Empowerment Is An Inside Job; Project Enough

Beyond the broken-ness there’s a place that’s never been broken, and as women we need to help each other find that place.

We need to teach women how to come home to themselves. We spend our lives in a state of distraction. I’ve come to realize that true power comes from being “home,” literally. We women–if we truly want to be powerful–need to comfortable in our own skin. We walk around like the answers are out THERE. But we know in our heart of hearts the answers are in HERE.

I went to a retreat last weekend taught by my favorite author Geneen Roth, and she inspired many of the ideas in this post. More than anything she reminded me that we need to show women how to be home in their bodies. Happiness and empowerment is an inside job. We spend our lives shaming ourselves, busy with diets, the good girl-bad girl game, soaked in guilt, fear, deprivation…. The truth is shaming and torturing ourselves will never lead to making us more empowered human beings. As women who do we believe ourselves to be?

With all that being said, you’ve read my blogs about “getting angry,” and that might be part of the process. Whatever it takes to get women to wake up and see that there is a major problem with not only how we are treated by the media, but the fact that we say yes media companies, you’re right–we are purely sex objects.

Can you imagine if we could turn numbers such as the ten million women in the U.S. who have eating disorders, and make that ten million women who have cocky disorders. Yes please, because in this world–we’re far from it.

This project I’ve been talking about is really a movement that starts with you. I want you to start sharing your stories. I want you–women–to start telling the truth about what’s happening behind closed doors. It’s time that we stop lying to ourselves and to the world that what the media is doing is ok. It’s most definitely not ok, and it has to stop. We can make it stop. Together we have the power. Because we’ve had enough.

Project Enough

here’s a mockup of the site. It’s just a first version, what Project Enough could be.

Just to refresh you on Project Enough, it’s called Project Enough because we are enough and we’ve had enough.

Can you imagine a world where media companies and the corporations that pay them created messaging campaigns to tell women they were worthy and amazing–not problems to be solved? I want to encourage women to share there stories of vulnerability, strength, introspection, self-development, doubt, tragedy, triumph, jubilation.

We need to see that all women are going through the same thing, and put an end to the judging, the name-calling and the gossip. We need to band together.

I want to create a magazine that is feminist in nature without apologizing about it. The women’s movement has disappeared, and what we are fighting today is a much bigger, omniscient monster–possibly more destructive than anything in the past. I’m looking at you Gen Y–we need to stand up!

While there are many women’s magazines out there that address these issues, a lot of them have a tone of sarcasm. That was never enough for me, and I am not embarrassed or apologetic about being spiritual, and seeking out an honest conversation about what it is to be female in America in 2012.

I also feel that eventually this magazine could turn into something bigger, to empower women across the country and the world. We ignite this movement with crowdsourced storytelling. Good writing that comes from the heart–writing that is honest, sad, funny, engaging, relevant, raw storytelling.

Assembly Line Messaging

Today there’s much talk about where our food comes from. There are plenty of documentaries that trace the path of the food once it leaves the assembly line. Pressure groups have brought this to the attention of policy makers and the corporations–many of whom have changed their corrupt ways because of the pressure put on them.

I believe the same needs to happen with the media industry. The media industry today is also an assembly line pumping out images of hyper-sexualized young women—and these images are everywhere. You cannot escape it. Turn on the t.v. Walk outside. Open a magazine.

Do the media companies trace the side-effects of their messaging? Do they hear the stories of anorexia and bulimia? If they saw the faces of the victims–many of whom aren’t even old enough to vote, would they stop?

Someone needs to control the media industry’s outright attack on women’s bodies, and it’s not going to be anyone but us to call them on it.

If you want to get involved, I need writers to contribute their personal stories. I need someone who wants to build this website. I need people to back it in any way they can. And more than anything I need you to tell all the women that you know that we’ve had enough, we are enough, and we’re going to make change.

Promises I Make to Myself

I will allow myself to rest when I’m tired

I will always put myself first. Just as if a plane goes down, if you don’t have oxygen, you can’t provide oxygen to anyone else

I will never blindly leap into a relationship or job thinking anyone but me can save me [although I was lucky that I was intuitive enough when I met Jacob to fly to San Francisco and abandon my life in NYC. But this was THE exception. I only met Jacob after I loved myself.]

I will always check in and ask what will nourish me. If it’s a cupcake I’ll give myself the cupcake and savor every bite, but if what I’m hungry for is not to be found in the fridge I will also give it to myself. I will never eat when I’m upset.

I will never stay in situations where someone else is taking advantage of me or making me feel shame.

I will always kiss my dog when I need it, and never be embarrassed about burying my face in her fur when I feel like it.

I will not shop or drink when I’m upset-I’ll sit with my emotions and feel them.

I will not absorb the negativity around me, even if it’s focused at me. I will let negativity roll off my shoulders and pass like a ship in the night.

I will inspire other women when I inspire myself.

I will heal other women and tell them to love their bodies when I love my own body, imperfections and all.

I will not force myself to do things I do not feel comfortable doing, and I will not undervalue my contributions.

I will not be afraid of what I want.

Join Project Enough

I’m inspiring a movement to get women talking. It’s called Project Enough. I’m looking for someone who is interested to get involved who can help map out the business plan–as movements demand resources.

It’s called Project Enough because we’re enough, and we’ve had enough.

The goal is to empower women—make them feel strong, safe, worthy and confident. I’m doing this because I’ve personally struggled with a lot of what my generation faces–body shame, depression, anxiety–and the problem is none of us are talking about it.

The movement will grow into a full media company that targets female middle schoolers, high schoolers, women in their early twenties and connect them with older women as well.

The movement will include a website that incentivizes women to share their stories. The site will also connect girls and women across the age spectrum in forums, a mentoring capacity and events locally, nationally and even internationally. The site should be free.

As I mentioned I’m looking for someone to support this idea with a business strategy. Are you, or someone you know, experienced in creating business plans, and would you like to help? I will be posting this on kickstarter once I have all the ducks in a row. Let me know if you’d like to help-or know someone who wants to be involved. Men are welcome to get involved as well.

My reaction to Gender Armageddon and the Broken Women’s Movement [video]

This video was created in response to an article I saw tonight called “Gender Armageddon and the Broken Women’s Movement.” Amy Siskind, retired Wall St. Exec and founder of an interesting site called The New Agenda writes in Huff Po:

Lately, I’ve become obsessed with Girls, the new HBO series about women in their 20s. Not in a joyful way. In a worried, watching a car wreck kind of way.

Okay, I’ll own it. The reason I’m mesmerized by the girls in Girls — the hapless, aimless, tragic victims — is because of guilt. We’ve let these young women down. We were tone deaf to their generation’s needs and struggles, and failed to support and equip them with tools to thrive and succeed. Instead, we’ve allowed the media complex, with its 97% male top brass, to fill the void and define our young women and girls as sexualized, often victimized, objects. Today, 3 of 4 teen girls feel depressed, guilty and shameful.

I agree with Amy in so many ways, and I believe this was what Lena Dunham captures with her show “GIRLS,” ironic title (not yet women, not quite young girls). She is the first producer I’ve seen actually capture the dark stuff–the awkwardness of sex in an age where the media gives men some warped ideas around what is sexy, and leaves women largely out of that conversation (GIRLS characters Adam and Hannah’s relationship). Hannah makes bad decisions time and again, and looks for love in all the wrong places, but you can’t dislike her, because on some level you have been her.

In addition “Gender Armageddon” writer Amy created a roundup of this month’s anti-woman news:

Just this month, Patti Hart (Yahoo) and Ina Drew (JP Morgan) ‘stepped down’ for the misdeeds of their male counterparts. The Cannes Film Festival brushed off criticism of it’s all male line-up. Women’s Professional Soccer folded. TIME wondered if we were mom enough. Men moved into jobs traditionally held by women, then leapfrogged us up the glass escalator into management. The Catholic Bishops announced an investigation of the Girl Scouts. Shall I continue?

I feel that a new movement is necessary to address relevant issues affecting women everywhere, including the hugely important Gen Y (and our little sisters). What Lena Dunham drives home in her show, and what Amy gets at in her article, is that we haven’t prepared girls for adulthood, and the tough stuff that hits us at younger and younger ages (as we grow up faster). I believe we need to take a stand against the media, be strong for ourselves, and stand up against the organizational structures and systems that keep us down. What we don’t realize is how much power we already have, but we choose not to exercise.

Setting Yourself Free From Body Shame

I clearly remember the first time someone made me feel real body shame.

I was 15 years old. I was at a quinceañera, and it was late at night at the party. A very obnoxious and popular guy who I knew from school decided to pull my pants down in front of a group of other people.

I was humiliated.

And that was the beginning of the shame I had about my body. Real shame about being a woman.

About having an ass, having thighs, having thoughts that I wanted to share.

The body shame converted itself into the taking up space shame.

What self esteem I had took a steep dive. I couldn’t speak in public. My face would turn beat red, my throat would close up and I would feel shaky. So how did one brave little girl lose herSELF and turn into a fumbling self-conscious walking apology?

For many years the voices inside of me that told me I wasn’t good enough won. I began to participate in my own objectification.

I was on a constant treadmill of self-loathing. I spent a lot of time shopping. I spent a lot of time dissecting my looks, hating my body.

I played the good girl bad girl game about food, diet and exercise. I became that voice I heard externally that told me it wasn’t ok for me to take up space. Who I was at my core wasn’t ok.

Unzipping the Straightjacket of Shame

As I got older, I had to fight for opportunities. I had to survive with the voices inside of me that were holding me back for so long.

Eventually I started to figure things out. I took the power away from those who had a hold over me. I understood that being a strong woman was sexy. Through my work I gained self-esteem. Eventually I turned my sadness and hopelessness into anger. I found my voice, I found my power.

I started to fight back by taking care of myself.

Why would you blog about something so personal?

Now that I’m older I care more about helping other women fight for their rights to take up space more than I care about being judged. I know who I am and what I stand for. I don’t stand for a society that is violent against women.

I want this world to be a safe, gentle and nurturing space for all girls, for all women. Whether if it’s at school or at work or at home or at the college party, I want all women to feel safe.

Today I want women to rise up and get angry. I want women to  question the way they are compliant participants in their own objectification. I want women to think twice before poisoning their bodies with chemicals including diet food pills alcohol or other drugs.

It Happens More Often Then You Hear About: Violence Against Women.

I was at a recent performance of The Vagina Monologues. After the performance we were asked to stand if we had personally incurred sexual or physical violence. I couldn’t believe how many women stood–at least 30% of the room. Then we were asked how many of us knew someone who had incurred sexual or physical violence. Nearly 75% of the room stood. I was shocked.

1/3 women will incur sexual or physical violence in her lifetime. The violence has to stop.

The global change that needs to happen has to start inside. The change has to shift within our core.

We have to start saying yes to ourselves and no to forces that manipulate and control us through shame. We have to start loving our asses, loving our thighs and loving our thoughts.

Shame sits deep in our unconscious, manifesting itself in throughout our adulthood.

When we’re afraid to speak in public, afraid to ask for our worth at work, afraid to leave an abusive boyfriend or spouse, or tell our boss they way they speak to us is not ok–we are letting shame win.

I encourage you to take 20 minutes to watch Brene Brown’s 2nd Ted Talk. It could be life changing for you.

Brene Brown, reknown shame researcher tells us shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, bullying, anger, suicide, and eating disorders. So many of us suffer in silence.

The silence is overshadowed by shaming that happens every day toward women on our screens, at work and in our relationships.

Because of the constant shaming we have become disconnected from our feminine spirit. We’ve shut her down to avoid further pain and rejection.

I want women who are still suffering with feelings of shame–women who are hiding, to understand that you are not alone. That we are all much stronger than we think we are, and together we are going to rise up against this violence, in a powerful and wise way–and we are going to win our girls back. We are going to win ourSELVES back.

Woman work: holding contradictory ideas in her mind.

A sane woman must have an ability to hold two contradictory ideas in her head at the same time, and understand which one is truth.

Examples of contradictory mainstream messaging toward women:

Be confident but don’t be a bitch.

Look attractive but not too attractive.

Look sexy but don’t look like a slut.

Be confident but be submissive.

Be a domestic goddess but don’t be a fat domestic goddess.

Be a lady in the streets and a freak in the….

Well you get the idea. And thanks to the media the perpetuation of these ideas are gaining power.

Unfortunately the place these messages hurt us the most is our sense of self, and in turn, our careers. Women still earn an average of 23% less than their male counterparts. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. To attain real power and real freedom women need financial independence and stability.
That means we need to make more money, and save more money.

One doesn’t have to look far to notice the hyper-sexualization of women’s bodies in the media. You have to wonder, where are the women at the top who are putting their stamp of approval on this messaging? Would they want their daughters to participate in this circus show?

I heard something interesting this morning on the phone with a friend who is a little older than me. She said that every time we make strides in one area, there is a backlash. And with the political climate the way it is toward women, their bodies, and their decisions, you have to wonder if my friend is right. Hillary Clinton runs for president, and then we have the government threatening to take away woman’s right to choose, and the option to have birth control at all.

A world where women are not a part of the global decision making process around how societies should run is not a world we want to see.

Here are six of my own observations about how women sabotage themselves in the workplace.

Like me?
As hard as this may be, I am a big proponent of boundaries. At work your boss and the people you work with are not your friends, they are your coworkers. While we are focused on being liked, often the extent we go to to be liked actually takes us away from our core projects, and we are either running around like headless chickens to do it all, or we miss things on our actual work. Additionally, focusing so much on being liked is very distracting. You can’t build your career around being likable. We have to let this go if we want to be successful and if we want to be leaders.

Women wait to be called on in meetings.
Ladies, you can’t be afraid to speak up in meetings. If you don’t speak no one will know you have opinions. Speaking can feel highly risky, but it’s also highly rewarding. Often introverts have the best ideas because they’ve been listening. Speak your ideas.

Women couch their opinions in questions.
Why do we do this? It makes us sound weak and unsure, when we are the opposite. Show your muscles. Be loud and proud ladies. Don’t couch your opinion in a question. State it. Don’t be afraid of the pauses and the silence around the statement. Sit with it.

We allow ourselves to be scapegoats.
A CIO once told me that leadership is about managing perceptions. It has been said that when something goes wrong and a woman is blamed, she won’t stand up for herself. Don’t let the people around you disrespect you that way. I don’t propose you get defensive, or put other people down, but state the facts. This type of thing shouldn’t happen in the workplace but it does. If it happens more than once, leave and get a better job in an environment where you will be supported.

We use minimizing language.
We all do this and we need to be more aware of when we do. Words such as like, kind of, sort of, maybe. These are credibility diminishers. When you communicate your ideas be firm and direct.

We ask permission.
It’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission. Use your best judgement and do what you feel is right. Leaders don’t ask for permission.

Ladies if we want to advance in the workplace we need to be strong leaders for ourselves. Remember the workplace is a game. You need a strategy, you need to think big picture. Don’t live in your head. See the broader battlefield.

We need to be aware of the contradictory messages we are sent, and know what is real truth. We need to stop inflicting violent thoughts toward ourselves, particularly our bodies. Self-defeating self talk will result in self-defeating behavior. Be strong! I know you have it in you!

Choosing between my Ass and my Face: Why I will never become a CEO and why that is okay

This is a guest post written by a law school student under the pen name Vicki P.

There is a popular expression that all women eventually have to choose between their ass and their face.

As I creep dangerously close to my 30s, this has certainly rung true! You can’t have a tiny tuchus without ending up with a bony face and vice versa. But as I was filling out my to-do list today—one that was too long to even fit in my daily planner—I started thinking about how this is applicable to more things than just my body.

My to-do list for the day included about 18 hours worth of work: two articles to review for a University Journal that I edit; a canned food drive; a Junior League meeting; three classes; a report for work; looming deadlines for the two different scholarly articles I am writing (i.e., these 45 page monsters!); meetings; and I can’t forget to send my resume to the gentleman I met yesterday who has a job that I very much want. In addition to work, school, and community service, I want to celebrate with my good friend who got engaged yesterday. I don’t want to miss the swing dance lessons that I’ve been taking with my boyfriend. I want to call my friend who I have not spoken to in over two weeks. I don’t want to miss out on restaurant week. I want to do it all.

Something has to give.

There is a fine line between being well-rounded and stretched too thin. And while you may be able to pull it off for a while, there will come a point where you can no longer have both a great ass and a great face. It’s just not possible.

Of course, that story is a deceased horse that has been sufficiently beaten. And the point of this blog entry is not about the fact that we can’t have it all. That problem really isn’t unique to women although sometimes I think we tend to claim it as our own. The point of this entry is that you have to choose. And you need to know why you are making certain choices and then be happy with them. Of course those choices come with certain societal pressures and often frustrating outcomes.


Although it is a constant battle, I made my choice several years ago. After seeing a good friend’s marriage slowly fall apart because both spouses were married to their job, I promised myself that I would always prioritize my relationships over my career. And for the most part, I have remained faithful to that promise. This does not mean I am all play and no work, but that I value the “play” in my life and work pretty hard to make sure it happens. I went swing dancing with my boyfriend last night even though I have deadlines the size of Mount Rushmore resting on my shoulders. Despite having a day full of meetings, I still set aside time to have a cupcake break with a good friend. And last week, even though I was up at 6am for work and then busted my tail non-stop until about 8:00 at night, I set aside time for a movie night with the boyfriend. And all of those decisions mean that I let some aspect of my work suffer over some aspect of a personal relationship.

And of course that choice has consequences. I won’t graduate at the top of my class (although, admittedly, that probably would not have happened regardless of my priorities), I will never be a CEO, and I will be fighting constantly to assert where my priorities lie. Making such choices also has another consequence—I must respect the choices that others make if I want them to respect mine. For example, (and I want to preface this with the fact that my boyfriend really is a great guy and has apologized for hurting my feelings), last week, as I wrote above, I made plans to watch a movie with my boyfriend. I worked really hard during the day to get everything done in time to see him. But then he never showed. He fell asleep and when I called him, he told me he was too tired to come over. Priorities.

Taking It Personal?

But while I was mad at him for standing me up, I do not know if I can necessarily be mad at him for how he has chosen to prioritize his life. That is the thing—we all have to decide what is most important to us and then live with those consequences, both the good and the bad. Being one to lean a little left politically, I often throw around the clichéd “uneven playing field” argument, so the one thing I especially appreciate about time is that everyone has the same amount of it. So when people say they are too busy for something, what they really mean is that it is not a priority. Maybe they want to do something, but ultimately, we all choose how we spend our waking hours.

And going back to the article Blake posted about women as CEOs, I know my choices mean I will never become one. And I am okay with that. But that does not mean that choice does not come with a lot of societal pressure. I have been fortunate to go to one of the top law schools in the country and the best in my state. So when I express to women that what would really make me happy is to marry and have children, they look at me as if I am a fool. Why would I waste my education? All that hard work? All that money wasted! I must be desperate. “Look at your boyfriend, he isn’t making that choice, so why should you?” they ask.

The Happiness Conundrum

And as women, I think we often make that argument. That it isn’t fair that women have the dual responsibility of family and work. I agree that that argument has merits. And I do not have children, so I will not expose my naivety by even beginning to try to address what that choice must feel like. But what I do want to address, and it is something that I think is often ignored, is that men make those choices, too. They, too, have to choose how they prioritize their time. They, too, face social pressures to prioritize certain area over others. We all are working with the same 24 hours.

And that is where I think we need to change the dialogue. I often find myself letting others dictate what should be my priorities. I allow myself to feel guilty about certain decisions I make regarding the allocation of my time. And I imagine I am not alone. And I suppose across different social circles, those pressures shift in one way or another, but the bottom line is that we are letting others tell us what should make us happy. But one of my favorite things about the true feminist movement is that it is all about choice.  You can choose to be a CEO. You can choose to be a stay-at-home mom. You can choose to be a working mom. You can choose to have no children at all, but still make personal relationships a priority. You can choose the life you want to live. Of course, going full circle, you cannot choose, at least not successfully, all of the above. That is where you ultimately have to decide what is most important to you. What will make you happiest?

Choose to be happy.