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This woman has popped up all over my Google Reader this week.

Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and these days, the subject of a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Sandberg wrote a book called Lean In, which seems to have coined various terms such as corporate feminism, boardroom feminism and, my personal favourite, Davos feminism.

In other words, she’s apparently out of touch with all of us regular womenfolk.

She’s been derided by Jodi Kantor (“places too much of the onus on women who are already struggling to fulfill impossible demands, and too little on government and employers to provide better child care, more flexible jobs and other concrete gains”), Maureen Dowd (although who cares), the Washington Post, Judith Shulevitz and others. Nerve lists the top five problems with Sandberg’s feminism, with the most egregious one being that she’s “a little too perfect and a little too lucky.”

But she has her supporters, and some prominent ones, too.  Arianna Huffington lauds Sandberg’s focus on internal barriers women have, and hopes the book will reignite the conversation about work-life balance. Rebecca Traister praises her willingness to taken on the feminist mantle because Sandberg could, and no doubt will be, “labeled a whiner, a troublemaker or simply a woman. It is to her credit that Sandberg has chosen to announce herself, smartly and vociferously, not only as a woman but as a feminist.”  Katha Pollitt’s review, entitled ‘Who’s Afraid of Sheryl Sandberg’ notes that even though the book does not directly address the circumstances most women face, “you don’t have to be climbing the corporate ladder—or, as Sandberg would call it, the jungle gym—to find her message useful.”  And as Matthew Yglesias notes, even though Sandberg represents a rather elite few, the fact that women don’t have access to top jobs such as President of the United States,  Treasury Secretary, or  being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company means that there’s work to be done at the top, too, and that’s not something that should be ignored.

Jessica Valenti states that the biggest problem with feminism is that

We hold leaders to impossible standards, placing perfection over progress. And a movement that does more complaining than creating is bound to fail.

Irin Carmon writes that women should see Sandberg as “less as a natural enemy and more as a potential convert.”

I’m on the fence here.  While I’d certainly like to see less fighting among women about ‘who’s the better feminist,’ at the same time, I’m not on the side of Taylor Swift who thinks women should never be critical of other women.

I suppose it all depends on how we criticize other women.  If Sandberg was flaunting her privilege and blaming women for their lot in life, I’d be heading up the criticism myself.  But Sandberg seems to be trying to help in her own way, and for that she should be applauded.

Feminism, to me, is about two things: recognizing that women deserve the same human dignity that men do, and that women should be able to do whatever it is they choose to do.  Yes, Sandberg had a much easier time making it to the top because she had access to resources that allowed her to choose whatever path she wanted.  But like the rest of us, she knows that women still aren’t seen as men’s equals.  We need to realize that we’re all fighting the same war.  Sandberg is fighting a different battle than most of us, but it’s a battle all the same.

It’s International Women’s Day and Women’s History month, the time of year when we should take stock of how women are faring around the world and realize how much work there is left to be done. But we should also celebrate the achievements of those among and take time to appreciate all of the amazing women who’ve touched in lives in a myriad of ways.

When I started thinking about all of the women who’ve made in an impact in my life (not just spiritually), I realized that there are a hell of a lot of them.  

AMEN.

So in the spirit of this day, I will briefly try and say thank you to those women who have profoundly shaped my life.  I say ‘try’ because I can never thank any of you enough.

To my Great Grandmother: thank you for showing me strength and determination.

To my Grandma Lehmann: thank you for filling me with love, kindness, laughter and joy.  Thank you for nurturing me, taking care of me, raising me, and embracing me just as I am.

To my late Grandma Hamm: thank you for showing me confidence and fortitude, for showing me that women can be both strong and caring, that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

To my Mom: I can never, ever say thank you enough for all you’ve done for me.  Thank you for your never-ending well of patience, for loving me through all of my tears, fears and anger, and for supporting me no matter the cost.  Thank you for worrying about me, for carrying me when I could not take care of myself, and for helping me find the way back when I was lost.  Thank you for always coming to find me.

To my sister, Michelle: thank you for loving me even through the times when I’ve pushed you away.  Thank you for being the big sister I should try to be more often for you, for showing me confidence, and for being more understanding towards me than I deserve.

To my aunts – Auntie Cindy, Auntie Natalie, Auntie Jennifer and Auntie Faye: thank you for your generosity of spirit, your kindness, your laughter and your wisdom.

To my  Auntie Rita: thank you for listening, for your encouragement and for being my first best friend.

To my best friends – Jen, Jill and Kirstin – thank you for your honesty and for accepting me just as I am.

To the many ladies of my church family – Jackie, Karen, Sharon, Auntie Ev, Auntie Marj, Karen, Linda, Elsie M., Linda, Elsie, Karen, Kristy, Andrea and Carlamae – thank you for your support, encouragement, prayers and hugs, and for showing me what grace truly is.

To Pastor Cheryl: thank you for seeing me.

To Mrs. Knoll: thank you for showing me that girls can love sports.

To my music teachers – Audrey, Louella, Lynn and Rebecca: thank you for challenging me and pushing me to dig deeper, for teaching me how to express myself.

To Pat and Bev: thank you for your encouragement, your dedication and for caring.

To all of the foster mothers I worked with and know: thank you for showing me the true meaning of love.

To all of the girls I lived with at Luther College: thank you for helping me discover who I really am.

I love you all.

loveyourbody

I recently discovered SheLoves Magazine, an online group of women dedicated to sharing women’s stories and empowering them.  

I was nosing around the other day when I came across this post: A Love Letter to My Body, and it seemed like a worthwhile exercise and a means of me working towards one of my New Year’s resolutions, which is to be more confident.  Furthermore, it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  I should note that I am definitely a binge eater.

I have serious body image issues, but what woman doesn’t?  I don’t think I’ve ever had a healthy body image.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated my body.  I was quite heavy my entire childhood, and I carry a lot of scars from that time; I was teased, harassed and bullied.  I once lost 40 pounds, then gained it all back plus another 30 more, then lost those 70 pounds.  Every time I step on it, my Wii Fit tells me that I’m overweight.  So I’ve internalized that I’m fat and being fat means being ugly.  And that has seriously impacted my sense of self-worth. 

But it’s time to move past those things, to let go and move forward.  So here’s my love letter to my body…

Dear Glorious Body,

I bet you’re surprised I called you ‘glorious,’ huh?  If I was you, I would be, too, since I usually call you ugly, useless, traitorous, ineffective, and fat.

I’ve hated you all of my life.  I hate how you’ve never given me a flat stomach, that you have thick calves and flabby arms, that you inherited my Dad’s apple-shaped torso and have a double chin regardless of how thin I am. But the truth is that I hated myself, so I abused you and blamed you to cover it up.

You and I have a more complicated relationship than most people do, in that you have a predisposition to anxiety and depression.  This is yet another in a long list of things I have hated about you, but it’s not your fault.  And I must take a lot of the blame for allowing those disorders to flourish as they have.

But I don’t want to hate you anymore.  I want to work with you and love you because I NEED you.

I’ll start by telling you that there are things I absolutely LOVE about you.  I love your stunning big blue eyes, your wavy hair, your thick eyebrows, your dimples, your cute toes, your small hands, and your small mouth that somehow makes room for your big, beautiful, unique voice.

About that voice…

We have fought for years.  I kept trying to make you smaller and smaller, perversely thinking that would somehow make you fit in and be listened to.  But all it did was force you to become less than you are.

I have not listened to you.  When you are tired, I push harder.  When you are anxious, I berate you for being so.  When you are beautiful, I don’t believe you.  And when you are at rest, I call you lazy.

How did we get here?

We are different; we always have been.  And being different comes with a cost.  Sadly, you have borne the brunt of it.

Now, I want to nourish you.  I want to care for you.  I want to be partners rather than adversaries.  And I want us to live together in harmony to become everything we’ve hoped for and dreamed of.

Because we are worthy, you and I.  We are worthy of the best life.  We are worthy of the best of everything.

Today I want to start repairing our relationship by saying thank you for all you have done for me, and for what you have taught me:

My body has taught me

I am stronger than I realize

And more fragile than I like.

I can endure pain with courage

And be reduced to tears by a virus.

I am marvelous, miraculous, mysterious.

My body has its own deep intelligence.

I carry my memories in my cells.

I am constantly being born anew.

I hold tight to fear and resistance.

I breathe deeply, and let go.

My legs will carry me farther than I think I can walk.

My heart will keep beating even when it is broken.

My mouth will kiss, laugh, drink tea and eat chocolate.

My skin will shiver with pleasure.

My bones will tell the weather.

My feet will find the path.

My hands will soothe a crying child.

And write a story that will make you cry.

And pour you a glass of wine.

And brush your hair.

And stroke your cheek.

And hold your hand.

My body will chop wood.

And carry water.

My body understands the wisdom of rest.

The beauty of stillness.

The power of touch.

The importance of dance.

And that there is only this. Here. Now.

My body understands joy, delight and play.

My body knows what I am hungry for.

My body has taught me to pay attention to my desires.

To listen to my gut.

To trust my appetites.

My body has taught me I am human.

I am here.

I am beautiful.

I am powerful.

I am brave.

I am scared.

I am alive.

And I am grateful.

-Marianne Elliot – “What my body has taught me”

I am amazing, courageous, beautiful and loved.  And so are you.

Love always,

Nicole

I love football.  Well, I love CFL football.  When June comes around, you can bet that I’ll be talking about my beloved Roughriders.

However, like the girl holding the sign above implies, there are a lot more important things in life than football.

I linked to this article last week and it was rightfully scathing of our attitudes towards violence against women, particularly violence committed by athletes:

At too many universities, too many football players are schooled to see women as the spoils of being a campus god. But it’s also an issue beyond the commodification of women on a big football campus. It’s the fruit of a culture where politicians can write laws that aim to define the difference between “rape” and “forcible rape” and candidates for the Senate can speak about pregnancy from rape being either a “gift from God” or biologically impossible in the case of “legitimate rape.” It’s a culture where comedians like Daniel Tosh or Tucker Max can joke about violently raping, as Max puts it, a “gender hardwired for whoredom.” The themes of power, rape and lack of accountability are just as clear in the case of the Steubenville, Ohio, football players not only boasting that they “so raped” an unconscious girl but feeling confident enough to videotape their boasts.

This doesn’t help:

ESPN apologized.

Now you might be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal about guys complimenting a beautiful woman live on national TV?’  Well, nothing, really, except for the context.  First of all, it’s another example of just who society thinks is beautiful – young thini women with long hair and lots of makeup.  I can guarantee that ESPN wouldn’t have focused on the QB’s girlfriend if she looked like me.  Second, the commentators reinforced that football players, and by extension all male athletes, can ‘get women’ like that; it’s assumed.

A couple of years ago I read a chapter from Crossing the Line by Laura Robinson that focused on sexual assaults committed by Canadian junior hockey players that are often swept under the rug in the name of franchise success.  There really are no words to express how appalling any of this is.  Robinson claimed she received three emails about sexual assault committed by male hockey players during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.  Also, sexual offences increased by 70% during the Games, from 16-27.  And don’t sniff at the ‘small’ numbers; even one sexual assault is one too many.

I’ve heard few stories about Canadian football stories committing violence against women.  The only one that comes to mind is Trevis Smith, the former Saskatchewan Roughrider who served time for knowingly exposing two women to HIV.  I’ve heard rumours of a few assaults, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything else that’s been covered in the media.  It makes me wonder what stories are out there that haven’t been told.

Now look at this American-based graphic:

There’s been some backlash to this graphic, as it’s somewhat misleading, but its overall point still stands: there are a lot of women out there who’ve been sexually assaulted who will never get justice.

I think about the Indian woman who died last month after being brutally gang raped.  I think of the woman in California who won’t get justice because of an 1872 law that does not give single women the same legal protection as married women in certain types of rapes.  I think of the millions of women who are trafficked and sold into sexual slavery.  I can’t even begin to imagine their horrific experiences.

Yet the same thing keeps happening: women are blamed.  But the problem isn’t women; it’s societal attitudes.  We need more ads like these:

The Edmonton police have been quite forward-thinking on this front (although, is it really forward-thinking when the cause is so obvious and it’s only taken us thousands of years to get there?) and their ads get straight to the point:

Rape culture is pervasive because we let it be, and until we realize that, we can’t stop it.  Do we really need to resort to the economic argument that rape “hurts the corporate bottom line” in order to do something?  Doesn’t citizenship require better of us?

Slaw

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