Category Archives: Feminism

3 Lessons Learned From the Listen To Your Mother Show

I can’t believe it’s been a week since show night already. I was working on the La Crosse production of Listen to Your Mother for six months. How can it be over already?

If you haven’t seen the bombardment of social media posts I’ve been doing about Listen To Your Mother (instead of blogging regularly), then you probably aren’t following me on social media, and you should because I like you.

Listen To Your Mother is a live, storytelling event that gives motherhood a microphone. The last shows have taken the stage, making the collection of 500 some unique, truth-telling stories, take place across 41 cities in North America.

That’s pretty cool.

It has taken me awhile to fully process what this show and its aftermath have meant to me. I’m still exhausted! But in the best possible way. Kind emails and handwritten notes are still coming in thanking our team for a beautiful, magical night of storytelling, for voices being heard and diversity represented. For making them laugh – so many laughs. And also for the tears.

So many inspired souls have said they’re going to audition next year!

And final numbers are in, so I cut the donation check for YWCA La Crosse today!!!

Here’s what I can sum up for you.

3 Lessons Learned From the Listen To Your Mother Show

1. Attitude is Everything

LTYM 2016 cast

The 2016 LTYM La Crosse Cast

When I first had the itch to apply and bring LTYM to my city, I had an entirely different production team and charity lined up. I also had a different job. When things went from bad to worse at that job (sometime I’ll tell you about it), no one was willing to put in the work anymore. But I KNEW this show could be amazing. I KNEW there were stories out there that needed to be told.

So, I did it myself.

I lined up a new production team, one that believed in the power of story like I did. And I found a new charity, one that said yes instantly and supported me from staff to director to board member. And I wrote up an application I hoped would make it really, really hard for the national team to say no to.

Channeling my energy into something that was positive and making a difference in the community saved me. Working on this show encouraged me to make big changes in my life because we all deserve to feel heard and appreciated and energized.

2. My Husband is Proud of Me

LTYM shot with hubs

The hubs, out to dinner, meeting the cast for the first time after our tech rehearsal. 

Let me tell you the ways my husband supported me. And, I’m warning you in advance, I’m going to get mushy about this.

In the beginning, it was advice on production stuff – venues to look at, performance things to think about. It helps he’s a musician and very familiar with locations. Then it was social media shares with the obligatory “Here’s this thing my wife is doing”. 

Next he went and offered to play live, acoustic music in the lobby for show day! Because he saw how hard I was working and wanted to support me in the best way he knew how, he helped make our debut show a little more special – a little more like a fancy night out on the town.

But folks, what really made me tear up and get “the feels” so hard was his response to the show. You see, I didn’t come home from rehearsals and talk about the show. I probably mentioned how many things I had to do for the show (more than once), but I didn’t tell anyone about the stories we shared. That magic and trust needed to be saved for show night. So, my hubs was that guy who got roped into attending because his wife was the one running it. Storytelling is not exactly “his thing.”

The reason I know the LTYM show is a gamechanger of a production is because it gets people talking. And my husband started talking and sharing his thoughts with me about the show and the stories he heard. And not just that night, but all week long.

My husband is not a big talker. He does not often share his emotions. Not many guys do. But after watching the show, my husband told me he saw me making a difference. He called me a rockstar. He had thoughtful, personal things to say about the show’s stories. He said he was motivated to make changes in his life. And he told me he was proud of me.

*wipes eyes, blows nose*

I told you, this one gave me ALL THE FEELS. I am so grateful for his support.

3. Perspective: Your Girlfriends’ Gonna Give It To Ya

LTYM production team

The LTYM La Crosse Production Team

When you work with talented people, you up your game. When you collaborate with them, you make lifelong friends.

I am eternally grateful for the amazingly cohesive production team that agreed to work with me without fully knowing how much work it would, in fact, be. I admired these women before the show production started, I have deep respect and awe for them now.

From start to finish, this group came in fully understanding the special-ness of a LTYM show. They appreciated and honored every story we heard in auditions, they put in countless hours of time away from their own families to work on the show and get to know our cast. They found local sponsors, made food for the cast, and helped make this show come alive.

We also had the help of our national LTYM team. All of whom are amazing mentors who know HOW TO RUN A SHOW that stretches its performances across a continent!

When little things seemed big or something made me worry, these women had my back. They responded quickly and succinctly and put everything in its place. They believed in me and one another. They support the kind of world I want to live in. I’m so proud to work beside them.

***

So, when next year Mother’s Day rolls around, run don’t walk to the nearest Listen To Your Mother show near you. Apply to bring it to your city. Audition. Get inspired. This show changes lives. 

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9 Women Who Made History You Probably Didn’t Know About

March is Women’s History Month so it’s the perfect time to celebrate the women in your life, and the ones who’ve come before you. We’ve all learned about our fearless, feminist ancestors like Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, and Julia Child. Yes, Julia Child! Before she was known for her cooking, she worked as an intelligence officer in the OSS, and she spoke four languages! She was a total badass.

Still there are many whose names we don’t know by heart, yet reap the benefits of their hard work and determination every day. So prepare for some speed dating y’all, cause it’s time to meet 9 women who made history you probably didn’t know about.

9 Women Who Made History You Probably Didn’t Know About

victoria_woodhull1. Victoria Woodhull

It amazes me we still ask the question “Is America ready for a woman president?” Um, yes. And we’ve been trying to elect one since 1870. Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president, and she did so before having the right to vote herself. In fact she spent election day in jail. Campaigning under the Equal Rights Party, her running mate was none other than abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She was also very outspoken on the issue of “free love,” which back then referred to a woman’s right to divorce her husband. No one knows how many votes Victoria received because the bastards running the patriarchy refused to count them.

henrietta_lacks_1920-19512. Henrietta Lacks

Gaining popularity and recognition thanks to a book by Rebecca Skloot, Henrietta Lacks is the reason we have most vaccines and medical advancements today. At the time of her death in 1951, medical consent forms didn’t exist, so without her permission or that of her family, doctors took samples of Henrietta’s cells. The healthcare industry was desperately trying to find cures for diseases but keeping test cells alive was impossible. Until Henrietta. The cells from Henrietta’s body, known as HeLa cells, were the first ever to be kept alive and grown, resulting in great medical advancements including the polio vaccine.

f7553b57e46042a33. Elizabeth Smith Miller

Did you put pants on today? Yoga pants and jeggings count! Well you have Elizabeth Smith Miller to thank for that. She was the first woman to wear pants in 1851. Finding the long skirts and dresses of the 1800’s too confining for her hobbies, she created an early version of the skort. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Technically she wore pantaloons with a wrap skirt over them, but we all know it was a skort, or at the very least a skant.

61964-004-d4cdcf034. Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

Think you know the story of the first Thanksgiving? Think again. Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, wasn’t celebrated until 1863, over 240 years after the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians held what we consider the first Thanksgiving. Wanting to unite our war torn country, Sarah wrote to the president and members of congress every year for 17 years asking for a national day of gratitude. In November of 1863, President Lincoln announced the first national day of giving thanks, done so at Sarah’s subtle nudging.

mte4mdazndewmdyxmtk4odyy5. Pauli Murray

Pursuing higher education in the 1930’s and 40’s when women were often barred from many colleges because of their gender, Pauli Murray became the first African-American woman to earn a graduate degree from Yale University and went on to become a civil rights lawyer and feminist. She is the co-founder of NOW (National Organization of Women) which still seeks to address issues of gender equality and women’s rights. In 1977, she also became the first black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.

220px-patsy_mink_1970s6. Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy grew up  watching and experiencing racism against Japanese Americans following WWII. She was determined to better the lives of all people regardless of their race or gender or education level. She studied medicine and law and was an active political figure in Hawaii before it was an official U.S. state. In 1964, she became the first Asian American woman elected to the House of Representatives. Patsy is most widely known for the passing of Title IX, or the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which she helped author. The act prohibits gender discrimination in any federally funded schools and largely opened up opportunities for women in athletics.

dix-dorothea-loc7. Dorothea Dix

Dorothea was born in 1802, and at the age of 14 she started teaching. A job in a women’s prison led Dorothea to start researching the care of the mentally ill in hospitals and penitentiaries. The documentation she presented to legislative figures allowed for larger budget allocations that improved conditions in the institutions as well as built new ones. Her diligent work improved or founded over 30 hospitals for the mentally ill. She was appointed Superintendent of U.S. Army Nurses in 1861.

ada-left-and-minna-everleigh-c-19058. Ada and Minna Everleigh

The Everleigh sisters, Ada and Minna, are some of Chicago’s most notorious historical figures. During the late 1800’s, they opened up one of the finest brothels in the country, featuring a gold piano, right on Dearborn St. Before you sneer at their historical achievement, you should know how they changed the game. At a time when women’s only opportunities outside the home were teaching or prostitution, if you had to get a job, your choices were limited. And many women were actually getting drugged and kidnapped, forced into the sex industry with violence. Ada and Minna’s “butterflies” were kept in the lap of luxury with fancy clothes, education, and 3 square meals a day. As for their patrons, the Everleigh sisters were also great businesswomen who actually demanded proof of their client’s bank accounts before entrance and tolerated zero violence in their establishment.

lillian_moller_gilbreth9. Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian is the queen of professional women. Not only did she raise 12 children, she became the first female inducted into the Society of Industrial Engineers. She earned a degree in psychology and spent years working as a business consultant for top clients like Macy’s, General Electric, and even the President of the United States. You’re probably familiar with some of her inventions such as the shelves on refrigerator doors and the foot pedal on garbage cans.

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So there you have it. Nine talented women who made history, and often aren’t recognized. Happy Women’s History Month!

5 Ways You Can End Violence Against Women and Girls

Listen. Dance. Rise!

That’s the beautiful theme for this year’s One Billion Rising campaign, part of a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Super Scary Fact: 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Globally, that equals ONE BILLION women.

That’s one billion too many of our sisters, mothers, daughters, mentors, and friends.

Super Awesome Fact: It doesn’t have to be this way, and you can help change things.

Let me tell you a story about vaginas. Yes, vaginas. Back in 1994, there was a totally bomb-ass playwright named Eve Ensler who published a little show called The Vagina Monologues. In it, she shared the stories of over 100 women’s feelings toward their vaginas. Some were happy stories of women discovering themselves, meeting someone who appreciated their body, and affirming their self-love through that admiration. Some were sad stories about the bad experiences that caused them to close up shop forever and forget their bodies could be sources of pleasure. And some were downright brutal stories of rape and mutilation, both here and abroad.

After Ensler performed The Vagina Monologues, women from all over were coming up and reaching out to her, and it seemed they had a lot more to say.

The collection of these stories and experiences make up VDay: a non-profit, global movement to end violence against women and girls. VDay officially falls on February 14th, or Valentine’s Day, but from February through April, campaigns rise to include artistic events, from performances of The Vagina Monologues, to lobbying around government buildings to demand change in rape legislation and to denounce genocide in developing worlds. Additionally, many educational resource fairs provide outreach tools to interested individuals and organizations.

VDay group shotIn 2012, VDay examined the still startling numbers on gender-based violence in the United States and around the world, finding that this violence impacts over one billion women and girls worldwide. Founders and activists rallied to begin the One Billion Rising campaign as a revolt against the violence, using strikes and dance to get people’s attention turned toward this serious issue.

For many women who’ve survived sexual assault, the aftermath can be just as devastating as the trauma itself. Dance has become an integral part of One Billion Rising, because it allows women to reclaim their bodies for themselves. Even though dialogue in the US is improving, rape and sexual abuse are still largely stigmatized, and we’ve seen – even recently with examples in the NFL – how violence against women is treated as a nuisance rather than a human rights issue.

So what should we do? How do we support the revolution to end violence against women and girls?

1. Get Educated

It’s hard to create change when we don’t understand the issue. And the issues are vast and interconnected: human trafficking, female genital mutilation, victims confronting their perpetrators and escaping abusive relationships, just to name a few.

There are over 200 countries participating in VDay events. Remember: ONE BILLION women need your help, so find the closest VDay event to you and join the revolution. Don’t see one in your area? Why not start your own?

2. Make a Donation

VDay signVDay is a non-profit organization based in California, and 89 cents of every dollar donated goes toward ending violence against women and girls around the world. You can also choose to donate to a specific VDay campaign through their website.

Or you can give to your local women’s shelter, family planning clinic, YWCA, or drug rehabilitation center. Many of these agencies are the first to notice signs of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and assault, and all of them help women in crisis.

3. Volunteer

Money from local donations goes a long way, but so does the generosity of your time when you volunteer. Crisis hotlines are always in need of individuals willing to be trained and respond to emergency calls. Community outreach and education are other ways to get involved. Some agencies cover more than one county in their state, but do so with little extra funding or staff. When volunteers get involved, the agency can participate in more events and opportunities to engage the public and share service information. Every bit helps.

4. Be a Social (Justice) Butterfly

VDay dance teamPost photos of your local VDay movement or share a social justice selfie with a sign that reads “Today I rise…” with your personal story or message. Everyone loves a good coffee shop photo or kitten video, but infuse your Instagram page and Twitter feed with messages of support and calls for action, too. Follow @VDay to stay informed, and share your social media using the hashtag #OneBillionRising. Spread the message of respect and social justice for all until the violence stops.

5. Tell a Friend

This one is two-fold. If you’ve been a victim of gender-based violence and have not shared your story, I encourage you to speak up. Today, tomorrow, a year from now –as soon as you are able. Tell a trusted friend, advocate, health care professional, or authority figure. You are not alone.

Lastly, talk to your friends about gender-based violence. It comes in so many forms and can be overwhelming to tackle alone. What do you want to learn more about? Where do you want to make your personal impact? Do you want to see an end to human sex trafficking? Do you want to change the legislation around rape crimes or improve restraining orders? There’s so much work to be done, and it’s always more uplifting when you have a friend beside you.

Remember: this includes men! Some pretty spectacular campaigns like HeForShe and 1 is 2 Many are sprouting up, and I commend the male voices speaking out. Get your father, your brothers, your friends, and your lovers involved.

So start a flash mob, write a letter to your local officials, send some inspiring tweets, and share some from women across the globe. Be there for your fellow sisters at upcoming VDay events, and all the days after until the violence stops.

Do you or someone you love need help with this intense issue? While The Indie Chicks offer awesome advice, we aren’t licensed therapists or trained crisis counselors. We care about you, so please take care of yourself by using the following hotline number to get the help you need:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7244 or 1-800-787-3224
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1-866-331-9474
Love is Respect

*Originally published on The Indie Chicks, February 27th, 2015. 

I’m participating in One Billion Rising this year!
Are you? 

Phenomenal Woman Mix Revealed and Winners Announced!

hair bun and headphonesHey fellow songsters!

Thank you all so much for the many music suggestions for the phenomenal woman and cafe mix cds this season! You fantastic people gave me 58 songs to check out!

I had a literal dance party listening to all the tunes you shared.

So it’s time to reveal the final playlists aaaaaand the cd winners!!

Check em out! Did your favorite bands and musicians make the cut?

***

Congratulations to this year’s winners of the mix cds –
Amy Kennedy Fosseen and Julie Glover!!!

Happy jamming, ladies!

***

Phenomenal Woman Mix

1. Little Red Wagon – Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound

2. Wherever is Your Heart – Brandi Carlile

3. Flashlight – Jessie J

4. Dangerous Days – Zola Jesus

5. Burning House – Cam 

6. Alive – Sia

7. Night Like This – LP

8. Wildest Dreams – Taylor Swift

9. Lights and Camera – Yuna

10. Glow – Ella Henderson 

11. Sound of a Woman – Kiesza

12. Hold Me Down – Halsey

13. Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King

14. Love Myself – Hailee Steinfeld

15. She’s Not Me – Jenny Lewis

16. A Change is Gonna Come – Leela Jones

17. Water Under the Bridge – Adele

18. Get Up, Get On – Jill Andrews

19. Buffalo Stars – Leila Broussard

20. Stay Gold – First Aid Kit

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Cafe’ Mix

1. Make This Leap – The Hunts

2. Diamonds – Johnnyswim

3. Riptide – Jasmine Thompson

4. Empress – Morningsiders

5. Hold Each Other – A Great Big World

6. Accustomed to the Dark – Theresa Andersson

7. America – First Aid Kit

8. San Andreas Faultline – Sugarcane Jane

9. The Heartache Can Wait – Brandi Carlile

10. Slow Motion – Phox

11. Sinner – Jeremy Loops

12. The Crossing – Meg Hutchinson

13. The Fairest of the Seasons – Anna Nalick

14. Let No Grief – The Wild Reeds

15. Shadowplay – The Saint Johns

16. Rox in the Box – The Decemberists

17. It’s Only Me – Dessa

18. Emmylou – First Aid Kit

19. Ends of the Earth – Lord Huron

20. Gulf Coast Highway – Red Molly

21. Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis

***

Find any new favorites?
What are you listening to now? 

 

 

#BOAW2015: Heavy Petting is a No-No, or Sex Ed for the Saint of Heart

It’s the fourth annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest hosted by the talented and illustrious, August McLaughlin!

Inspired by the outpouring of stories shared by readers after her revealing post, Does Dirt Have Calories? – (in which August exposed her early battle with an eating disorder) – she kicked off the blog hopping happiness that is the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. She has a made a space for women and men to safely gather and share their stories of female beauty: what it is, how they found it, what they hope to find for their future.

In 2014, August expanded her blogfesting empire to include stories of female sexuality and empowerment under her latest trademark, GirlBoner. Today, bloggers from around the globe gather to celebrate the beauty of a woman, her sensuality and sexuality. I am so pleased to be joining August and my fellow writers for the third year.

*****

Heavy Petting is a No-No

I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic Church, I went to Catholic Sunday School, then I entered Catholic Kindergarten and stayed through Catholic Eighth Grade. I spent my Sundays genuflecting, kneeling, and singing loudly lest our Catholic priest halt Mass altogether (as he was known to do) if he couldn’t hear his parishioners praising God loud enough.

I was a smart, happy-go-lucky girl who grew up in Small Town, North America with nothing very big to complain about. I loved my classmates and my teachers, but there seemed to be something missing.

In all my nine years at Catholic school, we didn’t talk about sex. Except in the “Don’t have it until you’re married or you will go straight to Hell,” kind of way. I vaguely recall that message coming through.

Every story in the Bible seemed to portray women as either unachievably good or a complete harlot. Or worse, just there. In the background. And I have always, always felt the need to be the lead in my own story.

Sometime around seventh or eighth grade, my school boasted of purchasing advanced reader religion books for the middle school to use. These books were said to be collegiate level and we should revere them with holy esteem. And I was proud of these textbooks, until I read the heading “Heavy Petting is a No-No.”

Yes, our textbook felt the need to include that little logline. And that’s when I stopped listening. Yah, I literally stopped listening because my teacher was trying to convey the beauty of “marital relations” and the “joy of childbirth.” Her eyes were all getting all glinty and I had to swallow the bile rising in my throat. Hello, I was 13! Ew.

What was more sickening than my teacher’s impromptu testimonial though was the language. Heavy Petting is a No-No? It was offensive and infuriating. Offensive, because we were teenagers and didn’t need the language dumbed down to tell us something’s a “no-no.” That’s a phrase for toddlers. And infuriating because what we did need dumbed down were the words “heavy petting.” I went to Catholic school, remember, this wasn’t covered in the priest’s homily last Sunday.

It was clear our teacher kept talking because she was uncomfortable. She was not a trained health education teacher, she taught music originally. I hardly see the connection between teaching kids how to play the guiro and sharing the story of your wedding night. That can’t be a prerequisite on one’s resume.

I honestly don’t think I knew there was a difference between sex and sexuality until college – where, in fact, no textbooks of mine defined anything as a “no-no.” I may have had a small inkling about these terms one semester in High School when I took an independent study in psychology. I was supposed to be using my scheduled time to edit my final paper from the previous semester’s work, and send it off to psychology journals for potential publication. But since I spent 80% of that semester actually surfing the internet for tattoo ideas, I sadly would not get my research published at that time. What I did learn during that hour break each day was about a French bohemian author named Anais Nin, who is best known for her tell-all series of diaries chronicling her torrid love affairs with both men and women. I spent my class time reading short stories by the author, most of which fell in the erotica genre.

She stuck with me, Anais Nin. Her works contained empowered women and men, who’s verbal tete-a-tete was as strong as their physical one. In her time, Nin’s work was so risque that police often tore down posters advertising her readings on the grounds of obscenity and indecency. To get around this, Nin’s posters placed symbols rather than her name to alert the public where she would be reading.

It was two years later, I walked into a tattoo parlor and inked one of those symbols on my hip.

If the lack of sex education has taught me anything about sexuality, it’s that the education piece never ends. And how sad it would be if it did. The beauty – of a woman, a man, a trans individual, someone who is still questioning – is that there is an infinite amount to learn. We can learn about ourselves, we can learn about others, we can learn what we like and don’t like. And, we can change our minds. We are forever learning, that is…as long as you don’t think sexuality is a no-no. 😉

*****

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the many other BOAW2015 participants.
There are so many stories being shared.
And drop me a line! I may be searching for my next tattoo, but I promise to reply.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Feminist. Now What?

feminismWhat does it mean to be a modern day feminist? Do you have to stop shaving your legs? Do you have to hold picket signs? Does it mean you can’t wear skirts and dresses anymore?

Ever wondered where the new wave of feminists are? You’re in luck, cuz they’re out there!

AND because I’m blogging about it at one of the coolest new e-zines for badasses out there, The Indie Chicks.

Today I’m guest posting on the conundrum: I’m a Feminist. Now What?

Learn what it really means to be a feminist – Guys, that includes you too – and find out five ways you can make a difference starting now.

Every view, comment, like, and share helps me out because The Indie Chicks are currently looking for contributing writers. And I’ll tell you a secret, so scooch in…

I WOULD REALLY REALLY, LIKE OHMYGOD FANGIRL, LOOOOOOOVE TO WRITE FOR THE INDIE CHICKS REGULARLY!!!

So please tell me I’ll see you there!

xox,

Jess

 

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