Let me show you my stripes.

Has this ever happened to you? Last week I established care with a new primary care physician here in Columbus. We couldn’t finish everything that we needed to do in one appointment, so we had to schedule a follow up for less than a month later. The last thing he said to me was, “wow, you’ve got a lot of medical history for someone your age.”

Trust me sir, I know.

I’ve grown to hate doctor’s appointments, and really want to know why – at every single appointment – I need to verify my laundry list of medications? Especially when I’m usually met with a questioning glance from a nurse who says, “are you sure allllllll of these are current prescriptions?” Yes Janet, I’m sure.

I also hate the fact that all the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians at my CVS know my name, and don’t even have to ask my birthdate anymore. But, I mean, Cinco de Mayo isn’t too hard to remember.

Being 23 and living with a rare genetic condition often seems extremely contradictory to me. And I can’t say that I haven’t held a lot of resentment about that, because I have. I get frustrated that sometimes I’m too tired, or my body is in too much pain to go out on a Friday night with everyone else my age. I get embarrassed when I can’t do things other people can in the gym and that I start basically keeling over because of heart and lung problems. And it’s been hard having to realize that I don’t relate to many people in my own age cohort.

My mom has always joked that when I was a little kid I was like a forty-year-old in a toddler’s body. Ironically, today I feel like a twenty-three-year-old in a sixty-year old’s body, so that tracks well. (Moms are always right. Call your mom.)

What do you have?

You’ve probably never heard of it. Most doctors haven’t either. But I have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, hyper-mobility type (hEDS), that is caused by genetic defects in collagen. hEDS affects approximately one in every 10,000 – 20,000 people. What is even more exciting is that my mom and I have a novel gene mutation that has never been seen before for this classification. So, we’re one-of-a-kind mutants. (Marvel, DC, where’s my movie?) For those with EDS, or who have other rare diseases, that means that we had to fight all the harder to get the diagnosis – a common issue experienced by many living with the condition. An issue that makes it all the more difficult to get the care needed to manage the many symptoms of EDS.

Here’s a couple of symptoms of hEDS that I experience. Unfortunately, this list isn’t exhaustive.

  • Joint hypermobility affecting large and small joints (the funniest thing that has ever happened to me was having to go to the ER for a dislocated pinky toe)
  • Frequent joint dislocations and subluxations (as a result I’ve had three knee surgeries)
  • Soft, smooth skin which easily rips, tears, bruises, and scars
  • Chronic muscle and bone pain
  • Early onset osteoarthritis
  • Osteopenia
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system
  • Dysmenorrhea and dyspareunia
  • Acrocynaosis
  • Insomnia
  • Arrhythmia
  • Intermittent migraines
  • Gingivitis
  • Scoliosis
  • Postural orthostatic tacchycardia

Being classified as a rare disease, there isn’t much awareness around EDS. And like I said earlier, many doctors are unaware of the pathology. This makes treatment hard. Instead of a holistic approach, those with EDS often must see several different specialists to treat the symptoms – not the root cause. This can be extremely frustrating in a health care system that doesn’t do a great job communicating across specialties. And it can be extremely

I found out that I had hEDS when I was eighteen, after my second knee surgery. And for awhile I felt like my body was working against me. I had been dancing since I was five years old, and my dream was to move to California to become a professional dancer. I wanted to be on So You Think You Can Dance, and then hoped to tour with a musician or land a gig on Broadway.

So at eighteen, I was crushed. I felt defective, and being in competitive dance, I had fallen so far behind after my surgeries, that I couldn’t catch up to the rest of the girls my age – not to mention there were certain things that my body just wouldn’t allow me to do.

As I’ve gotten older, and went through my third surgery this time last year, my perspective has definitely changed. Now I see my body as incredible for having the ability to get back up time and time again. I began working with a personal trainer to learn how to weight lift, because I want to see what I am truly capable of. But it took me a really long time to get to this place.

And the battle isn’t over.

As I’m nearing my mid-twenties, my mind is starting to think about what’s next in life. I’ve always wanted to have a family. But I know that many with EDS struggle with infertility, and many have complications during birth. I also want to be able to be active with my children. And for me that all means having a family sooner rather than later. And let me tell you, my body knows it – hello baby fever!

And in a time where people are getting married and having children later and later in life, here I am again feeling out of place with people my age.

But despite always feeling out of place, and occasionally being frustrated with my genetic makeup, I’ve learned a couple of great things being a mutant – things that I think all people would benefit from:

1. Be present.

I’ve come to really appreciate life and the time that I have with the people that I love the most. It’s painfully cliché, but you really never know what life is going to throw at you. Put down the phone, turn off the TV, don’t worry about taking pictures. Just soak it all in.

2. You have the power to choose your obligations.

Our most valuable commodity is time. Don’t spend it doing something that you don’t want to be doing. Don’t feel like hanging out one day, that’s okay! Be honest about it. Sometimes you just need to lay on the couch with no pants on eating ice cream out of the container.

3. Toxic people are toxic, no matter the relation.

Unhealthy relationships aren’t good for your physical health either. The ones I’ve experienced, actually make my pain worse. Either make less space for, or get out of toxic relationships. And that extends to family, too. If a relationship is unhealthy, it’s unhealthy. Period. Don’t feel guilty about needing to set boundaries, most likely your guilt doesn’t fit the facts. (See number two)

4. You are stronger than you think you are.

Sometimes things feel and sound like the end of the world. But they aren’t. So many times I thought that I was done dancing, but every time I have found a way to keep it a part of my life. I just needed to expand my understanding of what dance was and my understanding of what I was capable of.

5. Humility can move mountains in relationships.

When you’re 23 years old and your mother has to help you shower after surgery, this is what you learn. Being able to ask for help and being able to admit when you are wrong is not easy. But doing so builds connection based on shared humanity.


I must be getting better at this, five points is a more presentable number than the 9 tips I gave in my blog post two weeks ago. Thanks for noticing.  

All of this is to say that today, I wouldn’t trade my lengthy medical history for anything. It has made me into the person I am today, and taught me to take control of my life. It doesn’t define me, but it lifts me up and pushes me forward.

The official mascot for rare diseases is the zebra. And today I can say that I am proud of my stripes.

Help me to raise awareness by sharing this blog post and tagging #EDSAwareness.

A Love Letter to January

I find humans to be exceptionally endearing in January. The influx of people at the gym, the total clearing of shelves at Trader Joe’s, the table of untouched desserts at work, and the friendlier faces. It’s a time of year when you can see the good in people. Everyone earnestly wants to better themselves in some way. Faced with a new year — we see an abundance of opportunities to do something and be something different.

People believe in themselves, and genuinely wish to make concrete changes to their life. I know that most people laugh at this, or get frustrated that they can’t use the leg press at L.A. Fitness because of all the “new year, new me” people. I on the other hand, find it quite beautiful.

This is my love letter to all those with a resolution for the new year. You are a badass. And there is no failure, because the fact that you took the first step to try to make a change is a huge accomplishment.

I think that this is where most people take the wrong turn. They set lofty goals that are not humanly-possible to achieve, and when they don’t see tangible progress, they get dejected. I’ve been there. The next thing you know you’re eating raw cookie dough out of that Toll House cylindrical tube. Which honestly, girl eat cookie dough whenever you want to. (Here’s a safe to eat cookie dough recipe – don’t get salmonella!)

So, as a girl with two therapists, two failed bullet journals, and an Fitbit with an uncharged battery, let me give you some unsolicited advice about maintaining your resolutions. As I am obviously the expert.

Well not to totally shit-talk myself — I have made huge changes to my life this year (yay for my two therapists) – but it’s because I learned something new. So here’s a couple tips that helped me to begin turn my life around.

1. You have to start incredibly small.

Seems simple, right? About those bullet journals – I had been creating monthly habit trackers. But I wasn’t tracking habits, I was evaluating my self-worth based on goals. In one day I wanted to walk 10,000 steps, drink 70 oz of water, sleep a perfect 8 hours, do a mindfulness activity, practice yoga, read for 30 minutes, take all my vitamins, not spend any money for once…

Most of this was trying to correct habits I already had, but didn’t like, by setting a goal to do the opposite. Here’s the secret: you can’t go straight from sitting for 8 hours a day at work to miraculously finding time and motivation to walk 10,000 steps. First just tell yourself that you’ll take a 15 minute walk after work, or stand up for five minutes every hour you’re at your desk.

2. Pick one.

Yeah, also very hard for me. Being a perfectionist, I wanted to correct it all. And I wanted to fill in all the pretty boxes with my new set of gel pens. But I wasn’t getting anywhere, and my progress was sporadic. In the book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg discusses the origins of habit research, the mechanisms of habits, and how to form new ones. The most important thing I took away is that you need to focus on a single habit. Yes, just ONE.

First work on the 10,000 steps, and once you’ve made that behavior consistent, work on the water consumption. By successfully changing the first habit, you will create momentum for addressing further behaviors.

3. Reward yourself.

I’m all about the positive reinforcement. If you are successful at staying consistent with the new behavior you are trying to create, rewarding yourself will teach your brain that good things will come from that habit. Say if you talk that 15 minute walk for five out of seven days of the week – you can splurge on dessert on Sunday, or take an extra hour to relax over the weekend instead of running errands. Just make sure that the reward isn’t something that you have easy access to all the time. Otherwise, it isn’t as salient of a reinforcer. I eat chocolate everyday, so I’m not going to choose chocolate as a reinforcer.


Now let me rewind a minute. I don’t hate bullet journals. In fact I still have one. But when it comes to the habit tracker, be careful. Either use it to identify which habit you think you should attempt to change or instead create a mood tracker. It is exciting to see that as you improve or create a new habit, your mood will increase. (Another reinforcer)

~Interrupting this blog with an important message~ Check out the end of this post for some links to layouts I like, as well as a PDF I created for you to use! And if you’re interested in more layouts, follow my friend @nat.ur.ally on Instagram!

courtesy of @nat.ur.ally

Now take all this with a grain or two of salt. I’m not an expert. The last time I took a behavior modification course was in 2016. But take this to say that if you need a cheerleader, I am more than happy to root for you.

We are more powerful than we think, we just have to outsmart ourselves.


Bullet Journal Layouts

https://goo.gl/images/ScfjtA

https://pin.it/arzansdv6vbx4g

https://pin.it/cdkd2pc3r4gyhc


What’s The Big Mystery?

Truth-be-told, I have been watching a lot of Sex and the City lately. And by, “a lot,” I mean that I binged about six seasons in under a month. So, I’m going to have a little Carrie Bradshaw moment here.

Let’s talk about sex, baby.

Now, if you didn’t agree with my last post – than me writing this will most definitely make you shift my name into the category of “slut.” Truth-be-told again, I don’t care.

Let’s start with the facts.

  • A 2011 study found that about 80% of women fake orgasms at least half the time
  • 25% of women fake it 90% of the time
  • Women generally orgasm 69% of the time they have sex, compared to 95% for men
  • 62% of women are not satisfied with their sex lives
  • 30% report pain during intercourse, and a “large proportion” don’t tell their partners

There is an obvious trend, and therefore an obvious problem. There is a plethora of benefits when it comes to sex. Some are incredibly un-obvious. Here’s just a few:

  • boosts your immunity
  • decreases stress levels
  • the release of oxytocin and endorphins increase relaxation, which helps fight pain and depression
  • those same feel good hormones lead to feelings of warmth and closeness

So when we talk about gender inequality in the bedroom, we are talking about real benefits that women disproportionately are not able to access.

Now let me throw a real doozy at you.

More than half of men aren’t comfortable discussing gynecological health with their female partners. (Sorry for the heteronormative example) In one study, only half of the men could identify the vagina on a diagram, and two-thirds mixed up the different parts.

Now the article I read was discussing how your partner could potentially be the first person to notice a change that could be a warning of gynecological cancer and other sexual health issues – but I think that this also bodes poorly for women’s sexual satisfaction. Especially because men in the study, aged 18-44 years old, said it was too embarrassing to talk about the vagina. Yet I’d argue over 50% are comfortable sending an unsolicited picture of their private parts – ironic.

People, ladies. Let’s talk about sex.

In my life, I have been lucky enough to have a mother that once said to me – “if you aren’t satisfied, either say something, or leave him.” (You go girl, am I right?) She never made my sexuality negative, and simply allowed for open discussion. I think that that is why I have felt comfortable engaging in discussion with partners. Full disclosure, I have felt the most satisfied in relationships in which my partner and I shared full disclosure about our sexual experiences together. We established boundaries, shared what we liked and what we didn’t, respected the word “no” when something was painful, and prioritized each other’s pleasure. Mine was equally important, and not an afterthought – as it seems it typically is. Nothing is more unattractive than a man who views the bedroom as a race to complete a task for himself. It’s objectifying, boring, and frankly, sad.

“if you aren’t satisfied, either say something, or leave him.”

If you don’t want to take my word for it. Listen to the research:

  • in a study of 293 married individuals, it was found that disclosing sexual information was positively linked to relationship satisfaction and closeness
  • another found that open sexual communication was a predictor of not only sexual satisfaction, but overall relationship satisfaction

We grow up with this weird myth that communicating about sex is inappropriate, and “un-ladylike.” Think about all the movies and TV shows you’ve seen where it just comes naturally to everyone, and both parties are completely fulfilled. No discussion, just background music and a couple grunts and moans. A Psychology Today article posits that the three biggest myths are: “great sex comes naturally; your partner should know intuitively what you want and like; and good sex must be spontaneous.” I love the analogy that they give following this list as well:

“In reality, more often than not, great sex, much like a great meal, does not just happen—it needs to be carried out with skill, thoughtfulness, and the right mix of selfish abandon and mutual attentiveness. People’s tastes, preferences and values with regard to sex—as with food—differ greatly. You’re better off knowing something about your partner’s tastes before you start cooking.”

Psychology Today

In reality, no one knows what they’re really doing. And all bodies are different. Communication is essential. And ladies – we work just as hard, if not harder than men, we deserve to be just as satisfied.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Ask what someone is and isn’t into before you engage in intercourse.
  2. When something hurts, SAY SOMETHING.
  3. It’s okay to do some research. Find positions that are comfortable, or techniques you want to try. (boys, I think it’s about time you go look at a diagram of the vagina)
  4. Do a recap when you’re finished. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Give high-fives where needed.
  5. It’s okay to need a little help. Use some of your sex tech!
  6. Make it fun and flirty, or draw up a PowerPoint – whatever floats your boat.
  7. It’s okay to ask about the last time someone was tested, or if they have any Sexually Transmitted Infections. 1 in 8 people in the U.S. have herpes.
  8. If someone does have an STD or STI, learn about the risks and what you can do to protect yourself.
  9. As always, be vocal about using protection if you need to be.

I would have loved to have a number 10 to make it even, but in 2019 I’m working on letting go of a portion of my perfectionism.

Now, I love Carrie, but I’m going to leave you with a quote from Miranda to send this post home. When in doubt,

“What’s the big mystery? It’s my clitoris, not the sphinx.”

Slut Shaming

Aren’t shoulders just so sexually suggestive? I mean, I love a good shoulder – they really get me going.

When in the history of ever has anyone said the above? The answer is probably once or twice – to each their own. But the pinnacle of sexual appeal is definitely not shoulders.

So, answer me this: Why, in fourth grade, did the principal take me out of class to tell me that my tank top was “inappropriate?” Mind you, I was also wearing a cardigan over said tank top.

My TEN-year-old mind had far too many questions. But mostly, I was ashamed. Being the nerdy, little goody-two-shoes that I was – I had never gotten in trouble. The principal and I were pals. And for that reason, I also did not question her assertion.

I wasn’t sent home, but I could almost argue that for my self-esteem at that age – that was worse. I sat through class the rest of the day paranoid. Tugging at my sweater to make sure I didn’t have a shoulder slip out. Normally the first person to raise my hand, I held back because I didn’t want to risk jostling my clothing out of place. Really, at that point, I wanted to go home.

The media has been chalk full of stories like this in the past couple of years and the cultural consciousness seems to have progressed to understand that this shaming of young girls is wrong. Yet, we haven’t evolved past the over-sexualization of women’s bodies in general.

Shame on You

My wonderful personal trainer shared on her social media the other day that members of her family had repeatedly confronted her regarding what she posts on her social platforms. They were concerned that she was showing too much of her body. Initially I was furious. First, she is studying within the realm health and human kinetics, and she works as a personal trainer. Secondly, her athletic prowess and her strength is a testament to that success. She should be afforded the space to be proud of her body.

When I came in for a training appointment, she told me more about it. Now to my surprise, her family specifically called out old pictures from parties early in college. Frustrated at this, she said that she was just a, “stupid little sorority girl.” That broke my heart even more. Outside of the slut shaming, the age old double standard surfaced. The shaming by her family is point blank wrong. In fact, they themselves are objectifying and sexualizing her by making such comments.

example of slut shaming image of girl lifting skirt. her thigh is marked at different points to connote that her skirt length makes her: flirty, cheeky, provocative, asking for it, slut, whore.

But, what broke my heart was that she reduced herself to a very harmful stereotype – a “stupid little sorority girl,” to agree that those photos were inappropriate. I hate that that message has been internalized by so many women – including myself at times. But I argue that that is not the case.

Would we make the same judgements about a photo of young men laughing and holding red solo cups? Yes, we might make some. But we wouldn’t (A) sexualize them and (B) demean their intelligence.

Why do we do this?

Here lies the problem. As a society, when we sexualize women, we’ve also connected that to their intelligence. We say things like, “they brought this upon themselves,” for any negative attention that a woman receives, as well as, unfortunately, things like sexual harassment and assault. The problem isn’t what they’re wearing. We make the problem their intelligence. They should know better. They should have gotten the memo that their body is inherently sexually pejorative back in fourth grade when their principal told them so. (Insert eye roll here)

Further, and I can admit my own bias here. On social media we assume that those who post often, and mainly of themselves or their bodies, are self-centered and attention-seeking. Things that are also often stereotypically tied to low intelligence. And this is wrong.

Image of Diana Muzina as a kid in a halloween costume giving a condescending look.
This is how I feel about slut shaming.

This sort of shaming and policing behavior in society reinforces traditional gender norms. In my senior honor’s thesis in college, I discuss gender performance in women’s Greek-lettered organizations, and how those organizations often also serve to reinforce traditional views of femininity and “correct” gender performance. Sadly, something that I watched play out with a member of my own organization. A woman who is intelligent, comfortable in and proud of her body, who owned her sexuality was rejected as, “inappropriate” and, “bad for” the organization.  Point blank, she was slut-shamed. I struggle with the fact that many cannot see that they policed her gender performance. She’s badass, and it’s their loss.

Continually sexualizing women’s bodies is malicious, and only serves to further bolster the geography of fear that many women experience. It also maintains current power structures we have in place. But, on a slightly different note, we cannot shame those women who do embrace their sexuality. There are infinite expressions of womanhood. No one expression is wrong, and no one expression warrants violence or discrimination. But, women should be given the freedom to determine what that expression is.

If you’re interested in reading about the effects of Slut Shaming, click here!

Body Talk

Aren’t shoulders just so sexually suggestive? I mean, I love a good shoulder – they really get me going.

When in the history of ever has anyone said the above? The answer is probably once or twice – to each their own. But the pinnacle of sexual appeal is definitely not shoulders.

So, answer me this: Why, in fourth grade, did the principal take me out of class to tell me that my tank top was “inappropriate?” Mind you, I was also wearing a cardigan over said tank top.

My TEN-year-old mind had far too many questions. But mostly, I was ashamed. Being the nerdy, little goody-two-shoes that I was – I had never gotten in trouble. The principal and I were pals. And for that reason, I also did not question her assertion.

I wasn’t sent home, but I could almost argue that for my self-esteem at that age – that was worse. I sat through class the rest of the day paranoid. Tugging at my sweater to make sure I didn’t have a shoulder slip out. Normally the first person to raise my hand, I held back because I didn’t want to risk jostling my clothing out of place. Really, at that point, I wanted to go home.

The media has been chalk full of stories like this in the past couple of years and the cultural consciousness has seemed to progress to understand that such shaming of young girls is wrong. But we haven’t yet evolved past the over-sexualization of women’s bodies in general.

My wonderful personal trainer shared on her social media the other day that members of her family had repeatedly confronted her regarding what she posts on her social platforms. They were concerned that she was showing too much of her body. Initially I was furious. First, she is studying within the realm health and human kinetics, and she works as a personal trainer. Secondly, her athletic prowess and her strength is a testament to that success. She should be afforded the space to be proud of her body.

When I came in for a training appointment, she told me more about it. Now to my surprise, her family was specifically calling out old pictures from parties early in college. She was frustrated at this, saying that she had been a “stupid little sorority girl.” That broke my heart even more. Outside of the slut shaming, the age old double standard surfaced. The shaming by her family is point blank wrong. In fact, they themselves are objectifying and sexualizing her by making such comments.

But, what broke my heart was that she reduced herself to a very harmful stereotype – a “stupid little sorority girl,” to agree that those photos were inappropriate. I hate that that message has been internalized by so many women – including myself at times. But I argue that that is not the case.

Would we make the same judgements about a photo of young men laughing and holding red solo cups? Yes, we might make some. But we wouldn’t (A) sexualize them and (B) demean their intelligence.

Here lies the problem. When we sexualize women, we’ve also as a society connected that to their intelligence. We say things like “they brought this upon themselves,” for any negative attention that they receive, as well as, unfortunately, things like sexual harassment and assault. The problem isn’t what they’re wearing. We make the problem their intelligence. They should know better. They should have gotten the memo that their body is inherently sexually pejorative back in fourth grade when their principal told them so. (Insert eye roll here) Further, and I can admit my own bias here, on social media we assume that those who post often, and mainly of themselves or their bodies, are self-centered and attention-seeking. Things that are also often stereotypically tied to low intelligence.

This is how I feel about slut shaming.

This sort of shaming and policing behavior in society serves to reinforce traditional gender norms. In my senior honor’s thesis in college, I discuss gender performance in women’s Greek-lettered organizations, and how those organizations often also serve to reinforce traditional views of femininity and “correct” gender performance. Sadly, something that I saw play out with a member of my own organization. A woman who was intelligent, comfortable in and proud of her body, who owned her sexuality was rejected as “inappropriate” and “bad for” the organization.  Point blank, she was slut-shamed, and I struggle with the fact that many cannot see that they policed her gender performance. She’s badass, and it’s their loss.

Continually sexualizing women’s bodies is malicious, and only serves to further bolster the geography of fear that many women experience and maintain current power structures we have in place. But, we also cannot shame those women who do embrace their sexuality. There are infinite expressions of womanhood. No one expression is wrong, and no one expression warrants violence or discrimination. But, women should be given the freedom to determine what that expression is.

If you’re interested in reading about the effects of Slut Shaming, click here!

Shame About Having a Body

1. Isolation

Slut shaming has been identified as a “reputational threat,” or social identity threat.  This means that it directly threatens someone’s character and reputation. Extremely isolating, this shame about having a body often separates people from those around them. And isolation is hypothesized as one of the largest contributors to the high rates of self-harming behavior observed in those who have been slut shamed. This can also lead to depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. There are far too many reports of young women who took their own lives after being slut-shamed (particularly online).

2. Increased Cortisol Levels

Studies about shame have shown that experiencing feelings of low social status lowers an individual’s self-worth and increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Usually after a perceived threat is over, cortisol levels return to normal. But when they don’t, your health can suffer negative consequences. This includes, but is not limited to: depression, anxiety, digestive issues, headaches, sleep disturbances, weight gain, memory impairment, and heart disease.

3. Sexism & Rape Culture

Slut shaming can be nuanced, and subtle. As one HuffPost article puts it: “slut-shaming can come in the form of telling girls that they have no self respect if they wear short skirts or low shirts. It can be calling a girl attention-seeking or pathetic for having had several boyfriends, or actively seeking one out. It can be calling a girl desperate or overly-aggressive for “making the first move.”

As I talked about in my post, Slut Shaming, this phenomenon is a double standard. Many behaviors that women are shamed for, warrant applause for men. (Though men can be slut shamed too!) There can be very real consequences for women. Many of us self-police our behavior and our social media posts because we have increasingly received the message that certain imagery is considered inappropriate and unprofessional. Dominant social norms and this pervasive sexism could potentially lead to a woman being fired, or not hired, for how she presents herself on social media.

The tie to rape culture should be apparent. Rape culture is blaming the victim of a sexual assault for what happened to them, rather than blaming the perpetrator. Often this is framed to say that the victim did something to provoke the attack. I couldn’t put it better than this HuffPost article:

“Rape culture is when the victims are blamed for “asking for it” by wearing the wrong clothes, being out at night, walking alone, being flirtatious or pretty, or any number of other things. Slut-shaming contributes to the idea that girls who are more flirty or provocative deserve less respect than girls who aren’t, and that leads to the idea that something they did lead to them being raped.”

Sabrina Nelson, High School Journalist <—- you go girl

So what now?

As something that has such real consequences, it amazes me that more is not being done to combat slut shaming. As a woman, I am conscious every day of what I’m wearing, how I do my makeup, where I am walking (especially at night), where I am driving, and who is looking at me. I have been trained to be afraid.

I experience the geography of fear day-in and day-out, as do many women. And often feel anxiety regarding potential professional and personal consequences I could encounter based on what I post on social media. I struggle with shame about having a body, and for embracing my sexuality. And I experience anger that any of this has to happen to anyone.

A study conducted by Ditch The Label found that 52% of misogynistic tweets over a four year period were penned by other women. And more often than not, slut shaming happens between women. There needs to be a tremendous amount of change in how we teach young boys about masculinity. But, I also think that we as women have a huge responsibility.

The next time you see another woman on social media and start to judge her based on what she posts, stop yourself. Maybe count in a week, or a day, how many times you do that. And maybe instead, throw her a like or a comment. We need to support each other if we are going to combat such toxic, entrenched behavior.

The Effects of Slut Shaming

1 – Isolation

Slut shaming has been identified as a “reputational threat,” or social identity threat, meaning that it directly threatens someone’s character and reputation. This is isolating, and often can separate the person being shamed from those around them. This has been hypothesized as one of the largest contributors to the high rates of self-harming behavior observed in those who have experienced being slut shamed. This isolation can also lead to depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. There are way too many reports of young women who took their own lives after being slut-shamed – particularly online.

2 – Increased Cortisol Levels

Studies about shame have shown that experiencing feelings of low social status lowered an individual’s self-worth as well as increased cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Usually after a perceived threat is over, cortisol levels return to normal. But when they don’t, your health can suffer negative consequences, including, but not limited to: depression, anxiety, digestive issues, headaches, sleep disturbances, weight gain, memory impairment, and heart disease.

3 – Sexism & Rape Culture

Slut shaming can be nuanced, and subtle. As one HuffPost article puts it: “slut-shaming can come in the form of telling girls that they have no self respect if they wear short skirts or low shirts. It can be calling a girl attention-seeking or pathetic for having had several boyfriends, or actively seeking one out. It can be calling a girl desperate or overly-aggressive for “making the first move.”

As I talked about in my post, Body Talk, slut shaming is also a double standard. Many behaviors that women are shamed for, are often applauded in men. (Though men can be slut shamed too!) Because of this – there are very real consequences for women. Many of us begin to self-police our behavior and our social media posts because we have increasingly been given the message that certain imagery is considered inappropriate and unprofessional. Therefore the dominant social norms and pervasive sexism could potential lead to a woman being fired, or not hired, for how she presents herself on social media.

The tie to rape culture should be apparent. Rape culture is blaming the victim of a sexual assault for what happened to them, rather than blaming the perpetrator. Often this is framed to say that the victim did something to provoke the attack. I couldn’t put it better than this HuffPost article:

“Rape culture is when the victims are blamed for “asking for it” by wearing the wrong clothes, being out at night, walking alone, being flirtatious or pretty, or any number of other things. Slut-shaming contributes to the idea that girls who are more flirty or provocative deserve less respect than girls who aren’t, and that leads to the idea that something they did lead to them being raped.”

Sabrina Nelson, High School Journalist <—- you go girl

Where do we go from here?

As something that has such real consequences, it amazes me that more is not being done to combat slut shaming. I am conscious every day of what I’m wearing, how I do my makeup, where I am walking (especially at night), where I am driving, and who is looking at me – because I have been trained to be afraid. I experience the geography of fear day-in and day-out, as do many women. I experience anxiety regarding potential professional and personal consequences I could experience based on what I post on social media. I experience shame about having a body, and for embracing my sexuality. And I experience anger than any of this has to happen to anyone.

A study conducted by Ditch The Label found that 52% of misogynistic tweets over a four year period were penned by other women. And more often than not, slut shaming happens between women. Now besides the tremendous amount of change that we need to bring about in teaching young boys about masculinity – I think that we as women have a huge responsibility. The next time you see another woman on social media and start to judge her based on what she posts, stop yourself. Maybe count in a week, or a day, how many times you do that. And maybe instead, throw her a like or a comment. We need to support each other if we are going to combat such toxic, entrenched behavior.

Be Bossy

boss·y1, adjective. Fond of giving people orders; domineering. “She was headlong, bossy, scared of nobody, and full of vinegar.” Synonyms: pushy, overhearing, imperious, officious, high-handed, authoritarian, dictatorial, controlling; high and mighty. “we’re hiding from his bossy sister.” Antonyms: submissive.”

This is the result when the word “bossy” is googled. Notice anything about the examples? What about the antonym? I heard this more than once as a kid. But I didn’t notice that when a boy asserted himself, he was called a “leader.” 

I was a bit of an odd kid. In a blog post for the Columbus women’s group, Creative Babes, I told the following story: 

“Well, I was pretty ambitious. And I honestly don’t know where I even learned what it was or what it meant, but I would tell people that I wanted to be a CEO. I actually used to make PowerPoint presentations for fun, and kept school papers in file folders. My favorite make-believe game was pretending that I was the owner and editor of my own magazine, and my two younger cousins were my assistants. (I promise I have a very horizontal approach to leadership now.)  But it wasn’t all make-believe. I actually created, “Diana’s Magazine,” where I sold services like car-washes and cleaning dishes, wrote poems, and promoted upcoming “shows” that I would put on for my family.”

Creative Babes, Meet Diana Muzina

Where did calling little girls bossy even come from? Little Miss Bossy by Roger Hargreaves was published in 1981. In it, Little Miss Bossy tells everyone what to do, until Wilfred the Wizard casts a spell on her, and she “learns her lesson.”But the pejorative use of “bossy” definitely existed before perms and neon leg-warmers. 

What bossy is about, is tied to sociopolitical issues of social hierarchy; specifically, power. Power that is often associated with high status. And, because of privilege, white men hold the majority of power and status. This is tied to a concept called hegemonic masculinity, or, standards against which all men are judged. In our world, hegemonic masculinity involves largely being white, middle class, young, and heterosexual. Those that do not have all of those things, have different access to opportunities – different access to power. And as women, we are automatically precluded from that access. Due to the fact that manhood is measured in this way, most of men’s lives are spent avoiding emasculation. The theory of hegemonic masculinity says that “women, men or color, working-class men, and gay men are the groups against which men act out their definitions of manhood – the other, “nonmen,”against whom their masculinity is defined.” (Questioning Gender, Robyn Ryle)

Gender roles are ascribed to us even before we’re born. Think of all the “gender reveal,”parties that have been trending. Pink for girls, and blue for boys. Frilly outfits for female babies, and building blocks for the males. In a study conducted by Seavey et al. in 1975, participants were prompted to describe the same exact infant using adjectives. Groups were told that the infant was either a girl, a boy, or without gender. The labeling of gender led to a stark contrast in perceived differences between the children. The perceived boy was described as strong, while the perceived girl was described as soft. (Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, Stephanie L. Meredith)

What countless research has shown is that when you violate your attributed gender role and step outside of your gender transgression zone you will be considered taboo, unnatural, or abnormal. This gender polarization is used to reinforce traditional gender roles – and describes “the ways in which behaviors and attitudes that are viewed as appropriate for men are viewed as inappropriate for women, and vice versa.” (Questioning Gender, Robyn Ryle)

Hence, when a little girl takes charge and exhibits strong, powerful behavior she is called bossy. 

Now, I just fell into a bit of an academic black hole, as there are countless gender and power theories to explore. But what I really want to assert is the effects that being called “bossy,”can affect. 

I had been an outspoken, gung-ho little leader, but quickly turned to bottling emotions, opinions, and my perspectives because I didn’t want to come off as bossy. I would raise my hand in class, but made sure to not be the first hand to raise. Further, I didn’t stand up for myself. I didn’t say anything to being made fun of for my crooked teeth in third-grade, and I didn’t say anything when I was eighteen, won the popular vote for student class president, but was told that the school needed to “see a boy”in a leadership position. (Ironically, my senior superlative was “most likely to be president.” Good one, guys!)

I was told bossy was a bad thing. But if I had continued to be bossy, maybe I would have righted some wrongs, or obtained some of the opportunities I deserved. 

In the Creative Babes blog post, I went on to say the following:

“Now it didn’t end there. I made the tickets and the environmental branding to go along with it. A couple weeks ago I was telling my older sister about this project, and we started reminiscing. She told me that I always had a business plan, “I would want the glam experience of selling lemonade, and you would ask me what our ‘target audience,’ was.” Yeah, I was weird. I definitely got that I was bossy, but now I proudly boast a “girl boss,” placard at my desk at work and recognize that was just something people say to little girls who are strong leaders.”

Creative Babes, Meet Diana Muzina

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There has been so much talk of not calling little girls bossy anymore. But what I think we really need to do, is change the connotation. What we really need to do is push the boundaries of that gender transgression zone. What we really need to do is make it okay for women to be and be seen as, powerful. We need to Be Bossy.