Last week I spoke at an event for Youth Action Northern Ireland, an organization that strives to make a significant difference in the lives of young people in Northern Ireland. One of the ways they carry out this mission is through their Gender Equality Unit, working “with those young women who are most excluded from resources and society to try to improve their access.” Part of this work is informed by the desire to challenge “traditional expectations of young women,” particularly those which deny their potential and their opportunities.
I had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles over the weekend and facilitate a panel discussion about breastfeeding. The audience consisted of mothers of infants and toddlers as well as expectant mothers, who came for a “Mom’s Night Out” to hear from a panel of “experts” that included Elaine Stuart (childbirth educator and doula), Dr. Tanya Altmann (LA pediatrician), Corky Harvey (long-time lactation consultant and co-founder of The Pump Station & Nurtury), and Jamie Lynne Grumet (the mom at the center of last year’s controversial TIME magazine story about extended breastfeeding). After hearing some of the audience questions I was reminded once again why these discussions are so important, why lactation consultation is on the rise, and why there is a constant demand for breastfeeding classes and breastfeeding support groups: because breastfeeding is not always the easy relationship that most of us expect it to be, and mothers need this information.
Rap superstar Jay Z and CNN news anchor Don Lemon added some extra hot sauce to the “conversation about race” in the wake of one of the “hottest” and racially-charged summers in recent memory. In a July 24 interview with journalist Elliot Wilson, Jay Z responded to a series of comments that Harry Belafonte made about Jay Z, Beyoncé, and other black celebrities in an interview last year. When asked to respond to Belafonte’s lamentation about current black celebrities’ inability or unwillingness to use their fame to advocate for social change, Jay Z shot back: “I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama’s is. Obama provides hope…”
The news media love to ask the question: is feminism dead? A quick google search finds literally millions of hits for the phrase. Yet despite the supposed death of feminism, gender equality has become strangely mainstream even while misogyny continues. Today’s sexism is sneaky AND overt; while violence against women continues and people ask female presidential candidates for cookie recipes, one is also hard-pressed to find someone respectable who will go on record arguing that women should not be given equal pay or have the right to run for office. Honestly, feminism has an image problem. Though many people agree with its tenets, relatively few embrace the label and the identity. The conservative Washington Times recently reported that “among women, 38 percent consider themselves feminists.”
Last week the British newspaper, The Guardian, reported on a young woman named Jinan Younis, who started a feminist society in her high school in response to a personal experience of street harassment. By rightfully acknowledging how this harassment was part of a wider culture of sexism, she was determined to do something about it: “After returning from this school trip I started to notice how much the girls at my school suffer because of the pressures associated with our gender. Many of the girls have eating disorders, some have had peers heavily pressure them into sexual acts, others suffer in emotionally abusive relationships where they are constantly told they are worthless.” This quote is horrifying.
I cannot bring myself to write Sunday Morning Medicine. Not today. Like many of you, I am heartbroken over the George Zimmerman verdict. My heart aches, not only for Trayvon’s family, but for every young black man in this country. I find myself feeling helpless, enraged, and at a complete loss for words.
In 2009, the historian Jill Lepore told an interviewer that “as an obsessive reader of newspapers and watcher of news,” she was struck by “how impoverished our historical perspective is on most contemporary problems.” She was absolutely right. In 2012, as we, the co-founders of Nursing Clio, began to conceptualize our project, the news was making me want to lose my mind. Every day, I watched as Republicans proposed – and sometimes passed – new bills that limited access to safe and affordable abortion. And, to my horror, they didn’t stop there but instead started attacking contraception as well. Lawmakers worked to eliminate insurance coverage for birth control; Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” because she opposed those measures; and the presidential candidate Rick Santorum went so far as to state that contraception itself was “not okay.” Watching these developments, I went from bemused to angry to downright scared. We were supposed to be living in the twenty-first century! What on earth was happening here?
I am not accustomed to writing autobiographically, but Jacqueline asked us to reflect on our experiences blogging for Nursing Clio. First, I want to express how much I have enjoyed contributing my voice to the outstanding chorus that Jacqueline and the rest of Nursing Clio’s editors orchestrate on a daily basis. I am grateful that Jacqueline asked me to write for the blog because I appreciate the value of producing what we in The Ohio State University’s African American and African Studies Department called “relevant scholarship”—intellectual content aiding people of color and progressives in their political struggles. I thought I would write of my writing experiences generally so I can illustrate how writing for Nursing Clio fulfills a responsibility to act as an activist-minded public scholar.
I can’t believe that one year ago this week, our little collaborative blog project went live. Has it really been that long? It seems like just yesterday Cheryl, Ashley, Carrie, Meggan, Adam, Carolyn and I were debating what to call this blog- Mons Pubis? Pubis Medicus? Nurse Clio? Thank God cooler heads prevailed and we went with Meggan’s suggestion of Nursing Clio (For an explanation of the name see here). As the creator, co-founder, and executive editor of this whole endeavor, I have to tell you, this has been an intensely fantastic, insane, scary, and rewarding first year. I have met some wonderful scholars, engaged in some lively debates, and formed what I hope will be life-long friendships. In every way, the blog has exceeded my expectations and I hope we continue to bring you important, relevant, and fun conversations throughout this next year.
Usually DIY anything means hours of pain and frustration: IKEA flatpacks, or a lost Sunday at the hardware store trying to work out how to correctly measure a straight line so you can progress further towards that table-making course which seemed so attainable months ago (clearly I’ve never experienced that…) The #DIYrainbow, however, is of a completely different ilk. I promise.