My friend is getting ready for a date this weekend and she was telling me about some advice her cousin gave her: “Don’t apologize for being you.” I thought this was so simple yet probably the best advice you could give someone. Women are taught to apologize and make excuses for every little thing about themselves and their perceived imperfections. We apologize for gaining a few pounds, for stray hairs being out of place, for bags under our eyes from lack of sleep. I am sorry I am so offensive! We seem to scream to everyone around us. I have apologized for my face countless times. If I don’t have a full face of makeup on, I’m sorry you had to witness that.
It breaks my heart that we hold ourselves to such unattainable standards that we feel like when we fall short, we must ask for others’ forgiveness. We would never set such standards for our friends or even our partners yet we continuously set those bars for ourselves.
The apologizing has to stop.
I will no longer apologize for sleepy eyes with lashes that lack mascara or for my curves, like the hips that bore 2 children. I will not apologize for weight fluctuations or for indulging in food that I want to indulge in because apologizing for eating is downright madness.
I will remember that my value is within, always within. My external features are temporary and while they can certainly be fun to dress up or paint, I will not place them on a pedestal that can come crashing down at the slightest hint of negativity. I am worth more than that and I am capable of more as well. You are, too.
I am still a work in progress so it will always take some effort to maintain the body positivity attitude, especially after years of brainwashing. But I think my friend’s cousin has offered excellent advice that if we remember every day, our mindset can change and those negative thoughts will float right out the door.
Meriam Yahia Ibrahim was born in a small town in Sudan and raised by her mother as Christian. Her father was Muslim but left the family when she was just 6 years old. Years later, they moved to the city of Khartoum which is where Meriam would meet Daniel Wani, a translater, who holds dual Sudanese and USA citizenship. It is important to mention he is also a Christian. They would marry and have a son together and now Meriam is due to have another baby.
Their marriage, however, violates Sharia law. Shortly after Meriam was wed, her brother came forth and claimed Meriam is actually a Muslim. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a non- Muslim man (however, a Muslim man can marry a non- Muslim). Meriam disputed this and even showed proof of her marriage certificate which stated she is, in fact, a Christian. This was dismissed as her brother continually protested that she is a Muslim and ran away from the family years ago only to show up recently married to a Christian. The court gave Meriam 4 days to recant but she refused so she was put in jail with her 20 month old son. The punishment for apostasy, which is the denouncement of one’s faith, is death, so she has been condemned to hang 2 years after her baby is born– to allow time for the baby to wean. Since she is a Christian and refusing to recant, Sharia law says the marriage is invalid and therefore she is also committing adultery, for which the punishment is 100 lashings. She is unable to see Daniel, who is wheelchair bound and relies heavily on her assistance and is having a difficult time without her. Their child is unable to be in Daniel’s custody because he is a Christian and the child is considered a Muslim. If Meriam’s execution is upheld, the children will go to the government. They are refusing her access to a private hospital and her child continues to get sick living in such poor conditions. There have been reports of abuse and denial of prenatal care.
International human rights organizations have been calling for her immediate release. “The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered,” said Manar Idriss of Amnesty International. US Congress met asking Senator John Kerry to intervene on her behalf. Those supporting the proposition were from both parties, including Senator Jim Inhofe (R- OK) and Senator Bob Menendez (D- NJ).
I think we have a moral obligation to speak out when we see human rights being violated, internationally or otherwise, and ask for something to be done about it. I hope you will join me and sign this petition asking for the release of Meriam.
UPDATE: Meriam gave birth to her daugher today. They plan to name her Maya.
I think it is important that we start talking more openly about abortion because the media has struck such a fear into our hearts that we start to believe the scare tactics and the lies. In movies and TV, should a woman choose to have an abortion, she has a very good chance of dying or, if she doesn’t die, she becomes severely depressed for the rest of her life on the screen. In reality, a woman has a greater chance of dying in childbirth than she does during an abortion and as far as depression following an abortion, well, that varies. It depends on a woman’s socioeconomic level, her current mental state, where she lives, her support system, etc. So yes, some women suffer from depression but some women are quite relieved, as can be seen in the recent video a woman released where she filmed her own abortion to show that there was nothing to be afraid of (The video is not graphic and only shows her shoulders and above). People were outraged that someone could feel relief after such an experience but if you aren’t in a position to have children or you just feel you aren’t ready, wouldn’t you feel relief, too? Isn’t she entitled to feel whatever emotions she feels as they are real and valid and hers alone? An abortion is a very personal decision and should be hers alone. Religion has no place in the womb especially on the basis that no one has the same beliefs. If you and I differ on when life begins, why should your belief that life begins at conception trump my personal views and beliefs?
I think there is this idea that women use abortions as a form of birth control and have them like crazy but this is simply not true. Access to abortion is limited, first of all. In fact, there are only 3 clinics in my home state of Oklahoma. It is also worth noting that only 26% of women who have an abortion will return for another one. I think some people like to paint this idea of a woman who has an abortion as someone who is immoral and provocative but this is extremely harmful. Women shouldn’t be punished and their child(ren) definitely shouldn’t be punished for the rest of their life because of a mistake (not to mention rape/incest). Enough with trying to make women feel guilty for every single move they make.
The pro-life movement tends to be hypocritical in its endeavors. The focus is very much on protecting life and touts all life is precious but after the life is born, where is the protection? Where is the idea that all life is precious? It doesn’t shine through on death row, that’s for sure. And who is looking out for our children? Those “miracle babies” are treated as if they are burdens and drains on society when their mothers seek out assistance. Even more disturbing is the consistency of violence in the name of life at abortion clinics. Violence, stalking, even murder at clinics peaked in the 90s but continues at a steady rate to this day. This is a form of domestic terrorism that is often overlooked and consequently, swept under the rug.
We need to keep the conversation going. When the media fails to show realistic abortion depictions and when religion winds up in the womb, things need to change. Your story needs to be told. Our rights need to be upheld. There isn’t anything to be ashamed about and the more and more we talk about it, the more balanced things can become.
My son has such a tender heart. He has been known to cry at the movie Coraline when he was just 3 years old because he just “loved it so much”. When he found out what hamburgers were, he became visibly distraught and started telling me how cows deserved to roam in the fields and live their life. He draws pictures on the back of his homework with hearts and the word “Mom” above it. He values his friendships so much he often brings his own toys to school to give to them to show his appreciation.
He also loves the color pink. He loves to play dress- up with his sister and pretend he is a princess. Sometimes he puts clips in his hair– hair that he has decided to grow out and with good reason. He has the most amazing, thick red hair you have ever seen. If only we could all be so lucky. His favorite My Little Pony is Pinkie Pie and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the song “Let it Go” because he often pretends he is Elsa. I am told these things make some people uncomfortable. My son is not ashamed of himself in the least but by the way some people talk about him, you would think he ought to be made to feel that way. What’s so funny is that when my daughter, who tends to lean more towards “tomboyish” habits, roughhouses or wears a cowboy hat, she gets praised or complimented for her behavior. It’s “adorable”. Can we please stop placing our children in boxes? They are individuals with unique personalities and just because he is a male doesn’t mean he will automatically like trucks and guns. You are stifling your child when you force them to play with “toys for girls” or “toys for boys”. Here’s a thought: Let them pick out their own toys! Whatever suits their fancy. My son happens to prefer My Little Pony and fake jewelry. It makes him happy so why would I want to step on that? It is harmful to our children to place them in such constrictive boxes in which a girl must be pretty in pink, dainty and not too smart and boys must be rough, tough and never cry. This is what we are teaching our children and we are essentially limiting them from all that they are truly capable of being.
I’ve been told there’s a chance he will be bullied if I don’t protect him. I think if I am not 100% in his corner, then I will be the bully. Why should we focus on HIM getting bullied and not the BULLY? The bully is the one who needs to be corrected, not my son. Let’s work on making those changes happen and teaching our children that their peers can be as different as the colors of the rainbow and that’s part of why life is so beautiful.
I’ve talked quite a bit about how I’ve struggled with low self- esteem and body image issues but today I wanted to talk a bit about how I regained confidence in myself. My journey really began when I watched a documentary called Miss Representation, a documentary which goes into detail about the misrepresentation of women in the media. I got goosebumps. I cried. I was shocked. I was angry. Women are viewed as objects in the media and society and little else. It’s just accepted and this is naturally how I found my place in the world. After watching this eye- opening documentary, I began to soak up everything I could on feminism and all things related. Feminism has this wonderful focus on loving yourself as you are. I know every inch of my body because I have spent many hours scrutinizing every. bit. of. it. Feminism taught me how to turn the loathing I felt for my body into positive feelings. When I hear the negative voice in my head, I quickly shut it down and replace it with something positive. I love my curves. I love the shape of my hips. I have smooth skin! It sounds silly but it has really made THE biggest difference. I have also moved my incessant focus on my body to my mind. Feminism has been about self- discovery and what makes me tick. What are my passions? What am I all about? I am having the most amazing time getting to know myself all over again. She was always in there but she was buried underneath a lot of negativity.
One of the things that I love about feminism is not only the self- love movement but the sisterly love. How can you not be on board with that? Learning to love myself as well as being supportive of other women was so important to my healing. I spent a lot of time being jealous and feeling competitive with other women and it finally feels so good to be able to let those feelings go and champion other women. I don’t have to be #1. There can be lots of us that have the same interests and the same goals and we can learn from each other and everyone wins.
Of course, things don’t always go smoothly and I still sometimes feel insecure with myself and my body. I am having to undo years and years of damage, after all. It takes a great deal of practice and a refusal to subject myself to harmful media (certain magazines, movies, tv shows, etc). This quote from Gloria Steinem always reminds me of the importance of staying focused: “If you and I, every time we pass a mirror, complain about our looks, remember that a girl is watching us and that is what she is learning.” I just want better for my daughter and for future generations.
Out of the 8 jobs I have had since I was 16, I have experienced sexual harassment in 4 of them. I don’t use this term lightly. I’ve been spoken to inappropriately by coworkers as well as by superiors and I have downright been groped. It was as if the purpose of me being there was not to do my job but to be pleasing to the eyes or sometimes, as the case may be, to the touch. Growing up, I always had low self- esteem but working in these environments and feeling objectified only perpetuated my low feelings of self- worth.
Unfortunately, my story is not unique. One in four women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Most sexual harassment incidents go unreported. Before you start the victim blame/shame game, there’s reason for that. From my own personal experience, sometimes your harasser is your superior. It feels a little hopeless when the possibility of termination or some sort of retaliation looms over your head. There is also the fear that nothing will be done about the problem and then you are just left with an awkward situation. When talking with several people about my problem with one harasser, they informed me that this particular person had been reported for sexual harassment before but had just been moved around to different departments. To me, that didn’t seem like justice so I didn’t see a point in filing a complaint and going through the trouble if he was just going to be moved around. I think a lot of people feel that way, too. I mean, we live in a world where students who rape another student on college campuses are allowed to return to school virtually punishment-free so why on earth would we ever believe anything would happen to someone who harassed us at work?
The truth of the matter is, you do have rights and if prepared and presented properly, something will be done. It just takes courage. Begin documentation of the harassment and let people in your life know about what is going on. I know it can be embarrassing and dehumanizing but letting people know what is going on will help build your case. Take this carefully constructed information to your HR department. If you feel you are dismissed, consult a lawyer who specializes in sexual harassment. These violations should not go unnoticed anymore. You are worth more than that.
Racism is not dead. There, I said it. If you think it is dead, you can thank white privilege for that. It is easy to overlook institutionalized racism when you are white because it is something you never have to think about or deal with on a regular basis. Racism and discrimination is so ingrained in our society that it has become normalized. We flip on the tv and when they talk about people of color living in poverty, suffering higher rates of incarceration, suffering higher high school drop out rates… We shrug our shoulders and think that is just the way things are. We don’t even bat an eyelash. Surely it has nothing to do with the fact that racial profiling is prevalent in the police force. If you look at statistics, white people are actually more likely to be drug abusers/ sellers than black people yet time and time again, people of color are singled out and thrown into jail, specifically at a rate of nearly 6 times the rate of white people. White people are also 6 times more likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person. We have policies in place such as the “Stop and Frisk” policy which has proven ineffective, humiliating and not to mention it specifically targets people of color by racial profiling.
We are a society obsessed with bootstrapping. But since the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968, tell me how one is to pull onself up by their bootstraps when housing discrimination STILL runs rampant in our country? White people slowly started moving to the suburbs and with them, job opportunities did, too. When people of color live in such poor conditions due to zoning and segregation, they then in turn go to schools where the teachers are underpaid, the material is outdated, and the technology is sometimes nonexistent. This has nothing to do with them not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. This has everything to do with institutionalized racism.
The point of my post is not to throw a bunch of statistics your way but to show the staggering differences between white people and people of color. It is easy to say “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” when you have opportunities knocking at your door. Is it easy to say “no” to affirmative action when the playing field is wide open to you. Understand the system is flawed. These enormous disparities are caused by an ugly, racist history that no one wants to talk about. When we can have an open and honest conversation about these things, I think we can finally make progress. Okay, baby steps. When everyone is paid a living wage (did I mention that black people earn considerably less than their white counterparts or could you infer that by now?) and offered the same equal opportunities, THEN we will have made real progress.