With a Little Help from My Friends

As we watch with sadness in our hearts the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, each wreaking havoc on different areas of our nation back to back, I have noticed a pattern. People with homes destroyed, left behind after calls for evacuation, helped by friends and neighbors also left behind in the wake of the disaster, questioned by the general population about why they didn’t evacuate., many of whom do not live in these ravaged regions.

“Sure, I feel bad that they were injured in the flood, but why didn’t they leave? They had plenty of warning, they should have gotten out!” This is just one of many examples of what I have read and heard in response to people who were harmed or needed the help of first responders in Texas and Florida after their respective hurricanes left horror in their wake. And this is where I begin to wonder about the abundance of ignorance shown by these people, and why so many have chosen to be blind the trials and tribulations being experienced by their fellow humans.

Perhaps many families would have no problem packing up some necessities and driving or flying out of harm’s way, their pets and family members safely and securely tucked into warm hotel beds, or on the couches of relatives, watching from afar as their homes or counties experienced storms the likes of which we have never seen before, which in itself is terribly sad, and extremely traumatic.

For many, the option to evacuate was never an avenue open to them. The elderly, disabled, and financially challenged couldn’t just grab their families and load them into their vehicles to get out of the path of extreme danger. Many families are living from paycheck to paycheck in this country, one crisis or emergency away from poverty and even homelessness. Sadly, during these types of national emergencies, mortgages must be paid, mouths must be fed, gas becomes infinitely harder to find in some cases, and more expensive.

Bearing this in mind, I cannot help but feel truly devastated for the women living in poverty that had no options. Looking at numbers gather from various sources, all of which I have included below, it is apparent that this population of society is impacted more greatly than others in a time of extreme crisis, such as that of a natural disaster. For one, women are more likely to live in poverty. A 2010 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that “25.9% of women in New Orleans were living below the poverty line when Hurricane Katrina hit the region, compared to 20% of men. These women were more likely to be living in public housing and less likely to have cars, so poverty significantly limited their mobility and prevented many of them from evacuating.”

My soul itself hurts thinking of the mothers, wives, and daughters trying to provide for their families and themselves before and after such a horrific turn of events.

It has been my experience that impoverished families live day to day worrying about the lower tier of Maslow’s hierarchies of food and shelter, an existence where any interruption financially can be devastating,” said Marc Burdiss, emergency management expert and owner of Preparedness Solutions. Females living with children or experiencing a pregnancy during a time of combined financial distress. In fact, women are more likely to suffer from malnutrition because they have specific nutritional needs more often when they are pregnant or breast feeding,

After Katrina, we saw the statistics proving that serious harm to the female population following such destruction was glaringly obvious. Women who could not evacuate and were in financial distress or were misplaced after their homes had been destroyed experienced a rise in domestic violence, harassment, and even sexual assault. What once was happening to under 5% of the female population rose rapidly to events being reported at over 16% (And let’s keep in mind, a majority of these incidences go unreported due to fear.)

Www.gdnonline.org cites post-hurricane Katrina reporting showing that “four New Orleans shelters and 2 nonresidential programs were closed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with advocates reporting ‘women are being battered by their partners in the emergency shelters.’ In the first four months after the US Gulf Coast hurricanes, 38 rape cases were reported to women’s services that initiated documentation projects to capture sexual assaults of disaster-displaced women.”*

And this is just a national view of statistics. Internationally, the affect becomes an even deeper and wider problem. 90% of women who died in a Bangladesh cyclone- this is out of the death toll of 140,000 citizens. “The aftermath of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal highlighted some of the more subtle ways in which girls and women are vulnerable after a natural disaster. After the earthquake, women had to confront increased rates of sexual violence and human trafficking, ThinkProgress reported. In a 2005 report from the World Health Organization, several countries highlighted problems women faced that caused women and girls to be forced into sexually exploitative situations in order to survive.

Going forward, it is my deepest hope that these statistics and a broader understanding of the impossible circumstances that many impoverished women are challenged with during any kind of overwhelming crisis especially women.

To help women and children affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, I have highlighted the best organizations to donate goods and money to, should you feel the need. (I know I did.) All of which I found on rodalesorganiclife.com.

THE NATIONAL DIAPER BANK NETWORK

stack of diapers
JGI/JAMIE GRILL/ GETTY

The National Diaper Bank Network works to connect the more than 300 community-based diaper banks across the country that collect, store, and distribute free diapers to families in need. The organization has expanded its emergency diaper relief efforts in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, working to deliver millions of diapers to impacted families in need. Currently, the network includes seven diaper banks across Texas and three in Florida. Such efforts are key in times like these—the Houston Diaper Bank alone maxed out its existing supply of 20,000 diapers in one week while Hurricane Harvey tore through the greater Houston area.

Cash donations are also just as vital as the diapers themselves, as they help to offset the costs of trucking donated products to areas in need. Visit their website to make a donation.

I SUPPORT THE GIRLS

Feminine hygiene products are an item most families don’t think to grab when rushing to evacuate their homes in an emergency situation. Similarly, shelters often don’t have a large supply in stock, as they rely on donations to have them in the first place. South Carolina-based I Support the Girls collects and distributes donated new or used bras and unopened packages of maxi pads and tampons to women in need across the country and internationally. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, its team members have been sending products to Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, which has been serving as a temporary shelter, as well as to other temporary shelters in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, as each of these cities have been receiving thousands of evacuees.

Monetary donations via their website are what the organization needs the most right now to ensure that shipments continue to be distributed throughout Texas and Florida. Supporters can also purchase and ship products directly through its Amazon wish list.

SIMPLY THE BASICS

simply basics hurricane donation bags
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SIMPLY THE BASICS

 

The San Francisco-based organization Simply the Basics essentially serves as a “hygiene bank,” and is working to donate thousands of kits containing tampons, pads, razors, and toothbrushes to displaced Harvey and Irma victims, in addition to homeless women across the country. A donation of $25 can help produce five of these kits.

HAPPY PERIOD

Similarly to Simply the Basics, Palmdale, California-based Happy Period donates menstrual hygiene kits to women in need during emergency situations, as well as to homeless and low-income women, and women living in poverty. The organization accepts donations of products such as pads, tampons, panty liners, soap, wipes, and new underwear. For the disaster relief efforts, the organization is asking that people donate to its Texas chapter or purchase menstrual hygiene items through its Amazon account. You can also visit the website for mailing information to donate products, or to make an online cash donation.

DISTRIBUTING DIGNITY

distributing dignity hurricane donation products
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF DISTRIBUTING DIGNITY

 

The New Jersey-based non-profit Distributing Dignity has already donated over 5,000 tampons and several large shipments of pads and bras to Houston-area women in need. The organization has also launched a fundraising campaign specifically for the women displaced by Harvey; any leftover items will continue to go to support women who are homeless, are survivors of abuse, or are otherwise in need. Visit their website to make a donation, or to find a drop-off location in the New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia areas.

Lin Chew and Kavita Ramdas in the Global Fund For Women report “Caught in the Storm: The Impact of Natural Disasters on Women,” December 2005: http://www.globalfundforwomen.org

http://www.unisdr.org “Disaster and Gender Statistics”

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com 5 Ways to Donate to Displaced Americans After Harvey

http://www.bustle.com Hurricane Harvey Affects More Women Than Men and Here’s Why

 

 

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Let’s Hear it for the Boy(s)

I wrote my last post with a feeling of sharing unfiltered honesty, and finding sisterhood. I wanted everyone to know where I felt women stood so we could stop feeling so alone with our emotions.

I feared, though, that, perhaps, maybe, I had been a bit unfair. It is definitely true that women are subjected to a lot of pressure between social media, the world at large, and expectations above what many can realistically just not meet, it is definitely also true that men are met with those same feelings, but deal with them alone.

I ended my prior post with some snark about husbands sharing some of those burdens with us.When I went back and read it again, I began a line of questioning about whether or not I was being fair. I know in my own household, my husband lives in a world of feeling pressure. Many aspects of his life revolve around being a good provider, putting in long hours at work, being uncertain about how he is doing dad-wise, etc., etc., etc.

I am here this post to say that the reality of our current climate gender-wise may be changing, and a lot of focus has been put on ending ideas of “boys being boys” and using language such as “man up” when speaking to emotional young gentleman, but what I see is more than that.

Recently, I have had many conversations about husbands, fathers, and men in general and have uncovered something truly upsetting. Many men have friends, but they do not have “tribes”, “villages, or “squads” that they cultivate in an effort to feel heard, supported, and less alone. Even the best of male besties, the Broest of true Bromancers, do not speak to one another on a truly deep level. Many agree that they get together, complain a bit about wives and girlfriends, play pool, but wouldn’t disclose things like being tired from their newborn being up all night teething, or that they worked 52 hours the week prior because their family may have been short of rent money that month otherwise.

I feel a deep sense of sadness and loss on behalf of men everywhere. The landscape of women’s friendships has allowed us to create, nurture, and love lasting friendships that can be life altering, even, at time, lifesaving. Women of all ages, personalities, and experiences are there for one another at the swish of a text, enmeshed in the lives of their closest friends, part of one another’s families in many cases. I personally have a group of women in my village that I can turn to during every single situation I may find myself in. I have never felt more confident than I do now, having their voices in my head.

Meanwhile, many fathers and husbands are still being asked if they are “babysitting” their own children, or “hiding from their wife”. They have so many issues faced by women, as well. Insecurity, self-doubt, body image issues, depression, anxiety. And they have nowhere to turn. Many new dad bloggers are surfacing, making being a father with all of it’s successes and failures a topic of conversation for the first time. But there still does not seem to be a lot of credit where it’s due, in general. One example is from my own life story. I had my first and only son while being unwed and under the legal drinking age, so many people came out of the woodwork to mention I was “lucky” that my son’s father stayed with me, and furthermore, frequently took care of our son, even waking in the night with him knowing his alarm would go off at 4:00 am. I repeated this to my husband and was pretty shocked when he found these comments insulting. Why would he be lauded for being a good father?

Why don’t we celebrate husbands and boyfriends that shoulder the same burdens women face, and why aren’t they sharing these thoughts with other men??

As I watch my fellow women hitting their groove, hitting milestone after historical milestone to pave a new way for themselves, they do so being surrounded by supportive women. I wonder when men everywhere will find themselves getting some of the same limelight. No longer is a man only taking responsibility for putting food on their tables, they are staying at home while their wife works. They’re sharing chores like cooking and cleaning, not just mowing the lawn or fixing the car.

I can’t wait for a time that they experience the true awesomeness of bonded friendships, or when we start acknowledging their own way of kicking down the door on traditions of the past that once held them down.

Under Pressure

For several weeks now, I have watched my social media carefully because I started to suspect that perhaps, our DEEP, DARK LADY SECRET was getting ready to accidentally come out. Our secret? We are…Imperfect. *sigh* Constantly. *groan*

We yell at our husbands because they didn’t buy the right hamburger meat. We come unraveled when our kids refuse to listen. We fuck up the job of parenting if we work all the time and we don’t value our independence if we stay home. We pray every night that God will help us to be more humble wives and mothers. We’re painfully aware of our shortcomings.

UGH! NOW EVERYONE KNOWS FOR SURE.

I just wanted to make sure I really just told the truth just in case the world missed the 45,000 trending blog posts about it. I feel like I’m constantly bombarded with well-intentioned messages from women who equate their value to how well they take care of their husbands and unfair confessions of failure that has us all wondering if we too are guilty; the women who are always on the hunt for the best advice on how to be a kind and content wife or how to be a patient and engaged parent.

But, where are the articles and blog posts calling husbands to the carpet to be held accountable and honest about their shortcomings? Because I haven’t read any. Like, ever. From what I have seen recently, women just aren’t getting any credit for being hardworking, amazing, and fun people.

The attitude that constantly requires women to strive for perfection in their roles to serve others is WRECKING perfectly sane women! When conversation around women improving themselves is constantly centered on their relationship with someone else, we devalue the woman and we write off the balance of healthy relationships.

The sentiment of ‘mom guilt’ is out of control. Can we just stop? Can we just all agree that parenting is challenging and we are trying to be the best moms we can be, all the while knowing the therapists we will be paying an arm and a leg to are going to tell our children it’s all our fault?

Parenting is simultaneously the most wonderful and worst job ever! Not because it is thankless. I actually think there are plenty of thanks in the job of motherhood. No, my son doesn’t say, “Thanks Lindsey for parenting me so well,” but I do feel a sense of gratitude from others who say things like:

  • “He is so polite.”
  • “He is seriously the funniest kid I know.”
  • “I forget he’s only a child.”
  • “He talks like an adult.”

It is the worst because we are going to make mistakes. This is HARD. But you know what? Dads can help. Oddly, I don’t see a bunch of dad writers and bloggers all up in arms because of something he thinks is making him a total failure all the time! Muscle Magazine doesn’t advertise articles for dads managing stress or offer advice on how to incorporate a healthy diet into family meal planning… Amirite? It’s because the pressure is sold to women as a self-help bundle that will make us all suck less. Take my money!

Sometimes, I think this is just a ploy. It’s just another way of saying, “See, ladies, we are divided. I am better than you because you wanna drink wine and stay up to read Nora Roberts, but I wanna serve my MAN. MMhmm.” We can do better ladies. We can stop comparing ourselves to one another and stop basing our worth on our value to someone else. That’s a fleeting sense of identity that will only leave us depleted and stressed, which is where we are right now. Fulfilling myself. Maintaining my own happiness. Making sure that this wife and mother gets some damn ME time so she can continue living her life generously and to the benefit of everyone around me.

All of the women I surround myself with in my life (and internet life) are RIDICULOUSLY GENEROUS?? They are constantly giving of their time, love, attention, intellect, support, and friendship. They are always bending over backwards to make sure their families have not only everything they need, but also, the things they want. I can tell you from firsthand experience that takes a toll on a person! It’s exhausting. Utterly rewarding, of course. Hell, it makes my soul feel beautiful when I can be that kind of woman, but it requires naps and copious amounts of coffee.

After all this digressing, I guess I just get lost in my own head about this stuff because women have worked really hard to be seen as equals. We are still striving for equal pay, our health insurance tends to be more expensive because we have ovaries instead of testicles, and we pop out babies and return to work in mere weeks… And in our most sacred bond of marriage, where we get to have this wonderful person in our lives loving us both perfectly and imperfectly, we’re being constantly assaulted by this garbage makes women feel WORSE when we should be celebrating! We get to work to help support our families when necessary, OR stay at home to help raise wonderful young men and women, OR BOTH! We get to go grab a pedicure while our husbands beat our kids at Mario Kart for a couple hours, we get to giggle with our girlfriends over wine and horrendously written super smutty novels.

We should be allowed to rejoice in the perfection that lives inside of us as people. We should be able to lose the neuroses and constant reminders of not being good enough. And at the very least, if we have to suffer, so should our men.  I kid! Kind of…