Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

31 March 2009

Magazine Review: Brain, Child (Spring 2009)

Are you a mom whose brain cells haven’t all died? Are you tired of 7 Fun Ways to Make Your Child Gifted/a Pro Athlete/Chess Master articles? Rather looking for say 60 pages to keep your smarts? Then grab yourself a copy of Brain, Child.

Brain, Child calls itself “the magazine for thinking mothers” and they ain’t kidding.

The Spring 2009 issue took forever for me to read because after each article I had to put the issue down, stew in my thoughts on the subject, reflect, and repeat for a few hours to a few days. Drugs, sex, swearing and not living with your children – what say you? Oh, don’t fret, there is an article on fashion. But instead of a spread on what is hot for the pre-tween set, we get an engaging piece from Mylisa Larsen about what she learns about fashion from her four-year-old daughter. For part of this essay, I thought that perhaps I wrote it in my sleep & sent it in. Larsen & I share free-spirited girls who like to thumb their nose at fashion rules by matching stripes of one color with plaid of another on top of a butterfly print. Larsen experiments with fashion after years of belonging to the “comfortable shoe club” with amazing, yet predictable results.

If I had to label this issue, I’d label it “The One with My Friends in it.” Katy Read’s essay on non-custodial moms is heartbreaking yet enlightening to a world that baffles me, yet I also understand. Rebekah Spicuglia, whose story was also told in a WMC op-ed, summarizes her decision to not have her son live with her. She opens her heart and decides what is best for her son, not her, not what others expect her to do, but honestly what is best for her son at that moment in time. Spicuglia is representative of why some women do opt not to have custody of their child(ren) after splitting with the father – they are in school, they need to focus on reentering the workforce and so on. They aren’t out “finding themselves,” rather they are being responsible to themselves and their child(ren). Jill Miller Zimon talks about why noncustodial moms are a growing population and that society needs to recognize them for what they are – moms. Other friends mentioned in this issue include Devra Renner, who is discussing the hope military families have that the Obama administration will help them out on a variety of issues, including some that may benefit all families and PunditMom having an ad on the back cover.

Johanna Bailey and Joan Marcus both muse about whether or not exposing your child(ren) to something “adult” (drugs and swearing, respectfully) is harmful or not. Bailey makes a strong case that talking frankly and vividly (with all the details her step-father did with her in an attempt to scare her) with children about your past drug use could have a reverse effect. She speaks from hard-earned experience. Marcus’s father was the stereotypical swearing sailor. She grew up with not just his swearing, but watching Rocky Horror and appears to be a well-adjusted adult. I do wish that Marcus had explored the difference between general cursing (shit, fuck, hell) to racist and misogynistic epithets. She touches on it, but then lets it go. I say that because I ponder the same thing. Is it so wrong for my daughter to hear me cursing out CNN, yet again, versus hearing hateful words come from my mouth? OK, you could make a case that calling the latest GOP talking head an asshole is hateful, you know what I mean. I also wonder how many times Marcus will get asked to comment on High School Musical versus Grease.

As you can see from my profiling barely half of the pieces in this issue, this is not your usual mother’s magazine. I have to admit that when I first picked up Brain, Child after I had my daughter, I felt intimidated by the pieces. Gone are the smiley baby pictures on every other page. In its place is real, hard, cold, loving content meant to make us think. Thus for the newbie readers, go grab a copy and go slowly. You have three months to read each issue before the next one shows up on your doorstep or your bookstore. If your local bookstore doesn’t carry it, ASK for it.

AND if you want to subscribe (I’m going to finally do it!) there’s a neat package deal in the magazine. You can sign up on your own for $19.95 (newsstand is $23.80) for a full year. OR you can find three momma friends, subscribe together and get each subscription costs only $14. That’s a medium cuppa soy chai in savings! And I do believe this offer is only good with the special form in the magazine.

Disclaimer: I can’t recall how my relationship with Brain, Child began, but I’m sure they pitched me the idea of reviewing them on my blog and I said yes. The issue I read was a review copy. Future copies will be paid out of my own jean pocket.

28 March 2009

My Green Thumb Experiment - Planting

And when I say experiment, I mean it. If a green thumb is what people have when they have the abililty to grow things, I have an icky brown-yellow of a dead wilted plant. So when I received an email from Cook's Garden I hesitated. I think the idea of gardening is awesome and I think more people should do it. And more people are! But who am I to tell people what seeds to get & all that jazz?

Instead I emailed back and said, "What if you sent me a pack of seeds to experiment with and I'll blog it?" And obviously they said yes.

I received one packet of Burpee's Money Garden seeds. They are called the Money Garden because if you spend $10 on the packet you can grow up to $650 worth of veggies. Now I live in Chicago and am lucky to have a backyard, but I'd have to turn my entire backyard into a garden to get $650. I figure we might get $150 worth of veggies with the tiny amount of seeds we planted.



We also got a packet of Kaleidoscope Carrot Mix -- multicolored carrots! Our daughter is super jazzed about these. She really loves gardening.

Last weekend was almost perfect for mid-March so we ended up doing our planting then. I consulted with Cinnamon, who along with Andrew, grows her own herbs & other goodies. She had read in the Chicago Tribune a trick that you make these paper cups to start your seedlings out in (see photo). Then after a few weeks you transplant them to the garden -- I assume after the last frost. See, this is why I need a consultant.

So the seeds are planted in their lil cups and then they have been placed in a window garden box so we can keep them outside, but bring them inside when needed.

If they survive until the last frost, we'll move them into the garden! If not, I guess we might try again...We do have plenty of seeds.

27 March 2009

I'm off to WAM!

I have a few posts scheduled for my absence, but if you aren't already following me on Twitter, why aren't you? haha! Instead of my usual "I'm craving chocolate" posts, I'll be Tweeting from WAM! this weekend. I won't live tweet everything, but some good highlights. Later!

26 March 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

I have a new piece over at RH Reality Check on a pending bill here in Illinois:

Illinois could be on the verge of passing one of the most progressive reproductive health bills, the Reproductive Health and Access Act, any state has seen in a long time. HB 2354, now being considered by the full House, must be on the verge of passage, because the anti-choice voices in the state are throwing around lie after lie in any venue that they can find themselves in. Reports that children are coming home with flyers asking their parents, including at least one Illinois State Representative, to oppose the bill, are coming in from around the state. One elected official was called out during Sunday services.
There's also a Facebook group for the bill, so please join! And invite others!

Madama Ambi interviewed me for her podcast show, Interview4Obama. It turned out pretty good, IMO, especially since it was our second attempt at this. The first time we tried a video podcast, but the sound was horrible and somehow my image was lost. Oh well!

Working as a Professional Feminist

This post is for the Fem2.0 "What is work?" blog carnival.

I've never stopped to think of what work means to me. It's just one of those words that you take for granted. But as I stop to ponder my relationship with the word, it's amazing.

As a Latina of Mexican heritage, work is not a four-letter word. Lazy is. Despite the stereotype of Mexicans & our siestas, we work hard. In fact I didn't know what a siesta really meant until I got to Spanish class in 7th grade. A siesta in my household meant taking five minutes for some iced tea. I haven't studied our relationship with work to know if Latin@s are taught to work hard to fight against the stereotype or we just work hard naturally. Pollo - huevo. Either way, it was drilled in me early on that we work hard for what we have. And that continues to this day.

I know that I am privileged in a way that sometimes overshadows my very humble lower income background. I have a bachelors and a masters degree. I am married to a man who is also a college-educated Latino. We met before either of us had our degrees. Considering that only 12% of Latinos have college degrees (pdf!) I would say that's quite a privilege in this economy.

I am mostly privileged in that I call myself a professional feminist because I have a job that allows me, wants me to do feminist work every day and I love it. Yes, it's work in that there are days where the clock just creeps by. It's work that I have to raise money so that I can do work. My salary might be paid by the state, but the programs I plan are paid by funds I raise. It's also very hard work getting students to come out for a program that they request, but somehow life gets in the way of them attending. I like to describe my job as being a grassroots organizer for women majoring in science & engineering. I have to herd them and sometimes bribe them with pizza. It's hard work.

I also have to break their hearts and that's really the hardest part. When a students asks me why we don't have infant care. When a student asks me why a general science course is so "hard" and doesn't understand why a 50% is passing in college. The cold truths of academia breaks some of them and my job is to tell it like it is, but also instill some hope that if we all work together, maybe, just maybe things will change.

And that's why I call myself a professional feminist. I'm not professional in that I'm churning out book after book. I'm not professional because I get paid thousands of dollars to speak (althou if you want, just ask!). I'm professional in that I get paid to work for educational and economic equity by supporting young women who want to be scientists and engineers. Some days that menas helping them network. Some days that means seeing yet another student tell me how her professor let the men in the class "be boys" during lecture.

I'm a campus feminist, but I'm sending my students out into the world and arming them with feminist tools.

Now as a new freelance writer/pro-blogger, work is different. That work looks frivolous to many. Images of sitting in a wifi'd cafe come to mind and honestly, that is where some of my best work is born. But some days it is harder than herding undergraduates. It's almost like always being in graduate school. Research, citations, editing and then waiting for validation in comments or emails from readers. Or the rejection email. It's still work, but it's invisible to most.

Yet the most invisible of all my work is mothering.

Oddly it is the work that I think moms get the most recognition from.

People may ask how I do so much or give me kudos for doing so much, but rarely do people want to hear the gory & hilarious details of mothering. Currently I've discovered that if I fall bask to sleep after I wake up my daughter, she wants to surprise me by getting dressed & washed up. This allows her to come, wake ME up and then I say, "Oh! You're dressed!" This does nothing to speed things up in the morning, but it does bring the "Come on!" and screaming down to almost nothing. And honestly, that's worth the extra 5 minutes we're always running late by.

Mothering is a lot of work and the emotional toll is the hardest part.

Do I think we should get paid for mothering? No. Do I think we should have paid leave, paid sick days and affordable child care? Yes. There's a world of difference between being paid to have children and having a society that values all children.

So what is work?

Work is the stuff we do each day for our loved ones, to pay the rent and in order to take a vacation once every few years. Work is work. You know what it is because it makes you sweat.

24 March 2009

Movie Review: Sunshine Cleaning

WARNING: This is a chick flick.

But the good kind! So dudes, forget what I just said.

This is a movie about relationships, mostly between sisters, but also between a dad and his girls, a mom and her son and between a missing mom and the girls she left behind.

It's a chick flick in the best sense of the term.

It's also a movie about expectations...one we have for ourselves, ones we think others have for us and how we react to those.

It's hard to review this movie without giving too much away.

What I can say is that this movie made me laugh as much, if not more, than it made me cry.

The film was released in NY and LA two weeks ago then in San Diego; Phoenix; San Francisco; Seattle; Portland; Denver; Minneapolis; Chicago; Detroit; Washington, D.C; Boston; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Dallas; and Houston last weekend. It opens everywhere on March 27.

If you care about women-made movies (two women has leads, woman screenwriter and a woman director) then go see this movie. Hell, even if you don't but want to see a movie that doesn't blow everything up, go see Sunshine Cleaning.

23 March 2009

Book Review: Supergirls Speak Out by Liz Funk

Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls could be loaned out at preschool or kindergarten orientation. It should be on hand for all elementary school teachers and administrators. Reading the stories inside is one warning shot after another to parents, teachers & others in our society who keep telling our kids, girls and boys, that if you don't do well in elementary school, you can't get into the top high school and then you might as well start picking out safe schools for college. I go on a lot about being in the Chicago Public School system, but it's true. That's the name of the game. Growing up in the suburbs in a one high school district, it was more about making sure you did well in elementary so you got into at least the honors track in middle/high school. So there is a lot of pressure to get kids going on the right foot & I'm all for that - except that subtle & not-so-subtle messages we give kids about screwing up (getting a B) in 3rd grade ruining their college hopes.

Funk agrees that there is a hook-up culture that is running rampant and talks about seeing it first hand. I have to say that I'm still leary that this phenomena is actually happening, especially when one quotes Laura Sessions Stepp as an expert.

As her first book, Funk has sought to expose what some say is the ugly under belly of feminism's daughter - trying to do it all, be good, sexy & perfect. I do think that many of feminism's messages have been heard wrong, poorly stated and that any movement has negative outcomes. But I believe that the fact that girls today still think they need to be perfect & "good" means that feminism still has a long way to go at breaking gender stereotypes.

Supergirls isn't as good as You're Amazing in talking to girls about the issue. I'd say that Supergirls is more for parents than the girls themselves. Maybe buy them together and give your daughter Mysko's book while you keep Funk around to keep your dreams for your daughter in check.

You can purchase Supergirls at an indie bookstore, thru Powell's or borrow it from your local library.

This review was cross-posted at Feminist Review.

19 March 2009

And Coquí points the way (aka more on Dora)

My Dora watching started way before my daughter came along.

One day I was flipping around the TV channels and stopped on a cartoon of a Latina. A Latina that looked like my sister-in-law. My husband & I quickly got her son, our nephew, hooked on Dora. Success! Thus we knew that Dora would have a place in our life.

I've seen and enjoyed more Dora than an adult woman should admit to, but I have. I remember that my husband & I were fixated with where does Dora live? As Latin@s of Mexican decent, we always jump to Mexico first. But it was the episode with El Coquí that did it for me. One quick web search for the Coquí turned up Puerto Rico. This made sense with the lush jungles and forests that Dora & Boots spent 22 minutes discovering.

Part of the press release on New Dora that hasn't gotten a lot of buzz is that Dora & family are moving on up to the big city!

As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look.

This of course explains why Dora has to ditch poor Boots.

But it is also ironic that Mattel & Nick have moved Dora from the safety of rural Puerto Rico to San Juan? Why is it ironic?

It was in 2005 that Mattel, thru it's American Doll enterprise, moved a teen Latina from inner city Chicago to the safety of the suburbs:
On Tuesday, around 50 students from Rudy Lozana Leadership Academy picketed American Girl Place, demanding the company apologize for depicting their neighborhood as crime-ridden in the latest Marisol Luna book, released along with the newest doll in the American Girl series.

Has gentrification made big cities safe enough for our heroine to live in?

Safe or not, clearly Mattel has struck out again on trying to rope in Latinas with a tween doll. In the comments at Feministing, where they quoted my Dora post, commentors were asking why Mattel just didn't invent an older sister or cousin. The problem is that Dora does have an older cousin - Diego's sister Alicia. She would be an excellent tween doll. But Mattel knows something about spin-off dolls. Do girls go ga-ga over Skipper or Midge? No. It's all about Barbie. And Dora is money, not Alicia.

If Mattel is reading this, invite me over to a testing center. Let me, my husband and our 5-year-old a chance to check out New Dora. If she's as girl power as you say she is, I want to see. Honestly. I don't trust you to do this right, but if you did, I'll admit it.

16 March 2009

Why Mattel & Nick have it wrong

Mattel finally let us in on how the new Dora will look. I have to admit that she doesn't look as bad as I thought she would.

She looks like almost any 10-year-old you would see running around this world. If this was the image for a new cartoon with a smart and adventurous Latina as the lead, I think we'd have a party to celebrate. But it's not. It's our dear beloved Dora the Explorer.

Mattel & Nick are upset at us moms for attacking the tweening of Dora:

"I think there was just a misconception in terms of where we were going with this," Gina Sirard, vice president of marketing at Mattel, says. "Pretty much the moms who are petitioning aging Dora up certainly don't understand. ... I think they're going to be pleasantly happy once this is available in October, and once they understand this certainly isn't what they are conjuring up."

But even with a nice drawing of New Dora, I'm still not happy with this move.

First, New Dora will be computerized and one of the options will be to change her eye color. As the #1 Latina role model for girls, I think that it's inappropriate for the doll to be able to change its eye color. The dominant standard for beauty is still blond with blue eyes. There is a classic race experiment that was recreated in 2006 where black girls preferred white dolls. Is there a chance we are sending a message to the Latinas playing with New Dora that they should also want to change their eye color? (Yes, I know not all Latinas have cafe brown eyes, but Dora does.)

Second, Boots gets the boot. Dora has grown up and ditched her childhood friends for a gaggle of tween girls. Up until now most of Dora's friends have been boys - Boots, Tico, Bennie and even Swiper, who displays classic crush signs by always annoying Dora - but once she hits tweenage, she's all about the girls? Why couldn't Dora at least keep Boots as her BFF and add a few new girls to the picture? Why not Isa at least? I also admit that the first thought of Dora & gals is gossipy, mall-going-gals. Hopefully Dora & gang will be more Traveling Pants than Gossip Girl.

Third, the shoes. Yes, they are cute, but they are not adventurous shoes. Nancy Drew wore loafers. Sally Brown wore tennis shoes.

I freely admit that I'm making all these assumptions by taking in the world around our daughters and leaping. The same world that pushes our girls to rip out their pubic hair before it's fully grown in, the same world that is helping to push eating disorders from high school to grade school, the same world that says that 10 is the new 15, which is the new 22. The sexualization of our daughters can not be ignored. We must be on guard.

Nickelodeon and Mattel say that as part of unrelated research, they found parents wanted a way to keep Dora in their children's lives and have their daughters move on to a toy that was age appropriate.

What Mattel & Nick are doing is feeding our need to keep our girls as young as possible with the theory that our 6-year-olds will want an older Dora. I'm sure some will. Heck, I'm almost certain mine will.

But the real question is why do we want our kids to clutch to Dora until college? Well because we see what lurks in the other parts of the toy aisles. The dolls-we-don't-mention-and-walk-fast-past. We see how even girl clothes are snug and form fitting. That their clothes don't seem to be made for playing, rather posing.

And that's what Mattel and Nick don't get.

The outrage is not just about Dora, it is because we know that Dora is the safe one. The good girl. The toy and cartoon that we haven't had to monitor. Any tampering with our Dora rocks our world. If Dora isnt' safe, what the hell will we do?

The outrage is powered by pent up outrage over the sexualization of our daughters, of their dolls and their clothing.

The outrage is far more than just tween-ifying Dora. It is about all the other small things that inch our daughters closer to 90210 and further away from cuddling with us on the couch with the Backyardigans. It'll happen in its own time...if society let it happen in its own time.

Thanks to The Unexpected Twists & Turns, Feministing, Boston.com, Greg Laden's Blog, Alas, a blog & Metafilter for the linky love. Welcome new readers! I've also added a Dora tag to all my Dora posts for easy access to all my other Dora rantings.

13 March 2009

What Should Sarah Palin Do?

Clearly Sarah Palin wants more out of her fifteen minutes of fame. Recently she even appointed a woman who use to volunteer for Planned Parenthood to the Alaska Supreme Court. Is this a sign that Palin isn't as right-wing as she showed during the campaign? If so should we take comfort in that or take that as a sign she's just another pandering politician?

But news broke a few days ago that Palin's daughter, Bristol, broke up with her finance and the father of her child. Rumors have been flying, tabloids chock full of half-truths and who comes out to set the record straight? SARAHPAC.

What the fuck?

I echo Jill & Gloria's opinion that Bristol is a big girl, she can talk to the press herself. She was fine in her interview with Greta and I'm sure she can handle a gaggle of media hounds. All she has to do is make a short statement and then walk away. I'd love to see her come out and give the finger to the media. She's just a kid who is trying to figure out this life of hers.

Many of us half-joked that Obama's win was also Bristol's win. That if McCain & Palin had won, there would had been a wedding. Now Bristol is free to make her own decision. Hopefully she has always been free to make those decisions.

But what of Sarah? Is her attempt to stay in the public eye hurting Bristol? Should she take Bristol into account before calling for a press conference? Is there a way for a mother to hold a public job like Palin does AND respect your daughter's privacy in a tough time? Where does Mother Sarah end and Governor Palin start?

Maybe this is the time for a family vacation to somewhere warm and sandy for some R&R, family bonding, hell whip out the board games.

I wish Bristol much luck in finding her footing.

10 March 2009

National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers

Considering that my post from last year got two comments from the same anti recently I think that this year I will focus on why we mark this day. Why March 10th?

Dr. David Gunn

[On] March 10, 1993 [was assassinated] when a lone assassin, drunk on the vitriolic rhetoric of spite-filled anti-abortion and church leaders, shot him three times in the back as he tried to enter a clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Dr. Gunn was the first, but not the last, casualty in America's undeclared civil war.

President Clinton's response:
I was saddened and angered by the fatal shooting in Pensacola yesterday of Dr. David Gunn. The violence against clinics must stop. As a nation committed to rule of law, we cannot allow violent vigilantes to restrict the rights of American women. No person seeking medical care and no physician providing that care should have to endure harassment, threats, or intimidation.
Today we would be more correct to call Gunn's assassination as an act of terrorism. One that was repeated six more times in the United States. Terrorism that occurred in homes and at work places. Terrorism that are committed by fellow Americans. Dr. Gunn was a simple man providing health care to women.

As the bumper sticker says, don't believe in abortion? Don't have one.

In today's Chicago Tribune it is pointed out that reproductive health services is suffering from the economy:

As the economy worsens, providers of reproductive services say they are fielding more calls from distraught women facing difficult decisions about pregnancies they didn't plan and can't afford.

The interviews also suggest that more women are struggling to afford contraception and that, in some cases, they are risking their physical and emotional health by delaying abortion procedures for weeks as they seek a way to pay the cost.

Abortion is not an option that women seek out because it is enjoyable, it is a survival decision. 60% of women who have abortions already have children. They know what they are doing and don't need to be shown ultrasounds or protected by Supreme Court justices. Even women who haven't given birth know what is happening.

And every year I say thank you to those who provide a needed health procedure.

Anti comments will be deleted.

The photo is from the Feminist Majority and includes a personal hero & friend, Jeanne Clark

09 March 2009

Book Review: Returning to My Mother's House by Gail Straub

Having lost my mother at a young age, I thought I would appreciate this book more. Perhaps I need to be older. Perhaps I knew already how much my mom had given up early in her life.

Returning to My Mother's House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine by Gail Straub is not a bad book, it's just not totally for me. It could be for you thou and I do believe that.

Gail has done some amazing things with her life, especially the sheer number of women she has helped take control of their lives. You can tell that from this book. You can also tell that she learned a lot from reviewing her mother's life.

That's what the book is about. Gail traces her mother's path from a free-spirited artist to a suburban mom caught in the "Catching up with the Jones" race. It doesn't take place in the 1990s where many of us my age might think this race began, not even in the greedy 1980s. It happens in the picture-perfect 1950s.

The book is something of a mystery as well. Gail must piece together her mom's live from her memories and the memories of others. Did her mother lose a piece of herself by trying to be like everyone else? Did second-wave feminists make a mistake by spurning feminine ideas for the rat-race of pro-woman life? And are we today competing ourselves into the ground? Do we even know that we're competing? Perhaps not with our neighbor, but with some high ideal that we'll never reach?

It was a touching read, but I feel like I didn't get the message that Gail had hoped I would get. Perhaps I'm too attached to my hamster wheel. And that's not sass talking either. I've run from the feminine my whole life that I don't think I'm ready to embrace it the way that Gail wants me to do. Yes, ironic for the gal who is a tree-hugging goddess worshipper.

You can get Returning to My Mother's House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine from an independent spirited bookstore or Powell's.

OR you can comment below and you'll be entered in a giveaway of my copy. Believe me, I treat all my books nicely. Enter by Sunday March 15th for a chance at your own copy.

08 March 2009

The Slut-ification of Dora is now complete

Over two years ago I picked up on a warning that Hoyden About Town posted about: Dora was growing up. She wasn't growing up in the Jodi Foster way. She wasn't packing her beloved BackPack for Yale, UCLA or Evergreen. She was thinning out and getting sexy.

Mattel, the makers of all things Dora (except the ones at the flea market), has said:

As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look. What’s more, she now has a rich online world in which girls can explore, play games, customize, and most importantly solve mysteries with Dora and her new friends. Adding to the play value, Dora’s online world is interactive with the new doll line.
Mattel & Nickelodeon somehow think that if Dora grows up with the audience, that they won't lose market share to a certain doll who is celebrating her 50th birthday. What is scary about this change is the Dr. Frankenstein aspect of the new "interactive" Dora:

By plugging the doll into the computer, girls can access Dora’s brand-new interactive online world. This exciting innovation in computer-connected play offers girls a unique interactive experience: as girls are playing online they can customize their doll and watch as she magically transforms right before their eyes. For example, by changing Dora’s hair length, jewelry, and eye color on screen, the Dora doll magically changes as well.

YOU GET TO CHANGE DORA'S EYE COLOR!! Don't like her Latina cafe colored eyes? No problem. I wonder how long it will take for Mattel to offer Dora red highlights or even going blond so she can look like Shakira.

Now we, parents & the media, can all sit on our hands and blame Mattel & Nick for taking our doe-eyed Dora and turning her into a Latina Gossip-Girl, but you better take that finger and point it at yourself if you've ever:
  • Taken your 3-7 year-old-girl for a make-over at one of those stores that drowns the girl in glitter, gives them a mani-pedi and helps them "discover" the joys of being a girl;
  • Bought your 3-7 year-old anything with Hannah Montana or High School Musical;
  • Bought your 3-7 year old clothes that were made with high schoolers in mind.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I think you get the idea.

I'm not the perfect mom, but I've kept these issues in the fore-front of my mind for much longer than I've been a mom. Much to the chagrin of friends & family who buy my 5yo daughter things that are too mature for her, I have kept the 2-year ban on all things Dora that falls in the sexy column. I want my 5yo to enjoy her childhood and grow up as slowly as possible. I've seen the looks I get when I say that I don't let her watch High School Musical or other shows like that.

But you know what...I was prepared for the slut-ification of Dora.

We can't expect to buy our 5-7-year-old girls media & clothing meant for older girls and not see a market ripple effect. Mattel & Nick NEED to let Dora grow up to have any access to our girls who skip "American Doll" and go right into the 10-is-the-new-17-aisle.

Did you really think anything good would come from Dora trading in Backpack for an "electronic adventure set" that contains "a Play Cellphone, Comb, Bracelet, Heart shaped bag and Earrings?"

Yes, I had dress-up things too, but Dora was supposed to be different and we all took that for granted. We thought we could always have Dora there to resuce our daughters from the clutches of the other crap out there. She'd be there when we tired of seeing yet another starlet on the cover of FHM. She'd pop out each time our kindergartener said that "that's a boy thing!"

Are you finally ready to get off your hands and this time WE rescue Dora? I hope so.

And to Mattel & Nick: If you're going to let Dora grow up and get all sexy, I have a few suggestions on appropriate growing-up Dora sets:

  • My first period: Boots alerts Dora of a chocolate stain on her skirt. Backpack to the rescue! Pads, tampons & pain reliever!
  • HPV shot: Mami takes Dora to get her HPV test, but not before a long debate on whether it is safe or not;
  • Space camp Dora: Just like Tish in "Space Camp," Dora heads off to sharpen her science skills wearing fashionable (althou embarrassing in 20 years) outfits;
  • My first trip to the OBGYN: While Dora is going to wait for sex, she does need to visit the OBGYN/midwife/Planned Parenthood so she can know what the hell is happening to her body and how she is in charge of her body.
And maybe, maybe Dora does need to have sex in high school. She can be in control of her sexuality and sluff off the SLUT label that so many Latinas get, whether or not we're having sex.

And Dora: It's not me, it's your makers. I still love you & your spunky ways. But I can't let my daughter join you in your new adventure. But we'll see you in re-runs. xoxo, your best mama friend, Veronica.

04 March 2009

Is the machine stronger than Netroots?

Yesterday's special election for Illinois' 5th Congressional district proved one thing - You better have a machine in place before even considering running for office in Chicago.

The top three vote getters on the Dem side (it's a Dem district, no GOP candidate got 1,000 votes) are well established politicians who obviously have a machine behind them. Whether it is a Daley machine, a Stroger machine or whatever you want to call it, they have a solid base. Feigenholtz spent the most money, including $100,000 of her own, to come in 3rd.

But what has me really thinking this morning is that Netroots darling Tom Geoghegan came in a woeful 7th with only 6% of the vote. He had some superstar endorsements, but apparently no army to get the vote out. OK, no one really got the vote out, but Quigley won with more than 20% of those voting, which is larger than most pundits thought was needed back in Decemeber. There was talk that even 10% might win this baby because of the sheer number of candidates.

Thus I want to ask: If the Netroots helped propel Obama to the White House, how do we take that and relocate it locally? Is the Netroots just that? Only on the net? Is it a method for national progressives to rally together in a virtual room to affect change? What do we need to do at the local level to make change happen?

That shouldn't be seen as a slam on Quigley. I know he's going to be a fine Congressman. But in his victory speech last night he said:

"After all the recent embarrassments, this was the first chance that the voters had to voice their desire for change and they spoke loud and clear," Quigley told the Tribune. "They came through for me, and now I have to come through for them."

What we should really look at is the dismal turn out...that's the real message voters in the 5th sent. That they are so sick of politics, even this race couldn't get them to stand in line for 5 minutes. The polls were that empty my friends, 5 minutes is all it would have taken to vote. The fact that the plurality of voters went with Quigley does say something, that he has crafted his reformer message well. I hope he delivers on that message in DC, but the truth is that Congressmen & women need to bring home a lot of bacon to keep getting elected, it's hard to reform that.

Carol Marin is bit more optomistic about what Quigley's win means to local politics.

In a district the Machine has controlled since 1958 -- except for two aberrant years -- with congressmen named Rostenkowski, Blagojevich and Emanuel, the 5th was the ultimate insider's seat.

What exactly did an outsider like Quigley have that would change that?

Voter rebellion.

**snip**

Though his opponents -- some of them -- tried to paint Quigley as an un-reformer, the small number of voters who turned out Tuesday were highly educated on the issues. And they knew that in a large -- and largely talented -- crew of candidates, Quigley, as a commissioner on the Cook County Board, had been one of the lone voices raised in opposition to the patronage-clogged, outrageously inefficient government run by Board President Todd Stroger. And that Stroger had been the candidate handed to us by party bosses.

Yes, this was just the primary . . . and now Quigley must face Republican Rosanna Pulido and the Green Party's Matthew Reichel on April 7.

And yes, if Quigley wins again next month, the same ward bosses he humiliated in this election will still get to pick his County Board replacement.

But they would be wise to tremble just a little.

Because the earth beneath their feet just moved.


She knows far more than I so I'll take her word that this is a very good thing. It still bothers me that five years after Howard Dean sparked the Netroots and all the money poured into certain Netroot websites, that they can't do better than 7th in a wide-open race. Is it them? Is it Chicago?

There's a lot of cleaning up to do in Chicago, the question is who is going to do it and how.

Book Review: Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo

I think the glue gun is one of the best inventions EVER!

So imagine the glee when I saw Crafty Chica tweet "who wants to review my book?" Oh hellz yes!

Double that when I ripped open a package and held the book in my grubby wannabecrafty hands?

Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo is every wannabe-crafty-glitter-loving-glue-gun-toting dream.

Crafty Chica starts off my giving you a Crafty 101 lesson and even what to look for in a sewing machine. She then gives you a bunch of patterns & guides that look pretty simple, not too time consuming and many are even kid-friendly. Which is good because this chica has little time for big projects (see my last post) and has a chica chica who always wants to help.

Get your craft on at an indie bookseller or Powells!

03 March 2009

Book Review: Slob Proof by Debbie Wiener

I am a slob.

When I was pitched Slob Proof! Real-life design Solutions by Debbie Wiener to review, I said YES! In my head lay plans to re-do the kid's closet, which is such a mess that it's pretty pathetic. A certain organizing store did send me plans, but I still need to actually go buy the materials and make it happen. I also have plans to turn my home office into more of a sitting room since most of my work happens at the kitchen table or on the couch since getting a laptop.

This book didn't give me the answers I was hoping BUT it did a hell of a lot more.

What Wiener does is answer a lot of the questions you think you should know already, but are afraid to ask such as:

  • What should I look for in a couch besides the color and comfy level?
  • I need to replace my lighting, what should I do?
  • How do I choose paint colors?
The next time I head to a DIY/decorating store or the home of cheap but cute furniture, I'm so bringing this book.

Now to get moving on the kid's closet. She has a lot of clothes & books that need a storing!

Get your decorating act together thru an indie bookseller or Powells.

02 March 2009

Book Review: One Big Happy Family edited by Rebecca Walker

What is family?

That's a question that I think about quite often. My family - father & sisters - live in another state. But when I was emailing last night about having a potluck dinner in a few weeks, I said "having dinner with family is down time!" And I mean it. More often than not, we are choosing and crafting our own families. We aren't restricting ourselves to those we share DNA with, but opening up to those we depend on daily to get thru this journey called life.

The 18 stories in One Big Happy Family prove that the definition of family is fluid.

Dawn Friedman (one of my most favorite bloggers) tells the tale of the open adoption of her daughter, Madison. Honestly it's a tale I read in real time on her blog, but one that still has me going thru half a box of tissue. Dawn's hopes and fears for the adoption are so palpable. While open adoption, especially as open as Madison's is, isn't for everyone, I do think that Dawn gives some greata advise for anyone considering adoption:

Adoption social workers say that every woman needs to say hello to her baby before she can know if she can say good-bye.

While our agency allowed "matches" as early as the seventh month, they stressed to us that a match was nothing more than a woman expressing her right to consider an adoption plan. It was not the promise of a baby, it was not a guarantee that we would be parents again.

Suzanne Kamata's story of creating family in another country with traditional family rules is one for everyone with an in-law story. It's witty, heart-wrenching and somehow you end up with a smile at the end. You'll also never look at your Wii the same again.

What would you do for your BFF? Would you marry him? That's what Liza Monroy does to keep her gay male BFF from having to return home to an ultraconservative country. This married chick relished that it's not just her "traditional" marriage that endures the debate over whose turn it is to do the dishes. Ah, love and marriage.

Paula Penn-Nabrit pens an essay that voices so many concerns that are rarely expressed. What do we do, as a society, with the families of color who are, well, doing well for themselves? What do we do with children of color who aren't dragging the school test scores down? With all our talk of being post-racial, embracing diversity, the fact is that many people are still drawn to teaching & service to "help the less fortunate."

Then there is Marc and Amy Vachon's contribution. Overall I loved it. Two people working to make egalitarian parenting work for them. What I didn't like is their premise that shared/egalitarian/5050 parenting is something that feminism failed to deliver.

I don't like that premise because it makes one view feminism as a religion and that Gloria Steinem will swoop down on her wings. Rather I view feminism as the resource that gave us, men and women, the language to negotiate who will wash the dishes and raise our sons in a way that does not allow them to forget to bath the children. I can honestly say that I've never had to leave a list for my husband before a trip. He just knows what to do - he's our daughter's father. He's not the babysitter. He might not always have faith in his abilities, but he's come to see how awesome he is, even if I don't tell him enough. But that's our family.

And that's the joy of One Big Happy Family. You get a peek into other families, you see how much we have in common and how we all get through it.

In some ways it is ironic that Rebecca Walker, who has had a very public falling out with her mother is the same person who pulled together what could be a defining and accessible volume on what contemporary families really look like. On the other hand, she also defines why some of us need to craft families of our own.

I received an email asking me to:
Buy this book to let legislators know America is challenging their assumptions about the definition of family. Buy it now and get it on the New York Times bestseller list, a message they will understand. Send them a copy with a personal note expressing your feeling that all American families have the right to be happy. Don’t let our leaders do to our families what they’ve done to the economy. If we let them define our families like they define health care, American families won’t stand a chance.

I think that's a pretty darn good idea. And you can buy One Big Happy Family : 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love Edited by Rebecca Walker from an independent bookstore or Powells. They deliver!

01 March 2009

Book Queue

This is for the curious as well as all the fabu book publicists who have sent me books this year.

Review to be written:
  • One Big Happy Family : 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love Edited by Rebecca Walker
  • Slob Proof! Real-Life Home Decorating Solutions by Debbie Wiener
  • Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing: Fabu-Low-Sew Projects for the Everyday Crafter by Kathy Cano-Murillo
Currently reading:
Returning To My Mother's House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine by Gail Straub

To be read pile (in order):
  • My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
  • Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls by Liz Funk
  • Getting Naked Again: Dating, Romance, Sex, and Love When You've Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped, or Distracted by Judith Sills
  • Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You by Sonia Pressman Fuentes
As I have said before, if I have promised a certain deadline I will deliver. Others will be done as soon as humanly possible. If you sent me a book that I do not list here, please leave me a comment or send me an email.