Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

09 October 2015

Thoughts on DC Super Hero Girls

The sexualized depiction of female superheroes has always been a point of contention about anointing Wonder Woman or Xena as feminist icons. The male-gazed bodies out weigh the feminist messages for some. As one friend’s daughter asked, “How can Wonder Woman save people in her underwear?” A meme that continues to pop up in my Facebook feed has Wonder Woman announcing that if she doesn’t get pants, no one gets pants.

So when I found out that Mattel was being tasked with creating the action figures for DC’s Super Hero Girls project, I was skeptical. How could the company that brought us “I hate math” Barbie (No, I’ll never let them forget that one!) create anything but a Batgirl who looks more in need of a sandwich than one who can bust down a door? Well one quick trip to Mattel HQ and I was proven wrong.

As a disclaimer upfront, I was a gender and body image expert brought into review the line and offer my point of view. I was paid for my time including travel and hotel. I did NOT leave Mattel HQ with a suitcase of swag.

It was a full day meeting with reps from Mattel, DC and others involved in the launch of this new universe. I heard of their market research including that they found no gender difference in superhero worship. Girls like ‘em as much as boys do. Surprise! Surprise! Not. There were differences though and the one I was struck by was how kids want the superhero to save the day. Boys are much more likely to want the bad guy to die or be locked up, while girls want the superhero to talk some sense in the villain and convert them into a hero. With me at the table were, as Bloomberg put it, "half a dozen of [Mattel's] biggest critics: a collection of feminists, bloggers, and academics." I really expected to go into that room and spend all day lecturing on gender, body image and put my two Gender & Women's Studies degrees to more use in 6 hours than in the last 20 years.

Instead I was blown away by most of what I heard and saw. While I did critique some of their research - pointing out that girls are just as guilty as aggression as boys, but they don't hit as often - and the toy mock ups, overall I liked what I saw.

The first thing we got a sneak peek of was the cartoon series. The show's premise is that the DC superheroes are now all teens and in high school together. Wonder Woman does not show up right away. Rather Bumblebee and Harley Quinn are the superheroes already at the school. The cartoon's intro is embedded below. I know, I know, locating all the superheroes, except Batman, in high school is not canon, but hell, after the new 52, what is canon anymore! It's a cartoon and it looks fun. "DC has major plans to put Super Hero Girls everywhere kids are. It will have dedicated Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, there are plans for TV specials and direct-to-video projects, plus girls will be able to read the characters’ continuing adventures in a Random House middle-grade novel series and in DC graphic novels."

Next we saw the toys. I was really nervous because I could see all the early concept drawings and I was in a room full of Monster High dolls. Would I be able to remember all the things I was sure would be wrong with these dolls? Then the reveal.

I think the last time I examined something so closely was when I made sure that second pink line was an actual line. The action figures stand on their own. Christine Kim, the lead designer, said she made sure that the dolls could stand on their own. After a false start on the dolls, she told her team to use photos of athletes and dancers as models. This is why these dolls have muscle tone. Sure the legs are longer than this short lady would want, but I was told it's about the fact the dolls have a lot of joints so they can be posed in many different positions. And the photos here are of the smaller actions figures, there will be larger dolls that are even better in terms of body size.

This line should blow up in popularity. Those of us who grew up on Linda Carter's Wonder Woman will want this doll. And we will buy another for the young people in our lives. As the Mary Sue points out, this is an entire line of superheroes created just for girls. But as we stressed in the meeting, it should be a line for both girls and boys. There are boys at the high school and the action figures are large enough to fit with other action figure lines. Marketing this line as gender neutral as possible was one of our big pleas. Alas while Target has removed gendered aisles, that's just one store. Will boys be brave enough to walk over to the girls' aisle in Wal-Mart to grab a Batgirl?

Hopefully they will. I want to go back to the research finding about how boys expect the villains to
die or be jailed while the girls expect the hero to help turn the villain around. We saw a clip from the cartoon where Harley Quinn is so excited to have Wonder Woman as a roomie that Wonder Woman is annoyed to death. We've all been there right? We pull back and the annoying friend walks away. I've also been that annoying friend and it feels terrible. Wonder Woman realizes that Harley is just excited and goes over to hang out with her. It was a sweet moment. And while not all depictions of superheroes shows the villain getting killed, they rarely turn the villain into a superhero. Maybe, just maybe this cartoon will give boys an image that not all "bad guys" are bad, but are people who do bad things. I know, it's a lot to expect from a cartoon and a plastic doll.

But wait, that's not all. We will not only be getting cartoons and action figures, but we are getting accessories! Yup, one of the accessories we are getting is a Wonder Woman shield that shoots out little discs. Oh, my dear readers, it took the threat of sure arrest that I did not walk out of that room with my own Wonder Woman shield. I seriously teared up when I held it. It is exactly the type of toy I would have begged my parents for when I was a kid. It shall be the only thing on my wish list until it is mine. Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I'm gonna be at Target the day they hit the shelves.

This universe is not perfect. In fact what we saw were mock ups. Things can and will most likely change before we can get our hands on them. The show will run and something offensive will be in it. Mattel and/or DC will screw something up. But I did not go into that room looking for perfection. What I found were a lot of people who appeared to want to do the right thing. Change is incremental and I saw a lot of incremental changes and then some. Muscles on a doll is a world away from the unrealistic Barbie and Monster High dolls. Girls and boys will play with these toys, watch the cartoons and, hopefully, color in the coloring books with a more realistic view of what bodies look like.

As the header on this post shows, my family is a family that does superheroes. We go to the movies, wear the costumes and watch the shows. I love superheroes which is why I have been such a critic of how they not only depict women, but been so pissed when women superheroes vanish when it comes to merchandise. In my Bitch piece about Wonder Woman I express fear of what that movie will look like. I do not trust Hollywood to do her justice. But this cartoon and the action figure I held, those should do her justice. That is if someone higher up doesn't screw this up.

08 October 2015

Book Review: She Takes a Stand By Michael Elsohn Ross

We're into the first month of school here in Chicago. It's now time for book reports and research projects to become due. One of the biggest challenges to many kids is where to start. Who to write a biographical essay on? And the idea of reading through a mountain of biographies can be daunting.   

She Takes a Stand: 16 Fearless Activists Who Have Changed the World By Michael Elsohn Ross is a must have for your kid's library at home and at school. In the same vein as Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys, this collection of short, accessible and fact-packed essays about 16 inspiring women.

My 12-year-old daughter read the book for her current book report project. She reports that the essays are easy to read and finds the women profiled interesting. Her favorite? Mother Jones. BE STILL MY HEART!! Why? Because she felt that essay read more like a story than a series of facts.

I read the essay on Rigoberta Menchu and thought it summed up her life and struggle well. These essays are short, so they touch on highlights of each woman's life. As I said with Women Aviator, this is an excellent book to jump start larger biographical projects or perfect for those mini-projects.

To continue learning about Mother Jones and fellow activists, please purchase a copy (and support VLF) from Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from a publicist.

07 October 2015

#OneConversation - Latino HIV Awareness Campaign

web banner: We can stop HIV One Conversation At A Time.  Campaign Image of a middle aged Latina and a speech bubble with a message: We need to talk openly about HIV.

You may notice an ad on the sidebar that says "We Can Stop HIV". That is because I have been asked to join the CDC's HIV Awareness campaign. One Conversation at a Time, a CDC campaign, is a call to action for our community to talk about HIV and AIDS, increase HIV and AIDS awareness, and decrease HIV-associated stigma and shame. Now you might ask why we need a special emphasis in the Latino community. The fact is that "[m]ore than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States and about 50,000 people become infected each year. As Hispanics/Latinos, we account for 21% of these new HIV infections."Compare this to the fact that Latinos make up 17% of the population in the United States. This is unacceptable.

Stay tuned throughout the campaign as I share more information about HIV and its impact in the Latino community.

Join LATISM’s Twitter chat on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 9:00 ET.
Use either use the #OneConversation or #UnaConversación hashtag.

Disclaimer: I am being compensated for participating in this campaign. This is a sponsored post.

08 September 2015

Giveaway & Review: Coloring Dream Mandalas by Wendy Piersall

In the first grade I was sent home with a note that said I needed to practice my coloring. Specifically I needed to learn how to stay within the lines. I remember spending hours at the kitchen table with a pile of crayons and coloring books. I paid attention to how the color attached itself to the paper if I went up and down, then side to side. I learned how to sweep the color in one direction as to not distract from the hash marks of coloring up/down then right/left. And being the good eldest daughter I am, I stuck to coloring inside the lines.

 Coloring Dream Mandalas: 30 Hand-drawn Designs for Mindful Relaxation by Wendy Piersall has been a bit of coloring therapy for me. Yes, I mean in the way that the press has jumped on board the grown-up coloring wagon. It does provide a great break from all the screen time and chaos of life. But it was while I was coloring the above page (left is half marker, half blank while right side shows the ride side colored with pencils) that I realized that while I have worked to push myself to color outside the lines, the lines provide needed comfort. The time it takes to stay within the lines is more than just simply coloring. The lines hug me into quiet time for myself, even if I am coloring on the couch while the TV is on.

The other bit of therapy is the need to color the page right. This moon-star page screamed at me to color it! I had splurge purchased some Le Pen markers that I knew I had to use on this page. Then I realized they weren't great for large area coloring. Details, yes, but not big spaces. Thus I added in some of my daughter's Crayola markers. In the end, I'm ok with how it turned out. I love the star, but wish the moon stood out just as big.

This dream tree is my masterpiece!

I used coloring pencils for this baby. Not only are trees sacred to me, but this page called out to me on an extremely stressful day at work. I took a walk down to my favorite turkey burger joint, grabbed a seat and started on the bark.

The cure for, or even just a holiday from,  a bad day is to pull out your coloring book and focus on the colors. And the book is thin enough to fit into most bags!

You can purchase your copy through Powells or IndieBound to support VLF.

And I want to share that cure with a lucky reader!


I have THREE copies of Coloring Dream Mandalas to give away! Here is how you can enter:

1. Leave a comment with your favorite coloring tool (crayon, chalk, marker, etc) and your email. Without your email I can't tell you if you won!
2. Tag me on Instagram or Twitter with a pic of something you drew, colored, or doodled.
3. Post a pic a pic of something you drew, colored, or doodled on VLF's facebook page.
4. Additional entries if you are following me on Instagram, Twitter or like VLF's facebook page.

Sadly, this giveaway is limited to those with US or Canadian mailing addresses.

All entries need to be in by September 18th.

Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from the publisher.  

26 August 2015

Should Feminist Parents Tell Their Daughters They Are Beautiful?

Or perhaps I should ask HOW should feminist parents tell their daughters they are beautiful?

Last week I attended Tamara Winfrey Harris' book reading at Women and Children First. She read from her book, The Sisters Are Alright, which discusses how Black women are viewed in the USA and their reactions to those views. One area that the discussion centered on was that of beauty.

There are many issues that #365FeministSelfie has dealt with and at its core is the concept of beauty. Who gets to say who is beautiful? Why don't more women believe that they are beautiful? During the life of the project, I have heard from many people, especially woman, who confess to never feeling beautiful or losing that sense of beauty. Recently a mom in the project shared a moment from her mom files.

She shared that her three-year-old daughter had just pronounced herself not-beautiful because of her short hair. I'm paraphrasing here..."Help me, #365FeministSelfie-ists! How can I combat this? I tell her she's strong, smart and brave all the time, but I don't always tell her she is beautiful," she asked. A few of us went on to discuss the often held notion to praise girls for what they do not how they look. This should allow them to escape the clutches of our beauty-centric society, right? Wrong.

Unless we are raising our daughters in a media-free bubble in the middle of Big Sky Country, they still learn the rules of beauty.

So I asked Tamara and her fans how to handle this. I was floored.

One woman, whose story is shared in the book, said that when she was growing up all she wanted was her mom to say she was beautiful. Her mom, like many feminist-minded moms, was trying to raise a strong girl who did not need that type of validation. Now this woman did not fit the beauty standard as a young girl and teen, so her mom was trying to get her to see her own beauty inside and out. "Do you think you are beautiful?" was what her mom would say when asked, "Am I beautiful/pretty?" This woman proclaimed to us, "All I wanted was for my mom to say, 'Yes, you are beautiful!'"

Now I tell my daughter she is beautiful all the time. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people tell her that too. But how I tell her is often in a series of other compliments. "You are so strong, smart, beautiful and brave, mija!"

It's a strange thing this beauty thing. On one hand, we do not want to raise our daughters to think that their beauty or how others see them as beautiful defines them. But at the same time, don't we all want to feel beautiful?

And that is kinda what #365FeministSelfie is about...feeling beautiful in our bodies, feeling as beautiful as those who love us see us. Because yes, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but it should also be in our eyes too.

So does not telling our daughters that they are beautiful secretly tell them that they are not? Despite the fact we are trying to teach them that being beautiful is important?

In the end Tamara made a pronouncement that I think is correct. Everyone should be told they are beautiful. Perhaps we should all compliment our kids and each other with, "You are so beautiful, smart, strong and brave."

18 August 2015

Review: "Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted" on HBO

If you don't know who Tig Notaro is, you may recall hearing about a stand-up comic who opened up a show with, "Good evening. Hello. I have cancer." That was Tig Notaro. I haven't kept up with her career and appearances on "Inside Amy Schumer" or "Transparent," so getting a chance to preview her new HBO special, "Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted," was exciting.

Notaro's style of comedy is slyly smart. Sometimes her jokes take a moment longer to get to the kick than you expect. But for the most part, they stick their landing. She laughs about her inability to hang in Vegas, which all the introverts will LOVE, not to mention how she utterly bombed in Vegas all the while inadvertently wearing a mustache. Notaro also reminds us that sometimes the funniest moments are those that we make as we seek out the perfect man or planning for our burials.

Her comedy is personal and considering that this includes laughing at her history of breast cancer, it is deeply so. In one moving scene the audience eggs her on to take off her shirt. Apparently a woman can go topless when her breasts have been removed. Still, it is a sexy, moving and funny scene...especially considering that some people have tried to reframe her double mastectomy as top surgery. Really? Good gawd, people!

So if boyish ladies are your style along with sly smart humor, check out Tig Notaro on Saturday, August 22nd at 10 pm ET/9 pm CT and be prepared to want some ice cream afterward.

21 July 2015

Trailer for Suffragette the Movie

I'm really looking forward to this movie. I'm happy to share the trailer and peek at the movie posters.

Of course, I hope we get a film one day about Ida B. Wells and all the women of color who fought in the US-based suffrage movement.

06 July 2015

Review: Personalized Cookie Cuttters

I love to bake. Cupcakes, cakes, and some breads are my thing. And come Christmas time it is all about the cookies! Especially cut out cookies that I make using a recipe my mom treasure from a cookbook that she got when she was a little girl. The making of the dough, the rolling out, cutting and then decorating is like a meditation on love. Yes this feminist loves to bake!

That is why I jumped at the chance to test out a personalized cookie cutter from Cookie Cutter Kingdom. I scrolled through all their options and decided on the doxie. Now this is where I found a shortcoming...You are limited to one line with 10 characters. I really wanted a #365FeministSelfie cookie cutter, alas. This is when I thought, hmmm...do I go full out egotistic and get a "Veronica" cookie cutter? Nah...Let's go with Feminista!

As you can see from the photos, the cookies turned out great. I will say that after a few cookies, dough did get stuck in the lettering, so I had to grab a toothpick and clean it out. But it wasn't too complicated. It may also be more an issue of me pushing too hard.

Overall, I really liked my cookie cutter. I'm looking forward to finding lots of excuses to whip up a batch. Feminist bake sales, y'all!

AND...I'm happy to say that I can share with my readers a code for 25% off!

Use "VIVA25" when you order and save 25%

The doxie cookie cutter starts at $5.50 and goes up to $7.00 for the larger cutter. Don't wait too long because the code is good until September 30, 2015. If you get a cookie cutter, post a picture! I want to see what everyone picks out.

Disclaimer: The review cookie cutter is the only compensation I will receive for this post. Your purchase does not provide me with any compensation.

22 June 2015

POV returns on June 22nd with "Out in the Night"

In 2006, under the neon lights of a gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City, a group of African-American lesbians were violently threatened by a man on the street. The women fought back and were later charged with gang assault and attempted murder. The tabloids quickly dubbed them a gang of "Killer Lesbians" and a "Wolf Pack." Three pleaded guilty to avoid a trial, but the remaining four — Renata, Patreese, Venice and Terrain — maintained their innocence. The award-winning Out in the Night examines the sensational case and the women's uphill battle, revealing the role that race, gender identity and sexuality play in our criminal justice system. A co-production of ITVS. A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). 

I watched "Out in the Night" over a month ago and it still haunts me. This documentary kicks off POV’s 28th Season on PBS.

In our current environment of #BlackLivesMatter, Charleston and countless Black men, women and children being killed by the police, this documentary is poignant and timely. As the summary above states, one night a group of friends, all black lesbians, were out on the town. A dude walks up to them and starts harassing them violently. They fight back. Most of the incident is caught on camera, but it is not enough to save them from prosecution. The majority of the film is about the impact of not just the injustice of the incarceration of four of the women, but the impact of incarceration on their family's lives.

I won't kid you, it is a difficult movie to watch. For those of you who work in the prison abolitionist movement, few things may shock you. But for those who still believe that incarceration is the best way to punish people, your socks will be knocked off.

The strength of the women who were incarcerated is intense. It is not often that I am left speechless to describe a film. All I can say is that you must watch this film. Check your local listings to see when you can catch this moving film.

11 June 2015

GIVEAWAY & Review: Coloring Flower Mandalas by Wendy Piersall

I've been coloring various pages from Coloring Flower Mandalas: 30 Hand-drawn Designs for Mindful Relaxation by Wendy Piersall for a solid month now. And I gotta say, I don't think I've ever been so popular! Everyone wants to chime in on the grown-up coloring book trend. "Oh, I read about that!" "WOW! That's a great pattern." "What do you use?"

To answer that last question, I've bought myself a fresh pack of color pencils. And I carry them practically everywhere I go. And here's what I've discovered...

Instead of peeking at my phone while my mind thinks it needs something to do, I pull out my coloring. I have no idea how to explain the difference in my mind, but it is ore relaxing to kick back with a coloring pencil and a mandala.

I have a few Xena coloring books (I horded in the 90s) and a Wonder Woman one. Because these are rare beings, I only color in them when necessary. I love the feeling of coloring. I always have. Now with the rise of grown up coloring books, the possibilities are endless!

The best part of Coloring Flower Mandalas is that I'm discovering what colors I like to put together. When I bought my color pencils, I got a 24 pack. Now I wish I had a ton more to do more gradients. I guess I could learn to do that with pressure, eh? Anywho, this non-artsy gal is loving feeling like she knows what she's doing with color on these pages. And yes, the images you see above are all from me. Yeah, this is like my fridge display.

Coloring Flower Mandalas comes out in August, but you can pre-order it or buy on eReader. My copy is electronic and I love being able to print out a page or two, stash it in my padfolio and have it handy when I need it throughout my work day. It's a great brain refresher. That's my tip for you!

You can purchase your copy through Powells or IndieBound to support VLF.

I have three copes of Coloring Flower Mandalas to give away! Here is how you can enter:

1. Leave a comment with your favorite coloring tool (crayon, chalk, marker, etc) and your email. Without your email I can't tell you if you won!
2. Tag me on Instagram or Twitter with a pic of something you drew, colored, or doodled.
3. Post a pic a pic of something you drew, colored, or doodled on VLF's facebook page.
4. Additional entries if you are following me on Instagram, Twitter or like VLF's facebook page.

Sadly, this giveaway is limited to those with US or Canadian mailing addresses.

All entries need to be in by June 18th.

10 June 2015

Support Women's Sports....Join TakePart.com

As you all know, I'm a big sports fan. I started a Facebook community for people who pledge to attend just one women's sporting event a year during the 2008 Winter Olympics. Since then the issue of supporting women's sports continues to grow, but still a conundrum. I noticed last year Chicago's local ABC outlet began to regularly give our Chicago Sky's (WNBA) score in the highlights. And while other stations do as well, ABC is more likely to show a game clip too. So they are getting the props here today. Occassionaly, our NPR station will mention women's college hoops scores or the Chicago Sky's, but I feel like it is just when there were a lack of men's games the night before.

Currently my family has full World Cup fever. Which is why I am excited to share TakePart.com’s newly launched “Equal Playing Field” campaign. It features an original documentary with US National Women’s Soccer team star and Chicago Red Star Christen Press and interviews with Julie Foudy, member of the 1999 US Women’s World Cup championship team, and produced by Frank Marshall, this mini documentary exposes the challenges that professional female soccer teams endure due to the inability to receive the same funding as professional mens soccer teams.

I truly appreciated this mini-doc not just because I am a fan, but I'm raising a soccer player. When you ask Ella what she wants to be when she grows up, she says, "Professional soccer player." And she means it. While we aren't going all Béla Károlyi on her, we do offer her a lot of opportunities to become a better player. Since I am her mom, she also gets a healthy dose of sports politics. I showed her the mini-doc as soon as I was done watching it. Which was also just hours after Press scored the winning goal during the first World Cup match. TIMING IS EVERYTHING!! Since we do go to a lot of women's sporting events, she sees the crowds. She knows the Bandits don't play in front of tens of thousands of people like the Cubs. Same with the Sky and Bulls. But she also sees how engaged the fans are at these games. Having Christine Press make the economic case for supporting women's sports is exactly what this feminist mama needed.

When I have talked with women sports journalists, they cite the lack of attendance for the lack of media attention. But as Julie Foudy says in the mini-doc, without media attention people don't know there's a team to cheer on. My Chicago Red Stars use to play at the same field as our men's pro team, but after the second league busted, they moved to college stadium. This allows them to have a small crowd, but look huge.

I try to get to at least one Red Stars, Sky, Force and Bandits game every summer, but it's hard with our busy lives. Especially with the short schedule the Force plays. And one year I swear I'll get season tickets to at least one of them!

But first up is a cross-town bout in Chicago roller derby and then we're off to the World Cup. OH YEAH!!!!!!!

07 June 2015

#365FeministSelife Update: Logo & Fundraiser

I did not feel the need to create a logo for #365FeministSelfie until we hit year two. And that was mostly because we were planning two retreats for participants to get together. And now, as we plan for our November retreat in Columbus, Ohio (tentatively scheduled for November 7th ant 8th), it was time for a logo. And here it is.

Since I am not a handy person with a pencil and paper, I needed a lot of help. Emily F. from the #365FeministSelfie community helped take my ideas and sketched them out. I took those sketches to Victoria & Alma at Spark the Creative Agency. It was so easy to work with Victoria and Alma. And back to Emily having the ability to take my "what if it looked like this?" words and draw a road map for Victoria and Alma to follow.

In order to pull off a successful and low-cost retreat in November, we need to fundraise. Cara, one of the leaders of our community, has created a t-shirt fundraiser. We need to sell 100 shirts over the next 10 days in order to have a successful fundraiser. Each shirt is $20 and all profits will go towards covering the cost of the retreat. We successfully held the Portland retreat at no cost to participants, I think we can do the same for Columbus. BUT...they only go to print if we reach the 100 shirt mark.

And no restrictions on who can purchase. Whether you have taken hundreds of selfies with us or just a few, no worries! Heck, even if you are like my daughter and have been in a lot of my selfies, but never taken your own but support the project, grab a shirt.

Thanks to Cara for putting this together!

19 May 2015

Join me for #STEMchat with SciGirls on May 21!

As long-time readers know, my paying job is to support women who are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I often get asked what the magic key or silver bullet is for getting more girls into STEM. While the actual answer is complex and nuanced, when I am talking with parents it usually ends up being, "Let them break things & get dirty." This is why I am excited to invite you to join me for #STEMchat with SciGirls on May 21st about citizen science. I love the tagline, "Do Try This at Home," because that is such a key to the puzzle! Do science at home. Demystify it. You don't have to be a genius to do science. And I'm super excited to be chatting with SciGirls.

Now in its third season, SciGirls features real-life girls and mentors engaging in science, citizen science. As the SciGirls track toads and count clouds, they also hope to inspire SciGirls (and SciBoys) to join the citizen science movement. Citizen science invites children and their families to make key observations as well as record and share data on large-scale research projects run by real scientists. It’s a fun way for the entire family to participate in the scientific process. Some citizen science projects run for so many years, that participation in them can easily become a family tradition.

Speaking of families, PBS Parents has a bunch of STEM-sational resources, including an overview of SciGirl episodes and extension activities you can do at home.

#STEMchat will take place on 5/21 from 9 – 10 PM Eastern.

I'm on an awesome panel of grown-up SciGirls to help lead the #STEMchat on Citizen Science:

@SciGirls, SciGirls is an Emmy Award-winning PBS KIDS TV show, website and outreach program that seeks to change how girls think about STEM.

@CoopSciScoop, Caren Cooper, a bird-loving biologist and blogger who is literally writing the book on citizen science.

@ScienceGoddess, Joanne Manaster, Read Science host, STEM advocate, biology lecturer, and former international model.

@TheSpaceGal, Emily Calandrelli, promoter of science literacy, space exploration and equality. She’s also the host and producer of the Show Xploration Outer Space. Read her STEM Girl Friday Feature.

And @KimMoldofsky, also known as The Maker Mom and founder of #STEMchat. You might also follow her at @STEMchat, which is her default account if she lands in Twitter “jail.”

Spread the news to your STEM-loving friends and colleagues. Share the #STEMchat joy with these sample tweets!

*Join me for #STEMchat on Twitter 5/21 at 9 PM Eastern to talk #CitizenScience with @SciGirls

*Join me for #STEMchat with @Veronicaeye and @SciGirls on Twitter 5/21 at 9 PM!

Kim put together a recap of the twitter chat! 

11 May 2015

Forecasting women’s leadership with Ford’s Chief Futurist

One of the best outcomes from Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” is that the issue of women in leadership has taken center stage in the public conversation. Concepts such as the glass ceiling, the wage gap and gender bias in the workplace have a renewed sense of purpose. What also has renewed activity is the debate over having it all and work/life balance. I got the opportunity to speak to Sheryl Connelly, Futurist for Ford Motor Company. Yes, I got to speak to a woman who is high up on the leadership ladder whose job it is to spirit the future.

First thing's first, what is a futurist? Connelly says, "Well, I am not a fortune teller and I do not try to predict the future. What I try to do is pick up on trends that will be important to Ford’s long term plans." According to Connelly, any organization that does long term planning and strategy is futuring.

Considering that the conversation about women's equality, especially in the workplace and elected positions is always "in the future," why not ask someone who is an expert on trends? Don't we all want to know when we will see enough women in leadership roles to see meaningful chances to the USA towards paid leave, paid sick days and affordable child care? Connelly admits that the USA is behind the curve globally, but sees parallels to marriage equality. Change sometimes looks like it happens overnight, but it never is. "I have two daughters, 11 & 13. I took the 13-year-old to see Arianna Grande. Many people see Grande as an overnight sensation, she is not. We saw her 18 months ago for $25 and this year she sells out a Detroit stadium. Grande worked hard to get to this level. Things do not just happen." Connelly returns to talk about watershed moments and the decades of building blocks in order for marriage equality to be where it is now.

The way she reads the tea leaves, women are on a precipice of change. "Women are outnumbering men in education. In the cycle of a generation or two, women could be the majority of the workplace. As we move from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, what is prized are things that women are really good at." The change is part of a public dialog. Advertising and marketing messages like "Run Like a Girl" are important for girls at a very young age. But Connelly says we need to realize that women's issues are systematic. "Women communicate differently. When you ask men for something they say, 'Consider it done.' Women will say to me, 'I'll do my best.' I see women only apply for jobs if they fit 100% of the criteria. Men do not hold themselves to the same standard." She advocates that we need to be teaching girls and young women to think the same way.

As I consider my own future path, I wanted to know how a futurist plans for her personal path. Turns out she's not very good at it."I'm a busy mom. I'm like the cobbler whose kids have no shoes. I do think about the future of my kids. I do want my children to be generalists and not specialize at five." 

How does a futurist relax and unwind? Like the rest of us by binge watching Netflix. "Also, I am big into family. I have a twin sister and a lot of siblings. My sister lives very close. I also like to escape to quiet places in the world and unplug. You have to take time to enjoy the moment."

And since Connelly is a futurist and seems to be tapped into trends, I had to ask her the big question...Are we ready for a woman president?

"Yes. I also hope by the time my kids are older, that gender, race and other descriptions are a non-issue. We need to focus on who is the best candidate for everything, not just President."

With that I let her get back to figuring out which car we might be buying in 10 years, while I still ponder if we are ready for the world she says is just around the corner.

10 May 2015

Some Mother's Day Writing For You

I made it into the NYTimes, folks! I wrote an op-ed about how the perfect gift for Mother's Day is a selfie. It stems from the fact that I do not have a lot of photos with my mom. Please check it out and share widely.

I also wrote a Mother's Day piece for LatinaMom.me about learning to love Mother's Day again:
It has been 12 years since I've had a mom. It has also been 12 years since I became a mom. The cognitive dissonance can be overwhelming and becomes unbearable as we build up to Mother's Day. My mom died at the start of my third trimester, as I was pregnant with her much-requested first grandchild. And it sucks more and more every Mother's Day. But every year, I also grow to love Mother's Day in a new way.

Soon after my mom's death, I let my subscription to Mother Jones lapse because their renewal notices had marketing copy on the envelopes that read: "Your Mother Wants to Hear from You!" In my head was a litany of curse words about my mother not being able to want much of anything anymore, $%#@#$'ers! This should have been an early warning for the eventual turn of the calendar, which would bring me to not only my first Mother's Day as a mom, but also my first Mother's Day without one.

My husband did his best. He bought a gift and signed the card from our 9-month-old daughter. But inside, I was emotionally unavailable to truly celebrate that moment. When writing this piece, I went back through my blog archives to see what I have written in the past about this awkward relationship I have with Mother's Day and I found a short piece I wrote when my daughter was able to reframe the day about me:
Read the rest at Latinamom.me. 

It is funny that I went years without really talking about losing my mom and then in the last six months I have written about her three times. For some people talking about things is healing. Apparently I need to write about things a lot. Especially since losing my mom impacted so many different parts of my life.

And let's end this by acknowledging the radical origin of Mother's Day!
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
of justice."

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe