Tag Archives: women

Rewriting our Story: Equal Pay

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Tuesday, April 8 is National Equal Pay Day.  A day dedicated to advocating, highlighting and eliminating the wage gap between men and women. Even after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, women in 2014 are paid $0.77 to the dollar earned by a man. On the other hand, women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) make 33 percent more on average. With the demand for STEM jobs and equal pay, join the conversation on #EqualPay and #STEM.

The YWCA’s across the US and the Department of Energy are teaming up to host a live panel and Tweet Up on “The STEM Promise: Opportunities for Economic Empowerment.” The conversation will focus on #EqualPay #STEMjobs and how the wage gap can be impacted.

TWEET with US! Raise awareness and join the conversation on April 8, 2014, from 3-4pm EST

• Watch #STEMEqualPay on Tuesday – @YWCA_NCA, @ENERGY, @YWCAUSA, @wusa9 talking #womeninSTEM go.usa.gov/KhMY

• #womeninSTEM have smaller wage gap. Join @ENERGY and @YWCAUSA on Tues to hear why. go.usa.gov/KhMY (#STEMEqualPay)

• join @ENERGY @YWCA_NCA #STEMEqualPay Tweet Up Tuesday & share entry-level #STEM job advice to advance pay equality go.usa.gov/KhMY

 

 

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“We Are Not Only a Mouth and Luring Siren We Are the Women”

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Lately when things have been feeling a little gloomy or when my body and my mind has been feeling unambitious, I’ve been turning to reading poetry, listening to rap and hip-hop (with a conscious message) or watching spoken word for that extra motivation and wisdom.
 
It’s compelling because poetry and spoken word have typically been a world for me untouched and unexplored. I have always appreciated, been more than curious, and admired the powerful individuals inside it. With their booming voices and insightful word choices, whether their content be delivered through pencil or mouth, paint brush or spray can, rapping or singing, sign language or Spanish, I’ve always been curious.   When it comes to the message and the content they are spitting it’s okay to agree and disagree, for I’ve always loved to question and to be questioned. The beautiful thing about art is there isn’t a way to “do” poetry, to “do” spoken word, to “do” art. Yet despite my long lasting envy, there was a part of me buried under my insecurities that did not feel like this world of poetry was my territory, even if it was in my own bedroom.
 
But lately… I’m all up in that territory and I’m not gonna lie that shit feels great and I’ve never felt more inspired.
 
So a few weeks ago, when I was having a… we can call it one of my “unmotivated moments”  lying in bed, slowly eating ice cream, I stumbled upon this spoken word piece called, “Khaleesi,” by Tonya Ingram and Venessa Marco. (and sorry no Game of Thorn Fans this piece is not about that Khaleesi). But this piece, these two women really blew me away. Every day since I first saw it, I’ve watched it for motivation because as weird as it sounds, I’ve been spending a lot of time discovering my voice and how I want to be heard, even if it is scary.
 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R0nuyEGq6E%5D
 
My two favorite verses from this are:
 
“we are not only a mouth and luring siren
we are the women
who dare think of ourselves as more than a fuck
when we lend our thoughts to breath
we know often
we are speaking the words that will kill us
for we are then called
bitch
cunt
whore
never a voice
just static sound”
 
I really also like the ending verse:
 
“This is our birthright
this is our inherit
we are women who capsize entire crowds
with the sayings of the wind
holy knuckles
full
of fight.”

So what or who has been motivating you lately? I would love to hear from you, even if you just post the link in the comments below!

pssst. other RLA’ers love spoken word and poetry too and hey, some of them even spit themselves (let me take you back in time and you can check out what they are writin’ or lovin’):

5 BADASS SPOKEN WORD POEMS ON BODY IMAGE

CHEERS TO A NEW YEAR

I DON’T WANT TO BE AFRAID

I CRY: WOMEN IN WAR

RISE WITH THE MORNING (AN ORIGINAL POEM)

ARTIST REVIEW: ANGEL HAZE

Just some Friday Fun Links that highlight spoken word pieces or poetry:

BLACK FEELS LIKE

SHRINKING WOMEN

RAPE CRISIS AT OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE SPURS SHARP CRITIQUE– IN POETRY

HEY GIRL HEY: THAT GAY MISOGYNY AIN’T CUTE

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Also not only shout out times a million to  Tonya Ingram and  Venessa Marco.  but also Button Poetry (where I found this link). Button Poetry is a  Minnesota-based organization dedicated to improving the quality of performance poetry media. 

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Feeling Invalidated as Women in The Work Place

This is a collaborative piece.

Having recently graduated from college and entering the working (“real”) world, we have begun to notice the gross reality of gender dynamics that exist in the work place. We’ve talked to other women about our experiences and feelings and found that many could relate.

Many argue that we have come a long way as a society in terms of educating and employing women. But if we get into professions just to be made to feel invalidated by particular male colleagues, then how far have we come culturally?

The purpose of this post is to share experiences that women face in the work place  that often go unnoticed, unspoken, and in many cases have become normalized. Four stories are shared below and the women who have opted to contribute have also chosen to remain anonymous for the sake of their employment. Fear is something that comes along with speaking out and the risk involved in saying something is a very real chance we take. We would, of course, prefer to feel safe sharing these stories openly, but that is not a place that we have yet reached, as individuals and as a society.

EXCUSE ME, Shut Up 

I’m not a fan of having to get dressed up for work. By all means, I like to look nice but if I could do my job in leggings and a loose tee every day, you bet I would. But I know that in my position, I gain respect from my clients by looking professional and put together. My clients need all the help and respect they can get in their lives so I take the dress code seriously balancing pencil skirts, blazers, heels, the ordinary combination of a professional female business wardrobe.

I’ll admit, I do feel more the part when I’m dressed-up, a bit more powerful and confident about my ability, a bit more assured that my clients trust me to do my job and help them instead of write them off like everyone else in their lives. Most of my clients and colleagues are men.  I can keep up with the office banter, grant it it’s a good thing I play fantasy football and can talk the normal Sports Center and beer lingo, being from Wisconsin. I sometimes wonder how they would react if I randomly decided to go on a tangent about what color I’m planning on dying my hair, but that’s besides the point.

I’ve come to love my job, even the dressing-up; it feels good to look good I can’t lie. But I absolutely, full-heartedly detest, no, loathe the extra shall we say “attention” I receive for the way my body looks in my clothing. I’m curvaceous, I have quite the rack (brought to you by both sides of the family), but never do I try to intentionally flaunt this at work. One day I borrowed a roommates dress that was a little tight; not doing that again. The first guy I see in the office says to me “well that is quite the pretty necklace you have, which boyfriend of yours got that for you?” If you know me, you know I was contemplating smacking him. EXCUSE ME. Thoughts in my head:

1 – Yeah, you’re looking at my necklace, my ass. He was staring directly at  my rack and the dress I was wearing even went up to my neck. Subtle.

2 – I can buy my own fricken jewelry thank you very much, hell no do I need a man for that.

And 3 – To even imply that I would date multiple guys at once like some kinda gold digger is beyond insulting.

Sadly I’ve gotten use to the reactions I get any day I come to work looking a little too, let’s say appealing and my coworkers and clients alike, can’t help but issue a slew of “well ain’t you looking fancy today” or my personal favorite, “I see you white girl.” Shut-up.

My co-worker put it really well the other day. He said to me, “someone was talking to me about you the other day and the first thing that came out of the guy’s mouth was ‘she’s beautiful.’” My co-worker goes on to say how frustrating that is, that I’m chalked up to be a pretty girl, completely omitting the work that I do and the passion that I have for my job.

Compliments about appearance are nice; as someone who’s dealt with major body and confidence issues for a long while, sometimes it’s the morale boost I need. But if looking nice and professional comes at the price of being just another pretty girl in the office, peace out, I’m done.

I’ll continue to dress the part for the sake of my clients, but the next person that says “dang you look fine,” watch out. And for the love of women, can we design some professional clothing that aren’t created to make my butt look tight, my waste look small, and my legs look built!

Submitted anonymously

I Can Build My Own Damn Bike

Ooh, I bet you got a lot of whistles this morning.” This is what I heard when I walked into work one day. I was dressed in a black pencil skirt, flowy top, tights and some pretty sleek boots. I looked good. Felt confident. But of course I knew I’d be receiving a comment about it. Maybe it’s the feminist in me, raging more and more every day. But when I dress for work, for anything, I do it for myself. Not to get stared at by every man on the bus, the street, at work. And certainly not to get whistled at like a dog.

Now, this comment was a compliment. But it bothered me. Especially because it came from a woman. We’ve become subliminally trained to dress to impress. Because that’s how we draw attention. That’s how we hold power. By how we put ourselves together in the morning. True, I feel more confident when I look good. But I do it for myself. Anyways, maybe I’m ranting too much and not getting into the real thick of it. The things that really get beneath my skin because I am a woman in my workplace.

Whenever I need to move something or take on a task that’s not so ladylike, I  most certainly, without a doubt, will hear “Oh, you need a man to help you with that!”. Sometimes, I do need a hand, but I’ll be damned if I hand over a box or a task to a guy that thinks I can’t handle it. I recently got a new bike through work and planned to assemble it on my own. I can’t tell you how many pushy offers I received to have one of our male residents put it together. I’m a pretty avid bike rider, know how to fix a flat, and most importantly, know how to read instructions. So I felt like I was qualified enough to put a bike together. But at least 5 people didn’t think so.

Maybe it’s because I’m so headstrong, but I assembled that bike all by my damn self. I got stares of amazement. Many from fellow females who thought I should have handed the task to a man. This is what irked me the most. Where along the line were these women told they needed a man to help them? That they were less than capable. Perhaps I’m a raging, headstrong feminist, but I prefer to be thought of as a capable woman. Especially at work.

Submitted anonymously

The Skanky Shorts

I have begun a new job at a progressive, young, nonprofit organization. The man who hands me my check each month is friendly, flirty even. It honestly makes me feel uncomfortable but I have never said anything about it. I mean, I am new here, I am young, and he is in a position of power. So, I think, flirting is harmless and avoid him.

A few weeks into the job I make it out to a happy hour with a few co-workers. It feels good to finally get out of the work cloths and hang out with the people I am around all day. I show up in jean shorts and a tee shirt, my typical summer apparel. My uncomfortably flirty friend shows up and offers to buy me drinks. I’m broke so hey, why not? We all sit together and are enjoying each other’s company.

The flirting coworker’s next move changed my mood for the remainder of the night. The man who hands me my pay checks looks at me, to poke fun, and in front of our entire group says “She can’t be trusted, just look at her skanky shorts.” My face just went blank, I was confused, shocked. The first thought that popped into my head was, first of all, how dumb his joke was. It made no sense (so if you are scratching your head wondering what the point of the joke was, there was none). It felt like it was just a random opportunity for him to say something about my clothing choice.  That in itself confused and infuriated me.

Because he pointed out my clothing in front of a large group, I naturally felt everyone’s gaze. I just sat there, feeling exposed. I tugged at my shorts as if I could disprove his statement, maybe avoid the potential judgement of my colleagues who’s attention was now on my lower half. I didn’t want to stand up for the rest of the evening out of fear that everyone would look at my ass and judge the clothing I had chosen to wear. He, in that one statement, caused me to feel embarrassment, anger, fear, shame. I questioned how long he had been looking at my shorts, thinking they were skanky. Was it when he bought me a drink? I felt angry. He embarrassed me. I felt violated by his analysis of my outfit.

I sat in my own silence turning the comment over and over in my head. Why the fuck was he even looking at my shorts? Who gave him the right to draw his own conclusions on the style of clothes I choose to wear out? Weather it was in or out of the work place, he has no right to call my clothing skanky. What was he saying about me in that comment about my shorts? I don’t wear those shorts out anymore. He continues to flirt at work. I wonder if he thinks about what his simple words and actions have the power to make me feel.

Submitted anonymously

The Questions Behind My Silence

I feel two simultaneous jabs on either side of my torso, just below my ribs. You know, the type that you might get teasingly from a significant other, or pesteringly from a little sibling. The kind meant to get a rise out of you, meant to make you jump, giggle, and turn around to teasingly slap the person who did the jabbing. This is not one of those times. I’m at work.

I’m caught off guard by the pokes. My body tenses involuntarily. My head whips around and my mind races. What was that? Who touched me? Why?

In the few split seconds that it took for me to turn around, my mind had not decided how I felt, let alone come up with how to react. I was surprised but not quite offended, confused but not quite angry. Mostly, I was just shocked and weirded out.

My eyes caught a glimpse of one of my male co-workers walking behind me. His head turned back to meet my bewildered glance and he smiled. I immediately knew then that he had poked me on my sides.

A hundred questions flooded my mind.

Is this normal? Should I be mad? Am I offended? Is this harassment? Should I tell someone? Why would he even do that? He’s married. Is he trying to bug me? I would never do that to anyone. Ever. Especially at work. He is a man and he is much older than me. I know he would never go up behind another male co-worker and do that. Is this a gender thing? An age thing? Do people even take me seriously? Or am I just some kid they can pick on? Is it a cultural thing? Is this teasing okay in some places? What am I supposed to do? How do I react? They never tell you what to do in these situations. Am I being silly? Should this not be something that bothers me? Does it bother me?

They, you know, the teachers, youth leaders, parents, and counselors, they always tell you to report sexual abuse. They tell you to let someone know if anyone verbally or physically harasses you. But what about all that grey area. What about when a male co-worker sneaks up and teasingly pokes you in your sides? What about when you don’t know whether it’s something inappropriate or if you’re just being too sensitive? What about when that person who makes you uncomfortable is one of your bosses?

I still don’t know exactly what I should have done in that situation. I told a few of my female co-workers that I trust about the incident and I was surprised to hear that they have had similar, and some worse, situations and stories involving that same male co-worker. One co-worker even reported one of the incidents, but apparently nothing really changed.

So what is my solution? For now, I avoid being alone with him. I respect him less. Sometimes I’m rude to him. Sometimes I rehearse in my mind how I will react or what I will say if he tries something else or says something inappropriate. Is that the right answer? I don’t really know, and I think the not knowing how to asses these situations bothers me just as much as the fact that these things happen in the first place.

 Submitted anonymously

So the days come to an end. The weeks pass by. The comments are made and then they fade. We get stares and whistles, snide comments, uncomfortable feelings. We hope for an end. Some of us will speak up. Some of us won’t. Some of us will get angry and take action. Some of us will be scared. We will stand up for ourselves and for women as a whole, for equality and for liberty.

We will speak and act for the future and for hope. For now, we hope that you join us in this effort and raise the awareness and share your own stories. Listen to other’s stories and listen to yourself.

We hope that the accounts you read and the real women behind them stirred your hearts. We hope that you will bring this challenge and this awareness into your own communities, families, and workplaces, and give someone else hope.

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Rewriting our Story: The Struggle to Empower Women

Women in the Media

The illustration above showcases some of the recent organizations, writings, studies and statistics that have come to the front page of main stream news. Many previous authors have have written about how the internet has accelerated and in some ways, revived feminist organizations, movements and collaborations. I agree, with the access to knowledge and information we see the global widespread discrimination, violence, misogyny against women, as well as the successes, educational attainment, military inclusion, and role of women in the workplace.

With nearly 70% of women experiencing violence (physical or sexual) in their lifetime – this astounding and overwhelming UN Report demonstrates the need to rewrite our story.  A majority of women, girls, mothers, wives, sisters, cousins and friends encountering violence more than likely at the hands of men. This stat makes the violence experience seem inevitable. As a result, our culture incorporates “empowering” choices to help keep women safe. For example, think back, at what age did you receive or have you given the following advice:

  • Don’t go into dark alleyways or streets alone at night
  • Don’t walk alone at night, anywhere, even in your own neighborhood
  • Park under the street light or in the parking ramp closest to the exit
  • Take a taxi from a bar instead of public transportation
  • Bring friends with you if you use public transportation
  • What time are you coming or going?
  • Are friends going with you?
  • Call me when you arrive.
  • How well do you know him?

All of these seemingly helpful hints or advice are simultaneously disadvantageous to the feminist movement – because they target young women. The “advice” tells women that we can make the right choices and bad things will not happen. For some that is true, but for many of us, the choice may not be in our hands.

For many of us, it is men who make conscious, manipulative, unhealthy and violent choices that shape our lives forever.

Where are the efforts and campaigns to change men? Sure, we have heard about them, but unlike these mainstream efforts highlighted in the illustration, we are still “empowering” women. (NOTE: I am not advocating we do not have safe plans or take caution and I agree there are “sensible” things anyone can do.)

So; where are the questions to men about why would you chase a women alone? Why is intimidating her rewarding? How drunk was she — that doesn’t seem cool? Why are women the sole or primary providers in families — is this really evidence of women’s advancement in the workplace or is it because so many men walk out on women and families?

What do these organizations and statistics have in common (referenced in the illustration)? It seems that the effort of modern day feminism – to support equal rights, safety and empowerment for women – is increasingly becoming part of daily news, charitable contribution and donation efforts.

This is an applauded effort but, unfortunately, the men who rape, beat, humiliate, harass women in the world are not the strange scary psychos that we can spot, fear and lockup. They may not be the weirdos, or creepy men, the stereotypical men we avoid. They are less likely to be strangers, and most likely to be our current, former partner, acquaintance or in all simple form – a man we know.

These men are brothers, gay friends, cousins, fathers, husbands, friends, uncles, god fathers. They know us and we know them. They make conscious choices, manipulative choices, choices out of misogyny, privilege and wealth. We as a society have to recognize that with astounding numbers like 1 in 3 military women will be sexually assaulted and 1 in 5 civilian women, that there is an epidemic, a conscious epidemic, that enables men, for centuries to repeatedly abuse, manipulate, hurt and walk out on women.

Until men can identify, understand and change their choices, actions and language that routinely negatively impact women on a daily basis, and therefore, the family, the stats will remain a reality.

What does it mean? It means we have to rewrite the story. We have to think, talk, live, play and work differently with the men in our lives. It means we have to hold men accountable, at every stage – at the small jokes that seem harmless, at the movies they watch and quote, no matter how seemingly funny or “normal.” It means we cannot be embarrassed or protect the ego and the “system.” It means we must have the uncomfortable conversation with the male friends we have known for years, and even those we may admire most, like our fathers and brothers.

To rewrite our story, we need men to engage in choices, decisions and opportunities that empower women.

What are your thoughts? Check out the movements and reports in the illustration by selecting the links below.

Chime for Change

College Enrollment by Gender

Domestic Violence Hotline

2013 US State Department Report on Human Trafficking

An Open Letter to Facebook: Take a Stand on Gender Violence & Hate

The Pixel Project

One Billion Rising

Reproductive Rights for Women

Why Society Still Needs Feminism

Women in Combat: Sexual Violence

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Female Ejaculation: Every Woman Can Do It

While the Trayvon Martin case is nothing new, nor unique, nor surprising, I am deeply saddened by all the broken hearts I see tonight. I am angry with the oppressive systems in which we live. I feel at a loss, but also driven to continue to uplift myself and those around me. This post is meant to bring about dialogue, pleasure, and community. Power. 

I recently finished reading Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot: Not Your Mother’s Orgasm Book! by Deborah Sundahl (more info here) and Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure, by Sheri Winston (you can get a taste of that here). Thank you to Alicia Steele for recommending both those titles to me! While I have my qualms with each book (regarding tone, graphics, cultural sensitivity, and more), I am grateful for what each has to offer. 

Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot explores the anatomy, mindfulness, and practices associated with female ejaculation. I learned that there is such a thing as the female prostate, that women have all sorts of erectile tissue (lots between our legs, but elsewhere on the body, too!), and that pretty much all women have the capability to ejaculate if we want to. Talking to friends who saw the book on my coffee table taught me that most women around me don’t know about female ejaculation or, if they do, they think only a minority of women can do it. 

Ejaculation feels good on its own, and can – but doesn’t necessary – accompany orgasm. It occurs when the G-spot, short for Gräfenberg Spot (named after a man, of course), is stimulated. You can find your G-spot by inserting one or two fingers into the vagina, just up to your first knuckle or two, and feeling the roof. The G-spot is there between two valleys and may have ridges (these ridges typically become more pronounced with stimulation). The G-spot sits against our urethra (see the diagram below), which is surrounded by the Skene’s glands, aka lesser vestibular glands, in our paraurethral tissue or prostate. When our G-spot is stimulated, this tissue engorges, filling with fluid. The feeling of built up ejaculate is similar to the feeling you get when you need to pee but the fluid is not urine. In addition to other differences, ejaculate contains more prostate-specific antigen than urine, and more prostatic acid phosphatase, as well as glucose. 

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Image courtesy http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0d/Female_anatomy_with_g-spot-en.svg/512px-Female_anatomy_with_g-spot-en.svg.png

The existence of the G-spot and the anatomical reasons behind female ejaculation have been questioned for some time. I like Sundahl’s book because she includes a plethora of women’s personal anecdotes about ejaculation in her sources. The Wikipedia page on female ejaculation is a great source if you’re interested in the literature and history of the debate.

If you want to try ejaculating, Sundahl does a good job of walking through the steps to do so (she has taught entire classes on ejaculation, with rooms full of women stimulating themselves and ejaculating together). Essentially, you should stimulate yourself on your own, as ejaculation requires a great degree of comfort. Once you feel aroused and your G-spot is engorged, squeeze your PC muscles, allowing the pressure that has built up between your legs to release. If fluid does come out, don’t stop yourself – let it flow! Have towels underneath you, as a lot of fluid can be released. Crouching is a good way to start. Pee before you begin, so you can be convinced that you’re not peeing if and when you ejaculate. The ejaculate fluid is typically clear and scentless.  

Female ejaculation is not something that a lot of women do without teaching themselves first. Sundahl discusses the role of release and letting go in ejaculation, and the difficulties that many women have doing so. We suffer from a lack of sex positivity in our society, and, oftentimes, women hold back during sex in order to ensure the pleasure of others, to seem in control, etc. Such social norms conflict with the physical and emotional release necessary for ejaculation.  

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 Photo courtesy http://o.getglue.com/topics/p/female_ejaculation

Furthermore, women lack education about our own anatomy. If we knew our sexual anatomy more fully, we might be more able to explain what ejaculation is when someone we know experiences it. We’d also be less afraid of letting go when on the verge of experiencing it ourselves.

For these reasons and more, I really appreciated reading Women’s Anatomy of Arousal. I not only learned the form and function of my own body, but I also became more sexually in tune with myself thanks to the exercises Winston suggests. She encourages everything from PC exercises and breathing to making noises and buying toys. She also does a great job of clearing up anatomical misconceptions. 

Many people think that the clitoris is just what you see in the diagram below. Firstly, a clitoris can be much larger than this, or smaller, and there is no “normal” size. Secondly, it is much larger than what is visible on the surface, and all of it can enlarge with pleasure.  

Similarly, there isn’t a normal size for the labia, and the terms ‘minora’ and ‘majora’ are problematic because they cause women to think their labia should fit those concepts. The terms inner and outer, as shown below, are helpful alternatives. To see the large variety of labia out there, refer back to Safia’s post: The Discomfort with Naked Bodies

Image

 

Image courtesy http://www.mylvrdoctor.com/images/VDiagram.jpg

I can’t recap all I learned but I encourage everyone to explore their own bodies, and their potential for pleasure. The books I mention here are great resources but, ultimately, I think the best tools for learning our ourselves and those around us. Try new things (only as you’re comfortable, of course) and talk about your body and its experiences with people you trust. It will pay off.  

Questions to ponder: Do you think social constructs affect women’s ability to ejaculate? Do norms shape the way we think about female ejaculation? Do you know enough about your own body? Are you happy with the levels of pleasure you’re able to achieve? 

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Vagina Monologues 2013–Why are YOU Rising?

This week all across community theatres, universities, women’s collectives, and professional theatres is the 17th anniversary of the Vagina Monologues—a piece of art, empowerment, food for thought, remembrance and unity among feminists everywhere.  Though the show is controversial in many spheres, that has not been my experience as a cast member in the 2013 monologues at American University in Washington, DC.

In the show there are monologues about everything vagina related from sex to sex work, pleasure, anatomy and childbirth. There are personal narratives taken from stories of the 200 that were interviewed by monologue writer Eve Ensler.

Though there are many humorous pieces about sexual experiences, there are factual pieces about female genital mutilation, sexual violence and mass rape used as a systematic instrument of war. These pieces serve as a reminder to all of the atrocities that are happening in our world every minute and every second. These stories are memoirs of the women who are beaten, tortured, killed and raped. All across the world everyday 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men are raped, not to mention the rapes and abuses of trans men and women that go unrecorded day after day.

Despite the many negative critiques and controversial debates that occur over the heteronormative and cis gendered framework of the Vagina Monologues, being a part of the 39-member cast of this years show has been an incredible experience. The sense of community, advocacy, support and friendship is unimaginable and something that I wish for all female identified persons across the globe.  The new addition to the show this year is a piece to jumpstart the One Billion Rising movement to end violence against women and girls together in solidarity called “Rising”. This piece along with the strong, powerful and inspiring cast moved me to write and share why I am rising.

I am rising for women everywhere.

I am rising for the one in three who will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

I am rising for those that I love and care about who have been assaulted, those that have been raped, or abused, those that have not given consent.

I am rising for those who were coerced into a sexual act by someone familiar.

I am rising for the one in six men who are raped.

I am rising for the child who has seen their mother beaten

I am rising for the war on women, for the mass rape that occurs all around the world, not only in underdeveloped nations.

I am rising for the Ianfu Comfort Women—the women of the “Say It” monologue.

I am rising for the women who are silent and have never told a soul about the day or the night that changed their lives forever.

I am rising for my friends, family members, past teammates and cast members.

I am rising for you. I am rising for me.

I am rising for women everywhere and I will not be silent.

I am rising for the women who cannot kiss their girlfriends in public for fear of being discriminated, abandoned or shamed.

I am rising for the trans community and those that do not fit a gender binary.

I am rising for the allies.

I am rising for the children, for the young people and for the elderly in nursing homes.

I am rising for the able bodied and for the disabled.

I am rising for the sex workers and those who are trafficked into the sex trade.

I am rising for you and you and YOU.

I am strong and I am rising to stop this violence, hatred and tragedy.

I am rising and will continue rising.

Why are YOU rising?

 Written by Maria Schneider

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I Cry: Women in War

In this piece I would like to refocus on women in war. After writing my previous post, I have found myself disgusted by the lack of attention paid to the history of women in the conflict that has gripped my people and my country for the last 70 years. My hope for my role in this blog is to share the stories I have collected during my own research in the region, as well as, my reaction to poems, prose, histories and novels written about these incredibly brave women who’ve lost their face and story to his-story.  I wish to be but a mouthpiece for their stories, I hope to bring the joys and sufferings of both Palestinian and Israeli women to the world. Perhaps here our peoples can find a common ground…

Women are so often forgotten when we write of wars and conflicts. As if the most interesting aspects of battle are the recycled stories of men’s brute. The most remarkable stories of war are not of striking blades and bombs, but of the individuals left behind in their villages, crouched down in the shadows of their homes as they await the impeding armies. It is the stories of solidarity that develop as people must pull their resources as they forge for food, heat and shelter. The stories of the greatest of charity, as the desolate give to the desolate. It is the stories of endurance of unarmed individuals struggle to rebuild from the rubbles of their previous lives.

So often it is the women who are left to deal with the shattered spirits of children as they march the long journey towards exile. It is the women who face soldiers unarmed protecting what remains of their families, homes and hope. These are the stories that should fascinate the admirers of history. These are the memories that should be preserved from war, not the stories of how men are defeated, but the humanity that is preserved through the chaos of our savagery.

On Poems and Prose:

I recently read a short novel written by S. Yizhar about the expulsion of Palestinians from the village of Khirbet Khizeh. The images flooded me with emotions as I connected my own families history to the stories of these faceless peasants as they marched towards their fate, towards their exile. Leaving me slightly broken, I applauded the authors focus on the margins of war. The realities non-combatants face as their lives, their futures are fought over on the battlefields of national aspirations. As the main character finally comes to, it seems much easier to fight, to hold a gun and shoot your enemies, than face the women, children and elderly as the depths of their misfortune glare back at you.

From his memories, the story of one woman stands etched in my thoughts. A proud woman, holding the small hand of a child relative walking bravely towards the trucks that will take her away from everything she has ever known to an uncertain reality. With admiration, the author recalls her strides, as she passes the young soldiers without a glance of recognition. Accepting all that has been given to her, she continues with pride. Yet she is so human, she is only human, as single tears are released from each eye, rolling down the curvature of her cheeks, she makes her way across the puddle, towards her exile.

Towards exile, this is the theme that is carried. Exile. It is in one word the destruction of family, community and connection to ourselves. Exile, so often the fate of widowed and abandoned women, left with the charge to care for the children and elderly. Yet the eyes of that proud women remains, as she continues towards her fate.

The face of this woman reminded me of an amazing poem written by a Palestinian woman living out her exile in Canada. It is an anthem to the mothers of our exiles, who carry us as we wonder the world, teaching us to always walk forward with one eye looking back towards our homeland.

Cry by Rafeef Ziadah

I just can’t see you cry, I just can’t see you cry curled up in a ball
next to a man who loved his revolution more than he ever loved you
I just can’t see you cry, I just can’t see you cry curled up in a ball
next to a man who loved his revolution more than he ever loved you

Not knowing that you are a walking talking breathing Palestine
Carrying her on your back and in your womb for 61 years
Waiting for liberation

You are the one who sat on the cold bare cement floor of an immigration detention cell and gave birth to your first girl
Carried the memories of those maimed and tortured throughout airports and luggage
that would be checked and double checked because you had the wrong last name
and you carried their memories
you carried their memories through luggage that would be checked and double checked
because you had the wrong last name

And they say
just take a pill and all the voices in your head will disappear
just take a pill and all the voices in your head will disappear
numb all your thoughts of suicide and erase years of dispossession

And your brothers, your brothers lined up against the wall
your brothers lined up against the wall
as you pressed their dead bodies into your chest
and let their blood soak your dress

But they want you to take a pill to erase your history
our history, stateless and refugees
they want you to take a pill
to erase our history, your history
stateless and refugees

Between your body and their reality
lie uprooted olive trees
orange groves and Palestine
between your body and their reality
lie uprooted olive trees

orange groves and Palestine

And I, I just can’t see you cry
I can’t, I really really just can’t see you cry
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“Fitspiration”

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Last week, I was walking past a Lululemon store and noticed a butt staring at me from the window. The window advertisement was color-blocked with the middle section being a spandex covered manikin butt. The ad said something to the extent of, “make your butt look great”. This is yet another example of fitness and/or clothing companies using the “sexy” parts of a woman’s body to turn a profit.

After doing some research I stumbled upon a fantastic beauty website. Beauty Redefined wrote a post on the new trend of “fitspiration”, and how it is harmful to women’s self-esteem. My favorite quote from the article is “You are capable of so much more than being looked at”. As you are browsing Pinterest or the mall, don’t forget to keep these three steps/ideas in mind to achieve your physical health goals:

  1. Stop and think about the advertising – Is the company telling you to commodify yourself by buying the latest fitness trend to become more appealing, or are they concerned with your health and well-being?
  2. How does it make you feel? – While looking at the advertisement are you feeling ashamed of your body or not good enough? Shame is not a healthy form of inspiration.
  3. “Any motivational statement that has to diss another type of body in order to make you feel good about your body? Not. Helping. Anyone.” Virginia Sole-Smith, who has also written on the topic, brings up one of the most important points – minimizing other women’s bodies does not help anyone get anywhere.Fitspo-Virginia-300x206

If you want some healthy inspiration head to the Beauty Redefined website and join the Body Hate Apocalypse.

Written by Sonya Kuznetsov

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