Fierce Women Dish

an artist, a journalist, an activist, a psychologist, a student, and a diva place a cup of nourishment on the table.

How and when do we begin to talk to our children about sex? September 29, 2008

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Rosie:  Sex education is one of the most important empowerment tools we can give our children.  When I was writing Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina, I was stunned to learn how little sex education happens within the family.  Of the women that I interviewed, only 6% had parents who talked to them about sex in any way that constituted an attempt at sex education.  One study showed that when Latina mothers discussed sexuality and their personal beliefs and values regarding sexuality with their mid-adolescent teens, their children were more likely, a year later, to report abstaining from or delaying initiation of sex.  A bonus?  They also reported having better relationships with their mothers.   We all know that this fact would be true for a mother of any ethnicity. 

Amy: I do not have children of my own. . . I think that it is time to talk with children about sex when they are exposed to things with sexual content that they may not understand.  This might be a Disney movie or it might be neighborhood kids or seeing pornography.  I think the most important thing is to start the discussion as soon as something happens to make the act of talking comfortable…if you talk about the “little” things it will set the stage to talk about more difficult things later. 

Donna: Wow… this one is tough and I have nieces and nephews but no kids of my own so I am not really faced with this on a day in/day out basis. But I have worked closely with work with several girls organizations over the past five years so I DO know that younger and younger, sex is a topic. So the ‘when’ to me, would be to address the issue when the child starts asking about it—I think this would vary from child to child.

Crystal:  As soon as responsibly possible. I don’t have children but I believe education and open communication is the key. I try to actively listen to the young people who are in my life. If they need information or guidance, I do what I offer what I can, with their parents’ permission, of course.

Rosie: Ultimately, we put our children, perhaps especially our daughters, in vulnerable positions if we do not empower them with sex education.  Uneducated, they can be swayed by someone else’s reasoning—someone who may not have accurate information or who may not have their best interest in mind.  Studies and statistics showing what happens when a child is not educated about sex are heartbreaking and shameful.  Shameful because we so often preach the importance of education in changing a life and then deny them this important information that one pregnancy or one experience with an HIV+ partner has the power to negate any other “book” learning they have received.  We marginalize young people when we deny them information, making them more vulnerable to the pleas of adolescent partners who pretend to know more about sex and its implications than they really do. Tell our children nothing about their bodies, and they become more susceptible to the whims of others, a tendency that’s difficult to escape once it’s an ingrained behavior. 

Amy: My parents didn’t talk to me at all.  They gave me a set of books to read.  I felt shameful while reading them, like it was something dirty or not ok to actually talk about.  To this day I have never talked to my mother about sex in any meaningful or enjoyable way.  I am sure this reflects her discomfort with her own sexuality and the books she provided me were miles ahead of her own sexual education.  So hats off to my parents for providing the information but we can do better.  Now, I regularly talk with my clients about sex and hope that if I am ever blessed with children I will be able to talk with them too.

Jenee: I honestly don’t remember my parents ever talking to me about sex.  I also don’t remember ever wanting them too, but I also had an older sister I went to with all my questions.  I don’t feel like this was the best route though. I think it’s important to start off slow but to give them the necessary information before they find themselves in sexual situations. The reality is that young girls have a maturing body and it feels good to kiss…let them know its ok to kiss but you need a different maturity level and emotional level for sex.

Donna: As far as the ‘how’, honesty is going to be the best thing to go with here, and the talk should be straightforward and non- clinical, like what you get in biology class. Wait a second… do kids even get this talk in biology anymore? The immediate reaction of the parent or the adult is also important—if you act evasive, nervous or embarrassed, obviously the child will pick up on it and it will shape their long term views and thoughts about sex and sexuality.

Jenee: I think its very important for children to know the correct terms for their body.  Whowho is not an important term for your vagina and even worse if some kind of abuse happened and they told a teacher or another adult about their “whowho” they wouldn’t understand the travesty of the situation.

Rosie: So what can you do?  First and foremost, talk to your children about sex.  From day one, use the appropriate terms for body parts.  Don’t be bashful about what our bodies do.  Then, as your children age, begin to have age appropriate conversations.  Do your homework, research books that can help you think through it, surf on-line for parent resources, many will tell you at what age kids should know different things.  Then, go there.      

Jenee: Once in a Women’s Studies class we discussed this issue.  The idea was thrown out that starting in middle school you give your daughter a journal with questions.  Questions like “How is your first kiss going to be” or “What type of qualities do you want the boy to have to whom you lose your virginity too” and “How do you want to lose your virginity.”  I know these may seem like pretty heavy questions for a 12 year old but the point is to get them thinking about it so when they wind up at a party when they are 15 or 16 they think “Wait…this isn’t how I wanted it, this isn’t how I planned it.” I think that my main viewpoint is too much information can never hurt anyone but that values and morals need to come along with respecting your needs, your body, and your self.

Donna: Sex issues, especially for women, are VERY directly related to body image issues so it makes it that much more important to be honest and open and to speak to that point. Teaching the children around us to have respect for themselves is a huge part of this too.

It’s a tough topic, that’s for sure.

 

Molly’s response to the urinal September 25, 2008

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From Crystal:The following is a response to the post on the Sunset Club’s crude urinal (link is to NSFW pic of urinal) from Molly Barker, one of our fiercest friends and soon-to-be fellow FWD blogger:

At this moment I cannot pinpoint why I was crying.  I just realized that I was.
My son Hank is unique.  I guess all mothers feel that way about their sons.  Hank was only six months old when I founded Girls on the Run, but magically its influence has woven its way into the beautiful man-fabric he is  becoming.

Hank is 13.  Yesterday he called me into his room.  Tears were rolling down his cheeks.  “Read this,” he said.

The book is entitled, “Voices of Sudan” and on page 42, the chapter is entitled “Sudanese Women”.

I settled in next to Hank, put my arm around his shoulder, the book was positioned on his lap and I read the following:

“With so many men being slaughtered Sudanese women are often left behind to protect and provide for the children.  Caring for their families keeps women close to their villages, making them easy targets for the Janjaweed.  Thousands of women have been raped and sexually abused.  Once abducted, the women’s legs are broken to keep them from escaping, and their breasts are cut off to keep them from feeding their babies.  In refugee camps the women are frequently attacked as they go to the river to collect water or to the bush to collect firewood.  The social effects of this abuse cause even more pain.  The children and their mothers have to bear the community’s sense of shame.  Husbands abandon their wives after they have been raped, and women are branded as “unworthy of marriage.”

“Their babies…their babies die,” he said…this more of a statement rather than question.  “Yes, their babies die.”

Hank is 13 years old,.  His curiosity about girls is definitely on the rise and his willingness to be held by me, not as welcomed as it used to be.  But right then, the two of us, sat there.  My arm around his strong, muscular body, the book gently resting now across both our laps and the silence that comes with feeling powerless…and somehow oddly I felt empowered with him there next to me…my young man-son.

I lost myself for a minute…and then I noticed my tears.

I recall the news as of late among my peers.  The dialogue that is currently raging on the Charlotteobserver.com website blog about the new bathroom fixtures at the Sunset Club, a club frequented by many business and community groups.

Fixtures that literally position women as nothing more than sexual and physical objects, objects in this case that men in that restroom must urinate upon to relieve themselves.

I recall the controversy surrounding the new Hooter’s that recently opened uptown; I struggle to explain to Hank that women are more than the view he receives of them each time he opens a Sports Illustrated or attends an NFL football game.  I encourage him to celebrate women and to recognize that their beauty stems from something much richer, deeper and more fulfilling than just the external.

I reached out to embrace my son, tears on his face for the Sudanese women.  Tears on mine for the hope I feel every time I look at him.

Molly Barker, M.S.W.
Founder and Vision Keeper

 

Wait until you see this urinal September 24, 2008

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Sarah Aarthun, one of my coworkers at The Observer, blogged about a unbelievably crude urinal at the recently revamped Sunset Club.

Here’s a link to her blog,

The photo is so offensive that Sarah had to post the pic on her Facebook page. (FYI: You don’t have to be a Facebook member to see the pic…click away…but warning: this is really not safe for work…or young children.)

Let me know if anyone grabs a sledgehammer and knocks it off the wall.

 

Good things come in 3’s September 21, 2008

Warning from Crystal: Longer blog than usual ahead. Grab another cup of coffee. Or read it in chapters.

1. Going to see the doctor

I had my yearly physical last week. To say I was dreading it would be an under-statement.

A year ago, I was in good shape since I was training for the Ramblin’ Rose, a sprint triathlon for women only. I had lost weight, my blood pressure was down, and my spirits were high because of a new job and the tri. My doctor actually high-fived me.

This year, I returned with all of the weight I had lost, escalating blood pressure and a more gloomy outlook because of the economy and the state of journalism. I signed up for the tri again but can’t muster the energy to train consistently.

My incredible doctor offered sympathy, compassion and a plan. And in a few days, I feel better than I have in months. In a few months, I should be back on track. Thanks to Dr. Tamara Chittenden!

Lesson learned: Always walk through the fear and dread (especially with doctors). What’s waiting on the other side is worth it.

2. The importance of clothes

On Thursday, Sept. 18, I got a reminder about the power of clothing at three events. As a former fashion editor, I know what the shirt or suit on one’s back can mean to someone.

Event A: Dress For Success/Charlotte‘s annual Look at Her Power event at the Southern Women’s Show. If you’re not familiar with DFS, you should be. They give interview-appropriate attire to women who are entering or re-entering the workforce. DFS also provides education and support in workshops with professionals who volunteer their time. If you donate a suit or help with a fitting or a workshop, you are part of the empowerment.

The Look at Her Power event drew the motherlode of the Q.C.’s female power-brokers, as well as Joi Gordon, head of DFS Worldwide, and actress Andie McDowell. Also, Marcia Simon of Paul Simon for Women received the Paradigm award. I hate that I missed the fashion show that featured DFS clients. It’s always a highlight, and this year’s was spectacular, according to my sources.

Event B: Kristin Davis/Belk fashion show

Kristin Davis of “Sex and the City” fame and a Carolina gal, Belk and the Junior League of Charlotte provided fashion fans with a runway show that featured Davis’ collection. The event at The Blake hotel drew more than 700 people (600 or so were women). What I liked: Her line offers something for nearly every shape.

Event C: Charlotte Fashion Week

Props to Anthony Simons and others for pulling off the debut of Charlotte Fashion Week. The 3-day event served as a showcase for local and regional designers. On Thursday night, I watched as the dynamic Carmen Webber emceed the opening night at The Blake (across the hall from the Davis/Belk event). It made me remember what I love most about runway shows: Models are not wearing just clothes – they wear someone’s vision, talent and dreams.

3. Happy birthday to three fierce women!

Three of the fiercest women I know celebrate their birthdays with days of each other.

Thursday (Sept. 18) was fellow FWD Donna Scott’s bday (celebrated Friday night at a surprise party thrown by her awesome hubby, Wes). Donna is one of those women who talk the talk and walk the walk of empowerment. She produced the award-winning “The Body Chronicles” and will debut “The Fairy Tale Chronicles” at Theatre Charlotte in June. I’ve been to readings of “The Fairy Tale Chronicles,” a collection of fairy tales by local writers…trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

Today (Sept. 21) is the incredible Molly Barker’s day. Molly is the founder and vision-keeper of Girls on the Run, an incredible nonprofit that nurtures self esteem and empowerment. She’s also written two books. Most importantly, though, she’s the devoted mom of Hank and Helen. If you aren’t familiar with GOTR, you should be (when the girls are in a race, they are all given the No. 1). Molly also talks the talk but runs the run of empowerment. Stay tuned, btw: Molly will be joining this blog soon.

Finally, Samantha Smith, my good friend and a makeup artist in Charlotte, celebrates her b-day tomorrow (Sept. 22). Samantha became a business owner last week when she bought Potion beauty boutiques in Birkdale and Blakeney from Candice Langston (another remarkable woman). I applaud Sam for following her dreams in tough times. It takes courage and vision. And a belief in one’s self. Happy, happy, Sam!

Told you it was a long one. I had a lot to say…thanks for hanging in there.

 

Humor and Politics September 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — fiercewomen @ 12:41 pm
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Tina Fey returned to Saturday night live this week portraying Sarah Palin.  I loved it and am interested in how our fellow Fierce Women feel.  Here’s a link:

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/palin-hillary-open/656281/

If you do like the clip please feel free to express this as well.  This is what makes us Fierce . . . our ability to have respectful dialogue about the topics that matter most to us all.

 

A Follow Up to Turning 40: 40 gifts September 9, 2008

from Rosie: 

We had such an interesting discussion about turning 40 recently so I just had to post about this fabulous idea a friend is doing to celebrate her 40th.  In celebration of her 40 years of life, she is asking that her friends, family, and even complete strangers who are so inspired to celebrate life with her by doing 40 somethings for someone else.   

Volunteer for 40 hours.
Give $40 to your favorite cause.
Pick up 40 pieces of trash.
Put 40 cents in the parking meter before leaving your spot.
Send 40 good thoughts to someone you dislike.
Commit to doing 40 good deeds throughout the year.
Read 40 books to kids in your neighborhood school.
Find 40 things in your house you can donate to a local women’s shelter.
Spend time with a neighborhood kid, tossing a baseball 40 times.
Pick up 40 pennies and put them in a charity collection bin at your corner store.
Walk or bike 40 miles instead of driving your car.
Visit 40 people in a nursing home or hospital.
Make 40 meals for an ailing or elderly neighbor.
Pick 40 vegetables at your local CSA.

Whatever you choose to do — large or small — is a wonderful gift.

In addition, she’d love it (but you don’t have to) if you would write a note about your gift or your plan for giving on a postcard and drop it in the mail to 40 Gifts  5700 Ridgedale Rd Baltimore, MD 21209 by the end of October.  Write what you’d like about your gift. Share how you felt choosing your gift or how you felt giving it. Share why you chose this gift and what it means to you. Or just write what the gift is.

If I get an update on how far this idea spreads, etc, I’ll happily share it with you.  Now, go celebrate 40!

 

Follow-up on “Times of Trouble” September 8, 2008

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From Crystal:

I recently blogged about the economic trouble where I work. We are going through another round of buyouts, cutbacks and quite probably layoffs.

I was trying to decide what to do: Sign up for a buyout or ride it out.

I started drafting a Manifesto of Change, what I thought we needed to do to survive. I wasn’t sure whether to finish it and give it to my bosses or let it go.

My query to you was: Do I “Let It Be” or “Get Up, Stand Up”?

I didn’t have to make that decision. On Sept. 2, I found out that my job would be changing soon. In a good way.

I can’t dish on details yet, but the change is something that I suggested earlier this year. And it was the fourth bullet-point in the Manifesto (still a draft on my laptop).

While I’m stoked about the opportunity, my enthusiasm is tempered by the buyouts, cutbacks, etc.

Lessons learned (again, using lines from songs to summarize):

“You gotta have faith.” I do love me some George Michael.

“Feels so good, when you’re doing all the things that you want to do.” This one is from “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige, which you should go download right now.