Yes, I am a white woman.

Disclaimer:  I’m putting this baby right up top here.  This is my blog; this is me unlearning.  I want to make change, and I want to help.  But first — I need to unlearn some massive concepts, things that have simply been my way of life until now.  So if you come to my blog, and if, while here, you see something that I’ve written that is offensive or blatantly wrong, please help me to unlearn.  Yes, I understand this is my own duty, ultimately, but if you find yourself here on my blog, please help me to unlearn.

A lot has happened in the last week.  We got a new president in the United States, and then millions of people from around the world protested the day after.  I myself did not march in the Women’s March on January 21.  As much I wanted to be out there with a sign, cheering and chanting and fighting for my rights as a woman, I wasn’t.

But in the days following the march, in the soaring joy and hope I felt at the massive success of the march, it was quickly apparent that I, as a WW, I have a very narrow, limited experience in the issues that face women in this country and around the world.

Yes, I need feminism because sexist comments are common in my workplace.  Yes, I need feminism because my maternity leave at my job just isn’t long enough.  Yes, I need feminism  because men’s voices are continually considered more important than my own.  Yes, I need feminism because I want my reproductive rights.  But, as I said, it’s become quite clear that my struggles are laughably simple in the face of what women of color (WOC) experience in the United States.

There are few things in my life that are absolutely certain.  Two of those things are that I am white, and that I am a woman.  I am a white woman (WW).  I can’t help that, and I can’t apologize for that.  And so I am trying to unlearn what that really means.

To be sure: I am privileged.  I have read a lot of people around the internet talking about all the “hard work” they have put in to being successful, but — let’s be real — working an after school job for 12 hours per week in high school, studying real hard for your college midterms, going on a couple unsuccessful interviews is not the kind of struggle that is relevant here.  Hey, I’m happy that you’re successful in life, but guess what?  If you consider the above examples (and other similar examples with slight variation) “hard work,” you’re not really the targeted demographic of the recent Women’s March.

You’re not really the targeted demographic, and you may not really understand why such a fight is necessary.  You may make the above “hard work” argument, you may state that there is no “problem,” that you’re able to take care of your family, and that your rights are not trampled upon day in and day out.  You may even be a woman who mocked and belittled the Women’s March and its participants.

The Women’s March, and feminism in general, is about ensuring human rights are honored for women the same as they are honored for men.  The Women’s March, and feminism in general, is about equality across the spectrum of the sexes.  It’s about all women: Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women.  It’s about LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice (see the Women’s March’s principles here).  Feminism is about you and your rights, whether you believe that you, and this country, this world, need it or not.

There are articles and activists around the internet blatantly calling out WW on our obvious lack of concern about such issues until November 8, 2016.  Of course, there were WW activists prior to trump’s election, however, if I’m using a blanket statement, I might as well just do it: white woman are just not politically and social justice motivated.  Why would we need to be?  I just outlined my experience as a WW and it sounds pretty fluffy compared to the extreme experiences of WOC.  Bottom line is that I have never been scared for my life because I am a white woman.  So, yeah, I’m in a position to do more work here.

There are articles and WOC activists around the internet stating how tired they are of carrying WW on their shoulders during political and social justice fights.  And I don’t blame them.  I am woefully under-educated in this sphere.  I’m quick to post something to social media, I am quick to make comments and calls — but beyond that, I have no idea what I’m doing.  Am I supposed to rely on WOC to show me the way?  How is that any better than before.

And that’s about where I am in my unlearning.  I am a white woman, and I’m trying to figure out what this means in this new political nightmare.  Stay tuned to this space for more unlearning.

What are your experiences with feminism and the Women’s March?  How has this changed since November 8, 2016?  And, most importantly: can you recommend me any reading to help with my unlearning?

exploringly yours,
Alaina x

No, I am not a mother.

There have been a three times in my (three year) career as an operating room nurse that I have received comments relating to my capacity to be a mother.

The first time was about a year and a half ago, I was working in an orthopedic surgery room with a bunch of boys men, and I was holding my own and giving them all shit.  (As you do.  This is probably one of my favorite things about working in the OR, almost always a little fun).  The attending surgeon wasn’t present at this time, and I was directing care for this patient, giving instruction to the resident surgeon.  Totally unprovoked, the (male) nurse anesthetist asked if I had kids.  When I responded with a no, he said, “You’ll make a great mom one day.”

The second time, I was wiping a patient’s running nose as she was waking up from anesthesia.  The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.”

The third time, just recently, I was fashioning a makeshift brief (diaper) for an incontinent patient.  The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.”  (Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is a weird phenomenon among nurse anesthetists….)

My response to the “you must be a mom” comments is some variation of, “nope, I’m just a nurse.”  These comments come when I’m doing something slightly above and beyond my standard job description, when I’m doing something a little extra, but vital, to that particular patients’ care.

While I don’t personally take offense to such comments, it certainly provides an interesting commentary around being a 29 year old woman.  When I receive these comments, it is because I’ve provided more personal care for the patient, I’ve channeled a more nurturing energy to someone in need.  Such comments illustrate the assumption that a woman must be a mother in order to be a whole, competent woman.

Being a woman, being female, looks and feels differently for everyone who identifies that way.  Each of us expresses this differently.  In my mind, I am fierce, deep, and beautiful.  A self-sufficient explorer.  I try to connect more with my intuition and creativity.  Each day, I want to unfurl a little more, become a little more me.  And hell, each day that may be different.  I am strong — I show and express my emotions, I vocalize and verbalize and sometimes do so too loudly.  My voice — loud and strong — is one of my favorite features, and one that gets the most flak.  My nickname (by at least one person at work) is Pitbull (not the singer) and I’ve been told I can be “perceived as aggressive.”  But each day, I work; I work hard and try each day to be a better nurse, a better human.  I’m trying to be comfortable in my skin, enjoy a nice dress, moderately comfortable heels, and make up.  I want to connect with myself and with others.  I want to love and fight and roar.

I identify as a woman.  I identify as a nurse.  I do not identify as a mother.  Maybe one day I’ll be a mother.  But no, I mustn’t be a mother to be a damn good nurse.  One of the best nurses I know never intends to have children.  And I know that I’m providing better care than some nurses who are mothers.  Being a mother makes no determination on nursing care.  (In addition, what do such comments say about nurses who are male?  I know plenty of amazing ones, and they are not “mothers.”  Another story.)

Women are powerful and dynamic beyond their capacity to birth children, to mother.  Now, more than ever, women need to harness that power; women need to be strong and together.  There should be no division or judgement placed upon a woman because of her choices in life.  There need only be support, acceptance, fighting back, and healing.  So much healing.

Do you identify as a woman?  What are you thoughts on womanhood?  Have you ever felt judged by another person based on your sex, gender, womanhood, or mothering capabilities/abilities?  Let me know in the comments below.

exploringly yours,
Alaina x

Some portions of this post have been previously posted on my Instagram feed

Quick Tips for Solo Female Travel

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Hey guys!  Most often, I travel on my own and I love it.  When I’m on the road alone, I can operate under my own schedule, with only my own tastes and preferences to take in to consideration.  I find traveling alone to be empowering, particularly for females, and also exciting.  However, there are not many woman in my life who have traveled alone.  In talking about my trips with others, the comment I most hear is about how the other women could not travel on their own.  I am here to tell you that traveling solo takes not-much-more initiative than it would to travel with another person and that, in my experience, solo travel is quite safe.

I do not want to belittle the fact that terrible things can and do happen to any one, any where, and I am not immune to this fact.  However, I use the following tips nearly every day when I’m traveling alone and nothing disastrous has happened.  With a little insight, a bit of common sense, and a dash of confidence anyone can travel alone and have a great time.  While these tips are geared toward females, anyone can use them!

1.  First and foremost, you must be prepared.

The three most important things to know when going on a trip are: where you are going, how you are getting there, and where you are staying once you get there.  Once you have that set, you are good to go.

I strictly use WiFi when I’m abroad, so when I do have WiFi, I map out where I’m going – for example, my route from the train station to my accommodation – and screenshot it on my iPhone so that I can use it for reference later.  I also use this tip when I’m going out for the day: I make a map to a site I want to see or restaurant I want to check out.

These screenshoted maps will help you from getting lost, but it’s important to be aware of some good landmarks in your new city to use as another reference.  Figure out where you are staying in relation to that landmark in case you get turned around.  I’ve found it’s more difficult to get completely lost in a big city like London because you’re almost always within walking distance of a tube station (just make sure you know what tube station you’re staying near as well!).  And, in a walkable city like Edinburgh, knowing your landmarks will help you to walk your way out of being lost.

If you do get totally lost, don’t get scared – this will make you more vulnerable.  Stop, take a look around, reference your screenshoted maps, and see if you can get your bearings.  If not, walk until you see a Starbucks or McDonalds (one will almost always be close by!) and use the free WiFi there to figure out where you are.  If all of that fails, ask a local, as they can be quite helpful!

Remember: always have local cash, your smartphone, and your passport on you in case of an emergency.

2.  Don’t be too casual when traveling alone.

It’s important to always keep your wits about you when traveling solo.  Stay vigilant, and be aware of what is going on around you.  Have fun, but don’t throw caution entirely to the wind.

When traveling alone, trust your gut instincts.  If something feels fishy, it probably is. Turn the other way, politely excuse yourself – just make sure, if you aren’t comfortable, to get out of that situation.

Don’t overdrink!  Of course, it’s ok (and encouraged!) to go out and have a couple drinks, but don’t over consume.  This is when mistakes are made, and bad choices seem like good ones.

Keep all your valuables in your bag and not in your pockets.  Your bag should be something that is not entirely conspicuous, but it should be secure.  For example, I use a Timbuk2 extra small messenger bag, and when I’m out, I secure the front flap with the two straps on the bottom so that it would be difficult for anyone to get in.

3.  Finally, on a less serious note – always have a book with you!

The book will keep you good company in pubs, restaurants, on public transport, or anywhere else you don’t want to feel so alone.

I fully advocate for solo travel, for anyone.  It’s when I do my best exploration, self-reflection, and creative thinking and hope that you would find the same.  I hope these little, but important, tips make solo travel seem a little less daunting.  Do you have anything that you would add?  Let me know if you have any questions about traveling solo!

Exploringly yours,

Alaina