Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The World is Changing

It’s National Portfolio Day at a local university. My daughter (Girl #1) and I brave the crowd to attend. She’s a high school senior and interested in areas more along the creative side of life, so we’re here… learning and exploring her options.

One of the participating schools is Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Girl #1 barely knows what to do with a needle and thread and is not applying there; however, why not talk to them… their waiting line is short… and this is an opportunity for Girl #1 to have her photography critiqued by a professional.

While in line, she’s given an information card to fill out. I look at it and my eyes land on the gender boxes. And there it is, “Female,” “Male,” and “Other.”

click to enlarge

(I didn't have whiteout, so I had to use acrylic paint to cover my daughter's info.)

“Oh. Interesting,” are the words going through my mind. “I’ve never seen this before. Is “Other” a box for transgender people? Will all forms begin to have a third gender category?”

Last year, I was at my other daughter’s high school for their fall festival. A friend of mine was there, too. She had a square, rainbow colored sticker on her jacket that had “Ally” written on it, and so did other people who were walking around.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It represents the Gay/Straight Alliance, which is also a school club here,” she answered.

I don’t remember how I responded, but we continued the conversation on the subject. Somewhere in the midst of it, she asked if my readers (as in, blog readers) could handle the topic. In other words, would they talk about it? She strongly supports LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students.

“I don’t know, Judy,” I said, “I don’t know.”

So here I am, talking about the sexual preference/identification subject that should be added to the non-safe subjects of race, religion, and politics. However, as you read on, you will notice that I’m really not delving deep into it. Maybe I should have named this post My Lips are Sealed—Part 2. In my previous post named so, I attempted to explain why I would not divulge my presidential choice in the last election.

Currently, I shy away from voicing my feelings on homosexuality on this worldwide accessible blog because of how people react to it in small circles; i.e., friends, acquaintances, family, church members, exercise class, walking group, etc. For example, the same sex marriage agenda conversations can be tense! But… don’t let that stop “you.” Feel free to respectfully comment whatever comes to your mind.

Regardless of what side of the coin you’re on, or if you have mixed emotions about homosexuality, it is not going back into the closet. My goddaughter is lesbian. My friend’s son is gay. I think a few of my relatives are closet gays. You can probably say the same.

In addition to whatever you may want to say about homosexual issues, how do you decide where to draw the line when blogging? Are there subjects that you “don’t touch?”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What is Feminism?

My daughter has been baking desserts lately—nothing fancy, just the ready-to-bake cookies and brownies that can be mixed in five minutes. The treats are for Jack, a football player at her high school. One of the team's coaches thought it would give the guys a mental boost for the game if they received these motivation-filled goodies laced with the feminine touch.

One evening as my daughter (Girl #1) was putting frosting on the cookies, I said to her, “You know that’s sexist, right?”

“Huh,” she answered, caught off guard at my remark.

“It’s sexist—baking cookies for the football players. They don’t bake cookies for your field hockey team, do they?”

Before she could answer, I added with a smile, “It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with what you and the other girls are doing. It’s actually nice—but it’s still sexist.”

Sometimes I wonder if I’m setting my daughters up for possible difficulties when they settle into a committed adult relationship and marriage. During their short lives, I've pointed out to them numerous acts of male dominance and female docility; many involving traditional roles. Hopefully, they understand that I’m not always telling them what or what not to do, but to know why they are doing it; not to fall into a pattern of life just because Mom, Grandma, or all the other girls do it that way.

Continuing to ponder the seeds that I’m planting in my three daughters, I recalled a few blog posts that I've written that question “the role of the woman,” which is also the name of one of the posts. It’s about the things we do for our spouses and partners based on love, traditional female duty, and/or practicality. Other posts (Cheerleading and Athletic Uniforms) touched on women and girls performing in clothes that add to the male entertainment factor.  And the Two Shall Become One asks if the woman in the relationship or marriage loses some of herself as a result of letting the man rule the roost. And then there is my Cooking post where I wonder if I’m missing a gene that would make me enjoy cooking. The last straw: Mr. and Mrs. Etiquette – me hating to get mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jones. What happened to my name—Anita! My name is not Mrs. Michael Jones.

Hmmm… Could I be… uh… a feminist? I don’t know. I don’t think so. What exactly is a feminist anyway?

Dictionary.com defines the adjective usage as: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men, and the noun usage as: an advocate of such rights.

Surfing the web for thoughts on feminism produced myriad interpretations. The site, Who Needs Feminism? listed reasons for feminism from 15 young people. One says, “I need feminism because the first time I met my friend’s parents, I was SURPRISED and CONFUSED that her dad stayed at home and her mom is an executive with a six-figure salary. I was raised in a relatively traditional family—dad works, mom stays at home (though she has a job teaching now)—but this shouldn't be startling to anyone.”

A second says, “I need feminism so I can get tattoos in places that are considered ‘for tramps.’ Like my hips, breasts, and lower back. My body should be mine to ink as I please.”

Another source is an NPR interview in which Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College, talks about her book, Wonder Woman: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. NPR describes the book as Spar’s call for a new feminine agenda.

“I think we need to continue some of feminism's earlier fights,” Spar said. “We still don't have good child care in this country. We know we still don't have pay equity. ... We still don't have support networks for working families.”

On beauty and brains, she said, “Just pick up any magazine off the shelves: Women are expected to be beautiful and sexy and to revel in those things really from the time they're quite young to the time they're quite old. That expectation is just out there. It's in the ether; it's in the music we listen to; it's in the books we read. I think it's unrealistic to assume that just because a woman shows up in a business school or on a trading floor or for an internship that somehow those other pressures are going to go away. So women really are feeling the pressure to be hugely successful professionally, and really sexy and attractive, in addition to being good mothers and everything else.”

I went from one site, to the next, to the next, and I still can’t answer the “feminist” question. Maybe I just don’t want to answer it.

I was a girl when the “bra burning” stories were in the media, and as I got older, I’d hear about those “Women Libbers,” often in a negative tone; one that implied that “those women” were all man-haters, manly, or wild and loose.  Also, I was told that it was impossible for black women to be feminists because they didn't have all the choices and options that white women had.

So as I grew up, I stayed away from the label.

My feelings on women’s issues and roles, via my blog posts, are mostly related to domesticity; however, I am fully aware of the plight of women all over the world, and things need to change. While many of us in the good ol’ U. S. of A, and some other countries, are free to educate ourselves, hold political office, dress as we please, etc., don’t feel as much of the brunt of inequality as women in a country like Afghanistan, we opt not to make a huge issue over working all day, coming home to cook, do laundry, and take care of the kids, for example.

And women who are older and maybe retired, are not about to shock their men by going out with a girlfriend and leaving dinner in the fridge for him to microwave on his own—and that’s okay.Why change things now? *smile* Younger women might be the same, or more likely, not.

In a nutshell, whatever feminism is, the scales will continue to be tipped back and forth in an attempt to form a balance between women and men. Life goes on.

Do you have a definition for “feminism?” Other thoughts?

Mention of web sites, articles and books are not intended as an endorsement.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wannabe Entrepreneur

Waking up one morning in the winter of 1985, fear consuming my body, I thought, “How can I continue to do this for another 35 years?” Normally a hard worker, conscientious of my responsibility to those who rely on me, especially when getting paid, perhaps that dreadful morning was the result of not fulfilling my commitment.

I was working for a major corporation, one whose acronym is recognizable to millions of people. It was considered a privilege to land a job there, like being accepted into an Ivy League college, yet I couldn’t make it work for me. As a software developer for a ginormous project that was going nowhere, I found that I couldn’t connect to it. Bored and frustrated, I did the unthinkable—I left. But before I did, I began to think of my backup plan.

“Income?… Hmmm… What if I can’t resume my desire to continue with computer programming?”

“Real estate investing. Aha! I can do that.”

Sooo… I took a course (the ones that people take when preparing to get a real estate license) and began my search for a rental property when it occurred to me to buy my own house first; and I did. My closing date was a month after turning 27 years old, which was relatively young in the high market Washington/Baltimore area—a sign of my wannabe entrepreneur tendency.

Still interested in investing in real estate, I continued the search for a second house and convinced my brother to try the “land lording” business, too. He would get on board and take off; me—I got happy with my new job at my new company and my real estate excitement dwindled. But there was still this feeling of wanting to do something that would provide income based on my own creativity (which I thought I had.)

I will spare you the details of the two businesses that I tried and never managed to get going; but I will say that neither involved multi-level marketing, i.e. Amway, Mary Kay, etc.

So after discovering that working a 9 to 5 job (with occasional overtime, stress, and traffic issues) and simultaneously launching a business is not for the faint of heart, visions of a career change began to occupy my mind. “Can I teach kids at a school? Or maaaybe I’ll pack up for an adventure in another country!” Funny, just when I began to give serious thought to the “move-to-another-country thing,” Darling Husband appeared on the scene and the ultimate adventure began. (Mom’s prayers were answered.)

Yes, marriage and children changed my course again. The 9 to 5 was replaced with the 24/7. There would be no more business experiments, unless you count my brief interest in eBay.

In an article for PsychologyToday, Art Markman, Ph.D., said, “Starting your own business is difficult. You have to put in long hours. You have to be prepared to fail.  A high percentage of new ventures do not succeed.  You have to be willing to change course if things are not working out as expected.”

He also said, “Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.  For decades, psychologists and business researchers have explored whether there is a collection of personality traits that is associated with starting a business.”

I’ve wondered about that, too—who’s cut out to be an entrepreneur? There are the obvious people—the Oprahs and Bill Gates’ of the world, but what about the average Joes and Marys who run small businesses. My neighbor owns an occupational therapy business with several employees, plus she has a small eatery franchise. Did she want to “be her own boss,” feel that she had to “do what she loved doing,” or want to “make more money?” Tons of people have these desires, yet only a small percentage of the wannabes pursue it, and of those who do, an even smaller percentage are successful.

Entreprenuers have always fascinated me. I used to read their books, but now watch shows like Shark Tank. I even enjoy The Antique Road Show which is indirectly entrepreneurial, as people dig through their stuff hoping to find something valuable.

So is it mainly about money? Or are entrepreneurs satisfying a need for independence and/or creativity? Is it the thrill of the chase? Hmmm…

I don’t know if I’ll ever invest time in another business idea, though it’s possible. What I’ve learned is that goals of other sorts can be just as rewarding—although you’re more likely to be spending money than making it.

Now I’m on the 5 year plan of learning something that satisfies the wannabe entrepreneur, dreamer, and adventurer spirit in me. I just reached five years of horseback riding lessons, so on to learning Spanish. Check with me in 2018.

Oh, by the way, I have the utmost respect for all people who are hardworking and loyal to their jobs; not just entrepreneurs.

Have you ever owned a business or do you own one now? What was/is your experience? If not, would you like to start a business?

Yeeeee Hawwww  Amigos!

10/3/13 addendum:

Tabor’s comment had a good question about horseback riding, one that I hear sometimes, regarding the length of time it takes to learn to ride a horse. Learning how to relax into the saddle (not bouncing), posting, trotting, riding on a diagonal, and riding in a two-point position are all things I learned within ten or so lessons. Trotting in a figure 8 and cantering would soon follow, and within the year, jumping.

The learning continues because so many factors are involved. The size of the horse makes a difference. I do better on the larger horses. The speed makes a big difference. The horse in the jump on the video can be very fast, therefore, I had to control her speed and keep my head up, otherwise, I’d have been likely to get thrown off. Other things, like trail rides, pose different challenges: what to do when your horse decides not to go over the creek, hanging on (but giving free rein) when your horse is running up a hill (fun!), how not to let your horse run down a hill, handling a spooked horse, and so on. It seems that every lesson presents a surprise move by the horse that challenges the mental aspect of riding; in other words, knowing how to react quickly.

So as long as you’re dealing with an animal, the learning never stops. Thanks for bringing this up Tabor.