Fear v Courage

There’s a lot to be said about courage and fear. Everything I’ve seen is usually in response to some vague stressor that makes us feel doubt, concern and general consternation. And I think that that’s worth mentioning. However, I want to do a good old fashioned mental health blog today. The kind that’s more or less just preaching to myself.

In Facebook, you can look at all the things you posted on that day throughout the years. And today pulled up a piece I’d done here that was designed as a letter to myself. I talked to myself about abusive relationships, about self-hatred, about perseverance. And all of those things are important. But they’re not the only things I need to tell my younger self.

Anyway-fear. I found myself at a place mentally where I knew I wasn’t poised for success. But I’d convinced myself that it was completely necessary for me to be there. I told myself the list of reasons I had to be there, and then told myself that list again. And the louder I yelled that list at myself, the more I hated why I was doing it. So I shushed that voice that told me I had to and I got out of it. The list of reasons isn’t gone, but I sure am.

Do I have a plan? Nope-I have like 12% of a plan.

But what I do have is my mental health. And as I told someone today, that feels very selfish. That person then told me that mental health is never selfish.

And they were right.

I was so caught up in the embarrassment that I was going to ignore the voice telling me I had to because I couldn’t be happy with it. And I looked down.

I’ve told you this story. About how a little girl said the four words that changed my life. I wish for this. And the truth of the matter is, I couldn’t bring myself to say those words. So I left. I made myself feel better, happier. I chose me over all the reasons telling me “them”.

So here’s the deal.

Courage isn’t the thing keeping you rooted to the bottom of the ocean, fighting the tides. Courage is the thing whispering quietly to uproot yourself and be free. Fear isn’t getting swept up in the breeze, not knowing where you’re going. Fear is never leaving the mundane because you’ve convinced yourself not to take chances.

And so I took a leap of faith. Which was rewarded by an opportunity. I am pleased to announce that I now have a series on Channillo! You can find out more at: Coffee and Criticisms

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.)

at

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.

 

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.

Thankfulness, Day 20

More and more I find it hard to be an extended conversationalist. I write better than I speak some days and when I am at a loss for words, it is truly an off day for me. However, for the first time in far too long, I had a friend date today and I found myself stagnating in coversation. It was by no means anything she did. It was simply that I was so in awe of how amazing the friends I have are. And so, it is for her that this post is dedicated today. I may have taken over the conversation at some point, and I am eternally grateful for your unfailing listening abilities.

I am thankful for closed doors. 

Our generation is one that is afraid to make a commitment, to say “no” because that could mean an opportunity lost. Opportunities come infrequently for 20-something college kids and so we keep all feelers out, just in case. But there are benefits to being able to decide and take a stand. When you close a door, you are devoting yorself to the possibility of something better. You are taking the chance that you trust yourself and your decisions enough to make a change. And what is even better is that you’re approving your confidence. 

Not making a choice is making a choice. When you remain neutral, doors will close around you. And those are the worst kinds of closed doors-the missed opportunities. Wouldn’t you much rather have made decisions to stand by (even if they were wrong) than never know if you made a large mistake by not making the mistake? So yes, I most definitely am thankful for closed doors. 

But I’m also thankful for open ones. For example, it was a very large struggle for me to get out of bed this morning. It was warm, comfortable and my bed doesn’t care if I want to be in pajamas all day. But I knew that if I just got out of bed, I would get to enjoy time with my oldest friendship. And I took that chance. I had someone listen to my problems, and I listened. I was introduced to what is now my favorite coffee spot in Columbus and I walked 2 miles today. The thing is, I was scared. I was going somewhere new, somewhere I had never been in order to have our friend date. It would have only been too easy to blow today off and apologize with some lame excuse. But my heart needed a friend and in the end, I gained a great deal today. 

I talked to my friend (it was more like “fellowshipped” but po-tay-to, po-tah-to), found a great coffee shop (where the coffees are delicious, cheap, and named after authors-I had a Jane Austen and the guy made hearts in everyone’s coffee!!!) and faced my fears. All in all, very successful. Because I closed the door on my excuses and opened the one to my possibilities. My heart is full, my day was fantastic.

  

Thankfulness, The Sixth Day

I’ve been at this almost a week, and I came to realize that I’m not the same person I was last year, or the year before that. I mean, obviously I’m biologically different, but my mind has grown as well. I had planned on writing today’s post about coffee and conversations, but then a song popped into my head. It’s a pretty common occurrence for me, and yet that song made me pause. 

Chances.

The song is by Five For Fighting, it came out in 2009. I really didn’t appreciate it when it first came into my life. But then again, when do we appreciate things immediately? 

This semester, I’ve been pushed to my limit. Classes with no posted grades and crazy attendence policies, professors with no filters (and bad manners), time that never seems long enough, money that never stays. I’ve changed schools, changed addresses and changed jobs in the last year, not to mention, vehicles and personalities. I’ve missed opportunities because of depression, passed on opportunities because of anxiety, taken opportunities and made mistakes. But just when I’m about to close the door on something (or the door closes on me), something happens.

Chances.

Looking for a job, grad schools, a car, really anything that can be looked for (my marbles?), it’s so easy to become discouraged. So many things seem just slightly out of my reach. I’m not quite good enough. And the thing is, that’s how it’s always going to be. But I am good enough. I know that. I just have to convince everyone else (or do I?). And while it’s easy to get frustrated at all the things I’m not quite ready for, the lyrics come back to my mind.

Chances lost are hope’s torn up pages

Maybe this time

Chances are we’ll be the combination

Chances come and carry me

Chances are waiting to be taken, and I can see

Chances are the fascinations

Chances won’t escape from me
Chances are only what we make them and all I need.