And for once I was SuperMom

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Only Real Men Need Apply

Awhile ago one of my grade school friends joined a group on Facebook called SlutWalk. At first I was taken aback so I clicked on it. (Right, isn't that everyone's reaction to something that shocks them: look more?)
Upon clicking and reading more I learned that it was a march or initiative to stop victim blaming in rape cases. Like, 'she deserved it, you should have seen what she was wearing.' Or, 'She was sooo drunk, she was asking for it.' Those kinds of defenses or excuses.
No one, no one, deserves to be sexually assaulted no matter how drunk they got or how scantily clad they were.

I remember a few years ago walking around in Santa Barbara while they were having Rape Awareness month, there were purple flags hung from street lights depicting the very downtrodden face of a woman. I remember thinking that this was backwards. Rape is not a women's issue, we are not the one's raping.

My husband and I tithe to a camp called Deerfoot Lodge, it's an all boys camp. At first I bridled at the thought of supporting an all boys camp, shouldn't we support an all girls camp? To create strong women? I am not sure exactly how Deerfoot does this, but all the young men that I have met that come out of that camp are genuine, respectful, and kind. The type of men that I would be happy to send my daughter on a date with. So I acquiesced and we donate to them. (And the camp means a lot to my husband, so it's really more about that.)

After reading Packaging Girlhood and seeing trailers for Miss Representation I have realised how de-sensitized I had become to sexual images of women in the media. They have affected my own personal self-esteem less and less over the years because as I have grown stronger and become a mother the worth of my body can no longer be measured in the perkiness of my breasts. (Don't get me started the western over-sexualization of the breast.) But to read that book and read some of the statistics that Miss Representation puts forth shocked me. I know that women are still treated poorly and depicted poorly but to see what's really all out there it makes you realize how far we still have to go.

I remember driving down the street in Nairobi and seeing a poster of Mariah Carey with half of her chest bulging out of the top of her dress. What was this for, an album, or just titillation? The ad was for cable television. I remember thinking, 'No wonder they hate us.' Here in a more conservative society to have the depiction of a white woman as pure sex object gives the wrong idea about our culture and white women in general. Did you know that the majority of porn consumed world wide depicts caucasian women? Think about what that does for aid workers and missionaries.

Now, one might argue that we need to put it away. I can't say that I disagree. I have taken a turn towards the more modest in the past few years. One sunny summer day I was on my way to the beach, I parked my car and walked across the street wearing only my board shorts and bikini top. I looked up to see a homeless man leering at me. Oops. That's right girls, if you hang it out there everyone can see it, not just the cute ones. Also now that I am married it's really not for anyone else to see.

With the passing of Halloween I have heard so many people question why this holiday has just turned itself into an excuse for women to dress like whores. One year I dressed as a sexy devil, I wore a short red skirt, a tight long sleeve red shirt, horns, fishnets, and black high heeled boots. The friend that I borrowed the mini skirt from told me that she was surprised that I would dress that way, I seemed to have too much respect for myself. About halfway through the night I changed into jeans and took off the horns. Seems I did.

Why is it that women's issues have been so often dropped in the lap of women? Sometimes I feel like I'm shrieking into the void, demanding respect that so many aren't willing to give. But for every women like me, who changed into jeans there are one or two more willing to take them off.

Here's another problem, like in the civil rights movement white people had to say that black people deserved their rights, now men have to say that women deserve to be respected. I know plenty of men that think that and act accordingly, unfortunately I think of them as amazing or above the norm, rather than normal.

Here's the thing we all need each other. Women need men and men need women. Sexism has always been a bit lost on me, don't you want to support and love the people who are bearing and, most likely, raising your children? So I'll walk down my side of the street, I will focus on education over appearance, I will spend more time reading and less time shopping, I will no longer dress as a sexy devil. I am asking to men to walk on their side of the street, to look away from demeaning images, to not consume porn, and to respect us as a whole.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Playground Woes

We live within walking distance of three different playgrounds. This is a luxury that I revel in, weekly.
Like most playgrounds there are elements that are perfect for my peanut sized two year old daughter. Little houses, wooden cars, small slides, they are tiny, stationary, and safe. She wants none of those. She wants to play on the huge massive slides, ramps, and otherwise shakey elements that are loaded with danger and extremely large children.
And who does she want to climb on those things with her? Me.
Ballet flats and hanging tires don't mix well.

I have foisted her on my shoulder and 'helped' her swing from the monkey bars. When I popped her on the opposite platform and she lifted her arms in the air and shouted,
"I did it!" I would think, 'Oh, did you? Because I'm pretty sure that was all me.'
I have used my shoulders to balance myself up a ramp that was suspended with chains and tires while holding my child's hands in mine. An element that you would usually use hands and feet for balance, but my hands were otherwise occupied. I think we looked like some strange snuffalufagus lumbering up a ramp we shouldn't have been on.

Now whenever she grabs my finger and points in a direction I fear what is coming next. I have often re-directed her towards swings or something more nailed down. Some of these elements that she wants me to do with her she is capable of doing on her down, when I have backed away and tried to give her the freedom to do them on her own she has thrown herself down on said stair or tire and dissolved into fits of tears. Kinda emberrassing.

On Tuesday when she was hauling me by my finger up and around platforms and stairs I heard my mother in law's voice in my head intone,
"You're her only playmate." When she first said this to me it felt frightening. Like it was some grave responsibility and also a heavy burden. Like when i tell her that I can't play with her because I am washing dishes or peeing am I denying her, hurting her deeply, or just teaching her boundaries? In some ways those words have allowed me to enjoy her. To be hauled around by my finger and look down at her little sweet face and listen to her cute little saying and just enjoy her at this age.

But I would like her to be able to play without me on a playground. So moms, how have you fostered more independence for your child while still enjoying the dependent moments? Because it is nice to be needed, but I'm not going to be around forever.

PS: I'm pretty sure that the LCD on my phone is bleeing because of going down slides with it in my back pocket....oops.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sometimes We Pause

Last week a one of my closest friends came to visit me from California. We have criscrossed the world and continent many times and still our friendship has remained intact. One move she gave me a card that called me a 'big tree' friend. That the roots of our friendship go deep and the branches of our future will keep growing.

My friend came out after experiencing a family tragedy. She gave birth to her first child in the beginning of August. At fifteen weeks during her pregnancy she discovered in a routine ultrasound that her son had several physical problems. These problems were deemed incompatible with life. Through many conversations I heard her heart about whether to terminate the pregnancy or allow her baby to go full term.
She and her husband choose to have her son. There were many reasons at one point they believed that he might be able to donate to another child and save the life of another little one. During the pregnancy it was decided that he would not be able to donate. They chose to have their baby anyway.
She gave birth to their son, they named him Gabriel Eleison Stengel, and they got to enjoy him for forty hours. In the end he was able to donate heart valves to another child.
During the course of her visit I asked questions and she answered honestly about why they choose to have their son. Now the more I process what she went through and how she conducted herself I realise that maybe she just wanted to meet and know her first child. To have the privilege that any parent wants, to hold and love their love their child for as long as they are given time.
During one of our drives into Boston I went on about how conflicted I was about being a stay at home mom. That while I loved my child and wanted the best for her I felt that my education and career aspirations were being put on the shelf. After probably fifteen to twenty minutes of spew she spoke up, in a calm and non-judgemental voice,
"Can I say something?"
"You have her," I felt like an asshole. I apologized. She told me that wasn't her intention. I know it wasn't. I told her that I was talking out of both sides of my mouth that in one breath I am frustrated and in the next I am thanking God for her perfect little life. I think she knows that.

Tonight Emma stumbled and started crying profusely. She didn't seem hurt herself, maybe she was too tired, maybe she scared herself, maybe she hurt herself with the book she was holding and I couldn't see the bump. I found myself holding her and comforting longer than maybe I should have. I snuck little kisses at the corner of her mouth and told her she would be okay. I think awhile ago something in me clicked and I realised that she won't let me do this forever. That soon mommy's kisses won't fix all the hurts she feels. Soon she won't know that she can still trust me with her hurts. Soon she'll want to fix herself.

Maybe my friends words have sunk into my brain. I remember at the beginning of her life feeling inconvienced and put out by all the crying and nursing. I think even before her words of wisdom I knew how lucky I was to get to parent this little child who was born perfect. But sometimes a reminder helps.