Archives for Jun,2014

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Sunday Specials: Bathsheba and Sex Trafficking

*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention. 

With Krista here for a visit on Colorado soil, your 3 therapists are about to have a day of exchanging many many words (people…you I wish I could have a word count on our conversations), creative ping-pong-like sessions, enjoying some scrumptious food and celebrating loving each other face to face. But before I head out for this day, a day I have been looking forward to for weeks, I wanted to share my Sunday Specials.  So without further ado, here’s what caught my attention this week:

Bathsheba and the Myth of Unconscious Seduction by Kate Schell

So King Peeping Tom summoned Bathsheba. This wasn’t considered criminal at the time, because the king had the legal right to claim any woman. But today, if Secret Service agents abduct a woman and take her to the White House for sex with the president, that’s called kidnapping and rape. Call in Liam Neeson, because she’s been taken. In this situation, Bathsheba could not say no and therefore, by definition, could not consent.

If you have been following our posts on Facebook you may have noticed that I have been tracking with a team of four bloggers who recent returned from a trip with an organization called Exodus Road. I’ve selected a favorite post (out of what they’ve published thus far)  from each of them as they reflect on their experience:

A Million Ways to Say it Wrong by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

This is the part where we each stare at a blank page on a computer screen for too many hours trying to find the right words to say all the things we want to say and share the things we want to share. This is the part where we desperately try to do justice in what we write to the things we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard, for all the hands we held, and eyes we met, and the hearts and souls we felt keenly connected to over one week across the world. This is the part that means life or death for a blogger trip, yes, but far more important, this is part that can bring new life to victims of human trafficking and sex-slavery. Let me just say this out loud; No one wants the trip we “survived” to matter in tangible ways more than we do. No one wants to share about the things we witnessed while preserving the privacy and dignity of the victims we saw more than we do. No one wants to help you feel a deep connection to the good work happening in the world more than we do. And no one is more afraid of saying it all wrong than we are. No one.

Oh no, dooce found Jesus by Heather Armstrong

On the last day of our trip I was talking with the founder Matt Parker who articulated exactly what I had witnessed the previous four days. He said, ‘If you read the Bible, if you study the person that Jesus was when he walked the earth, you’d understand that there was never a trade or a cost for his service. He fed and he clothed and he healed because he loved. He didn’t require anyone to accept a message or make a promise before he administered any help. He served because that is what good humans do for other humans.’

 What I learned about sex trafficking from an evening with two prostitutes by Kristen Howerton

In that room, I think we all felt an overwhelming sense of empathy and connection. I fought the urge to try to fix things, and instead to just sit with them and empathize and listen. We reiterated that we felt it was not fair that such disparities exist based on where we were born. They seemed relieved to hear us acknowledge that. I think we all sat in that room feeling that we are so much alike. I couldn’t help thinking that it is women who really need to rise up and help one another. These girls are our sisters, born into different circumstances, and doing what they need to do to survive.

Delicate/Brutal by Roo at Semi Proper

I cried with a sex worker. I rode on the back of motorcycle taxis. I reviewed pedophile cases, and now I can’t get the images out of my head. I watched an undercover investigation happen from the back seat of an SUV and ducked every time I saw headlights. I questioned God. I met a baby elephant. I watched horrible things unfold but I sat on my hands and smiled – as instructed – so as not to cause suspicion. I met people who have devoted their lives to rescuing victims and prosecuting evil people. I laughed with my friends in the back of a pickup truck and rubbed at the pain under my sternum by myself in the shower. I danced on a rooftop. I visited a Buddhist temple. I sat and talked with girls identified by the number pinned to their bikini bottoms. I connected with them. I felt a deep love for them. I wanted to rescue them. I left them behind.


 *Please feel free to share any links to posts that caught your attention this week in the comments below!


Biggie Smalls

As we round out the month of June, I’d like to piggyback off this month’s Feature Story (Part 1 and Part 2) as well as Shauna’s most recent post “Body Talk”.  For today’s Happy Hour post, I’d like to share my current dilemma with body image through a series of vignettes that like bullet points cannot stand alone, but as a cluster will make my point.

  • For those of you who know my daughter, you know that Lucy takes after her father and has always been in the 90th percentiles for height and weight.  She has stood in the back of every class picture.  She has always worn a clothing size bigger than her age.  And at 10 years old, I just bought a pair of shoes that I knew would fit her because they were the same size as mine.
  • When I was pregnant with Lucy, my mom came to one of my doctor’s appointments to see the ultrasound. The technician commented, “This baby has long legs and big feet!”  My mom thought she sneakily discovered the sex of our baby because a girl couldn’t be thus described.  So, when I gave her a boy outfit and a girl outfit to take home and wash in a special laundry detergent and bring back to the hospital after we discovered the sex upon delivery, she almost just cut the tags off the boy’s outfit, washed, and brought it, that convinced she was that our baby was going to be a boy.  It didn’t help matters that Lucy was born on April Fool’s Day.  So, when Karl exited the hospital room to tell everyone the good news, that our baby was girl, they thought of course he must be joking.
  • This week, we traveled from Seattle to Denver for our summer vacation.  We were excited to get back to my hometown to see family and friends.  Once, when we were all discussing the trip at dinnertime, Lucy said, “I just know everyone is going to look at me and say ‘My, you’ve gotten so big!’”  And she was right.  That has been the common reaction when people see her.  Even a boy she and her brother met in one of the hotel swimming pools said he couldn’t believe she was the same age as him because she was so much taller than he.

I am fully aware that our appearances are often the first things people notice and therefore comment on.  However, my dilemma presents when people expect, or rather demand, that someone either act or know or be what it is they look like.  So, someone who is tall and beautiful should be a model.  Someone who has an athletic figure should be an athlete.  Someone who has the exact opposite kind of hair that you have should be grateful.  Someone who is overweight shouldn’t be running marathons.  Someone who is tall for her age should act older than she really is.

Oftentimes what is expected of Lucy is that she must behave more maturely than she does.  I am as guilty as anyone in assuming something like because she can reach the top shelf in our kitchen, she shouldn’t need my help.  Or because she is bigger than most of the people in her 4th/5th grade class, she should know more than she really does.  And most importantly, there is a pressure or demand that she grow up emotionally – that she not get her feelings hurt so easily, or make such a big deal over small injuries.

Can we name that we do indeed draw conclusions that are likely stereotypical and often plaster our values on someone else’s appearances?  Knowing is half the battle, right?  And how do we suspend the assumptions about what it is we see long enough to allow room for curiosity, difference, mystery to fill the gap between what we think we know and what is really true of another human being?

I certainly have more questions than answers.  But one thing I know to be true today.  My daughter is big.  She is also small.  In a phrase – she is Biggie Smalls.


Body Talk

My oldest daughter is on the verge of turning 14. Every now and then I have these moments where I wish I could crawl into her mind and reside there for a single day. I know this must sound Freaky Friday-ish, but I can assure you my motives are strictly maternal. You see, the two of us have survived most of the waves that typically come to shore with this transitional time in female development. As my daughter has been transforming from a little girl to a young woman, our relationship has remained relatively intact. We have even survived the ups and downs of middle school friendships and boy-ships. The only lingering concern of mine is the category of her relationship with her own body. I wonder if, in the midst of all that has changed in her physical appearance and in the social landscape of her world, whether or not she has been able to cling to the truth that her body is for her and not for the world around her.

As a therapist who works predominantly with adolescent girls and women, I am all too familiar with the shift that an individual’s relationship with her own body can take in those tumultuous and formative pubescent years. Seemingly strong and confident girls can become increasingly insecure and extremely body-conscious. I find it hard to believe that the female brain is uniquely wired with the likes of a ticking-time bomb set to ameliorate any semblance of the girl’s previous sense of selfhood once breasts begin to form and hips begin to expand. I realize that hormones are a powerful force, but I tend to believe they are a force meant for our evolutionary and individual good as opposed to our psychological destruction. Regardless of the purpose our hormones serve, the pervasiveness of this pattern of self-abnegation in female development is undeniable. As a mom to four girls, the fighter in me is determined to do everything in my power to help write a different story with my own daughters.

There is at least one problem with this maternal desire: I’m not entirely sure how to fight this fight. There is a large body of evidence pointing toward a culture that persistently sexually objectifies women and girls as the primary culprit or instigator of female body image issues. Without making media the sole villain in this predicament, it is worth noting that one need only glance at a nearby television screen to identify endless images and messages (both overt and subtle) portraying women as objects and men as subjects. It seems that media is more often than not simply a reflection of the dominant set of values and beliefs, at least among those privileged with the power to influence such messaging.

Psychologists have long believed that we have a propensity as human beings to internalize the messages we are repeatedly told, especially during early stages of development and throughout childhood. Rather than this psychological tenet sending me on a cynical and disempowered downward spiral into a puddle of helplessness against this great and powerful cultural monster, it actually opens up my capacity to hope for change. I know that I am only one voice, albeit a rather significant voice, in the lives of my daughters, but nonetheless I do have the power to deliver a counter-cultural message. I can speak a different message to my girls, but I can also choose to model what it looks like to cling tightly to the truth that my body is for me and not for the world around me. I can learn how to reclaim my agency and reject the invitation to live into being an object of pleasure for others.

In recent years I have become increasingly encouraged by the peppering of some new messaging emerging in media, literature and film. The popularity of children’s movies like Brave, Tangled and Frozen as well as the young adult genre with books being made into films like The Hunger Games and Divergent, is reflective of a broader acceptance of female subjectivity and agency. Not only are there female protaganists present in each of these films, but the characters exude an ownership of their own lives as opposed to the narrative simply happening to them. Could this shift be the rippling effect of third-wave feminism? I certainly hope so because that would reaffirm that this fight extends beyond the walls of my own household.

In theory, all of this sounds doable. In the day-to-day, however, I am painfully aware of how difficult it is to live counter-culturally. Excavating the messages that I have internalized is at the center of this battle. When I hesitate to leave my house without makeup, I am reminded of the deeply embedded message that my beauty is dependent upon wearing a mask. When I read the story of a woman who recently underwent a preemptive double mastectomy and I automatically presume she’ll undergo reconstructive surgery, I am reminded of the deeply embedded message that our breasts are one of our greatest physical attributes. When I opt out of jumping in the pool to play with my clan of all girls because a swimsuit reveals the ways my body has been impacted by the birthing and nursing of the ones I’m lucky enough to call my children, I am reminded of the deeply embedded message that my worth is defined by my culturally-deemed desirability. These are the messages I am working so hard to unlearn and push against. Perhaps if I do enough excavating, my daughter’s will have a chance at internallizing an entirely different set of messages.


How to Engage the Story of Another

As we continue to hold Cortney’s story (Part 1 and Part 2) as a community, it is my hope that we continue to learn how to allow the telling of another’s experience to grow our understanding of life and increase our wisdom. I wholeheartedly believe that is how we, as the receivers of a story, can tap into the transformative nature of story-sharing. We must sit with it, think about it, engage it and reflect on the themes and messages underlying the story. At times, connecting to a story feels seamless. At other times, entering into the story of another can be challenging. At times the disconnect can be the result of a guardedness by way of the story-teller, but often the disconnect has more to do with the listener’s own capacity (or lack thereof) to reach past the invisible fences that leave us feeling alone in our own stories.

In her blog, The Silver Pen, Hollye Jacobs offers insight on how to be the silver lining around the cloud of cancer to friends and loved ones battling the disease. After working as a nurse, social worker and child development specialist for 15 years, Hollye was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and learned firsthand what it was like to be a patient and to be the one in need of the care, guidance and support of others. In my opinion, her wisdom and instructions can easily extend well beyond solely engaging loved ones with cancer. Whether you are connected to someone who is recovering from a preemptive double mastectomy and preparing to have reconstructive surgery, or you are supporting someone who just found out they have an autoimmune disorder – whatever the life-altering scenario, Hollye’s tips are worth embracing.

It’s so easy to connect with friends when talking over lunch, catching up while going for a hike, or planning a dinner party. However, if cancer strikes your friend, the dynamics of your relationship will change in a big way! I have experienced this both as someone who has had cancer as well as in the position of being a friend of someone who has cancer.

As I have said before, cancer does not happen in isolation. It didn’t just happen to me. It happens to a person’s family, friends, and community. What this means to you, the friend of someone who has cancer, is that you have the opportunity to play an important supporting role for your friend throughout their cancer journey. Don’t feel overwhelmed or helpless. They may see you as of their most important Silver Linings through out their sickness.

*Continue to read her five suggestions on how to support a friend with cancer over at The Silver Pen.


Sunday Specials: #WorldCup and Women

*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention. 

I’m not sure about you folks, but I am still recovering from the intensity of the USA vs. Portugal game this evening. And I’m still shaking my head and repeating #FrigginRonaldo over and over again. So I guess I’ll still be carrying around the combination of anxiety and excitement that makes my belly feel all aflutter until Thursday. And no, I am not talking about the butterflies so many women are giddy about on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly appreciate the ridiculousness of their talent, the capacity of their bodies and the beauty of these so-called men (though I think they deserve their own separate category). But I am blushing at half the posts I’ve been reading all week and I’m horrified at the reverse objectification evident in the other half of the posts. And most of the comments are by 40+ year old women. Geez. I think this cultural phenomenon is in need of some serious analysis…but I’ll save that for someone else to do. In an effort to prove that I am not a complete prude on the matter, I should mention that I did find a Post by Momastery to be rather funny. 

On a slightly more serious note, I actually find women to be rather fascinating creatures (even though I’m poking fun at their fainting at the sight of Ronaldo’s abs). Historically, our differences from men (whether essential or constructed) were viewed as dysfunctional or inferior at the very least. In many ways, modern day gender dynamics continue to reveal the impact of such thinking upon our culture. I think that is why I am so drawn to some of the feminist thinkers of our time – so many women trying to sort out how to reclaim equal footing, not just in rights, but in how we view and feel about being female. I was so pleased to read The Gift of PMS by a fellow graduate from The Seattle School this past week as it is a fantastic example of the small ways we can shift our thinking about our own bodies.

So many women I know, including myself, are ashamed of their PMS symptoms. Even in San Francisco, the most liberal city, women come into therapy and sheepishly confess ‘I get really bad PMS,’ as if it’s a sin or a personal flaw. They want to know how to manage it, how to be less volatile to the people around them. Sometimes PMS is the one Octopus leg that they can’t wrestle down, and they think the problem is that they’re not wrestling enough. Our embarrassment comes out of what’s called ‘Masculine Normativity’— the cultural belief that normal is male, and what deviates from ‘male’ is abnormal and inferior. Masculine normativity dictates that women should not have fluctuating moods (as if men don’t!), that we should remain roughly the same temperament week to week, month to month. Western patriarchy adds to the shaming by insisting that there is a state called ‘rational’ or ‘intellectual’ that is somehow separate from ’emotional’ and ’embodied.’

*Please feel free to share any links to posts that caught your attention this week in the comments below!