The Feminist SAHM

When Gloria Steinem appeared on “Oprah’s Next Chapter” a few days ago, I started thinking about what’s next for women? Times sure have changed.  And, although we have seen small steps in the women’s movement over the past decade, we are still far away from where we need to be.

Believe it or not-Gloria Steinem has become a household name here at the Vaughn residence.  Rather I am giving my oldest daughter a mini-history lesson or the hubby sighing, “Alright, Gloria,” after each lesson. Our family is well-versed on who Gloria Steinem is and the work she has done to amplify the voices of women.

Today, many of the societal and political issues are the same.  With the elections just around the corner, women’s issues are at the forefront of many conversations.  Presidential elections are no strangers to women’s issues. Women’s rights were discussed in the 1960s and 1970s, and 1992 was named “The Year of the Woman” after a number of female senators were elected.  So, how about 2012? Where are we headed?

I hope the media frenzy around “mommy wars” is no indicator of where we are headed. Being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom is often tied to issues of feminism, and women judge each other harshly according to which path you take. Working mommies will accuse the stay-at-homes that they have lost their identity and are supporting a patriarchal and archaic system of females being slaves to the family. Stay-at-homes will allege that working mommies don’t have enough time for their families and are prioritizing their own ego through their career over their child’s needs.  Keep in mind, these are STEREOTYPES people.

What is un-feminist is the endless scorn that we expel onto other women, not the personal choices we make.  Women attacking women about how they choose to parent has a certain irony, because it goes against everything that is feminism and the progress we have made as a gender.  From this seriously struggling SAHM, I prefer to support the choices that my female friends, co-workers and peers make.  If you desire to be a stay-at-home mom and it works for you, I am behind you 100%.  For me, I am actively pursuing my next career step, because I prefer the career route.  Well, that’s okay to.  By working together we can conquer, but quibbling against each other will only set us back.

There is something powerful about multiple generations of women fighting together for the same cause.  Each generation comes with its own set of history and wisdom that knits together a story on where we have been and where we are headed in the 21st century.  So, even though the steps might seem small and the change slight, significant change and a movement that spans generations and centuries doesn’t happen overnight.  The internal optimist in me wants to believe that we are making a difference.

 

She Wins, You Win

The weeks fly by, minutes turn into hours and hours into days.  Before I know it, I realize that I have not posted in over a month.  With that said, I think its time to get back to it.  After a long day yesterday, I finally had a few minutes to start thinking about one of my favorite pastimes.  Soccer! Despite many broken bones and yellow cards, I have loved soccer more than most women love shoes for as long as I can remember.  So, I can’t help but be a little excited about our oldest daughter taking the leap into soccer mania.

I am signed-up to be a soccer coach for this coming season as well as a proud soccer momma.  I am stoked to see our daughter start to explore the wonderful world of soccer.  And, who doesn’t have secret dreams about their daughter growing up to be the next Mia Hamm? But for me, the most important piece is watching my daughter build confidence, independence and self-esteem on the field.  No matter how we want to look at it, our little girls will one day be women who have to learn to live and function in an imperfect world.

To me, sports and girls go together perfectly.   Our little ladies are building their identities and figuring out who they are.  What about boys? They are taught and socialized from an early age to be little athletes.  With dreams to be football stars and pro wrestlers, they trek their way through childhood playing touch football, play-fighting and ignoring scraped knees and bruised elbows.  Once these little men venture into manhood, there is an expectation that they will become confident leaders and successful professionals in their field of choice.

So you ask, how are boys and girls any different?  Well, in the professional, business world, men tend to be more aggressive, assertive and successful.   They typically reach past the glass ceiling and are more likely to be promoted and have larger salaries than women.

How can this be?  In a society that claims to promote equal opportunity and gender equality.  In 2008 the OECD found that the median earnings of female full-time workers were 17% lower than the earnings of their male counterparts and that “30% of the variation in gender wage gaps across OECD countries can be explained by discriminatory practices in the labour market.”  What is causing such disparity?

Some suggest that the glass ceiling is self-imposed by some women. For example, women may choose to work fewer hours than men in order to spend more time with their families. Women also measure success in the workplace differently than men. Men tend to measure success by high salaries and important job titles whereas women place a higher value on their relationships with colleagues and community service. Others suggest that ingrained stereotypes and socialization cause the glass ceiling. In some organizations, the good old boy network is still pervasive. When deciding who to promote in these organizations, women are often not even considered.

This is such a big issue with so many different internal business and societal factors at the root cause.  I believe we need to focus on today and on the small things we can do to make a difference.  In the workplace and in life, we as women need to start working together and helping one another.  Gail Evans, CNN’s first female executive vice president had it down when she wrote She Wins, You Win.  This book offers some great tips on how women can work together to be better mentors, bosses, teammates and networkers.  One woman’s success will ultimately lead to the success of other women.  Let’s create an “old girls network” that empowers our gender and creates a future for our daughters.  Come on ladies!

As a “soccer mom” I see that it is my responsibility to help raise a generation of girls who understand that they are capable of achieving their dreams and goals.  I want our daughter to know that she has the smarts, talent and heart to reach for the stars and make anything possible.  Gender, culture, ethnicity and background are all important factors in shaping you into the unique person that you are.  However, they are part of you and not barriers that can keep you from achieving the best life and career for yourself.  It is up to us to help our little girls grow up to be courageous and confident individuals.

For funsies and memories, I pulled up the old Gatorade commercial with Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan. Can’t wait to share this with Kylah someday.   Even if you aren’t a MJ or Mia Hamm fan, this advertisement makes you want to get up and do something.  Another cool tool for moms of daughters to check out is the “Girl Power Toolkit.”  This kit is designed to help raise our ladies to be superheros of their own kind.

Would You Sell Your Child For Chocolate?

It’s here.  The big V Day. Yes, that’s right.  The day that Americans dole out billions of dollars on that dark, sweet delicacy- chocolate.  Did you know that the U.S. spends $16.7 billion on chocolate each year? And, on the day you profess love to your sweetie, Valentine’s Day, Americans spend an average of $40.  
 
Let’s be honest here.  Every woman, including myself, loves a piece of chocolate.  Or, for that matter, 100 pieces. Until recently, I never stopped to think where the chocolate that I love so much comes from.  I have been doing a little digging lately and I started to realize that there is a very dark side to chocolate that we don’t hear about very often.
 

Here’s the basic rundown.  West Africa grows over 70% of the world’s supply of cacao. And the Ivory Coast produces more of it than the rest of West Africa.  So what? Well, a UNICEF study reported that 200,000 children are trafficked yearly in West and Central Africa. Many of the adults and children that are trafficked to the Ivory Coast are being exploited as they work on cacao farms used to make the chocolate that we buy at our local grocery stores.  

Can you imagine destitute parents selling their children to traffickers in hopes that things will take a bright turn once they arrive on the Ivory Coast?  Once they arrive, these children become bonded laborers and will work 80 to 100 hours a week.  Can you imagine selling your child into something like this for chocolate?


I am not saying that we should never eat chocolate, but what I am saying is there is a good choice we can all make.  When you want to purchase chocolate, go for chocolate labeled Fair Trade.  Fair Trade is where purchasers of products such as chocolate and coffee agree to pay an above market price. The money is used to help the small farms and cooperatives selling the products make improvements in their communities such as building schools, hospitals and increasing the availability of clean drinking water.

When we lived in Seattle, the family and I loved to make trips to Fremont to visit Theo’s Chocolate Factory.  If you are ever in the area, they are the best and the first organic, Fair Trade, Bean-To-Bar
Chocolate Factory in the United States.  And, of course, their chocolate is delicious.  There are many other Fair Trade brands.  And, yes, they are available at your local grocery store.



I know the holiday is almost over, but the next time you buy chocolate, remember buying slave-free chocolate can make a difference. 

Sex Trafficking and the Super Bowl

After a long day of tantrums and mini-fashion crises from a 3-year-old and the disasters and strange, unidentified piles of goo a crawling 9-month-old can leave behind, I sat down this evening to look around my house.  My normally, a little messy house is still quite torn apart from Sunday’s big Super Bowl party.  As I look around, trying to figure out where to begin, I can’t help but think about something that has been on my mind.

The Super Bowl, an event which makes for a fun party, is surprisingly one of the single, largest human trafficking events in the United States.  Disguised as an All-American sporting event where the fans yell loud and parties take allegiance to teams in almost every household in America, the demand for prostitution around this event is very high.  This doesn’t really surprise me, because the Western world is the largest consumer for the sex industry and victims who are trafficked.

How can this be? I started to think a lot about American tradition.  As we gather with our families, our small children, kids from church and eat popcorn and watch the big game, our experience is memorable and fun.  I can’t help but think through the eyes of a human trafficking victim where an event like the Super Bowl is anything but memorable and fun. They will live each day with dark memories that they can’t forget as modern-day slaves.

Of course, human trafficking isn’t just a problem on Super Bowl Sunday.  An estimated 18,000 people are thought to be brought into the country as part of human trafficking operations each year.  Many do not realize that an estimated 100,000 children are forced into prostitution every year in the United States. Can you imagine? Your daughter, your sister, your niece or the little girl who lives across the street.  It could happen to anyone.

Many times, my day gets the best of me.  I spend 15 hours a day wrapped up in kids and 3 hours a day running from my kids.  But I do know one thing: I can’t and I won’t be someone who closes my blinds, looks the other way, makes excuses, turns off the news and acts like this issue does not exist.  If every overstressed mom, every high school kid, every teacher, every preacher, every company, all of us did our part to help, we could make a difference.  We would see a shift that goes on for miles and surpasses state and country borders.

I am ready to live this way.  How about you? Ready to help? Here 21 ways, courtesy of A21, that you can make a difference: http://www.thea21campaign.org/21-ways-to-help.php.  And, if you are interested in helping in the Arkansas area, shoot me an e-mail and I can share more with you.

 

To Blog or Not to Blog?

To blog or not to blog? With so many clever bloggers out there focusing on everything known to man or woman, I have been thinking a lot lately about the quest for a great niche.  Every blogger, company, marketer and person out there is trying to find their place.
Thought it would be interesting to take a peek at the definition for the big word.  Here’s a crack at it:

niche [nich] noun, adjective, verb, niched, nich·ing.

noun:
 
1. an ornamental recess in a wall or the like, usually semicircular in plan and arched, as for a statue or other decorative object.
2. a place or position suitable or appropriate for a person or thing: to find one’s niche in the business world.
3. a distinct segment of a market.
4. Ecology . the position or function of an organism in a community of plants and animals.
  
Interesting…Thanks, Dictionary.com! Without talking about walls and our ecological system, I think I will revert to definitions 2 and 3.  Really, what is the difference between the two? Businesses are run by “people” and the target audiences are made up of “people.”  
 
Speaking of people.  How about bloggers?  Some popular bloggers have quickly become the target of many types of digital PR and marketing plans.  The PR/Marketing person in me can’t help but explore this topic.  Did you know 52% of bloggers consider themselves journalists? What does this really mean?  What makes a blogger any different from a journalist? Are bloggers really the “new” journalists of our time?
Last month, Forbes.com covered this interesting pieces on bloggers and journalism.  A federal judge outlined the requirements to qualify a journalist.   My one word response to these requirements: Huh? I tend to agree with the writer.  If you took these requirements to heart, we would have no news or blogs to read.  What’s your take on this issue?  
 

Either way, some journalists are bloggers and vice-versa. At the end of the day, I think the content produced must be current, accurate and authentic.  So, I guess this is where I begin my quest for this blog and posts to come.

Yup, that’s me right around 9 a.m. each day.

As for my niche, this PR/Comm career girl turned seriously-stressed mommy of two is hoping to write about something a little more interesting than vacuuming up Cheerios and stomach viruses.  Scout’s honor.  I won’t be sharing any cleaning tips or medical advice.  Nope, not on this blog.  I will cover all of the things my crazy kids keep me away from these days: current events, culture, women’s issues and all kinds of other goodies.  Either way, this girl just became a blogger and I don’t think you will be bored.