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My three year old dressed up as Batgirl for Halloween last night. She loves Batgirl. Everytime she puts on the costume, which is often, she acts out complicated stories, usually involving several stuffed animals, about how she is saving the world. Before last night, my daughter had no idea that Batgirl is far less famous or celebrated than Batman.

Here is what happened on Halloween:

Adult after adult, kind adults who wanted to be nice, who gave my daughter candy, called her Batman. At first, my daughter said nothing back to them but asked me: “Why do people keep calling me Batman?” I told her: “That is so silly. What are they thinking? You’re not Batman, you’re Batgirl.” As the man-moniker continued, my daughter quietly corrected them: “I’m Batgirl.” By the end of the night, she was shouting; “I’M BATGIRL!”

Sometimes, we’d run into a Batman, at one point an adult distributing candy. After his wife or girlfriend saw my daughter, called her Batman, and was corrected, she said to her partner: “Look! It’s your sidekick!” My daughter turned to me, confused. “Tell him he’s your sidekick,” I said.

The people who called my daughter Batman were men and women, adults and children, parents and teenagers. She was wearing a dress, by the way.

I know Batgirl doesn’t have five major motion pictures about her, all featuring famous movie stars. There aren’t Batgirl toys or Batgirl clothing or Batgirl comic books everywhere you look. (Today, I will do a Google search and try to find some). One person did say to my daughter: “Are you…Batwoman?” Then she laughed. I wondered why that term sounded so strange. Is there a Batwoman? Is “Batwoman” sexualized somehow? Or would “woman” imply too powerful a superhero, is that why we use “girl?” Or is it the opposite: “girl” and “man” are cool, but “woman” represents a loss of power that even little kids pick up on? Would you ever refer to a kid in the comparable costume as “Batboy?” That sounds diminutive to me.  And what does that say about the sexism of our cultural mythology, that “Batgirl” is empowering but “Batboy” is insulting?

It all kind of makes me understand the monotony of Halloween: If you’re a girl and dress as princess, everything is simple and everyone knows just what to say: “I love the dress. You’re so beautiful!”

(My oldest daughter wanted to dress as a Native American because she’s doing a school paper on the Miwok tribe. Instead of being a “Dream Catcher Cutie” as the package advertised, she asked if I would buy a bow to go with her costume; my middle daughter is a fairy.)

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Look what happened today at breakfast: 3 kids spontaneously pulled out books and started to read. I got to drink my coffee in peace! Moments like this are so rare, I took a photo, and I’m posting it, even though the picture is not that great.

Rose, age 3, is reading Giant Meatball. (She can’t read but doesn’t know that.)

Alice, age 6, is reading Green Eggs and Ham. She is just starting to really read and love it. Dr. Seuss’s rhyming word patterns are great for this stage, though his total lack of female characters drives me bats.

Lucy, age 9, is reading Wildwood. I am going to blog about this book; it’s great and stars a sister who courageously rescues her little brother.

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To me, it’s pretty obvious that females– half of the kid population– are presented as a tiny minority in animated movies. It’s also obvious that Hollywood’s manufactured minority translates to minimal female representation in everything from toys and clothing to icons on diapers, and, most tragically, into children’s imaginary play.

The Geena Davis Institute is the only organization that I know of which does major studies to calculate statistics on the lack of females in children’s media. This lack, by the way, is consistent whether kids are watching PBS or Disney.

Here’s a recent interview from Yonhap News (ever heard of it?…Emphasis below is mine)

While watching television programs with my daughter, I was astounded by the lack of female characters,” Davis said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. “This maybe (is the reason why) I decided to help improve the situation.”
In 2004, Davis founded the research-based organization to work within the media and entertainment industries to engage, educate and influence the need for gender balance, a reduction of stereotypes and the creation of a wide variety of female characters.

Since then, the institute has been at the forefront of changing the portrayal of females and gender stereotypes, by commissioning large research projects on gender in film and television.

The institute holds a biennial symposium to release its research and showcase it to producers in the film industry. The actress also regularly meets with movie and animated film producers in attempts to change how they think about gender balance.

Despite her efforts, Davis said there is still “no improvement because the ratio of female to male characters has been exactly the same since 1946.”

If we add female characters at the rate they have been, we will have equality in 700 years,” the actress said, citing a study. “It’s the same thing in other sectors of the society. If we add women to congress (at the current rate), it will take 500 years (to reach equality.)“…

“We are raising funds for the first global study on gender depiction in the media,” Davis said.

I give money to the Geena Davis Institute because the world likes to see numbers before actually creating change. Those numbers get publicized, and that, hopefully, convinces parents that this radical sexism is not the “opinion” of  a few, but factual and rampant. If you see what I see, protect your children’s imagination. There is no good reason for the fantasy world to be sexist.

Donate to the Geena Davis Institute now. Help spread the word and change the world.  Here is the link.

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Obama on free speech

Here is what Obama said to the UN today:

As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.

I love this.

It’s a great lesson for our kids, especially girls who really need to ‘get’ this: People will say mean things about you. The more powerful you get, the more mean things will be said. Don’t let that stop you from speaking.

On some level, there are times that everybody would like to bully people who disagree with them, especially rudely disagree, into shutting up. That’s human. But better than censoring someone or punching them in the face, keep speaking your truth respectfully instead. It feels better. Real power isn’t about making others shut up. It’s about not being silent even though people may insist that your experiences aren’t valid or never happened.

There will always be people who won’t like you. They might call you names, but remember, sticks and stones. I really believe that fundamental belief (fundamental, ha) is what makes America great. Thank you, Obama, for reminding us, though I wish you hadn’t taken quite so long.

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Founder of Feministing.com and author of Full Frontal Feminism Jessica Valenti recently came out with her book Why Have Kids? While pitching stories to media outlets about issues on motherhood covered by her book, including paid parental leave and affordable childcare in America, a major news organization came back to her, emailing this suggestion for a story:

Would Jessica be interested in writing something about weight loss after having a baby? We’re doing a lot of coverage around Jessica Simpson’s efforts to lose the baby pounds, and we’d love to hear from Jessica Valenti about what it was like for her to shed the weight.

So here is a feminist writer– probably the most well-known one of her generation– with a new book out on motherhood and all this so-called “news” organization wants to know is how she lost her baby weight? Seriously?

On her own web site, Valenti posts a video where she reveals her secret for losing that weight so fast, so easily: she had a preemie. Her baby weighed just two pounds. Valenti was living in a hospital, stressed out and sleepless, watching her baby cling to life.

I am so happy Valenti posted this video, because in doing so, she takes on the bullshit myth that this obsession with women and fat has anything to do with health. It doesn’t.

Contrary to popular belief, all thin people are not healthier than all fat people. There are plenty of thin people who smoke cigarettes, yo-yo diet, do drugs, and are actually sick. There are plenty of fat people who exercise daily. There are fat vegans and fat vegetarians.

When you see a “fat” person, in a magazine or walking down the street, you often don’t know if she’s just lost fifty pounds. You don’t know if she just gotten sober and is healthier than she’s ever been in her life. Or maybe she just got out of an abusive relationship. What’s more, her own doctor often has no clue what’s going with her, because doctors rarely ask, yet, magically, they still know everything about what their patients should be eating.

After the birth of her baby, Valenti was sick and her baby was sick, but she lost that baby weight. So its all good, right?

After Jessica Simpson had her baby, her baby was healthy (9 lbs, 13 oz) and she was healthy, yet, she was mocked for being fat. She’s still talking about how she can’t lose the weight as fast as she’d like, and how she really needs to, because, you know, “extra weight” isn’t healthy.

Fat obsession is not about health. It’s about judging and controlling women’s bodies. Thank you Jessica Valenti for calling that out in this great video.

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blue milk posted this intro:

Oh my god, Ta-Nehisi Coates knows how to write an Opinion piece. Here he is in The New York Times talking about the relationship between intuitive eating and historical affluence and how this all relates to culture and politics. It is an exceptionally clever way of framing the discussion.

Here’s the excerpt:

I left the first of these dinners in bemused dudgeon. “Crazy rich white people,”  I would scoff. “Who goes to a nice dinner and leaves hungry?” In fact, they were not hungry at all. I discovered this a few dinners later, when I found myself embroiled in this ritual of half-dining. It was as though some invisible force was slowing my fork, forcing me into pauses, until I found myself nibbling and sampling my way through the meal. And when I rose both caffeinated and buzzed, I was, to my shock, completely satiated.

Like many Americans, I was from a world where “finish your plate” was gospel. The older people there held hunger in their recent memory. For generations they had worked with their arms, backs and hands. With scarcity a constant, and manual labor the norm, “finish your plate” fit the screws of their lives. I did not worry for food. I sat at my desk staring at a computer screen for much of the day. But still I ate like a stevedore. In the old world, this culture of eating kept my forebears alive. In this new one it was slowly killing me…

..Using the wrong tool for the job is a problem that extends beyond the dining room. The set of practices required for a young man to secure his safety on the streets of his troubled neighborhood are not the same as those required to place him on an honor roll, and these are not the same as the set of practices required to write the great American novel. The way to guide him through this transition is not to insult his native language. It is to teach him a new one.

Thank you Ta-Nehisi Coates for writing this! And to the feminist motherhood blog blue milk for picking it up.

Every time I blog about the way I eat or how I feed my family– intuitive eating, letting my kids eat whatever and whenever they want, and that they never get in trouble for “wasting” food— I get comments about how wasteful and unhealthy I am, along with what a terrible mother I am.

Intuitive eating is about so much more than eating. It’s about learning how to listen to your body and listen to yourself. It’s about self respect and independence and health and not giving a shit what other people think or say about you.

If you don’t know how to listen to your  body, learn. Buy the books When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies or Preventing Childhood Eating Problems. Raise your kids to be intuitive eaters. That is, honestly, the best way to stop “wasting food.” And it sure makes meal times more pleasant.

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One of the hardest (and most unexpected) challenges for me in transitioning from single life to momhood was organization.

I have never been an organized person at home. I didn’t really get the point. It always seemed like there were better things to do.  I was of the opinion: Why make your bed if it’s just going to get messed up again?

But one husband and three kids later, I get the point: If we are not organized, the whole family ceases to function. We can either have peaceful mornings or stress and yelling with everyone leaving the house in a horrible mood. So much of it just comes down to organization. Who knew?

Since realizing this tool, I’ve become so curious how other parents, not natural Martha Stewarts, pull it off. So, please, write in your tips.

With 3 kids in a 3 bedroom house, this is how we do it:

First life-changing decision: a quiet room and a loud room.

I had so much trouble keeping the kids’ schoolbooks and homework organized. This led to lost homework, missed homework, frustrated teachers, and the previously mentioned yelling and stress.

So we came up with a quiet room and a loud room. One room for work, study, art: a place where you can go and count on for quiet:

Every kid keeps her own books above her desk.

There’s also the grown-up desk. (Pretend you don’t see my husband’s drums.)

I realize the irony that the “sleeping” room is called the “loud” room. Unfortunately, the label is accurate. 2 kids sleep in bunk beds:

Another parent may have made the beds before taking the photo, but at least the kids made those themselves.

The littlest kid was sleeping in a toddler bed that fit the room perfectly. Then, she grew. Our solution was to build this loft bed. (Don’t worry, she’s in the lower bunk, not up there.)

Making use of every bit of space, and because we all love to read, we made the landing on the stairs into a reading nook. I love this because it feels like an extra room.

It even doubles as “the music room” (This is where my husband’s drums should be.)

In case you can’t tell, I am wildly procrastinating writing my book. The good news is, that this summer, in spite of traveling, sickness, blogging obsessions, and various other unforeseen drama: Part One is done! YAY I am so excited about it.

Now on to Part Two…

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