“You’re like all the other girls in Baton Rouge.”

There are countless interpretations in regards to this title.

Something happened to me a few months ago that I can’t seem to forget. I parked my car at City Park near Dalrymple Drive and Perkins Road, changed into running clothes at the tennis court bathrooms, approached the pedestrian crosswalk, felt a strange sense of anxiety and brushed it off immediately.

The thing about running is — from personal experience and from what others have told me — you lose yourself. Your senses become heightened while your surroundings simultaneously fade once you hit that “runner’s high.” Add some music and you’re down for the count when it comes to being hyper-aware. I’m guilty of this, and I try to stay congnizant when I’m running the lakes, the LSU campus, or even on the treadmill at the gym.

Back to my story. That anxious feeling I had turned into paranoia when I realized someone was watching me. He was sitting in his truck waiting for me to make my way to my car. He quickly got out of his truck and attempted to start a conversation with me.

Him: “Miss, can I give you a compliment?”

Me: “Sorry, I’m leaving.”

Him: “You’re beautiful. Where are you from?”

Me: “I really have to go.”

Him: “What are you doing here?”

Me: Crickets…

Him: “Are you married?”

I decided to stick my headphones in and avoid the situation. I quickly realized that he wasn’t going to let up. He followed me on foot then hopped back into his truck and started following my trail down Perkins Road. I turned, drove a few backroads and eventually lost him. A few nights later, I had a dream that he followed me after dinner with my girlfriends and jumped into the backseat of my car as I was attempting to lock it.

(End of Saga I)

Tonight:

I had to get gas before I made the trip back home to MS. I stopped at a gas station near the interstate and as I was pumping gas, I felt the same feeling as before. As luck would have it, the same man approached me.

Him: “You are a beautiful woman. Where are you from?”

Me: “Not from here.”

Him: “What are you doing here?”

Me: “School.”

Him: “I can tell…you’re not interested in me.”

Me: “I have a boyfriend.”

Him: “You’re like all the other girls in Baton Rouge.”

Me: Well, I had no words. He walked away, infuriated with me it seemed.

(End of Saga II)

Here are my issues with both scenarios. I am a young female living in a larger city (crime-filled, might I add). I feel vulnerable when I’m by myself 9 times out of 10. I like to consider myself independent, so I’m alone often. These two instances involving the same individual have creeped me out more than anything else combined. He asked me the same questions in the same format on two sporadic occassions.

Crime happens everywhere. Anyone can be affected. I’m well aware that these scenarios seem trivial in comparison to most. The reality is that being aware isn’t enough. As young women, we have to be prepared to protect ourselves if necessary. I’m not sure if my mace mill be the answer, but it’s something. I’m contemplating self-defense classes as well.

I want to know your thoughts/suggestions. Do you ever feel vulnerable or at risk in Baton Rouge or any other city?

Cellulite

You’re probably thinking…where is this going? (Which is a totally appropriate response.)

I don’t know why today was the day in particular that all of my news feeds were bombarded with images of bikini-clad movie stars or articles focusing specifically on the C word, but Monday is a good a day as any to discuss something most women come to loathe by age 12.

I think I’ve had cellulite since I was 10. It really wasn’t a big deal; the genetic history of the women in my family pretty much predicted that it would happen. Of course by age 16, I was mortified to wear a bathing suit or shorts that might actually show something that was (and still is) considered an imperfection.

Now I embrace the fact that I am a little…let me think of common euphamisms…juicier(?)…thicker(?)…bootylicious…yes…than the average Jane. I love my curves, and since I have been learning to love my body through self-motivation and a desire to be fit, I know I look good in clothes. And guess what everyone? I still have cellulite.

I suppose the most important takeaway from this article is that cellulite will never go away. You can’t work it off, no matter how many lunges or squats you do. It’s biological, and you can’t replace your epidermis…unless you’re contemplating a scene from Silence of the Lambs.

Also, it’s been leaked that this man is the one in charge of pointing out the imperfections of movie stars and actresses. So since body shaming apparently permeates society, then we should all be ashamed of what is genetically and biologically normal right? Hell no. We should embrace the fact that we look natural. And honestly ladies, if a man has a serious problem with the fact that you don’t have creamy, photoshopped thighs…he’s probably not worth it.

Empowerment and whatnot

I never thought I was a “pretty girl” in high school.

To be completely honest, I didn’t give myself time to worry about what I looked like when I was at school. I knew what clothes I was going to wear (uniforms–dreaded khakis and navy/white polos) and hardly ever found the time to fix my hair in a reasonable fashion.

I wanted to give off the appearance that I didn’t need any type of positive reinforcement for how I dressed/looked/acted, but secretly I was desperate for turning heads and flirtatious glances. Again, I never thought I was “attractive.” I think that stemmed from going against the grain; I didn’t tan, I didn’t have to touch up my roots and I usually wore a sports bra to school.

I wasn’t doing this in spite of the status quo or societal norms. I just didn’t care or (again) didn’t have the time to be concerned. There was still that little voice in my head telling me I was missing out on something; I wasn’t asked on many dates and I usually went to dances with guy friends. I certainly didn’t date much, and I liked to make the excuse that I wasn’t interested in anyone.

I was one of the lucky ones, though. I had the opportunity to prove I was something other than “pretty.” I was always encouraged to challenge myself in other ways and pursue leadership opportunities when they presented themselves. (Thanks, mom.) I also like to think that I was freakishly mature in some ways, which made social settings kind of awkward.

Basically, I wasn’t hot by anyone’s standards. In hindsight, I’m kind of glad. I was able to be successful based upon my talents not easily seen at first glance. I was confident in my intellect and wanted to leave the place I called home to learn more. Again, I was one of the lucky ones.

What young girls need RIGHT NOW is for someone to tell them how special they are. It doesn’t have to be every minute or even every day, but it has to be said by someone other than the guy they have a crush on. Girls in middle school and high school need to know what they are capable of contributing to society–something other than a sexy body or pretty face. There isn’t enough genuine, authentic love represented in our culture (especially via reality TV).

No wonder girls are so quick to compete to be the “sexy” one at age…what…13? That’s atrocious. You can’t be sexy at 13.

So, from a woman who has found her confidence but still needs some encouragement:

  1. Embrace the awkward stage as much as possible.
  2. Life gets better after high school.
  3. Pick your passions and your role models wisely.
  4. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  5. Someone will appreciate you for your quirks one day, I promise.

There are websites and blogs devoted to being a smart girl and loving yourself. I would love to use my talents in social media and education in creating workshops that would encourage self-esteem and discourage irrational social media use in middle and high school-aged girls. We are all reporters and publishers in the world of social media, and we all disseminate information each day to our audiences. We have to hold ourselves accountable and work diligently to avoid future Steubenville cases.

Why alcohol, clothing and the group mentality just don’t matter

I’ve been following the Steubenville case pretty closely. Frankly, I’m livid. 

America is a developed nation. We, as Americans, have the opportunity to succeed and are granted life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do not live in a third world country; I am accustomed to an ideal American lifestyle.

Although we have options galore for success and happiness, what exists (and really blows my mind) is the rape culture present in the good ole’ USofA. HelloGiggles writer Julia Gadzag describes “rape culture” as “a culture in which attitudes about rape are tolerant enough to be an enabling factor in anything ranging from sexual harassment to actual rape.”

In the case of the young girl (not a woman) who was raped and was photographed while naked in Steubenville, Ohio, her life has changed dramatically. She will no longer be viewed as innocent or pure–perpetuating the prevalent double standard–and will most likely find it difficult to experience a healthy relationship or sex life for that matter. 

I was ashamed watching CNN discuss the trial and “promising futures” of the two football players. SN: An athlete is a human being, first and foremost. What he/she decides to do illegally with his/her free time should be punishable regardless of talent on the field. Being an athlete is NO excuse to rape someone. EVER. 

What about the young girl who is now receiving death threats because she actually…gasp…confessed to being raped? Her life is over. A dark cloud now hangs over her head because mainstream media has made her out to be the villain in this sick and twisted scenario. It’s not fair. 

Let me put it to you this way:

  • Just because I smile at you doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you.
  • Just because I flirt with you doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you.
  • Just because I’m wearing something revealing DOESN’T mean I’m “asking for it” if you decide to “be a man” and force sex upon me. (We’ll get into the culture of hyper-masculinity in a later post, don’t fret.)
  • Just because I drink a few glasses of wine and look like I’m “ready for it” doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me. 

It’s not okay. Here’s a little more perspective thanks to STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response):

  • In the US, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives
  • In Louisiana, the rate of forcible rapes in 2009 was estimated at 30.3 per 100,000 inhabitants
  • 9 in 10 rape survivors are women
  • 93% of juvenile sexual assault survivors know their attackers

This brings me to my point. This young girl knew these men. They had been in contact before the night in question. She flirted with one of them. Does that mean she was asking to be raped and photographed? No. She was drunk…not an excuse either. These young athletes were popular, I’m assuming, in their hometowns. So that makes it fine, right? Hell to the no. 

We HAVE to stand up for victims. We cannot victimize perpetrators, and we certainly can’t blame the victim based upon variables that can attribute to the act of rape. It’s not okay. She didn’t ask for it. We have to do better

Women + MLK + Civil Rights

I feel that this post is fitting for a day set aside for Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Mississippi, being her usual self…a badass. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

Most Americans who are familiar with the Civil Rights era refer to Rosa Parks as the most pivotal female within the movement. She was crucial, of course, but she was not the first black woman to take a stand–or a sit–for her race. Claudette Colvin, a teenage girl from Alabama, preceded Parks. She and the court case following her stance was not publicized, however, because she was pregnant and single. AKA she would not have portrayed the movement in the correct light given the societal norms.

Other than Rosa and Claudette, more women were taking care of business behind the scenes:

  • Ella Baker was a charismatic labor organizer and longtime leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She believed the movement should not place too much emphasis on leaders.
  • Septima Poinsette Clark, often called the “queen mother” of civil rights, was an educator and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People activist decades before the nation’s attention turned to racial equality.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was beaten and jailed in 1962 for trying to register to vote. She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and gave a fiery speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
  • Vivian Malone Jones defied segregationist Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to enroll in the University of Alabama in 1963 and later worked in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

(Bullet points courtesy of NBC News)

Martin Luther King will always be the face of the Civil Rights Movement. He was innovative and a visionary. He was able to motivate those who felt they had nowhere to turn. Women within the movement were critical, but he was forefront. He deserves to be at the forefront. Keep in mind the silent group who accomplished incredible feats throughout these tumultuous years. Women participated in marches, freedom summers, bus boycotts, anything imaginable.

Go MLK and go WOMEN behind the movement that changed the world for the better.

The Difference Between a Feminist and a…

Bones to pick. Bones to pick everywhere. 

I love being a woman. As much as I hate the following tasks at times, I take pride in my appearance. Shaving my legs can be annoying and painful; painting my nails can be messy and mundane; curling my eyelashes can turn into a horrible experience (side note: I don’t recommend doing so while driving).

Not all women shave their legs, do their nails OR curl their eyelashes. No worries. Make yourself happy. My beauty rant isn’t about beauty at all though. I am a feminist, and I’m proud to say I am. Usually when I say this out loud, I get one of two responses:

Response A: “That’s really cool. What makes you a feminist?”

(Actual interest and curiosity pervades with these words.)

Response B: “Oh wow. Are you really? I would have never guessed that about you.” 

(Usually this isn’t a positive response; sometimes I can hear a sense of mockery through these words.)

In its basic definitive form, a feminist believes that genders are equal. I believe that a woman and a man should be allowed to do anything his/her heart desires. There should be no boundaries–even if something seems “physically impossible.” If it is one’s free will to accomplish a goal that seems otherwise impossible, you go for it. You have my support in most cases.

I am not a man-hating, pessimistic and crass woman. There are so many negative connotations connected to the word “feminist.” It’s not fair, in my opinion. (Side note: I love men.) Like anything, I believe that to form an opinion, one should research and derive an opinion based on facts and convictions, which is what I have done throughout the last 5 months of my life.

If a woman wants to pursue a profession, that should be acceptable and supported just as if a man was pursuing the same profession. She should be able to be a caregiver for her husband and children if her heart desires; she should be able to prove her dedication to a company if she desires to become the CEO of a Fortune 500. There should be no limitations.

I’m not a bitch. I have my off days (not due to my menstrual cycle, by the way) and I deal with them just like anyone else does while juggling life. There are pressures everywhere we turn; why should I feel more simply because I describe myself as being a feminist?

Trickery and Self-Esteem Issues: Thanks, Spice Girls

Who do young girls/women idolize these days? 

I genuinely don’t know. Sure, there are women that I would consider idols for various reasons. Usually, these reasons have nothing to do with physical attributes.

If I had to guess, I would say that the women most looked up to TODAY are of celebrity status. Their claim to fame is most likely due to music, movies, television, etc. We as a culture are bombarded daily with various media. Sure, DVR allows a viewer to skip through commercials and magazine readers can choose to toss this month’s edition of The Enquirer, but we are subconsciously listening, reading and viewing EVERYTHING. I have a feeling that the little people of this developed nation–children I mean–are being affected the most.

A prime example for any readers who were of pre-pubescent or pre-teen age when the Spice Girls became the global monopoly of girl groups can attest to how wild we were about these saucy British women. Therefore, I’m going to break down the group who coined (not really, but made it more popular than before) the term “Girl Power.”

Disclaimer: I’m being critical. There is a reason, though, because in retrospect I do recognize a few issues the group posed.

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Baby Spice: She kind of reinforces a few stigmas women face. She’s blonde, beautiful and sucks on a damn lollipop all day. She’s every young (and maybe even older) guy’s dream. She almost always got the guy.

In my fresh mind at age 10, the formula was an easy one:

Blonde Hair + Lollipop + Teddy Bears = Attractive Men. 

Sporty Spice: She was such a badass. Her part of the tour bus on the movie Spice World was full of workout equipment and sports drinks. Honestly, I don’t think she was ever dressed in anything other than athletic gear. She never got the guy…which reinforces a stigma that muscles make women less feminine. Dumb.

Scary Spice: I wonder how the people of the Saint Kitts and Nevisian ethnicity would feel about the woman of color being called “scary.” I have a feeling that the obnoxious hairstyles/over-the-top afro wasn’t Melanie Brown’s choice at first. Being famous comes with a price though. She will forever be the scary one. What stigma does this reinforce, ladies and gents? I have so much faith in you it deserves no explanation.

Posh Spice: Since she rarely talked, I don’t have much of an explanation. If she did speak, though, it was about her wardrobe. She usually got the guy too. I mean, come on. She’s married to David Beckham. I have yet another formula!

A Little Black Dress + High Cheekbones + Little To Say =

David Beckham (or another hot athlete)

And last but certainly not least is Ginger Spice: Whose idea was it to name the redhead Ginger? Even if it was her idea, shame on you Geri. Honestly, I don’t know what she looked like. I do, in fact, know what her boobs looked like. For some reason she (or her stylist) decided her boobs were more important than her face. In turn, they were elevated to new heights. I bet the pair is happy the fame is running out. Reinforced stigma? Big boobs can potentially make you famous.

My intention in this post is not to fire up the fans of this groundbreaking group around the world. These women could have chosen to represent themselves in these individual ways without any help from the outside world. I have a feeling (a hunch, if you will) that this was not the case.

I suppose what scares me the most is the fact that this is a pretty innocent example in comparison to some of the stars young girls are infatuated with today. What will be the final straw? How can we build self-esteem in these young girls without tearing down their idols?

There is no simple solution. Dammit.