Saturday, December 29, 2012

Catholic wedding traditions that aren't actually Catholic

1. The white dress.  That dress actually came into fashion after Queen Victoria's wedding, though I've heard white had been used in Jewish weddings, as it is the color of light and of purity.  For Christian weddings however, white only came into fashion due to it being a luxury. White cloth is very hard to keep clean and beautiful, so it was a sign of wealth to afford a dress you'd really only be able to wear once.  As time went on, we came to see as a symbol of virginity and of purity, which is why it is the color of choice for Western, Christian brides and especially Catholics, due to our strict sexual morality.

2. "Obeying" your husband. Of course, due to one verse in Ephesians, another in Timothy and some Old Testament ideals, groups of conservative Christians believe that a wife must submit to and obey her husband. People often mistakenly believe that, during a Catholic wedding ceremony, a bride has to promise to obey her husband.  That's actually a tradition that came from the Anglican church. Interestingly enough, the Catholic Church teaches that both a husband and wife must equally consent to the marriage and actually abolished arranged marriages under the Council of Trent.  Unfortunately, that is not always practiced correctly but we do believe in spouses acting as equal partners, even if our more conservative brothers and sisters still hold that the roles of each gender are different.

3. Being "given" away.  This tradition relates to the previous one, in the sense of our religion not always having the best reputation when it comes to seeing women as equals.  Further, in America, brides of all Christian denominations and in some non-religious weddings (haven't been to any other types of religious weddings to be able to comment) tend to walk down the aisle with their fathers, with a belief that he's "giving his little girl" away.  Most would be shocked to learn that the Catholic Church only reluctantly allows this practice, which actually originated in Protestant churches.  Because the bride and groom act as ministers of marriage (the priest doesn't "marry them", he serves as a mere witness) and our strong belief that men and women hold equal consent, the Church isn't comfortable with the idea of women being "given." That's why, even if a bride walks down with her father, the priest isn't allowed to ask, "Who gives this woman in marriage?" Instead, they recommend couples to walk together or at least walk separately with both of their parents but, because this tradition is entrenched within our customs, they allow it, but they describe it as the bride being "escorted."

4. Changing her last name. Most brides in the U.S. change their surnames to their husband's.  In very traditional Christian circles, including Catholic ones, it's recommended to show it as your husband being the head of the house.  Especially when a woman is devoutly Catholic, it can sometimes shock people to find out she has decided to keep the surname she was born with.  Interestingly enough, on Church documents, they still refer to the woman by the surname she born with, even if she has legally taken her husband's surname.  Further, in Latin American and other Catholic countries, women tend to keep their surnames and children are born with two surnames (and known by all of the surnames of their grandparents).  Like walking with her father and promising to obey her husband, this tradition also emerged from northern European and Protestant traditions, which is why it is so predominate in the U.S.

There are aspects of the wedding ceremony that the Catholic church is very strict about and a couple is bound to fidelity, entering a marriage freely and being open to the possibility of children.  The rite is regulated to ensure that these conditions are met and that God is given due glory in the ceremony.  Other than that, they really don't care what color the dress is, whether she's a Mrs. His Name or a Ms. Her Name, how she and her husband structure their marriage, etc. Now, individual couples, families, and priests may have their preferences but that's it.  So, if you know a Catholic bride who wants to shake things up with these traditions, remember that they aren't as enshrined in Catholicism as the public likes to think they are. 

You don't have to be rich to get married

I'm going to say this loud and clear. There are many things you should be and do by the time you are ready to commit to a life long partner.  But first, I'm going to tell you what you don't have to be.

You don't need to be rich to get married. You don't need to be settled in a career. You don't need to be thirty. You don't need to be ready to have kids. You don't have to have kids. You don't have to have a car, a house or any serious assets (though an IRA you contribute $50 a month to wouldn't be a horrible idea).  You don't have to live together to "try things out" before you get engaged. You don't have to have a huge, borderline ridiculous event or a magnificent diamond (especially considering environmental or conflict implications).  You don't have to be religious.  You don't have to believe in gender roles. All of those expectations were based on traditions that largely have no meaning anymore except for the meaning we, as individuals and as a society, give them.

We tend to view marriage as a step in maturity. It is and it should be.  You need to be financially supporting yourselves or able to support each other (and not living, as a married couple, in a parent's basement).  You should talk to each other about finances and come to a reasonable agreement about spending and saving money. You should negotiate and problem solve through tricky minefields such as familial relations and expectations for you individually and as a couple.  You should come to an agreement about sharing household responsibilities and understand why the other person comes to the conclusions they come to.  You should at least be on the same page about children, whether you decide to have them or not have them. You shouldn't be surprised if your partner changes or doesn't and above all, you need to recognize that marrying someone is a gigantic leap of faith and trust that one should carefully consider and take seriously.

Otherwise, do what you want. Start a business, join the Peace Corps, backpack across a continent of your choice, get your Master's, write a book, have a kid, buy a house, live on a boat, study with monks,  adopt a kid, run a campaign, raise sea monkeys, own a farm, the choice is yours. Marriage doesn't have to mean anything other than an intended lifelong commitment to each other and to whatever deity you profess, if you indeed profess one (understanding the obligations of your faith if you do).  It's your destiny. Do what you feel would fulfill your life and leave the opinions of your life to those who wish theirs were more exciting. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

TFA, celebrities, and a career in social justice

It should be a good thing that so many celebrities would want to use their fame and fortunes to help others.  It should be a good thing that young, bright college students would want to teach underprivileged youth in the hopes of solving the education gap, even if they have no intention of teaching beyond their mandatory two years.  It should be a good thing to devote your time to good causes, especially when it's easy to get caught up in life's comforts.

However, I am not sure that these are the people who should be considered the experts, the primary advocates of social justice.  Yes, they may have some experience in the field. They may have the heart and soul to do it.  They may have gained knowledge. All the same, if you had a serious illness, would you want someone who barely spent time working on your specific disease taking care of you, but was simply doing a brief fellowship? Or would you want a doctor who spends their life working on that condition taking charge of your care?

If your choice is the latter, as it would be for most, then shouldn't we want life long teachers helping to solve our educational crisis?  For social work, international development, education, for careers that demand your heart, brain, perseverance and extensive levels of education and credentials, do we really want to turn it over to those who might have the heart but likely not the experience or stamina to make it their lifelong career?

When we prepare people for the sciences, the health professions, engineering, and other such fields, we acknowledge that these careers involve extensive preparation and training as well as a lifelong commitment.  However, we choose to forget that for people who enter education, social work or international development.  We treat those fields as if anyone can do them, never mind that the people who choose these fields bust their butts to get the necessary credentials and experience. In addition, these same people have to justify their jobs and careers in the face of budget cuts and misplaced priorities, as they realize that our society does not particularly care about these same problems.  Portraying these fields as careers anyone can pursue with little training is dangerous to our society and shows that we truly do not prioritize these great needs.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Marriage = Settling Down?

When I announced my engagement, I remember seeing a lot of shock.  I'll admit, our courtship was quite a whirlwind and, while we had talked about marriage several times, we had also talked about postponing an engagement for two years.  As it turned out, we've been engaged longer than we were dating!  On top of that, we're in a bit of a transient state.  Unlike generations past, where couples were expected to stay in the community and raise children, we are still trying to achieve some measure of job security.  We have no immediate plans to have children, don't foresee having the ability to buy a house soon and aren't even ready to buy a car.  On top of that, we are lately fantasizing about saving money and taking time to simply see the world.  

To us, being married doesn't mean we have to settle down and live a "normal" life. It simply means that, when either of us travel and explore, we have our best friend with us. It means we can enjoy being young together.  It means we can still indulge our appetites of adventure and our thirst for life and learn to stretch outside our comfort zones together.  It means we can learn together and understand how we both can contribute to the world. To us, it doesn't make sense to stay rooted until we've figured out how to plant those roots.

The day my companion first told me he loved me, I made him promise me something. Before I would return his ardor, I made him promise to travel with me.  He said yes, which allowed me to say I loved him back.  For both of us, taking these steps put us in vulnerable, but rewarding positions.  We look forward to seeing how our adventures help us to grow stronger by putting us through the same experiences. 

Pray for Sandy Hook

Everything profound has already been said. I just ask for prayers and good wishes for this community.  I grew up very close to Newtown so it does hit quite close to home.  I can't imagine what it's like to be one of those children or one of the parents that has lost a child.  I only ask that people take a moment to remember. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pro-family and pro-choice

I'm borrowing a bit from the slogan, "Pro faith, pro family, pro choice" and other variations but I realized I had to come to the conclusion for myself to realize that these two adjectives belong together.  Unfortunately, the pro-life movement likes to portray feminists, pro-choice activists and professionals, and the use of contraception as anti-family.  I don't think they're getting an accurate picture of their audience.

This won't be a post about facts or knowledge, this is simply about my personal experience.

My companion and I have many dreams for our life together.  While we are tying the knot next year, he and I are staying outside of the commercialized wedding planning stuff and trying to focus on building a successful marriage that allows us to accomplish our dreams.  I want to pursue an international career, he's getting more involved in social justice work and we're both trying to become members of the community we live in at the same time.

A dose of reality.  I'm currently working a temporary assignment. Granted, it's long term but my non-profit is struggling and I don't see a guaranteed hire coming soon. So, I am applying for other work. He's looking for work and is starting to hear back, but nothing is certain.  While we are able to put some cash aside to save, it's hard.  We even altered our wedding plans to reflect our circumstances-maybe we don't need the commercialized stuff to reflect our lives together. On top of our short term situation, our long term plans include graduate study, international travel and service, a possible move to a city that has opportunities and proximity to both of our moms (something that is important when we do decide to have kids).  I'm seeing a lot of room for growth. I just don't see that growth extending to the state of my womb any time soon.

I don't support abortion in my personal life.  However, the thought of experiencing pregnancy in the near future scares me. My family has experienced poverty and I'm determined to not put a kid through that.  Further, insurance companies don't have to cover pregnancy care or maternity care if you benefit from parents' insurance and I don't qualify for FMLA or any type of leave.  We're a couple of well educated, sensitive, thoughtful people who love children and can't wait to have a couple.  However, if we had a kid right now, we'd be screwed.  Not to mention that I don't want my kids to know, "Oh yeah, I had all these dreams but then I had you."  I don't think it's fair to put a kid through any of that.

I now understand why college students, low-income women, teens, and women in all situations may make the choice to have an abortion, even if they don't necessarily want to, even if they're involved with a loving and supportive partner, even if they have a loving family and are well educated, even if they've seen better circumstances and know better times are coming soon, even if they consider themselves pro-life and wouldn't have an abortion if they could see a way out.  It depends on your life sitiuation and those have a way of taking precedence over your religious beliefs and political ideology.

I love telling people, I used to be pro-life. I used to be pro-life until I went to Kenya and learned the consequences of making abortion illegal. I was pro-life until I worked in an inner city school and my students told me of the things their moms had to go through.  I was pro-life until I actually had a committed relationship and realized that even when married, we'll have to be careful to not get pregnant.  I used to be pro-life until a woman in Arizona had to have an abortion to save her life and the bishops would rather the nun let her die. I used to be pro-life until I realized that the same movement wants to get rid of healthcare I benefit from, limit my access to family planning services, make it nearly impossible for me and mine to raise a child in our circumstances and doesn't even think I deserve a salary that reflects my abilities rather than my gender.  In short, I can't support a movement that encourages sexism and ironically wants us in situations that would make abortion become the most logical decision. 

I wrote this because I wanted to show that not all of us are careless with our sexuality. Not all of us are "bad girls" and, even if we were by society's definition, that doesn't mean we shouldn't get help.  I wanted to show that, contrary to the abstinence message, waiting till marriage or until you have a committed partner doesn't automatically put you in an ideal situation to procreate. I wanted to show that people use birth control because we're making responsible decisions for our families and are thinking of the children we will have in the future.  I wanted to show that, yes, ultimately we want a society with as few abortions as possible. However, the only way we can decrease that number is by supporting policies that would make the lives of women and families better. Until the mainstream pro-life movement starts working together with the pro-choice movement and retires it's tired, sexist goals and platitudes, I can no longer consider it pro-life. Nor can I consider the same thing for myself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

THIS is how you get qualified senior level females.....

1. Mentor young women who are trying to figure out their career paths. Encourage them to go for what they're qualified for, regardless of whether it would "let them have a family." Men manage to have careers and families-tell them they should hold it as a reasonable expectation for themselves.

2. Listen to your admin assistants, receptionists, secretaries, office managers and any other support staff (usually positions dominated by women) when they tell you they'd like more opportunities.  Point them in the right direction for their strengths, qualifications and passions. If they aren't qualified for a certain position, be honest. However, don't patronize them by saying they are "too good" at what they do and that their work is "so important." It's obvious to them when you treat them like they're really not worth your time.

3. DO NOT make fun of stay-at-home dads or men who prioritize their families and homes. If you hear someone else do likewise, call them out.  If we treat it like it's lesser work simply because women do it, we're basically saying women are lesser people and that has very dangerous societal implications for everyone.

4. Advocate, on a company level and on a government level (national and state), for workplace policies that help all employees maintain a good work-life-family balance. That includes paid parental leave (for BOTH parents), universal daycare, mandatory paid sick leave, and flex time for all employees, regardless of whether or not they have children-we all will have aging parents, right? If Americans truly believe in family values, we'd put our money where our mouth is and make sure everyone can put their time to their families-not just women.

5. Teach young women the "soft skills" of employment. How to interview, how to project themselves with authority, how to be confident and assertive, and how to go after salary negotiations, raises and promotions.  Women are socialized to be accomodating and accepting to the point that assertion is almost rude.  Tell them they can be polite but still carry authority and demand respect. 

6. Celebrate your colleagues' milestones with them, personally and professionally. However, we don't want to be known as the "married ladies" or "mommies" when we're at work. Yes, we socialize and share our good news but we don't want to be known simply as someone's wife or someone's mother-just like no man is ever known solely as "so-and-so's husband" or "so-and-so's father." That also means keeping your personal opinions about how she handles those transitions to yourself unless she asks your opinion.

7. Take sexual harassment seriously and do not tolerate jokes about "boss ladies," "bosses as bitches," or any other insulting comments specifically directed at females in the workplace.  Futher, don't give physical contact (hugs, back pats, etc.) to a female employee if you wouldn't for a male.  It's all about respect, folks. It's also a legal issue.  Don't poke the bear.

8. Don't talk about "women" or "women's issues" as if we're a monolithic entity. We're all different and prioritize issues differently, depending on where we come from and our current state in life. Honestly, what exactly IS the female perspective?

9. Network, network, network with both men and women. Encourage all your colleagues, male and female, to network.  Networking allows people to obtain mentors and learn more about their fields.  You'll get many qualified women if they know you're interested.

10. Please, for the love of God, don't simply walk into a "women's group" with a binder! We're smart enough to know how to get a job. If you would build a workplace culture that supports all employees, stand against discrimination, and groom female professionals to eventually take on leadership, you'll get your senior level females. However, we don't need to be tokens.  Make us qualified and hire us once we are. Just like you would for a man. 

Thank you. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The little wisdom I've learned by asking elders and getting into crazy situations..............

1. Go with your gut and ask questions. Sometimes, bad situations present themselves behind seemingly nice and respectable people/organizations. Your instincts will catch this before your brain does. Listen to them. They are God's and evolution's gifts to protect you from harm.

2. Settle for a job a little less than your dream job. If you're truly focused on your career, you'll get direction. However, as my dad would say, nobility comes from paying the rent and being independent. Any experience is good experience and you never know who you'll meet. Besides, the really cool jobs often expect you to have a million years of experience and more expensive education, which I'm assuming you'll likely have to pay for.

3. You know you want something when you raise hell to do it. Going after your dreams involves sacrifice, no matter your chosen field. Same with choosing your life partner. You know you want them when you're willing to do the work, no matter how hard it is. If you're that repulsed by the work, you know you're not at that stage.

4. There is no black or white. This is particularly true when comparing non-profits to businesses. Just because a non-profit has good intentions doesn't mean they treat their employees and volunteers well. Likewise, just because a business makes a profit doesn't mean they treat their employees badly or that they hate the environment.

5. Take care of yourself. No matter what you're doing, take a few minutes to exercise, drink lots of water and spend a little more on healthy foods. Your body will thank you for it and you know you never feel good when you finish a box of cookies. Also, keep reading, center yourself spiritually (I don't mean religion, I mean quieting the mind), and take a little bit of time for you. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.

6. Learn to say no. This goes under going with your gut. You have a right, nay, a duty to say no to things that aren't good for you in a particular circumstance. No to overextending yourself, no to doing something sketchy when your gut says it's wrong, no to being friends with someone who is sucking you dry. You were taught to say no to drugs and tobacco, saying no in personal circumstances is just as vital to both your physical AND emotional health.

7. Claim your beliefs, but tactfully. Many issues in our lives are pretty controversial, especially with regard to political and religious issues. Needless to say, soapboxes do not encourage dialogue and should be avoided unless you're in a setting where everyone is comfortable/wasted (and even then, there may not be enough alcohol). If it comes up, be tactful and respectful, maybe steer the conversation somewhere else if it's getting awkward. However, don't deny what you believe and don't be ashamed of it. If it's right to you, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

8. A sense of humor helps a lot. Life is tough and a little laughter goes a long way in diffusing situations and making things better. If you need help in this department, work with middle school children. You will find yourself laughing even when you want to tell them what they said is inappropriate or wrong.

9. Have at least one older person who isn't your parent. If your parents are good people, talk to them and listen to them-even if you're an adult and may not do everything they think you should do, they do have experience and can see a bit further. That said, it's good to have the other older person (parent's best friend, relative, professor/mentor you're close to, religious leader, etc) to talk about life issues with. They can give you advice about things without having the ,"you're my child" bias and honestly, sometimes certain topics can be awkward to talk about.   Also, when you realize your parents were right, you at least were able to learn it without making a dumb decision.

10. Do something "just because" once in awhile. There's nothing wrong with taking a road trip (if you have the time), buying a new dress (if you have the cash), or just having that Starbucks drink you really wanted "just because." Spontaneity is part of what makes life so beautiful. Work and responsibility will make you regimented enough. Do something simply because it makes it you happy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

So, you want a job in DC.................

Let me guess. You are a young, idealistic college graduate from one of DC's major universities. You likely studied political science or international affairs and maybe you had some Hill experience, studied abroad, interned with a non-profit or a mix of the three. Now, you are thrown into the chaos of searching for full-time employment in a supposedly recession proof city. What's a young adult to do?

I'm not here to tell you how special, qualified, or intelligent you are or that your past experiences will definitely get you a job. A career adviser probably already told you that. I'm here to give you the real facts, compiled into a list. I have full confidence that you'll nail a job in the Beltway but it may take some playing around to do so. Here goes:

1. Do NOT expect your dream job right away. You're a highly qualified, intelligent everyone else who goes to school in DC. The thing is, it's about luck and who you know in this town. There are those who have a lot of connections, who have family down here, who could afford five or six unpaid internships, half of which were on Capitol Hill. I have full confidence you will achieve your dreams. It's just not going to happen right now.

2. Temp agencies are your best friend. If you are like most people, you probably had to have a paid job, waiting tables, answering phones at a school office, making coffee, selling overpriced textbooks, you get the gist. Likely, you couldn't do a million unpaid internships or even take an office job and now, all the "entry-level" positions are wondering where your two years of office experience is. The secret? Most low-level office jobs are contracted through temp agencies and then, if the employee can prove her/himself, the organization will hire them permanently. While you may not have dreamed of being a receptionist all your life, they could get you your dream organization that will lead to your dream job. Plus, you're making money.

3. Get every baby-sitting, dog-walking, house cleaning gig you can get. While you're waiting for the temp agency to get back to you and the competitive firms and non-profits to call you up, you might need cash and a little something to do every day. Go for it. You can make a ton of cash, not to mention your client might actually know someone who can help you. Which leads me to.......

4. Network, network, network. Go to the networking happy hours but don't drink except for a water or a soda (you don't want to look bad and you can't afford it anyway). Set up informational interviews with people you admire. Ask former professors and supervisors who may know someone. Also, be nice to the people on the Metro. You never know who you're going to meet.

5. Apply for the admin type jobs you thought you were overqualified for (receptionist, filing assistant, etc). Like with temp work, this gets you an in. You may think, "A monkey can do this," however, a really smart monkey (you) won't be in those positions for too long anyway. Keep it until you're promoted or you spot something better, but keep it for at least a year so that you build up a reputation.

6. Use your contacts. There is nothing wrong with asking them to help. Just make sure you send a thank you note, regardless of the outcome.

7. Buy a black suit. It's DC. You need one. Not gray, not red, not blue. Just buy a black suit. As Barney Stintson of HIMYM said, "Suits are awesome."

8. Proofread your cover letters and keep your resume brief.

9. When you get to the interview, make relevant connections to your long term goals. For example, if you're passionate about women's rights and you are interviewing with an organization that sells educational training materials (for those questioning, you gotta get that job somewhere), talk about how important you think education is and that, while your long term goal is to advocate for women worldwide, contributing to education would help support your goals since educating others is a part of advocacy and social change.

10. Keep persevering. It's a tough world out there. The only way you're going to make it is if you keep going. If you're determined enough, you will eventually make it, even if you have to take several detours to get to that path.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Feminist Manifesto

Let me set the record straight once and for all. Most feminists do not outright hate men. Maybe a fringe group of extreme feminists do, but most feminists do not hate men.  Most feminists aren't angry, self-loathing, ugly women (side note: fastest way to discredit a woman is to call her ugly). In fact, I'd guess that a good portion of women AND men were feminists. How can you tell? Read the following.

You're a feminist if: you believe women should be treated equally. That includes things like suffrage, equal pay, access to education and jobs based on merit alone, equal protection under the law....You know, the basics.

You're a feminist if: you believe the rate of sexual assault, particularly for women and children, is a serious crime and should be treated seriously. You know, and not taken lightly if she's wearing a short skirt that day (the skirt that society pretty much tells her to wear to be pretty).

You're a feminist if: you don't think people should judge a woman's character or intelligence based on her looks, whether someone is saying that smart women are ugly or that pretty women are stupid.

You're a feminist if: you don't think a woman's sexuality has a damn thing to do with her ability to be a good or smart person and that, if men in Congress can cheat on their wives and clergy can abuse children with impunity, leaders have lost their moral high ground when it comes to female sexuality. Yes, women are also guilty of egregious acts, but men represent an overwhelming majority of perpetrators.

You're a feminist if: you think both women and men have a right and duty to plan their families responsibly. If someone wants to have ten kids, that's fine, but that shouldn't be the expectation, particularly in an economic slump.

You're a feminist if: you think things like makeup and conforming to beauty standards should be a personal choice, not an expectation. Also, if you think said standards are just a little excessive.

You're a feminist if: you don't think female suffering should be considered erotic, like the way rape is treated in movies.

You're a feminist if: you think that sexist slurs should be on a par with racial slurs and that people shouldn't use them so freely.

You're a feminist if: you don't think women should be pigeonholed to a role, regardless of their feelings.

You're a feminist if: you don't think men have any business harassing women and young girls anywhere and that, if they do, swift punishment should be meted for making women feel unsafe-we're being targeted for our sex, which should be just as serious as targeting someone for their race.

You're a feminist if: you believe people should look women in the eye when talking to them-we're more than our body parts.

You're a feminist if: you don't believe sex or rape should mark a woman as "damaged goods" and you're offended that people would compare them to property.

You're a feminist if: you believe women have dignity. Period.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Clinic Violence and the Pro-Life Movement

Before Dr. Tiller was killed, I never really recognized the extent of violence against abortion clinics. I did not know there were terrorist groups such as the Army of God and I did not know that there were places like Pensacola, Florida that have experienced nearly 20 years of violence (having lost Dr. Gunn, Dr. Britton, a clinic volunteer and several fire bombs). While the mainstream movement says they condemn such violence, I do think that vilifying people involved in abortion care does influence the extreme side to commit despicable acts. Here, I propose an alternate solution, one that involves compassion and partnership.

What would it look like if the main pro-life groups would reach out to families who lost a loved one to anti-abortion violence? What would it look like if they would not only send kind words and gifts but would react strongly to terrorist groups? What would it look like if they offered protection to the people who worked in clinics and their families? What would it look like if they discouraged protests that are unproductive and encourage only contempt and disgust from people on both sides? What would it looked like if they considered their goals of reducing abortions and partnered with pro-choice organizations to make it happen? What if they added their services to pro-choice referrals so that, if in options counseling, women were able to have a realistic option to parent or go for adoption?

What if they donated their energies to reducing stigma? What if the pro-life movement joined forces with feminist groups to advocating for equal pay, maternal health care reforms, access to education and jobs, contraception, gay adoption? What if they were able to put aside their own pride and realize the world of difference resulting from their labor?

I foresee something beautiful from that partnership. I just hope others could see it, too.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Love and Accountability

As young children (hopefully), we learn that our parents are there to love and support us. Part of this love and support comes from the discipline and accountability they provide for us. Whenever I did something wrong as a child, it was met with a consequence. As a kid, especially as a teen, I did associate consequences with them not liking or understanding me. Of course, now that I'm older I saw it as a way of them loving me and wanting to be a better person. You cannot hope to be a better person if you can't hold yourself accountable. Parents discipline to teach us this value and, in our relationships later on, we learn to call out the people we love when we know they can be better. However, when we try to do that very thing with our institutions, particularly our religious bodies and governments, we're met with rebuke and ostracism, as well as accusations of "hating the Church" or "not loving our country." Why?

If we truly believe the U.S.  is a democracy, built on the backs of a diverse group of people, with contributions from everyone and heroes from all groups including the most marginalized, why is it "unpatriotic" to criticize officials for turning their backs on these very foundations? If we truly believe Benjamin Franklin  when he said, "Those who trade freedom for a little security deserve neither," why are we not even protesting measures like racial profiling, the Patriot Act, TSA scanners that could potentially affect our health and definitely remove our privacy? If we truly believe the U.S. is a "land of opportunity", why are we destroying that opportunity by refusing to truly reform education, creating sustainable technologies that allow us to maximize our resources and create jobs and invest money in education and job training for everyone? Further, if we believe the U.S. is a democracy founded on dissent, why do we have corporate owned media that has forgotten its role as a watchdog and why can't government employees themselves have even a history of voicing dissent?

For our religious bodies (particularly the Catholic Church, since that's my experience), why is it an "attack" on the Church to speak out against decades of child sexual abuse, abuse that's spread on a worldwide scale? If Jesus spoke out against dishonesty and legalism, why is it OK for corruption to exist at the highest levels? If Jesus spoke out against injustice, as did our greatest heroes, why does the Church fail to speak out against oppressive governments in developing nations (particularly when John Kaiser was killed in Kenya for speaking against corrupt and abusive politicians)? Further, if we bring any of these up, why are we branded as "attacking the Church", simply because we're trying to make it better?

If you want to call yourself an American or a person of faith, recognize that the people who founded this country, as well as most major religions, believed that access to the government or the spiritual world belonged to everyone and that we are called to be just to each other. They believed accountability was a fundamental value to strengthening society. Until we recover that, we're all bound for Hell, whether it be spiritual or temporal.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

20 Small Ways to be Consistently Pro-Life

1. Collect diapers and baby clothes for pregnancy resource centers and maternity shelters
2. Write letters to prisoners on death row
3. Donate professional clothes to organizations that prepare low-income people for job interviews
4. Donate winter clothes for refugees who come here with only the clothes on their backs
5. Volunteer in a school in a low-income neighborhood
6. Mentor a child through Big Brothers/Big Sisters (don't forget teens-they especially need mentors)
7. Write letters to your Congressperson about issues of hunger, poverty, and education
8. Educate yourself about these issues (Bread for the World is a great resource about hunger and poverty)
9. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
10. Help start a community garden
11. Write letters to Congress about environmental degradation (Green America is another great resource)
12. Host a fundraising event through Women for Women International to help women survivors of war in different parts of Africa
13. Make a Thanksgiving basket for a low income family on Thanksgiving
14. Correct your friends and relatives when they make a prejudicial remark about someone based on race, abilities, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or what have you
15. Call someone out on slut-shaming (speaking ill of a woman based on her real or perceived sexual past)
16. Collect supplies for your local rape crisis center/volunteer at your local rape crisis center
17. Volunteer at your local hospital/hospice center/nursing home
18. Advocate for people with disabilities
19. Advocate for paid parental leave and educational/vocational opportunities for low-income people
20. Advocate for education that includes contributions by people of all backgrounds

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What's in a Name?

In my sophomore year of college, I took a gender studies course. My university requires that students take classes in social institutions and, as someone who identified as feminist from age thirteen (pro-life views notwithstanding), it sounded interesting. The course did not disappoint. We analyzed cultural constructions of gender in every single institution, from health care, to the work force, to the institutions of marriage and family life. We did a huge unit on how gender impacts weddings and one topic that came up was name changing. According to some studies, younger women were likely to change their names while older women kept theirs. In my own life, I've found this to be true. I've found that most of my married friends (younger women, like myself) were likely to change their last names. I am probably one of the few who chooses to keep hers. While I do not condemn this choice, I do find it interesting.

I choose to keep my name because, while marriage changes my life and soul (yes, soul, for all you Catholics out there), it does not change my identity. If it did change people's identities, why is my husband not expected to take mine in return? I choose not to change it because I don't believe I disappear into him. The changes that happen within us are the same, yet we still are the same at our core. This is reflected in the way the Church chooses to document marriages. Even if a woman changes her last name in civil documents, her last name remains the same as the one she was born with in Church documents. A marriage is egalitarian and I want my choices to reflect that. Of course, my friends are professional, educated women who still make this decision and I respect that. At the same time, I shouldn't make the same one if I don't find it represents my belief in what marriage is and should be.

Some people are curious as to what we'll do when we have kids. We're thinking of simply giving them both of our last names. People will question paperwork but I'd respond with the fact that it's not quite as complicated as it used to be. In professional circles (and certainly academic ones), we're not that unique. To be honest, regardless of that, I don't believe conforming to culture for convenience's sake is a good idea. In addition, for questions of family unity, that is still preserved. Latin American families still manage to preserve that element and they seem to do fine. Besides, how do families manage paperwork if their kids have two first names (Catholic examples like Mary Catherine or Mary Margaret come to my head)? Yes, people will make mistakes with the names and my own kids will have to figure out how to do it when they get married. I can't let that stop me from passing on good names, just like I can't let society stop me from raising my kids to be devout Catholics.

My name still stays the same and so does my title. I will always be a Ms. unless that is replaced by Dr. (yes, academia is calling to me a bit). Some of my friends see differently and that's fine. However, this is my choice, the choice I and my fiance have made for our family. It is possible to be orthodox Catholics without adhering to the dictates of culture-especially when that does not work to my benefit (aside from identity, it also results in me facing even more discrimination in terms of pay). I want to have a marriage that is pleasing to God and that also shows us as standing on equal footing. To me, keeping our names and passing both to our children accomplishes exactly that.