Tag Archive | strong women

Voice

How do I explain to my daughter how and why perpetrators of sexual assault and  harassment are put forward as leaders? How do I explain the continued objectification and abuse of women? I don’t have simple answers.  But I can write and reflect. I began this piece over a year ago. Given what’s happening in our country right now, it’s fitting to revisit.

I began writing personal essays while in college. My column, Mujer Hollering, became my way of expressing my views on various issues on campus and in my life through a personal lens. I wrote about issues of gender, ethnicity and culture. I was committed to being a woman with a voice and reflecting on how we are treated and perceived. It was challenging at first.  When you are conditioned by family, culture and society to be a woman in a specific way, having a voice of challenge and opposition is controversial and misunderstood. But I didn’t let that stop me.

Last summer, Luvvie Ajayi shared the following story on Facebook.  A dancer with a social media presence was approached online by one of her followers. He sent her pictures of himself and asked her about his physical attractiveness. When she didn’t respond because she was traveling, he became angry. He tried to video chat with her multiple times. When she still did not reply, he began to send her messages.  Lots of messages. He took back his initial compliments of her beauty. He called her fat, ugly, and boring. He questioned her credibility as a dancer since she allegedly had a “bulging belly.” This was a one-sided conversation; the woman was not on her phone or her computer when this transpired. When the dancer finally saw the exchange, she posted it to social media. The man was horrified. He told her he was humiliated because he was being questioned by family and friends.  He claimed strangers were harassing him. He told her he feared the story going viral. As one of the thousands who shared this post, we ensured it did. Like they sang in Chicago, he had it coming. Don’t start none, won’t be none.eb8306a4be1a7c593bb5696676c1a9b4112e85c7.gif

I haven’t forgotten this story because the familiar narrative struck a nerve. I could relate to the dancer’s sense of bewilderment when she discovered this garbage on her social media page. This is the sort of nonsense we can be subjected to when we reject unwanted advances. God forbid we’re not compliant in the harassment. Harassment is not romance. There is nothing romantic about being commanded to tell someone how good-looking he is. If a woman is not meek, then she is a b****. I’ve known many women who have been physically threatened or even physically attacked because they said no.  Women have the human right to safety, to our own space, and to enjoy ourselves without anyone imposing on us. Let us be! Yet the reaction is often anger. I don’t want my daughter subjected to this rage. I’m going to continue to teach her to be a strong woman who can confront these situations and people. Parents of sons, raise them to honor women.

Mujer Hollering is still here. I’m going to continue to raise my voice for my sisters and for our daughters. So speak out however you can, in intimate social circles, on social media, or at the polls.  Women will not be silenced.

 

Advertisements

Mental makeover

I’m talking to the priest
The high priest
And everybody out there in the universe
If what I’m saying is wrong
Then tell me the right way to say it
Cause I wanna be made over  from “Tina’s Wish,” as performed by Tina Turner

Physical transformations don’t always lead to mental makeovers.  I recently discussed this fact with a friend. Both of us have taken part in fitness challenges. Both of us have experienced weight loss and made great gains in muscle tone. Both of us have lost some of those gains in recent months. Both of us have a different perception of our fitness level than others. For many of us who struggle to be fit and healthy, our mind continues to tell us that we are not.

 

20180227_213350

Samba queen selfie, late February 

The most difficult part of being fit is consistency. I am constantly struggling to strike a balance between family, work, chores, church, dance, and sleep. Fitness can get lost in the shuffle. How I eat is especially prone to changes. Sometimes, I skip meals or grab something unhealthy to go when I do not carve out time to cook or meal prep. I can be inconsistent about my choices. I know many fellow principals who don’t eat until 4 p.m.; often times they stop at a drive-thru and eat during afterschool meetings.  I know what I need to do to eat healthy. The challenge is having the discipline to make it happen.

 

When I was at my most fit last year before Carnaval,  I was happy with how strong I felt. I liked how clothes fit me. But my Carnaval experience ended on such a negative note that I lost sight of why I had worked so hard. I worked hard for myself and to be an example of health for my daughter, not for some costume. Fitness is a gift to myself, not as a challenge to accomplish. I can’t get back into shape for thirty days or six weeks or to look fabulous on Carnaval morning.

So how do I transform my mind? I used to do morning affirmations. Maybe it’s time to give the woman in the mirror more pep talks.  Today, I told myself, “I am strong and I will get stronger.”

Blue Monday

bluemondayThose who came before me lived through their vocations

From the past until completion, they’ll turn away no more

And still I find it so hard to say what I need to say

But I’m quite sure that you’ll tell me just how I should feel today, “Blue Monday,” New Order

I had a rough day at work earlier this week.  It was overwhelming. It wasn’t so much the written work that I was having to do because I finished a huge project on Friday. It wasn’t decision-making because yesterday’s events didn’t require anything too difficult. I was short-staffed, down three key employees. It was the  level of need that I sensed or that was needed by parents and students. Credential programs never teach you about self-care, how to strike a healthy work-life balance, and how to handle the emotions that arise when families are sharing their needs and problems with you. Those lessons you learn from experiences or if you’re lucky, good mentors.

I have made a career out of being patient and professional no matter what challenges I’m facing. This has been especially true as an administrator. As a teacher, I often wore my heart on my sleeve.I can’t justify everything I did because it was often dependent on my mood; there were times I was self-involved and less focused on best serving my students and their families. As an administrator I have learned to be more thoughtful about my decisions and actions. The criticisms I received as a teacher,  specifically about my inability to hide how I really feel, were helpful as I transitioned into greater leadership roles. However, it has been inwardly challenging to be calm in many of the situations that I face. Embodying grace under pressure often means internalized pressure. So I broke down once I got home. Rambo and M comforted me with reassurance of their support and love.

I did make it to the gym that night. I had been tearful. By the time I walked into the gym I had pulled myself together. My coach gave us quite the workout. It was physically grueling. It was exactly what I needed to remind myself what I am capable of doing. When things get rough, I can push through them.  What is important is to keep moving and to breathe. As I do with most of my workouts, I lift all those weights in my life and from work. I crunch, step, swing, and power through each set. Though I am nowhere near my previous levels of strength and fitness, I got through the evening and felt better for it.

I told Rambo I wanted to quit my job. I have to take it one day at a time. I will rely on what won’t fail me. I am blessed to have my health, my commitment to myself, and the love of my family. As my running coach once told me, tough times don’t last but tough people do.