What Kind of Man

Well…the first 20 days of January were fun and nostalgic. I attended the rally in Columbus Circle the day before the inauguration and felt a sense of unity, action, and hope that the threats we faced were conquerable. Fast forward through the first week off the Trump presidency and I have to hold back tears with each new executive order he signs. Each day has been a reminder of the diverse people who built America who now need our protection. 9.2 miles from where I am currently sitting, our country is detaining innocent people seeking refuge from their unimaginable conditions. They are coming here to try and stay alive, to seek safety, and they are not being welcomed. Let me just point out this is in no way a pro-life, Christian, “great” American, or objectively moral move. And this is only the most recent un-American development this week.

But through it all we all have to hang onto hope, resisting the urge to let go no matter how weak we may feel. I’m lucky to live in the greatest city in the world where my hope is restored literally every day by the people getting out and fighting for what they believe. Both standing with them and watching from afar, I remember that in almost every story good conquers evil so long as there is a hero to take it on. There were heroes marching for good on every continent on day one of the current evil’s reign, let’s keep showing up. Let’s fight to remain a compassionate and accepting society of ALL people, no matter what our leadership is mandating.

Now that I have that off of my chest, as we near the end of January I’m starting to wrap my head around everything in A Fighting Chance for my first book “review” post. For today, I was struck as a bystander of last weekend’s Women’s March and a portion of Elizabeth Warren’s book dealing with the double standard women face.

“What’s it like to run as a woman?”

Elizabeth Warren notes that throughout the early months of her campaign, this was often the first question reporters asked. We need to stop asking this question.

Running a campaign should be the same for both men and women, but for some reason there’s an added pressure to a female campaign. How will she take care of her children? How will she make decisions on her menses? How will she be strong enough to stand up to world leaders?

Let me tell you. The same way men do it. Men have families. Men have emotions. And some men definitely aren’t strong enough to stand up to world leaders (and that’s ok!!)

We have to stop gendering occupations. Hollywood has gotten a lot of flack for asking actresses more questions about their appearance than about their work. I think need we to be conscious of that in all questioning about professions. All it takes is leaving out the gender. Ask “What’s it like to be a police officer?” instead of “What’s it like to be a female police officer?” We need to start normalizing traditionally male roles so young girls know they can be anything. If they hear a woman asked “What’s it like to be a female CFO?” they’ll internalize that being a CFO is not the norm for girls and seek other paths. Even though it’s not always done maliciously, it has to change.

Check out another interesting take on this subject from Eater on the recent “Best Female Chef” award here.

“Women always think of reasons they aren’t good enough. Men never ask if they’re good enough” 

A colleague told Elizabeth this when she was contemplating running for Senate without much political experience.

I consider myself a confident woman, yet when I read this I immediately related. I’ll admit it’s a general rule and there are definitely men who also ask if they’re good enough. But it’s one of those things you don’t realize until it’s pointed out and once it is pointed out you can’t forget. It’s an unfortunate truth that this is how women think, but for me, it is a gift to be more aware of how my intrinsic thoughts can affect me daily.

It has to be  a mindset change. When applying to jobs, I always notice the one tiny skill I don’t have versus being confident in the many skills I do have. When navigating relationships, I always think I must have done something wrong if it goes south versus looking at the context of what actually happened. For example, recently I was talking to my BFF Sarv and he told me “how bout you don’t even think about it and go about your life normally because even though you like attention, you don’t need it.” This is 100% true, but I still wondered what I did to cause the absence of attention. (Nothing is the answer, but there was a full list of theoretical tiny mistakes I could have made.)

I think part of  this dichotomy of thinking is due to men having more role models in positions of power. They’ve seen one man after another achieve the same thing, man after man being the breadwinner in relationships. Women in these same powerful positions are fewer. So women feel they have to be more highly qualified to reach them.

“It happens with every woman. People have to talk about how she looks before they can talk about what she says.” 

Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Sarah Palin’s campaign. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. Every Red Carpet event. The Women’s March. Rape culture. Cat calling. All of these are framed by what the women look like in the public eye and to achieve true equality we have to change the conversation.

It’s just another way women are still told their words don’t matter. Rape victims are blamed for wearing revealing clothing. The most acclaimed actresses are criticized for wearing an ugly dress.Hillary Clinton was criticized for not smiling enough, for her smile being disingenuous, the list goes on. Even at the inauguration, Hillary was acknowledged more in the media for wearing white than for her hard-fought campaign or showing up and acting with grace.

A lot of people think men and women are equal now. And in more ways than ever they are. However, these seemingly small judgments continue to hold women back. Instead of only having to write an amazing speech  and deliver it, women have to also wear perfectly fitting clothing and unblemished makeup. Instead of feeling confident in a great new outfit, women have to worry if someone on the street will harass them for it. These additional considerations in daily life, though minute, add up in the long run taking valuable time away from productive activities.

Addressing the Opposition

In spite of not wanting to give this woman any more publicity for her asinine comments, a recent Washington Post interview question struck a cacophonous cord with me. I’m going to break it down. I’m glad Kellyanne brought to light how non-feminists think, presenting an opportunity to address her qualms.

“You don’t consider yourself a feminist?”
KAC “I don’t consider myself a feminist. I think my generation isn’t a big fan of labels. My favorite label is mommy. I feel like the feminist movement has been hijacked by the pro-abortion movement or the anti-male sentiments that you read in some of their propaganda and writings. I’m not anti-male. One does not need to be pro-female and call yourself a feminist, when with it comes that whole anti-male culture where we want young boys to sit down and shut up in the classroom. And we have all of these commercials that show what a feckless boob the man in the house is. That’s not the way I see the men in my life, most especially my 12-year-old son. I consider myself a post feminist. I consider myself one of those women who is a product of her choices, not a victim of her circumstances.”

On labels: Kellyanne says her generation is not big on labels but from where I’m sitting they are quick to blame a lot of problems on “millenials.” I’m going to assert labels are not the problem. I’m happy her favorite label is mommy, one day I’m sure it will be mine as well, actually my friends already call me mom and it’s the best. Here’s the thing, you can be a mom and be a feminist at the same time and be proud of both. Raising future sons and daughters to believe in equality for all people is integral to the promise of the American dream. A dream that is the same for every parent – for their children to be better off than themselves. Labeling oneself as a feminist is being proud of and desiring equality for all races, religions, and it just happens to have its roots in gender equality.

On feminism being anti-male & pro-abortion: Feminists are not anti-male. Do feminists hate that men are restricting the decisions women can make regarding their bodies, yes. Do feminists hate that men make $.20 more per $1 than women, yes. Kellyanne says feminists want boys to “sit down and shut up”…nope. Feminists want men to be strong and continue serving in leadership roles, we just want them to know women should have the same chances to work at the same level. Because, let me say it louder for the people in the back, feminism’s fight is for equality. What laws have been signed in a room full of women regarding how and where men can handle their reproductive health? The answer is no laws. I grew up in a conservative household, I wrote a pro-life persuasive speech in sixth grade, so no I’m also not obsessed with my right to have an abortion. I’m obsessed with my right to decide how I live my life.

On post feminism: We are not in a post-feminist society and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Sure, we had a female presidential candidate, but we’re not in a post-feminist society any more than we’re in a post-racist society after having a black president. These problems still exist, even if there are people who don’t feel directly effected. Women do make less money than men. It’s getting better, but part of the problem is young girls aren’t encouraged to learn skills as often or shown powerful female role models as often in fields where higher salaries are earned. Whenever Elizabeth Warren met a young girl on the campaign trail she introduced herself and said “I’m running for senate because that’s what girls do.”I bought my girl cousins books full of female leaders and engineering toys for Christmas. We have to change how we talk to young girls and they will grow up to know their place is anywhere they want it to be.  To become post-feminist we have to start becoming less dependent on gender roles. To become post-feminist we have to stop telling girls their highest priority in life is to find  men to love and marry them. To become post-feminist we have to label it, we have to have men join the fight, and we have to have healthy girls.

Coincidentally, my February book just became even more relevant – I Am Malala. Written by Malala Yousafza and how she fought for what she believed in and almost lost her life. I expect her determination will teach me to be stronger and less fearful as I fight going forward.

A few ways to help:
Ways To Take Effective Action Following The Magnificent Women’s March
A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support
Donate to the ACLU

*What Kind of Man – Florence & The Machine

Lift Every Voice

Today we celebrated the birthday of a father, a friend, a preacher, a leader. We said happy birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and remembered the movement he started, the movement we continue today.

This morning I attended a beautiful tribute to the late Dr. King, surrounded by my Brooklyn community. A community of young & old, black & white, rich & poor, gay & straight. We sang songs of praise together, and heard commentary from political leaders including our New York Senators, Mayor De Blasio, and one of the co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter, Opal Tometi. The diverse crowd was a sight I can only imagine Dr. King would have loved to see.

Our current events, which are essentially the antithesis of what Dr. King stood and sat and spoke and died for, could not be ignored and were addressed in each individual’s remarks.

So instead of sharing my thoughts on the book I’m currently reading, this post is guided by themes I heard this morning from Opal, an emphatic female leader of the modern civil rights movement.

A call to action:
“In a day an age when our lives are threatened, we cannot be silent.”
“When we have so-called leaders threatening to rip apart families, we cannot be silent.”
“When we’re threatened with the normalization of intolerance, we cannot be silent.” “When women’s rights are being stripped away from us, we cannot be silent.”

By the end of these statements, the entire room was anything but silent, saying aloud in unison with Opal “we cannot be silent.” I felt a sense of solidarity and hope that I will not attempt to describe.

It’s interesting to observe when people use their voice, when the fear of disagreeing is overcome by a fire to fight back. Personally, I’ve always believed in equality amongst all people, but my voice grew more confident speaking out on feminist and racial subjects after an image culture class junior year of college.  Still, I only used my voice passively – my fire needed a spark.

My personal spark was the direct threat to people I love from our president-elect. I knew we weren’t in a post-racist & post-sexist world, but I was naive enough to think we wouldn’t want our leader to be racist or sexist let alone both.

Everyone has their own moment of passion that ignites action. Everyone has their own unique voice. And everyone has their own network. We should take comfort in this and not be intimidated. No action is too small, no conversation is too short. What’s important is that we are active in sharing and fighting and letting our voices be heard.  Let this time and this holiday be a reminder that Dr. King and his movement only won one round of the fight towards equality, rounds two and three are ours to settle and we can’t settle anything silently.

Rhetoric will become reality
“We need to raise a resounding cry at every instance of repression and regression. We must not rest until we build a multiracial democracy that embraces the fullness of our spirits and human experience”

We keep being told to wait and see what happens, but that’s like driving a car around with a check-engine light on. You know the engine is going to die eventually and you can either wait until it does or fix it before it interferes with daily life. Unfortunately our problem is much bigger than one car.

We are repeatedly hearing the same rhetoric on social justice issues from out nation’s leaders. This rhetoric WILL become reality. We will see the wage gap continue and possibly grow because Trump thinks “putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.” We will see African-Americans continue to be marginalized because Trump continues to group them together as “the blacks” – a small but significant modifier. We will continue to grow up with implicit bias towards Muslims as we witness a Muslim registry put in place.

I’m not okay with waiting around to see if any of this rhetoric becomes a reality. Actually, I’m sure if we sit idly it will become reality. Billy Bush was fired for his offensive words, but Trump now holds the nation’s highest office. It’s unclear why we’re accepting of this. Demand our leaders be held to the same if not a higher standard. Change the conversation, change the outcome.

Perspective
“Trayvon reminded me of my then 14 year old brother.”

Opal, referring to the untimely and unjust death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, sent chills down my spine. I will never feel nor claim to feel the weight of the black experience in America. However, hearing this sentiment said  aloud in the first person, made me literally shiver. I have read numerous accounts of victims of police brutality, but until today when I heard it from a specific individual standing in front of me, I hadn’t felt their pain. We have to remember to feel from differing perspectives.

It reminds me of in The Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams stands on a desk. If you’ve never done this, try it. A room looks totally different depending on where you stand, just as the world looks different for each individual.  I won’t be able to personally relate a lot instances of injustice, but I share a human emotional experience. Change the perspective, make things personal. Ask what if I were his big sister, ask what if that was my son, ask what if that were my best friend who was shot. Ask what if that were my mom, ask what if that were my niece, ask what if that was my neighbor who was denied service because of their skin color. These selfish questions elicit emotions and emotions are universal. The ability to recognize this and empathize with those around us goes a long way in helping and healing.

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back
“We have to be weary of what he makes seem normal, because in this country we went from enslavement, to Jim Crow, to mass incarceration, the morphing of the systems that still disenfranchise and destabilize communities even if at the time they may seem normal.”   

Dr. King  saw through the normalized repression of his time and identified the problems, organized, and activated. It’s our turn.

It’s not normal for African-Americans to be five times more likely to be incarcerated than white men. It’s not normal for unarmed African-Americans to be gunned down in the streets. It’s not normal for impoverished children to receive inferior education. Yet all of these things are normal in America right now.

Segregation was normal. Slavery was normal. We look back and think – how could people have overlooked the injustice? Yet, we commit the same crimes through the above and many more examples of systemic racism. Opal started the #BlackLivesMatter movement when she saw others consider a heinous act normal. Instances of racism and suppression are happening in front of us every day. We are responsible for identifying them. Only when we acknowledge a problem can we work to solve it.


Love & Protect
“We have the ability to love and protect each other. I believe that we can come together across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, immigration status, religious affiliations, any identity, and begin to create communities that understand our complexities and define our power and embrace it.”

This final quote speaks for itself. It IS possible to live and thrive together. Actually, it’s easier to thrive when we work together. If we use our voices, reject the rhetoric, challenge our perspectives, acknowledge issues, and protect each other, our America will move towards greatness and an unbelievable pace. The American dream will once again feel attainable. The dream of Dr. King will come to fruition, our nation will finally live out the true meaning of its creed.

P.S
After reading this over, I realized I didn’t share many tangible actions. Will update with organizations and movements soon.

*small note, each blog post is a song title. sometimes just because the title fits, sometimes because the song is relevant. either way listen to more tunes.*

 

Lift Every Voice – often referred to as the “Black American National Anthem”

It all began with a burst

A burst of inspiration that is. The infamous day was November 8th, 2016 (technically November 9th by the time the votes were in) when the “impossible” happened. For many reasons, it is a day I won’t ever forget. As I prepare to watch President Obama’s farewell speech tonight, I’m recognizing that it is a day that has left me in a state of disbelief for the past two months….has it only been two months? Are we not nearing the 4 year mark yet?

Just to name it and face my fear that if I write it down it makes it real: November 8th, 2016 was the day Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become President-elect of the United States.

The entire election season was enlightening to say the least. I spoke more candidly about my beliefs, read more commentary than I ever had, and realized my vote isn’t my only source of political power. After a tumultuous buildup, the results of the election shook me to the core.

These past few months I’ve been looking for ways both formally and informally to be more active in the community and in projects I’m passionate about protecting. New Year’s came along and an active resolution came to me. In my first year in New York, I read more for pleasure than I have possibly since middle school. So I decided to turn this hobby into something more, something I could learn from, something I could pay forward.

It’s simple really. Each month I am reading at least one autobiography or non-fiction/non-fiction inspired piece written by a woman throughout 2017. I took to Facebook for suggestions and was overwhelmed by the response. There are so many amazing women I can learn from.

I started with Elizabeth Warren’s “A Fighting Chance” and after only a few pages I became emotional reading her story. After getting through a large portion of the book, I decided I wanted to share my journey moving through my readings. So here we are. I plan to document at least my overall thoughts on each book, but I also want to share my thoughts on specific anecdotes and life lessons from the books through the lens of a young woman currently figuring out how to navigate this thing called life.

Even though we can’t herald this as the year of the woman because we’re being led by one, women have been a part of history since the first chapter and we can still use this year to grow, to be active, and to learn just what women can do (spoiler: the answer is women can do anything.) I hope to start conversations. I hope to share different perspectives. And most of all I hope to remind those who read my thoughts that no matter where we come from we all have a unique story worth being told.

 

*It All Began With a Burst  – Kishi Bashi