Posts Tagged ‘Female Empowerment’

Kickin’ Ass & Takin’ Names

In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet Capulet says, “What’s in a name? / That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”. But is it really true? I disagree. What you name something or someone definitely matters. Just ask Apple. No, not the fruit or the computer company. Apple’s the daughter of the boring, harmless-as-flies celeb couple Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. Yawn.

Grenade. Seriously? Yeah. We were friends at summer camp, and we made quite the hilarious pair. She was this macho, big-boned girl who was nice enough but who also didn’t tolerate any crap. Everyone just knew not to mess with her. And there I was, this small, bony, happy-go-lucky girl who was always making gimp bracelets and friendship bracelets. We actually had nothing in common except total respect for each other. But an angel, I was not. I’d often make cracks about how her mom probably picked Grenade’s name because of the crude way she was delivered.

Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones, But Names Will Never Hurt Me

Names also play an important role in the cosmetics industry. Lots of women (including myself) are suckers when it comes to buying products with punny names. Allow this nail-polish addict to provide examples: OPI: Eiffel for This Color and China Glaze: Kaleidoscope Him Out. Gotta give props to the creative teams who come up with the names.

Normally mascaras have standard, boring names like Blackest Black and some cheaper brands even just use numbers to differentiate between colours. Then you get companies who try to blow the lid off the compost bin. Yes, it’s all in fun (and I did get a laugh when I heard about most), but if you look deeper than the surface level, you’ve gotta wonder if these names are a bad influence or not.

When does being sassy begin to colour outside the lines and paint its way into anti-feminist territory? I’m definitely not a prude, but sometimes I ask myself if some shocking colour names are really necessary. Aren’t there other (and better) ways to get attention from consumers?

Sex sells:

We Don’t See Eye to Eye on Being Cheek to Cheek

I own China Glaze Tickle My Triangle. And I was thinking about buying Cheeky Monkey Brazen Hussy, but the more I think about, the more I feel like I shouldn’t be supporting a company that sexualizes women. It goes against my feminist ideals that I’m trying to uphold (even though I am, of course, still human and hypocritical at times).

Cheeky Monkey is a cosmetics brand that I didn’t know much about until last week, so I did some research. According to their website, the Cheeky Monkey philosophy is all about empowering women:

“Cheeky Monkey is not conventional.

Neither are the women who wear it.

We believe all women should feel free to express their personal edginess. You work hard, make responsible choices and embrace life to the fullest. Engage the cheeky side of things – you get the joke. You know that to be good, you have to be a little naughty. Cheeky Monkey cosmetics are environmentally safe and 3 Free healthy. They are edgy and fun, but above all, high quality. Just like the women who wear them.”

Sounds great, right? It makes women sound like the world is their oyster and that they have the freedom to change it. I don’t have any issue with that. My problem is that they’re saying one thing, but then doing another. We’re all hypocrites, and I’m certainly not one to stand on a pedestal to proclaim how morally superior I am, but c’mon…with a mission statement like that, how can they possibly justify nail-polish names like Cheap Whore and Back Alley Sally? Yes, they make us giggle, but what the hell is empowering about being a slut and being used for your body?

Cosmetic politics.

What do you think?

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Betty White Reminds Us to Lighten Up

We live in a world where we tell people not to judge a book by its cover, but we’re actually obsessed with physical appearance because first impressions are lasting ones.

The fact that many women are preoccupied with keeping their youthful appearance is about as new as the Egyptian pyramids.

We strive to discover the Fountain of Youth amidst the drugstore aisles. Some, like Heidi Montag, take it farther and seek refuge in a plastic surgeon’s office as I blogged about here. And many women are even ashamed to admit their age, as if the older they get, the less appealing they feel they’ve become. All that knowledge and all those experiences you’ve gained throughout the years mean didley squat?

Kickin’ It Old School

Old women. Think about them. Chances are that you conjure up images of rocking chairs, knitting needles, evil queens, mean stepmothers, or anti-aging beauty products. And they’re often the butt of chauvinist jokes.

Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-a-Lam)!

Then a person like The Golden Girls sensation, Betty White, saunters in, and talk of her awesome monologue when she hosted SNL on May 8 goes viral. What is it about her that got people talking? How did she break the mould of society’s idea of old women sipping tea while watching reruns of Matlock?

I’ll tell you why she blew your mind.

Betty White wasn’t playing it safe. The Proposal star was candid, and she was proud of being 88 years old. (Seems like she mentions her age pretty often.) Betty White also had guts. She made fun of the youth culture (Facebook, anyone?), and for once the world learned to respect an old lady. Being fun-loving and funny, Betty White stole our hearts.

Betty White in Action

Betty White Says Glock You to Ageism

I’ve looked high, low, and upside down to find a video online that I could link to so you could hear her deliver the now-famous monologue. But no dice.

Instead, we can chew the fat on Betty White’s SNL monologue in black and white. Don’t worry – it’s lean cuisine.

Betty White:

“I really have to thank Facebook. I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time. I would never say the people on it are losers, but that’s only because I’m polite.

People say, ‘But Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends.’ Well at my age, if I wanna connect with old friends, I need a Ouija Board.

Needless to say, we didn’t have Facebook when I was growing up. We had phone book, but you wouldn’t waste an afternoon with it.”

Check out the below clip that shows Betty White in her hay days.

Betty White is a living example that you can be old and happy. You can laugh at yourself and laugh at others. You can be comfortable in your own skin. And you can find humour in anything. Her playful attitude teaches us that what makes us forever young is our ability to be young at heart. In the end, that’s what really matters.

The fact that many women are obsessed with keeping their youthful appearance is as new as the Egyptian pyramids.

Talkin’ Periods. Enter Exclamation Marks!

First thing’s first – Happy Mother’s Day! Hope you spent quality time with your mom, called her, wrote a letter to her, or at least thought about her. To all those women who’ve struggled, sacrificed their wants, and exemplified unconditional love: I salute you!

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Periods. This isn’t the grammar police knocking down your punctuation doors. And it’s definitely not the Avon lady. Someone else is stopping by – your Monthly Friend (who apparently needs a condescending nickname).

It’s time to talk dirty – period dirty. Yes, Daniel Day-Lewis, there will be blood…just not the kind you were expecting. And no bowling pins are involved.

Before I go into how women perceive their periods and the media’s strong influence, let’s see how menstruation has been referred to as colloquially.

Redrum, Redrum!

Cher Horowitz from Clueless gets off the hook when she gives Mr. Halli the excuse that she was ‘surfing the crimson wave’. Crudely, having your period is also known as being ‘on the rag’. And then there are the nosebleed science textbooks that call the first period oh-so-fun names like menarche. (Zzz)

Even the word ‘period’ has negative connotations. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Stop. Right now. Stop. You’re in your period. Stop. (It’s like an annoying telegram!)

Women, when you’re in ‘That Time of the Month’, what do you think of? Cramps? Bloating? For some reason, girls are taught from a very young age to fear and loathe getting their periods. They’re told that it’s messy, painful, and uncomfortable. Special over-the-counter medications like Midol have been formulated to help women get through it.

For many years, females have been ashamed of this normal bodily function. Instead of celebrating this, we’re taught to essentially hate it.

Miracle on Elm Street

In television commercials, we see people in lab coats pouring blue liquid over pads to show us how well they absorb.

There are also women who testify that they’re able to play sports and resume normal activities when they’re in their periods because of pads or tampons.

‘Period’ical

Many years ago pads were bulky…like wearing a pillow between your legs. Now they’re ultra thin and even come in petite, regular, and long  lengths. Tampons have transformed over the years, too, with a sleeker silhouette and with the invention of applicators.

Ever since I got my period and became a member of this ‘secret society’, I’ve noticed the packaging of pads and tampons. Years ago wrappers were usually pink. How stereotypically girly! Now, you might think that wrappers aren’t important. After all, you just throw them in the garbage anyway, right? Wrong. There’s been an evolution (and a revolution) that speaks volumes of a feminist movement.

After seeing pink and discrete wrappers all the time, I found it interesting when one day, Always started putting out pastel wrappers in non-traditionally feminine colours. Interesting! I sensed a change, and it was one I liked.

Rainbow Brite

Fast forward several years, Marty McFly. A few months ago, when I walked down the aisle for feminine-hygiene products in the pharmacy, something caught my eye. It was a rainbow. It was vibrant. It was U by Kotex.

Bright yellow, blue, pink, and green wrappers in fun boxes? They stand apart from their competitors because instead of trying to remain discreet, they’re flashing us!

Traditionally, talking about periods or drawing attention to your period isn’t very ladylike. I love how U by Kotex throws this out the window. (Not talking about something just leads to misunderstandings and even unnecessary fears.)

Check out the awesomely sarcastic 46-second U by Kotex commercial:

And here’s another goodie. At just 31 seconds, it does a great job at poking fun of absurd tampon commercials:

Fellow Canadians, you can get a free U by Kotex sample. (I requested mine.) And if you’re American, go here for the freebie.

What do you think about the U by Kotex commercials? Are you also intrigued with how this company took a blatant stand against commonly unchallenged gender stereotypes? Will you be supporting this by switching brands? Or do you think that it’s just another marketing strategy to make money and that it has no other agendas?

Floss a Backbone, Gargle with Feminist Mouthwash & Don’t Just Brush off Gender Inequality

Of the many university courses I took years ago, my psychology of women class is one of the handful that really stood out. It wasn’t just about memorizing facts and studying to get good marks on exams. After hearing what the professor had to say in lectures and after reading my textbook, I found myself getting worked up over things I once blindly accepted.

Like much of the general public, I had thought that feminism was a bad word. The stereotype of a butch man-hating woman who was hairy, pushy, and obnoxious had sadly been held by me, my friends, parents, and co-workers. We had succumb to the media’s depiction of feminism.

Being a feminist didn’t seem positive at all. Who were these women? What kind of chip did they have on their shoulder that they felt the need to fight all the time? And anyone who called herself a feminist was bound to be ridiculed and challenged (much like labeling yourself a vegetarian, as I discussed in a previous blog post). Why stigmatize yourself?

Then I learned that feminism wasn’t always about putting women ahead for the sake of being women – it was about making a positive difference in the world for women, yes, but also for men. It was about taking women seriously as intellectual individuals and not just as sex symbols. It was about standing up for women to earn equal pay in the workforce. It was about smashing the glass ceiling so society could enjoy some fresh air.

The English author, literary critic, journalist, and travel writer, Cicely Isabel Fairfield (aka Rebecca West) was quoted as saying, “I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”

Yet somehow feminism’s name got tainted in black tar. It became the butt of many sitcom jokes. In fact, feminism got such a bad rap that even women came to associate it with all things negative.

One day I wanted to do an informal experiment to see just how skewed people’s understanding of feminism really was. I asked a bunch of people in my classes (who weren’t in my psychology of women class), “Are you a feminist?” To my surprise (and disappointment), every single person I asked (female or male) had a strong, adverse reaction to the question. They all immediately exclaimed, “No!” A few made looks of disgust as though I had insulted them.

My next question: “Do you believe that women who have the same expertise, education, and experience as men should get paid less for doing the same job?” All of them said no and that they should earn the same amount because that’s what was fair.

When I told them that their answer was feminist, I think it threw them for a loop. They clearly didn’t want to be labeled as a feminist, but they held feminist beliefs. It was obvious now that the problem with feminism wasn’t that people didn’t believe in its tenets, rather its skewed definition.

My theory for why feminism got such a harsh reputation: people were intimidated by the thought of women challenging the status quo, asking for more (which actually was just what they deserved), becoming independent, and working their way up to attain positions of power.

The established patriarchy was under attack! How could they lessen the blow and discount the protests from this growing movement? Ridicule it – make cheap shots at it every chance you get. Turn it into a caricature. And it worked. Even women with university education were refusing to call themselves feminists!

Let’s spread the word – feminism isn’t a bad word. It’s empowering, hopeful, and our future. Get rid of ill-conceived stereotypes that prevent us (women and men) from moving forward.

Anyone can be a feminist. Even men. (Being a feminist doesn’t mean you’re feminine.) You can come from any walk of life. You can be feisty, introverted, pretty, ugly, young, or old. Feminism doesn’t discriminate. People against feminism discriminate.

But you have to remember that feminists are human, too. Some are hypocrites. They’re not perfect. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you’ll always do or say the right thing when it comes down to the wire. Being a feminist doesn’t make you a good person. Being a feminist makes you want to strive to be a better person. Whether or not you reach your goal is another story.

Are you ready to hop on board?

Ellen DeGeneres: “Instead of Showing Your Boobs, Show People Your Brain.”

This video’s from 2009, but it’s new to me – just saw it last month. It’s a clip of Ellen DeGeneres giving a commencement speech at Tulane University.

She’s smart, witty, and down-to-earth in this video, and her speech is uplifting and funny while still driving home important messages to the new graduates (but really to all of us).

And how true it is when she says, “Instead of showing your boobs, show people your brain.” Women, we need to remember this. When you respect yourself, you set an example for other women to follow suit and respect themselves, too. Let’s hope this catches on!

Thought I’d share it with you because:

  • Laughter makes any day better
  • Ellen’s courage to overcome struggle is inspiring
  • She’s a good example of a modern feminist
  • I’m too lazy right now to write a long essay-style post

Enjoy!

R.I.P. Peter Shaw (1939-2010)

I still can’t believe my father passed away on March 2nd. Every morning, I wake up thinking that maybe it was all a terrible dream – it can’t be real. But it is real. It was so sudden, and came with little warning.

He had been recovering from a moderate stroke, but in the end, it wasn’t the stroke that did him in – he had an abdominal aneurysm. A blood vessel’s lining was thinning and burst. My father was internally bleeding to death. Thinking about my father suffering so much is unbearable for me. But at the same time, it shows you how strong he was.

The surgeon said that most people who have aneurysms like my dad don’t even make it to the hospital alive even if they call the ambulance immediately! But, of course, my dad was a fighter ’til the very end – he lasted about 8 hours. He’s so incredible, and even though he’s ‘gone’, he’s still teaching me new things.

New Things My Father Taught Me

Souls Really Do Exist

He was a really religious man who took great pride in being a Catholic. On many occasions he’d talk to me about faith and God. And I remember him telling me that the body is just on loan from God – it’s like a shell we borrow and we have to take good care of it because it’s not really ours.

I believed what my father said, but it was only when I saw my father’s body in the emergency-room operating table and then again at the funeral-home visitation that it really hit me. It’s hard to describe, but even though I was looking at my father, it wasn’t my father. Something was off.

I realized that my father was right when he said that the soul leaves the body when you pass away.

The body is nothing more than a shell. The soul is what gives a person that spark and personality. And then it made me think about how when we look at each other, it’s not actually the physical appearance we see. I mean, yeah, we notice a person’s build and hair colour, but when they’re gone, even those don’t look quite the same anymore.

When we look at one another, I now believe we see the soul. We just don’t realize it until the soul leaves.

Scientists and religious scholars may have struggled for centuries to prove that a soul exists. Naysayers can argue otherwise, but because of my experience, I will always know in my heart that souls really do exist. And it’s a comforting thought.

When Someone Dies, You Don’t Actually Lose Them

It’s become pretty common to say, “Sorry for your loss” to express your sincere condolences to the devastated family. I never gave it more thought until recently.

I realized that I didn’t actually lose my father. I found him. Where? I found him at the place where he’s always been – my heart. And there he will always be.

In an upcoming blog post, I’m going to share the eulogy I wrote (and read at the funeral-home visitation). It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write because nothing I said could ever do him justice. But I did it because he would’ve wanted me to. I’ll be sharing it because I’m proud to be Peter Shaw’s daughter and because everyone deserves to get a glimpse into this wonderful man I was blessed to call my father.

Later, I also want to share my experience when I saw my father’s urn placed in the niche at the cemetery and also all the headache regarding the myriad of legal matters you confront when a person passes away.

Please continue to say prayers for my father and my family. We need help to be strong.

Stepping up to the (Dinner) Plate: Some Food for Thought from a Feminist Turned Vegetarian

When I made the decision to become vegetarian (roughly 3 years ago), little did I know that by choosing to give up meat, I was going to fight more battles than I bargained for.

Oh, the path to vegetarianism is paved with good intentions, silly jokes, and a cold plate of prejudice. Who would’ve thought that people would care that much about what I didn’t put inside my mouth!

Let’s rewind the tape and go back to simpler, more carnivorous times, shall we? Although twig-like in stature due to a combination of high metabolism and genetics, I loved me some bacon, steak, chicken wings, and ribs. The flavour. The way it smelled. The way it padded my stomach. Oh, it was heaven!

I didn’t become vegetarian because I didn’t like the taste of meat. In fact, I was one of those people who thought that she couldn’t give up meat and questioned why anyone would. Animals are for humans to eat. How can anyone live on salad? “I love meat too much to stop eating it.”

But then a guy shared this documentary with me called Earthlings. It’s long, propagandist, and has a very comatose Joaquin Phoenix as the narrator. In Earthlings, you learn more about the role of animals, how meat production negatively affects the Earth, and how by simply eating meat, you may be subscribing to animal cruelty.

But what made me second-guess my consumption of meat was a gruesome scene of a cow being slain inhumanely as it cried out in pain. Blood rained from the beast as it was hung to die. Then there were the chickens who had their beaks cut off and who were forced to live in confined, dirty spaces that drove them to insanity as they pecked at each other and inflicted wounds. And there were plenty more hard-to-watch scenes – to this day, I still haven’t been able to watch the entire documentary because it’s so unsettling.

So I tried the gradual approach and gave up seafood first. I didn’t much care for it (except shrimp, lobster, and muscles), so I figured it was the easiest elimination. Plus, it was just a trial run to see if I could do it. It had always been my intention that if it felt like too much or if I ever felt unhealthy because of my new diet, I vowed to turn back around. But if all these celebrities could be vegetarians, then so could I.

Well, guess what? I did it, and it was way too easy. Okay, hot shot. What about chicken? Could I give up that? Did it. Easier than I thought, too. To make a long story short, the last ones on my ‘assassination’ list were beef and pork. And I felt great physically – had more energy.

But this story wouldn’t be a good story if there weren’t some villains, right? [Cue the gang]

Here are the challenges I faced:

  • Eating Out at Restaurants – Lots of my old favourite places cater to meat eaters. Finding appetizing and filling vegetarian dishes was much harder than anticipated. Most places had salad, but I’m not the type of person who considers salad a proper meal.
  • Finding Meat Alternatives – Substituting chick peas, lentils, tofu, and the like made it easy to get my protein. And I discovered Tofurkey and soy products created to imitate things like ground beef, chicken nuggets, and even bacon (believe it or not – although the ‘facon’ as I call it tastes horrid).
  • Defending Myself – Every single time I refrained from eating meat and had to tell someone that I’m a vegetarian, I’ve been poked and prodded to justify my choice. It’s not like we ask, “Why do you eat meat?” But when you’re a vegetarian, you get bombarded with questions like: “Don’t you like meat?”, “How can you get full just from eating vegetables?”, “How do you know that vegetables don’t feel pain, too?”, and (my favourite) “What’s wrong with you? You used to eat meat and were fine with it.” My abbreviated answers?
    • “I liked eating meat, but I gave it up.” Just because we like something doesn’t mean we have to continue doing it. You like ice cream, but do you have to eat it every day?
    • “I don’t just eat vegetables.” Being a vegetarian requires that you eat smart and balanced meals that may include rice, bread, noodles, pasta, etc., and not exclusively vegetables.
    • “I don’t know if vegetables feel pain.” But let me ask you something back. How do you know that the animals you’re eating don’t feel pain?
    • “There’s nothing wrong with me for wanting to cut out something that has been linked to a number of health problems and environmental issues.”
  • Cooking without Meat – Since a lot of recipes call for meat, I was forced to dig deeper and research new dishes to make. And instead of relying on meat to provide the flavour, I had to incorporate herbs and spices. Because of this, I believe I’m a much better cook than I was before. My culinary repertoire consists of a nice variety including (but not limited to) the following: shepherd’s pie, lasagna, sushi, falafels, pizza, stir fry, Pad Thai, veggie burgers, Tofurkey roasts, ‘chicken’ Parmesan, spaghetti, cannelloni, salads, cookies, brownies, and muffins. Even so, I’m still trying to test out new recipes now and then and put my own spin on them. I’m also proud to say that I make a mean veggie lasagna that even several avid meat-eaters have told me that they think it’s the best lasagna they’ve ever had! And even my dad (who will never give up meat because ‘it tastes good’) enjoys my shepherd’s pie and homemade pizzas.
  • Thanksgiving Feasts – Having a turkey at Thanksgiving is a family staple, but I have to sit out and just have my Tofurkey roast. As great as my mom makes turkey, I have to say that I look forward more to the stuffing she makes – that’s my favourite part about Thanksgiving dinner!
  • Cravings – Every now and then, I think about beef jerky, sizzling bacon, and juicy steaks. Sometimes even run-of-the-mill hot dogs at an outdoor vendor makes me salivate when before it was nothing. But I rein in the urge to backpedal. I remind myself why I became a vegetarian, and then I go make myself something yummy to eat.
  • Not Letting Other People’s Prejudice Get to Me – Some people may see my being a vegetarian as a weakness, a stupid conversion, or me just being a picky eater. Well, we all have our preferences and quirks. Some people won’t eat bread crusts. Some people pick out the olives from their pizza. Some people enjoy drinking prune juice. The world’s made up of all sorts of people.

Becoming a vegetarian might not have been the easy path for me, but I’m sticking with it (as long as I still feel healthy and happy). If holding true to your guns even when the going gets tough and standing up for what you believe in isn’t feminist and empowering, then I don’t know what is.

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