05
Jun
15

Justice in the Justice Department

Justice in the Justice DepartmentHas justice been achieved in the Justice Department?  With two women in the top leadership positions, perhaps we’re coming a lot closer to equality than ever before.

One can argue both ways.  For example, it could be either encouraging or offensive that a news story entitled, “No. 2 At  Justice Warns Growing Prison Budget Detracts From Public Safety,” should end focusing on the number of women in the room during a staff meeting.  On one hand, bringing it to the attention of the world that America’s current Justice Department is led by women and that there are more women “in the room” overall is a huge step.  Even Yates herself admitted that she didn’t even notice the gender numbers.  In fact, Yates shares that “Maybe, actually, that is the strongest statement of all, is that it’s just not as a big a deal today as it was when Janet Reno and Jamie Gorelick were running the department.”

However, the reason this article caught my ear was the fact that this gender disparity issue came at the end of a story regarding the federal prison budget.  Why is the gender of those discussing this topic even an issue?  One could also make speculations regarding the fact that the gender difference in the meeting was brought to Yates’ attention by her male staffer.  Yates said, “I was in a meeting and one of my staffers, at the end of it said, ‘do you realize I was the only man in the meeting?’”  My question is, had the tables been turned, would this news story have concluded with a male leader commenting on the gender disparity brought to their attention by a lone female staffer in a meeting?  Both this news story and Yates’ remarks paint this incident as a positive move in gender equality.

And it is.  The discouraging fact of the matter though is that the societal norm does not maintain women in the majority or even equally in many areas of leadership in this country.  We are making progress.  It is empowering to see that the Department of Justice has brought justice into its own home.  Now let’s tackle the rest of the country and the world!

Read the article:   No. 2 At  Justice Warns Growing Prison Budget Detracts From Public Safety

28
Jan
15

Get out of your way!

Get out of your wayDo you find that most of the time the thing that stops you from pursuing your dreams or reaching your fullest potential is yourself?

It’s that one voice inside that tends to drown out all the others with words like can’t, don’t , shouldn’t, wouldn’t.  It tells us not to do it.  What is “it”?  Well, think back…when was the last time you wanted to do something that would help you grow or take risk (that wasn’t about being practical and responsible) and you didn’t do it?  Whatever it was, that was the “it.”  It could have been signing up for a class, starting a business or simply choosing to spend time or money investing in your own personal growth.

There are so many things that I want to do and experience in my life that I fear I won’t have the time to do them all.  I certainly don’t need to put another obstacle in my way, but it continues to be a battle to drown out that inner voice of doubt and judgment.  However, I recognize that I am not alone.  The universal power of this conflict was once again brought to my attention while reading a book about women in the mid 1960’s.  The overriding struggle of the women in the book was with that voice, but for them the voice was also more externally pronounced.  In the time during and after the Cold War, many women felt trapped by prescribed social roles and didn’t pursue their dreams for fear of looking like a bad mother, doing something at the expense of their family’s well-being or seeming unfeminine.  Does this still sound familiar?

Despite the fact that that way of thinking was over fifty years ago, it was still only fifty years ago.  In other words, it takes time to change the thinking and/or perception of a society’s gender norms.  And that change begins and ends with us.  We must be the first to believe and say “no” to that voice from the past which tells us no!  It’s a constant battle to retrain the brain.  Why does it seem easier to tell others what they should think or do?  Most times we can see things more clearly from the outside of a situation which is why it is vital to have trusted friends who can encourage us to combat old patterns of thinking.

We can’t erase the past, but we can recognize and identify our mistakes and learn from them.  Sometimes it can be easier and safer to listen to that inner voice.  However, if we do, we not only deny  our true selves, but we perpetuate a false social philosophy which prevents us from obtaining the freedom which we all deserve.  If we are torn within ourselves, we will not be unified outwardly with others.

So let’s get out of our own way!

08
Jan
15

Let’s get busy!

let's get busyMake any New Year’s resolutions?  I did.  Actually, I’ve been thinking of it for quite some time and began it with my last post made in December.  “What was it?” you may ask.  It was to get busy!

The book and motion picture “Wild,” has been getting a lot of attention.   Society’s response to a strong female and her journey through grief to self-discovery has been encouraging.  It’s also been an awakening to the media for the need for more pivotal female roles on the page, stage and screen.  During a radio interview with Reese Witherspoon, the star and producer of the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” Witherspoon referenced the lack of complex roles for women and responded by not only saying, but putting into action her comment:  “…nobody is doing this work.  I might as well get busy and do it myself.”

Obviously we don’t all have the resources like Witherspoon, but we do share the same perspective.  As a result, instead of expecting others to address the needs which have already been identified, I have decided to join Witherspoon and “get busy.”  What does this mean?  I believe that in each of our lives in our own way, we can make a difference to bring about change for gender equality.  From standing up for ourselves or others when confronted by sexism or working to make more opportunities for women available, we all contribute to society’s transformation.  No action is too small, so we must not minimize our efforts.  It’s changing our very way of thinking as a community; embracing our egalitarianism.

Awareness, education and recognition are vital.  However, without following that up with action in our daily lives, our society tends to find contentment with labeling gender discrimination as simply one of many issues which need addressing.  “Issues” tend not to have the same concern as crisis.  Why is it not a national crisis that women do not receive equal pay for equal work?  Why is it not a global crisis that women are surrounded and trapped by violence, rape and sex trafficking?  When perceived as an issue, it weakens the urgency of our condition.   This is nothing less than a crisis which demands action.

So let’s get busy!

Read interview with Reese Witherspoon

 

Support women artists by buying the book “Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed and see the movie.

17
Nov
14

the right to be you

the right to be youI have been on a hiatus of sorts.  It’s not because I haven’t had any thoughts, concerns or opinions about life.  I guess I just found myself coming up against the same roadblocks, questioning the source, perhaps a common one, of these consistent struggles.

Just the other night I was out with a beautiful artist.  I have seen her work many times and she is a kind-hearted, loving individual.  Yet I hear her say the very words which plague my own heart: can I do it?  Do I have any talent?  Am I beautiful?  I know the answer to all of these questions, but when we are alone with ourselves, we tend to create a comparison which always leaves us feeling less than.  Our society, especially American society, thrives on doing and results.  The expectations placed on us, especially women, make it almost impossible to find satisfaction and pride in oneself.

Society tells women that they must achieve an idyllic beauty which requires youth.  Obviously, this is impossible as we all age, but because so many others strive to reach this imposed rule, we do everything in our power to fulfill it.  Countless, beautiful, brilliant women of all ages with whom I’ve had the pleasure to know, have shared their fear of aging and remaining physically attractive.  The constant fear of gaining even a few pounds or showing signs of a wrinkle plagues their existence.

Then there’s the expectation that women should have it all; if they don’t have both a successful career and children, they disappoint someone.  Many women work hard to obtain an education and use it to compete in an unequal marketplace which not only expects them to give as much, but for less compensation.  Simultaneously, society also places pressure on women to have children whilst making it virtually impossible to maintain the same level of job performance.  Meanwhile, if they do give attention to their work, they may feel guilt or anxiety over their parental role.

As a result, society continues to place women in positions which inevitably cause them to seemingly fall short of its expectations in one area or another.  Personally, I’m tired of never feeling like enough.  No matter how much personal fulfillment I may find apart from society, as soon as I step off my island, I am reminded of my failures.

So how do we break this pattern?  How do we defy these expectations and create ones which build us up rather than tear each other down?  It is hard to walk this path against the grain alone and I don’t believe we are meant to go it alone.  Life is short.  Can we come together and simply claim the right to be ourselves?

04
Sep
14

It’s what we do that defines us?

it's what you do that defines youAre we what we do?

A few days ago I was watching Batman Begins (yes I am a comic book/superhero movie junky).  Something that stuck out to me more than usual was this theme of, “It’s not who I am on the inside, but what I do that defines me.”  Originally, this quote came from Jane Austen whom I adore.  So I was surprised when it rubbed me the wrong way and got me to thinking…(Shamefully, I confess that I have not read Sense and Sensibility, so I do not know the context in which Austen was using this quote.  However, I can speculate that what she is referring to is far from the direction my thoughts took me.)

If we were stripped of everything- all of our capabilities of “doing,” would we still be ourselves and considered valuable?  As we grow older, and that’s something we all share as human beings, we become more restricted in what we can do and at what pace.  This is just a reality.  If we revolve our lives around what we do, the inevitability that one day we may not be able to do all that we do now can be frightening and even devastating.

Part of my struggle with starting a new career later in life was the issue of time.  Would I have enough time to fully pursue my dreams or was I too late?  Recently a friend shared about someone he knew who went to medical school and became a doctor in his late forties!  This was extremely encouraging to me and helped me to see that it is never too late to follow your heart.  However, it brought me back to the question of how I define myself – by what I do or who I am?

There are so many things I want to do but realize that I do not have the resources to do them right now – rescue animals, travel the world, live on the beach- but just because I cannot do them does not undermine the characteristics which make me have those desires.  Those dreams are what make me, me; not whether I accomplish them or not.  Many of us search for a purpose in life; something to contribute that no one else can or at least giving of ourselves in a productive way.  As a society we’ve created a measurement of human value based on what we do instead of simply who we are.

So how can we value one another and ourselves at any age no matter what we can or cannot do?  When can being ourselves be enough?

03
Aug
14

I’ve got you in my pocket!

i've got you in my pocketCan the pockets of our clothes reveal our self-perception and society?

Sitting in a movie theater watching the pre-show reel, my husband voiced his concerns for my cell phone.  All possible pockets on my person were bulging because I did not want to bring a purse for this event.  As a result, the only optional home for my cell phone was my back pocket.  This was quite worrisome for my husband who keeps his phone in his front pocket.  When he suggested that as an alternative in order to avoid crushing or breaking the phone (of course he assured me that this was in no way a reflection on the weight or size of my buttocks), I told him that it was impossible.

How is it possible that it should be impossible?  After all, he was able to put his phone in his front pocket.  When I revealed that the front pockets of my jeans were not equipped with large pockets like those on the back, he appeared shocked and confused.   In fact, he stuck his hand in my front pocket to see/feel for himself.  Scandalous, I know.  However, we were not thrown out of the movie theater and continued our discussion.

“Sexist pockets,” I said jokingly.  Can such a ridiculous thing exist?  But it got us thinking about why clothing is made the way it is made.  Everyone’s body is different; shape, size, age, function, etc.  However, designers have discovered a way to classify and label clothing according to a specific standard. The questions that follow are:  who chose the standard, how was it determined and why?  Throughout time the ideal form for the human body has changed.  Has the human body changed drastically over time?  If so, have bodies changed due to some form of adaptation to the environment or in order to accommodate or mimic the trends imposed by society?

Whatever the answers may be, the clothing of our present society reflects certain expectations of different kinds of bodies.  Why do some bodies need or deserve large front pockets and others do not?  Or one can take the opposing perspective and ask why are some bodies are burdened with large front pockets and others are not?  Why are some fabrics used for one body and not another?

Perhaps the most important question to ask is this:  are we allowing society to fit us into their predetermined pockets or are we choosing to fill whatever size pocket we want with who we are?

01
Jul
14

who owns your body?

who owns your bodyWhen will women’s bodies have only one owner?

An alarming report came to my attention a few weeks ago:  women prisoners in California are being sterilized without their consent.  Hearing this immediately took me back to a history lesson on eugenics.  This was only uncovered through audits performed at the prisons.  Which begs the question:  how many have not been revealed?

The control of women’s bodies has been an ongoing battle.  It seems simple enough; one’s body belongs to oneself.  But history has taught us through slavery, labor camps, rape, mail-order brides and the sex trade that no matter what race or gender one might claim, others hold the power of bodies in their hands.  Society labels bodies in order to make actions against bodies “acceptable.”  Society teaches women to believe that their bodies do not belong to them or that they deserve abuse.

Women’s bodies are powerful: they bring life.  To allow someone else to take or control that power is abominable.  Why does someone else need to be consulted for women to make decisions about their own bodies?  How can people justify the right to sterilize a woman without her consent?  More women than men have been sterilized without consent – why is that?  Is there more to sterilization than simply stopping someone from procreating?

These actions continue to remind women that they are not in control of their bodies.  Someone else out there, probably whom we have never met, is making decisions about the care or abuse of our bodies.  How can we take back the control?  When will the body only belong to its owner?

To read the story click here: Sterilization in CA prisons.

 





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