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Warrior Girls

February 6, 2016

I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but childhood nostalgia pulled me to the new Star Wars film during the holiday break. Chewy and the gang did not disappoint. However, the movie, which had the potential to stand as an intense feminist film, fell short of an achievement in gender equality.

The movie was diminished by the new and powerful female lead, Rey; not because of her performance, which was stellar, but because she was referred to as ‘the girl’ throughout the film. Rey was not four or eight or twelve-years-old. She was not a girl. Rather, she was a tough and buff young woman. Very few young male warriors are referred to as ‘boys’. Why was she?

Not only did the film fall short as a feminist model because of biased language; the never-ending scrutiny over Princess Leia’s aging face demonstrates that our culture lacks support for older, striking woman. The standard for a beautiful woman remains a size-2 teenager. Realistic? Not in my world. The prejudice about how Carrie Fisher weathered time as opposed to Harrison Ford is staggering. And yet, I shouldn’t be surprised. As modern and free as our society has become, women still fall short on the equality factor.

Here are a few brief facts. According to the National Committee on Pay Equality, in 2014, women still made 78.6 percent of what men earned. Forbes reported that only 26% of college presidents are women, and according to the Catalyst, a mere 4.2% (a total of 21 women) hold CEO positions for the S&P 500 (a list of 500 companies). I could go on—there are gender differences in almost every field.

So what happened to the women’s movement? Somewhere along the line, since the 1970’s, feminism became a dirty word. The lobby became associated with armpit hair-growing, men-hating activists who thumb their noses at stay-at-home mothers. This characterization was and is fueled by people who want to maintain a patriarchal power structure. Those who want women to keep quiet behind men encourage stereotypical branding.

How do we grow strong daughters when their future is capped by a society that doesn’t fully embrace gender equality?

For one, we embrace the word, ‘feminist,’ and redefine it to stand for strong and powerful girls who become strong and powerful women, unafraid to defend their integrity, their grace, and their belief in themselves. A feminist should be able to work from home as a mom, an organizer of their family. A feminist should be able to work as a CEO with or without having children. A feminist should be able to make her own choices without prejudice or backlash.

Language is a subtle but powerful method of creating hierarchical structures within a culture. Words like ‘girl’ might seem innocent or even sweet, but words can be dangerous. If we begin to understand when language is used in negative ways, we can begin to unwind destructive behavior.

Above all, we can teach our daughters and our sons that although men and women are inherently different, both genders should be given the same opportunities, the same respect, and the same privileges without inherent bias. And when movies do cast a strong female lead, and the directors do something belittling; like referring to her as a girl and diminishing her power, let’s talk about it. Let’s point out the inequality and not let it slide by. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey is a female warrior, not a little girl. Not only is she physically strong; she’s smart and savvy, and funny. All such young warrior women should be championed.

 

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Winter Writing Quotes

February 1, 2016

Need some midwinter inspiration? I hope these help.

Write you story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. –Neil Gaiman

Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing. –Melinda Haynes

When you go in search of honey, you must expect to be stung by bees. -Kenneth Kaunda

If we have listening ears, God speaks to us in our own language, whatever that language is.-Mahatma Gandhi

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Reading Intention

January 18, 2016

The end of a year is filled with ‘best of’ book titles. Last year I composed my own list, specific to young adult literature. This year I couldn’t—not because I didn’t have any, but because I couldn’t remember. Welcome menopausal brain.

Some folks in the literary world set intentions for their reading practice; a bookish resolution of sorts. I’m jumping on that train and plan to keep a log, listing all the books I read in 2016. From time to time, I’ll post a couple of updates so you can follow along or join in. Thus far I’ve finished Brene Brown’s, Rising Strong; Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic; Raymond Carver’s, Cathedral; Emma Mills’, First and Then, and am in the process of reading Theo Pauline Nestor’s, Writing is My Drink; and Ha Jin’s, The Bridegroom: Stories.

Hopefully, next year I’ll be able to check my log and offer up my best book list like everyone else.

Now if I can only remember where I put my pen.

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Dead Blog

January 4, 2016

I realize blogs are dead. That said, I continue to write them. Why? I write because that’s what I do. I can’t imagine my life without writing.

Although my blog is often informational and I write a highly controversial column for the local paper, my passion is writing fiction. When the creative muse fails me, I write in a journal for personal musings. I script old-fashioned letters and poetry and notes. I write because that’s what I do.

If you are a writer, I suggest you keep your blog going, maintain your journal, and write more poetry.

It’s a brand new year: resolve to write. Write every day. If it does nothing else than clearing your head, it’s worth it.

Happy New Year. Now go write.

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2015 in review

December 30, 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,000 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Mom’s Wise Words

December 1, 2015

My mom turns 85 this month, although if you’d met her, you’d swear she was 55. This month’s blog is in her honor.

Mom loves lists. She has on-going lists for the grocery, her daily chores, her weekly and monthly activities. She makes lists of people she needs to call, to thank, and to write. She’s even made lists for all her books, her rock collection, and the kinds of flowers she’s planted. I love my mom and am sharing a list of her wisdom. She’s far too humble to list it herself, but these are five things I know she’d agree to; attributes that she represents.

  1. Love: simple and yet complicated—love yourself, love God, love your family, friends, and your enemies.
  2. Nap: rest well and take care of yourself. Naps also give you time to create.
  3. Appreciate Nature: all of the answers are there.
  4. Get a C: no one is perfect, we learn from our mistakes, and no one does well under constant pressure to get all A’s.
  5. Care: make a difference in the world. It can be as simple as making muffins for a neighbor, volunteering at an event, or writing Congress to demand better resolutions.

Thanks Mom! And Happy Holidays to all.

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Pit Bulls, People and Prejudice

November 20, 2015

This was first published in the Summit Daily News as one of my Think Twice columns. Although it is not directly related to writing, it is a good case for the need to read and write diverse books, which has become a big push in the publishing world. More importantly, it’s important because of the insane prejudice against Muslims, sweeping our country.

When I lived in Denver, my neighbor was attacked by a Pit Bull. A rash of mauling continued and after the news covered the bloody attacks; Pit Bulls were banned from the city. At the time, I agreed with the decision, and when I moved to Summit County, I was appalled by the animal shelters that took in Pit Bulls, farming them out to families.

I will be forever sorry I felt that way and am ashamed and embarrassed that I exhibited such blatant prejudice. True, I had a bit of information to stand by—there were maulings, my neighbor did get attacked, and eventually they were banned from Colorado’s capital. However, I firmly believe the decision was made out of prejudice, fear, and misinformation. It’s not the breed; it’s the behavior by the owner that creates a vicious dog. I am now the proud owner a Pit Bull mix—the sweetest dog I’ve ever owned.

The misinformation we are given about dogs and sensationalized news is not so different than misinformation we are given about people. At the top of the list, is the information we are told to believe about Muslims, who many consider all ISIS terrorists. They are not. I lived with a Muslim family in Tunisia, and they were/are some of the gentlest, kindest folks on the planet. They practice a loving, compassionate lifestyle, and yes, they condemn ISIS.

According to a poll taken in 2010, 1.6 billion people follow the Islamic faith. The Pew Research Center projects that by 2050, the number of Muslims will be close to the number of Christians living on the planet. It’s high time we make a distinction between cult-like terrorists and devoted moderates.

In order to dismantle racism and prejudicial behaviors toward people with a different faith, we must educate ourselves about other religions. I published an award-winning book: Soul Sunday: A Family’s Guide to Exploring Faith and Teaching Tolerance and in the process, interviewed many religious leaders. I also researched different faiths to accurately explain the world’s largest religions. Here are some simple facts about Islam.

  • It’s an Abrahamic religion; followers believe in the SAME God as Jews and Christians
  • Moses and Jesus are considered important prophets
  • Mohammed lived after Jesus and received a divine revelation, which became the Quran: the Muslim holy book
  • Devout Muslims pray 5 times a day
  • Charity is a pillar of the religion and an important part of daily life

The followers of ISIS remind me of people who followed Jim Jones and his religious sect rooted in Christianity and apostolic socialism, turned cult. ISIS is much larger, more terrifying, and no-less cult-like. Filled with insecurity and hate, they have a deliberate wish to destroy. There is a difference between ISIS, who has its roots based in medieval Islam turned cult, and other Muslims. To call all Muslims terrorists, like many do, is a blatant lie and at best, an outrageous statement.

Prejudicial beliefs based in ignorance and fear can lead to hate-filled practices that only inflame a misunderstood situation. It’s important to let go of fear and learn more about Islam. Understanding Muslims and the difference between them and the ISIS fanatics is crucial as we move forward in an undeclared war. We should not be fighting all Muslims, but be focused on eradicating ISIS.

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