Posts in Talk
Who Run the World?! Beyoncé Versus Old School Feminists

Throwback post! As you could probably tell, serious discussion on L & B have shifted focus a bit. We talk more about social issues surrounding motherhood, mental health and women’s employment. But sometimes we like to revisit the early days. What do you think about the article and the discussion that followed in the comments? Comment here or on social media!

A lot of young women ­today identify with an equality-focused, more relatable kind of feminist political vision that isn’t interested in completely reshaping society in a fundamentally radical way. Think Sheryl Sandberg, Emma Watson and… Beyoncé Knowles. Beyoncé has become famous for her relationship with feminism; starting out hesitant, with an ultimate reconciliation at her 2014 Video Music Awards performance when the word “FEMINIST” lit up on the big screen behind her.  

There are many feminist theorists and activists who see these kinds of reincarnations of feminism as “faux” feminism or “feminist lite”. Not only are these softer women deemed not feminist, they are seen as antithetical to the vision of true feminism. This tension became especially palpable after the debut of Beyoncé’s controversial visual album, Lemonade*, when bell hooks (the renowned radical feminist who always writes her name in lowercase) wrote a harsh criticism of Beyoncé’s work. Other feminists took shots at Beyoncé as well, but hooks stood out to me because she is so iconic. Hooks famously wrote, “Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” She doesn’t buy that Beyonce’s attempt to showcase black women’s suffering throughout history, and through her own personal experiences, should be seen as a legitimate part of women’s progress nor is she convinced that it’s genuine.

In the essay “Moving Beyond Pain”,  hooks centers her criticisms of Beyoncé around her pop-culture empire as the epitome of capitalist wealth, which uses black women’s bodies as commodities (which she points out is not a new phenomenon). In other words, she goes to the heart of Beyoncé’s intentions and work and interprets it as the embodiment of oppression itself. "Her construction of feminism cannot be trusted", she writes. Hooks also attacks Beyoncé’s use of “pure fantasy” violence, luxury fashion, beautiful women, and her failure to advocate for any sort of real healing for women. Many of Beyoncé’s feminist fans were devastated. How could hooks publicly call out Beyoncé’s raw, vulnerable work of art as a total fraud? What does that mean for women of color who identify with Beyoncé and her fight for liberation?

There’s something cringe-worthy about publicly excluding a woman’s work from your definition of strength and liberation when you stand for a movement that's founded on supporting women in the way they wish to be empowered. Despite these founding principles, it’s not uncommon for women to face public vituperation for their failure to truly understand authentic empowerment. There’s something disconcerting about taking apart and distrusting a woman’s every move, motive, and body part, when one ostensibly believes in the concepts of autonomy and self-expression. 

Feminist politics is tricky in that it desires both a completely inclusive polity as well as a passionate fight to end oppression. Despite the desire for inclusion, there will always be women excluded for the proliferation of ideas felt as oppressive. But where do they belong?  

Who should run things in the world of feminism?

 

TalkNurit Siegal Comments
the third shift - how we ask mothers to do too much and help them too little
LB Third Shift.jpg

A few weeks ago, I came across an article by a pscyhologist discussing the dangers of screen time. She wrote about her experience at a grocery store when she heard a child begin to scream because his mom wouldn’t buy him candy. To calm him down, the mom gave him her phone to watch a video, and the psychologist was horrified.

Okay first of all… I was having a really hard day, okay? Second of all, I think it’s unfortunate how strongly we react to the glimpses we catch of women raising their kids (also why does this always happen at the grocery store). And I wonder if we place too much of the onus of raising extremely well-rounded children on mothers alone. Yes, we critique American cultural norms for not being helpful or for creating the problem in the first place, but we still expect moms to create this new, uncontaminated world for our families that’s idyllic and perfect like it’s NBD.

As a Women’s Studies major in college I learned about a concept called the Second Shift. The Second Shift represents the second workload a mother has outside her day (and/or night) job. Working mothers come home from their job(s) to do a majority of the cooking, housework, errands, appointment scheduling, carpooling, child-rearing and overseeing of general household logistics. If a woman is a stay-at-home mom, she still reserves the evening for another round of mothering, cooking, housework etc. Not to mention the night shift, which includes anything from nursing babies back to sleep to convincing toddlers that a monster didn’t eat their missing sock.

But I wonder if the Second Shift is enough to explain the whole mother load. My theory is that there’s also a Third Shift. The Third Shift is the constant job of making life perfect for our kids, regardless of how much support we have in our lives. And to execute this without asking for help and without having a panic attack. You can have an occasional bathroom break (jk you can’t really) but you cannot have a break down.

Maybe this is why moms feel so guilty all the time. Author and comedian Jessi Klein wrote an article in the New York Times about women, guilt and sacrifice. She explains, “Shortly before my son was born, I spoke to a friend on the phone about how guilty I felt that we were planning to hire a night nurse for a few weeks. Shouldn’t I be the one to take care of him all the time? He was my peanut that I had created. Wouldn’t I be shirking my maternal responsibilities if I didn’t stay up around the clock? I was worried that I was already a failure.” 

Have mothers been trained to believe that if they don't do everything perfectly on their own, their kids won't grow up to be good, successful people? Well, I mean, I guess it is pretty hard to get into an Ivy League school if you were bottle-fed as a baby. But the deeper issue lies in how much we expect from moms, despite how difficult our society has made it for them to constantly pursue incredibly high standards. We're basically asking mothers to fight an uphill battle every minute of every day. Unhealthy foods and fast-food chains are way cheaper and more accessible than healthy foods. Our culture aggressively markets new technology and easy entertainment to kids. If you want your family to be active, it has to be something scheduled and paid for, since modernity has led us to be the most sedentary population in history. On top of that, the median household family income in the United States is about  $59,000. In other words, half of American families earn less than that. And yet, moms are somehow supposed to have the time, energy, and resources to reverse every ill effect of modern culture on our kids. 

From the day a woman becomes pregnant, she is bombarded by information and advice on how to have the most productive and healthy pregnancy, labor, and child-rearing experience. We suggest and expect her to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen during pregnancy, to develop a birth plan ideally without medication, to invest in a doula, to enroll in lamaze classes and practice meditation and/or hypno-birthing exercises. Once postpartum, moms should feel grateful for “baby friendly” hospitals and should happily forgo nursery care regardless of exhaustion, stress, or pain. When she returns home, we desire that she breastfeed each of her babies for at least a year regardless of work obligations, levels of exhaustion, mental health concerns, or other kids to care for. We also warn her not to allow her babies to cry it out at night, and to critically monitor her growing child’s diet, developmental stages, physical activity levels, reading habits, sugar intake, and screen time. Also no yelling.  

I’m not suggesting whatsoever that living a healthy, active and wholesome life is not important to kids, or that women should just give up. I’m also not saying that we should install iPads on grocery carts so that moms can shop in peace. I'm instead saying this: We cannot keep expecting perfection from mothers, especially in an environment that works against them. We can’t keep implying through harsh criticism, lack of empathy and lack of real support that moms should be solely responsible for the next generation's health and happiness.

More often than not, most of us moms feel like we’re not doing enough for our kids. We beat ourselves up for making a quick mac & cheese so we don't lose our minds before the bedtime battle begins. We even have a little underground network where we secretly confess and whisper questions to each other like, "What's the longest your kids have gone without a bath...?" Or we send memes to our friends about how much we want to marry coffee. In fact, memes have actually become thee societal infrastructure on which moms can depend most for support and understanding. We don’t have paid maternity leave but we are super grateful for blinking guy.

For better or worse, the current system is not sustainable. We need hospitals, government, workplaces, and even parenting websites and experts to get more real about how difficult we've made it to mother. We need society to be a true partner in helping moms with all of their "shifts". Mothers are frequently left to pursue lofty family ideals on their own. Yes, we may kick off health campaigns and show moms how to hide broccoli in their kids' cereal. We may obliterate hospital nurseries to “encourage” mothers to breastfeed and bond with their babies. But these tactics are simply about reminding moms of all their responsibilities, not helping them with the job itself. Instead of policing mothers, we should remember that it takes a village to raise a healthy, happy child. But until that day really comes... I'll just be over here wearing my “I Did My Best” T-shirt.

 

P.S. working mothers and the struggle to make ends meet
P.P.S. prenatal and postpartum anxiety and depression
P.P.P.S what women want people to know about having a miscarriage

seven self-care trends we'll allow into 2018
LB Little book of hygge.jpg
LB Self Care Rituals.jpg

Whenever someone says “prioritize self-care” I start feeling the same kind of anxiety I do when someone tells me to meal prep. I totally see what they’re saying. I get it. But at the same time, the amount of scheduling magic and babysitting fairy dust I would need to make chopping up celery on a Sunday for five hours a reality is not super reasonable. Same for cleaning out our bath and then having enough time in it to get to a place of zen. But who doesn't at least like to daydream about cozying up with some tea and reading a book by candlelight after the kids are asleep? Just make sure to dim the lights on the three day old dishes in the kitchen. So in case we're ever able to figure it out, here’s a list of self-care trends we are willing to contemplate/dabble in come 2018.
 

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah)
Denmark has been on trend for a while now, especially for their culture of hygge. Basically, hygge is the idea that you don’t need much to transform yourself into a Yankee candle incarnate. Make your favorite drink, light a few candles, and snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a good book on the couch and voila! You’re Danish. Replace the book with Netflix for the American version.
 

Golden lattes
Golden lattes are “health” lattes in that they are have turmeric in them instead of coffee. I don’t know how but turmeric is supposed to be very good for you, and you “activate” it’s power in by putting a tiny bit of pepper in the drink. I know it sounds bizarre but they’re actually really delicious. But for the love of all things holy, please start with dividing the suggested amount of turmeric by at least two unless you have been doing bikram yoga and drinking wheat-grass shots for the past five years.

 

Watch videos of Oprah and Brene Brown schmoozing
Oh my goodness if you haven’t heard of Brene Brown yet, it’s time! Put her together with Oprah and your soul may burst. Brene Brown talks about vulnerability, shame, and creativity. She explains why these things matter, as well as the hard stuff you need to go through in order to truly experience joy. Her famous TedTalk will make you hardcore laugh/cry. Do it to it. 


Become a Parisian Woman
Take everybody’s advice and become French as an investment in your health and happiness.

 

Arianna Huffingtonify your sleep
Last year I read Huffington’s book on sleep and I loved it (…theoretically). She basically calls for a Sleep Revolution (also the name of the book) in our society. She wants workplaces, educational institutions, and families to finally value and highly prioritize good sleep. According to Huffington, “The irony is that a lot of people forego sleep in the name of productivity, but in fact our productivity is reduced substantially when we’re sleep deprived.” She also talks about sleep hygiene and things like turning your phone off at least a half hour before going to bed. Beware, however, that if you have small children waking up at night you may wish to defenestrate this book.

 

Public library and free reading
There is a really cute public library about 20 minutes from my house and when my oldest was a baby I loved going there while she napped in her stroller. I think they may also have books on tape at public libraries which I really should try. I once left there with Martha Stewart’s huge Entertaining book without paying for it of course and I felt like Martha had given it to me herself. I did not use a single recipe but for a few weeks I felt like we had dined and laughed and made marshmallows in her Bedford home together.  

 

Headspace app
If you want a great introduction into meditation this app is amazing. You only need to invest a few minutes a day (or night) to feel like you’re actually looking forward to meditation. The man who guides you on the app has a British accent and sounds very “normal”, and it makes it all feel a bit more down to earth. This is definitely a good one for meditation skeptics who are secretly curious.  

 

What would you add to the list? Is there anything you've been doing that you love? We want to know!

P.S. tips for pretending to seem more awake
P.P.S  ideas for self-care during postpartum depression

TalkNurit SiegalComment
thirty dollars or less holiday gift guide
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Having trouble with picking out gifts for your friends and family? Are you up right now at 3 AM on Pinterest? We're here to help you out. No DIY disasters or walking around Target with a screaming toddler required. Click the product names below to check out our ideas for gifts under $30!

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What other budget-friendly gifts have you been checking out? 

TalkNurit SiegalComment
Melissa Josephs on paid sick days and pregnancy discrimination
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mothers at work 

pregnancy discrimination and paid sick days

I'm so excited that we've had the opportunity once again to collaborate with the amazing organization, Women Employed in Chicago. Women Employed is a nonprofit dedicated to serving women in the workplace. WE works with lawmakers to pass fair workplace legislation, with companies to implement fair policies, and informs and urges the public to support equal opportunity legislation. One of the reasons why I admire this organization so much is because they shine a light on what it's truly like to be a working mother for many women in the U.S. 

For today's article, I wanted our readers to be aware of and have a better understanding of the paid sick time and pregnancy discrimination laws that have been passed in Chicago and Cook County. I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Josephs, Women Employed's Director of Equal Opportunity, who helped shepherd the passage of the laws that came into effect this past summer. Today we're going to give you a bit of background on these new policies, and what they mean for pregnant women and mothers. 

 

Thank you so much for doing this interview with me, Melissa. As I’m sure you know… a lot of us don’t always know what rights we have at work.  The point of this interview is to help women understand their rights regarding paid sick time and pregnancy discrimination. To start, could you tell us a little bit about the paid sick time law that went into effect this summer in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs? 

The sick time ordinances in Chicago and in Cook County were passed last year and went into effect on July 1, and are almost identical. The laws allow employees to earn sick time one hour at a time for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours/five sick days a year.

Because it takes so long to earn sick time (a full-time worker would earn 40 hours after working 40 weeks) the laws allow a worker to carryover half of the time they have earned but not used, up to 20 hours, to the next year (e.g., if they know they want to use the sick time for an operation they are having early the next year).

The laws allow, in addition to the 20-hour carryover, 40 hours of carryover to be used for an FMLA reason if eligible (i.e. you work for an employer with 50 or more employees and meet other requirements). They can be used for new-parent leave, for the worker’s serious illness, or for that of a family member.

 

How does this law help mothers? Does paid sick leave apply when a mom’s child is home sick from daycare or school?

Yes, the laws allow an employee to use sick time if she or a family member is sick. In addition, it allows an employee to use sick time to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency – when you often don’t have notice and don’t have the time to find a caregiver.
 

Many women struggle with serious morning sickness during pregnancy. Do women who experience pregnancy-related sickness or other complications receive coverage under this law?

Yes. These sick time laws can be used for pregnancy-related illnesses when employees need to stay home from work. The laws also allow use of sick time to go to medical appointments.

An employer cannot make you use more time than you need, so the minimum increment of leave cannot exceed 4 hours per day. For example, you may only want to use four hours to stay home or go to a doctor’s appointment.

An employer cannot discipline you for not giving notice for using sick time, such as a point system that can lead to termination, or as part of an absence-control policy. An employer may require up to 7 days notice before leave is taken if need for sick time is foreseeable. If it's not foreseeable an employer may only require notice to be given that day as soon as is practicable.

 

At this point I’d like to ask you a few questions on the topic of pregnancy discrimination. In January 2015, Illinois passed a law that protects pregnant women at work. So our readers know: Pregnant women and new mothers can ask for reasonable accommodations from their employees without risk of consequence (i.e. asking for water/breaks, help with heavy lifting, a private space to pump breastmilk). It is also illegal to fire or refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant, is recovering from childbirth, or has a pregnancy or childbirth-related medical condition.

With that in mind, many women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant at some point in their careers remain concerned that their employers won’t take them as seriously. They’re worried about being placed on the “mommy track”. If a woman is asked by her employer (i.e. in an interview) if she plans on becoming pregnant, does she have to answer? Are employers allowed to ask women questions of that nature?
 

The asking of the question is not illegal. It is how the employer may use the information that may be illegal, i.e., if they hire someone who will not get pregnant instead of you.  But since you would have to prove this, which could be hard to do, especially if you’re asked at a job interview and don’t get the job, you should try and handle it when you are asked. This can be done without refusing to answer the question but by learning what your employer wants to know about how this impacts your ability to do the job. For example, you can ask the employer if they want to know whether you’re willing to travel for the job.

Whether or not a woman plans on having children should not be used against her by an employer. It’s rarely used against men who plan on having children, because the employer assumes the man will be more committed to the job as he needs the money. But so do women. An employer may assume that the woman will want to take time off if she has a baby and a man won’t because even men who take parental leave usually don’t take as much time as a woman since a woman may be recovering from giving birth.

But why is there a “mommy track” for women who may take off for a few months but not a “heart attack track” or “stroke track”? When Sen. Mark Kirk had a stroke he was off work recovering for a year, during which time he was still paid and he was not replaced. As one of our only two Senators we managed without him. The same with the CEO of United Airlines who had a heart attack one month into his new job and was off for six months. He, too, was still paid and they managed without him until he returned.  Employers should not assume that if any of their employees take a family or medical leave that 1) they cannot get along without them (it’s more expensive to replace an employee than to hold their job) and 2) that they will not be returning.


What else would you like to see change for pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace?

Paid family and medical leave for an employee’s serious illness or that of a family member, or for new-parent leave that applies to workers at any size employer. The current unpaid FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. This could be done with a law that sets up a program funded similarly to social security, or done voluntarily if done by all employers. You can learn more about that here.


Thank you to Melissa and to Women Employed!

 
LB WE Melissa Josephs Picture.jpg

Melissa Josephs has expertise in a range of workplace issues such as paid sick days, sexual harassment, fair wages, work and family, and affirmative action. A member of the WE staff since 1990, Josephs promotes passage and effective implementation of equal employment opportunity laws and regulations at the state and federal levels. Examples of issues she works on include campaigns to increase the minimum wage and pass paid sick days legislation in Illinois and at the federal level, and federal campaigns to strengthen anti-discrimination laws such as the Equal Pay Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. 

Melissa has a B.A. in English and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a J.D. from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

 

you can learn more by checking out these links:

pregnancy and employment in illinois

more about your rights when you are pregnant

paid sick time

Grow, TalkNurit Siegal Comments
losing it
 

Do any of you guys remember Charlotte York? That preppy, perfect character who wanted her life to look like a magazine? I remember watching her on TV when I was in high school and college and thinking to myself, Okay, yeah, if I could just be like that when I'm older...

When she got married to her second husband on the show, and she softened her personality and accepted life's imperfections, we loved her even more. But when the second SATC movie came out, I thought to myself, huh. Maybe they went too far. Now she seems like she can't get it together at all. She's always overwhelmed by her kids. She confesses how hard motherhood is over cocktails while Miranda tells her to "keeping sipping". I thought it was a little annoying.

After I had my own kids, I started to remember those scenes again. Especially the scene when Charlotte loses it with her young daughter, Lily. After Lily plants two, full-of-paint hands on her skirt, Charlotte grabs her little fists and screams, "LILY LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID!" In a split second her face changes and she's overcome with horror and remorse. Still shaky, she tells the girls to give mommy just one second, and she goes to the closet to cry. I've thought of that short scene over and over again as a mom. Even though she's just a character, the scene strikes a chord with me now. If Charlotte York can lose it, then maybe I'm not actually alone in this. 

In the name of mom-solidarity, I proposed another question this week on social media. I asked moms to describe with one sentence that feeling of remorse and shame you get after yelling or screaming at your kids. Of course, none of us ever want to "lose it" with our beloved, beautiful children. But in the mean time, while we're all trying to work on ourselves, I thought it might help to hear that we're not alone in the journey. We often think we're the only ones struggling, and we end up being really, really hard on ourselves. 

So here's what you guys had to say....

Can I turn back the clock?
I’m a horrible monster.
Did I really do that? Again!!!
I’m not cut out for this.
It’s not her fault I’m ______ (insert: stressed, tired, cranky, upset, nervous etc.)
I’m a failure!
What did I just do?!?!
I’m human, trying, failing, trying again…
I’m the worst mom ever.
Next time louder! #kidding
Omg I’m a horrible mother, I’m damaging them for life, I promised I would never yell…
I hate myself.
I need a time out.
I never yell at my sweet angels. #alsokidding
Where’s the child remote control?
I want to take it back.
Don’t want to be in charge!
Did I really just do that?
7:45 AM and I’ve already lost it??
Ruined their life forever!
I hated when my parents did this to me.
I don’t deserve to be their mom
Cathartic. But then shame and remorse.
I’m in hulk mode again.
What is wrong with me?!


What would you add to the list? How do you describe that feeling after "losing it"? What would you want to tell other moms going through the same thing? 



P.S. Women share what anxiety feels like in six words or less, the paradox of motherhood, and what prenatal/postpartum anxiety and depression can feel like

 
interview with shana anderson, founder of reeve's tees: part one
Shana with sweet baby Reeve

Shana with sweet baby Reeve


When I was younger, I had the coolest, most supportive babysitter and tutor. Every time she came over to our house, I got excited. She took care of my brothers and me by studying with us for tests, driving us to tennis tournaments, and most importantly, by becoming our most beloved friend and mentor. She was there for us in every way imaginable. Not only was she close to us kids, but she was (and still is) very close to my mother. Simply put, she has always been a part of our family.

Fast forward to right now and Shana Anderson has three kids of her own to take care of, and an incredible company called Reeve's Tees. Reeve's Tees celebrates the differences of children and adults with Down syndrome with creative, humorous, and loving T-shirts. Their mission is to express the love, joy, and pride that the DS community feels, and to help people "get comfortable with difference" by starting a conversation. Keep reading to find out more about Shana and her incredible company! 


I’m so excited to finally be doing this interview! 

Thank you so much for asking me and for featuring Reeve’s Tees! 
 

I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind Reeve’s Tees and how the idea for the company started to form in your mind?

When I was pregnant with our second son, Reeve, we found out that he would be born with Down syndrome.  Up until that time, I had never personally met someone with Down syndrome.  After hearing the genetic counselor’s words, my brain searched for anything that I knew about the condition to try to make sense of this news…

Oddly, my mind flashed back to an encounter that I had had at one of my husband’s work parties years before.  I was seated next to a man that I had never met, and there was an empty seat reserved for his wife.  I casually asked him, “will your wife be joining us later?”  He replied, “No, actually… she can’t this evening.  She had to take my daughter to therapy.  My daughter has Down syndrome.”

After I heard him tell me that his daughter had Down syndrome, I immediately felt uncomfortable.  In my naivety and ignorance, I felt sorry for the man, his wife, and his daughter.  I assumed that talking about his daughter might make him feel sad, so I quickly changed the subject to something else.

I actually shutter with a deep feeling of shame and regret as I recall the memory of how I reacted that night.  But I tell the story, because the discomfort that I experienced as someone unfamiliar with Down syndrome is not uncommon, and it served as the inspiration for Reeve’s Tees.

Fast forward, and I am now that parent. 

After spending time in the special needs community –  one quickly learns that parents like me are not sad.  There is so much joy, love, and pride for our children.  Unlike what I assumed about the father all those years ago, in reality, if I had asked him anything about his daughter, he probably would have smiled and told me 100 stories and shown me 1,000 pictures.

So I began pondering:  Why does Down syndrome make people feel so uncomfortable?  How can we break down this barrier?  How can we tell the world that, we, the parents and families, are not sad about our children with Down syndrome – we are proud of them!  That’s when the idea for Reeve’s Tees was born. 

My mission when starting Reeve’s Tees was to develop ways to help people “get comfortable with difference.” That has served as our company’s tagline from the beginning.  We do this through light-hearted, humorous phrases about Down syndrome and other genetic conditions printed on t-shirts – our most well-known saying being: “I love homies with extra chromies.”