Can you see what I see?

You see a bunch of silly girls making a stink about crop tops, and fighting school dress codes, and getting on the news for their 15 minutes of fame

I see teenage girls taking a stand for themselves, their bodies and fighting back against a society that tries to police and shame them for having bodies at all. 

You see a blatant disregard for the rules of proper conduct and disrespect for the hidden curriculum of our educational institutions that teaches our kids about the expectations of society and how they should behave as a civilized member of said society.

I see students pushing back because they understand that dress codes are often disproportionately enforced for female versus male students and perpetuate the thoughts that women's bodies as inherently sexual and objectified distractions to male students. I see a system that seems to have one set of rules for boys and another for girls and I worry about what kind of "hidden curriculum" of casual and systemic sexism this kind of culture creates and how this seeps into the minds of our children over the years.

You see this fight as an insult to the many people who are fighting for gender equality and "real" women's issues across the globe.  

I see young girls taking up the mantle of feminism at this very moment in their lives. I see them looking at the world with different eyes now and perhaps becoming the future leaders in our continued fight for equality in all things. 



You see an image of a mother breastfeeding her six-year old and think that there is something so very, very wrong with it and that this practice is scarring the child forever and doesn't actually have any health "benefits".

I see a mother-child dyad that is incredibly bonded and that will come to the natural end of their nursing partnership when both are ready.

You see a kid who can go to the fridge and get her own cup of milk and wonder what is the point of the continued breastfeeding. 

I see that breastfeeding a child is about far more than being a food source. It is about warmth, and love, and closeness, and comfort, and help to fall asleep, and is not about any so called "benefits", it is simply the way mammals feed and nurture their young.

You see a mother flaunting her "extreme" parenting style all over the internet and on magazine covers, and say that she is making THIS not just about her and her choices, but inviting everyone to comment about it. 

I see a breastfeeding advocate who knows that "one can not be what one does not see" and is showing the world the simple, normal, healthy, and loving way that she has nursed her child.

I see that western cultures have very disheartening breastfeeding rates and by sharing photos of mothers nursing their children (at any age) and showing these practices more in the mainstream, more women will witness it and know that there is no shame in nursing (in public or not).


NURSING, because she fell off her bike

NURSING, because she fell off her bike


You see a new government in our province that has a cabinet of ministers with parity of gender and a specific portfolio for one who is now the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women and ask where the ministry for the status of men is? 

I see a government who is embracing the fact that women make up 50% of the population in this province, who is taking a serious look as to why the two largest cities in Alberta ranked lowest on a study of 20 cities in Canada as the worst for women, and is committed to making it a priority to see changes to these issues that can only benefit our whole province and our economy. 

You spout off reasons that the gender pay gap is a myth, that women are CHOOSING lower paying jobs and CHOOSING to stay home to care for children, and that you want equality for men too.

I see someone who doesn't want to step into my (or any woman's) shoes for a moment and actually see things from the perspective and the reality of these choices (hint: they are not actually choices for many). I see someone who is hurting and likely needed support at some point in his life, but didn't feel he could ask for it, because he lives in a culture that has taught him that vulnerability is weakness and that his only choice is to "man up". 

You see feminists as your enemies.

I see a person who doesn't understand that there are no enemies here and that deep down, we ALL truly want the same things. To be treated with kindness, compassion and respect as human beings. 


N~

Love > power

I'm having a week where I am contemplating a lot of abstract feminist thoughts and I thought I had better write them down to better understand what it is exactly that I am trying to figure out. 


Earlier this week I read the New York Times opinion piece, 'Poor Little Rich Woman'. It's an social researcher's observations of the ultra rich housewives from the Upper East Side of Manhattan and well, you can go read it for yourself, or kind of guess what it's all about (think Nanny Diaries or Jane Krakowski's character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). 

But the article and the author's commentary on the lives of these women, however observational (and also maybe just a tad judgmental), where not what really got me into this contemplative mood.  It was a comment I read on Facebook that has stuck in my brain. It read, "This is not disempowerment of women, this is abdication." 

This made me start to examine the words we use when discussing feminism and our efforts towards full equality. It made me think that in our aim to constantly EMPOWER woman, are we not also saying that they are in fact weak? To empower someone literally means TO GIVE THEM POWER. If we are looking at the world from a perspective of power and who holds it, then, let's be honest, do we really think that true equality is ever going to happen within the social, political and economic structures as they exist today?  

This is the situation as I see it; especially when it comes to most of the anti-feminist rhetoric one reads and any and all arguments about women actually having agency in their own lives. Women ARE gaining personal, professional and political power in our world. This power though, is often perceived as a finite resource, and therefore any gains that women are making, is seen as power being taken away from men. And this is just not cool for the current power-holders. 

I am also not completely convinced that I need to feel empowered as a woman. The thesaurus says that synonyms for empower are "to LET, ALLOW and PERMIT". And I am sorry, but no one needs to PERMIT or ALLOW me to be a full, equal and valued member of society. As a feminist, I believe that ALL PERSONS have this right just by being born. It's not about empowering or allowing someone to have these rights, it's about making sure that everyone knows this as the truth and feels it from the day they come into this world.

Also, do you know what is DISempowering? Governments that resort to the lowest of lows to limit power to women by regulating our reproductive systems. Workplaces and schools that continue to function as they did in the 1950s when a parent (mother) at home full-time was the norm and not the exception. Childcare costs that are so hefty, that they alone can eat up half of a person's annual income and make it seem like having children is in fact a burden on society.  

The aggressions, both micro and macro, that women experience daily are all there for one purpose - to keep the power right where it has always been. In the hands of the patriarchy.

 #nosharesies


My Webster's dictionary and I are getting all cozy up in here today.

Abdication (noun): to formally give up a position.

As a stay-at-home-parent, is this what I have done? Is this what women who "opt-out" of careers and professional lives to care for children and households do? And if so, is it such a terrible thing?

In 1936, Kind Edward VIII abdicated the Throne of England so that he could marry Wallis Simpson. This man gave up his birthright and the ruling of the Commonwealth of Britain to marry the love of his life. At the time, this was considered a "crisis", that Wallis was a twice-divorced floozy, and just after the king for his literal crown jewels. And yet, he gave up his crown, they married, and remained so until he died 35 years later.

My question is this: Is it wrong to want LOVE more than one wants power?

I say NO.

Power doesn't crawl into your bed in the early hours of the morning and fit perfectly in the warm space between your arms and your chest.

Power doesn't ask you to still do "The moon is round" rhyme every night before he closes his eyes, even though he is almost 9-years old.

Power doesn't take a three-hour car ride with you in complete silence, not because you don't have anything to talk about, but because you are so comfortable with each other that you don't have to talk about anything.

Yes, I abdicated my position as a 9-5 career woman. I gave up the jewels (perks) that came with my job. I chose to renounce the paycheque, the benefits and the possibility of bigger and better things and the power that came with them. I was also in a very privileged position to do so and am so very grateful for that. 

And yes, I would do it all over again if I was given the chance and/or the choice. (As I suspect King Edward would have too!) 

I feel like that random Facebook commenter was using the word abdication and meaning it in a derogatory sense. As a form of "crisis" for the feminist movement. 

To this person I would say this - Nothing in my life; no high powered career, no promise of a corner office, no amount of money offered, has made me more of a feminist, and has "EMPOWERED" me more, than mothering has. 


After yoga one morning last week (because, yes, I am one of THOSE moms who goes to yoga after I drop off my kids at school), one of the moms was telling a story about how her daughter had asked her if there is a course at university to learn how to be a stay-at-home mom. She proceeded to tell us that she told her kid in no uncertain terms that NO, there most certainly is not and that she is to have a career FIRST!

I wasn't about to get into a big feminist discussion in the parking lot or stick around for the MRS. degree talk that was starting to happen, but I did wonder... How would her kid, or geez, my kids for that matter, ever know this? We are our children's first role models and if you are a stay-at-home parent and have been since your kids where born, that part of the equation (the career FIRST part) is not something they have been exposed to.

And also, have we been so conditioned by our society, that this is what must FIRST define a woman's worth? Her career. And then, once she has established that value, THEN she can opt (out) to become a mother and perhaps, if she can, choose to stay at home with her children. 

My kids have never witnessed me with a 9-5 job. They have never been in full-time day care. They don't take the school bus or have to be in before- or after-school care. We've had discussions about what Mommy's job is versus what Daddy's job is and how both are very important in order to help our family function and thrive. Sometimes it hurts to hear them say that I don't have a "real" job, but I can't deny that this is the truth in the literal sense of the word. 

Because of the choices that we have made for our family, I feel that as a woman, a feminist, and a mother, it is my responsibility to show my children how to be the best at all three of those things. So that my daughter finds her own footing in this world as a strong, confident woman and so that my son respects and admires this in the women in his life and looks for these traits in his future partner(s).

It also means exposing and introducing them to people from all different walks of life. Moms who work, dads who stay home, same-sex couples, single-parent families, couples with no kids, and everyone in between. That means not shying away from the tough conversations that come up when they ask questions, be they about race, sex, work, religion and privilege. This also means being the ones to bring up these topics when they DON'T ask about them and making sure they are getting their information from a reliable, albeit often-fumbling-through-it-all-as-best-we-can, source. 

In the end, do I want my daughter to get an education and have a career before she has children? Do I also want the same for my son? I don't really know. We believe this is the best thing for our kids, because it's what we've been taught to believe and what our parents where taught to believe as well. I'd like to think that I am teaching my children that what THEY want in their lives is what is most important and I can only hope that I am giving them the tools to know themselves well enough to figure this all out and make the best choices for themselves. 

I want them to know that sticking with the status quo, just because that's the way it has always been, doesn't have to be their way. I want them to know that their value as human beings is not tied to a paycheque or a lofty title or a high-powered career. I want them to know that choosing and being guided by love is never a bad thing. I also want them to know that working hard and doing their best at whatever they decide to do, is to be done not simply to make their parents proud, but to make them proud of themselves and the good things that they are doing for others. 

Apparently, this one wants to make everyone dance! Dance!

Apparently, this one wants to make everyone dance! Dance!


This feminist parenting stuff is not always easy and sometimes, my brain gets overloaded with all the thoughts that I have, all the articles that I read and all the news that I consume. I know that to some people, it may be tiring to hear me "make a point" about EVERYTHING all the time, and that not everything has to be about some kind of feminist agenda.

I am not sure I can agree with this. Nothing will ever change if we just keep doing what we've always done. If we don't stop and think about the way we talk, and the way we act, we'll never see the kind of change we want not only in ourselves, but in those around us as well.  

And so I'll keep contemplating, keep writing down my thoughts and keep on making my points. Until such time that the world we live in looks a lot more like the one I envision in my head. 

N~

 

driving at night in the fog

I will never forget this one particular day, many years ago, covering the FAR NORTH rural route of my pharma sales territory. I was driving from Grande Prairie, Alberta to Fort St. John, B.C. and stopping at all the small towns, doctors offices and pharmacies in between. I don't think it was winter at the time, but I can't remember if it was not quite spring or not quite fall either. What I do remember, is that by the time I had reached the bridge crossing over the Peace River right before the town of Taylor, B.C., it was dark outside, I was driving in the thickest fog I had ever seen in my entire life, I could only see about 5 feet in front of my car and I had no idea if any other vehicles where even on the road with me.

And I was TERRIFIED of going onto that bridge and actually making it over and onto the other side. 

I couldn't risk stopping to get my bearings, psych myself up and perhaps offer up a few prayers to the universe and every god I could think of. I had no idea there were other cars or logging trucks behind me and if they would be able to see me if I stopped and so I just had to keep going. I slowed down to maybe 10-15 km an hour, kept the steering wheel as steady as I could, and my eyes on that five feet in front on me. It was very slow going, but I did not drive off the side of the bridge, and did eventually make it to the other side. And the ball of fear that filled me from the back of my throat to the pit of my stomach did not subside until I was safely in the comfort of my Quality Inn hotel bed in Fort St. John later that night. 

And apparently, according to E.L. Doctorow, writing is EXACTLY like that night. "You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."


Last week while I was at the Mom 2.0 Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, I had the incredible honour of sitting front and centre in an intimate session with @The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. She read us the first chapter of her new book, Furiously Happy and it was incredible! And for Jenny, because of the content and context of this book and what she was revealing to all of us, most of it out loud for the first time, it was also very likely an incredibly terrifying experience for her. 

Her honesty, her willingness to just be so ridiculously and sometimes painfully herself and do so even when she is afraid and anxious and yes, often in need of various medications just to stand up on a stage, made me love her even more than I already do. Listening to Jenny read from the bedazzled binder that holds the manuscript of her book and then share some of her insights about writing and life was just the thing I needed to hear.

I needed to hear (again) that writing is hard. Even for those for whom we think it comes so naturally. I needed to know that imposter syndrome is a real thing and that a lot of people have it and it's very much like having a mean girl live in our head and tell us our outfit sucks all the time. I needed to know that perfect prose does not just happen in a day or an hour sitting in front of a computer screen. It takes work, editing, and time, and usually it is a lot of all three of those. I needed to hear that you don't have to be perfect at doing something in order to do it. That it's OK to tell yourself to "pretend to be good at it" and to even write that on your arm if you have to, as a reminder for when you think you are totally going to mess up. 

Jenny and I are going on stage at #mom2summit. She wrote her notes on her arm. @thebloggess

A photo posted by Laura Mayes (@lauramayes) on


Quick fact about me: I am terrified all the time. 

Not in an "OMG the world is going to end and I can't leave my house!" kind of way, it's more of a, "I feel so broken and insecure that the only way I can function is if I make everything look perfect on the outside" kind of way.  I know that doesn't sound terrifying, but there is an insidiousness to perfection and therein lies the terror. Because, if perfection (in any or all it's forms) is the goal, mistakes can't happen. And if you are constantly living with a fear of making mistakes, well, life can get rather intimidating and overwhelming. And then paralysis sets in. Because the best way to avoid making mistakes, is to NOT DO ANYTHING.  

This particular pathway of thinking/not doing is a road very well travelled in my brain. It is quite literally the path of least resistance in almost all creative and personal risk-taking endeavours in my life. When something gets hard, when I can't wrap it up all pretty-like or find a way to say something without offending, or please as many people as possible, then I stop doing it. {For reference - see my overflowing draft folder of posts and rants and things I "can't" write about started and then left to die.} 

My dear friend and unofficial (as in, I don't know if she knows this) life coach, Marissa, calls me on this all the time. I physically do not make eye contact with people when topics of conversation become messy or when I have to confront any of the imperfections in myself or my actions (or inactions). I literally break off the connection with whomever I am talking with and will do all I can to deflect the conversation elsewhere, more often than not, all the way over to a topic, or subject, or very well-rationalize excuse that I have already perfected. 

Perfection and fear are strange, yet completely compatible bedfellows in my life, and I feel like it's time they get their own bedrooms, in their own houses, far, far away from me.


Stephen King once said, "If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered." And so, in that vein and because, well, he is Stephen King and I figure he knows a few things about fear, I thought I would go ahead and articulate my fears.

**deep breath**

1. Clowns. Thanks Mr King. I got that one from you! 

2. I've never really felt like I "fit in" anywhere. We moved around a lot when my parents split up and starting in a new school and in a new language in Grade 3 was a tough transition that I don't think I have ever fully recovered from. I wonder if I purposely keep myself on the outskirts of groups, never really fully committing myself to them or the people in them, because that is where I know how to at least feel a completely dysfunctional sense of "belonging".

3. I fear that no matter what I do, no matter what I accomplish, it is never going to be enough. Not necessarily enough for me, but enough for the people around me whom I fear I am going to disappoint.

4. I am afraid to unlock the truly vulnerable parts of me, on the page/screen, as well as in real life. When I have done so in the past, there have been consequences that, while out of my control (ie: other's responses), still affected me and made me question myself, my writing and my chosen medium of artistic and personal expression and exploration.

5. All racquet sports. I have no depth perception and therefore I have an intense fear of balls flying at my face/head!

6. Gossip. I fear gossip on two fronts. First, I fear that people are talking about me and making assumptions about and judging me, my life, my parenting and my choices, and secondly, I fear how easy it is to get swallowed up in gossip about others and the judgement that then comes from me. 

7. I fear the fact that there are huge chunks of my childhood that I don't remember AT ALL and I wonder why that is. I am deathly afraid of what is behind those locked doors in my mind. 

8. I am afraid that I am not a good mother. Ok, wait. That is not true. I am a GOOD mother. I am afraid that I am just not the kind of mother I think I am supposed to be. And that right there is the most fucked up sentence and thought ever. Replace "mother" with "woman" and it's the same kind of messed up. As a woman and mother, I HATE being told what to do and how to do it. Yet we live in a world where that is our reality, every day, all day. In magazines, blogs, television, movies, we are forever being told and shown how to be a "good" mother or a "good" woman. The bar is set and reset and reset yet again. And we are constantly being measured and weighed and it is exhausting. I fear that in my efforts to keep up, to do what I am supposed to do, I am losing sight of what and who (myself, my children) are right in front of me. 

9. I am afraid that I don't have a "good enough" story to tell. Which is kind of a bummer when your dream in life is to be a really good storyteller. 

10. I am afraid that I lack ambition, that I am lazy and not really trying hard enough. But then I wonder, do I actually lack ambition or am I just paralyzed by ALL THE DAMN FEAR??  


Fears, articulated. 

Notes, written on arms.

Driving in the fog, at night, over a bridge. 

Slowly...

Slowly getting to the other side. 

N~