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Women’s Issues

International Women's Day, healthy, how to keep your kids healthy, happy children, healthy habits, Anthem, ballet, ballerinas

Let’s build something beautiful together. Let’s change the world and fill it full of good humans. Let’s raise young girls to become strong women who demand respect and equality. I want International Women’s Day to be every day from now until infinity.

I am the mother of girls. All day long, for the past 14 years, I #Girlmom. When I found out that I was having daughters, I was thrilled immediately tinged by sadness for the struggles they would face as females. The truth is that being born a woman is both a privilege and a curse. More privilege than curse but still it has its downsides like inequal work pay, permanent second class citizen status, being seen as the “weaker sex”, rape culture, the government has one hand in your uterus at all times, being ignored and invisible, or catcalled and objectified and so much more.

Personally, I think there is nothing so magical and fierce as a strong woman. From the moment I knew I would be raising daughters, I had every intention of raising strong girls who would grow up to be unstoppable women. I felt like this was my time to make my grand contribution to the world, beyond my words, thoughts, deeds and actions, I wanted to leave a legacy of raising good, kind, strong females who are tolerant advocates for themselves and others who need their voice to raise up and call for justice.

Today is International Woman’s Day and I feel like I would be remiss to not to celebrate it, especially as the mother of girls.

Society tends to make women feel like second class citizens in so many ways, I want my girls to know they are first class in every sense of the word. How do we do this in a time when we are telling our girls they are equal but they are seeing that the world does not see them that way? We work twice as hard to build them up. We arm them with educations, strong female role models and the fundamental belief that they are better than good enough and equal to any man. We do this by showing them, not just telling them. We start by loving and believing in ourselves.

It is our jobs as mothers to show our little girls that maybe it’s hard to be a woman in our society but it is also the most beautiful thing in this whole world. We can do everything men can do plus we can bring life into the world. We create miracles. Our bodies are magic and that’s the way we need to appreciate them. We do not need to chastise ourselves because our bodies don’t fit some Barbie doll mold created by the expectations of men. We need to embrace it for all of its curves and beauty.

We need to show our little girls how important it is to have good relationships with other women. Life should not be about competing with other women. We need to teach our girls to lift one another up; to support and celebrate one another. We do not need to divide ourselves. We need to unify and stand strong arm in arm.

Our girls need to know that they don’t ever need to shut up. They are not too brazen for speaking up for what they believe in. They are not asking too much to be treated with the same respect and dignity that any man would demand. You are not less of a woman because you want more out of life than society dictates that you should have.

We need to encourage our girls to travel more. See the world. Teach them that nothing is impossible and everything is possible with hard work. Our girls can do and be anything. Let them know that we’ve got their backs as their mothers and as their sisters in womanhood.

Stop teaching our little girls to be princesses who need to be rescued by a prince. Teach them to rescue themselves. A prince is not your savior; he is your partner. He is the man you will share your life, love and friendship with. Teach our girls that a partner is nice but not necessary to live in this world and to never sacrifice herself to fit anyone else’s expectations.

I’m raising caring, kind, open-minded fighters. I’m teaching them to never back down or step aside. I want them to hold their heads up high and to be proud of who they are and how they live in the world. I don’t want them to lower their standards or settle in life. I want them to know that contrary to what society would have them believe being born with a vagina is not a handicap, it’s a superpower.

I’m drilling it into their brains that no one has power or domain over their bodies, their minds or their souls. It’s ok to say no loudly and bravely. Speak their truth and the world will listen. Feminism is not a bad word and it’s okay to tell the patriarchy to go f*ck themselves. They are not the boss of you.

This is how we celebrate International Women’s Day by fighting for equality every day and showing our girls that they are strong enough to weather the condescension of misogynist. We show them that being considered the weaker sex doesn’t make you less than, it makes you underestimated. Be strong ladies. They have no idea how powerful we are.

How are you celebrating International Women’s Day with your daughters?

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disrupt aging, AARP, invisible woman, speak up for yourself

Disclosure: This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

People say that as women grow older, they become invisible. Well, I think women have been fed this line of bull ish since they were little girls. I don’t believe that to be true. I believe the myth of the invisible woman is not only untrue, it is unacceptable. If anything, as I’ve gotten older, my voice has grown stronger and louder. I’ve shed the expectations of others like a heavy coat in August.

I used to worry about what other people thought. When I was a little girl, I was even shy. I measured my worth and success by other people’s standards and it was impossible. It was scary. You always fall short when you’re measuring yourself against someone else’s view of who you are supposed to be.

READ ALSO: How to Empower Your Little Girl to Speak Up for Yourself

When I was a little girl, my dad told me “If you have something worth saying, stand up and tell your truth. Never be afraid to speak up and stand up for what’s important to you!” I think he was hoping that mantra applied to everyone else, except him. But for me, it applied to everyone. And believe me, if I could stand up to my strict Mexican father, I can stand up to anyone. I’m not afraid of confrontation.

I noticed as I went off to college as a young woman, I threw myself into causes. I was a member of PETA, Green Peace and planned on joining the Peace Corps after graduation. I was involved in politics and feminist organizations. I was always about power to the people but back then, I kept my standing up to organized functions and college essays.

I wanted to make the world a better place, I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to sacrifice my place in it to do it. I was young and ambitious but I was naïve and wasn’t quite sure how my voice being heard in the world could reconcile with me finding a place and the life I wanted in that same world. I was like most people.

Then, I became a mother. I gave birth and in that moment, I went from caring what other people thought about how I stood up or raised my voice and singularly concerned myself with making the world a better place for my children. Nothing else was/is more important to me. There is no room for ego in motherhood.

Some may see that as a weakness but I drew strength from those little girls. When I thought I couldn’t stand back up and speak up for what was right, when it got hard and it was easier to just maintain the status quo, all I needed to do was look to these little girls with their big eyes fixed on my every move and the answer was simple. It was right there all the time, out of the mouth of my father…stand up. Tell your truth. Never be afraid to put it on the line for what’s important to you!

READ ALSO:  How to Raise Brave Women and Compassionate Humans

I became emboldened with a fierceness that I had never known before. I was compelled to speak up when others could not. That’s when I developed my Wonder woman stance. I was ready to make the entire world hear me if it meant a better world for my girls to grow up in. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.

My girls are now tweens and teens and as they grow more into young ladies and are less children, I see society slowly putting its foot on their necks and I will not allow it. I’ve found that the older they get, the more they understand and they want to stand with me against the injustices of the world. Their eyes are still fixed on me, watching my every move.

I’ve hit the place in my life where I demand to be heard. I am the furthest thing from invisible. I owe it to my daughters to not give a spit what anyone else thinks of me. I want my daughters to see me speaking up, standing up and fighting for what is right. I refuse to let them see me give up when things get tough. I will never let them see me go invisible to make other people comfortable and I hope I inspire them to use their voices and never become invisible.

I will no longer let society set the expectations of who I am supposed to be. And I will never let the world tell my girls who they can, what they can do or that they should be seen and not heard.

The older I get, the louder I plan to become. The world will see me because I will refuse to become unseen and unheard.

What is the one wisdom that you want to impart to your children?

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an apology to men, sexual harassment, me too, #Metoo, sexual assault

Dear Men,

In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey situations, and so many others I am realizing that these men are not the exception. That’s not to say all men are bad. In fact, some men are amazing partners, brothers, fathers and role models but something is really wrong and I never realized it until all the #METOO stories began to flood my feeds. Fundamentally, as a society, we are collectively dropping the ball.

Honestly, that part wasn’t even completely surprising to me. I’m a woman and have been living with my vagina for my entire life. I’ve always suspected that all women have been victimized to one degree or another but I never realized that part of the problem is that men don’t have a clue of how their behavior affects women.

The misconception is that if we have not been dragged into some dark alley and been violently raped by a stranger, we are lucky. We have not been victimized. But that’s not true. Many of us have been victimized and brutalized over and over again for decades.

We’ve just learned that there is an acceptable amount of assault. We’ve learned to live with it. Don’t get me wrong, we are terrified. It has left us scarred. It has left us trembling and cowering. It has robbed us of trust and safety.

We walk fast to our cars at night. We will never be afforded the luxury of a slow stroll under the stars alone to think; not without a cost of safety. We run past large groups of men. We cringe when a man pushes into us on public transportation. Cat calls give us anxiety. We avert our eyes when strange men expose themselves to us. At the end of every date, we pray that we escape without being forced against our will to perform some sexual act that men seem to feel is owed to them as payment for eating dinner with us. We don’t leave our drinks unattended. We travel in packs for protection. But you know none of this because you don’t feel any of this. I never realized it until now. I’m sorry that men have no clue how hard it is to function in the world as a woman.

The Big Guy, my husband, the man I have been with for almost half of my life is a good man. By all accounts, he is a great man, husband, father, and partner. Just ask my mom. You see, he lives his life based on the simple act of being a good person; treating others as he would like to be treated and it works. He is a kind, giving, loving man but he doesn’t understand the female condition. He’s tried but our experiences walking around in the world are so vastly different that it’s like a caterpillar and an elephant trying to understand what the other one’s life is like. It is impossible. How did I find this out? We had a conversation.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about what’s going on in the world at dinner a lot lately. I respect my husband’s opinion and he’s very intelligent so we can have reasonable debates about most things. But painfully, I’ve realized having an honest conversation with a middle-class white man about the female condition is like talking politics with a monkey. It’s not their fault, it’s just so out of their frame of reference. What a luxury it must be.

I’ve always known that men and women are different but fundamentally, we are all human beings. We are the same species and for whatever prejudices men have about the abilities of women or their place in society, they had to concede that we are all human beings, right? I was wrong.

They know we are human beings but they can’t relate to our experience because it is so fundamentally different from their own. I was talking to a group of men who normally agree with my beliefs and politics. These are educated, feminist men and still, I was surprised at how the conversation went.

We were talking about Weinstein, who we all agree is a monster. Then, we moved on to Spacey who I feel is a definite predator; a pedophile. The group I was speaking with did more listening and less speaking. I could feel myself losing them. Then, the Charlie Sheen third-party accusations came about. We weren’t there. We have no idea what happened because the alleged victim is dead, his mother says the accusations are false and the accused denies any of it happened. Then, a new accusation about Roman Polanski that is 50 years old came up.

This is when the men took it upon themselves to circle back to Weinstein. Then it came, “Why did these women all wait so long to come forward?” I could see doubt poking its ugly head in. I could see them taking offense to the audacity of these women. I could feel myself, the lone vagina owner having to go on the defensive and have a real talk about the female condition with them.

I assured them that I believed wholeheartedly that every single woman who says she has been assaulted and shared her #MeToo story is telling the truth. I do. Maybe it feels like women are all coming forward now and maybe they are but not because it’s popular. It’s because there is safety in numbers. There is the Internet and you can tell the world without having to be given the hairy eyeball by some man who doubts you and questions your part in all of it. What were you wearing? Were you drinking? Did you lead him on in any way?

But how do you know it’s not just for attention? Why all jump on the bandwagon now!

I could feel my head about to explode.  You see all of these seemingly educated, intelligent feminist men don’t know shit about living as a woman. But then again, how could they? I don’t know much about walking around in the world with a penis.

I explained to them that we women learn at a very early age that men have the power. It starts with our father; the head of the family. The provider and protector. And if you were raised in a macho Latino family like mine, you know early on that boys are prized above girls. Little girls are taught to be subservient to boys and boys are taught to take care of women, but they are also taught that they know what is best for girls. They don’t.

Then I explained that what they don’t understand is to women, the penis is a weapon, that can be used to hurt us. To defile us. To take from us. To humble us. To punish us. That’s why unsolicited dick pics from random men not only don’t excite us, they frighten us. It’s a threat.

I’m not saying women hate penises. In the right situation, when wanted, between two consenting adults, it can be magical and beautiful. It is the coming together of two as one, perfectly. It gives pleasure and life, literally.

The guys still look unconvinced. These women were grown adult women. They were strong enough to walk away. Especially in the case of Louis C.K. Why didn’t the women run screaming from the room? Why did they ever agree when asked?

I don’t know all the details but I think all women have been in some situation with a man where he has asked of her something so unbelievable that she is like, “Sure, whatever.” (because if she were to flee from the room at the thought of something so ridiculous she’d be labeled a hysterical woman who took everything entirely too seriously.) So, you say, “whatever” never expecting what follows next. I know if I was a fan or colleague of Louis C.K. and he asked if he could get naked and masturbate, I wouldn’t have taken him seriously. I would have thought it was a bit.

The men I was talking to still did not seem convinced. But I could see them rethinking some things so, I told them. I told them some of my truth. This was uncomfortable for me because these men included my husband and two of my brothers but if we don’t talk about it, it never changes. Even though we women have no part in our assaults, we feel shame that we were victimized. We feel like we should have known better because we are raised to not get raped, not get harassed and not get assaulted. Can’t we just teach our boys not to rape, harass and assault?

I told them of the time in college when I woke up in the middle of the night frozen in place to the horror of a guy I’d met earlier that night, a friend of a friend, on top of me kissing me and touching me while I slept. No, we had not gone to bed together. We happened to be staying with people in the same apartment. I pushed him off but I felt violated and I feel that I narrowly escaped being raped but in all honesty, I have no idea what he did before I woke up.

I saw my brothers cringe. They asked why didn’t I tell them. Well, one of them was 11 at the time and the other was 1-years-old. By 19, I had had men push themselves on me more times than I could count. The protocol was to escape the situation as unscathed as possible and be thankful things didn’t go worse.

Then, I told them about the time I was a teenager working at a department store and the loss prevention guys locked me in their soundproof office at the end of the night with the two of them. Then they proceeded to tell me how they enjoyed watching me on the cameras and laughed as they matter of factly told me that they could do whatever they wanted to me in that office and no one would ever hear me.

My husband asked why didn’t I report them. I was 18. They were who I was supposed to report these things to. One was an off-duty cop. Who was going to help me? I just had to stay clear and avoid them.

There are so many instances from little-nuanced things to full-on date rape antics that I have experienced, that most women experience, that our mothers had to survive, that our daughters will have to survive all because men don’t understand. This is not an excuse. This is a fact.

Yes, men know rape is rape but all the rest is murky for them. Between the forgiveness they are afforded because of the boys will be boys clause and the lack of respect they are taught for women and the lack of reverence for the female condition, we women have to appear as irrational, hysterical females jumping on bandwagons just to get the world to pay attention and reevaluate the whole damn system.

I’m sorry that you weren’t raised to truly understand how vulnerable it is to be a woman. I’m sorry we never realized that you didn’t know until now. But the jig is up. I’m putting it out here. MOMS and DADS the onus is on you. Starting with your newborn sons, teach them to do better and to be better to our girls.

How about this: no means no! No touching unless invited to do so and keep your creepy comments and dick pics to yourself. No shoulder massaging. No ass grabbing. No pushing your penises up against us when you’re standing behind us or rubbing it on us when the opportunity arises.No brushing your hands against our breasts. No disgusting comments about our mouths or what you’d like to do with our bodies. No drugging us. No having sex with us when we’re drinking or sleeping or incapacitated in any way that doesn’t allow us to give consent. How about treating us the way you’d like to be treated, with some dignity and respect?

Men, I am sorry that you feel like all the hysterical women of the Internet are on a witch hunt for sexual predators and you are uncomfortable and afraid that some woman from your past might accuse you of some wrongdoing but ask yourself, why are you worried? Why are you dismissive? Have you behaved questionably? Ask yourselves next time, would this be okay if it were happening to my mom, my sister, my girlfriend, my wife, or heaven forbid, your little girl? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.

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the problem with little boys, misogynist, Harvey Weinstein, George Bush, little boys, rape culture

The problem with little boys is that society grooms them to grow up to be misogynistic men or rather we don’t do anything to prevent it from happening. We’re so busy teaching girls to protect themselves while living in a rape culture world that we totally (for the most part…not everybody…not you) take it for granted that boys will just know to respect girls, wait for consent and be decent. Not tell dirty jokes, grab women or use their power and leverage to, literally and figuratively, have their way with women.

Can you believe that I heard the radio DJ this morning saying, “He’s old. It was probably harmless. He comes from a different generation.”

WTF? NOPE! Sexual harassment is sexual harassment, no exceptions. Why do we always err on the side of men when they do something stupid? Why do we always choose to believe that they didn’t mean it?

The problems with little boys might just be us…wait, I did it again.#ViciousCycle

The thing is we’ve hit that strange period in parenting where boys are noticing my girls. Wait! What? Yes, apparently, my girl had her first boy “ask her out”. I know this because I heard it as she mentioned it matter a factly when she told me what she had for lunch that day.

Wait! I gotta get the baby book. Right? I mean, this is a milestone. It’s not a tooth or a first word but I think it’s a pretty important first. It was last Thursday (10/19/17)…that was for me, not you (baby book b*tches). Tawanda!

Suddenly, I find myself approaching the conversation like she is a puppy off its leash and if I speak too loudly she might run off into oncoming traffic and SQUISH! But I want to know more. I want to know everything but she can’t know I want to know everything or…you got it…SQUISH!

It takes me 3 random, nonchalant conversations to figure out what “asked me out” means to a 12-year-old these days. Turns out, it’s what we used to call flirting. Remember “Notes”? Basically, if a 12-year-old boy asks a 12-year-old girl “out” he’s letting her know officially that he likes her and maybe he wants to text her or communicate via a barrage of Music.ly messages. It’s a tween boy letting you know he’s interested and wants to get to know you better for one reason or another. But we are not quite there yet.

I ask my daughter what she said when he “asked her out”. Her exact response was, *Laugh in shock as if he just asked her if she still wore diapers (that’s my impression of what she showed me) and then she said, “Uh…NO!” Pretty much as if he asked her if she’d like to share a shit sandwich for lunch.

Now, I’ve always taught my girls to not be cruel to other children. I’ve even asked the girls to please not be mean to boys who like them. Let them down easy. Say things like, “Thank you but no” or, “I’m flattered but I’m not interested in you in that way.”

WAIT! What the fuck did I just say? Worst f*cking feminist ever*

Holy shit! I’m part of the problem with little boys!

Why do I give a flying flip about some boy’s feelings? Boys who don’t learn what consent is and think raping girls who are drunk or ruffie-ing co-eds is okay. I don’t.

I don’t care about their fragile egos. Not one bit. Because believe you me, if it’s between some strange boy’s feeling and my daughter’s safety…I don’t give a damn about your son.

See, I thought I was doing something good. I was thinking of all little boys and men as the Big Guy but they’re not. The thought of some mean girl laughing in the Big Guy’s face when he was going through his 12-inch growth spurts and looking like some kind of praying mantis creature in his tweens broke my heart. But I’m not his mama. I am my daughters’ mom in a world that treats women like they are disposable. There are a lot of creepers and misogynists out there and I don’t care about them or their imaginary right to every woman’s body.

I’ve spent the last few years consciously uncoupling with the word “SORRY”. My parents raised kind, thoughtful, well-mannered children. We were taught to say Please, Thank you, excuse me and I’m sorry.

F*ck “I’m sorry.” Sorry is appropriate when someone dies. Sorry is appropriate when you make a mistake and want forgiveness. Sorry is not for when you have to ask someone to pay you what they owe you (money and respect) or when you aren’t interested in someone in “that way.”  That causes confusion and leaves them with a glimmer of hope. Nope, sorry about your feelings boy I don’t know but I want my daughter to be strong, solid and uncompromising in her NO to you. I don’t want her to be unnecessarily cruel but NO is not cruel, it is honest and no is no! SQUISH!

I really thought that if I taught my girls to be kind with their rejections, it would save some other mom’s daughter from getting the guy who had his heart broken and his ego smashed. We’ve all dated the guy who dated some crazy broad before us and it’s not fun but it’s not my daughter’s responsibility to protect your son from ever feeling bad about himself. Make better choices. She’s not the world boy feelings police and neither am I.

So while boys are on the approaching horizon sooner than later, politeness needs to be thrown out the window. I want my girls to say, “NO” loud and proud like they mean it. I want it to ring out and register like a rape whistle. Maybe that way, these little boys will get the meaning that no means no, in no uncertain terms.

Polite, demureness will get you raped and killed in a world where boys are taught that consent is a moving target. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no, boys.

See the real problem is not little boys at all but the misogynistic men they are allowed to grow into in a world where men are king and women are expendable collateral damage.

Let’ start by teaching our little boys to respect our little girls and then go from there. The opportunity for change is now, as grown women we can fight back against the oppression that we have lived in. We can name our assailants and call them out for their crimes. I encourage it. Every damn transgression, if you can. If you want to.

But more importantly, let’s try to stop that from being our daughter’s reality. Maybe she won’t have to fight for her right to exist as a woman, a real live human being who deserves equality and respect and is more than the sum total of her female parts.

 

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Me Too, Women's Rights, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment, Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo, Me too

As I raise my hand to claim “me too”,  I’m faced with a society asking who is to blame for the Weinstein situation? Obviously, Harvey Weinstein is a piece of shit and is to blame for his own actions but what about the society we live in that feels it’s okay to objectify little girls and rape women with no ramifications? How do we expect our girls to be safe when we let our boys get away with sexual harassment simply because someone in history said “boys will be boys” and that means girls need to live on the defensive while boys just get to live. When do women get to be people too?  Are you angry and done with this attitude?

Me too!

Last night, there was a call for women to set their statuses to #MeToo if they have ever been sexually assaulted or harassed. I don’t know a single woman who didn’t set her status to Me Too! It made me sad. It made me mad and it made me feel not alone but utterly shattered that I am not the minority because what does that mean for my girls? Who is protecting our girls?

Sexual harassment is a disease and we apparently all have it. It’s like the moment you were born with a vagina, you were assured that you were going to be assaulted. Thankfully, they don’t tell you that or many of us would have looked for a way out a long time ago or our mothers would have mercifully drowned us at birth.

We live in a society that grooms women to be victims. We don’t intentionally let these horrific things happen to us. Women live a society that has completely failed us. We are taught that creepy guys are just misunderstood but harmless. We give them the benefit of the doubt because it was only a dick pic, it wasn’t his actual dick in my face. But wasn’t it? Weren’t you just as violated? The only thing missing was the imminent fear that his dick would be in y our body.

We live in a world where we are taught from a very young age to live on the defensive. It’s our job not to get raped or be abused by a sexual predator. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we keep ourselves hidden away and safe from men and their “natural” urges. We are taught to walk a little faster, cover up, not enjoy sex and steer clear of any situation that might put us in danger which boils down to our sheer existence.

It’s not all men though. My husband was appalled when I talked to him about this situation. But he also has no understanding of what it is like to be a woman. How lucky he is. How nice it is to be able to live a life where you can walk down the streets and never worry about someone attacking you from behind, pulling you behind the bushes and raping you.

What a utopia it must be to live in a world where no one will ever corner you in a room and threaten to have his way with you. No one will ever break into your apartment while you sleep and take what is not his.

The first time I can remember being assaulted, I was 4-years-old, a little boy in my kindergarten class wanted to steal a kiss under the parachute during gym class. It may sound innocent and sweet but I didn’t want it. He took what was mine without asking. I cried. I was mad. I told on him. The gym teacher laughed, “Awww, Debbie he likes you. Boys will be boys.” Nothing was said to him. The onus fell on me. That was it. It was my problem. Get over it. That began a lifetime of knowing that the responsibility fell on me to protect myself and if something bad happened to me, then I must not have done a good enough job.

A few of my Me Too Moments

When I was 7-years-old, a teenaged boy (a family friend) repeatedly groped me at a family party and told me if I ever told anyone they would blame me for being such a “slut”.

In 4th grade, Andre pushed himself against me and kissed me hard, just as everyone was walking into the classroom after recess. Everyone saw, so not only did he take what he wasn’t given permission to take, he embarrassed me in front of the entire class. The teacher and all the students laughed. What could I do?

In 6th school, my art teacher used to come over when I was working on a project and take his hand and massage my neck while telling me how “spectacular” my artwork was. He was a grown man and his hands always found their way to my breast buds. I pulled forward to escape his grip, he grabbed me harder. This was done almost every art class for 3 years.

In 7th grade, walking home through a field, a high school boy exposed himself to my friend and I. We were in shock. We were terrified. He thought it was hilarious. I never wanted to walk home again.

When I was 18, working at a retail chain and the security guys called me back into the security room. I thought they needed a female employee as a witness as they questioned a suspected female shoplifter because that was protocol. Instead, when I got back there at 9 at night, when we were working on a skeleton crew, the two grown men, locked the door and started making comments on how I looked in my uniform. They told me that they liked watching me on the cameras and told me to my face, as they laughed, “You know we could do anything we wanted to you in here and no one would even hear us.” I was trembling I was so terrified.

Once, I was visiting a friend and I’d met a guy who was visiting her boyfriend, after a night of drinking and hanging out, I woke up to feel him pressed up against me and kissing me. I pushed him off but by the time I had woken up, he’d already been touching my body. I don’t know for how long, I was passed out. But I didn’t do anything about it because I felt partially responsible because earlier that night I had smiled when he sang a song to me. Even though there was no consent and no making out before I passed out, I felt responsible for letting myself get into this vulnerable position because that is how this society has conditioned women to believe. If we are assaulted, we must have done something to encourage it.

Or the time I was at a frat party and a group of brothers from another university came to the party. I was a little sister at the fraternity, so I was comfortable and even felt safe at the house. A cute walkout started talking to me and one thing led to another, the flirting was in high gear and then in the middle of a room full of people, he pushed my head into his lap. I was drinking but that sobered me up immediately. I felt vulnerable, threatened (in a room full of guys) and angry. Luckily, the president of the frat (a friend of mine) saw the whole thing happen and literally, kicked the guy out of the house. Of course, then he spent the night “comforting” me. I let him because I felt like I owed him. I didn’t want his advances but it felt safer than some stranger shoving my face in his crotch and becoming an unwilling participant in a gang rape.

Then there was the time I was at a college bar with my friends and the star basketball player came up behind me and started grinding on me. I gently moved away. He followed in pursuit. Then he came in front of me, grabbed me by my ass and lifted me up around his waist and started trying to kiss me. No one did anything. I was terrified. I didn’t want his advances. I did not invite him to do any of this. I was minding my own business. No one helped me. I wiggled myself out of his grip and ran out of the bar. When a friend found me outside, she did not care if I was alright or if I was shaken. Her question was, “Don’t you know who that was?”

How about the time I was at a cop party with my friend and a married cop tried to make advances towards me and when I said no because he was married (and I wasn’t interested) he told me that I should think twice before driving alone in his city ever again because he could pull me over late at night on a dark road and it wouldn’t matter if I was interested or not.

Or the time I broke up with a boyfriend, I hadn’t had sex with because I was still a virgin. He had spent the entire time we were dating dry humping me, slowly trying to expose himself. I felt like he was a child that I had to keep telling no. He was much bigger than me. I always felt threatened. He saw me out after we broke up and said he wanted to talk to me in private and apologize for being a jerk when we broke up. I was naïve, I went to his car with him. He exposed himself to me and said, “Try it. You’ll like it.” If I wouldn’t have pulled my knee up and hit him in the groin, he would have raped me and he thought he was doing me a favor. As I got out of the car and ran, he screamed after me, “Slut! Cock tease!”

I am sad angry and even in recounting these events (and there are so many more and so many worse that I can’t bring myself to share with you yet) I feel helpless, ashamed and on the verge of having a full out sob fest, right here in fucking Starbucks and that makes me unbelievably mad.

I’m trying to use my words but the problem is that I’m angry and I’m sick of the world giving men hall passes for rape, attempted rape, pressing up against women on the train, grabbing their breasts in a club, forcing themselves in so many ways big and small and society acting like it’s a victimless crime. I could go on for pages listing all the different times I’ve been accosted to one degree or another but I can’t because I’d probably go on forever.

Sometimes were worse than others. Sometimes things went further than I wanted them to go but I never felt like I could do anything about it because the truth is that no matter how good, bad, drunk, sober, promiscuous or frigid you are, if you are a woman, you have been made to feel vulnerable and unsafe in your lifetime. It’s the reality of being born with a vagina.

We don’t have to do anything to precipitate an attack, they just happen and we just have to learn to live with it. But this is bullshit. I don’t want my daughters to feel this shame and vulnerability or fear of living in a world where women are treated like inanimate holes put on this earth solely for men’s pleasure. Why do we have to be cautious and careful before doing everything? Even a girl in a beige cardigan who did nothing to encourage her attacker’s advances still got raped, left like garbage on the side of a dumpster.

That’s what society does, it makes men feel like they are entitled to everything and makes women feel like they are of no more value than garbage. I stand with all other women, in saying ME TOO! Over and over again. I knew it was wrong. I said no. I told people but still, the assailant prevailed because he had a penis and I was only armed with a vagina. In society, that makes me the one at fault.

Well, now I’m saying NO MORE! Every woman should say no more. No more fucking excuses. No more touching without asking. No more boys will be boys. No more taking what’s not yours.  And no more looking the other way. If you see something, say something. We have to protect one another because if we don’t we all fall victim. It’s happened to all of us. Do we want it to happen to our daughters?

Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no. Let’s teach that instead of Boys will be boys.

What was your Me Too moment?

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Lilly Collins, Netflix, To the Bone, eating disorders, anorexia, To the Bone Realistically Portrays Life with Eating disorders, life with eating disorders

Have you ever watched a movie or seen a show and thought to yourself, “Damn, that’s me! That’s my life!” I know it happens all the time because the human condition is a shared one. We don’t live in a vacuum and life is just a series of conditions, right?

The other day, I watched a movie and I saw me, exactly who I once was and it scared me because, by the way it was written, it was someone else too. Someone else had been where I had been and that made me think again about whether or not my girls might some day go down that same path. It was the Netflix Original To the Bone.

I see me, or rather, who I used to be. The anorexic girl. The one with the conflicted home life. The Unpresent dad, the checked out Mom who tried to help in her own way, while at the same time refusing to admit that there’s a problem at all.

Denial. It where we thrived. My job was to keep my dirty secret. Their job was to pretend it wasn’t happening. I fell through the cracks of a childhood held together by rubber bands and chewing gum.

I was alone, so very alone with my disease. People don’t really want to know when these sorts of things are happening, even if they suspect or even glimpse it with their own eyes, it’s too uncomfortable to discuss; to face head on. So we all pretend it’s not happening. Meanwhile, a child is dying.

READ ALSO: A Day in the Life of a Girl with Eating Disorders

It won’t go away. It doesn’t just stop. Sometimes, the darkness is so enveloping and the loneliness so crippling that you hope they don’t notice. You’d rather just disappear into the abyss without any fanfare or long, drawn out goodbyes. You want to cease to exist and other people’s concern only serves to prolong your agony.

Lilly Collins, Netflix, To the Bone, eating disorders, anorexia, are eating disorders genetic? , raising girls, tweens, eating disorder, bulimarexia, eating disorders, anorexia, weight,Lilly Collins, Netflix, To the Bone, eating disorders, anorexia, To the Bone Realistically Portrays Life with Eating disorders, life with eating disorders

The worst part for me was realizing that I was so good at it. Worse, I was so good at hiding it and it turned me into someone I despised because the only way to survive is to lie. Soon, you’re lying about everything to keep the one secret that you hold dearest to your heart.

There are never good days. It’s just a series of days you control better than others. You are being held at gun point in a prison of your own making; your head. There is no escape. There is no chance for parole. There is just a life sentence and, if you’re lucky, a life lived in daily recovery. Every day, for the rest of your life, you have to choose life because the alternative is that you die. You will literally die.

Though it may seem soothing and tempting, the thought of no longer having to endure; but the fucking guilt of it all is unbearable so every day, you get up, and you make the choice to live or to die.

For 8 years, I restricted and threw up every single day. Every single thing I ate. I threw up. I never binged, unless it was on alcohol and that was more to forget the world of shit I was living in, the complete loss of control and the fact that I was really hungry. I was starving in every sense of the word.

Five years before that, I began dieting. It was my gateway drug to starvation. I was 12-years-old when my journey started. 12, the magical age of awkward bodies caught between a child and a woman. My dad suggested that maybe I needed to “run more”. That was enough especially at that time in adolescence when you gain weight, right before you begin to develop and everything goes to the right place. You know, the exact same age as my daughter is today.

I’ve spent my entire motherhood tenure doing everything I can to not repeat this cycle. Here we are. This precipice that silently scares me to death. I’m constantly looking for all the signs. But I’ve done a good job. She thinks she’s perfect. She loves herself and her body. Then, it happened, beyond my control.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Healthy Daughters

As we were leaving the pediatricians office after her well visit last week, our dr was telling the girls where they rank on the charts. My 12-year-old has consistently ranked around the 98th percentile since birth. But this time, the new dr ( a female and girl Mom) told her “your BMI is a little high, so technically you are overweight.

I shot her a death stare as I wanted to murder her on the spot but didn’t want to make a big deal of it in front of the girls. She continued, but that’s to be expected in a girl your age because most girls put on a little weight during puberty before everything goes where it’s supposed to go.

I saw the gut punch on my daughters face. I felt the humiliation of being told that you’re not perfect. Then, I saw her second guess what she’s always known about herself … we she good enough?

I spent the ride home assuring her that the doctor said this was normal at this age. I assured her that she eats right and is very active and an athlete. She trusts me because I’m her mother. She accepted my words. But I know that now, forever, the seed of doubt has been planted and that crushes me.

Words have weight. Thoughts sometimes should be kept inside your head. Actions are forever.

I know there has been some controversy about the movie To the Bone. But coming from someone who knows, I think it was far from making anorexia seem desirable, or acting as if it stems from a desire to “look skinny.” The writing is sensitive but unsparingly real because it comes from personal experience. There were lines in there that only someone who has suffered from eating disorders would say or know. An anorexic can spot another anorexic from a mile away.

It’s the directorial film debut of Marti Noxon, a writer and executive producer on such shows as UnREAL and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to write To the Bone she drew on her own battle with anorexia. (The film’s credits note that it is based on actual events.) I wouldn’t recommend you show it to your teen daughter but as a parent of a teen girl, or someone who loves someone living with this disorder or even for the girl surviving it…this movie, in my opinion, is a must see.

Have you seen To the Bone and what were your thoughts?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team, so I binge a lot of Netflix, but my opinion about To the Bone and my personal experience with eating disorders are all my own.

 

 

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equality, Raising girls, how to raise brave women

As many of you know, I don’t often have posts written by guest writers but when I do, they are usually amazing writers with something important to say. Today, I have the privilege of sharing with you one of my dearest friends, Amanda Magee, who just happens to be one of the strongest, bravest, samrtest and kindest women I know. She also happens to be a damn great writer. She is a writer’s writer. Did I mention she is raising three amazing girls who I am sure will be the change they want to see in the world because that is exactly what their mom is exemplifying for them? Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your words and truth here. If you’d like to read more of Amanda, be sure to check her out on her blog.

A quick introduction, my name is Amanda Magee. I live in upstate New York where I own an advertising and communications agency and am raising three daughters. Deborah and I met by chance at a blogging conference a few years back. Over the years we have bonded over parenting daughters and being strong willed women in the world. She has invited me to write here a couple of times and despite my not having come through, she kept asking; the last time after I posted about our experience marching at an Anti-Trump rally with our daughters. I am so grateful for hearts, minds, and voices like Deborah’s.

A couple of years ago I found myself thinking that I knew how to forecast the years ahead. I bought into the idea that hormones were going to be the thing I had to focus on, but it wasn’t true. Yes, there are emotional highs and lows; yes, my three daughters are not yet in the thick of puberty at 8, 10, and 12, but what has become central to our reality is how we will navigate the world—not during our menstrual cycles, more in light of the fact that we (will) have menstrual cycles.

How do I raise brave women? How do I equip them with both confidence and suspicion? Is it possible to raise them to be good citizens and compassionate human beings in the same breath as I say that there are people who will break rules and take without asking? How do I tell them that they can make all the best decisions and still be hurt?

Raising girls, how to raise brave women, equality

Zits and thigh gap? We’ll be fine, slurs muttered at the mention of homosexual family members and systemic defense and promotion of “boys will be boys” and “you shouldn’t be upset, he just wanted to talk to you,” those are the things that demand my attention.

Over the last year, I’ve begun to speak more plainly with my daughters and I’ll be honest, it’s been bittersweet. I wanted to give them the cocoon of childhood as long as I could, but when conversation on the bus turns to building a wall, grabbing pussies, and sending people away I have a choice, do I defer the world view shaping to other kids and influences or do I talk to them about the spectrum of views? I chose the latter.

Raising girls, how to raise brave women, equality

I’ve never once painted one side of politics as evil and the other as benevolent, because despite being a lifelong, pro-choice, feminist liberal, I don’t hate Republicans or Conservatives. The only thing I really hate is hate, which is why we were an anti-Trump house and why we are committed to continuing to speak up against the motions that take us as a country to greater stances of division. It’s new territory for me, because I have always looked at the person holding the office of president as our leader. I cannot do that this time.

Raising girls, how to raise brave women, equality

I am looking to people like Deborah, I am listening to black women, people from the trans community, I am questioning the decisions of lawmakers, and I am donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center. We as a family are committing to being engaged at the local and regional level, not just every four years. We are reading books like Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. I am heartbroken that so many people didn’t vote; I am distressed that many people, myself included, have had moments of silence that made them complicit in hate or systemic racism. We are choosing to adhere to a policy of living our beliefs out loud and in public, because the alternative is the kind of inaction that lets hate fester and threaten to overtake us all.

Photos Courtesy Amanda Magee

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hillary clinton, presidential, election, election 2016, donald trump

First, let me start by clarifying that I f*cking love Hillary Clinton. I love what she stands for and the kind of woman she is. I want to be her when I grow up and I choose her for my next president; not because she’s the “lesser of two evils” but because she is qualified, experienced and can get the job done. Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate I trust with my daughters’ futures.

Hillary Clinton is a strong, intelligent, determined, experienced and fierce woman. She has come up through the ranks and learned as she has gone along. It’s taken 30 years in many different positions of government but she’s seen a lot of what can and can’t be done, what needs to be done and has had plenty of time to figure out how to make it happen. Most importantly, she will not back down. She will fight for this country and its people with the ferocity that a mama bear would fight for her own child because that’s how she works. It’s personal.

This election is about choosing the best candidate for the job of running our country and for me that is Hillary Clinton. It’s not about popularity or choosing the candidate that makes us feel better about our own bad behavior. It’s not a pissing contest. I know some of you are scared because she bucks the status quo because she is a woman and that’s not what we are used to but as a woman let me tell you, my vagina does not affect my mind. I can do anything any man can do, maybe even better depending on the man, with the exception of pissing standing up. You men have the market on that still. Don’t be afraid to elect Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman.

I know many of you, my friends, are Republicans. Hell, I used to be one myself (long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.) I remember a rally came to my university where George Bush Sr. spoke and I lost my damn mind. You would have thought that Ryan Gosling showed up.

The thing is that was 25 years ago and I have grown up. I’ve also spent many years studying political science and I know a lot more about how politics work and what democracy is really about than most. I know that being conservative is not going to change anything and I want change. This country needs change. The country needs Hillary Clinton.

I am liberal. I want equality for everyone. I believe that men, women, black, white, brown, yellow, green, Jewish, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindi, Latinos, Asians, African Americans, Caucasians, Straight, gay, bisexual and transgender…we are all human and equal as such. I believe every single one of us matters. I know, crazy talk.

I believe that a woman’s body is her domain and no one else has the right to tell her what to do with it. I believe that a baby is a baby at conception but I don’t believe that an unborn baby’s rights trump those of a woman’s right to choose what is best for her, her body and her situation and certainly don’t believe the government has any business in my uterus.

I believe in the right to bear arms, even though I personally would never own a gun. But I also believe in common sense gun control and if you are not deemed fit to fly because you might be suspected of being a terrorist, then I think you shouldn’t be granted the freedom to buy a gun until you are cleared. I believe that the process to be a licensed carrier needs to be more stringent and I also believe that if you are mentally ill, and I say this as someone who has her own diagnosis, you should not be able to own a firearm. Why? Because if not properly treated, you could kill yourself or someone else. It’s a fact. If you are not in your right frame of mind, you can do things you wouldn’t normally do. Add a loaded firearm to the mix and it can be catastrophic.

I believe in immigration laws. My dad was an illegal immigrant at one time. He’s legal now but I’m a first generation Mexican-American and I understand why refugees come to our country; they want a better life. They want the American dream. What you might not understand is that most of those fleeing to the U.S. are not coming to rape and pillage our land, they are coming to escape a terrible situation in a third world country. They are coming to give their children a better life.

Immigration laws need to be logical. You can’t send people back, away from their family and loved ones, away from the only life they’ve ever known to a country that they no longer belong to or want to be a part of. It’s like throwing a lifeline to someone who is drowning and then pulling it away and watching them drown because it doesn’t suit your agenda. These are human beings. A wall is not the answer. It will not keep anyone out. We need to change the process for entry.

The way we are taxed is crazy. Those who make a lot of money are taxed less than those of us who are middle class. This perpetuates a cycle in which none of us can move ahead. It is ridiculous to be a hard working American and still have to live paycheck to paycheck when those who have so much get to keep so much more.

The bottom line is this; I am voting for Hillary Clinton because she is the best person for the job.

The simple fact, all personal feelings aside, Donald Trump is simply not qualified for the position. He has no experience. He is full of ideas (all of which I cannot agree with) but he has no way of bringing any of them to fruition because he doesn’t understand how the political system works. You can’t wish or buy your way through the presidency, not if you want to be an effective president.

I’m feeling a little on edge about this election because I feel like so much is on the line so I just spoke to my dad, an immigrant to this country that he loves, and he told me, “Debi, mija, go vote. Do your part. Stand up for what you believe in but believe that God will guide whoever wins the election to do what’s best for the American people and this great country.” I wish I could have my father’s faith in democracy and the American people.

My dad raised me that all human beings are equal and that this country is the greatest country on earth and it’s a privilege to be able to live under its democratic system. He also raised me to fight tooth and nail for what I believe in and then he sent me to university to study politics so I implore you, please vote for Hillary Clinton tomorrow. Our future, the future of our children and the future of the land of the free and the home of the brave are at stake.

hillary clinton, presidential, election, election 2016, donald trump

Tomorrow morning, I will be at the poll with my daughters and my husband, casting our vote for Hillary Clinton. I hope you will be too. Your vote counts, every single vote counts.

Vote Hillary Clinton

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