An Open Letter to 20-Something’s Giving Relationship Advice

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Like many people these days, I am very active on social media. I browse Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram multiple times a day. I follow many new blog sites and alternative news outlets. But a new trend has caught my eye in recent months, and it not reserved to new blog sites. Mainstream online news publications are also carrying these “insightful” articles geared towards women about love and relationships. They give advice on healing a broken heart, love and relationships in the digital age, moving forward when that new or special guy “ghosts” you, and pledge to you that you will not be single forever. But the one glaring issue I have with these articles is that women averaging an age of 24 write them. Seriously?

When I was 24, not only was I inexperienced in the game of love, I had been in exactly one serious relationship. Actually, I had just ended and engagement, and looking back it was the smartest decision I ever made. Had I gone through with the marriage, there is no doubt in my mind that I would currently be divorced.

As I am slowly creeping my way to 40, and still single, I find it not only ridiculous, but insulting that these websites are publishing articles about life and love authored by someone who has barely experienced said life, let alone true love.

Most recently I came across an article entitled An Open Letter To The Girl Who Thinks She’ll Be Single Forever. The author devises that “your time will come…I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s true.” She says not to fret, and to keep putting yourself out there, saying “don’t you dare” stop trying to find love.

Most of my friends are married, and most of those friends have multiple children. I have taken part in more weddings than I care to count. And as of this moment most of my friends who were married by 24 are now divorced. So forgive me if I am not eager to take love and relationship advice from someone who has only stopped attending frat parties in the last 18-months.

Why can’t these sites procure these types of articles from real women who know what navigating the dating and relationship minefield is like for women in their 30’s and 40’s? More and more women are putting off marriage, if getting married at all, until later in life. It makes headlines every-so-often that researchers are concerned because fewer women are having children. So if these societal trends are on target, then logically speaking, how can a 24-year-old possible be qualified to dispense advice to the female masses about keeping their collective chins up, that your knight is out there just waiting for you to stumble across him.

So I am penning this open letter to those 20-somethings making a buck writing these bogus advice columns, trying to be the next Gloria Steinem or whomever they see as leading the charge for women. Your advice is not helpful; instead it’s discourteous and juvenile. And to the rest of those 20-somethings who are concerned about still being single at their age…take it from someone who has traveled that road and made it out the other side of the tunnel…enjoy being single and live your life. Don’t peg your worth or state in life on finding a mate. One thing I can say for certain is if you are not comfortable with who you are no one will make it better. Like RuPaul says: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Big Government vs. Big Brother: The debate over same-sex marriage

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Fabulous

Fabulous (Photo credit: Bsivad)

As the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearings on Proposition 8 and The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), we are once again faced with the political game of Big Government verses Big Brother.

 

In 2008, the state of California placed Prop 8 on the state ballot asking to eliminate rights of same-sex couples to legally marry. To the dismay, and even shock, of many the proposition was approved by a vote of 52% to 47%.

 

DOMA was enacted in 1996 by a bi-partisan bill that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. DOMA restricts federal marriage benefits and required inter-state marriage acknowledgment to only opposite-sex unions in the United States.

 

Now both laws are before the U.S. Supreme Court and are asking the same question; is it Constitutional to restrict the right of marriage to only heterosexual couples or does it violate the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment? The equal protections clause states:

 

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

 

It is always risky to try to predict how the Court will rule. Many in the media believe that DOMA will be struck down but that Prop 8 may be kicked down the road for several years before it is decided. I think that would be a horrendous outcome, and this is why.

 

Prop 8 and DOMA not only violate of the equal protections clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; they are violations of basic civil rights and rights of privacy that are protected under the penumbra of the First Amendment. Following the November 2012 General Election, the public was very clear on where the majority stands on the rights of same-sex couples.

 

The current voting populace is the most diverse it has ever been in the history of this nation. There are more people of color and of alternative lifestyles than any time in history, and they demonstrated in November that they would no longer be silent. A recent Brookings Institute poll showed that 52% of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage equality.

 

My speculation (however risky it may be) is that the Court will punt the ruling so not to overturn the apple cart. They will play it safe so not to overturn any state laws, but not go far enough to make a federal statement of equality.

 

I talk a lot about speaking out and making your voice heard. I truly believe that one voice can change the direction of a national or international conversation. But you have to speak to be heard. This is my purpose; this is why I do what I do with this blog and with my company. I know and love many people who are fighting for their right to be seen as equal. They are coworkers, friends, family, former classmates, and people I look up to and admire more than they will ever know. Some of them don’t want to get married themselves, but believe the right should be there for those that do, while others dream of getting married and having a family. So my question to those who believe in DOMA and Prop 8 is this: Why do you care? What does it do to you and your life for these other human beings to legally share their lives with someone they love whom just happens to be the same-sex as they are?

 

The funny thing is, every time I ask this question, I never really get a solid answer. It is either rooted in their religious beliefs or just out of plain fear and intolerance, but it always comes down to their dislike of “big government.” So here is my answer to them, and to all of you, who ask why am I so steadfast in my support of same-sex marriage. No one chooses who they love or why. It is a chemical response, an emotion, which the human brain has no control over. We love for many reasons, whether it is chemistry, friendship, companionship, or trust, but we all feel this emotion at some point in our lives. And to tell one person that because they love someone who is of the same gender that they are not permitted to celebrate that love isn’t Big Government, it’s Big Brother.

 

Yes, we live in a free country and you have the right to express your opinion, just as I have the right to express mine here on these pages. But that does not give you the right to dictate to others how they should live. You may not believe in same-sex marriage because of your religion, and that is fine. Some religions don’t believe in eating pork, but that doesn’t stop 3.5% of the population from eating bacon.

 

So what the argument boils down to is ultimately the struggle of Big Government vs. Big Brother. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have more laws for all citizens then a handful targeted at just the few.

 

Super PACs Spending Astonishing, Justifies Call to Annul Citizens United

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After the confetti was cleaned up and the concession and acceptance speeches were made, many in the media began talking about the number 631 million. More precisely, $631,375,766, the total of independent expenditures made by Super PACs in the 2012 election cycle, the largest amount of unrestricted money ever spent on any election in history.

A little background on how this astonishing amount of money was spent is in order. On January 21, 2010, The United States Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, conceding “personhood” to corporations, which in turn, allows them to create and directly fund campaign ads for political candidates. The Court has long-held the position that the protection of political speech and opinion are at the heart of the First Amendment, however by granting these same rights to corporations, unions, and other deep pocketed organizations without the requirement of transparency, the Supreme Court has opened the door to a corrosive environment of a “pay-to-play” form of government.

The most destructive offspring of the Court’s decision is the Super PAC. Officially known as independent expenditure-only committees, Super PACs can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations, and individuals, and spend unlimited sums to support or oppose a specific political candidate, or policy idea, where PACs (Political Action Committee) can only accept a maximum donation of $5,000 to a candidate per election or $15,000 annually to any national party committee. Super PACs must report the identities of their donors to the Federal Election Commission, but unlike PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to a candidate or coordinating with the candidate’s campaign.

In 2010, the first year Super PACs existed, and a mid-term election year, $62,258,813 was spent on independent expenditures. The top spending Super PAC was American Crossroads, founded by Karl Rove, with just over $51,000,000. Rove vowed to raise much more in 2012 to defeat President Obama and other democrats.

In 2012, Super PACs raised $661,460,193 and spent $631,375,766. The three top spending Super PACs in 2012 were Restore our Future, a pro-Romney group, with independent expenditures of $142,665,220, Rove’s American Crossroads with $104,744,444 in expenditures, and Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama group, with independent expenditures of $67,496, 007.

Broken down by party lines, Conservative Super PACs spent $417.8 million, while Liberal Super PACs spent $206.5 million, and according to the Center for Responsive Politics evaluation of these numbers, the amount of independent expenditures increased over five times from 2010 and over seven times of 2008. All of this spending has only been allowed because of the Court decision on Citizens United.

However, ballot initiatives in Montana and Colorado that called for a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to repeal the Citizens United ruling passed both states with over 70 percent of the vote. Eleven other states have passed similar decrees supporting the repeal of the Court’s decision. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, New Mexico, California and Hawaii have all passed motions through their state legislatures calling for a Constitutional Amendment, and legislative majorities in both Maryland and Connecticut have sent letters to Congress reiterating this mandate.

U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-MI), along with ten other members of Congress introduced a new campaign finance reform bill on August 2, 2012 in an effort to overturn Citizens United. According to the Congressman’s website, the “Restoring Confidence in Our Democracy Act” prohibits corporations and unions from making independent expenditures and electioneering communications, and subjects Super PACs to the same restrictions as regular PACs, such as a $5,000 contribution limit. There has been not action on this bill as of this posting.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United added yet another obstacle to the people’s efforts to make their voices heard. By connecting the status of personhood to the concept of corporations and allowing corporations the same protection under the First Amendment as individuals, Citizens United undermines the people’s, and the electorate’s, ability to be heard on issues relating to governance. Corporate and special interests have more money and therefore more power, which allows them to spend at will on advertisements that widely disseminate hyperbole and misrepresentations to the public

Although this obscene amount of money was spent, 66 percent of it by Super PACs supporting Governor Mitt Romney, the election result was not dictated by the power of the dollar. Karl Rove made good on his 2010 promise to raise far more money in 2012, however his promise to defeat the President and other democrats with that money fell far short, with a success rate of only one percent, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Every race American Crossroads spent money on creating attack ads failed to win the election with the exception of Deb Fischer in Nebraska and Dean Heller in Nevada.

The people voted their conscience and their voices were heard, this time. Democratic strategist and political commentator James Carville, playing off of Winston Churchill’s famous quote, said: “Never have so few spent so much and affect so little.” Nevertheless, if Citizens United continues to go unchallenged and isn’t overturned, our democracy may not be as lucky next time.

Religion in Politics: Legislating in the name of God?

Over the last two General Election cycles, we have heard a lot about religion and the religious beliefs held by our current President and his new running mate. Is the President a “secret Muslim?” Is Mitt Romney’s religion of Mormonism considered a cult or is it even really a Christian religious belief? We have also heard a lot about God, particularly in the past couple of weeks, specifically in reference to political party platforms. So why does this matter? Why are people in politics pushing the God issue so hard these days? And correct me if I am wrong, but I believe there is a fundamental separation between Church and State stated in the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

This means the government of the United States can make no law based upon religious beliefs, or prohibit anyone from practicing their religion. So it begs the question, why does religion become such a hot-button issue every four years?

I am a spiritual person. I believe in a higher power and try to practice a life built upon the Golden Rule. I do not pretend to know that what I believe is right and what others believe is wrong. I do not question the validity of other people’s belief system nor judge because of them. Part of what makes our country so unique is its mosaic of people, the ever-changing collage of our nations fabric.

However, one issue that really gets under my skin is when people bring God into politics.

A perfect example occurred in the first Presidential debate. Candidate Romney brought God into his discussion of what he sees as the role of the Federal Government:

“We’re all children of the same God…”

Does the Declaration of Independence use the word God? No, it does not. The opening sentence of the Declaration of Independence mentions a Creator, but in no way specifies that Creator to be the Christian God.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

According to the founding document of our country, religion has no role in the Federal Government. Mr. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, has also enmeshed legislative issues with religion on multiple occasions. One example is this quote from Congressman Ryan:

“…our rights come from nature and God, not from government…”

If this were true the Constitution would not have had to be amended to allow people of color and/or women to vote.

During the two party’s conventions this summer, God was a plank in the Republican Party platform while the Democratic Party was ridiculed for leaving God out of theirs. But again, is there not a Constitutional separation of Church and State?

The omission of religion in the drafting of the Constitution was not an oversight or accident issue. On the contrary, while debating the drafting of the Constitution, James Madison clearly explained why he believed religion should be left out of the governing document, especially in the process of elections. Madison stated, “Religion itself may become a motive to persecution and oppression,” drawing on the occurrence of religious persecution in England. So with the creation of the Bill of Rights, and the First Amendment, the Framers were stating their collective objective that the First Amendment not only prevents the formation of a national religion, but prohibits government aid to any religion, even on an non-preferential basis, as well as protecting the right of the individual to choose to worship, or not, as he or she sees fit.

So to bring religion into political debate, or legislative working is both improper and un-American. The purpose of legislative and political debate is to exercise views and produce answers and solutions that serve the greater good, meaning the public as a whole, not just a select few that may share your views. Religion tends to serve as a prop when discussing issues that surround moral concerns, such as gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights. But when bringing this discussion to the public, and inserting religious bones in the debate, it forces an aspect of the debate upon people who may not share the same views, therefore alienating a portion of the voting population.

In recent years, more and more members of the conservative movement have outspokenly enveloped God into their political language. Discussions of “family values” and Christian beliefs have bled into political rhetoric and become commonplace in debate and discussion. There is no mention of politics in the Bible, nor is their discussion of the role of government, the right to free speech, the right to marry or to not carry a pregnancy to term, and driving these discussions on points of religious belief actually mars the progression of meaningful debate and stunts progress.

If we are going to move forward as a nation and achieve progress we need to embrace the long-standing wall between Church and State and keep religion and politics separate. Religious concerns are a private matter and should be shared with members of each person’s voluntary community of like-minded people. Politics and government are a public matter, effecting people across communities and touching people of numerous faiths and beliefs. If those who make the laws continue to alienate members of the communities they legislate, the democratic process fails and we open the door to oppression and disenfranchisement.

We are a nation of mixed views and belief systems. Our government is supposed to represent the people and work to legislate in our best interest. This cannot happen when issues are debated on points of a religious belief that many members of the populous may not ascribe to. What is moral may not always be legal. One may believe gay marriage is immoral, but that does not mean it should be illegal. For one person to be allowed to marry and not another simply based upon the sex of the person they love is discriminatory and goes against the nation’s founding principles of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Morality and legality are not one in the same; therefore when it comes to legislating and governing, morality doesn’t always fit for one simple reason, morality is subjective.

The Truth From an Independent: Why the Republican Party of today scares me, and it’s not why you think!

 

Let me begin this blog by stating emphatically that, contrary to popular belief, I consider myself an Independent when it comes to political affiliation. However, I am asking all my conservative friends out there to read this post through and give what I say some serious thought before you cast your ballot in November. This isn’t about red v. blue, right v. left, or Republican v. Democrat; this is about continuing to evolve as a people or being doomed to repeat a history that is less than stellar.

Many believe I am a liberal, however, I have proudly voted for Republican candidates in the past, and would happily vote for a Republican today, if I could find one I agreed with. I am in favor of fiscal conservatism, but I differ from most Republicans on where the spending cuts should come from. I think the defense budget should not be as bloated as it is, but public education and social programs for the elderly and those of lower socioeconomic standing should be left alone. I am a firm believer on gun rights, however I do not believe everyday people should have access to automatic weapons. The only thing you hunt with an AK-47 is another person or a dinosaur; a deer would become instant jerky from the shot. I also believe in capital punishment. If one commits a heinous crime, such as the Oklahoma City Bombing, yes, I think you should pay for that with your life. So now that I have laid out the reasons I consider myself an Independent, let me now explain why the present-day Republican Party scares me, and I am saying this because of what I believe will happen to this nation if the current path of the party continues to go unchecked.

First, and most importantly for me, is the issue of women’s rights. I know I have written before about the “war on women” but recent events have heightened my concerns. Whether you agree or believe in abortion rights for women is your own personal right and I respect your right to have your opinion. That is one of the many great things about this country, we have the constitutional right to think and say what we believe without censor. But what is not great is the idea of a select group being allowed to potentially legislate what a woman can or cannot do with her own body. I have said this before, but this issue is so incredibly important to me that I believe it bears repeating. A woman’s body is the only thing in this life that she owns holistically. Her body can never be repossessed; it can’t be leased, rented, or mortgaged out, and to touch it without her consent results in legal repercussions. The right of a woman to consider what she does with her body as private is a constitutional right, and this was reinforced by the United State Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

According to Justice Harry Blackmun, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon, for the federal government to legislate a personal decision over ones own body if a violation of both the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment:

“This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment‘s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent…”

This right to privacy has been standing for almost 50 years, yet in the last two-years more and more state legislatures have been quietly and slowly whittling away at this right with very little push-back. This is a constitutional right, not just a legal issue. As Americans our constitutional rights are the most precious, they are what made the United States the model for other democracies around the world. So for citizens to simply overlook this issue as a gross violation of rights, not only to women, to all Americans is simply obscene.

Along these same lines, the recent voter I.D. laws passed in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, is also a violation of our constitutional rights, specifically the 15th and 19th Amendments. The 15th Amendment prohibits the denial of rights based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude (it was enacted in 1870, hence the wording of servitude.) The 19th Amendment establishes women’s suffrage.

The rallying cry behind these laws is they are being put in place to fight voter fraud in the upcoming election. According to a policy brief released by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University of Law (a non-partisan public policy and law institute named in honor of Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan) not only is fraud by individual voters both irrational and extremely rare, but: voter fraud is often conflated with other forms of election misconduct, raising the unsubstantiated specter of mass voter fraud suits a particular policy agenda, and claims of voter fraud should be carefully tested before they become the basis for action.

The blatant disregard for the preservation of our constitutional rights by a loud minority of one of the two U.S. political parties scares me to my core, as does the fact that very few of us are raising our voices in protest.

We have the right to question our government, both state and federal governments; it is one of the provisions of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is our duty as citizens to question rules and regulations that restrict our abilities to exercise our rights, yet today the majority of us remain silent. I am sure we are all familiar with the saying “you give an inch and they take a mile?” That is what has happened here, except in this case politicians have gone unchecked for so long and have been eroding our rights little by little, that until now no one has really stood up and cried foul. Well, consider this me taking to my feet…and I am yelling at the top of my lungs…FOUL!

Again, to my more conservative friends, I am asking you to look at the facts in this post. Not to weight your personal beliefs on abortion rights or how you feel about voter I.D. laws, but to legitimately look at the proof I have provided about how these policies violate our constitutional rights as Americans. If we continue to allow politicians to dismantle our rights, our ability to have any say in our government will disappear, and at this rate it won’t take very long (think 2016.) What makes this country great is our ability to debate issues through the process of a democratic system, so help me sound the alarm that our system is under attack.

So what I am asking through this post is this; when you go to the polls in November, clear your mind of liberal v. conservative or right v. left, think of right v. wrong and freedom v. oppression. This is supposed to be a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” according to Abraham Lincoln (also a Republican.) We need to come together and speak with a loud and collective voice to keep his courageous vision a reality.

 

I am Women, Hear me Roar: The major point the media is missing

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For the last few weeks, the media has focused on the debate over contraception, healthcare, women’s rights and Rush Limbaugh. All these issues, with the exception of Rush Limbaugh, are very important and deserve to be front and center in the political debates leading up to the general election in November. Yet, not surprisingly, the media have missed the MAJOR points in all these stories.

Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke were repugnant, plain and simple, there is no other description for what he said. But what blows my mind is the fact that he broke the law by saying those awful things, and no one has found it necessary to point this out. Yes, I am aware of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech; but I am also aware that liable is the one exception to that right, and Rush committed this crime. Ms. Fluke is a private citizen. She is not a public figure; she is not running for office, she was not known to the public sphere before this whole controversy began. Rush has a large number of mindless followers; sheep that believe every ignorant and uneducated word he spews, allowing these mindless drones to honestly believe that Ms. Fluke is a “slut” or “prostitute.” So by uttering these tarnishing words about Ms. Fluke, Rush caused damage to her personal reputation, thus, he committed liable. All of this is historical fact as a result of the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court Case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.

This groundbreaking case set the rules for what can and cannot be said, in a public forum, about public and private figures. The main difference is a public figure has to prove the intent of malice, while a private citizen does not.

Why is this distinction important in this debate? Many correspondents and pundits have used the examples of David Letterman and Bill Maher using offensive language towards Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin, as an example of “the other side” doing the same thing as Rush. The big difference is both Sarah and Bristol have made themselves public figures by running for elected office and becoming a teen pregnancy advocate respectively. So to compare the two is comparing apples and oranges. Ms. Fluke testified before a Congressional committee, which many private citizens do each year, and the public is none-the-wiser to their identity or their private lives. By thrusting themselves into the public sphere, the Palin’s made themselves public figures.

So for the many advertisers who have pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s program is a smart decision. By distancing themselves from the illegal actions of Rush, they are protecting their brand and effectively saying they will not tolerate the degradation of a private citizen.

Another part of this debate issue that isn’t getting enough attention is the medicinal properties of contraception for women. Birth control pills are not simply used for preventing pregnancy. They are also used to control many conditions women suffer from that are debilitating and prevent them from living a normal life.

Ovarian cysts are extremely painful and can cause incapacitating pain when they rupture. Birth control pills are prescribed to prevent ovulation, which helps to prevent the development of ovarian cysts. It is a lot less expensive that surgery for insurance companies and better for productivity than missing work days due to the inability to stand-up straight and suffering excruciating pain.

Another medical condition that birth control pills help alleviate is PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Approximately 3% to 5% of women suffer from PMDD, the most severe form of premenstrual syndrome, which is similar to major depression. By controlling the hormonal fluctuations, these pills help reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Another issue that isn’t getting a lot of questions thrown at it is the increase of state legislatures passing bills making it harder for women to obtain abortions. Again, I don’t want to start a debate of pro-life v. pro-choice, I respect both rational sides of the argument. However, to force a woman to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound before an abortion is just a violation of her rights to her own body. This is ever more true in the cases of rape victims seeking to terminate a pregnancy resulting from this violent crime.

I have said it before; a woman’s body is the only thing she has 100% ownership of in her life. No one can touch a woman without her permission, or it is assault. No one can profit off a woman’s body without her knowledge or consent, or it is a violation of her right to privacy. So how does legislation allowing someone else to make decisions about what happens with a woman’s uterus not a violation? What a woman does with her body is her personal business. You don’t have to like it, but you have to respect her decisions. If a woman wants to tattoo her body, that is her right. She can pierce, cut, mark her body, she can deprive her body of food, she can clothe herself with as much or as little clothing as she wants; it is her decision. You have no right to legislate my body.

If we continue to allow misogynist governments to legislate our reproductive rights, we start down a slippery slope of losing our identity as individuals. Funny how these uber-conservative members of government are the ones who hate Muslims and their oppressive society, yet they want to mandate how women use their “lady parts.”

For years, women have been asleep behind the wheel of political involvement and activism for women’s rights. As a result these misogynistic, right wing, neo-conservative white men have hijacked our government and are using it to force women into submission. We have to fight back. We have to reclaim our voice as members of our own society. Women make up over 51% of the voting public. We need to come together and use our collective voices to let our government know we will not go backwards.

Nerdy Women are the New Cool Kids!

Many of us remember the 1986 Pantene Shampoo commercial with Kelly LaBrock and her famous line, “Don’t hate me because I am beautiful.” I was nine-years-old at the time and I remember being offended and put-off by the ad. I guess I should have known then that I would grow-up as an opinionated, loud-mouthed, want-to-be activist, but I digress. For the majority of my 36 years, I’ve seen the pressure of being “beautiful,” as defined by social morays and fashion magazines, everywhere as unrelenting, and destructive to the psyche of many young women. But a recent news story in The Washington Post and my personal news gathering habits led me to a revelation. What was this epiphany? Some areas of pop culture are gravitating towards celebrating the cerebral, rewarding the well-read, and revering the nerd!

Proof-positive of this revelation is Melissa Harris-Perry, an African-American woman whose prior occupation was that of a political science professor at Tulane University, anchoring the latest weekend news-program and is creating industry buzz. Ms. Harris-Perry covers the week’s news with the same intense introspection as those veterans of weekend programs such as David Gregory on Meet the Press and Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation; however she brings a certain celebration to discussing issues of importance that are none-the-less dull and boring. For example, while discussing the Republican Primary race and the ever confusing yet necessary electoral votes needed to secure the party nomination, the magic number of 1,144, Harris-Perry broke it all down with four red plastic cups and a big glass jar of brightly colored jelly beans. In her opening comments to this segment, she referred to her staff members, and their assistance in creating this show-and-tell explanation, as an adventure in “Nerdland.”

This was not the first time Harris-Perry had used that term. Since her début on MSNBC, she has referred to her staff members as residents of Nerdland. She promotes the fact that she surrounds herself with intelligent and strong thinking individuals, celebrating the scholarly abilities of those who help to bring the news to the public-sphere.

Another news personality who is not only celebrating intelligence, but focuses that fête on the female population is Rachel Maddow. Ms. Maddow has long expressed the awesome force of the intelligence of women and how much power the group can have when they unify and work together.

Another ingredient to this cognitive realization is the pop-culture phrase of “Talk Nerdy To Me.”  I have seen this declaration pop-up all over the web from Facebook to Twitter and goofy posts and photos. Online consumer outlets like Café Press, a hub of slogan slinging paraphernalia, is selling t-shirts and underwear with the slogan printed on it. Even the Huffington Post has a blog called Talk Nerdy To Me written by Cara Santa Maria, an attractive woman who is also a science writer. According to Ms. Santa Maria blog bio:  “science is humanity’s most important tool for describing, interacting with, and understanding the nature of our reality. The world around us is rife with inspiration. Inside each of us there are tiny molecular machines that allow our hearts to beat, our bodies to stay warm, and our minds to wander.” Nicely stated Ms. Santa Maria…very nice indeed!

“Talk Nerdy to Me” originated in the hacker culture as a portion of a private lexicon but has since permeated the mainstream and even appears on the pop-culture website Urban Dictionary, servicing the trend toward lexical creativity, or language creation.

If you Google the phrase “Talk Nerdy To Me” you get a large number of photos of young, sexy women with large chests wearing t-shirts with the slogan, an image of black thick-rimmed glasses with the slogan, photos of women who write blogs using the phrase, and generic images associated with intelligence or academia. Granted, the photos of the large-chested women is more on the exploitive side, however it is a fact of our society that sex sells. So from a marketing standpoint, and as a media and PR professional, I see this approach as genius. Now before you skewer me for exploiting women, hear me out. None of these women are Pamela Anderson look-a-likes, they are not nude or in suggestive positions, and few of the photos include a man within its context. The reason I see this as a genius marketing plan is because it conveys the message that nerdy is cool and sexy too.

This is the most important message that comes from all of these parts I have discussed here. News anchors, t-shirts, pop-culture websites and blogs and photos are all major influences on everyday life in our current society. By infusing the idea that nerdy is cool into these social cues, we are building a stage for young girls and women to view intelligence and education as a positive life choice, instead of constant pressure from the public sphere to be skinny, beautiful or a piece of arm-candy for some wealthy or powerful man.

Young women are facing a pivotal time in our history. Over the last few years women’s rights have come under fire from the ultra-conservative Right wing of our government. In recent weeks several states have passed legislation infringing on a woman’s right to make medical decisions over he own body and prescription drugs. We are on the precipice of turning the clocks back half-a-century and allowing women to be treated as second-class citizens. However, by emphasizing education and intellectual advancement of women, we can propel these young girls to even higher standards of being, never allowing anyone to threaten their status in society.

For this reason, if big-busted women in tight t-shirts helps to spread the message that being smart is cool to the young people of our culture, then hand me those Buddy Holly glasses, let me grab my laptop, and Talk Nerdy To Me!

The New War: The War on Women

It appears a new war movement is afoot in our country. No, I am not talking about Iran. I am talking about the conservative movement against women’s rights. We are over a decade into the new millennium, yet all of a sudden there is a massive tidal wave of issues and regulations limiting women’s rights and suppressing us back to the days of Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed.

Just today, I watched three different news stories that made me want to burn my bra and march on Washington.

First, Representative Darrell Issa of California held a hearing on contraceptive use and religion. Not one woman sat on the panel of witnesses. They were all men, and with the exception of one, all white. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton was so appalled by this she walked out of the hearing. I don’t blame her. How on earth can a legitimate hearing be held about birth control without anyone who has, may or can GIVE birth? Rep. Issa defended the hearing by saying that it was about religious liberty and the Affordable Healthcare Act’s requirement for free contraception for those women who work for religious institutions.  Did I miss the section in the Bible that talks about birth control? Did Adam and Eve have this argument? I don’t think so, and the last time I checked the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly lays out a separation of church and state. So to discuss religious anything in Congress is ridiculous.

Another story that caught my attention today was the passage of the “personhood” bill in the Oklahoma State Senate. This bill, which passed the Republican controlled Senate 34-8, gives individual rights to embryos at conception. This law, if it would pass the State House and be signed by Governor Mary Fallin, would seriously restrict a woman’s right to choose in the state, basically equating abortion to murder.

Now I am not trying to get into a Pro-Life v Pro-Choice argument here. If you are Pro-Life, I respect your belief and if you are Pro-Choice I respect your belief. What I don’t respect is a state governmental body trying to overturn a U.S Supreme Court decision from over 40-years-ago that gives a woman the right to choose what she wants to do with her body.

Here is my belief. A woman’s body is the only thing in the world that is 100 percent truly hers and only hers. No one has the right to touch it without her consent, harm it in any way, or profit from it without her approval. It is hers and hers alone to do with it as she pleases. She can tattoo it, pierce it, cut it, display it or exploit it for profit, and cover it, or not for that matter, as she chooses. I believe by allowing any governing body to “outlaw” a woman’s right to choose, you start down a slipper slope of total oppression. Isn’t it the conservative right that has made such a fuss about Muslim law in this country? Yet they are trying to deem a woman’s body as a piece of property.

Great women have fought this fight for almost a century. In 1917, women who were part of the National Women’s Party and fought for the right of women to vote were jailed in an abandoned workhouse in Virginia. On the night of November 15, 1917, thirty-three of those women were beaten, choked, chained to their cell bars, and knocked unconscious by club-welding guards. It would be another three years before women were granted the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In the 1960s and 70s, Gloria Steinem became the face of the feminist movement, fighting for equal rights for women across the board, and started Ms. Magazine for the purpose to unify women to stand-up for themselves.

Yet here we are, over forty-years later, and some of those in Congress, and even some running for President, would like to see women’s right turned back half-a-century. Foster Friess, the billionaire who is leading the funding of the Pro-Santorum Super Pac, the Red, White and Blue Fund, said today in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, “…back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Are we so uninvolved that a comment like that goes without a backlash? I wrote earlier about how our President is openly disrespected, unlike any other president in history, simply because he is black. Not only is racism resurging in our country to a frightening level, now it seems sexism is hot on its heels.

So I am asking you, in fact I am imploring you, please take a minute to reflect on what is happening right in front of your eyes. If ever there was a time to stand-up for our rights as women, it is now. If you have any doubts about this, do as Gretchen Carlson would and “Google it.” Over the last two-years more state laws have passed restricting women’s rights than before the Civil Rights Act was passed. We are not “second class citizens” and we have a voice. The time to use it is now.

Shopping My Last Nerve: Tales from Retail Hell Part II

Well, it seems that I did not cover everything in our last meeting on grown women and their abhorrent behavior while shopping. So, I have reconvened a Come to Meg meeting to further inform you ladies as to how dismissive and rude you truly can be while shopping in a women’s apparel establishment.

Let’s review the minutes from our last meeting: we covered obeying store hours, turning the dressing rooms into natural disaster areas, return policies and how they are not an evil plot to destroy your day, and finally assuming all sales people are sub-intellects. Does that cover it? Yep; so moving on.

Ladies, and gentlemen for that matter, when you walk into a store and you see all the pretty clothes displayed nicely in bays and on tables, how do you suppose it got there? No, it was not the clothing fairy and her merry band of folding elves, it was the store employees who spend countless hours trying to make the store look as beautiful and welcoming as possible for your shopping pleasure. 

So why is it that you find it acceptable to rifle through stacks that are neatly folded looking for a size, while literally throwing the other garments to the side in a heap of rumpled cloth? Really? Is that how you look for your favorite t-shirt at home? Shopping 101 gals, sizes run smallest to largest in their sets. If the article is folded on a table, the extra small is on the top and the extra-large is on the bottom. Same with pants, small sizes on top…larger sizes on the bottom. Also, clothing is equipped with these amazing little things call “tags” that not only shows the price of the garment, but also the size. So instead of throwing articles of clothing hither and yon, try looking at the tags for your size. Or better yet, if you are unsure and can’t seem to find it, ask the sales person.

Oh I know, it is such a scary thing to do…asking the fire-breathing, fang-baring sales associate for a size. It is part of our job to assist you in finding what you are looking for. If it is not out in the store, it may be in the back. And if it isn’t there either, we will look for it in other stores to make sure you walk away satisfied that you get exactly what you are looking for. We are more than happy to do it, believe it or not. What we are not happy with is re-folding the entire stack of sweaters that you just carelessly whipped all over hells half-acre because you couldn’t find your size. ASK ME…IT’S MY JOB.

Next, and this is very important so pay attention. In this day and age everyone has some sort of cell phone. Whether it is a smart phone or not most people have one, and everyone one of them has a calculator device on it.

When a store is running a promotion on sale items, and the signs say ‘Extra 50% off Already Reduced Items’, whip that bad boy out and figure it out. Please do not come up to the register, where we are trying to ring-up other customers, and ask us how much each of your 10 items is. This is especially true when the promotion is for 50% off. If the price is $35.99 and it is half off, divide it by two, and you get roughly $18 with tax. It is rude to make other customers wait in line while we go through a stack of clothing and tell you how much each and every item will cost, only to have you say you don’t want it.

Any woman who really knows how to shop knows the rule; if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it. Just because it is on sale doesn’t mean you must have it.

Now, while we are on the topic of sales, I want to know why is it that the sale section is like the redheaded stepchild of the store? Why do you women tear clothing off its hangers and through it about in the sale section more than any other area of the store? Just because an item is on sale doesn’t make it an inferior product. Maybe the item didn’t sell as well and the company had hoped, or maybe the seasons dictated it to be on sale, or maybe someone followed the return policy and returned it in time for a full refund. Whatever the reason for the price reduction, it is still an article of clothing that if you don’t want it, someone else might, and to discard it on the floor like a used tissue is just plain rude and inane.

Finally…and I think I have covered it all with this last one…when you come up to the register and we pitch you a sweepstakes, store card, charity donation, what-have-you, we are not trying to annoy you or sabotage your credit. We have a job to do and a company to make money for, just like you do. If you are not interested in donating to charity or applying for a store card, that is fine and we do understand. What is not necessary is being rude in your refusal, snapping at the sales associate, making a snide remark about the amount of spam email you receive or blaming us for your bad credit. If your credit is bad it isn’t because the store card made it that way, that was all you and your inability to pay your bills on time. A store cannot ruin your credit if you are a responsible adult and pay attention to your spending habits; we are not that powerful.

So, in conclusion, remember; we in retail are there to help you, not serve you, we have feelings too, we are only doing our job to the very best of our ability, and a store is not some hot tub time machine where you get to reenact your tantrums and childish behavior of yester-year. Oh, and one last thing…when you do act like a jerk, we do remember you when you come back, and not in a good way.

So before you throw that shirt on the floor, totally annihilate that stack of jeans you just watched me refold, or throw that cardigan sweater over a rack of skirts in a completely different area of the store ask yourself one simple question: how would I feel if someone came into my place of business and threw my files and papers around or came into my home and tossed my neatly folded clothing all over the house and crumpled up my underwear and lobbed it into the dog’s bed?

I don’t think you would like it very much and you definitely would not want that person to come to your place again. Welcome to my home; please respect the fashion.

Shopping My Last Nerve: Tales from Retail Hell

Come with me ladies, it is time for a little Come to Meg meeting. We need to address a few things I have realized trying to earn a living, while looking for a full-time job, in the retail world of woman’s apparel.

I have never been more appalled in the manner in which grow women behave as I have in the last five months. It is truly amazing what you can learn about human nature simply by working in retail. So allow me to share with you some insight and maybe, just maybe, you may realize that you yourself have been guilty of such antics.

Let’s start with a seemingly easy one to understand, closing time. Stores have set hours, and they need to close in enough time for the staff to clean, close the registers, send company information in emails, and restock for the next morning. In addition there is the issue of payroll hours. Retail stores allow only so many hours per week for payroll. Employees do not make overtime if they work late. In actuality, stores are penalized when they go over their allotted hours. So when a store closes at, for example, 9:00pm, they need to close at 9:00pm. This means the doors are locked, gate is pulled, dressing rooms are empty and no more customers. So then why do some women find it completely acceptable to walk into a store six minutes before it closes and intensely inspect the sale pants rack, leisurely pick five pairs of pants and nonchalantly walk back into the dressing room?

Let me put it to you this way. Say you are at your desk on a Friday before a three-day weekend and it is 4:55pm. I walk-in, take a seat next to your desk, ask you for a million things, rifle through the papers and folders on your desk, leaving it a complete mess, then leave at 5:30. Would you find that irritating?

As for leaving your desk a complete mess, let us now address issue number two; proper dressing room etiquette. The person who is working in the dressing area is there for you to ask questions about how the clothing looks, fits, to get you another size or color of a particular item. She is not your mother, maid, janitor, or any other professional whose job it is to clean. If you take the time to notice, there is usually a garment bar near the entrance to the dressing area. This is there for you to place your garments on when you finish in the dressing room so they can be put back for other customers if you are not interested in purchasing them. If you happen to pick-up an item that is not on a hanger, such as a sweater or shirt, shorts, jeans, etc…you can usually find a folding table also in the entrance, or the lovely lady in the ward robbing area who can take these items from you.

It is not okay to leave your clothing all over the floor or benches in the room or to carelessly ball the items up and throw them over the bar or folding table. Why you ask? Again, look at it from someone else’s perspective. How would you feel if there was one item you specifically came into the store to purchase and when you locate it, the only one in your size is all crumpled and covered in lint from being balled up and thrown on the floor?

Now you ask, “but what if I just hang the items in the dressing room and leave them in there?” Again, a sales associate is not your mother; she is not there to clean up after you. As you exit the dressing area, you are passing the garment bar. If you have no trouble taking 60 pounds of clothing into the dressing room, you should have no trouble carrying it a few more steps and hanging it on the bar.

As a shopper you may not notice that at any given time there are two to three people working in a particular department or store at one time. There are multiple tasks being done at one time by each of those employees, meaning they cannot be checking rooms every time someone leaves a stall. Also as a shopper, you would not want to walk into a dirty, cluttered dressing room, would you? And as a side note to this, do not rip items off hangers and throw them somewhere else, you would not like it if someone came to your house, went through your closet and threw your clothes all over the place and then just walked out. And if you break a hanger, just tell an employee…they will not hurt you…I PROMISE!!!

Issue number three…each retail company has a return policy. Some allow for returns for two weeks, some two months, but rules are rules. If you buy an item without trying it on first and it doesn’t fit, don’t wait forever to return it. If you are over by one day, the rule still applies. As an employee, associates and managers must follow their company rules; it is not some grand scheme to ruin your day. Try items on before you leave the store. If you don’t have time, most places have hold policies and will hold your item for 24 hours, allowing you to come back and try it on. And I am aware that there are those times when it looks great in the store, but then you get it home and you are less than thrilled. Everyone who works retail has returned items. When these issues occur, just be aware of the stores return policy. And if you are not aware of the policy, just ask.

And ladies, I have saved the very best for last. Please do me a favor, do not assume that just because the lovely lady asking if she can start you a fitting room is uneducated. I myself have a Master’s Degree as well as other educational accolades. Many of the women I know who work in retail hold college degrees and are smart women. We are there to help you find a great piece of clothing, a knock-out outfit for a date, or to help you revamp your wardrobe after a hard-earned weight loss.

We are not there for you to treat us as a “less-than” or your private servant. When you act like a diva, we are less enthusiastic about helping you. And name-calling is never necessary (yes, I have been called some terrible names for following company policy).

So ladies, what auntie Meg is trying to say is, be aware that those who are working in your favorite store are there to help you and provide a service for you. We are not nannies, babysitters, maids, and more often that not, are fairly intelligent people. My mother has always said you catch more flies with honey that with vinegar. So next time you go shopping, ask yourself how you would react if the roles were reversed or if you would appreciate your behavior in your place of business.

Whether you work in an office, a store, a restaurant, a multi-national corporation or out of your own home, your workspace is your space and no one likes having their space disrespected. Those of us who are working in retail have a job description as well, and we try very hard to go above and beyond that description to make your shopping experience a positive and rewarding one. Not a lecture, just a though.