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30 December 2011

Book Review: Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons (Revised Edition)

The newly revised and updated edition of Odd Girl Out is a must have for every person who is parenting or educating a girl.

This was the first book I grabbed once my fall classes were over. A bookshelf of books have been taunting me since August, but this is the one I had to read first. Why? I think it's because I have a daughter. She's eight and in the 3rd grade and we've already had two incidents involving bullying. The first was in preschool and the second was last year. Both incidents were handled by teachers are administrators in a manner that Simmons suggests in Chapter 12: the road ahead for teachers and administrators. That chapter gives some wonderful suggestions on how to set up a school or even a classroom to be as bully-proof as possible. Obviously no place can be bully-proof, but one thing that Simmons points out is that one way to address bullying is to have a transparent and predictable system of consequences. If a student knows that Sally and Maria are the teacher's favorite and nothing they do gets them in real trouble, that student feels disempowered to act and report bullying she may be experiencing or witnessing. Having a consistent system of consequences also sends a clear message to students who bully that it will not be tolerated.

Simmons doesn't advocate for a zero-tolerance policy that gets 7-year-olds expelled, rather a zero-tolerance policy that is just that, zero-tolerance for bullying a classmate.

As a kid I had my share of girlfriends, but at recess I was more prone to hang with the boys playing softball, football or plain old wrestling. I can't recall being bullied on the playground the way Simmons reports, I guess I'm lucky. Or maybe because the girls from my school were working class and we were all tough in our own ways. I can't recall more than a couple of girls who were overly girly. That said, I can see the girly girls in my daughter's life.

Her first experience with bullying was from a girl who was trying to enforce gendered clothing. The kid was told that when she wore pants, she was a boy. Once reported, the teachers had a great conversation with the kids about kids being able to wear whatever they wanted. Clothing does not make one a girl or a boy.

Three themes really struck me as key things to remember from this book.

One is that schools have relied on girls to maintain a certain peace for years. Without most girls maintaining that peace, the whole classroom would be chaos.To ask teachers to be aware of the quiet manner girls bully each other is asking teachers to realize that their classrooms are as out of control as they sometimes seem.

And second is that this peace that we see in girls is really silence. Society teaches girls to silence their feelings in order to "be good." Simmons outlines how this silence works in girl-on-girl violence is really just training for being in a violent relationship later in life. Because being BFFs with a girl who bullies you IS VIOLENCE.

Bullying is not just how girls are. Not if we decide that it ends today. HERE. NOW. When we teach our girls to get over it, that "that's how life is, wait until your boss is a bully," we are teaching our girls to ignore that voice in their head and heart that says, "This is wrong. Walk away."

The last theme is one that a friend and I were discussing a few weeks ago. Why are women afraid to promote themselves? I know that I can look back at my childhood and know that being "all that" was frowned upon. Pride in one's work could only be taken so far. I use to write email updates to family & friends until someone very close to me wrote asking why I only send emails when I have something to brag about. That comment still keeps me from writing updates to people I know what to know what's going on with me. Especially people who aren't connected to me via social media. Simmons really digs into how promoting oneself breaks one of the cardinal rules of being a girl -- fit in. You can't fit in if you let people know how awesome you are.

Simmons updated her book to include a great chapter on cyberbullying. If you don't have time to read the whole book, skip right to chapter four: bff 2.0: cyberbullying and cyberdrama and chapter nine:  parents speak. But you really should read the whole thing. 

Warning women reading this will experience flashbacks to high school. Men who read this may have a lot of WTF moments. Either way, I highly recommend this to everyone with a girl in their lives. Get yourself a copy at Powells or IndieBound.

Disclaimer: I requested this book for review. 

* 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 by helping me purchase books for school. Thanks!

29 December 2011

2011 Feminista Travel Log: Everywhere else

My first travel log covered my four trips to Washington, DC. Here, I'll cover the other places that welcomed me and my family.

Seattle: This was the worst of my trips as I traveled to Seattle to be with my Tia and cousins after my Tio died. I obviously did not do much sight seeing. But just being back in the Northwest was comforting. I love the SeaTac airport, especially the salmon that are imprinted on the floor of the terminals, not to mention the way the water fountains gurgle like a river. *big sigh* I can't wait to get back there.

Butler University: I drove down to Butler University to kick off their activities for Women's History Month. I had a lot of fun talking to their students. I didn't go to a fancy-looking school, so it's always nifty to visit one. The students who go to Butler are blessed with a beautiful campus. I hope they all enjoy it.

Denver: I went to Denver for a work conference. We stayed at the Lowes, which is swanky looking, but is pet-friendly. A detail that was not communicated and was a surprise to a few of my fellow conference goers. But it was a great place to stay, good food and great service. We ate dinner one night in the artsy part of town. The restaurant was ok, but the area was super cute.

Starved Rock: We decided to drive down to Starved Rock for our summer vacation. It's only 100 miles away from our home, but it felt like a different world. When you live in the Midwest you forget that we have pockets of non-flat land. We spent 3 days hiking the many trails and didn't see everything. It was so much fun! We were a bit disappointed in the lack of "wildlife." We see more deer at the North Park Village Nature Center and driving on the Jane Addams. Although we did get a good scare from a raccoon who popped out of a garbage can! We stayed in the lodge and did not camp. The room and pool were great, but the restaurant food got a bit old after a few days. BUT the fried chicken was amazing! They give you a lot, so just order one plate and share with a friend. Overall, it's a great getaway for us city folk. My cell phone didn't get a great signal, so there was also a vacation from technology...even if I did log into the free wifi in the evening.

Atlanta: The National Women's Studies Association Conference was in Atlanta this year. I was on a panel with fellow Girl w/Pen'ers discussing how we combine our academic work with blogging for a popular audience (instead of for other academics in academic terms). I roomed with Feminist Teacher, so I started out the conference with a big squeal. Ileana and I totally hit it off after being friendly on Twitter for a few years. I am so happy to add her to my circle of hermanas. I also met Merle Hoffman and interviewed her. That interview should be up on this blog soon! I even was able to find Denise Schultz to say hi to her before her panel.

Luckily before I left for Atlanta, someone made a remark about visiting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. And even more luck had the conference hotel just minutes from the memorial/center. It was so worth the walk and missing out on a few hours of the conference. Words truly fail to express what it felt and meant to visit the resting place of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King.

Kalamazoo: We went for a visit to see our godson and his family, but we decided to take in downtown Kalamazoo. And wow! Not sure I would say take a vacation to Kalamazoo, but it's definitely worth a stop during a road trip. The museum downtown is free and while might small by Chicago standards, it was the perfect size when you have 4 kids with you. And yes, on the way out of town, we did hit Sweetwater Donuts and brought home a dozen. There is no reason to visit Kalamazoo and not grab at least one donut at Sweetwater. On a diet? Share with a friend!

27 December 2011

2011 Feminista Travel Log: Washington DC

2011 brought a good amount of traveling, although far too bunched up for my taste. Why can't the Goddess space out my trips better? Let's look back at where I went and what we learned, shall we?

Me and my coworkers at the Executive Building
Washington, DC: FOUR, four trips to our nation's capital this year! All for wonderful reasons, so who can really complain? In January I zipped off with my coworkers to accept an award at the White House. We spent five days in DC in a lot of meetings with a lot of other people who are dedicated in our shared mission to increase the diversity of scientists and engineers in the USA.

I returned in March for a grantee meeting. I stayed at the Omni Shoreham Hotel which was like a museum. It had all these amazing displays about the building's history. I was fortunate that a few of my DC friends trekked over to Open City for dinner one night. I stopped by another time just to grab tea & a muffin. I also got away one night and walked over to Adams-Morgan and hit Idle Time Books, then had dinner at Mama Ayesha's. Which is ironic since I live near a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants and rarely go. It came highly recommended and I wasn't disappointed.

The whole family came back to DC in April for the White House Easter Egg Roll. This was not connected to the award in January, rather a wonderful gift from a friend. If you get a chance to attend, you really should. It is amazing. We got one of the early slots and thank goodness because it was a hot day. The White House staff and volunteers did a bang up job at corralling all of us in and out of the official area within the allotted time. We even got to hear the First Lady and President Obama address the crowd, then spot the whole First Family as they walked the lawn.

We did a lot sightseeing in the small amount of time we were in town. A new tradition, for myself and the family, is to eat at least a snack at the National Museum of the American Indian. It's a beautiful museum (not only because one of my dear high school friends worked on the exhibits) with an equally beautiful cafe. Tamles, buffalo burgers and fry bread! On a whim, I had us jump into the National Portrait Gallery. OMG, one of the best snap decisions EVER!You can see the kid curled up on the floor sketching a portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt.

My fourth trip came at the end of November where I stayed in Crystal City, which is this oasis from the intensity of the district. It's close enough to get work done, but far enough that one isn't overwhelmed by the energy that makes up DC. The unnamed, but "top" hotel won't be named because they fail to provide their guests with complimentary wifi, even in the lounge areas. When asked about it, I was given a mini-lecture on how "at *company's* hospitality school, free wifi is a thing of the past. The only reason anyone would stay at a Holiday Inn would be for the free wifi." On the upside, I did have a few friends trek their way to said hotel for drinks when I arrived. I love getting different friends together when I travel. It's almost like having a mini-summit on feminist issues. We talk kids, family, partners, schools, environment, mothering, science/technology, foreign affairs. We cover a lot of space in a short amount of time. Feminists are efficient!

Before I left town, I did grab my carry-on and headed into the district to visit the newly rehabbed Sewall-Belmont House. I believe the only other time I had made it there was in 1999 for a Women's Leaders Online one-day conference. Oh, how the house has changed! If you are visiting, you must take the time to stop in there to see the fab exhibits that tell the story of the women's rights movement in the USA from suffrage until today. There are also some exhibits on international women's rights. I was on a tight schedule and was able to get through the museum in about an hour, but I'd recommend two so you can really take in the history. The best part? There is a recreation of the lobbying cards the suffragists kept on the US Congress. You can flip through index cards with the names of U.S. representatives, their stance on suffrage and any comments that they gave suffragists. Which are ASTOUNDING and sadly still hear from the lips of far too many people today.

As for the airlines I traveled...Southwest still wins as best carrier. And while it may its issues, Midway will continue to win for best food as long as I arrive early enough to get egg & potato tacos at Lalo's. Although at Dulles, Vino Volo is fast becoming a favorite place to grab a bite to eat.

I will note that none of the companies, stores, restaurants or otherwise commercial entities asked me to review them, paid me or whatnot. This is just a summary of my travels from 2011. Next up...everywhere else I traveled this year!

20 December 2011

Viva la Feminista on the radio

It's Feminist Wednesday time on the Morning AMp! Catch me on Vocalo tomorrow from 9 am - 10 am. 

You can join in our discussion by calling in to 888.635.1112, posting on Facebook or tweeting me. Listen online or via the vocalo app!

16 December 2011

Donors Choose: Support Bilingual students, Pregnant Teens and a very cool art project

Can you believe it's almost gift giving time? Whether you are giving for Christmas or Hanukkah, Donors Choose has plenty of projects to select from. Seriously, why give a crappy $20 gift when you can donate in a loved one's name to a school that can put that $20 into action?

I had intended to flip through Donors Choose and offer a long list of projects for easy donating. But I decided to go with three schools in particular:

1) The Learning Garden at Meadowdale Elementary
This school was just up the street from the house I grew up in. I didn't attend this school, but I spent a lot of time at their playground. One of the outside walls is tall and flat without windows (at least when I was a kid, I haven't visited in years) and is on the parking lot. So this is where a young Roni use to pretend she was a tennis pro, spending hours hitting the three tennis balls she owned into a wall. It also had an awesome hill that was perfect for sledding.

2) Pregnant Teenagers and Young Mothers Need to Stay in Shape at Simpson Academy
This is the only school for pregnant teens in the Chicago Public School system. Their About Us page shows you what services their offer their students. The ask is so simple! Exercise equipment so expectant mothers can stay in shape during their pregnancy.

3) Wire You Buggin' at Steinmetz Academic Center
This one I selected because it just looked very cool. And cool projects shouldn't be left to only schools who can afford it or top academic schools. Who knows, maybe it takes cool art projects to connect with some kids? Either way, I like it.

Feel free to find a project that needs support that fits your own vision. I'm sure there's one to find.


Disclaimer: The links above are affiliate links, but any money generated goes right back into Donors Choose projects. Nothing that you donate is involved in the affiliate program.

13 December 2011

Review: Chicago Toy and Game Fair

Last month I took the family to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. Sadly we only had about an hour to look around the fair. But in that short time we found a few good new games. Disclaimer: We attended using a blogger pass that I applied for and were given a swag bag of a variety of games. Any game with an asterisk (*) is one we now own thanks to the swag bag.

Pajaggle*: Imagine the classic game of Perfection, but bigger and more intense. AND if you buy more than one set of Pajaggle, you can play head-to-head...or as we did, head-to-head-to-head. Play against the clock or against a friend or family member. You can get a taste of the game via e-Pajaggle.

Perplexus: Oh-my-gawd this is an addictive game!

The kid got one for her birthday and we've been addicted since. So when we walked into the toy and game fair and spotted the giant sized version of Perplexus we rushed it. As you can tell from the picture, the kid loved playing with it. We had to drag her away. Hopefully Santa or the Solstice Fairy will bring us Perplexus Epic. We've been good all year!

KaBAM!* is a card game that asks two players to slap down a card each and make a word with those sounds. In the image, one card has "ou" and another "L." So if you are the first to say a word that includes those two sounds, like "loud," you get the cards. And the one with the  most cards at the end wins. This ends up being a super quick game with a lot of laughing. This was certainly a big win.

There was also this awesome wooden cube puzzle that was a two player game. It was part soma cube and part something else because it was 4x4. You had to keep all the pieces within the 4x4 invisible box. I wish the guy I played against, who was a representative, had given me a card with it's name! It was one of the last things I played, then had to rush out and I couldn't find a card myself. Oh well. If anyone knows, please let me know!

There are a lot of great toys out there that are not super gendered. Now a few of the representatives did interact with the kid in a very gendered way. One greeted each girl with, "Hi there princess!" Overall, it was a great hour. I'm looking forward to it next year.

12 December 2011

Raising a Citizen (includes book and website reviews)

The kid has to complete a certain number of book reports every quarter. Included in the book reports are online quizzes from BookAdventure.com. Some of the questions on the quizzes are pretty specific about plot points. Tonight the kid took a quiz based on the book, Vote!, by Eileen Christelow.

When we were first told we had to use the site, I was skeptical. But the quizzes seem fair. Tonight though, the site proved pretty awesome. Here are a few of the questions the kid was asked about Vote!
  • What do you have to do if you want to vote?
  • What are political parties?
  • Why does a politician want to do a good job? (Answer was to get reelected)
  • Who decides who could vote?
  • What did the Constitution say about voting?
  • What do the candidates hope to do in a debate?
  • How old do you have to be to vote?
Perhaps these should be the first questions asked of GOP candidates at the next debate?

And that brings me to the awesomeness that is Vote! 

Christelow has crafted a picture book that teaches kids more about voting than I suspect most of us get in our whole K-12 education. Example? At the very end of this simple tale of an election, there is a timeline of voting rights in the USA. One of the cartoon characters, the yellow dog, remarks after a notation about the 1975 Voting Rights Act amendment, something about "1776-1975 and finally everyone can vote!" She also includes in the timeline notes about women's suffrage, the 14th amendment, ex-prisoner's voting rights and the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

I had bought the book for the kid when she was really small. It came out in 2003, so maybe when she was an infant, as we have the hard book copy. I hadn't read it to her in years and this was the first time she read it on her own...and all of it, including the supplementary material such as the timeline and definitions.

Because it is a picture book, I hadn't thought to make her reread it. But because I saw it was marked as third-grade level reading and was a 10-question quiz, I figured she could use it for her book reports. And I am so glad I did. One doesn't always read the supplementary material to an infant. Or at least she doesn't always remember that in 10 states ex-felons can't vote. But she knows that now and I saw that look in her eye that says, "Oh, hell no!" Thanks, Eileen.

05 December 2011

JOURNAL CFP: Motherhood and Activism

The editorial board is seeking submissions for Vol. 3.2 of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (JMI) to be published in fall/winter 2012.
Motherhood Activism, Advocacy, Agency

The journal will explore the topic of Motherhood Activism, Advocacy and Agency from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. We welcome submissions from scholars, students, activists, government agencies and workers, artists, mothers, and others who work or research in this area. Cross-cultural, historical and comparative work is encouraged. We also welcome creative reflections such as poetry, short stories, and artwork on the subject.

Topics can include (but are not limited to):
the relationship between maternal agency and institutional constraints; personal agency; social agency; intersectionality and maternal agency; maternal agency and social justice; empowerment and family-life responsibilities; maternal agency and legal norms/practices; public policy and the public/private split; neoliberalism and public policy for mothers; healthism and maternal agency; navigating cultural expressions of "good" and "bad" mothering; second and third shift responsibility and agency; online advocacy and empowered mothering; maternal advocacy as theorized or practiced by women of a particular race, class, religion, or culture; empowered caregiving versus non-empowered caregiving; workplace norms and maternal advocacy or agency; motherhood and politics; "having it all" and maternal empowerment; challenging the maternal wall; challenging the "price of motherhood"; pregnancy and maternal agency; empowered mothering and disability; co-parenting and maternal empowerment; social change potential of memoir, narrative, autobiography, or blogging; maternal empowerment through artistic expression, film, music, literature, pop culture, or other arts; maternal agency through 'experts' or resistance to them; maternal empowerment by being resistant to or rooted in traditions, histories, or generational knowledges; navigating multiple identities as a mother; motherhood movements; advocacy for new family forms and relations; feminist mothering; queer and/or transgendered mothering; gender equity in home and work place; redefining fathering; othermothering; activism by young and/or low-income mothers; maternal activists' allies.

Articles should be 15-18 pages (3750 words) including references. All should be in MLA style, WordPerfect or Word and IBM compatible. Please see our style guide for complete details: http://www.motherhoodinitiative.org/journalsubmission.html


Please direct your submissions to:
Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI) 140 Holland St. West, PO Box 13022 Bradford, ON, L3Z 2Y5 (905) 775-9089 http://www.motherhoodinitiative.org info@motherhoodinitiative.org

Disclosure: I am getting a complementary membership to MIRCI and subscription to the journal in return for posting these updates. It is, however, something I would have agreed to do for free because I think their work is so wonderful.


This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

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