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Are we fighting the wrong people?

standard March 19, 2013 1 response

This month my book club read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a book that was pretty far out of my reading norm. The story, set in modern day Mumbai, India, was written by Katherine Boo, an American woman who spent three years in the slums of Mumbai interviewing locals and observing the daily comings and goings of the residents.

Let me preface this with a small disclaimer. I am something of a Pollyanna innocent. I tend to see the best in people. I tend to imagine that people are better off than they are.

I knew that many people in India live in extreme poverty. I just don’t think I grasped just how atrocious their quality of life really was.

The book was incredibly well written and researched. It read just like a novel, and it was hard at times to force myself to remember that it was all true, all documented, all still happening today.

Aside from being an incurable Pollyanna, I also happen to be a bleeding heart liberal. And, let me tell you, that’s a terrible combination.

See, until I dove deep into this book’s story, I kinda harbored some faith in the notion that if you donate enough time and money to a cause you can actually help people.

But no. See, what I wasn’t taking into account was the rampant corruption this book exposes. Start with money and good intentions at the top, but by the time it trickles down, lining pockets as it goes, it won’t get to the people who need it most.

Now, one of my friends last night exhorted me to come up with a solution, but I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t have one.

How do you help people who have no interest in helping each other?

I’m glad I read this book, but a little part of me would like to still live in my head where people down on their luck still find it in their hearts to be kind to the people around them, just because it’s what people do. (It’s pretty in my head. You should come visit. We have tea and cookies.)

The thing that’s still going around and around in my head is this.

India houses 1/4 of the world’s hungry, 1/3rd of the world’s impovrished. If those people stopped fighting with each other, stopped stabbing each other in the back to get a tiny bit ahead, stopped robbing each other blind, if those people started working together, trusting each other, helping each other, they could overthow the entire country, the entire corrupt system, in a matter of weeks.

I woke up this morning with the same thought buzzing in my head. Then I hopped onto Facebook and saw that the topic of the day was once again “the Mommy Wars.” (Thank you CNN.) Once again, as we hash out Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, we’re once again seeing women spend countless hours tearing each other down, discrediting each other, back stabbing each other.

I have news for you people.

We’re fighting the wrong people.

Tearing another woman down in an effort to get ahead only serves to bring down all of womankind. You’re not gaining anything.

What could we achieve if instead of envying others their success, if instead of wasting time sabotaging others, if instead of judging, critiquing, and tearing down, we stood shoulder to shoulder and helped each other up?

Maybe, like the residents of the slums we could also overthrow a system that doesn’t serve us. Or are we, like them, too wrapped up in our pettiness and envy to ever achieve that goal?

Wonderful read. Truly eye opening. But don’t believe the cover, there wasn’t a lot of hope in there.

The War on Women and the rise of the mommy bloggers

standard November 2, 2012 Leave a response

I started blogging long before it was mainstream. Back then, as far as I could tell, the women blogging were either crafters sharing their projects with each other or women struggling to create families.

I was lonely on my couch while M worked his way through law school and I latched on to both communities, drinking in their words, knowing I didn’t really belong in either community, but unable to tear myself away from this amazing group of women who had an amazing gift.

They shared, openly, without fear, their hopes, their struggles, their dreams.

Vulnerability, taking its rightful place at the center of innovation and change.

These women had a gift. They had the uncanny ability to draw in readers with their words, to weave stories gilded with emotion and truth. These women put raw honesty on display and it was impossible to not be seduced by that pure level of real.

It was a first. Right? Unedited, unfiltered articles, shared with the world without having to bypass the scrutiny of a head editor’s red pen? No one had ever had that before. For the first time words didn’t have to be censored to please advertisers. Emotions could be put on display. Fears. Truths. Raw honesty. All laid out for the world to drink in.

It is my opinion that these early women bloggers, by opening themselves up to the world, paved the road for a female revolution. They gave a platform to people who never knew they were craving one. They allowed muffled voices to sing out. They allowed people who had always stood alone to suddenly discover that they were far from alone in their daily struggles.

The power behind that notion  is strongly contradicted by the terms used to refer to our online community. Could it be possible that the intentional belittlement of women bloggers through the use of seemingly derogatory terms like “mommy blogger” come from fear of the raw power wielded by women not afraid to share the truth? It’s a simple term. It shouldn’t come with a negative connotation. You should no more ever say I’m “just” a mommy blogger than you should say I’m “just” a mom. If there is no harder job than raising children, what can we say about the act of sharing your parenting stories with the world?

At first there were 800 “mommy bloggers.” Today there are 10 000. With so many true stories being shared daily it is no longer possible for anyone to pretend that motherhood resembles in any way the happy, sunny, sterile life portrayed in 50’s sitcoms.

Day after day the unrelenting strength of the average woman being put on display for all to see. Day after day, blog post after blog post, story after story. The joys, the fears, the hardships, the raw emotions, all are put on display and echoed in comments, tweets, retweets, shares, likes, and emails.

“Read this!” “Me too!” ” How did you put into words what I’ve always felt?”

Women who used to feel alone now know that they aren’t. Women who always felt like misfits because of how they felt now know they are not broken or different.

There is power in that unity. There is power in sisterhood. There is power in having your fears, your hopes, your inner thoughts validated and echoed.

Is this uprising and strengthening the reason for the so-called “war on women?” Is this why certain politicians, certain men, are fighting to keep us down, to keep us voiceless? The unrelenting efforts to strip us of our rights to appropriate medical care, our rights to making our own reproductive decisions, our right to equal pay, our right be to the strong people we really are?

Does it all stem from the fear of seeing what women can accomplish by simply standing tall, shoulder to shoulder, and speaking the truth as we see it, as we experience it?

There was a time when women lived in community, working together to make everyone’s burden’s easier to bear. Civilization as we know it has separated us from our sisters, forcing us to parent behind closed doors leaving us to face our worries and challenges on our own.

That time is over. The Internet has broken down the walls.

We are not afraid to show things as they are. WE are not afraid to shine the spotlight on things that are hard to face. And we are not afraid to stand up for what we believe in, for ourselves, and for our sisters.

Through blogs and everything else the Internet has to offer, we will not be silenced and isolated again. We will stand strong and take our rightful place in the world. Anyone who doubts that this might be true just needs to spend some time in our blogosphere to see how the world has changed for the better.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote on Tuesday. You’re smart and you can make your own decisions, but, just, please, look beyond the taxes and the other things that usually clutter political agendas. Consider how far women have come in recent years and how far we still have  to go. Do we want to go back to being voiceless, powerless? Can we make sure that Women as a whole aren’t getting hurt in the process?

Open letter to the 44th President of the United States

standard November 6, 2008 6 responses

Dear President Obama, (Wow, does that sound good or what?)

Congratulations on your momentous victory. If you are half the man we believe you to be this country has most definitely made the right choice.

Thank you for waking up the American people and showing them that it’s OK to hope again. I am in awe at the sheer number of people who were moved to campaign. As Kelby Carr puts it in her eloquent post we “have voted before, sure. But [we]’ve voted against, not for. [We]’ve voted to keep someone out, not put someone in.” It was awe inspiring to be part of the rebirth of the American hope. For the first time ever I’ve voted for someone instead of against another. It’s a great feeling.

You have already been the catalyst for change. You have shown the people that they have the power to change their country. You have shown us that “Yes, we can!” It’s a beautiful thing to see people motivated to fix the things they feel are broken. It is moving to see people want to help their fellow countrymen. It is amazing to watch people think of the country’s needs before their personal well being. It’s been a long time coming.

I am just concerned by one thing. You have some pretty big expectations to fulfill. There are a lot of people waiting to see if you can accomplish all that you have promised. But I believe in you and in the power of the American people. Together we can fix everything that is wrong with this country and improve everything that is great about it.

The American people have showed you what they are capable of doing. Harness that power, use it for this change you keep promising. Don’t forget about us as you take office. Show us the way and we will make you proud. We voted with our feet, we can do the same to help you achieve your goals.

Last night I watched the results and beamed with joy. Today I am proud to hold my head up and declare myself an American. We live in interesting times, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Jessica, aka Rose, proud American.

NO on Prop 8 picketing – my last ditch stand

standard November 5, 2008 1 response

I left it to the last minute, but I put my picketing shoes on and grabbed a sign this afternoon. I fear Prop 8 won’t pass, but it sure wasn’t because people didn’t care.

Thank you to:
– all the people who honked their support as they drove past our street corner.

– all the SV Moms who came out with their kids.

– the people who’s cars sported crosses who still honked their support or waved.

– the limo driver who clearly wasn’t allowed to honk support, but who blinked his headlights at us.

– the high school students who came to picket

– and to the people who voted No on 8. Don’t lose heart. The fight is just beginning.