IUD Inside

Last month’s Hobby Lobby ruling by the Supreme Court filled me with such blinding rage that I have been unable to write about it (or even think about it) in a reasonable manner. And railing at the universe with vitriol and bitterness is useless. It turns into preaching to the choir. If any of us hope to effect change that is one lousy way to do it.

So let me get this off my chest and I’ll be able to move on.

Ugh, I can’t do it. I can’t curse out the members of SCOTUS who formed the majority of the ruling or Hobby Lobby in writing. It would be irresponsible because it would basically invalidate everything else I say.

But I AM DOING IT IN MY MIND.

Okey doke. I do feel a tiny bit better. You know what else has made me feel better? Buying this T-shirt.

Why am I so upset? Obviously, an employer rather than a medical professional making health care decisions that only affect women is a big problem for me. But leaving that for a moment, what scares the living shit out of me is how this court values the rights of the few over the many. Business owners are not a majority in our country. They tend to be more powerful and wealthy than the general population. And in this ruling their wants were given more weight.

The ruling is un-American.

Imagine for a moment that Christian business owners were not the ones who brought the law suit, rather a group of Muslim business owners who disliked birth control being a component of the company healthcare plan. Do you believe for a second the ruling would have been the same?

Certain business owners do not want to pay for birth control, either all of it or some of it. But you know what? They aren’t paying for it at all. Health care is not some benevolent gift granted to workers by a company. It is compensation for services rendered. The idea that a company can dictate how any part of a compensation package is spent, especially based on religious ideology, is mind boggling. Could a closely held company run by a devout Jew ban employees from purchasing pork with money they earned in his or her employ? Could LBGT community members be denied jobs based on sexual orientation?

Those examples seem extreme, but no more extreme than the ruling handed down on June 30th. My shock that day was complete. I did not believe for a moment that the ruling could possible go the way that it did.

Fifty years from now when this court is considered by historians the majority opinion will be judged harshly.

Would you like to know why I choose an IUD as birth control?

Because my husband and I enjoy having sex and we cannot afford another baby. Because I have been on hormonal birth control to manage severe menstrual cramps since before I was sexually active. Because I had a D&C five days postpartum after delivering our first son to stem the horrifying bleeding caused by a piece of left behind placenta and I hemorrhaged six hours after the birth of our second son and menstrual bleeding now scares the hell out of me and exacerbates my anxiety disorder. The tiniest blood clot makes me seize up with terror. What does that have to do with anything? A side effect of the Mirena IUD is a much lighter flow. My reasons are complex and simple, much like the choices any woman makes about her reproductive health and life.

To have that choice compromised by an employer is unconscionable. The women who work for Hobby Lobby are hourly and low wage employees. They cannot just get another job. Low wage retail is a shitty existence. They would get out if they could. The women with the least power are the ones getting screwed. Un-American. Shameful. Frightening.

So what does an outraged feminist do? This one makes a t-shirt. And wears it in pubic with pride. My tiny action might not make any difference at all. I usually wouldn’t advertise my private choices on my t-shirt. But this one matters. I am not ashamed of my IUD. I’m grateful for it. And I’m pissed that I need to be grateful to my husband’s employer for not objecting to it.

photo (45)

Bam. The IUD is right in there doing its thing. Hope the folks I passed by at Target and at the Children’s Science Museum yesterday enjoyed it as much as I do.

 

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How To Use Photoshop

Last weekend we had a mini reunion with Z’s side of the family. One of Z’s sisters is a professional photographer so a photo shoot is always part of our gatherings.

Before we had kids I really dreaded the photo shoots. My anxiety disorder comes with a side of self loathing that is so obsessive it is its own type of narcissism. I am sure everyone who sees me is overwhelmed with pity and disgust. As I’ve learned to manage the disorder I’ve come to the realization that most people are not wasting their time thinking about me at all. Score one for therapy.

Anxiety disorder aside, I don’t think my discomfort is unusual when it comes to having my photo taken. For 37 years I’ve been bombarded with images of female beauty heavy with subtext that both says I must strive to achieve perfection and implies that I never will. For 37 or 27 or 17 or 57 years you have received the same message. If you have enough self confidence to ignore popular culture and advertising, I admire you. I also think you are very much in the minority.

Since I started running a year ago I’ve been Instagraming post-run selfies using no filter. I’m proud of my running, I feel strong and more comfortable in my body. I also think we don’t see enough pictures of real women. Women who are careening towards middle age, who have forehead wrinkles and freckles that are fast becoming age spots, who are sweaty and red faced after working hard, who are not wearing a lick of makeup. So I post those pictures myself. I post pictures of the woman my boys see every day to combat the images of perfect women who do not exist.

sweaty run

I try to be satisfied with who I am. I try to not focus on who I’m not. Do I succeed? Well, not very often. But I try, and that is what matters.

And having my boys has changed everything. I want pictures of our family. I’m grateful that my sister-in-law is such a talent and that she shares her gift so generously. Her nature shots are lovely, but I prefer her work with people. I don’t know much about photography, but it stuns me how she can photograph humans with such compassion. She brings out the best in her subjects. Joy and humor and beauty radiate from her shots.

She edits her work like any photographer who shoots digitally. What she doesn’t do is use photoshop to achieve perfection. As an avid mommy blog reader, I’ve seen a lot of tutorials on how to photograph your kids over the years. So many of them are primers on how to airbrush the hell out of your children. How to remove the baby acne or uneven skin tone or even scrapes and bruises.

Why do we do this to our kids? Why do we show them that they aren’t good enough from the day that they are born? Why do we need to fix them rather than enjoy who they are? Perfection is not only impossible to achieve, it is flat out boring.

Looking at photoshopped images of models is bad enough for our collective self esteem. What will photoshopping our kids to look like a J Crew kids catalogue lead to?

That photo shoot this weekend? My sister-in-law was able to execute an idea she’d seen online that would have been impossible without the magic of photo manipulation. But she fooled around with a cardboard box, rather than the faces of the kids inside that box. And the picture captures exactly who the five cousins in our family are. She created a picture our family will always love.

boxed up cousins

Photoshop used for good rather than evil.

Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith Photography.

Running While Female

Today was the first long run of the first week of my first training for a half marathon. Five easy miles. Although five miles are never easy for me.

About 4 blocks from my house a guy on a bike wearing hard core racing spandex passed me. I smiled and gave a little wave. Because I smile and wave at everyone I pass, it just seems to be good exercising manners. His face lit up, he flashed me a huge grin. A couple of blocks later I’d forgotten about it.

Just gone the mile mark and I was trying to tell myself four more wouldn’t be so bad. A movement on my right caught my eye. I looked over into the smiling face of the guy from the bike suddenly running beside me. I did not smile back. It was around 9:45 am on a Sunday morning. There were plenty of people around, kids and parents on the playground at the top of the park, a young man taking shots at the basketball court, people walking dogs. And I was scared.

The guy was very fit, not struggling with the slow 11 minute pace the way I was. He stayed beside me or a few steps back. At the corner I sped up and made a right around him. For a little while I though he’d stopped following me. But he had not. Sometimes he was 30 feet behind, sometimes he was right next to me. I have no idea where he left the bike. As we circled around the park again he come up on my left, putting me between him and the curb and making me feel even more boxed in.

I wanted to tell him he was scaring me. I wanted to not give a shit that he was following me. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to call my husband. I wanted my wedding ring to increase in size, protecting me from…what? A guy taking a jog? I wanted to ignore the voice in my head saying my safety was threatened. I mean what was the guy really doing? Maybe he was just out for slow run. I wanted to not wonder if my smile and wave were too friendly back while he was on his bike.

But I did. I worried I had been flirting with him. Even though I knew I had not. I worried that my biker shorts and tank top were inappropriate. Even though they were not. I worried that I was being a weak, shrill woman who was making it all up. Even though I was not.

Who knew what his intentions were? I do not think he was going to hurt me. But he was making me uncomfortable and my reaction of tension and discomfort were clear.

Halfway along the side of the park there is a fire hydrant. I usually circle around it and return to the intersection where I hit two miles. I slowed until he was right next to me. And I quickly made the turn. About three quarters of a mile after he first pulled next to me he left me alone. I scanned my surroundings obsessively for another three quarters of a mile until I couldn’t help myself. I stopped with my back to a couple of trees in some shade and called my husband.

I felt like an idiot. A hysterical idiot. My husband and the boys were at a flea market and he asked if he should come pick me up. I didn’t know. I was scared to go home, scared he was still watching me. Scared in broad daylight surrounded by people. I decided to keep on going.

At four miles my husband called to tell me he was there in the car and he’d drive beside me home. I thanked him and waved him off. I finished the five miles. I did not see the man again.

About a month ago, after the Washington Post op-ed by George Will decrying sexual violence against women on college campuses as overblown, creating an atmosphere of victimhood as a prized and privileged status, the internet blew up with reactions that were all over the place. The ones that stuck with me were those written by women who agreed with Will.  I read responses from women who questioned why college girls always thought they were going to be raped. Women asked why did those girls think they would be so special that someone would want to sexually assault them. Women asked why other women were so hysterical.

The 2012 CDC finding that nearly one in five women will be raped in her lifetime? The statistic is nearly the same as a study commissioned by the Justice Department* in 2007 during the Bush administration. It is not a statistic conjured by a liberal administration or harpy feminists to further their agenda. It is real.

Women fear rape for many reasons. I do not  fear assault because I think I am special or desirable or that every guy is  inherently bad and a potential rapist. Sexual assault is a crime of violence and control, not desire. I have been taught for most of my life that women ask for it through their every action. I have been taught that if I am assaulted no one will believe me. The comments by women in response to Will’s article support that. When someone larger and stronger than me gets in my personal space I get scared.

So what the hell happened this morning?

I don’t think I was ever in real danger. Still, I changed my plans to run along the partially secluded path around a stream across from the park after the second mile. I don’t think the man’s intentions were bad. But he surely knew he was making me uncomfortable and he did not stop.

The bottom line is I am ashamed. For not telling him he was scaring me. For not demanding that he leave me alone. For letting my worry that I would offend him get in the way. For even questioning if I’d been flirting or if I was dressed wrong or if I was asking for it in any way. For feeling small and worthless. For still having dread in the pit of my stomach hours later. For already fearing Tuesday’s run.

I’m ashamed for feeling ashamed.

I expect more from myself. But I also expect more from that man, from any man.

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I was not doing anything wrong this morning.

 *Study found through this Slate article.

Jabba the Hutt and Lessons in Feminism

“Can we talk about Princess Leia?”

“Ok, but just for a sec because then it is time for songs and cuddles.”

T and I were snuggled up and chatting after looking through the most amazing Star Wars Pop Up Book.

“Why does Jabba the Hutt put a chain around her neck?”

“So she can’t escape.”

“But why does he do it?”

“Because he is a really bad and evil and despicable character. He made her into a slave. And that is evil. No person should belong to another person. That has happened for real and it is one of the most terrible things imaginable.”

“But why doesn’t he just put her in the Rancor monster pit like the other guy?”

“Do you want to keep talking about this? We can, but it is late and it will mean no songs tonight. Just talks and cuddles.”

“I want to talk about Leia.”

“Ok.” Deep Breath. “He likes to look at her.  He thinks she is beautiful and wants to keep her around to look at her. But she is just an object to him. What he is doing is bad.”

“What’s an object.”

“A thing. Like that lamp over there. If he treats her like an object he ignores that she is human. Listen, there are men out there who don’t think women can be as smart as them, or the same as them. They don’t think women are equal. This has gone on for a long time. But women fought back. Now women can vote. They can do whatever a man can do. But still, all men don’t believe women are equal and the same as them.”

He was quiet for a moment.

“Listen, T. If you are kind. If you try hard. If you treat girls with the same respect that you treat boys. No matter what I will be proud of you. The girls at your school? Except for the fact that they have vaginas and you have a penis they are exactly the same as you.”

“Ok.”

He was quiet for another moment.

“Why does Jabba the Hutt dress Princess Leia like that?”

“Because he likes to look at her body. He likes her more than just wanting to be her friend. Sometimes a person likes another person more than usual. Kind of like the way that Mommy and Daddy like each other. But what he is doing is wrong. You do not force someone to show you their body no matter how much you like them. That is a choice two people need to make together. And what a person’s body looks like shouldn’t matter. I love you. And I would love you exactly the same no matter what you look like. Because you are my son and I love the sweet person you are becoming.”

“Well. You love me, but you also love the way I look.”

Damn it. Kid isn’t even 5 and he is calling me out. I do love the way he looks. He is freaking adorable. But I see him through the rose colored glasses of a mother’s love. I truly would find him beautiful no matter what.

“Listen, what Jabba the Hutt does to Leia is despicable.”

“What does despicable mean?”

“Evil and terrible. Jabba the Hutt is wrong. We do not treat people like they are less than people. We do not take away their freedom. We do not look at them like objects.”

“Ok.”

“T. I need you to hear this. This is so important. Women are not there for you to look at. They are not there for men to enjoy. They are there for themselves. Do you think I am less than Daddy?”

“No.”

“Daddy is not in charge of me. I am not in charge of Daddy. We are partners and we are equal.”

“I know.”

“This stuff is really important.”

“I know.”

He looks at me.

“Does Jabba the Hutt make Leia dance?”

“Um. I don’t think so.”

“Ok. I’m done. You can go now.”

“We can talk about it more later if you want. Give me a kiss.”

“Ok. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

my boy

He has a good heart. It is our responsibility to nurture that heart and teach him how to be a good man.

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Be kind. Try hard. Treat girls with the same respect you treat boys.

I couldn’t be more sincere when I say that is all I want from my sons.

Say Anything

You guys know  Say Anything? Man, that is one of my favorite movies of all time. Lloyd Dobler. Crush of my life, John Cusack. I love One Crazy Summer, Better Off Dead, Stand By Me, Grosse Pointe Blank. But Lloyd Dobler, he is the king of them all. As Cory says, “You’re not a guy” Lloyd: “I am” Cory: “No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.”

Cory (Lili Taylor) is Lloyd’s best friend. She’s also obsessed with a dude named Joe.

Lloyd: “Joe. Joe. She’s written sixty-five songs. They’re all about you. They’re all about pain.” Joe: “So what’s up?” Lloyd: “Stop freaking with her head man. Just stop playing with her mind, you know? She’s a human being. She’s a person. She’s very talented, you know.”

Cory is Lloyd’s best friend. She’s also a bit of a punchline. The not-conventionally-beautiful girl who is obsessed with the-very-conventionally-attractive guy. Obsessed. Sixty-five songs written obsessed.

Listen, I love this movie. Hell, in the late 90s I fell deeply in love with the band The Bouncing Souls who put out an amazing song called Joe Lies.

But here’s the thing about Cory. Here’s the thing about how Hollywood represents female obsessive love. She turns any violence inward. She tried to kill herself over him.

Mystic Pizza is another one of my all time favorites. Lili Taylor’s in that one as well. She plays a feisty Portuguese gal who doesn’t want to marry her long time boyfriend. Her gorgeous boyfriend (a young Vincent D’Onofrio) who worships the ground she walks on. The take away is what the fuck is wrong with her? And of course she acquiesces and marries him in the end.

I’m not trying to rag on Lili Taylor here. I actually love watching her act. And those two movies are honestly in my top 10 best list. I want to talk about how our society pigeonholes women. It’s been almost two weeks since the shooting in Isla Vista, CA. So many have written much more eloquently and intelligently than I ever could on the subject. But here I am thinking about Say Anything and Mystic Pizza and what our society expects from women. I’ve been thinking about it since the shooting. And if I don’t write it down I feel like I’ll explode.

If we are rejected we turn our anger and violence inward. If we reject a “good man” there is something wrong with us and we will be worn down in the end.

(Um, what about Better Off Dead, Karen? He tried to kill himself over and over in that one. Yes, he did. But in the end Beth came grovelling to him to take her back. And he got the cathartic opportunity to reject her so he could move on to another women)

According to a Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University study that examined the 100 top grossing films in America 30% of speaking parts were filled by women. Major speaking roles were 29% female, and the percentage of female leads was 15. In 2013. IN 2013. A year in which 51% (ok, according to the US Census website 50.8% of Americans were women in 2012) of the population was female.

When you live life seeing only one woman in a group of superheros or office environments or high schools that are represented in film or television you start to believe only one woman should be in those spaces. I now know that was part of the reason I used to proclaim I’m not friends with a lot of women. Or I don’t like hanging out with women because they annoy me. Or that my best friends are all guys. Yeah, those statements are utter horse shit. What I was trying to say to men is “I”m not like those other girls! I won’t annoy you or put you out! I should be your token woman! Pick me! Pick me!”

Thankfully I grew the hell up.

There is room for women. We need to do the hard work of demanding it. I will not apologize for being a woman. I will not put up with being treated like a token female. I will not excuse men who treat women like objects. I will not believe that women are there to fulfill the sexual urges of men. We have our own sexual urges, damn it. And they do not make us “easy” or “sluts” and most of all they do not mean “we were asking for it”.

I do believe that everyone should be treated equally. I am a feminist. And that is not a dirty word.

snack mom

A feminist (and snack mom) who is raising two future feminists.

Princess Leia

T, “Mommy? Is Princess Leia your favorite?”

Me with deadly seriousness that should have served as a warning, “Why would Princess Leia be my favorite?”

T blithely unaware that he was inserting a knife into my heart, “Because she’s a girl!” He twisted the knife, “And a princess!”

Jesus fucking christ, where, oh where did I go wrong with this child?

“No. Princess Leia is not my favorite. Listen, dude. I don’t like people because they are girls. That is ridiculous. Just like I hope you don’t like people because they are boys. You would be missing out on so much. I don’t even like princesses. I don’t want to be a princess. Honestly, Leia is really cool. But she isn’t cool because she is a girl. She is cool because she keeps a level head in really tough situations and she doesn’t need anyone to save her, she can save herself. Dude, she kills Jabba the Hutt.”

——————————————–

For several years T’s favorite color has been purple. Suddenly he doesn’t like purple anymore. I asked him why. “Purple is a beautiful color. I don’t like beautiful colors. I like cool colors. Like black.” Yes, black is his new favorite color.

He doesn’t play with the girls in his class. He and his friends tell the girls that they are not allowed to play with them outside.

The gender role shit is coming from our culture fast and furious and there are not enough episodes of Doc McStuffins in the universe to stem the tide.

I’m frustrated and pissed off and really sad. But I’m not going to give up. I am going to question him every time he wants me to be the only girl when he plays Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I am going to push back when he assumes that the token girl in any piece of pop culture is my favorite. I am going to teach him about the Bechdel test. Both Z and I will show him it is fine to show emotion, to cry, to be affectionate. Just like it is fine to be strong and rough and tumble. We will teach him that everyone has all of those qualities inside them. That those qualities are not gender specific.

And we will be loud about it. We will be constant and unrelenting. We will have to be in order to compete with the messages he will get from school, from friends, from advertising and the media and pop culture. We will be fighting to teach him that women don’t need to fight amongst themselves to fill the single role of token female or girlfriend availible in a movie. Forget about in a movie, real life–in a workplace or group of friends. That women can actually take up more than 50% of those roles being they are more than 50% of the population.

I know that his exploration of gender norms is completely normal. I know a lot of people consider it to not be a big deal at all. But you know what? It shouldn’t be normal. It is a big deal to me, and I believe it should be a big deal to everyone. And normal or not it isn’t going to fly in our family.

boy with curl

This fetching curl hung out below his eye during dinner tonight. Man, I would kill for hair like his.

quiet C

C has been having a rough couple of days in the behavior department. This is the calm between the tantrums.

gray and white

Silhouette.

Privilege

About a decade ago Z’s friend informed us that in his mind women did not use the bathroom. Ever. I’d been recently diagnosed with IBS and this cracked me up and infuriated me equally. So I made it a point to fart in front of him as much as humanly possible. Because fuck you. I use the bathroom and it does not diminish me as a human.

I fart, I shit, I fantasize about strangers, I love sex, I swear, when I have an opinion I speak up.  

I don’t wear makeup. Or heals. Or skirts more than a couple times a year. I don’t blow dry my hair. I’ve never been waxed. I suck at flirting.

I shave my legs. I use moisturizer. I’m a sucker for face masks and ointments that promise to make me look younger. I get a couple of pedicures a year.

These choices make me who I am. They do not make me less of a woman. Or more of a woman.

The last post was a quick little sketch of a moment in my day. It was meant to be amusing (I hope) and honest and even though I was dealing with feminism and asking questions it was more of a superficial rumination.

But I’ve been thinking about the deeper implications ever since. Especially because of a valuable comment left by a friend of my sisters-in-law. Her comment would be familiar to anyone who has taken a women’s issues class, but how many of us is that really? And if I agree with what she said why was I so unsettled by it?

Privilege.

I was raised with white privilege. With socio-economic privilege. And I fooled myself into thinking gender privilege didn’t really exist because I was lucky enough to be raised by people who taught me there was no difference between me and my male counterparts. Yet at the same time the sexual politics in my house were….antiquated. Good girls wait, etc.

This dichotomy was confusing and ultimately infuriating to me. My self worth was impacted. I do not mean to throw my parents under the bus. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. We are all products of our generation. We are doing the best we can, now that I am a parent I understand that. I also understand I will make choices that will negatively impact my sons even though I will try my damndest not to. My parents gave me a huge gift by telling me I could be the President of the United States or an Astronaut or the first professional female baseball player.

Who I am is shaped by being privileged in all areas save gender. I am ashamed to admit this, I want that last bit of privilege. My objectification of males (and again I’m writing here about hetero interactions) is primarily for my enjoyment, but there is a fuck you in there, too. There is an “I get to do this, too” element.

To quote Ele: “I don’t think an average woman on the street ogling a man can so easily ignore his personhood, free will, or strength” I WANT to ignore a man I am objectifying’s personhood, his free will, and his strenght. Which is a shame. Which makes me a toddler throwing a tantrum. It is the easy way out-aspiring to the privilege that one population uses (subconsciously or not) to subjugate another population.

Because isn’t the goal to teach men that viewing women as “empty vessels” negates each woman’s personhood and free will? Isn’t the goal to raise a generation of men who are not squeamish about women taking a shit? Who do realize that women are sexual beings who fantasize right along with the best of them? Those two little things and a million others combine to form a picture of women who share much in common with and who are just as capable as men.

Z views me as his equal. He always has. He accepts the millions of contradictions that make me me. He does not care which traditional tenets of femininity I embrace and which I reject. Because he does not have a laundry list of what is required to be female. And it does not affect his ability to also see me as a sexual being or an object of desire.

He is constantly aware of gender politics in his day to day life-the fact that his students are nearly all women is hard to ignore. The other week he took part in an event on campus aimed at students. When I asked him how it was he said, “All dudes. The underlying message to the majority of participants-the women-is there is no room for you on the stage.”

As a woman who is scrambling for acceptance and validation from my male peers it is easy for me to have that sort of realization-there is only room for one woman in this movie or novel or workplace or there is no room for women at all. But for Z to get there? Z, a product of every privilege under the sun? I wish this wasn’t the case, but his views are extraordinary. It is no accident I married him. And I’m glad as hell that I get to raise our boys with him. Boys who will not grow to see attractive women as empty vessels who don’t shit and fart and love sex.

Let’s take a little dance break after the seriousness of that post. The fam went to the Halloween event at our zoo (the ZooBoo) on Sunday. C adored the dance party. T was a little more shy about the whole thing.

c doc office

C spiked a fever at the end of last week. By the time we made it to the doc’s office he was feeling much better.

T styles his shirt

T did some creative styling with his t-shirt.