I do not march against Donald Trump. Let me be clear: to do that would be small-minded and pointless. I understand that he has been elected president of the United States. I know how the electoral college works and I respect that. To march against a single person is so much smaller than why I march.
I march for feminism. Today’s women’s rights are not equal rights and no man can tell me that they are. I demand equal pay for equal work, I demand representation and respect and choice. My body is my own and no leadership of old white men should ever be able to tell me what to do with my uterus.
I march to end sexual violence. I stand among and beside those who have experienced the terror and shame that comes with sexual assault and I cry, “It is not okay!” It is not okay to excuse depravity with victim-blaming. It’s not okay to subvert respect with so-called “jokes.” It’s not okay to act like consent is anything less than imperative.
I march for education. I will fight with every ounce of my being to obtain and maintain fundamental rights of education for every child in this country. If we want a successful nation, it starts with providing quality education for everyone. That means public, accountable, cutting-edge schools, consistently working to implement proven practice. It also means respecting and paying teachers.
I march for healthcare. Modern medicine is a human right, not a luxury of the wealthy. No person should be financially bankrupt because they survive disease or accident, or because of easily manufactured medicine necessary for quality of life.
I march for LGBTQ rights. A person is a person no matter their sexual orientation and I demand that these consenting adults have access to the same systems that benefit my own marriage.
I march to declare that the man leading this country does not espouse the values I hold most dear.
I march to stand in solidarity with my sisters and my brothers. Your values are important to me! No, I cannot claim to know what it’s like to be black or Muslim or an immigrant. I am young, I am educated, I am a middle class woman, a parent, and healthy. And I stand beside all of you who are some or none of those things. We have a voice and I stand to make yours heard just as loud as mine.
Most of all, I march for my son. My child is one year old. He will not remember this day, and he may not remember the next four years. But his life will be impacted by the upcoming events, perhaps more than will my own. I march today to tell him that I was here, that I did everything in my power to make the world better for him.
I march for my child. I march for me. I march for all of us.
I’m not even pumping anymore and I HATE (present tense) pumping.
I had every working-mom advantage: I had my own room, time to pump, a mini fridge at my disposal and I HATE (present tense, bold) pumping.
It’s just the worst. I felt like a cow. I felt so disconnected from my baby and my body, I felt like a machine, I felt sick and miserable. And it consumed me. It consumed all of me.
I was hospitalized for postpartum depression. Postpartum was the darkest I have ever felt, it was all-encompassing and terrible. I felt like my emotions were an entire other beast that could never be tamed or controlled or, frankly, lived with.
I spent three days in the hospital, pumping every three hours, even through the night. My nurses would wake me up, I’d go and pump, fall asleep, and try to get better in between. But I didn’t get better. If anything, during my first three days in the loony bin, I got worse. Because I wasn’t thinking about getting better. I was thinking about pumping. I would mentally calculate the three hour time limit, meticulously plan my every minute. I obsessed over every ounce and cleaning my parts properly and ensuring that my nurses were storing the milk exactly as it needed to be stored and calling my husband to coordinate picking up the milk and worrying about my baby and wondering if he was getting enough food.
[If that sentence doesn’t make you anxious, you might be a robot.]
After three days of this over-zealous obsession, my doctors sat me down and pointed out that I wasn’t getting better. The amazing professional held her hands out and asked me, “So what do we do?” And that’s when the realization dawned. I had to stop. I had to stop pumping, and, to ensure my mental and physical safety; I needed to stop breast feeding altogether.
I went into motherhood not expecting to be obsessed with breastfeeding. I wanted to try it, but I told myself that I wouldn’t get attached. If it didn’t work, I would stop.
It never occurred to me that I just plain wouldn’t like it.
It never occurred to me that after researching all the pumping and breastfeeding information I could get my hands on, I wouldn’t feel confident and informed; I would feel more pressured and overwhelmed than ever before.
When my son was still a squalling infant, I would sit in the rocking chair, holding him with one arm, the other holding my phone. I spent a great deal of time reading breastfeeding “support” forums (which were insanely un-supportive) that sent me into spirals of anxiety. My mind consistently tumbled with questions: Was I pumping enough? Was I drinking enough? Did my bra fit right? Was I using the right cream? Did I store breastmilk right? Was my childcare provider feeding my child correctly? Was my baby accepting the bottle okay? Was he too accepting of the bottle? Were pacifiers going to ruin our breastfeeding relationship?
Now, I was lucky in the sense that I (mostly) liked nursing my son. But I was working full time and my supply was not great. I did not yield a lot of milk with each pumping session (and yeah, I tried all the things).
But I felt like I HAD to soldier through it, FOR MY SON. Motherhood had turned my life upside-down and I was fully convinced that life was not my own anymore. Therefore, I HAD to continue to pump and obsess, FOR MY SON.
I was three days in a hospital before I realized this very important lesson:
More than breast milk, my son needed a healthy mother.
BAM. I resolved to quit. I quit all the way, totally weaned.
When I decided to quit, I did the sensible thing and called my local lactation consultant (AKA “lactivist”). She is supposed to know everything about boobies and milk, surely she would be the best resource, right? After carefully explaining my situation, I asked for advice on how to wean. Know what I got? A list of reasons why I shouldn’t wean and some suggestions for how to adjust my breastfeeding relationship.
Lady, I wasn’t asking for your opinion on whether I should wean or not. I already made this decision and it is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. But, thanks for making me question my decision and giving me literally none of the information I asked for.
In tears, on a hospital phone, I called a mama friend who had also weaned. Suddenly, support. Suddenly, understanding. This goddess sent me a full-on weaning care package, complete with a letter. In this letter, I found a glimmer of hope. I don’t have the letter with me (although I’m sure it’s in this disaster I call a house), but she told me how sad she was when she first started to wean. Then, she said motherhood got better.
Motherhood got better without breastfeeding?
Isn’t that selfish?
No. Because self-care isn’t selfish.
Mothers are forced to be martyrs. Society expects it of us. No, society demands its mothers martyr themselves on the alter of their children. We are supposed to take abuse after abuse, and buck up and pretend to be okay. It’s our duty, they say. It’s for the children, they say.
Fuck that shit.
I love my son and I will do lots of gross, dramatic, absurd, sacrificing things for him. But in order to do those things, in order to be the mother that he needs most, I need to take care of myself.
And for me, that meant stopping breastfeeding.
I won’t lie, it was tough. There was a mourning period, when I sold that pump and put on a real bra. But it started my journey to healing. Pumping was one aspect of my postpartum depression, and to end it was the first step to finding my way out of darkness. I began, slowly, to truly love and appreciate motherhood. And that is what my son needs more than breast milk.
It’s a question we are dealing with a lot these days, while not actually addressing the question itself. Feminism has become this “catch all” term, often associated with bra-less, unshaven hippies on the street. It’s associated with hypocrisy and man-hate, and a sort of fascinating apathy. I kind of hate even using the term feminism, because, as an “ism” it tends to attract a lot of extremes and polarized behavior.
There are too many definitions, too many associations, too many negative examples.
What is feminism?
In an oversimplified world, two general sides shake out when the term “feminism” arises. One side sounds like this:
Fuck men! *Burns bra* Bras are symbols of man’s oppression over women. I should get paid better! I don’t want to be treated differently because I’m a woman, everything should be totally equal! I shouldn’t have to shave; men don’t shave. Seriously, look at my armpit hair! That’s protest for you! Really, we all know women are better anyway, men are just scared of the power we have. We would be ruling the world but the patriarchy has us pinned under its boot.
While the other side shouts this:
Feminism is over. You can vote and work and live freely, what else could you possibly want? Think of the rights that women have in other countries. At least you have it better than that. Besides, none of you know what you want any way. I open a door for you and you freak out and call me chauvinist, if I don’t open the door then you call me a jerk. What the hell? Whatever. You guys have it fine. Quit complaining. And make me a sandwich lololjk.
You know what? Both are wrong. More importantly, I don’t really think either of these sides represents a large portion of people. I do think most people inherently sense something is “off” in regards to gender treatment, but we seem to have a lot of trouble really putting our finger on it.
So what the hell is feminism?
First of all, the answer isn’t simple, and we need to stop trying to make it simple. An obnoxious Facebook comment will NEVER define the looming issues tied up in this very big problem. (So please stop acting like your single comment on social media is going to do anything.)
True feminism is about both genders supporting each other. Change cannot occur without both sides listening and recognizing the unique challenges we all face. I fully acknowledge that men deal with societal nuances that are total bullshit.
At the same time, the bulk of feminism is about women’s issues, because women need the most societal change. Why? Because women do not feel safe in our society. And I am talking about safe in every sense of the word: emotionally, physically, intellectually. They just don’t. I’m not just talking about back alley attacks, I’m talking about in the workplace, in their families, in their bodies, their relationships. Perhaps a lucky woman here and there feels safe in a few of those areas, but you would be hard-pressed to find a female who can honestly declare that she is safe and confident in all aspects of her life.
Now before you blow your whistle and tell me that no one feels “safe” all the time, I would argue that women have a particularly difficult hand dealt to them. Women are trying to figure out the rules of a game while the rules are changed and demand opposite actions. Women are told a plethora of mixed messages:
Want sex but be pure.
Look good but not like you are trying too hard.
Be strong but don’t be a bitch.
More than the messages themselves, they often come in little bundles of threat: conform or be rejected. And I personally think women are pressured into not complaining. It’s confusing and it’s absurd. Perhaps it’s my own bias, but I really don’t think any other single group gets nearly as much mixed messages coupled with societal demand.
With all of that in mind, here is my personal definition:
Feminism is the acknowledgement that gender inequality exists in many complex aspects of our society; due to this recognition, feminism demands action to change the paradigm in as respectful a manner possible while still achieving progress.
When I initially wanted to start a blog two years ago, it was going to be a blog entirely devoted to feminism. It’s a HUGE topic. More than that, there are huge topics within feminism, and feminism is somehow this loose binding that holds these many frustrating and hot-button issues together.
But as I started defining the very nature of feminism and thinking of all the things I wanted to articulate, I couldn’t nail everything under the banner of feminism. I do consider myself a feminist. I am also a mother. I am also a teacher. I’m a wife and a writer and a reader and to restrict myself to only feminist issues seemed like it was inherently counter-productive
As I write more, I find links and ties to feminism in all aspects of my life. It’s not an overarching banner so much as a thread that runs through most projects and causes I undertake. So I think it will come up often in my writing, even if it’s not in a direct manner.
Women face new issues today, and they face old ones as well. Sensationalizing these issues will not solve the problem. Picking sides and screaming at each other will not solve the issue. And ignoring these issues will never help us.
Feminism is real, even if we can’t define it very well. And it needs to be talked about.
The first real conversation I had about consent happened in college. IN COLLEGE. At orientation. Before I even had a firm class schedule, two RA’s sat us down to talk about consent. At the time, I was irritated that they felt the need to talk about it. In retrospect, I’m irritated that no one talked about it sooner.
I personally feel that consent is very misunderstood. It’s more complicated that a simple yes/no. It shouldn’t be more complicated than that, but the fact is that we live in a culture of Hollywood myth, bravado and stupidity. So I’m here to give it to you straight (pun intended.)
You have probably heard “No means no!” That’s true. The word “No” absolutely, 100%, no questions asked, means NO.
Unfortunately, I know through both experience and story that “No” is not always accepted. Here are some things a person might hear in response to a no:
“Just let it happen.”
“C’mon, let me convince you a little.”
“Really quick, no one will know.”
“Let’s just try a little and if you are still not into it, I’ll back off.”
Get the fuck out. Those responses are absolute bullshit. They are manipulative, demeaning, demanding, and (frankly) predatory.
Someone once told me that consent, true consent, is a “Hell yes” and a high five. Anything less is not consent. It’s rape.
Let’s dispel some consent myths (because there are A LOT out there):
Myth: Consent is only necessary for sex.
Reality: Consent is necessary for everything up to and including sex. If doing [insert activity] in front of your family would make you uncomfortable (including kissing, depending on the situation) then consent is absolutely necessary.
Myth: Once you’ve said yes, you can’t take it back.
Reality: You can absolutely take it back. If you tell your partner yes in the morning and by evening you don’t want to—say no. If you tell your partner yes and 30 seconds later you don’t want to—say no. If you tell your partner yes and you’re in the middle of the deed, you can STILL say no.
Myth: You need a reason to say no, an excuse.
Reality: You don’t need an excuse; you don’t need a reason to say no. You can say no for WHATEVER reason you want and that is FINE. Whether you tell the other person or not is completely up to you.
Myth: If you can’t/don’t explicitly say no, then it’s a yes.
Reality: If a person is being “coy” or “shy” or whatever and doesn’t actually say no, that does NOT imply a yes. If a person is too wasted to know what it is (and who) they are doing, that is absolutely NOT consent. It’s rape.
Myth: “Maybe” means yes.
Reality: Maybe means maybe. In fact, usually it means no. It certainly does not constitute consent.
Myth: If you’ve done [insert activity] with so-and-so, now you have to do it with this new partner.
Reality: Big fat nope. Sexual past does not mean anything with a new person.
Myth: If you get your partner turned on then you “owe” them.
Reality: I hate this one. Whether a person gets turned on by you is their damn problem. You owe them nothing.
Myth: People in a committed relationship don’t have to give consent because consent is implied
Reality: Consent is always necessary, even if the people involved are dating, engaged, or married.
Myth: Men don’t have to give consent because they are always up to do the deed.
Reality: Back off, men have to give consent as well. A man saying “No” is just as valid as a woman saying it.
If you are unsure if your partner has consented, always stop and directly ask.
If you have explicitly not given consent (AKA said no) and your partner refuses to accept or acknowledge it, you are now in a rape situation. Get out. It doesn’t matter if your partner is a “nice person,” if you think they wouldn’t do that, if they’ve never done it before. Sexual contact after an explicit no is
Consent is a big deal because rape is a big deal. Consent is a big deal because sex is a big deal. Do not flirt with that line, do not let others flirt with that line.