Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

This just in! Lesbians prettier on TV than in real life!

September 6, 2012

Source: instablogs.com

The minimal increase in TV programs showcasing lesbian characters over the last few years has actually caused debate within the lesbian community according to the August 13,2012 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Though I doubt most women in this underrepresented minority would, in theory, oppose the entertainment industry’s portrayal of their lifestyle for the masses, likely expecting understanding and acceptance as a result, it is ultimately the validity of the depiction that falls into question. As Emma Teitel, author of the Maclean’s article puts it “The lesbian media has a history of being elated with news its community will be represented on the small screen, then grossly disappointed with how its represented.”

 

Pretty Little Liars
Source:flickriver.com

Lesbian characters on television shows are not exactly novel territory. Ellen Degeneres came out as a lesbian on her hit sitcom “Ellen” in 1997. Sandra Bernhardt played a lesbian character on Roseanne for years. More recent examples are Callie and Arizona on Grey’s Anatomy, Angela Darmody on Boardwalk Empire, Santana Lopez on Glee and Emily Fields on Pretty Little Liars. Breaking new ground is programming showcasing lesbian characters almost exclusively such as BBC’s Lip Service and the now defunct The L-Word, and reality shows scrutinizing the lives of lesbian women such as Showtime’s The Real L-Word.

The Real L-Word
Source:wikipedia.org

If the mainstream media is finally embracing the lesbian community, what’s all the fuss about? Well here’s a shocker. Turns out some of these women feel they are being misrepresented. According to Teitel in her Maclean’s article: “Common criticisms of these shows from lesbian pundits and TV writers often have less to do with acting and character development than with how the characters look”. She quotes Julie Blindel from The Guardian as saying about Lip Service as saying that “every single lesbian is skinny, achingly trendy and lashed with lipstick.” She goes on to say that in ‘real life’ lesbians “tend not to dress for male approval, often rejecting makeup, high heels and other trappings of femininity.” So it appears that some in the community feel that TV lesbians are being characterized as ‘prettier’ or ‘sexier’ than what is realistic.

 

Lip Service
Source: bbc.co.uk

Wow, what a surprise. Sorry, I have been trying very hard to suppress my innate cynicism in an attempt to be a more optimistic and happier person, but I feel incapable of holding my tongue here. I find it almost shocking and quite frankly insulting that lesbians would think they would be accorded an honest portrayal in the media when no other member of the female population is granted the same. I can’t say for certain, but I would hazard a guess that television networks, like the rest of the western world general, are run by rich white men. And rich white men tend to cater to rich white men. They are also business savvy, wanting to make as much money as possible by bringing in the most viewers. However, they don’t give people much credit, assuming that most purveyors of fine television aren’t seeking much more than visual titillation. So what do they do? Put pretty women on TV. It doesn’t matter what the program content or character development is. Men will be drawn to watch and women won’t question this because it is what they are used to seeing, no matter how misogynistic and self-hatred provoking. Just because the main character is a lesbian and thus by definition (according to some) shouldn’t be beautiful doesn’t exempt her from being glamourized for TV. Most straight women aren’t a size 0 with flowing locks and designer clothing, but the majority of the ones you see on TV are. Oh, and they’re rich too. So sorry for the homosexual women out there but it seems that the television networks don’t think society is ready to see ‘butch’ lesbians or women without makeup on TV, especially in HD. The masses want to see Katy Perry kissing a girl wearing Cherry Chapstick. She likes it, and so do we, it seems.

 

I mentioned a debate before. Well, while some lesbians are upset about their attractiveness in today’s television shows, many applaud this depiction, citing it as relevant. There are some lesbians who accentuate their femininity, going out of their way to appear “girly”. Maclean’s cites to Megan Evans who calls herself a “femme” lesbian and says “television shows featuring highly feminine lesbians have made her feel more comfortable with her sexuality.” She says that often “If you’re girly and into beauty, then you definitely are viewed as not legitimately gay”.

 

It seems to me that the problem here is that there is a disassociation between groups of women where there should be a unification of forces. Straight women and gay women are essentially angry over the same issue, but arguing separately. Even lesbians who believe that there is no issue with lesbians being represented as feminine should be concerned with the idealistic images of women presented on television. Lesbians should not be adversaries against each other, nor towards straight women, we should all support each other to encourage a realistic and healthy portrayal of women of all sexual orientations in the media.

12 Going on 21??

August 31, 2012

Thylane Rose Blondeau

The other day I was being amused by my dog, Oscar, who has taught himself to maneuver his ball around with his nose while simultaneously chasing after it, a skill that provides him with hours of entertainment and exercise and requires no effort on my part. A young girl approached whom I didn’t recognize, along with a friend. She called Oscar by name, explaining that her mother had dogsitted for us before. On second glance I did recognize her as the 12 year-old daughter of our regular sitter, however the last and only time I had seen her she had been about to go to bed, fresh and clean and wearing a long cotton night dress that would have been perfect for a purity pledge sleepover. The girl before me looked like she had walked out of a poorly styled rap video. Her shorts, while already short enough to make me question if there was a manufacturer defect, were rolled up one more time to ensure there was no question of the fact she was indeed wearing underpants. Her shirt was slightly cropped although not as much so as her friend’s which may actually have been an undergarment. Both girls had dyed the tips of their hair purple, a fad among young Hollywood celebrities these days (I’m hip to the trends). After both girls had said their hellos to Oscar, they went back to their I-phone 4Gs and resumed what I assumed to be texting their friends while I continued to stare at them with a mixture of shock, disbelief, sadness and fear.

Pinpointing why seeing these young girls in clothing that would be only questionably appropriate on even an adult woman bothered me so much was difficult. Of course I thought these girls were much too young to be dressing so provocatively. However, I kept thinking that although these outfits were unquestionable “sexy” in nature, no one in their right mind could look at these 12 year-old girls and have a sexual thought about them. It seemed apparent that neither of them had gone through puberty yet. Although both had bra straps visible, there was no evidence that such underwear was for anything but show as both girls still had the reed-like figures of children, lacking any curves which would distinguish then from their male counterparts save their long hair and 5 pounds of make-up. These girls are simply not sexual beings yet. But deep down I fear that they could be and that they will be. These girls represent thousands and millions of other young, vulnerable 12 year-old girls today who are subject to exposures and pressures that their parents and older siblings couldn’t even imagine. Are these girls covering themselves less in response to current trends, or are they finding themselves in an increasingly hyper-sexualized environment and setting out to appear desirable in the way that they have been taught by society to do so (by wearing little clothing)? Or both?

It seems as though girls are becoming aware of the concept of sexuality at a very young age. A study performed by Jennifer Abbasi and published online July 6th in Sex Roles showed that girls as young as 6 were beginning to think of themselves as sex objects. In the study, 60 girls 6-9 years old were each shown two dolls, one wearing “sexy” clothes and the other a trendy but conservative outfit. The girls were then asked to choose the doll that looked like herself, looked how she wanted to look, was the popular girl in school, and who she wanted to play with. In all categories the girls chose the “sexy” doll, with 68% wanting to look like her and 72% saying she was the more popular.

Where would a six year old get this perception? Well if you are watching Toddlers and Tiaras with her, or worse if she is ON Toddlers and Tiaras, look no further for your answer. Otherwise she is likely sensitive to the same media images that all women, teens and tweens are bombarded with day after day. The images that tell us what sexy is and how we can achieve it. I can think of no other reason I turn over to allow a perfect stranger to pour hot wax on my most private part during a Brazilian wax I derive no pleasure from. In the article ‘Teenage Girls Report Pressure To Live up to Sexual Ideals’ by Alexandra Topping published on July 14 2008 in The Guardian UK results from a study by Girlguiding UK and the Mental Health Foundation were published. The study showed that two in five teen girls felt worse about themselves after looking at pictures of models, pop stars and actresses in magazines. Furthermore “the girls questioned described being put under sexual pressure from boys at school or feeling obliged to wear clothes that made them look older.” Many of the girls felt bad about how they looked and their weight. Of the 10-14 year-old, 32% had a friend who had an eating disorder, 42% knew someone who had harmed themselves, and half knew someone who had suffered from depression.

Lottie Moss, 13 years old

These numbers are similar to those reported in a May 2010 article on Macleans.ca by Kate Fillion titled “Inside the Dangerously Empty Lives of Teenage Girls where she interviews Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Girls on the Edge, about today’s teen and tween girls. He has also written two books about the gender differences between girls and boys. He reports that 1 in 5 girls in the US is cutting or burning herself. 1 in 4 high-school girls is binge drinking. I in 8 takes antidepressants.

Social media is also playing a big part in the image young girls are able to present of themselves to their peers and the general public in cyberspace. Girls become fixated on presenting the perfect image of themselves on social media sites, and can lose sight of who they are and who they really want to be. They don’t derive any real value or positive reinforcement of themselves as a human being through this type of networking as any type of interaction is strictly superficial. According to Dr. Sax “Girls spend a lot of time photoshopping their pictures, making themselves look a little bit thinner than they are and getting rid of the pimples, because they know boys are interested in the photos on these sites. So you’ve got 14-year-old girls essentially presenting themselves as a brand, trying to create a public persona, polishing an image of themselves that’s all surface: how you look and what you did yesterday, not who you are and what you want to be. And that leads to a sense of disconnection from themselves, because in most cases, these girls don’t even realize that their persona is not who they are. They’re just focused on striving to please their market and presenting the brand they think will sell.” And unfortunately as we all know, sex sells.

When I was 12, I was in 7th grade. I wore Guess jeans and corduroy pants to school. I wore turtlenecks and teased my bangs into this ridiculous style I now call “the rainbow”. It wasn’t pretty. My mother bought all of my clothes, and while I once cried until she broke down and bought me a pair of white Sorel boots I absolutely NEEDED or I would DIE, it would have been a cold day in hell before she ever bought me bootie shorts, a crop top or thong underwear in junior high. Or now come to think of it. Furthermore, many of these young girls look too small to be shopping in the adult section. However, according to Jean Twenge from San Diego University in the same Macleans article  “Forty years ago, if you went into a department store and looked at clothes for seven-year-olds, they’d be quite different than the clothes on sale for 17-year-olds. Today there’s no longer any distinction; the same short skirts are sold to girls in Grade 2 and girls in Grade 12. T-shirts that say, “Yes, but not with you” are now sold to eight-year-olds.
Girls understand what these T-shirts are about: pretending to be sexually aware.” Furthermore, because such clothing is sold in children’s clothing stores and in children’s sizes, parents are less resistant to buying it for their daughters. They think it is normal and appropriate. Suddenly this is popular culture. On slate.com Emily Yoffe wrote about back-to-school clothes shopping with her daughter in a piece called Lolita’s Closet. “A few years ago, Abercrombie, the ‘tween division of Abercrombie & Fitch, got in trouble for marketing thong underpants—with phrases such as “eye candy” printed on them—to prepubescent girls. Now scanty panties for girls are standard. At Limited Too there were pairs with rhinestone hearts or printed with cheeky sayings such as “Buy It Now! Tell Dad Later!” My dad was upset when my mother let me get my ears pierced at 12. He thought he caught a boy looking at me, as if mesmerized by the shining 10 karat gold-plated gems in my awkward tween ears and not just a horny hormone-filled adolescent pimple canvas. Thong panties? I would not have wanted to be around for that conversation.

Kaia Gerber, 10 years old

The more overtly style of dress young girls seem to have adopted is not surprising in our culture today. But are today’s youth being more sexual than those of prior decades? The answer is yes and no. Jean Twenge says “kids may be sexually intimate—the term as I use it includes both oral sex and intercourse—a little earlier and certainly they are much more likely to be having oral sex than they were 20 years ago. There are some troubling new issues. You find a lot of 12- and 13-year-old girls who are providing sexual favours to 16- and 17-year-old boys.” According to the July 2008 Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study 47% of tweens  (11-14 year-olds) and 37% of 11 and 12 year-olds say they been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. 37% of tweens say touching and “feeling up” is part of tween dating relationships. 27% say so is oral sex. 28% say sex is a part of tween relationships. 31% of tweens know a friend or peer who have had oral sex and 33% know one who has had sexual intercourse. Another difference according to an April 2009 article in Macleans magazine “Teen Girls in Charge” is that “nearly half of female adolescents now say it’s acceptable to have sex after a few times out together, up from 35 per cent in 1984. “Making out” is okay after being with someone a few times has rocketed up from 79 to 94 per cent, which almost puts them on par with the guys, who are at 96 per cent.” Teen girls appear to be becoming more sexually aggressive, taking charge of their sexuality.

These numbers seem high, and it does appear that tweens are experimenting with sexual activity such as oral sex earlier. But one positive is that overall the numbers of teens who are sexually active is not increasing. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, the percentage of youth virgins is increasing, as is condom use, and as a result teen pregnancy is decreasing. In the US 2011 and 2008 data are very similar showing that there also does not seem to be an increase in the number of teenagers having sex. There is also good evidence that parents and role models can play a big role in their children’s sexual health. The National Survey of Family Growth conducted from 2006 to 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute and reported by Stephanie Pappas  on March 8 2012 on Livescience.com (Sex Education Delays Teen Sex) showed that teens young men and women 15-24 who received any sort of sex education were more likely to delay sex, and use contraception during their first sexual encounter. Another study in the June 15 2011 issue of the Montreal Gazette by Laura Baziuk reported that 45% of teens look to their parents as their sexual role models. (Over their friends, celebrities, or no one at all). So with girls being sexually aware at a younger age parents should prepare themselves to talk to their daughters about sex earlier than ever. And read up before you do. She probably already knows a lot more than you think.

Money can’t buy everything but it can buy you a wife

August 17, 2012

Most little girls fall asleep to fairy tales in which beautiful princesses are rescued by handsome princes and then live happily ever after in majestic castles. As we grow up to become women, the media and entertainment industry perpetuate this fairy tale through rom-coms, made for TV movies, and E.L. James novels (apparently no one’s reading Jane Austen anymore). I still think Pretty Woman is the most romantic movie ever made. What girl doesn’t want to be rescued from her fire escape by Richard Gere with a rose between his teeth? Parents and teachers can emphasize the importance of education in attaining a good job and achieving financial independence. Role models for today’s young women are often successful career women, such as mothers or perhaps even grandmothers who go to work every day to support their families. Would-be feminists can read The Feminine Mystique ten times over and embody every quality of the modern woman.  Yet even in this day and age society still nourishes traditional gender roles where the man should bear the brunt of the financial responsibility for his family while the woman, even if she ‘chooses’ to work, should still have time to cook, clean and rear children. Perhaps even more surprising? How many women who not only buy into this stereotype, but aspire to it.

Since our mothers got married, the number of women in the workforce has gone up substantially. Not only that, women’s salaries have also increased, mainly due to the fact that more and more women are getting college and university degrees than ever before. In 2009, the Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that 40% of US working wives were out-earning their husbands compared to 25% in the early 1990’s. One would think this a positive step for women in terms of equality as it seems to signify a narrowing of the wage gap between genders, long been a thorn in the side of feminists. However, a study published in January 2011 by London School of Economics professor Dr. Catherine Hakim seems to contradict this, reporting that women actually prefer men to earn more money than them.  “…64% said they aspire to find a husband bringing home more money. None wanted to marry a man who earned less.” So it seems that when it comes to relationships, women actually do revere their traditional position as needing to be provided for. A similar study done by Meghan Casserly of ForbesWoman via the website YourTango.com revealed that 91% of women would marry for love over money, but that 75% of women would still NOT wed someone without a job. And it seems that deviation from the husband-as-breadwinner role is unappealing to men as well as women. A Cornell University study published in August 2010 reported that husbands who earned less than their partners were up to 5 times more likely to cheat. Researchers found that “the secret is for women to earn 25% less than their husbands. As that gap narrows, it becomes more likely the man will be unfaithful.” Men are clearly threatened by the thought of losing their historical role in their relationship dynamic.

It comes as no surprise that many women like men with money. We all know the cliché of the young beautiful woman and the old rich man. The Real Housewives series is one of the more popular reality shows on television. Hugh Hefner still dates twenty year-olds. Anna Nicole Smith is most famous for marrying a billionaire in his 80s. I am just surprised that the distribution of earning within a relationship is an issue for so many people. Why are successful women not celebrating the progress they have made, being happy to be making more money now than ever before? Why does it matter who earns what as long as family is taken care of?

In most of my relationships prior to my current one, I have made more money than my significant other, which has generally never bothered me. As I have blogged about before, I have always and still do believe that a woman should never be dependent on a man, that she should have her own career, friends and interests. Therefore, I have always assumed that I would work, even when married with children. In relationships I have always paid for my fair half (or more) of everything. When I first moved in with my fiancée he was a medical fellow. Our arrangement was that we split rent and basically took turns paying for everything else. When he finished his fellowship and started to work as a full-fledged nephrologist, his financial situation changed quite a bit. As in, he is now making about 6 times more money than me a month. I share this information with you not to flaunt how extraordinarily upper middle-class we are, but to share with you how I came to understand the 64% of women who are seeking husbands who make more money than them. This is because I surprised and disappointed myself by the sense of security I felt at my husband-to-be’s salary revelation and how much I have taken it for granted. I no longer even glance at the cheque at the restaurant when it lands on the table, never mind make any move to pick it up. The same goes for groceries, take-out, trips to the wine store etc. He books all of our flights and hotels for trips, concert tickets and sports events. Oh, and I dropped my laptop last week so he also bought this new MacBook Air I am typing on. These are things I could pay for myself. As a pharmacist I make a good salary. But he makes a much better one and we’re partners, therefore when he offers I don’t decline. Beyond the material things, it’s comforting to know that if we decide to have children, although I have never imagined myself as a stay-at-home-mom, I will have that option. Furthermore, I am currently making a career change and taking some time off, and am able to do so without being concerned about money.

Maybe there’s a little girl inside every woman, holding onto that fairy tale, waiting for her prince. But today’s Prince Charming may not look the same as yesterday’s. Modern relationships are changing, and so are the roles of man and wife. I think it’s time we embrace the idea and make new fairy tales. Perhaps Pretty Woman was ahead of its time:

Lewis (Richard Gere): “So what happens after he climbs up and rescues her?”

Vivian (Julia Roberts): “She rescues him right back.”

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (www.slutwalktoronto.com), lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”

Image

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Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.

Breasts: If you’ve got em’….why not use them? My take on the great breastfeeding debate.

June 17, 2012

Source:wellness.inside.tru.ca

I have always associated my above average intelligence with the fact that I was breastfed as an infant. The general consensus while I was growing up was that breastfeeding resulted in babies with higher IQs than those who were formula fed. A recent article by Elisabeth Badinter in Harper’s Magazine informed me that this theory has since been debunked, along with some other research on the benefits of breastfeeding. Her article, titled “The Tyranny of Breast-Feeding;New mothers vs. La Leche League” is a scathing criticism of the organization La Leche League (LLL) which she basically accuses of using unfounded facts, scare tactics, maternal guilt and other forms of bullying to manipulate women into feeling compelled to breastfeed. The article has stirred up a storm of controversy and discussion, with many women siding firmly with Badinter, feeling like the message pushed by LLL is at odds with the modern version of motherhood, and others horrified that she would dare call the superiority of breastfeeding into question.

Source:harpers.org

Not familiar with La Leche League, I perused their website. I didn’t find it quite as offensive as Badinter seems to. Of course, I’m barren at this point in my life so perhaps I am not as sensitive to the coercion tactics buried among the site’s pages. I did, however, find it a little over-the-top in it’s proclamations regarding the merits of breastfeeding, and quite frankly, a bit cheesy. I could also agree with Badinter’s criticism that the LLL seems to promote and support a stance that women who breastfeed are superior and hold a superior role in society to those that choose not to or cannot, and that women are the primary and most important child rearers in the family unit. “The loving help and support of the father enables the mother to focus on mothering so that together the parents develop close relationships which strengthen the family and thus the whole fabric of society. LLL further believes that mothering through breastfeeding deepens a mother’s understanding and acceptance of the responsibilities and rewards of her special role in the family. As a woman grows in mothering she grows as a human being, and every other role she may fill in her lifetime is enriched by the insights and humanity she brings to it from her experiences as a mother.” This seems to imply that the father’s role in parenting is simply to financially support mother and child so that mother is able to adequately nurture her child. This is reminiscent of the Don Draper type of father of the 1960s and 1970s who is successful and a good financial provider but is basically absent from his children’s lives. Many women and men have fought hard to change these gender stereotypes and create a new family ideal, one where the responsibility for the child’s development falls on both parent’s shoulders if possible. Furthermore, what does this statement by LLL say about single mothers? Widows? Low income families? God forbid the mother must work and she can’t focus solely on mothering as her single role in life. She will surely contribute to the downfall of society. Give me a break.

Badinter certainly makes some good points in her article. Many women simply can’t breastfeed. There are latching difficulties, they can’t produce milk, they develop infections in their mammary glands, etc. Many women breastfeed for as long as they can, but have to stop to go back to work, either out of personal choice or out of economic necessity. Women who adopt babies obviously can’t product milk to breastfeed their babies. LLL would like to make women think that by not breastfeeding, mothers will lose the chance to form important bonds with their children, thus making women who are not able to form this physical attachment to their child feel like failures as mothers. This is not fair, and it is also not true. Maternal bonding can and will occur whether or not a child breastfeeds or not as long as the mother is meeting her childs emotional, physical, nutritional and cognitive needs. I don’t have a statistic for you, but many formula fed infants have bonded with their mothers.

This is essentially where I stop agreeing with Badinter. Now, generally I roll my eyes when someone makes the argument that something is better for you because it is “natural”. This is true for most herbal products, organic pesticides, natural sweeteners like Steevia, natural soaps and deodorants (P.S.-they don’t work-you smell bad), and magic mushrooms. However, when it comes to breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, I am of the staunch opinion that breast is best. Our bodies were made to do many things. This is not to say we have to do them. As females we are designed to bear children often as early as 11 years old. This is because at one point the average life expectancy was under 40 and many women died in childbirth. We women had to get an early start to keep the human race alive. There was no such thing as formula, and women breastfed or their babies died. Obviously times have changed. We don’t need to birth children when we are still children ourselves (though unfortunately this still occurs), and as a matter of fact many women are waiting later and later to have children. And we have alternatives to breastmilk to nourish our children. The problem is that no matter how much you want to argue about it, study after study has proven the advantage of breastfeeding. It decreases the incidence of infections in the infant due to transferred immunity, it may decrease incidence of a variety of diseases, may improve speech development and prevent cavities. It also benefits the mother by reducing the risk of postpartum depression, anemia, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis due to lack of estrogen. Badinter notes that the research showing that babies of breastfed mothers have higher IQs and a lower risk of asthma have has proven unfounded. But these are only two of the purported benefits. It is not as if the vast number of other benefits are inconsequential. In her article, Badinter quotes sociologist Linda Blum who says that “formula is constantly being improved to reproduce the advantages of breast milk.” This is true. It seems that scientists are continuously finding new components of breast milk that are imperative for childhood development. It wasn’t until between 2003 and 2008 that scientists discovered that the addition of DHA to infant formula was important for eyesight and cognitive development. So how can we be sure that there are no other undiscovered molecules in human breastmilk vital for infant development that aren’t present in artificial formula?

Badinter also seems quite resentful towards the LLL about the fact that they have support from numerous medical organizations. As if there is some type of conspiracy against women everywhere, an evil puppeteer in the sky just itching for control of every mother’s breasts. She doesn’t seem to consider the idea that perhaps all of these organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics are making their recommendations based on available research and in the best interest of children. She notes that currently the WHO recommends infants be breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and supplemented with breastmilk until 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends breastfeeding for the first 12 months of the infant’s life. The LLL on the other hand recommmends tha women breastfeed until the child decides he or she should be weaned, and furthermore, the ideal is on-feeding, meaning the mother must be available anytime, anywhere. I agree with Badinter that for working mothers this is not feasible. A recent Time Magazine article titled “Are You Mom Enough” discusses this further. According to the article, the natural age of weaning is between 2 and 7, with the average worldwide weaning age being 4. Of course in North America this is not the norm. It would be extremely shocking to see a woman breastfeeding a 4 year-old as evidenced by the controversial cover of said Time issue featuring 26 year-old Jamie Grumet breastfeeding her 3 year-old. Many called the cover sexualized and inflammatory. In our modern society where many women have careers, and children are often in daycare prior to 2 years of age, breastfeeding often ceases much earlier than these recommendations. Even still, many health benefits of breastfeeding can be seen as early as 6 months or even earlier.

Source:Time magazine

What is most disconcerting about Badinter’s argument is not that she feels somewhat hostile towards the LLL for their superior attitude. This is entirely understandable given the organizations old-fashioned and unforgiving philosophy. It is also not that she discounts years of research, although this is just plain ignorant. What rubs me the wrong way is that she does not seem to have any valid argument in defense of choosing not to breastfeed. In fact, her statements almost ruin her case. She says “As far as LLL is concerned, all mothers should be able to breast-feed. There are no naturally insurmountable difficulties, physical or psychological. It would seem there is no such thing as maternal ambivalence and that women who balk at submitting are simply reckless or bad.” Maternal ambivalence? What is that to be taken to mean? Why would a woman be unsure of? Whether she wants to breastfeed? Whether she should? If it is the right thing to do? The evidence is clear. The medical associations have given their opinions. There seems to be no clear reason not to breastfeed your child if physically able. If a woman hesitates in the face of the decision between whether to take the responsibility for the nourishment of their child or not then perhaps she should rethink her decision to have that child in the first place. We live in a society that gives women many personal freedoms. No woman is forced to have a child she doesn’t want. When making the decision to take on the huge responsibility of bearing and raising a child you should be aware of all that encompasses and part of that is sometimes putting your child before yourself order to ensure that he or she is having their physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs met. That is being a parent. Badinter doesn’t think this is reasonable. Badinter says about recommendations that women returning to work expell their own milk with a pump for their child to consume in her abscence versus using formula that “many women find pumping repulsive”. I’m sure that breast pumping is not comfortable, but I would hope that most mothers wouldn’t think that providing the best food possible for their child to be a ‘repulsive’ activity. The author’s statement that breastfeeding is associated with “loss of freedom and the despotism of an insatiable child” is probably most concerning. What does she expect? Whether breastfed or not, a child will hugely impact a woman’s lifestyle. All babies need to be fed, burped, be coddled when they cry, etc. Unfortunately babies demand a lot more than milk, and will continue to do so for years after they cease relying on a liquid diet. Get used to it or get a plant instead.

I believe in women’s rights. I am firmly pro choice. But if you make the decision to bring a child into this earth, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do everything in your power to ensure he or she has the best start possible. While I can understand resistance to conservative and seemingly old-fashioned notions about motherhood roles, especially in these times when the family unit is often less than traditional, I also believe that the role of mother as  provider of nutrition to her infant has been long-studied and is the subject of much hard research data. Organizations like LLL can provide  information and support but women need to stay true to themselves and keep their own values and lifestyles in mind when reviewing the recommendations and data quoted on such websites. Above all, use common sense and critical thinking to decide what is best for you and your family. The decision to become a mother is not an easy one, and consequently being a mother will be the hardest job you will have. There will be many sacrifices but many gains. I have not yet been on this journey, but I hope to one day. I can’t say with any certainty what decisions I will make, but I can only hope that I will have my children’s best interests at heart.

Fifty Shades of Assault and Battery: There’s Heat in the Beat

June 15, 2012

I became curious about the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James while in London where it was the subject of billboard advertisements everywhere. Londoners seem to place more importance on reading than us here in North America, although as it turns out they are no less seduced by smut as this work of “literature” proves. On return to Canada I spotted women everywhere with this book in hand, and started to hear snippets about it in eavesdropped conversations and even in the news, where it has been dubbed “mommy porn” due to it’s graphic sex scenes and popularity among middle aged women.

I enjoy reading. While I have varied taste in books, I like to think that a common thread between my favorites is that they are all at least somewhat thought-provoking, serve to conjur up emotion in the reader, and are well written. But I will admit I have read and even enjoyed my fair share of  fluff. Sometimes you just have to rest your mind, and get out of your head a little bit. A cheesy, tasteless or tawdry novel is like the literary version of reality TV but better. The characters look however you imagine them to, they don’t all speak at once, and you don’t need to wait until next week to tune in. Also like reality TV, you are often embarrassed to admit you are a fan. I borrowed the Twilight trilogy from a friend, thus avoiding that embarrassing purchase. Unfortunately I was not so lucky with The Hunger Games. Although I muttered something about the books (the last 2 of which I bought at the same time to avoid humiliation three times) “being for my niece”, I’m sure it was pretty clear by my “Team Peeta” button this was not the case. “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic” were ebook purchases, the greatest invention ever for concealing kitschy novels. And the “Gossip Girl” novel? Stolen from my fiancee. He purchased it from an airport bookstore to read on a plane. Sorry honey, the cat’s out of the bag. But I digress. The point is, my curiosity as well as my desire for a mindless and entertaining book to read on the plane back to Vancouver after my sister’s wedding trumped the potential mortification that would ensue had anyone I knew seen me buy the book in question, and I finally purchased and read “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Now, I have never read a romance novel before, and I wouldn’t call this a romance novel in the same sense that I imagine the books I see older blue-haired women reading, with Fabio on the cover kissing beautiful women in flowing dresses surrounded by gardens of roses. The books with names like “Stolen Kisses” or A Midnight Adventure”. I wouldn’t exactly call it “porn” either, but there is a lot of sex in the book. I don’t want to rehash the whole plot, but basically girl (Anastasia) meets boy (Christian). She’s a virgin, he’s into S&M. He wants her to be his little pet, or submissive as they call it in the book. He even wants her to sign some contract to the same effect. She isn’t so sure. They have sex. About a million times. She’s uncomfortable with his sadistic sexual tendencies. She tries to get to know him but he won’t let her because he’s had a bad childhood. Because of his dominant tendancies he tries to control her. She resists. Eventually it doesn’t work, they break up and in the end they are both heartbroken. Cliffhanger which makes reader want to read second book of trilogy. Which I of course do. And then the third.

I have read several reviews of this trilogy. Most focus on the sex. Apparently sex in books is very controversial. You can turn on HBO and basically watch two people having intercourse, but god forbid we read about it in a book. I have gathered that one of the main issues is that some libraries are carrying the book and the concern is that children could get a hold of it. First of all, wouldn’t the libraries have some type of policy that adult materials be checked out by adults only? Secondly, shouldn’t parents have at least some involvement in their children’s lives here? When I was a young child, I wasn’t fleeting off to the library on my own. Furthermore, my parents were aware of what I was reading, watching on TV, listening to on my ghetto blaster (ah, the old days), and who I was talking to on the phone. When I was old enough to go to the library by myself, I was a teenager. And believe me, teenagers today have seen a lot more shocking things than they could read about in this book, no matter what Sarah Palin tells you. Other critics claim the book is “unrealistic” in terms of the amount and, ahem, ‘quality’ of her sexual encounters. While unlike some, I have not counted the number of orgasms in the trilogy (in fact by the end I was skipping the repetitive sex scenes altogether) I agree the numbers are outstanding. But it is a work of fiction. Furthermore, how interesting would a book be that read: (Spoiler alert! Excerpt from book:)”How he’s making me feel that familiar pull deep in my belly, tightening, quickening. NO…and my traitorous body explodes in an intense, body shattering…” (my alternate ending) “Shit!!! Baby, are you done already?” Many women love the book. They claim it is erotic, and that it is empowering to women because it was written by a woman. Uh huh. Never mind the fact that the protagonist is a young virgin who is being controlled by a dominating man who likes to spank her and “punish her” when she doesn’t “obey” him. She talks a lot to her “inner goddess” and refuses to quit her job so clearly she’s a strong woman. While it would seem men would enjoy the book, apparently not so. While Christian Grey is clearly dominant within the relationship, he is still extremely attentive and aims to please in the bedroom, and this doesn’t sit well with the men out there. It places undue pressure on them from the scores of female readers who want their own Christian Grey, sexual god and orgasm wizard.

These are all valid criticisms. But I can’t help but but be puzzled that people seem to be missing the biggest elephant in the room when appraising this book. Sure it is often noted (as it is in the book) that Christian Grey is ‘a little obsessive’ or ‘stalkerish’. But as I read the book, all I could think was “Get out! Get out now!!” This is an abusive relationship if I have ever seen one. All the red flags are there, and this girl, while being portrayed as intelligent and strong, just isn’t seeing them. Or worse, she is, but she is choosing to ignore them. Is there a worse message that a female writer could send to a predominantly female target audience? Anastasia continually forgives and excuses Christian’s bad behavior because of his troubled past. She allows him to avoid facing his past, his temper and his control issues by using sex to pacify and distract her. She makes excuses for him to others and herself, explaining his abusive behavior away as a need to protect her. If you disagree with me, look at the criteria.

You may be in an abusive relationship if he or she:

1) Is jealous or possessive toward you.  Check.
2)Tries to control you by being very bossy or demanding.  Double check.
3)Tries to isolate you by demanding you cut off social contacts and friendships.  Yup. Got angry when she didn’t tell him she was going to visit mom. Doesn’t like her going out with friends.
4)Is violent and / or loses his or her temper quickly.  Yes
5)Pressures you sexually, demands sexual activities you are not comfortable with.  I believe this is premise of book.
6)Abuses drugs or alcohol.  This may be a stretch, but seems to glurp wine/champagne entire book.
7)Claims you are responsible for his or her emotional state. (This is a core diagnostic criteria for Codependency.)  A favorite phrase is “Oh Anastasia, what are you doing to me?”
8)Blames you when he or she mistreats you.  See above
9)Has a history of bad relationships.  Yes
10)Your family and friends have warned you about the person or told you that they are concerned for your safety or emotional well being.  Best friend Kate warns her.
11)You frequently worry about how he or she will react to things you say or do.  She constantly worries about how mad he will be.
12)Makes “jokes” that shame, humiliate, demean or embarrass you, weather privately or around family and friends.  Not applicable. He never makes jokes.
13)Your partner grew up witnessing an abusive parental relationship, and/or was abused as a child.  Yes.
14)Your partner “rages” when they feel hurt, shame, fear or loss of control.  Yes.
15)Both parties in abusive relationships may develop or progress in drug or alcohol dependence in a (dysfunctional) attempt to cope with the pain.  4th book??
16)You leave and then return to your partner repeatedly, against the advice of your friends, family and loved ones.  Once so far.
17)You have trouble ending the relationship, even though you know inside it’s the right thing to do.  She’s too dumb to know it’s the right thing to do. She’s 21. And she thinks they’re soul mates.
(Courtesy of http://www.recovery-man.com)

Well there we have it. I once watched a movie called Boxing Helena. It was about a surgeon who was so obsessed with a woman that when he couldn’t have her he amputated her limbs and literally put her in a box in his gigantic house. I once dated a man who made me feel like I was living in a box. At first I found his attentiveness flattering. Then his constant questioning of where I was going and who I was going with, his checking up on me and jealous outbursts were smothering. When he followed me out for dinner with a good male friend it was over the top. When I finally broke up with him and he locked me in his car, drove 100 miles an hour to a deserted location and threatened to kill me it was downright terrifying. I’m lucky I’m here. Many women are not. So when I read a book like this that casually dismisses dangerous behavior I find it frightening. There is no shame in enjoying the book for what it is. Overlook all the other flaws. But keep this one in the back of your mind. This book is a work of fiction. In the book, the characters live happily ever after. In reality, they would not. So if you or anyone you know is in a relationship like this, please help them get out. Even if the man is gorgeous and rich and gives her an orgasm every time he touches her.

Why do you buy? (And no one asked you Karl Lagerfeld!)

June 13, 2012

The June issue of Elle Canada magazine features an article by Ben Barry (a modelling agent) titled “New Business Model” which basically summarizes his Ogilvy Foundation funded, Cambridge University thesis research regarding how “models-depending on their size, age, and race-influence purchasing decisions.” He notes this research differs from the majority of research into the use of extremely thin models in advertising which has traditionally focused on the impact this can have on women’s body image. As in it has already been scientifically proven that looking at gorgeous, thin, photoshopped models makes women feel crappy. Mr. Barry used a study group of more than 2 500 women aged 14 to 65 and sizes 0 to 18 from a variety of ethnic groups. He had them look at fake fashion ads all featuring the same product but with different models. The models differed in size, race, and age. He asked the women their purchase intentions when they looked at the pictures of women with similar and dissimilar sizes, ages and races as themselves. After the study, he also facilitated focus groups to discuss with the women why they may have made the decisions they did.

I think pretty much most women can guess what the results were. Women increased their purchase intentions more than 200% when the models in the mock ads were their size. When the women were over size 6 this increased to 300%. Purchase intentions also increased substantially (175%, 200% in women over 35) when women saw models their own age. Black women were 1 and a half  more likely to buy a product if the model was black. Why? In focus groups women explained that they could better imagine what the product would look like on them when the model looked like on them.  Would it look good on their body type? Would it be age appropriate? Would it look nice with their complexion?

Mr. Barry did not just do this research for his own interest’s sake. His ultimate intention is to show fashion companies that it would be fiscally wise for them to use a more diverse range of models in their ads and in their fashion shows. That it would attract a broader range of customers. As most of us are aware, most models in magazines are strikingly similar in terms of body size and shape. Even so-called “plus size” models are often smaller than the average American woman. And when was the last time you saw a woman in her late 30’s or 40’s (or older!) advertising anything fashionable? It is rare, unless it is an actress who has botoxed herself back to before she married Ashton Kutcher. Barry quotes the legendary and distasteful Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld (most recent offense being calling singer Adelle fat) “Unreachable beauty is a reminder to make an effort. But if you see something, and you can reach what you see, then you do not have to make an effort anymore.” Blech. I guess that explains his face.

Oompa Loompa

Karl Lagerfeld

While I agree that doing sit-ups with a picture of Gisele Bundchen on your ceiling may be quite motivating, I doubt most women would look at her in a bikini and want to run out and buy the same one. Watching the Victoria Secret fashion show does not make me feel like any sort of angel. The recent trend of using very young actresses to sell adult designer clothing lines, such as Dakota and Elle Fanning for Marc Jacobs or Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu is very perplexing to me. I don’t look at a child in an outfit and imagine myself in the same one. Most children and young adults I know could never afford designer clothing. It would only seem rational to target advertising to the middle aged women with established careers who are actually buying these clothes. On the other end of the spectrum, many ads show women my age (30ish) wearing incredibly short shorts (bum cleavage? Please!), jeggings, crop tops, or neon. I have no desire whatsoever to relive my teens. I have also seen ads  for skirts, suit jackets with bras underneath, or see-through  button-downs portrayed to be career wear. If I get fired, will Karl Lagerfeld hire me in Oompa Loompa Land? If I promise to keep reaching for that unreachable beauty?

Once and a while you will see a glimpse of a model in a magazine who doesn’t look emaciated, or who has a wrinkle on her perfect forehead. More and more fashion shows will send out 1 or 2 “plus size models” down their runway. Perhaps research such as Barry’s will help to convince fashion companies that diversity and a touch of reality in fashion is not a bad thing. I think Karl Lagerfeld is a lost cause. However the fashion world is ripe with successful female designers both established and up-and-coming who will hopefully have a better grasp on the female market and on the female psyche. Until then we will just have to rely on our own common sense, honest friends and camera phones to guide our purchase intentions. Just never trust the change room mirrors. They lie.

SUMMER IS HERE! TIME TO GET OUT THE BATHING SUITS:)

May 16, 2012

Source:sodahead.com

The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The temperature is rising. Summer is officially here. Spirits are high. We wait all winter for this season. We look forward to time outdoors in the parks, in the mountains and at the beach. Perhaps the only downside is that summer = bathing suit season which for us women can cause more dread than running into an ex boyfriend while at the grocery store in a sweat suit with no makeup while he is with his gorgeous new girlfriend.

There really is no greater pleasure than the search for a new swimsuit, whether for the summer season or a mid-winter vacation. There are many ways to embark on this quest. I have tried them all with differing levels of success. There is the tried and true try and buy method. No woman looks better in a bathing suit than she does under the fluorescent lighting of a department store change room. Pasty white from the winter, unshaven legs, bathing suit tried on over top of her underwear and viewing herself reflected in the funhouse mirror that seems to make its way into every change room.

Source:whohidthedonuts.blogspot.com

Buying and trying on at home can mean more flattering lighting but can lead to the depressing realization that your age is not the only thing that has gone up in the last year. Then there is the catalog or internet order method. Buying a bathing suit you admire on a swimsuit model and then guessing your size, only to receive it in the mail 4-6 weeks later and SURPRISE it doesn’t look quite the same!! Does wonders for the self esteem. Magazines this time of year will tell you that there is a bathing suit for every body type. The problem is that the models in these magazines range from 5′ 8″ to 6 feet tall and 100 pounds to 125 pounds. Their definition of curvy does not exactly represent the average woman. Most of us looking at these articles aren’t encouraged. But not to fear. There are three times as many articles telling us how to get our bodies bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. Thank you crunches! Ugh.

If you hate swimsuit shopping or donning a swimsuit you aren’t alone. A new study has found that even imagining trying on a swimsuit can put women in a bad mood. In the Journal of Sex Roles in May, psychologist Marike Tiggeman and her colleagues ‘wrote four scenarios to test the impact of clothing on self-objectification: In one, women were asked to imagine themselves trying on a swimsuit in a dressing room. In another, they imagined wearing a swimsuit while walking down a beach. The other two scenarios had the same settings, but instead of a swimsuit, the women were asked to imagine wearing jeans and a sweater.’ 102 female undergraduate students filled out questionnaires regarding their mood and feelings of body and self-objectification after imagining these scenarios. As you could imagine, imagining wearing a swimsuit made women feel worse than wearing jeans. But wearing a swimsuit in a dressing room made women most likely to self-objectify, not wearing a swimsuit walking down the beach. This shows how much self-objectification is an internal process. A 2006 study by the department of psychology at the University of California published in Body Image found that 31% of women had avoided wearing a swimsuit in public.

When it comes to attire, there is nothing more revealing a woman will wear in public than the glorified underwear that is the bathing suit. It is really no wonder women feel self conscious in swimwear. Adding to this is the mounting pressure women feel to not only have, but also to look perfect in their beach wear. Bathing suits are no longer just for the water. Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and designers have made swimwear high fashion. Couture bathing suits are found poolside at the most posh resorts and the most exotic beaches. They are a billion dollar a year business. In every magazine we see gorgeous, airbrushed women with perfect bodies modelling tiny bikinis. Tabloids determine who has the best and worst bikini bodies and call out those celebrities who have let themselves go each summer, as well as those who have (gasp) unsightly cellulite. This sends the message to us lay people that image is of utmost importance.

There are many options for swimsuits, from the bikini:

Source:telegraph.co.uk

To the tankini:

Source:modeikon.se

To the birkini:

I myself have my eye on one that I first spotted at H&M in London:

Source:www.h&m.com

It was sold out everywhere there, which tells me that I’m not the only woman that is feeling a little more modest this summer season. Or perhaps a little less interested in getting bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. But realistically, on the beach no one is airbrushed. Every woman has perceived flaws, no matter how perfect she may look to others. The important thing women need to learn is to be happy with who we are and to not obsess over every thing we want to change.

MEAN GIRLS (i.e all of us)

May 9, 2012

thetbjoshuafanclub.wordpress.com

I am in the beautiful city of London right now. I have found the locals generally accomodating and friendly in this city. Unfortunately, the city also teems with hordes of tourists wandering aimlessly, seemingly unaware of where they are and where they are going. Today alone I have been directly walked into, had my feet stepped on, been bumped into and been cut off numerous times. In a large and congested city this is almost unavoidable. What bothers me is the fact that these incidents go unacknowledged. It seems like nobody appreciates consideration for their fellow man anymore. People walk around texting without looking, run into you, and don’t bother apologizing. You let someone into your lane while driving, and they don’t even bother to give you a wave. You are walking into a building after someone, and they let the door slam in your face. Where is the courtesy?

I will admit I was once a mean girl. In the movies the mean girl is usually a beautiful yet evil creature that everyone hates yet pretends to love who manipulatively and purposefully sets out to destroy another girl who secretly makes her feel insecure. The other girl is tortured and humiliated but perseveres and ultimately prevails in life. I did not have a specific arch nemesis nor was I the alpha female in my social group. I was simply part of a large group of female friends who were considered popular at my high school. I was the traditional insecure female high school girl trying to climb the social ladder. My friends and I would often gossip about each other or turn on each other over petty dalliances. We would be cruel to girls who we felt were ‘losers’ or who dated any boys any of our friends liked. We would bully others for their physical or mental weaknesses. Of course I was not a mean girl all the time. I was a kind and true friend to many girls, several whom are now women I still consider good friends today. My lashing out as a teen came from wanting to fit in and being unsure of who I really was.

I consider myself a reformed mean girl now. As I have come to be more sure of myself I no longer have a need to drag down other people to make myself feel better. I have at times been asked to describe people I know with one word. There are some women I know who I could not find a better word to describe them with than “nice”. They are genuinely kind and caring with not a malicious or sarcastic bone in their body. They see the glass as half full. They see the world through rose colored glasses. They would bend over backwards to make sure everyone else is happy and taken care of and not resent it in the slightest.  I am not one of those women. I can be cynical and sarcastic. I can be moody and short-tempered. But I do believe I am genuinely sincere when say that I make every effort possible to be good and kind. I give to others. I share what I have. I try to think of others. I try not to be petty or jealous. I try not to be greedy. I try not to judge.

But at times like this, when it seems like the world is lacking any sort of civility, I wonder, what if I decided to abandon all attempts at kindness? Maybe I will just go on a nice strike. The next time I have a seat on a bus, maybe I’ll just keep it. Little old lady gets on? Tough. She can stand. Better yet, let her sit on her walker. She has a mobile seat, why doesn’t she use it? Person with a wheelchair? Also already seated. They will fare just fine in the aisle. Lady with a baby carriage? Why should I get up for her? I’ve been standing all day at WORK. What’s she been doing? Sitting at home? No way I’m getting up. Hold the door open for the next person? Screw that! Do it yourself. Donate to charity? I work for my money. Why can’t those lazy people in Africa just do the same thing? There are mines and stuff there they can work in. I hear people are starving there. Maybe more people should get jobs. I’m not sparing any change either. You need some lunch? I need some lunch!! Do you know how much the salad bar at Whole Foods costs? Never mind the organic soda. Go occupy something. No, I’m not free to talk. I have to catch up on Gossip Girl. It’s the season finale. I’m sorry if you’re marriage just broke up, but over 50% do so what did you expect? I can’t make it on Saturday, I just don’t like you and your cooking sucks.

This will never actually happen. It is a proven fact that doing good makes people feel happier and this has proven true for me. (This is only true when you are doing it for truly good reasons and not just to make yourself feel superiour!) But I must admit sometimes it is tempting. Here in London tipping appears to be an unusual phenomenon. So I guess if the feeling does come over me, I can feel mean just not tipping my cabbie. For the rest of you, there is nothing wrong with letting out some steam once in a while. The reason some women seem so nice is that the rest of us can’t be all of the time.

Are you settling down or just settling?

May 5, 2012

When I was 10 I thought I would be married with 2 kids by the time I was 20. By 15 I thought 20. By 18 I had pushed this back to about 22. By 20 I was thinking about 28. At 25 I thought 30. At 30 I thought 35. Im 31 now. I’m engaged. I will be married right before my 32nd birthday. 35 still seems somewhat reasonable for children, but talk to me in a couple of years. When I think about who I was dating at the above ‘milestones’ (15, 18, 20, 25) above, I wonder what my life would have been like had I in fact gotten married and had kids then. It’s a scary thought. (If any of my ex-boyfriends are reading this, I’m not talking about you of course). I would have been settling. Not because the men I was dating were flawed, but because the relationships were. And OK, in some cases the men were too.

Every woman has a vision for her life. An idea in her mind of how her future will look. This vision will change as the woman blossoms and grows but there will always be a goal in mind. At some point the woman will reach maturity. This is not to say that she will not continue to grow and flourish but that she has found her place in the world and her personality, ideals and temperment are firmly rooted and difficult to alter. Some women at this point in their lives have achieved all of their dreams. They are the lucky few. The rest of us exist on a spectrum. That spectrum goes from those women who may not have everything they dreamed of but are happy with what they have and the choices they have made, to those women that feel that they have settled for less than they deserve. In the middle lie those that aren’t sure they know the difference.

Everybody makes choices in life. There are few people who truly have it all. I moved away from family and a job I loved to be with the person I wanted to spend my life with. Was it worth it? Yes. But I like my current job less and I would prefer to be with my partner AND in the same city as my family and best friends. I have a good friend who was in a long-term relationship with a person she loved but could not see a future with. She was 32 years old. When she broke up with him she said to me “I realize that at my age breaking up with him means I might be losing my chance to have children, but I would rather be with someone that is right for me than have children with someone who is not”. I had never thought this way before, and I still don’t believe she is doomed to be celibate, but it is true that women in their 30’s have to think about fertility issues. With more women choosing to have careers as well as families and establishing these careers before having children the reality is it is not always as easy to procreate as one would hope. Hollywood makes it look like having babies at 40 is the norm and that fertility treatments work 100% of the time. The reality is that these treatments take a huge toll on your body, are extremely expensive (about $15 000 per cycle) and are not always effective. The side effects include fluid retention, weight gain, nausea, diarrhea, pelvic discomfort due to enlarged cystic ovaries, breast tenderness, mood swings, headache and fatigue.The efficacy is about 30-35% if you are 30-35, 25% if you are 35-37 and 10-20% if you are 38-40. Over 40? Only 6-10% effective. And if a woman does get pregnant naturally in her late 30’s early 40’s whether naturally or using fertility treatments, the risk of birth defects increases dramatically. At age 35 there is a 1 in 365 chance of giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome. At 40 the risk is 1 in 100. There are also women who choose to forgo children entirely for their career. Or women who forgo a career for children. These are all choices. If at the end of the day a woman is happy with her choices, she is not settling for anything, she is simply rearranging her priorities.

The problem is when a woman sacrifices something that is truly important to her. A coworker of mine once announce she was getting married. She said about her future partner “He’s not really attractive or anything, but he wants kids”. It struck me as so sad that she had nothing loving or caring to say about her future husband. In my mind, there isn’t a person alive who wouldn’t want a relationship filled with love. I thought she was settling due to her wish for children and the fact she was 35 years old and had not yet found someone. This may or may not have been the case. If having children was of utmost importance to her and romantic love not important to her, then she would in fact not have been settling. Perhaps I was projecting my happiness criteria onto her. But many women do settle for less than they deserve every day. They settle for men that are beneath them. They settle for jobs that are beneath them and pay that is beneath them. They settle for treatment that is inexcusable. Men settle as well. I once dated a man just out of a 6 year relationship. We didn’t have much in common. He was a vegetarian. I am a carnivore. He likes the great outdoors. I cry after 1 day of camping. After 2 weeks he had asked me on a trip that was to take place 6 months later. He also unplugged my Glade air freshener concerned it would burn down my apartment. At 3 weeks he asked me about our future. It was too much, too soon. Essentially, he was just substituting me into his life where his last girlfriend used to be. I could have been anyone. He was settling. I didn’t want to be around when he realized it. Settling is not just making a choice, it is giving up. And no one should ever give up on what is important in life, because once you do you will have nothing to live for.