I'm on the verge of adulthood, womanhood, self-discovery, creativity, and sometimes a whole lot of emotions! Feel free to follow my journey!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Beyond Pink and Blue: Gender Roles in Childhood

I wrote this blog post a while ago on feministing.com and couldn't find it until today. Woohoo!

ritish toy store Harrods has recently undergone some major changes. Instead of the standard aisles  separated “pink for girls” and “blue for boys,” Harrods has broken the store into 6 “worlds” where toys are separated by categories, not genders. “Who cares?” some might ask. But this is part of a larger shift in marketing that I believe has the power to change our society’s deep-seated feelings about gender roles.
Gender non-conforming children have been a media buzz for the past few months. Willow Smith got a buzz cut, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt “wears boy clothes” – what is the world coming to?!? Parents, educators and anyone with a laptop have weighed in on the color-coding and gender segregation of childhood. Questions have been asked and dissected about gender, gender expectations, gender non-conformity and how it effects children of all ages.
Books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter illustrates how princesses, female sexualization, fashion and beauty expectations have saturated the girl children’s market with toys that are stifling girls creativity, experiences and perceived choices for their future. Along the same lines, boys are trained from birth through the media to be tough, “manly”, physically strong and muscular and are bombarded with violent toys at earlier and earlier ages.
What happens when the genders are so strictly defined from birth? One common example is that women go into STEM fields at much lower rates than men. Is this because “girls don’t like math and science” or because they are subtly steered to “girly” pursuits like fashion and princess toys while boys play with blocks, LEGOs and tools? SPARK recently protested LEGO’s new “Friends” line because of its pink saturated, gender stereotyping “girl world.” Luckily, they won and new lines featuring female mini figures are in the works. One does not have to look far to see the prevalence of male violence in childhood and beyond and wonder if there is a link between this and the hyper-masculinity modeled in the media.
Another major problem is that we as a society are teaching children not only to have strict gender roles for themselves, but for others. As Carrie Goldman writes in her book Bullied, these strict gender roles cause anyone who deviates from “the norm” to be potential targets for bullying and violence. For children that don’t fit into these roles, school can go from a place of learning to a place of fear.
Children can sometimes be very “black and white” thinkers and seeing a toy advertised for just girls or just boys can cause harmful associations. Media literacy is a powerful component to teach children of all ages and genders to sift through the thousands of messages they receive on a daily basis. Parents and teachers should be communicating acceptance for others from an early age and letting children seek out any and all age-appropriate opportunities they show an interest in.
As an educator and also someone who would like to have children someday in the far flung future, the gender segregation of childhood is very disturbing to me. I want the children that I teach each day to believe that their possibilities are endless. They can be a scientist or a construction worker or a teacher or a doctor or a dancer – no matter what gender! I believe that toy stores like Harrods are taking positive steps in gender neutral marketing and I sincerely hope other companies in the US soon follow in their footsteps.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Listen Up, Mitt

I've been meaning to write this blog ever since these videos/sound clips of you leaked out on Tuesday morning. However, I've been too busy with my full time job to get a chance until now. First of all, let me say that I will not be voting for you in November. Wild horses couldn't drag me to the polls to push the button for your name. Before you write me off as a "victim" unwilling to take "personal responsibility" let me give you the top 4 reasons why I will not be voting for you:

1. You fail to represent about 99% of the population. You are a white supremacist, a sexist, a homophobe and a classist. You believe that you are better than women, people of color, people who make less money than you and people who aren't straight like you. That in itself should be a red flag for your campaign trail.

2. I am a college graduate who worked 3 part time jobs to make ends meet for the first 6 months after graduation. I am now working full time with a child care center that offers medical and dental insurance and a 401K package. Don't you dare call me a victim. Also, don't patronize me and try to act like you know my experience or anyone else's because you "ate a lot of spaghetti" in your 20's.

3. I am a woman. That in itself makes your entire campaign, including your running mate, particularly abhorrent. You told me all I needed to know when you and your party decided that I don't have the intellectual capacity to make decisions regarding my body and reproductive system and that the big, strong men know better. Also, I know that you and your constituents have tried your best to distance yourself from misogynist pigs like Todd Akin, but when you lie with dogs you get up with fleas. I am not an incubator, I am a human being, and all sex or sexual activity requires consent whether it be in a marital bed, after too many drinks or while someone is asleep. Period, end of story. Women have had enough of victim blaming to last another 1,000 years.

4. I have friends and loved ones who identify as bisexual, queer, pansexual, gay, lesbian, transsexual, etc. They deserve to have the rights and respect given to them as everyone else in this country and that includes marriage (and all of the financial and social benefits marriage entails) and whatever procreation methods they decide on. You don't get to decide how much respect someone deserves based on your heteronormative, sexist, classist worldview.

I don't agree with everything Obama has done in the last 4 years and I'm sure that I won't agree with all of his decisions if he gets elected this year. However, I disagree with pretty much everything you stand for on a fundamental level and THAT, Mr. Romney is why you will not be getting my vote or the vote of many other American citizens.

I hope that cleared things up.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thoughts on "Rape Fatigue"

I read feministing.com as often as I check my email. When I found the website it was as if I was finding the feminist Holy Grail. First I just read the featured articles. Then I started reading whatever "What we missed" links caught my eye. At this point, I'm a feministing.com addict and not ashamed. I read whatever I can, and then read whatever I can on any other pages that I'm sent to. I love reading feminist perspectives on gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, abortion, rape, race, etc.

This website has started my wheels turning on the concept of gender identity (being transgendered, gender non-conforming, etc.) which has been really exciting. I am able to read many different perspectives to try to figure out my own personal beliefs.

However, sometimes keeping up with feminist current events is like having another job. Sometimes it's rewarding, exciting, challenging and funny. Other times it's frustrating, depressing, or downright exhausting.

This is why I'm really glad Erin Gloria Ryan wrote this article on Jezebel.com (don't worry, I'm sure I'll become hooked on this site too as well) because I feel the same way. It's truly exhausting to read article after article, misogynist quote after misogynist quote in this seemingly endless abortion war.

As I hope it is assumed by the rest of my blog, I consider myself pro-choice. In cases of rape, incest, fetal anomalies, threat of the mother's life, not being able to emotionally or financially support a baby, whatever. You don't have to explain your choice to me, and you shouldn't have to explain your choice to random politicians, most of whom are men and will NEVER have to deal with this issue on a personal level. I hope to never personally have to make the choice to have an abortion or not, because I don't know what I would do, but the fact that I may not even have the option or that so many roadblocks will be thrown into my path is truly terrifying.

When I read these things, galf of me wants to get up and GO - change things, fight, write letters, write blogs that people will actually read, petition, knit a uterus for a politician so he'll get out of mine, do something! The other half feels completely overwhelmed. What can I do? Where can I go to make a positive impact in my community? I end up not doing anything and feeling guilty about it. The guilt is tiring. The reading is tiring. The being angry is tiring. Tired, tired, tired.

Maybe someday people will read this blog and it won't feel like I'm a hamster on a wheel, spinning out my feminist frustration with nothing to show for it. Until then though, I'll keep reading, learning, thinking. Misogynists haven't figured out a way yet to stop me from doing that.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grad School Personal Statement - 1st Draft

Oh, the personal statement. As someone who loves to write blog posts and read other peoples opinions, this is still an incredibly daunting task. To apply to grad school, I need to write the following personal statement:

  • Your written personal statement should be 900 - 1500 words in length. Please use narrative form and address the following questions:
  • - In reflecting upon your personal and professional history, what forces have influenced your professional growth and contributed to your decision to seek admission to this Lesley University program?
  • What are your long-term professional goals (ie. new directions, opportunities, interests, skills, professional renewal, and/or work advancement), and how does this Lesley University program help you to meet them?
  • Is there any other information you think would help the Admissions Committee to understand you better (ie special interests, publications, academic achievements, supervisors' references, unusual career path, awards and/or honors, special accomplishments, leadership abilities)?
Can't I just say - "Please oh please oh please accept me into your school I need to go hereeeeee!!!"? This school is one of the main reasons I moved to MA - I'm the grad school version of Felicity following a guy she hardly knows to college! So I've been writing all afternoon and here's what I have so far. It need 400-100 more words, and a lot of tweaking, but here goes:

I believe that music connects people, brings us closer to our own humanity. One of my favorite quotes is "when words fail, music speaks." Choosing to work towards a degree in music therapy has been a journey of finding a way of combing my passion for music, mental health and gender studies as well as my own personal experiences in a way that can help others.
Music spoke to me at some of the lowest points of my life - specifically, my battle with mental health illnesses. In high school I was anorexic and bulimic for a period of 2 years. I believe that this was a reaction to my undiagnosed low-grade depression, which has been following me since middle school. In early 2009 I began counseling at the *my college* Office for Counseling and Wellness. Throughout the next two years I began regular counseling and medication to treat my anxiety/depression. I have tried to give back to the center in small ways such as volunteering for the NY State College Counselors Convention in Summer 2011. 
Through my battle with depression I began to look for ways that I could help others through music. It has been a secret dream of mine for many years to create a  vocal program for those struggling with eating disorders. I would like to offer private and group lessons and run a chorus where young women and men with eating disorders can gain body confidence through music, singing and the body awareness that comes through vocal technique and exploration.
*Grad school* rises head and shoulders above any other music therapy programs I have researched. The more I learn about the program through the website, meeting with current students, and going to tours and info sessions, the more I believe that I can thrive and grow both personally and professionally in this environment. Lesley's program is actually one of the reasons I moved to Massachusetts upon graduation. I am particularly impressed with the internship requirements needed to obtain a master's degree in music therapy.
Since graduating from *my college* in December 2011 and moving to Massachusetts in January 2012 I have worked multiple jobs to make ends meet and gain experience. I am a kindergarten teacher at an after care program and a substitute teacher at an infant to preschool childcare center.I absolutely love working with children, especially young children and bringing music into their day.  I am hoping to start teaching voice lessons out of my house in the fall - teaching young singers to explore their voices in a healthy, safe, positive way. I find that on the smallest level, singing "The Wheels on the Bus" can help a child who is upset or scared or missing their parents. I know that I will always find a way to bring music to children and I believe that music therapy can help me make a positive impact in my community.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Lately, I've been in a funk. I've been feeling like nothing is going well for me, I have nothing good going on here in MA. I feel over-qualified (and underpaid) for my job(s) and can't find/get one(s) I want. I don't have a friend group here and am feeling really lonely. All of this has woken up my dormant depression and it's been back with a vengance - making me tired and unmotivated to change things.

For better or for worse, caffeine (in the form of a Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee) helped my mood and productivity today. I realized that I can't sit around whining and waiting for my life to magically get better - I need to make changes, fix things, go outside my comfort zone. I did a lot today that I really needed to do to kick start this coming school year. I know that if I want a life here I need to build it.

One thing that I'd like to start is a daily gratitude journal - at least 3 things every day that I'm grateful for. I'll start it here and probably keep most of the writing on my desktop, privately.

Here are some things I'm grateful for today:
1. The teeny-tiny lady bug that flew on my finger 10 minutes ago and prompted this blog.
2. Seeing the toddlers in the class I sub smile and laugh, even when they're feeling sick.
3. That I had a really good hair day.
4. Eating leftover eggplant parmesean on my lunch break. Nom.
5. Singing through my new rep and remembering why I love to sing

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Feminist Journey - What I'm Reading/Watching

I've considered myself a feminist ever since I first learned what the term meant. For me, it was an intuitive journey in the beginning. It never made sense to me that as a woman, I shouldn't be able to do anything I wanted to do without being limited by my gender.

But the best things happened for me in college when I started really researching feminist thought through books, blogs, vlogs and documentaries. I started with the ol' standards - The Feminine Mystique, (I picked it up at a used bookstore for $4. It was the 25th edition copy with a new forward by Betty Freidan about how things have changed and stayed the same since she wrote the book. Very cool.), The Second Sex, watching the Killing Us Softly videos, taking a Women's Studies class senior year (and learning more about contemporary gender studies) - and then branched out to whatever interested me on the web and in the library. Gender studies has become a real passion for me and there are a few topics that stand out for me as ones I'm particularly passionate about.

When I started looking into feminist blogs, I somehow stumbled across Pigtail Pals. This blog is all about the media's sexualization of girls that starts almost in infancy and how it affects girls down the road. Melissa looks primarily at the way that toys, clothing, movies and advertising affects girls (and now, boys too!). There is a lot of amazing information about the Disney-princess phenomenon and the recent Lego Friends line. She also has her own line of clothing for girls and boys that aims to be non-gender stereotyped. It's nice to know that when I have kids there are resources like this out there.

Through the Lego Friends debate, I found one of my all-time favorite sites. Feminist Frequency really opened my eyes to how women are portrayed in the media and how important media literacy is. Anita's vlogs are wonderful and have changed the way I watch TV and movies forever. She's currently in the process of doing a vlog series on women in video games and has been the target of a great deal of sexist, misogynist and downright disgusting online harassment.

Running parallel to my interest in gender studies has been a growing interest in Judaism. I come from a 100% Catholic family and have been researching Judaism seriously for about 6 months now and considering conversion. Things have really started to get interesting when my two interests intersected. I read a book called Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story - where Jewish women study the text using traditional methods of Jewish study that used to only be done by men. In this way, I'm getting a female (and often feminist) perspective on a Jewish biblical story about two women. Because I loved this book so much, I recently started reading Women's Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbi's on the 54 Torah Portions. This is my first real foray into complete Torah study and I'm thrilled to have found a book written from a female perspective. All of these women are rabbis, a profession relatively new to women in the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Jewish community (Orthodox Jewish women are still not allowed to be rabbis).

After reading Men and Feminism in my Women's Studies class, I found The Good Men Project. This is more of a "thrift store" blog - you sometimes have to sift through some lame articles for a while to find a really good one. It's been really interesting to learn more about what men are doing with contemporary gender studies - how many men are interested in breaking down gender and sexuality barriers. I particularly enjoy reading posts from "daddy bloggers" on their experience parenting.

So there are my top picks from my recent foray into gender studies since graduation. Also, if you want to feel feminist without requiring too much brain power one night - watch some Buffy the Vampire Slayer! You can watch it on Hulu or Netflix, but I will warn you that it's seriously addictive and you might have to subscribe to watch all 7 seasons! Josh Whedon really knows how to write complex, interesting, strong female characters (and good male ones too!) and the series finale is EPIC and has some truly amazing girl power.

I'm always on the lookout for more books, blogs, vlogs, documentaries and TV shows so if anyone is reading this blog, let me know your top picks!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Depression Part 2: Pushing Through

Dysthymia - a mood disorder consisting of chronic depression, with less severe but longer lasting symptoms than major depressive disorder. As dysthymia is a chronic disorder, sufferers may experience symptoms for many years before it is diagnosed, if diagnosis occurs at all. As a result, they may believe that depression is a part of their character, so they may not even discuss their symptoms with doctors, family members, or friends.

I'm not a doctor or a psychologist, but I have been in my body for the past 23 1/2 years and I'm pretty sure I've had dysthymia for the last 11 or so of those years. The last two sentences in the above definition ring most true for me. For a really long time I just thought I wasn't a positive person. I wasn't an energetic person. That was just me, who I was, who I'd always be. I would have good days/weeks/months but the "meh" feeling was pervasive throughout my teens and beyond. 

One of my main symptoms has been fatigue. In high school I was a huge perfectionist so I often pushed past the fatigue just to do what I had to do. But in retrospect, what normal 18 year old goes to bed every night at 9:30? When I got to college, I realized that no matter how hard I pushed myself I would never feel like I was doing well enough, so I pushed less and less. By senior year it was tough to get myself to go to classes, even though I was on medication and wasn't feeling particularly horrible.

Now I have jobs, which changes the game a lot. If I don't work, I don't get paid (for the most part). So I push myself for work and often forgo everything else. I haven't kept in touch with friends or made new ones the way I had hoped I would. This creates a cycle where I'm lonely, so I'm bummed out, so I don't make an effort, so I'm lonely - rinse and repeat several times a month.

I had the easiest time making friends in college that I've ever had in my life. Now I feel like I'm spoiled. I'm like a desperate single woman (pardon the sexist metaphor) looking for "Mr. Right" but being super picky. I want someone who I instantly *click* with and I want it right now, damnit.

My roommate and I have been talking quite a lot about "pushing past the tiredness" - which in my case also includes pushing past the depression. Doing things - both with people and by myself - that I may not feel like doing immediately but end up being worth it afterwards.

This afternoon, after a full workday, I sat outside in my backyard working on voice stuff, spent some quality time with the BF, went for a drink and dinner with my roommate and took a scooter ride with the BF. Oh, and wrote this riveting blog, haha. And you know what? I feel good. Still tired, but in a satisfied way. This is sort of a novel feeling for me, but maybe its the way people without dysthmia feel after most days. And that's something I could definitely get used to.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Depression: The Insider's Stigma

So I had this whole post planned on gender-roles/stereotypes in my relationship and blah, blah and it was partially typed and I never finished it because, honestly, I just don't care about that right now. And since this blog is turning more therapeutic than political, here's what I do care about right now:

Here's the thing. I've had low grade depression (aka dysthymia) for probably the last 11 years. It's only been diagnosed and treated with medication and semi-regular therapy for the past 2.

I talk a really good game about acceptance of mental illness, supporting people getting help, etc. I tell people about it, and about the eating disorder I had in HS that I feel was a symptom of it. I want to go into Music Therapy to help people through mental illnesses (among other things). I like to look at my past through rose colored glasses and say that the things I went through in HS and college made me who I am today and that's a good thing. Depression was a learning experience. I rail against stigmas against mental illnesses.

But the real truth is, when I look at my own depression, I mirror all the "ridiculous stigmas" right back to myself. I don't really have depression, I'm just weak. I shouldn't need a pill to be able to deal with my life - what's so difficult about it? I don't want outside chemicals controlling my body. When I'm on ADs I feel fine, so do I really need it? I'll talk about my depression to friends or people my own age, but no one in my extended family has a clue because I don't want them to think I'm weak or crazy.

Guess what though - I'm realizing that's not my voice. That's my dad's voice. He thinks mental illnesses are BS. Nonexistent, fake problems. Furthermore, he thinks doctors and medicine is a waste of time. Sound familiar?

No one who has been close to me for 5 years or more will argue that I'm not a different person than I was before medication, not even my dad. I know without a doubt that I'm a different person on medication. After being on ADs for about 6 months I looked back at pictures of myself as a little kid and could finally feel and remember what it actually felt like to be that happy, carefree, pre-puberty person.

I love the days and lately weeks where I don't have to think about my depression. It's so easy to forget about it - forget what it feels like to be sinking into an emotional hole that you can't see the way out of. It's deceptively easy to start to think maybe it was all a bad dream. Maybe you don't have depression, not really. You were just having a hard year (or 10). Things are better now and so you don't need therapy. Maybe you only need half your medication every day. Maybe you don't need any!

I do this every few months, and it always has the same results. I know it's exhausting for the few people who are close to me and honestly, I'm exhausting myself too. It's tiring to convince yourself of something you know really isn't true and then try to mentally backtrack when you start to slowly fall apart again. This time I'll call the doctor. I'll remember my medicine every day. I'll refill my prescription on time. I'll find a new therapist or go back to therapy. I promise. And so I'll do one or two semi-positive things and vow to do more "tomorrow", which will improve my mood, which will start the cycle all over again. This time I went to a new city in a new state, thinking I could outrun my depression. But now I'm just here with a lot more stress and a very small support system, none of them professionally trained to give me advice or medication.

Here's the truth, in black and white on my computer screen. Typed by my own hands:
 I have depression. I might have depression for the rest of my life. If I forget about it it will creep back up again. It always does. I don't like it. I don't like accepting it, or accepting that it's probably going to be a part of me for the rest of my life. 
My depression sucks, end of story. It's not some magical faraway looking glass that makes me more empathetic. It's not some glamorous political statement of how the media or families or life in general can screw someone up. It's a big, dark hole that I'm always standing on the edge of. It's soul-crushing exhaustion, lethargy, apathy. It's complete lack of faith that I have anything worthwhile to offer the world, that I just mess things up or am someone people have to "deal with."

I have a list of doctors I can call in the area who accept my insurance and can give me a new prescription and a referral to a therapist. My depression wants me to feel proud that I set up a list but then leave things like that, not make the calls, not do the real legwork. It wants me to hide behind being scared, being embarrassed, denying my illness, not wanting "pills to control my body." Because my depression wants to control my body, my mind, my life. I'm really hoping that this time I have the strength to stand up to it and do what I have to do to be healthy.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I'm bringing back this blog as sort of a tool of my own personal growth. If anyone cares to read and follow or offer support or advice, that rocks too! Here's an example of the free writing (typing) I've been doing lately. Names aren't included (just initials) to protect my and their privacy.

I'm really trying to focus on improving my life, building my life here in MA. This means I need to figure out what I want from my life and how I want it. I have a really promising 2nd interview on Tuesday night with a job that I think will be fantastic for me. I would be able to build a music curriculum with K through 3rd students and possibly become a founding member of a growing charter school. Would this change my grad school plans? Maybe, maybe not. I'm open to the possibility of staying in this job for more than a year if I really love it and see growth.
I need more socialization in my life. I spend a lot of time with BF and I love that but I need girl time badly. B works a lot and often strange hours, and she often spends time with A (her BF) whenever she can. Friday dinners have helped and they're a great thing to look forward to each week - especially since B usually has Friday off or opens. But I need more than that. I need girl friends to chat with about things that I'm interested in - gender, feminism, psychology, music therapy, media literacy. I need to get off my ass and go to these feminist meetup group events and stop being such a chicken. I need to make connecting with my long-distance friends (like S, K, L, M) way more of a priority. I need to keep trying to make new friends here, even though that's really scary for me.
I love it here but I need to make this more of my home. Right now it's a place where I live (I love my apartment 90% of the time), spend time with some people (C and the roomies) and work. But that's not enough. I know it took a while for Ithaca to become my home and most of that was the people. I can immediately feel at home in a place if I have even a few people I care about. I know that this can be a fabulous home for me.
Blogging and journaling will, I hope, get me thinking more and give those thoughts some more substance. Right now I'm setting a goal to write weekly about whatever I want - just freewriting.There are so many new, exciting, interesting things going on in my life and in my mind right now.

Some possible topics are:
My apartment - this place has real character. We have an adorable old Armenian couple as upstairs neighbors, a tacky but sort of charming mural on our dining room wall, a few dying plants and constant home improvement projects always in the works thanks to my roommate who has found a new hobby in amateur carpentry.
My jobs - The fact that I have a nutty schedule, interact with some really interesting people every day and work with kids could probably be a blog in itself if I wanted to. These kids crack me up, tug on my heartstrings and test my patience daily. As much as I complain sometimes, I couldn't ask for better "starter jobs" after my graduation in December.
My relationship - C and I have been together now for 1 year and 7 months and our relationship is always interesting. We're dealing with this really interesting "post honeymoon" phase where we're learning a ton about each other, our communication and how we work as a couple.