Protect Drunk Girls

Women have always been regarded as the sole source of all their suffering, and no one more than the drunk girl.

In her stumbling and fumbling, through her tears, and in spite of her laughter, we know her to be immoral and gross. We know that whatever should befall her on this “ladies night,” this “birthday celebration,” this “newly single,” “newly engaged,” “newly employed” or “just glad the week is over” night, is exactly what she deserves.

Can you imagine, having done no legal or moral wrong, but upon having bad things happen any way you are now made to be the villain in your own trauma?

This is the great shame of society, among which there are many more, but what do we do? Do we seek to rectify, to apologize, or to make the next time right? No, we persist in the belief that a woman looking for fun finds what she seeks and a woman without reserve and modesty gets what she needs I suppose. It’s easier that way, to go on as we have and let the harmed fade away, or be put away by force if need be. The best among us try, but even in us, the way we find is wrong.

“Where are the men!”, we cry, “to keep us surrounded and safe?”

Where are the women I say! To keep us safe but more than that to keep us sure of our right to live, and drink, and be merry. Why can’t we be loud and a little too much from time to time without humiliation and pain? Where are the women to tell us it is okay? Where are the women who would see us safely home? Where are the women who would cry out to the men of their sin instead of always inventing and enforcing new ones for us all to suffer under?

Summer is coming, with warm night, open rooftops, and cold drinks and signs screaming “ladies drink free ’til midnight.” Drunk girls will be let loose in the world, and I feel for them knowing many won’t make it through what should be a time of joy but many will come through changed forever and with that will come shame and blame because no one will protect them.

If you see a pedestrian on the ground, hurt, bleeding, not breathing, do you help them? Or do you assume that they brought their injuries on themselves and leave them? Do you feel annoyed at the inconvenience, huff, and leave them to their fate?

Imagine you saw an intoxicated person getting into the driver seat of a car, would you say something? Would you call a cab or summon an Uber from your phone? Whatever you would do, I bet you know what you should do. If you saw a drunk woman walking alone on the street would you do the same? If you saw her surrounded by a group of men would you walk away?

Too often I have been out with others who have lost track of their friends or allowed them to leave with strange men. I try to speak up but all I hear is so and so is going to do what they want, and I’ve felt powerless.

I’ve even, I’ll admit, fallen into the trap of judging, ridiculing, and turning a blind eye out of annoyance and frustration. It’s hard to keep caring after you warn them and warn them, and still, they don’t listen, but I have to wonder about the consequences. I wonder how much of the world’s suffering do I carry because I didn’t protect a woman in need?

Many of us have made the same mistake. We’ve had too much, done too much, and ended up in dangerous situations. Some of us walked away unscathed? Did we deserve a consequence? Did we deserve to be groped and raped? Could you look yourself in the mirror, remember a time when you went out of a wild night with a friend, and tell yourself you deserved the same as the countless women you’ve seen in the news who are now missing, assaulted, or dead?

Of course not. You made a mistake, or maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all, and that is yet another idea we have to rid ourselves of too. I hope when it happened to you had someone to look after you. I hope you know how lucky you were.

But I want the world to change. I want all women to feel protected, and I want all women to protect drunk girls at all cost. From those who would take advantage of them, hurt them, or abandon them.

Drinking or not, every woman is worthy of care and comfort. Drinking or not, we all want the same thing, some time to let loose and feel a part of a place and time where there is only joy and love. There is no sin, no shouldn’t have, there is only the safest way, and we all have to help each other to that.

Protect carefree girls. Protect girls who do too much and take it too far. Protect young girls who are learning their limits and those of the world. Protect girls trying to have the night of their lives. Protect girls having a bad night too.

In a perfect world, you would never have to worry but this world is far from that, and something else must be done. We can appeal to the men. Love us, respect us, protect us, some will and some won’t but how can you know the difference? And anyway it is hard to trust the same ones who ridicule and abuse you.

I say we look to ourselves, to women, all women, to have the understanding and the courage to lead the way to safety, love, and a sense of freedom. Help your sisters find nights of fun and release without fear, or guilt, or pain.

Protect drunk girls, wherever you go, the night of and every night after, for as long as they need you.

***

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Inspired by the Instagram account @ProtectDrunkGirls

Featured image via Unsplash

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The Modern Witch

“Womanhood
is learning how to witch yourself
in slow motion.
When they say your name
like a curse,
say it back to them
like an incantation.
When they call you cold,
show them how you conjure fire.”

— Brenna Twohy

Every girl goes through a period of flirtation with witchcraft. Some more intense than others. Some only a passing curiosity, some a full-blown obsession. At some point, we all yearn for the ritual and religion, a place for women alone, and a promise of control.

I do not, nor have I ever, subscribed to any religion, but it has been a temptation in my more vulnerable years. I was never more vulnerable than when I was 17 years old. I was on the verge of the abyss of womanhood, barely understanding what that meant or where it might take me. In short, I was a typical teen. I was feeling and fearing the same as every other girl and so, found myself drawn to the mystical and the romantic.

My girlfriend and I would take buses to out-of-the-way stores where we browsed incense, herbs, tarot cards, and candles. We bought boxes covered in the images of the moon to hold all our trinkets and charms. We read books about goddesses and gemstones, the equinoxes, and planets falling into retrograde.

We never really wanted to cast spells or invoke the Gods, we just wanted some control. We wanted to banish all the things in life that were hurtful, stressful, confusing. We hope if we carried the right stones, quieted our minds, and asked the universe—at the right time and in just the right way—to find favor with us, everything would turn out ok.

We wanted to believe we weren’t such fragile things. We wanted to believe there was someone greater than us that we could call help. We wanted to believe there were great and beautiful goddesses, who understood our bodies, our struggles, looking down on us and smiling.

Approaching such possibility and power was scary, though. What we were searching for was tightly connected to our womanhood, our blood, and our ability to bring life. All of the parts of ourselves we feared. All the parts of us we knew men feared too. This country has a well-documented history of controlling women when it could and killing them when it couldn’t. Women seeking or exhibiting power outside of what could easily be explained, suppressed, or directed by men must be courting the devil and asking for death.

From Joan of Arc, to Margaret Jones, to Marie Laveau I wanted to be everything these women were accused of being. I wanted to be strong within myself, for myself, and I wanted to gain strength from other women who found power and peace with who they were too.

I wanted to have a place among nature and to feel the universe living through me.

That isn’t quite what I found.

I lost my love for witchcraft when I realized no amount of casting this or that spell during any time of the month or year, could stop the world from hating me for being a woman. It couldn’t even stop me from hating myself for the same reason.

I grew up and entered a workplace where I heard women put down and saw them isolated and shamed for being sluts or bitches. I saw women working against each other, accusing another of what she must know was in her too. I saw women working harder than the men and the men making just as much. I saw what I had always seen everywhere I looked and went, women living without any control over how they were seen, treated, or perceived. I saw women who had no control over what happened to their bodies or what went on in their minds. I saw women who were less than human in the eye of men and the eyes of one another. There was no great and powerful goddess looking down on all of us and finding favor.

I grew up, entered the real world, and learned that witches weren’t real. No women were loving themselves and connecting with the forces around them. I never saw a woman make a change in her life, or embrace any version of magic in herself.

I learned there was no place in this world where women are appreciated for being women and not condemned for not being men. I learned there was no place where women seek out the power and understanding of the company of other women. I learned we were all happy to go along, reenacting a subtle version of ever witch trial forever and ever.

I forgot about the moon, the equinoxes, the herbs, and charms and set about learning to navigate in a world that believed I was evil, or dirty, and told me so every day. I buried my need for connection to nature and forgot all about the practice that offered me a feeling of safety and possibility.

But I never gave up on the idea that there was something bigger in me, something beautiful and strong. I changed my world through hard work, observation, and persistence. I decided I would not be condemned for my stubbornness, my strangeness, or my sexuality. I decided that if I were accused, I would own it, and if they tried to drown me, I’d swim like hell and let them think what they wanted

I looked back and realized I had could fulfill the needs I had then, of a community, and strength, and acceptance through other means. It took faith, yes, and acceptance and humility in the face of what I could never understand and of what I could never defeat.

I learned a new kind of magic.

I became a modern witch.

I think all women have it in them to do and become the same. I think most have without realizing what they are.

There are new rituals, centered around self-care, creativity, and getting shit done. There are new spells we cast; we call them affirmations, and we say them to ourselves every morning when we rise and repeat them at night before we drift to sleep. We write manifestos and to-do list and have no doubt what we say will come to be. We spill our hearts in journals, poetry, and blog posts, and bare our souls to the universe and one another.

We demand space and the right to express our power without the control or guidance of men or masculinity. We find reasons for seeing ourselves as beautiful, not just for our bodies, but for our minds and spirits too. We use our strengths to work miracles and turn the world into a place where we are valued, represented, and listened to. A place we no longer have to feel afraid, confused, or hurt.

The modern girl takes note of who she is and makes no apologies for putting the internal first. She rejects consumerism for consumerism sake and only buys what helps her express herself and makes her feel powerful. She knows that ritual has its place in this world. She embraces routine and meditation because she knows they work. She remembers the stories of the women who came before her, she learns from them and honors them too.

She looks to the future, marks the changing season around her and inside herself too and makes the most of both. She is mindful and grateful for the world around her and is awed by the trees, the wind, the clouds and the life she takes the time to notice around her.

She holds bits of earth and rock and metal and knows that while may not bring about any good or bad energy they serve to connect her to what has deep under her feet, the Earth, mother to us all, who has existed long before any of us and will long after we are gone.

She remembers where she comes from, where she is going, and what can be accomplished with time and the power that exists in this world, and somewhere deep inside of her.

“Not all girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Some are made of witchcraft and wolf and a little bit of vice.”

— Nikita Gill

***

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The Red Tide Cometh!

Maybe periods wouldn’t be so frightening if we didn’t refer to them as “red tide” or “shark week” or any other euphemism that evokes neurotoxicity or dismemberment.

—  Lindy West, on a world where girls can talk about menstruation in shouts instead of whispers

I’m one of those girls who calls my period things like the “red tide” and “shark week,” and, my newest addition, “the red wedding.” I use words like massacre and death and killing when I talk about it. I also do things like quote the movie Carrie and look at everyone like I might be covered in pig’s blood and about to set my entire workplace on fire with everyone inside.

I don’t do this because I want to frighten people, not really. I do it because referring to it as such sounds pretty cool.

I do it because I want to illustrate the point that having a period feels a lot like fighting a battle. When I am on my period it feels a lot like I’m trapped in a horror movie, or maybe a psychological thriller. I want people to see that for one week every month I am acting with bravery and courage.

I want people to think periods are pretty badass.

Even if your reaction is more horrified than “I’m basically Xena,” you still stare at your hands, and think about how freaky it is that you have blood all over your hands and yet everything is totally fine in your life.

— The 11 Grossest Things Every Woman Does During Her Period

I guess it’s a pride thing. I am constantly being tested, and I have proof that I am strong and can handle pain, irritability, and discomfort like it’s nothing. I can fight through fatigue and anger and sadness to get everyday activities done. I can do it all without people around even noticing anything is wrong.

Waking up month after month to seeing your underwear filled with blood never stops being a little bit scary. Swimming upstream through migraines, fatigue, cramps, and an uncontrollable feeling of rage, despair, and loneliness for a whole week every month never gets easier. To watch yourself behave in ways you can’t understand or control is always frustrating and a little surreal.

Not to be mean but the guys I know shut down when they get the damn sniffles. They have to go home every time they get a headache. They look for sympathy, comfort, and care every time they feel a little “under the weather” but if I mention my period it all “Ew!” “Gross!” “I don’t want to hear that!”

But we are the sensitive and weak sex? Ha!

So yeah, I’m gonna go on and on about how it’s “shark week” and about all the “blood in the water”. Yeah, I’m going to talk about massacres in my pants and having a “uterus made of death”. I’m going to talk about “Carrie at the prom” and warn people the “red tide is coming in.”

I’m going to do it simply because it sounds badass.

I’m going to do it because fighting through my period makes me feel pretty badass.

I’m going to do it because I think all women are badass and I like to talk about us like we are something to fear.

I’m going to talk about us like we are made of pain, and war, and blood, because we fucking are and our periods prove it.

***

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Written for the monthly blogging event #WeBleed, where women can share their experiences surrounding menstruation.

Featured image via Wikipedia

Feminism is Not Fun

Feminism is not fun. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s complex and hard and it pisses people off

—  Andi Zeisler, founder of Bitch Magazine, on what Beyoncé’s feminism means to the movement as a whole. (via The Guardian)

No one likes a feminist, except maybe other feminists. Everyone thinks we enjoy the exhaustion and alienation that comes with trying every day to be brave enough to examine not only society but ourselves as well. They think we love to ruin everyone’s fun. They think we live to make the world feel bad.

Being a feminist is hard, and trust me, we know it would be easier, and more fun if we weren’t.

It would be more fun to laugh along and not have to see the look on their faces when my coworkers realize I am “one of those girls who can’t take a joke.”

It would be easier to accept everything I have been taught about the way women ought to look and behave. It’d be easier to snub the “sluts” and to speak only when spoken to.

It would be easier not to be constantly questioning my actions and beliefs, and later kicking myself later for reinforcing a stereotype or perpetuating harmful ideas.

It would be easier to agree that all feminists are simply victims of abuse who hate men and have chosen to become lesbians. It would definitely be easier if I weren’t a lesbian myself.

It’d be more fun to enjoy the attention from the men who are too pushy, the ones who are only being nice. The ones who think it a compliment to want my girlfriend and me as if we were a prize.

I would be easier if I had never hoped for equality, or to be taken seriously, or to be seen a whole person rather than just a “thing” to be taken in and fantasized about later.

It would be more fun to be able to go out with my friends and not have to watch the people around me, or watch my drink, or watch my friends, or make sure they are watching me.

It would be easier not to have to worry about what I might do if a man were to catch me alone and how I might handle the justice system doing nothing about it after the fact.

It would be a lot more fun and a lot easier if I weren’t a feminist, maybe? Or maybe it would only be trading one set of problems for another. Maybe I would only pretend to be happier, or maybe I would lie to myself until I believed it so I wouldn’t have to face the truth that in this world, life for every woman is hard, whether she’s a feminist or not.

But fun or not fun, feminism is necessary. We need it so that, maybe, one day, women everywhere will have it a little easier, and maybe then we can all start having a little more fun.

***

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Featured image via Ben Seidelman

If Only We Could Trade Places

As a woman who has a period, I find it hard not to talk about menstruation regularly. I mean, for seven days every month my body feels foreign to me, and my emotions seem to defy the laws of cause and effect. How could I not talk about it?

I work with mostly men, and they have gotten used to my mentions of heavy flows, cramps, hormones, and PMS. They even help me keep the office ibuprofen supply stocked. They let me rest when I need it, and they try not to make insensitive jokes. It’s taken years of me educating them to get to this point. I am grateful that they try so hard to be understanding, but I can’t help wishing that for one day they might trade places with me. I want them to experience what it is like to be me, seven days out of every month.

In the midst of cramping and feeling like I might shit myself at any moment, when I have felt sorry for myself and bitter, I have wished all men on this Earth could know my pain. I have complained to Gods I don’t believe in of the unfairness of it all. Why do men have it so easy?

But that is not how I feel right now when I say I wish my friend could trade places with me. I don’t say this because I am bitter and want them to feel my pain. I say it because there is this big part of my life that I feel like I can never truly share with them, a part I wish I could because they are my friends.

I can tell them how uncomfortable it is. I can tell them how society makes me feel and how I am trying to feel a different way instead. I can tell them that it’s awful, and I hate it, and I wish I never had it. I can tell them that I am bitter and want them to feel my pain too. I can tell them all of that, but they will never really understand it.

They will never know what it is like to feel like your body is acting in some mysterious and often painful way that you cannot fully grasp or gain control of.

They will never understand how hard it is for me to love my body when I feel like it is betraying me. They will never understand what it is like to learn to live with, accept, and then love a body that often doesn’t feel like it belongs to me at all. I want them to know that for just one day so that they might know me a little better.

I see their faces when I tell them it is “shark week.” They look like they feel sorry for me, and they also look annoyed. They are my friends, so they say all the right things, but I also know they are tired of hearing about it. In those moments I am annoyed by them too. They don’t know what it is like, and they dismiss my experience. They don’t understand that they are not jus being dismissive of my words, they are dismissing a part of me.

When I am among women, when we talk about our periods, I feel an immediate connection with them. Here are people who understand how I feel during a significant portion of my life. I wish I had that with the men close to me too. On an even bigger scale, I think about how all men and all women will always have this line drawn between them. How the way the men I know look at me, even when they try to be understanding and accommodating, is the way all men look at all women all over the world.

I wish for one day men could feel the pain of womanhood, the shame, and the fear too so that we could come closer together. I want men to be able to move from sympathy to empathy so that women would not have to try so hard to be silent and strong.

If men could feel what we feel, they might love, protect, and help us in all the ways we so desperately need.

I know it can never happen, but I will always wish.

***

If you like this post, consider signing up for my newsletter. You’ll get a bit of experimental writing from me—something more emotional, more private—and some interesting reads from a few other people. All made with lots of love, every week ♥

Thank you to Rose B. Fischer for hosting the monthly blogging event, #WeBleed, where we can share our experiences surrounding menstruation.  

Original image via Mark Sebastian

Hold These Girls in Your Hearts

This morning, the second anniversary of the kidnapping of the 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram, I read reports of girls they’ve taken being abducted, enslaved abused, drugged, and used as suicide bombers. I cried thinking that while I was going through a typical day, there were women in physical and emotional pain fighting for their lives and sanity.

I can’t imagine the hell these girls are going through, but even the few stories I heard brought me to tears. These girls need our help, and if it takes a village to raise a child it will take the whole world to save the most vulnerable ones.

Boko Haram is the terrorist group responsible for these atrocities. They operate in northeastern Nigeria and seek the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria and follow a strict teaching of the religion. They believe western education and influence is a sin. In fact, Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”. Since 2009, the group has killed 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million from their homes. Boko Haram is ranked as the world’s deadliest terror group by the Global Terrorism Index.

They became known around the world after the Chibok kidnapping and the campaign to raise awareness and #BringBackOurGirls. Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, pledged to bring them home. Of those girls, several managed to escape, but 219 are still missing. The last time the girls were seen publicly was in a May 2014 video released by Boko Haram, another video surfaced today and shows some of the girls still alive.

But these are not the only girls Boko Haram has kidnapped. Hundreds, maybe thousands, more have been held in slavery by the group and others have escaped or been rescued.

“When you are with them, there is a constant fear that they can kill you. Or maybe the bombs or stray bullets from the [government] soldiers can also kill you. It was just terrible.”

// Yagana

From the escaped girls, we have learned there is extensive sexual abuse, forced religious conversions and marriages, and many are forced to commit acts of violence. Even after escape they still have to face a community that ostracizes them or urges them to keep quiet about what they have endured. Many of the women who come back are pregnant and face substandard mental and physical health support.

These women need help. They have faced so much pain and death, my heart hurts just thinking about it. Here in America, it can be easy to forget that there is a big world out there beyond our borders. It can be easy to forget that there is great suffering and tragedy happening every day that many here could never imagine. I want to do my best to remember those girls and to share their stories when I see them.

I don’t know what else I can do right now, except hold them in my heart and thoughts.

Maybe we can all start there.

I will just pray for them that one day there is hope, that one day God will set them free from the hands of Boko Haram.

// Blessing

Defunding Planned Parenthood Isn’t Pro-Life

I woke up to breaking news this morning that Senate Republicans have voted to defund Planned Parenthood. More accurately, they voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and included in that bill was a a provision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood too. Worse they rejected two amendments to this bill that would have increased, or at least left alone the funding. They have wanted to get rid of Planned Parenthood for a long time and with this vote they knew what they were doing.

Except what they are doing is completely idiotic. For one, Planned Parenthood provides much more than just abortions, and two, defunding Planned Parenthood does nothing to stop abortions. Duh!

Attacking an organization that provides critical care for millions of Americans, and in fact provides high quality care. I for one strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work that it is doing. In my view instead of trying to defund Planned Parenthood, we should be expanding funding so that every woman in this country gets the healthcare that she needs. Mr. President it is also my sincere hope that people throughout this country including my colleagues here in the Senate and across the Capitol and the House understand that bitter vitriolic rhetoric can have serious unintended consequences. Now is not the time to continue a witch hunt for an organization that provides critical healthcare services.

– Bernie Sanders

Here’s a little story about me. When I was very young, I had a scare, a condom broke. I freaked out thinking that this is when my life was going to be ruined. I was going to get pregnant, I would have to quit school, and become a mom before I could even get a job that doing more than stocking shelves or flipping burgers. Lucky for me there was a Planned Parenthood right by my school.

I went there feeling ashamed and afraid. I remember the woman at the counter asking me what was wrong but I couldn’t speak. I remember her motioning for me to come to an exam room so I could have privacy and tell her what happened. I don’t remember much of the conversation but I remember I felt like she cared. I remember that I was given Plan-B and sent home with free birth control and condoms, and a better understanding of how to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. I remember that when I left I didn’t feel scared or ashamed.

I left knowing that if I needed anything else there was a place  could go.

Many people are saying that defunding Planned Parenthood is okay because there are plenty of other clinics that women can be treated at but this reeks of bullshit. Not only is the information they are providing on what alternative clinics there are misleading (Most of these clinics don’t even have an OB-GYN on staff!) they fail to mention that a lot of community clinics do not even accept medicaid. Nearly half of Planned Parenthood’s patients are on Medicaid, where will they go?

What I really don’t understand though it why should women have to go anywhere else. You already have an organization committed to providing quality care without judgement so why move away from that?

Now to the meat of the problem with Planned Parenthood, abortions. I won’t get into the merits of either side of the pro-choice/pro-life debate but I will say I am pro-choice. The reasons this doesn’t matter to the debate about Planned Parenthood’s federal funding are:

  1. Abortions are legal in this country and defunding planned parenthood does not change that.
  2. Any federal funding Planned Parenthood receives is not actually used to provide abortions because the law already says they can’t do that!
  3. And abortions are not the primary service Planned Parenthood provides, not even close.
planned-parenthood-services
Planned Parenthood’s Financial Year 2013-2014 annual report via Washington Post’s “How Planned Parenthood actually uses it’s federal funding

 

So logically, when you take away federal funding that is not being used for abortions what you are really doing is taking away funding for services like cancer screening and prevention and birth control. And when you say that women can just go somewhere else even though these clinics already provide excellent services and are set up accept medicaid you sound like this is a personal grudge, or a religious one, rather than for the benefit of women’s health care.

Not caring about women’s health is not pro-life.

I firmly believe that because of what Planned Parenthood did for me that day a later abortion was actually prevented. I may not have become pregnant that time with out without them but the education (and birth control) I got prevented me from getting pregnant after that. I don’t know if any other clinic would have provided that kind of care, and for free!

The president has threatened to veto this bill if/when it hits his desk and I sincerely hope he does. I see acts like this from the GOP as an attack on women’s healthcare choices. Planned Parenthood has helped countless women across the country, including me, and I will always stand with them.

Feminist Friday // A Land of No Men

One of the biggest critiques of feminism is the notion that feminists want to live in a land where women rule over men. Of course no feminist wants this but I recently saw a video that made me wonder if this hypothetical land of women would not, in some places and under some circumstances, be necessary.

What if women were so oppressed and afraid that they were forced to create women only spaces in order to lift each other up and gain independence from the men who oppress them. How would we feel about such a place?

Where the foothills of Mount Kenya merge into the desert, the people of Samburu have maintained a strict patriarchy for over 500 years in northern Kenya. That is, until 25 years ago, when Rebecca Lolosoli founded Umoja village as a safe haven for the region’s women. Umoja, which means “unity” in Swahili, is quite literally a no man’s land, and the matriarchal refuge is now home to the Samburu women who no longer want to suffer abuses, like genital mutilation and forced marriages, at the hands of men.

Throughout the years, it has also empowered other women in the districts surrounding Samburu to start their own men-excluding villages. Broadly visited Umoja and the villages it inspired to meet with the women who were fed up with living in a violent patriarchy.

The video profiles women in Kenya who have run away from forced marriages and brutal traditions in order to join a community where these acts are not tolerated. I think it’s a pretty brave and badass thing to do in a country that harbors some hostility toward the types of women who refuse to stay in their place.

It is sad that these women were forced into a situation like this but to be honest they seem to be making it just fine on their own. They have built homes and even started a business selling the beaded jewelry they make to tourists who pass through. In some of these villages men are allowed to live among these women but are given no power to make laws or decisions. These men seem to have had their minds enlightened by the whole thing. I am sure the video doesn’t tell us everything of their interactions but they seem to have found a way to get along. I think they have seen that it can work.

“You will never find women confronting danger. They need men”

The most interesting part was when they interviewed a man who lives in the area but outside of the village, where traditional gender roles are still firmly in place. Despite the fact that these villages had been going on for years and years this man still believes that a women only society will fail. He states that women cannot live without man. No women would face a danger head on.

Yet, it seems these women have faced the greatest danger. Haven’t they faced the possibility of death, or worse, by simply deciding to live in a way that makes them feel free and safe. Why can’t these men see that for women living in these places, finding the courage to run away is the bravest thing a human can do? These men have not seen, or not recognized, what a women is capable of doing. They either do not see these women as their intellectual equals, or they are threatened by the idea that they are not required for a society to run.

These men may not have ever known anything but a life where men are at the head of every household and every government decision. They may be scared of what this means for the future of their culture. I get that on some level. They don’t understand what life is like for these women though. They cannot understand why genital mutilation is so horrible and they cannot fathom the early marriage and rape of a young girl. They will never know the fear these women felt when they put their foot down and said no more!

The worst part is, a lot of what these women are put through is illegal, but when the government won’t help and the authorities won’t help, what else can you do? If the men in your family won’t help and you have no where else to go, what can you do? The fact is, if these women could have found the help and support they needed they wouldn’t have to set up villages that exclude men or regulate them to a place where they cannot do any harm.

Here in America women do not face the same level of atrocities and oppression as other women around the world, but we do have a culture of victim blaming and treating the must vulnerable women among us with contempt. Even now I read posts from women on Twitter and Tumblr who wish for women only places such as this. They want to be free of the abuse and fear.

Whenever it is mentioned men inevitably attack these women, claiming that this is evidence of their theory that feminists want to push men out or rule over them. I say to them, feminists don’t want that, but if this world doesn’t fix it’s shit this may be where we are headed. It will be in reaction to the current reality that women are not seen as equals and their fears and pains are not taken seriously. There may be more women like those is Kenya who get fed up and choose to isolate themselves from the threat.

It’s sad, but it’s brave, and I support it whenever necessary.

Featured image via Museum of New Mexico Media Center

Skinny Shame

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If you’ve been on the internet at all these past few days you have probably heard about Victoria’s Secret recent campaign and the backlash that followed. If not basically they took a photo featuring a bunch of models and across them the phrase “The Perfect ‘Body'”. Many claim the the campaign promotes unrealistic ideals and 10 women got together to recreate the photo with “real women”.

Now I actually agree with the claims and what those women have to say. Advertisements should feature women of all shapes and sizes and featuring only skinny women does create unrealistic ideals. My gripe with this and other responses like it is the idea that skinny women are not real women too. Look at the recreation, I believe there should be a skinny girl in there too because there are many skinny “real women” too. In fact I am one of them!

Now I have seen a lot of people respond by saying that skinny people are already represented in advertising and media and so do not need to be represented in the responses but I disagree with that stance.

First of all, yes, skinny women are over represented but that doesn’t mean all skinny women have the perfect body that these professional models have. Nor does it mean that all skinny girls are shaped the same like the models in the picture. I’d like to see skinny women like be whose breasts are small and have no hips yet still managed to get stretch marks. Skinny girls who have a belly pouch and chicken legs. Not all skinny girls are a model of perfect beauty and health and we need to see women in magazines who look like us too.

And second, a lot of us support these campaigns that feature everyday women and want to be included because we are just as fed up with this crap as curvy girls are. I don’t think this should be a “real women” vs “skinny women” thing. I think this should be about what is realistic and for the most part that is being accomplished except for perpetuating the idea that all skinny girls are perfect models and not what a real women is.

My whole adult life I’ve had other women treat me badly because I was skinny. I’m not trying to be whiny here. I totally get why and I do understand my privilege but what they never understood was that I not only wasn’t actively trying to be skinny, it’s just my genetics, but that I also didn’t identify with what I was seeing on TV either. I tried to talk to them about my insecurities I had and about how much I agreed with their views but I was always shut down and often the conversation ended with me being called a “skinny bitch”.

As a black woman I never thought those women represented me anyway. But the women that I looked up to, women like Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Rhianna, were all curvy and voluptuous. I wanted to be curvy so bad because in the community I grew up in having tits and ass was everything! It got to a point a few years ago where I was trying so hard to gain weight I was actually eating 6 meals a day! I ate a whole lot of peanut butter and banana sandwiches and I added butter to everything I ate. I gained some weight but I didn’t have the time nor the appetite to keep it up. I am very proud of the weight I did gain though.

After that I worked on just loving the body I had but these campaigns of women showing what “real women” look like kind of hurt. Some girls are curvy and some aren’t but we are all real women and we should be represented TOGETHER. Instead skinny women are being excluded and I don’t get why. I would love to see more of these done with one REAL skinny girl included too. We have to remember that we are all REAL WOMEN!

Anyway, that’s my two cents….

A Red Tent of My Own

Periods suck. I sometimes hate the fact that I was born a woman because periods suck so much. I can’t even find the words to express how irritating it is to have to deal with this crap 5-7 days out of every month. That’s 5-7 days of being in pain, being uncomfortable, feeling tired, and constantly having to check and change pads, tampons, or Softcups.

“Gradually my whole concept of time changed until I thought of a month as having twenty-five days of humanness and five others when I might just as well have been an animal in a steel trap.”

― Florence King

I remember when I got my first period. I was 13 or 14 and it lasted two miserable weeks. I didn’t tell my mom at first. She found out because there was blood in the toilet. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her. I guess I just felt like it was something I couldn’t just bring up anytime and there didn’t seem to be a good time to tell her. It felt like something secret and shameful, it needed to be talked about in whispers and when no one else was around.

I remember I felt so tired and I had cramps. I had already been struggling to be my normal self before she found out. To me this just didn’t seem like the time for me to be trying to pay attention in class, interact with teachers and other students, and still try to come home and do homework. I seemed to me that, logically, and woman should be able to rest more during this time. I asked my mom if I could stay home from school and she replied that I could, for that day only. She said this was just part of my life now and periods were no excuse for not doing the things I needed to get done. She said when I grew up my bosses weren’t going to let me stay home from work because of my period and I needed to learn that lesson now and figure out how to live normally even when I was on my period. She said every woman had to just deal with it.

I remember thinking that this felt terribly unfair. I, like every girl during her teenage years, was quickly learning that it was a mans world and often times women had to work twice as hard and put up with twice as much crap just to get by. I felt like it was easy to expect women to just suck it up and be quiet about periods when you don’t have one. During the time of menstruation a woman feels much more fatigued, we should get to rest if we need it! I feel like I have been bitter about being a women ever since that day. That was when I first started to hate my body.

“Nothing in our society-with the exception of violence and fear-has been more effective in keeping women in their place than the degradation of the menstrual cycle.“

― Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup

After that I never talked about my period. My mom kept the pads and tampons stocked in the bathroom and unless something is wrong we never brought it up. At school some boys took my backpack one day and rifled through it. They found my pads and took them and tossed them around. They started calling me “Wings” and I felt so ashamed. It wasn’t my fault I had a period and here they were making it a joke, they were making it something gross. This was something private and now everyone knew about it. I felt so embarrassed. For a long time I was scared to be around anyone during my period. I felt like they all must know and I would feel gross and embarrassed all over again. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it either which just enforced the fact that or must be something gross, something to be embarrassed about.

From some reason though I had this drive to keep talking about it, to bring it into the light. Mainly I talked about the unfairness of it all. I am lucky that over time I found a group of female friends who are open about such things, and over time my mother came around too. Her and me and my sisters can talk about our bodies and periods freely now. Sometimes we joke about it, sometimes we share stories, and sometimes we vent about how taboo it is to talk about such things. The general consensus so far though has been, periods suck and men suck for not being more understanding. We have internallized this sucky feeling and now we just feel miserable and bitter about the whole thing.

“..by honouring the demands of our bleeding, our blood gives us something in return. The crazed bitch from irritation hell recedes. In her place arises a side of ourselves with whom we may not-at first- be comfortable. She is a vulnerable, highly perceptive genius who can ponder a given issue and take her world by storm. When we’re quiet and bleeding, we stumble upon solutions to dilemmas that’ve been bugging us all month. Inspiration hits and moments of epiphany rumba ‘cross de tundra of our senses. In this mode of existence one does not feel antipathy towards a bodily ritual that so profoundly and reinforces our cuntpower. ”

― Inga Muscio, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

But I am tired of being miserable and bitter every month. I have a period and there isn’t much I can do about it. Before you say it, I have thought about trying certain types of birth control to stop my period but I am, or rather now am, the type of girl who likes to keep things natural and simple. The way my girlfriend put it is “it just feels ‘unpure'” to stop your period. I don’t judge anyone else who is on birth control. I think birth control is a wonderful thing. Being a lesbian though I am about 99.9% sure there’s no chance of an unwanted pregnancy, and while my periods are pretty painful and they are also irregular, I still mostly see it as just an irritation. I could live with it so there isn’t much of a “medical need” for me to be on birth control.

So I’ve decided instead to start thinking about my period a little differently. I need to be more zen about this. I think my first problem is my expectations. I expect that I won’t have to deal with this but that is wildly unrealistic. I am biologically female and that means every month my uterus sheds it’s lining. It is just something I have to accept. The second issue is I see it as a bad thing and maybe I shouldn’t. I look at menstruation as inconvenient, uncomfortable, and kind of gross, but instead I should see it as something beautiful. My body is doing something wonderful and mysterious and it is a time for deeper reflection and a chance for meditation. It is a chance for my to know myself better.

They say women are more intuitive and creative during their periods and I wonder if it is a good time for me to begin drawing again. I might have more to express during that time of the month. I might try to find a reason to look forward to that time too. I want to take time to pamper myself more and be a little selfish. There is no reason I should be miserable and deal with it the way my mother said I would have to. I see it as a time for fancy teas and bubble baths, comfy clothes and relaxing. I still have to work yes but I will take a break from the extra stress and expectations of the world and focus on me. At the end of my period I want to feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the world for the next 3 weeks.

I ancient cultures, Native American, African, and Chinese for example, women often gathered in a lodge during times of menstruation and child birth. The Red Tent is rooted in ancient Christian history. In biblical times women gathered in the Red Tent in order not to contaminate men with their biological processes. In the Red tent women were permitted to rest and they cared for on another. In these times it is hard to be able to get away for a week out of every month but me caring for myself during these times is like creating a Red Tent of my own. I will live in the spirt of the Red Tent and rest and reflect as much as I can.

“The great mother whom we call Innana gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this is the secret of blood. The flow at the dark of the moon, the healing blood of the moon’s birth – to men, this is flux and distemper, bother and pain. They imagine we suffer and consider themselves lucky. We do not disabuse them.

In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.”

― Anita Diamant, The Red Tent