Archive | Feminism/Womanism RSS feed for this section

Why I support Planned Parenthood

19 Feb

This past week has been a fucking head trip…no, seriously. For readers that follow me on Twitter you know my world has been spinning off its fucking axis. Right now I am trying to just process everything but the short of it is that my Dad is back in Chicago. At some point I will do a post mortem on the blog but right now I just need to process everything.

However it seems that while I have been dealing with family drama, the world has just been going mad. What the fuck is up in Wisconsin? Dear Lawd, we have the governor sending state troopers out to look for Democratic legislatures who are hiding out.

We got the Republicans deciding that Planned Parenthood should get no funding…which is really the point of today’s post. By the way all you Democrats, Independents and whoever else sat out the midterm elections; y’all need to shut the fuck up. See, even when you don’t vote you are indeed voting and now we are seeing our country going ass backwards. But that too is another post.

My relationship to access to health care has always been tenuous at best. I got married and pregnant at 18, as you can imagine I didn’t exactly have health insurance so I had to avail myself to Medicaid which was interesting to say the least. Frankly having Medicaid in my experiences has always been seen as a sign that you deserve lousy medical care after all you are poor and well poor bodies especially poor brown bodies apparently don’t deserve adequate and respectful care when it comes to their bodies. At least that is how most providers treat Medicaid recipients in my experience.

Yet since coming of age there has always been one place I can count on to get my annual exams, birth control, etc and know that I will be treated well. That place is Planned Parenthood. I have used Planned Parenthood in different states and have always been treated well. Back in my 20’s when I needed birth control yet lacked insurance I could get birth control. When I thought I had a lump in my breast, I was seen in a timely fashion and treated with dignity.

I always find it interesting how many folks seem to only equate Planned Parenthood with abortions which yes they do provide and some how only see them as providers of abortions which is patently false. Yet even if that was all they provided, abortion is still a legal procedure and the reasons that women choose abortion are varied. Perhaps some women have been irresponsible, yet we also live in a time that demonizes women who have babies and then need assistance in the form of social services. Well hot damn, women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. On the other hand do we not believe in this country that people have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? If that is the case, then don’t worry what others are doing with their bodies and specifically their wombs…it’s none of your business.

That said until all women have access to good, affordable and respectful services then we will continue to need places like Planned Parenthood. Call me a fool but with states axing services that might mean even the meager services offered via Medicaid will no longer be available and all the more reason that women need access to places like Planned Parenthood. Then there are women who for whatever reason may not be completely broke but simply don’t have a health care provider for their gynecological needs. That pretty much sums up my current situation. I had a lovely midwife who delivered my daughter who decided to retire not long after I have birth so for the past several years I have been trying to find a health care provider I like and trust who I can also afford since I am paying out of pocket. That pretty much means Planned Parenthood since it’s actually down the street from my office, affordable and I actually like them which is more than I can say of a few providers I have had in recent years.

Maybe its because I am a Black woman and maybe its because my Mom died relatively early and started having health issues at approximately the same age I am now but I take addressing my health needs very seriously. After all the stats don’t exactly suggest that Black women in my age demographic are as healthy as they can be yet in order to be healthy there has to be access to services and services that are culturally sensitive which is another piece that I have always liked about Planned Parenthood.

Anyway this current issue hit close to home and I really felt the need to add my voice to chorus of voices rising up over this issue.

Black Beauty

2 Feb

Thanks to yet another snow storm, I find myself at home with time to kill since with another foot of snow expected on top of the however many feet of snow already piled up in my yard, leaving the house is simply not an option. So it seems like a great day to break my blog hiatus and share some thoughts, after all it is Black History Month which is perfect for what I want to talk about today…black beauty.

Living in the United States which despite all the talk of being a post racial society is a hard place to be as a Black woman. Frankly it’s hard for all women, but today I speak as a Black woman because it’s my experience and I know it. From an early age little brown girls learn quickly they are not valued nearly as much as their pale counterparts. The images that little girls see are primarily that of pale girls with silky hair, girls whose natural body shapes often don’t look like theirs.

Unless caregivers are aware of the damage of what happens when you consume a steady diet of images that in no way resemble you, can do to a little girl’s psyche it’s the rare brown girl who will make it to adulthood not conflicted in some ways about her appearance. Generally for my sistern this manifests itself in how we approach our hair.

Hair is often seen as a woman’s crown and glory yet many Black women have a hard time truly grasping that concept when deep down we wonder why our hair won’t do this or that. I have been a natural haired Black woman for a decade now yet it’s only been in recent years that I had true acceptance of what my hair can and cannot do and I am at peace with it. Yet despite the growth in Black woman shunning chemical relaxers and choosing natural hair the fact remains it takes more than simply not putting the creamy crack in your hair to have real acceptance.

When most Black women first go natural they are excited and in many cases trade the addiction to relaxer for the addition to the perfect products that will cause their hair to have curl definition or waves or some other feature that will make their hair appear socially acceptable. I know when I first went natural and did the big chop I was addicted to using Care Free Curl activator gel because it made my hair look curly opposed to tight kinky curls that looked nappier. Then there was the point when my hair started growing out and then it looked like a frizzy mass and I remember being disappointed.

Perhaps it was because of my own frustrations and eventual realization that my hair is never going to lay down (unless it’s being manipulated in some fashion) which is what made this video interesting to me. Please check it out, now I admit the sista is hilarious in her presentation but what she says actually made me think. In the course of my decade long journey I have had folks make all kinds of suggestions about what to use in my hair and for the most part none of it works. I am at the point that pretty much what works best for my hair and my lifestyle as far as energy I am going to put out is, short fro, dreads or braids oh and the occasional afro puff. I am not a play in the hair person, after 30 mins my hands get tired and I have as my braider says at least 2-3 different textures of hair on my head of hair. For years I had a hard time accepting what looked good on me and really coveted the looser curls that I would see on some sisters but guess what it’s not for me.

Yet the sista in the video while it’s clear she is distressed, at the root of her rant is someone who still needs to do the mental work that is part of truly accepting her beauty. But too many of us are not surrounded by folks who give us that validation we need instead we suffer internally. Ultimately too many do not see the beauty of a Black woman’s natural crown and glory…plain and simple. It’s why we spend hundreds of dollars on products to smooth our hair because we still equate beauty with a standard that is not our standard of beauty.

This brings me to this piece. It was in my local news and what stood out was that the woman arrested was a Black woman, a rather cute one too. Now I am not passing judgment on what she does or the charges against her but in reading the comments online following the article it was clear that not too many others saw her as attractive, instead stealing her person-hood by referring to her in terms that strip her of person-hood. So I asked the Spousal Unit was she cute and he said yes. Interestingly enough I think the fact that she appears to have dreads is what really stood out to me, but overall I was reminded of how very little black beauty is valued.

Never mind the fact that she is working in a profession where her looks are required so that she can earn money. I doubt she would be dancing at a club if the tips/earnings weren’t there so clearly someone finds her attractive yet in a public venue like the paper, people feel they must judge her looks. This is life for the Black woman in America. A place where we will always struggle for acceptance yet to truly be accepted most of us must start the work internally. We also need to start with our kids especially our girls; we must present images that affirm what they see in the mirror. It helps if you are in a racially diverse area but even my house, we hang Black art, we buy books and dolls that mirror back what my girl sees in my, in pictures of family members and more importantly what she sees in the mirror.

Get raggedy…tell the truth

18 Jan

Despite the fact that we can now communicate with one another 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and build communities with people we may never sit down with, I find myself thinking out loud are we being truthful? As a blogger who likes to read other blogs I split my time reading the mommy blogs, race based blogs and political blogs. Yet despite the fact so many of us are talking, at times I can’t help thinking some of are not being truthful. I think this tendency is greatest in Mommy land where Mommy blogs have exploded in recent years.

Hot button Mama Issues seem to be breastfeeding, healthy food, screen time and the list goes on. Yet with the exception of a handful of Mamas who freely admit that their kids spend way too much time playing on the computer or watching TV and eating foods that might make some of us cringe. Most Mamas only show us their handicrafts, their gorgeous healthy meals and basically without meaning to flame the fires of the Mama wars that’s exactly what happens. Mamas who are at home working hard feel they have to explain themselves to Mamas who works outside the home and vice versa…shit we are all working hard. Why do we need to explain ourselves to anyone? Why can we not accept that no matter how we parent, that it’s hard work and time consuming.

How many times have you sat down to catch a break with your cup of tea to check out a favorite Mama blogger only to get up feeling like a slacker? Here you were thinking you had done good by feeding your kids, taking them out to play for two hours in the snow (when you really didn’t feel like it) and then you see “that” Mama…she did all those things plus baked a pie from scratch, home-schooled her two oldest kids and made a sweater for her hubby. And she’s got the pictures to prove it!

Please understand I am not knocking any Mama but imagine how much richer things would be if that same Mama that you find yourself idolizing because she is everything you are not, admitted she suffers from insomnia. That explains why her 24 hours can pack in so much more than yours. Or better yet, that same hubby she made the sweater for snores like a pack of wild animals to the point there are days she wants to suffocate the bastard for depriving her of much needed sleep. Or that just yesterday she was so wiped out, she took her brood to McDonald’s where the kids chowed down on some McNasties because frankly she didn’t feel like cooking and that pie she showed in her blog was a guilt offering.

I think you get the point. As women we rarely let it all out and show our raggedy selves except to our nearest and dearest and frankly it needs to stop. It perpetuates myths and creates wedges because we are always trying to live up to some bar of perfection that frankly none of us have. Yes, I know that many of us choose to show only that public self and while that’s totally cool and certainly one’s choice I think when we only allow that side of us to show that suggests perfection, it can be dangerous.

By the way this is not just about fellow bloggers, I think many of us even in our relationships with others have a tendency to only share that which sounds good. Oh, we don’t want to be Debbie Downer or it feels uncomfortable. Yet older generations of women understood the value of sharing and exchanging information. For all our connections many of us are living a lonely existence despite the fact we are connected at all times. Our moms, grandmas and aunts used to have a sister circle of women they could get real with…women they could talk to without fear of judgment when they shared that the kids are driving them batty, they wanted to punch their partner for continuously leaving the toilet up or on a serious note that maybe they were going through a phase where maybe they didn’t even like their partner. Nowadays though when we have a raggedy moment we feel like we have to explain it or justify it and believe me I am quite guilty of this.

Just this past weekend, I had 4 days off and for the first time in oh…say 5 years I really cleaned my house. Don’t get me wrong, my house wasn’t a complete pit but as a woman who juggles a family and leading non-profit agency that is growing in leaps and bounds the truth is I don’t generally have an hour a week per room to clean the 10 rooms in my house. In fact I admitted on Facebook to friends that I am actually thinking of hiring a cleaning person. Let me say, that as someone who was raised working class the idea of paying someone to clean my house feels strange, hell even a little wrong. Yet despite my best efforts, deep cleaning and dusting which would make my allergies better, simply is not something I can fit on my calendar on a regular basis. Thankfully I know some great folks as most encouraged me to get the cleaning help, one buddy, a local Mama I know through my work even had someone to recommend.

That exchange though made me think about the other areas in our lives where we fear getting real and another is the area of marriage and commitment. A fellow sista blogger recently wrote a great piece on marriage and wondering what a happy marriage looks like. That too is another area where I think we hesitate to get real, many of us we go into lifetime commitment with a unreal view of what is going to happen. I wonder again how different things would be if we all had access to a circle of women to share with and to get the answers to those questions.

People who know me in real life know that my circle is small due to many reasons yet this year I have been actively working to create that circle in my life. As women I am starting to believe that if women’s circles and our energy and wisdom were valued more in society and by one another it would decrease our stressors in general and create power where many feel we have none.

PS:  I want to share a book that I recently read on the issue of women’s circles, it’s a quick read but really mind blowing.

Finding your voice…honoring yourself in matters of work

6 Jan

While I no longer do official New Year’s resolutions, one of my goals this year is to put myself first. Truth is over the years I have become a bit of a workaholic, it most certainly has not been intentional but the pit falls of working at small non-profits is there is simply less hands to get the work done. In my case I run an agency that provides direct services to clients, in our case youth and their families. If someone calls out sick and I am short staffed I have two options, close for the day or step in and work directly with the kids myself. Knowing that we are a safe place for kids at risk of getting in trouble after school I often make the choice to step in, despite the fact it means more work for me or letting down my family.

Last month, I really ran myself ragged to make sure our annual programs went off without a hitch and it is paying off. Donations are on the rise, we received some good press, all good things except that I have spent almost all of the past 6 weeks sick. I suffer from year round allergies but this winter is off to a record number of days where I feet like shit. To say I am run down is an understatement, my body is exhausted, worn out; my mind is not as sharp as it could be. You get the picture.

To say I am not in a good place about work right now wouldn’t be too far from the truth, don’t get me wrong I actually like what I do but its starting to dawn on me that sometimes when we give too much of ourselves, people come to expect it. If a worker who is only paid for 20 hours gives 30, 35 a week and it cost the employer nothing rather than honoring that commitment and drive employers take it for granted. Yeah, they toss you a thanks but do they really mean it?

I think one of the reasons the rate of unemployment remains high is because so many Americans who still have jobs are working themselves to the bone. We hear how hard it is to get a new job so rather than say “Time to move on” we say “I am happy to have a job” and put up with the abuse. I don’t even think all employers are intentionally abusing their employers but if they cab get greater productivity and it costs them nothing extra, why not?

I also think as women we are at greater risk for not receiving the respect and rewards we deserve in the workplace. Many times women even professional women are taken for granted in the work world. It’s no secret we are still paid less than men for the same jobs, yet as women we often don’t want to rock the boat. In some ways I guess that is the point of this post. I need to find my voice when it comes to my work; I have tried the round about way of stating my needs and don’t feel I am being heard.

The very fact that I am writing this might be considered dicey after all, it really isn’t too hard to figure out who I am and where I work in the real world and that’s okay with me. Whatever risks I may be taking are outweighed by the relief I feel in speaking my truth. Part of taking care of me this year is about honesty, honesty with myself and with others.

So if you are women in the workplace I would love to hear how you go about setting limits and boundaries and getting your needs met in the workplace.

Because your mental health is important too

13 Dec

As 2010 draws to a close I find myself in a rather introspective state, there has been a lot of meditation and reading and plain old trying to figure out my place in this world and in my life. This year has brought a lot of changes for me personally, seeing my eldest child turn 18 and head off to college has most certainly been one of the bigger milestones. Since the laws state that at 18 a person is an adult I have been grappling with redefining my relationship to him and what that means. I am always going to be Momma and he is always going to be my baby yet I know he needs space to find his place in the world.

This year has also seen me take a more active role in the life of my own Dad who is my remaining parental unit and who we will be presumably welcoming into our daily life in a matter of days. I have also seen the organization that I run grow by leaps and bounds, our annual budget has doubled yet we are still a small grass roots organization and it means that even though I have a fancy sounding title, I still deal with much of the minutia.

My marriage this year has experienced some shifts, mostly good but at times painful as we both seek to find ourselves in middle age and adjust our new selves to the larger union of our family. Then there is my body, I am at the age my mother was when she started a cycle of regular doctor visits and an ever growing arsenal of pills to manage conditions. Thankfully the shifts in my body have not necessitated medical interventions but I am officially at a point where the body I reside in has informed me that it is no longer the body of a young woman.

Needless to say in juggling a year of change it is easy to overlook one’s mental state yet coming from a line of women who never paid attention to their mental state and in my opinion reaped the disastrous effects of that decision in their body, I seek to break with that tradition. Yet I was reading this piece that once again reminded me as a Black woman, I am not alone in when it comes to how I treat my mental health.

Let me be clear, all women regardless of race or ethnicity carry heavy burdens; it’s the legacy of a patriarchal society. But for women of color specifically for Black women frankly most of us are just not used to addressing our mental health, I think about how many years ago I sought therapy to learn how to deal with my family…yes, I did. I love em but they were driving me crazy. However at that time in my life I was ashamed that I was in therapy because as a Black woman I felt I should have been strong enough to deal with these issues on my own. Though over the years I have noticed with my white friends they have no problem admitting they are in therapy and or using medications to address depression, anxiety, etc.

So much of what holds Black women back from addressing mental health is frankly half baked stereotypes that only “crazy” folks need that stuff and frankly it’s killing us. This year I saw many of my Black peers lose parents but what is crazy that for friends in their 30’s or early 40’s they are losing their parents at ridiculously young ages like 57, 58 or maybe 60. Of course I lost my Mom when she barely 50, so I know all too well how hard this life is on us as a people yet the idea of checking out early scares me so I strive to take care of myself despite the fact that it’s hard.

Sistas, just as we take care of our hair, the kids, our man, and others…we have got to start taking care of ourselves. It’s really that simple. You and I both know it’s not normal to walk around with a continuous pit in our stomachs, headaches, panic attacks…yet we do. Why? In many cases fear. I admit there is a shortage of culturally aware clinicians to work with us, fact is in addressing our issues culture is an issue. I know I have had many white friends tell me that perhaps my family of origin is toxic and I need to cut em off. They probably are toxic but they are the only family I got so I need to learn to live my life and deal with them but at the same time preserve my mental health. I was lucky that when I was in therapy I found a therapist that got it, she understood the dynamics of Black families and knew that cutting them off was not going to work instead giving me tools to work with them and allowing me to preserve my sanity.

So as we bring 2010 to a close I invite you to join me in my quest to take my mental health as seriously as I take my physical health.

Raising Black and Brown Babies

8 Nov

As much as I love the exchange of information and communities that can form online I have to say that there are areas where I feel it’s very limited. No matter who we are and how open minded we see ourselves the fact is we bring our lens to how we interpret information. In the US, our race, class and gender greatly inform our views even down to the politics of how we parent our children. In the past 24 hours I have read two pieces and the resulting comments that really bring home the point for me as a Black woman raising brown kids that no matter what parenting philosophy I choose my experiences as a Black woman in America shape my views. In this first piece we have Erica Jong discussing the parenting style known as attachment parenting and in this second piece we have a great blogger who happens to be Black dealing with her brown boy asking for a white doll. I realize they are both lengthy but I encourage you to read them.

I not going to get into specifics but I will say that what I was struck by in reading these pieces was how much as a Black woman that shapes how I raise my kids. To be honest I feel I live (and most Black/Brown folks) in a world that requires no matter how progressive I am as a parent that I instill in my kids some things that white folks will never have to worry about when it comes to raising their kids. In order to do that I must start early in childhood, I believe I have moved far away from the harsh manner in which my parents raised me. I don’t spank, I don’t yell, I allow my kids a voice but at the same time I understand that black and brown children if they are caught out in the world expressing themselves no matter how cute and articulate that as they grow older the stakes get higher. What am I trying to say? Well as the mother of an 18 year old brown boy, I will always worry will my son become a victim of police brutality? I can’t imagine my white friends have that worry but I know that every Black and Brown mother I know raising boys has that fear. All it takes is a simple traffic stop for my son’s life to end.

This reality was brought home recently when speaking to my former mother in law who happen to be an attorney and she was telling me about this story. Apparently I missed it in the news but you have a young Black man whose life was ended too early. Sadly these things are all too common in Black and brown communities. My former mother in law was talking about how this story made her fear for my son, her only grandchild. I almost laughed but simply said I understand. See, since my son hit that stage at about 14 or so when his height exceeded mine and he looked less like a boy and more like a man, I have feared for his life. Oh, I know he is a level headed kid who while he will make mistakes often will try to do the right thing but may fall short. We all do, no one is perfect. Problem is we live in a world that does not give black and brown bodies the benefit of the doubt.

I fear that my son could at any minute become a victim of someone else’s stupidity. I fear that as my girl grows up she will internalize the images that say black and brown are not beautiful yet she will be a prime candidate for the boys and men that will be eager to use and abuse her.

I realize some might say gee…you live a grim existence. Nope, I live the life the cards dealt and understand in ways my parents never did when they tried to raise me in a color blind (to some degree hippy fashion) that the world is not kind to black and brown bodies. I understand that as a Black woman, shit happens to brown and black bodies at a greater rate than it happen to white bodies. I understand that sadly the political is not just a discussion I have online but my reality. Black and brown bodies in this society break down faster than white bodies; we are bombarded by stresses on every side…as bell hooks said in Sisters of the Yam “Life threatening stress has become the normal psychological state for many black women (and men). Much of the stress black people experience is directly related to the way in which systems of domination-racism, sexism, and capitalism in particular disrupt out capabilities to fully exercise self determination.” It’s why as a Black woman raising brown kids, my children know how to breathe deeply and my son started taking yoga. It’s probably why whenever I go to the doctor they seem amazed that my blood pressure is good, it pisses me off yet I know I am the same age my mother was when she had to start taking the blood pressure medicine. It’s why in the late 30’s Black and Brown bodies slowly start breaking down almost certainly insuring we will leave this planet earlier than our white counterparts.

I share this all to say that if we as a culture want to have a true discussion on parenting and motherhood in this society that first thing we must be willing to look at is the differences that impact us as mothers. Yes, we all want the same thing for our babies but the means by which we get there may different. It’s why in Black and Brown communities the need for a village from my perspective is stronger than in the white community. I know I cannot parent alone, I have tried. Yet for my white sisters many are okay without that village yet they often have greater supports, partners who often can earn enough to provide. While my white sisters also deal with the fact that as women in this society they are still not valued as much as men the fact is with whiteness comes a level of privilege that is harder to access if you are Black or Brown.  While most certainly lower income whites face many of the same struggles that low income and even middle class Blacks face the fact is whiteness is at times less stressful.

To come together as mothers concerned about the world and raising kids, I need my white sisters to understand that while my methods of raising kids may differ from you, it’s only because our reality is different.  Once there is that acknowledgment then I think as women and mothers we can come together to address the inequities that face us all.

I gained weight and…..

1 Jul

Life happens! That’s one of my many personal mottoes that I live by, life does indeed happen when you least expect it. Which is why when I was busy recovering from that pesky double hernia repair surgery that happened back in mid April, somewhere along the path to recovery I picked up an extra ten pounds and drum roll….I am not freaking out?

Let me provide some of the back story for new readers or folks who don’t know me. Most of my life I had no weight issues, I have always been on the smallish side though when I decided to give up my evil butt habit years ago, I promptly gained a weight problem. After a life time of being a size 5/6, I fought long and hard and started to accept that an 8/10 was going to be my new reality. Fast forward to having the kidlet almost 5 years ago and well my love of cooking and eating really caught up with me. Eight months after giving birth I was heavier than I was when I gave birth and when I walked I was short of breath. I am vain but it was not being comfortable walking that really kicked my ass in gear so I joined Weight Watchers and over a two-year period dropped damn near 50 lbs.

I became a good lifetime member back in 2008 and stayed at or below my weight goal for two years, I thought I had this shit licked up until I met the surgical recovery process 2.5 months ago. Turns out when one is restricted from moving a great deal, loaded on pain meds and laying on the couch, your options for amusement include TV watching, surfing the web and my favorite, eating. Truth is the past two months I been eating like it was going out of style, eating foods I forgot I even liked. If you follow me on Twitter you have been witness to the BGIM all food all the time extravaganza. It was good but after wondering why my favorite skirts were fitting funny, the truth came out. I gained a whopping 10 lbs since the surgery but guess what, I don’t care.

Don’t get me wrong now that I can move again I am damn well planning on it and have been ramping up my walking game. But once upon a time I admit this news would have set me on edge, now not so much. I do plan on taking off this weight but it will happen when it happens, I am more than the size of my skirt or the numbers on the scale. In some ways my cheapness is probably the greatest motivator since it was oh right before the surgery that I finally got rid of my larger clothes so at the moment I am doing wardrobe gymnastics when getting dressed and making use of my Spanx.

Point of this rant though is that I am at a point of acceptance about myself and the fact is in real life weight goes up and it goes down. As a woman it seems we are slammed with imagery that says we must be a certain way, I say fuck it all. For me I am happy with myself and the older I get I find that having internal beauty and peace is far more than numbers or any of the other things we as women buy into. I must admit that this rant was prompted by this post. The blogger who I know speaks eloquently about something I have grappled with for the past year, I like my gray hair but have had others tell me to color it. Why? It’s me. Just like this extra 10 lbs I am carrying around. Note, I am not saying if you color your hair or diet you have issues but for me those are not healthy things to fixate on.

Real people are messy and complex and we are constantly evolving as life happens to us.

Do you have a Plan B?

1 Jun

I imagine that a few of my regular readers are going to write back after reading and tell me what a Debbie Downer this post is and how they will never ever deal with anything that I am about to describe. To you I say goodie gumdrops and come back another day; as for me I have always been a realist and I firmly believe that shit happens. Shit not only happens it happens when you least expect it, so always have at least a Plan B and possibly a Plan C.

Ladies, we all like to believe that not only will we find Mr. or Mrs. Right; but that once we find our soul mate and partner that we will be happy until one of us checks out of Planet Earth. It’s a lovely thought but in America if you are a heterosexual married couple, the odds are you will probably divorce far sooner than one of you passes on.

I have written before about how in the past several years I have watched several good friends go through divorces and in all but one situation the women were on the losing end of the stick when it came to money. It’s no coincidence that the only one that didn’t get totally fucked was also the only one who had not been a SAHM (stay at home Mom), ladies I have to say it once and for all staying at home with the kids as a full time choice with no plan to ever work for cash is a bad idea.

Look, when you are in love and happy you are playing on the same team yet the moment you decide to end the relationship especially if you decide to end it…guess what? You are not friends, it’s a dog eat dog world. I have seen in most cases (there is a current exception) most of these loving Dad’s get real tight with the money and even those who willingly pay their child support its still a shock for Mom. Why? In many cases child support is not going to cover the entire cost of taking care of the child because the courts figure both parents will be providing and that includes providing money. Sure you can get a job but the reality is for most women, even highly intelligent and amazing women, if you haven’t worked in a number of years the odds that you will step back into the world of paying work and earn enough to support yourself and your share of financial support for the kids is really quite slim. It was already slim before the economic downturn and now it’s virtually impossible.

Many women and I have some in my life currently dealing with this instead end up jumping into new relationships also known as the rebound because well, having a man around can be useful from an economic point of view. I know…in perfect world no woman would ever get together with a new guy and think money train. Ideally not, but it happens. Or else I have seen some amazing women have to resort to public assistance which sadly does not offer enough to actually live off of; it’s a fucked up existence. I have a friend who gets less than $20 a month for food stamps for her and her kid because the powers to be consider her child support adequate. It’s a good thing this Mama lives in subsidized housing or else she and her child would be homeless. I have known her 3 years now and she has been looking for work about that long, its rough out there ladies.

Just today it was announced Al and Tipper Gore are splitting after 40 years of marriage. Think about that, 40 fucking years and they decide to part ways. So if you think it can’t happen to you think again. People change, shit happens and ladies a good Plan B is a great thing. Am I saying have a secret bank account? No, but it is nice to have something in your name and I don’t mean being an authorized user on an account. A dear friend of mine learned that after 14 years of marriage she had no credit, see her hubby had handled the cash and while she had a hand in paying bills it turned out everything was in his name. In the end when the divorce was finalized she actually ended up having to sell the car he bought her, this woman had been a loving and devoted wife and SAHM. Turns out had she had a card or two in her name and maybe a little cash of her own, her post married life would have been a lot easier. Thankfully she is establishing her own credit life but it took having her Mom co-sign at 35 to get her a car. This is a woman who I remember telling me her job was her kids and hubby, those kids are still her job but now she hustles nights working to keep bread on the table since Papa’s child support doesn’t even pay her rent.

Upon divorcing women are often thrust into poverty, this is a proven fact not the ranting of a woman with an axe to grind. I am also not saying you must abandon your kids to daycare 40+ hours a week in order to have a Plan B but the reality is as the kids get older it is possible to do something that allows you to earn cash, create your own business, etc. Just do something! The thing is especially for women of a certain age, it’s not always about your honey and you parting ways. People get sick and savings get depleted and your honey can die. This happened to my Grandmother, she was not a SAHM in fact she and my grandfather were solidly middle class, they did all they were supposed to, to prepare for retirement. Unfortunately my Gramps was diagnosed with brain cancer in his 50’s and despite what the insurance did cover there was a lot they did not cover. In the end he died and my Grandma had her life savings wiped out, all she had after his death was the house, thankfully she was able to hold onto that after losing him and all their savings. Thanks to the fact she had been working she was able to maintain her lifestyle granted it was far more scaled back but unlike some she was able to provide for herself until she retired. Also because she lived longer than my Grandpa and had worked she was able to draw her own Social Security benefits that paid more than my Grandfather’s benefits. (Note: if you don’t work you are not earning Social Security benefits, granted it probably won’t exist when we retire but still, the world of paid work allows you to theoretically earn something towards your retirement)

I have seen one too many older women lose a partner too early and be plunged into complete poverty after his death. I actually met a dear friend this way; she was renting out rooms in her apartment to survive. She had outlived her husband there was not adequate insurance to provide for her needs so she lived a good 20+ years after he passed away but she spent them in poverty.

Ladies, have a Plan B, if nothing else for your own piece of mind. Love is grand but shit also happens and I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be holding that bag.

Who is more valued?

17 May

If I were a newcomer to the United States and I started watching the nightly news shows and reading the newspapers, here are a few things I would conclude about the inhabitants of this land. They are a very violent people; they seem to kill each other on a regular basis. The brown folks particularly the brown men seem to be really violent since they are always mentioned on the news. The non brown men seem angry and they like their guns but they don’t kill like those brown men and the pink women seem to always be missing…at least that’s what that Nancy Grace woman says. On the other hand nothing seems to happen to those brown women. None of the news programming mentions much about them.

Clearly this newcomer to the US would be wrong; though the one thing is right we are a violent people. Just in the past few weeks hell you had a college girl with a great future, lacrosse player who it appears was killed by a man she dated. The death of Yeardley Love is tragic and if its proven that the boyfriend did kill her, hope he rots to death in jail. Hell, whoever killed her should rot in jail.

On the other hand I am getting just a tad tired of wondering why when bad shit happens to Black women or children, we never hear about it. Mitrice Richardson, Chioma Gray, Angela Reeder, and Rodnell Burton. What do they all have in common? Why they are all Black and they all went missing but there is a good chance you have never heard of them. Only one I was aware of before I went to Google, that was Mitrice Richardson who’s story has been featured by many Black bloggers. Yet when I turn on the news I am always seeing pictures of cute perky white women who are missing. I don’t begrudge the news coverage paid to missing white women and kids but what I want to know is why Black women and children don’t get equal coverage. Probably because at the end of the day, our lives are simply not valued as much.

Since this nation’s turbulent founding, the fact is white women have been put on pedestals and valued where Black woman and now other women of color are simply tolerated. I am convinced that one of the reasons Black women and White women can’t even come together on issues that impact us as women is because most white women refuse to recognize the inherent privilege that they have simply by being white women.

Perhaps its this unspoken privilege that is so deeply embedded in our culture; is why this morning I read about Yeardley Love’s old lacrosse team playing its first game since her death in the NY Times. But had to hear about 7 yo Aiyana Jones who was killed by the Detroit Police Dept on a Black blog.

Aiyana Jones’s was sleeping with her favorite Disney blanket on when the Detroit Police Dept came in (no busted in) her house searching for someone, as best as I understand the cops threw a grenade in, came in and somehow a mistake was made and the cop fired on little Aiyana killing her. Look, I am not going to down the cops for doing their job but I wonder would they have been randomly firing on someone sleeping with a Disney blanket had they been looking for a white suspect? Call me crazy, but I suspect that had this been Gross Pointe (affluent suburb of Detroit) that the cops would have been a whole lot more cautious before randomly firing the guns. 

Yes, violence is at epidemic levels in some Black communities and that is an issue that needs to be addressed, without a doubt. But we have to also address the fact that deep down it seems no one values Black life particularly that of the women and kids. I wish I had some answers but I don’t.

ETA: After reading a commenter, I wanted to add that I am aware that there are plenty of white women who go missing that we never hear about. After all the common demoninator in the cases we do here about is usually the missing gal is solidly middle class, and attractive. It still bothers me that regardless of class or cuteness, missing Black women just don’t seem to exist as far as the media is concerned.

Breast is best but….

7 Apr

Yesterday one of my buddies who is a passionate advocate of breastfeeding posted this article on Facebook. As always these types of articles are designed to bring about much discussion especially in places such as Facebook and other social media venues.

In my personal life most women I know have breast-fed at one point in time, including yours truly. Yet in my professional life the women I encounter rarely breastfeed; its something I thought about as one of my families just added their 5th child to the family. Yesterday I ran into the father and asked how Mama and the new baby were doing and he told me how many ounces of formula the new babe was taking…I admit for a brief second, I felt bad that this babe was not being breast-fed and then I promptly got over it.

In recent years there has been a huge push to get women to breastfeed and rightly so, it’s good for Mama and baby in many ways. There is no disputing the large body of data that supports the fact that by and large breastfeeding is the optimal way to provide nourishment to a baby. Yet as a fierce advocate of the poor, I think all the programs designed to get more Mamas nursing are not designed with the poor in mind. To be honest it can be hard enough to get middle class women to commit to breastfeeding babies, I was reminded of this fact yesterday as I sat waiting for the girl child while she took her weekly dance class and was chatting with the other Mamas.

Somehow the conversation turned to breastfeeding and for some reason many of the Mamas started getting apologetic over how they wanted to breastfeed, but couldn’t…it was one of those awkward moments. Especially because out of the group of at least 15 of us, it seemed only two of us had nursed any significant time, one Mama nursed to 8 months and yours truly who went several years.  Let’s just say when I stated how long I had nursed all eyes turned to me and I got the look…any woman who has nursed a toddler in this country has generally had at least one of those encounters. But I shook it off.

The thing is after reading the article I mentioned earlier in this post combined with my discussion with the dance Mamas, it made me wonder while it’s great to get more Mama’s nursing are we doing damage to the Mamas themselves? No, hear me out. Unless I am in the company of a certain type of parent, one who for practical purposes I will refer to as an attachment parenting style Mama, it seems the breastfeeding conversation brings ups a great deal of tension and judgment.  I have met Mamas who look down on women who choose not to nurse; I have met Mamas who look at those who nurse especially extended breast feeders as freaks. I had a woman yesterday who told me how her sister in law who had a homebirth is still nursing her 3 yo son and you know there is no nutritional value in that! All the other Mamas snickered as to imply the Mama nursing the 3 yo is getting some sort of cheap sexual thrill out of nursing her child. As a Mama who nursed a 3 yo, I spoke up and explained that there is still a nutritional aspect but at the same time it is an emotional tool and that there is nothing weird about it. I suspect I will not be invited to the Mama parties but its all good.

My point in sharing this is to say there is entirely too much judgment that goes on and it needs to stop. Instead let’s respect the choices that other mothers make with regards to how to feed their child. In the case of my client with 5 kids under 6, while I think it would be better to nurse after thinking about how I would handle things it makes a great deal of sense why she made the choice she did to use formula. Truthfully, my kids are almost 14 years apart, it was easier to get up every 2 hours to nurse when I had no other small kids to tend to, I was not facing poverty and lack of access to transportation, things that can make every day survival difficult much less adding in a newborn who needs to eat often.

For those who are passionate about wanting all women to nurse their babies, I suggest directing your energy towards change on a macro-level. Let’s create laws and practices that make it easier for women who work in places like stores and restaurants to have access and time to a safe clean space to pump milk. Let’s make access to lactation specialists and breast pumps available to all, even better let us offer each other real support rather than judgment and let’s share our real stories of our experiences. Breastfeeding is not always a beautiful thing, there were plenty of days I wanted to rip my fucking hair out yet I saw the value and continued. At almost 5, my girl still remembers and talks about when she grows up her babies will have bickey milk and she refers to breast milk.