Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

28 March 2014

Stop Parental Notification Advocacy Day (#StopPNA)

I reported last summer that Illinois now has a parental notification law being enforced and on my sidebar is a link to resources for minors who need a judicial bypass. But we know that a bypass is not the solution for every minor who is need of abortion care. That is why the ACLU of Illinois and the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health are heading down to Springfield to call for a repeal of this harmful law.


#STOPPNA Advocacy Day 
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Buses leave Chicago at 6am
Buses then leave Springfield at 3 pm
Register for the day!  

Of course, if you are not in Chicago, get to Springfield anyway you can.

You can join the campaign, even if you can't make it to Springfield (I can't) by submitting your story and/or taking a selfie of your shadow and tagging it with #StopPNA on Instagram or Twitter.

I am asking all #365FeministSelfie participants, especially those in Illinois to submit a shadow selfie on April 3rd. Share your thoughts on the parental notification law in Illinois...or in your state! 25 states require parental CONSENT and 13 require notification. That is not good news for minors who need to handle their medical needs with privacy from their parents or guardians.



26 March 2014

Time to bowl for abortions!

Yes, it's that time of the year again when the Chicago Abortion Fund holds its annual bowl-a-thon! Sadly this year I can't make the actual event, but I'm still fundraising for them. I started the day out waaaaay behind in fundraising, but got a good number of donations to bring my total up to $390. So I'm only $110 from my goal of $500!

So I'm hoping that I can count of my readers here to bring me over the finish line!

How do you help do that? IT IS EASY! Simply head over to my fundraising page and click donate next to my avatar.

I got a $200 donation on my team page & $50 off page, thus the thermometer thing will always be $250 off. But who cares as long as I reach my goal of $500.

OK, Ok, you want to know why you should donate to the Chicago Abortion Fund? This nifty infographic tells the tale...

The stat that always bowls me over (see what I did there?) is that 79% of the women who call CAF for assistance are mothers. They know what bringing a baby into the world means and they know they are not in a position to do that.

I've been privileged to know some of the women who have received assistance and some have said CAF saved their lives. They were at a point of desperation and could not imagine what they would do to support a new baby plus the others they had. Failed birth control. Perhaps unable to insist on birth control. For me, I don't spend time finding out the why a woman calls CAF, but rather that she did. Because I know if she as called, she has made her decision and I want to support that.

And I thank you for joining me in helping her.

17 March 2014

GIVEAWAY: Flowers in the Attic DVD

Oh yes...the recent Lifetime movie depiction of every GenX girl's favorite movie to sneak read is coming to DVD and you can get your very own copy.

Did you miss the TV event of the Polar Vortex? Or maybe you watched it with glee and buttered popcorn and want to watch it again? Then you are in luck! Especially since there is a behind-the-scenes featurette. *excellent*

My giveways are super easy. No hoops to jump through:

DEADLINE: Friday, March 21st at 11 pm Chicago time (CDT)

HOW TO ENTER: Just comment on this post and tell me when you first encountered the glory of the  Dollanganger family. If you want an extra entry, just tweet this contest out and tag me (@veronicaeye) or Facebook it and tag @vivalafeminista.

RESTRICTIONS: Sorry, DVDs can only be sent to those in the USA or Canada. Also, no PO Boxes. 

I'll number everyone's entry and use Random.org to pick a number.

See! Easy peasy. Now enter now!

==================
I numbered the comments 1 and 2 and the one Twitter entry as 3. Went to Random.org and it gave me....

Congrats! 

15 March 2014

CFP: Interrogating Reproductive Loss: Feminist Writings on Abortion, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth

CALL FOR PAPERS
Demeter Press
is seeking submissions for an edited collection, entitled
Interrogating Reproductive Loss: Feminist Writings on Abortion, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth 
Co-Editors: Emily R.M. Lind & Angie Deveau
Deadline for Abstracts: June 1, 2014
Deadline for Acceptances: July 1, 2014
Deadline for Completed Papers: November 15, 2014
Publication Date: Early 2016
Feminist theories of the body, reproduction, and the institution of motherhood typically focus on issues of rights, autonomy, and choice. These themes become increasingly complicated when applied to questions of reproductive loss. Interrogating Reproductive Loss: Feminist Writings on Abortion, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth seeks essays, poems, short stories, and artwork that imagine a feminist epistemology of loss.

Whereas biomedical and feminist literature treat abortion, miscarriage, and stillbirth as differently conceptualized events, this collection explores the connections between these three categories.  How have feminist debates and activist strategies around reproductive choice invigorated the cultural conversation about miscarriage, and stillbirth? How can we imagine more nuanced engagements with the spectrum of experiences that are at stake when a pregnancy ends? And how can we effectively create a space where women and trans people are given the opportunities to "identify and 'own'" (Cosgrove 2004) the ways that loss makes meaning for those who grieve and/or celebrate the end of pregnancy?

Submissions from researchers, parents, healthcare experts, community workers, artists, and activists are welcome. Chapters from a wide range of disciplines and cultural perspectives, both theoretical/scholarly and creative (e.g., stories, narrative, creative non-fiction, poetry, image-based), are highly encouraged and will be considered.

Topics may also include (but are not limited to):

Epistemologies of loss; policy directions for reproductive health; queering pregnancy loss; 'planned' pregnancies and ideological constructions of 'time'; feminist models of grief/remorse; expectations/impositions of grief; limitations of 'pro-choice' rhetoric; decolonizing reproductive 'freedom'; third and fourth wave engagements with reproductive loss; narratives of silence/silencing; reinvigorating feminist praxis in the face of reproductive loss; reproductive loss, ambivalence, and the contradictory politics of choice; health care service delivery from a feminist perspective; gaps in public health care service delivery and assessment tools; discrimination in health care; reproductive loss and the social construction of 'unfit' bodies; reproductive loss in the digital age; maternal activism in relation to fertility and reproductive loss; feminist critiques and analyses of post abortion stress syndrome; sudden infant death syndrome; postpartum depression following reproductive loss; memorializing reproductive loss and bereavement; experiences of miscarriage, preterm labour resulting in loss, stillbirth, and early- and late-term abortions; the paid and unpaid work associated with reproductive loss; intersectional analyses/critiques of reproductive loss; reproductive loss and the potential for empowerment; surrogate loss; selective abortion and loss; reproductive loss and support or lack thereof; and infertility and involuntary childlessness.
Abstracts:
250-word description of the proposed paper, including a tentative title. Also, please include a 50-word biography noting citizenship, and your full contact information.
Deadline for abstracts: June 1, 2014
 
Full Manuscripts:
MLA style, between 15-18 pages, double-spaced (3750-4500 words). Shorter stories/narrative works, image-based and/or creative submissions are also welcome (500-2500 words). Final acceptance of the manuscript for inclusion in the collection rests upon the strength and fit of the completed full piece.
Deadline for full manuscripts: November 15, 2014

The book is to have 50% Canadian content, so Canadian contributors are especially encouraged to submit.
 
Publication date early 2016.

To Submit:
Please direct all submissions and inquiries to Emily R.M. Lind at
  DEMETER PRESS
140 Holland St. West, P.O. Box 13022 Bradford, ON, L3Z 2Y5 (tel) 905-775-5215
Disclosure: I am getting a complementary membership to MIRCI and subscription to the journal in return for posting these updates. It is, however, something I would have agreed to do for free because I think their work is so wonderful.

08 March 2014

Looking for young feminists? Head on over to the west side of Chicago

http://www.flickr.com/photos/roniweb/12917252024/Because that is what I did last week.

I was invited to one of Chicago's public high schools to talk about feminism with a group of girls. It was not one of the "crown jewels" of CPS. Instead it appears to be a school full of working class kids with big dreams. Due to the horrendous winter weather we continue to have, I ended up super late and only spent 20-25 minutes talking with the girls. I made the choice I did not even want them to introduce themselves because with 30 girls, that would had been all of my visit.

Rather I asked them about Beyonce's essay in the Shriver report that I had "assigned" as homework. Popular media told me that a group of young black and Latina women would not identify as feminists, thus why not have them read about Queen B?? What I found was the opposite of what any poll might tell you. Feminism is alive and well with these girls. 

When I asked if anyone was surprised that Beyonce wrote an essay on feminism I got one solid yes. But her surprise was more about when did Beyonce have the time to write it! There was no debate about Beyonce's feminism in this room. Hands down, they consider her a feminist. "She's in charge of her sexuality." "She sings about empowerment." And yes, we were in agreement that Beyonce has an army of assistants, thus we should never compare ourselves to the Queen. 

From there I was told that just before I arrived the girls were talking about men's role in feminism. I asked how many felt they had feminist men in their lives. Most of the girls raised their hands. They cited fathers and brothers who push them to excel at school. "Be the best you can be so you are not dependent on a man." "Don't worry about boys. Focus on you." The instructions for the emancipation of young women of color hasn't changed much from my days, eh? You hear that, Grandma!?

Girl after girl talked about "not being dependent on a man." So I asked them what that meant to them. And Linda Hirshman would be proud. Their response was essentially that in case something happened to their partner that they could take care of themselves. That they were already taking care of themselves and had the skills to continue to do so. Remember, I only had a short amount of time, so I didn't dig deep into the whole two-paycheck problem, life insurance, etc issue. Rather I asked them what "depending on a man" meant to them. One of the staff members there talked about having a stay-at-home husband who homeschools their daughter. I talked about having a husband who I heavily depend on, but not in the negative way. Basically the adult women talked about how relationships are partnerships and with that there is a degree of dependence. One girl responded by talking about her own parents partnership.

This lead to a great discussion about healthy relationships, sticking up for your girlfriends. 

I ended our discussion by asking them what it meant to "empower" another woman. They said it would mean helping a girl see something in themselves that she doesn't seem. To help her self-esteem. To help her find her voice. In an awkward manner, they seem to be telling me that some women just do not have the tools to stand tall, but they felt they knew what the tools were and they had a duty to share that secret.

Yes, my heart melted just a weeeee bit there.

I was completely prejudiced when I arrived. I expected to find a girls group that would sit there and not interact. And while it was not chaos with conversation, it was definitely a better conversation than I've had when I'm guest lectured on my own campus. And to you, Old Man Winter...DAMN YOU! And your patriarchal snow that stole 20 minutes from me and these girls.

After I published this, Beyonce released a video for International Women's Day. Thanks to Shine for posting!


06 March 2014

This Spring Collection is Super Smart

I mean really smart! All the models for Betabrand's spring collection are either working on their PhD or have one. I do wonder if their XL would actually fit me, but otherwise, the clothes look great. Check out these two super smart women wearing some super cute outfits:



And no, this isn't a sponsored post. I just fell for the best press release I've seen in awhile. And believe me I get a lot of stinkers.

24 February 2014

#365FeministSelfie inspiring others

The thing about being creative, especially on the internet, is that once you put an idea out into the world, it grows in ways you may not have conceived or dreamed. I mean, the #365FeministSelfie project grew from the #FeministSelfie hashtag, as well as the countless posts about selfies being empowering.

A few selfie projects have come to my attention over the past month, including one inspired by #365FeministSelfie:

Katia wrote to tell me that this project was being applied to the glut of red carpet conversations about designers. She called it "Who Are You Wearing?" and asked moms to respond. And thanks to her project, #365FeministSelfie made it to Redbook!

Mensen is taking a really different direction on the selfie path. Hand drawn selfies! It grew out of her experiences with online dating.

And of course the Today Show is jumping on the empowered selfie train with their #LoveYourSelfie series this week. They are connecting the series to "a new TODAY/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image Survey, to be released [today], [showing that] 67 percent of adult women worry about their appearance regularly—more often than finances, health, relationships or professional success." Just ugh. I guess I feel like I worry more about bills and my career than what I look like.

Although I will admit that my appearance is a top 5 daily worry. I know in college I pretty much gave up trying to look "nice." I was living with my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and super focused on classes and my research. Then when I got my first real job after graduation, I started to worry about what I wore at work. What could be fun enough for a 24-year-old, but professional enough to be taken seriously? I feel like I'm back at a similar moment. Still working at a college campus, still look fairly young, but 40 is around the corner! Which is why I love curvy fashion blogs!

Still, I wonder what else we can do to help us realize that a lot of who we feel about ourselves is a good amount of attitude? And how to get that attitude with and without that perfect pair of jeans, high heels or lipstick?

21 February 2014

Guest Post: Mad Men Workplace Policies and Leaky Pipelines: Women Journalists Talk Gender Bias

Viva la Feminista welcomes, Ambar Mentor-Truppa as a guest blogger today! Ambar is a Chicago-based feminist and public relations executive committed to cultivating the next generation of women leaders. As a board member and chair of Women Employed’s Advocacy Council, Ambar mobilizes young professional women to advocate on behalf of all working women and families. 



“I lived through the Mad Men era!” That’s what author and trailblazing journalist Lynn Povich told the crowd gathered for a panel discussion co-hosted by Women Employed on February 13th.

The audience listened attentively as Povich continued, sharing the story of how she and her female colleagues confronted the blatant sexism at Newsweek in the 60s. When they were told that “women don’t write at Newsweek,” the women not only didn’t accept it; they fought against it. In 1970, Povich and 45 other women sued the magazine for sex discrimination.

“We loved Newsweek—we just wanted Newsweek to be better,” Povich explained. She and her Eleanor Holmes Norton, now a D.C. congresswoman. Their landmark victory sent ripples through the entire news industry, paving the way for sex discrimination lawsuits against the New York Times and the Washington Post. One measure of the suit’s success is that just five years later, Lynn became Newsweek’s first female Senior Editor.

Joining Povich at the panel discussion was recent Newsweek writer Jesse Ellison, who co-authored a Newsweek article on the 40th anniversary of the landmark lawsuit questioning how much has actually changed for working women. The two remarkable female journalists answered questions posed by moderator Peggy Davis, a nationally recognized lawyer who serves as the Executive Director for the Chicago Committee where she advances racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.

While Povich spoke about how she and the other women experienced blatant sex discrimination, Ellison described the more subtle forms of gender bias in the workplace today. In the 2000s, she and her fellow female journalists at Newsweek watched as men around them were given plum assignments, raises, and promotions, while they were left to “walk in place.” They had been raised to believe that they could do anything, that our society had achieved equality—so it took them a long time to identify what they were facing as gender bias. “Today, it takes longer to say something is sexist,” Ellison told the crowd. “It’s a watered down version” that is consequentially “harder to pinpoint.” It was only after Ellison and her female colleagues began sharing their stories that they realized they were facing a collective problem in a flawed system rather than individual failings.

The women discussed the ways this more subtle gender bias plays out in today’s workplace. Povich described how although there are women with the experience and skills to lead, they still aren’t getting ahead. Povich called this a “leaky pipeline” problem: our workplaces aren’t structured to allow women to both be good mothers and good bosses, so many of them either opt out or are forced out of upper management positions.
fellow plaintiffs won the lawsuit with the help of the ACLU and their attorney,

During the Q&A session, the discussion touched on many of today’s hot topics for working women, ranging from the confidence gap outlined by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In to the evolution of feminism and the women’s movement. “Our feminism was a very visible feminism,” Povich told the audience, describing the sense of sisterhood and united purpose created by the women’s, civil rights, and antiwar movements. “Today, feminism is online.” She mentioned the recent article in The Nation, Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars [ed. VLF's response]. Ellison also spoke about the divisions among women today and how she and her co-authors faced backlash from other women for publishing their article on the 40th anniversary of the sex discrimination lawsuit. One of her hopes for the future is that women and men can overcome some of their differences and join together to fight against bias in the workplace.

The evening finished on a hopeful note: the message that Povich says she wants people to take from her story is that “it is possible to change the system from within.” It may not be easy, but as her own story testifies, it can happen. And what should that change look like? “The workplace has to be restructured for working parents. This isn’t a women’s problem—it’s a societal problem. And I’m hoping young men, who are far more involved in raising their children than my father’s generation was, will come together with their female colleagues, who still bear most of the responsibility for child rearing, and demand that their workplaces change.”

Watch the video below to hear Lynn Povich and Jesse Ellison talk about making change at Newsweek.





19 February 2014

#365FeministSelfie - Day 50 & a mini-challenge!

The number 50 holds a special meaning in our society. 50th birthdays and anniversaries are golden.

Over the past 50 days, I have observed that our group is one of golden fierceness. 

A few days ago someone posted a photo of herself in a new bikini. And she is not rocking a typical bikini body either. She posted the photo along with a long note about how scared she was. Scared to be posting a photo of it for the world to see and scared at the thought of being on an actual beach in her bikini. But she knew in a few days she would...and with a smile. 

What amazes me about #365FeministSelfie pics like that are that I wonder how many of you know how fierce you really are. Yes, you might be scared, but you took that picture. Maybe 20. Then you hit publish. Back during the single digit days, I saw many tweets about how others supported this challenge in spirit, but were too scared to do it themselves. You in the photo, the one on day 5 of the flu? You might be scared, but you overcame it. I saw you. We saw you. 

To those who were/are too scared to join us, know that we share that fear. We understand it. And if you ever want to dive on in, we're here waiting to welcome you. But if you never do, we get that too. We still love you. 

I am starting to realize why people write self-help books. I threw one pebble into the world and the ripples back are intoxicating. When I see others love themselves a teeny bit more because of this project, I smile and sometimes cry. Our society is built to tell us how broken, fat, unsuccessful and ugly we are. And if this pebble helps remind you that those messages are bullshit, then that's all I could ever ask for. 

Mini-challenge: "50 is golden and shines" is the new theme for the next 10 days. Take a photo with something (yes, that something can be YOU!) that shines. Maybe a day when the sun is actually out during this harsh winter. Maybe you asked for something big & got it. Maybe an A on your term paper. Maybe a photo of you fresh from the salon with that "I just had my hair done!" shine. You know what I'm talking about. Maybe you saw your lil one do something that melted your heart. For the next 10 days, let's shine, #365FeministSelfie! 

18 February 2014

Review: The How and the Why by Sarah Treem

"In 2009, women received a majority of the degrees awarded in biological and biomedical sciences, from associate to Ph.D., and earned 53 percent of the doctorates, according to The Chronicle's Almanac of Higher Education (source)." This is up from less than 5% of all PhDs in science and engineering going to women in the last 1970s (source). In 1992, women were earning less than 40% of PhDs in biology (source).

In "The How and the Why" a play by Sarah Treem, Zelda Kahn earned her doctorate in evolutionary biology in the mid-1980s, while Rachel Hardeman is in the midst of her studies. This is what sets up a generational divide that is equal parts solid debate and trope. For one thing, Zelda is a single, career-driven woman who subscribes to the meritocracy theory for science careers. When Rachel begins to discuss her fears of being attacked as a woman, Zelda brushes it off. Rachel is also struggling with her desire to have a family - something she believes Zelda sacrificed for a storied career. 

Keira Fromm, the director, prefers to consider this a humanist play over a feminist play. But this is a very feminist play. I say that because this play is about the differences and choices women in science have to manage. Differences between two women. One looking back at her life and career - mostly in an effort to support the rise of a young gifted scientist. The younger one interrogates the life advice as only a know-it-all 28-year-old could. Awww, I remember those days. Rachel struggles with the balance too many young women know far too well - how to chase your dreams while not alienating your partner.

This play balances stereotypes and tropes with the issues of being a woman in science and science itself beautifully. As someone who has studied not only the numbers of women in science for over 15 years, but also the themes of career, family, marriage, children, and so on, I found it fun and exasperating to see them discussed on a stage in this manner. 

SPOILER:  The first 15 minutes were pretty confusing because it is not clear from publicity materials that the overall plot point is that Zelda is Rachel's birthmother. Thus the first part of the play is filled with an awkwardness that comes from two women meeting for the first time like this. I only put this spoiler in as I know some people would want to know going into this play that adoption is a HUGE part of the story. 

And this adoption plot point is just one of a handful of tropes I feel is included. Be warned...as much as I enjoyed this play, there were some plot points that made me roll my eyes. 

Overall, the conversation between the women about family, career and life are conversations I have heard in real life many times. You obtain a new view of these conversations by seeing them acted out by strangers on a stage. If you are a woman in science, or even just academia, this play will feel far too familiar. You may want to make sure you schedule time to hit a coffee shop (or something stronger) to unwind after you see this. I know I needed to debrief afterward, it kept me up that night.

The How and the Why runs until April 6th at the TimeLine Theatre on Chicago's northside. The performance lasts almost two hours and includes an intermission. It also includes as interactive lobby area with information on women in science in history, displays of "classic" educational videos about menstruation as well as a gigantic uterus quiz. You will not be bored during intermission! Tickets range from $35 during the week to $45 on weekends. Students get $10 off.

10 February 2014

Review: Kinmont Restaurant

If you are looking for some great seafood and a delish drink, look no further than Kinmont in River North. I attended their opening in late January, Kinmont opened to the public on February 1st, and enjoyed the atmosphere and tastings.

First, the restaurant is beautiful. It has the look of a lodge, but with a modern feel. Dark wood, stone and large mirrors. 

In the bar area I found servers with trays of different drinks and I chose the Bridgetown Milano. Over the past few years I have discovered that I am allergic to wine, yes even whites, so I have been trying my hand at bourbon drinks. The Bridgetown Milano is made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, cinzano sweet vermouth, falernum and fernet branca. Strong and delish. 

As for food samplings, servers walked around with a lot of different options. There was also a buffet of shrimp, oysters, and lobster (just like on their reservations page!). I tasted a good number of things, but the one thing that made me really think, "I have to come back for this!" was the salmon tartare . 
Those who know me may find that funny, as I rarely even want to try anything close to a tartare. But it was soooo good! All I knew when I took the taste was that it was salmon with something on a chip (see photo at left).

And yes, eating salmon has been quite a quandary for me considering the state of our world ocean and the animals that live in it. I no longer buy salmon to eat at home and rarely order it when out. Kinmont claims to be the first entirely sustainable fish & seafood restaurant in Chicago, so that takes a smidgen of the guilt out of enjoying one of my favorite fishes.

So if you are looking for a new place to grab dinner & drinks, consider Kinmont. I need to head back to try their chicken and fish & chips.

Kinmont is located at 419 West Superior Street in Chicago.

09 February 2014

#365FeministSelfie is 40 days old! Plus a mini-challenge...

We made it!

The past 40 days have just been amazing. I have had a few interviews about the project, talked about it so often that I feel like I am boring all of you, but then I remember that there is just so much to talk about here. 

I often stop myself from truly talking honestly about what I have been a witness to the past 40 days. While I have not been able to see every photo and read every caption, I have read a lot. And the honesty in them is overwhelming. See, when I am interviewed about this challenge, people ask what I am seeing, but to give specific examples. Frankly, the honesty I am seeing on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, etc is just too honest for me to be the reporter. Yes, most photos are public and anyone can see them. But the stories attached are too personal for me to share. Participating in this wacky idea of mine does not mean I own your photo and certainly not your stories.

What I can say about what I am seeing is reminiscent of the early days of blogging, especially mom blogging. Honest talk about not living up to what we expect from ourselves and our mothering, evolving relationships with our partners, and a constant examination of society's beauty standards. Some of us are celebrating happy moments, some of us sharing a tough moment.

I know I am getting a bit bored with looking at myself and finding a new way to take a photo, but it's not a challenge if were always fun & games, right? haha...Seriously, this is why I want to celebrate some of these markers. 40 days is just over 10% of the way through the year.

Considering that those of us who have taken all 40 days of photos have now gone past that marker for establishing a routine, what other routines should we work on together? Should we try to do some healthy living #365FeministSelfies? Declutter #365FeministSelfie? Cause we can't plan the revolution if we're sick & can't find our poster making supplies. Leave ideas in the comments.

As always, thanks for participating. And huge thanks for encouraging fellow participants. Oh, yes, I see you commenting on each others photos, trying to support each other through tough days and sharing in joy of happy ones.

Mini-Challenge: Over the next ten days, take at least one photo of what feminism means to you. Are you a clinic escort? Mentoring a young woman? Baking with your son? Building that IKEA item with your daughter? Bringing home the bacon & frying it too? It's up to you. 

06 February 2014

Review: Mr. Chickee's Funny Money

Ever wonder what Scooby-Doo would be like if it were set in Flint, Michigan? You find out at "Mr. Chickee's Funny Money," now playing at the Chicago Children's Theatre at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts 1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago until March 2nd.

Ella & I went to the press opening last week and had a great time. Mr. Chickee is an exploration of friendship, Motown music history and not far from the surface, the struggle to maintain one's determination in Michigan. 

The plot is simple. A kindly elderly man, Mr. Chickee, gives Steven, a quadrillion dollar bill. Steven sets out to discover if it is real or not. At the same time a trio of U.S. Department of Treasury agents are out to find it and take it out of circulation. They are the bumbliest of blumbly characters - thus an excellent source of laughs. Joining Steven in this quest are his BFFs, Richelle and Russell. They call themselves the "Flint Future Detectives Club".  

As in Harry Potter, Richelle is the brains of this trio. I caught on immediately that she would say something, be ignored then Steven would say it and it was "BRILLIANT!" Don't worry, ladies, this subplot explodes near the end of this 90-minute musical. Richelle is not only smart as a whip, but she has dreams (once she's seen sporting a Harvard tee) and sings her heart out about them. All three kids do.

I am really surprised that people were not dancing in the aisles, especially when Steven's dad does his ode to James Brown. The musical numbers are so well done.

"Mr. Chickee's Funny Money" runs until March 2nd, with a special autism-friendly show on Valentine's Day. All seats are $25. Make sure you don't miss this performance. Especially to see the dog puppet you can see in the photo above!

03 February 2014

SmileBox: Valentine's Day is coming!

VLF is a now an affiliate of SmileBox. I will post occasional deals and project ideas. But anytime you want to support VLF and get some  cards & such things please consider using the SmileBox link in the sidebar. 
A friend asked me how I stand the overly romantic Valentine's Day cards that our kids are supposed to buy and then pass around at school every year. I guess I don't think about it until Ella & I are in the store aisle looking at the super gendered cards and then when she opens the box to find overly lovey dovey cards. Then I flashback to grade school and wanting to make sure I didn't give a "I Choo-Choo-Choose You" card to the wrong boy. And at least I could put people's names on the cards. Ella is supposed to just bring enough cards for everyone. In the end my friend made cards online. Honestly that's what prompted me to finally launch my affiliation with SmileBox.

I did find customizable "My Friends Trading Cards" where you can put your kid's photo in the card! Just like the ones that my friend bought elsewhere. I took a screen shot of some I made. There are cards where you can put your face in them, some are just illustrations. But the best part is that you can edit the words.

The SMILE VALENTINE default is "BE MINE VALENTINE."

The nifty thing about SmileBox is that you can print the cards out at home (let the kids color them!) or print at a store.

If you use SmileBox, please let me know your experience!

31 January 2014

The Color of Toxicity

No one ever said being a feminist would be easy and sure as hell, no one said it would be boring.

This week's excitement arrives via The Nation (which I have subscribed to off and on since college) and Michelle Goldberg's latest entitled, "Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars."Hmmmm...wars is a bit much, dontcha think? So before I dive into this article's arguments, let's deal with the headline.

Declaring anything a war is a strong stance. Is feminism having a lot of heated debates and disagreements on twitter? Yes. Is it a war? No. A quick walk through feminist history in the USA and we will see political debate after political debate. Susan B. Anthony pleaded with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to leave the kids and hit the road with her. Surely some feminists side-eyed Amelia Bloomer and her pants. Sojourner Truth dropped the mic by stating, "Ain't I a woman?" One of the biggest riffs happened during suffrage when the young whippersnapper, Alice Paul, disagreed with Carrie Chapman Catt and took her ball home. Paul started the National Women's Party. As for disruption we go to Ida B. Wells who refused to march in a segregated suffrage parade. The first wave was full of heated debate & women of color disrupting. Let's zip up to the 1970s and we find Betty Friedan and Rita Mae Brown arguing over the Lavender Menace. And don't tell me that you haven't heard a second-wave feminist do a double take over the theory of intersectionality. Hopefully you get my point that during the act of reorganizing our society to be free of sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and other injustices that those of us working towards this shared goal will have a lot of disagreement on how to get there.

For me,  that was the root of the #FemFuture critique. That a hand-picked group of feminists, living in NYC, sat around a table and plotted out the future of feminism, specifically feminism online. At the heart of their plan was how the revolution would pay its workers. For many feminists, that line of thought was offensive. And those feminists took to twitter to make themselves crystal clear that #FemFuture did not represent them.

Yes. I will concede that some of the tweets were personal attacks. I won't condone those tweets. But the problem with selecting Mikki Kendall as the example of the feminist bully, is that there were more feminists than just she with harsh critiques. Call it what you want, but she is not the only one. She is just the one who has the spotlight on her. I think it is flawed to point out just one of her critiques of #FemFuture.  I  understand the limitations of an article, but online you can link to many examples. Just scanning through her tweets about #FemFuture, you can see that she had an epic laundry list of concerns, yet Goldberg chose to focus on Kendall's most outrageous tweet.

The erasure of a larger critique by Latinas, Asian women, Native women of #Femfuture and other feminist conversations is quite honestly insulting. Our issues may not be the same and not every woman of color was critical of these conversations, but it was far more diverse than just black feminist twitter. Why are non-Black WOC being ignored? Because we are no less outraged on any given day about feminism. Native feminists are questioning "One Billion Rising." Suey Park kicked ass with #NotYourAsianSidekick. AnaYelsi Sanchez, founder of #SecretLivesofFeministas, had this to say:
It isn't just Black women pushing back. It's all women of color. The sort of gaslighting and marginalization in Michelle Goldberg's article is what sparked #SecretLivesOfFeministas and other similar movements. It's easier to ignore us and focus on vilifying the "angry black woman" than to acknowledge the legitimacy of all of our anger. We're not going away. We're not sitting down. We're not shutting up
The article spends a good deal of time discussing that many "white feminist" projects such as #femfuture, Jezebel and Feministing are not run by just white feminists. And this is true. And while I do think it is poor shorthand, for me, when I see "white feminism" in twitter critiques it means that the feminism espoused is exemplary of middle-class liberal feminism that is stereotypically seen in white feminists who fight for access to sterilization at 25, but ignore/are ignorant that WOC have been sterilized by force for decades. Perhaps we would be more pointed to say "liberal feminism," but I am really not sure of that. I would love thoughts in the comments, as this is the one part I really don't have a solution for.

It is true that due to the speed of critique on Twitter and other social media outlets, I do fear speaking out on some topics. But for me, it helps me stop and frame my argument better. I do a little more research and not just shoot off my mouth. Dr. Cooper says a lot of great things about the tension in the feminist twitter community. Most importantly that the critique and hurt feelings from WOC has valid roots. But as Prison Culture & Andrea Smith point out, the idea that online feminism was a happy happy joy joy super fun place before twitter is a myth (BTW - make sure to read that post!). And the focus on fun feminism is skewing our vision on the ultimate goal - ending patriarchy, racism, classism and all the other things that is oppressing all of us. Yes, we can have fun, but lamenting the loss of fun feminism is the least of my concerns.

Crenshaw says intersectionality hasn't "been about chastisement", " but rather a collective effort to build a feminism that does more of the work that it claims to do." For me, this is what Mikki and other WOC feminists have been doing in their critiques. When Mikki asks if WOC get to be a good mothers, she is asking for feminism to do what it claims to do. I really enjoyed the paragraph where Dr. Cooper explains the use of intersectionality as a benchmark for all feminists online. Am I the only one who chuckled at the idea that WOC feminists have finally become too academic for our own good?
There are two unnamed Twitter users in this piece. I asked Goldberg why she failed to name the white feminist who "whitesplained" to Jamia Wilson. So far no response yet. But it is curious that either Wilson or Goldberg have chosen to hide this persons identity.
The other unnamed Twitter user is the one who backs up @DrJaneChi on not using vagina in reproductive justice work. I should point out that Martha Plimpton labels her work "reproductive freedom" and not "reproductive justice." This is important as the justice framework works with the idea that men and women (cis and trans) are united in repro justice and is more sensitive to using body parts to stand in for ideas.
I find this a VERY HARD habit to break and I know I fail many times, but try to catch myself. For me, it stems from wanting to take back sayings like "That took balls!" to "That took ovaries!" when in fact some women (cis and trans) do not have ovaries. I try to ask myself, "Do I need to name a body part for this argument to work?" Sometimes that answer is yes. Sometimes no.
Let's circle back to Kendall. The "She seems warm and engaging, but also obsessed" line is so awful, just awful. We have seen feminist blogs EXPLODE over women politicians be described in this same manner. Hell, it reminds me of when then-Senator Obama said that then-Senator Clinton was "likable enough." I'm been on the radio (Vocalo) with Mikki. We follow each other on Twitter, but we're not hanging out on a regular basis. But I think she's a pretty nice person, but nice is not the point of feminist debate. There are plenty of us "obsessive feminists" on twitter. Check out #NotBuyingIt for a taste of how obsessive some of us can get.
In the end this larger conversation is about power.

As I said earlier, I do agree that some critiques fall under the category of attacks. I don't support those. I think there is plenty to critique without using personal attacks. But the land of punditry has changed with social media. While you can avoid reading the comments section of your op-ed, you can rarely avoid the @ section of your twitter feed. This means that the indie feminist blogger has equal access to "the conversation" as the feminist who is paid $10,000 to speak at a college campus, has multiple books and a contract with a TV station. It can be scary to face the critique head on.

Twitter is being archived in the Library of Congress. This means that we are writing history every single day. This means that if anyone claims to represent feminism, those of us who have a critique must express the critique, otherwise the record shows silence as agreement. Twitter is not just a frivolous play thing. It can be and we often treat it as such. But when it comes to debating feminism online, it is serious business.