Walk Away

There are days which comes at me a little more harshly than others. I feel like although this could probably be glanced over, maybe it’s still important to get it out in the open. Who knows, maybe someone else will have a similar story.

In three days, I will have been married to my husband for two years. In those two years, we have grown as a couple in ways that I didn’t think we could. We now can anticipate each other: he moves, I move. We know each other’s schedules-not just for day to day life, but days that are hard, moods, all of it. It’s really nice sometimes, sometimes it’s really annoying. (Sometimes I just want to be mad by myself, you know?) But anyway, it isn’t that that bothers me. I love being able to say I am married. And watching people look with their disapproving little heads at us. So many people thought we’d made a mistake getting married young, but we’re stronger now than we were, and we’ve now seen each other at our worst. He and I believe that you should work on a marriage every day, and that having each other is a gift to treasure, not a safety net for convenience.

Around this time, a lot of my Facebook friends have also gotten married. I smile at each and every one of them, hoping they have a good life, a life full of love and happiness. I was invited to several of their weddings, but somehow never managed to make it any.I have a very real issue with new places, new people and large quantities of them. That makes me exceptionally frustrated when I receive an invitation and in a mania state say “yes, I will be attending” and then find the day of the affair that I’m mid depression, full of social anxiety and unable to get dressed in “street clothes” let alone make my way to a glorious event. I’m not making excuses, I’m just highlighting an issue I wish wasn’t an issue.

But there’s something else, which creeps into my heart and creates an emotional disease. When I got married, Ben was in a suit, I was in a cream colored dress from Victoria’s Secret.

crochet (It was this one, as a matter of fact. No, this isn’t me.)

Ben and I were married in a classroom at our college, by one of Ben’s Political Science professors. It was an intimate ceremony, my parents, his dad, his best friend and his best friend’s parents, my siblings and maybe a straggler or two from the university.

I’ll tell the full story on our actual anniversary, because that’s a really epic story, but here’s the part that makes me sad. The professor brought his guitar and played us a song-our first song as a married couple. It was Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. I actually liked that song before, and knew the lyrics ahead of time.

“So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while”

We came back from our weekend away and waited for pictures. We hadn’t hired a photographer, we just asked everyone there to take some. My mother took a video recording (so she and my father are exempt from this).

Every picture was blurred.

I know it sounds trivial. I know. And I’ve gone back and forth for these last two years about how silly I sound. But I have no pictures from my wedding. They all are shaky, blurred images of my backside, of the professor, of the group of people who were there. I have the blurry images, and trust me, they were blurrier as I cried about it.

So I look at Facebook, and all of my friends who got married and the weddings I couldn’t attend. I look at their pictures, the photos they will have forever. And I can’t help but get a little gloomy. I hope they all have the best lives they possibly could. But I also wish that I too had photos to share.

As I listen to that song each anniversary, I can’t help but be reminded of the lines I quoted here. I am left with the memories in my head. And my brain isn’t the most reliable of things, let’s be honest.

jealous

I told Ben that I was upset because when I am old and don’t remember who I am anymore, I will have nothing to show for our wedding day. That’s certainly half of it. But it’s more than that. I also feel incredibly jealous that although I know and he knows that we got married, I have nothing to share with my friends. I can’t show them how happy we looked, our very first moments as a married couple, nothing. And they can all show me.

So I made it my mission to take as many pictures as I could from then on out. I’m working to save up more money for my anniversary tattoo, and I’m going to make sure that although I have no pictures of my first moments as Mrs., I will have enough proof to show that it wasn’t short lived.

(And for those of you interested in the video, there isn’t any audio, and it’s only the back of our heads.)

 

May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

trans equal

Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

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I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.

Bullseye

I woke up this morning and could just smell the injustices of the world. You know, it just hung like smog around the earth. And I knew I had to do something about it. What did I want to do? Blog? Eventually. Protest? Protest what? Spend my money where my alliances lign up? Yes indeedy. I decided I was gonna don the robe of justice and bring my voice to the masses.

I went to Target today. I’ve been there, but never bought anything from the store before. I “dressed up for justice”.. I did my hair, my makeup, put on my nicest clothes, grabbed my “power” heels, my husband and my wallet and drove to the store. Did I need anything from Target? Not necessarily. But what I needed was to make sure that I supported a business who supports equality.

Now I must add some comments about my attire, because the choices were very deliberate. I decided I was gonna rock the body I so seldom ply truly love. I was proud of the way I looked. What you may not be able to see are the three rings I am wearing. One is my engagement ring/wedding band combo. That one is very obvious as to why I should wear it (and he’s the one who took the first photo). One is a moonstone, which represents femininity and one is just a piece of costume jewelry that I love and use only on special occasions-with this being a holiday and all, I thought it was a good enough reason. On one of my wrists I am wearing a blue and pink bracelet and the other I am wearing a rainbow one. Obviously the rainbow one is for gay support, but the other one is for bisexuality support. I have many friends who are L/G and I belong to the “bi” category. I chose a black and white striped dress because a white and black flag is the one used by straight allies. As I have said, I do not fit in the “straight” category, but I am an ally and I’m not transgender or transsexual, so I thought it was fitting. And grey leggings because grey is the color for asexuallity, which brings us almost completely to all the letters of LGBTQIA. And the heels? Those are my “I’m gonna sue you” heels. My eyes have teal eyeliner, because that is the color for sexual assault awareness. All in all, this is my first day of dressing up for what I believe in, and it marks the start of my career in human rights.

I needed to know what it felt like to look business professional for something I truly believe in, because that is going to be the rest of my life. I’m adding pictures as proof that I actually went there-and bought stuff, because words are just words, you know?

 
The model looks like she’s resting on my head. And I’m pretty impressed with the amount of frizz that is absent from my hair!


There’s the frizz! In the mirror! But ultimately, I took this picture in the bathroom aisle because that’s what this is all about (and I really didn’t have to pee). I’m really pretty pleased with my selfie game here. Classy.

You know, I posted a status on my Facebook page about how I was going to go to Target today and if that offended anybody, they should unfriend me. I’m a big girl, it won’t hurt my feelings to lose “friends” whom I do not agree with on issues of human rights. It honestly should not come as a surprise that I support bathroom equality. Because it’s all about human equality. I do not identify as transgender nor do Iidentify as a transsexual. But I identify as a human being. And the thing is, statistically speaking, trans people are the ones getting attacked and sexually assaulted, not doing the attacking. And you know what else? If parents were worried about their kids being in situations which might be dangerous, why aren’t the parents going to the facilities with their children? My parents did up until I was old enough to know that I could use the restroom without help, and with the understanding that if something happened, I’d scream like murder (I’d say I was about 8, maybe 10).

The thing is, people are afraid of what they don’t understand. And that’s not how we should live. This blog is my stance. So to all you Chrsitians and Catholics who say that you love like Jesus did and then immediately cry for the persecution of transgender and transsexual individuals, you are the problem. Jesus didn’t only love the people just like him. He just loved. The end. No qualifiers, no categories. And you’re doing Christianity wrong if you love any other way but unconditionally. And you know what, that goes for all religions, including having no religion at all. If you’re for equality, for safety, for love, for humanity, for the future, for living to the fullest and you are anti this topic, you’re not living your life to the fullest capacity. You are, in fact, holding everyone else back. I know, I’m a radical millennial (I was born in 1992. I call myself everything but a millennial, but whatever.) and I haven’t “experienced” life yet. But you know what, I don’t need 40 or 50 or 70 years of life to know that there are good people and bad people in the world and that chances are, you’re only assuming that someone belongs in a certain category because you don’t understand it. Do I know what it’s like to be a trans individual? Nope. But I have friends who do. And I treat them like human beings. Period. Because that’s what they are.

I can only hope that if one of my future children identifies as a member of the trans community, that they know how much I love them as a person, not as a prescribed way of being. And I wish this “issue” were more personal for people. Because until you have seen and heard and been a part of the life of someone who is trans, you really don’t understand what the “big deal” is. And that is half the problem.


Forgive the mess! This is my favorite selfie of the day.

So thank you Target, for allowing me to enter your store, for placing store representatives who smiled at me and asked me if I found everything okay. Thank you for supplying products to a less than straight pagan woman in Ohio and her husband. Thanks for letting me wander around and take some selfies. Thanks for having the products that I was wanting to pick up and for putting those discount stickers on stuff.

But more than that, thank you. Thank you, Target. Thank you for serving the people of our fair country to the best of your inclusive ability. Thank you for ensuring that customers and patrons feel that they are protected and appreciated enough that they can be themselves. Thank you for remembering that we are all human in the end and that there is inherent good in the people of our human race. Thank you for embracing the things that make us all unique-even when there are so many who do not understand. Thank you for opening your hearts when others would have you open the door to bigotry and fear. Thank you for ensuring that the bullseye symbol which you have chosen as your brand does not stand for the way in which you “target” people different from you, but for the way it encircles all walks of life in one unified stance. And lastly, thank you for not giving in. I can only imagine what trans people feel when they see the hatred and fear coming from their fellow humans and I am so glad that you have provided a light in the darkness.

The Start to a Great Day

This past week was a brutal week for human beings. Earthquakes, bigotry, hatred, fear and on my own campus there was a display of some very xenophobic graffiti. But there were also some wonderful things which happened. The grafiti was covered over by messages of acceptance and love. The bigotry and hatred was combatted with hope and kindness. Aid was given to those who needed it.

Yesterday was one of those weird days when I missed something from my old life: routine. Not the kind that I’d expected, but I missed having songs to sing to my deity. I had seen a video of someone singing “It Is Well With My Soul” and vividly recalled all the times I spent in church singing that song (and playing it on the piano) and then all the times I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t even want to sing the song. I wanted to revisit a time when there was a routine in my life that made everything seem simple. That is the way it is because is is that way. You know?

It was a weird feeling, but I think the point of it wasn’t that I found a hole in my belief system, it was that in those days, everything was simple (for me at least). I lived in a small town of people I knew and who knew me. I could walk all over the county by myself without fear. I could stop by people’s houses if I needed to call my parents or get a drink or hang out with people roughly my age. I missed the simplicity.

And yet, there are things I would not change about today. I braided my hair for the first time successfully all by myself. I got up on time, I dressed up today (I’m channeling my inner Snow White-red lips, blue top, yellow skirt) and I even managed to get rid a bunch of homework done. I didn’t panic when my husband drove us in this morning, even though I’ve grown accustomed to driving by myself. I got in to work early and successfully set up for the day. I’m a stronger, more independent person than I was six months ago. And what’s more, I accept myself for who I am more so than I did when I moved here. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to be a little different, but it means that I am not ashamed of who I am now.

  We are all products of our pasts. For me, that past means walking barefoot through grassy fields on the way to a raspberry patch to get my fingers completely covered in red dye. It means traveling downs dirt roads covered in arching trees and watching baby rabbits run across your yard right before a huge buck comes sniffing for roots and tulips. It’s picking apples off the trees while waiting for the bus to take me to school and bonfires with burnt marshmallows (which my parents had to eat). It’s dressing up on Sunday’s because that’s what respectable people did and then going home to pick garden produce.

  And we choose what becomes our future. Coffee dates with friends, and making time for people. It’s proving to yourself over and over again that you’re not the mistake you thought you were. It means taking the time to capture life’s little moments, watching a sunrise even when you’d rather be sleeping, making the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten and then being surprised that it tasted that good.  

  It means choosing to feel good about yourself and “I’ll be damned if I let other people shame me out of my own life”. It means giving up every reason you have for not being happy and just taking chances anyway-because you’ve finally decided that it’s in your best interest to believe in yourself.

  At the end of the day, we’re not always going to listen to the naysayers. And doing so will only hold us back. We’ve got to start living with love and passion, or else we don’t stand a chance of living at all.

(All photos today were taken by me and as you can see, are on my Instagram. Ya’ll can hop on over and browse about if you feel so inclined, but this is basically what I take pictures of. Only now it’s my dog and campus, but hey.)

My PSA

April 1 marks the very first day of April (obviously) but it is the beginning of an entire month of awareness. April’s awareness topics range from Autism to Organ Donation, from several types of cancer to Stress. But there is one thing that it is, which needs to be mentioned loudly. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And it is that topic which is the focus of today’s message.

On a personal note, there are very few topics which get me so fired up that my big heart shows right through. This is one of them. I am VERY passionate about improving the conditions of women with regards to sexual education and safety. What started out as a tangent-concern (I’m a woman and of course, I’m concerned about those topics) quickly became an all consuming passionate need to improve the world around me. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I’m writing a book about it, I’m going to school for it. I have lots of ideas, and I would love to share them all. If you want to know more about this topic, or any others that I blog about, please, just ask. Educating others is the biggest blessing I could ever have.

Trigger ALERT: This post contains information on sexual assault/rape. If you find those topics to be triggers, please, know that you are not alone and that life is still beautiful-even if your skies are grey.

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Before we get into the “heart” of today, we need to know what it is that this month actually means.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include: Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape, attempted rape, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body, fondling or unwanted sexual touching

This list is only a partial list, however. According to Marshall University the list also includes:

Sexual assault includes:

  • Rape—sexual intercourse against a person’s will
  • Forcible sodomy—anal or oral sex against a person’s will
  • Forcible object penetration—penetrating someone’s vagina or anus, or causing that person to penetrate her or himself, against that person’s will
  • Marital rape
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Sexual contact with minors, whether consensual or not
  • Incest (Sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion between family members.)
  • Any unwanted or coerced sexual contact

Let me break it down for you: if it is physical contact that is in any way sexual (kissing, touching, feeling, etc) and you didn’t want it-it is sexual assaultALL rape is sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape.

I always assumed that the word assault meant “violent”. That sexual assault basically equaled rape, or some sado-masochist stuff that you see in Law and Order: SVU. Turns out, I was wrong. It doesn’t have to be violent at all. I didn’t know the actual definition of sexual assault until I was 23 years old. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with America today. Someone grab your butt? It counts. Someone kiss you without your consent? It counts. And that’s the start of why so many people don’t report it (of course, there are other reasons).

If you don’t even know it’s sexual assault, then why would you report anything?

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According to the Center for Disease Control, “1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate someone in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.” (CDC) But the statistics do not stop there.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

·         Every 107 seconds, a sexual assault happens.

·         68% of these will not be reported to authorities

·         About 293,066 people are assaulted or raped EACH YEAR

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Some effects shown by the victims are: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Self-Harm, Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STI/STD), Depression, Substance Abuse, Sleep Disorders and more.

1 in 4

Here’s what RAINN recommends you do if sexual assault happens to you.

1.       Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.

2.      What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.

3.      Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).You’ll be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Some service providers may be able to send a trained advocate to accompany you.

I’m going to just attach the link to RAINN about reporting assault, which includes some reasons people may not.

https://rainn.org/get-information/legal-information/reporting-rape

So there are the facts, and the data and the definitions. Now, we need to look at the real life faces of an issue that has made its way into our society. It’s time to make prevention personal.

Baylor Story                 Self-Blame                    Devalued, Discounted and Unprotected

Huffington Post, Kesha

These links are from people (or are about people) with real lives, real concerns. And in the effort to be fair, here are some links with resources and “help” information.

Good Therapy        Victims of Crime       S.T.A.R.S.

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If you took the time to look at the links above, you’ll notice one strikingly concerning thing. The phrase in question is:

It’s not like I was raped…

Let me say this in the plainest English I can:

It. Does. Not. Matter. 

You. Are. A. Human. Being. Worthy. Of. Respect. And. Love.

Seriously. “Just because it wasn’t rape” doesn’t make it less awful, nor does it negate the effects. Rape is awful. That is true. But NO ONE asks to be assaulted. NO ONE. And it doesn’t matter if you were at a bar and someone comes up to you and gropes you, or someone comes up to you and starts kissing you and “feeling you up”. It doesn’t matter if you knew the person or if they were a stranger.

If you didn’t want it: it’s sexual assault. And that is a crime.

If you are a victim, you are not alone.

What NO ONE Talks About

So I know that I’ve been pretty rant filled and political and those sorts of things, but I firmly believe it is for good reason. My goal each time I post something along the lines of Kesha or Bernie or even Suicide Awareness is that more people will become aware of some of the issues of today and take action. I will not apologize for my “editorials”, nor for the motives behind them. But today, i am both taking a personal and an activist stance for something that I believe needs to be addressed: menstruation.

Thaaaaat’s right, your favorite gift from the great mother, the one that turns your girlfriend, wife, mother or sister into a cranky, bloated, bleeding stressball once a month. But as always, that’s only one way to look at it.I’m here to bring some facts, some interesting thoughts and some ideas to the crimson issue.

moon

Menstruation, or moon time has been revered throughout the ages as a source of power for women. It is with this flushing of the uterus that many women have been accused of sorcery, devil worship and all sorts of magicks. It’s my favorite time to be a woman.

WHAT?

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That’s right. It’s my favorite thing about being a woman. No man on earth can do it, that makes it unique to my biological sex. And having a period is a sign of health. If you are malnourished, or have an eating disorder, chances are menstruation is one of the first things that stops.And you know what else? I find it empowering that I can survive bleeding each month and not dying. It makes me feel like a fierce viking warrior woman who’s just come from battle. Seriously. I see absolutely ZERO shame in my “monthly”. But here are some things you may not be aware of.

hygiene

Around the world, being a menstruating female is a bad thing. ” In rural Nepal, a similar practice occurs, where women are not allowed in their homes for fear that the gods will become angry and put a curse on the home and family leading to illness and problems.” (1) Small Mali villages have NO access to feminine hygiene products, and neither do villages in Senegal, Tanzania (it’s increasing here!), Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Guatemala, and a number of other countries with limited access. (2) And here in the United States? The impoverished aren’t afforded the luxury of feminine hygiene products, as “the food stamp programs in most US states do not even consider menstrual hygiene products as “essential items” (1). “Many girls are terrified by their first period. Because they lack  information, many girls believe they are ill or dying when they first menstruate.” (1) A year’s supply of tampons and pads costs upwards of $70 (3)!

I personally think it’s a little higher, depending on where you live and how much stuff you have to go through each month. $6.99 for a 36 count of Tampax Pearls, $4.39 for a 50 count of Kotex liners and $3.19 for a 22 count Always Maxi Pad (4). You’re supposed to change a pad every 3-4 hours, and a tampon every 4-8 hours. Suppose you have a 7 day period. (It’s math time!) And most of the time, if your flow is heavy, you use both a tampon and a pad, if not two tampons. (just keep that in mind, I’m getting there).

1 day of light bleeding

5 days of moderate to heavy bleeding

1 day of light bleeding

(and let’s be honest, add 2 more days of liners JUST IN CASE something happens)

So in total: 4 days of “light” and 5 days of “moderate to heavy”.

4 days * 24 hours = 96 hours / 4 hours = 24 times to change a pad (light days don’t need both pads and tampons)

5 days* 24 hours =120 hours / 4 hours =30 times to change BOTH.

So for ONE month you use: 24 liners, 30 pads and 30 tampons.

With the size boxes that I looked at, you’ll need to buy a grand total of about 11 months’ worth of “stuff” So the last bit of math is:

(11*6.99)+(11*4.39)+(11*3.19)=$160.27 USD (a little more than TWICE the quoted cost.)

That is NOT okay. For being a woman, who by the way has no choice over the matter to have or not have a period, that is a LOT of money to spend. And not to mention, do you know how much waste tampons and pads make? No? Well let me tell you.

“According to the new book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of “pads, plugs, and applicators” in her lifetime.” (5)

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And now we reach the “story part”. So I had heard all of the information, and I knew that I really care for the environment, but I had never really thought about how something as basic as puberty might be destroying the earth. I mean, you literally don’t think about it. You just think, “Oh, well, I must bleed for a week, better not wear anything that might get damaged.” and go about your day. So on a coffee date one day, I walked past a CVS and decided I was going to do my part. Cue the DivaCup (6). I’d heard about these as a pretty recent fad, I figured they were just something that someone had thought up. And then it hit my news feed about the girl who got TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) for leaving a tampon in too long and I decided I needed to know what the craze was all about.

I have to admit, the first time using it was a little…frustrating. I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt kinda silly and I couldn’t get it right. But. A little research goes a long way. I found a fold, I managed to figure it all out, and now I’m saving myself so much money. AND I’m saving the environment.

blood

But that’s not enough. I have to be part of the message. We have to make menstruation something that’s talked about, something that women don’t have to be ashamed of. Did you know that’s the number one reason girls in impoverished countries drop out of school? Here’s a quote from a girl in Uganda:

“I used to use cloths that I would cut from my old T-shirts to keep the blood from staining my dresses, but they were not enough and blood would still stain my clothes,” she told a local NGO that visited her school to teach her how to make reusable pads.

“Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.” (7)

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Seriously. If we are going to end poverty, end gender inequality, we have to start talking about stuff like periods. Women should not feel ashamed that they are healthy. And they shouldn’t miss class because they have no access to hygiene products. Pads and tampons are not a luxury. Water is not a luxury. Education is not a luxury. We have to speak out.

Sources:

(1): Dignity Period

(2): Lipgloss and A Backpack

(3): New York Times

(4): Google Shopping For Hygiene

(5): Slate

(6): DivaCup

(7): Girl Effect

International Women’s Day

Ah, today. My favorite interest group day during my favorite interest group month, as part of my favorite topic to discuss. I love being able to talk about women and their cultures, ideals and abilities. I’d thought about doing an interest piece about the Jenner/Kardashian news that’s been popping up, but then I thought-isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of International Women’s Day? And I thought about doing a Hillary Clinton feature, and about women in power, but she’s already “equal” in many ways. So what do I want to talk about today? Mental Health? I could. Unnecessarily gendered goods? Possibly. But I think at the heart of today, there are two concepts which really embody what I want to focus on: respect and equality.

I had to read a book for one my classes (Women and Democracy) called “Companeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories”. A zapatista is a member or supporter of a Mexican revolutionary force working for social and agrarian reforms, which launched a popular uprising in the state of Chiapas in 1994. (Thanks, Google!)

zap

I know that seems kind of “old” news, but the story is actually really inspiring, and some of the quotes from the book are just phenomenal. The main point, from my understanding, is that the indigenous people of Chiapas wanted control over their own land, their own resources, and wanted the government and military powers to remove themselves. The women, although also heavily involved in this movement, went about things a little differently, collecting themselves for the ideas of equality, freedom and opportunity. Some of the quotes from the book are:

where indigenous communities have taken their destiny into their own hands, where villages find solutions to their economic problems by working collectively, where community members walk proudly…

The dignity with which these women carried themselves, set against a backdrop of centuries of racism and exploitation…

I know they seem a little disjointed, but the quotes themselves are part of the larger ideal of what I was explaining before. The next thing, is the outcome of this movement (specifically on the women’s side. This is the Women’s Revolutionary Law of 1994.

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

This next quote comes from a book called “Decolonizing Democracy” and I think it has the best potential to be a slogan which I will print on everything. It talks about when the (Indian) government should be doing for its people. I think it’s applicable to ALL governments.

dec

and at the same time provide safeguards for the fundamental rights of individuals and groups living in this country and for safeguarding the fundamental rights of minorities

So I was thinking, about all the women who have fought for their rights, their freedoms and their ability to live their lives as they see fit. I thought about all of the stories I had been told about female naval officers, pirates, warriors, samurais, wordsmiths, protesters, politicians, activists and leaders and realized that there is so much that has been done for women, by women.

But the fact remains that 1 in 3 girls (in developing nations) will be married as children.(girlsnotbrides.org)

One woman every hour in India will die a “dowry death” (death caused by a dispute in her dowry) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The average life expectancy for a woman in Botswana is 33 years (America is 78). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

68% of women in Bangladesh suffer (or have suffered in domestic abuse situations. The U.S. spends over $1 BILLION in domestic abuse related medical costs EACH YEAR. 28 cases are reported in Thailand each DAY. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

2% of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. That number is .01% in Canada (That’s 1% of 1% or 200 times less than Sierra Leone). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

40 MILLION girls are missing from the world’s population due to son preference (most of these girls have probably been abandoned for dead or murdered). China makes up 30 million of that total. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

Ohio (where I am from) has the following statistics on sex trafficking:

-More than 1,000 children are trafficked around Ohio each year. This number does not include adults. (ohiobar.org)

-Only 289 cases were reported in 2015, most of whom were US citizens. (traffickingresourcecenter.org)

Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. In Japan, only 5 of the 104 gang rapes reported had convictions in 2005. In Burma, marital rape is not a crime unless the victim is under 14. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

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So, although today is a day for celebrating women globally, we also need to be severely reminded that we have to fight harder, fight faster, to protect those very same women. We are half of the sky and we must hold each other higher. The first step, is education. To be aware is the only way to help.

 

A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen

Why the Kesha Ruling Matters

This week has been one hellacious week, as far as my reaction to court cases and life in general. You could say my faith in humanity wavered for a moment in time. But I write to you today from the perspective from someone who found the passion to pull herself from the depths of a hell-like depression into a full blown fighter. I have always been a fighter and now I’ve found my purpose.

Pocahontus Compass

I can no longer sit idly by and let our society, which I have endeavored to learn about and discover seek to oppress me by legislation which forces me to conceal that which is most basic to my existence: my biological sex.

I was born a female, and that is what I will stay, as feels right for me. But for whatever reason, that has been enough to condemn me. Michelle, are you talking about yourself personally or as a generality? Well, reader, I have to say both. And I can think of no more a potent case than the one recently involving Kesha. Kesha is a pop singer signed to the Sony label. She is known for song like “Tik-Tok” and “Crazy Kids”. And earlier this past week, a judge (more specifically Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Manhattan-New York Supreme Court) ruled that Kesha would continue to be legally obligated to fulfill her contract with the man whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Michelle, you don’t even KNOW Kesha, nor anyone even remotely close to that case. How could it POSSIBLY affect you? Well, reader, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

—-Before I begin, I actually started this post 4 days ago, and had to stop because it emotionally drained me to the point of insanity. I would now like to finish what I started.

Womens-rights-are-human-rights

If the law says that a woman must stand by her accused rapist (or alleged assaulter, or abuser) for the sake of upholding a piece of paper, on which words are printed and names were signed, you are doing two things. First, you are saying that a contract is more important than a woman’s safety. Second, you are saying that women are not to be respected or believed if they come forward with accusations of assault, abuse or rape. You are saying that a women is expected to be grateful for the opportunities she has and that any reason she may have to want to remove herself from that opportunity is not good enough, and that maybe she shouldn’t have brought it on herself.

I was in class yesterday, and as I usually get there a couple minutes early, I found myself in a super emotional conversation about this very topic. I promise I didn’t start it, but I can proudly say I did pitch in. But because it pertains, I will record the pertinent parts.

Person A: My theater class was talking about the Steubenville rape today and Kesha got brought up. There are 4 women including myself in that class and I’ve never been so emotional in a class before.

Person B: What happened?

Person A: The men in the class all grouped up to say that Kesha should have had the wherewithal to know that she was being given date rape drugs instead of sleeping pills and that she deserved to face the consequences. Then one of the 4 women took their side and said that Kesha getting raped was like a person standing in front of a mass shooter and asking to be shot.

Now, I’m gonna stop my relay of the conversation there, because Person A and the rest of the class were getting into the problems of rape culture (some of which I will bring up in a moment) and because I made my point. Person A was physically shaking, and by the end of the conversation, more than just them was of that same response.

So when I say “rape culture” what is it that I mean? According to the Women Against Violence Against Women, here’s the backstory:

“Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”

rapeculturegraphic

Uh-oh! Did I just say feminists? YES I DID. And the Google definition of feminism is:

Feminism: noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminists are simply people who think that all people should be equal, and have equal rights. That’s it. Not men-hating crazy people. Just equality. It says nothing about what job is “appropriate” or what fashion a person wears or beliefs or anything. Just equality. Seriously. SO MANY people use it the wrong way and have no idea what it is. Educate yourselves!

gender_balance

Anyway, back to my point.

If we as a society are telling one young woman that she cannot escape her alleged attacker, then we are telling ALL women that they are stuck in the cycles of inferiority because of the sex they were born as. We are saying that women do not have the right to feel safe, or to expect to be protected by the laws which seek to govern them. We are telling women that their voice is to be muted, so that no one is to ever pay attention to it because all women are doing is seeking attention without having anything worthwhile to say.

And yes, it IS possible for women to be awful people and just make stuff up for attention. But one bad person is NOT justification enough to punish all women and oppress their needs just as it is not justification enough to punish all of MANkind for the actions of Hitler or John Wilkes Booth.

I try to keep my blogs from being overrun by politics. My husband is the political one and in fact, I think he may eventually come around to the idea of going into politics as a career. I’ve always seen myself as the justice keeper type. But I want to also welcome discussion. I don’t want to exclude views just because they are not my own. I want to know why people think what they think.

This topic is so personal for me. Not because of who is involved, or what happened, but because I am a woman. My husband and I have decided that kids would be great-one day in the distant future. The thought of having a kid now TERRIFIES me. I’m not ready, I’m not financially stable enough, I still go to college and that’s reason enough for me.

Why am I bringing up kids in my blog about the Kesha case? Because I need you all to see the pressures on women. And part of being a woman is being pressured about your biological clock.

I had a professor who told me that my experiences were not correct because they seemed to him to be wrong. He had asked about the pressures of having children on married women. I offered my story because I thought it would help the class understand. Here’s the transcript.

Him: I don’t know. Do any of you married women feel that there is pressure on you to have children?

Me: I had people asking me if I was ready to have a kid five minutes after I got married. And some of the congratulatory Facebook posts also contained questions about it.

Him: I don’t think that happens.

Another woman came to my defense, saying that it does happen and that people also force their ideas of how many children you are supposed to have on you. But the point is, I was told that my experiences were invalid because he didn’t believe them. How am I supposed to combat that?

The CDC recently released a report about women drinking and pregnancy. If you took health class seriously, you know that alcohol and babies do not mix. It’s bad for the babies. But I personally think the CDC is taking it a little too far. Yes, I think that baby health should be at utmost priority. But I also think that if women who are of “sexually reproductive” age and not on birth control have to have their alcohol consumption monitored, then maybe so should men. After all, men are more likely to become alcoholics and if we’re really so concerned about baby health, then why would we want to be unconcerned about alcoholic dads?

The state of Ohio (in which I live) has recently passed a bill stating that abortions will not be funded unless it is necessary for health or in instances of reported rape or incest. Michelle, you just said you weren’t going to get political-what’s this? This is me showing you why Kesha matters.

So let me list this out for you.

ALL THE THINGS WRONG ABOUT THE KESHA RULING AND RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

(The consequences spelled out for you by: a woman.)*

-Women are not to be believed in the event that they accuse someone of rape or assault because they are probably just seeking a better opportunity.

-Women are not to be believed about their experiences because they are probably lying.

-Women are not to consume alcohol because they are going to damage their unplanned children. (There is, to-date, no regulation on men though.)

-Women are not allowed to get an abortion (in several states now, not just my own) unless they have poor health, have been the victim of incest or have been the victim of a rape that they probably just want because they had the opportunity to have “consensual” sex and not worry about the consequences (and they probably lied about being raped anyway).

_________________________________________________________________

And now, you maybe see why the Kesha case is so important. It isn’t about Dr. Luke, Kesha or even Sony. It isn’t about Hollywood’s biases, intolerance, injustice (well, it kinda is) or anything like that. It is about the implications of a ruling based on sexism and oppression in a land where being a woman is already treated like a bad thing. I’ll be graduating Spring 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and then in 2020 with a degree in law. And I’m aiming for the laws which limit women’s rights. That will be my legacy.

female-power-anyn-rand.jpg*This explanation does NOT reflect my personal beliefs. I believe that the scenario I have explained is how the facts are being interpreted. I believe that ALL accusations of rape and assault should be looked into with respect and integrity, and am looking into a career in rape prosecution. The explanation I give is NOT how I believe the world should work and is in fact, just the opposite of how I want society to  be.

Sometimes

Sometimes song lyrics are all you have. As a child, I was deeply enthralled in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. And one of the characters used only quotes, because she found an inability within herself to find the right words for her thoughts. That happened to me just a little as a child, but it happens ALL THE TIME as an adult. I struggle for the right words with caution, I try to find what I want to say in as few words as possible. But clearly, I am a writer and words are my friends.

So what am I going to blog about today? I’m gearing up for a super women’s rights post, so today I will take a page from Madeline and just use quotes. These quotes are from all manner of time and space, have meant something to me, have moved me, shaped me or forced me to think and I think it’s fair to say that they are part of who I am. I’ll keep the song lyrics at the bottom!

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. -Frederick Douglass

Hope” is the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul/ And sings the tune without the words/ And never stops at all. -Emily Dickinson

But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep. -Robert Frost

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me. -Jane Austen

Your heart is bruised, my dear, not broken. The soul is a compass; you will find your way back. -K.A. Scott

All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost/ The old that is strong does not wither/ Deep roots are not reached by the frost. -J.R.R. Tolkien

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. -Mahatma Gandhi

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. -Isak Dinesen

————-SONG LYRICS—————

And I’ve tried/ But trying doesn’t always get me there/ and I’m fine/ Even when the way it’s going isn’t fair/ Halfway between somewhere and nothing/ Woke up and I’m twenty something. -Graham Norton

And now I’m itching for the tall grass/ I’m longing for the breeze/ I need to step outside just to see if I can breathe/ Gotta find a way out/ Maybe there’s a way out. -Boys Like Girls (this is my favorite song)

This world will never be/ What I expected/ And if there’s something wrong/ Who would’ve guessed it? -Three Days Grace

I said yep, what a concept/ I could use a little fuel myself/ And we could all use a little change. -Smash Mouth

—————————————-

I decided to end it there, but this may be a multi-part blog. I mean, I have TONS more quotes and I can guarantee there will be days I need to break away from my thoughts. This has been fun!