Gold with Jeanette Schneider Episode 4: The Next Fight with Dr. Caroline Heldman

Today I am joined by Dr. Caroline Heldman, badass. Dr. Heldman is the unsung feminist hero. The Gloria Steinem of her generation.

A political scientist, political correspondent and professor at Occidental, Dr. Heldman has dedicated her life to social justice causes and does so because of her own experience with sexual violence and systems of power. She has authored a number of books, is the lead researcher for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and can be seen in documentaries Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In, amongst others.

What I love about this conversation is that Dr. Heldman gives us a glimpse into the day to day life of an activist. It is a tough calling, but one that fits her well. We talk the value of data driven arguments as women begin to ask for the pay they deserve and positions of power. We cover the influence media has on our girls and dig into the #metoo and End Rape on Campus movements.

I’m glad she is on our side.

As always, please subscribe to this podcast, leave a review and don’t forget to share with your friends. I’m always interested in content that uplifts, so if you have things you’d like to hear about, please share them with me in the comments. You can also find me on Instagram @ms.jeanetteschneider or Twitter @msjwrites. 

If you’d like to get deep in the work with me, pick up my book LORE: Harnessing Your Past to Create Your Future now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. com

Until next time – in the words of my grandma, “Love each other every day.”

In your ears, filling your heart.

Xo,

J

Five Facts About Your “Bad Boy” Boyfriend by Randy Susan Meyers

I had the distinct privilege of meeting Randy Susan Meyers several years ago in New York. I loved her Bostonian vibe, quick wit and literary prowess and then, when her first book THE MURDERERS DAUGHTERS was released, I fell in love with her brain.

I reached out to Randy to ask if she’d share something based on her experience working with batterers, what would you want women or girls to know? She recently sent this gem and I hope that it resonates with the those who need this kind of insight.

Please welcome the lovely Randy Susan Meyers –

Randy Susan Meyers

Perhaps the lure of the bad boy is similar to the lure of climbing Mt. Everest. It feels so good to conquer it and get to the top—despite all the pain you felt on the ascent. Unfortunately, you have to climb down and start all over again to get back up to that thrilling peak.

And that trip down is filled with pain and ugliness.

Working with batterers for ten years afforded me plenty of material and plenty of insight. The clearest and most useful lesson I learned was this: a ‘bad boy’ isn’t edgy, exciting, and a bag of fun, he’s mean and selfish and looking out for number one—himself—all the time.

Many of the batterers were classic bad boys; they could charm like no one else. They gave me smoldering glances so I’d know that I was the only one in the entire world who they’d let inside their soul. When they didn’t have money to pay for classes, or had been picked up on a new charge, or failed a drug test, they’d look at me with their carefully tortured eyes and tell me how sorry they were.

They really were sorry. Sorry they’d been caught and sorry they had to spend another night pretending to pay attention to this crap we were teaching.

At their core, these guys weren’t very different from the bad boys I’d once been drawn to. But never again, not after working that job. I wish I could share with every woman the experience of sitting in a circle with 15 court-ordered-to-be-there bad boys, because at some point during the 42 weeks they occupied that chair in the church basement, they let loose with some truth that revealed the dime a dozen ordinariness of bad boy behavior.

So, while I can’t put you in that room, I can try to share with you what I learned there:

1) When you and your bad boy get in that insane fight, and you don’t know how it began, why it happened, or why he stormed out the door . . . when you’re ready to follow him so you can beg his forgiveness—but you don’t have any idea what to apologize for—here’s what’s really going on:

He wanted to get out of the house. So he caused the fight. The men I worked with (ages seventeen to seventy-something) admitted it. This sleazy little tactic is dime-a-dozen common.

2) Which leads to this: What did most men admit they wanted to get out of the truly awful battles that you cried through? You know, the ones where he yelled so loud you finally backed down? The ones where you felt as though you’d die of hurt?

If Jeopardy could have more realistic categories, the response to “most common thing men want women to do during a fight?” would be “Alex, what is “shut the f*** up.

Yes, another thing these men admitted to me when I worked with them. They knew that with enough fighting and yelling they could wear you down and get you to shut up and back down.

3) Remember this when he tells you “you’re the only one I’ve ever been able to talk to.” Yeah, right. Think those words with a real sarcastic tone because first of all he’s probably said the same thing to 100 other women before you. Because he knows those words work like catnip and honey.  The men I worked with were very clear that they used this line only to manipulate. Every man I worked with admitted to saying the same.

4) When he says, “I can’t live without you,” here’s a news flash. He can. And he will. Quite well. The question is, can you live with him? Do you want to? Do you like being kept off balance? Do you treasure being used like medicine for someone’s lack of self-confidence or need to control?

5) You want to believe it will change and that things will get better. That if you explain it once more, write one more email, one more letter, one more pleading text, and cry one more time, then finally he will understand! And once he understands, those moments of incredible tenderness and bliss —when he gives you that crooked smile and takes you in his arms and then gently helps you onto his exciting motorcycle—will last forever.

I promise you, things will not change. He will not get better. There’s nothing you can do unless he wants to change. Nothing. The cycle will continue as long as you let it.

So here’s my advice, as a mother, a sister, a friend and most of all, from a woman who worked with those bad boys:

Choose kind over thrilling. It wears much better.

Choose responsible over devil-may-care. It will keep you and your children warm and safe at night.

Choose a man who wants to be your friend, not one who will be your life-long home improvement project.

Randy Susan Meyers’ novels are informed by her work with criminal offenders and families impacted by emotional and family violence. Her most recent novel, Accidents of Marriage, was chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as “2015 Must Read Fiction” and by Kirkus Reviews as on of their “Top Ten Popular Fiction” choices. Both the hardcover and paperback placed on the Independent Bookstores IndieNext List in 2014 and 2015.

Choosing Accidents of Marriage as a People “Pick of The Week,” the magazine wrote, “This novel’s unsparing look at emotional abuse and its devastating consequences gives it gravity and bite, while a glimpse into a physically damaged mind both surprises and fascinates.
”

The Boston Globe called her second novel, The Comfort of Lies, “Sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny when the author skewers Boston’s class and neighborhood dividing lines, but it has a lot of heart, too.”

Meyers debut novel, also picked by the Massachusetts Center for The Book as a “Must Read” book, The Murderer’s Daughters was called a “Knock-out Debut” by the LA Times and was a nationwide Target Book Club pick.

Meyers teaches writing at Grub Street Writers Center. She is the mother of two grown daughters and lives in Boston with her husband. Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages.

You can find Randy at www.randysusanmeyers.com.

 

 

Insecurity Is A Waste of Time

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A few times over the last few years I’ve been asked for a favorite quote or expression that is important to me. Once was for a female small business owner who was building her own blow dry bar. She wanted a wall of famous women’s quotes to act as a backdrop for women who’d just had their hair done. A few months later I stood before it while celebrating the opening of Blowout Dollhouse with a proud new business owner.

Last week I was asked again for quotes for an event where I’ll be speaking this week. I took a few days, mulling over all the gifs and pretty sayings that decorate my phone and my office. I again found myself drawn to the same one and I always smile to myself when I share it.

The back story is a good one, if I do say so myself.

It was roughly four years ago. I’d flown in from one city to realize that while changing out dry cleaning to fly to another, divorce was on the horizon. I wiped tears as I headed to West Palm Beach. I sank into the Florida humidity upon arriving, feeling as if my home state was going to help soften the blow. I had to get it together and fast. I was going to spend a weekend with the most successful women in financial services. They wore Laboutins and sparkling things, all brains and verve. I was intimidated in my state.

I prepped for my mission: looking like them. I would seem poised and polished while my insides were caving in upon themselves. Yes, definitely. They wouldn’t notice that I didn’t belong.

Then a funny thing happened.

They were honest about all the things on my mind. There were maybe twenty men to the thousand women and my God, how women speak differently when we are around our sisters. Yes, there were talks about economies and global trends, but there were also talks about how you have to take time for yourself, how it is hard to juggle career, marriage and children, solidarity sister.

One woman shared that while she had gotten kids to school, ran meetings, thawed dinner, made soccer and took a red eye out of New York, all she wanted to do was fill her brain with mindless drivel. She tucked herself into an InStyle magazine. Her seat mate, however, had her laptop out and was making notes while flipping through graphs and reports. After realizing they were heading to the very same conference, she told the very focused woman, “Wow, I feel incredibly lazy.” The woman laughed and I will never forget what she said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m the keynote speaker tomorrow. I just had a baby and she’s sick. My husband has been sending me updates every few minutes. This is the only time I’ve had to prepare.”

She was the Chief Economist for a large firm.

They then talked babies and balance.

She nailed her keynote.

Every woman at the conference was her most beautiful, natural, smart and nurturing self. These women were so enlightened and encouraged by the way a male-dominated industry feels when the men aren’t in the room. When women come together to inspire one another, to make you feel less alone, less anomaly, its a beautiful thing.

We talked about the guilt, my God, the guilt. We talked about marriage and personal relationships, messy and glorious, I try so hard to be present. We talked about the children we were raising, I try so hard to be present. We talked about who we become when the men are in the room, the layers we put on, the children we forget for a lunch meeting, because you can’t be a mom. We talked about the health concerns we don’t share with our male colleagues and clients, because then you are a woman. We talked about how you are scared to take maternity leave, because then they look at you with the wondering, soft eyes.

The weekend ended with a final keynote by Diane von Furstenberg. She had a Power Point presentation with pictures of herself as a child, as a Princess, as a mom and finally, the pinnacle photo of the wrap dress that turned her into a design house. She talked about her regrets as a mother, her role as a grandmother, her career frustrations and failures.

When asked what she lived by, what drove her to continue, she said as self-confidently as you can imagine a former princess to espouse, “Insecurity is a waste of time.”

Isn’t it just?

Can you imagine if every woman in that room confidently owned each relationship she had and all the hats she wears, no insecurities? I think through conversations I’ve had, meetings I’ve walked into, moments I’ve silenced myself and worried that I was too… something. Too soft, too hard, too feminine, too masculine, too talkative, too expressive, too… all the things that make me who I am.

There sometimes comes a time in your life and in your career that you find your value. And, most will tell you even when you find it, life has a funny way of saying, “Are you sure?” and offering you missteps and ego to dig through so that you finally find your footing and say, “Yes, I’m sure. This is who I am and what I do well. And you know what? Here are the things I don’t do well. I’m going to own them too.”

Ms. DVF herself, in her very poignant, clipped comments, asked us to learn who we were, all our iterations, and own them. Own who you are today, find your why, your reason, your gifts.

Then stand up and introduce yourself.

No apologies allowed.

 

Say it.

Occasionally you will stumble upon a moment that will inspire and uplift you. I had one of those on Friday. I was running errands when I stopped short as the ad below caught my eye and I then caught my breath and shook my head.

IMG_6871I posted a quick photo on Facebook with my irritation and suddenly women across the country were not only agreeing that it was insulting, but posting photos of other ads they’d recently come across that caused them pause, such as this one in a San Diego Lululemon window.

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While those of us who have either tried CrossFit, have friends that lift or have trained understand this is a play on words, the connotation is clear. Lulu is obviously trying to branch out from yoga to the fit girl world and get it, kids. But, don’t get it at the expense of the women that are willing to lay down $150 for your pants while also being demoralized. Don’t get it at the expense of the young and highly impressionable girls that are walking by your store who aren’t eating lean meat out of tupperware and trying to get cut. Don’t get it in a world where your word play sets us back as a gender by fifty years.

I knew I was going to do something with all of this, but I didn’t have to as the day unwound itself. One of my highly intelligent and badass friends who also happens to serve as the President of the Women’s Exchange for her company very kindly handled it in her trademark “I got this” way. Both companies were contacted via email or social media on behalf of her Women’s group with a kind notification that the ads generated a “collective disgust” and simply asked that they be removed.

They were.

Quickly.

The jeweler apologized for the offense and advised that the ad would be moved by the following afternoon.

Lululemon?

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Women posted support, posted love, posted that they absolutely loved the conversation that was transpiring. In 24 hours ads that were not well thought through were removed because someone used their grace, class and smarts to speak on behalf of a larger collective.

You should never be afraid of your voice. Used constructively you can inspire others, inspire change and maybe even maybe.. make a marketing team think twice no matter where they end up in the world. Maybe that is just a few fewer girls that will see a message they shouldn’t.

Say it.

Always say it.

Boss Girl

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When I was pregnant with my daughter I knew exactly what she was going to be like, what she was going to eat and that she would not, I touted, be allowed to believe in princesses nor have a PlaySkool vacuum, if she wants a Barbie, Barbie better be a vet. There would be no Little Tikes kitchen, she would never don an apron and God forbid she have a babydoll.

Well, God apparently forbade my mother in law, who saw it as more of a challenge and threw in a stroller and a bottle. She rolled her eyes at me as my daughter held her baby and patted it’s back, “I mommy like you, mama!”

When my daughter played house during a play date in her friend’s plastic kitchen she cried out, “I making pasta like mommy!” My friend ceremoniously smirked, “She just wants to be like you.”

I scowled.

I finally gave up on my aspirations of a feminist toddler when I saw how enamored she was with Cinderella and the glitz, glam and goodness of her fairy godmother. She stood wide-eyed in front of the TV while one of my girlfriends and I nursed broken hearts on my couch. My friend had just found out her boyfriend cheated on her and I was turning marital memories into line items for a judge to review.

My friend looked forlorn as she nodded toward Liv, eyes puffy, as the “One Day My Prince Will Come” part came up. She wrapped her arms around her legs and sighed, “This is how it starts…” Then she started singing along.

“I know. Look at how happy she is though…”

I looked at my daughter with magic swirling around her, wispy fairy tales and Happily Ever Afters and resigned my desire to keep her chin above the dumb girls who only seek a Prince Charming, “You go ahead and believe in love, baby girl!”

My daughter has turned my expectations of mother/daughter on its well-highlighted head. I have had to come to grips with the fact that making a list of the exacts was going to be drawn through with crayon by a child who, at times, feels more like my teacher. I did not have a strong female role model growing up and once my belly started to nudge forward against the button of my jeans I realized that I’d had to become my own role model. I worried that I wouldn’t know how to be a mother so I handled it the way I do when I have a problem. I came up with a plan.

My plan looked like it came directly from a Boss Girl article in Glamour.

My plan did not at all take into consideration the example I could be without bullet points; the woman I am. So, I had to rip it up and rather than starting over, I accepted the fact that the lessons will bubble up around us as they may.

I’m learning too.

I recognized that I wrap myself up in dresses, beauty products, chop veggies and wear high heels with reckless aplomb, but don’t sit before a castle wringing my hands waiting for a man to rescue me. Instead the heels click clack toward boardrooms and Fly By lanes. I realized that my daughter’s viewpoint of femininity and love will be molded by the examples in her life as opposed to Disney and Hasbro.

The last time she wore my heels she did explain that she and Cinderella were heading to New York to close a deal, so I must be doing something right.

Melissa and I discussed this over drinks one night. I fell in love with her a little as she explained that her daughter already knew that Snow White became a dentist before the wedding and Sleeping Beauty went to Stanford. We agreed that we adore the new face of the Disney princesses. Elsa and Anna’s Act of True Love was between sisters; one defending the other against a certain beheading by the manipulative narcissist, Hans. Merida of Brave wanted to compete for her own hand in marriage and decimated the boys with her mad archery skills. Her father finally declared that rather than fighting for her hand they could fight for her heart.

Amen, brother.

Liv has asked me to reenact the new Cinderella movie several times this past week. She runs down the stairs with my shoes and flings one behind her so that I can pick it up. I call out to her and I better do it right because the Prince doesn’t know my name yet, mom. Don’t call me Cinderella! She waits for me on the couch while I fit my heel on her tiny little foot and then she says we can get married.

There is such a chasm of confusion surrounding women who try to live in a man’s world. We think we have to ditch the things that make us soft, strong, nurturing and true to nature. I did the whole “I’m a boss” kind of thing in my early thirties when I needed boys to know that I could smile and then eat their lunch. Now I recognize I can still be powerful in a room and maintain my femininity. I can be a mother with nurturing arms, an intelligent force with a voice and good God, shove the power suit into the corner because that is so last decade. I don’t have to be a version of what the world expects of a strong woman, but stand within the woman I am. I want my daughter to grow into womanhood knowing that she can wear heels and close deals and run marathons and be a chemist, an architect, a cowgirl, stagehand or Power Ranger and if she wants to do it with a hot lip color and bag in hand, do it, girl.

The rest?

We’ll figure it out as it comes or as she guides me.

She, after all, is clearly the boss.