White Oleander, Medea’s Pride, and the mother-daughter book club

I published my draft by mistake. Here’s the completed post:

 

Because my oldest daughter is 13, we don’t read together anymore, and I miss it. She thinks reading with me is babyish, and I decided a way to lure her back in would be to pick an adult book that would appeal to kids, so I chose White Oleander.

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At the start of the book, the protagonist, Astrid, is 12 years old. She spends much of the book in juvenile hall, an institution that fascinates my daughter. We drive by a “juvie” building on her way home from tutoring and she’s always peppering me with questions about it, so perfect, right?

Holy shit, White Oleander is a chilling book. It’s about a narcissistic single mother, Ingrid, who murders her ex-boyfriend leaving Astrid alone to navigate LA’s brutal foster care system. The kind of abuse Ingrid heaps on Astrid is so manipulative and insidious, at times, I felt nauseated reading the story. Part of the mind-fuck Ingrid inflicts on her daughter is she acts as if she’s a free-thinker who encourages her daughter to think for herself and make her own choices as well. Ingrid is a poet. But really, all Ingrid wants is a sidekick, a shadow, an echo, a carbon copy of herself. Ingrid uses her daughter and only connects with Astrid when she can use her. If Astrid is not useful, Ingrid dismisses her.

Ingrid, like many narcissistic mothers, abuses her daughter by “gaslighting.” Gaslighting is a term coined from a movie with Ingrid Bergman, where her partner dims the lights and when she mentions it, he tells her she’s imagining things. Gaslighting is when someone tells you that your thoughts aren’t based in reality to the point where you start to doubt your perceptions. This kind of abuse is often used with partners, but it’s especially horrific if a mother inflicts a child, because she’s so vulnerable to having her reality shaped by a parent.

A big part of a parent’s job is to validate and mirror her child’s emotions. I love this passage in Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time by Stephen Mitchell:

One of the things good parents provide for their children is a partially illusory, elaborately constructed atmosphere of  safety, to allow for the establishment of “secure attachment.” Good-enough parents, to use D. W. Winnicott’s term, do not talk with young children about their own terrors, worries, and doubts. They construct a sense of buffered permanence, in which the child can discover and explore without any impinging vigilance, her own mind, her creativity, her joy in living. The terrible destructiveness of child abuse lies not just in trauma of what happens but also the tragic loss of what is not provided– protected space for psychological growth.

It is crucial that the child does not become aware of how labor intensive that protracted space is, of the enormous amount of parental activity going on behind the scenes.

A narcissistic, gaslighting parent uses her child as a receptacle for her thoughts and emotions. When a narcissistic parent is challenged by her child, she either goes into a rage or dismisses her, both are terrifying for a kid. The kid usually complies, becoming what her mother wants her to be, useful, and displays only the traits that her mother wants her to possess. Worst of all, the child believes this is who she really is.

A narcissistic mother dismisses her daughter’s emotions or concerns as petty,  not valid, or not even real. To recognize gaslighting, a child has to be confident in her own vision and emotions.

White Oleander is one if the best books I’ve ever read about the complex dance of narcissistic abuse. I won’t tell you how Astrid recovers but thank God she does. At the beginning of White Oleander, Ingrid bets on a horse called Medea’s Pride to win a race. Ingrid is a Medea who tries to murder her daughter’s soul with her self-absorption, all under the guise of her devotion to her kid.

My daughter, by the way, has not stuck with me past chapter one. I’ll have to search for another way to connect.

‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare’

To cope, I keep repeating to myself: “Self-care, self-care, self-care.” That’s how I’m managing to crawl out of bed, get my kids breakfast, drive them to school, and just now, I finished writing the last chapter of my book, a project that I’ve been working on for six years. While I have another voice in my head consistently telling me everything I try to do is pointless, all my work is for nothing, my actions have no effect, the poet Audre Lorde motivates me now: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

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Caring for myself is an act of political warfare.

Self-destruction, depression, hopelessness is so easy, but Lorde helps me see that is the self-indulgence. That is not to say I’m not grieving and crying and throwing up and in despair. But I’m also finishing my book and writing this blog. I also read this stat today:

The exit polls are in. Despite all of the fair and empirical reservations Black Women had on putting our future in a Clinton presidency for a second time, 91 percent of Black Women with a college degree voted for HRC. Without a college degree? 95%

Don’t believe the narrative that feminists who enthusiastically supported Hillary were out of touch with the “real” America. It’s just another story telling us that women’s lives don’t matter.

Another great post is titled I’m a Coastal Elite From the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America:

To pin this election on the coastal elite is a cop-out. It’s intellectually dishonest, and it’s beneath us.

We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

Do what you can to take care of yourself today. Please share you actions here, no matter how small.

Dear white women who didn’t vote for Hillary or who did so ‘holding their noses’

Dear white women who didn’t vote for Hillary or who did so ‘holding their noses,’

You fucked up. I know ‘blaming women’ for Hillary’s defeat is yet another way to blame women, and where does that get us? I’m hoping the internalized misogyny will finally stop, because as long as white women choose the illusory safety of the patriarchy over the risk of supporting women, change won’t happen. Do you want change? Or do you want to keep electing presidents who are sexual predators, who multiple women accuse of assault, who confess to assault? Do you want this dark future for your daughters?

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White women, I know it can feel like you’re in the “okay “category, like you’re safe and accepted, like you’re successfully hedging your bets if you label another woman a slut, or loose, or cheap, or ugly, or say her skirt is too short, she’s too thin or fat, wears too much make up, on and on and on but the patriarchy will never embrace you, will never value you, will never love you.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is flawed just like you are flawed. Just like every human being is flawed. Just like every presidential candidate is flawed. And no, Hillary’s flaws weren’t worse or more dramatic than those others, and previous presidents had the same email issue as she did and on and on. But Hillary is female, along with all those other flaws, and that meant you needed to risk standing by her. Instead, you turned away. Her campaign could not survive  the drip, drip, drip of vitriol, the vitriol you let happen, because along with how you just didn’t like her, how you let people call her “crooked” and “corrupt” or a bitch, she was fighting a monster. When she needed you, your money, your stickers, your support, your good words, you abandoned her. The best you could give her was holding your nose?

Instead of supporting Hillary, you let the world humiliate her in countless, public ways. You punished a woman for being ambitious and following her dreams. Now, my three daughters have a completely different future than the one they would’ve had. I pray that the next generation will risk something you didn’t: choosing feminism over patriarchy. I hope to lead by example because my daughters are watching me.

 

 

Jon Stewart is a pussy! That’s where Trump and I agree.

My favorite part of Jon Stewart’s Twitter war is when Trump Tweets: “John Stewart is a little pussy.” There’s where we agree.  You’ve got to watch this video if you haven’t seen it yet.

I’m sending Stewart a shirt. #GoTeamPussy #johnstewartisapussy

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Don’t forget to vote November 8!

Are you on Team Pussy or Team Trump? Show your support and get a shirt!

Buy a #TeamPussy shirt or tote, get one free! #GoTeamPussy

Buy a #TeamPussy shirt or tote, get one free! #GoTeamPussy

Last week, I launched #TeamPussy to help get out the vote. Whose face returns to my TV right after? Anthony Weiner. You cannot make this stuff up. Weiner’s sexting a 15 year old girl threatens to derail the election of our first female president. As Rebecca Traister says, I’m paraphrasing: it’s no coincidence that the bad behavior of men, their sexual misconduct, is playing such a big role in this election. So what can we do to fight back? Join #TeamPussy right now! Everything is about November 8 and inspiring people to go to the polls and vote for Hillary. For the next 24 hours, I‘m offering a two for one sale: Buy a shirt or tote,  get one free. These are high quality 100% cotton shirts, bright colors, original art, with a slick navy blue background. Totes are durable and stunning. Is this pic gorgeous or what? Learn more about the artist, Theamat. (She also did the Reel Girl logo based on photos of my daughters.)

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If you want to know more about how #TeamPussy came to be, read my post. Here’s an excerpt about the art:

Our #TeamPussy cat is worn out and pissed off, but she’s a fighter. She’s going to be out there every day with all of you, working hard to make sure Hillary Clinton wins big on November 8 with results that even Donald Trump won’t dare contest. Please join her. Thanks, #pussies! Go team!

Here’s me in my shirt. The colors are off because the photo was dark so my daughter used a filter to brighten it. The cat looks gray, but she’s actually blue as you see above.

14563315_1151909881530447_3056037351267079397_nAnd if you’re wondering, all my daughters (I have 3 ages 7, 10, and 13) are on #TeamPussy. Yes, I spoke to them about Trump’s misogyny and the huge role sexism is playing in this election. My kids know about what Trump says and thinks about girls and women. The way Trump demeans half the population is not something I’ve hushed up or hidden away from my children. As I wrote in my original post, I wish more of America understood the really offensive word Trump used isn’t “pussy” but “grab.” Trump’s problem isn’t vulgarity but bragging about sexual assault. If you join #TeamPussy, you will help to change the way America views female sexuality, anatomy, and the epidemic of violence against women in the USA.

You can pre-order shirts with just the pussy, no words.

Follow #TeamPussy on Instagram @team.pussies.unite and Twitter @Pussiesvote

Visit our #Team Pussy store now! Free shirt promotion valid for as long as supplies last.

Get out the vote, #pussies!!!!!

Are you on Team Pussy or Team Trump? Show your support and get a shirt!

“I will totally accept the results… if I win,” Donald Trump told a cheering crowd, reaching a new misogynistic low. Yes, it keeps being possible. By questioning the legitimacy of any victory but his own, Trump acts as if the glass ceiling Hillary Clinton busted just by being the nominee was somehow rigged for her all along.

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Like many of you, I feel stunned and sickened watching our country race backwards under the rubric “make America great again.” From #Repealthe19th (a sentiment you can only call fringe if Trump is fringe) to his hopes for mass deportation (“we have some bad hombres here and we need to get them out”) Trump’s effort to whip his angry, white, male voters into such a frenzy, they’ll stampede to the polls, terrifies me.

Team Pussy is a movement to get out the vote. It was created to mobilize and inspire women and men, young and old, to show up at the polls on November 8 to support women’s rights, that is human rights. Team Pussy comes at a unique moment in history. We’re on the verge of electing America’s first female president, a candidate who has worked tirelessly for thirty years to support women’s rights. Even Trump concedes she’s a fighter. We’re also in the midst of a national conversation about pussy. And it’s conversation that hasn’t always gone the way I’d like it to.

When the video leaked where Trump bragged to Billy Bush about grabbing women, pundits and politicians seemed more offended by the word “pussy” than “grab.” Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who’ve spent careers blocking or dismantling policies that empower women (reproductive rights, paid family leave, coverage for contraception, higher minimum wage, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) reacted to Trump’s “vulgarity “or “lewdness” while taking no action to stop sexual assaults.

On CNN, when Ana Navarro quoted Trump, noted his misogyny, and demanded Republicans do more for women, Trump apologist Scottie Nell Hughes responded: “Will you please stop saying that word? My daughter is listening.”

Pussy isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. By shining a spotlight on sexism in the USA, Trump has done this country a warped kind of service. His personal, overt disdain for women is exposing America’s national, covert disdain. Misogyny is so ubiquitous in our country that, ironically, it’s become invisible to so many citizens; it’s so normal and reflexive that we’re lulled into colluding with a system of sexism we hardly notice anymore. Don’t look away now. Instead, let’s ignore Scottie Nell Hughes and talk about pussy.

I first researched and wrote about “pussy” in 2001 after a male friend used the word to insult a guy who backed out of a business deal. Of course, I’d heard it before, possibly said it myself, but suddenly, it struck me as wrong to use it to imply cowardice or ineffectiveness. Why must we equate weakness with the female sex organ?  Why have we for so long?

On Salon, I wrote:

I began to wonder how one — how we — might take the wussy out of pussy.

Is it possible to change the meaning of the word, to restore to “pussy” its deserved glory? Could we use pussy as a compliment? Could pussy denote someone or something as cool or heroic or impressive? “Rosa Parks — what a pussy!”…

Pussy has so much potential, it’s a shame to limit it to the immature and derisive mocking of weak boys. Let’s give it a shot in the arm! I envision hit songs featuring “pussy” — “Who Let the Pussies Out?” or “The Real Slim Pussy” or “The Real Shady Pussy.” Hallmark-type cards that read “Thanks for being such a pussy!” Colloquial expressions: “You da pussy!” “Stand up and fight like a pussy!”…

And when, and if, Joe consummates his next business deal, I’ll be there to toast him, saying, “You’re so pussy.”

Flattered, he’ll smile.

I wrote the post before social media and “going viral” were phrases we all used, but I created a bunch of “Team Pussy” T shirts  (at that time, just black with “Team Pussy” written in pink cursive) which sold out through my email in a few days. Though I was passionate about Team Pussy, I didn’t have the time or resources to dedicate to it, so I went on with life, trying to interject the word when I could. Fast forward to Trump’s video. People on social media started messaging me they were wearing their shirts or looking for their shirts. And then I watched the last debate and heard Trump asked if he would accept the results of the election, and heard him reply “I will look at it at the time.”

Let’s give the guy something to look at.The sides are so clear. You’re either on Team Pussy or Team Trump. Here’s a chance to make your choice loud and proud and inspire everyone who sees you. All merchandise features our cat and is available at our Team Pussy shop.  Our favorite shirt looks just like the art posted here. Its reverse sides reads: “Vote Nov 8.” All shirts are high quality, 100% cotton with a navy blue background and come in fitted or straight cut. We also have gorgeous, durable white totes with red handles showing the same art and “I’m with her” on the reverse side. The T shirt with just the cat will be available soon. I saved 4 XL vintage “Team Pussy” shirts from 2001 and I’m making those available now at the store.

Feel free to use our Team Pussy art as your profile pic which we urge you to do at least until November 8! This image below is sized perfectly for your Twitter profile. Suggested intro Tweet: “Joined #TeamPussy to GOTV on Nov. 8. I’m with her.”

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If you see a news story about someone doing something brave or cool, for example as Ijust did: Salma Hayek Claims Trump Leaked a False Story After Turning Him Down, then Tweet the story: “Salma Hayek is so pussy! #TeamPussy.” Nominate a #Pussyoftheday or give a shout out to one of your evergreen favorites: “Jessica Jones is so pussy! #GoTeamPussy.”

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For Instagram, here’s art sized perfectly if you want to switch up your profile pic.

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Post photos of you wearing #TeamPussy gear and our goal is to send you a free button or magnet once we get those in.

Our Team Pussy cat is worn out and pissed off, but she’s a fighter. She’s going to be out there every day with all of you, working hard to make sure Hillary Clinton wins big on November 8 with results that even Donald Trump won’t dare contest. Please join her. Thanks, pussies! Go team!

Follow #TeamPussy on Instagram @team.pussies.unite and Twitter @Pussiesvote

Visit our Team Pussy store now!

Can’t wait til November 8!!!!!!!!

 

At Billy Bush’s prep school, girls referred to as ‘toys’

Time Magazine just published a post: Colby Student: Billy Bush Exemplifies the Hypermasculinity on College Campuses with the tagline “A student from Bush’s alma mater says not much has changed.” Here’s my story. Billy Bush and I went to the same boarding school, St. George’s in Newport, Rhode Island. You may have read about the school recently in The New York Times or The Boston Globe or Vanity Fair because an investigation recently concluded that scores of students were raped and assaulted at the school, mostly during the 70s and 80s. While I was lucky enough not to be a victim of assault, this “elite” institution that supposedly educates “the best and the brightest,” like so many boarding schools was a bastion of sexism and racism, an old boys club where a culture of silence was encouraged and rewarded. The photo below is of me (on the left) and my friend, freshman year, in our high school yearbook from 1984. The caption reads “Todd’s toys.”

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Todd was a senior prefect. The saddest thing to me about this photo is that I, at 14 years old, aspired to be liked, desired, by older boys, that I believed my value and worth was determined by whether or not older males– the guys with the power– were attracted to me. St. George’s did nothing that I can recall to recognize this sexism or to empower female students. To the contrary, the school seemed to condone misogyny. There was an annual event at St. George’s called Casino Night where all the new girls, mostly freshman and sophomores, dressed up as bunnies, as in playboy-type bunnies, complete with fishnet stockings and cotton tails on our butts. Our job was to sell the boys– who were fully clothed and pretended to gamble– candy and fake cigarettes. Casino Night was not a secret event, it took place to much fanfare in the school dining hall. Every teacher and administrator knew about it.

When I heard the Billy Bush/ Donald Trump tape I wanted to scream because it was like everything I learned in high school, the objectification of women and girls, the metamorphosis of teenager from San Francisco into a “toy” bunny plaything, was being reinforced by a would-be president of the United States of America.I felt ill and the nausea hasn’t left me since.

What are girls supposed to think and feel and be when we grow up surrounded by this kind of sexism, when it’s so normal that no one even notices it? When teachers condone it by never addressing it?

After I learned about the sexual assaults and rapes at St. George’s, about a year ago, I started blogging about the story. Though even before I was told about the abuse and the cover ups, I’d written about the sexism I experienced there in blog titled Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school. 

I spoke to the investigators because they said they wanted to know about the culture of sexism at the school, how the place could’ve allowed the rapes to happen and go unreported. I was disappointed that the investigators didn’t publish more about the rape culture at the school, and I wrote many blogs about it, including one titled with a quote from a survivor: ‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

The links to the posts I wrote about St. George’s are listed below, though I removed the photos from the blogs. I had posted a photo, also from our 1984 yearbook, of a freshman girl dressed as a bunny on Casino Night. To me, the shame was on the school, not the girl, but when she told me she wanted it down, I respected her wishes. I took all the pictures  of students down except for the one with me in it that you can see above.

Misogyny is so ubiquitous in America, paradoxically, it’s invisible. It’s in our schools and colleges and the air we breathe, but we don’t even notice it. I’m not 14 years old anymore. I have three daughters of my own now. I want them to have the right to control their own bodies, to find their value in their achievements not in how they appear to men, to be ambitious, creative, and inspired, to dream big and to acquire the skills to realize their vision, to be valued as people, not toys. That’s why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for president on November 8.

 

 

Reel Girl posts on St. George’s:

St. George’s, how should law enforcement respond to 911 call about possible rape at your school?

 

Open Letter to Hillary Haters: Misogyny, Madam Secretary, and the Marquise de Merteuil

This is a guest post for Reel Girl by Melissa Duge Spiers

To all women who loathe Trump but don’t like Hillary:

In the past week or so we have heard and seen an avalanche of (even more) unspeakable things come out of Donald Trump. Most of us are justly outraged by his attitude and actions toward women: Trump has proven he views us purely as sexual objects, reduced to—and rated ruthlessly on—how we look and our sexuality. Every day hundreds of women give myriad reasons they will not vote for him, and this is one of them.

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Many of these same women also give reasons for disliking Hillary, however: she’s nauseatingly smug, she’s cold, she dresses like crap, she must be secretly lesbian. I have heard everything from “I hate those dorky headbands she used to wear” to “why can’t she stop making that awful grin-grimace?” And the number one reason I hear, time and again: I can’t vote for Hillary because she stood by her cheating husband.

At best the above statements would be right at home when judging a beauty pageant; they are all based on rating her appearance or sexuality. At worst, they’re the feminine equivalent of the oldest, most patronizing and paralyzing harassment we’ve each been exposed to forever: why don’t you give me a smile? Why don’t you dress like a girl? You think you can make [X] sexual choice? You asked for it! You’re a cold bitch, you’re a lesbian!

My fellow women: we have a chance to elect a female to the biggest power position in the world, and yet we are picking at her clothing, her smile, her sexual choices. We are basing our votes and the future of our country on our reaction to how she maintains her looks, her facial expressions, and her marriage.

Why do we do it? The simplistic answer is that sexual competition and judging – tearing down or eliminating other women – was traditionally our only source of power in most societies. Two-hundred and fifty years ago Laclos’ “Dangerous Liaisons” villainess, the Marquise de Merteuil, perfectly captured this primal female urge in her personal motto: “win or die.” For the few who have not read the book (or seen one of the film adaptations), the story can be summed up simply: women viciously destroy each other and the man wins. “When one woman strikes at the heart of another she seldom misses,” the Marquise flatly informs the Vicomte de Valmont, “and the wound is invariably fatal.” Indeed, all of the women lose big in Laclos’ tale, in particularly sexually-damning ways—Cecile, defiled, returns in shame to a convent; the Marquise is disfigured and humiliated into never showing her face or using her body again; and Madame de Tourvel is so shame-stricken and humiliated she simply dies (the ultimate sexual give-up) — while the man walks away, smirking, with all of the power in the palm of his hand.

Earlier in the 2016 election season, already disgusted with the playground taunts passing for politics, I tweeted a personal vow (which now seems hopelessly dated and innocent, given how things have circled the drain since): I will not talk about how women look for the rest of the season. I will not join in comparing Heidi Cruz to Melania Trump, I will not weigh in on Megyn Kelly, I will not critique the Trump surrogates’ clothing and makeup choices, I will not discuss Hillary’s wardrobe or everyone’s possible plastic surgery or the attire or looks of any of the reporters who are covering them. (Just to be fair, I am also not going to discuss Donald Trump’s hair, skin color, or hand size either, although I did relish that whole ridiculous defend-my-manhood exchange with Marco Rubio.) I confess: I fell off the wagon once and gleefully tweeted about Melania’s choice of the Pussy Bow blouse after her husband’s big sexual assault bomb dropped—but I have otherwise found the self-enforced ban to be very illuminating. I constantly have to censor myself: we are so conditioned to comment on and tear down other women it leaves one often speechless in finding another topic.

Once Trump paraded Bill Clinton’s accusers through the second debate and we were all newly reminded of Hillary’s marital issues I added an even more important personal ban to my list: I will not weigh in on another woman’s sexuality. Period. Does Hillary love Bill, or is it a marriage of convenience? Did she stay with him because she forgave him, because she secretly likes women better, or because she saw him as a stepping stone for her ambition? I personally hope Hillary has a rotating stable of pool boys at the local Country Club, but I will never say another word about it. I will not pass judgement on any woman’s marriage, I will not speculate on who or what gender she sleeps with, I will not entertain reports of her fidelity or lack thereof. Unless she (not her husband, her aide’s husband, her ex-husband, or any other man in her life) has broken a law with her own sexual behavior I will not form or voice an opinion. Women are not the keepers of morality, we cannot hold them responsible for any man’s sexual actions, attitudes, or behaviors. Furthermore, we cannot assume to know what goes on in their relationships. Most of us would never judge another woman for electing to divorce a cheater; why do we all feel we can condemn one for electing not to? How dare we judge any woman on who or how they choose to love, to divorce, to stay, to marry.

Which brings me back to “Dangerous Liaisons.” I do not think all women should automatically vote for Hillary because she’s a woman; that’s reductive and ridiculous. But every one of us needs to carefully examine our reasons if we choose not to vote for her: is our decision intellectually defensible, or are we allowing our Neanderthal brain, our vestigial sexual competitiveness to drag us into knee-jerk bitchiness? Do we disapprove of her policies or doubt her experience…or do we just dislike her marital situation, her sartorial choices, her personal presentation? And can we live with ourselves and our country if we let this particular man walk away, smirking, with all of the power in his tiny, little…ahem, with all of the power in his hands?

Melissa Duge Spiers is a freelance writer based in Watsonville, California, and a frequent contributor to Reel Girl. You can follow her on Instagram @mdugespiers or Twitter @MDugeSpiers.

 

 

Back to school: Teach your kids healthy risk-taking instead of self-sabotage

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. — Marianne Williamson

When I was in my twenties and first saw the words above, they were misattributed to Nelson Mandela. I’m grateful for the mistake because at that time, I don’t think I would’ve have listened to a middle-aged white woman spiritualist. Nelson Mandela, on the other hand, was a hero so I got teary eyed. I felt the truth of what “he” said, maybe for the first time in my life.

Today was the first day back at school for my kids, and last night our house full of the annual excitement and anxiety. Along with my kids’s emotions, my husband and I were dealing with The Schedule, which, like for all parents I think, is a source of unending, brutal calculation and miscalculation.

So here’s how a typical conversation went  about setting up the schedule with one of my daughters who loves art.

Me: Would you like to take an art class?

Daughter: I suck at art.

Stab in my heart Me: No, you don’t!

Daughter: I want to be good but I suck.

More stabbing Me: Why do you say that?

Daughter: I’m bad at art!

I really fucked up.  How did I fuck up so badly? My10 year old daughter is convinced she’s bad at art. Something as subjective, as dynamic, as unfixed as art. All art? How can this be? How can she love it and think she’s bad at it? And then I looked at her, and I saw fear in her face. I remembered Williamson. I thought she’s afraid to take a risk. What is making art about if not risk?

Me: Why don’t you try the class and see if you like it?

Daughter: I told you, I’m bad at art.

Me: Can I tell you something it took years for me to learn?” I said. “It may not be true for you, but it was true for me.”

Daughter: Okay.

Me: Saying or just thinking I was bad at something was a really safe place to be. When I put myself down, there was nowhere to fall. But if ever I was feeling good about myself, someone could always come along and knock me down.

She nodded.

Me: Here’s what I know now. Putting yourself down isn’t cool or modest, it comes out of fear, because you’re scared. And I totally get being scared. But trying something new is a much more helpful way to deal with fear. Maybe you won’t like this art class, but you could meet a kid in the class who will become your best friend, or maybe you’ll discover you like horses from drawing horses. Maybe you’ll find out you love pastels and not water color.  You don’t know what will happen, but anything could and that makes scary but exciting.

She was looking at me, not talking.

Me: When you try something new, there will times when you’re going to fail. Guaranteed.  hundreds, thousands of times, and that’s a great sign. Failure means you’re learning. If you’re not messing up, you’re not learning anything.

She told me she wanted to try the class. I hope she got the message I was trying to convey. When adults think about taking risk, we often think of dramatic behavior: climb Mount Everest, fly a plane across the Atlantic, but for a kid, a huge risk can be trying a new food or saying hi to a classmate. The truth is adults feel the same way about risk, because when it comes down to it, risks are emotional. I hope to teach my kids to risk experiencing the full range of their emotions, to understand humans are verbs, dynamic and ever-changing instead of pigeon holed, stagnate, and “safe.”

Please feel free to add any personal stories in the comment section about your family stays emotional healthy. I always want to learn more.

 

 

 

Judge Persky isn’t the problem, you are.

While I’m relieved to see America’s outrage at Judge Persky’s ridiculously light sentence for rapist and Stanford athlete Brock Turner, we’re reacting to one case of epidemic sexual assault in this country. Turner’s sentence is not an anomaly. In America, we accept rape culture. It’s normalized, and Persky acted the way judges do every single day.

On Reel Girl, I recently posted this T-shirt that reads: Two Beers Three Margaritas Four Jello Shots Taking Home The Girl Who Drank All the Above PRICELESS

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I got a minimal response to my post.

It was two Swedes who reported Turner’s rape of this woman. Do you think two American frat boys would’ve done the same?

I’ve been reading Peggy Orenstein’s fantastic new book Girls and Sex in which author repeatedly references how the sex education programs in other countries are far superior to America’s curriculum, if we can call it that. One of the finest examples Orenestein cites is Sweden. How do most American kids learn about sex? Orenstein tells us the source of their education is porn.

What are American parents teaching their children about sex? What about violence against women?

I think we all know that Brock’s father argued his son’s life should not be ruined for “20 minutes of action.” Instead of teaching girls how not to get raped, when are parents going to teach their sons not to rape? How are parents going to teach kids to respect girls and women? What are you doing today to teach your kids about gender equality?

If you want to protest this shirt, it’s made by Iron Horse Helmets You can Tweet them: @IronHorseHelmet Call them: 1.800.978.9468