Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

15 February 2017

AMERICAN MASTERS "Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise"

Credit: Ron Groeper
The first feature documentary about Maya Angelou, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) during Black History Month as part of the 31st season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series. PBS Distribution will release the film on DVD the same day, with additional bonus features, and on Digital HD February 22.

Most people know Angelou as a writer, but this documentary showcases all of her geniuses in literature, speaking, acting, signing, and dancing. The best part of a full-length documentary on Maya Angelou are the moments when she is reciting a poem while footage of the world runs.

This documentary is touching, but most importantly it is funny. Angelou's laughter rings throughout the film. It wraps around your heart like a warm hug...just the type of hug we need during these dark times. Seriously though, for progressives and feminists, these are dark days. Days when we lose hope than we can imagine before we even finish our commute to work. Days when we feel extra guilty of tuning out the world in fluffy and stupid pop culture. But watching this documentary will reground you in the belief that justice will prevail. Angelou does not promise us a happy ending, but her words, her breath, fill you with hope. Even when she speaks of dark times! I do not know how she does it, even years after her death.

Catch it. DVR it and save it for viewing when you lose hope.

Disclaimer: Thanks to PBS for letting me preview this documentary in order to review it for VLF.

05 February 2017

Margaret Atwood warned us about the 53% of white women who voted for Trump



I was invited to participate in Evanston's Writer's Resist event on January 15th and this is an edited version of what I read. I'm still new to the live lit scene, but will occasionally post what I read. Sometimes things are best left at the event.


Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has been shorthand for the collective backlash to women’s progress, especially in regards to reproductive autonomy for quite some time. Safe to say most know the plot without having had read the book. A tale of a post-democratic former-USA taken over by an ultra conservative Christian theocracy where fertile white women are forced to reproduce for the “worthy” ruling class. A few weeks ago I was struck by the faint memory that the book does not conclude in escape or the reestablishment of democracy, rather it ends with an academic talk pondering the veracity of the story we had just consumed. This fact hit me in the gut as I have been considering how we will document the resistance during the Trump administration.

In the last chapter entitled, “Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale” Atwood reveals where she got inspiration for not just the plot but the costumes and even a brutal public hanging of a handmaid at the hands of fellow handmaids — the group of handmaids pull on the rope that hangs the doomed handmaid up on the stage — immediately afterward they tear a man apart with their bare hands. Atwood often gets asked how she comes up with all the ideas in her books. Her response? She doesn’t. She just looks around the world. Atwood, through the character Professor Pieixoto, reminds us how easy it can be to slide into a state of fear that leads to a theocracy.
As we know from the study of history, no new system cam impose itself upon a previos one without incorporating many of the elements to be found in the latter...Gilead firmly rooted in the pre-Gilead period, and racist fears provided some of the emotional fuel that allowed the Gilead takeover to succeed as well as it did. (page 305) 
Gilead was, although undoubtedly patriarchal in form, occasionally matriarchal in content, like some sectors of the social fabric that gave rise to it....the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves. For this there were many historical precedents; in fact...in the case of Gilead, there were many women willing to serve as Aunts, either because of a genuine belief in what they called "traditional values," or for the benefits they might thereby acquire. When power is scarce, a little of it is tempting." (page 308)
As I reread those passages it was as if Atwood was responding to the 53% of white women who favored Trump at the polls. The fact that the Clinton campaign embraced the historic nature of a possible win in 2016 versus 2008 gave too many people confidence that women as a whole would act in concert to shatter the glass ceiling of the presidency. Yet even the one book that feminists have waved around as a warning sign for years told us not to expect women to stand in union against totalitarian regimes. Because as Atwood states, they never have.

In the end, after reading these dozen pages over and over I have come to the conclusion that we cannot assume allegiances. We must be better at identifying those of the oppressed who wish to find solace in oppressing others. We need to identify in ourselves when we allow our biases to lead us to condemning a brother or sister out of fear. We must remain vigilant of allowing that fear to push us to serve the incoming administration.

We must document whatever horrors emerge from this administration and hold accomplices accountable. we must write our own history. Especially in the time of Trumpism, facts are opinions unless said by the person you trust. Writers must resist whether it is in our pen & paper diaries, blogs, Instagram feeds or nationally syndicated columns. Just resist.

Postscript...Hulu is running a minseries based on the book this spring and I couldn't not share the trailer here.





02 February 2017

When Do We March


Since this beautiful day in Chicago when 250,000 of my closest friends and I marched to express our outrage towards the patriarchy, more marches have been announced. There are the #ResistTrumpTuesday demonstrations scheduled for the first 100 days of the new administration. There were the impromptu protests at airports over the weekend. There have also been other national marches announced around Tax Day, Science, LGBT rights and Public Education. And we're not even two weeks into the administration.

In order to keep all the national marches in order I created a Google calendar and put it up on a website. I'll update the calendar as I get information about a national march. And since it is a Google cal, you can simply subscribe to it and it's on your calendar! If you experience any issues with the calendar, just let me know!

01 February 2017

Do Work That Matters

During this difficult time I am finding myself avoiding working after I get home. I've made 4 pussy hats in about three weeks. I binge watched "One Day at a Time" - which was amazing, by the way. Go watch it. I have also tried to spend as much time as I can with friends. Basically I have practiced a lot of self care. I hope you have too.

Part of my self care routine for this year is to try to draw you a little something to color each month. I combined my new obsession of fancy handwriting and long time love of inspiring quotes for bad ass people. This quote is from Chicana feminist theorist Gloria Anzaldúa.


Go to Dropbox to download a PDF of the image.

23 January 2017

When is being a mom an accomplishment?

Image by Erik Kastner on Flickr
When Yvonne Brill died in 2013, her New York Times obituary famously led with her culinary skills. Her beef Stroganoff masked her innovative work on a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits. The feminist internet clapped back until the NYTimes edited the dish out.

Last week Brenda Barnes, former CEO of Sara Lee, died. The Chicago Sun-Times framed her professional accomplishments along with her title of "Perfect Mom." Fortune called her a hero to working moms.     

I remember reading about her stepping down to attend to her children during their teen years and then later her ramping back up. For a bit, I quite obsessed about Barnes. Why wouldn't I be? In Barnes returned to full-time employment in 2004 I was still a rookie mom with big career aspirations. Anytime I have big dreams, I scour the world for role models to study as if to find clues as to how I can replicate their success. I was still operating under the adage that under no circumstances does a working woman take more than a year off from work if she wanted to stay at the top of her field. I was still healing from being burned by being pushed out of an org after taking family leave from feminist organizing. What magic did she have?

I feel like I saw her speak once. Most likely at some women's professional conference here in Chicago. Or maybe I just read about her enough that I feel like I saw her speak. The two lessons I took away from her was 1) never truly stop working. Fortune mentions this, but belittles her board work while as a "stay at home mom":
she stayed on the sidelines serving as a director on numerous Fortune 500 boards.
This ignores the time and commitment necessary for such board work and the pay. Sure she wasn't a CEO or President of a company, but she was working. Fast Company outlines her "stay at home mom" duties as:
Unlike some women executives who have famously dropped out, Barnes did not go home to write her memoirs or devote herself to charity and her children's soccer schedules. She just chose what is, for her, a less demanding path: She serves on the board of six major companies, among them Sears, Avon, and The New York Times; she's taught at the Kellogg School of Management, and stepped in as interim president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in early 2000.
The Wall Street Journal similarly noted her work when she was hired at Sara Lee in May 2004.  Never stop working is advice often told to women who want to take extended time off for caregiving. Stay connected to your workplace via committee work, mentoring younger coworkers, etc.

The second lesson I think learned is that Barnes downshifted her career during her eldest kids' teen years. She said something about how the time when they least want you around is actually when they need you the most. As my daughter is now in her teens, I think about that a lot. I  have heard it said by other moms too. I repeat it to others.

Every piece written about her since her death remarks about her role in the never-ending juggle that working moms contend with. Few note that she never really did stop working, she just downshifted. None truly acknowledge the privilege she had to downshift in the first place or how easy it was for her to on-ramp back to the top.

I do think she will always be important to the story of working moms, as I have said, I learned a lot from her. But other women have helped me see the holes in her story, the holes that leave too many mothers without much choice to downshift or even go back to work when they want. I would hope she would want us to notice those wrinkles too.

Thanks, Brenda. Goddess bless you and your family.

02 January 2017

Starbucks Not Serving Up Their Baristas


I've been mentally obsessing over the story of a teenage woman being hit on at a Spokane Starbucks since it went viral a few days ago. The virality of the story seems simple enough - a 34-year-old guy thinks it is ok to ask out a supposed 16-year-old - the internet seems to think otherwise. He gets labeled gross old dude and we feel better about ourselves for being outraged.

I also think the outrage is amplified because many of us are on edge because Donald Trump, a man with a long list of sexual assault accusations, will become the next President of the USA. While his actions clearly did not offend the large group of women who did vote for Trump, the majority of women who did not vote for him ARE PISSED. And if we cannot keep a man who likes to brag about grabbing women by the genitals out of the White House, we can at least be pissed as hell when we see men acting as if women, of any age, are available just because men want them to be.

But what many people, including some women, do not understand is that this type of situation happens every day for women in the food and service industry. 

Last summer UNITE HERE Local 1 released a report, Hands Off Pants On, about the epidemic of harassment and assault in the service sector. They cited a 2015 national survey of "2,235 full-time and part-time female employees and found that 42% of women surveyed in the food service and hospitality industry reported sexual harassment, the highest of any field." UNITE HERE Local 1 went on to drill down into the situation here in Chicago with shocking results.




  • Among the hotel workers surveyed who had been harassed by a guest, over half (56%) of women said they did not feel safe returning to work after the incident.
  • 77% of casino workers surveyed had been sexually harassed by a guest.
  • 78% of women surveyed who serve guests in food and beverage outlets at casinos have had a guest make an unwelcome sexual comment, joke or question to or about them.  

ROC United found that "90% of tipped workers report experiencing unwanted sexual comments or behaviors in the workplace."

Yet we do not hear stories of other service sector workers being harassed or assaulted on a daily basis. Why? I believe it is because 1) these women do not report for fear of retaliation or as the report states, they feel nothing can be done and 2) the age difference in this Starbucks incident set off people's outrage mode quicker than if the guy in question had written a creepy note to a woman of his own age. UNITE HERE Local 1 also points out that "[j]ust 19% of hospitality workers surveyed said they had received training from their employer on how to deal with sexual harassment by guests."

Reporting sexual harassment in the service sector can often be confusing though. With the existence of restaurants like Hooters and their copycats that make their women servers wear revealing outfits more suitable for Vegas, it is no wonder that men can think that a teenager laughing at their stupid joke is flirting. Women flirting to get through to their job is part of what is called emotional labor.

Emotional labor is all the smiling, the "yes, sirs", and the giggles that women must do to fulfill their duty as customer service. The customer is always right, even if he is a skeezy old dude hitting on a barista who is just trying to remember which mocha gets soy and which gets whole milk.

What happened with this teenager at the Starbucks is not a new occurrence. It happens all too often and we fail to recognize it. Some of it is friendly emotional labor, it is still labor. It is not just being polite when I go into my local coffee shop and the barista I see almost every day knows not just my order, but every regular's order. Let's keep that in mind as we head out for our morning coffee, panini at lunch, or quick stop dinner. This issue is a women's issue and a feminist issue. Not just for the skeezy dude hitting on a teenager, but for every worker who has to put up with unwanted touches, looks, and comments.

01 January 2017

New Year, New(ish) Book, New Hashtag


Don't get too excited now...I am certainly not going to attempt to blog every day this year. But I felt the need to get blogging right away today. So who knows!

 2017 eh? We survived the great 2016 purge and we should be grateful for that. A lot of has been written about our public grieving over lost idols and pop culture icons. What I will say is this...1) I truly feel like we are finally at some tipping point of pop culture where we have a critical mass of such idols that when they start to die, it feels like a reaping. We're still just about 100 years since the mass consumption of radio, television, and films. Add to that the explosion of pop culture from those who create art (Bowie) to those who simply do stupid shit, and we have a whole lot more people to watch out for on our dead pools. 2) Many of us learn stuff from our idols. Some good, some bad. But behind the tears are some really strong reasons for mourning. I am still a bit ashamed to say I got up early to watch Princess Diana's funeral and cried through it. But ya know what? I think I was sad that this woman whom I grew up watching through photo shoots, tabloids, and rumors seemed to have finally gotten her life together was robbed of that life. So yeah, cry over Carrie Fisher, Prince, and George Michael. For some reason they imprinted themselves on your heart and that is why you cry.


I finished my last book (Rollergirl) a few days ago and wanted to wait until today to start a new book. I got a copy of Daniel D. Arreola's Postcards from the Sonora Border in the mail a few days ago and thought it appropriate to start the new year with a book written by someone who shares my last name. Alas, I feel it most appropriate to start the new year, a year which brings much challenge to us all in the form of the Trump administration and good challenge to me professionally as I just started a new job. I saw that Florinda is doing First Book of the Year so that pushed me to decide yes, I am going to restart and finish Brené Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me. My primo will have to wait for a little introspection before I tackle his book.


The new New Year's question of my life...What is happening with #365FeministSelfie? Well as I often say, while I launched that hashtag a few years ago, there is little way to truly own & control a hashtag. Last year's leap year produced a new hashtag out of necessity. Others have made the hashtag their own by adding kids, pets, or simply day to day life. But going back to using the hashtag to build community and looking out into the new year to create something powerful, I suggest we start to use #365FeministsResist. This does not mean #365FeministSelfie is over. Rather this is an addition to the #365Feminist family because this year will be our year of resisting, of being the resistance.Use the #365FeministsResist hash tag to challenge yourself to resist something every day. Are you speaking out when someone teases boy about showing emotion? Why are you standing silent when a racist goes on a tirade in front of you? Do you offer a sign of support to your neighbor who does not look like you? This new administration is mean and if we are truly going to trump it with love, we need to act radically in love. Be careful out there, but do not be afraid.

ONWARD...

31 December 2016

Here's to 2017 in color


I asked friends on Facebook what word they want to carry into 2017 and this is what I made from their suggestions. Not everyone's word made it here, but I did my best.

And yes, I made you a black & white version to color for yourself.

Now let's go kick 2017's ass before it can do the same to us.

via GIPHY


via GIPHY


via GIPHY

27 December 2016

Review: Hidden Figures (book) by Margot Lee Shetterly

I am a nerd in many different ways. I love math. I went to Space Camp for my 40th birthday. I could go on, but I think I have established my nerd credentials. Thus when I heard this book came out and a movie, I could not wait! I picked up this book at Powell's Portland airport store. Let me tell you,  Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is a beautifully written book about the collision of race, gender, and science in the USA from World War II to the late 1960s.

Hidden Figures tells the stories of a number of African American women who found themselves working on engineering projects during World War II and through the 1960s space race. Oh, I should add that they were doing all of this in Virginia too.

As someone who has spent her career working to diversify science, technology, engineering and mathematics, these type of stories are not new to me, even if the characters are. There are so many hidden figures in the annals of the history of science we could write books for a generation. No, what is most compelling about Hidden Figures is how effortlessly Shetterly connects the dots between what is occurring in the government labs during the space race and what is happening in our society writ large.

All those sticky notes are places I wanted to quote to you, dear reader. Alas, that might border on copyright infringement.

In the prologue, Shetterly sets the stage with the fact that "growing up in Hampton, the face of science was brown like mine." This is so important to the overall story. The author grew up in a community where people of color did science, so no big whoop! Can you imagine the choices her generation were able to conceive because of this fact? Goodness. But as she untangles the threads of the stories, she begins to craft a new vision of where she came from. One where Black women as mathematicians were not only recruited, but due to discrimination a smart business move for the government agency that would become NASA. And yes, despite the professionalism that one would give to a government mathematician, the burden of working hard and long hours to offer one's children a "better life" was just as real for these women as the women who labored in homes and factories.

Time and time again Shetterly balances the progress happening in the research labs with how stuck Virginia and the rest of the country were in terms of race and gender relations.

In relation to African Americans fighting in World War II, she writes:
The system that kept the black race at the bottom of American society was do deeply rooted in the nation's history that it was impervious to the country's ideals of equality. 
In relation to using education as a force for social advancement:
The Negro's ladder to the American dream was missing rungs, with even the most outwardly successful blacks worries that at any moment the forces of discrimination would lay waste to their economic security.
Shetterly never lets the readers forget the larger social forces at play, even as our heroes make leaps in mathematical theory. The reality is that they are Black women in the South in the 1940s to 1960s. No amount of heroism allows them to escape that gravitational pull. The desegregation of schools was a huge issue at the time of these women's fantastic accomplishments, but Shetterly writes:
As fantastical as American's space ambitions might have seemed, sending a man into space was starting to feel like a straightforward task compared to putting black and white student together in the same Virginia classrooms. 
One especially touching and brilliant example of the two worlds these women were living in was when Mary Jackon's son wins the box car derby.
Mary knew that her son was a ringer; the two of them had been building to win. Brain busters' kids were supposed to come out on top in a race like this, even if the brain buster was a woman, or black, or both.
Shetterly shares many women's stories with us in 265 pages. You may get overwhelmed by the number of stories as well as the emotions that come along. But keep track. Their stories have been hidden so long that Shetterly could have written a whole book on each woman. Maybe she should for children to read along with their biographies of Glenn, Armstrong, and Lindberg. Because these women may never have gone into space or set foot on the moon, but they are no less part of our history of exploration and American exceptionalism.

Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound. And go see the movie! I can't wait to see it myself.

20 December 2016

Eight Great Feminist Books for Last Minute Gift Giving

I've read quite a few great books this year, but haven't had time to write up proper reviews. Honestly I have a few half-written ones, but I wanted to make sure you have some recs for a last minute run to your local feminist or indie bookstore. So let's get to them...Note all book links are affiliate links so I do get a little something if you buy the book through those links. Which is much appreciated!

Forward by Abby Wambach is a difficult walk through this legend's life. Abby is my favorite player in recent years. I was so eager to read this and while I did not walk away from it not loving her, but rather it changed the temperature of my fandom. Her honesty is brutal in ways that are endearing and off-putting. Abby is forthright with the privileges she has held since childhood from being a star athlete, but also the burden of being a younger sibling of a star athlete. The way she talks about the Brazilian national team and Marta is so dismissive I had to put the book down for a bit. Abby's struggle with addiction is humbling and that comes across throughout the book. In the end I left the book admiring her more, but in a more humane way. Not as the greatest soccer player ever, but as someone who went through a lot of crap to accomplish her dreams. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking a comics report from the Ladydrawers and Anne Elizabeth Moore is A+ feminist killjoy. Disclaimer...Anne is a friend of mine & I'm friendly with many a Ladydrawer. What Anne & Co do with Threadbare is connect our addiction to cheap cute clothes with the global epidemic of low-wage work that disproportionately impacts women and human trafficking. See...feminist killjoy. Now you say you only buy second hand clothes to reduce the money going into the pockets of big corporations and reduce our environmental footprint? Sorry, you fall into this vicious cycle too. This book is a must read for the feminist fashionista in your life as well as every well-meaning feminist who wants to save women in the developing world. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  

In what I dub the natural partner to Threadbare is Andi Zeisler's (another friend!) We Were Feminists Once. Andi digs deep into the current pop culture moment feminism is having. For awhile it seemed hard to get through a profile of a pop star or actress without someone asking her if she was a feminist. But what does that mean when feminism is hip and cool? Andi outlines how it ends up watering down feminism and what it means to be a feminist. What does it mean to consider an act of feminism to be consuming Amy Schumer and wearing cute feminist tees? Can we buy our way into a feminist future? Spoiler....Nope. Again, feminist killjoy at its finest. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.


Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? by Katrine Marcal is a must read for every feminist who skipped economics class because it sounds hella boring and/or intimidating. I admit that I would never had taken econ if it wasn't mandatory for my masters degree. I found it frustrating as hell because we had to suspend reality while talking about supply and demand curves or how if you don't like the benefits at a job you just get a new one. What is especially frustrating about economics is how women's caregiving is lost in all the equations and valuations. Marcal painstakingly, yet in an accessible way, walks us through modern economic theory and points out its flaws in regard to women's work. The title comes from the fact that Adam Smith, who wrote foundational works in economics, lived at home and was able to do all that thinking and writing because his mom took care of him. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  


This hunk of snark is brought to us by the geniuses at Reductress. How to Win at Feminism is a handy dandy guide to feminism as if written by all the people who don't understand feminism. But way funnier. During these frozen days of winter and depressing post-Trump days curl up with this book to remember all the victories we have had and all the work we still have to do. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

I really do have a much longer review to be published for Powered by Girl by Lyn Mikel Brown, but let's do this quick hit first, eh? This book is a must read for anyone who works with girls, especially in leadership programs. Girl Scout Leader? Yup. Camp Leader? Totally. At times the book gets a bit repetitious, but considering how few people think that girls can leader, you do need to repeat the message a few times. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.


Another book written by a friend. Dear Princess Grace, Dear Betty by Alida Brill is a sweet look at the life and struggles of a woman who is equally a fierce feminist and a hopeless romantic. What is so wonderful about this book is that you feel the full passion of Alida searching for true love without feeling like she is trying to fill a void like most "looking for Mr. Right" stories. She's not looking for the missing piece or to fill a hole. She simply believes in love and wants some...while also demanding women's equality. She balances both sides of the story in a way that will make you reexamine how you view Second Wave feminists (I mean, if you only know it through history books of course.) Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

If you haven't heard about Unsportsmanlike Conduct already, you obviously aren't watching ESPN because Jessica Luther has been on countless times since its release. In Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Jessica (another friend!) painstakingly breaks apart the problem of sexual assault and college football. It is not just an epidemic or one of too much drinking. Then she puts things back together in a logical and creates a playbook for every campus to follow in order to better address campus sexual assault and athletics. When she was in Chicago for a reading, I told her that I was truly impressed at the delicate dance she performs at calling out the racism that both makes white women the perfect victim and the often-African American football player the perfect perpetrator AND the misogyny that also invalidates women's rape accusations. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

Happy gift giving season, everyone!! 

Other great feminist books I read this year:

27 November 2016

Paperless Post for Holiday Card Magic [Giveaway]

Well Thanksgiving is over and that means full steam ahead on the winter holiday season! For many of us that means managing our holiday card list. I keep my list in an excel spreadsheet. Although now that I type this out, I think I need to still update my 2015 list. Oops. Oh well. I missed a year. While holiday cards are tedious, they are one of the highlights of my year. I love sending cards to friends I see often and friends I only see via holiday cards. I even love reading holiday letters that come attached!

paperless post holiday card

But managing the writing, the addressing, and the picking out of cards while working & parenting can be a PITA. That's where Paperless Post can come in! In addition to the holidays, Paperless Post offers great cards for other occasions, such as baby shower invitations or housewarmings. Although snail mail cards are my fave, sometimes it can be too tedious or life throws you a curve where  you find yourself days from a holiday still needing to send out a pile of cards.Who hasn't thrown in a last-minute holiday card when you get one from someone you haven't talked to in awhile? The etiquette can be overwhelming. The idea of uploading your list to paperlesspost.com and hitting send can be handy! And maybe the answer to your prayers? Keep scrolling....

paperless post housewarming invitation

GIVEAWAY:

To help you manage your holiday card list, I'm happy to be able to giveaway 1,000 coins that can be used on paperlesspost.com for awesome holiday cards, electronic invites, thank yous, and notes. This is a $90 value.

To enter:

1) Comment with your email address & what winter holiday you celebrate
2) Extra entries by sharing this giveaway on social media. Either tag me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram or share the link in a comment.
3) Deadline is Friday, December 2nd at 9 pm CST. 

paperless post baby shower invitation

I hope this giveaway helps ease the chaos of this year's holiday season!

This post is a partnership with Nakturnal

21 November 2016

Three Years of #FeministSelfie

Three years ago two feminists tweeted out #FeministSelfie in the face of a condescending article attempting to label all selfies as anti-feminist and a cry for help.

Since then countless feminists have used the hashtag, or others it inspired including #365FeministSelfie, #366FeministSelfie (leap year!), and #365FeministLife, to showcase their daily feminist actions whether it is escorting at a clinic, painting a son's fingernails, or exhibiting our bikini bodies from sizes zero to 32. Most days our #FeministSelfie is just the ordinary day of someone who claims the label of feminist. For us a selfie is revolutionary in a society that still worships and values young thin white bodies. It is revolutionary to share one's journey as a transgender person in a world where using a public restroom is a battle. It is radical, not narcissistic, to want to share our selfie that shows our "flaws" and scars. It is radical to show pride in our family composition. It is community building to selfie with our "I Voted!" stickers.

Many hashtags are born of snark and frustration. #FeministSelfie was no different. Yet it endures in many forms to connect those of us in the feminist struggle.

Normally I write a next year post in December, but the anniversary/birthday of the #FeministSelfie hashtag just two weeks after the election of a racist misogynist con man seemed like a good time to make a statement. As we plan to enter 2017 with the knowledge that we need each other more than ever, #365FeministSelfie will be here to help.

#365FeministSelfie will continue on through 2017 and I believe through out the entire Trump-Pence regime. The hashtag will continue to connect us. The challenge will hopefully remind us to do something feminist every day. It will also signal to others that feminists are indeed everywhere. From our college campuses to our baristas. Feminists come in all shapes, shades, sizes and backgrounds.

I also hope the hashtag will challenge us to strengthen our feminism. Maybe we are big city feminists who need to learn from rural feminists - at the same time lessen them from the isolation I often hear about from rural friends. White feminists who want to learn how to make their feminism more intersectional can listen to feminists of color who often speak volumes in their selfies.

I know a selfie can't solve all our problems, but I do have hope that the community we continue to build through the hashtag will sustain us in the dark times and inspire us to keep fighting.

If you have ideas on how we can use the hashtag for education and resistance please leave a comment or connect with me over at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I plan to set out our 2017 in coming days. Until then...

ONWARD!!

17 November 2016

Book Review: 2nd Edition of Beautiful You by Rosie Molinary


Six years ago an inspiring daily mediation on self-love was released. Recently Rosie Molinary released an updated edition of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance.

From my initial review of the book:

Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary is a self-help guide for those of us who don't like self-help guides. Beautiful You is a book of 365 daily life prompts that not just asks you to reconsider how you see yourself, but to push you to try new things (stop apologizing: ever notice how many times you start things with "I'm sorry but...") that help you readjust how you view yourself, the world and how you connect to the world.

In the new edition there is obviously a new cover, but also a new introduction, a new acknowledgments and then about 50 posts were either updated or replaced. Rosie's favorite new post is Day 362. Rosie gave me the scoop on the new edition.

When approached by Seal Press to revisit her book for updating she discovered that a few passages no longer spoke to her or she realized she approached the topics differently. Overall, what she realized in her own self-acceptance work is that so much of our pain is really the result of a lack of awareness of our own self-worth.
If you value yourself, you don’t hurt other people. And if you value yourself, you don’t hurt yourself. We want so much to be heard and seen and understood, and the reality is that the very first person we need that from is ourselves. If we can begin to see our own worth, the world expands for us.
I wrote Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance to give people a tool where they could collect all the evidence of their worthiness. This isn’t a book where I tell readers to believe in themselves. This is a book where the readers become the writer and compile all the proof- which is already inside of them- of how very worthy they are. My hope is that the book provides readers with a journey into a relationship with themselves that is not adversarial and that is life changing.
To get your own copy please purchase from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book.

15 November 2016

Review: Kazoo Magazine


The world of girls magazines is a scary place. Walk up to the magazine aisle of your fave drugstore and flip through girl-centric magazines...then try to sleep well at night. Recently Girls Life came under fire for exclaiming the secrets of dream hair on their cover while Boys Life was all about planning for a solid career. Someone "fixed it" via Photoshop.

I have a ton of issues with the original Girls Life cover, but have some issues with the "fixed" cover as well. First of all is the shaming of the actress on the original cover. Olivia Holt is yet another young woman trying to have it all through the Disney empire. She sings! She dances! She karate chops! She acts! Having a teenager myself, I have watched plenty of Disney shows. And while there are some things to improve in their narrative, you gotta give props to these teens who are slowly building their own empires...critique of Disney aside cause I'm already on a way tangent. Next, while I love that the "fixed" cover includes a headline on careers, an equally large headline is about girls doing good. When are we going to get away from that narrative people? Maybe label that leadership? And "my first miss" as confidence? Nah...let's call that entrepreneurship 101. Anywho, even when we try to fix problematic things for girls we miss the mark.

That's where Kazoo comes in. It's tagline is "A magazine for girls who aren't afraid to make some noise." YESSSS! Erin Bried is the founder and has oodles of magazine experience behind her. She came up with the idea for Kazoo as she was searching for magazines for her 5-year-old. Now there are plenty of other magazines that I got my daughter at that age, mostly from Cricket Media, as well as New Moon Girls, but I am happy to welcome Kazoo to the land of kid media.

Bried says Kazoo is important because even girls at the age of 5 are being indoctrinated by popular media and culture to conform to gendered expectations that result in:
•Six in ten girls stop doing what they love, because they feel bad about their looks. And by age 11, 30 percent of them have already put themselves on a diet.
•Seventy five percent of girls are interested in engineering and related fields, and yet only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women.
Kazoo has a great feel to it. Bried do NOT go glossy! I think the thick paper feel is perfect, especially since there is a coloring page on the inside cover of issue 2. While the incredibility beautiful feature on Jane Goodall was amazing to read, my favorite article is the how-to on parkour. Seriously how many times have you seen a parent scold a kid, especially a girl, for climbing up where you "shouldn't" climb when walking down the street? I mean, if you didn't want a kid climbing on the ledge of building, don't put in a ledge! haha..Kinda kidding, but I was totally that kid who could find every nook to climb up and walk on. The world was my balance beam.

In addition to great content, most of the magazine is illustrated. And the diversity of illustrated girls is what we should expect from any media outlet in 2016.

So what if your girl isn't into the outdoors or climbing on stuff? Does she like puzzles? Kazoo has that. Does she like cooking? Got that too. Issue 2 has so much info on photography you might think the magazine is about photography!

Kazoo is sweet and fierce. It sends all the empowering signals we think we need to send our girls without using most of the jargon. A great example is the parkour article. Not only are there how-tos, but the how-tos come from Alexa Marcigliano, professional stuntwoman. Not once were the safety issues that impact stuntwomen brought up in a sidebar or infographic. While the issues are important, clobbering girls over the head with a negative framing can backfire as I know from working in women in STEM for almost 20 years.

I recommend getting a subscription for that girl in your life. Heck, get a subscription to all the fab girl magazines as a bouquet of magazines! 

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of the magazine.

07 November 2016

Interview with Sarah Potenza



I get a lot of pitches to cover musicians and musical acts. My usual screening is based on my time and a quick web search. That's when I realized that Sarah Potenza is not the usual musical artist. She's making waves with the title track of her album, Monster, including its fun video (posted at the bottom of this post). I had the chance to chat with Sarah as she prepares to return to Chicago for a show at The Hideout on Saturday, November 12th. This is not a transcript, but taken from notes.  

VLF: I really enjoyed your album. Right now you are getting a lot of praise for your song, Monster. It has been called an empowerment song. Over the past few years, empowerment has been used to describe a lot of things. So what does empowerment mean to you?

Potenza: Empowerment is something that makes you motivated. Something that makes you feel a certain way. I read something about body love and since then, over the past year I have made an evolution about how I feel and see my body. I use to feel "ewww" about my body parts. But I read a story about a woman who learned to love her body, her juiciness, all of that. It empowered me to love my own body. I follow a lot of body positive people on Instagram and Twitter and it matters. When you see someone who can wear a bikini and have back fat it empowers you. It changes the way you see yourself. Especially to see yourself from a more powerful position. As feminists we need to be ok with being powerful. Feminism doesn’t mean angry. Empowered doesn’t mean angry.

VLF: In an interview with NPR you talk about not being taken seriously because of your flamboyant style. Is that one reason that drew you to audition for “The Voice”? That you would be judged by your voice and not your visual style?

Potenza: No, not at all. I auditioned because I believe in saying yes to every opportunity. Not letting your inner hipster stop you from doing things either. Too many people say no to things they think are beneath them, but I think nothing is below you. I saw "The Voice" as a way to elevate my career and platform. So I decided to walk through that door.

VLF: Oh, great! I asked because I know about the research about blind auditions being great for removing many biases. The classic one is about orchestra auditions and how once blind auditions became standard, orchestras went from being mostly dudes to a better balance. 

Potenza: ARGH!! I hate that. You know I use to send emails with a man's name because I knew I wasn't being taken seriously by some in the music business. Now my husband handles the business side of my music business because he is taken more seriously. This is just one of the many reasons why I early voted! I have been so incredibly hurt and disgusted by the many men I know who hate Hillary. They have a loathing for no reason, but I know it is because of what she represents as a woman.

VLF: Agreed! OK, pivoting back to your music.... Monster is bringing you such amazing attention because in our thin-obsessed society, being proud of your not-size-zero body is radical. Do you worry that the attention is too focused on this one song, this one radical message and won’t carry the rest of your amazing work to people’s ears?

Potenza: No, I don’t really…I'm honored if people just get this one song. I do a lot of work with young women. I teach workshops and I have a lot of fans who are young girls. One girl did her 7th grade career day project on me. I don't know her, but she lives in Michigan. I encourage girls to be their own best friend. My mom and I are now great friends. My mom use to put a lot of energy into her looks. She's a life-long member of Weight Watchers and I use to feel bad that I would never be a size 4 like her. I want to be the role model for girls who will never be a size 4. But yes, I definitely want people to explore the rest of the album.

VLF: What does success look to you? Do you have it?

Potenza: It is weird. After you have been on "The Voice," everything seems small after that. I have had so much success already. I do feel successful in a lot of ways. At the same time I know there are so many more mountains to climb. Success looks like Bonnie Raitt, Neko Case, Alabama Shakes. I’m going to be playing The Hideout and having a hundred people will be a success. I want the longevity. I want to become iconic. I want to get to be where I can be an artist and do what I want to do. I'm always creating. It's funny, promotion wise you’re always living in the past because I recorded the album a year ago and wrote Monster long before that. For me, success is closing that time gap between creation and promotion. Yeah, I want Lemonade success - to write, create, and distribute as quickly as Beyoncé does.

VLF: How do you practice feminism within the music industry?

Potenza: wow...This is a hard question, good, but I haven't thought about this. I think I practice feminism by being myself and being a role model, by writing the music I want to write. I am not writing songs where women are only doing things they "should be" singing about. I do not want to be participating in the gendered nature of song roles. I practice feminism by writing about things like the election, without being preachy in songs, but writing about them. I've been touched by Leelah Alcorn's story. I am thinking about writing about her. But do it from a clever, non preachy way like Monster. Not angry, not sad. I'll be following along the steps laid by Neko Case.

VLF: Thanks for taking time out to talk to me. Good luck in Chicago! And the rest of the tour. 

Potenza: Thanks for wanting to talk!



Sarah Potenza
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Doors: 8:30 pm / Show: 9:00 pm
The Hideout
$12.00 - $15.00

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