The Bizarre Reality of Dreams

Maybe it was the chili...

Do you ever wake up immediately from a dream and think "what the heck was that?" Like the rest of humanity, I am fascinated by my dreams. What they mean, what they don't mean. I can think of no other experience (aside from an illicit drug trip) where time can feel both infinite and fleeting at the same time.  Where floating seems perfectly normal and random happenings perfectly in sync. Where a passage read in the book on my nightstand flows seamlessly with a scene from the movie I watched the day before.  Where it makes perfect sense to be both indoors and outdoors at the very same time. 

Some dreams are so vivid. They aren't simply an experience, but a feeling.  Sometimes we won't remember the specifics of a dream, but we will remember how we felt while dreaming it, and that feeling stays with us, for better or for worse. Sometimes, we want our dreams to mean something so badly that we spend hours agonizing over every frame, trying desperately to make sense of the seemingly random symbology. 

Perhaps our dreams are an indulgent glimpse into our inner psyche permitted by some higher being, or maybe it's just the chili...

I Will Never Understand This Bizarre Fear of Public Breastfeeding.

Get over it, already. 

At what point will the collective citizenry stop acting like a bunch of twelve-year old boys whenever a mother needs to breastfeed her child in public?  "Oh noes! Boobies!" Seriously? 

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

A British mother was basically shoved into a room apart from everyone else for feeding her 6-week-old baby at (here's the kicker) a hospital

British mother Gemma Murphy claims that when she went for a routine blood test to St. Cross Hospital in Rugby with her 6-week-old baby last December, the nurse there who took her blood “looked at me in disgust” and “said we couldn’t breastfeed there. I asked why and she said I might offend the other patients.” She was then hustled into a private room, leaving her “speechless” that a health facility would be so flummoxed by a nursing mother. 

Note to everyone: Breasts are not for you. Their entire purpose and reason for existence is to nourish a child. That's it. If you are "offended" by a mother doing exactly what it is she is supposed to do with her breasts, you are the one with the problem. 

Further, women aren't breastfeeding in public to make some sort of political statement (although that too, does happen), they are doing it because that is what they physically need to do. 

Aside from the fact that there is exactly zilch wrong with a woman feeding her baby anyplace she damn well pleases, breast-feeding, for both baby and mother, is a physical need that — especially in the first few weeks — can’t always simply wait for a more convenient time. You can’t just hold it in indefinitely until you’re in the optimum location. It hurts. You start leaking all over your shirt. Oh, yeah, and your baby is howling. You need to know that.

Modern motherhood in the United States is already a crappy and penalizing experience for women as it is. It's time for everyone to grow up. 


I'm Not Alone In Thinking That Men, Too, Must Lean In

This. This. A thousand times, this. 

My overall thoughts of Sheryl Sandberg's call to women in Lean In, are summarized nicely by Charles Clymer:

The premise of the lean in movement is that no matter how bad the misogyny they face, women should hang in there and not give up. While this may be a helpful philosophy for some, it ignores the harsh truth that the vast bulk of the problem has nothing to do with how much women are willing to endure, but how much institutions — and the men who run them — force them to endure.

Preach. I can't tell you how many arguments I've been in where I've stated that women can "lean in" until they are blue in the face, but it won't make a dent in the institutional barriers that they face. There needs to be a call to action to the men

Women have earned more bachelor's degrees than men every year since 1982, more master's degrees since 1987, and more doctorates since 2006. The gap in bachelor's degrees is especially startling: 56.7% of 2013 graduates are women, a margin of 13.2%. Were it an election, this would constitute a landslide victory.

Yet women still make up only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 18.2% of the U.S. House of Representatives, 20% of the Senate, 27.4% of college presidents, 19.5% of law partners and 30.4% of active physicians. And then there's the gap in earnings. Are we really to believe that the reason women are dramatically underrepresented in every industry is because they're not trying hard enough? Or not leaning in enough?

Noting the very real potential of being gaslighted into oblivion, Clymer says he doesn't blame Sandberg for avoiding criticism of her male peers, and that "Sandberg does what she can: empowering women while simultaneously keeping the topic in our national discourse." But men have been observers of the Lean In revolution for too long and it's time to step up. 

All this is to say that Americans need to spend a little less time criticizing women for doing too little and a lot more time holding men accountable. It's okay to encourage women to stick with it and to lean in, but the bulk of this conversation needs to focus on getting men to "dig deep" and ask the hard questions of themselves. We need to challenge all men — regardless of their self-identified progressive values — to advocate for women where it really counts: in front of other men.

Do I think women need men to fight for them? No. But women do need us to stand beside them, especially in spaces where few or no women are present to stand. From every water cooler conversation at work, to every night out with the guys, substantial challenges to our cultural sexism have enormous potential in men brave enough to speak up in predominantly male spaces.

Right. On. 


Erica Payne isn't happy with Sheryl Sandberg


I've had numerous conversations about Lean In and Sheryl Sandberg's decision to focus more on what women can do to get ahead. My personal opinion is that she took the easy way out in choosing this approach. Sandberg is an incredibly powerful woman with powerful friends and a powerful microphone. People listen to her. She is, quite literally, a phone call away (maybe two) from any CEO or leader in the country. If any woman has the power to become a major catalyst for actual change in the workplace and beyond, it's her. 

Instead of issuing public challenges to business leaders everywhere to reassess their work environment to determine whether or not they are taking full advantage of their female talent pool, Sandberg tells the female employees to do more work. Women aren't getting paid for the work they do now. Instead of tackling more substantive issues, she just launched a campaign to "ban bossy," and she got a former United States Secretary of State and the CEO of the Girl Scouts to launch it with her. 

This is where Erica Payne comes in. She thinks that Sandberg should be devoting at least some of her time to little things like raising the national minimum wage. I have to agree. I'm not minimizing Sandberg's current work because I truly do believe it is important and worthwhile, but I also think that she is wasting a valuable opportunity to affect changes in social policy  that will help millions of women in the long run. 

Should we "ban bossy"? Perhaps. Should we do whatever is within our power to ensure that millions and millions of women can feed, clothe, and educate themselves and their children? Absolutely. There's no reason Sandberg can't do both. 




The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits Of Women

"My experiences have taught me that great women make it a point to teach men about women." 

This article by Glenn Llopis is one of the better ones I've read recently on the specific leadership traits of women. Llopis thinks he has exceptional insight on this issue because he was "surrounded by strong-willed, hardworking and purpose-driven women," and I think he's right.  

They have taught me that a woman’s instincts and emotional intelligence can be off the chart. They seamlessly manage crisis and change and are turnaround experts – sensing and neutralizing any signs of danger well before it invades our path.

What I like most about this piece is that Llopis doesn't slip into stereotypes about female behavior. When discussing female competition, instead of reiterating the concept that women too often feel that there is room for only one woman at the table, he states

Competitiveness amongst themselves may really be about looking for validation — an identity that matters and a voice that is heard.  Successful women leaders don’t rely on favors; they earn respect   and truly believe they can influence their own advancement by serving others.  Consummate team players, they also seek to prove their value and self-worth by exceeding performance expectations..  Looking for respect more than recognition, the most successful women leaders don’t seek to become the star of the show — but they enable others to create a great show.  In other words,   being in the spotlight is not what drives them – but rather it’s the ability to influence positive outcomes with maximum impact.

The underlying theme among all six of the undervalued leadership traits (Opportunity-drive; Strategic; Passionate; Entrepreneurial; Purposeful and Meaningful; and Traditions and Family) is the ability and desire to accomplish a stated goal no matter what. Even if that means getting no credit. That's not to say that women will let others walk all over them.

Women leaders who don’t allow their egos to stand in the way of good business are in the mindset of getting things done for the betterment of a healthier whole.

To illustrate this point, one need look no further than the recent government shutdown that ended thanks to the work and bipartisanship of the female congresswomen. All in all, a great read. 


Dad: I’m Going To Keep Calling My Daughter Bossy

Knowing the difference between being a leader and being a bully.

Dave Lesser is not about to stop calling his little girl "bossy." While #BanBossy "is catchy and makes a great hashtag," he describes the call to arms to ban the word as "arbitrary."

[I]is “bossy” used that often to criticize girls and women? Is the word ever used to describe anyone over the age of 11? It’s just so G-Rated! If an adult is bossy, there are much better words to call them. (I don’t think they should be banned, either.) If a girl can’t be called bossy, should she be called pushy instead? Of course not, because the message is the same. So how many words are we going to need to ban before this campaign comes to an end?

As I noted in my previous post, I agree that at times this entire campaign seems arbitrary and that it really isn't the word itself that is the problem, but the sentiment and emotion behind it. Lesser is doing exactly what I think all parents should be doing and that is teaching his son and daughter that harmful behavior (whether it can be called "bossy" or not) is unacceptable. 

Being a leader means caring for and empathizing with those you are leading. Being bossy, being a bully, is easier because you only have yourself to think about. In fact, you don’t really have to think at all. You just act for your own immediate self-gratification. As a child, this behavior is understandable, but it is not something that deserves encouragement.

Even if the "Ban Bossy" campaign is somewhat arbitrary, it is still starting a national conversation about words and the hidden meanings behind them, and that is always a good thing. 


​You Don't Need to Ban 'Bossy' — You Need to Take Away Its Power

The last article on the #BanBossy Campaign, for today at least. 

[U]ltimately, 'Ban Bossy' is censorship with the best intentions, and what I think it disguises is the deeper, more insidious problems about gender in this country that can't be fixed with the nix of a word. Historically, words change when attitudes change....

Certainly, regardless of whether you think a ban is useful or pointless, having this conversation about bossy is a good thing, because it forces us to keep acknowledging that words have power, and to examine how we use them, and recognize the impact they can have over a lifetime. It draws attention to the bad rap women get when they attempt to lead. (Alas, I suppose 'Retire Bossy' isn't quite so snappy, nor is 'Please Use Bossy Correctly and Unilaterally.') But language reflects values and attitudes, and those are what must change here.


Another Take on the #BanBossy Campaign

This article does an even better job of articulating my thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's new "Ban Bossy" campaign. The author points out:

The problem here isn't the word bossy, it's the way the word is applied in a gendered context...the solution isn't to stop calling people bossy. The solution is to work towards removing that negative and gendered connotation from the word.

My thoughts exactly. If we don't change the fact that the same behavior, praised in little boys, is criticized in little girls, a new word will just replace "bossy" and we will still be in the same boat.  



The Stranger & the Gypsy

I'm calling this photo "Gypsy." This scarf was a gift from one of my aunts at my sister's wedding a few years ago. These beautiful scarves are traditionally used in Assyrian dances and at Assyrian weddings and other celebrations but I couldn't help but conjure up images in my head of the dancing gypsy archetype so often portrayed in popular culture as I was editing. The somewhat mysterious and distrustful look in her decorated eye also played into that because of the historical persecution and forced assimilation of the Romani people.  

I imagined a young Romani woman, largely insulated from the outside world and traveling safe among her people, suddenly approached by a stranger; Someone who looks different from anyone she has ever seen.  What would she do? Would she run and hide? No. Her people do not run. They do not hide. What she doesn't realize is that she too looks unlike any other person this stranger has ever met. 

So they both just stand there, quietly assessing each other with mild suspicion on the one hand, and abject fascination on the other. 


The Men Who Help Fight Back Against Everyday Sexism

Speak up, guys. It matters. 

As someone who reads dozens of articles at day (at least) about sexism and other gender issues, every so often I just get completely burnt out. It's exhausting having to constantly call others out for sexist remarks and behavior. To constantly be that woman. I often feel like I am just preaching to the choir and at this point, to be quite honest, everyone expects me to respond in sexism as I see it.

That being said, I cannot stress enough how big a difference even the slightest bit of support makes when it comes from one of my male peers. It matters a lot. It's one thing for men to roll their eyes and laugh off another one of my feminist rants, but it is quite different when they are called out for the very same behavior by one of their male peers. I have no doubt that they will think twice before committing the sexist act in question again.

The fact is that battling gender inequality isn't about men v women. It's about people against prejudice. And we need everybody on our side. For some men, hearing feminist arguments from their male peers can be an incredibly powerful way of getting the message across – so we need those allies out there spreading the word. We are fighting for a cultural shift in our normalised attitudes and behaviours towards women, and that change can't realistically be achieved without half the population on board. This is not a women's issue, but a human rights issue.

So guys, the next time one of your friends makes that god-awful sexist joke, call them out on it and make sure you do it in front of other men and women. It may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it matters. 


NC school tells boy,9, to leave My Little Pony lunch bag at home

We are so used to hearing about girls and women being blamed for acts of violence against them that we hardly blink at it anymore. Sometimes it takes a complete reversal of gender to see how truly absurd this victim-blaming behavior is. This story is a great example. 

Little Grayson Bruce likes My Little Pony and has a lunch box to prove it. But My Little Pony is for girls (because Heaven forbid we let little boys watch anything that emphasizes healthy emotional relationships). Instead of punishing the kids at school who were bullying him because of something as silly as his lunch box, the school put the onus on Grayson

Noreen told the station Thursday the school asked her son to leave the bag at home because it had become a distraction and was a "trigger for bullying."

That's right, it's Grayson's fault for bringing something to school that would cause otherwise innocent little boys to beat the snot out of him. It's not their fault, really. Grayson was probably swinging that lunch box around in a provocative manner, no doubt trying to "emphasize the bonds of friendship" as those little ponies tend to do. 


The Ancients

This is called "The Ancients." I've been playing around recently with the ancient symbols and iconography of my ancestors, the Assyrians. My father (on whose side I carry this ancestory) didn't like the photo because he said I looked sad, not realizing that the evocation of sadness was intentional. 

It is sometimes said that immortal power is drawn from mortal faith and belief. I envisioned an ancient Assyrian goddess that was worshipped by thousands in centuries past, but whose name and image have now been completely forgotten. 

I tried to imagine how it would feel for her to walk along the modern streets of the Middle East, once littered with idols meant to garner her good will, and be completely ignored, her ancient divinity hidden from mortal sight. What would she do? Where would she go? Would she simply fade away?


The Problem With Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’ Campaign - The Cut

I've been pretty reserved about the new "Ban Bossy" campaign spearheaded by Sheryl Sandberg and others. While I appreciate everything she has (and is) doing to increase awareness of gender disparities and discrimination, I can't help but side with the author on this particular point: 

[I]t’s so frustrating to watch Lean In try to expand girls’ options by restricting the way we talk about them. It’s counterintuitive, and it makes feminists look like thought police rather than the expansive forward-thinkers we really are. Sandberg knows better — the Lean In stock-photo effort proves it. If she had released a report about how stock photos perpetuate negative stereotypes about working women, the response would have been a collective shrug. Instead, Sandberg created a set of alternative images — and we all talked about them. I wish she’d taken the same approach to boss.

Now, anyone has to admit that "Ban Bossy" is one heck of a soundbite and Sandberg is nothing if not a smart businesswoman who understands media dynamics and what it takes to make headlines. I'm hoping as this campaign moves forward, she will put more emphasis not on banning the word "bossy" itself, but by encouraging those who are tempted to categorize a girl's behavior as such, to instead think of the behavior in question more as leadership skills.