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Current Events, feminism, Guest Posts

The Good Girls Guide to Survival in Trumpland

December 20, 2016
survival

By Amy Reardon

“You are blocking everyone’s progress!” I screamed. It was 8am and the construction worker was backing his pickup truck onto the sidewalk, blocking my running path and making it impossible for cars to pass on the street next to us. Rush hour in Denver, the morning after Election Day, and he was everything that was wrong with the world. The air was thick and still with smog.

I had my next line ready and waiting for his response.

“The women of this country are pissed, and you had better get used to it!” I planned to say, but I didn’t get the chance because after my first salvo, he stepped out of the truck in jeans and work boots. He lifted up his hands.

“I’m really sorry, ma’am, I just have to unload the drywall,” he said, and I could see from his face he was not out to bury the women of this country after all.

The day before, on Election Day, I awoke absolutely 100% sure we would be electing our first female president. That morning I floated outside for my run and looked up at the blue sky and white puffy clouds. Today everything changes, I thought. Today begins a new conversation on the global stage, one in which the President of the United States calls out anyone in her path who dismisses, interrupts, overrules, condescends, mansplains*, excludes, objectifies, usurps, negates, demeans, shoots down, shuts down, steals from, shames women for their biology or otherwise bangs on with the same old tired tags, emotional and weak. The leader of the free world will systematically reject the devaluation of women and give birth to a new model of behavior that will slowly permeate our homes, schools and institutions, like water runs under a door and slowly floods a room.

I imagined dinner tables, office water coolers and Starbucks coffee shops across America, where it would become commonplace to quote our president’s candid responses to pompous windbags who publicly dismissed her ideas. This would open the door for all of us to do the same. As I ran along listening to Sia’s voice sing “Titanium” on repeat – I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away – I jumped up and punched a fist into the air.

All day Election Day, I walked around in this magical new world. My back was straighter, my head higher, my shoulders open. I made eye contact and grinned at the people in the elevator. I felt empowered to take up space because I knew, KNEW, our new president would have our backs. When a tall, broad shouldered man in a suit and tie barreled down the sidewalk outside my office in my path and refused to move his line, I held mine. His shoulder slammed into me as he passed, and I smiled at my feet and thought, no dude, we share the sidewalk now.

See that’s precisely what I had wrong. I was waiting for our first female president to give me permission to take up my own space. Girlfriends, we are never going to be treated as equals while we expect someone else to do it for us. HRC has never waited for anyone to give her permission to do anything. Do you think the dictators and despots of the world wanted to meet with a female Secretary of State? No. But she got off her airplane in whatever crazy corner of the world she had business, walked her pantsuit into his golden palace or high-security bunker or mountainside retreat and took a seat at the table. Every day of her life.

We women did not invent this mindset, the idea that someone else was going to protect us and fight our battles: it’s called a patriarchal society. Now, this is the point in the conversation where I always lose my male friends. They immediately move into fight-or-flight mode, assuming I’m accusing them of something, and I am not. We built this society together, in farm houses and covered wagons and log cabins and bedrooms and boardrooms, for better or for worse, generation after generation after generation.

Anthropologists suggest the roots of the patriarchy began about 6,000 years ago, when humankind moved from the egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies into agriculture and domestication. In a patriarchy, the male steps in as head of the house, providing for and protecting the women and children. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

It took the defeat of my long-time hero to realize my mistake: when I wanted my president to fight for my station in life and then turn around and hand it to me, I was doing it again. The day we lost the election was the day I formally withdrew my participation in the patriarchy. Today I ask you to join me.

As such, I present the Good Girls Guide to Survival in Trumpland. Think this plan might not be for you? Read on, sisters.

Raise your hand if like me, you crave approval. Remember when kind old grandpa patted you on the head and said run along and be a good girl, and you beamed up at his wrinkled face and wanted to please him so bad you seriously asked yourself, how can I be a better girl?

How many times have I started to pitch an idea at work and been interrupted by a boss who thought he knew more so I deferred and left a great plan unexecuted because I didn’t have the nerve to push back and take the floor again? A million.

A million times I have handed over my voice and my authority to the men around me. It was so easy. I was busy. I had more important things to do, like the serious work of getting my family through the day. Having an opinion amidst the blowhards and one-uppers just didn’t feel like my job. They can have the floor, I thought, how arrogant. And in this silent negotiation, I handed over my leadership, my authority and my voice to the men around me.

Look at how boys are raised: they are pushed out on sports fields and jostled and told to be tough, argue and compete.  Girls are still, to a certain extent, raised to be nice, to get along, to smile, to be the helpers. The boys are told they will have to steer the ship, and they may be thrown into the cold water without a lifejacket so they better figure it out. Girls are offered the choice to opt out.

Ladies, I’m here to suggest we can do better. My favorite author Cheryl Strayed says you only have until you’re 30 years old to blame your parents for what is wrong with your lives, after that it’s on us. So if you’re 30 and you’re not like my friend KB who is president of a global company … if you’re not like my friend Tiffany who just survived a mortal illness to come back and be a mommy again and inspire her entire community with jokes and goodwill … if you don’t identify with the term nasty woman or you’re not sure you need to be a feminist … or if you just really want to be liked, then you might be like me, and sister, I suggest you read on.

Five years ago, I was reading the book, “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman, and I encountered a sentence that moved me to stop writing about other people’s ideas and start writing about my own. He predicted that because women’s lives have changed so much over the last 200 years, the era in which we live is one in which “new institutions, moral systems and practices will begin their first tentative emergence.”

Previously, women had no choice but to spend 100 percent of their lives bearing and raising children, then they died. Then came the industrial revolution, food become plentiful, medical care saved lives and birth control allowed us to step off the baby treadmill. As a result today’s woman now spends only 10 percent of her life bearing and raising children. It is not an exaggeration to say that women’s lives have been transformed. Add to this the good work of the feminists, and we find ourselves in a Consolidation Generation. It’s our job to sort out the new role of women after two centuries of change.

Today I ask you, are we going to allow the patriarchy to define these new institutions, moral systems and practices, or are we going to define them ourselves? It’s time for us to stop being complicit in giving away our own voices, our own authority and our own place in the world.

Now let’s be smart about this. I’m not suggesting an outright revolt against the patriarchy, but what if we simply outgrew it?

Goodness knows the men we love are in consolidation too. They’re expected hold up their own end of our twisted social bargain while at the same time being emotionally intelligent, politically correct co-parents, and somewhere in between getting down on one knee to spring diamonds from their pockets. Our little boys are being medicated because they don’t act more like girls and warned if they’re not careful, they might just become a rapist.

I’m done being nice and keeping my mouth shut. It’s not working. So as American society tilts back toward its patriarchal roots, I present the Good Girls Guide, six simple steps for survival in our new status quo.

Step 1: Find fulfillment.

Whatever interests you, whatever you love, whatever you are good at: get better at it. Practice, read books, listen to podcasts. Find experts to follow who excite you and fill your mind with ideas that move you to closer to mastery. Know more about these ideas than anyone else in the room.

Step 2: Use your voice.

Win arguments on these topics, every time.  Fight to the end because when you assert your opinion, you claim your place on the leadership committee, and that is where we need to be. Have one or two or three or four topics in which you are the master – be they mergers & acquisitions or global warming or potty training or neighborhood building codes or software development kits. Speak up every time. The world needs your voice.

Step 3: Take up space.

DO NOT ASK PERMISSION. DO NOT ANNOUNCE YOUR INTENTION. DO NOT GET MAD. DO NOT EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE TO GIVE IT TO YOU. Just take your space: it was yours the whole time. It was never someone else’s to give. Does this scenario sound familiar? You sit down in an airplane seat and the guy next to you has his whole arm on the armrest, and even though you wanted some armrest, you put your hands in your lap, and you sit there and fume. Stop doing that immediately. Put your arm on the armrest. Hold it there, right against his arm. I’ve tried it, and I assure you, he will share. No talking, no blaming, no asking, no apologizing. JUST TAKE IT. You had it all along.

Step 4: Ask for what you need.

Boys are raised to go out and get what they need. They don’t feel bad and they don’t apologize. If there are five Popsicles and five people, and you are one of the five people, don’t wait until everyone has had one to see if they might want a second. Have a Popsicle. It’s more fun when we all enjoy Popsicles together. If we don’t show our families and co-workers how to treat us, then they get to decide what we deserve.

Step 5. Do not ask for permission.

It is not theirs to give you. If women are going to be treated equally we have to stop asking the world for permission. The power was yours all along. Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying, “No one can make you inferior without your consent.” Today, we stop giving our consent. In 1992, Gloria Steinem wrote a book in which she called upon women to take all the freedoms they had been given from the feminist movement and step into their own power. Girlfriends, this was 25 years ago. What are we waiting for?

Step 6: Elevate other women.

Sheryl Sandberg and Sallie Krawcheck and the ladies of the White House staff are right when they challenge us to make simple choices every day to support each other, like “amplifying,” the act of repeating other women’s ideas to recognize their contribution. Recently a friend told me a female executive officer at her company came to her to inquire about the leadership bios posted on their website. She wanted to know, shouldn’t the new male officer joining the firm be featured ahead of her? The answer to this question is no. We must also help each other claim our space.

If you’re still wondering whether the Good Girls Guide is for you, here’s a test. Has a father, boyfriend, husband or boss ever called you sweet? If your answer is yes, I suggest it’s time to have a look in the mirror. Sweet is dessert. Dessert is optional, full of empty calories. If people are calling you sweet, I ask you to consider whether you may have handed over your power.

I know what you’re going to say now. We’re tired. And what’s wrong with wanting to be liked? We have to do everything and walk the dog and clean up after the sick child and bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Do we really do have to collaborate and make equal contributions and take our rightful share of the armrest too?

And to this I say yes, we do. When the Good Girls of America stop choosing to be dessert, I do believe we will never, ever again have to watch the world’s champion for human rights concede an election. We will never have to sit by and sob while she assures our daughters that they are valuable, powerful and deserving. Our daughters will already know that. Good Girls of Trumpland, let’s get started.

*Credit: Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Things to Me”

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 Amy Reardon is a writer in Denver, CO. She is at work on a novel about how women interact with each other via the Stanford University School of Continuing Studies Online Writing Certificate Program. Amy can be found on Facebook.

 

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

 

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

feminism, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Grabbing Pussy, Flipping the Script.

October 11, 2016

By Tammy Delatorre

When I first saw your videotape, I might say I was disgusted like thousands of men and women were who watched it. But instead, I was obsessed. I listened to it over and over, practically memorizing the words. Why was I fixated?

You said you grabbed women by their pussies. At first, I wanted to understand the mechanics of it. It implies a woman has a handle down there, something around which you can get your fingers; as if the pussy were the first body part to reach for, rather than a woman’s hand to shake out of respect, or her arms to embrace in friendship. It implies, too, that no permission is needed—the reach from a man in power is justification enough. They will let you do it; they will allow you to do anything. That’s what you said.

I’m intimately familiar with the biology of a pussy because I have one, although I realize my pussy is not one you’d want to grab. After all, according to your rating system of women, I’m not an 8—far from it. Continue Reading…

beauty, feminism, Friendship, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts, love

Beauty and Bitterfruit

November 24, 2015

By Renee Gereiner

There’s something painful about living in a world where the rules have never made sense to you, where the idea of following the rules breaks your own heart, so you start making bird calls in the middle of the night, hoping someone will hear you, hoping there will be someone else out in the cold night singing.  It takes so long for it to happen so that when it finally does the other bird is old, and she presents you with a bitterfruit.  Like no one you know, she speaks, “We are not of this world.”  And you don’t question her, because she holds you in the deep brown of her eyes.

When you bite it, you become the women you always knew you were.

You sneak into parties you aren’t invited to where the beer is cheap and the women are shirtless; you drink bottles of wine in fancy restaurants standing up; you talk about film and documentaries and both the history of it and all the bullshit of what happened to old fashioned picture taking like you’re a famous photographer who has an honorary PhD at NYU; you drink your weight in wine; you stay up all night literally burning your shit in a bonfire with hippies; and you finally start making those blue nude portraits that actual professionals compare to the late Francesca Woodman.

But, of course, the bitterfruit gives you diarrhea and you end up spending afternoons over the toilet bowl, and even so, you still go back for more.  Because the calling of the bird tickles you from the base of your spine all the way down the sides of your wings until you are flying.

The bird knows shit that women wish they didn’t know. Continue Reading…

courage, Fear, feminism, Guest Posts, Women

On Being an Unnatural Woman

November 20, 2015

By Leah Wyman

I’m walking in the the rainforest, debating whether or not to put in my iPod headphones to ease my jitters.

For a country with “Pura Vida” as its motto, Costa Rica can be an anxiety-provoking place for somebody who’s a borderline agoraphobic.  But here I am, covered in mud, my clothes sopping with sweat, swatting at bugs and moss, feeling all kinds of outdoor unknowns prickly all over me. I’m exhausted, I’m lost in the wilderness, and I’m grappling with the surreal situation I find myself in.

I had followed the map closely, I thought, but got turned around as to whether to climb up the creek bank or down the creek bank to get to the waterfall I was seeking. To most seasoned outdoorsmen (or just anyone who gets the concept of how rivers work), this wouldn’t be a mental struggle.

But hell if I knew—and downstream seemed conceptually like less of a labor. No guide, no common sense–just the great outdoors and me, scaling rocks and branches, sloshing my boots into deep pools, petrified of snakes, and talking to myself through this anxious situation.

You’re doing real good Leah, reeeeeeal good. You got this. I sputtered, spooked by weird animal and bug sounds and the rustle of leaves. I threaded the headphone cord in and out of my fingers. Maybe a little Katy Perry telling me I was a ‘Firework’ would spur me on.

Nature has always known its relationship with me: respectfully guarded but also utterly hysterical. It’s moved past dubious and now it feels like fact: the environment and its inhabitants are tickled by me. Mother Earth needs amusement like the rest of us, and I feel like the laughingstock of the terrestrial community.

As with most suburban brats, anything remotely wild in my past happened in zoos.

With my class at the primate exhibit at Brookfield Zoo I was standing completely unawares when I suddenly felt a nasty, mealy, putrid paste being flung repeatedly at my face and body. One of the so-called majesties we were admiring with awe had just thrown its shit at me. Gorilla feces all over me. In my hair, in my eye, all over my new sweater from the Gap, which I’d gotten for Christmas, which I really liked.

I was crying and humiliated while my teacher tried to wipe soapy water through nooks and crannies of cable knit. Mrs. Scott walked me to the zoo store and picked out a nerdy t-shirt with a baby otter that exclaimed “I Otter Be at the Brookfield Zoo!” for me to wear the rest of the day. (God bless you, Mrs. Scott). Continue Reading…

feminism, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A 16 Year Old Writes “The Day I Became A Woman.”

November 5, 2015

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station: This is a piece for my “Young Voices” series. It was written by  Anastasia Kranz who is sixteen years old.  I am in the process of organizing the next Girl Power workshop so please stay tuned to this site and my social media, especially @GirlPowerYouAreEnough on instagram.

I am looking for more young voices to publish so please submit if you have something to say. Please note, if you are under 18 you must have parental permission unless you are using a pseudonym. I am so excited to be working on the book Girl Power: You Are Enough, as well as the workshop for young women which has been a HUGE success so far. Please help me spread the word and sign up or sign your daughters/nieces/friends. I am also in the process of selecting ambassadors to represent #GirlPowerYouAreEnough. More information on this on my instagram at @jenpastiloff. Love, Jen

By Anastasia Kranz

The day I became a woman was not the expected landmark in my puberty, it was the day I realized I needed to be a feminist. There were many factors that culminated in this epiphanic moment, and all of them were issues that I would later find addressed by feminism.

Two years ago, at fourteen, I was obsessed with the prospect of a perfect body. Despite asthma and a lack of athletic skills, I forced myself to run every single day after school. On a warm day in June I put on my running sneakers and started my workout playlist. As I was running, I heard a harsh voice—I turned around and the biggest fear of my preteen life was realized. A middle-aged man had pulled his car up next me and was opening the passenger door. He yelled “Get in the car!” repeatedly at my trembling face. I froze, then ran in the opposite direction, only pausing at the traffic light where I met my friend–to whom I didn’t relay the story. Later, when I got home, I didn’t even tell my mother. At the time, I wanted my freedom—and I needed freedom because I wanted to burn calories. At the time, I did not understand that I had just experienced an attempted kidnapping.

The scariest part of the event was surprisingly not when a man attempted to abduct me. Instead, it was what I was told by the police, a few days later, after I told my parents what had happened. I met with a detective whom I believed would be helpful and supportive. Instead, the detective labeled me guilty: for not reporting the event earlier, but also for the running clothes I’d been wearing. In the gray box of a room, I sat with my knees hugged to my chest and listened to the detective tell me that I should not have been outside alone wearing “provocative” activewear. Then he said that if, per se, my little sister had been abducted in the time that I had waited to report the event, then her abduction would have been my fault. The shame and guilt I felt from the words of this man were the detrimental effects of victim blaming. I knew that what he said was wrong and problematic, but I did not learn what those phrases meant until later down my journey when I learned about feminism. Once that word was in my vocabulary it became my identity and I discovered that this would be part of me for the rest of my life.

Continue Reading…

feminism, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A 13 Year Old Girl On Her Experience at “Girl Power: You Are Enough.”

October 1, 2015

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station: This is a piece for my “Young Voices” series. It was written by Olivia Heimann who is thirteen years old and attended the launch of Girl Power. I am proud to announce that Olivia is an ambassador for Girl Power: You Are Enough. I am in the process of organizing the next Girl Power workshop so please stay tuned to this site and my social media.

I am looking for more young voices to publish so please submit if you have something to say. Please note, if you are under 18 you must have parental permission unless you are using a pseudonym. I am so excited to be working on the book Girl Power: You Are Enough, as well as the workshop for young women which has been a HUGE success so far. Please help me spread the word and sign up or sign your daughters/nieces/friends. I am also in the process of selecting ambassadors to represent #GirlPowerYouAreEnough. More information on this on my instagram at @jenpastiloff. Love, Jen

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A Life-Changing Experience
By Olivia Heimann

On Saturday September 19, I walked into YogaStream studio, which was full of girls about my age. Everyone was definitely nervous and that only grew once Jen told us that we needed to trust everyone else in the room. As the class went on and people understood that we were here to boost and stand by one another – that’s what girl power is all about.

We wrote in our little red notebooks that said “Own Your Awesome” (by Your Joyologist) about things that we need to do to be happy and also things we would do if we were not afraid. Some people stood up and read what they wrote. It was so empowering to hear everyone’s stories about bullying, coming out, eating disorders, and so much more. We learned so much and cared so much from listening to everyone.

This is the part where I started crying and feeling. I was not the only room. The whole room felt it!

Jen asked us to think of someone to thank. It could be a family member, a friend, a pet, anyone. I immediately thought of one of my best friends, who is now in 9th grade. She has always had an uncomfortable relationship with food; because of the stomachaches she has had her whole life. Around November and December of 2015, she started having serious anorexic symptoms. I was the first one who realized what was going on, around mid-January. Soon after I noticed, everyone else saw the difference in her limbs and stomach. Everyone wanted to try and stop or warn her, but didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Her boyfriend at the time only made things worse by saying she looked good the way she was while she was anorexic. About 4 or 5 months into it, she lost her period, and fainted several times. At the beginning of this summer, she lost feeling in her legs because lack of blood circulation. Sleeping was kind of her “survival mode,” which is what she did most of the time. Every morning, she would get up, feel dizzy and fall. Every morning. Above all, she still hated her body and thought she deserved to be punished. At her lowest weight, she was 79 pounds, and still thought she was fat. She had lost about 40 pounds in 8 or 9 months. About a week after she got home from a trip to England, she realized things were so bad that if she wanted to live, she had to go to the hospital. She was in bed rest for a month. The doctors said if she had waited for another week to come in, she would have died.

When I thanked her, I said thank you for realizing this has to stop, thank you for realizing you have to go to the hospital. Thank you for not waiting any longer. Because what would have broken my heart was attending her funeral. All these thoughts running through my head about my best friend left me bawling. As I continued to sob, we all stood up and sang ‘I will always love you.’ That was an even more emotional part for me because it was like I was singing to my best friend. While I hugged everyone with tears streaming down my face, I was so grateful for being able to have that catharsis.

The next writing activity really hit home. We wrote a letter from someone who loves us. Since I had already thought of a friend, I decided to write the letter from my mom to me. I wrote about how she loved me, how she was proud of me for following in her footsteps, and how she admired how independent and confidant I have become. When Jen asked me to read my letter, I started tearing up. As I tried to breathe, everyone said, “We are here for you.” Of course my mom being in the room made me cry even more, but as Jen repeated several times JB (just breathe), I was able to stumble through the letter. The saying Jen told us numerous times “how bold one gets when one is sure of being loved” completely came to life. I was so confident in myself, when I heard my mom say ‘I love you, baby, I love you to the moon and back.’

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Continue Reading…

courage, feminism, Guest Posts

My Voice On Feminism

September 27, 2015

By Elly Zhilyak

I’ve recently embarked on a journey to reclaim my femininity amidst a scary ascertation that I was beginning to retain the masculine qualities of my male coworkers.

What does that mean exactly? And what does it have to do with feminism?

Let me begin with a brief synopsis of my life.

Life began for me with huge bows in my hair, amidst dolls, and kitchenettes, and ballet. It progressed into climbing trees, dressing up barbies, and playing with really cool toy cars, that my father brought from overseas (the Bugatti was my personal favorite). By the age of 6, I was outrunning all the older boys in the neighborhood. Needless to say, they were impressed. I was girly, and I was very comfortable with it. I was also very comfortable with all the “non-girly” things I did.

Fast forward to the awkward pre-teen stage, when I became extraordinarily shy, then to high school when I decided to reclaim some of the bad assery that lived somewhere within, by kicking most of the shyness to the curb, hanging out with all the older kids, and donning knee high boots and long trench coats. I re-added ballet to the mix with a large serving of boys. I was a typical teenager, looking for acceptance, and mostly loving flaunting the feminine side of myself that came so naturally. Then came my twenties and all the boys and all the more of the dress up of self, since I was now more of an adult and could express myself however I pleased. I re-added the running to the mix, nixed the ballet and dancing, and added going to the club(s) with my girlfriends/boyfriend. Still “voiceless”.

Whilst chasing all the boys in my twenties, I was all girl, ready to be saved by some Prince Charming. Independent, but still conflicted most of the time. Having a somewhat naturally shy disposition, or at least up-bringing, I think it was easy for me to lose my voice.

The little girl that outran all the boys when she was 6, dress and all, was lost all tangled up in the dress. She was Cinderella at the ball with some asshole prince. Somehow she forgot how to run and climb. She must have left her Chucks at home.

Then came CrossFit that gave the girl back some strength and a lot more confidence, followed by belly dancing. Although a complete 180 of each other, the two created an appropriately perfect balance.

Soon after, came a job, which was not unlike any other, except for the fact that I was now surrounded by men – a loosely used term here. Ten of them, ten of whom I had to manage, whose respect I had to evoke, and whose schedules I controlled day in and day out. My “sweet” disposition and sometimes quick temper won the respect of most, immediately. Unnaturally and unknowingly, I started to change. I wore more pants, less make up, less jewelry. I eventually became just as perversely funny, and even more smart assy than before. Continue Reading…

feminism, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Women

Yes To Women. Post Lidia Yuknavitch & Jen Pastiloff’s Writing & The Body Retreat.

September 23, 2015

Note from Jen Pastiloff:

Katharine Coldiron attended the retreat I just led with Lidia Yuknavitch, my beloved sister, teacher, and friend. Writing & The Body. It was the second one Lidia and I did in 2015 in Ojai, California, and we are planning another in 2016 for April 8-10th. Must email info@jenniferpastiloff.com asap as this retreat sells out FAST. Stay tuned here for future workshops and retreats. You can sign up for classes with Lidia here.

By Katharine Coldiron

 

We need a new word for “roar”. There needs to be a special verb for how Jennifer Pastiloff sounds when she’s teaching, when she’s commanding us (like a petite, beautiful Patton) to be enough, to be a human thank-you, to be love. To say yes. She shouts, but she’s not angry; she screams, but she’s not hysterical. She roars, but for me that verb has connotations of red-faced men with berating baritones. Jen roars like a woman. Like a lioness: the fiercest mothersisterdaughterlover to be found in any jungle.

All weekend I listen and obey. I am enough. Vinyasa. I am a human thank-you. Warrior II. I am love. Crescent lunge. Open your arms, shine your heart out into the green valley. Vinyasa, downward-facing dog, child’s pose. I say yes.

I don’t cry when I tell a story I’ve never told anyone, a story from the dead swamps of middle school when I did a shitty, shitty thing. I don’t cry when I explain about the year that I slowly starved, or the bizarre food-hoarding that followed once I was on my feet. I don’t cry when I talk about the thing that happened in 2004 that wrecked my capacity to form friendships with women for the next, oh, eleven years. It’s not a pride thing. I just don’t cry for my stories this time.

On Sunday I grin wide in Warrior II with a face full of my own rain. The room echoes with hitches and heaves and sobs and boohoos, and it’s all so gorgeous, this breaking down and letting go that’s occurring all around me. I came here stable and happy, unsure about some interior things but not quite needing to manifest transformation. I’m 33 and my Jesus year, finishing its orbit around the sun, has been a minor passion, a closed struggle with a pleasanter ending than the Nazarene’s. Yet the beauty of the uncocooning butterflies around me is staggering. And it makes me weep. I weep for you, for you, for you and you and you, my darlings. Don’t shell over again. Show your wings. You are enough. I am love.

And then.

On Monday, in the midst of Warriors, Jen is saying yes yes yes to nouns and participles galore. Yes to feminism. Yes to beauty. Yes to dancing. One of these wonderful yeses she roars is “Yes to women!”

And I lose it. I cry. I cry for me, Argentina, for the first time all weekend. My nose runs and the tears fly in an arc as I wheel down from reverse warrior into another vinyasa.

Part of why I trundled off to a women’s college in 1999 was to try and do better at making women friends. It didn’t work; I just went down the road to the coed college and made friends with dudes instead. Neither of the two sister-friends I’ve loved are in my life anymore. I don’t have a best friend, not the whatever-whenever-secret-language kind I see in movies and memoirs.

Bluntly: I can’t seem to connect with women. They’re too busy, or they live in other cities, or they just aren’t that into me, or in the middle of us getting to know each other they have babies and make a whole different set of friends. It hurts, but I’ve tried to shrug it off. I can’t believe it’s my fault; even though not making women friends is a genuine pattern for me, I can’t find an intersecting spot among all these failed friendships where some flaw of my own resides. Continue Reading…

Binders, feminism, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts

Carry-On Baggage

August 27, 2015

By Anna March

My husband, Adam, paraplegic, is waiting for a search of his wheelchair, and I am cleared but lingering for him. We are at the TSA checkpoint in the airport in Honolulu. The trade winds blow warm and humble. The sea sky and bowing palm trees frame us in the open air terminal.  I am staring at a purse the color of a ballet slipper in the window of a store just beyond the stark security inspection lanes.  Its Siren’s call: to feed my pocketbook-buying habit. I notice a federal guard with rigid posture frowning, staring at me. I point toward Adam, tell her, “I’m waiting for my husband,” and she says in a tone as crisp as the knife pleats in her blouse, “I know. I’m going to pass you his belongings.”  I snarl,  “I don’t carry his bags.” She puts her hand on her hip, bellows “EXCUSE ME?”  “You heard me,” I snap.

Adam, calm as ever, smiles, put his hand on the small of my back, “Why don’t you go to the store? Leave your bag here, I’ll bring it.” I lean my heavy carry-on on the wall in front of him, glaring at the guard, taking only my phone and credit card with me.  I was cracking with anger, disgusted by the agent treating me like Adam’s servant and choosing to talk to me about his things rather than directly to him.  This happens many times a week, people ignoring Adam and instead speaking to me about him, but only today am I enraged over it. Why is this particular exchange scratching me so harshly? I know it has something to do with the perception that I should carry my husband’s bags but why does that rankle me this much?

I huff into a coffee shop wafting fresh brewed Kona to mull. I know that what’s bothering me is somehow mixed up with gender. Questions I’ve spent my life asking are suddenly swirling.  What does gender even mean?  What is perceived as womanly, manly and why? Why are we all so screwed up about gender roles to the point that we still want to squeeze everyone into a narrow binary? What do power and ability really mean?

As a woman, my whole life I have been treated as less physically capable than men. The world’s default mode when I’m with an able-bodied man has always been that he is going to be the athlete, the one to lead, drive, carry the heavy things, and that if anyone needs assistance it will be me, the woman. In the world’s hierarchy man trumps woman but woman trumps disabled. Everything about the existence of these pecking orders repels me. Yet somehow I know that I am rankled today at least in part because I want everyone to see Adam as strong, capable, like I do. But why? Continue Reading…

Binders, feminism, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

What I Am Thinking When You, a Stranger, Shout “Hey Baby You Look Good”at Me When I Walk By on a Crowded Street

August 26, 2015

By Amber Sparks

Should I smile?

I should smile. That was a compliment – it’s polite to smile. It doesn’t take any effort.

God, I hate that other people are looking at me now. I feel like I have to respond. Are they trying to figure out what looks good? Are they judging me? 5 out of 10 stars? Nice ass, softish stomach, teeth need work?

Maybe just a little smile. A no-teeth smile. A thanks but stay away smile.

I smile too much. That’s what the women in my life tell me. Stop smiling so much. You don’t owe that smile to anybody. Stop giving it away.

I can say I have a husband (true) and a baby (true). I can say I’m taken.

But that’s bullshit. I don’t belong to any man, including my husband. I’m not “taken.” If you respect me because I’m wearing a ring then you’re just respecting another man’s property. You’re not respecting me. I should say this. I should make this shit known.

But I don’t want them to think I’m a bitch. What if they were just being nice? I was raised to be a nice person. Polite. It doesn’t hurt to smile.

I do look good today. I like this dress. I’ve lost some weight and my hair looks good. I did my makeup today. They’re just seeing that, you know? Seeing the effort I put in. I should be validated, right?

But this effort is for me, not for other people. This is just for me.

Am I a bitch? Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, feminism, Guest Posts

You Really Should Be Skinnier

August 18, 2015

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By Jen Pastiloff.

There was this guy who came in the Newsroom, where I worked. Damn girl, they been feeding you. He actually said that as he reached for my stomach. He tried to touch me as he hurled that insult at me like I was some animal in a cage. Like I was someone he felt he actually had a right to touch. It was all I could hear for days: Damn girl, they been feeding you. As I put food in my mouth: Damn girl, they been feeding you. As I waited on customers: Damn Girl, they been feeding you.

This morning, a beautiful woman who attended my New Year’s Retreat in Ojai posted on our secret page. Yes, we have secret pages. We are super secret spies.

She posted this:

I had a man tell me last night as a “well intentioned tip” that if I wanted to get serious about making a living selling healthy food, I would need to lose weight.
I was once a size 16. Now, I’m a size 4.
When does the insanity stop???

Then this:

And I know I should get over it and move on. But see, I don’t fucking want to. I want to harness this pain and shame and embarrassment and create a safe haven for people who just want to be WELL. Who just want to be ENOUGH. Thank you again, Jen, for providing this little tiny safe haven in this big bad ugly world. It’s so hard to do all of this alone.

That is all I ever want to do, create a safe haven so someone, maybe one person, does not feel so alone. Watch the video below and post your thoughts on this topic, if you would. I am so passionate about us embracing our beauty no matter what. Those last words are key.

No.

Matter.

What.

This work I am doing with Girl Power is so important. It’s important for all of us, but my God, I want to start in on them young. A couple years ago I was having lunch with a guy friend and he said, “With a few tweaks, your body would be perfect.”

Another guy, “You only have a little layer of sweetness on you.”

A manager, from my “acting” years, “Lose ten pounds. You have nothing right now but how you look and so you need to look as perfect as you can be.”

These things have gotten stuck. I get it. I do an exercise that you know of if you have attended my workshops. The one and the one hundred. If you have a hundred people in a room and they all love you except one, who do you focus on?

Most say “the one.”

This is why I created this quote:

It's a huge honor to have another card up at Emily McDowell Studio. Click to order.

It’s a huge honor to have another card up at Emily McDowell Studio. Click to order.

Continue Reading…

Binders, feminism, Guest Posts

The Man in My House

June 23, 2015

By Teri Carter

The first thing he shows me is his ID badge, his authenticity.  The badge hangs around his neck on a new blue lanyard but the ID itself is hidden inside a thick plastic case with white spots where his eyes are supposed to be.  He holds up the badge.  “I’m showing you my badge,” he almost whispers.  And when I don’t acknowledge the badge, don’t acknowledge that he is who he says he is, he holds it higher, closer to my face.  “This is my badge, see.” And I say yes, yes I see it, yes I see you, sure, come on in, even though all I can really make out is the worn plastic case.  The evil-seeming, white, rubbed out, ghost spots for his eyes.  How many times, I wonder, do I let a strange man — a man I don’t know, a man I’m not sure about, feel odd about, a man who strikes me as not-right-to-be-here-with-me-alone – into my house?

I am reading The Burning by Jane Casey.  The story of woman detective after a serial killer.  I have not read a book like this in more than 20 years, and I still remember the exact moment, the exact night, I knew I could no longer read books like this. I was in my bed in my apartment under a flowered navy blue bedspread.  It was after midnight.  The lamp beside me cast a round shadow on the ceiling above as I read the true crime story of Jeffrey MacDonald murdering his family.  I remember thinking, ‘what dad butchers his entire family?”  I remember setting Fatal Vision down, forever unfinished, and turning out the light.  And sometime that following week, I buried that book in the bottom of my trash and took the trash out.  I could not read it, but even more I could not even have the story of this man in my house. Continue Reading…

Binders, feminism, Guest Posts, Truth

A Pocket Field Guide to Being Patriotic in a Newly Military Family

April 23, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Kathryn Roberts

When a sibling joins the military, adopt the flag. Accept it all blindly, a patriot at heart unwilling not to support the mission. Ignore your doubts.

Slap him on his back, the child you sang bedtime songs to, now a soldier fighting for your country. Do this even when you despise the politics that drove your country into war under false pretenses. Do this even when he demonstrates no understanding of the current conflict or the region whose language he intends to learn.

Wear the ribbon. Believe the rhetoric.

Because, if you cannot support your brother–who in the anonymity of the Army is now your country–who can you support?

****

When you go to his swearing-in ceremony, keep your mouth shut when the recruitment officer who signed away six years of your brother’s life informs him he must attend church every Sunday during boot camp to avoid punishment. Hold it tightly closed when he tells him that foregoing the service would mean his commanding officer would not receive the two hours off and would find chores punishing enough that he will be so eager to worship a god that he never misses a service again.

Stifle the part of you that asks if there is more than one service. If there are choices for the soldiers who’ve signed up — many of them video game addicts who associate war with pixels that regenerate in a different spot after each kill so they get another chance to come out on top.

Do not ask if they can choose between an evangelical Christian sermon (like the ones your parents drilled into you) or a Jewish Sabbath the night before or an Islamic service. Or even a non-punishment producing Atheist option.

Silence yourself in the name of duty because suggesting that coerced religion in the armed services is tantamount to forced religion in the country will call into question your brother’s honor. Your country may disown you. Your parents will disdain you, even as the sibling who traveled across country for the ceremony. Continue Reading…

Abuse, feminism, Guest Posts, Women

Why the Street Assault Video May Need Narration for Men.

December 28, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Amy McElroy.

A recent video made by the non-profit, Hollaback, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/28/living/hollaback-10-hours-walking-in-nyc/index.html, made its rounds on the internet showing a woman walking for ten hours down NY streets. With each of the one hundred street assaults she received, another of my hairs stood on end. Even though she was a black belt in martial arts. Even though she had a hidden camera person with her the entire time. Because when I walk the streets “alone,” I am truly a woman alone. But what I started wondering next, during all those catcalls and taunts, was what other men watching the same video were thinking.

The men in the video acted offensively, no doubt, and their words assaulted the actress on an emotional and psychological level. But to me, they were more than that, they were threatening.

Did men see that?

Continue Reading…