June 24, 2010

on being a natural

I had a little garden plot. I bought organic seeds and little tools and set out to teach my son, who would rather be watching tv and eating noodles, about nature. Deep down I probably thought this would be a good opportunity to prove my worth as a mother. I do not knit, I do not sew, I don’t cook dinner every night, I don’t do any of those things that my other mama friends do. I feel like I don’t measure up, and we all know motherhood can be quite the competition. I just wanted to be good at growing something, because I don’t think I am. I didn’t even grow my own child properly, he was early, a tiny little undercooked baby boy, literally cut out of me, because my body couldn’t handle being pregnant anymore. Surely, I could handle a garden.
Gardening (for Wordpress) Pictures, Images and Photos
The thing about having your own child is that they are often very similar to you, whether you like it or not. My son liked going to the store to buy the seeds because like me, he loves shopping. But the dirt digging, the bugs, the worms, the hot sun beating down on his little body? Not so much. I too must admit that I hated it. Not fun, my friends, not fun at all. I told myself that all over the world women work the land, growing crops for their families, tending the Earth, with their kids in tow. I could do this. My son would love it. I would finally have something to talk about in mommy group (I usually just sit around reading Cosmo), while the women knit, nurse babies and talking about their peaceful home births.
I am not one of those mothers. But I want to be. Sometimes. But I want to have better clothes. And shoes.
kimora lee and djimon hounsou Pictures, Images and Photos
This morning, I went to my garden. It’s been raining, a tornado or two has passed through my state, my son is on vacation, I have two jobs and two summer school classes and an active social life; all reasons I use for not going to my garden regularly, and it shows. My little seeds have grown, but so has the grass and it’s hard to tell which parts are weeds and which is the plants. So I just left it, all of it, and went back home. All the other gardens are beautiful, the corn stalks are growing, little flowers are blooming, white picket fences are up, and there are no weeds. Someone threw a plastic soda bottle in my garden and I didn’t even pick it up. I just don’t see the point anymore.
And then I realized this: I am not a gardener. I am not like the other mothers. And I have a debit card. I can buy whatever the fuck I want, when I want, and I can keep my toes clean and my kid entertained in the grocery store. I do not knit, I take my buttons to the cleaners to get mended, and I hate digging in the dirt. I’d rather take my kid to shows, the mall, and on airplanes. He prefers to sit around reading magazines and eating cookies and noodles for dinner too. We can play video games for hours, in the house, where there’s a fan, and cold soda to drink. We are city people. Our carrots come in a bag with a twisty tie on them.
Baby carrots Pictures, Images and Photos
I’m a quitter. If things are not going the way I want them to, I am not going to use up all my energy and time trying to make it fit with my life when it simply won’t. That’s not the way my brain operates. Life is too short to be unhappy in situations that you can change. And so as soon as I am done with this blog, I am turning in my tools and letting my apartment managers know that I am done gardening and am going to pay the fine for not weeding my garden at the end of the season. I have two jobs; I can afford the fine. I refuse to be miserable doing something that I hate just to prove a point, to myself, and to my son, who is four states away. He just got a Nintendo DS and honestly doesn’t give a shit about vegetables; he doesn’t even eat them anyway. And I am going to be happy all day, working, climbing the corporate ladder in baby blue high heels and a city-girl skirt, eating perfectly cut baby carrots out of a Ziploc bag in my cubicle, with the AC on. Point proven. Nails clean. Guilt gone. And while I am not going to win any awards for being Minnesota's most natural mother, I am doing what feels natural to me--not gardening.
working mother Pictures, Images and Photos

June 18, 2010

What is going on at Cornell University?

I apologize in advance if my writing and language in this post is all over the place, you'll have to excuse me because I don't think I've ever found out about something that has disgusted and pissed me off as much as this story has. I'm so mad, I sort of feel like I need to vomit. (*Trigger warning for child sexual abuse survivors*) 

"A pediatric urologist at Cornell University-Dix Poppas-has been operating on little girls with what he judges to be oversized clitorises, cutting away important clitoral tissues, and then stitching the glans to what remains of the shaft. 

There's lots to be outraged about here: there's nothing wrong with these girls and their healthy, functional-if-larger-than-average clitorises; there's no need to operate on these girls; and surgically altering a girl's clitoris because it's "too big" has been found to do lasting physical and psychological harm. But what's most outrageous is how Poppas performs his follow-up examinations, which involve Poppas stimulating the girls’ clitorises with vibrators while the girls, aged six and older, are conscious.

At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter’s surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a “vibratory device,” and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Poppas has indicated that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls. "

What the actual fuck!? I just can not fathom how this is even going on. How was this passed by Cornell's medical board? I don't even know where to start. First off, who the hell are Poppas and his team of (all male, might I add) surgeons to decide what a "normal" looking clitoris is? News flash: there is no such thing as a "normal" looking clitoris. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Women are already insanely critical of their bodies and are always struggling to meet society's made-up female beauty standards (as LaMesha touched on in her post below), and by stating that there is one certain way that a clitoris should look they are just perpetuating this obsession with perfection, making women believe that everything about them needs to be perfect- even their vagina's. But these are just children we are talking about here, infants even. If when they are older and can make their own decisions they decide that they want to go through with a procedure like this to shorten their clitorises then fine. But nobody should be making that decision for them when they are too young to understand or consent to it themselves. The fact that these girls are being seen as sex objects from the moment they get out of the womb is disgusting. Nobody should be looking at and judging their genitals in this way. 

And then there are his "follow-up examinations", are you kidding me!? A grown man routinely touching a girl as young as six's (or in some cases even younger) clitoris with a vibrator and asking her when she feels something...hello Cornell University, that is child sexual abuse and molestation. Poppas (I refuse to put a Dr. before his name) is a pedophile and a monster, who was somehow allowed permission to live this fucked up dream of his. I can't understand how the parents are just agreeing to this and even sitting back and watching as this sick man performs these disturbing "examinations" on their daughters. If I ever had a daughter and some doctor even proposed the idea of doing this to her, I think I would soon be in jail for assault. But the sad thing is that most parents don't act that way, when it comes to their children, it seems like parents are so afraid of something going wrong with them that they will just automatically believe and go along with whatever the doctor says to do...because, well, he's the doctor. Which I guess is a sad thing, but I still don't get how a parent could watch as those "follow-up examinations" occurred, I think anybody with a brain and a moral conscious would know that those procedures are beyond wrong. But I guess not...?

There's another disturbing reason this surgery is being performed: people seem to believe that girls with large clitorises are more likely to identify as lesbians when they grow up. Which is quite obviously a completely ridiculous statement. Carving up a girls clitoris does nothing to change her sexual orientation, and besides, what is so damn wrong with being a lesbian anyway? Why are parents and doctors and so on so afraid of giving birth to a gay child that they would instead put them through all of this physical and psychological harm?

Last thing, why has this not been in the news? Why does nobody even know that this grotesque act is being performed right here in New York? The news channels haven't even covered this story once yet, even with numerous people sending it in to them. I wouldn't be surprised if that was because Cornell University payed news channels a big chunk of money to keep this swept under the carpets so that their school doesn't get a bad reputation. But fuck that, it's bullshit that everybody knew when Michael Jackson died, and news channels talked about it for days on end, but nobody knows about Cornell University legally performing female genital mutilation and child molestation. America, your standards are all fucked up. And I am just so extremely sad for the innocent young girls who had to go through these traumatic events, and I just hope that they can still live normal lives even after remembering the cruel things that happened to them as infants and young children.

Do something, Call Dr. Poppas at (212) 746-5337
Tell him EXACTLY what you think of his "research". 

Email or call Cornell University's research provost and tell him to end the practicing of female genital mutilation and child molestation at his school.
Kent Fuchs
(607) 255-2364 

June 17, 2010


body image Pictures, Images and Photos
I want to be the perfect woman. I majored in woman’s studies in undergrad so I know that all the silly mainstream magazines I read are full of airbrushed models and that if I lost the 35 pounds I want to lose I’d probably stop having periods and that every person on Earth has pores and that I will never have naturally flippy hair and long curly eyelashes. But every day I kill myself a little bit striving for a perfection that doesn’t exist. Every calorie is guilt, I have a $200 face scrubber, about 10 exercises videos I don’t watch, an appointment next week to get a head full of weave, a bathroom full of make up, a closet full of clothes, shoes, accessories. I consider myself “low maintenance,” and I really feel like I am. It’s sick, but I feel normal. In the grand scheme of perfection questing, I am small scale. I know it’s not real. I can leave the house without being “done up” but only sometimes.
Tyra Banks Pictures, Images and Photos
At any one point in time I am doing at least three full time jobs. I have a kid. I am a full time grad student. I work. I get perfect grades. I have a successful zine. I refuse to be half assed. My son wore cloth diapers and then organic recyclable diapers. I cried when I couldn’t afford them anymore and had to buy generics. He was breastfed for over 3 years, I made his baby food, I stayed home with him for 6 months, carrying him in the baby sling, totally losing myself in this unrealistic idea of perfect motherhood. Grad school requires a “B” or better in everything or you essentially fail. A “B” is still good, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just not a perfect “A” and when I got one I bawled to my therapist, “that stupid bitch gave me a B”. I was devastated. Once I finish writing my zine I sit with it, afraid to put it out, for at least a month. I have to make it perfect. I disappoint myself all the time. It’s not perfect. I want to quit making it.
SUPER MOM Pictures, Images and Photos
A lot of women have this crazy fucked up idea in their head that life is a competition and whoever is the prettiest, skinniest, best cook, best dressed, best writer, best mother, best dick sucker, whatever, wins. And winning is so much better than losing, right? And we are smart, we know all of this is fucked up and a total waste of time, but we will sit there getting our pubes waxed into the shape of a heart or only eat carrots for a week or spend five hours in a beauty salon getting someone else’s hair braided into our own anyway. I have a good body, nice boobs, cute butt, pretty round face, happy eyes, and this guy called me “thick” and I wanted to kill him. I went hysterical. Try giving a girl a compliment, she’ll think you’re a spy or totally downplay herself. I hardly ever hear “thanks”. I am learning how to say it, realizing that yes, what this person is saying is in fact true. I am good at my job. Thank you.
thinspiration Pictures, Images and Photos
The thing about perfection is that it still matters to women. Men can be fat and balding and old and they are still rewarded with money, raises, younger women, respect. If a woman has one wrinkle, gets pregnant, gains 10lbs, has a flat chest, nappy hair, people notice. Everything is at stake; her career, her sanity, her marriage, her finances, her opportunity for advancement, etc. They circle actresses fat legs in magazines, it's on the news; I am not even kidding. So yeah, striving for perfection is not all that unreasonable. Our livelihoods depend on it sometimes. We need the money, we still don't make as much as men.
botox Pictures, Images and Photos
People have made billions of dollars convincing women that they are not enough. If we knew the truth, that we are beautiful, that our bodies and our faces and our bellies are enough, that we are smart, that we are good drivers, that we are good mothers, that our nappy hair is lovely, that our pubes can grow out, that we are good at math, that we can direct movies, that we can lead companies, that our too big or too small or too saggy tits were actually “just right”, what would happen? How much money would we save? How many more friends would we have? How much happier would we be? I can’t even imagine such perfection…
liiiittle girl. Pictures, Images and Photos

June 12, 2010

Here's to summer


A Toast (quick go grab a beer):
“Here’s to summer. To barbecues and all that sauce underneath my fingernails. To booty shorts and bikinis and the traffic mishaps I cause when I go out for a stroll in my neighborhood. To the garden I never weed because it is too hot or too rainy or because I am too hungover. Here’s to boys that are 5 years younger, or 10 years older, and to girls who are always “just right”...
"To all the zine festivals happening around the world and to all the friends I now have because I make zines too. To my new nipple piercings and my sudden surge of popularity because of them. To graduations and new beginnings and closure and the end of the “era” and the start of summer school and biostats, internships and work work work. Here’s to birth control pills and free condoms and festivals everywhere and the people who sit at those tables all day telling you about their free clinics because they care about your reproductive health just as much as you do...
Princess Peach Birth Control Pills Pictures, Images and Photos
"Here’s to drag queens and kings, strippers, my pole dancing teacher, and PRIDE. To new music by all my favorite people, summer tours, the afropunk festival, free shows, and all that damn mud, and oh yeah the pit, especially the women who get right in the middle and are not afraid. To Sasha and Malia Obama, and all the other little black girl princesses. To summer reading clubs at the library and to books, so many beautiful books, and the opportunity to read them all for free. To riot grrrl, womanism, feminists, voodoo priestesses, witches, bitches, and snitches...
"To watermelon and the people who eat it and love it, and don't make racist jokes about my love for it...
heart watermelon Pictures, Images and Photos
"To the nurses who went on strike in Minnesota, to the activists, to the freedom fighters, to the organizers, all of whom are not on vacation, and are still out there putting their life and livelihood on the line, for me, my kid, our future, and the EARTH. To besties and sleepovers and camping and swimming in the lake. To all the black grrrls who don’t know how to swim because cute hair and maintenance is still an issue for us at school, at work, and everywhere we are and that trumps leisure, recreation, and everything else...
"To dancehall music and my attempts to be the queen. To Marcus coming home from Afghanistan in less than 40 days and finally being allowed to leave the Army for good and all the tacos we’re gonna eat on base. To little kids running through sprinklers in the grass, the discovery of caterpillars, baby ducks, and the yumminess of dirt. To pregnant women in bikini tops, to henna tattoos on their bellies, and good safe empowering births...
Orange Bikini with Sunflower Painted on Pregnant Belly Pictures, Images and Photos
"To all of summer, to everyone, and to me, who will be a year older and ten times smarter and a million times sexier (hell yeah). CHEERS!!”
Hold up your foamy glass of beer or your margarita class or your bottle of wine (do you drink it straight outta the bottle too?) and toast with me. If you don’t drink alcohol, hold up something equally delicious, like water with cucumber and ginger in it. That is so fuckin delicious by the way, you should seriously try that shit. Feel free to post comments about all the things you love about summer. I can't possibly name them all.

June 4, 2010

Book Review- Commencement

"Take Mary McCarthy's The Group, add a new feminist generation striving to understand everything from themselves and their mothers to the notion of masculinity that fuels sex trafficking, and you get this generous-hearted, brave first novel. Commencement makes clear that the feminist revolution is just beginning."
-Gloria Steinem 
What's a blog without a good ol' book review every now and then? Now that the semester is over, it's summer, and I've had a little bit more free-time on my hands, I've finally gotten around to finishing J. Courtney Sullivan's debut novel, Commencement. I really enjoyed this book, it's a great and easy summer read that also manages to have a moving storyline and important message. It has a very different feel to it from the typical "chick lit" (a term that I despise, might I add) that most of us are used to. This is not another romance novel focused solely on attractive men and the women who are desperate to find them and get married, not at all, this novel thankfully goes a lot deeper then that. This is a novel about young feminists, everlasting sisterhood, and the choices and challenges that face women today; from the small stuff like whether or not to change your last name when getting married, to the much bigger problems like rape and sex trafficking, this novel seems to cover it all.

The novel follows Celia, Bree, Sally, and April, classmates their first year at Smith College who couldn't be more different. Alone and together, they soon learn that Smith is a hothouse: of sexual discovery, political activism, female bonding, and carbohydrates eaten with abandon. And although several years after graduation they live far apart, their Smith years have left them fiercely devoted to one another. Schooled in the ideals of feminism, they must decide how it all applies to their real lives in matters of love, work, family, and sex.

The deep sense of sisterhood in this book had to be my favorite part about it. Reading this novel makes you truly appreciate your female best friends, or if you don't have any, long for girls you can care for that much and be that close to. J. Courtney Sullivan does such a great job of describing the girls, that throughout reading the novel you really feel as if you are friends with them! I found myself worrying about them when things went wrong, and then happy for them when it all went right again. Finishing the novel is somewhat bittersweet, because the ending leaves you hanging a bit, and you miss hearing about what's going on in each of the girls lives. 

I definitely recommend this novel to all who enjoy books about feminism and sisterhood, but also just to anyone looking for a good, moving, summer read. The novel starts out a little slow, but then there is a big twist halfway through that will keep you interested and have you staying up late just to get to the next page. I plan on reading more books by J. Courtney Sullivan in the near future, I really enjoy her writing now. 

You can find out where to buy the book, as well as more on J. Courtney Sullivan and Commencement here.