Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Promise (A Woman Keepin' It Real With A Man)

I promise
That if you give me a choice between a burger and a salad
I'll choose the burger

I promise
That I will react to you looking at another woman
With the stereotypical Latina fire

I promise
That I will complain about something at least once a day
Whether it's my weight, or the newest economic policy

I promise
That I will try not to interrupt you during the game
Unless "the game" turns into 4, or 5, or a whole weekend

I promise
That I will gain weight
But I'll try to keep it in all the right places

I promise
That once a month I will REALLY want to throw shoes at you for no reason
Give me chocolate, let it pass, and DON'T tell me it's "just hormones"

I promise
That when you take the garbage out
I'll say that was the best taking out of the garbage I've ever seen

I promise
That when you wear the same sweatpants so much they can stand on their own
I'll quietly put them in the washer for you, and put them right back where you left them (on the floor)

I promise
That, although leaving the toilet seat up is disgusting and selfish
I'll just put it down when I need to, and leave it down, just to make a point (quietly)

I promise
That I'll make your favorite dish
When you're mad at me (but not if I'm mad at you too; there's drive-thrus for that)

I promise
That when times are hard and I have to pay the bills for a few months
I'll still let you be "the man"

I promise
That when even your mother puts you down
I'll lift you up

I promise
That when even your homies doubt you
I'll have your back

I promise
That when you need to hear the truth
I'll say it

I promise
That, when all else fails
My love for you will never fail
My love for you will never die
My love for you will conquer all

I promise.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Your Mother (In Remembrance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month)

I walk down the street and you whistle.
I do not respond.
You call me a stuck-up bitch.

I walk by you in the club.
You want my attention,
So you grab my ass.

You call me, and I don't call you back.
You expect me to be interested,
Just because you are.
You lie about me to your friends,
And tell them you had sex with me.

We're at work, and you tell me
You like my butt in these jeans.
I call it sexual harassment.
You tell me I'll lose my job if I report you.

We're at home, and I tell you
I'm too tired to have sex
So you take it by force,
Because you think I owe it to you
For being the "man" of the house.

We disagree,
Because that's what humans do.
You tell me I'm disobeying you.
You push me into a wall.

You're angry,
Because I question your behavior with other women
When you're obviously cheating on me.
You punch me in the face.

You're furious,
Because I don't think how you want me to think,
Or do what you want me to do,
Or say what you want me to say,
Or wear what you want me to wear,
So you beat me until I lose consciousness.

Every time you think of a woman as an object,
You touch her without her consent,
You call her vulgar and inappropriate names,
You cost her her job if she doesn't give in to your advances,
You force her to have sex when she doesn't want to,
You lie to her,
You cheat on her,
You punch, kick or beat her,
Or you kill her.
Would you like for her to be treated that way?

The Movement

In May of 2007, I began my current job as a college counselor and academic advisor.  I was excited to work with college students after having spent the previous three years counseling in a high school setting (also known as "changing schedules" and "mounds of paperwork").  Learning a new job, however, is legitimate cause for anxiety.  Although I had previous experience with college students, I was eager to do a great job, as this particular job was exactly what I had been wanting to do for years. 

Very soon after I started, we hired an intern.  My boss gave her the responsibility to start a new program for women, one that would help them learn leadership skills for use in running student organizations or obtaining leadership positions on campus.  For some reason, he asked her to work with me.  Not only did I have no idea where to start, I did not believe I was qualified to help coordinate a women's leadership program.  I did not think of myself as a leader, and I never really liked being around groups of women.  Many women have been socialized to believe that we are catty, dramatic, hypersensitive, and competitive.  I felt the burden of having to change that belief while continually experiencing it firsthand.  I was also learning my way around the college and wanted to be firmly planted in my own job duties before starting a new program.  I was very skeptical about taking part in starting this new program, yet something about working with a women's leadership program intrigued me.  In the past, I'd had the opportunity to co-facilitate a young women's support circle, and spent time mentoring young women individually both at work and outside of work.  I wrote my Master's thesis about middle school girls' perceptions of body image and self-esteem.  I was even the advisor of the high school girls' step team where I'd been a counselor.  Somehow, I always seemed to find myself working with groups of young women, so although I struggled with the idea of starting this women's leadership program, I was unconsciously drawn to it.

The program became known as the Women's Leadership Institute, or WLI.  During the first year, the program was primarily run by our intern, but I attended the sessions, provided planning ideas and support, and assisted in recruiting the first class of participants.  We planned development sessions for the ladies, as well as networking opportunities.  The idea took off, the college gave us support, and we became an entity.  At the end of the intern's contract, it was assumed that I would be taking over the coordination of WLI with a team of women chosen from the Institute's first class.  With the previous year's experience as well as my own interest in providing support for the young women, I instituted a support component to WLI, known as Woman II Woman.  Since WLI development sessions only took place once a month, the Woman II Woman sessions were meant to bring the young women together more often, but in an informal setting. We talked about relationships, stress, our fathers (or lack thereof), we wrote letters to past or future selves (for my letter, click here), and we had fun.  Anything that we felt was relevant to us as women was a topic for conversation.  We truly became a cohesive, supportive sisterhood through Woman II Woman. 

WLI is now in its fourth year, and if I had one word to describe it, both as a program and as an experience, that word would be: TRANSFORMING.  I've heard young women say that WLI has changed their lives; that it saved them; that if it wasn't for WLI they would not have had a positive social network.  I've seen the transformation in so many young women, and I look forward to incorporating the new class of 2011 into our sisterhood.  WLI now has over 60 graduates.  Each of these young women is making a difference, using her skills and the confidence she has developed to change lives. 

We're not perfect; we are in a process.  We are moving towards being women of strength, courage, power, and love.  What began as a doubt and a struggle has truly propelled me towards my dream.  I never knew how passionate I was about empowering young women to love themselves so much that their love would overflow and pour out on all those whom they come into contact with.  I've discovered my love, my passion, and my dream.  Women's Leadership Institute is not just a program; it's a movement.  Move with me.  Dream with me.