Sunday, December 28, 2014

Blog- 12-28

Liv Blog-#4

I am absolutely loving going deeper with my topic.  The more I find out about women’s health and motherhood rights in the military, the more I want to know.  It is a topic that is personal to me and many of my prior military friends.  At times as I am reading the DoD directives and publications about how mothers are supposed to be treated, I remember back to my time as an active duty service women and the stories of my female counterparts… and how were denied or deprived of so many of the rights ascribed by the DoD.  Many of the mandates set forth by the DoD are up to interpretation depending on the services.  One order will state that you can have up to six months after childbirth before being deployed, while specific branches state that after four months after childbirth, a mother can be deployed.  How can a mother properly nurse and/or care for her child if she is made to deploy when her baby is so young?

In addition to the shortness of recommended nursing time, the Marine corps order of pregnancy states that nursing mothers should be permitted sufficient time and clean accommodations for proper pumping while at work or on duty.  After reading the order, I was reminded of a conversation that I had with other prior active duty female service members, in which we reminisced about our experiences as mother while serving.  It was more painful that pleasant to reminisce about my early motherhood experiences in the Marines.  There was no such order that mandated clean and timely conditions for pumping.  I was awash with emotions when I read that mothers are not to pump while sitting on a toilet in a bathroom.  I could not believe that it took until 2010 for the Marines to figure out that mothers should not have to provide food for their children in such disgusting conditions.  I remember sitting on the edge of a toilet in a jet exhaust filled restroom to pump.  I was permitted no more than 15-20 minutes to complete the task and then was required to return to work.  Many times there was no soap or properly running water for me to wash my hands to rinse my pumping equipment.  As painful as it is to have gone through pumping in terrible conditions, I am grateful that now there are orders to protect new mothers and their families.  I hope that commands are interpreting the orders appropriately and allowing access to new mothers for the proper expression of breast milk for their babies.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blog #4 Dana

Hello again everyone!

As finals are are finally (see what I did there?) drawing to a close, I've been throwing myself into research for my paper. I'm going to visit a friend at UVA for the next few days while she finishes her finals, and I hope to finally hammer out a thesis and figure out how to incorporate the best practice organizations I'm looking at.

Leigh recently sent me an awesome article about schools teaching sex-ed (you can read it here:, which helped remind me about the uphill battle it will be to convince schools that students really do need comprehensive sex education. Previous generations didn't have to deal with the ubiquity of porn, which is why many parents today seem to be taking a it-doesn't-exist approach. Reading this article reminded me that much of my research and questions for the organizations need to be about how they think we can get schools to recognize that kids need comprehensive sex ed - and then actually want to teach it.

As I prepare to go home on Wednesday I'm thinking about all the time I'll have to spend around my parents (who know that I'm a sexual assault survivor but pretend they don't) and my extended family (who through their willful ignorance of Facebook don't know). I can feel my body preparing itself for several long weeks of battle, especially when so much of my break is going to be dedicated to writing this paper. Sex ed and sexual assault are going to be on my mind; I'm going to want to talk about it. I'm hoping that by pretending that my parents aren't pretending that I'm a survivor, I can convince them to actually consider what I'm doing worthwhile work. I know parental validation isn't everything in this world, but I relied so heavily on their validation in high school and not having that anymore is tough. Long story short - this should be an interesting break.

Until next time,


On Grief (and the importance of self-care)

It’s mid-December and our rough draft is due in a few short weeks. I’m confident everything will come together in time, but it’ll be tough – especially with the adjustment from student to full-time employee at Duke (no winter break for me!).

A close friend of mine lost his dad around this time last year, and it’s been a tough last few weeks. The impending holiday season – his family’s first without his father – has thrown him into a tailspin. He’s been calling in sick to work. He’s stopped going to the gym and returning my phone calls. His grief has resurfaced, bigger and meaner than ever, and he’s struggling to keep his head above water.

During stressful times like these, as we chug through the meatiest part of our fellowship program, it’s so, so important to practice self-care. It’s important to remember that your mental health is crucial to your overall well-being. It’s important to care for yourself deeply and deliberately. My friend’s situation got me thinking about how we conceive of grief, how cultural conceptions about the way we deal with loss and sorrow shape our experiences. So I wrote this:

On Grief

When my roommate killed my puppy in a freak accident last summer, I didn’t cry. Not at first.

Instead, I carefully wrapped Meelo in his favorite blanket, loaded him into my car, and drove to my mother’s house, where we buried him in a thick bed of white and yellow daisies in the backyard.

I watched my stepdad kneel, gingerly lowering Meelo’s tiny body into the ground; heard the spatter of dirt as he filled in the hole, and willed myself to cry. But it didn’t happen. I felt nothing. 

At the time, my reaction troubled me. All I knew about the grieving process was what I’d seen on Grey’s Anatomy. There were the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, eventually, acceptance. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross proposed this model in the 1960s, and it has since become the dominant paradigm we use to conceptualize grief.

Why, then, wasn’t I feeling those things? Sure, Meelo was just a dog, but he was family to me. He was my baby.

Later, in a course on the psychology of aging, I studied grief in greater depth. I learned about the role that culture plays in grief processes – how societal norms dictate what we consider “appropriate” responses to death and loss.   

In parts of Egypt, for example, it isn’t abnormal for a woman to openly grieve her son a decade after his death. Studies conducted in China, where mourners regularly speak to their dead relatives, have found that the bereaved there actually recover more quickly than grieving Americans do.

A few days after Meelo died I found his stuffed fox, “Frankie,” in a bag in my room. I thought back to the first night I brought him home – how he’d refused to sleep on the makeshift cot of pillows and blankets I’d arranged on the floor. How he’d dragged Frankie over and crouched, whimpering and shivering, beside my bed. How he’d ignored my gentle reprimands, scratching at the wooden bedframe until I finally caved, scooping him – he was small enough to fit in one hand – up and onto the bed beside me, where he curled up and promptly fell asleep. How he’d occupied that spot every night since.

And I sobbed. For hours. I called my grandmother. I binge-watched Scandal and ordered B’Skis with my roommates. I dealt with grief the only way I knew how, and, gradually, I felt the tightness in my chest begin to dissolve like a block of melting ice. Though my grieving process didn’t follow the five stages, it worked for me – and that, obviously, is what matters.

In fact, that same class on aging taught me that Kubler-Ross’s model is kind of a sham. It’s based largely on anecdotal rather than empirical evidence, and didn’t receive much support in later studies. Kubler-Ross admitted as much in her final book, writing, “Our grief is as individual as our lives.”

The takeaway from all of this is simple: there’s no correct way to grieve, no model or flow chart that could possibly capture the messy and deeply personal experiences of loss in neat, sequential boxes. No one can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” The only person who knows is you.


To the other fellows: If you're ever feeling overwhelmed, remember there's a huge support system at WomenNC to help you. We got this. 

To Be the Voice

These past few weeks have been A LOT! Between wrapping up classes and finals, preparing to go home for 3 weeks, becoming more and more immersed in the activism happening in Durham now, and working on my research project for the UN CSW fellowship, I’ve barely had time to process everything I’ve been doing. However, I’m very excited about the progress I’m making on my research project. I’ve partnered with a great organization, InStepp, whose executive director has been very supportive. I hope that even when this fellowship is over, I can continue to work with them in some capacity.

This week, I got to interview a few of InStepp’s clients who’ve recently been released from prison and have participated in InStepp’s Employment Re-entry Assistance program. I got to listen to their stories, their struggles and hopes for the future as well as their thoughts on the criminal justice system, its treatment of women and society’s treatment of women as a whole, particularly women of color. It was really helpful and inspiring to hear the voices of the women at the center of this entire project I’m working on. One woman, who expressed how happy she was that an organization like InStepp would get attention on an international level, after our interview told me that I could be the voice for women, specifically black women, who are incarcerated or have been incarcerated.

I knew she meant this in the context of my research project and the presentation I would be giving at the UN in March, but I couldn’t help but think about this statement in the larger context for some time, and I still am pondering it. What does it mean to be “the voice” of a group of people? Is that even the goal? Especially when one has a more privileged position than the people one is speaking for/about, how can one truly be an advocate, one that amplifies the voices of more marginalized others and creates the platform for those others to speak power to their own truths. But how can an advocate still speak to their own truths and leverage their privileges and individual abilities in ways that can go against the status quo?

As I get more into this advocacy research paper, these questions will be guiding my process. Instead of being the voice of incarcerated women in the United States, how can I be the microphone from which their voices speak through me? How can I combine my own skills and insights while still centering the experiences and thoughts of the women represented in the work I do?


Women and the Economy -- Alison blog post 4

I write this blog post from my home in Harrisonburg, VA, happy and thankful to be done with my second to last semester of school. I now have just two more classes at UNC and I will officially be done with undergrad! Of course, before then I will also have completed my amazing WomenNC experience, another fact which is hard to believe.

As I think about heading into the workforce in a few short months, I can't help but reflect on the situation of women and the economy and women in employment. I recently read this NY Times article, entitled "Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs Behind," about the economic downturn and lack of childcare and flexible policies that often push women out of the workforce. 

Of course, employment and economic participation are fundamental human rights and for many women, not working is just not an option. Women also consistently earn less than men (see infographic below). In my research, I hope to address the ways women face workplace discrimination and harassment, and how this has been successfully fought in North Carolina, in the US and around the world. For a soon-to-be-grad, this topic feels especially important, but I hope I can illuminate why all people should mobilize for workers' rights and power in often dehumanizing and overlooked systems.

Thanks to Lois for sending the link to this infographic. See more at:

Liv- Blog 4

CSW blog 4

To begin with I must express how grateful I am that this semester is over!  Between full-time grad school, this fellowship, buying a new house, ER visits with my daughter, the last month has been CRAZY.  …. And with the completion of one epic research paper, comes a new one.  (Why do I do this to myself? ..... my idea of a Christmas break is a break from my master’s research?... just to research for a fellowship?).   All that being said, I truly cannot wait for Christmas break from work to dive deep into my research for the fellowship. 

Through many of my social connections I have met some folks from a variety of countries and have reached out to them regarding my research for WomenNC.  It is interesting and helpful to have your questions answered straight from the horse’s mouth rather than read a piece online that only leave you with more questions.  Discussing my topic with people from the countries with women in the military adds an interesting point of view to how we as United States citizens view military service.  The countries that have compulsory service (as I have noticed through my social interactions) have a much more positive attitude towards women serving and thus far appear to support them (through attitude) in their pursuits of motherhood duties.  Israel for example requires everyone to serve, but are more willing to permit women to pursue their duties of motherhood and other womanly needs than we are here in the US.  …. (This so far is at the attitudinal level and requires deeper more factual inquiry).  Men and women alike, are required to serve a minimum of two years’ service in the Israeli military.  After that they may stay longer, make a career out of it or leave to pursue other life goals.  This could be why women who decide to have children do not see the problems that our mothers in the US armed forces face when they decide to have children.

Another country that surprised me was Turkey.   They as well have compulsory service requirements, that if you do not serve by the time you are of age, you face imprisonment.  On man referenced in my conversation had lived in the US for tens of years, was pushing the maximum age of service and went back to Turkey to serve in their military to avoid being jailed for his lack of service to his country.   While our discussion involved a male, I do not yet know what Turkey’s requirements, if any, there are for females in the military.

Through my social interactions these last two weeks, I have been left with many questions that I look forward to delving into and aligning with CEDAW and the Beijing Platform.  I will have a rather long train ride to NYC next weekend to do some deeper, more focused research… and I am more than excited for that.  Here’s to Christmas Breaks celebrated with post research …. research!  Cheers!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Justine Schnitzler-Blog Post 4

Hello again, all!

These past two weeks have been absolutely jam-packed—I had to prepare for (and take) six finals, finish several papers, and prepare to return home for the first time in a few months! On top of that, I drafted (with the help of my fantastic mentor, Anuja!) my questions for both intended best-fit partner organizations. In my case, these organizations are Ipas and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina. So far, Ipas has answered my request for an email interview, and I am working with Leigh to get my paper thesis secure before contacting Planned Parenthood.

I am definitely starting to feel nervous about the whole writing process—as in many ways, I feel like I’m going into this assignment blind. That being said, every person I have reached out to has been incredibly, incredibly helpful, and I am confident I will be able to get this paper done, hopefully before the holidays really kick into high gear!
It definitely isn’t ideal to have such a big component of this Fellowship due immediately following winter break, but that doesn’t diminish how honored I am to be a part of it. I am also confident that when this is all finished, I am going to be extremely satisfied with the work I have accomplished.

Have a wonderful holiday season—until next time—


Dina Shehata_Blog Post 4

I’ll start off with some happy news! I completed the first semester of my graduate program this week! It has been a challenging but incredible semester and I am very thankful for all the amazing opportunities I have had the pleasure of taking part in. I love my program and can’t wait for another remarkable semester in the spring!

As for the organizations I mentioned previously, for the best practice model, I have had the opportunity to interview one of the organization’s directors on the phone. I also attended an event for the second organization which consisted of mock interviews for the girls involved. I am waiting to hear back from the third organization’s director because she is out of town.  I was advised to have my research focused on women of all ages, rather than only young girls. This is why I am thinking of using all three organizations. One is for elementary school-aged girls, the second is for high school students, and the third is for middle school-aged children I believe. All three organizations are specifically for girls. I believe showcasing all three organizations would be a great way to have comprehensive research, research that includes women of all ages. Once I have finalized the organizations that I will utilize in my research, I will list the names and details of the organizations. This will be revealed in my next blog! I have been telling many of my friends about WomenNC along with the fellowship and they all admire the organization very much and are very excited for the presentations of our work in the spring.

Now that I have completed my finals, I will be heading home for the break and will take time to continue my research and complete the paper. I am very excited to include all my findings about the organizations I have contacted because they are great at what they do and truly make a difference in the girls’ lives.

Happy Holidays to all and I’ll see you next year!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Josh Blog 3

Earlier today, a grand jury failed to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, a 47-year-old man suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes this July. A video of the arrest has gone viral: in it, Pantaleo can be seen placing Garner in a chokehold and refusing to loosen his grip, even as Garner screams, “I can’t breathe!” Eventually, Garner’s body goes limp.
This incident comes mere days after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, declined to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager. A few Saturdays ago, police gunned down Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old holding a BB gun on a playground in Ohio.
These incidents are incredibly troubling for a number of reasons. In communities across this country, there have been myriad instances of police killings of unarmed black men (and, in the case of Tamir Rice, children).
When I interned with the Durham NAACP a few summers ago, my job was to document the incidents of police misconduct that were reported to me by the people – mostly Durham residents – who called in to our office. I heard countless stories similar to the ones above – men and women racially profiled, pulled over without reason, handcuffed without explanation, harassed and abused and viciously beaten by police.
One man was pulled over while driving his elderly mother to the grocery store. When he questioned the officer, he was dragged from his car, brutally beaten, and choked until he became unconscious. In their report, police claimed the man had assaulted and spat on them, failing to note that the “spit” in question was actually foam. They had choked the man so violently that he’d begun foaming at the mouth.
How do we talk about race? This is a question Roxane Gay, a prominent writer and professor, grappled with in a recent column in The Guardian: “How do we see one another as human, as having lives that matter, as people deserving of inalienable rights?”
Conversations about race are never easy, but they are so, so crucial. Many white Americans have said they are sick of hearing about the Michael Brown incident. A 2011 Harvard study found that whites, on average, believe that anti-white racism is a bigger problem than anti-black racism. Yes, these are the actual results of an actual study that actually happened.
Nicholas Kristof published a four-part series, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” in the New York Times over the last few months. In it, he calls on white Americans to “wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress.” The truth is that the lived reality for white Americans is very, very different from that of black Americans. Until we acknowledge that, until white Americans recognize their privilege, until we are able to have an open and honest conversation about the state of race relations in our nation, no real progress will be made.