Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

29 September 2007

Downside

The downside to blogging for Planned Parenthood?

Having to read the anti's blogs and press releases.

When they asked me if I was familiar with some of the characters on that side, I said yes, but I stay out of that end of the pool. Oh, well. Ignorance isn't always bliss.

28 September 2007

Pro-choice mommy blogger

That's what I am, but you know that. And starting today, I'm over at the Aurora Planned Parenthood blog. Stop by and support the clinic. This is not just a fight in Aurora. This is a national fight that happened to land in Aurora.

And while you're over there, grab yourself a banner for your blog!

X-posted at Chicago Moms Blog


Technorati tags: abortion, pro-choice, Planned Parenthood, feminism

27 September 2007

#14 done - Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters

From the defunct Babes and Books blog where a bunch of friends challenged each other to read twenty books in one summer:


This was yet again, another good book that doubled as a memoir. I think we need to create a new genre of non-fiction/memoir for books like this. Courtney E. Martin uses her own experiences and observations as the base for discussing body image & eating disorders in our country today. She also weaves in a discussion on today’s feminist movement & sexuality.

One thing that I noticed is that Martin & Siegel credit and cite the Woodhull Institute for not only supporting their writing, but also as an example of how feminism should work. You know, good supportive intergenerational mentoring, good supportive writers, and all the happy happy joy joy stuff we all dream about. Hmmm…and I know that my mouth often gets me in trouble, but I have to wonder how wonderful this institute really is and how fabu these women (mentors not Martin & Siegel) really are. Of course, I’ll never know because it’s a lot of freakin’ money to attend one of those retreats! Maybe my years of eye-balling product placement has made me a cynic for big “thank yous” in books.

OK, back to the book.

It was pretty good in laying out the issues. BUT since Martin isn’t an expert, we get a lot of assumptions backed up by citing professionals. My science background makes me leery of being too far from the source. But her writing makes up for it all. She is not a traditional writer - which is why I really liked her writing. When you read this, you’ll swear she’s right next to you telling you all of the information over a cup of mocha.
And that’s where it got hard. All these issues hit so close to my heart & soul that I often had to put the book down for my own sanity. I post-it’d this book to death. Here are some of my favorite passages:
  • (Addressing the criticism that she’s not an expert) The risk of having critics, I realized, could be no greater than the risk of losing more young women - metaphorically or physically. And so I sat down at my computer and did the only thing I know how to do when I am in great pain and feeling powerless: I wrote. (p. xii)
  • Many young women I interviewed admitted that they knew intuitively their mothers hated their own bodies or, worst-case scenario, their own lives..”I think mothers saying lines like ‘my thighs look huge in this’ takes a toll on the daughter because unconsciously you look at yourself and see your mother’s shape and start having the same issues with it, even if you really aren’t built the same way.” (p.45)
  • But for all our twentieth-century savvy, we are still swooning, celebrity-entranced…Even if we intellectually think they are full of shit, pop stars still capture our collective imagination. We like to make fun of them. We like to critique their clothes and their dance moves. And unfortunately, yes, sometimes we still like to emulate them. (p. 125)
Martin attacks the problems acknowledging full well that are “guilty pleasures” are killing us. I’ve heard time and time again over the summer that we need to take a stand & stop buying celebrity magazines. Stop watching entertainment news. Etc. Etc. But we don’t. We are in a time of war, a very depressing war, not just because it is war, but because we were deceived into it. Of course we want to point to BritLindPar and say, “At least we’re not that dumb/skanky/pathetic.”

I do take offense to her observation that her generation is “devoid of grand, sweeping social change.” Martin is 26ish and I think her generation is too young to have a grand sweeping change. I also think they WILL bring about some of the most sweeping change to society since the second wave. The LGBT rights movement will come to fruition under not just the leadership of her generation, but because of the parenting they received from those just ahead of me. I sincerely believe this and that is why the fights we struggle with now will be resolved once the old homophobes die out.

The biggest weakness of this book is that since Martin is still in her 20s, the real analysis ends there too. But I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially women over 30 trying to get a grip on today’s teenagers & girls. It’s a frightening look at our future women and what we might be doing to our own daughters.

20 September 2007

Book Review:: Bob Books

Reposted from my old blog

Flashcards and drills are not a part of our parenting style. As two fairly intelligent people, we assume that our daughter will inherit our smarts. As she grew from baby into her 4-year-old self, it is clear that she's whip smart. No flashcards please! As a child who has always loved books and being read to, we don't want drills to damper that spirit.

Bob Books fulfill both those two requirements AND teach her how to read. These cute and super short books introduce children to letter sounds with ease and repetition. We've only gotten thru the first 4 books (12 total) but the kid loves them. After about 4 go throughs she could read on her own. Admittedly she merely memorized the story, but with careful prompts and encouragement she did learn the words. Less than a dozen times thru & I can honestly say she is reading.

She's a pretty silly child who can't sit still, but the books held her for the 5 minutes it takes to read them. The kid's always looked forward to story time but now she loves reading to us too!

Oh, yes, we love our Bob books! Especially the funky characters.

Disclaimer: I did receive these books free in exchange for a review via MotherTalk.com.

19 September 2007

And what are you for Halloween? A 10-year-old hooker!

Is that what we really want our daughters to be this Halloween?

I have to admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday. What I don't like is that it too has been pornified in recent years and the pornification keeps trickling down to younger and younger kids.

Take this costume for example #1: Major Flirt. You daughter can be sassy, cute, and of course, sexy all at the same time! And please, don't try to tell me that this is the same as a cheerleader costume. The label is FLIRT! Flirts have sexual power. But look through the costume aisle at your local store and you'll see that the costumes are sexed up even for girls. AND also notice the gender line that is clearly drawn. I was in Target last week browsing with my daughter and noticed it oh so well. In the boys aisle you can be a doctor, police officer, and of course your general super heroes and monsters. Girls? Super heroes, check. Monsters, check. Princesses, check. Racist stereotypes*, check. Doctor? Police officer? Construction worker? Not in the house.

And if a pornified Halloween isn't enough for your girl, don't forget to make sure she is silky smooth! Remember Nair ladies? Well they're after our daughters now with a new campaign targeted at 10-15 year olds. Maybe I'm old fashioned and no, it's not just my feminist mama in me, but I didn't get to touch a razor until I was about 12-13. Sure around 10 you start thinking about it, but then every other 10 year old had peach fuzz on our legs. Well, us Latinas had a bit more, but that's another post. There is a whole life of shaving, waxing, and plucking. Why can't we just let our daughters enjoy their few years of not worrying about stubble?

When I rant on about things like this, I also ask you to keep them in context with everything else going on. We have thongs targeted to pre-teens. Thongs were designed for strippers! To get around no nudity laws. We have 8-year-olds hospitalized for eating disorders. All this in a world where rape survivors are still blamed for dressing like sluts. Even 10-year-olds are asking for it.

Yes, dear readers, I'm pissed. Mad as hell and no, I'm not going to take it anymore.

X-posted this at Chicago Moms Blog and Chicago Parent.

* Those are your geisha girl and Indian princess costumes.

Technorati tags: Halloween, costumes, girls, Nair, feminism, pornification

16 September 2007

America at the Emmys

Someone must have hit the tortillas since her Glamour magazine shoot.

Congrats on another Emmy America!

I still love you!!


Technorati tags: America Ferrera, Glamour, body image, feminism, Emmy Awards

15 September 2007

#13 done - The Year of Magical Thinking

From the defunct Babes and Books blog where a bunch of friends challenged each other to read twenty books in one summer:

I’m sitting in my favorite chair writing this while [my daughter] is in her favorite chair, wearing her robe, and playing on her laptop. The idea that one day I may have to pray that she wakes up and regains full use of her body is unthinkable. But that is just what Joan Didion has to do. That she has to do it before and after her husband drops dead at dinner is quite preposterous. I mean, come on…what else can happen? But it’s all true and Didion walks us thru her mind and heart with little fanfare.

I liked this book for its honesty. Losing someone so close to you is hard and in the world we live in, people don’t want to hear the hard icky truth.
 The English social anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer, in his 1965 Death, Grief, and Mourning, had described this rejection of public mourning as a result of the increasing pressure of a new “ethical duty to enjoy oneself…” The contemporary trend was “to treat mourning as morbid self-indulgence, and to give social admiration to the bereaved who hide their grief so fully that no one would guess anything had happened.”
The parts of the book that I really liked were her discussion of what she calls “vortexes.” I call them tangents of my mind, but I like her term too. It’s where you are walking down the street and all of a sudden that song comes blaring out of a passing car. The next thing you know, you’re back in college with that roommate talking about how cool it is to be in our very own apartment. Then you go back to the day you told your parents you were moving out and the pain in their faces. To save yourself from guilt, you remember all the reasons why you had to leave. Then you snap out of it…back to the present.

Didon also covers that great debate in my own head. Can you ever go back to a place that so embodies your lost one? She writes about freaking out in  Boston so soon after her husband’s death. They barely spent time in Boston together. “How could I go back to Paris without him, how could I go back to Milan, Honolulu, Bogota? I couldn’t even go to Boston.”

Her chapter on grief is the most powerful part of this book thou. When I read I use sticky notes to mark passages that I feel make a great point or just well written. Instead I marked  chapter 17. It opens
Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. we might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind…The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place…We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion.
Didion does a good job at identifying all the insanity that runs thru our heads after we lose someone so close. I’m not sure if this book is good for those who haven’t lost someone so close, but for me it was healing. I know that I would recommend that anyone who has, to wait at least that one magical year before reading this book (*cough*Amy). It really revealed to me how many wounds are just open & oozing puss, ones that I made myself forget about. I also revel in books that make me realize that I’m not the only crazy person on the face of the Earth. So thanks Joan for saving me a few sessions in therapy.

10 September 2007

You are invited...

Come Celebrate Chicago Abortion Fund’s
Continuous Growth This Past Year

ANNUAL FALL EVENT

1. Meet new board of directors and staff
2. Hear about our exciting new project “My Voice, My Choice”
3. Enjoy guest entertainers including; Comedian Jessica Halem,
Poets for Choice: AquaMoon Beats, C.C. Carter and e. nina. j
4. Mingle with friends
5. Make Choice Possible

Wednesday September 26, 6-8 pm

DUE TO SECURITY MEASURERS, YOU MUST RSVP BY 9/21/07
PROGRAM WILL BEGIN PROMPTLY AT 6:45PM. SEE INSERT FOR TRAVEL AND PARKING INFORMATION

The Park Shore Condominiums 195 N. Harbor Drive
312.663.0336
or info@chicagoabortionfund.com
make choice possible

Technorati tags: abortion, Chicago Abortion Fund, chicago, feminism

07 September 2007

Erasing America

Have you seen the latest cover to Glamour magazine? It has the fantabulous America Ferrera on the cover. Well, at least half of her. Thanks to Shakes for pointing out the difference in America's recent appearance at the Teen Choice Awards (right) to her magazine cover (left).

I first fell in love with America when I saw her in "Real Women Have Curves." And I love her as Ugly Betty. Each week she shows us that beauty is what is inside, in her heart. A friend sent an email to Glamour and they claim that they didn't airbrush the photo and if we look at the photos INSIDE the magazine, we'll see something different. Thankfully, there is one on their website and I looked. I'm not convinced.

Exhibit A: Their photo inside looks far more natural. Her naturally tan skin skill glows, but not like the cover. Her arms are still thin, but not quite like the cover. Her waist is a bit hidden and her hips are no where to be seen in the other photo.

Exhibit B: The Teen Choice Awards photo. I know she's not standing exactly the same way, but still. Everything looks smaller in the cover photo.

Here's the letter I sent Glamour via email. Their comment page is suspiciously down.
What irony.

For years women and girls have struggled with body images. There are times when people remark that we're seeing a generation of girls wasting away or being erased. Now Galmour has gone and literally erased half of America.

Thank you for giving me something to puke about.

There is no way you can justify or explain away the way that America Ferrera, lovely curvy Latina, looks on your cover compared to her recent appearance at the Teen Choice Awards.

Fess up and just say you airbrushed her away or even that you put her head on another model's body ala Jennifer Aniston a few years ago on Redbook.

As a Latina mother of a daughter, I point to America as a role model. As an example that you can be successful, beautiful and not have arms that look like they can't carry the groceries from the car. Look at the arms you gave her! OMG...

I'll be awaiting an honest response from you.
Why should this bother us as mothers? Because as I said in my letter, we are watching a generation of young women disappear before our eyes. Not just on "Access Hollywood" but in our neighborhoods, our schools, and at the mall.

I received a response from Glamour, the same one my friend got:
Dear Veronica,

Thanks so much for your letter about our October cover photo of America
Ferrera. Let me assure you, we did not digitally slim her; as she mentions
in the interview, she wears a size 6/8 on the bottom, ten on the top. You
are seeing her as she actually appears. That said, we deeply value your
feedback. Be sure to take a look inside at the photos of America and let us
know what you think.

Sincerely,
Emilia Benton
Reader Services Intern
Emilia, I feel for ya sister.

My daughter is 4. I try very very hard not to allow body talk in our home. I scold my partner when he talks about losing weight, I scold myself when I bad talk my body in front of her. I told my family flat-out that there is no talk about bodies. No teasing her that she is skinny. No teasing that she is chubby. And please, no teasing of others while she's with you. I can't shield her from everything, but I want to make our home a safe place. Her body is strong, lean, and did I mention strong? She inherited my thick thighs, but they are powerful. They give her the kick she needs to run circles around others her age.

So Glamour, I challenge you. Release the untouched photos. I know you had to airbrush them to smooth out color. No one's skin is that smooth and glossy. Did you drown her in airbrush tan crap? Something's not right with that photo. If you release them and they don't look like the Faith Hill photos, I'll take this all back.

And yes dear readers, this is going straight back to Ms. Benton.

x-posted at Chicago Moms Blog

Technorati tags: America Ferrera, Glamour, body image, feminism, airbrush

05 September 2007

In my former life

I was a marine biologist. At least that's what I'd like to think.

I spent my sophomore thru senior years of college in the basement of the Field Museum filming fish as they swam. I went to Bermuda for field work, published a paper, presented at a few conferences. Then I failed to get into grad school (long gory story best told over booze). It was a lot of fun and I miss it..a lot. But I'm living a good life and doing some awesome work.

I love reading news about my former mentor and all the kick ass stuff him & his buddies still do. Today Discovery News reports that moray eels have TWO sets of jaws to eat with. The x-ray photo alone is kick ass. And of course, that makes Rita Mehta a kick ass scientist.
See!! I tell ya, science is awesome. So make sure you have your kids study it.

Technorati tags: marine biology, eel, science

04 September 2007

Wooing women with hope instead of fear

On Friday Kimberley Strassel, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, pondered why the GOP isn't out wooing women voters the way she thinks they should be wooing us.
Democrats understand that they need women to offset what tends to be a permanent advantage for Republicans among male voters. Al Gore's 54% women's vote got him a crack at the Supreme Court. John Kerry's 51% women's vote only got him back to the Senate.

A smart Republican candidate would be doing Twister moves to deny Democrats those votes. Yet what's extraordinary is that no GOP contender has yet recognized the huge opportunity to redefine "women's" politics for the 21st century. That's a double failing given that the GOP could win modern women by doing little more than tailoring their beliefs in freer markets to the problems women struggle most with today.

Her two big issues that should be easy wins for the GOP in courting women is the unfair tax structure (one that Linda Hirshman also touts outside the election arena) and flex-time at work. Huh you say? Did you also think that GOPers hated flextime?

Strassel points to a 1997 proposal by then-Senator John Ashcroft, Senate bill 4 entitled the "Family Friendly Workplace Act." Yeah, for me whenever I hear GOP and family friendly together, I think, DANGER WILL ROBINSON! The purpose of the bill sounds good too:
To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide to private sector employees the same opportunities for time-and-a-half compensatory time off, biweekly work programs, and flexible credit hour programs as Federal employees currently enjoy to help balance the demands and needs of work and family, to clarify the provisions relating to exemptions of certain professionals from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and for other purposes.
According to NOW, the power to "pack 45 hours into the first four days of work, then knock off early on Friday to catch Jimmy's soccer match" laid in the hands of the employer NOT the employee and thus there was no guarantee that this flex-time would result in the rosey picture that Strassel paints. Currently the Bush Administration is working to strip most workers of overtime benefits and I would assume that fabu flextime too, if that Ashcroft bill had ever passed. While legislation has often been thwarted, the Bush Admin is working thru EEOC to have rules rewritten.

But Strassel's basic premise is that these are new ideas. They aren't. They are old and there is one good reason, to me, that they remain old to the GOP. They don't give two shits about working families.

Strassel also positions her argument that:
The Democrats' own views of what counts for "women's issues" are stuck back in the disco days [by discussing] the usual tired litany of "equal pay" and a "woman's right to choose..." The rest of the female population has migrated into 2007...But for the 60% of women who today both scramble after a child and hold a job, these culture-war touchpoints aren't their top voting priority. Their biggest concerns, not surprisingly, hew closely to those of their male counterparts: the war in Iraq, health care, the economy.
I say that equal pay and our right to choose is PARAMOUNT to all the other issues.

When a working woman finds herself with a surprise pregnancy she has two choices and only two choices: carry to term or terminate. Does she have health insurance that will provide prenatal care? Allow her to deliver in her hospital of choice? After the baby is born, will the baby have health care? Does she have a job that is paying her enough to cover day care? Perhaps if she was earning that extra 23 cents for every dollar, she might be. That's about where the wage gap is right now and while I'm not an economist, I'd say that is part of the economy.

As for the war, any person can clearly see that if we took just a fraction of the money we're blowing in this war we were lied to about, we'd all have the health coverage we'd need.

So, yes, let's have the GOP try to tackle these issues. Let's see them explain why we can spend a zillion dollars in Iraq each week but New Orleans is still a mess, children die from a lack of dental insurance, and why low-wage mothers have to "choose" between unsafe child care and working to pay the bills.

I'd be very interested in these answers. From both sides.

Technorati tags: politics, Election 2008, GOP, Democrats, Republicans, women, Gender Gap, feminist, NOW

03 September 2007

Are candidate spouses an insult?

Last week the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, sister blog to Chicago Moms Blog, got a lot of press due to one post where Rebecca called out Elizabeth Edwards for pulling the kids out of school to live on the campaign bus. Elizabeth Edwards ended up commenting back on the post (!) and the post got linked all over the blogosphere. Then came Good Morning America's snippet on the throw down. Rebecca turned down GMA's invitation to appear on the show and did state on the SVMB that she post was snarky, but tongue-in-cheek. Now on the CMB, Kim has posted an open invitation to Senator Obama and the Mrs. to meet with the CMB bloggers.

I was discussing the idea of meeting with Michelle Obama with some fellow bloggers and some thought that the idea of meeting with the spouse was kinda an insult. I advocate that the First Lady/Man holds a lot of power that is unspoken.

Hillary really brought this to light with her health care plans and Laura made the biggest impact by using her mantle to get us into a war. Oh, you don't remember that? Back in 2001 soon after the terrorist attacks, Laura went on the radio and TV and talked on and on about how the Taliban were bad men and we needed to rescue the women to Afghanistan and oh, yeah, they flew 3 planes into buildings.

Thus, I believe it is imperative that the spouses of the candidates not only be given a place to speak - which they do - but also for us to really listen to them. Elizabeth Edwards has spoken out to support equal marriage. Don't think that John isn't mostly behind that idea. THEN again we also saw Laura talk about how she supports choice during both (?) elections only to see her husband do everything in his power to dismantle Roe v. Wade. Ah, the old bait & switch.

Either way I do believe that what the candidate's spouse tells us is worth listening to and inviting them to sit down for a cuppa joe.

Technorati tags: obama, edwards, 2008 election, momosphere, elections

01 September 2007

Peel My Love Like an Onion - #12 done!

From the defunct Babes and Books blog where a bunch of friends challenged each other to read twenty books in one summer:

Ana Castillo is one of the funniest writers I have ever read. The ironic thing is that she writes some of the most heart-wrenching stories ever. This is my second Castillo novel this summer. I didn’t plan it out that way, it just happened.


The novel tells the tale of a polio-stricken woman who dances Flamenco, falls in love with two men, and then has to deal with life when polio makes it almost impossible for her to dance anymore. Oh and it’s set in Chicago. Carmen also has to deal with being the only daughter in her pretty typical working-class Mexican family.

Castillo’s ability to describe the truth in life is spot on:
  • You put on your cross-trainers assembled in a foreign land by women and children at slave-wages so you try not think of what you paid for them, and begin to talk the streets of your city at sunset.
  • We couldn’t so much as stand on the lawn for a minute, just pass through quickly on the way to throwing the garbage out in the cans in the alley. You’re nice Mexicans, our land lady would say with a phony smile of old and missing teeth. She distinguished us from the not nice ones I suppose by always praising us for making ourselves as invisible as possible.
Castillo’s feminism is even better. At one point Carmen is teaching suburban women how to dance and she makes this observation:
Look at me…I cupped her chin and her eyes went left, right, and then down. Look at me, I said again. When she did I let go of her chin…You keep that pose when you are on the street…when your husband comes home. You keep your head up. Dignity is the sexiest thing a woman can learn.
While I’ve never read a drugstore romance novel, somehow I imagine that this romance novel kicks their asses. I never thought that I’d enjoy a romance novel the way this one plays out.