Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm Down With ALG, But is She Down With Me?

212:  Go on and continue questioning someone you might even support.  We'll be stronger for it.  


A couple of things I need to get out there before I write this blog (and before all my Democrat friends crucify me):  1.)  I love my home state of Kentucky, have made it my home for the past 22 years, married a native, had a child here, and moved my parents here.  Anyone who knows me, also knows that I proudly proclaim myself "Appal-Asian";  2.)  I like Alison Lundergan Grimes (ALG) I will vote for her for U.S. Senate when she faces long-time incumbent, Mitch McConnell.  I will donate to her campaign.

My reasons are pretty simple.  I'm not on some anti-Mitch campaign to get him out of office.  I'm not blindly adhering to the loyalties of the political party that I'm registered with.  I'm not some flaming feminist (well, actually I kind of am), insistent on overthrowing the old white guy.  I simply think that Senator McConnell is out of touch with the real issues impacting my fellow Kentuckians, has a voting record that proves this, and I think that it is time for change.

With that being said, I sit here unsettled after spending a week reading through ALG's campaign website and watching her kick-off speech.   Try as I might, I scour the stage, the audience, and I see no faces that look like mine.  While I've always gotten annoyed with the perfectly placed token brown face on campaign stages, a complete absence of any diversity also begs the question, will any Kentucky Senator actually represent me (or the people I work with)?

The issues that ALG is focusing on are critical and important issues for Kentucky - energy (her position on energy deserves a completely separate blog entry), Social Security and Medicare, unemployment, business development, and veterans.  While I commend her for tackling issues that impact a lot of Kentuckians, I have not seen or heard her position on issues that impact people like me (or people I work with on a daily basis):  people of color, middle-class, those trying to make ends meet, social workers, females, disabled, multi-cultural, justice-seeking.

ALG's campaign kick-off took place in a beautiful historic mansion owned by her father, located in downtown Lexington - just a few blocks from the dilapidated rape crisis center at which I work, whose trash can is picked through by the local homeless men every night.  Like a rock star, ALG stepped out of a tour bus wrapped in her image to the blaring tunes of Neil Diamond's Kentucky Woman.  

Exactly.  

I'd like to see ALG's position statements actually address issues impacting women - like reproductive health, rape and domestic violence, child care, and livable wages.    Just two years ago, the car of an inter-racial couple in my town was vandalized with hate messages.  During the month of Ramadan, a guy had a "burn a Koran" sign in his front yard.  My friends in Berea, and in most parts of the state can still be legally discriminated against in employment, housing, and public accommodations simply because they are gay.  Just yesterday, three children under the age of 9 walked through the front doors of my work. 

I work at a rape crisis center. 

Human trafficking is out of control in Kentucky hotels, truck stops, strip bars, and at those very events (like Derby and Equestrian Games) designed to help boost our local economy.

So while some might be totally taken by someone on stage singing Coal Keeps the Lights On, I struggle daily at my little non-profit to keep the lights on because of funding cuts and sequestrations, and this year will most likely have to cut critical programs and services for survivors of sexual violence because of this.

Yes, I will vote for ALG, but I don't want to do so simply because she is the lesser of two evils - which I don't believe to be the case.  I believe that this fierce, intelligent, tough, woman has the capacity to embrace and represent all Kentuckians, especially the ones who didn't make it on her "issues" page.  I urge fellow ALG supporters to continue challenging her and questioning her on issues that affect you and people around you.  Let's not forget that even if she wins this battle, she still has Washington, D.C. to face.  She can handle it.  She'll thank you for it. 

Kentucky will thank you for it. 

We wouldn't be Americans otherwise.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dear Black Girl With The Havana Twists

Act #211:  Tell each other you are beautiful.

Dear Black Girl with the Havana Twists,

You should know that when I was a little girl, I wanted to be just like you.  I still do.  My straight, weightless, Asian strands pale in comparison to your bold, textured twists that weave seamlessly and intricately into one another, becoming entirely one with you.  Emerging from the highest part of your body like a crown of beautiful, black, feminist glory.

I hope you know that it was worth the four excruciating hours it took for you to create those twists.  I imagine Madam C.J. Walker looking upon you, beaming with pride.  Pride that will exude from each and every one of those twists just as soon as you step out of that beauty salon. 

Sometimes I watch you and your friends and I can't help but feel jealous of your connection to one another - the unspoken language, hair terms that I am not privy to, shared beauty experiences that bond you into sisterhood.  

I know it's just hair, but when I see you, I see strength and courage.  I see a daring, adventurous spirit.  I see a defiance against centuries of messages meant to rob you of the belief in your own beauty.  I don't see wool.  Nappy. Extreme.  Fad.  I see your legacy. I see your history. I see your strong and beautiful foremothers on the West coast of another continent across the world -  foremothers who will always define your very essence, no matter where you are.

Some girls dream of free, flowing locks, the kind of hair a guy can run their fingers through.  Not me.  I would kill to have the complexities......and layers.....and richness of the curves and turns of each and every carefully hand-crafted Havana twist.

You don't need me to tell you this, because you already know. 

You are beautiful. 

I thought you should know.

Sincerely,
The brown girl with the straight hair


 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Silly Muslims, Jesus is for Christians

Act #210:   Try listening.

schol·ar·ship
[skol-er-ship]   
noun
1. learning; knowledge acquired by study; the academic attainments of a scholar.
 
Last week Lauren Green, religion correspondent for Fox News interviewed religious scholar Dr. Reza Aslan about his new book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."  Dr. Aslan holds a Bachelor of Arts' degree in religions from Santa Clara University, a Master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Doctorate in the sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara.   He has been an academic and religious scholar for over 20 years.

During the now infamous interview, Green repeatedly questioned why Dr. Aslan, a Muslim, felt compelled to write a book about Jesus.  In fact her very first question was this, “I want to be clear, so you’re a Muslim. Why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”  Dr. Aslan responded, “To be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus, I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.”  The interview is painful to watch, to say the least, as Green literally interrupts and attacks Dr. Aslan's every word, with little evidence that she has read any part of the book, or researched his biography before conducting the interview. 

This begs the question, what might the world look like if all academic scholars were not permitted to conduct research or publish materials about the subject matters that they studied unless they were fully immersed and had personal experience with that subject matter?  That would mean:
 
Only mothers with PhD's could write about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting
 
Only people with mental illness could write about mental illness
 
There would only be 44 books (autobiographies) about U.S. presidents
 
Children would have to go to medical school in order to write books about pediatric health
 
We would have to teach animals to write and obtain degrees before publishing any books about animals
 
The only people that could write about gun violence would have to have been shot (or killed) in their lifetime
 
Books on drug and alcohol addiction would only be written by active users
 
Films could only be reviewed by filmmakers, books by authors, and plays by directors
 
Public libraries would probably not exist and if they did, they'd probably be uninteresting and pretty biased.  Perhaps the interview might have gone a bit more smoothly if Ms. Green, Fox News RELIGION correspondent, a two-time beauty queen (Miss Minnesota and 3rd runner up Miss America) and accomplished concert pianist, actually had a degree in, say, religion in addition to her journalism degree?  Well, she is listed as a Christian on Wikipedia.  Maybe that should suffice.
 
 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Art For Social Change: It Was Only 70 Years Ago

Act #209:  Let's not forget.

Yesterday's news release regarding the research of a forgotten Japanese internment camp, nestled deep in the mountains of northern Idaho inspired this week's Art for Social Change blog. A team of researchers from the University of Idaho has been working to uncover artifacts and art at the Kooskia Internment Camp, a little known internment camp, which operated from 1943 to the end of the war and held more than 250 detainees.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. government forcibly removed 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast from their homes and took them to desolate inland areas of the U.S.  This is a glimpse of their experiences.

Chiura Obata, Interned at Tanforan Assembly Center, Topaz Utah
 
 
Japanese American girl headed to internment camp, 1942
 
 
Mr. Toshima, Interned at Rohwer, Arkansas
 
 
Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz collection, Interned at Poston, Arizona  
 
 
Dorothea Lange, photographer
 
 
 
Artist Unidentified, Interned at Heart Mountain, Wyoming
 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ten Reasons I Support a Fairness Ordinance in My Hometown

Act 208:  Speak up even if your voice quivers.

For the past 20 years or so, I've called Berea, Kentucky my hometown.  A hidden gem located in the Southeastern part of the Bluegrass state, in 1850, Berea was founded by ardent abolitionist missionaries and citizens sympathetic to emancipation.  The town later came to house Berea College, the first interracial and co-educational college in the south.  Over the last three years, citizens in the town have been trying to pass a local fairness ordinance that would extend protection from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.  I've been involved with the efforts in various capacities, most recently as a member of the local Human Rights Commission.  Today I've been asked to speak at the Bereans for Fairness Picnic, and here is what I plan to say. 

Ten reasons I support a fairness ordinance in Berea:
 
1.  Because as an employer, some of my most hard-working, most dedicated workers have been gay.....and some have been total slackers.  Come to think of it, the people my employees have chosen to date or love have really had absolutely no bearing on their work performance.

2.  Because people shouldn't have to justify who they do or do not love before sitting down to eat biscuits and gravy at the local Cracker Barrel.

3.  Because even if I didn't believe in same sex marriage (which I do)......but if I didn't.....I still wouldn't want all the gay people in this town to live on the streets because they weren't able to rent an apartment or buy a house.

4.  Because 50 years ago someone spoke out for me.

5.  Because if you are a woman, if you are a Christian, if you speak another language, if you are not white, if one of your parents was born outside of this country, if you are over the age of 40, if you have children, and if you've ever had a physical or mental disability.....50 years ago someone also spoke out for you.

6.  Because even if my God narrowly defined marriage as an institution reserved only for a man and a woman (which he doesn't)....but if he did.......he still wouldn't want innocent people to be harassed, or treated unfairly in their places of employment or denied a decent place to live.

7.  Because a long time ago, I was married to a gay man, who almost drove off a cliff just days before coming out to me.  Because he grew up in a world where the prospect of ending it all - for a split second seemed easier than facing himself, than facing communities like ours.

8.  Because right this very moment, you probably have a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, a relative, maybe even a son who is pondering the same thoughts my ex-husband did.

9.  Because as a town that was founded 160 years ago on principles of fairness, equality, and impartial Christian love, we are being hypocrites.

10.  Because quite frankly my friends, it's just the right thing to do. 


Friday, July 26, 2013

How to Land a Lady in the Street But a Freak in the Bed

Act #207:  Get over yourself.

Dear Guy Seeking the Kind of Girl You Can Take Home to Mom,

Wouldn't you be better off seeking the kind of girl who wasn't full of sh** just to impress the woman who birthed you from her vagina?  I have news for you.  I'm a mom.  And someday if my son chooses to invite a girlfriend over for dinner, I would see right through her shenanigans.  I'll only be in my 50's, I'll still have a brain you idiot.  Do you know how utterly offensive it is for you to even imply that we come in neat little pretty packages like that?  Are you suggesting that there are only two kinds of women to begin with?  The kind worthy enough to introduce to your parents, and the kind you can just make non-committal booty calls to every night?  I bet you not only want the kind of girl you can take home to mom, but you also want a lady in the street and a freak in the bed. Yep, you want us to wear pencil skirts below the knee and drink afternoon tea with your mommy, but then you want to hike that same pencil skirt up and have dirty, kinky sex with us in the car on the way home. I have more news for you.  Until you are willing to offer up the same deal here, well, quite frankly, you're a hypocrite.  That is until you are willing to be the kind of guy we can take home to dad - go ahead, prove your manliness to us by killing a dear or gutting a rabbit with your bare hands in front of our dads.....until you are willing to be a man in the street (and battle late-night ninjas and bandits in out honor), but feed us grapes, massage our feet, and set aside all of your manly desires just to please US in bed......we refuse, I repeat, refuse to perpetuate your silly, unrealistic fairy-tale fantasies about the perfect woman.

Hard as this may be to swallow, it's not all about you.  The majority of us don't spend our girlhoods preparing ourselves to meet the needs of a man........or his mama, for that matter.  We kinda have better things to do............like run corporations and impact social change.....and make the world a place where guys no longer seek the kind of girl he can take home to mom, but rather the kind of woman who has a mind of her own, and is a solid, contributing life partner.  If she happens to be a freak in bed too, well aren't you the lucky one.

Sincerely,
Freak in the street, in the bed, and everywhere else.  Don't worry, Your mom is probably one too.  We'll get along just fine.

 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why This Nice Christian Girl Frequents Strip Clubs

Act #206: What are you willing to stake out for?

It's just another typical Saturday night out on the town for the 32 year-old single, fun-loving, spirited woman, who looks at least 10 years younger than the age printed on her driver's license.  It's 10 p.m. and they are cruising the streets of what their parents would probably consider the "shady" part of town - neon-lit night clubs with people lined up on the sidewalks, strip joints with bright flashing signs, adult bookstores with life-sized mannequins donning frilly French maid outfits.  She and her friends are the adventurous type.  She isn't shaken by much.  She has a concealed weapons permit.  She spent her college days backpacking through foreign countries, learning tongue-twisting languages and tasting exotic spiky, fragrant fruits never to be found in American grocery stores.  She lives for the shady part of town.  She pulls her car into the parking lot right next to a well-known, bustling night-time establishment.  She can't wait to get her evening started.  One of her friends pulls out a handmade, carefully crafted cardboard sign.  It says $3999.  He puts it in the windshield of her car.  They turn off the engine and lights, lock the car doors......and they duck down with only their eyes peering over the window rim.  She switches her cell phone over to camera mode.

They are parked at a used car lot adjacent to a run-down motel.  The motel rents rooms by the quarter hour.  That means you can rent a room for 25 minutes at a time.  In just one night, during the busy hours of 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. this motel has the potential to make $560 if it charges $20 for each 25-minute block of time. The 32 year-old and her friends watch as the same vehicle pulls up to the front door of the motel multiple times through the night, each time a girl emerges from the car to approach the front desk and check in.  Sometimes it's the same girl, sometimes it's not.  The girls all look 17. 

The 32-year old and her friends are volunteer organizers for a local anti-human trafficking task force.  Earlier in the week they approached this particular motel to ask if they could leave specially-marked chapsticks at the front desk and in the lobby restrooms.  The chapsticks have been outfitted with pre-printed sleeves with the simple question:  Do you feel like you are being forced into sexual activities?  And it lists the national human trafficking hotline number.  The motel that they are staking-out refused to accept the chapsticks, which is why they are now hunched down in their car on a Saturday night with a fake for sale sign in their window, hoping to get some indication, some evidence that would warrant local authorities to further investigate the suspicious activities of this establishment.  The 32-year old has spent the last 3 weekends assembling the chapsticks and distributing them to local motels, strip clubs, and truck stops.  She will do whatever it takes to save just one more vulnerable, under-aged girl who is being forced to have 15 minutes of sex with strangers for $20 - that goes directly to her pimp.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Many victims are young children who are runaways or victims of abduction.  The average entry age of American minors trafficked for sex is 12-14 years old.  It is real and it is most likely happening right now in your hometown.  If you suspect human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1.88.3737.888) or visit:  http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/national-human-trafficking-hotline/the-nhtrc/overview.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why I Choose to Live in One of the Saddest States In America

Act 205:  Home is where the heart is.  Start investing in it.

I have lived the majority of my life, for the last 22 years in a small town in the state of Kentucky.  I'm not a small town girl by definition, have lived in cites like Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC, and still occasionally need my big city fix.  Yet still I have chosen to make my home in a town of less than 13,000 that is considered "dry" (yes, that does indeed mean that alcohol sales are prohibited) and has been discussing the passage of a fairness ordinance for a good 3 years now (and yes, that does mean that there are no laws protecting the LGBT community from discrimination).   As if the jokes about fried chicken, questionable Senators, and backwards hillbillies (their words, definitely not mine) aren't enough, this year the Bluegrass state landed in the number 2 spot of the Saddest States in America Gallup Healthways Well-being Index poll.  So what gives?  Why has this multicultural, wine-drinking, some-of-my-best-friends-are-gay, city girl taken up permanent residence in a state where surveyed residents report poor emotional health, work environment, physical health, and access to basic needs of life?  

Simply put, I'm happy.  I live under the same roof as everyone I would easily give up my kidney for - my husband, my son, and my parents (who live in an apartment attached to our home).  I work in a job that gives me the opportunity to contribute in some meaningful way.  I am deeply engaged in my local community, and have been involved in changing some of those "less happy" things like passing a fairness ordinance....or being able to have a cold bottle of hard cider with my meal at the local pizzeria.  Most of my best friends live within a 2 hour drive from me.  My son is in kindergarten with children he's known since birth and who he will probably end up graduating from high school with.  Honestly, I could live in any of the 50 states in this country and still be happy if I had all of these factors going for me.

Listen, I know Kentucky is not perfect, but I dare say, neither is Hawaii (#1 happiest state). I've never been that girl who walks away from a jammed copier.  If residents of this great state are reporting that they aren't feeling the best physically and emotionally, that their work environment is not satisfactory, and that sometimes they lack access to basic needs in life - who am I to just get up and walk away from that?   It seems the happiest states are among the wealthiest, LEAST racially diverse states (except for maybe Hawaii), and you'd have to be an idiot not to make the connection between poverty and "well-being".  How easy would it be for the single mom with two jobs and no affordable childcare to fit in a gym membership and an hour a day to work towards her physical health?  Many of my friends who also choose to make Kentucky their home are working hard to change the answers that Kentucky residents have given to these questions from the Gallup poll:

Do you have health insurance coverage?
Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food?
Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have money to provide adequate shelter or housing for you and your family?

Don't get me started on the biases I suspect in the survey.  In gauging happiness, particularly in my home state of Kentucky, I'd also be interested in seeing questions like these:

Do you feel a part of your community?
Do you feel supported by your extended family?
In the last year have you grown or made something useful for your family?
Do you have positive interactions with people outside your race?
Do you feel supported by a community that shares your cultural and religious backgrounds?
Do you know local decision-makers and do you feel comfortable voicing your concerns to them?
Have you watched the sunset at least 100 times in the last year?
Do you feel connected to your heritage and ancestry?


While low BMI's, college educations, and high-paying jobs undoubtedly contribute to long-term economic stability, I dare say so do things like strong family relationships, sense of community, and connection to one's environment.  And that, my friends, is why I choose to be happy in one of the saddest states in the country  -because I can answer yes to every single one of these questions (of course I can't deny my privileged status - I can probably answer "yes" to most of the questions in the real poll as well).

Now can we pass the fairness ordinance already so I can go celebrate with a glass of wine?  Ah, still so much work to do, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  

I suspect that Hawaiians probably feel the same. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Dad is Cooler Than Your Dad. He's a Snoop Dogg Fan.

Act #204: Don't limit yourself.

My dad is 64 years old.  He suffered a massive heart attack seven years ago and has since been retired because suddenly, the world began to move at a pace he just couldn't keep up with.  My dad grew up in Bangkok, Thailand.  A devout Buddhist, he is a thoughtful man of few words, who has always been viewed as the "quiet one" in his marriage to my mom.  A few weeks ago I was visiting my parents when I noticed that my dad barely looked up from his television set to acknowledge me.  When I was little, I remember how painfully boring I thought my dad's TV taste was.  His programming of choice consisted of 60 Minutes and anything sports-related:  football, basketball, horse-racing, and by far the most exhilarating television-watching experience of all time - golf.  So there I was, just a regular evening visiting my sweet, quiet, aging dad. 

Hold up, is that Snoop Dogg??????? 

Of course not, it was Snoop Lion.  Geesh, Snoop Dogg is SO last year.  Everyone knows, he has since converted to the Rastafari movement and has assumed a new alias - Snoop Lion.  Where have you been, people?  My dad was GLUED to the television set.  I asked him what he was watching, but he didn't hear me.  He was too busy watching R. Kelly's performance of Bump and Grind. Fascinated, I asked him again, what he was watching and he mumbled something about a music awards show.  Clearly, he wanted me to shut up and just leave him alone.  One thing I failed to mention is that my dad was a musician in his younger years.  One of those naturally musically-inclined, self-taught people who could pick up just about anything and begin to play it.  But to the best of my recollection, his favorite bands included Beatles, the Eagles, and Bread.  Definitely NOT Jamie Foxx or Nicki Minaj. 

Me:  Oh, you're watching the BET awards, huh dad? 

Dad:  Nah, it's just a music awards show.

Me:  No, dad, that's the BET awards, really.

Dad.  Oh, I see.  What is BET?

Me:  You don't know what BET stands for?

Dad:  No.

Me:  It stands for Black Entertainment Television. (Still fascinated I press even further)  Do you watch BET often?

Dad:  I guess when there's good music like this.  Did you see Stevie Wonder and Charlie Wilson on there?

My mom would later report to me that my dad stayed up way past his bedtime that night watching every last bit of the three and a half hour show.  And more than twenty years after I grew up and left home, my father is still teaching me valuable life lessons.  That labels like BET are meant to celebrate, not exclude.  That skin color neither defines nor limits music appreciation. That you might actually gain and enjoy a new experience if you don't confine yourself to societal expectations of your role.  That life would be so utterly boring if you didn't allow yourself to divert from the Eagles and enjoy Snoop Lion every once in a while.

Monday, July 22, 2013

I've Had Three Black Bosses (And An Asian One). How Many Have You Had?

Act 203:  Seek out mentors who don't always look like you.

I've had seven bosses in my lifetime.   Three of them were African-American and one was Asian (four were female).  In casual conversation earlier this week, I was telling someone about this and it occurred to me at that moment, how fortunate I was, and how my thoughts and ideology about leadership were probably framed greatly by these early professional encounters.  While I didn't necessarily seek out to find minority bosses, the experiences have quite literally moved me through my career with a framework that is significantly different from most of my college friends.  I have no preconceived notions about what someone in charge should look like.  Images of salt and pepper headed 60 year-old white males wearing ties sitting at the head of board room tables don't pop into my head when I think of words like authority and management (although one of my most influential bosses does happen to fit this profile).  Those images do however pop up when you image-Google the word "manager".  These are the images that appear in my mind when I think of leadership:  An accomplished black male attorney, a driven and compassionate foreign-born Taiwanese non-profit manager, a charismatic black male faith leader and community organizer, a black female career state government administrator.  Every single one of these individuals served as an extraordinary mentor to me - but perhaps their most unexpected and unintended impact was that they made it possible for me to believe that one day I might actually have enough to contribute to be seated at the head of that table.  Thank you William, Stephanie, Eddie, and Maggie for showing me that people who lead also come in all kinds of brilliant and beautiful shades of brown.

Art for Social Change: Grace uses photography to end victim blaming. (Trigger warning)

Act 202:  Save the blame for the perp.

What happens when 5 women under the age of 21 combine their artistic talents with their passion for eradicating sexual violence?  Project Unbreakable.  It all started two years ago when a 19 year old photography student in NYC by the name of Grace Brown began raising awareness about the issues surrounding sexual violence by using her art to help heal survivors.  Grace began photographing women at various points in their journey  holding posters with a quote from their attacker.  The project now features over 2000 photos and Grace travels the world raising awareness through her art.

 
 



To learn more about Project Unbreakable:  http://project-unbreakable.org/.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Open Letter To........You?

Act 201:  It's not always about you.

Dear You,

That's right, YOU.  The one sitting with your smart phone in your hand reading your daily blogs and checking your Facebook messages.  The one twirling your straw in your ice-cold mocha Frappacino, cursing at the neighbor's lawnmower for ruining your afternoon peace and quiet.  The one thinking right this very moment, how much you deserve this weekend to do nothing but recover from a crappy work week, and take care of yourself.   Got first world problems much?  Yes, today I am talking to you.  I feel obligated to do so, because I used to be you.....and most days than not, I still am. 

As a little girl, it was all about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  In college, what I wanted to major in that "fed my soul".  When I graduated and joined AmeriCorps, it was about how I was going to save those poor, desolate people from a lifetime of poverty.  All of the jobs I've had were, well, as expected.....about me.  How to fulfill my deepest passions, how I could shine, how I could prove my self worth, how I could make a difference.  Sure I held service-oriented jobs and for the longest time I tricked myself into thinking that I was really living my life in this way to benefit others.  Every discrimination case I investigated, every battered woman I secured housing for, every refugee I helped land a job, every college student I mentored - sounds like a regular Mother Theresa, right?  WRONG.  Very, very wrong.  For the first 40 years of my life I told myself that I was contributing to the world by doing my part to fix it.  Well, I'm here to tell you today that try as I might, I realize now, that I will never have the power to fix the world.  Nor does it help for me to stand on the outside and exert my views on exactly how it needs to be fixed.

Last year I took on a job as the director of a small non-profit that works with survivors of sexual violence.  I was slapped in the face with the biggest, hardest, most stinging dose of reality when it became clear very, very quickly that if I didn't stop focusing on me, people might lose their jobs, programs might be shut down, rape victims might not receive services, and people in my community would inevitably continue to be assaulted and stripped of their power.  So while I may have envisioned myself sitting at the state capital, working with legislators for tougher victim's rights, or empowering my all-female staff to be the change they want to see in the world, or rallying the community to join me in this anti-violence movement, the truth of the matter is this:  sometimes at my office, we run out of copy paper and we have to wait until our next funding check comes to order more.  Every day we have to turn down survivors of sexual violence who need long-term therapy because we don't have enough funds to hire additional clinical staff.  Beyond the $350 employer contribution, I can't afford to pay for all of my staff's health care coverage and many work second jobs just to make a livable wage. 
 
And I can't seem to fix any of it. 
 
So why not pack up my desk and move on, if there's truly nothing more I can do?  Because I don't believe for a second, that I........that YOU.......don't have the power to impact - maybe not fix, but impact - things like violence, poverty, the environment, or discrimination.  But we can't afford for it to be about us anymore.  We don't have the luxury to spend our days searching for that which feeds our soul (it'll come when you're least expecting it), how to find ourselves, how to realize our greatest potential, how to become a transformational leader.  While you are reading this, a woman is getting raped.  A child is dying of hunger.  A gay person is being fired from his job.  And someone is losing their life from gun violence.  And none of those people care what title you hold, what your highest degree is, where you are on your personal journey, or what training you have under your belt. They just want to survive.  And they could use a hand.  I know this is almost un-American of me to say, but what if the best way for us to realize our own potential, was to finally realize our own insignificance in the greater world?   What if today someone released you from the burden you've been carrying around, that you had to fix everything.  What if it was enough to just be.  Just become.  Just listen.  Just experience. Just speak up.  Just push your comfort zone.  Just do whatever tiny thing you can do in your own tiny part of the world to make it better.  The moment is now.  The quicker you realize that it's not all about you anymore, the sooner it will be about all of us.

Sincerely,
Me

Friday, July 19, 2013

9 Tips on Dating Feminists

Act # 200:  If you haven't dated one before, try it.  You'll be hooked.

So she insists on paying for her own meals, opens her own doors, and probably makes more money than you do.  Your masculinity can handle that just fine.  You've even learned to use gender neutral-language since you've met her.  If you've fallen (or about to fall) for a feminist, and think you might be in it for the long haul, here are a few tips to help your relationship flourish.   

1.  If this is how you imagined the perfect date:  Gazing into each other's eyes over a candlelit dinner, while an attentive server refills your glass of Malbec.  You wouldn't be too far off.  Just make sure the wine is fair trade wine.  And that the server makes a livable wage (with employer-paid health care).  And when you're done with the gazing, be prepared to ponder the social injustices of the world with her over that candlelit dinner.  And at the end of the  night, try not to get embarrassed when she offers to call a random intoxicated female a cab.

2.  Some words to avoid when describing her, or any woman actually:  irrational, bitchy, emotional, PMS-ing.  If you are wondering why obvious words like doll face, baby mama, and hot stuff are not on this list, walk away now, you aren't going to make it with this one.  Those who aspire to date feminists shouldn't even have these words stored away in any part of their brain.  Ever.  She'll know.

3.  When deciding on pizza toppings and you tell her it's her choice, just sit back and let her have the next 3 minutes to tell you, damn right, it's her choice, as she launches into a passionate argument about the reproductive rights of women.  Then gently explain to her that you were talking about pizza toppings.  

4.  Eventually, you're gonna have to learn to stop cringing every time she uses the word vagina.

5.  When considering gifts of affection, refrain from kitchenware, household products, or items from any store that contains the words "Secret", "Adult", "Hollywood", or "Exotic".  Consider these gifts instead:  a book that she heard about on NPR, "experience" gift like tickets to a concert or a lecture, or any other item that reflects that you have actually been hearing her and focusing on something other than her rack throughout your time together.  

6.  I bet you thought you couldn't tell her that she was beautiful or sexy?  Afraid she might slap you in the face and be offended?  You would be wrong.  You just have to do it in the right manner.  Here are a few guidelines:  1.)  Mean it when you compliment her;  2.) Don't just do it when she's all made up... or when she's naked;  3.)  Tell her (only if you mean it of course) as her body, style, self-expression, and the occasion changes and evolves.  

7.  Really falling for her and want to show her just how much?  Before you run off to Zales to buy the Forever pendent, do this instead. Research all the female candidates in your next local and federal elections.  Tell her exactly why you are considering voting for one.  Move over oysters on the half shell, there's a new aphrodisiac in town.  It's called gender equality and it is way tastier.

8.  Never, ever, EVER utter these words, "What's for dinner?"

9.  On a positive note, you can leave the toilet seat up without judgment, because yes, even the bathroom is an environment free of gender oppression.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to Raise a Future Gold Digger

Act #199:  Teach our girls to buy their own drinks.

1 Gold digger  noun
:  Any woman whose primary interest in a relationship is material benefits.  A woman who cares   about a man's bank account than she does about the man.

At least that's how urbandictionary.com defines it.  This topic has been on my mind since I was a naïve college student over 20 years ago. I remember when I first started going out to local bars on Thursday nights, and being completely shocked as I watched intelligent, 4.0, Dean's List college girls immediately go into hunt mode for that guy willing to supply them with free drinks all night.  In my late 20's when people around me seemed to be marrying off, I knew many a gals who publicly declared that they would only be marrying doctors or lawyers.  Again, these were smart, highly educated, professionally-accomplished women who could definitely stand their own ground.  I remember one time when I went out on a first date with a fairly accomplished man from Los Angeles and when the bill came, I told him I would get it, and that he could pay for drinks later.  He was literally about to die.  He said that in all of his years of dating that has never ever happened to him.

So what gives?  Why do so many women grow up thinking that it is in their best interest to land a future mate who has more wealth and prominence than them...to "marry up"?  Are we doing something as a society to promote this concept that even though we are perfectly capable on our own, we still need a man to hold the upper hand, to bring more to the table?   Now for clarification, I don't think there is anything wrong with considering a potential mate's financial stability. A long-term partnership means supporting each other and being financially reliable does play into this.  Also, I am in no way suggesting that all women operate (either intentionally or unintentionally) in this manner.  I am just flabbergasted every time I come across a smart, capable woman who is on the look-out for men who have the economic upper hand.  I have a few thoughts on why this might be happening.

Daddy's Little Princess, Prince Charming, and Prom
We indulge our 3-year olds and gush about treating them like royalty.  We call them princess - not queen, for that would suggest that she might actually have the power to make the important decisions.  We read fairy tales to them about grown women who always, always, always end up being saved by richer, more powerful men.  We spend hundreds of dollars on one-time formal dresses and proudly take a million pictures of our daughters as black limos pull up to our front doors and tuxedo-clad young men emerge with a corsage to whisk them away.  Why wouldn't they grow up expecting this level of treatment from men once they leave home?

Sense of Entitlement Without Achievement
I worked at a college for almost a decade and I watched the next generation expecting the newest gadget, the newest cellphone, the latest spring fashion collection.  Many planned to graduate and land a $60,000 management job immediately.  There was little expectation to work one's way up, or to consider starting at the bottom in order to gain maturity and experience that can only be achieved with time.  Many already claimed to know more than their professors, than CEO's.  They were out to rule the world, and they were going to do it now. While a small percentage of graduates may actually be able to accomplish this, most have to learn the ways of the world the hard way - and many might seek easier short-cuts to keep feeding that sense of entitlement.....sometimes, I dare say, in the form of free drinks.

Don't Men Also Dig for Gold?
Perhaps what doesn't settle with me the most is the fact that in all the music videos, in all the celebrity news, and in all of the real-life scenarios that I've encountered, it always seems to be the woman who is seeking someone with more wealth and power.  It's rare to see men setting out to do the same.  How ridiculous does it sound for a group of guys to gather in front of a bar and discuss how many free drinks they are going to persuade oblivious rich women into buying for them that night?  How many times have you teased your single adult son about your pretty doctor - the one who doesn't have a wedding band?  What better way to perpetuate a culture of patriarchy and gender inequity than to intentionally set up only women to pursue a lifetime of economic inferiority?  Can we please start teaching our daughters that they are capable of finding their own gold, and our sons to respect them when they do?
 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Case You Need A Dose Of Pure Goodness Today

Act #198:  Look for the good.  Maybe someday, it will drown out the bad.

Location:  Paris, Kentucky
Date:        1 Day after George Zimmerman verdict

A 42-year old white man was driving on the interstate with his two young sons.  He spotted a young man walking with a gas can away from his car and immediately pulled over to ask if he needed help.  The young man said he had run out of gas and the older man offered him a ride to the nearest gas station. The strangers spent the next few moments getting to know each other.  Turns out the young man was a student at a university on the other side of the state, was from a neighboring rural county, and was home visiting his father.  The two young boys listened intently.  After they filled up the gas tank, the older man drove the younger man back to his car.  After graciously thanking him, the young man stepped out of the car and said, "I think the fact that you picked up a black stranger on the side of the road, taught your boys some incredible values."

Hope.  It's still there.  Don't lose it.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why Wait For The Apocalypse?

Act #197: The time is now.

The following is an excerpt from a popular science fiction movie that is currently in theaters.  If you have ever watched any end-of-the-world, doom and gloom-themed movies in your lifetime, you've heard speeches like this one before.  Typically, the scenario goes something like this:  Humans are being attacked by monsters or aliens, and a military or rogue leader of some form gives a rousing last effort speech before sending a team out for one seemingly hopeless mission to save humankind.  One that by all laws of logic should fail.  But in that moment, during that speech, human survival depends on absolute trust in perfect strangers, a resolute belief in a future despite the odds, and a willingness to fight for it.  This particular speech takes place towards the end of the movie, right before the lead commanding officer sends his troops out for one last bold and desperate attempt to save the world.

Everyone, listen up.  Today, at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we’ve chosen not only to believe in ourselves, but in each other.  Today there’s not a man or woman that shall stand alone.  Today we face the monsters that are at our door.  Today we are canceling the apocalypse.
What if we didn't wait until the end of the world to cancel the apocalypse? 
What if we started believing in each other now?
 
 

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Son is George Zimmerman

Act #196: Challenge what you are teaching your children about heroism, vigilantism, race, and privilege.

I have a five-year old son.  Like George, he has big brown eyes and olive skin tone.  He too, was born with one foot in the door of white privilege, and the other only a generation away from being classified as an immigrant.  Like George, my son has a mother who is a minority, and a father who is white.  

Like George, my son speaks a non-English language and is growing up in a mixed, multi-racial household, alongside his maternal grandparents.   Like George, one of his best friends at school is half-black.  Like George, my son is growing up in a comfortable suburban neighborhood with working parents who sometimes take him to homeless shelters to hand out meals to those who are less fortunate.

Like George, my son looks up to vigilantes like Batman and Luke Skywalker, and is told everyday by his parents that he can single-handedly save the world, if he someday chooses to do so.  Like George, he too will soon have the choice to take a few classes and get a concealed weapons permit.

Much like George's mother (probably), I'm terrified that despite the values I espouse to him, despite the fact that we are surrounded by and close to people who are all shades of black and brown, despite the fact that we know first-hand what it feels like to be judged by the color of our skin, I am still somehow doing something terribly wrong, making some grave mistake.

Like George, my son will probably grow up riding the coattails of his privileged background.  He will grow up believing that he has the right to take justice in his own hands, and he will grow up with the God-given, all-American power to purchase and carry a weapon intended to kill.  Like George, my son will grow up in a world where movies and news stories will teach him to devalue, distrust, and fear black males.  Like George, he may even start to believe it.

All this time, I feared my son was Trayvon Martin, when in reality, I should have been terrified all along, that he might grow up to become George Zimmerman. 

George Zimmerman,undated photo

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When Words Just Won't Do

Act #195:  Let it sink in. 








 
Artists in order:   Justin Renteria, Andrea Montano, Unknown, Unknown Pittsburgh public school student, Pandasquid, Avone (Destroy Rebuild NYC) + Nobody (aka TMNK) -Bastards of the Streets, Unknown, Justin Nether, Shalay Young



Saturday, July 13, 2013

An Open Letter to Pacifist Boys

Post #194:  High-five a pacifist boy.

Dear Pacifist Boys,

You know who you are, because right now you might feel like you don't fit in.  You just don't understand when your teacher tells you that in order to stop the bullying, you have to learn to stand up for yourself.....when simply walking away seems to always make things better.  You can't quite grasp what your soccer coach means when he tells you, You better man up, boy.  You better let 'em have it. 

You just want to get the ball in the goal. 

When the big neighborhood kids tell you that it's time you stop acting like a sissy, that you throw like a girl.  You've seen your cousin, Abby throw, and boy, would you love to throw like that.

You know who you are.

Every time a big kid kicks you off the swing and you simply move on to the slide (but not without first telling him calmly how unkind that was)...

Every time your brother pulls your hair and you just laugh it off...

Every time you feel completely and utterly uncomfortable when your friends use words like  kill!   burn!   stab!  during playtime...

Every time you walk over to that kid who fits in even less than you do, just to say hi, because no one else will...

They are watching.  The teacher, the bully, the kid who took your swing, your brother, the big neighborhood kids, your friends.  And unbeknown to you, you are slowly altering the framework of their norm.  You are slowly revealing to them a different approach to the world.  You are showing them that it is possible for a boy to perhaps, not be phased enough by conflict to want to confront it with more conflict.  That in the grand scheme of things, the swing wasn't all that important.  That the boy who so aggressively demanded it probably needed it way more than you do.  You are showing all those people around you that maybe there is another way.

And what you don't even realize, is that all those people in the background you don't even notice - all the other kids on the playground, and in your class, those other teachers, and members of your family - they are also watching.  Some are even affirmed because they too have been secretly wondering if there was a better way.  Because of you, one day they may even feel strong enough to also walk away.  Boys like you grow up to be engaged and loving fathers, respectful partners, fair and compassionate human beings.  Sometimes boys like you even grow up to become men like Mahatma Gandhi.   Martin Luther King, Jr.   The Dalai Lama.  Nelson Mandela.  

Pacifist boys, I hope you resist the pressure to change yourself, before you have a chance to change the world.  Because now more than ever, the world needs boys like you. 

Sincerely,
The rest of the world, whose very fate depends on boys like you.


Friday, July 12, 2013

How Being Asian (or Black) Can Save a Life

Act #193: Get a cheek swab.

This is Nina. She is a mom.  She is Asian-American.  And she is dying.  She has stage 4 lymphoma that has spread to her brain and her only hope of living is to find a bone marrow donor...in less than a month.  The problem is that Asian and Pacific Islanders are among the lowest numbers of bone marrow donors in the National Registry. Of the 9 million potential donors registered with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), only 7% are Asian.  Even fewer (4%) are mixed race.


How can you help?  Share this with your friends and family.  If they don't fit this donor profile themselves, surely they know someone who might.  It's worth a shot.  You can also help by getting typed at a recruitment center:  http://bethematch.org/Join/Join_in_Person/Recruitment_Centers.aspx.
A quick cheek swab, a few minutes of your time, and you will find out if you are eligible to save not only Nina, but anyone suffering from blood cancers.  I joined the registry in 1997 right before my African-American supervisor died of leukemia.  African-Americans also make up only 7% of the NMDP. 

Every year, 12000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases like leukemia or lymphoma, for which a marrow or  umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor may be their best or only hope of a cure.  About 70% do not have a matching donor in their family and depend on finding a match with the NMDP.
 
To learn more about Nina's journey, please visit http://savenina.com/.  To help efforts to increase and diversify the donor pool, please visit http://www.a3mhope.org/ or http://www.swabplusdna.org/.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

8 Things You Can Do With Action Figures (Besides Fighting them Till Death)

Act #192:  Show our boys alternate forms of non-violent play.

A five-year old son + a husband who has discovered a chance to re-live his childhood (but this time with disposable income) = daily epic action figure battles on the living room floor. 

What's a passivist, outnumbered mom (who has already removed all the little plastic guns from their hands) do without further turning into the boring non-fun parent?  Create alternate play scenarios that are just as adventurous and exhilarating but do not include the following:  conflict, winners or losers, aggression, physical violence, sexism.  Here are some of my favorites:

1.  Avengers All-Star Habitat build featuring Thor as team captain 

2.  Wonder Woman and Princess Leah (throw on some clothes first), and then save the day

3.  Stormtrooper Tough Mudder games

4.  Father-son camping trip (and reconciliation) with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker

5.  Behind the Batcave Part 1:  Batman and Robin go to the courthouse:  Secret identities revealed 

6.  Behind the Batcave Part 2:  Batman and Robin honeymoon in the Caribbean

7.  G.I. Joes put out a forest fire

8.  Wolverine, Spiderman, and Catwoman open an animal rescue

Other ideas to explore when more age appropriate:
The Incredible Hulk goes to anger management
Captain America traces his genealogy
Joker:  Behind the laugh



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How To Get Disowned From Your Family

Act #191:  Be someone's chosen family.

I have two different friends, who are strangers in their own childhood homes.  The very people who brought them into the world no longer deem them to be worthy of their love.  The very eyes that once looked upon them with unconditional love and adoration, now look at them with shame and disappointment, maybe even regret. 

Their life "choices" are not only questioned, but rejected as defiant, and brazen.  Their children (and the promise of any future children) will never spend a summer week in the country with mamaw.  They will not know what it's like to run to the mailbox with eager anticipation of a birthday package from their grandparents. 

My friends have been forced to redefine the term family as something that one chooses, rather than something that one is born into.  What was once restricted to blood lines and ancestry, now encompasses those who do not demand ultimatums in exchange for love.  

My friends have taught themselves to exist separately from their own history, from their own stories of origin.  They have learned that they don't have permission to mourn their lost childhoods.  But every once in a while when the sun sets on Sunday evenings, they still do.

You may ask yourself, what they could have possibly done to warrant being purged from family albums and permanently excluded from Thanksgiving dinners. 

One is married to a black man.  The other is gay. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Act #190:  Write your own nursery rhymes.

5-year old son:  Mom, how does that rhyme go again?  You know the one that tells you what little girls and little boys are made of?

Mom:  Oh, that one.  Where did you hear that anyway, son?

Son:  I think I heard it from one of my friends at school.

Mom:  I see.  I think it goes something like this. 

Boldness to think of a world beyond pink.
That's what little girls are made of.
 
Courage to stand tall, even if you don't play ball.
That's what little boys are made of.
 
Son:  Are you sure that's how it goes, mom?
 
Mom:  Well, I think there are several versions, but this one is my favorite.  Do you like it?
 
Son:  Yes, I do!
 
 

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Son's First "Stare"

Act #189: Be open to the possibility that maybe you're the one who's being educated.

It was our last day of our family's staycation and we decided to go for an impromptu round of miniature golf at our local park.  We were about halfway through the 18-hole course when I noticed that we were slowly approaching a family of four.  If I had to guess, the family make-up seemed to be: a set of parents - probably in their 60's, their 30-ish year old daughter, and her pre-teen daughter.  I am not exaggerating when I say this, but the entire family literally stopped what they were doing and just stared at us upon our approach.   Well, to be more specific, they actually just stared at me and my five-year old son.  My husband seemed to be immune from the stares.  I recognized the look.  It wasn't mean or hateful in any way....just sheer and utter amazement.  Having lived on the outskirts of the rural south for most of my life, it is not uncommon for me to occasionally run into people who have not been around people of color in their lifetimes... and sad as it may be, I've gotten quite accustomed to such stares.  In my younger years, the stares used to bother me greatly, and would often illicit feelings of shame, embarrassment, and sometimes even anger.  I've since somehow grown to view such stares as an opportunity for me to perhaps educate or offer a "positive" minority encounter to first-time experiencers. 

This was however the first time that I've observed my son being the recipient of "the stare", so I was a tad protective, as I cautiously observed how this was all going to play out.  Luckily, my five-year old seemed to be oblivious and I was about to get away with a simple smile and hello (that should show them that Asians are friendly, right?) and continue on to hole #10, when lo and behold the 30-ish year old woman asked, "You all from around here?" 

So just to paint a complete picture of all the biases and prejudices racing through my mind, I should probably mention that the 30-ish year old woman spoke with a very distinct eastern Kentucky accent. The pre-teen girl wore glasses and while I can't really recall what she had on, her outfit gave off the thrift-store vibe.  The older woman had a bow in her hair and wore a denim skirt.  I've come to learn that in Kentucky, when you see women over the age of 60 with hair bows and long denim skirts, there's a good chance that they might be members of a conservative Appalachian Baptist faith tradition.

So I was bracing myself for what was to follow after the initial, "You all from around here?" question.  Here it is.  This is when we are about to be treated like foreigners in our own hometown.  This is when my son will get his first experience of "friendly" racism.  I was not pleased.  Can't a nice little 'ol inter-racial family just enjoy a peaceful round of mini-golf?  My husband responded on our behalf and told her that we were indeed from "around here".  And just when I had all my defenses up, racking my brain on how to "educate" these primitive, back-woods country people, while also modeling good behavior for my son, the women excitedly told us about an even better miniature golf course just half an hour down the road, south on I-75.  She was so excited about this place I thought she was gong to just put us in her car and show us exactly where it was!  We exchanged a few polite words as my husband promised to check out the place and then we went on about our business. 

And I learned a very important lesson, on my last day of staycation, about how my own prejudices can and will sometimes set me up to expect the worst in people.  This time, I was the one who was "educated".

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Art For Social Change: Callie is Sticking it To Violence

Act #188:  Use what you've got.

Half way into the 365 Plain Jane Activism project, it finally occurred to me that there are ordinary, every day highly talented people who are trying to change the world through artistic expression.  I decided to call attention to the work of these unsung heroes who use art to transform the world. I will be highlighting a lesser known artist, writer, musician, etc. each Sunday.  I stumbled across this week's artist from her FabulouslyFeminist Etsy page:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/FabulouslyFeminist?ref=seller_info. 

Someday I hope to order up hundreds of her stickers to pass out at awareness events and rallies!
Meet Callie Garp.  She explores gendered issues around identity, privilege and containment.  She is interested in visual symbols that become objects in society with complex implications. In her words, "A ribbon may adorn, and bind. A mask may enable, and withhold. The female body may function as a striking, erotic expression, and a physical and psychological container. When do these symbols aid our sense of identity and when do they tie us to a false dichotomy?"  

I want to change the world. I want to change how we talk about rape & sexual assault.
 
I want to empower young girls.
 
I want to engage with a gender-inclusive world.
I want to be part of the solution – and I’ll bet you do too.
 
~ Callie Garp

 
 
 
Check out more of Callie's art and ponderings on her FabulouslyFeminist Art for Social Justice blog:  
 
 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

When Your Kid Believes in a Black President But Not a Female Mayor

Act #187: Get involved with local politics - a commission, a board, city council.  Heck, run for mayor!

My son was born in July of 2007.  Ever since he can really remember, he's had an African-American president.  He doesn't have a clue about the historical significance of the time period in which he was born - to him, Barack Obama isn't "the first black man to become president", he's just the president. Naturally. So it shocked and amazed me greatly the other day, when we saw our small town's mayor, and out of the blue my son declared that only boys could be mayors.  After I swallowed my grave disappointment (discreetly), and ran through a 5-second pondering of the power of media and deeply embedded social messages regarding gender (in my head), I collected myself and asked my son of all of the mayors he knew.  And here's what I learned:

Mayor of Bikini Bottom (Sponge Bob)



Mayor of Crystal Cove (Scooby Doo):

 

Mayor of the Mushroom Village (Adventure Time):



















So I began thinking about local politics and the fact that our hometown has never had a female mayor and only two of the eight city council members are female.  The city administrator and police chief are also male.  Add the fact that the mayors of all of my son's favorite cartoons are males (or at least have male voices - even the mushroom is blue!) it's no wonder this 21st century kid of progressive feminist parents can't even imagine a local leader who is female. 

As of January 2013, of the 1,248 mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000, only 217, or 17.4%, were women.  We fight and bicker to elect someone from our own political parties into office because we think our shared values will be represented, but we don't do the same in order to elect someone whose personal experiences and perspectives would most likely be representative of many of our own - issues that impact women's health, safety, and economic growth.  

And we end up raising boys who can't even imagine us leading in the political arena.  Isn't it time to change the course of our future?  Visit the below sites to get you started on how you can become more involved in politics yourself, or help support other females in political office.  The list is non-partisan.  It's about time Bikini Bottom elects a new mayor.  Hopefully her first item of business will be to change the name of the town.

http://emilyslist.org/
http://usmayors.org/about/women.asp
http://www.emergeamerica.org/
http://voicesofconservativewomen.org/