that they were embracing their strength—and now they were not only downplaying it, but denying it.

When I see homecoming photos posted on Facebook of lovely groups of young women—all wearing pretty much the exact same barely mid-thigh dress, give or take the color—I realize how strong the pressure must be to meet society’s current expectations of the popular woman. Good luck trying to find a dress for that age that strays from the “standard”—and the question arises as to whether it is a case of supply and demand or demand and supply. What’s available in stores “teaches” us what we should look like.

In 2014, the fact that girls are getting the message that it is their fault if they get raped because they were drunk should be inconceivable—but it’s not. So strong is that attitude that the White House has launched a campaign to fight against it:

 

 

We’ve got to not only raise our girls to stand strong but raise our boys to embrace that strength and respect it.

Anything less isn’t right. It just isn’t.

People should be paid equally for the same work. People should have sovereignty over their bodies. People should have the opportunity to be educated. People shouldn’t have to worry about being sexually assaulted. People should be respected for who they are and what they do. People should be encouraged to reach their potential. People should be loved, accepted, and valued for who they are—not what they look like.

Replacing the word “women” with “people” makes it really hard to deny, doesn’t it?

That’s the true heart of feminism. That’s what we need to reclaim. That’s what both women and men—what humanity—should strive for. Anything less is just fear trying to keep others down. And we’re better than that, don’t you think?

Well, we should be.

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