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Filtering by Category: Girl Power

#IBELIEVEHER

Cindy Maddera

It must be a shock to you, after all this time, that we are finally standing up and fighting back. You’ve spent so much of your life believing that you had the advantage, that you could do whatever you wanted, when you wanted with out consequences. You’ve spent much of your life believing that our bodies where meant for you to use. I mean, why shouldn’t you believe that? Our bodies are on display in advertisements plastered across all media formats. Business models are specifically designed to lure you into their stores with the promise of a beautiful scantily clad women for you to abuse. There are no laws that govern your body.

Except now we are no longer willing to silently put up with your “boys will be boys” mentality. We are no longer willing to let you just go on without being held accountable for your actions. We are no longer willing to let you bully us. When one of our tribe steps up and points a finger at the man who assaulted her, no matter how old the crime may be, we believe her. We believe her and stand behind her because it could just as easily be any of us speaking up. We stand behind her and support her because we know how scary speaking up is. We know her fear. We know the shame she feels. We know the hurt she feels. We are a collective, brought together by similar experiences, afraid to speak up. Afraid that no one will believe us. We’ve been told our whole lives that women are liars, temptresses, sirens. We’ve been told that we were asking for it. We’ve been told to keep it a secret. No. We’ve been threatened to keep it a secret. And then you sit there arms crossed and ask “why didn’t you say so sooner?” after you threaten a girl with her life if she says a word.

What was the tipping point? I don’t know. Maybe it was your unfailing devotion to a man who openly, without qualms, gleefully humiliates women and your insistence on making such a man leader of this country. Really though, it has been brewing and festering for years before that. It is one thing for us to declare that we will no longer allow you to govern our bodies. It is quite another to take action to legally keep you from governing our bodies. Which is what you have done to us for years. The statue of limitations does not run out on your crimes against women and you are no less guilty of those crimes just because she didn’t speak up. You are no longer allowed to bully us. You are no longer allowed to just get away with it.

I get it though, change is hard. It’s not easy giving up a way of life you known for far too long. It’s not easy giving up your roll as bully or always getting your way. But if you’re not going to change, then be prepared for the consequences.

It’s your turn to feel threatened.

MARCH WHOOP-DEE-WOO

Cindy Maddera

Every year, each member of my department fills out a NCAA Men's Basketball bracket. We tape them up to a wall and there is a complicated point system for determining who wins the brackets. I don't know anything about basketball, but I fill out a bracket every year because it's kind of fun. Especially if your bracket does well and you know nothing about basketball. We don't have a prize other than bragging rights. It fosters camaraderie. My bracket is already dead seeing how I picked Virginia to win the whole kit-and-caboodle. Any way. That's March Madness for you. There's always some big surprise and upset.

This year I thought I'd shake things up around here and make us all fill out brackets for the NCAA Women's Basketball Championships. Actually, the more I thought about it the more I wondered why we never filled out a bracket for women's basketball before and I got a little irritated. Now to be fair, I don't know anything about women's basketball either except U.Conn is THE team. I don't watch basketball because it makes me nervous. I get so anxious watching the ball move from one end of the court to another that if I don't turn it off, I will need to take drugs. That being said, I fully recognize the amount of work and skill that is required to be a good ball player. It is an intense sport no matter what gender is playing it. So I kind of felt like our lack of filling out women's brackets was bullshit, but when I went online to get a printable bracket for the Women's Basketball Championship, I had the hardest time finding a printable bracket. I found interactive brackets, but an actual printable one was not easy to get ahold of. The one I did end up printing is kind of crappy. The spaces for writing in teams are small and confusing. They really just don't make it easy to follow the Women's Championship. 

And this made me mad. 

Why is it that women's sports, in general, are ignored? I mean, women play just as hard (at times harder) and as intensely as men in these sports. A number of the WNBA players are mothers. New mothers. They're juggling babies while getting their bodies back into playing shape and traveling across the country with that baby. I read an article from 2015 about Taylor Hill, a guard for the Mystics. Her son was a one year old at the time. The team checked into their hotel on Tuesday for a Wednesday game. In the time after checkin and before the Wednesday game, Taylor unpacked her luggage, fixed baby bottles, changed diapers, attended practice, planed and hosted a birthday party. These women work hard off and on the court, but still Women's basketball has yet to bring in the hype and endorsements equivalent to Men's basketball. Women's basketball is not the only sport to fall victim to this either. Just last year the women of the U.S. Soccer team, sued the U.S. Soccer Association for equal pay. From 2012 to 2016, the women's national team played 40 to 50% more games than the men's team. And they make less money than the male players. 

The argument for not paying women in sports equally comes down to endorsements. Not that the college players get any money from the endorsements, but it does set the precedence for professional sports.  "Well... the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship just doesn't bring in the outside money like the men's does." So maybe it's time we start voting with our money and promoting women's basketball. The more we turn our attention to it, the more advertisers will want to be involved. Sports related TV channels will make it easier to follow the championships and they'll come up with a better printable bracket. When I made the announcement to the group about filling out a women's bracket. I was met with very mild enthusiasm, but they filled out a bracket.  One person said "but no one cares about women's basketball." I looked at that one person and said "we do now!" 

We do now!

 

UNCOMFORTABLE

Cindy Maddera

I've had some thoughts rolling around my brain for a few weeks now that I haven't felt eloquent enough to put down into words. Those thoughts center around the #MeToo movement and all of the commentary involved. Several days ago, Michael was trying to remember the name of some celebrity and he asked "Who's that guy who recently exposed himself?" and I replied "which one?" We narrowed it down to James Franco, but still...it could have been any male. I think that most guys hearing these stories of exposed penises think that this is a rare event or it's not so bad as long as the guy is not in a position of authority. First of all, exposed penises are not rare occurrences and secondly exposing your penis is bad. END OF FUCKING SENTENCE!

I'm going to make up some statistics and just say that one out four women are unwillingly exposed to a male penis every day. More often than not it is some random stranger on the bus, subway, in the park, walking down the sidewalk, standing in line at the grocery store, at the gas station. Pretty much anywhere. My friend Sarah was recently talking to a group of women about the #MeToo movement when one woman spoke up and said that she didn't understand how so many women could be coming forward with these kinds of stories. She said that nothing bad had ever happened to her. Then she told a story about how there was this one time while working at a fast food place when the other employee working with her that day pulled out his dick, but nothing happened. She thought this was maybe not normal, but just something that occasionally happened. No big deal. Just a penis. This brings me to my next topic, which I've been struggling to articulate about in discussions and that topic relates to the Aziz Ansari story where a woman described an encounter that made her cry. People are wondering if this qualifies as sexual harassment and why she just didn't remove herself from the situation. It also applies to that poor woman who didn't realize she was being sexually harassed by her co-worker.

Women are enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time. And to ignore their discomfort.

That sentence comes from a really well written article called The Female Price of Male Pleasure. I recommend that you go over and read it right this minute because it talks about an issue that is just not discussed and it is an issue that really really needs discussion. In fact, it is the type of discussion that could clear up some things for the men who are confused by all of these tales of sexual assault. If you read that article, you will find that women and men have way different scales for what constitutes good sex vs bad sex. Women consider the sex 'good' if she didn't feel coerced or more likely it didn't hurt. Not if she orgasmed. Our pleasure comes second if at all or when we are alone and have no one to please but ourselves. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 5% of women between the ages of 25-29 masturbate more than four times a week compared to 20% of men who do. That number evens out a little for those who masturbate multiple times a month (something like 21% of women 25-29 and 25% of men in the same age bracket). But I'm curious to know how honestly those women responded to that survey. 

We got the Cabbage a new electric toothbrush for Christmas and it sounds like a vibrator. Over the weekend, I was walking through the living room and I asked "did she brush her teeth?" Michael replied "No. Did you here her vibrator?" Which we both laughed at and then I said something about when the Cabbage is older we're going to wonder why she brushes her teeth so much. Though we were making a joke of it at the time, it made me realize that female masturbation is not something often talked about, particularly when it comes to teenagers. When people talk about teenage masturbation it is almost always in regards to their teenage son. No one ever mentions the idea that the teenage daughter is masturbating. So right off the bat, as young women are learning about their bodies for health reasons, they are also learning that their own sexual pleasure is something that doesn't happen or is shameful and should be kept secret. 

When Michael and I started talking about the issue with Ansari, Michael said that it was that girl's responsibility to say something and get herself out of the situation. I agreed with him, but said "it's not as easy to do as that sounds." He was dumbfounded by this and I stopped talking because I couldn't find a way to explain to him why it is that getting out of unwanted sexual encounters, even if the guy is nice about it, is so difficult. It's almost even more difficult if the guy is nice. Because women have been cultured to please, even in disregard to her own pleasure. It may be hard to understand, but sometimes doing the thing you don't want to do is the easiest solution to a get away. Raise your hand if you have had sex when you didn't really want to have sex. I am positive that there are men out there who are raising their hands because I've heard Michael say it. So I ask you, why didn't you just make it clear that you didn't want to have sex and leave the situation?

It is not an easy question to answer.  

 

PUSSY

Cindy Maddera

The other day, we were all standing around talking about various music artists, when someone mentioned John Denver. I said "Every time a John Denver song comes on the radio, Michael turns it off and calls John Denver a 'pussy'. Which bothers me." It doesn't bother me because I like hearing John Denver sing about sunshine and country roads. His songs were among the songs we would sing around the campfire. Sure, his lyrics tend to lean towards happy optimism, but sometimes after you've been listening to a whole lot of Cure, a little happy optimism is nice. Michael's dislike of John Denver is not the issue here. It is his use of the word 'pussy' to describe someone he sees as weak and wimpy. He is not alone in this use of language and really the only time I've ever heard him call someone a pussy, that someone has always been John Denver. But still...

Definition of pussy in English

1. A cat

2. A woman's genitals

    2.1 Women in general, considered sexually

    2.2 A weak, cowardly, effeminate man  

In 2009, a woman broke vaginal weight lifting records when she attached weights to an egg, inserted that egg into her vagina and lifted thirty pounds by contracting her Kegel muscles. The human vagina is lined with ringed muscular ridges that can contract and expand and during childbirth, those muscles expand up to 200 percent. In rare cases, the vagina has been known to spasm and clamp down on a penis hard enough to inflict pain. The vagina is just one organ that makes up the complicated system that is women's genitals. The vagina and the vulva are often confused structures. Let me clear that up for you. The vagina is inside and vulva refers to the outside structures like the labia and clitoris. The clitoris has over 8,000 nerve endings, twice as many as the penis. There is no doubt in the strength of the female reproductive system

Last year, 2.6 million people marched in the Women's March, a march that screamed to the world that women will no longer put up with inequality, harassment and disrespect. We wore pussy hats and carried signs that read 'not my pussy'. We proved to the world that the pussy is mighty. Yet, we are still using female words like 'pussy' as an insult to describe weakness. I think if any offensive adjective is required to describe weakness and cowardice it should be 'limp dick'. Though I don't condone it. Two wrongs never make a right. Just say that person is weak. As Seth Meyers said at the Golden Globes: "It's 2018, marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn't." This also applies to our language. This is the year that we remove article 2.2 from the definition for the word 'pussy'. 

Wait.

This is the year we rewrite the definition for the word 'pussy' to say 'strong and amazing'. 

ME TOO

Cindy Maddera

There was a man at my church, who whenever he saw me would want to pick me up and carry me around. He'd ask me to kiss his cheek. I was maybe five or six. I remember being small and feeling his large hand tight around my upper thigh, just under the skirt of my church dress. The first time he did this, it made me laugh. Every little kid wants to be picked up and carried around. I was just at that age were I was too big to be carried around by my Dad. So being picked up was a treat. But then this man did this every time he saw me, picking me up and squeezing me tight. He was always begging for kisses even though I pushed away. I didn't want to be picked up. I didn't want to feel his hands on my body. I didn't want to kiss his cheek. But I played along because I didn't want to hurt his feelings and when I couldn't take another encounter with him, I started hiding, ducking behind a bookshelf or into a stairwell. 

I thought for a long time that this is just the way things are. A woman's body is never just her own. In everything I had seen on TV, covers of magazines and the romance novels that piled up next to my mother's bedside table, a woman was always being manhandled. We were told this was normal and that this is what we should want. We should want a man to touch our bodies. We should be flattered by it. We should even use it to our advantage. As a young girl and teen, those moments when a boy tried to touch me were so rare, that when it did happen, I almost felt grateful. I had zero confidence in my body or how I looked and those rare encounters made me believe for a moment that maybe I was attractive. Maybe I wasn't just a chubby pimply faced awkward girl. We were taught that our self worth was measured by how much a man wanted to touch your body, even if his touch makes you feel like throwing up. 

It wasn't until college when I found my voice. I'd hang out with my roommate in the guys dorms. She had a thing for one of the basketball players and we'd sit in his room while they smoked pot and listened to R Kelly. One of the other basketball players was always trying 'get with me'. Those where his words. He was never forceful, just persistent. His persistence made me feel uncomfortable, like there was something wrong with me for not wanting to be with this guy, for not wanting him to touch me. Maybe I was 'frigid'. I had yet to lose my virginity. Was it because I wouldn't just give in, even when I felt nothing for this guy other than annoyance? It seemed like punishment for having standards, for wanting a partner who was my equal. Punishment for wanting a partner who treated my body less like an object and more like a temple. One day, for no reason other than I had finally had enough, I told that guy "NO". I told him that his advances made me feel uncomfortable. It made me not want to be around him. So I wasn't. I walked away and stayed away. 

Then there was Chris, who was that equal partner. He treated my inexperience carefully and gently. He did not persist. He let me make my first skittish moves. He let my body be my own. This in itself made me feel more attractive than any of those previous encounters. Chris was a protective barrier to a point, but Chris's presence didn't stop other men from the occasional touch. There's always that guy who thinks it's just fine to pat you on the ass. After Chris, when I was alone, I found myself in more and more situations where a guy would find excuses to touch me. I would recoil, step back, jump away. Even though there were times I craved human touch, I did not welcome this encroachment on my personal space. I did not encourage it. I was never asking for it. A couple of years ago, I went to get a massage. It was at a spa I'd been to before, with a massage therapist I had been with once before. Near the end he asked me if he could massage my chest. I was just recovering from a chest cold and the muscles in the upper part of my chest were tight. I consented thinking that the massage therapist was going to work on that area, which he did. Then his hands were on my breasts. I remember thinking even then 'this is okay, there's muscles there too that need to be released', reassuring myself. Then his hands moved to my nipples and alarm bells rang in my head. This was not okay. But I laid there and let it happen, too ashamed to say a word. 

So many people wonder why it has taken so long for all of these women to come forward with their confessions of sexual harassment. Those people must be fortunate enough to never have experienced the shame and humiliation that comes from being sexually harassed. I have never told the story about the massage therapist to any one, until today. At the time it was happening, I was too shocked to believe it was really happening. Then, I was ashamed of myself and embarrassed. I had given him permission to massage my chest and when he crossed a line, I did nothing to stop it. I had asked for it, right? Except it does not make his actions right. What about that man from church? I never told him "no". I never asked him verbally to stop. I was six. Just because I didn't say no, does not make his actions right either. Admitting that you were vulnerable and trusted another human to not take advantage of your vulnerability is not an easy thing to do. 

It takes a lot of courage. 

Every woman who steps forward, even if it has been years since the incident, gives another woman courage to speak. It sends the message to every man that we will not stay silent and we will not let you behave this way. Fathers who thought this could never happen to their daughters or brothers who believed they could protect their little sisters from predators, are now aware that, yes this can happen. Because I am positive that there are fathers out there who truly believe that this is not going to happen to his little girl. My own brother is probably going to be completely surprised by my own stories of sexual harassment. For far too long we've let society put the blame on the victim and it has silenced us. It stops now. I'd like to believe that the Cabbage is never going to have to tell a story about being sexually harassed. Though, I am not that naive. I don't want her to feel ashamed. I don't want her to be scared to speak up, to scream "NO!". I want her to know that she owns her own body, and nobody else does. 

That's why I am telling my story. 

I'VE GOT BOOBS AND AN IPHONE

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I left to the concert only to get to our car who's battery was dead. You see, when Michael parked the car, he put it in park and then just got out. I sat there for a minute wondering if he was going to figure out that he'd left the car running, but he was busy marking our parking spot on the map for later. So, I reached over and killed the ignition and retrieved the keys. Turns out that when this is done after the driver side door has been shut, the car lights decide to not shut off on their own. They stay on and drain the battery. We got into the car and nothing happened. 

Right at that moment, a guy on a golf cart drove by and we flagged him down. Michael asked him about getting a jumpstart from someone. The young guy looked at us and said "uhhh...yeah...uhhh..let me go check on that." Then he left and we never saw him again. We stood there for five minutes or so trying to figure out what to do next. Occasionally someone would walk by and we'd ask if they had jumper cables. No one had jumper cables or they were parked "way over that away". Michael looked at me and said "I'm going for help" and he walked off in the direction of the stadium. Meanwhile, I stayed with the car and continued to ask people as they walked by if they could help. 

Two men walked by and I stepped up and asked them if they had jumper cables. The guy who answered said "We're parked way over at the Taco Bell. I got tacos! But Hey, You've got boobs and an iPhone, so you should be okay." I don't even know if I managed to get any words out. Now that I think about I might have said "thank you" and if that's true, then I'm punching myself in the face. But I'm pretty sure that I mumbled a thank you as I stood there by my car with the hood up and an awkward half smile on my face. A few minutes later my phone started ringing. It was Michael and he'd found real help from an actual tow-truck service provided by stadium parking. When he got back to the car, I told him about what had happened. He said that it was probably a good thing he hadn't been there. The tow truck guy arrived and we got to work on getting the car started and then headed home.

On our way home, Michael asked me how I felt about the whole thing with the taco guy. I told him that at the time of it happening, I was too stunned to really think about anything, but now I'm super pissed that I wasn't quick enough to come up with a witty and cutting reply for the jerk. Michael wanted to know how big the guy was and if he could have beaten the jerk up. This must be a Y chromosome thing. I appreciate the sentiment, but I could have beaten the guy up and had in fact been wearing the proper shoes to do so. When I posted the exchange on Facebook, I had one commenter suggest that I really did have an upper hand because of my boobs and phone, while the jerk only had tacos. I've had a really hard time letting this comment go. Again, I'm sure he means well but it is an ignorant, naive and stereotypical response. 

First of all, having boobs has nothing to do with my ability to properly apply jumper cables to my own car battery. Implying that I need to 'use' my body parts to get some other person to do this for me, is insulting. Secondly, I know that this commenter has daughters, which leads me to wonder what he's teaching them. I have an image of his lesson forming in my brain where he says "Now girls, when you get a flat tire, here's what you need to do. Reach your hands inside your bra and plump up your bosoms. You might even lean forward to reposition them in your bra. Then tug your t-shirt down low. When a guy stops and asks you if you need any help, lean into him slightly, leading with your breasts. After he's done changing the tire for you, he may decide to cop a feel. This is understandable considering you did use your boobs as leverage for his services. I say, go ahead and let him. It's the least you can do for him changing your tire." 

Men, I want you to imagine teaching your own daughters that lesson. Yeah...just go ahead and teach them how to show a little cleavage instead of how to actually change the tire on their car or how to hook up jumper cables. Look into your perfect little angle's eyes and tell her that it is perfectly acceptable for men to objectify her body. Because that is what you are doing every time you say objectifying words to another woman. 

But, I mean, hey! If you've got boobs and an iPhone, baby you can do anything. 

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

Cindy Maddera

Not too long ago, I was listening to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on the way to the grocery store. The question up for answering had to do with dragonflies and their mating habits. What does a female dragonfly do to avoid an amorous male? It sounds like a joke right? Like you're sitting there waiting for a punchline and the answer does kind of sound like a punchline. The female dragonfly will play dead in order to avoid unwanted attention from a male dragonfly. She will literally drop out of the air and crash into the ground, arms and legs curled in and body stiff with false rigor mortis. All of this effort is to avoid unwanted attention. Now, here is where the language differences between men and women become so blatantly obvious. When the men participating on the show heard the answer to this question, they all said something like "Man! She'd rather die than have sex with you!" and all the women said something about "knowing exactly how it feels to be that desperate to just be left alone."

Men saw it as the ultimate insult. Women nodded their heads in complete understanding. This particular female male dynamic transverses species. 

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy sex. Regular readers here know that I enjoy sex. I don't see any point in being coy about enjoying sex or pretending that I would rather be eating chocolate cake. The feminists before me paved the way for women to own their sexuality, be proud of it even. I also like to feel desired. Genuine compliments from that special someone just makes a person feel good about themselves. Those are moments of wanted attention, a behavior that also transverses species. There's a species of South African frogs that when the female has eggs ready for fertilization, she doesn't wait for a throaty call from a male. She starts making her own noises to call the boy to her. She lets it be known that she wants attention. As it should be.

It is amazing to me that we have made so many advances in equality and yet a woman still can not go out alone without the worry of being accosted in some way. If you are sitting by yourself in a cafe, you are probably just waiting for someone, got stood up for a date, or you are a sad lonely lady who probably has a bunch of cats living with you in a one bedroom apartment. There is something wrong with a woman sitting alone. It is for some reason, wired into the male brain that this woman doesn't want to be sitting alone. She is most likely just pretending to be working on that laptop. The fact that she is completely ignoring your idea of a smoldering stare and your random attempts at small talk doesn't clue you in that you are providing unwanted attention. Every time a woman steps outside to walk down the street, she is taking the chance that someone is going to yell something at her regarding the way she walks, what she is wearing or something about how she needs to smile more.

This type of guy is the male dragonfly you don't want anything to do with. He's constantly buzzing up, getting in your way, when all you want to do is get to that lili pad on the other side of the pond and maybe catch something to eat. It's really that simple. You are not interested and you are just tired of finding some way of conveying that you are not interested without encouraging more attention. It would be easier to drop to the ground and play dead. The female dragonfly just might be onto something here. I used to think that the praying mantis had it right with sexual cannibalism. Then I read that the female mantis only bites the male's head off while mating if she's malnourished. Also, if it is mildly unacceptable for a guy to cat call a woman, it has got to be highly unacceptable to rip is head off and eat it. 

Sure, I have reached that age where this stuff doesn't really happen to me all that often. Occasionally when I'm stuck at a stop light while riding the scooter, I have to pretend not to notice the guy yelling at me from the bus stop or that dude with his arm laying on his rolled down window who is looking me up and down while picking at his tooth with a toothpick. That's the guy who usually asks me something about gas mileage and 'how much my tank holds'. For the most part, I've joined the invisible women club which is sad in it's own way, but this doesn't exclude me from having the same experience where you find yourself rolling your eyes at that guy who thinks his ridiculous cat calling is going to make you want to kiss him on the mouth. 

No it doesn't. It just makes me want to play dead. 

 

BOSSY NASTY LESBIAN

Cindy Maddera

There's some stuff that has been bothering me and I need to rant about those things. On Saturday, while on Hole Patrol, I was using the bullhorn to call up the next team and to remind people to buy raffle tickets and mulligans, a young man snapped his fingers at me. Then he said "ooohhh....bossy authoritative lesbian with a bullhorn!" I paused and said "Wait. What part of this makes me a lesbian?" His reply was that bossy and authoritative obviously meant I was a lesbian. He then hung out at the bar for a bit and would occasionally yell out "that's what a lesbian would say." whenever I said something he thought a lesbian would say.

You guys know me. You know that it doesn't matter a hill of beans if someone thinks I am a lesbian. The part about all of this that got under my skin was the linking of my sexuality to being able to take charge of the current situation. There is also great irony in hearing misogyny come from a gay man. This encounter could have easily just fallen to the way side without mentioning, but the next day I was watching an interview with Kellyanne Conway on CBS Sunday Morning and that dress she wore to the inauguration came up. Kellyanne said that she didn't care what all those black stretchy pant people out there had to say about it. This caused me to shake my head and think "Oh, Kellyanne". Her defense was to say something negative about other women's clothing when her response should have been how ridiculous it is to still be having a conversation about the dress she wore instead of real issues like health care and why she lied about Bowling Green. 

Look, Kellyanne Conway is not one of those women I'd choose to have over for an all girls dinner party, but that has nothing to do with her appearance. I disagree with her ideas and lying. Though it might be interesting to just pick her brain, scientifically speaking that is.  Kellyanne is a strong, hard working woman. She's working a very stressful job (that is taking a tole on her physically; Kellyanne please eat a sandwich). She's in the process of moving her husband and three children to Washington while two of those children are begging to not make that move. This could be any one of us. Disagree with her policies and her words, but hurling tweets at her like "you're a whore" or "you stupid bitch" makes you no better than this current president. A negative plus a negative does not equal a positive.

During the campaign, an hour after telling the American people how much respect Trump had for women, he called Hillary Clinton a 'nasty woman' during a PRESIDENTIAL debate. Does any one know what prompted Trump to call her this? 

CLINTON: Well, Chris, I am on record as saying that we need to put more money into the Social Security Trust Fund. That's part of my commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy. My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it. But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund . ..

TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.

CLINTON: . . .  by making sure that we have sufficient resources, and that will come from either raising the cap and/or finding other ways to get more money into it. I will not cut benefits. I want to enhance benefits for low-income workers and for women who have been disadvantaged by the current Social Security system . ..

Trump called Hillary Clinton a 'nasty woman' because her ideas on how to handle social security did not align with his own ideas and included a side eye to his non-disclosed taxes. Which he still has not disclosed, but that's another rant. Now, many of us women may have taken that phrase back and have turned it into something positive. We also use it to make sure no one ever forgets the misogyny of this president. So...for the people who just don't understand, let me put it as simply as possible: a man calling a woman 'nasty' or 'bitch' or 'bossy lesbian' simply because she has said something he disagrees with is misogynistic. 

Equality is more than just about a paycheck. It is about respect and an acknowledgement to an equal contribution to our communities, our society and to great innovative ideas that make our communities and society a better place. We all want equality regardless of gender, race, religion and or sexuality. The positive and negative impacts we make are a choice.

Choose to be better. 

BOOBS

Cindy Maddera

I used to wear a thin cotton bra. I didn't really know much about bras other than I needed to wear one. I liked the cotton ones because at least they were comfortable. The problem was, is, that I have nipples. Chris used to say that I had the kind of nipples that you could hang a hat on. This was something I also didn't know. I wasn't conscious of the showiness of my own body or that this was something that drew attention. I'd be standing in a room and suddenly I'd hear a male voice say "It must be cold in here." Then I'd notice the direction of his stare and instantly cross my arms over my chest. My face would grow hot with shame and embarrassment. I started wearing thick padded bras and multiple layers of t-shirts. 

I guess I consider myself lucky because I was never groped or physically accosted. I've only been subjected to lewd comments. Most of the time, the comments are easily ignored. A few times I've even welcomed the comments out of a shallow need to think someone thinks I'm pretty or sexy or beautiful. Those few times were when I was still a girl and had little confidence in myself. It was back in the day when I still let boys and men dictate my own beauty. I know better now. At least I hope I do. Sort of. There are still times I let those lewd comments and stares evoke feelings of shame and embarrassment. I cut a training short because the guy did nothing but stare at my chest. I left the room hot with anger. I was angry with him for his behavior and angry at myself for once again letting a man make me feel ashamed of this body. 

I started thinking about all of this before the release of those tapes of Trump being so vile and gross. As if we didn't know this about him already. It was an article headline passed through my news feed, something about a study in France that suggests bras do not keep a woman's breasts from sagging with age that brought all of this to mind. I didn't read the article but it just made me think about how bras are just another element of the cover up. It's just part of the schooling of girls to cover up their bodies because if they don't, they're asking for a man to comment, to touch, to rape. For those of you who don't get it, who are linking Trump's 'locker room talk' with women who buy 50 Shades of Grey let me explain it to you. There's a difference between a woman who chooses to own her sexuality and a woman who has her sexuality forced upon her by a man. 

Let's take a moment to think about how we want our daughters to value their own self worth. Let's take a moment to think about our daughters growing up feeling ashamed of their own body. Is that something we want for our daughters? It doesn't matter where Trump said those things. It matters that he said them at all. Our children are watching and listening and learning. What do you want the take away lesson to be?

BARBIE FOR PRESIDENT

Cindy Maddera

Well, I did it. I was in Target several weeks ago, roaming the toy isle because that's a habit I never broke and that's when I came across the best Barbie set I've ever seen. Mattel has released a Barbie President and Vice President doll set. I stood there holding the box in my hands while wheels turned in my head. I don't know if any of you have noticed, but the people at Barbie have really been stepping up their game. Barbie has a normal body shape and there are dolls of all shapes and colors these days. Barbie is also doing more things than galavanting around in a pink car and shopping. She's a pilot. She's a firefighter. She's a doctor. And now, she's a president. I have to admit, my inner Lisa Simpson was jumping up and down with joy over these Barbies. I could totally envision setting up a Presidential State of the Union in front of an all female Barbie Congress. 

Then practical Cindy stepped in and said that we didn't need those Barbies. There was no place to put these Barbies. They would just end up in the basement with my Harley Quinn Barbie, Roller Girl Barbie and my Astronaut Barbie. I set the Barbies down. I picked them up again. I set them back down. The Cabbage had asked for Barbies for her birthday. The few Barbies she had at my place had disappeared. I suspect they got left over at the neighbor's place, but didn't feel like pressing it. The little girl over there is older than the Cabbage and doesn't really like playing with her. She always has some excuse when the Cabbage goes to ask if she can play. Any way, the Barbies she'd taken over there were the kind of Barbies that make me roll my eyes. Goodbye and good riddance Princess Ballerina Barbie. I picked up the President and Vice President Barbies again and thought that these Barbies would be way better than Princess Ballerina Barbie. 

I put the Barbies in my cart even while making my skeptical face. The Cabbage was turning six, is now six actually. I'm sure the first thing she would have planned for her Barbies would be to switch outfits, not attend a special UN meeting. Because she's six and doesn't even know what any of that means. I told myself that I was going to give these Barbies as a gift with the full knowledge that the Cabbage was probably going to wreck them. I just couldn't not buy them. When the Cabbage opened them at her birthday party on Saturday, her mother looked at me with big excited eyes and said "you got them?!?!" She'd seen my Instagram post about my indecision to buy them. She then held the Barbies up so that all the other mothers and women in the room could see them. We all cheered and fist pumped the air. The Cabbage and her friends just sort of shrugged their shoulders and then shouted "Yay! Barbies!"

Because this is a nonissue for them.

It doesn't even dawn on those six year olds that an all female presidential ticket is not possible or even unique. "Well of course the President and Vice President are women. Duh!" Can you even imagine it? All of the mothers in that room are of an age that grew up being told that woman can do almost anything. We could be doctors and lawyers, maybe even be a nurse in the military. We also grew up seeing that women who wanted to do those things had to do EVERYTHING. It was like your sacrifice for wanting to do a "man's job". You worked your ass off, then you came home and was a homemaker for your family. A woman had to do it all. And just as a side note rant, I'd like to add that my Mom did all of those things even when she had the flu so bad, it gave her a heart murmur. When I was a little girl, I was under the impression that Mom had a job because she needed a hobby and something to do with herself now that all her kids were in school. Once I got to college, I noticed that the language started to change. It was no longer "we can do almost anything." Now it was "we can do anything!" 

I think a lot of us took ahold of the whole we can do anything without actually believing it. We'd preach it and shout it, but deep down we would be hesitant to really truly believe that women are equal. Now we are raising a new generation of girls who actually believe that girls can do anything. These six year olds are going to think nothing of an all female ticket because it seems totally normal to them. This makes me sit back and say "WOW!" There's going to be a day when kids are going to not believe you when you tell them stories about phones with cords attached to a wall. Even better, there's going to be a day when you tell kids stories about how only men were ever Presidents of the United States and they're all going to be like "No way!"

And I will be all "Yes way! Crazy, right?"

SEX AND FEMINISM

Cindy Maddera

Last night, Michael and I were catching up on episodes of Bill Maher while we ate dinner, because nothings better for digestion than yelling at the TV over politics (please note the thick coating of sarcasm). The episode we were on was one of the thirty minute specials he did during the week of the DNC. They were discussing speeches and Bill Maher said something about how Bill Clinton probably got a really great blow job when they got home after his speech. Now, normally I'm OK with Bill Maher's blunt crassness. We mostly have similar beliefs and views, though there are times when he steps over into territory that just doesn't sit well with me. His comment about the blow job was one of those moments. I winced at the words and let me tell you why. I've got a number of reasons.

Since the beginning of written history and probably even before that, a woman's value has been based on their sexuality, their ability to have sex, their ability to bare children, their ability to be used for sex. I love how the book of Genesis, puts the whole blame for "carnal knowledge" on Eve, setting us up right from the very beginning to need to be controlled. As if a man would never have come up with the concept of sex all on his own. Women didn't have property rights, voting rights, or rights regarding her own body. It would be simplest to say that women didn't have rights, period. If you wanted something, you found a way to use your body as the bargaining chip. In some cases, the only leverage a woman had over a man was sex. The best example of this was Queen Elizabeth I who used her virginity to form and break alliances as the country needed. It is unfortunate that this has been our bargaining chip for so long because there are still women out there who feel the need to use the tactic to get their way. Sex is not a bargaining chip and continuing to use it as such perpetuates the view of women as sexual objects. We are well passed the age where a woman has to 'sleep her way to the top'. Women become CEOs of major corporations now based on their merit, education and work ethics. 

Some may argue that the person giving a blow job is performing an act of submission and therefor this would be a way in which Hilary would be submissive to your husband. Because we still live in a society that thinks women should be submissive or at least give the illusion of submission. Again, I disagree. The person that allows the most sensitive parts of their body to be in such close proximity to someone else's teeth is the one being submissive. It also implies that sex is a reward. It makes sex nothing more than a gold star sticker placed on an A+ paper. So Hilary should reward her husband for doing his fucking job which is to support her because they are PARTNERS. But I suppose what really bothers me about Maher's comment is that it is the type of comment that would never have been said if Hilary Clinton wasn't a woman. Can you imagine even thinking such a thing about Michelle Obama after her 2008 DNC speech or Laura Bush's speech at the 2004 RNC? What kind of "reward" did those women get for supporting their husbands? You think they got new fancy vibrators?

One way ( of many) to achieve gender equality is for women to stop using sex as bargaining tools or a reward for some good deed and men need to stop expecting sex as reward. Taking out the trash and doing chores are not things that need to be rewarded. Supporting your spouse, the person you chose to be a partner with until death do you part, is not something you need to be rewarded for. Sure, it's great, but it's what you signed on to do when you took those vows. It doesn't matter if your spouse turns out to be a presidential candidate one day or just has a regular old job. Just stop doing it or using the language that implies it. 

Thank you.

 

 

TURN INTO SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

Cindy Maddera

Some time around one thirty Saturday morning, Josephine was at the door wanting out. I let her out and then heard a ruckus that involved some squeaking sounds. I stumbled into the living room just in time to see a flash of gray and Albus sitting cooly to the side while Josephine tried to crawl under the couch. I also noticed a thumb sized bug like thing on the rug. I went to Michael's room and said "the animals are chasing a mouse in the living room and there's a weird bug thing in there too." Then I crawled back into bed. After Josephine caught the mouse and took it outside, Michael came in with the bug like thing on the dustbin to ask me if I knew what it was. It looked like a large fat worm, but it was compact and it moved when Michael poked it with his finger. It was weird. I said "I don't know what that is, but it's creeping me out. Get it away from me."

I have to admit that this is not my normal reaction to odd biological things. Usually, I get my face right up to it and ask "What is that?!?!" and then I start doing some research. So I was pretty sad when I woke up the next morning and the sleepy cobwebs had cleared because I realized that the creepy thing was probably a pupae for a butterfly or moth. Michael had already stuck it into a baggy and tossed into the garbage bin. We threw a pretty moth of butterfly into the trash! But I blame my sleep fogged brain and the fact that I've been watching Stranger Things . It's a Netflix original show that feels like what would happen if Dean Koontz and Stephen King got together and had babies. I'm totally hooked but completely terrified while watching it. The other day, I screamed out loud while walking on the treadmill in the gym. Michael walked in while I was watching an episode yesterday and I had curled up into a ball on the couch and was rocking back and forth. 

I was going to blabber on about how much cleaning I did in between watching Stranger Things. I was going to tell you about how I pulled out every drawer of my desk once again and cleaned out mouse poop, once a again. I was going to tell you that I swept up enough cat hair to make a new cat, one that would catch the mice and take them outside. Then I thought no one wants to hear how I spent the weekend cleaning and scrubbing a house. I am always cleaning a scrubbing a house. Instead I just keep thinking about that pupae. I'm sure the cat brought that in from somewhere outside, but it's not where (or what dimension) it came from that matters. I can't stop picturing that creepy, ugly, wrinkled, brown thing and marveling at how that would turn into something beautiful. And I let Michael throw it away.

Way back when I was in my preteen years, I'd stare at my reflection in the mirror trying to see something likable about my face. My hair was a limp dirty blond dishrag. My cheeks were round and plump. My teeth were too big. My nose was too big. Yet, I believed that I would grow out of this awkward, too big, too round stage. I would look at my sister, tall and skinny, dressed like Andie Walsh and I would think to myself "I will also grow up to be tall and skinny and as stylish as Andie Walsh." I believed those preteen years to be my caterpillar stage and that my pupae stage would only be one or two years of my early teens. I would emerge on my sixteenth birthday as a beautiful confident butterfly. When that didn't happen, I assumed it would happen when I turned twenty. Maybe when I turned thirty. How about forty? At forty I would finally be that confident beautiful butterfly. 

We stood outside the recreational supply store, waiting for them to open so that Michael could buy wool socks. The kayak tour guide recommended wearing wool socks because they would keep your feet warm even if they were wet. Michael hadn't packed his because he didn't think it would actually be that cold, but after reading a warning about hypothermia he decided he needed socks. As we stood there, jabbering about nothing in particular, I caught my reflection in the window. I was wearing my silk lined yoga pants with my Threadless yoga animals tank top. I squinted at the reflection and said "huh. I don't look as bad as I thought I did." I can feel my ribs with out trying too hard and my legs are long and lean and strong. My breasts don't really need a bra to keep them pert and lifted. My smile is large and bright and my eyes have been known to take away breaths. I've known these things all along.

The truth is, I've been waiting to emerge into something I already am. 

IN DEFENSE OF CLEAVAGE

Cindy Maddera

We were watching Saturday Night Live. Amy Schumer comes out to open the show and she's wearing a dress that shows off half her boobs. I may have said "that's a bold choice" out loud. Then at the end of the show Nicki Minaj comes out to join the crowd and she's wearing a dress that showed off way more than half of her boobs and Michael and I both raised our eyebrows. Then, this reaction made me a little mad at myself. When did I become so prudish and judgmental? I am not prudish. I am not judgmental. I was just raised with the idea that there are parts of a woman that should not be revealed in public. Excess cleavage was one of those parts. It's hard to shake off years of training dictating how a woman should be dressed. 

In the 1830s, people were arrested for performing the cancan. When I say people, I mean women. The dance was a bit scandalous. Underthings where revealed while lifting skirts up and high kicking. Woman were scorned for showing an ankle. Heaven forbid showing a whole leg. Since the beginning we, meaning us girls, have been taught to cover up. Those before us bound their breasts, wore multiple layers of underthings, cinched their waists with corsets and sat demurely in the corner where a woman belonged. Or where the men felt the woman belonged. This leaves me scratching my head at how this all came about. Early homo sapiens didn't fret over clothes and men and women worked together as a team to survive. Gathering enough food and fending off sabertooth tiger attacks just seemed to be a bit more important than the length of a loincloth. Somewhere along the line a man got hit in the head with a coconut or a rock and declared that God spoke to him to say that women and men were not equal. Men are by far stronger and better. Since that happened, women have been punished for being woman. Everything about our bodies is shameful. 

But then women won the right to vote. Bras were burned in the 60s and we passed reproductive rights laws. Women are CEOs of major companies. We've gained back most of that equality we had back in those early days of man. We tell our daughters, sisters nieces, stranger's girls that they can do anything a boy can do. You can play baseball. You can fight fires. Equal rights and blah blah blah. Yet we are still restricting ourselves with the clothes we choose to wear. Then Halloween rolls around and every costume for a woman on the sales rack is titled "sexy" fill in the blank. When we are at our Halloween parties and we see a woman show up wearing one of these sexy costumes, we pretend to sneeze the word "slut". I want to make it very clear that I have a serious problem with commercial costumes and this idea that everything marketed to a woman has to be sexy, but it's because Rick Grimes is not a sexy female Halloween costume. It's dumb. Adding the word "sexy" to every thing on the planet to sell a costume is dumb and the expectation that if you are a female your costume has to be "sexy" is also dumb. 

Slut is a word that we need to stop using. Period. It is an outdated demeaning word that has no value in this day and age. We are working so hard for that equality thing and when we see a woman wearing a tight dress and showing off her boobs our brains immediately say "slut" even when we know this word does not apply. It's easier to turn lack of confidence into something hateful towards a person who does not lack confidence. The only reason I'm not trying to squish my body into a Nicki Minaj style dress is because I lack the confidence to wear it. I am uncomfortable when fabric is actually in contact with my skin or I feel exposed. Though the other day I did glance down and notice that the blouse I was wearing made me look like I was having a good boob day.

It has become such a ridiculous contradiction. On one hand we are screaming about equality and telling our girls to be confident and when they express their confidence, we make it negative. That short skirt she's wearing is making boys look. I'm sorry, but when's the last time you were in a young person's clothing store like RU21? ALL THEY SELL ARE SHORT SKIRTS. Hey, don't dress that way, but all we're going to sell are clothes that will make you dress that way. No wonder we are all so mentally screwed up and have issues. 

How about the next time you have the urge to mutter "slut" under your breath, instead you just say "I wish I were that brave" or "I wish I had that kind of confidence". No, seriously. I really wish I had the body confidence of Nicki Minaj. 

MY THIRTEEN YEAR OLD SELF

Cindy Maddera

Last night I groaned as I climbed into bed, putting pressure on the bruise that was forming on my knee. Tiny dots of blue had already filled up one side of my knee where a softball had bounced up and hit and the skin was slightly puffy. I looked at my legs and thought "my legs used to be pretty." Both knees are sporting blue bruises from softball hits. The patch of poison ivy on my shin has healed, but left behind a strawberry colored rectangle that resembles the state of Tennessee. I have an abrasion on my calf from banging it on the ladder while cleaning out gutters. There's a scrape up one shin from my bicycle peddle. On second thought,  I realized that my legs resembled those of my thirteen year old self. I always had scraped knees and bruises from climbing trees and bicycle crashes from speeding down a hill as fast as possible. 

There was a mimosa tree on the southeast corner of my parents' lot. It wasn't what I'd a call a very big tree, but it was big enough to climb with a few sturdy branches to dangle from. For years it was my climbing tree, even after I fell out of it, breaking my arm into two pieces. I can remember Dad threatening to cut down that tree then. As if that would have stopped me from climbing trees all together. I can remember begging him to not cut that tree down. I can remember sitting in that tree one summer watching the sun eclipse the moon. The moon was just above the eastern horizon and huge, in that way that the moon gets sometimes. It looked like you could reach out and touch it, it was so close to the earth. I watched the colors of the moon shift from white gold to blood red while the cicadas buzzed in the distance. Mom was mad because I wasn't inside helping her clean the house. We were getting ready for Janell's wedding and there were family coming into town. There was a large pile of wedding in the living room. Bouquets and flower arrangements. Ribbons and lace. Boxes of those chalky mints that taste like toothpaste and mixed nuts for the punch table. Mom was at her wits end getting it all together and organized neatly while I sat in my tree watching the moon. 

I was thirteen that summer. Officially a teenager, but still a gangling wild child climbing trees and ducking through barbed wired fences to go fishing is some farmer's pond. That was the summer I spent weeks and weeks camped out on the couch in Randy and Katrina's house. J and I would walk down to the pool every day. We watched MTV while folding clothes or doing housework. I laid Katrina's bicycle over while racing down a hill and trying to make a turn while going to fast. My body, trapped between road and bike, slid down the road scraping up my whole left side. That was the summer I'd be putting on my first bridesmaids dress, one I wasn't happy to wear. The dress was too low in the front for my comfort and at every fitting, I tugged and tugged at the bodice. It was too low, too tight, too floral, too "girly". Katrina took pity on me and sewed a piece of ribbon in the back that I could tie tight enough to keep the front from gaping open. My shoes had kitten heels; they might as well have been stilettos. I spent hours walking around in them thinking that they'd eventually get more comfortable or I'd get more graceful in my gait. That did not happen. I felt like a hippo, clomping down the aisle in uncomfortable shoes and a dress that did not fit. 

It was an in between age, somewhere between liking boys and desperately wanting to pull off the latest fashion look while at the same time climbing trees and racing down hills on a bicycle. It was somewhere between scrapped knees and elbows and lady like grace. I wanted to be both but was starting to give into the voices telling me I could not be both, that it was time to be proper and lady like. Act like a girl. Come on. We've all heard it. All of us are the same. We all climbed trees and crashed bicycles. All of us at one point were told to be little ladies. Now I hear those words "act like a girl" and it makes me cringe. What does that phrase even mean? What's so un-girly about climbing trees? Apparently I never really learned how to "act like a girl" as much as I learned to just act like me. I am almost forty and I still have the same scraps and bruises. 

More like badges of honor.

THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL

Cindy Maddera

I wanted to sit down and tell you about our weekend. I wanted talk about moving a cubic yard of dirt from the back end of Michael's truck to the new garden boxes that I put together. I hauled dirt while Michael put the lawnmower back together and worked on getting metal cloth on the chicken coop. I wanted to tell you about how we put the chickens in a small pen outside so they could feel grass under their feet and sun on their beaks. I wanted to tell about the funny moment when Foghorn flew up to the top of the pen and Michael said "NO! Foghorn, NO!" like she was a dog. Then I wanted to complain about tree pollen and how it's pretty much done me in and I am now in the market for a new allergy med. It just doesn't seem fair that someone who wants to be outside can't be outside.

Then I realized it's been one year since 300 girls where abducted from their school in Nigeria. One year and those girls are still missing. Those girls, if they are still alive, have all had a birthday. Each one is a year older. Each one has a mother and father who have spent the last year wondering where their little girl is, if she's at least being kept warm and fed. At the very least. Because we know in reality, that girl has been forced into a religion other than her own, raped and brutalized, forced to marry and enslaved. It's 2015 and we still live in a world where slavery exists and women have less value than livestock. My sinus headache from allergies doesn't even make a mark compared to the scars on these girls. I am at once shamed by my minor complaints and how shallow they sound when voiced out loud. It makes me feel gross and disappointed with myself because I remember a year ago. I remember jumping up and on the hashtag bandwagon to Bring Back Our Girls. I remember at the time wanting to stay vigilant about this. I did not want these girls to be forgotten.  

Time passes. In the year since those girls were taken, I have traveled the Dakotas, lost my Dad, ridden over a thousand miles on the scooter,  gone on a number of adventures, witnessed a good friend's wedding, bought chickens and started a new garden. One year. All of that in just one year all while forgetting my promise to keep this story alive. It was weeks after the girls were taken before the news here even started to cover any of it and I was so angry that it was not front page news from day one. Now, even I have allowed this story to become a footnote. It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling helpless and insignificant. I am sure those feelings of helplessness and insignificance pales in comparison to how helpless and insignificant the parents of those girls are feeling a year later with still no word of where their child is. 

I forgot that while my year was spinning forward in a mixture of love, sadness, laughter and joy, the year for the missing Nigerian school girls just stopped. I broke my promise to them with my complacency. I broke my promise to them by forgetting that even though I can't do much, I can keep the conversation about how these young girls matter alive. Because at the end of the day, all lives matter regardless of race or gender. All lives matter.

Bring Back Our Girls! 

FAT

Cindy Maddera

I have two dresses sitting in my closet that I haven't worn in probably two years. Yes, I realize that this qualifies them for the donation pile, but they're really nice dresses and you never know when you're going to need to dress up for a wedding or a funeral or both. I tried one of these dresses on the other day because I thought maybe I'd wear it to a wedding at the end of February. I got the dress over my head, but there was no way I was going to get it zipped up the side. Then I had one of those panicky, I'm going to rip this dress, moments as I struggled to pull it back over my head. An inch. An inch and a half. That's what's gotta go from this body in order to zip that dress up. The thrill and pride of losing five pounds just flew right out the window.  

Here's what's ridiculous. I am right around the same size I was the last year I was with Chris (or Chris was with me, take your pick). At that time I was the skinniest I had ever been in my whole life. I knew that I would never be thinner and I was so happy and amazed that I was as thin as I was. I was thrilled to be the size I am now. I was happy, healthy and content with that body. Then Chris died and I lost about ten pounds. I lost ten pounds which I thought I couldn't lose. I mean if anything, I should have weighed more. Grief is so damn heavy. Grief should at least weigh twenty pounds. No, as it turns out it doesn't. Grief is light as a feather. Or at least light as pebble. 

I've been watching Awkward while I walk on the treadmill. I switch back and forth really between Awkward and Girls and the latest Downton Abby. There's a character in Awkward named Sadie. She's horrible and cruel. In season one she explains herself by crying to her mother "what do you expect? I'm surrounded by skinny petite girls while I have to write down every thing I eat and buy things from the special fat girls store." Sadie is a big girl. That's her excuse for being so mean. I hate this. When I look at Sadie, I see a perfectly normal girl. She's active, has won all kinds of horse riding awards and is on the cheerleading squad. Her character infuriates me. She really wants for nothing other than to be a size zero. This is a show that is meant for teenage girls. 

Counter this with Girls. They make no excuses for their weight. Laura Dunham's character, Hannah, admits to hating her body, but wears and doesn't wear clothes with a bold confidence that, frankly, I am jealous of. The show portrays girls with real bodies. Honestly, watching the show, I can see how their weight is the least of these girls worries. Figuring out what the Hell they're going to do to pay the bills is enough. I have mixed feelings about the show in general, but I will applaud the genuine female bodies.  In one episode you hear Hannah say that she finds her body disgusting and in the next episode she agrees that she is beautiful. That is the way. We all do it. One day we're disgusting, the next we're beautiful. 

I've wracked my brain trying to examine what it is exactly I'm doing differently now versus then. I no longer skip meals on weekends. Friday night dinners have gone from a bottle of wine and a sleeve of crackers to an actual meal. Usually pizza. I've added one and half people to my life. Turns out love weighs more than grief. I can go back to skipping meals on weekends. I can continue walking my 10,000 or more steps a day. I can continue to get on my mat and eat my kale. By the end of February, I just might be able to zip that zipper. Worse comes to worse, I buy a new dress and finally decide to put those others in the donation pile. 

I took a picture of myself once. It was during my first year into the whole 365 day project thing. It's a boudoir type photo. I'm naked, lying in bed with my legs up the wall. It's a tastefully sexy photo, taken when I was not even close to my second thinnest moment. I was just learning the art of liking myself. I remember being so proud of that photo. Where has that girl gone? I'm not sure, but I think I'm going to work real hard and bringing her back. 

STEP IN TIME

Cindy Maddera

Sunday morning we were eating biscuits and gravy while watching my favorite Sunday morning program, CBS Sunday Morning. There was a story about a boy who was a ballet dancer and then he joined the Marines. Actually, there was more to the story than just that. It was a very difficult story for me to sit through, but that's not the point of this entry. Anyway, boys doing ballet. The Cabbage is playing with her Barbies when she hears this story and she looks up all surprised and says "Boys can't do ballet!" This came a couple of days after hearing her say "Only pretty kids get candy." Honestly...when she said that, I was really tempted to say "I guess you're not getting any candy then" because at the time, she was cute, but I wouldn't have said she was all that pretty. Her hair was a total birds nest and she had something sticky smeared on her face. I refrained from saying that though. Instead we had a conversation about how every kid who dresses up for Halloween is going to get candy and the word "pretty" is subjective. Sunday we had a whole discussion about boys and girls being equal.

Age four is looking like the re-programming years. We spend a lot of time at home debunking these stupid things someone is teaching her. I've had several people at work tell me that this happened to their kids at age four. They all came home with this distinct idea that boys only did "boy" things and girls only did "girl" things. One guy said that his oldest son threw a fit once over being handed a purple cup. There was no way he could drink out of a "girl" cup. I work with like minded people who believe in gender equality. Yes there are times when they treat me like the office secretary from Mad Men, but really it's because they're lazy. I would never imagine any of them teaching their children that boys can't do ballet or pink is for girls. Which leads me to guess that someone is feeding this garbage to our children at school or some idiot is feeding this garbage to their child who in turn is passing it along to our kids during recess. 

When I first met the Cabbage, she said she wanted to be a firefighter. She even had a little red firefighting truck that she'd play with. Twilight Sparkle would climb the ladder and rescue Dog Walker Barbie from the fire. Historically, there have been women firefighters for over 200 years, but it would be the mid-70s before we'd see actual career female firefighters. Up until then women were mostly volunteers. On the outside, firefighting looks like a male only job but mostly because it's still very male dominated. Sort of like how ballet looks very female dominated, but I'll tell you something. I've seen some pretty amazing male ballet dancers out perform anyone on stage. The last Tulsa Ballet performance I saw of the Nutcracker, the guy who danced the part of the Russian dancer (a minor part), brought the house down. He was outstanding. That boy could totally do ballet. 

This all got me thinking though. I'm constantly telling the Cabbage she can be anything and that colors don't have a gender and that toys shouldn't have a gender, but am I also passing on the ideas that what's true for girls is true for boys? I mean how do we expect to teach a boy that girls are equal and deserving of the same considerations if we don't give them the opportunity to walk in our shoes. Or tell them that they can walk in our shoes. Remember that little boy who wanted to wear the princess dress to school? Hell yeah, he can wear the princess dress to school and there was a huge out pouring of support for this kid. Because there should have been or else we run the risk of double standards. 

Really...it's all very simple. All of this falls under the Golden Rule umbrella: Luke 6:31 - Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. OTHERS. It says "others." It doesn't say gender or race. In this case, I'm pretty sure "others" is referring to ALL PEOPLE, not aliens (as ET) alien...but it might actually work with extra terrestrials. Who knows? Try it.  

AND SO IT BEGINS

Cindy Maddera

The Cabbage came home from school the other day and said "Cindy...I like a boy color." I looked at her questionably and asked her what exactly is a "boy color." "You know. Boy colors are colors that only boys can like and girl colors are colors that only girls can like." Some little boy, who is also four, told her this at school. According to the Cabbage, he's not wrong because he's four. Michael and I both went on to stumble our way through an explanation of how there's no such thing as girl colors or boy colors, but it really didn't matter because she's already got it in her head that colors have a gender. I'm not going to lie. I had to shove that rising bubble of rage down pretty deep. It's not really that little boy's fault because he was taught that colors have a gender and he was probably taught this by some idiot who calls them self a grown-up. One of those grown-up types that are too stupid to know better. 

The problem is that if it wasn't this kid, it would have been someone or something else. When's the last time you walked down the toy isles? The "girl section" is a sea of pink and purple. Then you move over to what's supposed to be the "boy section" and the only colors absent in these isles are pink and purple. PLAYMOBIL makes these sets of little people action figures. I want you to just go and look at the City Life section.  In PLAYMOBIL's world, only women live in cities and all they do is shop and get their hair done. All the men live in the City Action section doing things like construction and law enforcement. Boys are astronauts while the girls get to wear roller blades. 

NPR played this story last week, When Women Stopped Coding. It discusses the decline of women in computer science and what happened to give men an edge over women in this field that started out dominated by women. The drop happens in 1984. This is also right around the time personal computers start showing up in stores. We're not talking about personal computers of today. We're talking about program it yourself DOS type computers. These computers were marketed to boys and not only in commercials, but movies as well. Geeky nerdy guy uses tech to win a pretty girl was a common theme in 80s movies. The message here is that girls don't need to be smart. They just need to be pretty. Nothing's changed. The toys out there today are still teaching the same message. Girls shop and get there hair and nails done while men build buildings and roads and enforce the law. 

The other night one of the Royals pitchers threw a pitch at 73 mph. Mo'ne Davis' average pitching speed is 70 mph. At age 13. "Boy" and "girl" are just adjectives. 

The Cabbage likes the color blue. She's obsessed with Frozen and wants to be Elsa when she grows up. Elsa wears a blue dress, so of course the Cabbage likes that color. But that kid at school told her that blue is a 'boy' color. There are things that I will never correct the Cabbage on like how she calls McDonald's "Old McDonald's." She's been calling the World Series, the World Serious all week and Michael and I just nod our heads in agreement that yes indeed it is the World Serious. There was a time she called Oklahoma, Ownahoma and I never corrected her on that one. But I will correct her on this one. Because just like there's no such thing as monsters under her bed, there's no such thing as 'girl' colors or 'boy' colors. There are just colors. A beautiful array of colors. Each one with it's own unique beauty just like each one of us. 

BOO-HUMBUG

Cindy Maddera

We have always been a dress up kind of family. My mom has spent hours meticulously constructing costumes. She makes the best witch noses ever and don't even get me started on her brilliant rendering of Lucy Little. I was Lucy Little. Button and all. Our costumes were creatively handmade. It's probably spoiled me. I still rummage through the racks at thrift stores for costume ideas, but I will also admit to browsing through the costumes online. Every year I "window" shop online looking at women's Halloween costumes and my heart grows a little heavy.Or maybe it's my butt that actually grows heavy. 

While scrolling through costumes recently, I noticed the usual Sexy Nurse, Sexy French Maid, and even (finally) the Sexy Doctor (because you know, women can be doctors now too). Then I discovered there's a whole sexy animal list of costumes. And then there's the costumes that really have no rhyme or reason to them except to wear these crazy muppet fur boots with some fishnet stockings. Hell! Even Amelia Earhart has a new sexy look. Needless to say that it all not only discourages me, but I find myself conflicted. I want to be sexy. I want to wear a frilly short can-can skirt or skin tight ninja costume. I look through those costumes and think "I want to look sexy just like that". Then the reality sets in and I know that no matter what shape my body is in, I will not look anything like that sexy model in her sexy kitten costume. I lack the confidence. Put me in any one of those costumes and I will spend my evening tugging the skirt down while pulling the bodice up before finally giving up and borrowing someone's jacket. Not to mention that it's cold in October and I'd freeze. 

This is not to say that I am not a sexy woman. Michael tells me I'm a sexy woman all the time. I have my moments. It's just that these costumes are not for me. So I start to wonder who these costumes are really for. I posted a link to a sexy skunk costume on facebook saying "What woman ever says 'Hey! I want to be a sexy skunk for Halloween!'?" and there was a comment left on that post that kind of stuck out. It was something about "one letter difference between 'skunk' and 'skank'". OK...now I find the idea of a sexy skunk to be ridiculous. I don't understand why all animals have to be sexy for Halloween. I think it's also ludicrous that Amelia Earhart has been turned into a sexified version of herself or that we can all be sexy My Little Ponies by wearing a maned hoodie with a mini skirt and platform shoes. But what about the woman who actually buys and wears this kind of costume? If she chooses to be any of those sexy whatever costumes, does that make her a skank or a slut or a whore?

I want to believe that a woman is wearing that sexy costume because she feels confident and good about herself. She has no ulterior motive in wearing it other than to say "Hey! I look good and I know it". In other words, she's wearing that costume for her and more power to her. Except I also know that it's human nature to seek out praise and validation and that even if she knows she looks good, she wants others to tell her she looks good. Most likely, women who buy these sexy costumes are buying into the idea that this is what her boyfriend/husband/potential sex partner wants to see. Let's face it. These costumes exist because men find scantily clad women attractive and Halloween is all about fantasy. If you scroll through the costumes available for men, you'll scroll through images of men fully covered in costumes ranging from Batman to cowboy. Eventually you'll pass by a sexy male cop, but for the most part the men costumes are just costumes, as opposed to sexy costumes. 

Halloween is the new excuse for objectifying women through the over-sexualiztion of costumes. It's not fair to label girls "skanks" and "hoes" when our society teaches them that this is what is desirable or this is how they are supposed to dress. Because that's the same thing as saying that a girl is asking for rape when she wears a short skirt. What we should be demanding is that these costume companies stop putting ears and tails on underwear and trying to sell it as a "costume". We should be redefining the vision of "sexy" with realistic librarian, nurse, firefighter, Amelia Earhart (dangit!) costumes. Come on. You can't tell me that guys do not find female firefighters in full gear attractive. Jim James's vision of a sexy librarian is not the one wearing the short can-can skirt with glasses. Because real men, the kind worth having around, are the ones who know that smart and strong are sexy.

And that's what we need to be teaching our girls AND boys.

CAN I GET A WOOP WOOP?!?

Cindy Maddera

I'd like to take a moment to throw a fist bump into the air for some feats of awesome that's happened lately. Things that tend to be swept to the bottom of the news piles and things that may have been near the top of the pile but just slightly ignored. Let's start with Maryam Mirzakhani, the FIRST woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in math. It's the Nobel Prize equivalent for math (there's not a Nobel Prize for math). There have been 52 winners since its inception in 1936 by the International Mathematical Union and all of them have been men. I think it's also important to note that IMU's president is Ingrid Daubechies, a prominent female mathematician. Though the number of women math majors are finally reaching parity with male students, women still make up less than 10% of full time math professors at the top U.S. universities. It's important to note that Maryam did not win the award because she's female or the president of the IMU is female. Maryam won because of her contributions to geometry and understanding curved surfaces. 

When I was in high school, boys took shop class and girls took home economics. I don't remember anyone pushing me into the math and science area, but I was definitely under the impression that boys were just better at math than girls. Girls were better at English. I was reading by the time I started kindergarten so this was logical reasoning. But really, I have no recollection of what age where I noticed the shift between gender "roles". Don't get me wrong. I was never discouraged. I gravitated to biology because I found it (still do actually) absolutely fascinating, but I did see a great divide. This is the part where you think you're going to get a sermon on how important the STEM program is for girls. You would be wrong.

The STEM program is great. It's just fine and dandy. But here's an idea. What if we stopped associating things with gender all together? I love that Lego has released a set of girl scientist Legos, but I hate that they've had to release it as a special thing. Just have girl scientists in the regular Lego sets. Let's teach boys and girls how to use sewing machines. Then teach them how to create programs to run sewing machines. Stop using "you throw like a girl" as an insult, which brings me to my next moment of awesomeness. Friday afternoon, 13 year old Mo'ne Davis pitched a shutout at the Little League World Series. It's the first shutout by a girl recorded in the series' 75-year history. Baseball. So yeah, I wish I threw like a girl. Mo'ne, you are my hero.

I just have this one other thing. It's an old video, but worth it.