women

Feminism is a Team Sport

Something magical happens when women gather in circle. Many of my best ideas over the years have happened in connection with others; when I get to hear myself think out loud, when they say something that resonates, when their brainstorms inspire, and when I feel the energy of validation.

Such was the case last January as I spent a retreat day with one of my mastermind groups, a group that has been meeting monthly for almost three years now.  We began this year by sharing some of the promptings we were each feeling in our hearts for where we were feeling called and led in the year ahead.  I was speaking to my conviction that I want to be a part of women trusting each other again, cheering for each other more, and working alongside each other as we step into our own personal power.

Wearing on the outside the hope I have on the inside!

While processing out loud, I said something along the lines of: "we need to realize that feminism is a team sport, not something we each do alone." And Kimberly, sitting across the Circle from me, said, "You need to put that on a t-shirt."

And so I did.  :)

Feminism Needn't Be Scary

Here's why:

Several years ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post that they titled, "Feminism: How I Finally Came Out as an Advocate for Women" where I shared a bit of my struggle over the word feminism, specifically; and my own ignorance with the movement, more generally. It wasn't that I hadn't wanted to be an advocate for women, it was more that I had been avoiding being an advocate for feminism-- I saw them as two separate things.  I mistakenly thought you could be for one without being for the other.

Many women still shy away from the word, wondering if we still have need of it.  This word has been used to help us win the right to vote, to fight for reproductive and sexual rights, to make a path for women to work outside the home in any profession of their choosing, and to give us permission to make our own life choices around marriage and motherhood, among many other things.  We appreciate the fruits of movements-past, but so badly want to believe that we have arrived.

Deborah Spar, president of Barnard College and author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, said this when I went to hear her speak last year:

“Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we feel we can do anything, we feel we have to do everything.”

Now we may not have the same laws that keep us down, but our chains of who we think we're supposed to be can feel just as heavy.

In my travels and connections I see just how exhausted, weary, guilt-ridden, fearful, unhappy, and lonely women are, and I am convinced that the call to feminism is still relevant. And needed. It may just need to look a little different from the image seared in my memory of seeing women burning bra's in front the capital.

If I could pick a new image for feminism, it would be women sitting in circles, supporting each other.

Feminism Together

Because it's only when we're in tribe, connected to each other, sitting shoulder-

feminism is a team sport

to-shoulder, face-to-face, in relationship with others that we can practice embodying the equality that we long for.

What we crave is each others acceptance. Why can't we give that fully and easily?

What we long for is for someone to tell us that we're doing enough, we're okay, we're good moms and wives and daughters even if we can always think of more we could do, and that we're making a difference. Why must we keep competing as though only a few of us deserve to hear those words?

We need each other to help us hear our own worth. We can do that!

We need to stop feel judged, and instead feel cheered on.  What a difference that would make in this world!

It's only in relationship to each other that we practice offering love even when we risk rejection; and just as importantly, practicing the receiving of gifts and time without feeling like our lack reflects poorly on us. No, we can't do everything. Yes, we need help. Thank you.

These power house  women live with vulnerability, courage, and conviction; modeling for me the actions I am committed to keep practicing.

It's with my friends that I practice shining my biggest and best self, speaking of my strengths and owning my accomplishments so that I feel more comfortable doing that in a world that isn't as practiced yet.  And it's where I want them practicing for themselves, as well.

Only in relationship do we learn the coveted skills of saying "yes" when scared, and "no" when tired.  It's with each other that we should be able to practice those hard words so that we are more at ease speaking our truth in other crowds.

Who we want to be, must be, need to be-- requires us practicing those skills in relationship. We don't become more confident, loving, patient, and empathetic in a vacuum; we do it in connection with each other.

Feminism now is inviting all of us to love ourselves, our bodies, and each other, just as we are. That's not to say that the external circumstances are equal, for they aren't.  But just as significant, is us feeling our worth on the inside and reflecting that to each other.

Feminism Practiced

I believe so much in being in circle with other women that I have committed to it as a regular practice in my life.  In addition to my friends and social life, I belong to three "mastermind" groups.  Two of them are weekly, via Skype and telephone; the other is a monthly in-person gathering.  Each of them functions differently, but behind every one of them is a circle of women cheering each other on.

I want you to be in circle with women who see your value, your worth, and your joy.  I want you to keep practicing being a woman who cheers others on, judges less, and loves more.

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Two Resources for Cheering Each Other On!

  1. Buy the T-shirt in our store:  I've been gifting these to some of the women

    You can get this t-shirt at www.ConnectedGifts.com

    who have been supporting me saying, "Thanks for being on my team!" Wear yours and spread the love!

  2. Join www.GirlFriendCircles.com:  GirlFriendCircles.com is a women's website that matches amazing women to new local friends.  We believe women are better when connected!  Join us today and meet other women who value having good friendships and are open to meeting new people!

 

Advice & Encouragement from GirlFriendCircles.com Members

When I interviewed Shoshana a few weeks back about her personal experience in GirlFriendCircles.com down in the L.A. area, I discovered that a group of 11 women from GirlFriendCircles.com all went on an overnight trip together to San Diego, a couple of hours away. I was so thrilled at the idea of a group of women building their friendship in such a way that I immediately asked if a few of them would share their experiences with all of us so we might just see what is possible!  :) Not the best photo quality but at least all 11 of us are in this one!

How did this trip come about?

Shoshana: "I can't remember exactly how the San Diego trip came about, but after talking about going to Santa Barbara and maybe renting a house for the weekend, we ended up landing on San Diego since most of the girls could only do one night. I then created a Facebook page for the trip and invited everyone to join. Another one of the girls made the suggestion to take the train and we were off. I reserved rooms for us at the Hard Rock Hotel and for our dinner, collected everyone's money through Paypal or checks, and posted on our Facebook page all the info that everyone needed, including which train to buy their tickets for. We got seats together and talked for 3 hours the whole way there and back. It was definitely a great way to travel with 11 girls. I'm not so sure our neighbors on the train would agree!"

Dinner was so much fun after having talked all afternoon on the train!

What did you all do together on this trip?

Shoshana: "We hung out by the pool, had a great time eating dinner together, and basically just hung out together.  A highlight was definitely dinner! We were seated in front of a big window on a busy street so a lot of men enjoyed dancing for our big group of women in front of the window or ripping their shirts open which produced a lot of fun laughs. (We were in San Diego's Gaslamp district so it's a very fun scene.) After dinner we went to a place for dancing for a little while before hitting up a rooftop bar. But my favorite part of the trip was getting to know the girls better during the train ride down and back where we could all just talk.  The going out and pool part was fun, too, but the activities mattered less to me than the time I got to spend connecting with these great women."

Okay, bringing in a few other GirlFriends-- tell me what you were feeling on your way home from this weekend!

Yana: (a member since Dec. 2012, who first went on a one-on-one and then started meeting others through ConnectingCircles)  "On my way home from San Diego as I looked around at this group of women, I felt..... like part of a community and grateful to have these amazing women in my life! Why? It was such a diverse collection of women of all backgrounds/ages/professions and yet we all took the initiative to get together and go on an overnight trip. Eleven girls traveling could be a recipe for disaster but everyone had such a good time eating, dancing, and socializing."

Kelly: My first event with GFC was last October. I signed up for the site after Googling "how to make friends in LA." Moving from another state, I found it really hard to connect with people in this city.  But on my way home from San Diego, I felt really happy knowing I'd met an awesome group of women who are all interested in making friends and sharing new experiences. Looking at the group of women that spans the age range of 26-44, its amazing we all met over the past 6 months and have become friends that hang out all the time.  I've finally connected!

Nina: I feel like I'm super lucky to have gotten to know such a lovely group of women. Each and every one of them has been committed to developing friendships. They are an open-minded, kind bunch of girls who simply likes to have fun and experience life together. I moved to LA 7 years ago, and up until this point... I had really struggled with forming close friendships with women in LA. I had girlfriends, but hardly any of them were local. Now I have this group of supportive SoCal women in my life that I couldn't be more thankful for.

As for specific memories from the San Diego trip....when we were eating dinner, we kept drawing attention to ourselves b/c we were such a big group of women sitting by a window. People kept waving at us. A little boy even kept coming up to our table to perform dances for us. It was super fun to get away and spend time just chatting/ really getting to know the girls that I roomed with.

A few of us waiting for the others while enjoying drinks!

Stephanie: My first event with GFC was only a month or two before this trip! I went to a happy hour in Venice, organized by Shoshana, in the first part of June and met half a dozen women, most of whom came to San Diego.  On my way home from that trip... as I looked around at this group of women on the train with me I felt a few things:  Very proud of myself that I had reached out, risked being vulnerable and asked for friendship, and also lucky to be in the company of women who are making their way with courage, openness and a sense of self that just nice to be around. We had all had fun in the group as a whole, but some of us had broken off into smaller groups and done our own thing.  It seemed like everyone was content with the weekend happening whatever way made everyone comfortable. We all had each other's backs at the clubs and if someone needed out of a situation, there was someone there to extract them.

Shoshana: Yes! One of the important things we learned about group travel was to give everyone the freedom to do things in their own way.  For example, the distance from the train to the hotel was about was a mile so some of us walked and some of us took a taxi. We then all had a late lunch all together, but then again some of us lounged by the pool while some went to go get manicure and pedicures. At around 6pm we all headed to our rooms to nap/relax/get ready. And again, a few of us were ready first so we went downstairs to sit outside and grab a drink before the others joined us. The wonderful thing about a group that size is that we don't all have to do everything together, but that we could break into smaller groups when appropriate!

So many of us would love to go on a trip with friends... what so you think specifically helped you build these relationships?  In other words, how did you get to this place?

Yana:  I moved to L.A. due to a long distance relationship and a year and a half later still found myself unable to make the city my home. I took the initiative to search for websites to find friends and dove right into making connections and going to events.

What specifically had to happen to create these friendships? Not being afraid of rejection and making the time and commitment to nurture and grow these relationships. I feel like at this point in my life (engaged, new puppy, planning wedding, working in finance) I just don't have the luxury of being in high school and surrounded by people also ready and willing to make that connection. As I didn't go the traditional going away to college and living on campus route, I don't have those 4 years to go back to for friendships. As I get busier and busier it's important to make time for building a foundation of friendship in a new place without the luxury of old friends and family to have my back.

Kelly: We got here because a lot of the girls in the group were proactive in creating their own group events on the GFC CalendarCircles. That made a huge difference. People started inviting other girls from the site they had met individually and pretty quickly there was a larger group of girlfriends.

Nina: My first event with GFC was a Connecting Circle in November at Cafe Gratitude in Venice, CA. I believe there was 5 other girls present, 4 of whom have become close girlfriends of mine. My first impression was something like "Wow! these girls are really nice and normal!"

I was pretty skeptical going into the whole process since I had previously tried to meet some girls in LA via craigslist and had some issues with flakiness, lack of commonality, etc. I was assuming GFC would be more of the same.  But I knew from the very first night that my experience with GFC would be different. The girls were intelligent, sweet, funny and truly open to making friendships. I reached out to a couple of the girls right away after my first Connecting Circle to meet up for coffee or dinner. I think this was the most important step I took, because it ensured that I began to form relationships with some of the girls.

Stephanie: I could see myself being friends with some of these women for a long time.  Some I will perhaps get closer to, and some will come and go.  I think acceptance of each other for who we are is very important, not having too many rules for others to follow, and knowing what my own expectations are from the friendships are important.  I didn't expect to come away with a new BFF - but I may have found a friend or two who I would like to travel with in the future or have other adventures with.  I really loved that so many of them were like me - okay doing things on their own but also happy to be in a group.  It's been a long time since I've had a weekend with women that I came home and felt like the whole thing was a great time.  A very nice memory and (hopefully) the beginning of some new friendships.

Any advice would you have for other women just joining GFC?

Yana: Sign up and reach out to people out of your age range/economic background/likes. It's a bit more difficult to do that in L.A. due to the city being so big and traffic dictating what one does during the week, but weekends are the best. Go to events and make events of your own and don't be afraid to mix your "GFC" friends with connections you've made outside of the website.

Kelly: Try to go to as many of the CalendarCircles and ConnectingCircles as possible because you will meet many different kinds of people and are bound to eventually find one or more new girlfriends you really connect with.

Nina: Even though I met amazing women at the first event, I also continued to attend ConnectingCircles to meet more girls. Once I started to get to know the girls more, I simply made sure that GFC and these ladies were a priority in my life, by attending as many group/ individual get together's as I can.  I even set a specific goal to make sure that I got together with at least one of my new GFC friends at least once/ week and chatted with other girls in between. After awhile, the friendships became more natural. I would definitely recommend taking initiative in reaching out to girls you click with. I also would make sure you make time/ prioritize your new friendships as well.

A huge thanks to Stephanie, Yana, Nina, and Kelly for being willing to share a little of your experiences, and a HUGE thanks to Shoshana for being a catalyst.  What a gift you gave, not just to yourself, but to all these women.  May we have more women like you who are willing to put events out there to help women connect.  There will be friendships formed because of your initiative.  THANK YOU! 

 

 

An Interview with Urban Campfire Founder: Melody Biringer

One of the upcoming events where I'm speaking is in Seattle next month.  I'm so looking forward to Urban Campfire, not just because it's in an airplane hangar, but because we get to roast marshmallows and sit around campfires with small groups of other women!  Fun!  The idea is so creative that I wanted to interview CRAVE founder and the Urban Campfire brainchild, Melody Biringer, about women and connections.   I interview the genius behind the fun-- Melody Biringer!

Melody, you have a long history of being passionate about women's friendships, and your latest brainchild is proof of that!  Urban Campfire is such a novel idea… tell us what it is!

Melody: "Urban Campfire is an all day event intended to engage women in authentic conversations about business, relationships and life. We encourage them to ditch their heels and don theirs sneakers as Urban Campfire prepares to engage them in a high-octane, unique, and meaningful experience. This isn’t a conference, it’s a fire. We plan on igniting the spark that has flickered within you. We promise to delight and inspire with a star-studded line-up of TED Talk style speakers and a veritable who’s-who in Seattle and beyond attendee list."

You have an awesome line-up of speakers including Danielle LaPorte, the catalyst for our desires and vision, Jen Louden, the self-care queen, and Sue Bryce, a woman we all hope will one day be our photographer for a session! But what I love, even more, than the inspirational line-up is your idea of women coming together in small groups, around campfires to share their own stories.  What do you hope is felt by the women who are sitting around these campfires sharing themselves with other women?

Have you been to an event with this lay-out yet? Super fun to not only be listening to speakers, but then sharing and connecting with a small group!

Melody: "There is something about the conversations we have around a campfire... we are more vulnerable and open to sharing. I want everyone to experience this kind of authentic openness through Urban Campfire. By sharing stories and making meaningful connections, I hope women are able to rekindle their flame! This isn’t the type of conference where you sit back and half listen while multi-tasking. It’s the kind of event where your critical thinking skills are engaged and your heart is opened."

You are undoubtedly a connector of women.  What is a driving memory for you that propels you to bring women together for connecting?

Melody: "I didn't seek out girlfriends til after I turned 30.  (what is up with that?) When I finally saw the light that I needed the connection of women for all kinds of things-- magic seemed to happen.  My favorite pastime is going on walks or hosting dinner parties with like-minded women; telling and listening to each others stories throughout the entire spectrum of life.   Especially walking, there is something about the heart pumping while telling stories that helps you get more authentic and juicy."

The other thing I love about this one-day rendezvous you have planned is your interest in women of all ages connecting. Tell me about two of your friends-- one who is older and one who is younger-- and what you enjoy about those women.

Melody: "I have a friend who is 25 that sometimes I forget how young she really is.  She is in start-up mode with her business and I LOVE to talk business.  It is so refreshing to listen to her stories, her fears, and her excitement about life.  I learn so much from her and she makes me feel like I have a lot to offer her too, so the feeling is mutual.   My older-than-me-friend just gets everything, we can talk for hours about nothing and yet if feels so satisfying.  We never have an agenda or feel like we need to solve anything.  It just feels good to be doing nothing together."

And because of your vast experience in women's networks, I'd be curious to get your take on what you see happening with women's relationships today.  What is one thing that discourages you and one thing that encourages you that you are hearing, seeing, and experiencing?

Melody: "I find it discouraging when women view each other as competitors and not collaborators. I wish we could we have a more collective feeling of togetherness. I think that is changing with time and it encourages me that more collaborations are happening."

And last, in keeping with your theme that you're giving all 10 speakers that day, of which I'm honored to be one, “If you had ten minutes to tell the world what you’ve learned, what you know to be true…what would that be?”  what would be the message of your talk?

Melody: "I would talk about knowing yourself and to try not to be in too many downward spirals throughout life.  I would much rather be on an upward spiral because magic happens when you are positive and just try to make things happen.  It is about the forward movement that makes me happy and when I am stuck I go into down mode. Remembering when I am down to pick back up and do something, put yourself out there, again, is the joy of life.  The outcome is not as important as the game you get to play while trying to get there.  Plus it is way more fun to hang with like-minded friends along the way that can cheer you on as you also are their biggest cheerleaders.  And don't forget to take time out to make a s'more every once in a while and remember what your marshmallow really is. #whatsyourmarshmallow"

Melody-- I just want to applaud you for your vision.  I think it's beautiful! And I want to make sure everyone has all the info so they can decide to join us.  This is a great excuse to fly to Seattle to visit a friend and attend this unique event.  :)

What: Urban Campfire When: Tuesday August 13 2013. 1pm to 9pm Where: Hangar 30 in Warren G. Magnuson Park, Seattle WA Highlights: Fireside chats, food trucks, dance party, s'mores. Cost: One ticket = $95 / Two or more tickets = $75 each Website: http://thecravecompany.com/urbancampfire/

And one final detail for all the readers of my blog... buy your Urban Campfire ticket here and save $35!  That way it's only $60 instead of $95!  Hope to see you there!!!  Come introduce yourself to me so we can be sure to meet!  xoxo

From Strangers to Friends: Our Travel Circle to Cuba

After we had all checked in at the Miami airport on June 16 for our charter flight to Cuba, I remember thinking, "Oh wow, I hope this works." And by this I meant, 15 women who had never met each other deciding to travel for 10 days together in a foreign country. It could go one of three ways: 15 women traveling beside each other but not really connecting as a group, 15 women getting sick of each other and whining and judging the whole time, or 15 women ending up feeling the bond of friendship.

In this photo we don't yet even know each others names... but the trip ahead of us is going to be amazing!
In this photo we don't yet even know each others names... but the trip ahead of us is going to be amazing!

I looked around at our group of strangers spread apart in age from 22 to 67, with one trying to figure out if she had time to get a manicure at the airport and others looking like they had never had a manicure in their lives, and observed how seemingly different we all were from each other.  While trying to remember each others names you could tell we each had our questions about how this experience would yet play out...

My Top 5 Take-Away's

  1. We don't have to be like each other to like each other.  No doubt we were all so very different: some women looked like they had stepped out of fashion magazines every day of the trip while others seemed to be wearing the same outfit in every photo; some women undoubtedly came with unlimited budgets while others were rationing out their CUC's with worried eyes; some looked like they were ready to dance anytime a tune was heard while others needed to put their feet up and rest in the van; some never turned down an opportunity to drink the island rum or local beer while others seemed much happier with water the whole time. We were an eclectic group to be sure. I say all that only to help highlight the beautiful truth that we all really, really, really liked each other. From day one all the way to day ten.
  2. One of my favorite aspects of the trip turned out to be the age span of the group.  It was SO enriching to build relationships with women you might not hang out with back home. What wisdom!
  3. Friendships are meaningful no matter how different they might look.  For some, this trip will simply be the starting point of their friendships: some women stayed up late into the night whispering with their roommates, others rented the classic old cars together for adventures where they spent the whole afternoon laughing and sharing. For all of us though, even if we didn't come home with new best amigas, we know we have new friends. Without being asked, we simply sat in different seats in the van and switched who we joined for meals-- making sure we all got to know each other in ways that mattered. We're all writing each other this week mentioning the withdrawals we're all feeling from not being together, sharing our photos, and planning a reunion dinner next month for those who can make it!  I expect to feel close to these women for quite some time.
  4. Toasting new friendships with one of many mojitos!
  5. Group travel encouraged stimulating conversations and sharing. We all too often go on a trip and get lost in our own thoughts; but in a group, we were able to hear different view points, externally process our own thoughts, ask questions, and honor our shared curiosity.  As we all tried to make sense of the impact of the U.S. embargo, how grateful Cubans were for Fidel Castro when most of us Americans had heard only negative things about him, and what socialism looked like in reality-- I was ever grateful to have a group of wise women each processing the same. Several of us walked through the Museum of the Revolution together trying to make sense of the history, my roommate shared with me some background to the political system, our local guide kept revealing how Cubans see their own experience, and all of us kept processing what we were learning in ways that served each other.  At lunches we'd often talk at tables about what we had learned in the mornings and dinners were filled with us sharing our highlight moments.
  6. IMG_1218
  7. Learning makes my travel mean so much more! I've traveled to Mexico to lay on a beach without giving any thought to how their government is structured, gone to Italy to eat pizza without caring about their women's movement, or ridden a camel in Morocco without grasping what causes they are currently struggling with. In order to travel to Cuba legally, though, we had to apply for educational/professional/people-to-people visas which means we had to put in 40 hours of learning. That translated to sitting down with a university professor of gender and African studies to better understand the cultural shifts they've experienced and are still undergoing.  It meant visiting a neighborhood community center and dancing and singing with the locals.  It meant meeting an artist and having him share with us what his work means to him.  It meant meeting with the Federation of Cuban Women and hearing the history of the women's movement in that country.  It meant walking away with a greater appreciation not just for the country as a tourist experience but really understanding and admiring who that country has been and is today. Not every GirlFriendCircles.com Travel Circle itinerary will be as full of learning as Cuba needed to be... but I'm convinced I want to do a little more of it than simply sight-seeing and relaxing!
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  9. Women rock!!! Did you know that Cuba is ranked #3 globally in women's political participation with 48.9% women holding seats in their Parliament? (U.S. is ranked #79 this year!)  Not just are we committed to traveling as groups of women, but we want to learn about the women in the country we're visiting, too! So in Cuba that meant eating dinner in the home of the Three Anna's (a mom and her two daughters who rent out rooms to travelers) in Cuba de Santiago and asking them what it's like to be female entrepreneurs.  It meant dance classes and perfume making!  It meant looking at how free education and free healthcare leveled the playing field in that country for women and minority groups.  It meant that when we were guided through the fine arts museum that the female guide focused on women artists, the women who inspired the male artists, and how women were objectified or seen at different times.  Fascinating!  I loved being reminded of our connection with our sisters in another country.

Cuba was thought-provoking and fascinating.... the embargo means no Coca-Cola, McDonalds, or Starbucks. Where else have you been where you've seen that reality?

Easily the most famous face in Cuba... Che is one of about five revolutionary heroes.
Easily the most famous face in Cuba... Che is one of about five revolutionary heroes.

The whole country is like a land caught in a time warp where it may be decaying, but you can see the grandeur of their history since it hasn't yet been bull-dozed for condos or replaced with corporate skyscrapers. The people have dance and music running through their veins, along with big doses of idealism, love, and generosity.  While we uphold movie stars and singers, they revere their revolutionaries.  It was a city of dichotomy where the vision of who they want to be is so spectacular and yet how it plays out can sometimes leave you feeling pangs of sadness... (which is true of the U.S. too.) What a trip!

A huge thanks to the fourteen other women who made my trip so meaningful and memorable.  You each added such a special essence to our group chemistry.  I wouldn't have wanted it without a single one of you.

One of my favorite photos almost captures the whole group as we head out for an evening in Old Havana!
One of my favorite photos almost captures the whole group as we head out for an evening in Old Havana!

And to those who feel the tug to travel... We invite you on one of our upcoming trips this fall!  We have Egypt from Sept. 26-October 6, Iran from Sept 26-October 6, Peru from Sept. 29- October 11, and Cuba from Nov. 3-12.  So whether you want to cruise down the Nile in Egypt, behold Machu Picchu in Peru, see the Persepolis in Iran, or salsa in Cuba-- we will take good care of you and introduce you to new girlfriends who are drawn to travel! All our trips are for women, by women, about women.  You are so welcome to join the magic!

Vagina Monologues, Violence & Friendship

I just returned from participating in a One Billion Rising Pop-Up Video Shoot sharing why I rise against violence for women.

You watch this 3-minute video and tell me how we could do anything but choose to rise.

Let's rise together.  One billion of us between now and February 14, 2013, which is the 15th Anniversary of V-Day.

We are collectively going on strike against violence done to women. We are participating in a revolution.

The One Billion Rising campaign  is "inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders."

Below I am re-posting a blog that articulates why I will keep rising.

I hope you'll rise with us.  Be a part of the one billion of us who will rise up together, for our sake, for theirs, and for the world.

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This blog was written February 18, 2010. Still feels ever current.

Vagina Monologues, Violence & Friendship

Last night I attended an interview with Eve Ensler*, made famous as the playwright of the Vagina Monologues. She has released a new book called "I Am An Emotional Creature" which chronicles the struggle of girls to overcome the obstacles, threats and pressures that can rob them of their originality and power.

When asked what she felt was the biggest problem facing the world today, her response was "violence against women."

Women as Victims I doubt I would have answered the same question in the same way, and yet her case was nevertheless compelling and thought-provoking. Her point was that as long as we have a patriarchal system, we will have power taken from women that could be put toward different causes. That violence is damaging the very lives that could hold the solution to so many other needs. Imagine what you would do with all the energy in your life if you didn't have to focus it on overcoming something that wounded you.

It's obvious to see it play out in the Congo and Pakistan where sex-trafficking, rape and genital mutilation aren't punished. But even in our own country, our statistics still suggest that one in every three women face rape, abuse or molestation before they turn 18.

And to bring it even closer to home, she would expand the word "violence" to include any oppression that women face which includes spending much of our lives trying to become "more" girl in being skinnier, prettier and sweeter; and yet also trying so hard to be "less" girl where we're told to not run like a girl, throw like a girl, cry like a girl or be emotional like a girl. It is hard to know how to show up at our best.

Women as Offenders While we are certainly still a patriarchal world, it struck me that often the worst judgment of what it means to be a woman, comes from our own gender. I don't want to understate the trauma done by men around the world to women in any way whatsoever, but I simply want to point out that we ourselves are not always known for being the most uplifting of one another. Much of my greatest criticism in life has come from other women as they placed judgments on me for not living up to their expectations or values. The famous battles are between the stay-at-home moms and the career women or those who are domestic versus those who shun domesticity for a different role, but even when it comes to beauty, fashion and what shoes one wears, I have witnessed women dis-empower each other.

Furthermore, I've seen us not always give the same gift to men that we demand for ourselves. We want the right to choose to be home or work, but we still expect them to be "providers." We want the right to not have to cook all the meals, but we still think a "real man" should know how to fix the car. We know the long-term effects of being hit, but we have been known to downplay the damage we inflict on them with emotional control and manipulation. It's complicated isn't it?

Women as Friends I cannot listen to anything without filtering it through my lens of how much I believe in the power of friendships, community and belonging. And in that vein it struck me what a powerful tool our friendships can be. Certainly, they are a support place for us as we process our own wounds and they are also a source of empowerment as they remind us of our value and worth.

But importantly, they also provide us a container with which we can practice encouraging women who make different decisions than we do. We can engage in cheering for people whose authentic voices sound different from ours. I can love my friend who is on strike against cosmetics because of what she thinks it represents and I can love my friend who spends her every paycheck on getting her nails manicured. I can love them both and in a small way I am helping two women become more of themselves. I don't have to judge, devalue or in any way belittle them.

They may still face judgment, violence and discrimination in this world, but not from me. And that's no small gift. As I practice empowering the people I love (which sounds easy but can be difficult) then I become more adept in the occasions of life where I am called upon to empower even those I don't know, don't agree with or don't admire. My friendships are the places where I practice being the kind of person I want to offer to this world.

Indeed I agree with Ensler that the more we protect each other against violence, the more positive and vibrant energy we will have to participate in the creating of good. And the more we empower women, the more our world is capable of creating that good together. And that gives me hope.

* I attended this interview because I saw that one of our GirlFriendCircles.com members, France K., had posted it on the GirlFriendCircles calendar! Thank you for putting it out there!

Update 10/01/2012: This was my belief then... now you can see it on my homepage in my "I Have a Theory that Friendship Can Save The World" video.

 

Vulnerability, Weight, Nudity, and Judgment

I've been thinking about bodies, weight, and insecurities a lot lately. I was somewhat shocked when my last blog post ("The Judgment of Weight") skyrocketed to first place as the most read blog on this site. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised as it hasn't gone unnoticed by me that nearly every woman's magazine puts the word fat or weight on their cover every single month. Clearly the subject sells.

And I know why.  We all want to be "acceptable."  Every single one of us goes through this journey called life trying, in our own ways, to "be enough," "prove valuable," and "feel loved." So certainly it would matter if we're told that there is something "wrong" with us.  Especially something so obvious to everyone else.

It's not my intention or training to talk about weight specifically-- whether we need to gain or lose, how to do it, why it's hard, or how it's affecting our health and longevity.  But from a relational perspective-- the judgment we have surrounding this issue has to keep being addressed. It's affecting all of us.

Your Weight Bothers Me

In some ways it doesn't seem to matter how public Oprah is about accepting her weight, how many Dove campaigns go viral, how many "over-weight" celebrities provide new role models, or how many more articles we read that emphasize health over weight-- we are still showing up with such deep judgments.

Less than half of the 1800 women who took the survey chose "neither" as their answer when asked to choose from pairs of words like ambitious or lazy to describe a woman they knew nothing about except that she was “overweight” or “thin.” (And in that particular question we were 11 times more willing to peg that imaginary woman as lazy!)

With two-thirds of Americans being overweight or obese you'd think we'd be more compassionate since the chances are high that if we're not personally in this category that someone we know and love is.  Ironic also that most of us claim we want to lose weight while simultaneously judging thin women as being superficial, mean, and controlling. If we believed that, why would we want to become that?

Those judgments are hurting us. Personally.

Not just because we risk dismissing potential friends because of our prejudice, though that's a strong reason to practice befriending those whose body types are different from ours.  But because we damage our own psyches when we judge others.

The judgments we are putting out there are the same judgments that are coming back and biting us in our ass--be it flat or plump. We think we might feel better if we devalue others,  but when we do, we are reinforcing the same judgments that we'll hold against ourselves.  We're putting energy out there that becomes our own critic, our own slave master, our own prison.

We cannot judge without feeling judged.  It's impossible. If we make the judgment about her, we're telling our brain that this belief is true to us. Which means that same brain will give us that message about ourselves.

What we say about others reveals way more about our own story than it does about theirs.  We are reacting to them from our own insecurities, fears, and doubts.

When we can't accept them it reveals that we can't accept ourselves. The two go hand-in-hand.

Getting Naked Literally and Figuratively

I felt a moment of that truth last week when a friend took me to a Korean style spa--a bathhouse where you wear the same thing you would if you were taking a bath at home. Ha!

The first two minutes are the worst.  Not used to disrobing in front of strangers (or my girlfriends who were with me, for that matter!) it does feel very vulnerable.

And then, it doesn't. Seriously.

A swimsuit just gives the illusion of being covered. Without it comes a freedom:  No sucking anything in, no pulling anything down, no adjusting anything, no worrying if it is in style, or flattering, or appropriate.  There was simply nothing to hide behind, nothing to judge, nothing to worry about keeping in place.

When we risk showing our scars, birthmarks, cellulite, rolls of fat, protruding bones, tan lines, faces without make-up, boobs without push-up bras, and wet hair-- we realize we're all way more alike than we seem to remember when covered with clothing.

To see one woman walk by with only a scar where a breast used to be--I was reminded how grateful I am for life.  To see one woman sitting on the edge of the jacuzzi with rolls of fat around her middle-- I found myself cheering for her courage, grateful for her acceptance, challenging myself to accept who I am, too.

As I accepted all the bodies around me for just what they were, letting go of any need to judge those who were willing to be vulnerable in the same space with me, a self-acceptance washed over me.

I felt beautiful even as I gazed at the parts of my body that can sometimes cause me shame.  I didn't feel it then.  I completely and totally accepted myself, even as my chest flattened when I laid on my back. Oh that we all had more moments where we could be that relaxed and at peace.

When I stopped judging those around me, I found it easier to give the gift to myself.

Or maybe it was when I first disrobed, proving I was willing to accept myself that I was able to accept all of them.

I don't know which came first. But I do know the two went hand-in-hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Simply Have to Support Other Women!

While in New York City this week, I emerged from a tour of the United Nations building thinking about the blog I had just written on the 3 Baby-Steps Toward Girl Effect's Dream of Changing the World. One of the U.N.'s Millennium goals to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women came with some statistics that still surprise me (I share them in this less than 2 min video). I can sometimes think that we have the equality that previous generations fought for, but lately I feel quite reminded that there is still so much more we can all do.  And like I said in this video-- maybe just starting with being friendly and supportive of each other is a good place to start?

5 Tips for Finding Time for Friends

If you're anything like me-- and you don't have to admit it if so!--I can get caught up in the idea of doing things more than the actual doing of those things. I like the idea of being someone who reads the classic books and authors, but when my reading time is limited, those aren't the books I pick up.  I think of myself as a traveler, though wonder how many years I can go without traveling abroad and still have that self-identity?  I want to do more physical activities outside, but often choose sitting at a cafe when free time arises. I love the picture of having friends over all the time, entertaining in those magazine-inspired ways, and effortlessly throwing together parties on a regular basis.

clock running out of time

And while I want to keep holding the ideal version of myself... I also know I need to create a way to still lean into what I value even if it's not ideal.  For we don't all have unlimited time to read all the books we want, the budget to travel every year, the energy to choose tennis over a drink in a cafe, or the space in our lives for ongoing party-hosting.  So I can't always have it all.  But surely I can have some of it?

Time-Saving Ways to Connect with Friends

So in our ideal worlds we have 3-7 women we keep in touch with, hopefully getting together regularly and easily for potlucks, parties, barbeques and girls nights out.  But what about when life doesn't warrant that all the time? Or, any of the time?

We have jobs, relationships, kids, mortgages, yard work, a growing pile of mail, parents to call, emails to respond to, facebook to check in on, a toilet that needs scrubbing... the list goes on.  There is no doubt that we live busy lives.  And that list doesn't even include the hope that we can find time to have our "me-time" to include our exercise, yoga, meditation, or at least a glass of wine and fifteen minutes on the couch before bed. We're tired.  Busy. Stressed. Where are we expected to fit in our friends?

Here are five friendship ideas I gave to the Chicago Tribune last year:

  1. Book it: Make a standing appointment with your nearest and dearest. Say every Tuesday night. Or first Sunday of the month. Or get really creative and buy yourselves a season subscription to a theater, or orchestra, or sports team. That way there are no five e-mails back and forth figuring out what works. You've got the slot; stick to it.
  2. Piggyback it: Figure out what you need to get done, what your dear friend needs to get done, and do it together. Be it a pedicure, or shopping for undies, or a trip to the gym.
  3. Bond it: When you do make time to be together, don't dawdle around on the surface, take it deeper. Ask questions that matter. Don't just get updates on the kids but find out how she's feeling about her parenting. Use the time to actually bond, not just be together.
  4. Make it multiples: See a few nearest and dearest friends at the same time. Get together in groups of anywhere from three to six close friends. I don't want to sound crass, but it takes less time to share stuff once, instead of calling each of those friends and retelling the same story. And that way you get four unique responses at once. This generous approach helps more of you reconnect — and if a pressing deadline or last-minute obligation forces one person to cancel, the rest still get to bond.
  5. Pare it: The challenge for some women is that their network of friends is so vast, they feel they can't possibly keep up with everyone. Pick anywhere from three to five friends who matter the most. You simply don't have to be friends with everyone as that risks you not really feeling close to anyone. Prioritize. Give the most time to the ones who matter most and who feed you the most.

The honest truth is that time spent with friends really will boost our energy so it's worth adding into a busy schedule.  But we're gonna have to cut out the guilt trips we're placing on ourselves to do everything!  Find a few women who are your priority and start leaning into more time with them in creative ways.

It's not all-or-nothing.  We can have meaningful friendships with a little something.  :)

What other ideas do you have?  How do you make time for your friends?  Leave comments sharing your tips!