Category Archives: gender

You’re telling me it’s ok

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Tomorrow, finally, is election day. Our country has shown itself to be broken, divided, and ugly during this season. Women, in particular, find ourselves in a cloud of anxiety – anxiety triggered by a presidential candidate’s bragging about sexually assaulting women, by the multiple accusations of sexual assault against him, and by the enormous response of shaming, discrediting, and excusing by supporters who will go to no end to stand by their candidate.

Here’s the thing about sexual abuse and assault: it results in lifelong anxiety and shame that’s just under the surface, waiting to be triggered. The national conversation surrounding Trump’s blatant misogyny and abuse of women has been a trigger for countless women, myself included.

“She’s a pig.” “She wouldn’t be my first choice.” “They let you do whatever you want.” “Grab her by the pussy.” “Have you seen her?” “Such a nasty woman.” “She’s gross.”

We are not deaf to these things, and we are certainly not deaf to the rush of voices across the country shouting angrily that women are too sensitive, they’re liars, they’re attention whores and ungrateful hypocrites.

To the Trump supporters around me who think his disgusting statements about and his actions toward women are “no big deal” or that he respects women despite consistently and blatantly acting to the contrary, you may feel like your words, your excuses are as inconsequential as Trump’s are, I say bullshit. Those messages are dangerous, and I think it’s irresponsible at best to keep perpetuating the excuses.

Because what you’re saying to me when you don’t call out your candidate when he refers to his own daughter as a “nice piece of ass” is that it is ok that young women are shown by society that they do not really own but are still completely responsible for what happens to their bodies in the hands of men. When the boy I loved in high school abused me for three years and turned out to be a violent sociopath, these messages told me it was my fault for not getting away or seeing clearly from the inside what was going on. As if that is something any 17 year old is capable of.

When you say “all men act that way”, you are telling me that those times I was rubbed against on a dance floor in a bar, when I just wanted to dance with a local band, I should’ve been grateful. You’re saying that it’s fine that those testosterone and booze-filled college men who had to be told “I have a boyfriend” in order to leave me alone because “no thanks” isn’t legitimate but “a man has already claimed me” is, those boys are a norm that is completely ok with you.

When a lying, womanizing, not-good-enough-to-call-a-man I was involved with in college manipulated me and his other girlfriend to hide his cheating and make sure we were suspicious of eachother and of ourselves, defenses like those of Donald Trump told me I should just be ashamed and admit I was a slut. When that same man came to my apartment with the intention of doing things I wasn’t ok with, that I said no to and struggled against, those hateful attitudes told me I probably deserved to be pinned face down on my bedroom floor, raped, and made to act like nothing ever happened. And I never reported the assault because no way in hell was I going to put myself through the public crucifixion that happens to college rape victims in small towns.

So when you call Trump’s accusers ugly or liars, then cheer when he says he will sue his victims for coming forward, you’re telling me it is okay for a man to hold down a woman and take what he wants and, more importantly, that it’s dangerous to report such a violation because we all know women only report rape when they’re desperate.

I don’t want any sympathy or attention. Until today, I’ve kept my stories to myself to avoid re-victimization or questions, and only a few of my closest people know them. But then a presidential candidate triggered my anxiety and sent me into a tailspin. Thousands of women came forward bravely to share their assault stories, and thousands more men excused Trump’s behavior as if it was normal. As if we have no right to feel safe as long as we have the nerve to carry around these female bodies. As if we can’t be trusted with these bodies because we aren’t the ones who know what we really want. So I’m adding my voice to the growing national conversation running parallel to this destructive one. Because until we all tell our stories and get angry and stand up and build a community of support, the destructive conversation will be the only one people are listening to. We have to be louder.

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Self-Acceptance in a World of Bullies

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My Rocky Parenting post this week is really an issue I reflect on constantly.  How can I teach my kids to love themselves in a world that definitely isn’t going to always love them?

As I get ready to send my 5-yr-old to kindergarten in the fall, I worry a lot about bullying.  While it’s the job of the adults around to help prevent or stop the acts of bullying once they’ve begun, I also know that it’s inevitable my sweet N will encounter at least teasing and hurt feelings.  Not every child is going to come from a home teaching them compassionate tolerance, and the messages society sends to little boys who like pink and purple are not exactly encouraging…read more at Rocky Parenting

 

SelfLove01

Raising Boys: The Loudest Mess

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Raising Boys: The Loudest Mess

I always wanted girls.  It’s something I’ve written about before, thought about constantly before we had our fist boy, and have just assumed would be a reality from the time I knew I wanted children.  When I had one son, and then two, people began asking me if I would keep trying for a girl.  Complete strangers, even.  It seems that mothers are supposed to want girls because, well, it’s the mother-daughter ideal we all carry around with us.  Boys were just not something I was used to or had really considered.  And now, here I am comfortably situated as the mother of two of them.

Boys are just different creatures.  They’re so loud and messy and accidentally destructive.  Our house is one big racetrack/fort/construction site.  It is playdoh monster truck rallies, stunt jumps off the upstairs landing, torn-out pant knees and muddy shoe tracks.  I am their personal always-dirty laundry gatherer, puppet show audience, and tag referee.  We’re backyard soccer buddies, kitchen table scientists, inventive sandscapers.  And we do it all, dawn to dusk, in a whirl of noisy exuberance.

I never expected I would have children like this.  I get overwhelmed and overstimulated fairly easily by noise, and there is no noisier place in my life than my house, midday, with my boys.  But with them I rarely get overstimulated.  It’s come naturally to me, this boy-mothering.  I can get on the floor and get dirty and make toot jokes without missing a beat.

But one of the things that has really surprised me about mothering boys is how much they really need their mothers.  I had this idea in my head that boys start out and stay independent, that they quickly grow out of cuddling and don’t want to be buddies with their moms.  That only a select, spoiled few were “mama’s boys.”  Mine have dispelled that ridiculousness quite effectively.  My oldest is (hopefully!) not spoiled, and is still my best buddy, my mama’s boy, at age five.  Little K, at 2, is just growing into needing his mama, and showers me with kisses and snuggles during the day, too.

When N isn’t threatening to go live with family friends because surely they never say “no” or make people clean up after themselves, he wants to be glued to my side.  And I’m okay with that.  I’ve said before that I know the snuggliness won’t last forever, but I’m as excited to see how my relationships with my sons evolve as I would be if I’d had daughters.  We used to say we would adopt a girl if all we had were boys, but now when talking about adoption in the future, we talk even then about another boy.  In a complete 180, I can’t imagine having anything other than this mess of craziness, and even better?  I’ll never have a teenage daughter like the one I was, which will probably be the best blessing of all.

The Confines of Colors and Masculine Roles

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This is the snake N picked out at the zoo last month, resting snugly in the jack-o-lantern bucket N picked out for Halloween:

snakePink is hands-down N’s favorite color.  His second favorite is purple, and then he’ll list some random colors that come to mind after that.  But always pink and purple.  As a baby, he preferred his pink binkies to his yellow or green ones, and the first stuffed animal he really begged for at a gift shop was a purple fuzzy giraffe whose pink twin sister he begged for a year later.  His best friend is a girl, and for a while we wondered if he was just mimicking her tastes, but now at age 5 it is very clear that he just loves pretty things.

N is an all-around sensitive kiddo who’s appreciative of beauty, of softness.  He’s always been the first to comment on a lovely sunset or some particularly bright flowers, and he compliments people at random with genuine excitement.  “That’s a nice new dress,” he’ll tell me when I put something new on.  He once told a stranger at Subway that she had a “fancy” purse, and last week he asked if he could cross a parking lot to compliment a man on his “nice-looking dog”.  He contentedly runs velvety ferns over his cheeks when he finds them on hikes.  He snuggles into chenille blankets and greets them like  old friends.  And he just loves pink.  Shamelessly, confidently.

When N was two, he had his eye on a pink bus that sang a little song, and I got it for him after a traumatic first haircut.  The Walmart cashier rang the bus up and asked if he was buying it for his sister.  When I responded that he picked it out, that pink was his favorite color, she looked at me reassuringly and said, “Don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it.”  I laughed and said, “I hope he doesn’t!”

This will always be my attitude.  While I couldn’t care less how his gender identification manifests or his sexual orientation, I certainly don’t think his love of pink and purple is any indication of either.  And I adore the confidence he has when he stands before a row of ridiculously gender-coded boys and girls monster trucks at the zoo and reaches immediately for the pink truck with the purple tiger painted on the door.  It is such an inborn part of him – it doesn’t occur to him that he shouldn’t like soft, fuzzy, pink giraffes or snakes with pink butterflies.  Why should he choose a camo-clothed ranger with a truck and a gun rack when he wants to play with a pretty-looking monster truck and a baby elephant toy?

I could go on and on about how we force our boys out of femininity and into a prescribed masculinity that damages them in the long run, but the only sensitive boy I can worry about right now is N.  I am terrified of sending him to kindergarten next year, and then beyond that, where he is certain to encounter peers who degrade or devalue his appreciation for small things, his adoration of “feminine” colors, and his soft way of looking at the world.  I worry about bullies, of course, but more even than that I worry about the harsh reality of gender stereotypes quashing these pieces that comprise so much of his personality.

So tell me, how do I send him off into the world beyond the early childhood peers I’ve carefully vetted – those whose families value the same core things we do, who offer accepting, judgement-free havens – with the confidence to face ridicule he might encounter not by shrinking away from the things he loves but by simply saying, “you don’t have to think it’s cool, but I do”?  How do I build and support and grow that confidence to prefer pink Legos and snuggle with giant, pink-butterfly-patterned snakes?  What do I say the first time he asks why someone said he had a girl’s trick-or-treat bucket or made fun of his Doc McStuffins band-aids?  All I want is to make it okay for him to just be, peacefully, kindly, in all the big light he exudes.

Dear McDonald’s: Quit Stereotyping My Kid…get born blog post!

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Blogging today over at get born…check it out along with posts from all the other amazing women!

An Open Letter to McDonald’s

To Whom It May Concern,

I would like to say that I do not take my children to your restaurants, because you do not necessarily sell the kinds of foods I take pride in feeding them.  However, this is not the case.  I do take my kids to the McDonald’s by our house on occasion because it’s easy.  And because you have Happy Meals for my three year old to gobble down for five quiet minutes so that he can earn the prized toy within.

These toys – or at least the process of ordering them – are why I write to you now, Dear McDonalds.   You see, it deeply infuriates me every single time the employee taking my order asks, “Is the Happy Meal for a boy or a girl?”  read more…