Archive of ‘Women’s Topics’ category

The Frustration of Procreation: Part One

This week I’m discussing two things that have been bothering me. I believe, at least for me, that writing is my catharsis, and because we all share in the human experience, I also believe what I’m going through is not unique to myself. It always helps to know that other people are going or have gone through some of the same stuff as me. I know I may upset some people with what I write, and as this is never my intention, I apologize. So with that in mind, here we go.

The first thing that has bothered me for a while is people’s reaction to my pregnancy and choice to procreate. For some people, I have received positive feedback, and I appreciate this. However, I cannot count the number of times a friend or family member will look at me with scorn, scoffing how having children is the last thing he/she wants to do. Some of these people then go on to tell me in full detail how much they dislike children and the people who have them and how their lives change because of it. I’ve even had people upset that I’m having a boy instead of a girl. I get so many jokes directed at me because of my choice to procreate and have felt such a lack of support from some of the people I thought would be much more supportive. This making-a-baby process is turning into a lonelier endeavor than I ever anticipated.

Procreation!

I believe in everyone’s right to have or not to have children. It is not only a choice but a right. I stand behind anyone’s decision not to procreate and fully support people in this decision. Honestly some of the people who have been so harsh in their assertion that they never want children make me happy because I can see how they would not make good parents and am glad they, too, have come to this conclusion. (Let me be clear that this is not the case for every person who has asserted that he/she does not want children. I can see some of these people as great parents, but I respect their decision not to bring life into this world.) It’s not for everyone, and a woman’s worth is not linked to her use or disuse of her uterus. Hell, I also experienced quite a lot of critique when Hans and I were not having children. With that being said, I try very hard not to critique anyone’s decision about children, and I would love that same support. You may decide that children are not for you, but I have made a different decision. Both decisions are right and in no way wrong.

I’ve found that certain people no longer want to be close to me, thinking in some backwards way that the decision to have kids is something that can be contagious. Friends have held me at arm’s length, even making me an example of how much they do not want to procreate, and then have said such hurtful things as having to sit in a further chair so that they do not catch the “baby bug.” WTF? I’m assuming such things are said for humor instead of springing from actual belief, or at least I hope they are. If you truly believe your decision not to procreate could be swayed by something as easily as sitting next to a “breeder” then your decision was not that solid to begin with. I am not a disease. This baby growing inside of me is not a mistake that can make others endeavor to make this same mistake. Stop making me feel as though I am diseased and no longer worth as much because of my decision.

The second thing that has bothered me is Hans’s work policy about parental leave or rather lack thereof of a policy on paternity leave. He is afforded no time off for his wife having a baby, and this is from a business that deals with human resources. In fact, this company is originally based in a country that allows quite a bit of parental leave for both parents, so why they have changed their policy for their American workers is beyond me. Let me be clear that we are not looking for a paid vacation or a handout. We believe raising a child is a partnership; it is just as important that Hans has time to bond with the baby as it is for me. I want my husband to be as active in my child’s life as I am and so does my husband. I am well aware that I will not be back to 100% health right away (recovery can take up to six weeks after bringing forth a new life), and I would be up a creek without a paddle without the aid of someone else. Thank goodness my sweet mother has agreed to come up for a week or more to look after both myself and our baby boy. Hans will plan to take off a week if possible and work from home for a month, but there are no guarantees to this.

I don’t understand how there can be no policies in place for parental leave. Currently, employers do not have to offer any paid parental leave for either mother or father, and the amount of unpaid leave for both is up to 12 weeks without his/her job being in jeopardy (although this only applies to roughly half of the population as the Family and Medical Leave Act excludes small businesses and most part-time workers). The United States is one of only two countries out of 185 for which data was available that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave to new mothers. The United States “ranks last among developed nations in providing government support for working parents… The nation that ranks first, Estonia – whose GDP, at $22 billion, is also a fraction of our $16 trillion economy – guarantees new moms more than two years of paid leave, while their jobs are guaranteed for nearly four years. Other nations with generous parental leave policies include Norway, which offers 35 weeks off at full pay; Poland, 26 weeks (100 percent pay); and Bulgaria, 32 weeks (90 percent pay).” It seems that we are a productive country but not a procreative country.

I don’t understand how a country that touts the idea of a nuclear family can have few if any policies to support this belief in the importance of family. People will go to bat against a woman’s right to have an abortion but will do nothing to help her after she makes the “right” decision and the child is born. How can we expect men to step up to be good fathers if there is no support for them? To be clear once again, Hans and I are not looking for a government handout. However, I do not think it is right that parental leave is not an option for Hans (and would not be for me in many jobs I’ve formally had). Paid leave has been shown to help “companies retain workers and lower the cost of turnover,” not to mention the benefits it offers to both the parents and child. Why then is paid parental leave nonexistent in our country, the supposedly “greatest country in the world”? To be great, we must strive to have responsible, intelligent people to continue to make this country what it was and hopefully will be in the future, and this requires not only parents who will raise their children to the best of their abilities but also the support of the government, showing that raising children is important and one of the nation’s priorities.

Fix all the issues

A Superhero Dream

I have been keeping a journal for my baby for over a month now since my friend Michelle mentioned the idea. As my friend Rachel had already gifted me with a new journal for my birthday in May, I had all the tools necessary to start this endeavor. Most entries are cheesy and so saccharine I may just give my son a cavity when he reads this journal. I could write on my motherly love every day. However, I’ve also been trying to show him how our lives are right now, what the world looks like today, and encourage him to make it better through whatever he does and convince him he is worthy of great things. I won’t be sharing most of my entries, as these are meant for my son, my husband, and myself, but I will share the following one with you. Enjoy!

 

November 18, 2014

When a woman is pregnant, she has crazy dreams as she sleeps. Almost every night I have a vivid, colorful dream, and these have been quite entertaining as long as they’re not nightmares. The other night I dreamt I was a superhero. I controlled fire much like Johnny Storm, a.k.a. Human Torch, from the Fantastic Four (don’t worry, you’ll be learning all about Marvel comics) or Liz Sherman, a pyrokinetic from Hellboy (another comic and/or movie you’ll be reading/watching). I even had the phrase “Flame On!” to indicate I was using my fire abilities. I was able to fly, something with manipulating such a strong element, and the whole experience was quite liberating.

98476-168305-elizabeth-sherman

I was accompanied in the dream by Hank McCoy, a.k.a. Beast from the Marvel X-Men Comics, Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman from DC Comics, and Bruce Banner, a.k.a. Hulk from Marvel Comics. We were fighting some sort of huge evil that was such a threat to human existence that it was necessary to my subconscious to blend Marvel and DC superheroes together. We were doing a fairly good job, and from out of nowhere, we started falling a great distance. Beast, Batman, and Hulk grasped onto me, and with my ability to fly, I saved them all.

It’s important to note that I was a woman in my dream as well (and, yes, sometimes I dream that I am a man though not very often). The fact that a woman had just saved these three hulking heroes did not go unnoticed within my dream. As I had the personality akin to Deadpool (another character within the Marvel universe) I was quite full of myself for the rest of the fight and let everyone know about it. I can’t remember how the dream ended, though when I woke up I had almost a sense of glee, so I’m assuming the fight ended well by saving the planet from that blurry evil. For the rest of the day, and even for two days afterwards, I continued to think back on this dream. Not only is the feeling of being so powerful intoxicating, but the idea that I, a woman, had the ability to save so many strong men filled me with euphoria.

So why am I telling you this, Baby Boy? Because I think it’s important to never underestimate someone. People have more strength than even they may know, and this strength usually doesn’t manifest until faced with an assumed insurmountable dilemma. Don’t give up when faced with challenges that appear too difficult to vanquish. You are more than the world will give you credit for, and your belief in this will give you strength. I’m also telling you this because women can be superheroes, too, even though no acceptable movies have been made about individual women superheroes within the comic book world (hopefully this will have changed in your childhood). I know you are a male, sweet child, and what I hope you get from this is to not underestimate the other sex. Indeed, I hope you don’t underestimate anyone who may appear different from you. People are stronger than the prejudices and stereotypes against them, and you are smarter and more generous than to buy into these. You will be one of many to shape this world into a more loving abode for everything upon it.

As always, remember you are loved unconditionally, and no matter what you become or are already, your father and I believe in you. You have made me stronger and more powerful which manifested in this dream! Until next time, my sweet boy, adieu.

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” – Aibileen Clark in The Help, written by Kathryn Stockett

Whose Body is This?

As I announced in my previous post, I am pregnant. I am 11 weeks pregnant and could not be happier with this amazing blessing. That being said, pregnancy is a bitch with claws. Yep, it’s a blessed bitch or a bitchy blessing—however you wish to look at it. As time progresses, I realize more and more that my body is no longer my own. My body is the baby’s body. I’m bloated to the point where most of my pants no longer fit. Nausea hits me at all times of the day (although I am very thankful to not be vomiting with this nausea). My boobs are bigger already and so very sore. I’m peeing almost every other hour, and I hardly sleep through the night since I require at least one nightly jaunt to the potty. I get more headaches, and the migraines I had were quickly intense. I’m tired all the time, but at night, I hardly ever sleep that well when I can actually get to sleep. And I’m more emotional than usual, which leads to weeping at movies, crying when my mother calls, becoming irate at random irritations, and laughing uncontrollably at absolutely nothing. Embarrassed yet at reading this? Don’t be. This is all absolutely normal and even banal. I just want to give a realistic picture of pregnancy. No embellishing details here. Yet despite all this discomfort, I welcome all of these because they mean a blessing is being created within me.

There are also some things happening that are simply amazing. Here’s what I mean:

1)      In 40 weeks, my uterus will expand from the size of a pear (2 ½ oz.) to the size of a small watermelon (2 lb. 4 oz.).

2)      My body is creating a new organ—the placenta—and this is the only organ that the body gets rid of after use.

3)      I will have 50% more blood by week 20, and my cardiac output will be 40% higher.

4)      My liver and heart will grow during pregnancy to meet their growing demands and will then shrink back to size after I give birth.

5)      My bones are becoming more flexible for both the pelvis for delivery and the ribcage to accommodate increased lung capacity.

6)      My smell is heightened. This is thought to have evolved to help mothers detect toxins in food and drink that may be dangerous to the baby.

(All of these facts were taken from this amazing pregnancy book that I highly recommend. It doesn’t overwhelm a first-time expectant mother, and the information is presented in both an aesthetically pleasing way and in a useful format.)

I had no idea all this stuff happened internally when a woman is pregnant. Amazing! It kind of makes sense why I’m thirsty all the time (increased blood volume), and the increased hormones to make all this awesomeness happen just add to my discomfort. However, if my body is not my own, I’m glad it’s yours, baby! Now, to the toilet I go…

index

A Pregnant Pause Before An Announcement

I am pregnant. The woman who thought she may never have kids. The woman who was told it would be difficult to get pregnant even if she wanted. The woman who thought she was happy to not have children. The woman who suffered a miscarriage in June. Is pregnant. Again.

My husband and I have always talked about having children but in more of an abstract-idea way. Sure, children would be great for the most part, but we just were not there yet. That all changed, though. In December sitting in our red car outside a theater in the cold, winter air, we talked about children as a concrete possibility. I told Hans that I wanted children in my life, one way or another, and that this was a necessity rather than a desire. We broke down crying because we both had had this idea in our heads for a long time. It was the moment we decided kids would be in our future.

However, I had surgery on my foot in January and was recovering in February, so there was no conscious trying for children then. That all changed in March, though. The birth control was out of my system for a month, and we were fully prepared to try for children for a year, two years, three years as we heard and read different stories of how difficult it is to conceive. I had even been told by my gynecologist that it would be even more difficult for me to conceive than others given my weight and my body’s dislike for ovulation (too much information yet?). However, God works in mysterious ways, and within three months I was testing for pregnancy after a missed period.

This pregnancy, sadly, did not stick. When we went in for my nine-week checkup, we discovered that the baby had died somewhere in the seventh week. We induced a medical miscarriage and dealt with the emotional and physical blow of that. We were told that we’d have to wait until after my next normal cycle to try again and that it was likely it may take a while.

We didn’t have to wait long, though. Within that first month after my first normal cycle after the miscarriage, I was pregnant. The joy of seeing that positive sign on the pee stick is one I struggle to explain. It was like getting a new car from your parents at seventeen because you’ve earned it with your straight A’s. It’s like getting that admission letter to your first-pick college. It’s like being five years old and waking up to presents on Christmas day. And yet, it was something more magical than that. Some joy so inexplicable and so unlike any other I have ever experienced.

It was also the start of worry and doubt since I had already lost one baby. I prayed, and am still praying, for the safety and health of the child. We went into the doctor’s office yesterday for our nine-week check-up, and we got to see the baby with his/her tiny heart beating on the ultrasound. We also discovered that he/she is slightly bigger than a nine-week-old baby should be, so I was bumped up to being ten weeks along and my due date bumped from May 2nd to April 27th.

My husband and I discussed whether or not to keep it a secret until I was well within my second trimester. One of the hardest parts of miscarrying is having to tell people what happened and then their subsequent disappointment. Dealing with other people being upset and having to help them through their grief is the last thing one should deal with when grieving. It sounds cold, but it’s true. However, we decided to not keep this a secret any longer. Firstly, our joy can barely be contained even if it is tinged with a hint of worry, and secondly, we refuse to live in fear. This is something that should be celebrated, so we want to celebrate it with the people in our lives.

Pregnancy so far hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns, though. I am constantly reminded how my body is no longer mine; it is the baby’s body, the body that protects our future son or daughter. I’ve been blessed not to have vomiting, but I’m nauseated every day. I’m constantly bloated and making frequent trips to the bathroom already. I’m tired all the time to the point where I need a nap most days especially because I’m having such difficulty sleeping at night. I can cry for what seems like hours or I can laugh at absolutely nothing, thanks to the abundance of hormones. I also have constant headaches. They start in my neck and shoulders and work their way up. I have at least one a day, if not several. I’m guessing this is because of my increasing bust size pulling on my bra straps and/or the abundance of hormones having a field day. I was hoping with pregnancy that my migraines would hide out for nine months. No luck. I have had two migraines in ten days, and since I cannot take my usual Imitrex for the pain, I’m left taking an anti-nausea medicine and hydrocodone. I’m so looking forward to the second trimester with longing when hopefully a lot of these symptoms will subside. However, I will happily take the bad and uncomfortable with the enormous blessing that is growing inside of me. Praise for a second chance!

New Player Joining the Game_Test

The Joys of Being a Woman… Or NOT

I’ve been reading a new book by Caitlin Moran entitled How to be a Woman. I haven’t finished it yet (exactly 33% at this point according to my Kindle), but I’ve been really enjoying it. Moran basically explains how being a woman is difficult. She states in one part that the worst gift you can give a child is estrogen and a pair of tits (a sentiment I do not necessarily agree with). But like her, there are many things I HATE about being a woman. These are a few of those things that women have to deal with simply because we are females and/or because society says so. (I tried not to let my inner feminist out on this post and write about how women have to put up with getting paid less than men and having their reproductive systems debated by politicians.) Don’t get me wrong. There are many positives to being a woman, and I’m proud of the woman I am and blessed by the vessel that I’ve been provided. However, as is my human prerogative, I do have some complaints. Got anymore ideas besides what’s listed?

Bras. As much as I hate them, they’re necessary to prevent the delightful swamp boob. But as soon as I come home, the bra comes off. This kind of sucks as the only bras that fit and are somewhat comfortable for the well-endowed cup size cost anywhere from $75 and up, and if you want the sexier, lacy ones, those will start at $120. WTF? I’m paying out my nose to strap on a torture device I get to wear every day. Plus, I get killer neck and back aches if I wear a cheaper bra. Just take my money now, lacy torture device.

Bra quote

Birth control. Oh, you can’t wear a condom? Well guess what, I can’t use mind- and body-altering hormones that are located in the pill. They make one gain weight, become emotionally unstable, and have elevated blood pressure. Spermicide, you’re not much better. IUD, can you say “OWWWWW”? And don’t even get me started on the sponge or the diaphragm. The condom is the least invasive birth control out there and the least harmful. What’s stopping you?

Panties. Let’s face it. The only comfortable pair of panties are the ones that securely cover all of the booty, like the hipster, bikini, or brief. However, thongs, g-strings, tangas, and even boy shorts with a seam in the front are the fashion right now and are deemed as more flirty and sexy. Let’s be honest, though, these types of panties are more like a snack for your back and your front. I never want my panties creeping towards a crevice, and I never want to wince when I get up because my thong is currently lodged somewhere that no fabric should be. I’ve suffered through fashionable panties for most of my teenage years and twenties, but I’ve come to realize that once your clothes are off, a man doesn’t care what kind of panties or bra you’re wearing as long as he’s getting into them. Let’s save the swatches of cloth for sexy lingerie in the bedroom only and wear something of more substance for the everyday.

Tight pants. Why does almost every designer make pants tighter for women? I know we don’t have the junk downstairs to make room for, but I would really like to avoid the camel toe. Thanks. If one is fortunate enough to find pants that are not skin-tight, then one probably looks like a grandma. I should not have to accentuate my butt for the opposite sex. And I definitely should not have to do the adjustment wiggle every time I get up because my pants are squeezing the life out of my lower half.

High Heels. Ow, ow, ow. That’s my mantra when wearing heels. When one wears heels, it’s best not to walk for any distance longer than about 50 feet. Yes, they are aesthetically appealing, and I admit I own many. However, this does not negate the fact that they are torture devices in their own right.

high heel shoes

Skirts and Dresses. This is not an issue for every woman. In fact, some women really enjoy the freedom and breeze felt while wearing a skirt or a dress. To women who have more ample thighs, wearing a dress or a skirt in humidity or in a hotter climate is like building a fire between your legs. It is also not comfortable to have one’s bare butt on a chair or bench — an inevitable event when wearing a shorter dress or skirt.

Pantyhose. I’ve seen a quote about if we can put men on the moon then we can invent pantyhose that are comfortable. Apparently, we cannot. Until this miracle happens, we will struggle to squeeze ourselves into pantyhose and will then look like a stuffed sausage once they are on. Don’t sit down while wearing pantyhose, either, because they’ll just creep down on you. Also, don’t walk too much while wearing pantyhose because you’ll find it difficult to not look like a penguin as they start to creep down. Basically, do nothing while wearing pantyhose. I mean, just don’t move.

Purses. Again, they’re necessary, but only because our pants are so tight that we can’t fit anything in our pockets. And if you can reach in your pocket, it’s usually only two inches deep. Seriously, why do men get deeper pockets? Oh, that’s right. It’s because the pocket outline would show through these tight pants! Purses are annoying to carry, they get in the way, and they hurt shoulders.

Makeup. Why is it when I go out without makeup people ask me if I’m feeling OK? I even had one friend show up at my house for our lunch date to ask if I needed more time to apply my face as it was sans makeup. (She made it sound like I needed to pull a Mrs. Doubtfire and apply that mask.) Makeup can be fun, but I hate that society makes women feel like they’re not beautiful unless they have their makeup on. Even when one is going for that “natural” look, makeup is required to help us look our best. What is the point of taking so much time to apply makeup when the objective is to look like we’re not wearing any? The slogan “Maybe she’s born with it or maybe it’s Maybelline” should just be “She’s born with it.” Period. No makeup needed.

make up

Waxing. This is one of the most painful aesthetic procedures. Brazilians are among the worst torture I can inflict upon myself, and for two days after waxing, I have to walk like a penguin. Shaving legs and armpits is already annoying if you’re like me and have to shave every other day. Never have I loathed my long legs as much as when I have to shave them. And my poor armpits! The armpits are some very sensitive parts of the body. There’s a reason why hair grows there to protect this sensitive area. Shaving continuously just exacerbates the sensitivity and causes weird bumps. Gross. But I digress. Getting rid of hair down there, especially through waxing, is the worst. To be honest, sex feels so much better when there’s hair down there because, like the armpits, this is a sensitive area that benefits from some protection. Trimming and maintenance are necessary, but I just don’t understand getting rid of it all. I hate that pornography has made it a faux pas to have any hair down there. Porn started this trend so the camera could capture the moment of penetration easier, so why are we all doing this now? Last time I checked, we weren’t all porn stars. Why must women continue to infantilize themselves with waxing? What about that is sexy?

brazilian wax

Periods. This is simply a biological issue and has nothing to do with society. Though I do have to say that pads and tampons are torture devices in their own right. I can either feel like I’m wearing a diaper or I can shove a wad of cotton in my cash and prizes. Um, none sound like what I want to do, especially when I’m bloated and feeling like a beached whale, am crying at all commercials (and not just the dog ones like normal), and have cramps that make me sweat and get into the fetal position. Ugh, I have to do this thirteen times a year for a week each? ARGH! Why did I want this so badly when I was twelve?

temper tantrum period clothes

Child birth. Enough said. *Drops microphone and walks away.*

Country, Why Have You Changed?

I grew up listening to country music. We stayed mostly in the South, even though my dad was in the military, so it was kind of a requirement to listen to country. Even now driving home to South Georgia, the radio stations change to predominantly country, permeating the car with honky-tonk. It’s my father’s favorite music genre, the only music my maternal grandpa knew existed, and the genre my paternal grandpa rocked out to in his later years. So why have I had such an issue listening to it recently?

When I get into my car, in which only the radio works for music, I never tune into a country station. I have one in my presets, but I haven’t touched it for almost three years. I hadn’t realized how I had grown to dislike it so much until I was at a physical therapy appointment, and I had to ask them to change the music from country to the rock classics they normally played. I surprised myself by this. The therapist asked why I disliked country, and I was at a lost. I mumbled out how I was just burnt out on it from listening to it as a child so much, but I was bothered. I still listened to my Sugarland, Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert, Shania Twain, and Martina McBride tracks on my iPod, but instead of instantly going for the country station and keeping up with the top 20 songs as I once did, I realized that I hadn’t listened to country on purpose for years. Why?

The answer came a few days later. One of the pages I like on Facebook posted an article on Maddie & Tae’s new song “Girl in a Country Song.” These female artists that are somewhat new to the scene of country music explain how they don’t want to be a girl in a country song. They’re tired of the “painted-on cut-off jeans” and bikini tops. They’re tired of being called girl, honey, sugar, and baby. They’re not about to shake their moneymaker or give you “some of that.” They miss the days of Conway Twitty and George Strait. And what woman can blame them? “Bro Country” has taken over the music scene in Nashville, and the misogyny is running rampant. (“Bro Country” refers to the most popular country artists today and include Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, and Lee Brice.)

In country music today, few women are ever called women. They are called “girl” no matter the age of the singer or the subject. This is a problem for many reasons, one of which being how the woman of interest is being infantilized. Gross! There are also many songs that objectify women by not talking about the female as a whole. Instead, like many advertisements, females are known by body parts alone. Lyrics are filled with “sun-tanned legs” and “moneymakers,” and don’t even get me started on how many music videos only show body parts or focus on specific body parts of their scantily clad females. This is also a problem for many reasons, including the fact that this is dismembering women even if it is figuratively. Prevalent themes of country music include getting females drunk and/or taking them for a drive on secluded country roads. Does that sound eerily like rape? For more on this, please read this article. Amy McCarthy does a much better job of explaining these issues within Bro Country and explains these in more detail.

So I realized one of the main reasons I had turned away from country was the lyrics and how these had somehow turned to objectifying and sexualizing women. However, I also realized a big reason for this lack of interest was the fact that there are not as many female country artists. According to the article referenced above, “in the last 10 years, only ten percent of No. 1 country hits were performed by women, a 14 percent drop from the 1990s.” Charts are no longer being topped by artists like Faith Hill and Reba McIntyre. Bro Country has taken over, and its objectification of women is clearly hurting the female artists as well as the listeners. There were only three solo female artists in the top 20 on GAC when I checked this morning, and that’s a shame. I buy a lot of music, and when it comes to country, I like female artists better. It’s not because I dislike male artists; it’s simply because I buy country music in order to sing to it. Female artists are easier for me to sing along with, not to mention their song lyrics are usually more female-friendly for my feminist ears.

If it wasn’t for a CD of songs my father recently made and gave me that includes many country hits we all used to listen to, I probably would have let this issue slide, chalking it up to it’s just another music genre where women are not seen as important. However, the CD changed things. I remembered how much I used to love country music, sometimes just driving around longer to finish a song or listen to the radio longer with no one to pester me about it. I miss those days. I miss the days of Garth Brooks, George Strait, and Rascal Flatts. The days when women and young girls (in the true sense of the word) could hear about love as being more than just sex. Until the tide changes in the country arena, though, I will cleave to my Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Reba McIntyre albums and will try to find solace in the newer songs of Maddie & Tae, Miranda Lambert, and Carrie Underwood. I have not given up on country music yet, but I’m skeptical of where it will go.

I wanted to include this music video that was quite controversial at the time but much needed.

Love this music video and the role reversals of the females and males!

Government in my Uterus

By now I’m fairly certain that we have all seen the ruling of the Supreme Court that certain companies are not required to provide contraception coverage within their health plans. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Store (yep, it’s a “wood” store so let’s all get a laugh about that) challenged this mandate and won. While I lament the loss of one of my favorite craft stores (as I will no longer be a customer), let’s take a moment to really evaluate the hypocrisy and simple wrongness in this. As a Christian, I believe in the necessity to think through why we make “religious” decisions and even question the foundation for many “religious” mandates. We, as Christians, must be logical.

So why exactly did Hobby Lobby and Conestoga object to contraception coverage? And does science support them? Huffington Post explains, “The owners of those companies believe that those types of birth control are forms of abortion because they could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, despite the general scientific consensus that the contraceptives are not equivalent to abortion.” I don’t think I need to explain the fallacy in this but just for fits and giggles. An abortion is defined as “the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo before viability.” How then does birth control prevent pregnancy? “Birth control pills contain hormones that prevent ovulation. These hormones also cause other changes in the body that help prevent pregnancy. The mucus in the cervix thickens, which makes it hard for sperm to enter the uterus. The lining of the uterus thins, making it less likely that a fertilized egg can attach,” as The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains. All of these pass the religious test to the best of my knowledge except the fact that birth control (think the morning-after pill) prevents a fertilized egg from attaching. Some religious persons believe that a fertilized egg is a fetus, a tiny little human, and this is abortion. However, it takes between five to six days before the fertilized egg is even within the uterus much less implanted within the uterus lining. In fact, “an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.” The science just doesn’t support that birth control equates abortion.

Let’s now take a look at the “religious” reasoning behind what companies like Hobby Lobby will not cover and what will be covered. Birth control is out. (Sorry, ladies. Hope you all believe the same as the companies’ owners.) However, Hobby Lobby will still cover vasectomies and Viagra. (Woohoo for the men. You’re free to get your freak on.) Does this not add up to you? Let’s remember that the whole reasoning behind not covering contraceptives is that these are methods of abortion. Abortion is against God’s will. He gave you that fertilized egg, so you must keep it. The Bible says we are to go forth and procreate. That is God’s will as well. However, if it is God’s will to have women procreate, then is it not God’s will for men to procreate? If a man has erectile dysfunction, is it not then God’s will for him to no longer procreate? God gave you ED; therefore, it is God’s will for you to keep it in your pants and no longer spread your seed. God is trying to prevent these flaccid men from experiencing the joy of sex, much like the abolition of birth control prevents women of experiencing the joy of sex. Why then are pills and pumps still covered for men while birth control is not? The same goes for vasectomies. If the entire reasoning behind not paying for employees’ birth control is that these are methods of abortion, (which is, of course, against the will of God), then doesn’t it then follow that vasectomies are against the will of God as well? Vasectomies prevent men from procreating, just as birth control methods for females do. Birth control methods for females do not allow an egg to release; vasectomies cut, clamp, or seal the vas deferens so that no sperm is released. Vasectomies are permanent; pills, IUDs, etc. for women are not permanent. If you want to get down in the nitty-gritty, both appear to be against God’s natural will.

Furthermore, birth control is taken for a number of medical reasons that may not even relate to having sex. Vasectomies are only done so that procreation does not happen and serve no further medical purpose than to simply help the frisky men not make more frisky beings. For any employee who uses contraception for reasons other than the prevention of pregnancy, I guess you’re screwed (pun intended). Over 58% of women say that in addition to pregnancy prevention they take birth control for other medical purposes, such as menstrual cramps, migraine prevention, treating acne, and other menstruation side effects. Women also take birth control to lessen the effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which “entails irregular menstrual cycles that can last for months, can cause iron deficiency, anemia and infertility.” As a personal anecdote, I started taking birth control pills when I was fourteen. My periods were so intense that I was missing at least two days of school every month. The birth control pills provided the relief I needed, and I no longer missed school days due to menstruation. Was I having sex at the age of fourteen? No, I was not. The decision to have sex was not influenced by being on birth control. In fact, I made a pact with myself to not pop that cherry until I was out of high school. Birth control was only a means of relief from my monthly visitor named Scarlett. When I eventually got off birth control years later, I was shocked by how bad my periods became. The relief was no longer there from my menstruation.

I know many people are saying that this ruling is solely motivated by religious purposes. It has nothing to do with women’s rights. This would be the case if the companies’ owners who believe a certain way were the only ones not partaking in contraceptives. When they cross the line, however, of potentially preventing their employees from getting contraceptives, they are then forcing their religious views onto all of their employees. There is a reason why companies are not allowed to ask for gender, race, or religion when they hire. It is freedom of religion for their workers. And yes, it is possible to shy away from companies who do not provide the healthcare package one may desire. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose where he or she works. Science disproves that birth control is abortive. The reasoning for providing some medical things for employees but not others does not hold up. But more than that, these companies are slyly forcing their religious beliefs upon their employees. This is not a case that was won for religious freedom; it is a case that has now taken away religious freedom.

Here’s a link to an interesting article on why birth control should not require a prescription if you feel inclined to read more.

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Hollywood’s Skewed Portrayal of Voluptuous Women

We need more women in television, in movies, and in video games! This sentiment is one that has been gaining ground, attention, and support in the past few years and is one with which I agree. However, women rarely are the main character (unless in romance movies) and are usually seen as supporting characters and/or highly sexualized. A recent study made the following observations about women on television and in films in 2011: “female characters are sidelined, women are stereotyped and sexualized, a clear employment imbalance exists, women on TV come up against a glass ceiling, and there are not enough female characters working in STEM fields.” (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.) Films with female characters rarely pass the Bechdel Test that requires two featured females to talk to each other about something other than a man. Women and men alike are outraged at this bias in our media, and who can blame them?

Despite how much the bias bothers me, however, I am even more angered by the portrayal, or lack thereof, of “plus-size” women in film, television, and even video games. (I put “plus-size” in quotes because I do not care for the term since it implies an otherness to larger women. However, I’ll use it in this post because it’s one of the acceptable terms in our society.) Yes, there are a few shows that feature plus-size women, such as Mike & Molly, Drop Dead Diva, Super Fun Night (cancelled within first season), Glee, and The Big C. However, all of these shows focus on the weight of its actresses at some point and use it to either get laughs, produce sympathy, or just focus the whole damn series on weight. And don’t even get me started on Top Model and how they brought in plus-size models that didn’t even qualify as plus-size in the real world. Do you want a medal because you chose to bring in women who still didn’t reflect the average American woman, Tyra? Don’t hold your breath.

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Glee gave us Mercedes Jones, played by Amber Riley, who has a magnificent singing voice and a personality to fill the screen. However, she was hardly ever given a lead, having to bow down to Rachel Berry’s awesome awesomeness, and she hinted at how her weight affected her confidence in a few episodes. In recent episodes, this doesn’t seem to be the case, but the series has taken a few turns since our initial meeting with the vivacious Mercedes Jones.

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Super Fun Night introduced us to Kimmie Boubier, played by Rebel Wilson, who not only was plus-size but was also a geek. Shock! The show portrayed three single women who had seemingly no social lives for 13 years. Kimmie constantly battled with her confidence pertaining to her weight as other characters made fun of her. The show even tried to get laughs from the audience through poking fun at Kimmie’s plus-size habits and looks. Even after Kimmie realizes how in love she is with her friend and co-worker Richard, there is no way for them to be together romantically. He’s just too fit and handsome for her. Guess she’ll settle for the plus-size man James that comes into her life. They’re a better match aesthetically to American audiences anyway. No wonder the show was cancelled.

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Drop Dead Diva had a different premise than I’d seen before. A model named Deb dies, goes to the great beyond, and when she accidentally pushes the wrong button, her soul gets transplanted into a size 16 woman’s body that is dead on the operating table after being shot but revives with Deb’s soul. The skinny model Deb is reincarnated as the size 16, lawyer Jane. Admittedly I’m still on the first season, but I find it difficult to watch episode after episode. While every episode has a good message to take from it, most of the time Jane and her friends are focusing on her weight to some degree. How are the supermodel views of Deb changing as she becomes plus-size Jane? And let’s not overlook the fact that the plus-size woman’s name is “Jane,” as in plain Jane. It gets a little monotonous after a while.

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I haven’t watched a lot of Mike & Molly so I cannot comment on the content in detail. The way the two plus-size main characters met, though, was through a Chicago Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Um, what? And as for The Big C, I haven’t seen the show so all I can comment on is what I’ve seen online. The lovely Gabourey Sidibe plays Andrea Jackson (not the main character), and at one part in the show, the main character offers Andrea a cash prize if she can lose weight. Again, um, what?

While I do appreciate these shows featuring plus-size women, I am still angered by their portrayal. Yes, there are certain issues plus-size women face that others do not. Yes, it’s important for the general population to be aware of some of these issues if just to break down prejudice. However, why is it that plus-size women are only cast in roles that revolve around their weight? Why must their weight always be an issue? I look forward to a day when plus-size women can just play normal roles, much like I look forward to the day when geeks and nerds can be portrayed without poking fun at their interests and quirks (I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory). I’d like to see myself reflected in roles across the board, not just the quirky friend, the large protagonist that can’t get past her weight, or the character thrown in for diversity’s sake but has no real substance. Why must plus-size women be boxed into the roles that they play? Although, as I look at how most women are pigeon-holed into Hollywood’s roles, I suppose I should just be glad that plus-size women are cast at all.

(For an interesting view on how Disney female characters are teaching dangerous lessons, click here. Not to mention the only plus-size woman in Disney is the evil witch Ursala trying to hurt the poor, skinny Ariel.)

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Finding Peace in Insecurity

I am large and in charge. I have more cushion for the pushing. I have more curves than a mountain road. However you’ve heard it rationalized before, it is just that – a rationalization. As a bigger woman (size 12 and up), I am constantly having to defend myself, both in my mind and to others, but the truth is this: I believe I am beautiful and am proud of how I look, AND I am self-conscious of my body and sometimes wish to take down all the mirrors. Is this hypocrisy then when I say we should love our bodies when I have this contradiction of thoughts living in my mind palace? Is this contradiction evident in all women—large and small, tall and short, young and old?

I have struggled all my life being a “voluptuous” woman. At 5’10”, I have felt self-conscious about towering over other people. I have always been in at least a size 14 since I was a teenager, and in a world that values stick-thin women, I thought there was something wrong with me. I faced prejudices for being larger. The ads on Facebook, Gmail, and the like all advertise plus-size websites based on my online shopping history, as if I cannot get away from the biggest thing that bothers me. (Pun intended.) One of my dear friends a few years ago told me I shouldn’t go to Zumba with her because she wasn’t sure I could keep up at my weight. I was excluded as a bridesmaid from a wedding solely based on how I’d look in the dress. I got a Facebook message from a guy friend from high school telling me how gross I am and to take advantage of whatever weight loss method I could. I’ve faced sneers from retail workers and doctors. When I was 20, I saw a new gynecologist, and the first thing he said as he entered the room was, “Whoa. Big problem here, and I do mean big problem. You need to lose weight.” Excuse me. Do I know you like that? Are you my family practice doctor? No and no. Check out the area you need to check out, and I’ll go to my family practice doctor for all other concerns. Thank you. It’s not like I don’t know dropping a few pounds would be healthier.

One of the worst parts of being a larger woman is clothes shopping. Ugh, the name “plus size” just makes me cringe. It’s as though you have to do math to even comprehend my size. In the department stores, the plus size women’s clothes are usually stuck in some dark corner or put on the same floor as the men’s clothes and children’s clothes, far away from the “normal” women’s clothes. When I have to ask where these “plus” sizes are located, I usually get a sneer from the retail worker, although whether this is fat-shaming or just general disgruntleness I do not know. Then there’s the differences in “polite” names. The “normal” sizes, sometimes going up to even size 16, are labeled “misses” or “ladies,” and plus sizes are labeled “womens”. “Misses/ladies” implies something more feminine than the general term for our sex “women”. It’s as though we are no longer desirable as we enter the “no-man’s-land” of the plus-size region. And how the styles change from one department to the other! They’re called “clothes” not “tents,” and regardless of the norms society may push on me, I still enjoy good-fitting clothes to show off who I am. And no! I do not want to play $10 extra for a shirt that doesn’t have that much more fabric and clearly less thought than the misses tops. If we priced clothes based on the size, each sizing increment should be more expensive, including size 2 because that is bigger than size 0.

Despite all this, I am aware that everyone has something they deal with throughout their lives. Mine may be my weight—that addiction to good food I can’t seem to quit no matter the diet and exercise. The call of sugar and fat akin to nicotine. However, there are worse things to be dealing with, and I’m fully aware of that. My weight has taught me to not only work on loving myself but to also not judge others as harshly.  Despite my weight, I’ve never been short on good-looking men (and am now blessed with a wonderful husband) and have always had an abundance of friends no matter the phase of my life. I am blessed with people around me that see deeper than what’s on the surface and am happy to follow their example. I am proud of the person I am regardless, or maybe because of, my weight.

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Stop Complaining and Start Celebrating

I was watching The Daily Show recently, and one of the segments was on Susan Patton’s Marry Smart. There is quite a lot that bothers me when it comes to women’s rights, but few bother me as much as “The Princeton Mom”. I will say I have not read the book because I refuse to pay any money for such a despicable book. However, after watching Jon Stewart, I did a bit of research on my own. What I found made me angry. Patton is taking women back to the 1950s and demanding that women’s sole priority should be finding a husband before we all turn into hags. As a wife who married at 25, perhaps I am not the best person to write about this issue. However, I did not marry out of a need for a man. I enjoyed being single, dating around, and living alone when I could afford it. I married my husband because he was the one for me. I do not regret marrying my husband at 25, but I was fine waiting until the right man came along.

Despite the plethora of horrible “advice” given, one of the things that bothered me the most in this book (or at least from the articles I’ve read about it) is the following advice: “When she enters college, your daughter will never again be as young, as beautiful, as attractive to men, or as fertile. Encourage her to make the best use of this time.” WTF?! A woman is NOT defined by her age; thinking that she is defined by age is the reason so many women lie about age and bemoan birthdays. Age is not what makes a woman attractive. I believe confidence is the main aspect that makes a woman more attractive than others, and living life – and a lot of it – is what leads to confidence in any person. If we’re to take Patton seriously (yeah, right!), most women should be married by age 22 if you take into account that most collegiate programs can be completed in four years. Heaven forbid a woman get more schooling than the first four years. After all, men should be the bread winners, not women; women only go to college to find a mate. I realize some of my friends did marry young, and to this I write, what is right for one person is not right for all. These friends were blessed to find such great partners in life in their collegiate days, but they didn’t marry because their hormonal clock was ticking or because they couldn’t define themselves until they were married. They married – as I did at age 25 – because they found that person to complement them.

As a woman with her Masters, I can honestly say that during my college years finding a husband was not on my mind. Papers, exams, and getting the grades were the stress-consumers, and alcohol and partying were my stress relievers. But believe it or not, there were always more guys in the bars than girls. I guess according to Mrs. Patton, these fine, upstanding beer-chuggers are where it’s at! Darn, I can’t believe I missed out on that golden opportunity. While I did have relationships in college, I thank God that none of them resulted in marriage and also thank God for these experiences. I was too immature to make a good partner for someone else, and the guys I knew in college were too immature to make good husbands. We grew and learned from our relationships. College was a time of discovery, in which you shaped who you were becoming and were discovering who you were, romantically and otherwise. It was the place to make mistakes and to be free.

Patton explains further that women will not be surrounded by so many “worthy” men as they are in college. Where else will women find such a concentration of men that are just as smart or smarter than themselves than at college? I’m calling “bullshit” on this one as well. For one, please see my above comment on the oh-so-outstanding beer-chuggers. Secondly, I did have issues finding men as smart as me in college. I graduated Cum Laude in my undergraduate program in three and a half years. As far as finding someone who was as focused on academics, who was as smart or smarter than me, who could still function socially, and who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, the pool was not just shallow but almost dried up. Men didn’t have the intellectual market cornered. There were quite a few females that could outrun many men in that Brainy 5K.

According to Patton, I should be thanking my lucky stars that I was even able to find a functioning, single male to marry after I graduated college who was willing to put up with this dried-up husk of a woman compared to the glory I once was. I should be even more thankful to find an intelligent man whom I can respect as a person, and, to be fair, my husband is one-in-a-million. However, there are many men whom I am friends with now that match my intelligence or even surpass it. These men are confident in who they are and what they do and show a maturity that few men, and women, do in college. We’re all better adjusted once we leave the safe haven of college. We’re all closer to shaping our identity. We’re all more confident.

So the moral of this blog would be to celebrate your age and stop complaining about it. Celebrate every wrinkle, every age spot, and even our changing metabolisms. Life doesn’t end after college for women. We may not be as young as we once were, but we’re still worth a gander, dammit. Don’t complain about your birthday or stress about what life achievements you haven’t checked off your list yet. Celebrate another year of wisdom gained and confidence earned. Be thankful that you’ve made it this far; some haven’t.

And with that, I will step off my soapbox, grab a margarita, and celebrate my 28 years, looking forward to the future years to come.

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