Cat-Calling and College Women

I’m lucky enough to teach a course called Funny Women this semester. We are beginning the course with Tina Fey’s Bossypants. And the conversations that are happening in this classroom are renewing my love of teaching.

tina+fey+cover

Today we began discussion with this quote from the book about Fey’s experience talking with a group of women: “almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them.”

I asked the class, made up of twelve women and two men, if this was true to their experiences. The conversation immediately turned to cat-calling. Most of the women were not aware that they were viewed as grown women until some guy yelled at them from the street or the car and pointed out their bodies as sexual objects.

I told them my experience last week of walking out of the building I work in at 8 PM, after my evening class. I walked out alone and no one else was in front of the building or on the steps. A car full of young men rode by and beeped and screamed at me. I don’t know what words they said, but they were saying that they saw my body as something to gaze at and comment on. I asked the class how they thought this made me feel?

“Unsafe,” two female students said in unison.

Yes, they are exactly right, because they know this experience all too well. They know that I fumbled for my keys and quickened my pace.

I think it’s difficult for men to realize what women feel like alone at night. I think a lot of women aren’t even conscious of their own anxiety. Whenever I walk to my car at night, I am acutely aware of my surroundings. Without thinking, I navigate the safest and shortest route to my car.

The overwhelming sense I got from our conversation in class today is that I’m not neurotic or alone and that young women on college campuses do not feel safe. At least, today, they said that out loud, and it was a courageous act. You have to remember these young women are still very concerned with what others, and men, think of them. But they are also bright and brave, and I’m lucky to have these conversations with them.

Princesses are NOT Created Equal

***Only women of privilege have time to even care about this issue. I realize there are more important things to discuss, BUT I need to vent.***

If you read Scary Mommy, there has been an uproar about whether or not parents should refer to their daughters as “princess.” Now I choose not to do this. The terms “princess” and “diva” have always made me cringe. However, I don’t care if you call your daughter a princess, BUT I do think it matters what princesses you are referring to. They are not created equal. Now I am not going to discuss their plotlines and many other issues. I could write an entire book, and I’m sure there are dissertations on this. I’m mainly interested in examining just the images, the appearances of the Disney “princesses” and comparing/contrasting them. I’m not even going to touch on real princesses and what they represent (but it’s not good, y’all). As my husband likes to say, we fought a war to get away from all that.

So let’s compare some of the choices you have when it comes to Disney princesses.

If you call your daughter a princess, does she think you mean Arielle or Merida, the redheads of Disney:

hair that flows perfectly, larger than possible eyes, a tiny waist, and limited clothing.

hair that flows perfectly, larger than possible eyes, a tiny waist, and limited clothing (and eyelash extensions)

VS.

unruly, beautiful hair, physical skill with a weapon, more clothing, a body type that is a bit more realistic, beautiful eyes, but they aren't gigantic.

unruly, beautiful hair, physical skill with a weapon, more clothing, a body type that is a bit more realistic, beautiful eyes, but they at least have realistic eyebrows, and she isn’t beckoning you with a smile. 

How about some of your princesses from different ethnic backgrounds? Who would you choose for your daughter to compare herself to?

Jasmine

TINY waist, huge brown eyes that seem to always have perfect eyeliner on them, a small nose, ordained with expensive jewels, and once again looooong, luscious hair. Yes, this is a “whole new world,” one that doesn’t exist. But I think it’s what Kim Kardashian is trying to obtain and that Ashley girl on The Bachelor…she’s really good evidence that you don’t want your daughter watching Jasmine.

 VS.

Princess_Mulan

Waist is a bit more realistic, a single hair is actually out of place!, she stands in a posture of strength, unlike Jasmine, her eyebrows are a normal size. But they all have perfectly blushed cheeks….We’re talking about the lesser of two evils, people.

So I know I can’t convince you to stop calling your daughter princess and really I don’t want to, but please don’t call MY daughter a princess (strangers do this). The eyerolls I will give you might kill. I’d really just like us to try and be more discerning about what princesses we “give” to our children. I know that Cinderella gets all the hype, but maybe we can redirect just a little and point them towards Belle, who is an intellectual at heart (isn’t she just a bit better as a role model?)

belle

Finally, I know you will think/say, “they are just little kids, they don’t take any of that in.” They are sponges. They take it all in.

And if you just want to forget all this and blow off some steam, I highly recommend Disney Power Hour. You sing along and drink with friends. It’s the best.

Sweet Moment in a Busy World

as most of you know, toddlers move fast. Mae has started saying “come, come” and “go,go” and that about sums up my days with her. Every once in a while, she will sit quietly with me.

Last week was tough as it was my first week back to work, but Friday morning Mae did the sweetest thing. She brushed my hair, gently and quietly. She must have seen how I closed my eyes and relaxed because she said “Feels good” and kept brushing. She wanted to do something for me.

It was a precious moment, and something that my mom and I also did in the evenings before bed. 

Amongst the chaos of our weeks, I hope you hold on to a still moment. 

   
   

For Moms Returning to Work

A year ago, I was returning to work after maternity leave. I was off for six months with Mae. Were those months blissful? No. I’m definitely more suited to working while mothering, but staying home had become my norm and leaving my baby did not feel natural. 

Many teachers are leaving their “babies” this week to return to work, for the first time or the tenth time. And if you’re like me, it’s a mix of emotions: a sadness for the end of summer yet a readiness for a schedule and structure; a craving for a professional life yet a tugging to just stay home; an excitement for new projects and ways of teaching yet feeling  overwhelmed by trying to balance it all. 

If it’s your first time returning to work after having a baby: it gets easier. It took me a few months but then I began to really appreciate work. Going back to work feels normal now. It’s what’s I do, this balancing act. 

My best advice is to find someone who understands that you’d rather be with your kid than sitting in that boring meeting. Those co-workers, who get it, will help get you through. The meetings won’t get better, but your mindset will. 

Making Mom Friends

I just read a post on Scary Mommy about this topic and I disliked most of what the author had to say, so here’s my list:

Once you have a baby, you get invited into new circles of friends, or circles of moms. For the most part, this is wonderful. You meet new moms just like you and they are supportive. BUT, having the fact that you are both moms isn’t enough to have in common, in my opinion. 

I love meeting people who are different from me. It makes life way more interesting and I love to have a lively debate or discussion. So it’s not differences that turn me off from mom friends. However, there are some deal breakers.

1. Your husband gives me the creeps. I can really like a friend, but her husband stares at me in an uncomfortable way, or he is totally mean and absent with his kids. I can be friends with this woman, but we will never be best friends because I’m never leaving my child alone at your house.

2. You are uppity about breastfeeding or co-sleeping or cloth diapering [insert a strong opinion here]. Basically, you are a sanctimommy. I can’t be friends with any mom who thinks she has it all figured out. That kinda makes you an asshole. No thanks. I can hang with assholes in my classroom full of eighteen year olds any day. 

  
3. You’re always trying to get me to join your pyramid scheme. I have lots of friends who sell stuff, and I buy it. I like it. But then there are women who seem to always be networking. They didn’t come on the play date to hang out. They came to get everyone’s name and number, so they could send invites to a “party,” but the party is really a sales pitch. No thanks. I can buy jewelry at the store for much less.

4. They want me to find Jesus. The people selling gaudy jewelry have a better chance with me than the bible thumpers. Now once again, I’m NOT saying I don’t befriend religious moms. This is the south. If I did that, I wouldn’t have any friends. But I don’t want to be your friend if I’m the destination of one of your mission trips. Walk the walk, it’s much more influential than quoting bible verses all the time.

5. You’re too rich. Now I wouldn’t automatically discount you, but odds are we don’t do the same activities. We hit up all the free, cheap parks and story times. We shop consignment. We can’t buy all organic. We have to eat lunch at home most days. I just can’t afford you, friend. 

What are your mom-friend deal breakers?

To All You Kitty Haters

IMG_0492

What you lookin’ at?

Before we got kitty, I had the following conversation quite a bit:

Me: “We’re getting a kitty for Mae.”

You: “Don’t do it.” or “That’s a terrible decision.” “Can you send it back if it doesn’t work?” “Kitties ruin everything.” “Kitties killed my grandfather.”

I talked to some kitty-hating people.

And I’m happy to report that our kitty, Mao, has way more pros than cons. Mae is an only child, and this kitty is a constant companion and playmate. This means I get a break! I can unload the dishwasher sometimes.

Yes, we have a litter box (but it’s in the garage). Yes, kitty runs around like a maniac at midnight (but we can just lock her out of our room).

BUT, Mao is the first word Mae says each morning. Mae points to her ear (this is her way to say “I hear” and then she says “Mao!” with such excitement. The novelty of having a kitty has not worn off. It’s Christmas every morning.

catphoto12

Mae has also learned how to handle Mao gently, most of the time. This was a good lesson, for her and me. I had to navigate the best way to teach her this. It took a lot of modeling, a lot of repetition, and finally, she gets it! (This doesn’t mean she always listens, though)

My current advice: Don’t have more kids, have more kitties.

kitties

I’m fully aware that the moment I publish this post, Mao will go and pee on everything we own.

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW): who got it right? 

This past week was World Breastfeeding Week. If you are a mom or even your friends are moms, your social media was dotted with photos of nursing babies and articles about women’s right to breastfeed.

I’m all for women being supported to breastfeed. If you know me at all, you know I don’t think anyone should tell a woman what to do with her body.

However, with the move of most hospitals to become baby friendly, lactation consultants in most urban pediatrician offices, and more women breastfeeding, I think there’s a backlash happening. Where I live, just outside of Raleigh, the capital, I felt much more stigmatized and judged for bottle-feeding than breasfteeding. You shake up that bottle of formula under the table and try not to draw attention. 

I think in a small, rural areas it is different and more of this general breastfeeding awareness might be needed. I have family who live in Beaufort County and the lack of resources and education on breastfeeding create a very different environment there. 

However, the theme of this year’s WBW was on breastfeeding and the workplace, yet this is not the focus I saw from the news and friends. This, breastfeeding access and maternity leave, I can get on board with, it seems very necessary and timely. 

But I don’t think we are in a time when breastfeeding mothers can try to claim society  shames them more than others. Unfortunately, we are in a time when mothers are judged for just about any feeding choice they make. It’s equal opportunity judgement and shunning. 

So let’s focus more on access to flexible work hours for mothers and a space for them to pump at work. These are practical, timely concerns. Are some women shamed for nursing in public? Yes, but I’ve never met one personally. Those concerns are not as pertinent as the ones that were actually the goal of WBW this year: breastfeeding and the workplace.

I know many stories of women who were not provided a place to pump, or if they were, it was a glorified closet or not-so private room. These seem like the issues that need addressing and could actually be solved with practical solutions in the workplace. 

So this is just me saying World Breastfeeding Week had it right, but many of us got it wrong.