I read the articles about FKA twigs’ lawsuit against her former boyfriend, Shia LaBeouf, read her recounting of the ways he abused her and I want to feel something. I want to cry, or get angry, or remember. Instead, I find myself numb. I see myself in her story and my eyes glaze over – I know the story so intimately, even though the details are not the same – and I am forced to skim the pages. I cannot bring myself to read every word. Why would I need to? I lived this.
Not with Shia LaBeouf, obviously, but with my own version: an attractive, charismatic, successful man hellbent on breaking women. A tortured soul – god knows how long I’ve spent, dissecting what neurosis might be to blame for His actions: psychopathy, sociopathy, good-old-fashioned narcissism, a dash of all of that? – who caged me in control and terror for years.
For a long time, I thought that He had chosen me because I was an easy target – someone who lacked confidence and could be controlled. This was a point of contention between me and Cindy, the therapist with whom I was doing Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) – a specific type of therapy for people suffering from PTSD. One of my stuck points (a central tool of CPT) was the belief that “I am weak” – that there was something wrong with me that He had sniffed out. He had seen flaws in me, had known I was someone who could be easily preyed on. Layered on top of the oh-so-common “I am not good enough” that seemed to permeate every cell of my being, this weakness made me a lame duck. I was someone with so little confidence or belief in myself that it would take no effort to destroy me. I blamed myself for what He did.
“What makes you believe that?” Cindy would ask, looking like she sincerely believed that I was good enough. That I was strong. That it actually puzzled her why this was a sticking point for me.
My brain knew the answer: this was what every talking head on Dateline told me, what I’d read in all those books I’d devoured to try to diagnose Him: predators looked for easy targets. Vulnerable women who could be preyed upon with minimal effort. To Cindy, I just shrugged my shoulders, spoke in sweeping generalizations. “I don’t know,” I avoided her eyes. “I just do. That’s what you always hear.”
I did twelve sessions of this specialized therapy. Clinically, my PTSD resolved, my scores improving dramatically (there is no real “test” for PTSD, Cindy explained. She had me fill out a questionnaire to determine which symptoms I might be experiencing, what was triggering me. My initial score was 53. A score above 33 was considered to be experiencing PTSD. By my last session, my score was under 10). I felt better. However, inside I still carried around this belief: that the abuse I suffered was somehow my fault, because I had not been good enough, hadn’t been enough. That I was weak and I brought it upon myself.
I also grappled with wondering if what had happened to me was even really abuse. He never hit me. So, it shouldn’t count right? I stuffed the coercion – financial and sexual – down and pretended they didn’t exist. Pretended I wasn’t being tracked on my phone, told who to talk to or not talk to, like I had choices.
Did I even have PTSD? Certainly, according to Cindy and her diagnostic tools, yes, I very clearly did. But, as I told her – and my regular therapist – and my best friend, who was a therapist, and had been the one to tell me she thought I needed to do some CPT in the first place: I wasn’t a war veteran. I hadn’t been in combat. I felt like a poser claiming I had PTSD.
But, I guess you might ask the friend I texted during a panic attack – feeling like I was going crazy and not able to catch my breath. Or the friend who had to break the news to me that He was in a relationship – who told me it was “scary” the kind of control He had over me, how I stayed in the bathroom for hours while He screamed at me – like it was somehow my fault He’d cheated on His girlfriend, lied to both of us – while she sat in my kitchen, listening to it all. Ask the friend who watched me shake while I opened an invitation to a wedding being held near His mountain cabin: declaring I wouldn’t be able to go. Ask my aunt who told me as I walked in the door – “Wow, you’re skinny, a little too skinny!” –because I weighed in under 100lbs for the first time since middle school. Ask them. They might not tell you I had PTSD but they’d tell you something was wrong.
So I did the CPT, and I felt better. Moved forward, mostly.
And then FKA twigs shared what happened to her. A famous, beautiful woman sharing about her experience with psychological and emotional abuse. She didn’t seem weak or vulnerable. In fact, she seemed pretty bad ass. I wondered what the talking heads on Dateline would say about her.
A few weeks after the story broke, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Natch Beaut. The host, Jackie Johnson, started discussing the allegations against Shia LaBeouf – someone she’d joked about having a crush on for years. Jackie shared that she is a survivor of abuse, and she shared her support for other survivors and thanked women like FKA twigs for coming forward to share their stories. I’d been walking my dog, but kept listening when I got home. Now, listening in my kitchen, with my earphones still in, I hunched over my kitchen sink as I heard Jackie say this: “[abusers] get more satisfaction out of dimming the shine of someone extra bright.” As her own voice started to tremble, I broke down crying, sobbing. I had to hold onto the counter to steady myself. I fell to the floor in tears. Even now, as I write this, I have to take off my glasses and squint through the flood of emotion.
I won’t lie and say hearing that little nugget of wisdom magically made that stuck point of “I am weak” unstuck. It didn’t. I still have moments, some longer than others, when I wonder how I could have let this happen, why I didn’t leave, how I fell for all the bullshit. I see myself as I imagine others must: weak, pathetic, so desperate for love and attention that I will put up with being manipulated and lied, cheated on, used, degraded. I feel humiliated by my choices. I let myself drown in victimhood, shirk the label of “survivor” – I want to both dismiss what has happened to me (“He never hit me! I mustn’t make this a ‘thing’”) and also wallow in it (“this was not right. I deserve to be acknowledged for my pain.”), knowing I can’t have it both ways, knowing holding it will only hurt me more.
I am glad that men like Shia LaBeouf – those in the spotlight, with power and influence – are being called out, named and I hope they will in some way be held accountable for their actions. I know that there are far too many more – especially those not in the spotlight, with power and influence over their partners – who will never be called out, or named or held accountable. I wish I were brave enough to type the name of the man I am writing about here. But I’m not. Among the veiled threats I learned to decode – the bits of information he fed to me over our time together – was how litigious he is, and I know, even if I did write his name, the consequences he would inflict upon me are greater than any he is likely to suffer. And I’m done dealing with his wrath.
I spoke to my therapist today, told her most of this. How I’d felt weak, even when Cindy told me I wasn’t. Told her I was still holding on, even when I knew I shouldn’t. I talked about FKA twigs and Shia and the Podcast. She nodded. I should start to think about being weak with a bit more flexibility, she said. She explained that I did have a vulnerability – I wanted love and affection not because I was weak – but because I was human. That He – consciously or unconsciously – exploited that, and wanted to dull someone’s shine because He saw it as superior.
We looked at each other, through the computer screen, and I sighed. I’ve been wallowing in my victimhood for five years, waiting for something. Maybe it was this: understanding I could be vulnerable and also not at fault, all at once.
Rupaul’s Drag Race came into my life later in high school via a friend and their personal obsession. Half of this friend’s witticisms stemming from the show, rendering us all into constant fits of laughter, paired with them constantly showing me photos of men done up as women looking way prettier than I ever felt… I found myself shook, completely intrigued, and tumbling down after my friend in their rabbit hole of a Drag Race obsession.
When I tell you that I live for the queens’ epic one-liners, the sass for days, the looks being served, the rawness of personality and vulnerability unabashedly being displayed, and the LOVE literally EVERYWHERE… girl, I truly live for it. Drag is an art form. I’ve always loved musicals, live music, performances in general, anything where people just get up on stage and express themselves, no qualms about it. And upon my first taste of Drag Race, I immediately felt that drag is just another facet of the performing arts – it’s the same magical world of comedy, confidence, pure talent, and so much more.
Honestly if you don’t vibe with drag, fine but…
Circa 2012, I was deep within the Drag Race labyrinth, my friend at the helm, us both with no desire to escape. I vividly remember being shocked when we found out that not only was Drag Race not new, but Rupaul wasn’t some underground secret queen locked away for high level fiends. No, no – Rupaul was someone our parents had heard of, jammed out to her music in the 90’s, in other words, a freakin’ star.
Why were we ignorant of this whole world until we were nearly 18? One could speculate that it’s one of the many side effects of growing up between the cornfields of Indiana, but that’s a whole other gift to unbox later down the road.
To this day, when I think I’m a bit more well rounded with the drag world, that I know what’s up, I still get surprised by incredibly important figures whom I had no clue existed. The more recent person that crossed my line of discovery is who Rupaul considers the very mother of drag, Marsha P. Johnson.
Marsha ‘Pay it no mind‘ Johnson
Marsha’s story begins in Elizabeth, NJ where she was born on August 24, 1945 (making her a charismatic Virgo) and she was one of seven children. She was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and remained a devout, practicing Christian for her entire life. Her parents were not particularly accepting of homosexuality; and after graduating high school, Marsha booked it over to New York City with $15 and a bag of clothing. By 1966, she was waiting tables, engaging in sex work, knee deep in drag, and living on the streets of Greenwich Village.
“I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world.”Marsha P. Johnson
. . .
Marsha had always been an activist for LGBTQ+, but she garnered her fame with the rumor that she sparked the Stonewall Riots having allegedly shouted, “I got my civil rights!” and subsequently throwing a shot glass at a mirror. Some said this — the “shot glass heard round the world” — was the moment that kicked off the riots.
While this is admittedly a largely disputed story, even by Marsha herself… how freakin’ epic does it sound, though?
To further build on Marsha’s bad-assery, in 1970, she and her friend Sylvia Rivera founded STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries) — an organization that provided community support for gay, trans, and gender nonconforming youth. STAR was the first LGBTQ+ youth shelter in North America, the first trans woman of color led organization in the USA, and it was the first trans sex worker labor organization. STAR later expanded to other cities, before unfortunately collapsing in the mid-1970s.
Marsha was also involved with the Gay Liberation Front and participated in the Christopher Street Liberation Pride rally that commemorated the first anniversary of Stonewall. During a rally, Marsha was asked by a member of the press what they were protesting for, to which she shouted famously into the reporter’s microphone, “Darling, I want my gay rights now!”
Throughout Marsha’s activism, she was still living it up performing in drag utilizing her earnings to fund STAR – aka pay rent for those under STAR’s care. Periodically she performed with the international drag troupe, Hot Peaches, which caught my eye for obvious reasons! Hot Peaches was a drag theatre company, founded by Jimmy Camicia in 1972, that would put on a play a week up until the 1990’s.
During her Hot Peaches time, Marsha was also performing with various other drag troupes, a muse for Andy Warhol, and was an AIDS activist working with ACT UP as an organizer and marshal.
She was a revolutionary.
Tragedy struck on July 6, 1992 when Marsha was found dead in the Hudson River. The police and coroner ended up rapidly ruling her death a suicide, despite pressure from the community and the blatant wound in the back of her head.
Almost as if the karmatic activism that Marsha put in the world was now circling back to carry on her legacy, in 2012, Mariah Lopez convinced the police to reopen Marsha’s case as a homicide, in 2017, Victoria Cruz conducted her very own investigation of the murder, and in 2018, Marsha P. Johnson finally got her obituary in the New York Times.
Her legacy even further lives on through the Marsha P. Johnson Institute (MPJI).
MPJI MISSION STATEMENT: “Protect and defend the human rights of BLACK transgender people. We do this by organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal, developing transformative leadership, and promoting our collective power.”
“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”Marsha P. Johnson
. . .
According to research from the 2015 US Trans Survey – Report on the Experiences of Black Respondents: Black trans and gender non-conforming people report experiencing the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people based on the combination of anti-transgender bias with structural and individual racism.
Marsha pioneered the fight at great length, she made a difference, but it’s our responsibility as a society to push for what is an evolutionary change. It is such a systemic discrimination taking place that it isn’t a change that can take place over night, but it is a change that can happen through meticulous desire and collective grind.
It’s important to get familiar with how to make a difference. Admittedly, this is perhaps the hardest part. As a straight white woman who grew up in a predominantly white corn-shuckin’ town in the Midwest, I struggle with this. How can I make a difference? As you could clearly tell from the beginning of this article, I’ve watched every season (nearly) of Drag Race and thought I knew all there was to know about drag and ‘the story of.’ Laughable.
I want to make a difference but to do that, I still have a lot of unlearning and learning to do.
As someone, somewhere, roughly once said, “You have to understand the system in order to break the system,” so here are some starting points if you want to travel down a compassionate road with me:
- History on the Stonewall Riots
- The National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition
- The Marsha P Johnson Institute IG is running a Black History Month Honors social media campaign and part of this is literally asking black transgender youth, “We often hear about allyship but we believe in collaborative solidarity. What does it mean for someone to go above and beyond diversity and inclusion?” so follow and listen to what they have to say.
“How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take for people to see that we’re all in this rat race together?”
-Marsha P. Johnson
Everything in this article barely scratches the surface of Marsha P. Johnson and the discrimination of black trans and gender non-conforming people. Please peruse my sources and do your own research to learn more.
World Queerstory, MPJI, Stonewall Foundation, NYC’s Hot Peaches, The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), New York Times, BTAC, Vanity Fair, NY Daily News, WOW Cafe Theater, History on the Stonewall Riots, Biography on Sylvia Rivera
Self-love is a feeling that most, if not all, women struggle to possess. In a society where we are constantly given mixed signals, it’s no surprise that we have a tough time loving who we are!
We have come a long way since our foremothers fought for the right to vote. Women are working hard everyday in professions that were only seen as “a man’s work” for centuries. We have the freedom to get an education and pursue any dream we have and if we want to be a stay-at-home mom, then we can be! But we don’t have to be. Hell, we even have a WOMAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE (btw, happy inauguration day, Madame Vice President)!
However among this growth, we women still have a long road ahead of us to equality and fairness. Yes, on the outside we are equal, but in reality we are given subtle reminders that we are never good enough. These hidden messages, mostly through media, are why it is so hard for women to fully love themselves.
Let’s first look at the most obviously critiqued area of a woman’s life: her appearance. TV commercials, magazine ads, Instagram models and even Hollywood stars send women everywhere a message that we are not enough. We’re told that we aren’t skinny enough or pretty enough or that our hair isn’t shiny enough and our pores are too big, but our boobs are too little. Then, we’re reminded that confidence is the sexiest quality we can have, so just be confident in your own looks. How are we supposed to be fully confident in what we look like when we can never live up to the perfection we see on television? If we can never find love unless we love ourselves first, then how will we ever find love?
This leads me to my next point: our love lives. Even though we are beyond the time of dowries and old maids, it seems like these values are still somewhat etched into the minds of society. We’re told to focus on growing our career and being happy with ourselves before we find love, but when you’re still single in your late twenties as a woman and watching your friends on Facebook settle down, it’s hard not to think, “I’ll be alone forever…with a fantastic career.”
Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, women who want to have children kind of DO have a biological clock ticking in the back of their minds. So it’s challenging to not freak out every time we see another Instagram wedding hashtag and download every dating app that exists, even though we deleted them all 3 months ago because they sucked. Then it’s a downward swiping spiral, full of overthinking and “playing it cool” because being honest about what you want will make you look crazy (because women are too emotional, of course) and men don’t want an overly eager woman because they just want to keep things “casual” BECAUSE MEN DON’T HAVE A BIOLOGICAL CLOCK. After swiping for months and being ghosted by 4 more “cool and casual” guys, we give up, delete the apps again, and tell ourselves we’ll be alone forever unless we learn to love ourselves.
And the cycle continues.
Ladies, self-love seems like an impossible feat. I’m currently struggling with this myself, so I’m no expert by any means. However, these are some things I’m doing (thanks to my therapist) that are actually quite helpful.
1. Negative Self-Talk: Catch it. Check it. Change it.
I’m so used to insulting myself that it doesn’t always occur to me when I’m doing it. I remember in my mid-year review at work last year, I had to do a self-reflection and write some “glows” and “grows.” After my supervisor read through the long list of grows I gave myself compared to the 2 or 3 glows, she said something along the lines of, “wow, you really kicked your own ass here.” The crazy thing is, I truly had been telling myself “I suck at my job” for so long that I couldn’t think of anything good to write about my performance at work.
I called my AA sponsor that day and she told me a catchphrase that everyone needs to hear and put into good use: Catch it. Check it. Change it.
Catching it, that’s step one. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself more closely. Catch yourself when you’re getting into a negativity rant. Notice it. Acknowledge it. Before anything can be fixed, it must first be recognized as a problem. From there, I wasn’t sure where to go next.
I spoke to my therapist later on about it and he gave me some awesome advice. He said, “Whenever I hear that negative voice in my head telling me I can’t do anything right, I tell it, ‘I’d like to see YOU f***ing try it!’“ I laughed so hard, because it’s like you’re having an argument with yourself, but then one day I actually did it. I was so empowered. Then, every time I noticed my negative voice telling me I’m ugly or stupid or worthless, I started arguing back with retorts like, “You’re ugly, negative nancy” or “I know you are, but what am I?” or the simple and satisfying, “F*** off, asshole!”
Let’s face it, your inner negative voice is an asshole. How do we treat mean people in real life? We either ignore them and be the bigger person, or we tell them off. I’m a New Yorker at heart, so I choose the more aggressive method. It always works. Once you notice your negative voice being an asshole, check it.
The last part of this sequence, change it, seems like the hardest part. However, once you get a hang of stopping your negative voice in its tracks and telling it to shut up, you gradually begin to see a change in your thought patterns.
Imagine that your confidence is living in an apartment in your mind. At first, your negative voice is like an annoying roommate that eats all the food in the apartment and never leaves your confidence alone. Doing the “catch it” and “check it” steps is kind of like, helping your confidence kick the negative voice out of the apartment. That negative voice will always be around, though, because it only moved in next door. Now when it comes knocking, your confidence can more easily keep the door shut to it. Does my extended metaphor make sense?
2. Positive Affirmations
I get it, this sounds dumb and you assume it won’t help your self confidence. I always felt that way…until I tried it. Here’s how I went about this. The first day, I wrote out 3 compliments to myself that I already sort of believed to be true on sticky notes and stuck them to my mirror. Then, when I looked in the mirror, I read them out loud. Everyday, I’ll add one new compliment to my mirror. When I feel like I 100% believe the compliment, I’ll take it down. But I’ll never leave my mirror empty.
My best friend does something else that I think is really cool. She has a whiteboard on her door with three reminders to look at everyday. She has the categories “one thing I’ll accomplish today,” “one thing I’m letting go of” and “one thing I’m grateful for.” She changes the first and third everyday and leaves the second one up until she feels like she’s moved on with the thing that’s bothering her. It’s a simple and affective way to affirm your worth everyday!
3. Setting Intentions
Every morning, I have to set my intention for the day. If I forget to do this, I find myself irritable and negative all day. For me, setting my daily intentions comes in the form of a “prayer.” I’m not religious, but I’m very spiritual and I trust the universe. So my prayer is to what I call “Lady Universe” or “Mother Earth” or even my higher-self or passed loved-ones. I always ask for things to be taken away and replaced with its positive opposite. These are my usual 2: “Take away my dread and replace it with motivation” and “Take away my fear and replace it with gratitude.” I’ve recently added, “Take away my self-doubt and replace it with self-love.” I’ll repeat those intentions in my head until I feel ready to get up and start my day. It always makes my day better!
If you feel uncomfortable praying, you can just as easily repeat your intentions in your head without addressing it to some higher power.
This can be hard to remember when we’re busy. I wrote a sticky note and put it inside my laptop so I see it and make sure I “pray” or “meditate” before I start working.
We women are incredible, even if we don’t realize it about ourselves everyday. Whether you try out my methods or think of your own ways to practice self-love, it’s so important to keep yourself first, but not because loving yourself will make others see you as confident and maybe love you more. It’s important to love yourself because you are worth it.
“Your bra strap is showing.”
“I can see your panty-lines.”
“Woah, is that a gray hair?”
Bra straps, panty-lines, and gray hair – oh, my!
How many times has someone made one of the above offhanded comments to you and suddenly you’re sent through an anxiety spiral? You’re now frantically rushing to the bathroom to pluck that stray gray hair you shouldn’t even have because you’re only 25 and what 25 year old has gray hair? You’re also trying to figure out if there’s a way to hide your bra strap and panty-lines… you’re only one “no f*cks given” away from freeing the titty and going commando to hide the lines and straps that society has forced you to wear but is somehow mortified to actually see evidence of on your body.
As your anxiety spiral continues at full force, all you want is to go back to your calm, cool, and collected vibe you had moments before that comment about your appearance was made. Now you’re in a position where you’re uncomfortable with your own body, wondering how you can fix it, or if it can even be fixed right in this moment.
Pro-Tip: If you want to say something about someone’s appearance in order to “help them out” – make sure it’s something they can fix immediately. If they can’t fix it immediately, don’t comment on it.
- Tell someone:
- They have something in their teeth
- They have a visible booger or something on their face
- They have toilet paper stuck to their shoe
- Their makeup is smeared/lines are harsh (something they can quickly swipe and fix)
- DON’T tell someone:
- That you can see their gray hair, they probably know it’s there and are mildly self-conscious about it. What are you gaining in telling them you see it? They can’t dye their hair right this second…
- That you can see panty-lines or bra straps – they’re just the visual constructs of society holding our shit together. Don’t hate the lady – HATE THE MAN!
- That their lack of makeup makes them look tired/sick, “Are you ok?” not anymore homie…
Honestly, just don’t give unsolicited opinions about someone’s appearance – unless it’s something that will boost their self-esteem and make them smile. You’re not helping anyone by knocking down their physical appearance.
Even Regina George knew that…
. . .
The comments that get the most under my skin are about gray hair. Yes, yes – I am 25 years old with quite a few grays. I have rather dark brown hair, and I’ve been assured this is why it seems I have more than most of my friends, but it still makes me feel self-conscious. My lighter haired gal pals either get their hair dyed more frequently or their graying hair is maybe a lighter blonde?! We’ll never know 😉 (and that’s annoying)
Personally though, I’ve had several hairdressers assure me that I truly don’t have as much gray hair as I think and also that 25 isn’t super radical for grays to start showing face. Graying before you turn 20 is a bit early for grays, but after 20 is more in that “normal” sector. Whatever normal means anyway.
Through my frantic research of “is gray hair in your 20s normal?!” I found awesome terminology for the grays – some call them your “wisdoms” or “wisdom highlights” – and I’m obsessed with this. Gray hair confirming I am one of the wisest of them all? Yes, please.
“A little gray hair is a small price to pay for this much wisdom.”
. . .
As much as this article starts out by saying “DON’T RAIN ON SOMEONE’S PARADE BY MAKING UNSOLICITED REMARKS ON THEIR APPEARANCE!” People are still going to do it, they’re going to make a comment if you rapidly lose or gain weight, if they can see your gray hair, if your eyebrows need done, etc. People will always talk, always. You can’t control what they say, but you can control how you react. You have the power to decide if their opinion is of value and worthy of your stress, or if you completely disregard their remarks, maintain the headspace you had moments before the words left their mouths, and don’t let them live rent free in your head.
I think we can all agree the latter is the better option here.
. . .
It’s 7:00AM on a Tuesday. You roll out of bed after turning off the blaring sound of your alarm and shuffle to the bathroom. As you start brushing your teeth, you rub your tired, crusty eyes and glance up at the mirror. WHAT THE HELL? You move closer to the mirror and zoom in on the patch of brand new zits on your forehead. You quickly rinse and spit, so you’re able to use both hands on the demolition task you’ve just been assigned.
After successfully making your skin red and blotchy, you mosey back into your bedroom to get dressed for work. WHY DON’T I LOOK GOOD IN ANYTHING I OWN? You think to yourself as you throw another fitted dress onto the floor. You settle on something baggy enough to cover up the apparent 10 pounds you gained overnight. Flustered and feeling disgusted at yourself, you make your way out the door just in time to catch the bus.
Fast forward 6 days. You feel less disgusting and more like yourself. It’s lunch time and you find yourself eating dessert first. YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, RIGHT? About an hour later, you’re hit with a stabbing feeling in your gut. It’s almost like someone with sharp, french-tipped nails is using your insides as a stress ball. DAMMIT. You know this feeling all too well. You’re too busy at your desk to run to the restroom, plus cramps usually start awhile before you bleed. You dig out some Midol from your purse and swallow a couple down with your iced coffee.
1 hour later and you feel that dreaded ooze downstairs. SHIT! As you run down the hall to the restroom, you realize that you’ve forgotten a tampon. Luckily, you have 75 cents in your pants pocket to get one from the machine. After assessing the damage (on your favorite pair of underwear, of course) you glance into the mirror as you wash your hands. THAT EXPLAINS THE BREAKOUTS AND LOW SELF-ESTEEM. DUH.
If you were born with a uterus, you can probably relate to this chain of events. Every month, we wonder why we are so disgusted with ourselves and then one week later, like clockwork, we are reminded again that it’s all caused by hormones. Every month we shell out an excessive amount of money on tampons, pads, panty liners and pain killers. Why is it so expensive to simply exist as a female?
Let’s have a little run-down, shall we? On average, this is how much we spend on period products:
-1 box of 36 tampons, $7
-1 package of 44 pads, $6
-1 package of 100 panty liners, $6
-1 bottle of Midol (40 count), $7
-1 bottle of Pamprin (40 count), $7
According to Pandia Health, a lifetime supply of tampons at the price listed above would cost $1,773.33. Let’s say you work full-time at a minimum wage job. You’d make around $15,000 a year, according to USA Facts, so my calculator says that’s $1,250 a month. That means you’re spending more than a month’s wages on something you NEED, that males don’t have to buy. On that note, there’s actually nothing that males HAVE TO buy on a regular basis. Razors? Not a necessity. Deodorant? Toothpaste? Ok, but women need to buy that stuff too. Also, you can argue that those things aren’t exactly a NECESSITY.
Let’s look further into that dollar amount. What can $1,773.33 buy you today?
- 1 brand new Apple Macbook Pro AND a brand new Ipad AND an Apple Pencil
- A decent used car
- 14 monthly unlimited subway cards in NYC
- 3 8-day passes to Burning Man WITH parking passes
- A first-class plane ticket from NYC to Bangkok with only one layover
- 7,092 rolls of Cottonelle toilet paper
Need I go on? I could, but I think I’ve made my point.
Today I read an article that Scotland has unanimously voted to make all period products free for all those who need them. Schools and universities will provide tampons and pads for free in the restrooms, and the government will provide those things for free elsewhere.
Don’t you think the whole world should follow Scotland’s example? I think free period products are a right. Period.
“BAB?? What’s a BAB?”
It’s a not a what, it’s a who – and she is a Boss Ass Bitch. This article is the start of a new PKC series where knowledge is shared on BABs throughout history that shockingly didn’t make it into our mansplained school curriculum.
First up is educator, entrepreneur, activist, and Taurus: Lizzie Johnson, the “Cattle Queen of Texas.”
Lizzie was born in 1840 in Missouri, but she moved to Texas at such an early age that she really did most of her growing in The Lone Star State. The daughter of teachers, she was quick to follow in their footsteps and became an educator at her parents institute for sometime before opening her own school in Austin. While Lizzie valued playing a part in educating the future leaders of America, she craved a life that was simply more. Her need for change, her general need for more, led her to a bookkeeping gig for numerous cattlemen that all held high status and great wealth in Austin. After a short time of being nose deep in these prominent cowboys’ accounting books, she thought, “Well I can do what these guys do, easy.”
And she did.
By her early thirties, Lizzie had bought her first ten acres of land and was among the first women to wrangle her own cattle along one of the major routes through Texas – the Chisholm Trail. Her success was revolutionary, her path was trailblazing, and while she was building this empire, she was still an educator and did not stop teaching at her school in Austin until well into her forties. Lizzie Johnson challenged societal norms, pushed through gender roles set before her, and was an activist with a passion for both women’s rights and additionally prison reform.
In the midst of expanding her business, Lizzie fell in love with widower Hezekiah Williams. But before she would marry him, our BAB, Lizzie, required a prenup that stated she would remain in full control of all of her finances and all of her property – Hezekiah couldn’t touch it without her say so.
Can we take a moment to applaud this revolutionary act that no doubt caused a ripple in the community? A woman in the 19th century not relinquishing control of her life to her husband?! Blasphemous!
This BAB said, “My blood, my sweat, my tears, my brain – my money.”
And honestly Hezekiah must have been a dope dude, because he signed it and they were happily married, boosting each other along their respective ambitions until his death in 1914. Her husband’s death absolutely crushed her, resulting in her to live her remaining ten years as what locals called her: a miserly recluse. I refuse to end her story on a sad note, so you should most certainly know that by the end of her life, old gal, Lizzie, had acquired 160 acres of land and amassed $250,000 which would convert to nearly $3 million today! And more notably, in 2013, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum.
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What can be learned from Lizzie Johnson is that following familial traditions is okay up until the point which you find yourself unsatisfied. Don’t ever ignore the hunger inside you craving more, don’t ever try to tame your fire to make others feel comfortable – sort out what you want and create a realistic path of how you’re going to get there, then make it happen. Most of all, Lizzie is a prime example of all of the limitless possibilities that can happen when you know your worth.
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We used to be dancers.
From the ages of 2 to 18, I took classes in ballet, tap dance, jazz dance, lyrical and a bit of tumbling. Since I’m a woman who does not hide her femininity and frankly hates doing hard labor or even the thought of being outside or sweating, I fit the stereotype that many people hold in their minds when they envision a ballerina.
However, during my time as a dancer I met one of my very best friends, Ali O. Ali did not, and still does not, fit the ballerina stereotype. She is hardworking, adventurous, outdoorsy and strong. She is a Marine.
Ali danced for 16 years, just like I did. When we graduated high school, Ali said to me, “Could you see this graceful ballerina being a Marine?”
Although I was shocked, I knew that Ali had much more grit than I. She’s a farmer’s daughter, and worked in her dad’s watermelon fields practically from the time she could walk.(Side bar: She asked me to work with her when I was in middle school and I barely made it 4 hours out there. She still makes fun of me for how much I whined, but it is NOT an easy job!!)
Being a female Marine is not the only badass thing about her. When Ali was active in the Marine Corps, she also became a single mother.
Ali was stationed in Japan, California and Virginia. After serving 7 and a half years in active duty, she is now back in Indiana with her 5-year-old son.
This summer, I got to catch up with Ali and ask her questions about her experience as a Marine and as a single mom.
Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps in the first place?
I kind of had mixed emotions about going to college. I saw my friends going places for school and I didn’t really know what I wanted to study, so, why pay for the degree? School’s not my thing. I wanted to do something different for myself.
What was the most difficult part of being a Marine for you?
I would say just overcoming the trials you face as a female Marine. There are a lot of standards that are supposed to be held equally, but they’re not. They never are.
Let’s dig deeper into that. Women are constantly portrayed as “weak” or “too emotional” in today’s society. Did you ever have an encounter where someone in the Marines made you feel “weak” for being a woman?
Oh yea. One example where you’re looked at as weak is that typically women don’t run as fast as men. Look at how the physical exams are scored: a female would have to run 3 miles in 20 minutes for a “perfect score,” where a man’s “perfect score” would require him running the same distance in 17 minutes. Even if a woman got a “perfect score” of 20 minutes, the men still saw her as “less-than” because it’s not as fast as them.
What other things happened to you as a Marine that made you feel “less-than” or that lead your male counterparts to wrongfully judge you?
I had a boss once that would make me come into his office to write on his whiteboard. He told me he thought my handwriting was better than others’, but really, he was looking at my butt as I wrote. He made me do all kinds of other tasks for him too. If I refused to work for him, he’d send me out to the field. If I went to the field, I had to leave my kid behind for months on end, so I had no choice. When I did this work for him though, the other male Marines would think I was getting some sort of special treatment for being a woman. In actuality, I was being used and not treated well at all!
(I didn’t know what “the field” meant, so I asked her to explain it. Going to the field means going out in the middle of nowhere, usually in a desert area. Out there you do a lot of driving and logistics. Still confused?? Me too.)
Now let’s talk about the stereotype of women being “too emotional.” What did you encounter in your time as a Marine that was caused by this stereotype?
I was a Marine Sergeant, and a female at that. Since I was the boss to so many men, I had to control my emotions in order to get their respect. For example, if I didn’t yell at them all the time, they wouldn’t take me seriously and try to walk all over me. On the other hand, if I did yell at them, they’d call me a crazy bitch!
What about other female Marines that you worked with? Were they treated differently because they were women?
Yes. No matter a woman’s rank, she was treated differently. If a woman was treated well, other men would say she was getting “special treatment” and didn’t deserve it. If a woman was screamed at by her higher-up, the men would say something like, “that was nothing compared to the way he screamed at me earlier!” It was like nothing we ever got was merited or just, good or bad.
What do you think about the stereotypes of women being “weak” or “ruled by emotion”?
I don’t think I’m weak or too emotional. I understand why the stereotypes exist though. Yes, women typically express emotion more than men do. Yes, I can’t run as fast as a man…Whoop-dee-doo! However, I rose in the ranks for a reason, and there are other “manly” things I can do 10 times better than my male counterparts. I think the issue is that women can usually understand both sides, but men typically don’t see from a woman’s point of view.
Let’s switch gears now. I know that you had your son while on active duty. Tell me about this! Did you feel judged? Did you feel supported?
It’s a crazy story. Well, my son happened when my mom and sister came to Japan (where I was stationed) for vacation. When they came, my son’s dad and I had to ask for leave to go on vacation too.
His dad was a corporal at the time and I was a lance corporal then. It already looked bad that two higher-ups in the Marines were dating. Well, when we asked for the time off, my commanding officer said to me, “I’ll let you two go together out of the kindness of my heart, but don’t let anything happen.” This was him telling me not to get pregnant. So, when I came back pregnant it was a huge ordeal. (Side bar: I personally think it’s hilarious that she DID get pregnant on the trip after her commanding officer told her she couldn’t. Maybe I just revel in chaos and rebellion, but it’s a great way to stick it to the man, I think!)
The Marines only see you as a number, as an asset to the Corps. They don’t even pretend to care about your mental health, your family life…nothing.
Tell me more about being treated as a number. How did this affect you where pregnant?
Well, one example is when I worked as a dispatcher. Basically, I had to stay in the shop from the time a truck left until the truck came back. One time they had me stay in the shop for weeks on end, pregnant, only eating tuna and crackers. They didn’t take my pregnancy or my baby’s health into consideration when they sent me out there.
Another example of this lack of concern for my baby’s well-being was when they had me come support securing trucks before a typhoon. Before a big storm like that, they make you come immediately, as you are, to clear out weapons and things from trucks. I came as I was, in flip-flops and shorts, to work in the pouring rain when I was pregnant. I stepped into a wet truck, slipped, and fell flat on my face. I was pregnant! That was when I started to think, “f*** all of this!”
There are other things like that I could tell you about, but being pregnant in the Marines was challenging in every aspect. You’re looked down upon for even going to a doctor’s appointment. They have me for life and I could barely take an hour to get an ultrasound!
I know that you and your son’s father did not stay together after your son was born, but we won’t go into details of that. What was it like to be a single mom while you were on active duty?
It’s difficult to have a family and be in the Marine Corps. Male bosses just don’t seem to care that you have a child to take care of. Say that they’re looking for someone to do a task…they don’t take you having a child into consideration when they choose someone for it.
A more specific example is when they sent me to the field for months. I couldn’t take my son with me, so I had to fly with him to Indiana to stay at my parents’ house. Then I’d have to fly back to where I was stationed. The money I had to spend on airline tickets was astronomical!
I also would be looked down upon if I didn’t go work out with the marines at 5:30 AM, so I’d have to get him up at 4:30 to bring him to a sitter…just to work out!
In general, it was very overwhelming to balance my duties as a mom and a Marine. Since we had to move around a lot, my son’s behavior was changed a lot and it was a lot to handle. I’d have breakdowns from the stress!
What do you do now that you’re no longer in active duty? How do you balance that with your duties of being a mother?
I’m in school now and we’re living at my parents’ house. I was working working part time, too, but I wasn’t making enough money. I decided it was better to just be a full time student. It’s god awful living with my parents again, but it’s what I need right now.
You would think that I’d feel better at balancing duties, but because of COVID-19, my son is home all the time and asking me to play when I’m trying to do school work. It’s really hard to be the mom that gets to play with her kid AND be the student that gets A’s.
What are some of the positives of being a single mother to your son?
My son and I are pretty much best buds and I know that he thinks the world of me. Even though it would be nice to have some help and someone to lean on, you also don’t have someone telling you exactly how to raise your child. It’s all up to you!
What advice or words of inspiration do you have for current or future single mamas?
Don’t stress out about the little things!
Don’t let someone tell you how to parent; you know what’s best for your child.
Most importantly, if a family member does not want to be in your child’s life, do not try to force it. If someone wants to know and love your kid, they will make an effort.
What advice do you have for women that are thinking of joining the Marine Corps?
Make sure that you are physically and emotionally in the right space. Weigh the options and decide if it’s what is best for you now. Do you want to start a family soon? Think it over before you decide to join.
Ali O. is and always has been one of the strongest people I know. Her son has been through a lot of changes in his 5 years of life, but he is kind, smart, funny and well-rounded, all thanks to his devoted mother. She is constantly breaking stereotypes and, I believe, is an inspiration for all women out there.