Weekly Blogroll

Nov 06 2010 Published by under Sunday Morning Blogroll

Photo by Paul (Dex)

If you’re looking for something to read as you sip your morning coffee this weekend, I’ve scoured the blogosphere for you and collected some of the best stuff out there:

My Son is Gay

by Nerdy Apple Bottom

This is a brilliant and touching post by a mom whose 5-year-old son wanted to dress up like a girl for Halloween, and the flak they both received as a result. Go to post…

Diamonds and Debt

by Tammy Strobel

Rowdy Kittens blogger extraordinaire reflects on her past obsession with diamonds, and how the expensive wedding ring she insisted on having no longer holds happy memories. Go to post…

Letting Go and the Fear of Death

by Natalie Baker

This is a lovely post with beautiful imagery. Natalie explores why we resist letting go of things and experiences. Go to post…

Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World

by Chris Guillebeau

This is an oldie but a goodie. Chris’s blog is called The Art of Non-Conformity. If you’ve ever thought about flipping the bird to your 8 to 5 cubicle gig, this post should provide some inspiration. Go to post…

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Gender Stereotypes and the Pressure to Conform

Sep 29 2010 Published by under Stereotypes

Photo by Lisa Norwood

This week, a Findlay, Ohio middle school student broke an 11-year-old classmate’s arm when he lifted the boy into the air and then slammed him on the ground. It wasn’t the first time the boy, Tyler, was targeted by bullies. Two bullies in particular started harassing Tyler when they saw him practicing with the school’s youth football cheerleading squad. (Read the story here.)

Tyler’s mom says the break is bad enough that it may require surgery.

The story doesn’t say why the bullies (both on the football team that Tyler cheers for, by the way) reacted so angrily to Tyler being a cheerleader. I can only speculate it has to do with gender roles, and the tired old stereotype that cheerleading is just for girls.

Is it possible that no one in Findlay watches college sports? Cheerleading hasn’t been a girls-only activity for decades. Ohio State—a Big 10 school—has more than 20 big, burly guys in its Spirit Program.

Bullying is Learned Behavior

Stories like this upset me on multiple levels. That any child has learned it is acceptable to assault or intimidate another person simply for being different is frightening. I say learned, because bullies are made and not born. Kids learn to bully by watching how their families and peers interact with others.

I am also angered by the belief that those who act outside of society’s rigid gender stereotypes are somehow inferior. Males who display compassion and empathy, for example, are often viewed as weak and called “pussies.” Females who act assertively and independently are seen as unfeminine and labeled “bitches.” Our culture implies that gay men are less masculine and lesbian women less feminine than their straight counterparts.

Confronting Gender Stereotypes

We learn at an early age what it means to be a boy or a girl in our society. We get messages about gender from our parents, toys, television, books, schools, and teachers. Boys are encouraged to be aggressive, loud, and independent. Girls are valued for being quiet, pretty, and submissive. Think about the following statements. How many of them have you heard? How many do you believe to be true?

  • Boys don’t cry
  • Women aren’t good at math
  • Boys shouldn’t play with dolls
  • Women are terrible drivers
  • Real men eat meat
  • Muscles on women are unfeminine
  • Men don’t use straws
  • Shouting isn’t ladylike
  • All feminists are ugly
  • All male nurses are gay

None of these statements is based in fact. They are all stereotypes that reflect our society’s expectations of males and females. I invite you to spend some time thinking about how you define masculine versus feminine. Do you think negatively of someone who doesn’t match those ideas? If you have children, what have you taught them about the differences between men and women?

I mentioned in my first post that I was picked on in school for being different. The truth is I had it easy compared to some others. Kids that didn’t fit traditional gender roles had a particularly tough time. “Feminine” boys and “masculine” girls were bullied relentlessly. That was a long time ago, but sadly, it seems not much has changed. If anything, bullying is an even worse problem than it was back then.

Change Starts With You

Threats, intimidation, and physical violence should never be the way we resolve conflict.

A study from a group called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids concluded that nearly 60 percent of boys whom researchers classified as bullies in grades 6-9 were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24. Forty percent of those same boys grew up to have three or more criminal convictions.

Learning to accept and embrace one another’s differences is critical to being successful in our society. As adults we have to learn to live and work side-by-side with people from all walks of life. Kids should be taught that it isn’t necessary to like or agree with everyone, but that everyone does deserve to be treated with respect.

Further Discussion

What do you think? Share your thoughts and experiences on bullying by posting a comment and starting a discussion.

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Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Vegan

Sep 10 2010 Published by under Vegan

Photo by norwichnuts

When my first husband’s mother found out I was a vegetarian, she was visibly flustered. “My son needs meat!” she proclaimed. I wish I could say I was shocked, but it was hardly the first time my dietary choices garnered such a visceral reaction. An aunt of mine once chided me, stating that God put animals on this earth for us to eat. “It’s in the Bible!”

I went vegetarian in 1991, and am now a vegan. Vegan means I don’t eat meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, or any other product derived from animals. While veganism is slowly becoming more mainstream—even Oprah’s tried it—here in the land of brats and cheese, it can be a challenge.

Admittedly, it’s far easier to be a vegan in Madison than in other Midwestern cities I’ve lived. We have some great natural food stores and there are many restaurants with vegan options on the menu, or vegetarian options that can be easily modified.

My veganism is deeply personal. For me, it is the right thing to do for ethical, ecological, and health reasons.

I’m sure I’ll be posting about veganism frequently, since it’s such a large part of who I am. For me, veganism is not a platform for judging or lecturing others. I hope simply to help remove some of the stigma. Try it, you might like it!

And yes, I get enough protein.

Have something to add? Please, leave a comment with your thoughts. If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to Peculiar Girl or share it on Twitter or Facebook.

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Life on My Terms: Why Bullies and Critics Can’t Keep Me Down

Sep 08 2010 Published by under My Story

Photo by Nono Fara

I let go of the top bar and fell backward, my gymnastics teacher guiding my six-year-old body through the move. With my knees still hooked around the bottom bar, the momentum carried me down, around, and back up again. At the top of the circle I released my knees from the bar and landed on my feet, arms triumphantly raised to the sky. It’s called a penny drop, and I was one of only two girls in my class brave enough to try it.

Back then I was a fearless—a tiny spitfire with a pixie haircut and scabby knees. I climbed trees, learned to skateboard, and rode my bike downhill “no-handed” as fast as I could. I did what made me happy. And there was no one telling me I shouldn’t.

Just before my seventh birthday my family moved from the city to a small, rural town. I would start second grade at a new school. There were no gymnastics classes, no friends next door, and I sprained my ankle the first time I tried riding my bike on gravel—my wheels spun in the loose rock and I fell, catching my foot in the spokes.

There, everyone knew everyone else. Their families had lived there for generations, most of them farmers. They went to church. We didn’t. They did chores before school. I didn’t. How strange I must have seemed—with my unfamiliar last name and short haircut. A kid on the bus asked if I was a boy or a girl. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so fearless.

From the get-go I didn’t fit in. I was criticized, teased, and sometimes bullied for being “weird.” Most of it seemed to stem from my taste in clothes, my choice of friends, and that I sucked at dodge ball.

Ultimately, growing up a misfit was a positive experience for me. It made me a stronger, more empathetic person. I realized that happiness doesn’t come from the approval of others, and that just because something is popular doesn’t make it right. I also developed a thicker skin, which definitely helps in my career. When you’re a writer, EVERYONE has an opinion about your work. You learn to take it all in stride.

It takes patience and courage to live life on one’s own terms, but I believe it is the only path to true happiness. I started this blog to share my triumphs and challenges, and to hopefully inspire others to embrace what makes us different from one another.

Have something to add? Please, leave a comment with your thoughts. If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to Peculiar Girl or share it on Twitter or Facebook.

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