Ladies, let’s have a chat

As if there is nothing else in the world going on, it’s clear that women in the US (and really beyond) are under attack. I wrote recently about this, both here in this space as well as in my monthly column for the Portland Phoenix. As the days go by, it’s clear that women are really feeling the heat. Writing about women’s issues in the larger scope is sometimes hard as a Black woman in the United States since so many times, it seems as if the issues that affect women aren’t always inclusive of all women.

One can only wonder why after so many years of what appeared to be progress are women back to square one and having to fight for control over our bodies. Have we gotten complacent? Or is it the fact that even as women we have never had consensus about our bodies?

This is a hard thing to write but frankly I can’t help thinking that while on the surface it is men leading the charge to control our bodies, the fact is there are many women who judge other women when it comes to our bodies. It’s hard to admit but sometimes as women we can be harder on each other than men. I suppose the reason we notice men’s judgment is because they still hold much of the power.

From the seemingly superficial such as hair, Viola Davis, a Black actress who was nominated for an Oscar this year showed up at the Oscars sporting her natural textured hair and within the Black community (primarily Black women) a hailstorm was set off. Anyone familiar with Black culture knows hair is not simply hair, yet in the past decade it has become more acceptable for Black women to wear their natural textured hair but apparently not for a crowd of millions. Instead many chose to denigrate Ms. Davis….why?

Moving on, as the activism of breastfeeding supporters has pushed breastfeeding into the mainstream and attempted to normalize what should have already been the norm. Too often it is other women that will criticize another woman for breastfeeding in public. In the three and a half years I nursed my daughter, the only criticism I ever received was from other women.

Lastly while men such as the vile Rush Limbaugh will use slurs to denigrate women as he did with Sandra Fluke, the fact is all too often women will judge another woman they perceive as being sexually promiscuous. I think back to my youth and the worst thing a young woman could be called was a slut, yet it hurt doubly if another young woman uttered those words.

In some ways I wonder if women have been brainwashed by our patriarchal society and the fact is too many of us are still operating under that brainwashing. Men like Rick Santorum and others who would happily take us back to the days when we were barefoot and pregnant tend to be married, why the hell aren’t their wives, sisters, mothers and other women in their lives telling them to shut the hell up? I know if my husband was out there loudly trying to take away women’s bodily autonomy in any fashion, he would not come home at night to a happy woman. Furthermore I would loudly tell all that I did not support him.

Seriously though just because we are all women does not mean we all have to think the same, sort of how as a Black person I don’t expect immediate solidarity with other Blacks but there are certain things that affect us all and as women it’s in our best interest to protect not only our rights but the rights of our daughters, granddaughters, nieces and all women we care for; not just now but for the future.

What we don’t talk about…women wisdom

Raising a daughter has been a very eye opening experience for me; it’s been very different than raising my son so many years ago. It’s interesting and challenging that I spend so much time trying to keep my girl from growing up so fast, seems as a society we have decided girls just need to grow up and grow up quickly. Today’s five year old in many ways is like the middle schooler of yesterday with regards to attitudes and desires. Lately I feel like a broken record as I explain yet again why she can’t watch this show or that show can’t do this or that and while its nice that little Jane does that, it is not part of our value system for our family.

What I am struck by though is that in the midst of this battle to keep my girl on a developmentally appropriate track is how as a society when it comes to women and girls in general we are all skewed. Young girls are in a race to grow old quickly yet when you grow up, as women the focus becomes stay young. It’s no wonder you see mothers and daughters who look more like sisters than parent and child, getting old…real old is not hip, not valued and frankly it’s a shame.

In our quest to ignore biology as the elders (our grandmothers, aunts and others) die away we no longer as a collective pass on knowledge that those women understood about the very ways of being women. Lately I find myself missing my Granny who often would talk to me about growing old and the very real changes that happen within for women. I remember being young and thinking ok…she is yapping again. Now I treasure the bits and pieces of knowledge that I recall from those conversations.

Nowhere is the lack of mother wisdom apparent than with women and our bodies and the changes that happen as we get older. Oh, we know the basics, one day we will no longer menstruate and then we will be menopausal…the end. Or so we think. Yet many women are not aware that there is a state that happens before menopause that is commonly referred to as perimenopause. In our quest to stay forever young even women who consider themselves knowledgeable often don’t realize that the pre-menopausal state can occur a good 10 years before menopause officially hits. What that means practically speaking is you can be in your late 30’s or early 40’s and start experiencing these changes. You are still fertile and all that good jazz it’s just that the body is slowly prepping for that life transition. Ask me how I know? It was over a year ago that I was told I was perimenopausal, at first I like what the fuck? Yet it started to make sense that many of the changes I was feeling are tied to a new transition.

However greater than the physical changes is the mental, emotional and even spiritual changes that occur. As Joan Borysenko states in A Woman’s Journey to GodIt is a miracle of feminine biology that we undergo a major mental housekeeping in preparation.” Much like the fact that in the few days leading up to our periods we feel greater clarity in our lives, being in a perimenopausal state provides a similar clarity that affects every area of our life. It’s no wonder or coincidence that so many women in their late 30’s and early 40’s flip careers, leave marriages or even realize their true sexual orientation. Its not about being flighty it’s the fact that at this stage in life we are truly comfortable in our skin and no who the fuck we are. Yet in a culture hell bent on keeping us young, it’s easy to miss these signals if we don’t realize the gifts that come with accepting the aging process as a gift.

Yet even for me it bothers me at times that we live in a time when we can share and talk about so much of ourselves but talk about deeply personal shit like this and you can feel the collective energy get sucked out of a room. If we truly want to give our girls a gift we need to start the get open about the amazing circle of life that resides within the female body. I admit as someone who has identified as Christian for many years, lately I find myself reading a lot of pagan and Goddess centered works in part because they are open and embracing of these changes in ways I feel that were lost with Christianity.

In closing…embrace your being and the changes!

PSA to all the ladies

Its been a busy past few days as we settle into our new routine with girl child not attending daycare, and today it got even busier which brings me to the point of my post today. Since late last week, I had been having some discomfort in my left shoulder, chest and side. Initially I figured it was one of my infamous panic attacks, as someone who has suffered from panic attacks since the age of 19, I am pretty good at knowing when I am in the panic zone. Over the years I have started using meditation, deep breathing and Bach Flower Remedies to stave off an attack.

Well over the weekend, I was doing everything in my arsenal including breathing into a paper bag and the discomfort I was feeling, was just not going away. Last night, things got worse when my left arm started tingling as well. I shrugged it off and went to bed but when I woke up not feeling much better, it dawned on me that maybe this was not a panic attack. A call to my health care provider ended with a command to get thee to the emergency room.

So I took girl child to her first ballet class (made a promise and didn’t want to let her down) and then had the Spousal Unit take me to the local emergency room. It seems when you walk in and state you are having chest discomfort, you spend little time waiting. So, I was hooked up to the monitors, given an EKG, a chest x-ray and after the physician on-call examined me, he determined that I was having neither a heart attack or a panic attack but some musculoskeletal distress, and felt that I most likely had a pulled muscle. Of course picking up the girl child and carrying her which I do on that side that was causing me pain was most likely the culprit. I most likely will follow up with either a osteopath who does manipulation or a chiropractor, as well as no longer picking up girl child unless it’s an emergency.

So all is well. I admit I was embarrassed but both the doctor and nurse told me I did the right thing. See, heart attack and heart disease in women does not present with the same symptoms we assume to be a heart attack. In fact women generally get mild(often intermittent) pain compared to men, anxiety or even indigestion. Other symptoms include sweating, lightheartedness, fatigue, even an impending sense of doom. For most women it’s not the dramatic crushing pain and breathlessness we associate with having a heart attack. In fact if you look at the symptoms I listed or do your own research you will see its easy to see how women could easily mistake a heart attack for just being tired, having a panic attack or any of the other things that so many of us deal with occasionally.

So just a PSA to say if you do ever find yourselves thinking you might be having an issue with your heart its better to be safe than sorry, get thee to the ER. Hopefully this week, I will get back with another post but I admit this is the worse week to be starting our new schedule since I have a conference to attend and a speaking engagement so I suspect I may be away from the computer for a bit.

Have a good week!