First Year Teaching: I bled through my skirt

I am a woman who has periods and it’s not the end of the world. I promise.

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Welcome back! Many of you are probably prepared to pity me or sitting on the edge of your seats to hear the full story.  Others of you might think this subject matter is too private or personal or taboo. For those of you fall in the last category, I wrote this post for you, as a female human. Cue rant:

One of the things that I am very passionate about is talking about periods. I feel compelled to talk about periods and “feminine products,” because people do not want to talk about them…NOT EVEN OTHER WOMEN (sometimes). We have grown up in a society in which speaking out about periods, vagina, tampons, pads, or diva cups, is to be whispered. I live in a world which makes me feel as though having a period is a negative consequence, bleeding is disgusting and unsanitary (hints “sanitary products”), and being open about my personal life is “unlady like.” Well here’s my lady card, because I’m about to complete this full rant.

I was in a bit of a rush to get to my office hours before teaching a course. So I am frantically whipping eggs into a skillet and brushing my teeth while putting on a turquoise, floor length maxi skirt (because I was a goddess that day). I take a transit bus up to campus and walk into my office ready for the day. I finish speaking with other graduate assistants and realize that I should head to my class at about 15 minutes til. I stand up and one of second year students exclaim, “Oh, we have a problem!”

I was so shook and startled that I am intensely listening to hear what just happened. He then motions to another woman in the room to enlighten me on the problem (which only confuses everyone more). After putting two and two together, I look at my skirt to find a nice red smear in a sea of turquoise fabric. I explained to him that it wasn’t a big deal, because I am a female human and this is nothing new. He then suggests that I sit the whole class, so that my students can not see the stain. So I had to get him together:

First of all, as a young black woman teaching at a predominately white institution (PWI), I will not be sitting to teach a lesson with the intention to not make my students uncomfortable with the fact that I had a period! I hold myself to a high standard and make a point to live my life unapologetically.

Secondly, this was nothing to panic about. I will admit that I did not like the idea of walking around campus with a stain, but that would be for blood or even coffee. As a teacher and graduate student, you want to look presentable to a certain extent…especially at the beginning of syllabus week! The only concern at this point was to not let it dry, because that turquoise skirt is my favorite.

So I head to a near by restroom to put some water on it and dim the vibrancy. I rotate the skirt, so that the stain is on my front hip and then I roll up the skirt from floor length to mid-calf. Still a cute skirt. Still professional.

Thirdly, if you were bleeding…and sitting…wouldn’t you…bleed through the skirt again?! Logic went straight of the window for my male counterpart, because he does not have to think about these things. I make an effort to be conscious of that which is not conscious to my everyday reality. Just because you do not deal with it everyday, doesn’t mean that it never happens. For example, I think about race ALL THE TIME. Why? Not because I’m racist or looking for an opportunity to “play the race card.” I think about it because I have to. It is a defense mechanism. I live in a country that separates families, hosts Nazi and KKK rallies/ marches, and doesn’t look for missing people with brown skin. I do not have the luxury to live life without think about the fact that I am black nor a woman.

As a woman, I bleed. Maybe it’s once a month. Maybe it’s once every two months. It all depends on my body, diet, and stress level. When this happens, I may have cramps and mood changes. For some women, cramps can be so severe that they physically can not move. So we take pain medication, warm water bags, or eat those food that just…hit the spot. I am a free-flower. If I can get away without using tampons or pads, I will and here’s why!

Tampons and pads are expensive and dangerous. I spent an hour in a Target aisle once trying to figure out which brand to get. I challenge you. The next time you go to the store, go to the women’s section. Notice that it will be at the back or in the cut and always linked to “family planning” or “pregnancy tests.” I want you to look at the prices and quantity. Just with a quick google search alone, the cheapest set of tampons is about 5$ for 40 of an off-brand and pads is about 3$ for 22. If we pretend that your cycle is monthly, let’s assume that your period will last at least 4-7 days per month. Your period flow will also be important in these calculations. You may change 1-3 times a day (some friends have done more in one day). So for the tampons that’s about 2-10 months worth, pads about 1-5 months. Reminder that you really need both, because sometimes just one pad or tampon won’t avoid stained clothes and there are time limits for wearing these products. Also, don’t forget the special taxes and also, do you know what they’re made with?

Our sanitary products are laced with all sorts of chemicals and pesticides. I don’t even think that companies are required to tell you what’s in them. So recently, there’s been this new wave of interest in organic or diy products. But I purchased a diva cup. This isn’t common within my family or friend circle. It is 40$ and you can use it up to a year and wear it for longer hours than tampons. The material doesn’t have nasty chemicals. As I am writing this, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but again…it adds up and men don’t have to think about any of this. Plenty of women live their mature lives without knowing about their bodies or cycles. I am not good at math but worst case scnario, you could be paying about 10$ for 2 months of period related products…which could be 60$ a year (depending on flow, brand, and financial status). These products are a luxury that many women do not have access to all over the world. We shouldn’t have to pay for this…or worry about where to get the funds to do so.

So back to the original story: I checked in with some women around me to see the adjustment with my skirt looked like it had been planned. I strolled across campus and walked into my classroom to teach about 5 minutes or so early. After class, I took the transit back home, so that I could soak the skirt, because it makes me feel like a goddess. So I left all my clothes to soak in the sink with cold water (you can also use your own spit or hydrogen peroxide, apparently). I drove back to campus in my personal vehicle to pay for parking, so that I wouldn’t be late for my next meeting and class that I TA for.

I began by stating that this post was written for those of you who think that this topic is too “private, personal, or taboo.” I wrote this piece for you because I wanted you to know that this happened to me and the world kept going. I want you to know a little bit about the world that I live in which doesn’t support me. Having periods is normal and sometimes an interestingly timed surprise, but that’s okay…or at least it should be. I wrote this piece for you because I want you to be able to calmly say to another woman, “You have started your period and there is a stain on your skirt. Do you need help getting anything?” I wrote this for you, so that when you go to the store and see all of these products hidden a way, you start to imagine the unspoken shame attached to that. I wrote this piece for you to notice those who may not have access to pads, tampons, or cups. I wrote this piece because it is a real life, every day occurrence. I am writing you so that you may one day ask the right questions to the right people. I am writing you this piece so that you can help the next woman. 

Yes, I am a woman and I have periods, but I continue to thrive…and next time I’ll have spare clothes.

Best,

CDJ

Dear Mr. Cat-Call: I’m Actual Human

Some of us don’t have the luxury of walking and roaming.

Welcome back! I’ve been trying to write this piece for a while now, but never found the right message until now.

Clinched keys, no purse, concaved chest, shallow breathe, and RBF…that’s right. I’m getting ready to walk alone threw a neighborhood in search of food. It’s only half a mile and maybe a 10 minute walk; yet, even though the sun is high, my spirit is low.

In making the decision to not crank up my car to drive two minutes up the street, in the back of my head, I’m taking the risk of being attacked. This is how it feels living and walking while female, woman, young, and black in the USA in 2018. It is because I am small and cute that I have to lug this imaginary bull’s eye on my shoulders.

Most of the time, I keep my eyes to the ground, my voice low, and my steps purposeful. As if too much of a sound will alert others that I exist. Although I have never been physically assaulted or attack while walking, I see it as a possibility anytime. Although I am confident in defending myself, I also understand that there is only so much a woman at 115 pounds can do. Although my anxiety spikes, I feel that I have every right in the world to walk…it shouldn’t be a privilege.

I have been verbally assaulted and harassed consistently. I would define this as any sound transmitted to me which makes me feel objectified, exposed, defensive, disgusted, or fearful. So regardless of your intentions Mr. Cat-Call, the impact of your actions makes me fearful and uncomfortable in my own skin. And that my dear friend is a violation.

Because I stay alert and overly cautious as I walk alone, sometimes I accidentally make eye contact with the opposite sex. When I do, I remember that we’re both human and relax a bit. The last time this happened, a man was sitting on his porch. I assessed him from his seat and concluded that he wasn’t a threat, so I nodded my head as a greeting and kept walking.

He yelled from behind, “Hey!” I just kept walking because we’re the only two people visible on this street. He continues without hesitation, “Aye, you in school?!” In my mind, I am assuming that he’s asking because he wants to know if I’m “of age.” Being that I am small, natural (without makeup), and sporting a backpack, I often get mistaken as a high school student. While some may think this is a stretch, past encounters have led me to this conclusion: he wanted to know if he could legally hit on me or have a chance with me. He was doing his own assessment. In these moments, we (the vulnerable and without privilege) have to be careful with what we say and do. There’s also the possibility that silence would create anger within him. Can you believe that in this moment I think that I HAVE to consider his feelings?!?! So I keep walking and without turning around, I yell, “Have a good day!” Because sometimes disengaged kindness can diffuse situations. He called back, “Huh?!?!” And I yelled, while turning the corner, “Have a good day!” He eventually got the message and ended the conversation with a disapproving, “Okay…”

Now I’ll admit, this interaction was not that bad. That encounter wasn’t as bad as men hanging out of car windows to throw “compliments” my way or ask for my number. It wasn’t as bad as being pressed to give them my number. It wasn’t as bad as being called derogatory names nor hearing what they’d like to do to me…sexually…without my consent. It’s not as bad as witnessing them groping themselves or pretending that I would give them blow jobs. Yet all of them make me uncomfortable and it’s because I have the audacity to walk while female, woman, young, and black in the USA in 2018.

They do it because they know they can. It’s a power dynamic that says that I am worth less than his enjoyment. It’s a society that swipes these issues under the rug. My safety and comfort is secondary to his feelings and needs. Yet if I speak out about it, I am being over dramatic, too sensitive, and maybe a prude. However, I wrote the post to let the world know that I am human.

I feel emotions and pain. I have the same basic needs to be met. I am a living, breathing being who deserves respect. I also have the RIGHT to walk wherever, whenever, in whatever I want without fear. So, have a nice day Mr. Cat-Call and I hope to never hear from you again.

CJ

How to “Online Dating”: From Stranger to Friend to Exclusive

Learn how to transform your relationships (whether romantic or not) in the age of online dating.

Last year, I wrote about reasons someone doesn’t deserve a swipe to the right. Today, I felt the need to highlight those who made it to the final round. Here are 5 tips and tricks to take some stranger’s selfie to someone worth building a future with. Kinda crazy, huh? Well welcome to the 2010s!

  1. Mr./ Mrs. Right

Thanks to centuries of romantic comedies, novels, and story plots, we are desperately searching for our soul mates. There’s this idea that somewhere out there is a person made specifically for you. There’s this concept that someone out there meets all the criteria on your list (and some of us have fairly lengthy lists). Unfortunately, this gets in the way of building friendships and allowing the potential for romance in those relationships.

When it comes to online dating, I entered with the mindset of “what do I need and want”? What’s most important to me is having someone who communicates in a similar way and is open to exploring the world. I also need them to be honest, loyal, and oozing with positive vibes. However, while scrolling through sites, I try not to get distracted by all of my wants (the small details). So after listing your non-negotiable items and needs in a relationship, we must be aware of the deal breakers (ex. stoners, cat lovers, or those who put pineapple on their pizza). So you don’t want to spend all your time checking of items in a box, but you do want to be realistic about who complements you.

2. The Right Fit

Once you have found a person or a couple of people who meet those basic needs, it is time to determine if you “click.” Again, it’s best to avoid our fantasies about romance, such as the foot pop or fireworks after you kiss someone. It’s more about following your gut and asking yourself “could they be a great friend?” Whether you are searching for someone to fill space or be exclusive with, you need to make sure that the two of you can effectively communicate comfortably in your style of communication.

I found my current partner on an online dating app. He was one of the few guys who sent with a unique and interesting message. While I can’t remember what that message was for the life of me, I remember how it made me feel. It made me smile and curious enough to talk with him. Texting for us was simple and enjoyable, because we had similar humor and personalities. While we were revealing deep thoughts and feelings, we were becoming familiar with one another AS FRIENDS. So remember, just take things slow and building a friendship. After building trust as friends, you’ll know if they would complement you well as a partner.

 3. Let’s Get Offline

You know what’s more annoying than receiving hundreds of notifications from strangers? Waiting on Wi-Fi to talk to that one person you can’t wait to receive notifications from. Somewhere in this span of building friendship with this stranger, it is advisable to move offline. If you feel comfortable enough to trade cell phone numbers, do so. If you want to meet them in an open, well trafficked place first, then do that. If things are going well and feel that they might be a compatible friend, then push for some face to face time. There is nothing worse than getting along great via text and not being able to crack a smile in person.

Meeting someone from online will be awkward and strange at first, but just remember that they’re a relatively normal person who is also very nervous. My partner and I had traded numbers because of my busy schedule and agreed to meet for Indian food. His profile noted that he was 6’9″ (yet no typo there) and I am just over 5 feet, so of course that created nerves. I greeted him with an awkward hug and talked about the nerves briefly just to break the ice. We continued conversations similar to our texting streak; however, we talked more about school, aspirations, friends, plans for the year, and of course food.

Having a face to face conversation definitely allowed us to open up more about what we wanted from this relationship. I was fresh out of school and looking for friends in the area to explore the city with. He was of a similar mindset and confessed to not being completely ready for a romantic relationship. Which is understandable! Most of the time, the goal of online dating is friendship rather than marriage. While you do things that would be considered “dates,” but it is also possible to go of “friend dates” which don’t end with kissing or an “I love you.”

4. Open Communication

If you do nothing else, you must develop open communication. Relationship are nothing without some form of consistent and honest communication. As time passes, you will have longer conversations with depth and life gets complicated. Therefore, it’s nice to let your friends know about changes in your life which may affect y’all’s relationship. This is especially important if you are seeing more than one person at the same time. It’s just nice to let others know where your mind and heart are.

My current partner and I talked about everything from work to friends from school and hobbies to future hopes. I often do check ins with my friends about their needs and wants. Sometimes literally saying, “What is it that you need from me as a friend? And what do you want from me?” My partner also discussed the possibility of us dating after about 5-6 months of knowing one another. Although I initially turned the offer down, I did ask him what changed his mind. So we had a full discussion about transitioning from friendship into a romantic relationship. We also discussed what that would look like for us and what would our norms be. In developing and maintaining a strong romantic relationship, vulnerability and transparency a vital for great communication.

5. Open Minded

In maintaining new relationships, you have to allow things the ability to grow in the way they would naturally do so. If things are not working, then it is okay for things to end. Often we encourage a push through it mentality, when in actuality some things and people are not meant to be together. While you may think you complement one another in the beginning, things may change which call for you to reassess your relationship.

For me, I had to be open to the idea of no longer being single. I had been dating myself for the last two years and celebrating my selfish lifestyle. I had been building and loving myself. I acknowledged and celebrated my growth, because I knew where I had come from. I had strengthened my self-esteem, self-worth, and self-talk by cleansing my life of toxic people. Now I was presented with this wonderful guy who was asking for my permission to grow with me. He loves to text just as much as I do, we make fun of each other in good taste, and we rationalize the world in similar ways.

He is skilled, bright, brutally honest, loyal, decently optimistic, and inspirational. He likes to travel and we’ll hopefully be traveling together soon. He is a nerd, morning person, and an old soul. He is hilarious, thoughtful, respectful, and romantic. He complements the Cayla that I have worked hard to build well and challenges me to do better. So I am happy to call him mine and I am optimistic about our future.

 

Alright now I’m done with the sappy love story. There isn’t an formula for finding love on a dating app. You just need to spend time with yourself to know what you need in someone else and find someone who complements you well. Add comments below to continue the conversation!

Best,

Cayla Jae

Raise Hell

Quick Notes from a full day of absorbing information and I was an arm’s length away from Angela Davis. #nwsa2017

Today, I spent 12 hours listening, talking, thinking, and learning about present day activism. With today only being pre-conference, it was amazing to think of how inspiring and energetic the rest of the week would be. We defined black girl magic, strategized how to weave activism into the classroom, considered the transformation of women’s studies over the past 20-40 years, and discussed activism in the era of the 45th. The final kick off for the national women’s studies association conference was a keynote presentation with Alicia Garza and Angela Davis.

Seeing as I promise a new post every Thursday night, please excuse typos and I now have exactly 12 minutes to tell you 12 commonalities during the meets. I will expand next week once the conference as ended.

Self love/ care: minorities (of color, ableness, gender, etc.) Often do not see self love and care modeled within their community. As Angela Davis even commented, activists during her time spent their time solely on the movement and often making sacrifices when it came to food, family, etc. For black women, this is even more important in that we have this super woman stereotype/ weight on our shoulders to take care of everyone before ourselves.

Visibility: this is a challenge for many minorities and radicals. Finding a way to give voice to the marginalized and muted becomes challenging. However social media hashtags have helped bring life to things like black girl magic and black lives matter. However, many of the older feminist worry that there’s no substance in the hashtag/ trendy.

Art and words as tools: they’re in conversation with those who craft to give visuals to the movement.

Interdisciplinary: we have to remember that everything is interconnect. One teacher taught her science class by teaching them about Harriet Tubman!

Intersectionality: not the same as multi cultural. It’s recognizing different aspects of a person’s identity. For example, black and woman, and the life experience from that.

Freedom seekers: as opposed to saying slaves or the oppressed, positive word choice is a more acquire depiction of those groups.

Personality: you have to bring yourself to the space. Instead of coming in and trying to blend in, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Context: learn your history… The world’s history answers so many questions for us.

Politics: our whole life is political. And it’s not about parties anymore, but what people stand for and what we’ll continue to accept or discard.

Comfort: real change comes from discomfort. Alicia Garza talked about how she’ll have meetings about things that matter and watch those on the opposite side get uncomfortable. “But I kinda just like watching them squirm… They act like it’s something new. We’ve been here the whole time, you just chose not to see us.”

Humility: Angela Davis reminded us of the importance of being Hubble enough to not be so ego centric and learn from the world. We don’t always have to be the first to speak. We need to listen more and learn from the successes of others.

Raising hell: Y’all… Davis, “if you don’t do the work, there will be no change. Now on the other hand, there’s no guarantee of change if you do the work. So work as if it’s going to change.”

 

Gap Year: How to Plan Your Life

Happy Almost Friday! Today’s post is about making plans and adulting.

I’m no stranger to having a plan and setting goals to achieve. While scrolling through journals, speeches, or posts, I noticed that I always select captions geared toward planning your life. I’ve always been curious about how people got to their dream job or found this content/ happy median between work and home life. What I’ve discovered is that the majority of advice for figuring out this world is summed in 4 statements:

  • Audit your life and determine what needs adjustment
  • Find your passion and listen to your heart
  • Rely on Mentors and Network
  • Schedule time to build on your skills or achieve your end goal

However, you have people that will tell you that none of that matters. The truth is that for some of us, if every step is over calculated, we will spend the majority of our lives trying to figure out what we want to do with it, rather than actually living it. Another thing that is tough to accept is that finding some passions and goals are easy for others to decide on, while the rest of us linger in the grey zones. For those of us in the grey zone, we have to remember that the standard advice above may not apply to us. Of course, this isn’t the most comforting advice, but we all have different plans to take us on a unique journey.

I happen to eat, sleep, and breathe in the grey zone. One of my favorite professor’s advice was to find something we’re good at and something we like. Yet even that advice was tough for me.  I like a lot of things and my passions about those things shift with time. I know that I am artistic, creative, humorous, analytical, compulsive, and curious. I like visual and performance art, writing, and creating order to things.  I care about a variety of causes and issues. Overall, I spread messages of feminism and the Golden Rule which means that I believe in equality, humanism, and trying to be a good person. I have tested the waters with a number of fields. I can tell you my experiences working for non-profits, for-profits, film, theatre, pharmaceutical industry, teaching, writing, and more. I also know that I’m good at almost anything. I’m not bragging. I’m just confident in my abilities to complete a variety of tasks and do them well.

So as I read, hear, and watch all of these extraordinary human beings in their successes, I am still curious about how they made their decision. And now I’m starting to think that I’ve figured it out. I restructured the 4 step process for planning your life, even if you’re in the grey zone.

  1. So at the end of the day, you have to set your priorities. Aside from interests and job prospects, what is the most important thing for you to have or do? I need a beach or tropical climate and I want to be able to support myself well enough to live alone. Therefore, I am looking for what industries are most popular in coastal regions and have a decent cost of living. Because being financially comfortable is important me, I know that I will need a boring 9-5 job to get above the poverty line (seeing that I’m single with no children or debts). I will always be creating art, but realistically (based on my priorities) I need something to support myself and those supplies to create my dream pieces. I also know that I don’t have the drive of an entrepreneur to start my own business.
  2. In the spirit of being realistic, you have to do a mini assessment of your life. I am single, childless, and debt/ loan free. I am also mobile with a car that I now own, passport, and no other obligations once August comes. My options are to find a job, another service position, or a graduate program in a coastal city. Of those three, I would have to make sure that I get enough scholarships and would make enough for living off-campus or make sure I’m making at least 35k a year or more with a relocation package. So if I want to pursue either school or a new job, I will have start applying for schools now and wait a couple of months before August to start applying for jobs.
  3. Before making a final decision, do a happy check with yourself. Although I’ve discovered that adulting isn’t really about happiness, the goal is to not be miserable. Therefore, at this point revisit your priorities and skills. As I search for a degree program or job, I will be realistic about my past experiences (rather than trying to follow a passion). Basically, I just want to make decent money to support myself and be able to drive to a beach easily on the weekend. So I’ll apply to a few programs and jobs in good locations that connect to my undergraduate degree. During this time, I can build a portfolio or network for a decent 9-5 job which I’d be skilled at. For me, at this point, it’s not about having a meaningful position or solving the problems of the world. I’m just going to be basic and maybe every now and then I will have the chance to pull out my cape and save the world.
  4. Finally, think of some small goals to get there. You don’t necessarily need a big end goal (unless it’s an easy choice for you). So I’ll give myself two to three weekends to decide on at least 3-5 graduate programs (mostly in coastal cities) to apply to. After that I’ll put application dates on the calendar, call and email department heads with questions and start sending in paper work. If the universe wants me in that program, maybe one of them will say yes. If they say no, I will already be applying to jobs starting in May (maybe earlier but it really depends on when they want the positions filled). Again, if the universe wants me in those job positions, then I might get a call back and a chance to kill that interview. In the meantime, whenever I get stuck, I’ll ask more adulty adults for advice (or ecosia and google).

I originally took this Gap Year, because I had no idea what I was doing, what I wanted, or where I was going. I was also VERY exhausted from my undergraduate program. And now I see myself and what habits I want in the real world. Now I know how well I work with people, commuting to and from work on a daily basis, and how I maintain relationships. I am starting to notice patterns in my free time habits. I noticed that I actually can survive in the real world. Although tough, I have seen quite a bit to be more prepared in the near future. I’m also seeing that to be extraordinary, you do no have to be famous or unique. To be extraordinary you just have to be you and craft your life for you. So just remember, just do you boo.

Best,

Cayla Jae

 

Rest Your Mind

“Now that he was safe from the world outside he was being attacked from within his own head.” – Cal by Bernard Maclaverty, p.106.

The art process is very vulnerable and uncertain. Much of the time that I spend working alone is filled with doubts and negativity from my mind. Art involves so much self criticism that one become less bothered by others expectations. One of the things my professor tells students is to not forget what you do well. As a group, we spend more time attempting to perfect that which is already perfect. Let your mind rest and enjoy your days.

Strength

Graphite, vine charcoal, and oil pastel on light green conte paper.

Although everyone experiences rock bottom emotionally at some point, I think it’s important to remember three time frames. The past is that which remains unchanged. Remaining in it’s suffocating embrace, weakens the spirit and mind. The present is that which remains in process, creating the future that is always ready for you to take charge. Sometimes we have to move away from our pasts, in hopes that our futures will seem like dreams.

Defeminized

Still life of vessels in oil.

My last series consisted of vessels representing issues women face. This one in particular tackles the skewed view that women are easily replaceable. “A cup is a cup is a cup.” Many think that although the style and size are different, that cups serve the same single purpose. I personally find this revolting, due to the fact that it both defeminizes and dehumanizes women.

Dualität

collage + photocollage + paint

This was a piece I created for a design course, entitled:Dualität. We gathered images surrounding a particular theme, created a gray scaled collage, sketched out the image on another sheet, and painted with acrylic. This was a very long process, but it helped in the development of thoughts.

I created a piece that juxtaposes two lifestyles of these women: the life of bubbles, flowers, fruit, and kittens versus that of rocks, snakes, pills, and alcohol. Although tedious, I enjoyed printing, cutting, sizing, and pasting every object or element in this piece. In fact, it is the process of thinking, crafting, and revising that I love the most-even more than the final piece.