Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Am Tired of Racism

In the past few days, I've noticed a disturbing trend on my facebook newsfeed. There are multiple posts that go something along the lines of: "I am tired of people trying to make the death of Trayvon Martin into a racial issue." Frequently, these posts are followed with little comments about how they "don't see race" or "don't have a racist bone in [their] body." Many of these commenters also make remarks about how we have to look at the facts and not the media, lament that if a white boy was shot no one would be making a big deal, and are finished with something pseudo-patriotic like, "We are all Americans!"

Unfortunately, as anyone who watches or reads the news knows, statements like these are not limited to my facebook or twitter. When Obama addressed Martin's death by saying that "if he had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Newt Gingrich responded by saying:
What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful. It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background.
Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him. That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.
Well, do you know what idea I find appalling and nonsense Mr. Gingrich? The idea that I am just as likely to be shot by some neighborhood watch person as Trayvon Martin. Racism (unfortunately) exists, whether you like it or not. It does no good to pretend like it doesn't. We should be working toward a world where "when things to wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans." But the truth is, we're not there yet. And to pretend that we are, or to call acknowledging racism appalling, belies your own racism.

Saying that Trayvon's death had nothing to do with issues of race is a lot like saying that rape or domestic violence has nothing to do with issues of gender and/or sexuality. And considering the Republican push back against the Violence Against Women Act, people like Gingrich apparently do think this way. Additionally, because a large part of the Republican push back to the Violence Against Women Act is due to special provisions for Native Americans and LGBTQ victims, it seems pretty clear to me that Republicans do not think, as Gingrich claims they do,  "that when something goes wrong to any American, it is sad for all Americans." They might be sad if something happens to a white male. But if you're female, Native American, or LGBTQ, forget about it.

So, too bad if you're "tired of how Martin's death is being turned into a racial issue."

Do you know what I am tired of?

I am tired of people pretending racism doesn't exist. And I am tired of racism.

Let's fight for justice for Trayvon Martin, and for all of those who are subjected to violence due to the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexuality.

For more on Trayvon Martin, check out my friend Daphne's post on Big Think about Why We Need to Talk About Trayvon Martin.

Also, watch this powerful video: 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Oil Cleansing Method

The other week, while reading the blog No More Dirty Looks, I stumbled across commenters who claimed they washed their face with oil. At first, I was horrified. Then, I was intrigued. A quick Google search informed me that the oil cleansing method is supposed to dissolve dirty oil, makeup, and grime from your face without stripping it of its natural oils. It is also natural and fragrance free, so it is supposed to be less irritating.

Curious, I snuck into my bathroom with my bottle of extra virgin olive oil. I felt like I was doing something rebellious or naughty. Like I was breaking all sorts of rules. I poured the olive oil into my hands and began rubbing it onto my face. My skin felt soothed and moisturized. I rinsed a washcloth in hot water and let it sit on my face for 10-15 seconds, then wiped the oil off. It was luxurious!

The next morning, I was afraid I'd wake up and my skin would be a broken out mess. But it looked great! It was dewy. It wasn't as red as it normally was. It didn't feel tight, and I was able to skip my morning moisturizer.

I've been doing the oil cleansing method for about two weeks now, and I don't know if I will ever go back. I am so in love with it! Not only does it make my skin look better, it is all-natural! I always have olive oil around the house, so it cuts back on the amount of different products I have to buy (especially if I'm able to forgo moisturizer with it). And because I'm able to pour the olive oil straight from the bottle into a recycled glass container from another face mask, it will also cut back on the amount of packaging I use and, inevitably, throw away. I'm guessing it is also much cheaper in the long run.

Source: BBC Food

If you feel like trying it --- and you should! -- here is everything you need to know:

How It Works: 

The reasons we have so much trouble with mainstream skin care products are numerous, but two reasons, in particular, lead the pack. These products strip the oil out of our skin, leaving our largest organ trying to repair itself by replacing the oil stripped away. This leaves us in a cycle of being tight and dry followed by the inevitable oil slick. Each time we strip the oil away, our skin over-compensates for the lack of moisture by creating more oil. On top of the drying effects, these products are highly-scented. Fragrance is one of the top skin irritants and strangely enough, even the so-called "unscented" products usually contain fragrance. See for yourself and check the labels. Dry, irritated skin replaced by oily skin, inflamed and trapping debris?

Getting right down to basics, when cleansing and moisturizing your skin, it is imperative that you keep in mind that oil dissolves oil. Your skin naturally lubricates itself with oil, and as we are creatures of adaptation, one can believe that if this weren't the appropriate built-in care for ourselves, our bodies would have adapted to suit the need. (Source: The Oil Cleansing Method).

What To Do:

1. Find your moisturizing oil. Olive oil, jojoba, and almond oil are the best. Skip the coconut oil for this one, it can clog pores.

2. If you have oily skin, mix the moisturizing oil with castor oil. Castor oil is supposed to draw out the impurities from your skin. If you have acne prone skin, mix three parts castor oil with one part olive oil. If you have dry skin, mix one part castor oil with three parts olive oil. To be honest, I haven't bothered to go and buy any castor oil because I'm lazy and have been quite pleased with using just olive oil. But many people swear by incorporating castor oil. 

3. Massage the oil into your (dry) skin. Enjoy how relaxing it feels!

4. Rinse a clean washcloth with warm water. Put the washcloth on your face and let it "steam" your face for 10 seconds. Then rinse it with more warm water and gently wipe away the oil. 

5. Show off your dewy, moisturized, soothed, and cleansed face! 

Some Advice:

If you're going to try the oil cleansing method, I would really try it. Go all out! Part of what the oil cleansing method does is balance your skin. If you alternate with another harsher face wash, it might not work or lead to break outs.

Similarly, I would skip the moisturizer. Unless your skin is really dry and flaky, go a few days and see if your skin adjusts to the oil cleansing method.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Links

The Future of Feminism: The Hashtag is Mightier than the Sword

A Chicago op-ed by Jennifer Moses says women shouldn't wear high heels. Jezebel says wearing heels doesn't make you a bad feminist. A heel is just a heel! I say no woman should be running around telling other women what they can and cannot wear as a feminist. I also think Jezebel misses the mark with their "it's my choice!" conclusion. But really I mostly question where Moses got evidence for the fact that "American women are perhaps the most liberated women in the history of humanity." Considering I've been busy battling a bunch of old men for my damn birth control and our country has no paid paternal leave, I would disagree.

Oh, Arizona! They want all women to be pregnant, but they don't want anyone to actually see a pregnant woman.

Go see The Hunger Games!

Buy less stuff, find other uses for your time than shopping, and help build a new economy

The recession's impact on America's children

BREAKING FEMINIST NEWS: I want a bulldog puppy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm Moving to Atlanta!

St. Patrick's Day date at the MET.

Because B is a biblical studies rock star, he has been accepted into an amazing PhD program at Emory. Congratulations, B! 

This means, however, that this summer, we will be leaving our beloved New Haven for the south. And while I'm sad to leave New England, I am super excited about moving to Atlanta! I'm already in full gear looking at jobs and searching for a cute little place we can call home.  I also have a seemingly endless list of things I want to do in New England before we leave.

I actually grew up near Atlanta, so I'm kind of excited about returning to the south after my torrid love affair with New England. There are so many new adventures to be had!

P.S. If you live in Atlanta, you should shoot me an email and say hello!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Motivation

Sorry about my lack of posting last week. I was sick for most of it, and then had to play catch up the rest of it. But I am back!

I am loving this quote (and have made it my new desktop background) because lately I feel like I've spent more time stressing about everything that I need and want to do than actually getting things done.

Let's make our ideas happen! Have a lovely Monday everyone.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Governor Rick Perry Screws Over 130,000 Women

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services cut off all Medicaid funding for family planning to the state of Texas. The announcement came after Republican Governor Rick Perry decided to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving any of the federal funding.

Currently, the federal government pays for approximately 90 percent of Texas' $40 million Women's Health Program, which provides uninsured women with access to contraception, mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, OBGYN exams, etc. Texas currently has the largest number of uninsured people in the country, so this program is pretty crucial. Planned Parenthood operates about half of the clinics that benefit from the program.

But Perry refuses to support the "abortion providers", even though none of the federal money from the Women's Health Program goes to abortions. In a letter to President Obama last month, Perry wrote, "The federal government should not be in the business of protecting abortion providers at the expense of the health of Texas Women." Apparently, Perry thinks that providing women with access to things like cancer screenings harms women if it occurs in a Planned Parenthood building. And he thinks that taking away access to crucial health services by defunding Planned Parenthood will improve the health of women in Texas. It doesn't make sense to me, but maybe God told him this would work at his prayer rally last year?

Perry says that the federal government's decision to revoke the Medicaid funding is part of Obama's "pro-abortion agenda." But in a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services yesterday, they said that the administration's hands are tied. “Medicaid law is very clear; a state may not restrict patients’ choice of providers of services like mammograms and other cancer screenings, if those providers are qualified to deliver care covered by Medicaid. Patients, not state government officials, should be able to choose the doctors and other health care providers that are best for them and their families. In 2005, Texas requested this same authority to restrict patients’ choices, and the Bush Administration did not grant it to them either.”

Perry better stop blaming this on Obama's political agenda and pretending his decision had anything to do with women's health. The reality is that 130,000 women in Texas are now losing access to health services because of Perry's blatant disregard for federal law and anti-choice agenda.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Miss Representation

Miss Representation 8 min. Trailer 8/23/11 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see a screening of Miss Representation sponsored by the Yale Women's Center. It was fantastic! 

The film Miss Representation explores depictions of women in the media. The thesis of the film is aptly stated by comedian Margaret Cho, who says, "The media treats women like shit." Utilizing depressing examples of contemporary media, interviews with journalists, politicians, academics, actresses and high school students, and director Jennifer Siebel Newsom's own personal narrative, the film argues that the media depicts women as passive sex objects and teaches women and girls that their value lies solely in their beauty and sexuality.

The thesis of the film should not come as a shock to any woman or man who has ever watched television for more than five minutes. But the compilation of sexualized media images, coupled with some shocking statistics and brutally honest interviews makes the film incredibly powerful. I teared up when listening to girls talk about their eating disorders, laughed out loud after one expert labeled female superheros "flying fuck toys" and cringed at the clips of female journalists, who have to look like supermodels (hello Fox News barbie!). 

Newsom identifies patriarchy and capitalism as the forces that drive our sexist and sexualizing media. She argues for increased media literacy, encourages everyone to speak out against and not support companies/shows/films that use harmful and misogynistic depictions of women, and tells women that they need to stick together and support one another. While some viewers may feel that the film doesn't give enough direction to move forward, I felt that a call for increased awareness and media literacy, and a call to boycott negative media or companies that promote/use negative images in their media is actually a helpful (and in reality difficult) plan of action.

Screenings of Miss Representation are followed by discussions, and our discussion was very rich and thought provoking. Some of the issues we discussed were:

-- White women "experts" got more air time than women of color. 
-- The film hinted at, but didn't explicitly address, issues of race and sexuality. 
--The media is certainly harmful, but when addressing issues like the number of women in politics, the film failed to mention other systems and factors that perpetuate women's oppression, such as assumptions about caretaking responsibilities and lack of access to maternity leave or child care. 
-- Women should support each other! But the film uses Twilight's director, Catherine Hardwicke, as a  success story. Twilight is a film with a weak female lead and very problematic gender roles. Films aren't good-- or more accurately, feminist -- just because a woman directs or writes it.
-- A portion of the film devoted to women in journalism examines the way female journalists are expected to look like sexy supermodels. I felt at times it bordered on slut shaming. Women shouldn't be expected to be sexy or valued solely for their looks, but if a woman is smart and sexy that shouldn't be a problem. It shouldn't make her less of a serious journalist because she is sexy, and we shouldn't spend our time criticizing anyone for wearing a short skirt or a low-cut top. 

Critiques aside, I thought Miss Representation was a great film. I highly encourage everyone to go see and support it if you haven't already! And if you have seen it, what did you think?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Links

Yale professor Chris Blattman's thoughts on Kony 2012 and Invisible Children.

My friend K over at The Gracious Gaze is newly obsessed with this woman's blog about having a zero waste home. And now so am I!

Better Homes and Bloggers

Hysterical tumblr (and a lighthearted critique of style blogs, perhaps?). Courtesy of A Cup of Jo.

This new pro-Santorum song is both amusing and incredibly educational. Did you know God gave us the bill of rights?!

Rush Limbaugh is a misogynistic pig who calls women who use birth control "sluts." The good news is that eight companies, including AOL, have now pulled their advertising from his show. Here's to hoping he gets canceled! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony 2012

By now, I'm sure you've all seen this Kony 2012 video on your Facebook news feed: 

The video was made by the group Invisible Children. And despite its apparent popularity on my newsfeed, the group has some pretty strong critics (see a roundup of some of them on Jezebel).

I am not an expert on Kony and the LRA in Uganda. So instead of giving you my thoughts, I've copied an email my friend Daniel Katz wrote about the popularity of Invisible Children's latest film. Daniel worked in Uganda from the fall of 2009 through summer 2011.

In Daniel's words:

I take pride in the fact that I take a well-reasoned, fact-based approach to forming opinions. When I arrived in Uganda in September of 2009 and immediately began hearing scathing reviews of Invisible Children, I admonished everyone I spoke to to be sure they were basing their opinions on data and primary sources. After two years of working in the economic development field in Uganda, I am so frustrated with Invisible Children that even the mention of the organization causes in me a quite uncharacteristic immediate response of total and complete ire. This is something I could vent ad nauseum about, but to save everyone else the time and myself the mental anguish, I'll keep it short:

Deaths attributed to LRA attacks in 2011 (countries affected: Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic): 120
278 attacks, 302 abductions, 56 wounded
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
"LRA Regional Update: Central African Republic, DR Congo and South Sudan: January - December 2011"

Deaths due to HIV/AIDS in Uganda in 2009: 64,000
- UNAIDS Joing UN Programme on HIV/AIDS "UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic 2010": "ANNEX 1 HIV AND AIDS ESTIMATES AND DATA 2009 AND 2001"

Deaths due to malaria in 2008: 103 per 1m population. Using 2012 CIA World Factbook 2012 population estimate of 35,873,253 = ~37,000
- World Health Organization "Global Health Observatory Data Repository: Uganda, Country statistics"

Huge kudos to you for caring, but please PLEASE think before you donate. Put the money where it's needed, not where it's going to be used to produce the slickest videos and promo materials.

And allow me to add just a couple soapbox points, for my own therapy:
- In two years in Uganda I never heard a single positive comment about Invisible Children, neither from (expatriate nor Ugandan) aid workers nor Ugandans who stood to benefit. I won't go into the details of the negative reviews.
- Invisible Children's annual report spending numbers don't add up. I honestly have no damn idea how they could possibly be spending as much money on in-country programs but producing so little with it.
- Finally, good on Invisible Children for raising awareness about this. Seriously. But why would you take the money raised and try to fix things yourself, rather than passing the funds along to organizations with a proven track-record of conflict-alleviation and post-conflict rebuilding? Gulu - where IC's headquarters are in Uganda - is so oversaturated with post-conflict oriented organizations that it's actually fairly comical. Coordination would result in that money doing much, much more good, and doing that good in a better way.


Gender Across Borders highlighted an excerpt of my International Women's Day post on their blog! Read it here.

You can also see the full list of blogs who participated in Blog About International Women's Day. There were lots of amazing and moving responses.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures

Happy International Women's Day!


International Women's Day is a holiday, originally developed in the Soviet Union, that commemorates the economic, political, social achievements of women. This year, I'm very excited to be participating in Gender Across Border's Blog For International Women's Day.  This year's theme is "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures." The question: How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way? 

When I sat down to write this, I was overwhelmed by the possibilities. I thought of the need for girls to have a safe space free of violence, both domestic and militarized. I thought of the need for girls to have access to clean water and nutritious food, to be given as much nourishment as their brothers and fathers. I thought of the need for not just more schools but better schools, and the fact that we, as a global community, need to place a higher value on educating girls. I thought about how we need to have better sex education, increased access to birth control, and less slut shaming. I also thought about our media, the terrible, hyper-sexualized message it sends girls, and the dearth of positive, strong, smart women role-models present in our media (they exist, but they're not being shown!).

All of these things are necessary if we're going to involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way. But when I really thought about the question, I thought about girls I know and about the girls I'll hopefully have some day. Besides advocating for the above, what am I doing to involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way? What can I do?

The first is a shockingly simple little thing: we need to treat girls like people, not like little girls. Ever since reading Lisa Bloom's How to Talk to Little Girls, I've noticed my impulse to talk to girls about how cute they are, the clothes they're wearing, or how much I love their cute little pigtails. But as Bloom states, this is exactly the type of talk that teaches little girls that they're valued primarily for their appearance; that their worth is derived from how cute they are. I don't want to send that message to the girls I know or to my own daughters one day. We should talk to girls about reading, travel, science, and history. We should talk to them about doing things (have you ever realized how frequently children's literature/television/magazines depict girls as passive, while the boys are off running around and playing with trucks?). We should talk to them about their interests and about the achievements of other girls and women.

The second thing we, as a global community, can all do a better job of is listening to girls. When we talk to them about their interests, we should encourage and support them in pursuing those interests. We shouldn't try and curb or prohibit their interest in something because we think it isn't "girly" or "feminine" enough. We should value and include their voices in the media and feminist advocacy. We should listen to what they say they need and value their experiences as girls, as young women.

We should also support girls more as they pursue their dreams. We should value their education as much as we value the education of boys. Give them all the resources that we as a global society can give them. We should tell girls that they can be anything, that they can change the world. And we should mean it. We should stop telling women that they can't have it all. I'm the first to admit that it is hard for women, especially mothers, to "have it all." Worldwide systematic oppression makes it so. But we, as a global community, should be fighting tirelessly to ensure that when little girls grow up, they don't face the same struggles we face. We should be telling them, and showing them, that if systems suck, you should work to change them. You shouldn't just resign yourself to life as a second-class citizen.

Which brings me to the last thing we can do to educate and inspire girls: we have to be strong, smart women ourselves. We have to "be the woman our granddaughter will read about someday." I know I am the woman I am today because I grew up watching my mother work and be an awesome mom, because she taught me that it was more important to be smart than pretty, that I should serve others instead of wasting my life watching MTV, and that it was better to leave an unhealthy relationship than to stand by your man. I'm also inspired daily by the women I work with, who demonstrate that you can have a fantastic career and a family. I know how much strength and encouragement I draw from them and other women. And I hope I am a woman girls can draw strength, encouragement, and inspiration from.

P.S. This post is dedicated to my amazing mother, who showed me what feminism is, and to Kenzie J., my adopted sister/cousin. When I think about what we can do to educate, inspire, and involve girls, I think of your energy, passion, and kindness.

I love you Kenzie!