The ‘Other’ White Women Were Invented in 1691

On a recent field trip with my 8-year-old daughter to the Virginia State Capitol, I felt such joy watching her walk in the rain holding hands with her friends. As we visited the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on the grounds and read about plans for the Women’s Monument, I felt hopeful.

But what about inside? All of the statues and tour narrative were about influential, elite white men. I couldn’t help but consider the metaphor in the midst of my frustration—want to learn about people of color and women during the last 400 years? Please step outside.

As I sat next to the giant bronze sculpture of Robert E. Lee in the Old Hall, standing in the spot where he accepted command of the Confederate forces, I kept waiting to hear something about Virginia’s African-American delegates after the Civil War.

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The Parenting Club, Daddy Privilege and Mommy Martyrdom

Your parenting club membership comes with an invisible package of privileges that we all are guilty of using at times: “Oh, I wish we could, but little Sarah has a thing that weekend. This parenting gig is 24/7 you know.”

What about within the club? A man sharing parenting responsibilities with his partner is often portrayed as some kind of mythical, awe-inspiring unicorn; a woman who changes the oil for the family car is depicted as a badass domestic diva.

In reality, it all has to get done and someone has to do it. Pick something from the infinite to-do list that matches your individual skill set, slap a gold sticker on the poster, and bam — you’re a rock star. Now get back to work. These kids aren’t going to raise themselves.

Yes, of course we should celebrate and respect any parent who is giving and resourceful, but can we please stop giving out trophies for showing up?

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Silent Sisterhood—The Space Between Blackness and Whiteness

My raw, emotional response when I see the words Dear White Woman (or something similar) is to feel defensive, resentful, hurt or misunderstood. Before I even read it, I suspect the seemingly friendly salutation holds no real affection since the implication is we are all just alike.

Perhaps I would be more open to it if there were some specifics: a letter to the white woman who did or said __________. Instead, I feel like a preschool child who loses recess because one kid wouldn’t stop talking. Group discipline is not for grown folks.

Yes, I take it personally. In that moment, I’m 8 years old and my Dad just called me out by my first, middle and last names—a surefire sign that what comes next is not going to feel good. I want to put my fingers in my ears and pretend to shut out the sound. In reality, I can hear you loud and clear–so I come anyway with my heart in my hand.

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Make It Happen–Cross the Boundaries of Selective Sisterhood

makeithappen

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is make it happen. It’s a call to action. For me, it’s also a powerful reminder that sisterhood is not about membership; it’s a relationship—an active, radical, empathic bond based on shared experiences and concerns. And it isn’t singular. Women share all kinds of “sisterhoods” –connections based on day-to-day life interactions.

I remember being taught as a child that food, shelter and clothing were necessary for survival. Everything else was want—and it was optional. It informed my view as I learned to navigate the world, deciding who needed or wanted me in their lives.

My own journey beyond the boundaries of selective sisterhood required a new understanding of the difference between sympathy, empathy and compassion. My definition of “need” was forever altered in the process.

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The Sisterhood of Poverty

mosaicbwasAccording to the Poverty Data Fact Sheet, there were almost 18 million poor women living in the United States in 2013: White, 8.62 million; Black, 4.08 million; Hispanic, 4.17 million; Asian, 0.78 million; Native American, 0.34 million; and Foreign Born, 3.78 million.

If you isolate heads of household, there were 4 million: White, 1.34 million; Black, 1.36 million; Hispanic, 1.11 million; Asian 0.07 million; Native American, 0.08 million; and Foreign Born, 0.77 million.

Most articles citing poverty statistics focus on disproportionate rates by race and gender. Of course that is a critical concern, but in terms of sisterhood, there is one core truth to keep in mind—a person is not a data point.

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The Divorce Games: Finding Your Inner Adult

vegasRecently, I was talking with an equally sarcastic friend about our strategies to put the fun back in dysfunction. A quick Google search revealed our seemingly brilliant, original ideas weren’t original at all.

There are multiple sites offering everything from a candle that smells like freshly signed divorce papers to a full line of divorce party products for the recently unknotted. I love both because the concept of live, laugh, love completely falls apart if you leave out the middle. Laughter truly is amazing therapy.

Our idea (or so we thought) was a board game about divorce. Like everything else I have fantasized would make a mint, it’s been done.

Hold up, player! Before you get your panties all in a bunch, I’m not trying to belittle the pain of divorce or disrespect the institution of marriage. I’ve been there — twice.

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Scrape Off the Divorce Baggage Labels and Reclaim Who You Are

label1Most people like answers to questions that fit neatly into little check boxes and drop down menus. Conversational essays in response aren’t usually welcome.

When the cashier at the grocery store asks, “How are you today?” the expected answer is, “Fine, and you?” Somehow I seem to end up in line behind the person who interpreted that to mean the doctor is in—go ahead, share all of the personal details about your life. We’ll wait.

When I fill out forms, my sarcastic side wants to grab the pen and give the unexpected answer. Race? Human. Who should be called in case of an emergency? 911. Duh!

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