Category Archives: feminism

Why “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy” is a Bullshit Lie I Live

IMG_6863There comes a time in you life when you are doing something really mundane, like going on your daily run, when you realize,

Shit.  I’ve been selling out.  I’ve been settling.  I’ve been settling for behavior from others and myself.

And there are layers to these epiphanies.  My first one?  Came when I realized I wanted to recover from my eating disorder.   My second?  When I wanted more from my life than forgetting the night before because of too many rum and cokes.

My 45th came today when I realized I don’t want to yell anymore.  And I don’t want a partner who yells either.

*****

I am a mother.

I am a wife.

I am a co-owner of a business.

I have a shit ton of stress.

Because, as a woman, I’m expected to “do it all”.  So not only do I manage the money, I make the majority of the money upfront, and I also am expected to do all of the housework, manage my child’s appointments, playdates, extracurricular activities AND manage the psychological well-being of my child.

It was very furtive, wasn’t it?  How, in the span of 70 years, men have continued to deftly sidestep responsibility in any way they can.  Shit, I have to chores now? Guess I can still be lazy emotionally.  Sweet.

Before any right-wing idiot or plainly, insecure men jump down my throat, I want you to do something.  Walk up to the woman in your life.  Ask her what she’s worried about.  Chances are, her experience will be more rich than yours. She’ll be worried about being able to schedule their child’s gasto-intestinal appointment in between the clients she sees.  She’ll be thinking about how her husband yelling at their child mimics the traumatic experience she had as a child and how she’s failing.  She’ll be wondering if she can work out while the baby sleeps because somewhere, in the back corners of her mind, a demon tells her to be attractive for her boyfriend.  Now ask yourself if you have those same thoughts.

The pressures are not equal. NOT.  YET.

So when I hear, “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy”, I want to scream.

Why?

Seems to be yet another misogynistic turn of phrase, so eloquently masked as feminism.  It’s misogynistic, because it puts all the pressure on the female to chart the course, when males are perfectly capable of doing some of the emotional work. They’re perfectly capable of putting themselves first, taking care of themselves so they don’t take it out on their children.

It’s just that we haven’t EXPECTED them to, since the dawn of time.

And it reinforces that disgusting, martyr-like dynamic in older women that I despise. “Poor me, I’ve put up with so much from your father.”

EXACTLY.  You put up with it. You’ve enabled it.  Women have enabled it.  And that’s our part.  And that can be changed.

*****

Am I a sanctimommy who expects herself or others to never yell?  No.  But let me tell the truth and talk about yelling, because a lot of us have a ton of shame over it.  And it’s important to talk about during this time of year, when kids are going back to school and transitions are driving us parents nuts.

We’ve been yelling too much in my house.  I know my part – part of me has been justifying my and my husband’s trauma histories.  A refined form of “If we were ok, then she’ll be ok.”  “I’m a good parent.” “I’m doing the best I can.”

Maybe I’m fucking not.

Maybe I’ve been enabling years and years of the masculine approach to things.  The masculine approach of anger, of forcefulness, of yelling.

All I know is, This Mama Ain’t Happy.  Period.  And I’ve been justifying stuff I’m not OK with.   That’s my part.

And it’s my husband’s job to work on his.

Self-Care: Buying into Society’s Lies, or Taking Care of Your Spirit?

#ad

I love makeup.  I do.  I don’t always have enough time to always put it on the way I want to, with a child in tow, but I do love it.  It’s artistic and fun and character-changing, at least for me.  I’m sure it sounds corny, but I feel like a different person when I go to a wedding wearing smoky eyes or bright lipstick I normally wouldn’t.  I guess it comes from my theatrical background; when I would do shows, I would love tech week because we finally got to wear our makeup and costumes.  I like playing another character, sometimes.

It’s also the act of taking the time to put it on and take care of your appearance.  Most mornings, I slap on foundation and blush and run out the door so I don’t look like an Irish ghost.  But when I have the time to get ready for a wedding, I feel…luxurious.  It’s hilarious what motherhood renders delightful when it’s probably the norm for everyone else!

My dad, the guy you wouldn’t guess would be a feminist, used to yell at me every time I would put makeup on as a teen and young adult.  “You’re buying into a product,” he’d remark.  “Women don’t need makeup to look beautiful – they already are.  You’re letting companies tell you what you should look like!”

He was right, sort of.  He’d be surprised that his words would echo in my mind a long time after he said it.  Did putting on makeup lower my self-esteem?  Did it mean I was an unaware robotic consumer like everyone else?  And worst of all, was it part of my bad body image?

It was almost like I had guilt for expressing myself, and that’s when I realized makeup and feminine things like jewelry and eyeliner were part of my self-expression, not part of a covering-up scheme I concocted to hide my true self.  So, my dad was right – ads for things like makeup and clothes CAN affect your self-esteem, but different triggers affect different people.  For me?  I know I can’t read beauty magazines – I know I’ll feel like reducing my caloric intake after reading those.  But makeup?  So much fun.  And I’m not going to feel guilty for my self-expression – that was part of my eating disorder, right?  Reducing myself down to nothing so I didn’t have a voice.

And, being a cheap savvy mama, I shop at Target every weekend with the fam.  This past weekend, I noticed the Sonia Kashuk line when I was glancing through the beauty department.  I was excited to pick up a new shade of foundation which would highlight my  Irish ghost  fair fall look that I sport, and Sonia Kashuk had every shade imaginable.  Check her out at  http://goo.gl/SB1Qy6.

I’m excited to hear what you think about feminism and your self-care – does your enjoyment of “the extras” contribute to a positive body image or does it hurt it?  Let me know.

#TargetBeauty#BH

 

A Thank You Note To My Bullies

You know, I’ve been rude.

And it’s time I apologize.  I’m sorry.

I never thanked all the bullies at my high school for the wisdom they unknowingly passed on to me through their years of emotional and physical abuse.  I never expressed gratitude for the lessons I was lucky enough to learn early on in life.

So, if you were one of the people who hurt me because you were probably so cruelly abused and hurt yourself, and you’ve been waiting for a nod of recognition, here goes.

To the little boy down the street who was friends with me when my mother was around, but refused to sit in a chair I sat in at school, exclaiming, “I won’t touch it if fatty sat there!”, thank you.  Not only did you teach me that the separation between “pretty” and “ugly” starts early, but you taught me to pick my friends as carefully as one balances on a tight-rope wire.  You taught me to beware of people’s masks, and that some are really good at hiding their true selves behind that mask.

To the boy I had a crush on who wouldn’t clap for me when I got a music award in the seventh grade because I was simply, “Amanda Bruce”:  thank you.  You taught me compassion.  Why?  You were nice to me when it was just you and me at our lockers, but ignored me when you were around your friends.  In the end, I felt bad for you, because it was probably really hard to be a nice, popular kid who felt pressured by his friends to do what they did.

To the girl who called me “Turtle” since I appeared slow to her because of my size, I bow in gratitude.  First of all, you made me hyperaware of my size and lack of coordination.  I bought into the belief that I couldn’t do anything athletically for a very long time.  So much so that I developed an eating disorder because I was ashamed of my body’s appearance and what it couldn’t do.  And then, years later, I would have to go into treatment and take a very hard, long look at myself and those beliefs.  It would take awhile, but I would then realize they were bullshit.  I would start to run.  I would start to love it.  And finally, I would run for not what my body looked like, but for my internal sense of peace.

There’s a second part of my thanks to you, Turtle girl: thank you for calling me “a slut” and “too fat to wear leggings” at a school dance.  That night, I came home from the dance and cried.  My mother cried too, for a long time, because her baby had a horrible time at one of her first junior high school dances.  That night, the bond between my mother and I became stronger than ever.  I wonder if you ever had a night like that with your mother.  I’m grateful I did.  And you know what?  I hate the word SLUT because of you.  I won’t call another female it because it’s an incorrect, stereotyped, misogynistic word.  Thank you for inspiring the power of feminism in me.

To the boy who invaded my boundaries and tried to touch my leg repeatedly in music class: many thanks.  Because you viewed me as beneath you due to my weight, you felt you could attempt to harass me.  And you did, then.  But now?  My boundaries are rock-solid.  They were too solid for awhile, and I didn’t let many people in.  But now people can’t take advantage of me even when I share things like this.  Why?  Because I know how to take care of myself and defend myself.  I have turned the ugliness into beauty, and into love, and no one can take advantage of that.

To the adults in my life who didn’t stop the bullying when it happened:  I am grateful.  Because of you, I am the fiercest mama lion to my beautiful daughter.  You showed me exactly how not to be around children who are victimized.  When you forced me to stand up to eat lunch because you wouldn’t consequence the kids who wouldn’t let me sit with them on a field trip, you saved another kid from being bullied on the playground twentyish years later.  Because even on a nannying job in grad school, I kept my eye out for the kid on the playground who wasn’t treated fairly.  And you’ve also taught me to take a step back and let my daughter defend herself when she needs to.  You’ve taught me to not be an over-involved parent who screws up her child.

You see, I’ve spent years feeling tortured, controlled, and dominated by these memories.  Until I realized that a whole lot of love can emerge from hate, if we have the courage to stop and lead an examined life.

So on this Spirit Day, where we raise awareness for bullying, I salute you, bullies.  I acknowledge what you’ve been through and have compassion for it.  I can’t possibly understand the depths of your life experience.

I will, however, see your hate, and raise you with understanding and change.

Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya.

Yesterday, I was inspired to resurrect an old head scarf I used to wear all the time when I lived in Amherst.  One of my close friends, Devin, had started wearing head scarves and bandannas recently, and I wanted to look as cute as she did.  The fam and I were on our way to Boston’s trendy SoWa open market, and I wanted to dress up.  It’s a big deal, these days, you know.  Dressing up when you’re a Mama.

So I donned a long summer dress, drop earrings, and a paisley head scarf.  I indulgently took this ridiculous duckface selfie, complete with seat belt:

bohoselfie

 

What’s important to note about the scarf, is that it was my Nana’s.  She passed away in 2003, and I gratefully received this after she died, along with a few other cherished jewelry pieces.  It got me thinking about what she, and my mother, and the women before them had to go through to let me be as strong as I am today about this whole body image thing.

A little backstory:

This is what I was told about my Nana: she was born in Ireland and came to the US when she was a baby.  She was adopted by a family over here, and worked fairly young, as her family was not, let’s say, the Kardashians.  One thing that always made me smile was the stories my mother would tell me about her trips into Boston as a teen.  She would take the train into Boston by herself, walk around the city, and buy a trinket with the little money she had.  She seemed fiercely tough and independent, and I identify with that.  Anywho, she married my Grampy, and worked tirelessly as a housekeeper while raising seven kids.  One of them being my mother.

My mother often tells me, “When I was a kid, we didn’t think there was any other choice than marrying and raising kids.  That was just what you did.”  And she’s right.  Were there some women going to college in the mid-sixties?  Sure.  But not like there are today.  In 1965, Betty Friedan truly hadn’t reached everyone yet, and when there were financial stressors on a family, college was a completely ludicrous idea.  So, those women married, and followed the ideals of the fifties.  They pleased their husband by cooking and cleaning.  They tried to look pretty for them.

1950

Someone I see on a weekly basis often likes to tell me, “You women are lucky today.”  And he’s right.  Choices for my Nana and mother were limited – and they, perhaps, didn’t have the time or energy to love their reflection because they were too busy cooking or working or cleaning.  Also, they didn’t know they even had a RIGHT to challenge old, patriarcal beliefs because they had been taught to not question things like that.

My mother, however, had a streak of hippie in her (even though she denies it).  She was an attachment mother before there were attachment mothers, she organized church food drives for the hungry, and she was a bleeding heart who took her patients home on weekends from the Fernald State School to get a respite from the horror.  Her compassion – despite ARDUOUS circumstances that I will keep private – inspired me to choose the career road I walk down today.  It spurred me to get an education that furthered my liberal, feminist beliefs, and challenged me to look beyond what I had been conditioned to believe about my body.  And I’m sure her mother had an effect on her character, in some way.  But that’s her story to tell.

What am I saying?

Even if we have a conflictual relationship with them – even if they hate their body and you learned that as a result of being around them –

Let’s thank the women who came before us.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to be the fantastic individuals we are today.  Maybe you’re completely different from your mother because you felt angry with her and wanted to rebel.  Well, your fabulous rebellious self?  Thank your mother for that.  Or maybe you’re a carbon copy of your mother, who spends half her time cooking organic food and the other half volunteering for the homeless.  Either way, they have an effect on our personalities – and our body image.  

All I know is, I feel absolutely gorgeous when I wear my Nana’s scarf.

How have the women in your life affected your body image?

 

(1950’s ad provided by Molly Treanor’s blog.  Check her out!)

Trayvon, Feminism, and Other Light Topics

images 8I could be wrong, but I bet a bunch of us feel unsettled yet again by the latest news.  Trayvon.  His killer goes free.  A woman in FL gets 20 years because she shot a gun in self-defense.  Like my wise friend said, “Were we really surprised by this?”  No, we weren’t…but we’re still saddened over it.

And…I’m going to save my specific opinions on these topics for those unlucky enough to be my facebook friends…but it got me thinking.  About being judged by your appearance.

And before I go, let me clarify:  I know nothing about being black.  I try to, but cannot even imagine the silent injustices one experiences on a daily basis if you are.  So, can I say, “I know exactly how you feel!”  No, no I do not.  But I do know how it is to be judged on your appearance, and that’s how I  *try* to identify.  I also know what it’s like to be in a gender that is still viewed as unequal.  Case in point:

It was 2002, and I was working at a large ice cream store in a nearby town.  I did some admin work for the company; I was basically an assistant who did the menial work while I was home from college.  I, despite being unhealthy at times, have always took pride in my appearance, and dressed up every day for work.  Skirts, dresses, heels.  Nothing inappropriate, just tasteful.  Since I didn’t work in the ice cream stand, I didn’t have to wear shorts and sneakers, so I didn’t.  Just wasn’t my style.

One day, my friend and boss came over to me and whispered something I’ll never forget.

“Amanda, the big boss (names have been hidden) wants you to stop wearing dresses and skirts because the boys are getting distracted by you.”

Legit.

And can I tell you?  Not that it matters, but I’ve never been a risque dresser.  (I use the word risque because I hate the word slut because….it’s a discriminatory female word.)  No plunging necklines, no skirts above the knees.  Just a crotchety old elderly female owner who came from another time and wanted to set me back 50 years, too.  (And, she was probably jealous.)

Never MIND that men actually do have accountability when it comes to the question of, “Hey, should I drool over that woman I find attractive?” or “Hmmm, maybe I should be professional and appropriate and buckle down to work.”  Which is what women have been doing for centuries while we smile on the inside about your charming sense of humor or bulging biceps.

Anyway, once again, I was sent the message, “Hide your body.”

And,

“It’s your fault.”

Which is funny, because there are sexual harassment laws which protect us today from situations like that.  Situations in which I could have been considered the victim if I was talked to, looked at or touched inappropriately.

Just like Trayvon was the victim.  And again, it’s his fault.

Because of appearance.

And so many people will try to contest that he wasn’t a purely innocent victim, that he fought back…because the people with power don’t want to work hard and look at the fact that we’re stuck in the 1950’s in some ways.  Because they’ve never had to.

What’s your take on all of this?