What About Us?

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the need to blog.

Last week, they announced the verdict of the Eric Garner case which resulted in the officer not being charged.  My heart sank, tears came to my eyes and my mind searched for a reason why this happened.  Just as Jon Stewart pointed out, unlike the ambiguities of the Ferguson case, this case had none, zero.  It was on video, filmed, the murder of this man by a police officer. Clear cut.  Not surprisingly, this proof did nothing.

Police brutality affects us all, however, minorities suffer a much greater impact, loss of life, assault.  The thought that my family could be pulled over for a DWH (driving while Hispanic) or worse…and that is a terrifying thought to me.  My skin is white, I don’t look mixed so I don’t have to be afraid.

There is another reason why I came here to blog.  Lately, NFL players have been voicing their protest of Eric Garner’s trial and Ferguson.  They have entered the field with their arms raised, they have worn shirts saying “I can’t breathe” and that same sentence has been written on their shoes, wrist bands and more.

I applaud their protest, I love that they are using their voice to speak up not only for minorities, but against police brutality, for the families who voices are so limited.  They made the choice to make a public statement, using their status to change our society and I love that.

At the same time though, it makes me want to scream at them in anger, it makes me want to cry, it makes me want to shake them and look them in the eye and say what about us!  Why weren’t there any players using their voice when a woman was knocked unconscious by her partner, why weren’t there players using their voice when a woman was raped, why weren’t their players using their voice when a child was beaten?

For decades, the NFL has harbored, supported and covered up domestic violence and sexual assault cases.  Finally, in 2014, something is being done about it.  Their own organization supports perpetrators of violent crimes, crimes of physical assaults and sexual assault, crimes that kill women and children.  Every day, it is estimated that 3 women are murdered in the United States by an intimate partner.

How many women can’t breathe because the man they love grabs their throat and tightens his grip? How many women can’t breathe because he broke her ribs? How many women can’t breathe because every day they are in fear for their lives?  How many children can’t breathe through their tears of pain? How many women and children can no longer breathe because their life has come to an end?

The video of a woman being assaulted and knocked unconscious brought attention to the problem that has been going on in the NFL for decades.  Since 2000 alone, there have been over 70 domestic violence related arrests….Players now have been asked to or forced into participating in Domestic Violence commercials and campaigns, but no player has voluntarily offered up his voice in this fight. Before this season, no player has voluntarily used his actions or clothing during a game or practice to say that what the NFL has done for decades is wrong, that the perpetrators of these crimes, the abusers, the rapists, the murders, should be in jail.

Again, while I can support their protest, I also have the right to feel angry at them for ignoring the abusers in their own organization.

Through my partner, a die-hard Chargers fan, I have a new-found appreciation and love for this sport.  I haven’t missed a Chargers game all season.  Even when I’m at work, I watch it on my phone.

However, as a woman, I feel that this sport, like so many others, is purely for men where women are reduced to the color pink, the amount of cleavage we show and how short our skirts are.  I can’t help but feel  ignored and marginalized knowing that higher ups in this organization would rather hide and protect these abusers for a profit then do anything about it.  Even the players don’t want to take a stand….

All I can hope for, as in most cases, is that things do change and maybe, eventually, these athletes will volunteer their voices for all of the women who have been harmed or killed.  I hope they will fight for a change.

♥ Meggie

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Ray Rice and Dometsic Violence

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about Ray Rice’s assault on his then finance Janay.  Another video was just released showing what actually happened in that elevator and his contract with the Ravens has been terminated and he has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Unfortunately some people don’t understand the severity of domestic violence until they see it with their own eyes.  They can be told she was knocked out but after seeing a man hit a woman that hard, it has much more of an emotional “Oh my God” impact.  Then people understand.  I don’t think he would’ve been fired if that video hadn’t gone public.  If the NFL saw it but no one else, I think they wouldn’t have said a word.  Public outcry is the only reason they terminated his contract and suspended him.

Even though that may be true, I don’t think the video should have gone public.  First of all, it makes the victim relive that moment over and over again.  Second, survivors should be in control of their own stories.  They determine when or if it is ok to talk about their assault and what details to share, not the media.  The survivor always has to be in the forefront of our minds, not the scandal or ratings.

I read yesterday Janay’s reaction, blaming the public and media for her husbands termination and it breaks my heart.  It was his conscious choice to hit her twice and knock her out, it was his fault.  I wish she could say “The media shouldn’t have made that video public, that is my story to share, not theirs.  It is a shame what happened to my husband, but he shouldn’t have hit me.  There is no excuse for that.  His decision made him lose his job” because that’s the truth. 

I was also reading on Twitter a wonderful hashtag #whyIstayed and #whyIleft.  I hope that really shines light on domestic violence.  I’ve read so many people saying she stayed for his money….there are a lot of reasons why a victims stays even if their partner doesn’t have a dime to their name.  It’s a strange mindset to be in a relationships with someone who hurts you or doesn’t respect you.  At the time it makes complete and total sense to you when the rest of the world wonders why.  Living in fear, living with someone where you always have to watch your back becomes an every day habit, you get used to being afraid like it’s something normal.  That’s the point where you feel so worthless than you actually believe you deserve the way you’re being treated, that you did something to cause your partner to treat you that way, so you just be careful as to not to set them off.  That becomes your life.

There have been some very positive changes in society and as we all work together we can make a difference, we can make a change and we can fight this.

Side note: There is still space at the seminar I’m hosting with Jessie on October 11th at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL.  If you’d like to register, please visit www.1is2many.eventbrite.com.  If you don’t live in the area but still want to make a difference, I’m doing a walk for Mutual Ground, a local domestic violence/sexual assault shelter and am currently fundraising.  If you’d like to contribute please click here.

♥ Meggie

Hard Work Pays Off

For the last few months, I’ve been working my butt off.  A lot of things have happened recently.

First of all, the wonderful manager of WAR Chest took a well deserved trip.  So for the past 6 weeks, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in the store on Friday’s.  It was so much fun!  I absolutely love talking to people and doing everything in the store!  I can’t think of one thing I dislike. 

She has also asked me to help plan events for the boutique, which I am so excited about!  Event planning is one of my favorite things to do.  It’s challenging, keeps me busy and I love coming up with creative new ideas! 

Not only that, I’ve been taking some photographs of volunteers as models.  This is something so new to me.  I love photography, but I don’t typically take photos of people so I’m learning the best ways to pose people and how to direct them to create the perfect shot.

Through that work with the boutique, I’ve been contacted by a local fashion blogger to potentially take photos for her blog!!  I should be meeting with her soon and I am so excited!  Also, a volunteer wanted to hire me to take photos of her grandsons.  How exciting is that?  I can maybe start making a little extra money doing something I love and continue to perfect my skills.  With student loans to worry about, any extra income would be wonderful.

I’ve taken over the Instagram account for Feral Fixers, a local cat rescue.  I’ve also been working more of their events and trying to help with marketing as best I can.  They’ve been working so hard to place so many cats and kittens in a home.   If you live in the Chicagoland area (especially Dupage County) check them out!

On top of that, I’m still doing a fundraising walk with my sister, my best friend Kristiii and my sister’s friend for Mutual Ground and I’ve just signed on to run a 5k for Traffick Free.

Finally, my pride and joy.  The last few months I’ve been working on a seminar to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I have been emailing back and forth with Benedictine University and finally scheduled a time and reserved a room.  They have been so immensely helpful, I can’t even put into words!  It’s been really long days and nights, scheduling photo shoots for marketing material, editing those photos, adding our information, writing event details, setting up accounts, sending out press releases hoping to be picked up by someone, creating contact lists and so much more. 

I’ve been working so hard to get everything together and it is finally happening!  So far 9 people have officially registered and we are hoping for many many more.  I am getting to the point where I am almost completely exhausted, but so excited at the same time.

If anyone is interested in coming you can register at www.1is2many.eventbrite.com

I can’t thank the people who have been helping enough and I’m so excited to see the outcome of this event! Keeping my fingers crossed!

♥ Meggie

Walk for Hope

On October 18th I’m walking with my best friend and my sister in Mutual Ground’s 7th annual Walk for Hope.  They are a local domestic abuse/sexual assault nonprofit that provides everything from shelter to counseling and everything in between.  We might have a few other ladies join our team as well!!

We are the Purple Ladies.  My best friend loves the move Grease (which I’ve never seen) and wanted us to be the Pink Ladies, but I changed it to Purple since that is the color for domestic violence awareness.  We fund raise until the 18th and then we participate in a 5 mile walk in Fabyan Forest Preserve.

I am so excited to do this, I love that I can do this event with other people and there is this massive community feel to the entire thing.  We are all working together to accomplish a common goal and then we can all enjoy a beautiful day together.

One of the teams is in remembrance of Kari, a 28-year-old woman who was killed by her boyfriend a few years ago.  Her mother is so active with Mutual Ground.  I don’t know how she does it.

I met another mother a while ago whose daughter was killed by her boyfriend.  She was 19.  I believe it happened about 6 years ago, but as she retold her story, talk about receiving that phone call that no parent want to get… she couldn’t help but start crying and it absolutely breaks your heart. I met her at a candle light vigil for domestic violence awareness.  After I went up to talk to her and I tried to say thank you for being strong, but I couldn’t even get out the words before I started to tear up.  I can’t imagine what she went through.  She smiled and gave me a hug.  I was supposed to be the one comforting her, not the other way around.

The fact that these two women can not only get up every morning but also speak out about what happened to their daughters is incredible.  They are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

That is why I walk.  I walk for all of the women and men who are still in these relationships, I walk for every child who is afraid, I walk for those who are terrified to leave, for those who think they’re alone, I walk for those who have lost their lives to people who are supposed to love and cherish them for all time.  I walk to empower and give hope to those who have lost it.

If you are interested in donating to support Mutual Ground, please click the link here.  This is the link to my team’s page.  We just started it today and so far we have $70 in donations, which I am so happy about.  Every bit helps no matter how large or small.

If not, remember there are always ways you can get involved. Educate yourself about the problem.  What is it like in the area you’re in?  Participate in campaigns like the #voiceshavepower by Verizon.  Write a message and the Verizon Hope Line will donate $3 per message.  It can’t get much easier than that.

Every day, if you are in a loving relationship and that can be partner, friend or family, remember how blessed you are, how lucky you are.  You have support, caring, love and respect in your life and never take that for granted.

Thank you to anyone who chooses to donate.

♥ Meggie

Fighting for Change

It’s been a rough week last week.  A variety of things have just piled up and for a while, it just felt like nothing was going to work out and that I had hit a wall.

Always say positive and always keep your head up, that’s what I have to remind myself.  With the help of those closest to me, these hard times are made so much easier and I don’t know what I’d do without my friends.  I don’t know how many times I can say that about them.  I know I’m lucky.

I’ve made some changes to myself, fun ones.  I now have bangs and my hair is a dark purple.  I like the change a lot.  It’s fun, a bit strange and barely acceptable for my job, but that’s ok.  As long as they’re ok with it, then that’s all that matters! 🙂

I also had a meeting Wednesday with a local university about hosting the domestic abuse/sexual assault seminar there.  I’m working with another young woman too and she is incredible.  She is so knowledgeable and has so many valuable contributions to this event.  It just makes everything so much easier!  She is a wonderful partner for this project.

The meeting went so well, we were able to get a good deal to host the seminar there and right now we’re just waiting on a date and then I need an insurance quote (of course we need special event insurance).  We decided a Saturday in October would be  perfect.   Saturday most people have off work, it’s in the beginning of the school year when people are really active in their university and it is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It’s perfect!

We’re both getting really excited about it.  Looking through our 7 page outline and handouts, it’s going to be so much fun to discuss these topic with people, sharing resources and information.  Each time I add or edit our existing documents, each time I create another marketing strategy, my excitement just keeps building.

We want our seminar to be different from the average event.   We don’t want the audience to be  talked at for an hour or two and listening to really heart breaking stories.  Those type of events typically attract people who are already interested in these topic or involved in the industry.  We want people who aren’t already involved or who are aware but haven’t gotten involved yet to come.  We want men to join in too.  We laid out this seminar to be a discussion where people can ask questions and discuss DV/SA in an open, judgement free area.  We want to hear people’s thoughts, opinions and questions and facilitate positive dialogue not only with each other but also (hopefully) with the administration of the university so students know where they can go for help or additional resources.

We all have to work together to solve a problem like this and I know it’s possible.  I am so excited that all of this is happening.  I think it’s about time I took a step like this and put myself out there.  I know I can do this and if we don’t get the amount of people we’re hoping for, we can always try again!  We can make a difference and by putting ourselves out there and going for it, that’s just the first step.  I’m not afraid to fail because no matter what the outcome is, I don’t see it as a failure.  We’ll learn how to improve what we’re doing until we get it just right.

I can’t wait for the next few weeks until everything is finalized.  I’ll keep everyone posted!

♥ Meggie

You Need to Stop….

You need to stop making everything a gender issues

You need to stop acting like women have it so much harder in life

You need to stop with these feminist ideas, it’s just because you were hurt in the past by men, you need to just let it go and move on.

I’ve had all of these things told to me before, even very recently and I’ve been thinking about it more and more after watching the most amazing sketch on The Daily Show.  Jessica Williams tackled the topic of college campus assault.  She points out the differences that men and women face when entering various situations.

I know I bring up gender issues, but it’s not in a way that is over blown or “man hating”.  I think there are very negative gender separations with regards to male stereotype which I’ve written about before and I know there are very real and dangerous problems when it comes to being a woman in a patriarchal society.

How do I know this? because I’ve experienced them.  I know what it’s like to be afraid at night, to be cat-called and told it’s just men being ‘honest’ and giving me a compliment.  I know that more women are assaulted or kill than men and most of the times the perpetrator is a man.  I know that in our world, it is more common for a woman to be a prostitute, typically sold by a man and men are more likely to purchase them (and purchase from the sex industry in general), purchasing another human being like an animal to use and let go.  Keep in mind, before anyone freaks out with men are abused too and women purchase from the sex industry! Yes I am completely aware of it and I focus a lot of my education on men’s rights in regards to abuse & the sex industry.  These facts I’m stating are statistics and the majority of the instances women are the victims.

Though this may seem incredibly harsh, I think it is exceptionally ignorant to ignore these gender differences in society and to accept behavior that supports them, support behavior like cat calling or purchasing human beings or not speaking out when you see someone treated like this.  I will continue to speak out about all of the topics that I feel strongly about.

My biggest pet peeve is when people attribute my past negative experience with men to my current opinions or when they act like I hate men because that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I’m not damaged goods, I’m not broken because of my past.  I am a perfectly capable and intelligent young woman  who has formulated opinions based on what I know & learn, what I’ve seen and yes my own personal experience.  I form opinions just like everyone else in this world so do not act as though I am broken and incapable of intelligent thought.  It’s not only frustrating, but it is hurtful to be looked at as broken.

I wish, in a perfect world, each gender could switch for a day.  Women then can experience the ridiculous expectation of masculinity and inability to express themselves that men face, we could see what it’s like for men who are dealing with issues like sexual assault or difficult topics like those.  Men can experience the harassment and fear women face going into situations at night, alone, with alcohol, being cat called, touched, groped, masturbated at and more.

Unfortunately, that can’t happen, but our society is becoming increasingly more aware of what we all go through.  As we continue to open our eyes, opinions will change, behaviors will change and I hope society will move in a more positive, accepting and understanding direction.

♥ Meggie

#Yesallwomen

I’ve seen this hashtag being used, #yesallwomen.  Initially I didn’t know it was in response to anything, but I loved it.  I truly think it does open up people’s eyes (especially some men who don’t necessarily see a problem with how society treats women).

I can relate to the majority of the posts as well.  I can relate to being afraid in a dark parking lot in the middle of the night, keys braced by my fingers just in case a man attacks me.  I can relate to going to a party or club and not drinking too much because I knew I could get attacked and then be blamed because society tells me it’s not the rapists fault, it’s mine.  I can relate to being harassed on the street, the feeling of someone actually grabbing my butt and laughing like it was ok when I was terrified.  Through the work I do, I’ve heard the abuse stories, the rapes, assaults, beatings, I’ve heard it all.

I know I was primed by society to know I wasn’t safe alone, that if I was with a man, he should walk me out into that dark parking lot, join me on the street and defend me from potential harassment and assailants because it is safer to be with a man.  The men I grew up with were never taught to be afraid because a woman might rape them or attack them, but I was taught a man could and that was a reality I had to accept.  I had to accept the fact that I could be attacked, be taught how to keep myself safe, but potential attackers didn’t have to be taught not to attack me in the first place.

That is what you learn, growing up as a woman.  People tell you that you’re supposed to go through life independently because you can do anything, just don’t dress like a slut (whatever that means), don’t drink too much and always stay armed if you’re alone, keys between your fingers, mace in hand.

After doing more reading, I discovered that this hashtag was in response to the shootings in Santa Barbara and I see more and more articles appearing on my Facebook focusing on ‘women’s’ issues and how the shooting solely relates to those issues. To be perfectly honest, it is really bothering me.

I agree, his manifesto was sexist and misogynist, however I do not believe one bit that this is solely a woman’s issue nor should it be made into one.

As a feminist, I fight for equal rights, equal for both men and women.  I recognize my own struggles in society as a woman, however I know men have different struggles at times as well.  With regards to the shooting, we need to talk about the sexual violence against women, we need to talk about how we are NOT property, men do not OWN us, we are not to be sexually dominated.

At the same time we need to talk about the hyper-masculine version of a man that society creates and pressures men to be.  They are supposed to be strong, dominating, sexually driven and yes that is part of the reason why there is violence against women (another great conversation) but it also impacts men as well.

If we’re going to bring in topics on how this hurts women, we should talk about how it hurts men too.  We should also be talking about how when men are sexually assaulted they can’t come out and talk about it because then they appear to not be ‘real men’.  God forbid a man is sexually assaulted by a woman!!  Our society makes that into a joke that is seen in movies, we laugh at that, think it’s not even possible.  What about when a female beats her male partner??  That’s a joke in society too.  There was a video that was created first showing two actors.  First the man was grabbing and hitting the woman in public and people intervened!  They said they’d call the police, shouted at him to stop, were visibly upset!  When the tables were turned and the woman beat the man, no one came to help me.  There were actually people who laughed at the scene, as if it were a joke.

So yes, I strongly believe we need to talk about violence against women, we need to start this conversation, we need to talk about what we go through, we need to talk about how the stereotypically masculine image hurts us because we are turned into sexual property.  At the same time, we need to acknowledge that this hyper-masculine image also hurts men as well, especially in cases of abuse (as it hurts women).

If this hashtag was unrelated to the shooting that would be a different situation where it could only involve the struggles women face.  Since it’s not and if we’re going to bring up all these topics of violence against women, we should do the same for men.We must have a conversation, and all-inclusive conversation about abuse, neglect and how gender expectations hurt us, not only as women or as men but as a society.