Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Could Not Find an Appropriate Visual Aid for This Post.

I know. The very title of this piece is enough to make you want to vomit and skip over it, regardless of what sort of women’s rights activist you might be. I posted it for comments from the Cathofeminism Facebook community because I feel it is important to acknowledge that this line of thinking is real. It is not satire. It is not a myth perpetuated by crazy prolife groups. There are really men that use women.  Destiny from NWF hits the nail square on the head:

“…(G)oing from an ‘incubator’ to a ‘semen receptacle’ is no progress at all.”

Let’s take a moment to look beyond the crazy here. Look at what it must be like to be a woman on the receiving end of this treatment. Can you blame her? This type of “bro-choice” male uses women for his own sexual gratification and the surge of power. He is selfish. He uses abortion as a tool to get what he wants. That kind of manipulation does damage to women: especially the woman in the relationship.

Abortion is morally reprehensible. It is taking the life of a human being. Allowing men to manipulate, dominate, and control women is also morally reprehensible. It is not a “private” matter. That kind of abuse affects us all. That kind of abuse and use of women as sexual objects is what allows things like this weekend’s VMA debacle to continue to occur. 

Why are we surprised? Look at the aftermath. Look at who is taking the heat. The twenty year old girl. Yes, she is an adult and will take responsibility for her part, but what about the man in the performance? What about those that produced it? There were many people involved in the decision to put that on stage, yet Miley is the one being torn to shreds. (Here is a blogger that first posted about Miley, but followed up with a decent post to remind others that she was not the only one on that stage.)

If we find men that manipulate women into abortion and abortion itself to be morally reprehensible, then we must stop placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the female involved. We must find ways to remind her that the man using her is not her support. We must find ways to help her say “yes” to her child’s life, no matter the circumstance of the birth. If we are going to tell her that her child deserves life even if she was coerced or raped or showed bad decision making, then we must be there to show her she is not an object to be used. We must be a society that does not treat women as sexual objects, and we cannot simply write it of as “she wants to be used as a sexual object.” When you offer no reasonable alternative, it is not a choice

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Catho-Economics" and Women Part Two

I have finally finished Part Two! You can read Part One here. I apologize, this is hardly a masterpiece, but it provides some concrete examples of things we can begin to advocate for that keeps the success of businesses (small, giant and everything in between) in mind. BE SURE TO COMMENT if you have questions or ideas or criticisms. I want to advocate for honest and real solutions!

No Childcare Access

If you are going to advocate for a strengthened family unit-based society (which I do) childcare access in single parent and two parent homes is an important factor.  Currently, most businesses run according to the needs of the business. How else would they make money? We have set business hours and office commutes. This all works out great when families are not involved. Once the employee is a parent, however, things can be complicated. It is more and more difficult to support a family on one income, and we have discussed what a family and a job mean for single parents already. So how can we work to make businesses more family-friendly?

I will start with a few important comments about my perspective. I am completely in support of a free market economy. I believe in small businesses and citizens that work to build profitable businesses thus being able to create jobs and help the local economy thrive. I also have some buy-in where corporate social responsibility (CSR) is concerned. (Businesses giving back to the local community, supporting employees, etc.) All this being said, the thoughts I have where childcare access in concerned is not something I want to see mandated, or enforced to the point that local businesses buckle under financial costs. There is some research that supports CSR and the idea that happy employees are more productive. Take Patagonia as an example. In an effort to create happy employees, the company promotes a flexible work schedule, has on-site daycare, works to ensure their products are environmentally responsible, and gives back to the community on the individual and corporate level.  As a result, their employees work hard. They sift through more applications for an open position than other companies, even when times are good. Turnover is low.  Keeping this example in mind, here are my thoughts on increasing childcare access:

-          Onsite daycare/drop-in center: If we start to view employees as people, and people with families, this kind of an employee benefit can really help with lost hours and employee turnover. It also can create employee buy in, giving employees a reason to work hard for a particular company. Whether it be heavy manufacturing and hourly workers, or office work, access to childcare can benefit the employees and the employer. There are some financial and logistical aspects that can make this challenging, but I can envision this working a few different ways:

o   Onsite care where the providers are employed by the company, or

o   Onsite care or facilities provided by a separate entity where a partnership/contract is entered.  

The thought here would be that the upfront cost of a childcare contract would be smaller than the cost of lost hours and employee turnover. This sort of arrangement would help defray the costs for employees, thus freeing up wages to, you know, live.

-          Flexible schedules: While I realize business hours are business hours, rigid hours are not conducive to family life. A little flexibility goes a long way in allowing a parent time to take their child to the doctor, or pick them up when they are sick, etc. Flexible does not mean that there is no consistency, however.

-          Telecommuting/working from home: While this is something primarily for management or office jobs, allowing the flexibility for employees to work from home a few hours a week is also an option.

Family Unfriendly Policies

I know the above graphic focuses on extended, paid maternity leave, but there are a few other things to consider. Extended, paid leave might be available in other countries, but think about the burden on companies/employers that creates. They are set up to pay the wages of an employee that will not be there AND for someone else to do the work while they are gone. It can lead to discriminatory hiring practices, even if you create all the laws to keep it from happening. Why not go at it from a different angle? Infant at work policies will help get moms back to work sooner. This typically means that infants are welcome with new parents at work until the age of six months or so (AKA when they become mobile).  In manufacturing and service positions, this can be difficult, but if you have onsite childcare, problem solved!

There is also the tendency for policies to allow mothers some time with their new children, but paternity benefits are sorely lacking in America. I really feel that the truest of feminist ideals supports not maternity/paternity benefits but parent benefits.

To conclude, the things that the graphic draws our attention to are of the greatest relevance to me as not just a feminist, but a Catholic feminist. These issues strike at the very heart of the dignity of the worker Catholic Social Teaching strives to uphold. By reconstructing what our idea of employee benefits looks like, we can begin to chip away at pay discrepancies and the “un-liveable wage.” 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Full Text for The Guiding Star Project: A Sexual Assault Conversation (Part Two)

As some of you know, I also contribute posts over at The Guiding Star Project. To promote awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I have recently completed a series of posts related to Sexual Violence. This post will provide you with the links to those posts, as well as a complete transcript for the survivor interviews that contributed to the most recent post from yours truly. For the sake of editing, I took quotes from these women for the purposes of the GSP post but really they all gave such beautiful and complete answers to the questions asked of them, that I wanted to find a way to give them space to tell their stories in greater detail.

A Sexual Assault Conversation (Part One)

Our Call to Advocacy

A Sexual Assault Conversation (Part Two)

Interview Questions:

1. Briefly describe your experience with sexual assault. (You do not need to go into great detail. Ex: I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. I was sexually assaulted in college.)

2. How did this experience influence how you felt about yourself? Did it influence the way you felt about motherhood or your abilities as a parent? (You can speak to how you felt before/after becoming a mother.)

3. How has your experience with sexual assault affected the way you interact with your children (if at all, positively or negatively)?

4. Have you (or do you plan) to disclose the experience with your children? Why or Why not?

5. What have you learned from your experience with sexual assault that you would pass on to someone struggling to heal from sexual assault? (Is there anything related to motherhood, parenting, disclosing, healing, etc. in particular that you would want to pass on?)

Survivor Responses:


1. I am a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of my father. From about 9 or so until I was 18, and I was also assaulted by a man who was a “house parent” at (a teen home), while “interviewing” to be able to have visitation with a friend of mine who lived at (a teen home).

2. This influenced EVERYTHING about me, and still does. I have never felt as though I was really good enough for anyone…damaged goods. I don’t trust anyone, not totally, and I keep most people I know at arm’s length. And if someone does me wrong, I shut the door on them. I have a hard time with forgiveness. 

 I was pretty scared to be a mother, because my own mother never taught me what that means. She was on the cold side of things, and didn't really care much what was going on in her household, as long as she wasn't affected. So, I didn't really know HOW to be a mother. After I became a mother, I was blown away by how vulnerable children are, and I think it made the anger I had in me come out a little more. 

3. I was never taught boundaries as a child. The parent/child boundaries were non-existent in my household, so when I had my own children, I was really unsure of how to keep those lines from being crossed. I probably erred on the side of being stand-offish because I was afraid someone would think I was being overly affectionate with them. I was horrible when they were in diapers, because I didn't want anyone to ever think I spent too long on that area…so I wasn't very good at the cleaning of the diaper area. However, I did become much more assertive with my father…he tried to discipline my son once. ONCE. I took my children and left his home. He called me to berate me for “embarrassing him” by standing up and saying “do not touch my child” and I (for the first time ever) told him that if he ever touched my children again, he would never see them again. I realized, watching my children, that I was just as vulnerable at their ages as they were, and even though it was put upon me that all of what happened to me was my own fault, I was no more at fault than those small children God gave me. 

4. I did discuss with my children that I had been hurt by my father. My daughter knew the most, because she was older at the time my father was put on trial. And since she was highly intelligent, she was very aware of what was going on. I realized much later that while she figured most of it out on her own, she was still not prepared for that burden. I wish I had handled that better. I also discovered that I had not really told my sons very much, because my older son asked me for details when he was in his 20’s…because he said, “I know you were hurt a lot by your dad, but I just don’t know what he did. I would like to know this.” My youngest son maybe knew a little more, because (honestly) he paid more attention what went on around him than his older brother did.  I do think that children should know about this type of thing, especially if it’s a family member that they could come in contact with. It should be age appropriate, but they should not be shut out of why mom acts sad, or angry at, or scared of a relative. I just believe children should not be treated as though they were unable to handle truth. I worry for my nephews who have never been told about the abuse my sister suffered at our father’s hands, even though he has since passed away. What happens to their relationship the day they find out that the grandpa they were raised to respect and care about is the same man who abused their mother? I worry they will be angry at not being given the choice to be around him or not. They know he had a mean streak, and their mom would be highly angered by him a lot of the time, but they do not know why, so I worry they will feel she lied to them. 

5. I do wish (even for myself) that women trying to heal from this would know it was not their fault. I have always felt that somewhere in there, I did something to make it happen. And since nobody but my sisters have ever told me it wasn't my fault, it feels like it was. To the point that when someone “comes on to me” in a social setting, I feel maybe I did something to cause it, even if I had nothing to do with their actions. A “normal” woman would just feel “what a dirt bag…” and walk away. I would feel “what did I do to make him think that about me?” and worry about it. There are just people out there that are incapable of NOT inflicting some sort of pain on other people, it’s not that you invited them to hurt you.  I wish that part of me would go away, but it is there. And if you do feel as though you need to talk to someone, do it. Even if everyone around you thinks it is embarrassing to the family. It’s not about them, it’s about YOUR mental health and well-being.


1. I was sexually assaulted by my boyfriend's friend when I was 25.

2. The experience made me completely paranoid about personal safety. I hate being out after dark and being home alone and those things never used to bother me.

3. I think the sexual assault has made me more paranoid. I worry obsessively about my baby daughter's safety and well-being  I'm concerned that because I was sexually assaulted I will be overprotective of my daughter when she's older.

4. I do plan to tell my daughter when she gets older. I just want her to know that if anything ever happens to her, it is not her fault and I will be there to help her. I never told my mother what happened to me.

5. I would tell someone else who experienced sexual assault that they should not think of themselves as less pure or valuable than other women. My husband still thinks I am wonderful despite what happened to me!


1. What I experienced would best be called as "date rape" because, unfortunately, there really is no terminology for being raped by the boy you had been dating for 3 years.

2. The experience changed how I thought of myself. I felt an immense amount of guilt and shame.

3. I don't think it's affected me at all THUS FAR. My daughter is only 8 and I haven't really seen much of an interest from her in boys yet. I do know, though, that it will affect how I parent her as I get older. I grew up in a staunchly Catholic household, and my boyfriend was Catholic as well. In fact, we were on Diocesan youth boards, active in youth ministry, etc. One youth minister actually called us a "perfect model of a faith-filled teen couple." But we were given too much freedom. I will definitely be more in touch with how my daughter's dating life progresses.

4. I will admit right now that I am not sure if I will disclose it. There are times when I think, yes, I want her to know. But there are times when I think, it's better left where it is--in the past.

5. I've learned that it can take a very, very long time to heal. Sometimes you can go weeks without thinking about it and then there are times when it's on the forefront of your mind. It's going to be with you forever, so you have to find a way to make peace with it. For me, making peace meant saying, "Okay, it happened. I can't change that. But because it happened, XYZ happened. I don't regret XYZ, so therefore I am OK that it happened." Also, I'll share one of the things someone told me along my road to acceptance: "You are at your strongest when you feel as if you are at your weakest." So true.


1. I've experienced several types during various stages in my life and often wondered if the later assaults were made more possible by the initial one. (Childhood sexual molestation).

2. The initial experience didn't seem to imprint negatives about my self-image, but later ones over time made me feel insecure, or as other survivors might understand, as if I was defective or wearing a bulls eye  As time goes on and you experience more and more interactions, even very obscure ones, you start to blur the line between who is at fault, most especially in our culture of victim-blaming. I began to feel uncomfortable about my introverted personality and even uncomfortable about my body size and things such as my gait.

As a mother, I have the same concerns as any parent. I'm worried about bringing children into a society that protects the perpetrator, mocks or ignores the victim and generally promotes a hushed up environment about sexual assault. I worry that my children will experience what I did, or that I won't be able to encourage in them confidence and skills to avoid these situations.

3. Experiencing sexual assault has given me a deeper perspective about the serious failing of punitive parenting and the inappropriate emphasis our society has on forcing children to obey authority. Forcing a child to ignore his own feelings or bodily signs to obey an authority figure is exactly how early abuse begins and exactly how cycles of abuse continue throughout a person's life.

When we are taught to be "nice" to others even if our brains are screaming in fear, or taught to cover up violation so as not to bring embarrassment to the family, we place the dignity of children on a lower level than social image or reputation. In a different way, this is yet another violation against the victim.
So my parenting method is something I commit to not only b/c I want to avoid disrespectful parenting behaviors, but also b/c I want to encourage my children to have a strong self-will, confidence about their bodily/mental signs and the courage to follow those cues in the face of danger.

4. Yes, I have briefly, in a non-graphic way, informed my children. It's important of course to take care not to scare young children or break their innocence. I feel that my brief discussion with them while reading the body books I purchased was the right mix of information and tact.

For other parents wondering, I made statements such as, "When Mama was 4 years old, a grown up wanted to touch her body and she didn't want him to do it. If that ever happens to you, you can shout no and run to get me. I will always help you."

5. The hardest part is perhaps learning to place full and open responsibility on the perpetrator. It's very easy for a survivor to take on the burden of blame in our culture, and that is a very impairing experience that will halt deep healing. Although it can be extremely painful at first to acknowledge that another person openly and deliberately chose to harm you (and perhaps this was someone close to you or someone who was supposed to protect you) in the end, this clarity opens a path to true healing where you can put the issue to rest, find forgiveness for yourself and begin to move forward.

As parents, it becomes not just a healthy step to healing but a vital, necessary step to take. As long as the survivor holds responsibility and shame/guilt/blame, as a parent, the message passed to the child will be garbled. Hypocrisy is something children can pick up on very easily, even unspoken hypocrisy.
If we cannot face our own violators and accuse them justly and fully, how can we be guardians to our children and potentially do the same for them? Instead, we will only pass on the cycle of abuse to them and give them the continued role of taking on the blame and playing the unhealed victim.


Last year my oldest turned 6. Last year she started Kindergarten and I dealt with the anxiety of knowing she would be going to the bathroom at school on her own. The idea of my sweet little girl walking around unsupervised made me physically ill. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the fear that my child will end up being victimized is always with me. It is calculated into everything I do. I realize for some people this may seem an indicator of therapy needs. For those who experienced high levels of trauma, they know that the key is to manage these fears. My oldest has no idea that her first year of school brought an entire fleet of emotions up for me. When we talk about safety, we talk in general terms. She is friendly, kind, and full of zest for life. The way a small child should be.

Being a survivor of child sexual abuse makes me a bit different as a mom. Working with survivors on a daily basis changes the way I parent as well. Unlike some, I cannot pretend that the person who poses the greatest danger to my child is the stranger, the new neighbor, and creepy kid down the street. I know that the people I love the most pose the greatest danger. I have listened to far too many parents cry and ask how they didn't see it, how they didn't know, listened to them talk about how their best friend, their pastor, their favorite cousin hurt their child to pretend that danger isn't all around.

The thing is I also have to balance that information with the knowledge that there is plenty of good in the world. I must work just as hard to keep my child full of hope—as I do to keep her safe. She deserves to grow up knowing there is love, and beauty, and peace to be found in this world for those willing to seek it out. Right now, my little girl only knows that her mommy grew in another person’s tummy. Right now, she knows that mommy works with people who have been hurt by others. Someday I will share my story with my daughter. I am not sure when that story will be—or if it will be in bits and pieces. I will share my story because if my daughter is ever hurt, if someone she loves is ever hurt, I want to make sure I've shown her that it is okay to talk about it. That shame belongs on the perpetrator. I want her to know that no matter what has happened in my life, looking at her gives me everything I was always searching for.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our Search for the Perfect Victim

Here in our country, we live with the illusion of equality: legal equality. Women have the same legal rights as men: they can own a business, vote, go to work, raise their children, divorce, have affairs. They can have their own bank accounts, file taxes, own property, sell property, and a woman is a whole person in the eyes of the law.

Public opinion on women being equal and a whole person seems to shift when they become a victim of the most personal crimes: domestic violence and sexual assault.  We speak of these things at first in hushed tones.  It is often considered a private matter, but then we talk about all the wrong things. We go on to discuss the victim. We excuse victims of the past because of their lack of resources, but women today should know better. Women today should always be cognizant of abuse red flags. Women today should dress in a way that does not attract attention*. Women today should take care of the family they chose to have because they had the option to contracept or abort**. Women today should know, from the moment they meet a man, whether or not he is capable of abuse. They should not drink***. They should not hang out in shady areas or with people they do not know****. They should always have a plan and when they are sexually assaulted, masturbated to in public, raped, or trapped in an abusive relationship… they must have done something to deserve it. They liked it. They wanted it. They should have known better.

This is where we are failing. When we sit here from our arm chairs and judge the decisions, locations, and clothing choices she is making instead of supporting her and her children and helping them to be as safe as possible until she is both safe and stable enough (mentally, emotionally, physically, support-wise) to be able leave, then we are part of the problem. When we judge a sexual assault victim on many of these same things, we are part of the problem.  When we are focused on the actions of the person that seems the easiest to control, we behave just as the abuser behaves. The abuser's actions are criminal, not the victim’s*****. Talk about what he is doing wrong and ways to stop him instead of about the illusion of support you think she has.

There is no such thing as the perfect victim. We will never find someone that the public eye will respect enough, that the law will support enough, or that we like enough. We can either continue to find ways to tear her apart and point out her flaws, or we can turn our focus to the criminal actions. What gave the perpetrator the right to hit her or threaten her? How dare he create violence in front of children that will haunt them for life?! Why did he think that he could rape her? What can we do to prevent this act of sexual or physical violence from happening again?


* Yet fashion centers on how sexy a woman should look and our focus is on how women should be attractive to men from the earliest of ages. A pornified culture sets women up to fail.

**Nevermind the alarming consequences of hormonal contraception and the emotional scarring of abortion, just to start.

***Women should not drink. Unless they are busy looking sexy and selling alcohol. Or a modern woman who can do as she pleases. Really, they just should not drink on nights they will be assaulted because if they do they are asking for it.

**** Why was she walking alone to her car? She met him in a bar, what did she expect?

*****There are many elements to abuse that we do not understand as outsiders. She is manipulated and coerced into a variety of behavior and her life hangs in the balance. Criminalizing her actions without intimate knowledge of what her life is like is dangerous.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


*I would like to preface this post by saying that I am seven months pregnant. At this stage, my thoughts feel like they are complete, but sometimes they are not! I hope that if something in the post speaks to you positively or negatively, you would let me know and engage in some conversation if I need to clarify something. This issue is a difficult one to talk about at times, and I often benefit from discussions on modesty. End preface.*

As I have mentioned previously, I spent two summers in college working for an amazing catechetical program called Totus Tuus. It was an incredible period of my life, to say the least. My first summer, I was asked to give the modesty talk for the high school girls camp. I was equally honored and scared.  There were so many things I wanted to say, and I wanted the talk to impact these girls and make them think about modesty in a way that they had not considered.

I was typically the kind of kid that, if I was told not to do something, I just didn't do it. There are always exceptions of course, but when it came down to the big issues of faith or teenage peer pressure, I was always astonished when asked to participate. “I can’t smoke pot! It’s Illegal!” “You guys are going to get some beer? But we aren't 21!” “You are breaking up with me because we are not having sex? We aren't married, though. I don’t understand…” “You are skipping Mass this weekend? Are you sick?” And so it went for the most part. It would follow that I also listened on the edge of my seat to modesty talks. It was my job as a Christian woman to help guard my brothers in Christ. This happened to fit right into my own inability to wear most standard fashions as I was just taller than most, and did not enjoy it when my stomach was hanging out the bottom of my shirt, or I did not have adequate posterior/breast coverage. I was made for t-shirts and jeans, so modesty was my game.

 Teaching Totus Tuus began to make me think about modesty in an entirely different way. At first, it was good. I liked the way that the program emphasized team work when it came to modesty. Clothes should be clothes, and not a way to draw unwanted attention to your body. There was at least the fa├žade (more on that later) of gender equality with modesty amongst the teachers: the men shouldn't walk around shirtless, etc. either. As I began to think about my big talk, I wanted to draw attention to modesty of our thoughts, words and actions, not just the clothing we were wearing, but what it meant to be a woman of God in a more holistic sense.

I very nearly had the talk taken from me just after the first week of teaching. A former teacher was supervising our first week, and there was one night my teammate was overheard having a “modesty” talk with a few of the high school ladies. Praise was heaped on her for how thoughtful and realistic she was with them, and that it sounded like she really reached out and they heard her. (I’ll vouch for her: she’s my best friend to this day and she is fantastic at witnessing!) It happened to be the same night that I accidentally changed into the wrong pair of jeans after Mass, and they were a little lower in the back when I sat down so the shirt I was wearing did not quite meet the waist. The former teacher informed my team leader of how inappropriate I was dressed. He took me aside privately to let me know and I was mortified. It was strike one.

In a week or so my teammate and I were approached about switching our camp talks as she was now dubbed the Modesty Police. To say the least we were both offended and refused to switch. I was grateful that she was as upset as I was. Little was said again about the issue until camp was underway. She and I spent a few nights arguing discussing fighting about talking modesty with a priest and a few of the teachers. I began to see how one-sided the modesty debate really was amongst my peers and even my educators. Guys are different. They have a physical response that women do not have, so a girl running in a sports bra is leaps and bounds more offensive and inappropriate than a muscular boy running without a shirt. After a few hours of incredulous head-shaking and rather loud, defiant arguments, the priest ended the conversation by telling us that we were refuting years of women telling him the opposite, so he simply did not believe us. Strike two.

Over our summer break, and my teammate and I had gone shopping. As a birthday gift to myself, I purchased an orange V-neck shirt and a tank that went under it. I was very pleased with the purchase: I never found orange tops that fit correctly! I wore it once over the break and then happened to be wearing it the day of the modesty talk. During the boys camps, the female teachers took more of a helping role (as the male teachers did during girls camps) so when it came time for the high school boys camp, I was ready to fade into the background a little and concentrate on my talk and prayer. I do not think I spent more than an hour the entire day around any of the boys. After the talk, we went into the chapel for Liturgy of the Hours, and on the walk back into the main gathering space my team leader informed me that one of the campers had asked that I change my shirt. I felt my face flush red. I was hurt, and trying not to cry in front of a seminarian. I complied and spent an hour or so in our sleeping area feeling as though I was a hypocrite or a sinner or some awful example of a Christian woman. Strike three.

I look back on things now, and I am amazed I was able to give the modesty talk successfully. My confidence was shaken on a weekly basis. Don’t get me wrong: I loved my teammates and I grew in my faith in ways I did not know were possible. I am a stronger person today because of my time with Totus Tuus and I still love the program and pray for its success. However, now that I am an adult and I have spent some time thinking about feminism and Catholicism, I see that there were some attitudes and ideas that held me back from growth as well. (The word “accountability” still makes me want to vomit. A story for another time, perhaps…)

To save myself some time, I will be blunt here: Modesty is a good thing, but the general ideas and attitudes that surround it really are not, because attraction knows no bounds. Women in a potato sack with only extremities visible might be the only way to be sure we are guiding our brothers in Christ away from sinful thoughts. Even then, some guys like toes: maybe even fingernails. Yes we can exercise some caution in our wardrobe choices, but I cannot get behind the idea that I must do so only to be supportive to a man.

In my experience as a young Catholic woman, I certainly was given many reasons for modesty. These reasons included valuing and respecting my body. The experiences I outlined above were not about me, but about men and their struggles with modesty.  I know that this issue is complex, but what message do we send our young women when we tell them the clothes they wear are about men’s thoughts? Isn't that just as bad as telling them that they should wear fewer clothes to attract men? What do clothes, make-up, or our hairstyles have to do with men in the first place? What messages do we send our young men if we tell them that it is a woman’s responsibility to keep them from sin because they cannot control their own actions?

I ask these questions honestly. I have a son and a daughter. I work harder than I should have to in order to find my 17-month old daughter clothes that are appropriate for the things a 17-month old does (Such as play, run, eat, fall down.) The battle has already begun to keep her from a sexualized childhood. I work harder than I should have to in order to avoid clothing choices for my three year old son that glorify violence and promiscuity. I fight the same fight when choosing their toys, and I will continue to fight these fights as long as I am their mother. When it comes time for the more direct modesty conversations, I will avoid relying on the “brothers and sisters in Christ” model of modesty, because I find it to be damaging to our young women and men.

What are your thoughts on modesty? How do you plan to talk about modesty with your children?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Whether or not you have children that are teenagers or teens that are dating, it is important to know that dating violence is prevalent for our teens. I have written about the devastating consequences of this topic before (Amanda Todd and It Happened Again) and I will continue to shed light on the issue today.

Today my children and I are wearing orange in support of teen dating violence awareness. They may not be teenagers or even close to tweens yet, but I believe that learning about healthy relationships starts early, and that they have solid role models in their parents. For now we may just be modeling what a healthy, loving, respectful relationship looks like, but that is half the battle. In time will come age appropriate discussions about respect in ALL sorts of relationships: student/teacher, friendships, peers, family, and (of course) dating.

Here is a link to a site that speaks mostly to healthy relationships. (A quick scan of the material did not find any inappropriate information that was contrary to Church teaching. If I missed something, I apologize, but the other info is still solid and important in erasing the issue!) Here is a link with some tips for parents as well!

Nothing like spitting out a quick PSA while waiting for a plumber!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Junior Great Books and Feminism: Part Two

The story I want to share with you today is not one that I remember reading in Junior Great Books, though I may have (parts seem pretty heavy for a group of sixth graders though). I really do not remember a single story from JGB other than Harrison Bergeron and The Lottery.  In my sophomore year of college, I took a lit class that had a short stories book as the curriculum. I kept the book because it was filled with awesome. If I wasn't lazy I would dig it out and tell you to go buy it. However, we still have not purchased a bookshelf since we moved over a year and a half ago, and all our books are in a tub in a closet underneath other boxes of once important things waiting to be important again. This pregnant lady passes on that experience.

One of the first stories we read in that class was, indeed, Harrison Bergeron. I was so excited. I got to the end of the story, and I was perplexed… my edition had cut out the last third of the story for some reason. I was really disappointed, because I think everyone should read that story. It still bugs me that there are books out there being read with only 2/3 of the greatest Vonnegut piece I have ever read.
The class really only got better. It was in this class that I was introduced to the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” written by Ursula K. LeGuin. This next statement might officially classify me as a lit nerd, but I really enjoyed deconstructing these stories and talking about how they apply to life as we know it and the human experience. It is just fantastic. So, JGB and this class were my inspiration for this series of posts. There are wonderful morals and ideas embedded within these stories that are of great importance to Feminism.

So, in case you did not link to the story earlier, (link, link, link!) my analysis will include a few passages that specifically impacted me.
“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can't lick 'em, join 'em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.”
At times there is a false premise that exists in the world of mainstream feminism: the premise is that happiness is directly related to success. This premise exists in other facets as well: politics, religion, etc. but here I refer only to its existence within feminism. Happiness cannot spring from family or a role that somehow ties our fate to that of a man. Without success, happiness is nonexistent so we must seek success as our only goal, no matter the cost. At times, abortion and abortafacients become a part of this process, because children (wanted or “unwanted”) limit success for women. Women are held accountable for children in a deeper, more complex way than men. Children interfere with a woman’s path to success, because children should not be considered a success. They are a hindrance.

This passage from the story now leaves me considering Rebecca Walker’s experience as the “daughter of a feminist.” (Her mother is Alice Walker.) She writes about it in an article called “How My Mother’s Fanatical Views Tore Us Apart.”  In short, she was left feeling as though she was delaying her mother’s success versus being a part of it, and she writes about her life then, and her life as a mother. I cannot accept a distorted version of feminism that tears others down, whether it be women, men or children. I cannot accept a version of feminism that uses violence against our children as a stepping stone. When violence towards another becomes acceptable or even vital to a cause, that cause has become distorted. This is not said without appreciation for what women who went before us fought for: the front-runners of our cause did not advocate violence but strength and unity.
“Let tambourines be struck above the copulations, and the gory of desire be proclaimed upon the gongs, and (a not unimportant point) let the offspring of these delightful rituals be beloved and looked after by all. One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.”

When I view this passage now, I am struck by the thought that all children are beloved, especially within the context of this story. Are they all loved only because of the unpleasant secret, or are all children created to be loved regardless of how they were conceived… say, even in an orgy?

I also marvel at the idea that this utopia is one that values children, and children do not become a source of guilt. This is not truly how we live in reality, yet the sexual description of Omelas is not so different from what is pressed on us in reality. Is it possible to have consequence-free sex and still love and care for all children? I am not so sure our culture allows this when children are viewed as the ultimate consequence.

“They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery.”

Again, I am vividly reminded of our outlook on abortion. It is seen as a necessary evil: a woman must maintain her right to choose. This is ultimately dependent on the death of a child. While all that remain in Omelas seem to be able to accept that this child’s misery allows their lives to be otherwise complete, there are those of us in reality that would do anything to prevent abortion from being, as this writer, Kassie says, “…a divorce of women from their fertility.”

Sometimes I am truly confused at the marriage of happiness to controlling our fertility in this world, the same as I am perplexed by the marriage of destroying a human being for the sake of the many in Omelas.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Junior Great Books and Feminism: Part One

When I was in the fifth grade, I entered into something called the Extended Learning Program in school. It really was an important part of my life, but nothing made a greater impact than the few months I spent being bussed over to the public school for Junior Great Books meetings. In these meetings, we would read short stories and discuss. I was in a group with kids a year older than I was and I was the only one in a uniform: definitely the odd ball out even in a gifted program, but I loved discussing those stories. It was here that I was first introduced to Kurt Vonnegut, and his short story Harrison Bergeron.

I will not be a poser and pretend that I have read all of Vonnegut because of this story (although it is definitely something I look forward to doing someday) but I have read a few of his short stories because of Harrison Bergeron. It is such a reference point in my life that I find it incredible that more people do not know this story! In fact, the only person I have come across that knows the reference is my husband. The link above has the full text of the story, and I seriously recommend you read it.

There is much in this short story that is relevant to life as we know it in 2013: a need for equality and the struggle for balance and loss of incredible talent in tragic circumstances to name a few. In this post, I would like to discuss the correlation of this story and feminism today, but first I will give you an excerpt from the story in case you did not scurry over to the link (Link, link, link!) to read it as I suggested!

“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

The first four sentences definitively set the tone for the piece. It may seem at first as though everything is finally perfect. After all, are we not currently striving for equality? Where things get tricky, is taking the uniqueness and individuality out of humanity. We are not looking for separate but equal as feminists: we are striving for unique and equal. Different but equal. Woman and man YET EQUAL. Just as we have different strengths and weaknesses as individuals, men and women together create a wholeness that would be lacking without one or the other. A woman’s contribution to this beautiful world is no less important than a man’s, and vice versa. Vonnegut may “over-simplify” the equality issue in the story, but does he? It does not seem as removed from reality to me as an adult as it did when I first read it at ten.

“The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and gentlemen——”He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right——” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”“Ladies and gentlemen——” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men.And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me——” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.”

In the story, any personal talent, beauty or achievement is met with only the warped view of equality, or what is “fair.” A ballerina can only dance as well as anyone else. An intelligent person can only offer the world as much intelligence as what is described as average: “which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts.” Every single aspect of a human being’s intelligent design is whittled down to the lowest common denominator. As a ten year old in an advanced learning program, this thought terrorized me, and to think about it today evokes the same feelings. It may seem oversimplified or exaggerated, but the “Mommy Wars” are a fine example of how we pick apart women, and rearrange the ideal to meet only certain aspects of womanhood. My last post talked about an article that worked hard to dispel the thought of children as an achievement. It was an example of how modern, mainstream feminism tells women they can only be one kind of woman: successful, childless or with no more than two children. She must be career oriented and powerful: children will not slow her down, or affect her weight and appearance. There is an ideal concept for what womanhood is with mainstream feminism. If you do not agree, you are being held captive by a patriarchal society.

Even at the age of ten, the few moments Harrison and the ballerina had of freedom were beautiful and worth it in my eyes. Here is where the comparison ends for me. I believe that women do not have to suffer Harrison’s fate: conform or die. Rather, we have a third option: change the story. We must work to change our thoughts, words and actions so that they can transform the thoughts, words and actions of others. We must seek the truest form of change: a change of the heart/mind/perspective. The battle of new feminism and mainstream feminism is not just about abortion rights: rather, it is about refusing to see the common good that could be accomplished by focusing not on temporary solutions or handicaps such as abortion, but creating a society that is truly supportive of women and men alike. We seek society that nurtures its youth and cares for its elders. We seek change that demands equality for all while still embracing our different abilities and nature, and an equality that demands a basic respect for humanity in the process. Equality does not destroy in the name of equality.