Posted by Maya Paley
These past few weeks I’ve been getting calls from friends, all women, expressing how sad they are about what they did not accomplish in 2012 and how anxious they are about what awaits them in 2013.
Why are so many women blue during the holidays?
As far as I’m concerned, there is no difference between December 31, 2012 and January 1, 2013. Aside from getting a day off of work and the government’s tax policy making this day significant for donations, the “change” we allude to is imagined. The media and its corporate sponsors have convinced us that this one night each year carries deep significance in our lives. We create new lists of goals: lose weight, move out, move up, find a partner, spend time with family, get more sleep, get a raise, get a new job, take a class, read more, cook organic, and so on. Whatever the goals are, we put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves around this time of year only to ultimately stress out and give up entirely. We make it to the end of the year, wonder why we did not achieve our goals from last January 1, convince ourselves that we are failures, and spend the holidays being self-deprecating and sad.
There are no easy answers to dealing with sadness whether it’s been going on for a while or it’s a seasonal thing, but knowing that there are other people feeling the same way is one way to put things into perspective, which we often lack when we’re down.
I’m not a psychologist or a social worker, but I do go through ups and downs and I’ve finally figured out what makes me feel better. The first is letting go of the concept of failure. I have to remind myself that we’re all different and we each achieve at our own pace. Goals are important and helpful and, as someone who works in women’s empowerment, I will never downplay how useful it is to set goals. However, I will say that we need to keep our self-expectations in check and that means setting goals that are doable, and realistic within the time frame we’ve allotted for them.
Also, being around people really helps. For many women, the hardest thing is asking for help and the easiest thing is to give it. Being around others is critical. We are social creatures and we need relationships with others to thrive. I sometimes laugh on my own, but I laugh a hundred times more often when I’m with friends or family. I sometimes exercise on my own, but I do so much more often if someone invites me to a hike or a yoga class. I mostly cry on my own, but when I cry to a friend I usually end up laughing and feeling better by the end of the conversation. I know I need people around and I have had to get over my pride and call people when I need them around.
Did you know that women suffer from depression twice as often as men do?
There are many reasons for this, which we’ll have to delve into in another post, but the main point is that there are many other people feeling the same way you or your friends do. In other words, lets’ not be too hard on ourselves and let’s help ourselves and each other by figuring out what we need to do to make ourselves feel better and by doing it. Small efforts go a long way.
I would love to hear from you on what you do when you’re down or what you advise others to do when they’re down. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and positive 2013!
This blog post is dedicated to my grandfather, Lester Paley, who passed away on December 31, 2010. He taught me to know my limits, but to also make sure I move them up and out from time to time.
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December 19, 2012 | 1:59 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
Like everyone else who heard about the tragedy on Friday morning, I was devastated, saddened, and shocked by the event. But with the amount of debates, opinions, and “tipping point” rhetoric surrounding last week’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I see no point in adding to the heated debate about whether the problem is guns or mental health.
Each problem we have in this country is complex. Gun violence and easy access to ammunition and assault weapons are huge problems. Mental health access is a huge problem as well. Economics, education, security, healthcare—these all played a role in what happened last week both in Newton and in Portland. There is no one solution and no guarantee that any legislation will ensure that this never happens again.
On a more positive note, I am impressed by the amount of conversation, action, and energy being put into making change so that these tragedies do not occur. It took us a while to stand up and recognize that something needs to be done about both access to guns and access to mental healthcare, but it’s finally happening and it’s up to us to make sure that the conversation goes the way we want it to. In an interview with ABC News, Alison Fine, author of The Networked Nonprofit, said: "When, a week from now, there isn't movement, the social networks can play an enormous part to say 'we are still here.' That's where they can keep alive issues that would have gotten quieter before."
With that, I have decided to provide you with some options for taking action from your bedroom. And yes, “slactivism” does work if there is a critical mass of people signing on. I encourage you to do the following, which will not take you more than 5 minutes total:
1. Send a letter to your representatives to “End the Epidemic of Gun Violence” through the National Council of Jewish Women’s website.
What the letter says:
“…Assault weapons remain legal in our country, and are easy to buy, often with no questions asked. And, individuals who should have never been permitted to buy guns are able to because of insufficient background check systems and controls. Guns are used in a significant percentage of domestic violence incidents and the presence of a gun in the home triples the risk of homicide in the home. Contact your members of Congress to let them know that the time is now to enact background check reforms and a ban on assault weapons, common sense gun violence prevention measures to ensure the safety of our families and friends at home, in our schools, and in our communities.”
Click here to send the letter directly to your representatives in Congress.
2. Sign the most popular petition asking the Obama Administration to “immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress.”
What the petition says:
“The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths. Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution's intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve. The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun.”
Click here to sign the petition, which already has over 192,000 signatures.
3. Sign another petition asking the U.S. Government to fund mental health facilities instead of prisons. The petition’s author is a passionate and concerned mother with a mentally ill son. Read an article about her activism by clicking here.
What the petition says:
“Encourage congress to shift funding from prisons back into the mental health system to re-open hospitals and provide long-term treatment to people with mental illnesses instead of waiting until they commit a crime and placing them in jail. Open more long term care facilities and lengthen the allowable stay for appropriate treatment and stabilization. Authorize police to transport mentally ill patients to hospitals without requiring them to have first committed a crime. Reestablish the rights of legal guardians of mentally incapacitated people to voluntarily sign their wards into a long term care facility without requiring another court order.”
Click here to sign the petition, which already has over 5,200 signatures.
If you have any other action items you’d like to add to the list, post a comment below explaining what the item is and how you think it can make a difference on this issue.
December 11, 2012 | 2:07 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
While I was ecstatic that more women were elected to the 113th Congress than any previous election period, I was equally frustrated by another piece of news that I read about this week:
“The House Republican Steering Committee announced an all-male slate of committee chairs, including 12 returning lawmakers who will head up some of the most important panels in Washington.”
There you have it: You get a glimpse of progress only to realize that you are prematurely rejoicing. Getting more women into Congress is a step, but we recall that we are nowhere near equal representation in our government, and we definitely do not hold the positions of power within the power system.
At a risk of offending some, I would like to bring up the infamous electoral quota system. Did you know that half of the world’s countries have implemented electoral quotas for their parliaments?
This means that there is a specific number of ensured seats in government for women. In some countries it’s 50%, in others it’s a minimum of 30%. Either way it’s better than our miserable 17% in the current Senate and our applauded increase to 18% in 2013.
In graduate school I studied economic and political development. The program drilled into my brain that there is no universally effective blueprint that will help all countries develop. Similarly, there is no blueprint for ending gender discrimination worldwide. I believe that my graduate school colleagues will agree with me, however, that sometimes trying something new does work, or at least if you learn from trial and error.
The United States is a country that loves playing the hero in international aid. We loan out tons of money, provide grant assistance, and send aid workers to other countries. We love consulting everyone else on what they should be doing. What we don’t usually do is look around to see if anyone else has a good idea that might help us.
Drude Dahlerup, a professor of Political Science from Stockholm University in Sweden, explains a concept called “equality of result,” arguing that “real equal opportunity does not exist just because formal barriers are removed. Direct discrimination and a complex pattern of hidden barriers prevent women from being selected as candidates and getting their share of political influence. Quotas and other forms of positive measures are thus a means towards equality of result.”
Why are we so afraid of electoral quotas in the U.S.?
For one, we fear the unknown, the other, and the government. Some people see the quota system as an example of the government trying to meddle in our democratic rights. Some fear what would occur if more women were in power. But democracy is more than just voting for your representative. It’s about representation of all members of society. With half of the population struggling to get elected, afraid of running in the first place, and not even getting positions of power when they do get elected into office, representation and equal rights are obviously not leading us to “equality of result.”
We must open ourselves up to discussions about our political system and how it can be improved or adjusted in line with the changing times. It does not have to be an electoral quota for women, but we need real and quick progress that goes beyond the slight gains we made in the 113th Congress. We need change that reflects who we think we are: a country that values women equally as it does men. I’m no longer sure that the 113th Congressional gains are as promising and newsworthy as I originally thought and I continue to wonder: Are we open to change?
For a listing of the quota systems in place in countries throughout the world and the percentage of women elected into their legislatures, visit http://www.quotaproject.org/country.cfm.