Put on Your War Paint

Op-Ed Piece

It took me a long time to embrace femininity in the Western cultural sense. In some respects, I still haven’t accepted it. But there is one thing that I do which is both expected and looked down on all at the same time (ah, double standards!) and that is makeup. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and so this post is going to talk about the social norms and standards of body modification (as seen through a “Michelle” filter).

Makeup 2.jpg

Bias: My mother refrains from makeup because it irritates her skin something skin to an allergic reaction. I mention this only to show that I really didn’t have any emphasis placed on makeup growing up. I lived on a farm, and the chickens, cats, dogs, rabbits and equipment don’t care if you have on eye shadow. That being said, there came a time when the social pressures reached my small town and viola-a standard was created.

I was in fifth grade (so, age 11) and I wore shorts to school. Not the kind that would send teachers into a panic, but the kind that said “these were definitely overalls without the straps”. Two of the girls I saw in the library were looking at me and I went over to say hello. Before I knew it I head “Eww! You’re so hairy!” and my cheeks grew red, tears welled up and I ran home and shaved for the first time. That was also the last time I wore shorts to school. My legs were covered in nicks and cuts the next day, but I could (if I wanted to) roll my pant legs up and show everyone that I was a mature 11 year old with smooth legs.

It was also about that time that I found myself unable to say the word legs-because I was deeply aware of the latent sexuality of the female body. I couldn’t walk out of a room when men were present without being awkward, for fear that my legs were being watched. This had nothing to do with the people who were there, but everything to do with the way my brain took notice of the hypersexualization of my gender.

It was my freshman year in high school when I began to experiment with color combinations and a proto contouring (this was early 2000s, such a thing didn’t exist yet). I remember putting on navy blue lipstick and going to class, being gauked at and made fun of all day by people I didn’t even know. I remember hearing words like “goth girl has to go cut in the bathroom” and “she’s so weird”. I just happened to really like the color. And I never wore it again.

I created a certain “style” that I used each and every day. Black eyeliner, bright colored eye shadow, chap stick (because I thought bright colors on my lips would be a source of more ridicule). I have bright blue eyes (usually) and the colors compensate very nicely. One day though, I wore red eye shadow (something akin to Gerard Way’s look~check out My Chemical Romance). And I was asked multiple times if I was crying-because that’s how my look was interpreted. So out went the red.

Anyway, these stories are important, because they illustrate one very vital point: Makeup is a demand for women in America, up until you actually express yourself. Body modification is acceptable (and expected) up until you decide how to do it (or not).

I spent most of my college career not really wearing makeup. It wasn’t worth the chance of harassment. I mean, honestly, I was trying to learn, not pick up dates. And the more I studied, the more I understood the truth that I’ve been rediscovering for years:

Bodily autonomy is a good and sacred thing. And no, I don’t just mean reproductive rights. I mean choosing what happens to your body because you want it to (or don’t want it to)-not because of or for someone else but for your own self. I’ve been wearing various quantities of makeup for a few months now. I want to figure out my signature look before law school so I have time to perfect it and wear it that way forever. But why?

Because for me, it isn’t a cultural expectation. It’s the way I show my culture that I chose what happens to my own body.

I wear dark eyeliner (and lots of it) because I like it. I wear bright lipstick (of various shades) because it makes me feel awesome. I contour my face because I want to. I modify my body with piercings and (soon) tattoos and shaving (or not) and hair cuts because I choose to do those things for myself. I’m not “looking pretty” for other people. I’m not “getting dolled up” for other people. I’m looking the way I look because I like to look at myself. I like to catch my reflection in the windows of the buildings on campus and know that I am unstoppable.

Are there days when I look at myself and go “ehh, better not”? Sure. I’m not caught up in the way I look as the only facet of my identity that matters. But what I am is convinced that I am beautiful for myself and myself only.

For the record, I tell people that I’m “searching for the right shade of war paint” while I experiment with color combinations. Why? Because that’s how I see it.

I’m not decorating my face with dainty lines to look airbrushed and model-like. I’m looking to make a statement. I guess I am at war. At war with an oppressive culture. At war with those who would see women denied basic rights. At war with a justice system that’s institutionally racist and sexist and anti-religious equality. The first thing you see is my face-and if it doesn’t match how fierce I am on the inside, you won’t know to be afraid of my passion.

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This One’s For You

I’ve been talking for months now about women, safety and health, as an entity. But it was mentioned to me that perhaps just as I did not know everything about sexual assault, others may not know where to turn for information or help. So I present to you the work of an entire work shift plus some. I’ve spent my entire day looking up resources, trying to find places that help, educate and guide victims of sexual abuse as well as bystanders. I have found safety shelters, mental health sites, alternatives to Planned Parenthood, what happens to cases that are taken to court and other things. I just want the information to be out there. I tried my best to help others. But there is one site that I need to mention by name. I looked up the price of a rape kit, and I have to be honest, I am outraged. So for EVERYONE, please look at the first website and you will see what I mean. ( Find it here.) As a precaution, I have done my best to compile this list, but I am not perfect. If a link doesn’t work, or if it leads somewhere fishy, please let me know so I can update the list. And if there is anything you think I’ve missed, drop a comment! I alphabetized these as best I could (apart from these first 4.)

 

Planned Parenthood Alternative Finder: Get Your Care

Planned Parenthood: Home Page

What Happens to Rape Kits: End the Backlog

The Marshall Project: Rape Kit Facts

Resources for Victims

A

  • AEquitas AEquitas is a resource for prosecutors to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking cases.
  • Agent of Change Agent of Change is an interactive, online violence prevention training tool.
  • American Association of University Women The AAUW is an advocacy and empowerment organization for women and girls.
  • Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center: The center serves abused Americans, mostly women and children, in both civilian and military populations overseas. In addition to providing domestic violence advocacy, safety planning and case management, the center assists victims with relocation, emergency funds for housing and childcare, and funds for payment of legal fees.
  • Arte Sana Arte Sana is a national Latina-led nonprofit committed to ending sexual violence and other forms of gender-based aggressions and engage marginalized communities as agents of change.
  • Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence The Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence is a national resource center on domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
  • Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling: Directory of LGBT-friendly mental health specialists across the United States. Specialists listed are verified members of AGLBTIC, a division of the American Counseling Association.
  • Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers ATSA offers an annual conference, fact sheets, and other materials for professionals working with adults, adolescents, or children.  In particular they have two summaries, one about adolescents and one about children that provide an overview of the issues facing this population.
  • Attorney Referral Line: Refers callers to attorneys in their geographic area who can represent them in their pursuit of civil claims and victim restitution. The referral line is not an anonymous service. Their website also gives information about civil lawsuits. Phone: 202-467-8716

B

C

  • The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault This coalition offers technical assistance to campuses in order to develop effective coordinated community responses that prevent and respond to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
  • Campus Clarity Campus Clarity provides online training programs for students and universities.
  • Campus Outreach Services: Offer information and expertise to schools on sexual violence, diversity, sexual harassment, bullying, hate crimes, healthy relationships, assertiveness, eating disorders, suicide, and related risk issues.
  • Casa de Esperanza Casa de Esperanza is a national resource center on domestic violence in the Latina community, with a mission to mobilize Latinas and Latino communities to end domestic violence. Their work includes community building, as well as direct advocacy and resources for victims of domestic violence in Latina communities.
  • CAVANET: This organization addresses violence against women, human rights, genocide, and crime victims with disabilities.
  • CenterLink The community of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Centers exist to support the development of strong, sustainable LGBT community centers and to build a unified center movement. CenterLink works with other national organizations to advance the rights of LGBT individuals and to provide LGBT community centers with information and analysis of key issues
  • The Center For Disease Control National Prevention Information Network (AIDS/HIV, STI Information): U.S. reference, referral, and distribution service for information on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Hotline: 800-458-5231
  • Child Help: Speak Up Be Safe: Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe is a newly developed, school-based, child abuse prevention education program that focuses on child safety. It is an evolution of Good Touch Bad Touch.
  • The Clery Center for Security on Campus The Clery Center educates and trains campus stakeholders about safety, prevention, peer intervention and Clery Act compliance. Clery Act compliance requires an understanding of counting and collecting crime statistics, emergency notification and timely warning policy, generation of an annual security report, and adherence to the campus sexual assault victim bill of rights.
  • Coaching Boys Into Men Playbook (Copyright © Family Violence Prevention Fund) This guidebook provides strategies for parents, teachers, coaches, and other role models to teach boys about violence against women in an effort to prevent it.
  • Community Health Centers The Health Resources and Services Administration operates health centers in most cities and rural areas, and offers well-checks, treatment, pre-natal care, immunization, dental care, prescriptions, and mental health and substance abuse care. These health centers do not require patients to have health insurance and charge patients what they can afford based on income.
  • Connect Directory The National Center’s Connect Directoryprovides a fast and easy way for victims to locate service providers specializing in specific areas of victimization in a wide variety of jurisdictions throughout the country. Users enter information into a simple form which is used to pull up contact information for service providers nearby who can help.
  • Culture of Respect Culture of Respect is a nonprofit organization strengthening sexual assault prevention efforts on college campuses.

D

  • Darkness to Light: They provide crisis intervention and referral services to children or people affected by sexual abuse of children. Hotline calls are automatically routed to a local center. Helpline: 866-FOR-LIGHT (367-5444)
  • The Date Safe Project: The DATE SAFE Project, Inc. provides positive how-to skills and helpful insights for addressing verbal consent (asking first), respecting of boundaries, sexual decision-making, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors (opening the door for family and friends).
  • Deaf Abused Women’s Network(DAWN): Legal, medical, system advocacy and survivor support services. Video Phone: 202-559-5366
  • Department of Defense (“DoD”) Safe Helpline
    Hotline: 877-995-5247
    Offers crisis support service for members of the DoD (military) community affected by sexual assault. It provides live, one-on-one advice, support, and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is anonymous, secure, and available 24/7 – providing victims with the help they need, anytime, anywhere.
  • gov This resource connects people with disabilities, their families and caregivers to helpful resources on such topics as how to apply for disability benefits, find a job, get health care, or pay for accessible housing.
  • Domestic Shelters https://www.domesticshelters.org/, a project of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), and Theresa’s Fund, provides abuse victims, their friends and family, and agencies, with the most comprehensive, searchable database housing more than 300,000 data points on more than 3,000 domestic violence shelters, agencies and programs in the U.S.

E

  • East Central University East Central University offers both executive/administrative peer-to-peer technical assistance, education and training to help grantees meet the mandatory law enforcement training component of the Campus Program. Serves as a mentor to campuses and their law enforcement/security departments and governing boards.
  • End Rape on Campus: An advocacy organization dedicated to assisting students file Title IX complaints.
  • Every Choice This online resource offers video-based bystander intervention training.

F

G

  • Get Help Bulletins GetHelp Bulletinsprovide information on a wide range of topics, including the impact of crime, victims’ rights, and the criminal and civil justice processes. The bulletins also include resources for victims, their families, and friends.
  • GirlThrive: Girlthrive Inc. honors teen girls and young women who have survived incest and all sex abuse through thriverships, opportunity and education.
  • GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project: Website, information and hotline for GLBTQ victims of domestic violence and their families. Hotline: 800-832-1901
  • GLBT National Hotline: Call center that refers to over 15,000 resources across the country that support LGBTQ individuals. Hotline: 888-THE-GLNH (843-4564)
  • org: GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries worldwide who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.
  • Green Dot Green Dot offers training institutes and campus-specific consultation that is research informed, data supported and consistent with the mandatory prevention and education component of the Campus Program. Helps campuses mobilize a broad-base of their communities in prevention efforts.

H

  • Haven—Understanding Sexual Assault Online training for college students on sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.
  • Healthcare Center Directory: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a Healthcare Center Directory. This directory lists federally funded health centers that provide a variety of services even if the recipient does not have health insurance. Users pay a co-payment based on their income. These health centers generally provide primary care services. Phone: 877-464-4772
  • Health Cares About IPV Health Cares about IPV is a federally funded program that provides training and technical assistance to over 22,000 health care professionals working to implement best practices for treating intimate partner violence (IPV) and dating violence survivors, including new guidelines to screen for abuse and refer patients to services.
  • Health Resources and Services Administration The Health Resources and Services Administration provides information from the Health Resources and Services Administration on the National LGBT Health Education Center health disparities, and links to additional resources.
  • Hope Exists After Rape Trauma: The mission of Hope Exists After Rape Trauma (H-E-A-R-T) is to provide HOPE for victims of sexual assault through the provision of essential and therapeutic support, by affecting positive change in laws influencing their lives, and by educating both the public and professionals commissioned to serve victims.

I

  • International Association of Forensic Nurses: An international membership organization comprised of forensic nurses working around the world and other professionals who support and complement the work of forensic nursing.
  • International Sexual Assault Centers
    Web: http://rainn.org/get-help/sexual-assault-and-rape-international-resources
    The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has a list of sexual assault and domestic violence centers in 19 countries. Click on the link above to see if one is listed for the country you are in.
  • Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community focuses on African Americans as they face issues related to domestic violence and intimate partner violence, including dating violence, child abuse, elder maltreatment, and community violence.
  • It Happened to Alexa Foundation: It Happened to Alexa Foundation
    411 Center Street
    Lewiston NY, 14092
    Phone: (716) 754-9105
    Phone: 877-77-ALEXA (25392)
    Fax: (716) 754-4676
    Web: http://ithappenedtoalexa.org/
    The purpose of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation is to help support rape survivors through the trauma of the criminal trial, in the hopes that more survivors will go through with the prosecution in order to put these perpetrators behind bars. Established in 2003, the foundation assists rape victims’ families throughout the United States with travel expenses during the litigation process.

J

  • com: This site has articles that discuss the effects of child sexual abuse on adult men and their loved ones.
  • Joyful Heart Foundation Joyful Heart Foundation is a national organization dedicated to healing, educating, and empowering survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.
  • Justice for Children: Provides a full range of advocacy services for abused and neglected children.

K

  • Know Your IX: Provides information for students about their Title IX rights in regards to ending sexual violence on campus.

L

  • The Laws in Your State: A database of state laws including mandatory reporting, confidentiality laws, HIV/AIDS testing of sexual offenders, termination of rapists’ parental rights, and statutes of limitations for each state.
  • LGBTQ Health This resource offers information and resources tailored to perspectives and needs of the LGBTQ population who are at increased risk for a number of health threats when compared to their heterosexual peers. Differences in sexual behavior account for some of these disparities, but others are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination. This resource is produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The Line Campaign The Line Campaign is a nonprofit organization and movement committed to empowering young leaders to create a world without sexual violence.
  • Locator http://locator.aids.gov Find publicly supported health services including health centers, mental health providers, family planning centers, and substance abuse treatment providers.

M

  • org: This site has information and a therapist search for male survivors of sexual violence. MaleSurvivor
    Web: http://www.malesurvivor.org
    MaleSurvivor provides critical resources to male survivors of sexual trauma and all their partners in recovery by building communities of Hope, Healing, & Support. Services include: Online discussion forums for male survivors and their partners, Online therapist directory, professionally facilitated healing retreats and workshops for survivors,and training for professional across disciplines.
  • Men Can Stop Rape Men Can Stop Rape offers individualized training and technical assistance to grantees on engaging men in the prevention of gender based violence. Trainings can include, but are not limited to: Coordinated Community Response team trainings on effective approaches to engaging men in prevention activities, training, and community awareness; workshops for campus students on raising awareness about rape as a men’s issue; and general information to OVW Campus Program grantees.
  • Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the Midwest.
  • The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault This coalitions provides comprehensive training that focuses on developing and implementing campus policies, protocols, and training programs for hearing officers and disciplinary boards to ensure more effective responses to the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campus.

N

  • National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) This alliance is a national advocacy organization representing state coalitions and local programs organizing against sexual violence and for survivors.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI): Provides information and referral services, not counseling. Helpline: 888-950-NAMI (6264)
  • National Adolescent Perpetrator Network at the Kempe Center NAPN hosts an annual conference for those working with adolescents or children who have sexually abused.
  • National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
    Phone: 512.407.9020 Web: http://www.ncdsv.org Email: Debby Tucker, Executive Director, dtucker@ncdsv.org The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence designs, provides, and customizes training and consultation; influences policy; promotes collaboration; and enhances diversity with the goal of ending domestic and sexual violence. This organization sponsors national and regional conferences and co-chairs the U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence (DTFDV). Provides military specific information for victims of domestic violence. They do not provide crisis services to victims.
  • National Center for Sexual Behavior in Youth This website is funded through an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) grant and provides Information for parents of youths with sexual behavior problems.  The website will have information for professionals and others working with these youths in the coming months.
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime 
    Suite 480 2000 M Street, NW Washington DC, 20036-3398
    Hotline: 800-FYI-CALL Phone: 202-467-8700 Fax: 202-467-8757
    Web: http://www.ncvc.org The National Center for Victims of Crime is a nonprofit organization advocating for all victims of crime – adults and children. They educate child victims about their rights and the recent provisions that have been established to protect them. The National Victim Center has a toll-free number that acts as a referral service for children who have been exploited.
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: They can provide local referrals for services. A centralized call center provides the caller with the option of talking to a counselor. They are also connected to a language line that can provide service in over 140 languages. Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD (422-2253)
  • National Children’s Advocacy Center This Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) coordinates national prevention and intervention services, while serving as the local CAC for Huntsville, Alabama.
  • National Children’s Alliance: This organization represents the national network of Child Advocacy Centers (CAC). CACs are a multidisciplinary team of law enforcement, mental and physical health practitioners who investigate instances of child physical and sexual abuse. Their website explains the process and has a directory according to geographic location.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) NCTSN is a national organization funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides resources and information for families with children who are survivors of sexual assault.
  • National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs: A coalition of programs that document and advocate for victims of anti-LGBT and anti-HIV/AIDS violence/harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct and other forms of victimization. Site has a list of local anti-violence programs and publications. Hotline: 212-714-1141
  • National Crime Victim Bar Associationis a network of attorneys and allied professionals dedicated to facilitating civil actions brought by crime victims. Crime victims may be able to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and responsible third parties for the damages the victims suffered as a result of the crime.
  • National Disability Rights Network: NDRN members investigate reports of abuse and neglect, and seek systemic change to prevent further incidents; advocate for basic rights; and ensure accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems for individuals with disabilities.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Through this hotline an advocate can provide local direct service resources (safehouse shelters, transportation, casework assistance) and crisis intervention. Interpreter services available in 170 languages. They also partner with the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Center to provide a videophone option. Hotline: 800-799-SAFE
  • National Eating Disorder Helpline: Information, crisis and referral hotline for people dealing with eating disorders. Helpline: 800-931-2237
  • National Human Trafficking Resource Center:A national multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Caller can report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in their area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. Hotline: 888-373-7888
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) This national social change organization is dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists.
  • National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence hosts a resource library home of thousands of materials on violence against women and related issues, with particular attention to its intersections with various forms of oppression.
  • National Organization of Asians and Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV) This national advocacy organization provides technical assistance to culturally and linguistically specific organizations that are currently serving or attempting to serve victims of sexual assault in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
  • National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA) This national advocacy organization supports and advocates for women of color and organizations by and for communities of color.
  • National Organization for Victim Assistance: Founded in 1975, NOVA is the oldest national victim assistance organization of its type in the United States as the recognized leader in this noble cause.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: National hotline, operated by RAINN, that serves people affected by sexual violence. It automatically routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search your local center here. Hotline: 800-656-HOPE
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center: This site offers a wide variety of information relating to sexual violence including a large legal resource library.
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Campus Sexual Violence Resource List This list includes resources for administrators, student activists, and law enforcement, on such topics as primary prevention on campus, crime statistics, and training tools.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Provides crisis suicide intervention, self-harm counseling and assistance, and local mental health referrals. Calls are routed to local centers. Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255) and for the Spanish line call 888-628-9454 or TTY: 800-799-4TTY (4889)
  • National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline: This online helpline assists teens who are, or may be, in abusive relationships.\National Coalition against Domestic Violence: The national coalition of Domestic Violence organizations is dedicated to empowering victims and changing society to a zero tolerance policy.
  • National Violence against Women Prevention Research Center: Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this website to be useful to scientists, practitioners, advocates, grassroots organizations, and any other professional or layperson interested in current topics related to violence against women and its prevention.
  • National Women’s Health Information Center
    Phone: 1-800-994-9662 Web: http://www.4woman.gov/violence/index.cfm?page=91
    Website provides lots of information, resources and links.
  • Native Youth Sexual Health Network The Native Youth Sexual Health Network provides culturally relevant resources and has developed a comprehensive online directory of Two Spirit organizations and social media tools for the LGBTQ community.
  • NEARI Press In addition to books, this nonprofit offers free webinars, free online courses and a monthly newsletter about current research for professionals working with children and/or youth with sexual behavior problems.
  • the Network la Red: The Network/La Red hotline provides emotional support, information, and safety planning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and/or transgender folks, as well as folks in the BDSM or Polyamorous communities who are being abused or have been abused by a partner. Support available in English and Spanish. Hotline: 617-742-4911
  • Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the Northeast.
  • The Northwest Network The NW Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse works to end violence and abuse by building loving and equitable relationships in our community and across the country.
  • NotAlone.gov: A government website dedicated to educating students and schools about Title IX and sexual assault.

O

  • The Office on Women’s Health This webpage includes information on: what rape and sexual assault are; health effects; how to get help; how to stay safe; and where to find more information.
  • OK2TALK OK2TALK encourages teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope.

P

  • Pandora’s Project Web: http://www.pandorasproject.org/
    Provides information, support, and resources to survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their friends and family. Pandora’s Project offers peer support to anyone who has been a victim of rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse through our online support group, Pandora’s Aquarium. Pandora’s Project offers message boards where sexual violence survivors participate in healing discussions and a chat room, where victims of sex crimes can discuss healing-related issues in a safe and supportive atmosphere.
  • Parent Centers Local Parent Centers can connect families with local resources to more effectively address the educational, counseling, and medical needs of youth with disabilities.
  • Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center
    Hotline: 631-689-2672 1(888)ASK-PFML Web: http://www.parentsformeganslaw.org
    Email: pfmeganslaw@aol.com Parents for Megan’s Law, Inc. is a national community and victim’s rights organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse through the provision of education, advocacy, counseling, policy and legislative support services. They are a certified Rape Crisis Center and staff the National Megan’s Law Hotline and the National Sex Offender Registration Tips Program.
  • PreventConnect: The goal of PreventConnect is to advance the primary prevention of sexual assault and relationship violence by building a community of practice among people who are engaged in such efforts.
  • Project HER:  Engage. Respond.
    Sexual Assault staff is trained to provide support to women veterans who have experienced any form of sexual assault before, during, or after their military service.  Project HER is committed to creating a safe environment to build a community of support for women who have served in the military. A wide variety of services are offered free of charge.
    For questions or to be connected to a sexual assault counselor, please call: (714) 834-4317
  • Project Respect: Project Respect aims to create discussions and share a positive alternative model of relationships for youth.
  • org Web: http://www.promotetruth.org Support and information about sexual violence issues for teens and their communities
  • Psychology Today: Find detailed professional listings for treatment centers in the United States and Canada.

R

  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) RAINN is a national advocacy organization that operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. 2000 L Street NW
    Suite 406 Washington DC, 20036
    Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE Phone: (202) 544-1034 Web: http://www.rainn.org
    Email: info@RAINN.org Provides information, help and resources throughout the country, and a helpline.
  • The Red Flag Campaign The Red Flag Campaign is a public awareness campaign designed to address dating violence and promote the prevention of dating violence on college campuses.
  • Resource Sharing Project (RSP) RSP provides technical assistance, support, and the dissemination of peer-driven resources for all state and territorial sexual assault coalitions.

S

  • Safe Dates This program is designed to prevent the initiation of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse on dates or between individuals in a dating relationship; Designed for use by eighth and ninth grade students.
  • Safe Helpline: Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline is a groundbreaking crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Safe Helpline provides live, one-on-one support and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is confidential, anonymous, secure, and available worldwide, 24/7 by click, call or text — providing victims with the help they need anytime, anywhere. Hotline: 877-995-5247
  • Safer Society Foundation The Safer Society Foundation is dedicated to ending sexual abuse by promoting effective prevention and best-practice treatment for sexual abusers and their victims.
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): The SANE/SART program offers sensitive, caring, and supportive care following a sexual assault. Their website provides a list of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs in each state. These specialists are registered nurses, who have advanced education in forensic examination of sexual assault victims. To locate the nearest SANE program, click here.
  • Sexual Violence Justice Institute This institute is a national resource for expertise in the criminal justice response to sexual violence.
  • Shifting Boundaries Shifting Boundaries is a classroom and school wide intervention designed to reduce dating violence and sexual harassment among middle school students.
  • Sidran Traumatic Stress Foundation: The Sidran Institute provides information on traumatic stress (including PTSD), dissociative disorders, and co-occurring issues such as addictions, self-injury, and suicidal behaviors.
  • Stalking Resource Center: The Stalking Resource Center is a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Their website provides statistics on stalking, information on safety planning and other resources.
  • State, Territorial and Tribal Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Coalitions Sexual assault and domestic violence coalitions often maintain statewide crisis lines and link to local service providers and local crisis lines. These coalitions are excellent resources for information about sexual assault and the options available in your state.
  • Stop It Now: Provides information to victims and parents/relatives/friends of child sexual abuse. The site also has resources for offender treatment as well as information on recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse. Hotline: 888-PREVENT (773-8368)
  • Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) SAFER is an organization dedicated to empowering students to hold their universities accountable for having strong campus sexual assault policies and programming.
  • Student Success’s Sexual Assault Prevention program Student Success works with over 300 colleges and universities, creating research-driven, video-based online prevention programs that resonate with students intellectually, socially, and emotionally.
  • Survivors of Incest Anonymous: They provide information on how to find incest survivor support groups in your area and empowers individuals to become survivors and thrivers.
  • SurvJustice SurvJustice decreases the prevalence of sexual violence by assisting survivors, empowering activists, and supporting institutions.

T

  • Take Back The Night Foundation: Legal support for survivors in every state. Referrals to counseling, support, legal aid, hospitals, and nearest TBTN Event Holders. Hotline: 866-966-9013 Take Back the Night Foundation
    Phone: 888-995-1113 Web: http://takebackthenight.org/
    The Take Back the Night Foundation serves over 600 communities around the world in their efforts to raise awareness through rallies, walks, marches, and vigils. We support survivors of all forms of sexual violence. We are comprised of all volunteers. Our website provides information about how to hold and event and offers a comprehensive manual for organizers; offers a place for survivors to share their stories and read about the experiences of other sexual assault survivors. We are inclusive to all and offer webinars for survivors, a survivor voice-quilt, art and music and other ways for survivors to heal. We also are associated with a national law firm, which can provide free legal assistance to help you understand your options in the justice system.
  • That’s Not Cool That’s Not Cool provides tools for addressing dating violence through social media.
  • The Voices and Faces Project
    Web: http://www.voicesandfaces.org/index.asp
    Giving voice and face to rape survivors, offering a sense of solidarity and possibility to those who have lived through abuse, while raising awareness of how this human rights and public health issue impacts victims, families and communities.
  • Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information and Resource Kit This kit includes information from the Health Resources and Services Administration on the National LGBT Health Education Center health disparities, and links to additional resources.
  • The Trevor Project: Help and suicide prevention for GBLTQ youth. Hotline: 866-488-7386
  • Tribal Court Clearinghouse
  • This website serves as a resource for American Indian and Alaska Native Nations, include laws and publications on sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and more.

U

  • U.S. Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Complaint Line: Call to report suspected instances of human trafficking or worker exploitation or contact the FBI field office nearest you. Offers foreign language translation services in most languages as well as TTY. After business hours, the complaint line has a message service in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin. Hotline: 888-428-7581

V

  • vawnet.org This website is a source for information about intervention, prevention, perpetration, education and awareness, advocacy, program development, and population-specific approaches to sexual assault.
  • VictimConnect The VictimConnect Resource Centeris a place for crime victims to learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately. A program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, it combines:  A traditional telephone-based helpline: 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) An innovative online chat: VictimConnect.org  Web-based information and service referrals:VictimConnect.org With extensive specialized training, our Victim Assistance Specialists stand ready to help crime victims understand their rights and options, find information and connect with resources, access referrals, and craft next steps to regain control over their lives.
  • Victim Rights Law Center The Victim Rights Law Center provides national training for attorneys and advocates on issues of sexual assault.
  • Violence against Women with Disabilities
  • The Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides publications, websites, and organizations especially designed to address the unique challenges that women with disabilities face.

W

  • Walk a Mile in Her Shoes This international men’s march is a campaign to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence.
  • Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the West.
  • org: Information about restraining orders and other legal protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Y

  • Yes ICAN
    Web: http://www.yesican.org/chat.html
    The Yes ICAN chatroom is to be used by individuals who wish to discuss issues around surviving child abuse, parenting and domestic violence. The YesICAN chat room is available to those who need support. YesICAN chats are facilitated by trained facilitators. There are scheduled times for various subjects, including emotional abuse, incest, sibling abuse and physical abuse. Please go to their website for full details and the schedule.

#

  • 1 is 2 Many 1 is 2 Many is Vice President Biden’s initiative to change attitudes that lead to violence and educate the public on the realities of abuse.
  • 1in6(for men sexually abused as children): Provides educational information and resources for men, family and friends, and professionals. Also provides access to the online hotline.

 

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.

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

I don’t know about you, but I look through Pinterest and there are days when I get so revved up about what I see that I have to stop looking at it for a few hours, or I’ll keep going back to it and get all worked up. Especially when I look at the feminism stuff or mental illness pins. And I am very much for both of those sections. But you know as well as I do that any old fool can post things without having an inkling of knowledge to back up those words. And it is that ignorance that gets to me. So, let’s jump in the time machine and I will tell you all about why.

I’m a proud Pinterst fanatic. I have over 20 thousand pins. It’s taken LARGE amounts of my time to get that far, but I consider it an invaluable resource to my life. For those of you (are there any?) who don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s kind of like a networking site for ideas. You “Pin” ideas to a “board” and save recipes, DIY projects and so many things. But it can also be used for keeping ideas together. I belong to both camps. Today, I’m going to focus on how social media (specifically Pinterest) perpetuates incorrect information about mental illnesses and disorders: namely EDs (Eating Disorders).

I doubt there are in here, but I know how this works, so just in case.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Some symptoms, stories and elements may cause flare ups of conditions. The author does not condone or suggest any actions which may cause bodily harm.

I know that if you go into Pinterest and type in “Eating Disorders” into the search bar, you will most likely get a different result list than I will. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how: screen shots! I will caption them with WHAT I want you to pay attention to and then WHY it’s important to today’s blog. This is going to be a personal one today, and I hope that means it helps more than I rant.

  
First off, I like this. I mean, I’m not really sure why I couldn’t immediately connect to Pinterest, but I’m ultimately glad I didn’t. And it goes to show, that the moment I try to prove my point, something inevitably happens that changes my mind. Sort of. So thank you, Pinterest for being on the ball. I appreciate that.

  
 
I want you to look at the top left “hand” picture AND the one right beside it. Those two pictures I am calling into question because although you cannot sum ANY disorder up into a single picture, these only scratch the surface. ALL of these pictures do. The focus is on being skinny. But this screen shot shows my point as well. Looks can be deceiving. And the truth is, you really may not ever know who you are until you break away all of the pieces you thought you were made of.

  
 
This time, focus on the gentleman , and the woman at opposite corners. The great thing is that it highlights men having EDs too; a topic we need to focus on more! The problem with the gentleman’s picture is the same as above: it focuses on the skinny issue. And granted you could argue that that is the “basis” of eating disorders, but I would argue it is merely a facet of some of them. The problem I have with the second one actually requires more than a caption so I’ll bump down a paragraph.

Yes you do. You absolutely do decide one day that that is the course of action you are going to take. It may be subtle, like backing off, extreme dieting or eating less and less. It may be abrupt and one day you just stop eating solids, or anything at all. But you DO decide it. And it basically happens in a day. You just can’t take the pressure or the shame or the guilt and you decide you’re going to do something about it.

I was 14 when I first started dabbling with EDs. Almost a decade later, I’m not sure I’m any better.

The first thing I tried was Bulimia. I can make myself purge on demand and I enjoyed the taste of food so I thought: At least I can still taste the things I love. But the thing is, I HATE puking. I really do. And no matter how much I convinced myself that it would help, I dreaded each meal for the sole reason that I would have to throw it up. I maybe lasted in this phase a grand total of 2 weeks. Any extraneous symptoms were not entirely present. (Or had been present BEFORE onset.)

  

So I moved to Anorexia. By the “height” of my time in this disorder, I was only eating an apple a day and that is why I became a caffeine addict. I fought so hard to stay awake every day. And since I have many years worth of experience in this disorder, let me tell you some things.

  

First. While the motivation to be skinny is a big draw into this disorder, it isn’t the thing that keeps you there. You become trapped, like you cannot stop. You feel like it’s your life now and that is all there will ever be. And did I mind that my collar bone stuck out, that my ribs were exceptionally visible? I lived for those signs that I was making progress. But those are the “sexy” side effects. I’m here to tell you about the not-so-sexy ones.

I began to pass out. Sometimes at home, sometimes at school, always without knowing it. It was kind of like narcolepsy-it just happened. And on top of the literal black outs, I began to loose whole chunks of time. There are, even still, very large portions of my memory that are not clear because I didn’t feed my brain enough to make them last. On top of that, I have little hairs all around, which were not there before. You wouldn’t know it, because I take care of it, but even now, they remain. And the hair on my head falls out in great clumps, just as it did before. I missed menstrual cycles-sometimes for 6 months or more. Not because I was pregnant, but because my body couldn’t succeed in normal functions. My fingernails would constantly chip and break, but the worst thing was how weak I felt. I felt slow, my head felt too big, it was like being stuck in extreme gravity for months on end.

And the thing is, no one even noticed. I wore baggy clothes, bundled up, and tried to hide from everyone. This photo was taken of my in my junior year, I believe. I was trying to catch up on some caffeine, clearly. (I said I was a caffeine addict. And I remember this. It was during prom planning, when I had to try hardest to fit in.) The shirt I was in was a medium. 

  

I was 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall at that point, as I am still,  and “look healthy”. But what you can’t see are the constant struggles with food, the endless exercises,  the constant state of pain. All you can see is laughter. A facade.  The me that I outwardly projected. Which is exactly what my primary care physician saw when I went in with the complaint of forgetting chunks of time and passing out. She told me that it was all menstruation related and that I needed to “focus harder”. She could have inadvertently killed me with those words, but luckily I saw a psychiatrist soon after.

And now?

That’s what everyone wants, right?  The triumphant “I survived. And now I’m better. ” story. But I don’t think that’s the story I have for you.  Not today.

I currently fall into the “obese” category of the BMI chart. And does that bother me? A lot. I stay so far away from the starvation diet that I jumped right into the other band wagon. 

  
Puts an interesting spin on things, doesn’t it? Like a big fat slap in the face. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was doing to myself. And the thing is: I’m not so different than I was before. I spend a day eating whatever I want followed by a day of not really eating, or by a week of heavy dieting. And the people who know me know that I diet a LOT. We’re talking everything shy of weight loss pills. And the cycle repeats. And I’m almost afraid to call it what it is, because I still can’t decide if it’s a lack of willpower, self control or if it’s just lazy, “emotional” eating. With Bulimia and Anorexia, I could relate to 90% of the psychiatrist’s symptom list, but only about 80% of the list I supplied. (More with AN than B.) But I can check off every single symptom up there for BED) and if that’s not saying something, I’ll tell you what is.

I’ve had some variety of ED for HALF MY LIFE (almost-we’re short by 2 years). My hair, even though it is thick (as we discussed a couple posts ago) falls out in large clumps. My nails break often (but I try to compensate with the vitamins I take). My body still has little hairs from being anorexic, I feel sluggish and exhausted a LOT, and I cannot say that I enjoy these decisions. By being anorexic, I ruined my body. I broke who I was as a person and watched the pieces slip away. But with B.E.D., I’ve hidden any growth behind a wall of food, shame and pain trying to avoid crushing my soul into oblivion (all while sabotaging it instead). 

So all in all, what I have to say can be boiled down into two parts. First, the Pinterest issue. Not all EDs are about being skinny. I didn’t even touch on orthorexia. Not all EDs are publicized, but ALL of them need to be taken seriously.

And second, I make a public promise to myself, that I will never stop fighting for people who need it, even if they do not look like anything is wrong. Because for years the only thing people were concerned about was the physical harm I was inflicting on myself, and noone even saw the neglect and torture behind it.

So although this isn’t an update for you all, I’ve been working on this post for over three weeks, and I want everyone to know that I am getting help I don’t know the future, but I have to take back control.

The Day I Was Honest

I’ve held onto this post, mostly becuase I couldn’t give it all it deserved. I had to be in the right frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure it’s today, but I think I’ve got a good grip on what I want to say and I think it’s a lovely way to open the new calendar year.
Last semester (and thusly last year) I had a lot going on, as we’ve discussed. I had just transferred to the big city, made new friends, was working on establishing myself in the ways of the world. And I began to blog seriously. I watched this video today of an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, which I absolutely loved and the idea came bubbling up in the back of my head. That’s why I’ve decided to blog on it today.

In the interview, she was talking about how to balance your life. That’s something I really struggle with. I live too much in the future and not enough in the now. I think about how to fix the problems I may encounter and not so much on how to prevent them. So when she said “focus on yourself. Do what makes you happy.”I really felt like we were approaching a revalation. Her argument was that if you do not find a way to keep yourself in balance, to take care of yourself, you will look to others to do so. You will blame them for sacrificing your entire life for them and not getting happiness out of it. And it blew my mind (metaphorically, of course). 

Now that you’ve had some background info, on to the actual point.

Last semester is by far and away not the first time I’ve had to take sick days. I’ve had bronchitis, strep, the stomach flu and a host of colds throughout my life. But I don’t skip irresponsibly. I take pride in my ability to attend school and work with punctuality and integrity. But last semester was the first time I was honest with myself. As I was crafting my email to my professors for the day, I began to reason out what my excuse for missing class was. Was I suffering from a 24 hour bug? Had I awoken with a flat tire or a low battery? Had I merely slept in? And I realized that I needed to stop kidding myself and respect myself as much as I respected the professors.

 

 

Good morning!

I will not be in class today. I need to take a mental health day and will return to class tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding.

Best,

Michelle BB.

For the first time in my entire life, I used that excuse. I’ve always been ashamed to, like it was some sort of cop-out excuse for being lazy. But it isn’t. And in fact, when I returned the next day, my professors went out of their way to make sure I was alright. Two of them even stopped by the office where I work and made it a point to see if I needed anything. They didn’t see me as a lazy, incompetent student. They saw me as an individual who responsibly needed a day to regroup.

  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their reactions. Mental health has been quite a large topic lately, and I was taking a bunch of anthropology classes, so they all understand the value of psychobiological health. And as I said, I do not skip irresponsibly. There is always a reason-a real reason. But it got me thinking. How can I stand here (or sit) and tell you all that we need to take steps to mental health help and then be ashamed of the fact that I have to use that reason myself? Why was I ashamed in the first place?

Because it still carries the connotations. I don’t want anyone to see me as weak, unbalanced, incapable. I fight hard for people to see the bright, driven, passionate individual that I am. But I guess I got caught up in being a super heroine, without flaw or needs. And I viewed my own mental health as something along the lines of an excuse to be used as a cover up for the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to do something. That isn’t even the case. But I’m glad I learned that. Because mental health isn’t separate from physical health. It’s a facet of the same diamond. I was scared that my professors would use that against me in the future. But all that happened was me finally letting go of the fear and replacing it with the statement “I have to take care of myself-holistically.” And once I did that, I think I managed to do just that.

  So thank you, Jada Pinkett Smith, for reminding me that I do indeed need to find my balance and stop sacrificing myself away. No one else is responsible for my happiness and health.

Role Models and Hope For A Messed Up World

I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say right away, so this post is coming almost a week after the incident, but the concept has been stuck in my head for quite some time. As an individual, I love being a singular version of myself. But I look often for someone else who is also a trailblazer. I wanted to write about why I look for and who I select as a role model for my life. I think it’s important for people, women especially, to have someone who is an upstanding, respectable example of the lives we want to lead. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people from older stories who could be role models (I frequently look to Joan of Arc, personally). The problem with using people from the past is that things were different. The world was not the same then as it is now, and we need people who are more like us than sword bearing warriors or queens from afar. 
  There is the social media factor, I suppose, which lends itself to a certain realm of role models, some good, some not. But it seems that the news represents best those who are not good role models for the young (and young-ish) people of today. I am of course talking about the celebrities like Nikki Minaj, Lindsey Lohan and to some extent even Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They all represent the pandemonium of fame and the pit falls thereof. We could also examine outlets like Disney or Matel, who have presented the world with prestigious Barbie, Cinderella, and Ariel (just to name a few). It is these three which are both a great help and a hindrance to young women of today. I want to explore them and then propose my list of four individuals who are better role models for our generation. 

  Barbie: In almost every household you might find her, or a cousin or a friend. She is blonde, brunette, red headed, light skinned, dark skinned. She has had a plethora of jobs, donned an impressive collection of costumes and even manages quite a large variety of accessories. Over the years, people have yelled at her for being too skinny, too unrealistically proportioned and too shallow. I mean, there was even a brief moment in Toy Story 3 where she was introduced to public audiences as a complete and utter bimbo, followed by a weak attempt to reclaim her dignity. But the thing is, she’s too uniform. She has no individualized flaws. No scars, stretch marks, beauty marks, wrinkles, pimples, or really flaws of any kind. Her makeup is always done, she’s always smiling and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

  Cinderella: She’s Disney’s star princess. I mean, who didn’t want to be a princess because of her? She came from rags to riches, found a guy, married Royal and viola. She even had a set of killer shoes. But what does she have as far as personality? She’s got wishes, desire. But she lacks motivation and drive. She “asked for a dress, shoes and a night off”. I get it. But that’s not real life at all. And why do you need a man to provide you with everything? I mean, independence goes a long way. I know in the original story she was a teenager, but isn’t that kind of the point? In her time period, that made her basically an adult, and I know she would have been in need of a man, but this is the 21st century and we don’t need that anymore. Say it with me: I am a strong, independent woman who needs no man, but can have one if I so desire.

  Ariel: With a golden voice and perfect hair, who cares about anything else, right? Wrong. Again, you don’t need a man to be the best woman you can be. The thing is, Sebastian was right. Giving up everything, your soul and life included, just to get a man (or attempt to) is not the way to go. And by this point, wouldn’t you also need to make exceptions for finding the right partner-be it woman or man or just a good friend? As with Cindy, sorry Ariel, but there’s nothing that warrants me looking up to you if you’re going to change everything about yourself for someone else.

So I’ve given you a basic run down of my issues with the above, but I do want to mention that I know these characters are fake, but they are widely distributed and influential. I do not want to come across as impossible to reason with so the last person (it’s actually two people) are fictitious as well. And I also realize that the women I am looking at have flaws. But that’s exactly why I chose them. And I will go over them as well. These are, of course, my own personal opinions and you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments, as always. So,without further adieu.

Michelle’s List of Role Models for Women of 2015.

  Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo: You might not have heard of this woman, but she is the reason I’m doing this post. Seven days ago, she was sworn in as a judge in New York. She wore a headscarf, because she is Muslim and she was sworn in on the Qur’an. Now, none of this even really seems like anything out of the ordinary. But the amount of hate mail she received for being sworn in on the Qur’an is astounding. This woman vowed to uphold the law, as she has done her entire career. She is an upstanding citizen who was voted into office. I came across this story in my FaceBook news feed because of how many ignorant people are accessing social media to tear her down. You are permitted to swear into office on any holy book and even the constitution of the United States. She has done nothing above and beyond the average expectations I have for a law abiding citizen, but she is my candidate for a role model for the simple fact that she stuck by her faith, even when people threatened her and heckled her about it. She stayed true to herself, even though that path offered great resistance.

  Adele: Let me say that I am a huge fan of Adele. Her voice is so beautiful, and she’s gorgeous. She’s not stick thin, and I love her for it. She says what’s on her mind and once again, stays true to herself. She took time from her career to take care of her baby. We’re almost the same age and that means a great deal to me. Why, you ask? Because she’s proving that not all 20 year olds and 20-somethings are wild and crazy and awful. She’s a credit to our age group. She even works at a record shop. Her flaws? She’ so soulful in her music that she really only sings sad songs. Which isn’t like a huge flaw, but I don’t associate anything other than sad love songs and break up songs with her. 

  Angelina Jolie-Pitt: Did this one take you by surprise? I really thought that this spot would be occupied by many other people, and indeed it could have been, but there are lots of women who could have taken this spot who simply aren’t as well known. And while you are all entitled to have your own individual role modes, for the purposes of this blog, I needed someone visible. She adopts underprivileged kids, she works with charities and organizations, speaks on behalf of underprivileged people to the UN. And on top of that, she preventatively had a mastectomy so that she didn’t have to worry about breast cancer. I mean, that sounds like a very personal thing and she’s known for her body. I remember a lot of people were upset at her for taking charge of her own body, and that is why I commend her for doing it. She did what she had to do so that she could live her life to the fullest. Also in this spot, Emma Watson for similar reasons. 

  

  Molly Hooper/Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I told you I would bring in some fictitious characters. I chose one from my younger adult life and one from my current adult life. So I will start with Buffy. She was a kick-ass teenager who saved the world a lot. And the thing is, that was badk when TV series were filmed with people who looked like teenagers playing teenagers, and incorporated flaws and diversity of character types. Buffy had an attitude, she was impatient and made mistakes. She needed help and asked for it, she complained about life and then grew up and made sacrifices. She represented real teenage life, apart from vampire hunting. And her friends were just as painfully realistic. But they all had a moral code and they represent a lovely era of beautiful story telling.

   Molly Hooper. I have great aspirations to be Molly Hooper. For those of you who do not know who Molly Hooper is, allow me to tell you. The BBC produces a show called Sherlock, based off of Sherlock Homesfrom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the BBC version, there is a medical examiner by the name of Molly Hooper.  She has an enormous crush on Sherlock, does everything dignified she can to get him to notice her including buy him a present at Christmas. He’s rude about it and she calls him out on his bad behavior. Later in the series, she also tells him he’s throwing away his gifts and that he should apologize for various actions. Sherlock comes to respect her. And she didn’t change herself. She stayed true to her personality and persona, all while being a valuable asset to a team. Honestly, I know that this is all fiction, but really, if I were ever to model myself after someone who never existed in real life, it would be Molly Hooper. If you haven’t watched Sherlock, I HIGHLY recommend it. I can discuss all manner of theories with you. I’m a true and devoted CumberCookie and Sherlockian.

Anyway, this has been my short list about female role models in modern society. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. 

Journaling

Dear Diary,

I think there are plenty of great reaasons to journal. I mean, it helps you remember things that shouldn’t be forgotten, it’s a great way to express yourself and itprovides a creative outlet. I’ve had a journal almost my entire literate life. But I think I almost alwyas started the chronicled entries with “Dear Diary”. It was a way of having a dialogue with myself without being criticised for it.

And now that I think about it, there are loads of people who look down on the idea of journaling. There are gendered expectations, age expectations and a whole slew of criticisms that accompany the idea of expression. But why is that? 

Why is there a demand for robot-like men who don’t express their feelings and have to “tough it out”? Why is there a demand for picturesque women with no power or wit enough to be equals? And why is there an expectation that journaling is something that you will grow out of?

As a scientist (anthropology is a science), your field notes are your journaled account of what happens in the world, what you study, observe and conclude. You journal all the time-recording things that can’t and shouldn’t be forgotten. Physical scientists have lab journals. There are examples of journals known by different names in almost all of the professional fields, so why is it that it is unacceptable to have one in a personal realm?

As is my yearly tradition, I picked a show to binge watch for Halloween weekend. It’s usually something that I find interesting, but can still tie into the theme of the holiday. (Personal side note, Halloween is my favorite holiday, and the fact that it overlaps with Samhain is a glorious thing, because I can celebrate my love of cheesy entertainment/disdain for antiquated stereotypes perpetuated in Hollywood and the religious holiday that is the most important, but I’ll save that post for tomorrow.) This year, I chose to rewatch The Vampire Diaries. I have seen all the way through season 4, and caught a few episodes of season 5 here and there. I know I won’t make it through all the episodes before life must resume again, but I’m just doing it for fun and I really like the ideas behind the show. Anyway, the first season (which has always been my favorite) speaks to this issue above. Elena is an orphan after a car accident kills her parents and she journals to express herself. Stefan is a vampire who journals to remember events. What Elena does some seasons later after an undisclosed death (I’m not gonna spoil it.) brings the issue to point.

   
 Why is it socially unacceptable for adults to journal?

I don’t really have an answer at the moment, the question just popped into my mind and I felt like it was a good one.

Happy Friday!