I Resolve To… ((A Journey of Growing.))

Hello and happy (almost) spring! If you are like me (and many hopeful others), you probably made some sort of resolution for 2015. How are you doing?!?! Are you seeing willful and meaningful changes in your life? Have you been measuring your progress? Have you formed some new and exciting habits?

I hope so!

2015 has been my year to center myself and take control of the person I want to be. It is also, coincidentally, my 25th year – the year my brain finishes its development. Honestly, it’s like I can feel my pre-frontal cortex making its final adjustments for impulse-control, planning, and sequencing consequences…

I’m totally kidding. But in all seriousness, I am really honing in on some skills that I’d like to continue for my next quarter century, and I think that it’s great if you’ve chosen to do the same! For myself, I looked at areas of intellect, adventure, and physical/mental wellbeing. It has been a lot to take on and challenge myself with, but I’ve set up very measurable objectives in order to meet my final goal which is ultimately to be a happier, healthier, more fulfilled person.

Tip: Fall in love in a comfy chair with an ocean view.

Tip: Fall in love in a comfy chair with an ocean view.

Do you have a lost love? When I was a kid, I was a ravenous reader. I starved for books and I engulfed them. Somewhere between high school and college, I lost my hunger. Reading became a chore and I became a couch potato. I decided that one of my primary goals this year was to revive my love of reading by reading 24 books by the end of the year. It’s March, and I am happy to report that I am about halfway through my eighth book. I’ve shifted my goal to reading as many books as possible this year. So, I’ll ask again – do you have a lost love? A forgotten hobby? Pick that shit up and revive it. (You’re welcome!)

Have you been anywhere new lately? Anywhere exciting? Anywhere that made you cry because of its beauty or warm you to your core? This year, I told myself that I was going to visit three new places. On a whim, I bought a plane ticket to Colorado ($120 roundtrip – thanks Spirit Airlines!) – a place I am well acquainted with and has brought me to tears more than once. If you do nothing else in life, surround yourself with mountains and be humbled by how small you are in this big, beautiful world. After hiking the Hanging Lake Trail and Red Rocks, soaking in hot springs, visiting old friends, and laughing (a lot) with one of my best friends, I returned home with a lighter heart and a smiling face.

Tip: Do go chasing waterfalls. (Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, CO)

Tip: Do go chasing waterfalls. (Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, CO)

Shortly after, I visited the Virgin Islands and had my soul warmed by the sun, snorkeling, and the beauty of the Caribbean. I cannot tell you how fulfilling these two journeys were to me, or how incredibly grateful I am to have had these opportunities. I can tell you that I don’t want to stop seeking these adventures and exposing myself to the world that surrounds us – whether that be a two hour drive to a state park or a flight to a continent away. I have found my cure for any ailment that may hinder me just by going outside. Nature is for everyone – go get your slice!

Finally, for the past three months, I have been trying to move past pretending to like exercise to actually liking exercise. This has worked to an extent – I have increased my endurance and I look forward to the proud feeling following my workout, but you will not find me dragging myself out of bed every morning at 6am to get to the gym. Unfortunately, I have not come to detest the taste of ice cream, but I have come to dislike the taste of things that are too sweet and most, if not all, processed desserts – particularly candy bars and anything packaged. Fortunately, I have come to really enjoy well-rounded meals, and incorporate a ton of fresh produce and water in my diet. It’s a lifestyle choice not a diet – I’m creating eating habits that I can maintain for long-term, not a short-term fix for weight loss. Listen to your body and abide by the things it needs – and give it a treat once and a while. I know from experience that it really likes treats.

Overlooking Nazareth Bay, St. Thomas, USVI

Overlooking Nazareth Bay, St. Thomas, USVI

My hope for this post is that you are motivated to get moving – whether that is to a new place, a new experience, or literally just moving your body. Moving on to the person you want to be, the person you have big plans for, and the person that deserves the most you can give them. Surround yourself with positive people that love and support you in environment that will foster and encourage growth and personal development. Adopt an optimistic mindset and refine the skills that make you innately you!

Thanks for reading!
Elizabeth

Let’s Talk About Bodies

Let’s chat about bodily agency. Because apparently men and women everywhere are still unaware of the idea that a person has complete control over his or her body. It’s about time everyone understands what that means.

Untitled design (29)A couple months ago I was heading home from post-work drinks with coworkers. My walk back is roughly fifteen minutes and in a very safe area. I never think twice about walking alone. And, you know what? I absolutely shouldn’t have to.

Halfway through my walk, I came across a pub where a group of people were sitting outside. When I passed them, one man decided it was acceptable to slap my ass. The rest of his friends simply laughed along at the entertainment this guy was providing to the group. I was amazed at how strongly they exemplified what is wrong in our society.

I spent the rest of my walk home absolutely fuming. I felt violated and weak. Sure, it might appear to be a small incident in the large scheme of things but it meant I was not valued as a person. This man decided that my body was a free for all. The people around him agreed with his behavior and found it acceptable. I wasn’t a human being but instead a source of entertainment and simply an object.

I unashamedly ascribe to the label of feminist. I admire strong women and enjoy being a part of a group of females who support each other. I strive to constantly respect and value myself in a society that often does not do the same. So, “little” things like this incident are truly appalling to me. It made me feel I had no power. Regardless of all the steps I make in my own life, as a woman, my value is meaningless to society.

But it wasn’t only the men who didn’t see my value as a woman. The females in the group who sat there and laughed were completely inexcusable to me. Whether or not they realized it, these women were laughing along with the objectification of their own gender. There is absolutely no reason for a woman to excuse incidents like this as “just a joke”.  Honestly, I find it repulsive that a female would want to be friends with men who took part in degrading acts toward women.

b9332498a66eeace138d02fb1caffb62I’m sick of females who defend this type of behavior in their male friends. I’m tired of men who stress not ALL men would do the same thing. These excuses mean absolutely nothing to me. Until people accept that there is a devaluing of a woman’s body in society and strive to change this, they ARE a part of the problem.

It’s time for everyone to understand a woman’s body is her own. I should be able to walk alone without worrying about feeling violated and powerless. What is wrong with our society that a woman can’t walk home alone without experiencing harassment? People need to stop brushing off situations like this. There have to be strong steps toward complete bodily agency for all people. Maybe then women won’t have to feel powerless.

– Kelsey

Modern Day Eugenics: California’s Unlawful Sterilizations

Let’s discuss eugenics. It’s this fun concept that some human lives are more important than others. Firm believers in eugenics would suggest people with desirable genes should be encouraged to procreate while others with less desirable traits should be prohibited from doing the same.

This theory was put to practice in Puerto Rico during the 1970s when it had a large, growing unemployment rate. The government’s response? Sterilization of working class women. The plan enacted by the government provided these women with misleading information about the effects of sterilization in order to reduce the population. Often, the women were unaware that the procedure could not be reversed and were endlessly contacted until they agreed to the surgery. Ultimately, over one-third of Puerto Rican women went through a procedure, which eliminated their ability to have children simply due to the fact that the government did not believe they deserved to have children.

But this is only the past, right? A human rights violation this blatant would surely never happen today. Let alone in our own country, correct? Oh, how quickly we forget history and repeat the past.

laprisoners  Just last week a report was published accusing                        California’s prisons of sterilizing female inmates without their full knowledge or consent. In all, 144 cases of sterilization performed on female prisoners were examined. Out of the 144 cases, almost one-third of the procedures were done either without the consent of the woman or her doctor.

The proper procedure for tubal litigation, known as “having her tubes tied”, requires that a woman wait an allotted amount of time to ensure she does not change her mind. In addition, she should be in the right state of mind to fully comprehend the irreversibility of the surgery.

Yet, the men involved in these incredibly disheartening and unlawful procedures could not wrap their heads around the idea that a woman deserves agency to her own body. Geeze, don’t women just ask for way too much?

The only response from Dr. James Heinreichnot yours, who performed the majority of the surgeries, was in relation to money. He argued the money the state spent on sterilization of the women was nothing “compared to what you save in welfare paying for those unwanted children – as they procreated more.”

Here’s what Dr. Heinreich and a large amount of Americans do not understand. A woman’s body is her own. She has complete agency over it. Reproductive justice means a woman has the right to have or not have a child. No one’s opinion about whether or not this woman is capable of being a mother should factor into her ability to have a child.

I don’t care how much money sterilization is saving the state. I find it completely appalling it was even considered a factor in the situation. These women were robbed of their right to be mothers when and if they wanted to have children. Society needs to stop believing other people have more knowledge about a woman’s body than she does.

Simply put, I’m asking that women, yes, including female inmates, be treated like humans. Instead of comparing them to animals that apparently cannot control their urge to procreate, it should be understood women have the ability to fully process their thoughts, emotions and actions. Honestly, it’s amazing to me that this concept is still being debated.

I’m asking for justice for these women and hoping to never hear about a case similar to this again. Since that’s probably a bit too optimistic, I’ll just stay right here, ready to lecture anyone and everyone on their inability to understand a woman’s right to her own body.

 

-Kelsey

Unsafe Abortions: Global Health and American Foreign Policy

imagesAccording to the Worldwide Health Organization (WHO), there are 42 million abortions each year and around half of these are deemed unsafe. The 2014 The Guttmacher Policy Review places the number of abortions to be close to 38 million with approximately 56% being deemed unsafe. Incredibly, the Guttmacher Institute further asserts that in Africa and Latin America virtually all abortions – 97% and 95%, respectively, are unsafe. Areas that also have very strict laws concerning this controversial topic. The WHO defines an “unsafe” abortion as one performed by an individual without the necessary skills, or as an abortion performed in an environment that does not conform to minimum medical standards, but many times both are applicable. A disturbing truth is that millions upon million of women, particularly young, poor, and rural women – are inserting sharp objects or herbs and plants into their wombs, ingesting chemicals, or taking medicines or traditional remedies to induce miscarriages.

In 2000 the U.S. was one of 189 countries that made a commitment to assist the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDG) whose aim is to “reduce poverty and improve the lives of poor people”. One of the eight pillars of the program is to reduce maternal mortality. Abortion remains a major cause of death among women in poor developing countries. Induced miscarriages account for about 13% of pregnancy related deaths worldwide with millions facing injuries that stem from unsafe abortions, including hemorrhage, infection, chronic pain, secondary infertility and trauma to multiple organs. GagRule

Yet, U.S. foreign policy wavers in its commitment with each new president elect. Contradicting our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the reduction of maternal mortality, the United States was steadfast in its “Global Gag Rule” otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy. First, instituted in 1985 during the Reagan administration, then repealed in 1993 by President Clinton, only to be reinstituted by President George W. Bush on his first day in office in 2001, and repealed yet again in 2009 under the Obama administration, the Mexico City Policy “stipulates that nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. assistance cannot use separately obtained funds to inform the public or educate their government on the need to make safe abortion available, provide legal abortion services, or provide advice on where to get an abortion” – hence the nickname “Global Gag Rule”.

The fact of the matter is that the “Global Gag Rule” isn’t about funding abortions; the Helms Amendment of 1973 already prevents American tax dollars from funding overseas abortions. Instead, this American law prevents critical U.S. funding from being used for basic family planning information and contraception advice. If countries do not adhere to the policy, USAID funding, technical assistance, and donated goods – including contraceptives like condoms are lost. The “Global Gag Rule” effectively keeps 215 million women in poor developing countries from obtaining wanted prevention services and contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty in their lives.

In a speech at the NARAL Anniversary Luncheon in Washington, D.C. on January 22, 1999 Hillary Clinton said, “I have met thousands and thousands of pro-choice men and women. I have never met anyone who is pro-abortion. Being pro-choice is not being pro-abortion. Being pro-choice is trusting the individual to make the right decision for herself and her family, and not entrusting that decision to anyone wearing the authority of government in any regard.” By instituting the Mexico City Policy or “Global Gag Rule” we are overstepping our boundaries as a government and as a country. This is why we cannot allow the policy to be reinstituted with another shifting of political powers.

Good family planning and safe abortions are a necessary part of reducing maternal mortality – something we as a nation have pledged our commitment to through our support of the Millennium Development Goals. By instituting a framework of family planning that includes education about contraceptives and abortion this is definitely an achievable outcome. Like Hillary and Bill Clinton, I believe that abortions should be safe, legal, and rare. Reproductive rights are devoid of worth where governments, organizations, and individuals fall short of comprehending or recognizing those rights. Their own people, not just international bodies, must hold governments accountable to the commitments they make in international agreements. Safe abortions are instrumental to a woman’s right to life and right to enjoy good health. By making abortion legal and safe, millions of maternal deaths each year would be prevented! This is huge. There is an epidemic. Creating economically and socially feasible avenues to safe abortion reduces unsafe abortion rates and maternal mortality. In order to prevent future unwanted pregnancies the incorporation of safe abortions needs to be involved in the discussion of family planning methods. Combining unfettered access to US aid for family planning to the Millennium Development Goals established by the U.N to reduce poverty will strengthen the U.S. role in developing countries. Failure to do that and returning to the whipsaw action of changing policy with each new president threatens not only the U.S. perceived place as a world leader but millions of lives.

Secretary Hillary Clinton Defending Reproductive Rights and Family Planning:

What is your opinion? – Jozi Patricia

Reconstructing Success, Power and Feminism

Anyone who knows me is aware that Shoshanna from Girls is one of my soul sisters. I always related to her the most of all the characters as she was trying to figure out her life. Like Shoshana, I am constantly trying to “grow into a fully formed woman” and often feel pressure to be more aggressive and assertive. I relate to how incredibly naïve, often annoying, yet, usually loveable Soshanna is. Though, I would argue she’s a bit more loveable. So, it should come as no surprise that I constantly update myself on what is going on in the real Shoshanna’s life, actress Zosia Mamet.

Last week, Zosia Mamet made the most accurate point about feminism that I have heard in awhile. She said women should not have to “lean in”. While this is probably blasphemy to the large group of feminists that subscribe to “Lean In” like a bible, it made perfect sense to me. Mamet is trying to reconstruct the way we see feminism, and she could Shosannanot be more correct about her critiques.

“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” is a book written by Sheryl Sandberg. The book encourages women to assert themselves in their careers and achieve the same power that men receive in America’s workforce. This method praises women who work their way up the corporate ladder in a male-dominated society.

However, this method is failing a large group of women. Today’s modern idea of “feminism” is utilizing the tools and measurements of a patriarchal society. Instead of supporting solidarity within women, “Lean In” asks them to view others as competitors and work within the confines of a largely male corporate world where women in mass will never succeed.

In the “Lean In” method, women are urged to go toe-to-toe with men and strive for high-ranking positions. Often times a person is viewed as someone to be envious of or valued in relation to his or her paycheck instead of whether he or she is happy. Society worships strong females like Hillary Clinton who break through the glass ceiling and achieve a wide range of power. While Clinton and women like her are worthy olean inf admiration, it’s important to realize that complete command of one’s field is wonderful but not necessary in order to be truly successful in life.

Throughout the article, Zosia Mamet explains she would be viewed as a failure if she woke up one day and decided she wanted to leave acting behind and open up a coffee shop. As a popular actress of the hit TV show Girls, few, if any, would understand why she would want to give up the power, prestige, and fame that goes along with her profession.

Mamet is hinting that society values happiness in a woman’s life less than power. If you ask me, there is something incredibly wrong with this order of importance. Mamet is trying to reconstruct the way we not only see feminism, but the way we should see life. We need to be working to dismantle the ideas of success and happiness in relation to power and wealth.

So, in order to grow into my own idea of a successful and happy woman, I chose to accept a four-month unpaid internship in Dublin starting in August. Many may view this step as naïve and irresponsible when I could be accepting a full-time entry-level position. However, I see it as four months that will bring me a lifetime of memories and happiness. In my eyes, that is success.

-Kelsey

Reclaiming Feminism

4043d2e18915b78094695f44934a8412Yes, I am a feminist. Am I a bra-burning, man-hating liberal fanatic that believes I am better off without our male counterparts? No. I believe in gender equality. Don’t get me wrong, bras are constricting and sexism whether overt or subtle has been a permanent fixture in my life. It is because of the latter, I believe changing the societal perpetuation of male oppression is of paramount importance. But, this cannot be accomplished without including men in the feminist discussion.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “feminism” as the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities; in other words political, economic, and social equality for both sexes. So then, how have the terms feminist and misandrist (hatred of men) become so interchangeable in today’s culture?

It saddens me when I hear friends distance themselves from the feminist movement. All too often I hear someone say, “Oh no way, I am not a feminist! Don’t associate me with that!” What is that – the belief that men and women should stand on an equal playing field in all aspects of life? In 2012, women held 16.8% and 17% of seats in the United States House and Senate, respectively. Without equal representation, how can different perspectives be considered? Theoretically, as a democratic country our votes should reflect societal norms. Does that mean that it is ingrained into our mindset that the male perspective is better equipped to create laws and policies that govern women’s agency over their bodies?

ccbb0f73829a29c35cdbcbd3e71b5db8For my inaugural post to Millennial Muse, I want to encourage readers to reclaim feminism as a means to both gender equality and the end of a patriarchal state. I am not just talking to women. It is crucial for men to be part of this movement as well. Feminist discourse might actually have a more significant impression on men than women. Inevitably, men still hold more responsibility for ending gender inequalities. They consistently, and perhaps unknowningly, take part in the unending cycle of male dominance. As women, we understand our oppression because we live it on a daily basis. Many men lack the understanding of gender privilege because they hold the position of power. In order to achieve gender equality, there needs to be a transformation in the construction of gender relations. Feminism is about equality among genders. While radicalism exists, it is not the basis of the movement. Men can be, should be, and are feminists. I am a feminist and if you believe in gender equality, you too are a feminist.

-Jozi Pat

 

The Response:

I have a confession; I am one of those people who find it hard to define myself as a feminist. I’m sure many of the Muses would throw up their hands in outrage at this statement, but hear me out.

Growing up a millennial girl in a household with two very ambitious parents I always felt like it was my destiny to successfully wear as many hats as possible in order to emulate them.  My mother juggled her growing career, her return to higher master’s level education, the household upkeep, volunteer projects, committee chairs, and her family; she is truly a magician and a woman to look up to. I think by definition, my mom embodies what it means to be a modern day feminist; “a woman who does it all”.

But, the truth is… I don’t know if I want it all.

The thing is, I don’t want to be a man, but I want the same rights that my future husband has in life. If I have children I want to be the one who is there when they get home from school and if that means giving up some aspects of my career, fine, but I won’t give up all of it. I want to be the lady in my relationships and I still give a man bonus points if he opens my door or pays on the first date, but I want to be able to return the chivalry. I want maternity leave, I don’t want to be drafted, I don’t mind being the one to cook the family meals, but if I do the same work as a man I expect you to pay me adequately!

Some people would say you can’t be feminist if you make exceptions. That it is all or nothing, but I have never been one for labels, so starting today I will define me; I will define my own feminism.

– Samantha Courtney