American Money

This post has taken a while to write #life. Events described are from the dates 2/2 – 2/9. This is also admittedly a selfish post, I need to add more about Elizabeth but this woman is so intense and full of content I’m having trouble penning it. Hoping the next post comes more easily. Thanks for reading as always.

It’s quite possible I felt every emotion ever experienced by a human since Thursday. It’s been a roller coaster of peaks and valleys, laughter and tears. In personal news, it was my birthday last weekend and two of my very best friends flew in & it was the first time we were together in 2 years (what?!) and as a Patriots football fan the Super Bowl was a tumultuous but ultimately joyous experience to say the least. Then in USA news, the Muslim ban was temporarily lifted, Betsy Devos & Jeff Sessions were confirmed, and Dodd-Frank is under attack – more on that later. My brain and heart are genuinely confused how to proceed, so I guess I’ll just write my way out (hey, Lin Manuel).

Through all of the ups and downs, last weekend was a great reminder that having a group of supportive friends with diverse backgrounds is one of the most wonderful and necessary things in life. From snuggling when I was sad to laughing when I was ridiculously excited about the Super Bowl, from new friends to old friends, from friends nearby to friends afar, all were with me and I am grateful for each one.

Now let’s talk about A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren, what great timing! If this is the first post of mine you’re reading here’s what you need to know: I’m reading one non-fiction book by a female author each month and writing along the way relating lessons and themes from the books to my life and current events. And if this is a subject you haven’t been following Senator Warren was  BARRED FROM SPEAKING against a repugnant attorney general this week after sharing the words of civil rights leader Coretta Scott King. “Nevertheless she persisted” and this post is coincidentally quite aptly timed.

When I started reading A Fighting Chance, all I knew about Elizabeth Warren was she is a Democrat Senator from Massachusetts, a vocal supporter of Hillary during the election, and rumored to run for president in 2020. That’s all. Within the first few pages of the book I could tell her story was much deeper than politics. As the title of this post alludes, Senator Warren’s biggest impact has been on the American financial system, fighting for families and the middle class, work that’s currently under attack by the Trump administration.

If we were to play a word association game now, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Senator Warren is fighter. Reading through the book and watching current events this is the best word to sum up everything that Elizabeth Warren is and I plan to break it down into a few categories. I’m sure other women I read about will also have tenacious tendencies and I look forward to comparing and contrasting their perspectives.

Fighting For Yourself

The first thing that struck me was Elizabeth never let her circumstances define her path. Her parents were unable to send her to college after a the loss of a job and illness, but instead of taking no for an answer, Elizabeth noticed she was excelling at the debate team and researched schools with scholarships for their teams. She was admitted to George Washington with a full scholarship. Win. She then dropped out to marry her first husband at age 19, but try as she may, she was not meant to be a homemaker. So she figured out a way to go back to school. And then to law school, as a new mother no less. Then she went through a divorce and became a working mother of two in a time where women were truly taught their life fulfillment should come from a man. She didn’t let her personal circumstances or the world’s expectations stop her from getting where she wanted to go.

These experiences shaped Elizabeth into the woman we now know as relentless and served a her foundation as a fighter in the professional world.

Fighting For Others 

Elizabeth had very little to gain personally fighting for financial reform. However, she gave numerous examples of people she met along the way that motivated her to keep going. From people at campaign events to the train platform, Elizabeth listened to their struggles and made them her own.

Fighting With Focus

For over the majority of Elizabeth’s life her goal was the same. Through multiple administrations and multiple roles she always had the one goal in mind – regulate the banks so they couldn’t take advantage of people. As I read, all I could think was “wow, she still hasn’t given up.” Her family was attacked, she was attacked, she battled a congress stacked against her. Year after year, she relentlessly fought.

This is the biggest takeaway from reading about her and simultaneously watching her fight for the American people to be represented in the best way. Her focus is and always has been to make America fair for everyone. It started with financial reform as a law professor and led to her becoming a Senator at age 63, just two years before more people RETIRE she started an entirely new career.

Personal Reflection 

Fighting for myself is something I’ve done my entire life. If I set a goal I achieve it. This isn’t to sound cocky, but to say that if I want something I find a way to make it happen. From sports, to jobs, to grades, to new cities I will always go the extra mile when faced with a challenge. It’s just how my brain works. I hate few things more than feeling like I held back and things could have ended differently if I tried harder. I related to Elizabeth the most learning how she approaches big picture end goals.

Fighting for others is my new years resolution. This administration is threatening so many groups we all have to suit up and get in the battle .I haven’t done the best job so far because I’ve been overwhelmed and not sure where to look. But Elizabeth shared many anecdotes of moments that inspired her and I am going to make a conscious decision to actually hear more of what’s going on around me and to understand what tangible struggles I can help. Watching my 13 year old pal get cat-called is one of these moments that put a fire in me. Rape culture is something I am passionate about fighting for many reasons and taking notice of this specific instance has inspired me to want to speak up in a bigger way.

Focus is the only way to get where you want to go and something I’ve struggled to find recently. I want to help so many causes but know stretching myself thin will end up backfiring. I’ve had success being focused, a year of dedicated research and planning allowed me to make it to NYC and I’ve never been more sure I made the right decision. Learning from Elizabeth and reflecting on times my focus was fearless and fruitful, I know my next step is take my passion to serve, choose a cause, and fight relentlessly until there is change. Is it women’s rights, children’s education, fighting systematic racism? I’m not sure but I know I’ll find the path and opportunities where I can use my skills most effectively to help those around me.

Thank you Elizabeth for your words in A Fighting Chance, thank you for your years of service, thank you for persisting, thank you for inspiring me to fight.

**American Money – BORNS


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

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