Tag Archives: feminism

March

Despite the cold and wet and snow, despite a train cancellation that added 90 minutes to our journey, despite a million other things we could have been doing on a Sunday afternoon after a busy week, yesterday the six of us made our way into London for the Women’s March. 

It was my babies’ first protest.  Not their last though, I’m willing to bet. 

When I first mentioned I’d like to go, Matt of course was all for it.  Love that man.  Bridget was ALL for it. Quinn was all for it, in his absolute unwavering happiness to do whatever it is we’re going to do.  Gabe and Owen were not as convinced.  But mama was adamant, and so we went.

It was COLD in London yesterday.  And so wet. But we made our way to Downing Street and saw the crowd and heard the chants and read the signs and it was all worth it.  My boys were ALL IN then. 

They chanted.  “We want justice, not revenge.”

“Time’s Up” they cheered. 

Bridget took the good camera, because she’s a good photographer and I am not, and wound her way as far into the crowd as she could get without losing sight of us, snapping pics all the while. 

And then it snowed, but not a light, dry snow.  Big, fat, wet flakes mixed with big, fat raindrops made a sloppy mess of the sidewalks.  And my children stood shivering and uncomplaining in a crowd of people who were all there to make a point and make a difference.

But a mama can only ask so much, and so we cut out after about 45 minutes and made our way 15 minutes across the Thames to Wagamama for a bowl of warm ramen.  And the restaurant was closed.  But the one wayyyyy back where we’d started was open, according to the sign.  I felt so guilty — we’d walked a long way and it was cold and windy and snowy and rainy and everyone was damp.  And they were all out there because of me, mostly.   

“Nevertheless, we persist!” Gabe shouted out.  The kids all cheered. 

I’m not gonna lie, I almost cried.  I held it together though, and Matt and I grinned at each other, and we rallied.  We walked back across town to the open Wagamama, ate our lovely spicy ramen, and warmed our freezing fingers and toes.

It was a good day.  One of those days that makes me proud to be their mother, proud to be his wife, and excited to see what the future holds for these babies who are paying attention and want to make a difference.

Harassed

Matt and I went in to London last weekend to see a show in the West End.  When the play let out we walked through Leicester Square toward the underground station to get the train home, stopping at a shop so Matt could grab a coffee for the trip.

I waited outside because the shop was teeny-tiny, texting with Bridget to double check that everything was good at home and to let her know that we were heading to the train.

As I stood alone outside the shop, head down, focused on the phone in my hand, a man came up and got right in my space, directly in front of me, basically forcing me to look up.  I gave a small smile initially, because I don’t immediately assume people’s intentions are bad and maybe he needed directions or something.

He said hi and I said hi.  And then he just started talking at me.  It became obvious that he didn’t need help, he was just there to speak to me.  I was not interested, so I forced another tight-lipped smile and did my best to make it clear through my body language that I didn’t want to continue the conversation.  Multiple times I said “no thanks”, shook my head, indicated I was not interested in speaking to him. 

He stood right in front of me though, right in my personal space, talking at me.  He wasn’t drunk or unkempt.  He was well-dressed, coherent, aware of what he was doing. 

Then he took a clear plastic bottle out of his pocket and motioned toward me with it, and I immediately and clearly said, “I don’t know what that is, don’t put that on me or near me.”

I wasn’t loud but I wasn’t quiet.

“Oh,” he replied, laughing like we were in on a joke together, “this is just anti-bacterial stuff,” and he put it on his hands and rubbed it in and offered his hand to shake mine. 

“I don’t know what that is,” I repeated.  “Don’t touch me please.”

He laughed again.  I was not smiling.  “Do not touch me” I repeated when he stuck his hand out to shake again. 

He took the bottle back out of his pocket to show me that it was anti-bacterial gel.  “In case you’re dirty,” he said to me, a grin on his face.

I am not even sure what facial expression I made at that unbelievable statement.  In my head I was screaming “get the absolute fuck away from me”, but my face mustn’t have matched my thoughts, because he repeated himself, like it was cute and I was supposed to laugh and immediately want to then shake his hand.

“In case you’re dirty, for when we shake hands,” he said again.

“DO. NOT. TOUCH. ME.” I said again.  Still not loud, but loud enough and clear enough that my feelings were unmistakable.

Still, he stood in my face.  Right in my face, hand outstretched.

I flicked my eyes up over his shoulder to where Matt stood in the coffee shop and made eye contact with my husband.  The man turned around to follow my gaze and saw Matt and — boom, he was gone instantly.  Disappeared.

Matt raised his eyebrows at me and mouthed “Are you okay?”.

I nodded and grimaced and rolled my eyes.  I was fine.  I had never been scared or intimidated, I had just been annoyed and frustrated.  And now I was PISSED.

I had made it crystal clear through my body language and my words that I did not want that man to talk to me or touch me.  I was not quiet or shy or apologetic.  I was vocal and clear and adamant.  It’s taken me a long time to get to a point in my life where I am not apologetic or conciliatory in a situation like that.  But I’m there now, and I won’t feel badly about saying I want to be left alone.

But this guy did not care.  He was unfazed by the fact that I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to be engaged by him.  Not one thing I said mattered to him.  The word “no” did not matter to him.

My husband standing 15 feet away, though, without making a sound or a face or a move, was enough to make him leave.

I am still irate about it, nearly a week later.   Anger actually seems like my permanent emotion these days.  Why wasn’t it enough that I had said no?  What else could I have done to make him go away?

I know the answer to those questions already: that guy was going to keep trying to engage me until I gave in and went along.  I would have had to have made a scene, actually yelled or screamed at him or physically moved away in order to make him stop.

I don’t know what his ultimate intentions were, but it doesn’t matter.  My intention was to be left alone.  It pisses me off that my clear expressions that I wanted him to go away weren’t enough; that Matt’s presence, though, was a deterrent. 

My wishes didn’t matter, but my husband’s did.

I wasn’t assaulted.  I wasn’t abused.  Nothing truly bad happened to me.  It certainly was not the first or even the tenth or probably even the hundredth time in my life that something like that has happened.  It definitely wasn’t the worst.

But I am so goddamned tired of it.

There are very few men who have ever been in the position I was in, faced with a harasser who will not leave you alone despite your very clear statements that you want to be left alone, a harasser who is bigger and stronger than you, and who you cannot make stop on your own.  This is not a concern that exists within the consciousness of most men. 

And sadly, there’s probably not a woman alive who hasn’t been in that position at least once, probably more than that.  We have all learned to be on the lookout for inevitable harassment: we walk in groups, accompany each other to the ladies’ room, carry our keys between our clenched fingers, and we’re relieved when it’s just words and not physical actions that we have to deal with.

I am tired of feeling like I am crazy for my strong reactions when men say stuff like “not all men” or when they question what rights, exactly, women don’t have.  I didn’t even have the right to stand quietly alone outside a coffee shop texting my daughter without being molested by some creep who wouldn’t stop bothering me even when I told him to. 

I’m lucky to have a husband who knows why that pisses me off and who understands why, although I’m grateful his presence scared that asshole off, I am angry to my core that it was Matt who made him leave and not me. 

I’m grateful that Matt doesn’t say stupid stuff like “I’ll protect you” when something like this happens.  That he knows I don’t want to HAVE to be protected.  I just want to be treated with respect and not have to rely on someone else to have that happen.

I don’t have answers, just anger.  I don’t have a better response for next time this happens, except maybe to go right ahead and make a big scene instead of hoping that my words alone will be enough to stop someone. 

I just want things to be different.  I’m done being apologetic or conciliatory or allowing for excuses.  I won’t be quiet.  I won’t even be loud.  I will be deafening.

Things have to change.

I will no longer accept the things I cannot change, I will change the things I cannot accept.

–Angela Davis

Photo creds to my brilliant friend J. Hayhurst.  From the Boston Women’s March, January 2017.

 

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A Woman’s Work: Samantha

Samantha is my baby sister, but she’s not a baby anymore.  She is thirty, a new mom, and an entrepreneur, although she probably hates that term.  Sam was born when I was just shy of my 8th birthday, so I’ve always thought of her as little.  She’s not though, she’s a full-fledged grown up.  (She probably also hates that term!)  It’s really amazing from my perspective as the big sister to look at how she’s made these unexpected and really cool decisions about what she’s going to do and how she’s going to do it.  She just impresses me. 

She’s not necessarily doing something she expected to do, but she’s doing something she loves — which is way more important.

1) What is your job?

I am a new mom, and also one of the owners of a restaurant called Dillon’s Local in downtown Plymouth, MA.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

I double majored in history and political science at Umass Amherst — and I have the student loans to prove it — but after college I worked for years as a bartender and waitress.  I was employed at so many different places, and always thought I would eventually leave the service industry, but I was having fun and not ready to stop doing what I was doing and look for a 9-5 job.  I figured I would use my degree eventually, but the longer I worked in restaurants and the more I learned the intricacies of the business, the more I fell in love with it. I did not, however, love working for absentee owners or in huge restaurants with way too many employees. While working at a nearby bar & grille, I met my now-fiance, Colin.  Together we decided to try this whole restaurant thing for ourselves. For years we essentially ran bars and restaurants for other people…so we figured, why not do it our way?! 

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

In high school I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, then during and immediately after college I worked at low-paying or volunteer internships and I substitute taught for a while.  But I always had the bar industry as a fall back — it’s hard to walk away from leaving work with cash in hand and switch to waiting for a paycheck!  I worked at small bars, huge restaurants, dives, fine dining establishments, and everything in between. One year I worked at at least five different places. I was sick of bouncing around, and so was Colin. So we worked together and saved up all our money and took the risk!  We are now co-owners of our own place (along with our Head Chef), and we work for ourselves and do things the way we think they should be done.  But, just to complicate our venture, I found out I was pregnant about one month after we opened our restaurant.  Surprise!  Colin and I had to shift gears a bit — we went from opening a business and a follow-your-dreams mentality to working for something even more important: our son.

4) What do you love about your job?

I love everything about my job — both jobs!  I love being a mom, even though it’s still new to me. John Francis is only 7 months old so I am definitely still learning.  My outside job is the most rewarding one I could have ever imagined for myself.  I never thought I would be a business owner, but it suits me (and Colin) well.  I get to socialize and talk to my friends and strangers all day.  I get to run a restaurant with my partner how we think it should be run.  It’s nice not to have to follow someone else’s rules.  We get to be creative and we get to set the standards ourselves.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

I was broke for years after college! I’m still broke, but it’s for a good reason now. Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Bouncing from job to job was torturous. Working for someone else was never what I wanted. I do not like to be bossed around!  So now that I get to make the decisions, I am much happier.

6) Has becoming a parent changed your perspective on work?

Becoming a parent has changed my perspective on everything in life!  Gone are the days when I came first.  Now everything I do is for my little guy.  I’m still up all night, but it’s a much different scene.  I went from a pretty carefree existence to one that is way more worthwhile and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I’m new to the whole mom thing, but so far I think the best advice I’ve received is to RELAX.  I’m going to mess stuff up in work and at home, and it’s going to be okay.  I’m still struggling to balance my schedule, so I’ll take any advice I can get on that!  I’m pretty much winging it…but so far it’s going pretty well!

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Sam is managing a crazy new life in a pretty chill way — in the course of a single year, she became a self-employed business owner AND a new mother.  But she is happy and content and confident and it’s so clear that she loves her life.  Even when things get stressful, she gets over any momentary freak-outs, straightens up, and moves on to make things work.  And you know things can get stressful when you’re running a business and taking care of an infant!  (In my highly unbiased opinion, though, John Francis is basically one of the sweetest and cutest babies ever to grace the face of the earth, so that has to make things easier!)

The thing that makes me happiest reading Sam’s words is this: “Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much.”  It is absolutely true that doing something you truly enjoy makes all the hardships worthwhile.  And I love seeing my sister so happy and so fulfilled. 

And you guys, Dillon’s Local is seriously awesome — right on the water in Plymouth, MA, it’s a cool, cozy, unpretentious place and the food and drinks are seriously AMAZING.  They’ve already won awards for best local bar and been featured in the Boston Globe and at the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival at Fenway Park in Boston.  So not only are Sam and Colin happy, they’re also killing it in a very competitive industry.  I’m so proud of them both.  If you’re ever in Plymouth, MA, you should totally go eat there.

Thank you Sam for taking the time in what I know is an insanely busy life to answer these questions!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”? Shoot me an email at

jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

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A Woman’s Work: Alexis

Alexis and I were roommates in college.  She is one of those women who always seems to know what she’s doing and is confident and calm in all her decisions.  Since we graduated, she’s done some pretty amazing stuff — she’s lived in Japan, Manhattan, and Istanbul and traveled all over the place.  She spent a summer traveling alone in Turkey, where she met the man who was to become her husband, then had one of the coolest weddings on earth that Matt and I were so lucky to be able to attend (which included my favorite wedding story ever).

Alexis is smart, chic, and strong and she uses her talents and her grace to create a new generation of thinkers, readers, and writers.  Read on… 

1) What is your job?

I am a teacher.   Currently, I teach high school English in a private school in Istanbul, Turkey, but I started my teaching career in the New York City public schools.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

When I was very young, I used to “play teacher”: I would line up all my dolls, get out my own small chalkboard, put on my pink plastic glasses (because that gave me more authority, of course) and teach my class.   A few of my elementary school teachers even gave me the teachers’ edition of textbooks at the end of a school year when they were changing books for the following year, and those spiral-bound pages with all the answers inside became some of my prized possessions.

As I entered university, though, I really was not sure what I wanted to do as a career.  But I knew I loved reading and writing, so deciding to major in English was an easy decision.   For a period, I entertained the idea of going to law school after college, but I soon realized that my heart just was not in law.   This did leave me wondering what to do when I graduated (even once graduation was upon me)!

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

My mom jokes that I have been working since I was 10 years old, but that’s not too much of an exaggeration really.   Over the years, I have been a candy store clerk, gardener, dog sitter (which really amounted to watching “The Price is Right” with the dog during the day while his owners were at work), nanny, catering sales assistant, and a waitress.

After I graduated from university, I needed to earn money and, still doubting what profession I wanted to devote myself to, I took a job as a waitress (at Boston’s famous Cheers).   It was good fun, low stress and the hours were flexible, but I wanted to do something more.   I applied to work in a language school in Japan and was offered the position, so for one year, I taught English to children and adults with varying degrees of English proficiency.   It was a great adventure that introduced me to life as an expat, with all its thrills and frustrations.  

It was during that year in Japan that I decided that teaching was, in fact, what I wanted to do professionally and so, upon my return to the States, I immediately started pursuing that goal.   I applied for the New York City Teaching Fellows program and was accepted; soon, I was immersed in intensive training, teaching 8th grade and studying for my Master’s degree at the same time.   In those first six years, I taught at two different middle schools in New York City.

Then I took a solo trip for most of the following summer break.  On that trip I met and fell in love with my now-husband.  Soon after my return to New York, I applied for a job near him, then packed up and moved again, this time to teach in his native Turkey.  I am currently in my sixth year of teaching here in Istanbul.   

4) What do you love about your job?

There are many things I love about my job, but the biggest one is the connections that I make with students.   I enjoy so much when students stay after class to chat about the lesson, or about something else going on in their lives.  When I was teaching in New York, I regularly had students who stayed with me in my classroom for lunch rather than going to the cafeteria, and even though I sometimes wished I could take a break, I appreciated that they wanted to be there and I enjoyed getting to know them outside of class.

I also absolutely love those moments when students are engaged and getting it and taking the lesson even further than I had intended.   Yesterday, for example, a few students in my 10th grade English class got into an unprompted, lively debate about Prospero’s motivations in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  While other students were telling them, “Okay, that’s enough,” I let it go on because that is exactly what we are hoping for as teachers: that we can lay the groundwork for students to access and engage with a text or topic, but that they will then develop their own ideas about it.   Here are kids who groaned about reading Shakespeare, who are reading it in a foreign language, and they were now having a thoughtful debate about some of its central themes.  Those are the moments when I love my job most.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

When I first started out as a teacher, I was also taking classes in the evening for my Master’s degree.   It was a two-year program and those being my first two years of teaching, it was exhausting and stressful.   I was also teaching in a school that had only recently opened and I was not only the lone 8th grade English teacher there, I was also the first 8th grade English teacher the school had ever had.   That meant I had to design the curriculum from scratch, so I spent endless hours outside of school planning lessons and gathering resources.   Since my school did not have a library and much of my curriculum depended on students having access to a wide variety of books on their independent reading levels, I also spent time going to secondhand book shops and book fairs to buy books for my students.   On top of those challenges, the school also had no deans, no established discipline procedures and lots of discipline problems.   It was a real baptism by fire for me, but I think it helped shape me as a teacher.

I was also living in Manhattan, which is notoriously expensive, and trying to survive – and have fun – on a teacher’s salary was no easy task in the Big Apple.    

6) Has having children changed your perspective on work?

Before I had a baby, I never thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mom.   Fast forward to 16 weeks after my little girl was born and I had to go back to work full-time and I was longing to just stay home with her.   Nothing other than our little family felt like it mattered at that moment and I just wanted to be there to teach her everything and witness her every milestone.  I felt so sad to leave her because I knew I would miss her so much during the day, but I was also sad because I felt like those 4 months when I was on maternity leave would be the last time – perhaps ever – that we would be able to spend every day together, just the two of us.   That was a very depressing thought.   I can now fully appreciate all the Superwomen I know, who juggle so many things personally and professionally.   And all the stay-at-home moms.   I have been back at work for 4 months now and I have adjusted to the situation a bit more, but I still run home at the end of the day, scoop my baby up, and plaster her with kisses.   

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I am a new mom, so the advice that is on my mind right now about parenting is this: read, listen to friends and family’s advice, but then really listen to your own instincts and to your child.   I have already found myself getting caught up in the differing approaches to everything parenting — from breastfeeding to sleep training to introducing solids — but when I come back to listening to my own instincts, it seems to make so much more sense.

And forge strong female friendships because those will get you through the tough times. 

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Basically, Alexis is brave and independent — she took a solo trip to Turkey, met and fell in love with her husband, and transplanted herself across the world to make that work.  Istanbul is an amazing city, different from anywhere else I’ve ever been, so living there must be an incredibly unique experience for an expat.

Alexis also truly loves her job and I cannot think of many careers more influential on the future than that of a teacher.  She is literally shaping the minds of the future, teaching kids to think and comprehend and apply what they’ve learned to their own lives.  And I can also tell you that Alexis does all that with a calmness that is truly impressive.

Out of the whole amazing interview, though, the last line struck me hard: “And forge strong female friendships because those will get you through the tough times”.  I’m so lucky to have Alexis as a strong female friend that I can rely on!  If nothing else, as a mother and a woman, you need those friends that you can turn to when you have questions or complaints or worries or, even better, fantastic news to celebrate.

Thank you Alexis!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”?  Shoot me an email at jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

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