If you don't fit the accepted definition of "woman" and you don't bring those wonderful "feminine traits" to the table, who are you?

Praising "The Feminine" Is Discriminating

The Huffington Post Marcia Reynolds

Posted: 7/28/11 06:01 PM ET

Writing a book about today's smart, strong women has given me a chance to work around the world with females dedicated to achieving goals. Each experience has deepened my resolve to open people's eyes to two facts:

  1. To talk about women as if they are all alike and want the same things from life is not only silly, but heart-breaking to the thousands of women who fall outside the box.
  2. As women are more educated and have the potential to earn a good living, the more they desire to do something significant. This requires women accept their power and take on leadership roles, actions still frowned on by many Americans. We are not as progressive as we claim.

A study preformed by researchers at Northwestern University recently found that, first of all, "Women are viewed as less qualified or natural in most leadership roles ... and secondly, when women adopt culturally masculine behaviors often required by these roles, they may be viewed as inappropriate or presumptuous."

Therefore, when people talk about natural feminine traits as being receptive and nurturing, a growing number of women think either there is something wrong with them or they must be lone warriors to succeed. What's worse, their husbands, managers and teachers wish they would be quiet and more "ladylike," though most people except Florida Republican Allen West would ask us to be more "diplomatic" and "collaborative" when suggesting we change who we are.

So if you don't fit the accepted definition of "woman" and you don't bring those wonderful "feminine traits" to the table, who are you?

If you dare to be ambitious, pursue multiple passions with vigor, struggle with impatience, commit to excellence even if some people have to get out of the way for you and you strive to make a difference using your talents, are you a cultural misfit? If you are nauseous when seeing workshops on the Divine Feminine in your inbox, are you dysfunctional?

I would like for us to stop assigning certain personality traits and approaches to the "feminine" or the "masculine" which creates an "us vs. them" mentality that helps no one.

Shannon Kelly, author of the blog Undecided, wrote in her post Us Vs. Them, "We like our people simple. Our women especially. Easily defined. Simply categorized. And when it comes to women, the less threatening, the better."

The rise of females having the gumption to publicly express their ambition and opinions is not about women abandoning feminine values. We are all experiencing an evolution of consciousness where women are free to choose a life based on passions instead of expectations. It is exhilarating! But because there is resistance to this evolution, it is also confusing and often disheartening for women in both their personal relationships and in the workplace.

Whether you are a manager, teacher, or friend, can you ask every woman you meet what motivates them and what they want to create? Here is a hint... it might be different from what drives you and what you assume it should be.

It is time we look each other in the eyes with a sense of curiosity, to seek to know the person standing in front of us. Who is the person beyond the labels? What strengths, gifts, talents, and perspective does she, or he, bring to the moment?

There is nothing wrong with women who take on too much work for the love of it, who get bored if they can't look forward to new and exciting challenges or who give up an easy life or turn a down secure, well-paid job to find work that feels more significant.

The good news is that there will be more and more of these women. Whatever you call them, every year many women get stronger and more confident in spite of those who judge them.

Let's quit defining what a man or woman should be and get on with the business of being the best humans we can be.

If we can allow each other to be who we are, it will be so much easier for smart, strong, goal-driven women to proudly accept who they are. It is a time of transformation. As women walk through the fog of confusion trying to follow their hearts while "doing what is right," shouldn't we help them choose for themselves? Shouldn't we stand for freedom for all instead of confinement?

Being feminine is not the same as being a woman.

Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D. explores the challenges and needs of smart, strong, goal-driven women in her book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. She is a professional coach and leadership trainer who works within a variety of industries around the world.


Findings from the CT Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee

As I think about what I should write for my weekly blog, I came across an article that discusses a new report from the Connecticut Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee, which was written by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The article by the CT News Junkie, "Couple Keeps Daughter's Memory Alive Through Fatality Review" discusses how Larry and Shirley Bostrom, after the murder of their daughter in 1996 by her husband, made it their life mission to create this committee to help other victims. I became interested in this article because I know Larry and Shirley through attending Survivors of Homicide with them. Survivors of Homicide is an organization for people who suffered the murder of a relative or close friend. I always knew they were working on preventing domestic violence, but never knew how much they had actually accomplished until I read this article.

It took over a decade for the first report from the committee to be released. I hope this report will be used to create change. It identifies that over the nine years that the study was done and with 146 intimate partner fatalities, few of the victims knew that services were available to them and often did not think of themselves as victims. Also troubling was the finding that there are few resources available to children who witness domestic violence and when law enforcement responds to a domestic violence fatality there is not a consistent response in dealing with children.

This hit home with me, because about a month ago in my hometown of Southington two streets away from where I grew up a father murdered his ex wife in front of their children and then took his own life. I always wondered what happened to the children, who they would live with, and what services would be available to help them through this tragedy. The family was from Bosnia and I was not sure if they had any relatives they could live with or get support from and I wondered what services were available to them. I later read in the Record Journal article, "Two Dead in Murder-Suicide in Plantsville" that they were able to live with their uncle, but I still worried that they wouldn't have appropriate services to help them heal after witnessing such an awful act of violence. The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence has pledged to help in all of these areas. They are going to develop a media guide and work with social networks to reach out to victims about available services. They also plan to seek legislative changes that will allow children who witness domestic violence to be eligible for services through the Office of Victims Services and to work with law enforcement when responding children at a domestic violence fatality.

I look forward to see these changes in action and hope those affected will really be helped. Does anyone think this is an appropriate response and that these changes will actually happen and be helpful?

UK vs. US - Whose idea of beauty is better?

Julia Roberts & Christy Turlington L'Oreal Ads Banned In U.K.

The Huffington Post
First Posted: 7/27/11 08:07 AM ET Updated: 7/27/11 04:13 PM ET

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority has pulled a pair of ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington for being overly-airbrushed, the Guardian reports.

Member of Parliament Jo Swinson first alerted the campaign watchdog to Lancome's two-page ad showing Roberts as shot by Mario Testino and a spot for Maybelline's "Eraser" foundation featuring Turlington.

According to the BBC, Swinson said the manipulated photographs could impact an individual's body image:

"We should have some honesty in advertising and that's exactly what the ASA is there to do. I'm delighted they've upheld these complaints," she said.

"There's a big picture here which is half of young women between 16 and 21 say they would consider cosmetic surgery and we've seen eating disorders more than double in the last 15 years.

"There's a problem out there with body image and confidence. The way excessive retouching has become pervasive in our society is contributing to that problem."

Swinson added, "Excessive airbrushing and digital manipulation techniques have become the norm, but both Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts are naturally beautiful women who don't need retouching to look great. This ban sends a powerful message to advertisers -- let's get back to reality," the Guardian writes.

The beauty giant, for its part, did acknowledge that the pics had been taken to ye olde Photoshoppe. From the Independent:

L'Oreal admitted post-production techniques had been used in its advert featuring Turlington to "lighten the skin, clean up make-up, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes, smooth the lips and darken the eyebrows".
Story continues below

However, the beauty firm said it believed the image accurately illustrated the results the product could achieve.

It also said the flawless skin in the image of Roberts was down to her "naturally healthy and glowing skin", adding the product had taken 10 years to develop.

The ASA previously banned a YSL Belle D'Opium commercial for simulating drug use, nixed "indecent" Diesel billboards and said no to two misleading Louis Vuitton print ads. However, the group decided there was nothing wrong with a particular Miu Miu ad depicting what some dubbed a "significantly underweight" model.

What do you think?


A Woman Who Was Loud without Apology

The voice. The hair. The tattoos. The voice.

I am still not over Amy Winehouse's death. This past week, I've been obsessed with reading any article I can find about her passing, her as a person, her music. Perhaps I'm looking for an answer as to why.

Knowing I had to write this blog post, I started googling women and addiction-- is there some connection between gender and substance abuse?

There is.

According to the book Women under the Influence by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), girls and women, compared to boys and men, get hooked on alcohol, nicotine and drugs more quickly at lower levels of use, develop substance abuse diseases more quickly, suffer more severe brain damage from alcohol and drugs, and ultimately die sooner.

Despite these facts, 92 percent of the women who are in need of alcohol and drug abuse treatment do not receive it.

I find it ironic Betty Ford's passing earlier this month solicited commentaries how her openness in discussing her addiction put a light on the issue and how much has changed since then. It has. And it hasn't.

It is sad that those battling addiction are considered weak, and those who are public figures face further scrutiny as they are paraded around gossip news outlets.

Throughout my week of reading, one of the best pieces I found was from someone who knew Amy Winehouse before she was famous, the actor Russell Brand. He talks about how he came to know her and witness her talent. He also recounts watching addiction take hold of her. But as a former addict himself, he advocates for society to change its attitude and handling of addicts:

"We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn't even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we do know drunks and junkies and they all need help and help is out there. All they have to do is pick up a phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call."

If you know someone battling addiction, please be a support to them and try to get some help. Click here for resources in Connecticut.

And just because I want to, click here for a link to an excellent NPR story on the passing of Amy Winehouse. Below is the concluding paragraph, which really says it all:

"Women's suffering has often inspired admiration from audiences whose embrace of their tragic heroine can seem like equal parts sympathy and sadism. Those of us who took pleasure in the fruits of Amy Winehouse's inner turmoil now have to acknowledge its ultimate end. As we contemplate this, we can also revel in what was most entrancing about her music: its brashness and utterly engaging power, the upfront expression of a woman who was loud without apology. Her big notes still live."

The Infamous F Word

Feminist. The word itself sends chills down MANY people's spines, yet most really don't understand what a feminist truly is...

Let me rewind and briefly explain why my fingertips are deciding to write about this today. I, like many, am a full-time student that works on the weekends as a waitress part-time to make ends meet. Last weekend I had the privilege of waiting on two gentlemen for lunch who, coincidentally, strategically sat in the booth the way they that they would vote on a ballot - the liberal on the left and the conservative on the right. I know some of you are probably scratching your heads wondering how I came to the conclusion that one man was liberal and the other not so let me explain a little further. As the fellas were eating their lunch, I ended up leaning against their booth and engaging in a little conversation since it was slow at work. I'm not sure how it came up but I was asked what I am studying/what career path I'm pursuing. I explained that I am studying for my Master's in Political Social Work and ultimately see myself wanting to be on the front lines making a change for the better (so cliche but true, I swear!), whether it be in political office or not. Immediately after saying this, the gentleman on the right eagerly and sincerely said, "Well then! You must really like Michelle Bachman!". The look on my face must've explained it all because he continued to ask "No? You don't like her?". I didn't want to get into a political debate at work because it can be so exhausting with your customers (and it can hurt your tip of course..) so I simply said, "Not really. Just because she's a woman doesn't mean I agree with her. As a woman, I can't see myself voting for another woman who could potentially set us further back than we already are in this country." The liberal on the left let a smile cross his face. The conservative on the right let a scowl poison his. I continued by saying "I think this is the appropriate time to tell you that I'm on the Board for the CT chapter of NOW." The liberal nodded is head in acceptance and congratulated me. The conservative's response? "OHHH, SO YOU'RE A FEMINAZI! I GET IT!"

A feminazi? Are you serious? Simply because I said I'm on NOW's side? I was in shock..but not really. My own mother has recently called me a feminist with disdain on her tongue to family members at a BBQ! It's always surprised me, though, at just how quickly people (both men AND women) are to call me a feminist AND do it with disgust without even knowing or understanding what a feminist is.

Wikipedia defines feminism as "a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women." If fighting for equal pay, lobbying against budget cuts that affect women directly, and trying to push more ladies into office is a feminist, then HELL YES, I'M A FEMINAZI AND I AM SOOO PROUD!

Let me sign off by leaving you with these feminist tidbits I stumbled upon on this refreshingly politically incorrect blog that explains the rules of feminists/feminism:
  1. A feminist isn't someone who agrees with every woman on the basis that she is simply a woman.
  2. A feminist isn't necessarily a lesbian.
  3. A feminist isn't necessarily atheist, antichrist, or anyone else evil!
  4. A feminist doesn't want women to rule the world...just co-exist equally.
  5. A feminist isn't necessarily a woman.


Your Daily Dose of..FEMALE FACTS!

  1. 80% of the 50 million people around the world who are affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children.
  2. In 2004, 48.8% of the seats held in parliament in Rwanda were held by women. Contrast that to Cuba where 36% of the seats were held by women, and the USA, where 14.3 % of the seats were held by women.
  3. Saudi Arabia and the Solomon Islands are just two countries where there are no women in parliament (UNDP, Human Development Report 2004).
  4. In 76 countries, less than half the eligible girls are enrolled in secondary school.
  5. Women own only 1% of the world’s land.
  6. Approximately three million women in the USA sport tattoos.
  7. A Saudi Arabian woman can get a divorce if her husband doesn’t give her coffee.
  8. 43% of Australian marriages end in divorce. Of those who remarry, 65% of them will divorce again. By the time you try for marriage number 3, your chance of getting divorced is about 75%.
  9. The women of the Tiwi tribe in the South Pacific are married at birth.
  10. It is illegal to be a prostitute in Siena, Italy if your name is Mary.
  11. The two highest IQ’s ever recorded (on a standard test) both belong to women.
  12. In Kenya where 38% of the farms are run by women, those women manage to harvest the same amount per hectare (2.47 acres) as men, despite men having greater access to loans, advice, fertilizers, hybrid seeds, insecticides. And when women were given the same level of help, they were found to be more efficient than men, and produced bigger harvests.
  13. Over half a million women die in childbirth every year in Africa and Asia.
  14. Nearly 1/2 of all Indonesian women have had their first child by the time they are 17.
  15. In the USA, unintended pregnancies account for almost half of all pregnancies.
  16. According to The World Health Org., 40% of girls aged 17 or under in South Africa are reported to have been the victim of rape or attempted rape.
  17. In Sweden, 76% of mothers work, the highest percentage in the developed world.
  18. Australia, New Zealand and the US are among a handful of governments that do not require women to be paid some form of maternity leave. In countries as diverse as Russia, Colombia, Laos and Morocco, the government foots the entire bill for three to six months of maternity leave.
  19. By age 55, 95% of all U.S. women have married.
  20. Only 5% of Hollywood feature films are directed by women.
  21. Today, Japan leads the world in condom use. Like cosmetics, they’re sold door to door, by women.
  22. Seventy percent of women would rather have chocolate than sex (Poll taken in a 1995 women’s magazine).
  23. Australian women have sex on the first date more than women the same age in the USA and Canada.
  24. China is considered the next big marketing opportunity for the tobacco industry because only 3.8% of Chinese women smoke, compared with 63 % of adult males.
  25. Women are paid less than men, except for one field: Modeling.
  26. The word “woman” is believed to have derived from the Middle English term wyfman, broken down simply as the wife (wyf) of man.
  27. Women perform 66% of the worlds work, but receive only 11% of the world's income.
  28. Women make up 66% of the world's illiterate adults.
  29. Women head 83% of single-parent families.
  30. Women accomplish 73% of the world's social work dealing with the elderly and the poor.
  31. Women's presence in leadership roles is slowly increasing, but is not even close to 50%.
  32. Women account for 55% of all college students, which is a trend that has continued since 1979.
  33. There are 6 million more women than men in the world.
  34. The number of families nurtured by women alone rose from 5.6 million in 1970 to 12.2 million in 1995.


Good News After Initial Disappointment for Female Wal-Mart Employees

While the Supreme Court's initial ruling that women Wal-Mart employees could not sue as a group was a major disappointment, at least many of them will now be able to go forward with smaller lawsuits. See article below.


What do readers think about the Wal-Mart discrimination case? (Women contend--many with compelling evidence--that they were systematically denied promotions and pay raises because of their gender.) Would you boycott Wal-Mart stores if you believed they discriminated against women?

posted by Elizabeth Cafarella


Next Steps for Addressing Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Connecticut

In keeping with our July them of "freedom" the first thing that came to my mind was the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children that happens here in Connecticut. I began to think how these young women lack freedom. When talking to my friends about preparing for this blog post they thought I was talking about the human trafficking that takes place abroad. When I told them I was focusing on Connecticut they seemed a little surprised. I think people know it is a problem in Connecticut, but they don't think it is as prevalent here, but that is not what I found out when I attended the 15th Annual Melanie Ilene Rieger Memorial Conference at Central Connecticut State University last month and when I typed in teenage prostitution in Connecticut into an Internet search. At the conference I Rachel LLoyd was a keynote speaker. She is the author of the book "Girls Like Us", which focuses on her time in "the life" and the lives of those young women who attend the nonprofit organization she founded called GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services in New York City, which serves girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. The book sheds light on the nation's least recognized epidemic and describes how even though these children are not usually kidnapped into this life they also did not have the ability to choose the life either.

When I tried to research this problem in Connecticut I landed on Vanity Fair's article "Sex Trafficking of Americans: The Girls Next Door", which describes how the average age of a young women who enters the sex trade has dropped to 13. The article goes on to explain the reasons for this ranging from the normalization of sex harm in the media to the breakdown of the family unit.

I wondered what is being done in Connecticut to address this issue. A couple of positive things were the recent passage of the Public Act 10-115, “Safe Harbor for Exploited Children", which eliminates the possibility of a sexually exploited minors under 16 being charged with the crime of prostitution. It also presumes 16-17 year olds who may have otherwise been arrested and charged with prostitution are actually victims of trafficking in persons. Also the passage of SB 1044, an act requiring the Department of Children and Families to be notified when a youth is arrested for prostitution.

My question is, what should the next step be for Connecticut to address this problem? Would a program like the GEMS organization that provides holistic case management, trauma based therapy, and clinical support work here in CT? Or is there something else that would be better?


Women's Morality Questioned in the Debate Surrounding Contraception Coverage

This past week, a report issued by the Institute of Medicine titled Clinical Preventative Services for Women: Closing the Gap, sparked controversy over the recommendation that all health insurance plans should cover the cost of contraception. At the heart of the debate is the idea that women with reproductive capacity should be provided with access to contraceptive methods, education and counseling.

After researching the proposal and reading news coverage from the last few days, I was troubled, though not surprised, to learn that opponents of this proposal were focused on the morality of women instead of the importance of providing preventative health measures. Some of the outrageous claims have included a statement calling for women to stop having irresponsible sex and the notion that pregnancy is often the result of being drunk and not using birth control.

Focusing on the morality of women belies the integral role comprehensive family planning measures play in ensuring that all women, regardless of their economic status, have access to preventative and primary care services. In fact, according to the Institute of Medicine’s report, cost sharing requirements such as deductibles and copayments often pose barriers to care particularly for low-income women.

An article written by State Representative Lois Capps (CA-23), a long time proponent of sound women’s health policy, entitled A Victory for Women’s Health outlines the importance of providing preventative health services for women. She states “Despite these clear benefits, the cost of contraceptive methods can force far too many women to choose a less reliable method, or forgo any form of birth control at all. Several studies indicate costs -- including co-payments and other cost-sharing requirements--play a key role in the contraceptive behavior of substantial numbers of U.S. women. During tough economic times like these, the number of women affected is larger than ever. Eliminating cost sharing and co-pays would give these women much needed peace of mind.”

Below is an excerpt from the article outlining the recommendations listed by Institute of Medicine:

• Screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation and at the first prenatal visit for pregnant women identified to be at high risk for diabetes;

• High-risk human papillomavirus DNA testing, in addition to conventional cytology testing in women with normal cytology results;

• Annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections for all sexually active women;

• Counseling and screening for human immunodeficiency virus infection on an annual basis for sexually active women;

• Comprehensive lactation support and counseling and costs of renting breastfeeding equipment;

• Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence;

• At least one well-woman preventive care visit annually for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services, including preconception and prenatal care.

Instead of focusing on individual morality, this proposal is based on scientific principles and offers recommendations which will benefit all women throughout the United States.


Women in Chicago Start Own Fire

  • Five years ago, Samantha Vasich decided that she wanted to be a firefighter.

    Sure, there aren't a lot of women in the Chicago Fire Department -- 116, to be precise, or just over two percent of the department, according to a recent story in the Chicago Tribune. But at the time it had been twenty years since the CFD accepted its first female firefighters, and Vasich figured she had what it took.

    She applied. She was deemed eligible. She passed the written exam. And then came the PAT.

    The PAT, or "physical abilities test," is an exam that is supposed to test applicants for the physical skills required to be a firefighter. It has four components: arm lift, arm endurance, leg lift and hose drag/high rise pack carry.

    Vasich hired a personal trainer who worked with her to prepare for each element of the test. She wore a vest filled with weights while working out on a stair climber, and dragged a bag of sand around the gym to prepare for hose drag. She also read the book and watched the DVD that the department sends around in preparation for the test.

    On January 13, 2010, Vasich took the PAT. Three weeks later, she was told she didn't get the job.

    "When I took the test, I was able to do everything," Vasich said in a statement. "I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter from the city saying that I had failed the test. I thought it must be a mistake."


    The department wouldn't tell her how she scored on the individual components of the test, or which parts she might have failed.

    But perseverance doesn't appear to be Vasich's short suit. On Tuesday morning, she filed a class-action lawsuit against the Chicago Fire Department, claiming Title VII discrimination on the basis of gender.

    Her lawsuit argues that the PAT is not only biased against women, but doesn't have any proven correlation to job performance. There are no scientific data, the suit claims, that any of the skills on the PAT is an essential requirement to being a good firefighter.

    Marni Willenson, the attorney who Vasich first turned to when she decided to take legal action, made an analogy to military service.

    “Women are playing a critical role in defending our country in two wars overseas. They are operating heavy artillery and carrying out physical tasks that in the past were assigned only to men. Yet the military does not count how many push-ups these women can do before enlistment or put them through some other nonsense exercises that prevent them from serving,” she said. “Instead, it puts them in boot camp and trains them to do the job. If women can defend our country in combat, then they can be trained to take care of medical emergencies and fight fires for the people of Chicago.”

    The suit is asking that the city adopt a new, non-discriminatory method for testing candidates; that it hire the women whom it denied jobs into the department, with retroactive seniority and benefits; and that it award them back pay for the time they would have worked.

    This wouldn't be the first time the CFD had to make remunerations for discriminatory hiring practices. Two months ago, a federal appellate court ruled that the cityhad to hire 111 black firefighters whom it had turned away in 1996, with a payout of around $30 million in back pay.

    Vasich and her attorneys are hoping for a similar result for women. “I just want a fair shot,” Vasich said. "All the women who want to protect our communities as firefighters deserve that chance."

    The Fire Department wouldn't speak about the lawsuit, and the city's Law Department wasn't immediately available for comment.