Monthly Archives: August 2014

We need to talk about white privilege

We need to talk about white privilege.

We need to talk about white privilege because many people refuse to believe it exists. I know white privilege exists because – and it has taken me a long time to feel I can admit this publicly – I perpetrate it. We need to talk about white privilege because I feel more uncomfortable when walking down the street at night among black hooded boys, than among white hooded boys.

We need to talk about white privilege because I have been the victim of crime twice – and both times the perpetrators were white. We need to talk about white privilege because once I was in a potentially dangerous situation where a drunkenly out of control homeless (white) person was pushing me for money, and a black man helped me out. Yet, I still feel safer surrounded by white people in some low income areas.

We need to talk about white privilege because even the people who know it exist sometimes respond with ‘and who is committing the majority of the crimes, huh?’. I don’t need to know who are committing the crimes, I just need to know that there are black people out there who would never commit a crime, but live under the constant suspicion that they will.

We need to talk about white privilege because even the people who know it exists sometimes respond with ‘so what? Can’t ‘they’ pull themselves out of it, and rise above it?’. Yet Psychological Science knows the effect of a single instance of telling someone that they are less likely to be successful at a task do drastically reduces their success. Yet people are growing up in constantly being told that they are more likely commit crime, they are less likely to finish school, they are more likely to have a broken marriage….

We need to talk about white privilege because we accept that it is a dreadful thing to do to raise a child telling then that they won’t succeed, and we love public health messages which tell us that if women are told their capabilities are limited their success will be limited, but somehow it is OK to tell whole races of people that their capabilities are limited.

(Above is an embed of the famous Verizon ad encouraging women, but if it doesn’t display, you can see it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0)

We need to talk about white privilege because women need positive messages, support and encouragement,to overthrow unfair expectations, but I am told that colors need to stop making excuses.

We need to talk about white privilege because I am so damn sick of hearing about black-on-black crime without hearing that 84% of US murdered white people* are white on white (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf). And that’s not the damn point anyway.

We need to talk about white privilege because I don’t want my son growing up in a world where people are treated differently because of how they look.

We need to talk about white privilege because that in no way takes away from rich privilege, or male privilege (or sometimes female privilege), or Christian privilege, or high IQ privilege, or having a PhD privilege.

We need to talk about white privilege because it is oppressing people, and people are dying because of it.

Please, let’s talk about white privilege.

This was a very hard post to write, and I am really worried about a backlash. But I don’t want to be someone who buries this in the sand, and won’t acknowledge it, and let’s it continue. I want to talk about, understand, and remove white privilege.

* Thank you to my friend Robert for correcting the original statement.

Advertisements

Wish me luck on a new quest for a healthier lifestyle

When I started this blog, it was mostly about health – or at least dietary intake (which admittedly was not always healthy) and fitness training. I think I reached the pinnacle of my health in February 2012 – thanks to a stint with Amy Layne on the DAMY bikini body plan, I had developed a very healthy attitude towards my diet and fitness, I loved my body, I was lean and strong, I ate a good amount of both healthy (fruit, veg, whole grains, nuts) and unhealthy (alcohol, cupcakes) things, and I was fit enough to run and complete a tough mudder. Pretty good all around.

Tough Mudder game face

Tough Mudder game face

Then things slid – I moved to Houston, I got pregnant and due to polyhydramnios was taken off all exercise, I finished my 12 week DAMY program and did not sign back up, I had a baby, I accepted I was allergic to fruit, I became a faculty member at an R1 institution at the time of great funding crises, I became a working mother and acquired a stay at home husband, to whom I charged the family cooking. A million and one wonderful excuses that kept me from living a healthy lifestyle.

I don’t think I realized how far things had slid until Amy Layne (my old DAMY coach) facebooked me out of the blue and asked how I was. Good question Amy, good question. Amy works hard with her clients to look after their mental and physical selves. I worked hard with Amy on body acceptance, and healthy (normal?) eating attitudes: how to listen to my body, how to remove guilt, but focus on health, how to relax (I still have my Heavenly accupressure mat that she sent me!). And still I love my body, I have stayed away from my eating demons, I am happy. But. BUT. The physical side? Ummmm…. yeah…. A McDonalds EVERY day (seriously, I did this)? A maximum of 1 serving of fruit or veg a day? Liquid intake consisting of ONLY Diet Coke and coffee? Carbs made up almost exclusively of vanilla goldfish and Cadbury’s Fingers? Seriously, my diet was exactly that: sugary hits of nutrient depleted food. And exercise? Forget it… it was firmly on the ‘to do’ list, never on the ‘done’ list.

What could I tell Amy? That she had spent 12 weeks coaching me, and working with me, emailing me and helping me for no show? That although I attribute recovering so quickly after my hemorrhage to my body fitness she gave me, I had let it slide? Seriously – eeek! You don’t know Amy, she cares so deeply about her clients (hence she still emails them 2 years later), I knew she would be upset and I couldn’t do it.

So, that was my turning point…. my kick up the backside. My ‘I need to do something’. Sadly (or maybe not so sadly) I am no longer in a place (mentally or otherwise) where I feel I want to make sudden drastic overhauls to my lifestyle.  And anyway, working with Amy made me swear off radical quick fixes (I am looking at you Master Cleanse. *shudder*). And my years of living badly and surviving have also made me fearless in the face of cupcakes and fries, so it’s not like I can be motivated to cut them out completely. So, I am making slow, manageable changes. A vegetable smoothie for breakfast in the morning….

1/2 avocado 1/2 cucumber 1/2 bunch fresh spinach 1 c coconut water 3 tsbp Fage 2%

1/2 avocado
1/2 cucumber
1/2 bunch fresh spinach
1 c coconut water
3 tsbp Fage 2%

(anyone who has smoothie recipes that don’t involve fruit – please share!)

And at least 2 veggie snacks a day (carrots, peppers or tomatoes). I don’t care if my other snacks are indeed goldfish, I have to eat veggies twice a day. And I am aiming for one salad a day as well. Considering that my BMI is healthy, I figure that that takes care of my diet fairly well – how badly can I eat around that? (Hey, don’t answer that).

I am drinking a lot more water and a lot less Diet Coke (the jury is pretty out on whether this is good for you or not, but hey, surely it can’t hurt?). And exercise…. hmmmmm… well, I am getting out of the house every night and planning to run three times a week (kinda only making it once a week, but hey…). I have a million excuses reasons why my exercise plan is not going as it should, but I’ll save you from them. Suffice to say that for 40 minutes every evening I am least upright, outside, moving and not on the sofa eating chips.

Sam and Ellie benefit from the walking too

Sam and Ellie benefit from the walking too

Small steps, but please, wish me luck sticking to them! I am amazed at how I have changed from telling people they can do anything health related, to openly struggling to make the very basics of a healthy lifestyle mine. I want to get back to my ‘old self’ now that I am settled into Houston, motherhood, faculty life, home ownership and whatnot. I want to have a healthy lifestyle. I can do this, right?

How to be supportive of women’s birthing choices

*Note: throughout I got tired of writing ‘women and their partners and families’, so I just wrote ‘women’. But I do believe wholeheartedly that birth decisions affect the whole family, and so should be a somewhat group decision.

Ah, the Mummy wars. Just as we might be close to reaching some kind of rapprochement over one issue (breastfeeding), we really hammer into a new one: birth. For the unenlightened, a war is indeed brewing. On one extreme, you have the group who think that any intervention is ‘birth rape’ (not kidding…). On the other side, perhaps as a backlash, you have the women claiming that allowing any kind of pain in childbirth is anti-feminist, and women who don’t give birth in a hospital are baby killers. It’s just another incarnation of the nipple waving breastfeeding sluts vs. the poisoning lazy formula feeders debate.

It would be nice if we could just ignore this. Let the extremists be extreme, and live in a happy middle road. But the knock on effect is that women are becoming miserable – people feel judged and found wanting, guilty, denied a right, some even feel violated for a medical professional doing their best. While I support attempts to improve medical care, and thus women’s birthing experiences, this does not seem the right way to go about it. I understand that is hard when people think they are fighting risk to babies, or denial of rights to women – both highly passionate issues – but it seems to me that the path we are going down is not working. Families and caregivers need to unite in support of one and another to enable informed choices and happiness with those. That’s not the same as inaction, nor will it lead to stagnation. I believe that within this modus operandi, there is still room for encouraging change and I also believe it is the way to help women and their partners make better choice.

Here is how I try to be supportive of all birthing choices:

(1) Everyone: Be realistic and scientific.

Don’t lie. Home birthers: admit that the risks to mother and child are higher (but very small) and note openly that scientific evidence shows that epidurals at the right time do not increase C-section rates. Hospital birthers: be open: yes, a C-section is more likely, even when other factors are controlled for. Yes, pitocin increases the likelihood one will want an epidural, and not due to this, also increases the likelihood of a C-section. Be honest: you are more in the doctor’s hands, and you may be pressured to make an alternative choice. Home birthers: women in hospital may also not be pressured to make choices against their will and may work with professionals who are incredibly dedicated to following their birth wishes.

I have seen both done. At my Bradley classes (a natural birth class), our instructor was having a home birth. In the discussion about risks and benefits she noted that the risk were higher, but in absolute terms extremely minimal. She told us to go away, read, and make our own decisions. When my OB told me I needed an induction and I was resistant, she honestly talked through the increase in C-section occurrence. She told me to go away, think and read, and make my own decision.

Only by talking through openly and honestly about the facts and figures can women* make informed choices, and research ways to mitigate unwanted outcomes. When my OB was open about the increase in C-section risk with pitocin, I was able to research how to deal with this, and constructed a careful plan which took 2 days to effect, but resulted in a vaginal birth.

beliefs

(2) Anti-home birthers: Accept that you cannot save all of the babies, all of the time.

It can be a very emotive subject, and anti-home birthers usually cite the well-documented and reliable statistics of increased mortality with home birth. It is a tiny increase, but the pleading ‘won’t you please think of the children’, often accompanied by a picture of a stillbirth, can be very compelling. But here is the thing: home birth is not the last bastion of child (or maternal) risk. Children are starving to death, being shot to death in war, being shot to death because of lax safety, dying of vaccine preventable diseases, dying of non preventable diseases, dying because the basic standard of medical care is not uniformly distributed across economic strata in the US. That’s not to say that we should be cavalier about infant mortality, but some perspective helps. If you are not pouring equal amount of vocal outrage into all causes of child suffering (especially given how many more children die from these other causes, than from home birth), I would ask you to reconsider your reasons for championing an anti-home stance.

(3) Home birthers: to use your own words: anyone could do it.

If forced to, then I am pretty sure (but have not checked the empirical evidence) that anyone could deal with the pain of childbirth. Some people choose to have an epidural (or other pain relief) and there is nothing ‘weak’ about it. It’s just a choice, like the one to go to Kroger vs. Fiesta (or Tesco vs. Sainsburys for my dear UK readers), and should not have a value judgement attached to it.

(4) Anti-home birthers: We all take risks with our child.

Accept it, we all take unnecessary risks with our child. To anyone taking a ‘holier than thou’ approach to their child rearing I could point out preventable risks you take. Take your child in a car? Increased risk!! Why not stay at home or within walking distance until the child is 16 ?  You might say: that’s not practical, the benefit outweighs the unrealistic cost.

Sure – to *you*. There are people, I am sure, who follow this (small number though they are).  Ultimately: you don’t know the cost to someone of going into hospital. You don’t know their fears and needs, and how strong they are. You cannot judge for someone else whether the costs outweigh the benefits, because you don’t know them.

(4) Home birthers: We all take risks with our child.

You may tout increased bonding for a drug free childbirth, or a cite the evidence that some aspects of pain relief get to the baby and affect their immediate post-birth presentation. But again, you will do something that is sub optimal for your child’s development (although defining that is tricky), sometimes out of ignorance (and so some education is OK), but sometimes because to you and your family judge the benefit to be greater than the cost, as above. And that’s OK.

I could go on, but it has been (for me) a long post. I will always choose a hospital birth. I will always research and learn, but I will always reach an agreement with my trained medical professional. If I can’t do that, I will seek out a medical professional with whom I can, because this provider is obviously not right for me. For my birth, I agreed to an unwanted induction, but I worked out a fairly long and complicated plan for doing everything I could to ensure a vaginal birth. Indeed, this was necessary, if I had not worked with my OB on devising a 2-day induction, I would have been one of the ‘C-sections after a day on pit’ statistics.

That being said, if I had had a C-section, I hope I would have worked with my provider and still have thought it a wonderful experience. Many aspects of my birth sucked (or at least the aftermath), but I am delighted with the whole experience. Shit happens. But I got this thing out of it:

P1000780

My plea: chill, relax, channel your energy / outrage somewhere else [send refugees donations, volunteer at your local hospital, whatever], remember that you are not a bat, and don’t know what it is like to be a bat. Gain some perspective: birth is important, but it is just one aspect of a whole lifetime of wonderful experiences.

Peace. Love. Babies.