Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

This week, one of my hero’s passed on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson

My favorite F word

image

 So, what are you studying?

Me: women’s studies

Oh…. does that mean your a feminist?

Me: yeah. I’d like to think so.

Oh.. (let the judgement begin).

  Angry.     Lesbians.     Hair legs.

Superiority over men.    Hating men.

Trying to
throw out every tradition.

Anti feminine.   Against lipstick.

Crazy.    Egotistical.   Excluding groups.

Anti stay at home mom.

Against dating chivalrous men.

Pointless, angry picketing.

Rejection of female characteristics.

Annihilation of gender.

Feminism: this is not actually what the word means for everyone.

I like men. I like men so much that I am dating one. And I even want to be married. I have come across so many people asking me why I am a feminist if I have a child and want to be married. Why would I want both?

I want to hit people with my textbooks sometimes. I hope that if I hit them hard enough, some influential advocates and writers words will imprint their brains.

Permanently.

But instead, I smile and explain what it means to me. What careers I aspire to go for. And what feminists have influenced me. If they want to walk away confused or in disbelief, so be it.

I find it interesting when the topic of feminism comes up among friends. They all want to give input but many don’t back anything up with real history or facts. Some don’t know my major or beliefs and so they crack jokes, looking to be for approval or fuel for the fire. They knock it or make fun of the way “feminists” act. Some do understand what the word means but dare not relate to it.

They don’t want to be identified with it.

Maybe its fear. Or ignorance.

I think a big problem is lack of education. And having too much privilege without understanding how they are able to live the way they do. For me, it seems that every day perspectives around me are narrow. My major and the education I’m being provided with allows me to see things in a whole. A large perspective.

I understand the struggles women deal with every day. Blindly.

I have struggled a lot when trying to be who I am in a society that is hell bent on narrow standards. As a young woman, I have to constantly adhere to a certain way of speaking, thinking, looking and appearing. I am supposed to as Adrienne Rich defined it, “play the part”.

I felt like a performer most of my life. I should behave the way a lady should. And abandon my strong will. Be quiet and obedient. Dress appropriate and never defy men. Not my father, my grandfather, nor my uncle or brother. I shall find a husband to obey too. Maybe get some education. A job in a woman’s field. That’s the life.

I have grown up on conflicting music lyrics and media messages, giving me a false sense of hope in the term modest. Why be modest or virtuous when men sing and obsess over my breasts. My ass cheeks in a tight skirt and leather thigh boots I will never afford but so desperately have wanted in order to fit in with those popular girls in high school. Fashion changes so much during adolescence because of a constant hunger to fit in.

I need to fit in.

I need to be sexy. And wanted. But not easy. I can be alluring but sexy too easily means loose. Floosy. A whore. Stay away from those whores. They are trouble. No, you have to be a middle girl. Someone who is not fake, but fake enough to have a click (popularity). I must be sexy but not too sexy (or else I’ll be the school whore or end up pregnant). Buy those expensive jeans that everyone has. Steal them if you have to. Too fat? Binge and purge. Don’t eat at all. Live off of gum. Do what you gotta do.

Or kiss your highschool life goodbye.

No matter what, I always felt trapped. I always felt like I was pressed to please but couldn’t. My breasts were too big. Or not big enough. I wanted to fit in one day and stand out the next.

My decision to have my baby at 16 was majorly life altering.  Even then, I saw sexism in the works. I was removed from finishing my junior year in my town high school. Being three months pregnant was deemed too dangerous for my (their) wellbeing (reputation). My own father could not handle being a father to her only daughter. My ex bailed shortly after learning I was carrying a girl.

The reality of how men and women are raised is more and more obvious to me every day. In raising a little girl, I see the struggles I faced sometimes repeating for her. What I am thankful for is my awareness.

Feminism to me, is advocating. Its having awareness. Using your education and resources in order to make life more equal for men and women. To stop the objectification of women. To give voice to the many girls that are abused, neglected, raped, or killed because they are not able to fight back. Because they are women.

I want my daughter to feel value and self worth. Not to define it by the length of her denim skirt or the color hair she desires to have. Not by the size of her bra or the amount of guys that want her. I want her to understand her body. To not feel ashamed of her anatomy or what can be done/not done to it. To understand the dangers of assault and rape as well as how to defend herself. I want her to not just feel like she is strong and able but to learn about many people around the world who aren’t. To be educated in how other countries live and behave. Modesty means appreciating your privileges, not exploiting others for what they lack.
 

feministingmama

Pushing yourself

  We have all been there. That point where we wonder what went wrong. We blame actions and events of others. And don’t want to take responsibility for our wrongs.. its easier to not account for your actions, right? Its easier to push people who oppose to your choices away, and ignore seeing what you have done wrong. The more we become used to not fixing small problems, the bigger trenches we dig into the major issues.

  How is it that we sometimes choose the wrong things, even knowing the consequences could be awful? Do we owe ignorance to curiosity or a lack of guilt of failure? Why do some people choose to be in relationships or positions where they will end up like others predicted? Sometimes we are so stubborn we want to learn for ourselves, right?

  Well go ahead. Make some mistakes. Make some bad choices. Stick with some bad people. And refuse to fix your bad habits. What will that lead to? They say if you do something twenty one times in a row, it becomes a habit. How many things do you do a day, for years even, that attribute to your failures?

  I am thankful that I had addict parents. I am thankful some of the people I knew growing up that struggled with addictions and deep seeded problems as well. I was lucky to not go down the same road. People remind me of that all the time. Especially after hearing how I was raised. It is true that education sets you free. Examples do as well. After seeing someone deteriorate from the inside out, someone I loved and looked up to, I wanted no connection to alcohol or drugs. I wanted to be informed and understand the way bad choices affected health and well being. The more I understood, the more I moved away from those things.

I see people make bad choices a lot even after being educated about the truth. After seeing how men are in past relationships, women still choose to pursue relations hoping to change them. I have seen adult children choose to pursue redemption for their parents and try to build relationships with broken people who are incapable of having a healthy relationship. It also happens in friendships. Trying to fix trust is like building a bridge out of shredded wood. The bond becomes weak and the foundation is forever changed.

I do not claim to be perfect nor do I know the formula for world peace. I will say that from wanting to be educated and make better choices, I have made better relationships and become a better person. I have put focus on the important things in my life and shed the things that held me down. I have chosen to erase certain people from my life that were not able to progress. It was a lost cause to expect anything different from people who did not want to change.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

I have lived with real crazy people. I choose to move forward and meet my own expectations, not become what everyone’s low expectations wanted me to be.

feministingmama

Diving into feminism and kindergarten!

  Today went as magically as could be imagined. My daughter loved school and cannot wait to get back tomorrow to her classroom. I was so proud that she ran onto the bus, until she gave me no hug and left like I was invisible. One point for independence. I so needed the tissues more than her. Independence is good though. It means I did everything right. Being a single mother for the past five and a half years has served me right. She needs me a little less. That’s what parents should be. Support and encouragement towards becoming self sufficient. Although I will never be able to imagine a time when we have to part, I am so proud at the reality of my daughter having to move forward with her life. Every tiny step she takes on her own, from her first steps to the steps onto the bus today, she is becoming herself. A person with dreams, inspirations and a desire to grow.

  I am so inspired by the feminists I am reading currently into in all of my courses. It is really amazing to be able to apply my studies to my life. To actually use what I am learning to shape my own life and experiences. No thanks to square dancing or calculus, I am not earning a relative career in those topics. I am not earning a degree in applied math or science. I will not be studying anything mind numbing like some of the courses I was forced to take in early public school. I am proud to have hand selected and earned my position in my field. I hope to luck out and find my career after becoming a graduate student. I truly believe that through praying and focusing, I have been led to the best directions for myself. So far, all my courses have further educated me to a direct interest. I have almost solved the age old question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

  I think that writers like Wollstonecraft and Beauvoir had great points about how women were treated as an “other” or “unbeing” in society. What’s worrisome to me are the many women around me who choose to be inferior and grounded in their lives. I feel like women are so afraid of taking on the responsibility to become more.

  Although I am proud to be a mother as well as a sole provider for my household, I know that it is a hard to juggle and keep up. Not many girls are willing to juggle a child along with their studies and a job. I also think a current problem that is digressing the progress of women is many uneducated people choose to hold their own success back. I do not think that becoming a mother is a setback by any means. My motherhood journey is what launched my success and my drive grew stronger with becoming responsible for another person. I grew into my multiple roles. It is never easy and I do have times where I feel the weight of my juggle act. But its liberating. I enjoy that I am able to have all the experiences and benefits that I do. I have them because I chose to pursue everything. I get scholarships and aid because I have learned how to form relationships with colleagues and professors enough to get recommendations. I have also learned to apply my skills and better my weaknesses. As I mature, I continue to grow and expand my knowledge of the world around me. I am not the same person I would have been had I not had my daughter.

What bothers me are the people who choose to do nothing. No mental stimulation or personal growth. People who choose to be stuck how they are. For years or sometimes forever. What the problem with doing nothing is, is that those who do nothing change nothing. You do not help out your peers in any struggle when attributing to the causes. When you ignore problems or live in cycles of oppression, you encourage it to exist. When you do nothing to support your peers as humankind, you cause gender divide. Society is structured with dichotomies of relationships, caused by resistance to change. It becomes a problem when we raise our children to be racist, sexist and ignorant out of a lack of desire to change our ways. Its selfish. And lazy.

  One thing I do to support changing the way I was raised is to reinforce equality and positive images in the lessons I teach my child. I make sure I explain family structures and love in a variety of ways. I teach her that love is love, regardless of sexual orientation. I teach her that gender differences is nothing but the difference of genitalia, not in her looks or ability to succeed. I highlight all of her characteristics. Without telling her she is boyish or girlish. Its a constant effort on my part to watch my language, verbal and non verbal, as well as what I choose to give her. I select what films we view and I think about the kind of stories I tell her. I care about how she feels. What she thinks. And I support her to progress in whatever she loves. (Unless its something like destroying my homework). I take pride in my choices. Seriously. Because those choices are making my child who she is.

I have taken my daughter on my campus many times as well as to my classes. We have also been attending different organizations since she was a year old. I have been involved I. Student government, the school paper and have worked hard to help change my colleges to be more family (kid) friendly. I have been stared at. I have pushed limits. I have asked questions others dared to. And pressed for changes others never bothered to ask for. Out of their comfort or ignorance. I have taken a few years to realize I am so made for my field that I was meant to be where I am.

Its pretty great to feel like you belong. Like something in you just feels at home with your choices. When I am in my classrooms, although anxiety of homework rattles my brain, I am excited to learn. I do not take for granted any of the privledges I have in my life. Its important to be thankful. Above all, I am tired of people blaming others for their short comings or failures.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you aren’t happy with your life, change it. You can shape your life based on your choices.

When you feel something is not right or you work so hard to make something wrong feel right, it may be time to move on. And when you choose to give up on your dreams, you are to blame.

If you wont even try, you lack ambition, not options.

feministingmama

My old poetry days

Medicated, sedated,
we’re all unconcentrated,
So many questions,
No answers
Just looking for a path cuz
This world directs us
Detects us
But it does not protect us
Spend our whole lives
Trying to cheat debt- just
Live without regrets
Its so impossible to forget
Carry all the burdens
Of our fathers
And father’s with no fathers
Don’t preach don’t follow
The gospel, the gospel and quarrels
Cuz its all lies
Its made to dramatize
Stressing every action
cuz we’re criticized
If we are meant to be free
Why dies our life constraint?
Instead of living for love
Children are bred to hate.
And that’s enough
We just discriminate
We don’t have to follow
The cycle
We have to break
The chain

feministingmama

Will you raise your son like you raise your daughters?

  I have thought a lot about what it would have been like to have had a boy. To have experienced a son with a man who desperately prayed for a boy and was not so thrilled to have a daughter. I was proud to have a healthy baby, no matter what the outcome. Now that my child and I are older, I have realized the power and significance in my life since having a daughter. I have realized the value of educating my child about gender and equal opportunity. I have also noticed the difference in how we have been treated all because I have a girl rather than a boy to raise. Here’s what I have summed it all up to.

We live in a world where (all over the planet) male children are valued more than females. Male babies are welcomed to families with more enthusiasm for the fact that they can carry the family name. A strong boy is always welcomed to be born first so they can be the oldest and the protector. In some countries, boy children are valued higher for their physical abilities to work and earn income for the family. Males are also able to carry out family traditions such as religion and possibly a family company.

In other parts of the world, female children are used as a system for bartering and gathering dowry to earn status and income. Land. Reputation. Daughters are valued as a service or deal while male children are kept as leaders of the family. Girls are sold into sex slavery and married off young in order to provide benefit in highly poor regions. Some countries find it beneficial to send the boys to school while the girls have to work in sweatshops and on farms. This is valid and recent information. So many girls all over the world are treated unfairly in comparison to males. So many girls are aborted, abandoned and devalued through trading their lives for income or status. Its nothing more than a sales transaction, while some little girl somewhere is being raped repeatedly in a brothel in order for her parents to afford their farm and boys to make a living.

This stuff is real. It happens. To this day.

I have come to appreciate all of my advantages in being a young, white and independent female in America. To be able to choose my fate, apply for assistance and live by myself at a University. To have food on my table and clothing for myself and my child. I can recognise my advantages as a teen parent, though having been abandoned by my parents. I still have options. I do not have to care for my parents financially or emotionally. I will not ever have to be responsible for their debt. Nor will I have to give up my own child for their gain. Not me. I made my choices.

And lucky for me, I survived.

  Somewhere, far away, I know girls are worse off than I was. Homeless. Starving. No education. No ability to take care of their kids. No contraception but sometimes no other means of survival but to turn to prostitution or stripping. To turn to marrying onto a loveless marriage in order to get bills paid and a loveless union for a roof over their heads.

How many men have had to face these trials?

How many young boys have been traded in order to harvest the crops and afford the family home?

How many boys have been sold into sex slavery and then forced to have abortions or operations for far worse problems from having to have sex with hundreds of men a month?

Of course, young boys and teen boys have also been sold or kidnapped in the past. Its not only a female focused crime. However, the point is to look at the value of each gender. Why should either child be more or less important?

In America, children are gendered even in this generation. The way we dress our children, the toys we select for them and the things we prioritize for them are GENDERED.

Look in target. Toysrus.

Stroll down an isle in the girls section and tell me what you see. Do you see pink, glitter and accessories? Dresses, tight materials and low cut everything? What are the toys like? Do you see any science kits or legos in the girl isle? Does dressup consist of firefighters, doctors or lawyers? Or do we see imaginary character costumes? Fantasy or domestic roles over police officers or dentists.

The funny thing is, most people are senseless and don’t even notice. Check out the toys that are eye level to children. What does the media and the toy industry want your child to aspire to? If you think it doesn’t hinder your child’s ability to develop based on gender bias then your wrong. Your dead wrong to say you would let your boys play with Barbie’s. And when my daughter wants to grab trucks or wrestlers, she’s stared at. Why is that?

Though I can go on forever listing the ways western culture gender divides children, my main point lies in the way we choose to raise our children. We choose this stuff. From the nursery until the college dorm, we hand pick and design the way our kids develop. We encourage things based on their gender as well as what is normal for our societal norms. This complicates your child’s ability to differentiate between fantasies and real goals. Our daughters find fantasy play more pleasing than hard laboring or leading their own dreams. Because we tell them its OK to be dainty and submissive. To wait for a husband to pay for their every need and build their home for them. To be the breadwinners for them and provide the stability. Leaving all the pressure on the males to complete those sometimes impossible achievements.

We also rob female children of their own achievements by making them feel as if certain goals are unattainable. As if they simply cannot and should not be able to take care of themselves. 

  I appreciate that I do not need another person to take care of me. I have had to grow up very fast due to many things in my past that didn’t allow for me to be submissive or for lack of a better term, effing stupid. I have not had the time or patience to sit around and wait for others to take care of me or save me. I have never settled for less than what my mind believes I can acquire. I believe in myself. Regardless of my gender or the oppressions I have faced, I know I can reach as high as I allow myself to.

What I will pass down to my daughter is the knowledge and abilities to take care of herself. I want her to understand the history of women all over the world and the strides many made to overcome their societal limitations. To overcome the struggles pushed onto them for simply being born a female. I never want to hear my daughter say she does not appreciate who she is or what abilities she has. We all should be thankful for what we do have because someone out there has it way worse. I want her to be compassionate and have a desire to serve others. To help make the world have equal opportunities for both genders.

I want her to know the struggles young girls face every day. Instead of being blinded to the crimes and awful treatment afflicted by strangers, families or cultures.

  I have had more than a handful of people curse me with the conclusion that because I had my daughter young, she may get pregnant young. Correction. Will get pregnant young. As of she will spitefully plan it. Or I will not reinforce the lessons I learned hard enough. Maybe they even though in some ways, my “stupidity” gene was hereditary. I have mostly been stunned enough to pause before reacting. My favorite was the time an unnamed person told me that I’m in trouble for having a daughter because she can be pregnant as a teen. To this I replied, “well I suppose it would be better than having a son who can impregnate twenty women at once if he tries hard enough.” Yup. I said it.

I have also been told that I am in trouble when my daughter becomes a teen because girls are just worse off. They are troublesome for wanting to dress a certain way. For wanting sex. To date. To be popular. To be noticed. Its been said that girls are the ones who seduce. Who beg for attention. Who ask for it. Attract rape. Attract pregnancy. Well, I would like to know what made women feel the need to compete against one another. What makes the females want to act certain ways and go through certain things that males don’t. Supposedly don’t. 

  Some day, when I have a son, I am going to treat him as equals with my daughter. I want to educate my child(ren) about sexual health, body changes and hormones. I want to provide curfews and standards for both sexes. I also want to be fair. I want my boys and girls to feel value in themselves as unique individuals with different passions and dreams. I do not want to blame their short comings on their gender. Or limit their options based on what society provides for each gender.

Wake up people!

The truth is, no child should hold more value over the other. And no child of anyone should have to feel inferior in their family. We set the standards. We have the choice to make the boundaries. But parents have to be willing to put in the work and effort.

While I raise my daughter, I show her how to respect herself and respect others. I show her how to use compassion and kindness. How to appreciate her talents and work on her weaknesses. We love animals and nature. Art and science. We do not do things based on the fact that she is a girl. However, I do not want her to be gender neutral. I won’t tell her she does not have to identify strongly with being female. That’s not what feminism is about. What I wish for my daughter is to stand up for the fact that she is a female, but to make her own definition of what is appealing to her. Not what society forces her to like.

I will not blind myself to the fact that she will soon have emotions of all kinds. She will hit puberty and go through social obstacles. Like any other child. It all comes down to how I will handle it. And how I will educate her to make her own choices.

The best gift you can give your child, boy or girl, is the whole picture. Instead of allowing a narrow view of life, give them the whole picture and allow them to make their own mind up. If you can teach your children to be independent and well rounded, your job as a parent is complete.

  So here it is. Some day I want more children. Once I am married and in a home of our own. A home built up on values and equality. A family that appreciates each others uniqueness and talents. When the days come and the obstacles hit the front, I will deal with them as fairly as possible. When I have sons, they will hear the importance of safe sex and commitment. They will all hear about curfews. About self respect and self reliance. Independence. As well as knowing when to ask/receive help. I want all of my children to understand the importance of permission. To say sorry and take responsibility when making a mistake. I want my sons to respect and care for their future partners but also accept when a partner wants to be independent. To never leave a girl if she does not want to be intimate. To earn their lovers. To earn trust.

These are the qualities all children need to be raised on.

Its what will help weaken the gender standards. So we can all start living with equal expectations and opportunities. For the better of our own and future generations.

The magical thing about freedom of choice is that we do not have to live like the past. Society has the opportunity to record history and learn from it. Change is the only way to make a difference in this world.

feministingmama