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Organization Fights To Make Pads And Tampons Free In Public Restrooms

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 07:59 AM PDT

Menstrual products, like toilet paper, are a necessity, not a luxury

If you’ve ever been caught without a pad or tampon in public when you have your period, you know how frustrating it can be to figure out. Even though things like toilet paper and soap are available in public restrooms at no cost, menstrual products are not.

One organization set out to change this narrative, fighting to make feminine hygiene products freely available, and their work is making a real difference.

“The consequences of not having access to [menstrual] products are pretty humiliating, and really a loss of dignity,” Free The Tampons founder Nancy Kramer tells Here & Now. “I mean you can, as we like to say, ‘MacGyver’ your own solution with a bunch of toilet paper, but that’s certainly not ideal. Women run the risk of having blood-stained clothing in an environment where that’s just disrespectful and humiliating.”

Some would argue that women should simply be more prepared, carrying these products with them at all times in the event they do get their periods. But Kramer is quick to point out one fatal flaw in this argument. “We don’t expect people to walk around with rolls of toilet paper on them,” she said. “I don’t think we should expect people to walk around with tampons and pads on them.”

It seems some legislators agree. New York City was the first to pass a legislative package ensuring access to menstrual products in public schools, shelters and corrections facilities. They are the third state (behind California and Illinois) to require schools to provide free products but went a step further to support women in shelters and corrections facilities, targeting their states most vulnerable populations. Governor Andrew Cuomo cited that "Menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but can be one expense too many for struggling families."

And while this is a major step forward, other cities and states need to follow suit. “I think that as we are having more awareness around this issue, we’re seeing these states saying, ‘This isn’t OK in schools,’ and I think next we’ll see it more in the restrooms,” Kramer noted.

As legislation catches up to women’s issues, we’ve seen more and more states seek to remove the “tampon tax,” which includes menstrual products as a category subject to sales tax of anywhere between 4 and 10 percent. For many families where every penny counts, this adds up. And given feminine hygiene products are a necessity, it’s frustrating it’s taken this long.

For Kramer, her motivation to make this a lifelong effort started in 1982 when she saw free menstrual products offered at Apple’s corporate headquarters. “I just thought this seemed like it made all the sense in the world, and I immediately instituted the policy in my own business, and I’ve been advocating for businesses and schools to follow suit ever since,” she said.

What it comes down to for Kramer and others fighting to enact legislation is a lack of knowledge on the issue. “I think it’s a lack of awareness,” she said. “I also think that historically, men made the decisions for those types of items, and in defense of men, there’s nothing that their body does that’s exactly like a period. So it’s very difficult for a man to relate to. There’s just nothing that’s the equivalent.”

As more and more women are appointed to publicly held positions and lend their voices on such issues, that’s when the real change will happen. As Kramer so eloquently said, “I think that if men got periods, frankly I don’t think we’d be even having this discussion.”

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Ann Curry Says She Reported Matt Lauer Years Ago — And Nothing Was Done

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 07:30 AM PDT

Ann Curry says she reported Matt Lauer for sexual harassment all the way back in 2012

It turns out that NBC News allegedly knew about Matt Lauer’s sexual harassment problem way back in 2012. Ann Curry told The Washington Post that she reported the news anchor after a female colleague confided in her about his inappropriate behavior. Not a single thing was done to stop it.

After Lauer was fired for a myriad of horrifically inappropriate sexual misconduct issues, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack told staff members that they had never received a complaint about the news anchor up until then. Former NBC News journalist Ann Curry has a different story. She said she reported Lauer to two members of NBC’s management team, after a female colleague said she was "sexually harassed physically" by the news anchor.

"A woman approached me and asked me tearfully if I could help her," Curry told The Washington Post. "She was afraid of losing her job. . . . I believed her." She added that she told management that they had a “problem” and needed to keep an eye on how Lauer “deals with women.” According to NBC, there is no record of her complaint on file.

Lauer was later accused of exposing himself to a female colleague, giving another female colleague a sex toy for a present along with an inappropriate note, and initiating sex with a co-worker in his office. He only half-accepted the blame.

"I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC,” Lauer said in a statement. “However I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of coercive, aggressive or abusive actions on my part, at any time, are absolutely false."

Lauer isn’t the only problem at NBC. Curry, who worked at the network’s “Today” show for 15 years, said that there was a "pervasive verbal sexual harassment” issue during her time there. Former NBC anchor Soledad O'Brien backed her claim up.

"I don't think that people who were victims would feel particularly supported by going to someone and asking for help, whether that person was in HR or that person was a colleague," she told the Post.

Recent news that longtime NBC anchor Tom Brokaw allegedly sexually harassed two of his female colleagues only adds fuel to all this fire. One former staffer claimed that Brokaw tried kissing her twice. Another said he placed her hands on his chest and invited her to his office, with the implication of more than just talking. Brokaw has denied these accusations.

Clearly, something is going on at NBC News. Hopefully after years of apparent inaction, management is taking all the steps necessary to create a safe working environment for everyone.

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Another Father Threatens Teen Boy With Gun Over Daughters — In A Political Ad

Posted: 28 Apr 2018 05:54 AM PDT

Memo to all American dads: enough with the shotgun “joke” already

The most uniquely “American” things go something like this: apple pie, baseball, and dads who threaten young boys with artillery over their daughter’s chastity.

Because young women can’t be expected to have agency over their own bodies in this, Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand And Eighteen, yet another dad is making headlines because of the old shotgun “joke.”

Brian Kemp, who is running to become Georgia’s next governor, can be seen gripping a shotgun with his cold, dead hands in his latest political ad. This is an actual commercial aimed at constituents to sway them into voting for a governor who thinks it’s a riot to threaten teenagers with guns for purely sexist reasons.

Note the many guns on display in what appears to be Kemp’s home. There are guns and ammo on the tables, and even a few sprinkled around a barrel thingy in the background — aside from the one cocked and aimed at poor “Jake” here.

After rattling off a few boilerplate reasons why he wants to be governor, Kemp makes “Jake” wrap up the ad by sharing some thoughts about the second amendment. Just in case sitting inside his Guns ‘R Us basement wasn’t enough to clue us in, Brian Kemp is a big fan of firearms. (Which is fine, if you use them responsibly. Something he doing the opposite of here.)

He makes Jake agree if he goes on a date with one of Kemp’s daughters, “respect and a healthy appreciation for the second amendment” are requirements. “We’re gonna get along just fine,” Kemp says after literally cocking the shotgun.

Kemp’s ad soon started circulating online, with many people offering their thoughts on the tiresome trope of fathers who feel they own their daughters’ sexual agency.

Others were quick to point out that a guy who is behaving irresponsibly with firearms might not be the best person to run an entire state.

Many people say this ad convinced them to vote for Kemp’s democratic opponent, Stacey Evans, a lawyer, mother, and wife who does not appear to toy around with guns in a threatening manner as part of her campaign platform.

As we witnessed recently with the dad who posed with a gun in his daughter’s prom photo, people aren’t exactly super receptive to the idea for two reasons. One, asserting property rights over teenage girls is barbaric, misogynistic, and incredibly problematic. Two, “joking” around by threatening teenage boys with guns doesn’t exactly promote or demonstrate responsible gun ownership. How anyone thinks this is an okay thing to do post-Parkland, in a country in the midst of a gun violence crisis, is beyond logic.

Fathers of daughters who may feel similarly to Brian Kemp, please take note: you do not have the right to control your daughter’s sexuality. And especially not by way of gun violence. Neither of those things is funny. Period.

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If You Plan To Go To A Baseball Game This Season, Know This

Posted: 27 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT

To the fellow parents who are die hard baseball fans fully aware of the dangers of line drives or broken bats, this piece is not for you. This is to the parents, like me, who expect go out for an innocent night of family fun at the ballpark and are not fully aware of just how dangerous it can be.

Last May, my life was forever changed. My children had earned free tickets to a local minor league baseball game through a reading program at school. It was a beautiful spring evening, there were to be fireworks after the game.

We were there with all of my childrens' classmates and their families. It was nearing the ninth inning, and by this time, the kids were growing restless. Many of them migrated out of their seats down to the first row to be as close to the action as they could. They were standing against the concrete wall that separated the fans from the field. Judging by the number of parents who were taking these kids back to their seats, which were none, I think we can all learn a lesson here.

You see, I was in my seat just a few rows behind the kids when I heard my husband yell, "Heads up!" The next thing I know, I was hit smack in the eye by a line drive. The ball was traveling over 100 mph. I had less than a second to react, virtually no time. I was rushed to the trauma unit and did not come home for three days. The injury has left me blind in my right eye. This will be permanent.

Dina Simpson

I have found through advocating for fan safety that this is a common occurrence and the injuries suffered are just devastating. Prior to that night, I thought that if a ball headed my way I would be able to catch it or simply move out of the way. This is not the case; there isn't even time for your brain to fully process what is happening, let alone a child's. Recently, a seven-year-old boy was struck in the head at a college stadium in Missouri. He remains in ICU with a long recovery ahead. And we have all read about the toddler who suffered a terrible injury at Yankee Stadium last fall. Whether it be a major league, minor league, college or local ballpark, they all present the same danger.

Parents, please be careful at ballparks. They have so many family-friendly promotions and they want you to come and have a good time, all while they do very little to protect the fans from the dangers of line drives and broken bats. Baseball organizations do a terrible job of fully warning the public of these dangers. They know it happens often, they've seen it year after year, yet they have failed to protect us.

My injury happened at a minor league park where you are much closer to the real dangers of line drives. When you attend baseball games with children, please sit in the seats behind the protective netting. If you don't feel safe where you are seated, you can ask to be moved. Also, do not assume because there is no netting past the dugouts that it must be safe, I was sitting beyond the dugouts and I have talked to many others who were badly injured while sitting past the dugouts. It is just as dangerous.

I learned all of this the hard way. Now I feel it is my duty to warn others. I am doing all I can to prevent this from happening to anybody else ever again. If your local ballpark does not have netting that extends to the foul poles or, at the very least, to the far end of the dugouts, I implore you to contact them and ask why. Your safety should be their number one priority.

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This Simple Strategy Changed My Relationship With My Teens

Posted: 27 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT

I'm stinking it up as a parent again. All my kid wanted me to do was listen and I blew it. And I'd been waiting for days for him to talk to me about this one particular issue, and once he did, I went full-on parent on him. I unleashed shoulds and coulds and what-I-would-dos and added witty and poignant anecdotes for good measure. And as soon as I did, he stopped talking.

Sheesh. I knew better too, I really did.

Are you an über-parent like me? Something deep inside me wells up whenever I'm interacting with one of my kids and before I know it I'm behaving as if I'm in the middle of a heat at the Olympic trials trying to win a berth to compete for parenting gold in the Games. And nothing shuts my kids down quicker.

This kind of parenting, that I still insist on doing because I can be a very slow learner, is for me though, not them. I do it so I can feel good about myself in that I can confidently say I did my best, tried my hardest, and passed every bit of hard-won knowledge I could on to them for their benefit. I want to be able to lay my head down at night knowing that I left nothing unsaid, missed no teachable moments, and shined oh-so brightly as a mentor. What our kids want/need most often, is for us to listen.

I've understood this of them for a long time and still, I'm resistant to meeting this need of theirs. Because doing so feels like it will leave my needs unmet. And wowza, that is hard to abide by. I can vividly recall a time six years ago—SIX!—when I lamented to my co-worker and friend that my daughter flat out would not listen to any advice or encouragement I offered her. She was shutting me down as a parent. I was exasperated and at a loss on how to proceed with my progeny.

My wise and been-there-done-that friend relayed her own learning in this area and told me reflective listening is what worked best, wonders even, when interacting with her own daughter. She explained it goes like this:

Kid: "Such-and-such happened and then so-and-so said this and then whatever went down and now I feel this way."

Your turn to respond now, parent, is with only a reflection back of what you just heard and you're going to do so by matching the tone and sentiment your child used. Essentially, be their mirror.

Parent: "Oh, my gosh. That's awful/great/wild (whichever your child was indicating) that such-and-such happened and that so-and-so said what they did and then whatever went down and now you're feeling hurt/let down/left out/angry/confused/happy/hopeful/excited," (whichever your child suggested).

That's reflective listening and my friend was really good at it. She'd been doing it with positive results for years. I tried it out with our own kids and, by God, it works! This is what our kids want. What they need. What they yearn for even if they can't find a way to express this to us or they're not sure they can without being disrespectful or hurting our feelings.

When our kids tell us what's going on in their lives and how it affects them, they are not necessarily looking for advice or direction at every turn. Sometimes they are hashing out life aloud so they can hear how it sounds, feel the feels from it all, and work out the solutions to their dilemmas all on their own.

And this is ultimately what we want, isn't it? Self-reliant kids, who know themselves and can navigate from point A to point B with their own smarts and know-how? And when they can do that, in part because we're a terrific sounding board for them to bounce their sound waves off, isn't that evidence of some ultra-terrific parenting? Parenting that felt really good to them as opposed to oppressive and self-serving? The kind of parenting they'll actually seek out again and again?

Six years later, I'm still trying to master this concept and make it my go-to, especially now that our kids are teenagers. Because I know it works and I know it's what they want/need because of how they react when I do it. They make eye contact and their words flow like never-ending wells, their shoulders relax, and they breathe a little easier. If I falter and fail to resist the urge to über-parent and start spewing what I think is solid wisdom and on-point, relevant personal experience, their shoulders slump, their heads dip, the light dims behind their eyes, their words dry up and drought sets in.

I've made some progress; I catch myself when I lapse—and then I apologize. I tell them, "Gosh darn it, I just did it again, didn't I? You just wanted me to listen and I blew it. I went on and on and I shut you down even though I thought I was helping you. I'm sorry. Please give me another chance and talk to me again soon. I'll work very hard to just listen next time. I will."

And I do. And I eventually mess up again and this cycle runs on repeat.

In addition, to bridge the gap and reach a compromise on how far apart our kids can be from us in our attempts at über-parenting, I asked them for this courtesy. I asked of them if there ever is a time they do need more than listening and find they do need our advice or to know where we stand on an issue or our help with something they're dealing with, that they'll let us know. And to that, they both said, "There won't ever be a time like that, but sure, okay."

And in response to that my mama heart hurts a little and I have to get over myself. Sums up the whole of what parenting is, doesn't it?

This piece was previously published on Her View From Home.

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This Is What It Means To Be A Best Friend

Posted: 27 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT

I met my best friend in the summer of ’93; we were besties at first sight. She was sipping a Diet Coke, and she had red hair and a big smile. I liked the way she smelled and things with us were just easy from the start. She was my assigned roommate our freshman year in college. I called her one Sunday afternoon as soon as her information came to me in the mail. I told her how I like to dress up and get up early to workout.

She told me she liked to wear hats and sleep in.

After a few months of friendship, she told me she’d had reservations about living with me. She hadn’t been sure we would work well together after we first talked, but I never gave it a second thought. I just knew.

As soon as I walked into our room and met her, there was an instant comfort — I felt like I was home. That night we stayed up all night talking. We did the same the next night and the next. Four years later when we graduated, I almost got physically sick from crying so hard because I knew how much I would miss not seeing her everyday. Life was good when I saw her every day.

My best friend is my best friend because she’s been a constant in my life since I met her. She’s seen me through breakups, stood next to my on my wedding day, traveled over 5 hours to see all of my kids when they were first born, and talked me though hours of pain during my divorce.

KATIE BINGHAM-SMITH

My best friend is my best friend because she doesn’t get mad if I cancel plans when I’m drowning in my own shit. She knows I’m a better person when I get my stuff in order. She doesn’t take it personally; she knows this is who I am and it’s not about her.

My best friend is my best friend because she gets just as excited about a purse sale as I do and will talk me into buying a second or third item because, “You are saving so much money on the first, it’s like you’re getting the second one for free.”

Yeah, ya are.

I talked to quite a few people about why they chose their person. What made them decide this particular human, out of all the people in the world, earned the spot as their best friend? While the answers were different in their words, they were all the same in their meaning.

What makes a best friend is someone who sticks around through the hard shit and doesn’t expect you to morph into someone you are not to please them. Because really, we all just want to be seen, accepted, and validated for who we are. We want to be comfortable being our whole selves.

We want best friends who realize a long time might go between visits or conversations, but we can pick up where we left off without any hard feelings.

We want best friends who will listen, really listen, without judgment.

We want best friends who call us out on our bullshit, and aren’t afraid to be honest with us when we are making shitty, harmful decisions.

We want best friends who will see us at our worst and still want us in their lives.

We want best friends who ask for our help instead of trying to tackle something alone.

We want best friends who will come over and clean our bathroom and see us sans bra.

We want best friends who will pick us up off the floor after something traumatic has happened, and remind us we can get up again, even if we don’t think we can.

We want best friends who push us to be a better person.

And the thing about a best friend, a true best friend, is when you find them, it’s just easy. They are your soft place to land and you both know there’s nothing your friendship won’t survive. They are your person, your ride or die, your soulmate. And you just know your life would not be the same if they weren’t in it.

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7 Things Moms Of Boys With Long Hair Are Tired Of Hearing

Posted: 27 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT

When I was pregnant and went through new mom orientation, I was let down. They forgot to add a ton of stuff to the syllabus. As a result, I had no idea my decision not to give my son a haircut would leave so many people's panties in a bunch. I am not being dramatic. You'd be shocked by the interactions I've had with people because of my son’s hair.

Family, friends, and random folks have all blessed me with the gift of unsolicited advice on my son’s hair. Boys’ hair gets so many opinions that it is damn near political. To return the favor, I'm going to give you some unsolicited advice. Here is some shit I'm sick of hearing:

1. “Aw, your daughter is so cute!” 

I get it, at this age, the typical appearance cues of gender are basically nonexistent. At two, my son doesn't have a mustache or the same muscular physique as his father. Truthfully, he just looks like a person. But why do people only say "she is so cute" on the days he is decked out in his camo and daddy's little man shirt?

2. “I said it because he looks like a girl.” (The rebuttal)

It never stops there. When I correct strangers, they almost always respond with: "I thought he was a girl because he's so beautiful." Okay… I'm not sure what that means. Boys can be beautiful just like girls. I actually tell him he is beautiful quite regularly. I don't understand how people can look past the gendered implications of color schemes and phrases, but not take it a step further and contemplate a world where boys can be called "beautiful" and have long hair.

3.  “Can I touch it?”

Our children aren’t pets. Don't ever ask to pet a child’s hair regardless of texture. Unless you wanna deal with my inner Black Panther.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way too. "It really shocked me the first time someone just reached out and touched his hair. Now I’m just angry and sad that he feels it necessary to put his hands over it in case they do," explained Nikki, the mom of a curly-haired redhead boy. She said she’s shocked at the number of people asking to touch it.

My son with his puffball, walking happily. (credit: Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez)

4. “He would look like a big boy with a haircut.” 

He is two — he's not gonna look like a big boy no matter what he does. You know why? Because he's a toddler. Toddlers have chubby faces and bodies that are halfway between baby and big boy. I don't need to speed up the process. Next thing I know you'll be asking if he pays his portion of the water bill.

5. Any joke about a secret haircut.

There have been times some of my loved ones have asked what would happen if I allowed them to babysit and came back to his hair being cut. That's easy. I'd throat-punch you! Until my son is old enough to make decisions for himself, his father and I are the gatekeepers of his appearance. It isn't funny to make jokes about disobeying what we have decided for our child. It's a pretty good way to lose your babysitting privileges.  

6. “When will he get a haircut?”

Ummm, when will you pay your overdue parking tickets? How long is it before you get that spinach out of your teeth? You don’t like awkward questions about your personal business, do you? The same goes for my son's hair.

My son's hair is groomed regularly, and he looks equally as put together as any other two years old. Giving unwanted comments on my son’s hair is just as invasive as me asking about someone’s weight or style of dress. It isn't anyone else’s business.

7. “You're gonna let a child decide when to cut their hair?!”

A critical aspect of authoritative parenting is giving your children the freedom to making reasonable decisions for themselves. Letting them make choices about their appearance is no different. For moms of boys with long hair, as long as it works for our sons, it works for us.

"[Our plan is] not cut it off until and unless he wants it,” says Nikki. “We aren’t even allowed to say the word haircut with him. We have to say trim (at his insistence) to keep it healthy and the curl intact. Despite the attention, it brings him he loves his hair and his curls. So if he’s happy, we’re happy."

I don't want American expectations of male beauty to dictate my son’s gender expression.  As long as I am maintaining my son's hair and there are no signs of neglect, I don't need suggestions. Parents of long-haired boys don’t need your opinions — we got this.

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This Is What We Need To Remember About Shy Kids

Posted: 27 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT

My middle child is not a talker like her older and younger brothers are. When she was little, I actually took her to the doctor because I was a concerned her lack of vocabulary was abnormal. She would say a few words, but that was it. She had no problem nodding her head, hiding behind my legs at the grocery store, and not saying anything else.

When she would play at home with her siblings whom she was very comfortable with, she often got her point across in ways other than talking, or was content sitting back and watching. It wasn’t unusual for her to get up and leave to decompress if things got too wild either. She knew her limits and was comfortable sticking to them — she always has been and I hope she always will be. I love that about her.

When she went to kindergarten, and I saw her interact with teachers and students, it was then that I realized I had a shy child and I needed to let her be who she is. Because I am a talker, and my other two boys hardly let her get a word in edge wise, I always wondered if she just felt like she didn’t have a chance to talk. I would try to simmer them down in hopes of opening her up. But the thing is, she was content just the way things were. She didn’t need any help or prompting from me. And truth be told, I’m relieved she didn’t need her brothers to be quiet in order to feel like she was being heard because that was pretty damn exhausting for all of us.

Now as a teenager, her shyness can come across as snobby or rude even more than it did when she was younger. It’s hard for her to look a stranger in the eye. She does not run up to family members and give them a big hug, and if she’s criticized for her shyness in any way, she shuts down even more.

But we have to remember our shy kids are not rude; they want to break out of their comfort zone and try new things too. They would like nothing more than to have the courage to walk up to someone and ask them if they want to play. But sometimes they can’t, and that’s okay. They might not make eye contact or say hello to you, but it’s not out of spite. Really, it’s not about you at all.

My shy child is exactly who she wants to be, and I make zero apologies for her. If I did that, she would think she had to say sorry just for being herself. And she doesn’t.

She is not talkative like me or her outgoing brothers; she is her own beautiful, unique person. Her shyness is not a character flaw. It does not mean she doesn’t want friends or to feel included. It just takes her a lot longer to warm up to friends and new ideas, and she’s not likely to participate in class because it makes her nervous to be the center of attention.

Despite all this, she has pushed herself to move outside her comfort zone. She plays sports and joined chorus. At times, all eyes are on her. I can tell by her body language it’s not easy for her to get through this — it’s so much more comfortable to stay in a box. It’s incredibly hard for them to get over their fear of rejection, and they spend lots of time thinking about talking to someone in public, or approaching someone even if they know them.

They don’t need to be pushed or persuaded to talk to or touch people. If they aren’t doing it on their own, it means they don’t want to. In fact, their ability to stick to their own boundaries and find safety when necessary is a strength, not a weakness.

So instead of thinking shy kids are rude, don’t have manners, or are just being difficult, they need to be respected just as everyone wants to be respected for their personality traits. They need to feel secure in who they are. It’s easy to spot a shy person, and giving them that space to open up in their own pays off.

Because once you befriend a shy person, they will be a friend for life. And when they open up and feel like they can be themselves, you will know they are comfortable enough with you to let their guard down. It’s an incredible gift and should be treated as such.

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