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A Mom Played Apples To Apples And Couldn't Believe What Word Got Paired With 'Feminist'

Feminism isn't about a new group of people and systems (instead of the patriarchy) telling women what they should be doing, but rather everyone helping women get rid of all "shoulds," freeing each other up to do what works best individually. Alisha Huber, a coworker of mine, wrote something along those lines, and I had to share it with you.

"This Is What a Feminist Looks Like" by Alisha Huber

Several years ago, I was playing Apples to Apples. The adjective to match was “scary,” and the “judge,” a young woman majoring in mathematics, chose “feminists.” I said, “I’m a feminist, what’s scary about that?” Another player, also a woman, who was in her 50s and had spent a long time working as an engineer, said, “Are you wearing a bra?” as if to imply that wearing a bra makes one NOT actually a feminist (not that it matters, but I was. Wearing a bra, that is).

I wish I had had the presence of mind to respond to her as Caitlin Moran would: “What part of liberation for women is not for you? Is it the freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man that you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Vogue by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that stuff just get on your nerves?” I was so flabbergasted that all I could muster was that feminism is about a lot more than underwear.


And there’s nonsense like this article from Slate, an online magazine I usually respect. The argument the writer makes is that “natural parenting” is incompatible with feminism. She writes about the “new, upper-middle class trend of naturalistic mothering (often incorrectly called ‘parenting,’ to conceal that fact that it’s mothers who have to step up more to meet demand).” This article pisses me off so much, I can hardly even think. Choosing to parent my children a certain way does not make me any less of a feminist. Sure, if someone, like, say, my husband, were to require me to practice this particular style of parenting, making some argument about my duty as a woman, that would be anti-feminist. Feminism is, as bell hooks says, for everybody. It’s about choices. It’s about saying that a woman can self-actualize however she wants, whether by becoming the CEO of Yahoo! while pregnant or by homeschooling her children and canning food from her garden. It’s also about saying that a man who chooses to be a stay-at-home dad is not less of a man.

This is what a feminist looks like: presenting at an academic conference while Silas was home with JC.

Feminism is what happens when I make an informed decision about how a baby is going to get out of my body–for example, on the timetable my female body decides is right, and not the timetable decreed by some (mostly male) hospital administrators who have to keep enough beds open–and my husband says, “If this is how you want to have our baby, I will support that.” It’s also what happens if I decide I want an epidural as soon as is humanly possible. If I felt coerced into giving birth naturally, on my bedroom floor, without so much as an Advil for the pain, sure, that’s anti-feminist. That’s yet another way of turning my body into an instrument of someone else’s priorities. If, instead, it happens as it did, as an empowered decision, then I am just one more link in a chain of feminists stretching back a hundred years and a bit more.

This is what a feminist looks like: burping Silas after nursing him at the National Botanical Gardens, following his first political rally.

It’s called attachment parenting because it is about parenting. My husband does every “attachment parenting” thing that does not require a vagina, a uterus, and/or functional mammary glands. We’re pretty good at co-parenting, although he isn’t so awesome at the whole waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night bit (due to a medical problem, not a Y chromosome). Dr. Sears, in The Baby Book, advocates “fathering to sleep,” where a dad wears his baby in a sling and hums and rocks until the little critter finally falls asleep. He actually says that men, because of their deeper voices, can sometimes do a better job of getting baby to sleep than the mama can. We’ve found this to be true. JC still has an easier time getting Silas to sleep than I do.

This is what a feminist looks like: cuddling Silas before bedtime.

Dr. Sears also strongly advocates that mothers stay home to care for their children, even if this means having to borrow money to get by. I think it’s a good idea for a parent to be present for their child a lot of the time, but I don’t agree that it must be the mother. Also, I think that childhood poverty is probably significantly worse for a kid than day care. Parents who are frustrated because they need a job that lets you cross items off a list and talk with other adults and are not getting that need met are not healthy for kids–definitely less healthy than the child spending a day with someone who loves 40 hours a week with kids. Feminism doesn’t mean slavish adherence to the proclamations of a guru. Quite the opposite, I’d say.

JC has opted to skip out on a certain kind of promotion/raises track so that he has the flexibility to spend more time at home, caring for our children. I respect and support that decision–just as he respected and supported my decision to work full-time during our son’s first year.

This is what a feminist looks like: jiggling a lap baby while managing a roll out. Like a boss.

About a year before I got pregnant with Silas, as I was getting ready for my first stint with Pigeon Creek Shakespeare, in Michigan, one of my grad school professors asked me if I had any kids. Before I could even answer, he said, “Oh, wait, of course not. If you had kids, you wouldn’t be doing this Michigan gig.” I was so shocked that he said that that I couldn’t even summon the presence to ask him if he would have said that to a man (Hint: he wouldn’t have.) Here, I would include a photo of myself solo parenting, while pregnant, for two months, almost exactly two years later, during my second show with Pigeon Creek, but my hands were too full to get that picture.

Feminism is about not necessarily choosing between out-of-the-home work and stay-at-home momming. It still requires choices, of course (let’s not kid ourselves about having it all), but it creates a paradigm of seeking a third way.

When I left full-time employment, it wasn’t exactly to spend more time with Silas. It had more to do with wanting to explore other career opportunities, while making way less money. JC just said, “Whatever you choose, I’ll support you in that. We’ll make it work.” He didn’t say, although many other people did, that he felt like the right decision was for me to stay home with our son, because I’m the mom.

This is what a feminist looks like: directing a play, while eight months pregnant, with a toddler assisting.

I breastfed my son as long as it was working for both of us, and plan to do the same with our new baby, but not because anyone made me. Maybe it was more of a feminist rejection of all those men in suits on Madison Avenue trying to convince me that male scientists had concocted a formula that was better for my baby than anything my female body could produce. That sounds like a feminist high-five to me. More likely, it’s because I’m too lazy to sterilize bottles all the time. And hey, if you chose to go with formula (or just wound up there), feminist high-five to you, too. Your body, your choice, and you have better things to do than listen to anyone who says otherwise.

My son sees my husband cook dinner half of the time (we have a schedule). He understands that Daddy does the laundry almost as much as Mama does, and that Daddy is better at loading the dishwasher. He sees me do most of the minor electrical work in our house, because I’m more stable on a ladder than JC is. He saw me take equal turns with JC wielding a chainsaw during our storm clean-up. When he’s bigger, he will have to pick from the same bucket of chores as any sisters he has. When he graduates from high school, I want him to know how to cook and clean and do his own laundry so that he doesn’t have to rely on a woman to take care of that stuff. I want Silas to grow up to understand that feminism means that men and women can do most of the same things, and it’s what they choose to do that matters.

I wish I had a picture of myself using a pneumatic nailer to lay flooring at 37 weeks pregnant, because that is what a feminist looks like. Instead, here’s the beginning of that project–ripping out 400 pounds of red shag carpet.

We’re not magically egalitarian around here. I still handle our social calendar, am more likely to notice that the bathroom needs cleaning, and send thank-you notes and birthday cards. We’re aware of these tendencies, though, and we talk about them and try to correct them. If things get too lopsided, I challenge JC to a month of ChoreWars, and that, by making the inequities trackable, fixes things. We are both committed feminists, and we manifest that in our home by naming our biases and refusing to let them power our decision-making.

Welcome to the third wave, people.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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