The Worst Way to Celebrate Women’s Day

I woke up to a sink full of dishes and piles of clean, unfolded laundry the dogs were chewing their bones on.  I got my three daughters up for school, laid out their clothes, only to hear one complain her skirt was too long and the the other complain hers was too short.  I made three lunches to nourish their bodies while they are away from me, and made sure their homework was placed in their signed binders.  I drove my middle schooler to the bus stop and as she exited my car I said, “today is International Women’s Day, do something beautiful.”  She quickly responded, “Mom, yesterday was National Touch a Tit Day.”  

My heart burned as I asked whether she was touched. She rolled her eyes and shut the door.

I’ve seen many posts about International Women’s Day online.  Women laugh and poke fun at the stupidity of losing a day’s pay or letting their kids starve. Men make “locker room jokes” about “getting back in the kitchen” or wishing they had told their wife to do their laundry earlier.  I’ve seen the organizer of today’s strike get called a terrorist because she is a Muslim and the protestors equated to a cult.  

I myself, struggled with finding meaning in the strike. The world needs women.  

The world needs her giving heart and creative mind.  The world needs her to make the boo boo’s go away with a single, soft kiss.  The world needs her to squeeze out the day’s hate with a warm embrace.  The world needs her reassurance and her encouragement; that no matter what we face, we will persevere.  The world needs her to prove there is no better reward than that which comes from pain.  The world needs her to fight, because we know that nobody offers more protection than an angry mama bear.  

Women must be more active in society, but more importantly in their own home.  If your husband, brother, uncle, or friend makes a crude, gender specific joke, call him on it.  That doesn’t make you a feminist – that makes you a hero to any little girl who you saved from hearing it at school.  

If your husband, brother, uncle, or friend talks about doing things to women without their consent, call them on it.  Little boys will take those “jokes” to school and enact them on little girls, for example touching her breasts due to “National Touch a Tit Day.”

If you find out that your daughter was harassed at school, call the mother f* school.  There are things the school can do, the most immediate being an announcement about respect.  

Don’t like how the school handled it?  Take action in your community.  Build awareness on gender specific issues- Make a PSA and post it online (ours will be on youtube soon), pass out flyers you created, attend town hall meetings and make sure there are laws that protect gender equality.  

Whatever you do, don’t be silent.  If we accept harassment and groping in middle school, what is to be accepted or ignored later?  One in three girls are raped before the age of 18.  We must use our voices and teach our daughters to do the same.  

It’s ironic that I struggled with how to celebrate International Women’s Day and then was smacked in the face by my daughter’s revelation of National Touch a Tit Day.  

I will celebrate by continuing to raise three amazing little women.  One day I hope they will take the torch and bring new light to the world.  As a woman, I know that in our society, her torch will be put out by many people in her lifetime, especially men.  I know that this is not the first time she will be harassed at school or work.  I know that I cannot protect her from all the gender specific “jokes” in her lifetime.  As her mother, I will teach her about sticks and stones, but as a woman I know that she will sometimes feel like they are boulders holding her down.  In the end, I hope her torch is still lit and that enough action in her lifetime keeps her world, and the world of those around her turning.

And now, on International Women’s Day in 2017, I will fight the fight by writing an email to my daughter’s middle school about tits.

How to Raise Strong Girls Who Stand Up For Themselves

Houston we have a problem, my own daughter doesn’t understand why I marched for women’s rights.  I called her from the protest boasting with pride after marching beside my sisters and fellow human beings fighting to keep moving forward in regard to human equality.  Very unenthused, she replied, “what’s not equal?”  

For a moment I felt like the wind had been taken from my sails.  How could I have failed so terribly as a mother that she didn’t see the beauty of democracy in action.  Is she not proud that her mom is taking a stand for women’s rights?  For her rights?  And then I realized that I’ve done such a good job keeping her safe and empowering her that she’s never felt unequal.  Now, I’ve put myself in a position to explain to her, and her 2 sisters, how they will one day experience inequality in its cruelest most devastating form, unless we fight to keep moving forward.

 

I’ve raised strong girls who feel like their voices can change the world.  But, I haven’t told them that if things stay the same, there will come a point in their lives where they will be told their opinion doesn’t matter.  They’ll be shamed for being too emotional or told they’re less intelligent, even though they may be more educated. They will most likely take the insults without speaking up in order to fit in, but the worst part is that they will start to believe it.  I haven’t told them that their voice will matter less, IF WE DON’T MARCH.

My 12 year old and has not yet been deprived of a better job or told that no matter how hard she’ll try, the boys in her class will most likely make more than her.  In my daughter’s classroom, everyone is equal. I haven’t told her that she won’t have equal opportunities, IF WE DON’T MARCH.

My innocent daughter has managed to escape sexual harassment up to her 7th grade year, but we all know her first bra snap or ass grab is right around the corner.  I haven’t talked to her about how she’ll feel when a boy touches her or humiliates her in public, how she’ll want to rip his hand off but will instead smile and brush it off as a joke.  I haven’t told her this harassment will continue for the rest of her life… IF WE DON’T MARCH.

My daughters have grown up in an environment of safety and protection.  They have never experienced stories of rape or molestation.  I have been so busy teaching them that sex should only happen with a partner you love, that I didn’t tell them how likely it is that they may one day find themselves in a situation where they didn’t consent.  Like many other women, they will question whether they deserved it or if others would believe them if they came forward.  They will suffer in silence, IF WE DON’T MARCH.

It is my responsibility as their mother to teach my daughters about inequality so that they do not accept it when it happens to them.  I have to teach them to march through life with signs everyday that say:

  • My Voice Matters
  • Shatter the Glass
  • No Means No

I have to teach them that if anyone violates their body, their voice, or their rights, they need to speak louder, take action, and keep moving forward.

How I Celebrate Black History Month Every Day

I’m the color white that makes a black man look 50 shades darker.  It’s not just my skin color, I actually think black people look at me and go, “OMG, it’s Becky.”  I usually surprise them in one of two ways; my ability to recite and passionately rap most old school albums – and a booty that can pop, lock and drop it.  I realize that to hear a Becky say she can “toot that thang up” – or – rap so good she could resurrect Biggie Smalls, you may question her abilities.  I don’t care.  I am totally confident in believing I can do these things that whatever comes through my white ass will have soul… I call it my inner blackness.  

 

My inner blackness is driven by music that came from ‘the ghetto.”  It all started on the playground in elementary school (cue Iesha music).  My family and I moved to the ghetto, um, I mean Clearwater and my hood, um, apartment complex, housed a lot of young thugs.  I quickly went from posters of Michael Jackson to records by Easy E.  When my feminist grandmother heard her little red haired girl singing, “Gimme That Nut” I think she almost had a heart attack.  I didn’t do drugs but I did steal my mom’s cigarettes AND smoke them, therefore, I fully defined myself as a thug.  I also loved a brown boy named Chaka and a white boy named Eric.  Chaka already had sex in the 4th grade and his mom was addicted to drugs.  Eric lived with both parents and played 3 sports.  I couldn’t decide which one I liked more, but usually leaned toward Chaka.  He and I would have probably lived happily ever after in our Clearwater version of gangsta’s paradise.  Instead, I moved and cried as I listened to Boys II Men’s “End of the Road” on repeat for 6 months.

My inner blackness is a fighter.  Okay, so maybe I wasn’t raised in the actual ghetto.  I never heard gun shots and although there were plenty of parents who made bad decisions (drug addicts, child abusers, strippers) kids were generally safe playing outside.  I remember getting into a fight with a girl because she kept saying something about my clothes.  It wasn’t really a fight, it was a shouting match where I basically told her my “black ass” would pounce her if she said it one more time.  

My inner blackness gives me confidence and the courage to stand up for myself.  Isn’t that what hip hop music was all about?  Black Americans picked up the pieces of what they had lost and spread it across the world to say this isn’t right!  It’s not right that I have to live in a place where my baby isn’t safe.  It’s not right that she has to pass dealers on the way to school because I have to work 3 jobs and her daddy left. It’s not right that I have to fight for the same opportunities handed to you.  Their powerful messages were of oppression, but most importantly of survival.  

My inner blackness will never know true racial oppression.  There is a part of me that will always embrace the ghetto.  I celebrate my struggles through writing and poetry, and I’m not afraid to let people know when they’ve crossed my boundaries (you know cause I’m hard like that), but I only spent 4 years in “the ghetto” before my mom moved us to the blindingly white town of Palm Harbor.  TuPac, Biggie, Snoop, Ice Cube, East Coast, West Coast all came with me, but soon I realized that, riding in my rich boyfriend’s Saab blasting WuTang looked kind of ridiculous.  This is where the white privilege set in.  How can I speak these lyrics that contain so much pain as I sit in a classroom without a single black kid.  My high school was so white, they had to bus in kids from Clearwater, just to show diversity.  I felt like a hypocrite and felt unworthy of the music and culture that once gave me confidence and pride.  Eventually I realized that my opportunity was not a slight on those who struggle and even though I never felt true racial oppression, I shouldn’t feel ashamed.  I decided to find a way to help the oppressed.  So I went to college and began studying to become a teacher.

 

My inner blackness rises up.  I came from a single mother who could not afford to send me to college.  The only word from my dad was to get a job, but I knew that if I wanted to make the biggest difference, I needed an education.  As an English Ed major, I studied African American literature.  I suffered beside Janie until she built up the courage to take her power back in Their Eyes Were Watching God. When Sharon Draper described the drums of Amari’s African tribe in Copper Sun.  I realized how blessed we are to have this infusion of black music in American culture.  Of course, Harriet Beecher Stowe showed the world what is was like to live as a slave while maintaining faith and dignity in one self.  Tom sacrificed everything, including himself for the sins of others, and it’s no wonder Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the second highest selling book of the 19th century, next to The Bible.  Like hip hop and R&B, African American literature is about power through the pain.  Every single story is a one of survival.  These stories show why black lives matter.

My inner blackness continues to be inspired by the amazing influences in my life.  I always say that my students keep me cool.  I try to relate current musicians to their work in English class.  They always call me out for my choice in rap music as if I’m trying to “act cool” for their sake… If they only saw their teacher on the dance floor!  What they don’t know, is that I don’t do it to be cool.  For decades, Lauren Hill, Snoop, Missy Elliot, Warren G, TLC, Nelly, Outkast, Beyonce, Ludacris, Drake, and more have inspired me to move my body and my life in a way that inspires others.   

If my students can prepare for The Odyssey by learning rhythm and rhyme through TuPac’s Dear Mama or better identify Shakespeare’s use of slang through Drake’s music, then I’m going to rap my heart out for them.  Ask any former student about my skills and they’ll tell you how awesome I am, and by awesome I mean crazy, I’m sure they think I’m totally bat shit crazy.  

On a serious note, I hope they will tell you that I inspired them to rise up regardless of their race, gender, or culture.  I created a classroom of equality.  I continue to teach my own kids that they are no better, and no less than anyone.  I know they will encounter racism and gender inequality and there is little I can actually do about that.  As a nation, we have to appreciate and embrace one another’s differences.  

 

I am so thankful that I have amazing music to shake my white, Becky ass too.  For the stories that have made me a stronger person by teaching me true human sacrifice and survival. For the inspiration to spread my message AND the courage to fight against the oppression.  

I realize that my whiteness might offend some while embracing my inner blackness might offend others.  I hope that if I spend my days living in some off shade of gray, I’ll be content.