Raising Boys

Every time I imagined having a family when I was young, each time we got pregnant, I always thought I’d have daughters. I thought since I was one of two girls and my sister had two girls and I was such a damn feminist I was destined to raise girls. That sounds stupid, but if I am totally honest, that was my logic.

So obviously I have two boys (or children who are biologically male but may later identify otherwise). I am jealous of my friends with daughters who will get to pass on stories, advice, experiences that are specific to women. There is no relationship that is more powerful than that of female friendship, which can often apply to mothers and daughters.

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Sisters. I’m the one who can’t sit up by herself. 

Will I have a special bond with my boys that is totally different and equally wonderful? Yes, of course, but the story of uplifting women is the one that is most familiar to me.

This week at work we had a guest speaker talk for International Women’s Day. She was a bad-ass former CFO of a major pharmaceutical company and while she said many humorous/poignant/thought-provoking things, the one still with me is “Raise your sons differently.”

Exactly.

I am mindful of many things as we raise our children. I want them to be more resilient than we have been, with inner resources that they can rely on when they feel down, when a challenge seems too much to bear. I want them to be kind and have empathy for themselves and their fellow human, even when that person’s experiences are very different than their own. I want them to appreciate nature and music and the internal freedom those things can bring.

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Early on, I was more worried about addressing “this is for girls and this is for boys” topics. I don’t want my boys to feel limited from interests, hobbies, careers that society identifies as feminine. You want to sew? Learn it. You want to be a nurse? That’s a noble and important job, work hard for it. You want to be a stay at home dad. More power to you. Now I’ve realized it’s the modeling that we do as parents that is so much more impactful. It’s not just the targeted conversations we have, but our behaviors. 

Together I am hopeful that Tyler and I can model a partnership where my boys will see two people who treat each other as equals, both with valid opinions. Where we compromise and attempt balance. Where we are human and learn from our discussions, from our mistakes.

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So, here’s to raising boys that are feminists. Boys that believe their mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, friends, random female strangers are capable of anything and have never thought otherwise. Boys who give as much as they take. Boys who approach each situation with the idea of shared responsibility and accountability.

Happy International Women’s Day!

 

Hear Our Voice: Standing Together

Yesterday thousands of women across the world gathered together and stood as one. Some marched for reproductive rights, some marched for equal pay, some for justice, environmental protections, education, LGBT rights, some in solidarity, some to just be heard. These are just a few. Many (most?) also marched against the new administration.

I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about the march. This may be as surprising to you as it was to me. I didn’t vote for Trump. You probably already guessed this. The number of concerns I have about him cannot be listed. I don’t need to because you already know them all. Even if you don’t agree, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard what concerns others have. But I am a person that is driven by hope. The anger and fear and negativity that is the obvious response to the election does not fire me up. I do not feel emboldened as so many of my friends do. I feel crushed under the weight of it.

Once I would have felt differently. I would written endless letters to newspapers and congressmen. I would have confronted strangers and annoyed friends. The same person who was once an outraged college freshman, flabbergasted that Bush had won a second term, is now much quieter. Is this the result being tired from pregnancy and a newborn? Is it related to having a partner who is more conservative than me? Or is it the unavoidable stream of negativity that is my Facebook feed, my NPR station, my morning news?

I haven’t been able to find hope in places in the external sources I’m used to. Instead I’ve had to pull away in order to see the good. This didn’t start with Trump’s presidential campaign, but long before. I can’t discuss a lot of national issues I should be familiar with for this reason.

When I first heard about the march, I was hesitant about unifying against the Trump administration. I don’t want to spend my time being against anything and anyone. Even if that’s how I feel, I want to work towards good. I want to build bridges. My extra energy, the energy I have after nursing and caring for a newborn, after my marriage, after myself, after work, after caring for the relationships that are important to me- that’s the energy I wants to spend working towards something.

 

The Women’s March gave me that. In a time where our country feels isolated, women across the globe in 55 different countries, stood up for us from New Zealand to Kenya to South Korea. Even Antartica rallied. In a time where our country is angry at Washington D.C., women flocked there with over 500,000 people in attendance. In a time where our country is not just divided but fractured/shattered/broken, marches were held in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

We need community. We need to remember why we love our friends and neighbors. That we loved them between election years and why. We need to work together to build up those that need it- those that haven’t been served well enough in the past, those that we fear will be mistreated or forgotten in the next four years, those that need us and we need them.

OUR MISSION

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

HEAR OUR VOICE.  -womensmarch.com

Yesterday I rallied with men, women and children in Wilmington, NC. I felt proud, inspired and encouraged to be with them and to hear their voices. It was the reminder I needed that change is attainable and we can all make a difference.

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What You Don’t Deserve

I have a very distinct memory of a conversation I once had with my brother-in-law. He was making a purchase- what I can’t remember- and he justified what I considered lavishness by basically saying, “I work hard. I deserve it.” I remember thinking, since when does what we deserve have anything to do with what we get?

It often feels this way, that for good or bad people don’t get what they deserve. I think we can all relate to this. Watch the news one morning and there’s no question- with all the tragedies in the world and all the corruption, karma sure seems to take her time.

On the other hand, the feeling that you do not deserve something is dangerous. We recently bought a house and got a really good deal on it. Someone else’s misfortune allowed us to buy a house that we couldn’t otherwise afford . This idea that we lucked into our house leaves me tiptoeing around it. We have to take very good care of it, because we don’t really deserve it.

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Then last night, chatting with an old friend, we were discussing how women apologize constantly. Even though we’re well-read, clued in feminists, we find ourselves apologizing frequently when it’s completely unnecessary. I often apologize for my emotions, for asking questions at work (Sorry to bother you, but…), for wanting more, for having a nice house.

It is this concept of not-deserving that keeps resurfacing. I’m not sure if I deserve to be emotional. I’m not sure if I deserve to interrupt your day. I’m not sure if I deserve to want more from my life.

While in my daily life I struggle with the fear that I will become or seem entitled, that I will seem forceful and less open and even projecting these same fears onto other women, I also have to recognize that standing up for what you feel you deserve (even if you’re wrong), believing in yourself more than you believe in others, and eliminating apologizing is the only way I can find personal and professional success. It is also the only way that women will get ahead in their work, in their homes and anywhere life takes them. (I struggled just to write that sentence without a disclaimer of “I think…” or “In my opinion”. It’s a long road for me.)

You often hear the saying,

It is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission,

but that’s hard to do for a person who feels they don’t deserve either. It may sound extreme but consider whether or not this is something you do in your life in small or big ways. Put others before yourself. Trust others opinions before your own. Hesitate to ask for what you want because it might inconvenience someone else.

Every day is a journey, y’all. And we have to stop spending it thinking about what we don’t deserve.

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Rosie the Riveter: A History Lesson

The most disturbing that happened this week is that two people that I truly respect had no idea who Rosie the Riveter is. One, my boyfriend, couldn’t identify her by sight or by name. The other, my best friend, didn’t recognize te name. I had to explain her whole existence to her. Terrible. I had the sinking feeling that my friend would not be willing to describe herself as a feminist. As Rebecca West once said, “I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” Is feminism really still a dirty word? I know many perceive it as such, but it doesn’t make me any less sad.

The reason these conversations started is I was considering being Rosie the Riveter for Halloween. Now I have two conflicting emotions:

  1. I shouldn’t be Rosie because no one knows who she is.
  2. I should be Rosie because no one knows who she is.

If you have any questions about who Rosie the Riveter is, wikipedia it. Educate yourself for Christ’s sake.

Just kidding, I’ll sum it up. She’s a cultural icon who represents the female workers during World War II, many of whom were factory workers. Check out these lines from a song about Rosie:

All the day long,
Whether rain or shine
She’s part of the assembly line.
She’s making history,
Working for victory
Rosie the Riveter

So she’s a pretty impressive lady. She’s a hard worker, doing her part for the war effort and for women. She’s tough, proud and is part of something larger than herself. The original Rosie the Riveter was conceived by Norman Rockwell.

Rosie the Riveter first appeared in 1943

Later a war propaganda poster was mistaken for Rosie the Riveter and has since been mass adopted as such.

We Can Do It! poster now known as Rosie the Riveter

Both these images show strong women. These women aren’t dainty. They’re borderline beefy! But at the same time, each retains a feminine air. These images are, in my mind, characters in the American story- the way Uncle Sam is. Uncle Sam is a cartoon that represents the American government. These women are cartoon images that represent the strength of American women.

It disturbs me that modern day citizens may have forgotten these once popular icons. They are still necessary as we build the strength and confidence of women of today’s society. As the Aussies say “Lest We Forget”.