The Pregnant Feminist Series: Part 1

5 months

As I write these words, I am 22 weeks pregnant, which is 5.05966 months pregnant for those who are not week-literate.  It’s my first pregnancy: with every passing week, new sensations and social phenomena blow my mind; I am becoming increasingly convinced that pregnancy is the feminist’s final frontier.  In fact, I have had so many hormone-fueled thoughts on the matter, that I decided that I would need to break this down into a series of blog entries.  Aside from Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public, please see also Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life and Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal.

Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public

I find it horribly unfair that I have to be the one that is pregnant.  My partner and I have often bemoaned that fact that he is in a far better position physically, professionally and geographically than I am to support a pregnancy.  An avid runner, he is in the best shape of his life.  I gobble down sachets of instant oatmeal as I run from meetings to networking events.  He is an entrepreneur that works from home and can self-manage his time and workload.  I am just beginning year two of a two year contract that keeps me hopping days, nights and weekends (not to mention jobhunting at the end of the contract).  We live 10 minutes walk from his family.  I am separated from my family by an international border.  But alas, I am the one with a uterus in this couple, and so tag – I’m it!

It hasn’t kept me from grumbling to myself – Equality is a feminist illusion.  And we will never truly gain equity until we can reconcile this whole child-bearing thing.

But that, my dear readers, is another rant.  Today, I make the grim observation that in North America, the pregnant body is public property.  Oh yes.

And we all know how people treat public property.

It’s not so much the belly touching for me.  Although the belly touching does make me uncomfortable (thoughts that run through my head – is my belly too soft?  Were they expecting a firmer baby bump?  That’s not where the baby even is, but please don’t go poking around 4 inches lower…), I have accepted it as something that people can’t seem to control themselves from doing.  It started at the dawn of month 4 when I was just barely starting to show and hadn’t even come to terms with my own changing body yet.  And it’s not just your old Aunt Matilda that does it – I have had my belly stroked, patted or poked at family barbecues, yes, but also at networking events and at the office, at restaurants by waitstaff, and at the locker room at a public pool.  It’s like I have this giant magnet strapped to the front of me and people run from all directions to put their hands on it.  Ok, I shouldn’t say people – women!  The day a strange man puts his hand on my belly without my consent will be a very unpleasant day for him, I can guarantee it.

Like I said, though, it’s not so much the belly groping that I take issue with.  I have been far more put off by some of the insensitive comments, observations and questions.  My body is now a point of speculation for the self-appointed pregnancy experts, the uninitiated in the wonders of child-bearing and the curious.  I’m not to say that all comments, observations or questions are unwelcome.  I have encountered very many kind, gentle and tactful people in the past several months and I heartily welcome their insight, shared experiences and well-meaning queries.  In fact, one question I love to hear is “How are you feeling?” – when asked sincerely by someone who really wants to know, it is a relief for me to be able to vent about the variety of new sensations, physical and emotional, that I am experiencing.  But when I am asked, “How much weight are you allowed to gain?” or told, “You don’t look very pregnant”, I have to wonder what planet these people are on.

I haven’t gained very much weight at all, mostly due to the fact that I was vomiting multiple times a day for the first 4 months and just desperately trying to get nutrients into my body.  It was really worrisome to not be able to keep down every attempt at providing a balance of vitamins and minerals, proteins and carbohydrates.  And hard to not count pounds and calories and to focus on how I feel.  I talked about it with my doctor, read some books on the matter, developed game plans with my partner – things are going better now, and we have things under control.  So then to hear from some random acquaintance that “you really should try harder to gain some weight”, I feel like killing them.  Like I want to have to explain my concerns and strategies to this person I barely know so that they can feel like I’m not intentionally trying to not gain weight.

I’m not the type of person that needs other people’s approval – but then again, I’m not used to be confronted so directly on issues that I am already feeling vulnerable about.

I gave a presentation to a room full of regional managers at work.  At the end of the presentation, I announced my pregnancy and intentions regarding leave and the continuation of my project.  One of them shouts out, “Where are you hiding it?”, and they all laugh.  Yeah, yeah, it’s really funny that I am 5 months along and just look like I’ve had a few too many beers.

Like a lot of women, I have always had a difficult relationship with my body image and weight (see: Having a Positive Body Image: A Feminist Devoir).  When the morning sickness subsided and I started to put weight back on instead of shed the pounds, it was the first time in my life that I have been happy to gain weight.  Relieved, even.  And it has taken nerves of steel to reaffirm to myself everything that I believe about my body, and owning my experience, and believing in myself in the face of criticism.

So here is my advice to other first-time pregnant feminists out there:

  1. Focus on intention.  When some awkward dope in your entourage says something that makes you want to unfriend them from Facebook, just try to remember that 99% of the time it is well-intended (believe it or not).
  2. Rally the troops.  Bring your confidantes in closer and build a network of allies.  If you’re finding social situations hard to handle, check out Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life.
  3. Make self-care community-care.  You are not alone.  No, seriously, remember – you are not alone.  All of that public property awkwardness stems from the fact that in North American culture, having a baby is a community event.  Work that to your advantage.
  4. Stay true.  Just because you are the pregnant version of you and are probably not feeling quite like yourself these days, don’t forget that you are still you – all of the boundaries and beliefs that you held pre-pregnancy may be evolving, but they are still your own.  Don’t give them up or hand them over to anyone else.
  5. Take the time to fall in love.  You are going to be a mother!  If you are a gen-y feminist like me, that probably scares the crap out of you as much as it energizes you.  Take the time to marvel at the wonderful weirdness of your body and the life that you are creating.  This is what’s important – the rest of what’s going on outside of you and your body right now, it all takes the backseat to this.



Guiding the Generation Gap

GGC-QC’s Dream Team (District Commissioners, Advisers and Council) – a wonderful group of women that run the province, aged 21 to (I will not even hazard a guess).

NOTE: Originally posted on June 27, 2012 on the Girl Guides of Canada National Blog, please click here for the original posting.

While the generation gap is not a new phenomenon, it is a topic that has seemed to take up a lot of space in media coverage, boardroom conversations and around the dinner table in the past few years.  There was always a question mark hanging over what exactly was going to happen when all those baby boomers got old anyways?  And now we are all feeling the disconnect – in an age which connection is at a prime.

One of the things that I love the most about Guiding is that we create a space for intergenerational dialogue.  Note that I did not say interaction – the generations all interact on a daily basis anyways – but in Guiding, through working together in unit meetings, event planning, committee work and socially, we have a space for conversation that is not regulated by the rules or structure of family or work or school.

What are the generations in Guiding?

I could spend a lifetime explaining the characteristics of each generation and sub-group variant, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s use Guiding terms!

The Silent Generation – The children of the Great Depression, these are our most senior Trefoil Guild members.  They are very rarely on email, but will definitely write back when sent a hand-written note by post!

Baby boomers – This is probably a Guider or member of the Trefoil Guild who has likely been a member for 25+ years.  Most of these ladies are comfortable with email, but some prefer other methods of communication.  Some are on Facebook, many are not.

Generation X – This is also probably a Guider, but it could also be a parent (and just because they’re Gen X doesn’t mean we can assume they are Pathfinder/Ranger Moms – all bets are off with Gen X).  These ladies are rapid fire emailers for the most part and they’re probably on Facebook (if only to spy on their kids).

Generation Y – This is your young Guider, or maybe a Spark Mom, but there is a good chance she doesn’t have kids yet and is either in university or starting out in her career.  These ladies are generally delinquent emailers, but will reply to a Facebook message, text or tweet within a microsecond.

Digital Natives and Gen AO (Always-On) – These are our girls!  Try telling them you were born before the internet was created – that’ll really blow their minds!

Intergenerational dialogue can be explosive or magical – depending on how you go about it!

The glue that holds all of this together is the notion of mentorship that Guiding offers.  In a successful mentorship relationship there is learning on both sides of the coin – the mentor gains as much as the mentee and they share a mutual trust and respect for one another’s views and life experiences.  Most Guiders will agree that they learn more from the girls than they ever thought they would! – But believe it or not, that’s the easy part!  The larger the generation gap, the easier it is for traditional roles of “respecting your elders” to come into play.  How about the young Guider working in the same unit with a lifer?  It can get tricky!

By taking some general principles of communication (and common courtesy) into consideration, the exchange of perspectives and experiences can lead to an enriching experience for all generations (girls, young Guiders and lifelong Guiders alike!).

Golden Rules of Intergenerational Dialogue

  1. DON’T be dismissive.  Respect – This is a loaded word that often means different things to different generations.  Some see it as something that should be given due to age or positions of power, whereas others see it something that is earned (and can therefore be taken away).  The key to intergenerational respect is to take each other seriously and not be dismissive.  In fact, there is hardly anything more disrespectful than dismissing someone’s input or opinion.  Seek to understand what they are trying to communicate and why, and acknowledge their contribution, whether you agree or not.
  2. DON’T criticize in front of others.  Sounds like a duh, right?  Believe it or not, lots of people cannot help themselves from making a comment right on the spot when they feel strongly about something!  This is the fastest way to put a Baby Boomer or Gen Xer on the defensive, and the most effective way to get a Gen Yer to consider quitting.  Be kind – if you are in disagreement or have a constructive criticism to make, pull the person aside and address the issue privately and respectfully.  They will be a hundred times more likely to positively receive your feedback if they appreciate the way it is delivered.
  3. DO listen…and Share.  Do a good job of listening when it’s your turn to receive information, and don’t be shy to share when you have something to offer.  Seek balanced contributions – don’t be intimidated to speak and solicit contributions from those that are keeping quiet (and if you’re the big talker, try to be concise and aware that you have the potential to derail a potentially great collaboration!).
  4. DO be generous with praise. Everyone likes to know when they’ve done a good job!  Especially with Gen Y, being a part of a great team is really important for them and an essential part of teambuilding is recognizing little successes as well as big ones.  Do a post-mortem after an event to learn from your experiences and celebrate what went well – and celebrate the team as well as the achievement.  The Sisterhood of Guiding starts with each and every one of us!
  5. DO embrace our differences!  When you approach intergenerational dialogue as cultural differences, just think about how much fun you’ll have learning about the native’s way of life!

Enjoy celebrating in the magic that is the Sisterhood of Guiding across the country and the generations!

NOTE: Another curiosity about Guiding is that we not only have the generation gap to negotiate, but it is often accompanied by an experience gap – sometimes the girls have been Guiding longer than the Guider!  To learn more about the experience gap, check out the Trial By Fire Series: Reflections of First Time Guider.

Elle se prononce enfin : « Ce soir je porte le carré rouge »

I had originally started writing this blog post in French – for some reason the words that represent this movement for me came more easily to my French brain, the one that is connected and bound by love to Québec and its people.  That being said, I am becoming increasingly convinced that by applying English words to these strong and complex feelings that I am having, I would reach an audience that better needs to hear them. 

Better late than never

It has taken me quite some time to speak out about the student movement in Québec.  For starters, a lot of what I feel has already been captured very eloquently in various different media – what could I have to add to the conversation?  And yet, I have been increasingly unconformable going about my daily life skirting the issue and trying to focus on things that seemed to matter less and less comparatively.  Another reason that I have been keeping quiet is the selfish fear of what the personal and professional repercussions could be if I positioned myself – I have recently applied for Canadian citizenship; getting arrested at a protest could be devastating.  I work in Public Relations for a non-profit that does not have an official position.  When I asked recently, “Where do we stand?”, the answer was “We encourage our members to speak out about issues that they take to heart and would not be surprised to see people active on both sides of the issue”.  This sits well with me, and is a position that I can respect.  And it was the green light that I was waiting for to let my heart pour forth.  The echo in my head, “Il faut être conséquent [walk the talk]” has been urging me to write.

Last night, I casseroled.

I didn’t just casserole.  I wore red and made a sign that I pinned to the back of my shirt that said “Américaine, endettée et solidaire [American, in debt and in solidarity]”.  I banged an old pan on a street corner until my wrists hurt and the skies opened up and drenched us to the bone.  It felt amazing.  What got me there?  The night before, my husband and I took a walk around old Longueuil after dinner and happened upon the casseroles.  The scene that we witnessed moved me to tears – strollers with young children and pregnant mothers, elderly couples wearing red squares, students and taxi drivers and municipal employees – people were running out of houses, pots and wooden spoons in hand, to join the movement, smiling and singing, dancing and laughing.  It was the type of display of community that I thought that I would only dream of.

I immigrated here.  I am a permanent resident, speak both official languages fluently (and an unofficial language, but that’s neither here nor there), pay my taxes and work for a non-profit.  I believe in Québec with every fibre of my being – but I had always felt that I would never truly feel that I belong.  In many ways I am still and will always be an American, and of course I wouldn’t want it any other way.  But last night, I felt that not only was I an American, but that I belong to this community.  I knew who the journalist that interviewed me was, I know exactly which dispositions of the Law 78 I find unconstitutional, and I recognized my neighbours.

I felt overwhelming amounts of love for these people –

and pride to be standing with them, banging away for a better society.

For me, the most shocking thing about the whole crisis is the way that the government has handled it.  Initially, I was for some sort of tuition increase in one form or another, but opposed the dramatic increase being strong-armed by the government.  I was mad at the students the day they blocked Pont Champlain and forced me to take Jacques Cartier.  I hate the breaking of windows and throwing rocks and billiard balls at police officers.  I truly thought that a few were going to ruin things for everyone else.  But my anger soon turned towards the government.  My rage has been mounting, and the Law 78 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  La Commission Bastarache, le gaz de schiste, la Commission Charbonneau, la crise étudiante, la loi 78 – ceci est un gouvernement en perte de légitimité!  Sorry, that just came out in French.  The government is no longer legitimate in my eyes.

Has anyone else noticed the sexist nature of Charest’s strategic manipulations?  Why is it that he always throws women to the wolves?  Me Suzanne Côté defending him in the Commission Bastarache, Nathalie Normandeau taking the heat for the gaz de schist file (and then quitting politics altogether), la juge France Charbonneau heading the commission on corruption in the construction industry, (former) Education Minister Line Beauchamp, and now Michelle Courchesne – does nobody else see this?

Une crise sociale

It’s official – what started as a student movement has now become a social crisis in Québec.  Et tant mieux!  Instead of talking about tuition increases, we’re talking about how we feel about education and its role in Québec society and how we want to approach it!  Instead of talking about Law 78, we’re talking about governance and our social contract!  Instead of talking about the generation gap or anglos/francos, we are talking about the Québec population as a whole!  Now is the time for a leader to emerge and galvanize the hope that we are feeling at last, translate it into a projet de société commun.

I love you, Québec and Québécois(es).  I am in this with you for the long haul.  I believe.

Note: There will be more to come on this topic as I focus my thoughts, so stay tuned.

An Imposter’s Secrets to Awesomeness

One of the first logos I ever made was for the family farm, circa 1994. I made it in Paint (note the beautiful pixels), which only took about 8 gazillion hours – Do graphic designers get paid by the hour?

As I was writing an email to a coworker, entitled Tools that will Rock Your World, I felt a blog entry coming on!  You may have already deduced that I work for Girl Guides of Canada, as a Coordinator for Membership, Marketing and Public Relations.  In short, my dream job.  We have a new staff member at the office recently, who I have been helping to train – she is brilliant (which helps!) – but as I am passing her tips and trucs that have been enormous aid to me, I can’t help but feeling a bit like an imposter!  – And I’m darn proud of it!  So, now here comes the disclaimer:

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a graphic designer.  In fact, let’s just get right out and say it: I am not a graphic designer.  I have no aspirations to become one, freelance or otherwise, and this is mostly due to the fact that I have enormous respect for the profession!  Anyone can acquire Illustrator or Photoshop, but it doesn’t mean you can take the place of the REAL and incredibly gifted artists that are out there making a living at it.  If you need some work done, I recommend you contact either this amazing individual or this wonderful human being.

All that bein’ said, I can do me a darn spiffy job of purty-ing up stuff.

Imagine me saying that with a really hick accent, and you should have a pretty good idea of my design skills.  Self-taught out of part-necessity, part-inkling-of-interest, I have managed to crank out a halfway decent poster, pamphlet, logo, publication, even website or two.  But mostly because I have a particular personality that reunites all of the conditions for the perfect storm: I am a compulsive auto-didact that is stubborn as all hell who won’t settle for less than perfection and isn’t willing to pay for it either.  Yikes.

But hey, you can be an imposter too!

Here is the email I sent to my colleague:

Here are some fun things that will make you feel like a whiz-kid – and it’s so easy (for your “free” time at work).

Stock photos.  Making the transition from clip art to stock photos is a quick and easy way to make a publication look professional and sharp.  Free ones here. or you can just do a good ole Google image search (ps the theory has been tested – it is now impossible to do a Google image search without turning up some naked people).

Fonts. Using a font that nobody has seen before gets people all hot and bothered.  An easy way to make your publication look fresh and original.  Learn how to download and install fonts, but remember to then PDF because people that don’t have that font installed won’t be able to see it on their computer otherwise.  Download free awesome fonts here.

PhotoFiltre.  Don’t know how I functioned before I found PhotoFiltre.  It’s like the really simple free version of Photoshop without bells and whistles.  Get it here.  Get it.  Love it.

Microsoft Office Training.  Want to become an Office Goddess and make people think you are a genius?  Well, you are a genius, but now you’ll be a trained one.  The 2007 module on Publisher has been rocking my socks since 1982: Get it here.

There.  You now know ALL of my secrets to awesomeness.  But remember, mad skills will never replace good taste and bold confidence.  Give yourself permission to be creative and let the good times roll.

I still remember the good old days when one of the first wacky fonts I downloaded for an Erotic Bingo poster was called Fuzzy Cootie. Not your grandma’s bingo.

I guess I should put together a portfolio, but then again, maybe not.  Here are some samples of my work, for better or for worse.  Be kind.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, go forth!  Learn!  Create!  Be Fearless, Shameless and Unapologetic!  Je vous aime!

Personal and Professional Development vs. Self-Acceptance: Who wins here?

I am told this is my “intense” look. I guess I was a little intense on my wedding day.

I can get a bit intense, or so I’m told.  A cherished colleague of mine recently said to me, “Dang, girl, what are you trying to prove and to whom!?”  Whatever could she be referring to?

I am a fervent believer in personal and professional development.  To define terms here, I will be considering them as one in the same.  When it comes to EKL, what you see is what you get – at both the board room table and the kitchen table.  Personal/professional development is identifying development areas, targeting actions to increase knowledge or experience in those areas – basically, planning your awesomeness.  Raise your hand if you have a 5-year plan!  Raise it again if you also have a personal marketing plan, short and long-term action plans, complete with key performance indicators!  Oh, that’s just me?  Yeah, I guess I am a bit intense.  What am I trying to prove?

My same dear colleague suggested that I accept myself for who I am, where I am in life, and let things happen naturally.  The Self-Acceptance Hippie inside me heaved a huge sigh of relief, while the Self-Improvement Junkie got all indignant.  The Hippie was thinking, phew!  I can just be myself and that’s okay?  The Junkie hollered, no!  That’s not okay!  You must strive for perfection!

Striking a balance between Self-Improvement and Self-Acceptance – that’s a humdinger for us gen-yers!

I am a product of our times, so what do I do?  I decide that 90 minutes of hot yoga in a 40°C room with the uber-tough prof was just the place to explore this notion.

Dripping with sweat and looking like the literal definition of a hot mess, I revel in pushing my limits, while at the same time observing them without judgement.  One of my favourite postures is Natarajasana (dancing shiva pose).  Taking root into the ground on one leg, you equally reach to the sky with your hand and stretch upwards with the opposite leg.  Opening, lengthening, balancing, grounding and floating, this pose builds determination and focus.  I observe, this is where I am today.  I stretch, the good kind that lengthens and builds, not injures.  I am present.

Young women, learn to practice your career the way you practice yoga.

You may think this sounds like the Hippie talking, but hear me out.  The women who blazed trails before us left us with a resounding message: You have to work harder to get less.  I am not saying whether this is right or wrong, but it was definitely a notion that I internalized at a very young age.  Be not just ultra-educated, but have top grades.  In fact, be the best at everything – the world is your oyster and if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.  And my generation dreams larger than life.

Stretching without injury

With your eyes on the prize, it is hard to remember to take stock of everything that has to happen between point A and point B.  Keep your eyes on the prize, but develop strategies to get there that include bite-sized action plans.  Set intermediate, short and even super short mini-term goals (this really helps satisfy our instant-gratification nature – try it, you’ll love it!).  One of the major advantages as well is being able to refine your strategies and objectives in mid-climb!  But above all, don’t barrel headlong towards your long-term goals with tunnel-vision…that’s just asking for a burn-out by the time you hit 30!

Observing without judgement

Know yourself.  Be present enough to be able to do a personal inventory, but be kind and generous enough to do it without judgement or accusation.  Think of this exercise as measuring your potential!  There are lots of skills you may not have yet, but you are brilliant and capable and motivated – you will have them one day with your bite-sized action plan.  No need to beat yourself up for not knowing something that you haven’t gone out and learned yet!

Take root with energy equal to that with which you reach for the sky

‘Nuff said.  Namaste!

This is not me. Let’s just say this is not where I am at yet…one day!

“Social Media, YEEHAW”: A Cowgirl’s Take on the Final Frontier

This cowgirl and "Sarah Palin". It's a long story.

This cowgirl and “Sarah Palin”. It’s a long story.

I say “God, I love social media” at least once a day.  Even after all these years there is still something mysterious and intriguing about the net, and that just downright tickles this little lady.  My partner says I am “abnormally curious”.

I consider myself a social media “newbie”, although that’s not really accurate.  I joined Facebook in 2005, was on MySpace for like a day (omg is my profile still out there??), have been blogging in various different forms since 2003, and if we include AIM, MSN, ICQ, and all those chat do-hickeys, yes, I have been social media-ing for over 10 years.  I now know just enough to get myself in real trouble in just about all of the ways you can social network.  But, it just sounds better to say “newbie” than “has over 10 years of experience but still has only a vague idea of what she’s doing”.  It’s hard to admit, right?  With the appearance of the term Social Media Guru, it makes it sound like there are actually people out there that have reached social media enlightenment, whereas I contend that the Social Media/Online Community Managers/Digital Specialists/etc. out there are more often people like me – students of the practice.  I am humbled frequently by all that I have yet to learn.

For this seeker of the avant-garde/amusée of the unknown/innovation aficionado, it’s enough to get me hot and bothered – and this past week has been practically orgasmic!

Rush Limbaugh vs. Sandra Fluke

In what is purported by his own website to be “the most listened to radio talk show in America”, Rush Limbaugh described “Susan” Fluke (her actual name is Sandra) as a “slut”, “prostitute”, “whore”.  Who is Sandra Fluke?  A 3rd-year student at Georgetown Law School, Ms. Fluke testified at the House of Representatives hearing on women’s health and contraceptives in favour of insured coverage for contraception.

10 years ago, what would have happened?  Heck, even 5 years ago.  The outrage would have been the same, but the response, very different.  Perhaps we would have written letters or taken out an ad in a paper like this one:

"Traditional" media still has an impact. Ad seen in the New York Times (March 4, 2012).

“Traditional” media still has an impact. Ad seen in the New York Times (March 4, 2012).

I am not saying that this doesn’t have an impact, what I am saying is that its impact is compounded by it getting immediately posted on Facebook and Twitter, and then going viral.  Even the fact that I can link to the original footage at the heart of the controversy thanks to YouTube is pretty amazing.

But the real magic in all of this is as small as a click.  Numbers.

We can now measure outrage in hits, views, retweets and shares – for all the world to see.  When you start adding  everything up, you start to have a real impact.  Rush Limbaugh, despite his apology-that-is-hardly-an-apology, lost TWELVE advertisers and two broadcasters!  There are economic consequences to blatant sexism and degradation in the age of social media!  At last!  And what’s even better, we can now THANK those businesses that chose to part ways with Limbaugh to confirm that their interpretation of those numbers are correct.  This is indeed what the people want.

Kony 2012

Do you know who Joseph Kony is?  If you don’t, you obviously haven’t been connected to the internet in the past 72 hours!  The rise of Kony and the fall of Invisible Children were swift and global.

I checked my email early Monday morning to find this video (Kony 2012, 29:52, by Invisible Children), which I promptly watched.  Then checking my FB and Twitter, holy crap it was everywhere filling up my newsfeeds.  The hashtags #StopKony, #MakeKonyFamous, #Kony2012 were trending GLOBALLY on Twitter.  Within 2 hours, events were organized to take to the streets on April 20th (as the video instructs).  Within 3 hours, harsh critiques started cropping up, giving the whole thing the allure of a scam.

Now, the content may not have all been published in that short of a time span, but that is how the virality was hitting my online communities.  Bing, bang, boom!  Wildfire on the prairies!  YEEHAW!

International Women’s Day

March 8th rocked my socks this year.  There were a ton of really inspired events taking place, and I wish I could have attended all of them!  A quick shout-out to the social media mistresses that organized the Tweet-up Féministe, when I am awesomer (and wealthier) and have a phone that can handle social medias (gasp, yes, I admit it, I have an antique Blackberry that does email, that’s it that’s all) I will be a very enthusiastic live-tweeter.  Which I could turn into a conversation about social media and privilege, socio-economic status, etc, but let’s stay focused here.

One of the events I did end up attending was a screening of Miss Representation followed by a powerhouse panel of amazing women.  One of the panelists remarked that there is a lack of girl news in the media.  Which got me thinking – that’s another noteworthy impact that social media has had on us – we now get to choose our news…to a highly refined extent.  When she made that comment, I couldn’t help but thinking that I see girl news everywhere, all the time.  But then I remembered that I live in Vagina Land, that magical wonderful place in which I am surrounded by like-minded individuals (or at least ones that don’t shock and offend me), girl news is omnipresent and positive messaging abounds.

When I leave Vagina Land, like watching television for example, my husband and I play games like “point it out when a commercial does NOT offend you”.  It’s hard leaving Vagina Land.  I worry sometimes that in my social media bubble where I alone choose who I follow, like or subscribe to, I am missing out on a more objective view of the whole.  Where do my values stand in relationship to the rest of society?  Is Vagina Land just as isolationist and extreme as Tea Party Land?

Another panelist noted a fact that I deem essential in navigating the social media jungle.  While yes, clicking, viewing, retweeting and sharing does have an impact, sometimes you need to get off your computer and speak to real people and take action as well.

The cowgirl’s take: Social media this International Women’s Week was about rompin’ and stompin’ the bad guys.  What are you posting?

MissRep Review: An Unanticipated Reaction

The documentary Miss Representation, by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and aired on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.

Ok, let’s be honest, this is not actually a review.  Rather, it’s an anecdote of this girl’s response to watching the documentary for the first time – one that took me wholeheartedly by surprise.

I have the best husband there ever was, that ever will be.  It’s Saturday night, I’ve been working all day (yes, on a Saturday), and I come home about 2 hours later than originally planned.  The woodsy odor of toasted almonds greets me as I open the door – Sole amandine, my favourite.  He tells me that we’re having a movie night.  Perfect.  What’s on the schedule?  First up, Miss Representation.  I melt.  I have managed to marry the most feminist man on the planet.  (Second up is Dédé à travers les brumes, another great choice, btw).

One of the reasons I was so psyched to be seeing MissRep right then was because I am planning on attending a screening and panel discussion on the documentary for International Women’s Day (March 8th).  I thought it would behoove me to see it for myself first, reflect, and then have intelligent things to say or questions to ask. I’m not that good on the spot.

Plus, I’ve been dying to see it since watching the trailer.  The trailer was sent to me by a fellow Girl Guide back in October.  Her commentary was short and sweet: This is why girls need Guides.  Watching it back then was like getting punched in the stomach.  Alone in my office, eyes wide, it made me feel sick, physically nauseated.  Powerful.

So, my husband and I sat down with our dinner and away we go.  What was I expecting?  I thought I would be shocked, outraged, called to arms, indignant.  Yes, I felt that.  What I didn’t expect was guilt, affliction, grief.  3 minutes into the film I burst into tears, and they continued to flow for the duration.

I cried my heart out for the entire 90 minutes of Miss Representation.  I cried for myself, I cried for every woman I had met and those I hadn’t, I cried for men, for children, for America.  I even cried for Sarah Palin.

In my drama and despair, I told my partner that I could not bear the risk of bringing a child into this world.  I realized that the world that I believe in and dream of is generations away from reality, that my children will be victims the way that we are victims, without any way of knowing if it will get better.  I told him I felt like I was wasting my time with non-profits empowering women and girls – that my passion would be better utilized in the corporate world or in politics.

He stopped the film.  He’s not used to seeing me feeling hopeless, and I can see that I’ve got him worried.  He knows that I want to have children with all of my heart.  He knows that I believe that the struggle is not just necessary, it is essential to work to improve the lives of future generations.  He knows it.  I know it.  But for 90 intense minutes, the dark side caught up with me.

It is important to look at the dark side.  But it is also important to bring as much light with you as possible!

The light that you bring with you when you examine and explore the most painful parts of humanity is the love that you have for humanity.  You bring your friends, you bring your partner, you bring your family and even that jerk that cut you off on your way in to work.  You bring every ounce of forgiveness you can muster.

Saturday night I held on to my darling husband and counted my lucky stars.  I will keep up the fight and generating light.  Roland Barthes asks: Is it better to last or to burn?  I say you gotta do both – you need to just keep adding fuel.


Miss Representation Trailer: It’s 8 minutes and 52 seconds that are worth your time.  Watch it.