How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices

How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices (Offbeat Home & Life)

“Who says that hairy pits on women are gross, and why? Because prior to that being said, hairy pits were just exactly what they were. Hairy pits. I have seen the damage that is done to a woman’s feelings of self-worth when held to a standard of beauty. And it is not pretty.

Programmed prejudice, babes. Judgments we unconsciously make by following the pack mentality without the awareness of our own personal choice in the matter. Like that time in middle school where everyone picked on that one girl and no one knew why but they kept doing it because they thought they had to because everyone else did it. Our culture is littered with these sorts of prejudices and we get to choose to support them or not.

Our beauty dogma as women in American culture is dictated by programmed prejudice. We leave choices regarding our bodies up to someone else’s ideas of what is right and wrong. We shirk our own social responsibility as women by not making choices in line with our own values, following the belief that our beauty is unattainable without paying the price of judging ourselves, our worth, and our beauty through someone else’s lens. And then on top of that, we literally pay the price by buying our own beauty and supporting these standards. Because business is business, and business must grow, regardless of hair in my armpits, you know?

Programmed prejudice is all around us. Try and notice it when you can. And when you do, just remember that you get to choose to agree or not. We live in a consumer culture that is hugely driven by the big industry. We all know this by now. Millions of dollars are made every day by striking fear of our inadequacies and insecurities about how we measure up to others’ standards.”

This is the article I wish I had written about my own body hair. I stopped shaving my legs 3 years ago, as a personal experiment/challenge, and I haven’t shaved them since. I didn’t shave my legs for my wedding day. I don’t shave my legs when I wear shorts, or a dress, or a bathing suit. I rock my armpit hair pretty regularly, but I do trim it (with a mustache trimmer!) when I get dressed up.

I was terrified to go out in public with my body hair in the beginning. For at least the first year, every time I went to the gym in a tank top, I felt extra self-conscious. I avoided sleeveless shirts outside of the house. I avoided showing off my legs. I had to learn to get comfortable with my body, and even as a hardcore feminist with a very supportive partner (he loves my body hair almost more than I do), it was not easy.

Even after all this time, I still feel self-conscious sometimes. But honestly, even though I am much more comfortable with my body now than when I was a teenager, I still feel self-conscious about my weight, my breasts, and my clothes. My body hair is really just one more thing. As women, we have been told that we must look a certain way to be beautiful, but our beauty comes from our individuality and in our spirits, not some beauty “ritual” that we we need to follow.

(For more of my feminist ranting, check out What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name.)

Advertisements

Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing

Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing (Public Radio International)

“Neuroscience… has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page. 

‘They call it a bi-literate brain,’ Zoromodi says. ‘The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.’

So what’s deep reading? It’s the concentrated kind we do when we want to ‘immerse ourselves in a novel or read a mortgage document,’ Zoromodi says. And that uses the kind of long-established linear reading you don’t typically do on a computer. ‘Dense text that we really want to understand requires deep reading, and on the internet we don’t do that.’

To keep the deep reading part of the brain alive and kicking, Zomorodi says that researchers like Wolf recommend setting aside some time each day to deep read on paper.”

Fascinating. I definitely think my attention span has been affected by how much reading I do online. It’s harder for me to focus on a book for long periods of time. It’s one of the reasons why I love my basic Kindle, because it doesn’t allow me to check my e-mail, or get distracted by anything else on the internet. It’s just for reading.

 

Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars: L.A.’s “Entitled” Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic

Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars: L.A.’s “Entitled” Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Whether it’s measles or pertussis, the local children statistically at the greatest risk for infection aren’t, as one might imagine, the least privileged — far from it. An examination by The Hollywood Reporter of immunization records submitted to the state by educational facilities suggests that wealthy Westside kids — particularly those attending exclusive, entertainment-industry-favored child care centers, preschools and kindergartens — are far more likely to get sick (and potentially infect their siblings and playmates) than other kids in L.A. The reason is at once painfully simple and utterly complex: More parents in this demographic are choosing not to vaccinate their children as medical experts advise. They express their noncompliance by submitting a form known as a personal belief exemption (PBE) instead of paperwork documenting a completed shot schedule.

It’s no secret that anti-vaccine sentiments run high on the Westside. But the data reveals a community where ambiguous fears about the perceived threat of immunization have in fact caused a very real threat. This is a hard topic to discuss, especially here in Hollywood. It hinges on parental choices that directly impact your own children and other parents’ kids, too — a dinner-party land mine to be avoided at all costs. Few parents would speak to THR on the record about their decisions for fear of the backlash.

Yet this silence has turned the issue into a time bomb. At a time in which America is consumed with Ebola fears, a very real and preventable health crisis could explode in our backyard. With a whooping cough outbreak growing even faster than the swelling non-vaccination rate, questions of responsibility, both personal and collective, deserve urgent answers.”

Really well-researched, thought-provoking read. This is not mean-spirited anti-vaxxer propaganda, which I the article I started reading before I got to this one. I do support vaccinating children, but I don’t support vilifying people that don’t. We have to have a rational conversation about this, because people standing on either sides of a fence yelling at each other isn’t helping anyone, and it’s only making parents dig in further.

Why Your Supermarket Sells Only 5 Kinds of Apples

Why Your Supermarket Sells Only 5 Kinds of Apples (Mother Jones, Mar/Apr 2013)

“In the mid-1800s, there were thousands of unique varieties of apples in the United States, some of the most astounding diversity ever developed in a food crop. Then industrial agriculture crushed that world. The apple industry settled on a handful of varieties to promote worldwide, and the rest were forgotten. They became commercially extinct—but not quite biologically extinct.

Even when abandoned, an apple tree can live more than 200 years, and, like the Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s book, it will wait patiently for the boy to return. There is a bent old Black Oxford tree in Hallowell, Maine, that is approximately two centuries old and still gives a crop of midnight-purple apples each fall. In places like northern New England, the Appalachian Mountains, and Johnny Appleseed’s beloved Ohio River Valley—agricultural byways that have escaped the bulldozer—these centenarians hang on, flickering on the edge of existence, their identity often a mystery to the present homeowners. And John Bunker is determined to save as many as he can before they, and he, are gone.”

I found this wonderful read in a comment thread under the also great (and recommended) article, The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious. I think what John Bunker is doing is absolutely amazing, and now I want to learn more about apple trees.

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent (The New York Times)

“‘So, your kids must love the iPad?’ I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. ‘They haven’t used it,’ he told me. ‘We limit how much technology our kids use at home.’

I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.

Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.

Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.

I was perplexed by this parenting style. After all, most parents seem to take the opposite approach, letting their children bathe in the glow of tablets, smartphones and computers, day and night.

Yet these tech CEO’s seem to know something that the rest of us don’t.”

This is a really touchy subject; I’ve witnessed parents get very defensive in conversations about how much screen time they allow their children. My best friend is a pre-school teacher, and she’s gone off on rants about how children should be interacting with the world, not with a screen. Turns out technology CEO’s feel the same way.

Of course balance is key; our parents had these same conversations when we were kids about television. And of course there is the ideal – the kind of parents we want to be, versus the kind of parents we are. Because life gets in the way of ideals sometimes, but we have to keep trying anyway.

#whyistayed “I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability

#whyistayed (trending on Twitter) // Why Janay Rice stayed (Feministe) 

I didn’t want to have a failed marriage at 25 I didn’t want my daughter to think this was ok and normal

I didn’t want to be alone again I didn’t want to be alone in a casket

: Kept telling myself if he didn’t hit me, it wasn’t abuse : Learned I didn’t have to get beaten to fear for my life.

“If you think about what keeps you in a relationship people to your life that are healthy relationships: your friends, your family, your coworkers, all of those components whether it’s money, love, history, you’re related to this person, you have kids with this person because you live together, because they care about you, because they were there for you, etc, etc. All those things are the very same reasons why women in those situations won’t leave. The good things can also be the reasons why you stay in a bad relationships. So it’s not about, ‘Well, she should’ve just left.’ It’s never that simple or that easy if they have children together, if he’s the only source of income in the family, if she has strong religious beliefs about marriage or what it means to be a good girlfriend or wife, all these things, which you can’t really separate out from the others, play a role.”

The Disposable Woman (The New York Times, March 2011)

“It’s these sorts of explicit and implicit value judgments that underscore our contempt for women who are assumed to be trading on their sexuality. A woman’s active embrace of the fame monster or participation in the sex industry, we seem to say, means that she compromises her right not to be assaulted, let alone humiliated, insulted or degraded; it’s part of the deal. The promise of a modern Cinderella ending — attention, fame, the love and savings account of a rich man — is always the assumed goal. Objectification and abuse, it follows, is not only an accepted occupational hazard for certain women, but something that men like Mr. Sheen have earned the right to indulge in.”

“I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability (Feministe, August 2011)

“When we imagine abuse, we envision the act of abusing: the woman crouching on the floor, a flying fist, a sailing kick. Perhaps my remembrance of that time would be different if my abuse had been more prolonged, or more severe, but what I recall from that era of my life is not moments of violence but feeling as though I were separated from the world, swaddled in a thick layer of invisible cloth that I couldn’t ever swat away. I was in a fog.

Which is to say: I was in many ways incapable of helping myself—which, even years later, pains me to say. But there it is: The fog of abuse ensured that my emotions, instincts, and principles were muted; every ounce of energy I had went into my relationship and keeping up the general appearance of sanity. Had you somehow been able to land my healthy, normal status-quo self smack-dab into the worst of my relationship, I’d have gotten out immediately. That’s not how abuse works, of course. Abuse is gradual; abuse is systemic. Abuse changes you; abuse reduces you. Abuse took the me out of me.”

Ray Rice Video Sets Off Barrage of Conversations (audio from NPR’s Morning Edition)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the ongoing national conversation on domestic violence that was spurred on by the Ray Rice video, I would encourage you to read the above essays, articles & tweets. Listen to the audio. Take the time to analyze your own reactions. Keep in mind,

“More than one in three women have experienced sexual assault, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.” (CNN)

So when we ask ourselves, “why did she stay?” remember that we’re asking on behalf of our friends, family, and co-workers. These are not “those” women. These are our loved ones.

Real women belong on a pedestal in New York’s Central Park

Real women belong on a pedestal in New York’s Central Park (Reuters)

“There are 50 statues in New York’s Central Park, one of the world’s most visited spots. Not one of them is of a woman who exists outside of fiction.

There are marble monuments to dozens of men, most of them real, but not a single statue commemorating the life or contributions of a real-life woman. Even the fictional female characters – Alice in Wonderland, Juliet Capulet and Mother Goose – were created by men. Among the marble and bronze population of Central Park, you’ll find Shakespeare and Beethoven, Simón Bolívar and Alexander Hamilton. You’ll even find Balto, the hero sled dog who delivered diphtheria medicine to the town of Nome, Alaska, in 1925.

To be clear: you can find a statue of a real-life dog, but no statues of real-life women.

This is not simply a Central Park problem, nor is it a New York City problem. Across the United States, women are staggeringly underrepresented in our tangible and visible efforts to mark significant moments and people in American history. Nationwide, fewer than 8 percent  of the public outdoor statues commemorating individuals are of women. Of the 100 outstanding citizens memorialized in Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building in Washington, only nine are women.

Lynette Long is the founder of Equal Visibility Everywhere, an organization dedicated to solving the statue problem. She sees it more than a matter of how we tell our history but also how we shape generations of future leaders. The invisibility of women – the overrepresentation of men – Long argues, ‘inflates male entitlement and diminishes the confidence of women. When girls and women don’t see themselves on our currency or our stamps, or memorialized in our statuary, the message is clear: You are invisible. You don’t matter.'”

Even as women and minorities are advancing in society, they need to be able to see how they relate to the past. We tell our children they can be anything they want when they grow up, but they need to see themselves reflected in their idols. It’s not just about statues; it’s about what students are learning (or not learning) in their history classes. White men were not the only heroes.