Category Archives: Uncategorized

Menstrual Cup Epiphany

Awhile back I wrote about my experience using a menstrual cup. To sum it up- it was pretty negative. I mean really-I was drinking a big ol’ glass of haterade. I had originally wanted to write about my experience because I am interested in menstrual product options. The menstrual hygiene industry is booming and products like pads, panty liners, and tampons take up a considerable amount of my income. Even though I had some challenges the first time using my menstrual cup, I continued to use it off and on. Last year I got an IUD. One of the side effects (I love my IUD by the way) is spotting. I enlisted my menstrual cup to help me during times of the month where I would be spotting. Guess what? The more I used it, the more I loved it. It is so convenient. Yes, I still struggle some days inserting and removing-but am getting better at it every time I use it. The moral of the story: don’t knock it until you try it at least a couple of times.

 

Here are some other products and informational websites folks might be interested in.

Glad Rags

Are you a boxers kinda person and don’t have the underoos for reusable pads? Try these Lunapanties under your boxers or any of the other products on their website

Lunapads

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Merit – Not – Cracy

I don’t know about you, (millions of Real Life Athena readers) but I grew up hearing about the Land of Opportunity, all over. There was never a shortage of American underdog stories – whether in politics, school or on TV. I understood that I lived in a country where anyone could do anything if they worked hard. It’s an inspiring .. myth. A myth that is hidden extraordinarily well from far too many people, and is propped up and protected by our deeply flawed, oppressive system day in and day out.
Meritocracy; as defined by The Merriam-Webster dictionary is “ 1: a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement 2: leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria”
I think Meritocracy as an ideal, makes sense. Hard-work should be rewarded, smart, creative people should think of solutions and if everyone is offered the opportunities, the ones that take them should be rewarded. Obviously it’s not just merit if it took us 44 presidents to get a person of color in office and we have yet to see a woman there. If anyone can do anything if they work hard, shouldn’t our leaders have a bit more diversity?
It’s obvious there’s a problem if we look around and notice the racial and gendered trends amongst the upper class, politicians, tech industries and CEO’s to name a few, but we hold near and dear to this idea that we exist in a true meritocracy. (Just look at Oprah!)
If we are really living in a system that only judges the individual on their personal merit – then why do the stats keep proving that there are more success stories amongst white, upper-class men? Surely, there are exceptions to the rule but not nearly enough to throw out the idea (truth) that the non-merit factors like race, class and gender have something to do with all of this. Right? Right! They do! Yet our individualistic focus often keeps us from challenging these ideas because instead of seeing the alarming systematic racism, sexism, and classism (to name a few) that surrounds us, we are fed more “if I can do it – anyone can!” testimonials and stronger than fear that we won’t make it, is the hope that we will. The exceptions to the rule, keep our hopes high and serve as ‘proof’ that it is possible, to make it and again puts the blame on the individual rather than the system. The internalization of a flawed system allows the hierarchy to keep going unchallenged. Thus, the faux meritocracy stays put as well as our systematic oppression.
In the end, Meritocracy is a crock of shit, and it’s message is damaging to all people because it’s not true and it negates to mention that we are living in a society that is systematically racist, sexist and classist, while masking it’s oppressive nature with an individual blaming ideal that is Meritocracy, instead of the acknowledgment of a shitty system and the resources to change it now, together.
This pretty much sums it up more eloquently, “A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate — these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others.” – Ben Bernanke

**Note. Ben Bernanke is an American Economist, he held two terms as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and was Professor at Princeton. **

If you want to read more check out Stephen J McNamee’s, The Meritocracy Myth

Props, Girl.

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Photo via Creative Commons: Flickr

Lizz Winstead (pictured center), a force behind The Daily Show and a female comedy trailblazer, released her book of personal essays in 2012. The collection, entitled Lizz Free or Die, is hilarious, personable, and touching.

Raised in a Conservative Catholic family in Minneapolis (holla!), Lizz embarked on a brave and admirable career to bring humor to the masses, while bringing attention to progressive causes. Her work is emboldened by the fight for reproductive rights, and equality for all. She became everything her family feared she would — a liberal, open-minded, and fearless supporter of everything left of the Catholic Church. She charged on regardless, championing her beliefs and knowing the innate fight within her was what she was meant to do.

She speaks candidly and with humorous bravado about growing up as the youngest child, the tides of musical change in Minneapolis, her bold break into the comedy circle, moving across country more than once, the death of her parents, her stories of her time as a roommate of Michele Norris had me fangirling all over the place. Most notably: an abortion she had as a high school student. She forgoes the details of the operation or the weight of the emotional aftermath to focus on her life as is — and how it so, due to the abortion. She has been everything she aspired to, because she made a choice for herself that was right for her — despite the criticism. She ends by including this article she wrote for the Huffington Post, that critiques the bias towards rape and abortion in modern society.

The book had me cheering to the rafters — she was her own advocate through and through, displaying grace, composure, and a wise equanimity that encouraged her success — it made me proud to read her book, to know of her presence and the path of empowerment she has blazed for so many. I will continue to sing her praises long after this book (I’ve already told so many friends to read it ASAP). Lizz free or die, y’all.

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My Forever Evolving Relationship With Body Hair

Late December I came to the realization that since I was in middle school I have always shaved my legs and armpits. At times this included disastrous occasions with too many cuts and Bandaids on my legs to count. At times this was an exciting endeavor to explore as a young girl who was fed certain ideals of beauty and femininity. Shaving was something I understood as a woman once you reached a certain age, like your period, you just dealt with and did it. But at the age of 21, I thought what the hell. I have done this my whole life without much reflection; let me see what it feels like to stop…the non-shaving journey began.

That was eight months ago and my armpit hair is now at its natural length. My legs though didn’t last long. I only went a month before I broke out the razor. For some reason, feeling and seeing the hair on my legs irked me to a point where I felt the desperate desire to shave.

I think a lot of women who choose not to shave, don’t shave their legs or armpits but I’m a lopsided weirdo who has decided to shave one and not the other. Last night, I shaved my legs for the first time in weeks. I had no razor previously and was simply too lazy to go purchase one but when I got into the bathtub and began shaving my legs it was almost a spiritual experience for me. As I sit in the bathtub shaving, I think WHY DOES THIS FEEL SO DAMN GOOD?! My feminist theory reading self felt the need to analyze this situation. Why don’t I mind not shaving my armpits but I mind not shaving my legs? The only analysis I could really come up with was that my legs cover up a larger space and therefore I feel less in control as the “hair takes over”. My armpits are in a contained area and therefore seem tight and manageable, in their own hairy way. Probably all bullshit but it’s what my analysis hesitantly concluded.

Taking a step back from the logistics of shaving, this whole experience has taught me how much our body hair interacts with our everyday interactions. As summer hit, I realized that more people are going to be seeing my armpit hair than had in the winter. Something I have consistently struggled with since beginning this process is how I feel my body hair exposed is not “professional.” It infuriates me that I feel this way, but I do. I am on a job search currently and have been very aware in interviews, how I am exposing the hair. Although, my potential employer might be feminist, hairy armpits might not cut it for them and at the end of the day, hey I need a j-o-b.

I have had a new coworker over the summer who I noticed did not shave her legs. I asked her with a bit of hesitation one day, “Do you shave your armpits?” She said “No.” I then went on to explain my current dilemma. I do not shave my armpits but I am wondering how to approach the issue of what is “professional” and what is not. We talked for a bit and she said something very interesting, “I know that not shaving my armpits and walking down the street for people to see is making a political statement.” It is so true. I wear a tank top one day and I raise my hand to press the cross button on a street, the man next to me DEFINITELY notices my armpit hair. When I really think about why I stopped shaving though, that sort of interaction is why. The two minutes it takes in the shower, truly doesn’t bother me and when I’m not too lazy to run to the drug store it doesn’t kill me to spend the $2 on the cheapest razors in the store. What does make me mad is the expectation. It makes me mad it is assumed that all women do and want to shave. It makes me mad that so-called beauty companies capitalize on the insecurities of individuals, telling them they have to look a certain way to fit our standard of beauty. I have completely cut make-up out of my life and have never looked back on this decision. I am tired of being manipulated into spending money on products that tell me I am not enough.

The whole body hair thing comes up in weird ways such as sexual partners. Do you tell them in advance that you don’t shave? Do you let them casually see your armpits and wait for their reaction? When a friend of mine stopped shaving for the summer, she told me something along the lines of “If a partner is okay with you not shaving, that’s another way to assess a partner.” I love this and think about this often. A partner might not be used to a woman who chooses to omit shaving but they could be open to being open about it.

I truly have no idea whether or not I will shave my armpits ever again. At this point, it is a bit of a pride competition for me. “Shoot, I’ve gone this long, why would I stop now?” Whatever I decide to do, I know it will be with more thought than I had a year ago. Yesterday as I was in the car with some friends, I looked down at my legs (pre-spiritual shave) and almost said “I need to shave” but caught myself, “Nope, I do not NEED to shave, I want to.” The reason why I want to can be analyzed and deconstructed in a million ways, probably coming down to patriarchy and capitalism but it is not a bodily need.

With all of this being said, I acknowledge that I am in a privileged position because of my race, educational degree and class background to be able to make this decision and still get by fine. Many women must present themselves in a specific manner for their job and other reasons and I fully understand the necessity of doing what is needed in your day to day.

I found out today that perhaps thousands of women are participating in Armpits4August. How we present gender is a fascinating concept. I find that often when we are challenged to challenge gender norms, it is for women to be more “man-like”, whatever the hell that means. I do not like this concept. If you wanna act feminine, whatever that means to you, go for it. My only advice is think about how you act, why you act this way and how it feels to you. There is nothing I love more than grabbing a new pair of earrings to rock, along with that I’ll skip shaving my armpits for a while. That’s how I rock my womanhood.

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Abortion Doula

***Edit: This post has been edited to reflect neutral pronouns and nouns

There is so much going on right now in terms of abortion access. The assault on reproductive healthcare shocks me everyday. People need to make the decision to have an abortion on their own and for most this decision is not an easy one to make. One thing that I think is important is to learn how to support your friend or partner during this decision process and especially if  decides to have an abortion.

I can speak from experience that not having support from friends made the decision and the whole abortion procedure so much more emotionally difficult. That experience and the experiences of other people have led me to become an abortion doula. An abortion doula is a person that is somewhat of a caretaker for a person going through an abortion. Here are some things to consider doing or not doing when your friend tells you that they are pregnant.

1. Let them make their decision. Don’t think they are going to go through with the pregnancy or assume they are going to have an abortion. They might say they are going to go through with the pregnancy and then the next day change their mind. Let them come to this decision on their own. When one needs to make a big decision life it is always nice to have a sounding board. Just be there for them while they reach their decision in their own time.

2. Don’t tell anyone else about any information they have shared with you, or assume that they have shared this information with anyone else. This is something I found in my experience to be really surprising. I have people give me a deadline to tell my partner, or they will inform them. The truth is that ultimately this is their body and their decision. It should be their decision to tell whomever they want. This is their story and their experience, telling their story without their consent is taking their power away from them.

3. Don’t analyze their birth control method. Unintended pregnancies happen. Do not ever ask if they were using birth control. Now is not the time. Usually after an abortion procedure the clinic will offer birth control options and that is something that your friend or partner can decide after the procedure. If they want to talk to you about their birth control options afterwards be positive and non judgmental. Don’t joke around about using birth control of any sorts- it is just insensitive.

4. Abortions are very expensive and the price goes up as the gestational age increases. Most private insurance companies do not offer to pay for abortion services, but some do. Support your friend in finding out if their insurance covers the procedure. It is also helpful to do some research on your own to see if there are any programs that help pay for the procedure. Call up your local planned parenthood for financial assistance referrals. In some states if you have medical assistance or state funded insurance abortion services are covered.

5. Inform yourself of the different types of procedures. Depending on the type of procedure you might be able to help more if your friend elects to have a medical abortion versus a surgical abortion.

The medical abortion is also known as the abortion pill. The medical abortion is available in most states up to 9 weeks. It is important to note every state is different and because anti-choice people in government many states are limiting the time a person can use the abortion pill. Your friend will go to the abortion clinic and take a pill there. At that time the pregnancy has officially ended. 24-48 hours after the first medication they will need to take pills that they place in their mouth between their gums and allow them to dissolve. During this time they might vomit or have diarrhea. They might experience intense cramping. Tampons are not recommended during this process and several days after the pregnancy has passed. Most clinics offer a prescription pain medication to help with any discomfort. A very helpful friend told me to take the pills at night and the pain medication will help you sleep through the night. It is important to understand that if you do take the pain pills at night along with the second set of medications that your friend/partner must monitor the amount of blood that leaks into the pad. A throw up bag, crackers, water, and a heating pad is helpful to have on hand. It might also be good advice to have pads on hand in the bathroom and next close by in the room you decide to spend most of your time waiting for the pregnancy to pass. If your friend is laying in bed, recommend that they place a towel on the bed just in case you have any leaks in your pad.

Comfort foods and liquids are very important during the “recovery” time. Offer to bring whatever they want. Some people can move around and will want to go out and others will be tired or feel too uncomfortable to go out. This is a great time to bring movies or books and magazines.

The surgical abortion is for the most part done at the clinic in 1 or 2 days depending on the gestational age. You can offer to go with your friend at the clinic if they desire. Remember that even though the procedure is typically 10 minutes the entire appointment is usually 4 hours long, (this is typically the same for the medical abortion).  If your friend chooses to have mild sedation then they will need someone to drive them home.

6. People have abortions for many different reasons and have different experiences during the abortion process. After the procedure be sensitive to their emotions. Again remember that you are  a sounding board. Listen to what they have to say and how they are feeling. Don’t try to change how they  feel, just let your friend feel whatever emotions they have and validate their emotions.

It might be helpful call: 1-866-4-EXHALE

They are an amazing organization that helps people with emotional support before and after the abortion. They could give you great tips on how to emotionally support your friend in the right way. I know that it really meant a lot to me that my friends came over and hung out with me and brought me gifts; I did not want to really hang out with people but it was nice that they respected that but still showed they cared.

Here are some great websites and videos for more information

https://exhaleprovoice.org/pro-voice
http://jezebel.com/5873380/how-to-help-a-friend-through-an-abortion
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
http://radicaldoula.com/2012/01/10/abortion-doula-diaries-advice-for-supporting-a-friend/
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2010/04/whats_an_abortion_doula.html

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/3195236″>The Abortion Diaries</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/lennypane”>Penny Lane</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Live & Learnt

I sat down on cold porcelain and sighed in annoyance at what I saw before me. Shoot. I didn’t even feel it come on. Was it already that time, again? I carefully folded up toilet paper in annoyance and hoped it would do a sufficient job until I could scramble towards a “feminine aisle”, somewhere and anywhere.

Buying a cotton and cardboard menagerie monthly was exhausting, and expensive. I had bills to take care of, now this? I was sick of the cramps; the migraines; the panic that flooded my pants– making my head mental at the thought of “what if I leak through?” I hated feeling like a walking whale, bloated with little control of my bodily reactions and appearance. I hated giving blowjobs for a week straight while I received nothing in return. It just didn’t seem fair. I had had enough.

The injustices added up to be too much, or so I thought at the ripe age of 20. I’d heard of the wondrous IUD through friends who spoke of its wonder. Most of the friends I spoke with raved of having no periods, or if they did it’d only be a day or so of light bleeding. They could have sex at any time (and without condoms*, at that!) and never bloated or wrenched over in pain. It was covered by their insurance, and seemed an extraordinary gift to the uterus. Plus, I could save about seven dollars a month not buying tampons. Extra money for … well, whatever I wanted in the newfound freedom of not being trapped within my inherent femininity.

In May of 2010, I joined the club. I entered a brief surgery and had that triangular, thin piece of plastic placed in my uterus. Welcome to freedom, I thought.

I love my IUD; I do. I love the convenience, the freedom it really has granted me.  Yet a part of me, unexpected and abashedly, misses having my period. I know, I know. I must be crazy.

I can’t explain it really – try as I may here, there aren’t words to express the emptiness that  encompasses and accompanies the one week each month where I know I’m missing a natural part of myself.  I miss being able to relent with my girlfriends about the horrors occurring in our under garments; I miss scaring males with tales they didn’t wish to ever hear; I miss the slight embarrassment yet subtle pride when paying for tampons in the presence of a horrified male cashier; I miss the pain that, even when light, no one knew but me—I could still exaggerate the general existence of minor cramps and spend a day watching trashy (or great!) reality TV marathons while gorging on chocolate ice cream and Puffy Cheetos. I miss the relief of knowing I wasn’t pregnant (though that relief was always  fleeting if I was watching an “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” marathon).  I even miss the bloating—I always enjoyed wearing yoga pants for an entire week and relished the swelling in my breasts. Comfy, still semi-fashionable, and my goodies looked fresh. Win, semi-win, and win. It was like a good monthly girl talk I could count on.

The days of menstrau-cities (catch my pun?) have long been feared among womankind. But, after knowing its absence (not due to menopause) periods need to be celebrated. It is a time, a thing, which is truly ours, and one else’s. It belongs to us, and only us. It is with us for the majority of our lives, and then one day, we will lose it.  It is an ever-present friend, that we are too harsh and quick to judge. It is our own– so special, and rare in a world where everything is shared and few things are entirely personal and Without my period, I feel far less free—and far less easily reminded of what makes me a female. I miss that monthly reminder of what and who I am. Most of all I miss the pride I never took in it. I regret my
prior attitude. If I could do it all again, I would appreciate my monthly gift, my monthly visit from Aunt Flo. Albeit my incessant annoyance with her in my younger youth, Aunt Flo really was pretty cool.

My IUD is fast approaching its removal date. Though I have enjoyed its presence in my body, I am looking forward to the return of what makes me unique. My period will be forever appreciated in a singular way, the way it ought to be. Each month will have an almost spiritual meaning. For I am a woman, and I will continue to bleed true to that.

*Disclaimer – The IUD is the most effective form of birth control (besides abstinence) and doctors find it reliable despite not using condoms, though one should still practice using condoms to prevent the spread of disease.

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Women and Money – It’s my life, I get to decide

Last week I had the privilege of finishing my last class in the Women and Money course through Ruth L Hayden. In the last seven weeks I have been able to challenge my money beliefs and redirect my behaviors. I want to share a bit of what I learned for those of you struggle with money, or are interested in learning more about your money behaviors.

Ruth teaches a class specifically for women, as we are often socialized to believe that we do not have control and power over our lives, especially our money lives. Our money beliefs start forming as young children, and are difficult to change. These beliefs influence our behaviors and are part (along with still making 77 cents to the dollar) of the reason why women now have more financial literacy than ever, BUT are still in more vulnerable financial situations than men.

While I can’t divulge every practical thing I learned from this seven week class, I can advise you that examining your beliefs around money is a fantastic (while difficult) start. Knowing the emotions and beliefs that lie behind our behaviors is key to understanding how to alter them.

After we examined our money beliefs we were challenged to ask the question, “What do you really want?” As women we don’t often let ourselves ask this question, and it is essential in planning life for your 80 year old self.

CHANGE SO YOU ARE IN CHARGE!

A few practical tips:

Everyone is allowed ONE free credit report a year as per the government.

Try taking out cash weekly for flexible spending.

Start investing and or saving for you 80 year old self!

If you are in financial crisis you can call Lutheran Social Services 1-888-577-2227 or Credit Counseling Center 877-900-4222. Image

How Feminism Changed My Perception of Beauty

Although I have recently identified as a feminist, I feel like it’s something that has been apart of me for as along as I can remember. Even as a child I remember seeing there was an obvious difference between the way women were portrayed in popular culture and the way men were, and the anger that ignited from that realization finally had a place where it could be accepted and I wouldn’t be viewed as an “overly emotional girl who is probably on her period.” I realized a few months ago that I was not an equal part of society and that my voice wasn’t as important as a man’s. This realization was one that came with a lot of emotions, a lot good and a lot bad. The most important emotion that was sparked was anger, I felt mad that people I knew, even people that I considered to be friends of mine, had these terribly distorted views of women in our community and women in popular culture, they were sexualizing us. The anger sparked something else that is just as important, motivation. I was motivated to make changes within the community I was apart of, I was motivated to speak with confidence about issues that I constantly saw myself and other women I knew struggling with, one major one was self-confidence. So naturally, once I began to identify as a feminist I realized a lot of things in my life had to change; I needed to change my vocabulary, I needed to speak up when I felt the values of my gender were being compromised, I needed to surround myself with people who wanted and inspired positive change in my life and the lives around me, and lastly I needed to appreciate every woman for what they were and that was simply, beautiful.

 

Society’s images of the way women are supposed to look and act are never anything that I considered myself to be: skinny but also curvy, sexy not ‘slutty’, perfect complexion, fair skin tone, in shape, long hair, smart but not smart enough to bring a man’s masculinity into question, independent but not independent enough to not need a man, and literally the list goes on. I spent majority of my life trying to be more like that, trying to make myself more alluring and appealing to the opposite sex. I spent so much of time trying to be these things that I lost touch with the person that I wanted to be, the way I wanted to look and the things that I wanted to value. I became so consumed with everything I didn’t like or wanted to change about myself that it then turned into me becoming jealous of every woman around me that possessed the qualities that I thought I needed and wanted. But it was like as soon as I became a feminist my ideas of a way a women “should” act or look like went out the window and I began to appreciate every woman for what they were and in turn it made me love myself more as well. I started to understand that beauty was all about perception and that I should perceive beauty as something more than what a woman looks like or the clothes that she wears. I no longer wanted to contribute to society sexualizing women. With that pact I made to myself any jealousy I felt towards other women for our differences, went out the window and I had left for other women was love.

 

Long story short, acceptance of feminism as whole and appreciation for its beauty will only lead to positive changes within you and inspire the people around you. The amount of beauty and the level of happiness that I have achieved since I started to appreciate women and the culture of women is exponentially growing and probably one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. I am forever thankful for this realization and my only hope is that one-day all women are able to feel this and unite to overcome the issues that really matter and need changing.  

FED UP

Warning: This post is not grammatically correct and may not make perfect sense at all times. It was my stream of consciousness directly following an incident that pissed me off. And profanity is present. Thank you.

Wednesday July 10th, 2013

People hate on feminists because we’re “angry all the time.” Well you know what? FOR FUCKING GOOD REASON.

This evening I decided to go on a run. It was 8:30 and the sun doesn’t set until 8:50 (even though I shouldn’t have to take that into consideration but I do as a female runner who doesn’t want to put herself in unnecessary danger). I got about 5 blocks into my usual run when I noticed a man in non-jogging clothes running towards me. I thought it was a little odd, but hey, people are weird so whatever. I didn’t look at him as he passed. Then right as he went by me he turned around and grabbed my ass.

He continued to sprint the opposite was I was running. I was shocked. I couldn’t stop running but I couldn’t turn around to look at him because that meant this actually just happened. Soon I turned around after a few seconds and he turned around at the same time I did. So I shouted at the top of my lungs, “Fuck you” and flipped him the bird. I wanted to chase him. Maybe find a good stick and hit him upside the head. Ask him what his problem his and tell him to learn some fucking respect. Sadly, I had to let the “always thinking” side of me kick in. Had I chased him and caught up to him, he could easily have hurt me badly. He was twice my size. The neighborhood was not that populated and it was getting darker by the minute. Then I thought what if he would have attacted me? The discription I would have had to go on was a red and blue collared stripped shirt, and maybe 5 foot 10?? But I’m not too sure. My point is, he perfectly anonymous to slip through the cracks and not be held accountable for anything even if I could have reported it.

My point of this whole story is I felt so angry yet so helpless. All he had done was slap my ass right? No, wrong. He demonstrated his power as a man in our society and kept me in my place as a woman. He reinforced that even though I am a strong, educated, motivated, empowered female in my community; in that moment I was robbed of all power I have earned in society. The patriarchy that has laid the building blocks of thought told this young man that it was okay to physically harass a female stranger on the street. He believed I was an object and an object only. No face, no name, purely a woman with an ass to grab.

This incident made my world smaller. It seems as though women simply have fewer freedoms then men do past sunset, or in a bad neighborhood (not that I am in a bad neighborhood at all and mind you it was still plenty light out). He changed my running route. I decided to go to the busy street and not listen to music anymore to be fully aware of my surroundings. He made me furious for hours following, when he probably forgot within 30 minutes (“Oh hey man I got quite a rise out of this runner chick! Haha you should’ve seen her face, pissed bro”). He made me angry at all the men I ran past for the rest of that run. All I could think was, “fucking try me dude, I dare you.” Which, I realize is unfair to these men who didn’t so anything. However, this man who harassed me caused these feelings and if there weren’t many incidents like this happening all the time maybe I wouldn’t be such a “man-hater” (as people like to put it).

Its things like this that some people may say are “small events” and it “could have been worse.” Yes, I am perfectly physically fine; if not healthier because I ran so fast out of rage for the rest of my run. However, mentally okay? Not so much. Sure it could have been a lot worse, but does that mean that it is okay for a stranger to grab another stranger’s body? It is not just OKAY to harass people. Luckily, this incident inspired me to write to all of you. Thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Danielle

My inner struggle with music as a woman

A few days ago I was riding in the car listening to the radio with the children I nanny when the song “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis came on, at which point Ava (10) and I (22) began to talk about same sex couples and equal rights. The song sparked a really great talk. Her maturity has always impressed me but what struck me most was how subconsciously (and consciously at times) influential music is, especially to children.

Although this scenario was a positive example, it prompted me to think further about the impact of songs containing negative messages. Most mainstream music is telling Ava and the rest of the world that women are objects, bitches, or only valued for their bodies. The majority of songs we sing along with and dance to degrade women and further feed into the rape culture that we exist in. We know all this yet we still buy it, sing along to it, and dance to it. I know that this is nothing new to many of us, but it leads me to a big dilemma.

On the other hand, I LOVE so many aspects of music. I love listening to music by myself or with friends, I love dancing to music, I love R&B and hip hop, I love falling asleep to music, and perhaps what I love most is how music brings people together. I can’t control what is popular, or played in clubs, bars, and on the radio. But I still want to enjoy music in these many various settings. My inner struggle is balancing my love for music and standing up for what I believe in.

There are times in clubs or at parties when I have stepped out or sat down as my own personal boycott of a song that degrades me. But I would say that there are many more times that I have continued to sing and dance along with such music. I don’t want to pull myself out of society completely but I also don’t want to have double standards. I want to have fun, but I need to be respected. I am constantly debating with myself on where I draw the line when it comes to music.

To cope with the dilemma, I have focused more energy on seeking artists and DJs who avoid the degradation of women in their art. A few examples:

  • Kelly Rowland’s “Dirty Laundry” which discusses her experience with abuse and “Kisses Down Low” which promotes female pleasure!
  • Janelle Monet’s “Queen” which also has a super duper dope video.
  • I love jamming to music selected and mixed by a good friend of mine, DJ Keezy. Her first mix was even made up of all female artists, titled “WHERE MY WOMEN AT” which is incredibly fun to listen/dance/sing to

There are so many more examples out there so feel free to share!

I want to hear from others who are confronted with the same or similar struggles. I am wondering, do you draw a line when it comes to music? Where do you draw that line? Have you ever thought about it before? What have you thought about it?

As my experience listening to the radio with Ava shows, the content of songs is highly influential. It is important that we think about what we are supporting and celebrating when we listen to, support, purchase, sing along with,  dance to music.

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