Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby

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Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby (courtesy of Jezebel, The Washington Post, and Salon, respectively)

Let me get this out of the way first: I am not a mother. Also, I love the idea of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, wearing your baby, and making your own baby food from your vegetable garden. These are all valid goals and life choices. But they are also a symbol of privilege. They indicate you probably have good health, enough money to decide if or when to go back to work, not to mention help at home, giving you time to devote to additional tasks. So let’s acknowledge that.

Laura Jane of Jezebel had this to say of her cesarean section:

“The point is, very few people choose to have a C-section (I suspect partly because they’re incredibly expensive if not medically necessary) but many do. And despite the huge amount of babies born this way, and with the best intentions possible, this ‘birthing experience’ is seen as somehow unfortunate, a last resort, which you’ll have feel regret for in the months to come.

But it’s not. It is scary and weird to experience no pain in childbirth, but the fact that there is no pain doesn’t make it a lesser experience. It’s just a different one.

It’s taken these months to figure out how I feel about people unintentionally making me feel like I’ve missed out on something with my lame, over-medicalized birthing scene. But I’ve never had any confusion about the experience itself: it was great. It was an awesome day all around and I wouldn’t change a thing. The baby (who was both upside down and backwards in there) was calling the shots, so why wring my hands and wish it could have been another way?”

Am I all for minimizing unnecessary c-sections? Absolutely. Do I think giving birth has become overly medicalized, sterilized, and industrialized? You bet. Should we be shaming women who for one reason or another end up having a c-section? No. Guess what? They got a healthy baby. When that happens, all the rest falls by the wayside.

When strangers, nurses, acquaintances, and friends judged Emily Wax-Thibodeaux for formula feeding her baby, she couldn’t decide if it was worth it to go into her entire medical history to explain why she wasn’t. Since, you know, she’d had a double mastectomy and was in remission for breast cancer.

“So holding my day-old newborn on what was one of the most blissful days of my life, I had to tell the aggressive band of well-intentioned strangers my whole cancer saga.

It felt particularly exhausting because this was the first time in nearly a decade that I could forget about cancer and enjoy having had a fairly easy pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy child.”

Dr. Shawna C. Willey, Emily’s breast surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said it best:

“I think that women who have made the difficult decision to have bilateral mastectomies have already grieved the loss of not being able to breastfeed. No group should make a woman feel guilty about the decisions she made . . . or make her feel inadequate about not being able to lactate.”

Women, why are we shaming each other? Parenting is hard enough. New motherhood was especially hard on Charlotte Hsu. She wrote, “I cried all the time. I missed the life that my husband and I once had. My friends tried to console me: It will get better, they said. But for me, in the months ahead, it only got worse.” And eventually, her quality of life did improve. But she didn’t experience that perfect bliss of new motherhood we’ve been told we must be feeling. Jessica Valenti addressed this as well in her fantastic book, Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness. She didn’t feel that immediate bond, either, because her child had so many medical issues that attachment didn’t come as easily as expected.

Fads come and go. Today it’s all natural attachment parenting, but inevitably the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. Babies are supposed to sleep on their backs now; they used to sleep on their stomachs. The absolute right thing to do becomes the absolute wrong thing to do. Maybe we (and I’m including myself here) should stop worrying about what everyone else is doing wrong, and instead be a support system to one another. Let’s be sounding boards, shoulders to cry on, and most importantly, open to the possibility that there is more than one right way to properly procreate.

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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.)

#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.

#TacoOrBeerChallenge Is Your Pro-Choice Alternative to the Ice Bucket

photo 

photo courtesy of yours truly

#TacoOrBeerChallenge Is Your Pro-Choice Alternative to the Ice Bucket

“What do ice buckets have to do with ALS? I don’t know. What do tacos and beer have to do with abortion? I don’t know that either.

What I do know is that eating tacos and drinking beer is more pleasurable than getting doused with ice water, and that lawmakers around the country are passing increasingly restrictive anti-abortion access laws. Which means abortion funds are now more necessary than ever as legal abortion becomes harder than ever to access—especially for those of us who don’t live in major urban centers.

So that’s all you have to do. Eat a taco and/or drink a beer—or a margarita, or a glass of Franzia, or a ginger ale, or a refreshing mineral water, hell, I don’t care what you drink, that’s how easy the Taco or Beer Challenge is. The Taco or Beer Challenge is about doing what’s right for your own taco and beverage needs, just like having an abortion—or not—is about doing what’s right for yourself and your family.”

I read this article several days ago, but I have been waiting to share it until I could say that I successfully completed the challenge! I went for both tacos AND beer, and I chose to donate to the Feminist Women’s Health Center, specifically to the Women in Crisis: Alison Fund:

“Named after an FWHC staff person who initially gave $250 of her own money to help a client in crisis, the Alison Fund allows us to provide health care services to women who are in desperate need of financial support. Such services include: annual exams, sonograms, abortion care, and birth control/IUD insertion.”

I hope you will consider taking the challenge and donating to an abortion provider in your community or to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which “fights against unfair laws while helping women who need abortions today.”

Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person.

image courtesy of The Transgender at Work project

Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person. (New Republic)

Ben Barres is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Barbara Barres until he was in his forties. For most of his career, he experienced bias, but didn’t give much weight to itseeing incidents as discrete events. (When he solved a tough math problem, for example, a professor said, “You must have had your boyfriend solve it.”) When he became Ben, however, he immediately noticed a difference in his everyday experience: “People who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. He was more carefully listened to and his authority less frequently questioned. He stopped being interrupted in meetings. At one conference, another scientist said, “Ben gave a great seminar todaybut then his work is so much better than his sister’s.” (The scientist didn’t know Ben and Barbara were the same person.) “This is why women are not breaking into academic jobs at any appreciable rate,” he wrote in response to Larry Summers’s famous gaffe implying women were less innately capable at the hard sciences. “Not childcare. Not family responsibilities,” he says. “I have had the thought a million times: I am taken more seriously.”

*********

What happens when the opposite transformation takes placewhen a man becomes a woman? Joan Roughgarden is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Jonathan Roughgarden until her early fifties, and her experience was almost the mirror image of Barres’s. In her words, “men are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise.” In an interview, Roughgarden also noted that if she questioned a mathematical idea, people assumed it was because she didn’t understand it. Other transwomen have found changes not only in perceptions of their ability, but also their personality. In Schilt’s work with transwomen for a forthcoming book, she found that behaviors transwomen had as men were now seen as off-putting. What was once “take-charge” was now “aggressive.” And they had to adapt; the transwomen quickly learned that “being the same way in the world would be detrimental to your career.”

Very powerful argument – I’m hopeful there will be more research on this topic. Gender discrimination, like racial discrimination, is such a subtle thing; it’s much harder to recognize in today’s politically correct society. 

Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Leak Isn’t A “Scandal.” It’s A Sex Crime.

Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Leak Isn’t A “Scandal.” It’s A Sex Crime. (Forbes)

“As most of you probably know, someone somewhere dumped a deluge of purported nude photographs of a number of female celebrities online yesterday…

Ms. Lawrence and the other victims have absolutely nothing to apologize for in terms of the contents of the photos or the nature in which they were leaked. The story itself should not be addressed as if it were a scandal, but rather what it is: A sex crime involving theft of personal property and the exploitation of the female body.

Outlets as mainstream as People and CNN are referring to the photo leak as a ‘scandal.’ All due respect, it’s not a scandal. The actresses and musicians involved did nothing immoral or legally wrong by choosing to take nude pictures of themselves and put them on their personal cell phones. You may argue, without any intended malice, that it may be unwise in this day-and-age to put nude pictures of yourself on a cell phone which can be act and/or stolen. But without discounting that statement, the issue is that these women have the absolute right and privilege to put whatever they want on their cell phones with the expectation that said contents will remain private or exclusive to whomever is permitted to see them just like their male peers. The burden of moral guilt is on the people who stole said property and on those who chose to consume said stolen property for titillation and/or gratification.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.