Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

24 May 2011

Voting time!

I've been nominated, selected, put on a list to compete to be one of the Circle of Moms Top 25 Political Mom Blogs.There is no registration needed, just click on the thumbs up next to my blog on their site. You can vote once every 24 hours until June 13th.

Yes, I know that this is a silly competition, but it's also fun. Plus I like to win awards like this. AND, maybe, just maybe I can kick PunditMom's butt. I tease. Vote for her too. See, I'm so down with the silly.

23 May 2011

Men who parent are not "Mr. Moms" - They are fathers or dads.

Last week NBC Chicago did a great story about a whip smart woman on the rise and her amazing husband who stays home with the kids. My husband and I watched the piece, nodding along, happy with the portrayal UNTIL...the stay at home dad was labeled "Mr. Mom."


View more videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com.

While one new dad I know, tweeted that he wouldn't mind if someone called him "Mr. Mom," we don't really like that designation. It signals something odd, weird or out of the norm. We equally get perturbed when someone asks if he is "babysitting" the kid. Um, he is the father, parent of the kid. When he is caring for his daughter, he is her father, not a babysitter and certainly not a male version of me.

I've read a lot of feminist treatises on feminist families, ending the second shift for women and so forth. Most of those articles and books end with the same conclusion: Until men step up and contribute equally to the house (family, caregiving, cleaning, etc), women can not and will not achieve equity in the workplace or society. By minimizing when men do step up and do their fair share by calling them babysitters or by the title of a 1980s film, well, it takes the revolution out of the simple act.

And believe me it's still a revolution to get men to parent in an equitable manner. There are a lot of forces at play. Men get snickered at if they take too much time to parent.Sure, they get a pat on the back for taking time to get to the soccer match, but there's a line and they know not to cross it. Yet, I also can see, not just from my husband, a sense that men want to run way past that line. In order for them to do that, women need to support them, not mock them with "Mr. Mom." We need to let them figure out their parenting style, just as moms figure out our style. We may stay  home with the baby for the first few months, but I don't think means Dad can't figure out how to do whatever the baby needs.

Believe me when I say, it is a struggle to let go. Perhaps my life is too busy for me to get weighed down with all the details of how my husband is parenting in my absence. But the truth of the matter is that I'm not at home enough that he needs to parent on his own. Yes, there are times when I question something that he does, but he does the same to me. Heck, when he's out of town or under the weather and I have to make the kid's lunch, I kind panic. He does such a good job and knows her tastes better than I do. He has a system. I had to do it this morning, so I asked the kid to help me make her lunch. And it ended up perfectly fine.

We're parents TOGETHER. We try to check in with each other when the kid asks us for something to minimize her playing us off each other. We check in when adding things on the calendar. We both go to parent-teacher conferences. We try to go to the doctor's office together. We take turns with sick days as much as we can. Sometimes we run into days when I just can't reschedule a meeting or he can't. We need to be a team. Heaven knows that's the only way we're going to survive this journey.

19 May 2011

Book Review:: Wheels of Change by Sue Macy

Do you remember the freedom you felt once you were old enough to get a two-wheeled bike and allowed to zoom around your neighborhood? Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy recalls when women first got their own set of wheels and set off unescorted into the world.

And that whole unescorted thing really ticked off conservatives at the time. As Macy notes in chapter 2, The Devil's Advance Agent, in the late 1800s women and men dated while being chaperoned by adults, sually in the home of the young woman. With the advent of the bicycle and society's approval for women to jump on board with this new fad, the reach of chaperones was cut. Thus begins the spiral to fogged up car windows on a Friday night. One has to remember that this was at the same time most physical activity, especially sporting activities, was seen as bad for women's bodies and especially their reproductive systems.

One also must remember that in the late 1800s women were wearing HUGE dresses. How is a lady supposed to ride a bicycle? Macy shows photos of bicycles that were designed for side-saddle as well as with contraptions so that dresses wouldn't get caught in the wheels or gears. Then the young women of the late 1800s rediscovered Amelia Bloomers invention - Lady Pants!  - or bloomers.

This is a fun trip through the joint history of the bicycle and women's rights. From wheels to bloomers to votes for women, it's all interconnected. You'll be amazed at how similar the conversations we are having today about women's rights sound a lot like the ones in the late 1800s about women riding bicycles.

This a National Geographic book for kids. But don't let that stop those without kids from not buying this book from IndieBound or Powells.

Disclaimers: A publicist offered me a copy for review for women's history month. Obviously, I'm late writing this baby up.

* Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog.

17 May 2011

FUNDRAISER: Support The Race for Space!


Chicago Women's Health Center (CWHC) seeks community support to match a $35,000 challenge grant from the Topfer Family Foundation by June 30 to move into a larger space by the end of the year.

CWHC was founded in 1975 to specifically and thoughtfully address the barriers to gynecological health care for women, with special attention to the experiences of those often marginalized by systems of power including the economically disadvantaged, LGBTQ communities and people of color.

With an increasing need for quality, affordable health care, the organization sees moving to a larger location as an opportunity to better respond to Chicago?s health care needs. The goal of transitioning to a larger space has been in place since late 2008 when the organization launched its $150,000 capital campaign. Considering the tough economic climate for non-profits, the matching grant comes at a fortuitous time for the grassroots organization.

CWHC is in the final phase of The Race for Space! 

CWHC must raise $35,000 by June 30th before Topfer Family Foundation matches them. Through this matching grant, your gift can go even further.

DONATE TODAY!

Dear NASA

I was 11 and in 5th grade on a field trip to Chinatown when Katie S. came up to me to announce that Challenger had exploded. I didn't believe her. My group found a TV in a shop or restaurant, I can't recall, and there it was...on TV...the truth...it had.

When we got back to school our teacher had that talk with us. How they were brave, it was risky and she revealed how she almost had applied for the teacher astronaut program. For most of the people I knew, the explosion proved to them that some things were too risky to attempt. For me, the space bug didn't just bite me, it burrowed into my soul. I became obsessed. It didn't hurt that I was able to connect my new obsession with my longer obsession with President Kennedy. Yeah, I was a strange kid.

Soon I was able to rattle off the names of the Mercury and Apollo astronauts along with which missions they flew in. I observed the dates of the Apollo 1 and Challenger tragedies for years. I find it ironic that one of THE case studies I need to know in and out for my study of public administration, feminist public administration and gender in public administration is the Challenger explosion. Sometimes I like to think of it as a sign that I'm on the right track. Full circle.

Monday morning I sat on my bed as my 7-year-old daughter squirmed and her daddy stood as we watched the final launch of Endeavour. I cried remembering all those we have lost as we have pushed the boundaries of science, engineering and exploration. I cried for losing that obsession as a teen (it was transferred to marine biology). I cried because the shuttle is, for me, the epitome of what it means to be from the USA. A symbol of our intellect, our innovation, our team work, our courage, our curiosity - all wrapped up in a huge white ship. I am the most patriotic when watching the shuttle launch or land.

As we were stressing the importance of the launch to our daughter, she translated it into, "I wish I could had been an astronaut!" Damn! She took all this "last" launch as the end of space exploration. We quickly corrected her. Whew!

Later in the day I received an email from my daughter's science teacher. She had showed the launch to her first graders. A girl asked Ms. M why there aren't women astronauts. Endeavour is an all-male crew. It was quickly explained that there are women astronauts, just not on this shuttle.

I fear that kids around the country may take the celebration of the last launches as a signal that it's all over. So please continue to make news. Continue to discover things with your awesome robots and satellites. Continue to show us how much impact you have on our lives. Because we can't afford to have my daughter's generation think they won't fly among the stars.

Thanks,
Veronica

PS: Hope to see you next year at Family Space Camp.

16 May 2011

Book Review: A Strange Stirring by Stephanie Coontz

I've described A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique & American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz to others as a historical look at the women who read The Feminine Mystique, the impact of the book on their lives and a look at the myth of Betty Friedan. For a women's history nerd like me, this book was awesome. Admittedly, the semester took it's toll on how quickly, or rather how slowly, I read this book as this review was supposed to be included in Girl w/Pen's salon back in February.

I also have to admit that I've never read The Feminine Mystique. I know, I know...but Coontz also talked to women who didn't read the book either! The mythology surrounding TFM is so strong that it has touched most of our lives whether we have read it or not. I believe the mythology of TFM is simply put that Betty Friedan, a 1950s housewife, wrote a book about how she discovered that her boredom of caring for the kids and cleaning the house lead her to single-handedly revive the feminist movement in the USA. This includes founding the National Organization for Women. The critiques focus on how the book and the mainstream feminist movement (NOW) were too focused on middle-class white women. Coontz painstakingly proves and disproves these myths.

She also puts all the realities into historical perspective. Coontz is a historian and while some may think she is making excuses for how Friedan frames the issues in the book as well as tweaks Friedan made to her own backstory. Coontz outlines the often ignored/hidden feminist movement of the post-WW II era before the second wave officially begins with facts such as:
...by 1955, a higher percentage of women worked for ages than ever had during the war. In fact, women's employment rate grew four times faster than men's during the 1950s.The employment of wives tripled and the employment of mothers increased fourfold. (page 59)
The emotion that Friedan tapped into with TFM, according to Coontz, wasn't that being married and a mom was a terrible thing, but that by having marriage & motherhood as THE goal in life, for most women in the 1950s, their life goals were achieved by 25. "..a few years after having children [they] found that they had no compelling goal left to pursue. As Cam Stivers said, it felt as if her life was already over (page 86)." 

The myth that Friedan was anti-marriage was explored and Coontz finds evidence that yes, some of the women who read TFM eventually divorced. But she also found that many of those women remarried and loved their second marriages. Coontz also talked with men who had read the book. Those men recounted how it helped them reframe how they saw marriage as more of a partnership.

As for the whiteness of TFM, Coontz acknowledges this fact. She spends one chapter to answer this critique directly while educating readers on the often unacknowledged history of African-American women in the civil rights movement as well as their leadership in "balancing" work and family. Coontz interviewed African-American women who wrote to Friedan who were upset that Friedan thought working would solve housewives problems as well as those who said it steeled them against the "prejudices in graduate school or medical school (126)."

I loved the chapter where Coontz lets Ruth Rosen's working class critique take center stage. So many white working class women wrote to Friedan with essentially a "wah..wah..wah..." message. Women who were working their butts off at the office and at home and did not feel liberated. And the even-handedness of Coontz also shows us working-class women who used TFM as their only ally in their quest to attend college and postpone the marriage & baby carriage.

Coontz ends the book with a look at how women are faring today. Did feminism kill marriage? Nope. The more education a woman gets, the more likely they are to marry. Did feminism kill sexiness? Nope. The more men contribute to housework, the happier they are in the bedroom! It's not all fun and roses, but it's not the gloom and doom that anti-feminists want us to believe.

And lastly, does feminism hate mothers? Hell no! Coontz wrote an excellent op-ed in the NYTimes for Mother's Day outlining how feminism has helped mothers by pushing for women to make their own choice about staying home with the kids, working outside the home or both depending on the family's need. Most pressure on women to be a certain kind of mother usually comes from non-feminist talking heads.

I really hope that everyone who has any opinion of what TFM did to our culture will read this book. It won't convert those who fiercely opposes feminism, but those who hold moderate views or hesitate to call themselves feminists based on any of the myths this books debunks, will be moved to reexamine those beliefs. It will also allow for a re-examination of Friedan herself. For those of us who are fiercely feminist, this is a must read book. One who doesn't know her history is bound to repeat it. And we all know how that turns out in the feminist movement. *wink*

Get your copy from IndieBound or Powells.

Disclaimers: I requested a copy from the author and am a big fan of her previous work.

* Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog.

10 May 2011

Quick Pledge to Support Women's Sports Update

Last year I launched the "I Pledge to Attend a Women's Sporting Event" page on Facebook. Unfortunately I started it with the year 2010 attached and Facebook doesn't allow for name changes. So I started a new page without a year! Please join! Take the pledge! Thanks to the amazing Anna Clark for being my Gabrielle on this journey.

I got to talk about the pledge on the new Matthew Filipowicz Show today and women in sports happened to be the theme of this month's Chicagonista post.

While I'm talking sports, I should also note that the kid's soccer team has been busting up the other teams. The last two weeks they shut out the opposition. And the kid had two goals last week. I tweet game updates on Sundays, if you care to follow along. Yeah, totally being a bragging mom.

07 May 2011

Mother's Day

Eight years.

I just read through eight years of blog posts about Mother's Day*. I stopped keeping a diary in college. Maybe that's why blogging has such an appeal to me. I write and know it's going to be read. Going through eight years of highs and lows of marking this day was tough. Some years I wrote a lot. Oddly last year I didn't write a damn thing on Mother's Day because I was so damn busy.

The past month has seen me give no less than three interviews about my feminism and how it came to be. Those who know me, know it means talking about my mother and maternal grandmother. Each interview helped me rediscover a bit about my past than I would have ever expected.

My maternal grandmother was heart broken that I didn't heed her advice to go to college and THEN find a boyfriend. Instead I found a boyfriend and then we both went off to college together. I think it turned out pretty well. We have a daughter and will celebrate 12 years of marriage on Mother's Day. But during interview #1, I was literally dumbstruck by the fact that while I disappointed my grandmother and she didn't live to see my husband & I get married, not to mention missing out on the kid, she would be freaking ecstatic over how egalitarian my marriage is and how hands-on Senor Feminista is as a father. Yeah, I think she'd be happy with the outcome.

I've told this story to just about everyone who has ever asked me about how I knew I was pro-choice: My mom raised me that way. As I told Chloe, the earliest memory I have of my mom instilling in me a sense of ownership over my body was when I was about 12 and she told me we didn't go to church because the Pope wouldn't let her take birth control pills. During interview #2 it dawned on me how much my mom knew me. She didn't have to explain birth control pills at that moment. We never had "the talk," but she was open with her pro-choice views. I know, odd. Then there were the times when she would comment about abortion and making it clear that she was pro-choice, but never explaining what abortion was. She just knew I knew. I think I was a senior in high school, maybe freshmen in college, she took me to view a documentary on midwives at her friend's house (who was my midwife) and it dealt with pregnancy, birthing, abortion...the whole enchilada. She sat back and watched me explain why I supported abortion rights to one of my dad's sister's during a camping trip. I remember my aunt was reading a USA Today about abortion and I responded with my thoughts. She taught me about reproductive justice without a heavy hand. She wasn't perfect. We had thrown downs about welfare and what constituted luxuries in the USA.

I've also recounted to a few interviewers over the years that I have the perfect response to anti's who ask me, "What if your mom was pro-choice?" She was and she chose me. I know this because I asked her when I was in high school, why at 18 she would have a baby in a country where it was legal to terminate a pregnancy. "I wanted you. It's that simple."

And that sums up why I am so vehemently pro-choice. Why every child must be a wanted child. I wish that every person could ask their mom why and hear that answer. "I wanted you." Because that is the conversation I will cherish, that I will remember the most. I was wanted.**

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

* 2004-2007 are from my old blog. I might repost them here in the future. 

** If my mom lied to me about this, this was the best lie she ever told me as she didn't hesitate or flinch. 

05 May 2011

Legislative Update

Earlier this month, I asked my Illinois readers to contact their state representatives and ask them to support a bill to unshackle women who were in active labor. A partial victory today because the bill passed!

Sadly the bill passed in an amended state, which limits the unshackling to just Cook County.

I'm hoping to get an interview with Gail Smith, executive director of Chicago Legal Aid for Incarcerated Women, to discuss what this victory means, what percentage of women this will cover and what's next.

CLAIM blogged a bit about the politics that went into getting the bill as far as it has come. Next up the Senate!

04 May 2011

URGENT: Call your IL State Senate on Wednesday!

Yes, another plea for my Illinois readers to please call your elected official! This is super urgent folks!

The Illinois Senate  voted on SB 1619 (Comprehensive Sex Ed). Unfortunately, we fell one short with a vote of 29 YES – 26 NO – 1 PRESENT.


The good news is that one of the YES votes was not at the capitol today. Therefore, the sponsor Senator Steans requested that SB 1619 be put on the Order of Postponed Consideration which allows bills that only fall a few votes short to have another chance for a vote.

La Raza ran a story on Latinas and sex ed. 

We are making progress on SB 1619!

Please keep generating calls into state senators asking them to vote YES on SB 1619! Capitol switchboard is 217-782-2000. A list of senators is available here: http://www.ilga.gov/senate/default.asp

03 May 2011

Viva la Feminista's Mother's Day Gift Guide

Yes indeed my friends, Mother's Day is almost upon us. I dunno about you, but my inbox is full of gift ideas that pique zero of my interest and my mother would had killed me if I had ever considered them for her. Times are tough for everyone, gas is pretty much $5 a gallon here in Chicago and well, does your mom (or the mother of your children) really need another coffee mug? Instead, I present to you a list of other things to give the mom in your life on Sunday:

* In a moment of self-promotion, there is the new Viva la Feminista Zazzle store! We even have a few things for the mom-to-be.

* Yoga: If she's anything like me, she doesn't schedule enough time for herself. Treat her to a session of yoga at your local studio. The one I adore is Sweet Pea's Studio. They even have a call for us women (mamas & non-mamas) who do too much. It's like they craft classes just for me!

* I know, I know, the mom in your life isn't a sports fan. Hear me now, believe me later. WNBA games are girls night out excuses. As long as she's up for nachos and beer (not sure what non-Chicago stadiums offer) and hanging with her BFFs, this will be fun. I've taken my fair share of non-sporty lady friends to games and seen them have fun. Just focus on the girl power of the moment. Ditto for roller derby.

* Does the mom in your life rock the air guitar and asks herself  "What Would Joan Jett Do?" Then get her hooked up with a weekend at Ladies Rock Camp. Oh yeah...it's like Girls Rock Camp, but for the ladies.

* You can also support moms in your community or around the globe with donations to her favorite mom-friendly charity. Ideas include: Chicago Foundation for Women and CARE. I'm sure there are plenty of places to support in your community! 

* For wise Latina moms, if you donate $75 to NHLI, you receive a NHLI t-shirt "This is what a wise Latinas looks like". Psst...there's a #wiselatinas daily shirt in the Viva la Feminista Zazzle store.

* If the mom in your life a pop culture junkie? Then get her a subscription to Bitch! There's also make/shift, Ms. and the classic, HipMama, to choose from.

* Mama = bookworm? A gift card to Powells or an indie bookstore. (don't fret, no affiliate links there)

* If the mom in your life really does want a new purse, jewelry or super cute hair accessory, try etsy first. Lots of awesome handmade stuff there from real people, not faceless corporations.

* And this is turning out to be quite an annual event. The folks at MomsRising have done it again with a customizable video celebrating kick ass moms. Yes, it's cheesy, but hey, moms like cheese!

Lastly, please do not underestimate the power of giving the mom in your life a day off. Announce one day that "It's your mom vacation day!" Grab the kids and head out the door. Or grab her purse and keys and kick her out. Let her decide. When I asked my friends on Twitter what they would like the most popular answer was exactly this, even if it was a rain check! Despite what the jewelry ads will try to tell you, most likely the mom in your life does not need another diamond or sparkly necklace. What she needs is a nap. Oras one friend said, "Scotch. Expensive scotch." Good luck!

Please leave other ideas in the comments!

02 May 2011

Coming up for air for Obama and Osama

I just can't believe it's been so long since I've written here. Then again I haven't written at my PhD blog since midterm! I think the lack of blogging sums up how ferociously tough this semester has been.

So much has happened in the world, in my life that I wish I had time to write about. Of course this is where I slap myself for thinking that my voice missing for a few weeks is a big deal.

I'm a practical lady. I understand that sometimes you need to something you don't like to keep things moving. Like say release one's birth certificate three years after you've become President of the U.S.A. to prove one's citizenship. It doesn't mean that I don't realize how racist and hateful the request is. Friends have made comments about it harkens back to slave days when free slaves had to carry their papers with them. But the best statement about the birthers demand to see President Obama's birth certificate was made by Baratunde (who is not a friend friend, but I'm friends with some of his peeps.):



Then just a few days after telling the world that he/we had more important things to focus on, President Obama freaked out everyone by calling a press conference at 9:30 pm Chicago time on a Sunday. ON A SUNDAY! Twitter didn't know what to do with itself. We were making jokes about the zombie apocalypse, speculating that we were going all in to remove Gaddafi from Libya and even just dumb jokes about the President only wanting to interrupt "Celebrity Apprentice." Then word got out that it was about Osama bin Laden, that we just might have killed him. The jokes continued as we impatiently awaited our President to tell the world what happened. Sure word leaked onto Twitter and slowly the TV news folks let the cat out of the bag. But I wouldn't fully believe it until President Obama said it.

And then he did.

I fully admit to feeling elated that bin Laden was removed from this world. And it wasn't the fear of retribution that got me to reel that feeling in. It was my conscience. I came to this fight for justice in the world via Amnesty International and my belief that an eye for an eye is never justice. Even if we had brought bin Laden in for a jury to decide to put him to death, it wouldn't be justice. Sadly, I'm afraid I can't think of what justice could be in terms of bin Laden. There are too many feelings. Contradictory feelings. Then a few friends on Facebook posted a MLK Jr. quote that lead me to this full and correct quote:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."
--Martin Luther King, Jr. [link]
Justice can't be found through bin Laden. It can only be found through us. How we go about the world. How we treat each other. How much love and light we put into the universe.

This morning we decided to talk to our daughter about bin Laden. My husband has a different view than I do. But he presented his view to her and I presented mine. She's only 7 1/2, so I don't expect her have much of an opinion other than "Happy the evil guy is gone." I think I struggled more with trying to explain "evil" to her than the difference in Mommy and Daddy's opinion. She's use to us disagreeing.

I'm still struggling with my emotions over all of this. I remember all too well what bin Laden did to this world. While I was not in NYC that day in 2001, I had friends, close friends who were. I remember hitting my listservs and asking for people to check in. We didn't have Facebook, Twitter or too many blogs. I remember calling Jenn Pozner and letting out the biggest sigh when she answered. But I was in Chicago and no one knew what was happening. My husband worked at a museum and I at a university. Both, we were told by the media, could be targets. We were back home before lunch. I'm not being an idiot about this. But I know I'm not being 100% practical about this either. Life is messy like that.