feminism

IF DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES HEAL, MAYBE WOMEN-HATING LEADERS WILL GET LESS VOTES.

Modi was just re-elected as prime minister of India and Trump might be re-elected as president of the United States of America, things that make many of us shudder. I try my best to be open-minded but I can’t help but wonder why some of my brown-skinned Gujarati-Indian relatives are pro-Modi and/or pro-Trump. It’s shocking to me, but mostly sad. Especially when the relatives are women.

We’ve all heard about the hate of women that goes on behind the closed doors of some everyday families. Families where husbands beat wives. Families where uncles rape nieces. Families where daughters are sex trafficked. Families where sons take part in honor killings of their women relatives.

And as leaders of two big democracies, Modi and Trump don’t do much to end the hate of women. In fact they often perpetuate it in their lack of support for women’s issues and their bold declarations…

Trump: "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

Modi: At an election rally in Himachal Pradesh, said about Sunanda Pushkar (wife of politician Shashi Tharoor), “Have you ever seen a Rs 50-crore girlfriend?”

So do the leaders of other countries…

Bolsonaro: He said this about a fellow lawmaker in congress. “She’s not my type. I would never rape her. I’m not a rapist, but if I were, I wouldn’t rape her because she doesn’t deserve it.”

Kim Jong-Un’s government: The North called former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the country’s first female leader, a prostitute.

Duterte: “They said there are many rape cases in Davao. As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.”

When misogyny is proclaimed and acted upon as truth by powerful male leaders, it hurts women by making them worthless objects instead of worthy humans. The effect is the same when misogyny is proclaimed and acted upon by any man—a husband, father, son, uncle, etc. The very nature of oppression can make women more likely to have blind faith in cruel leaders and men in general. Maybe that’s why some of my women relatives are pro-Modi and/or pro-Trump.

I remember the misogyny proclaimed and acted upon as truth in my Gujarati-Indian family of origin—husband/father is god. A euphemism for wife is servant, daughter is wife. Years of this crushed my mother’s soul. It left me hating myself and needing men to validate my existence. To survive we had to accept and recreate the object status give to us by “god”—have blind faith in a the husband/father.

Thankfully, my mother and I broke away from our traumatic past. But the scars will never disappear. That’s why I’m passionate about helping others heal through individual and family therapy. That and I’m dedicated to writing realistic young adult novels that depict the ramifications of misogyny on adolescent development.

Thinking out loud about the big picture, perhaps part of what can help change the existing cruel, misogynistic leadership plaguing our world is to start small scale: one vulnerable family at a time, change the dynamics of dysfunctional families from all walks of life. This is obviously complicated and would require multiple levels of resources, but it may just be the paradigm shift that is needed. I don’t have all the answers but imagine if abusive husbands learn and want to treat wives like the equals that they are. Or imagine if all fathers treat daughters with respect and teach sons by being good role models and all mothers had the privilege to teach daughters to use their voices and teach sons how to treat women. Imagine if there were no women who hated themselves or their situations. If that happened in every family, perhaps generational misogyny would end. Then, who would vote for Trump? Or Modi? Or any misogynistic bully?

At the end of the day, if we don’t help families heal when possible, then aren’t we allowing husbands in those families to play god? Aren’t we allowing Modi and Trump to each play the god of gods?


STOP TELLING US WE'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH

A local radio station has been touting all day about their contest that gives away free breast augmentation based on social media votes for “you and your best friend”—“breast friend”—courtesy of a cosmetic surgery clinic. As a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, I’m here to tout fierce opposition to this contest.

I’m a feminist MD so I support women in making personal, informed decisions about their lives, including about abortion or going under the knife for breast augmentation. What I don’t support are the beauty and gender norms imposed on women by society, often patriarchy. And when a man’s voice proclaims to my teenagers and I on our morning commute how me and my best friend can win boob jobs based on how many likes we get on the radio station’s Instagram page, he’s really telling me that my friend and I are not good enough the way we are. Even if he doesn’t intend to send that message, it will be the lesson learned by some vulnerable people. It’s as if he’s telling your daughter, your sister, your niece, your mother, your student, your employee that she is not good enough the way she is.

Maybe I should thank the radio station and the cosmetic surgery clinic. I mean their degrading, damaging, misogynistic message will keep me in business. A majority of the young women and girls I treat are already scarred by social media comparisons, some of them rocked to core with how inadequate they feel every single time they scroll, and now you’re encouraging them to send in photos of themselves and their best friends so they can be judged online more than they already are. Only if they’re deemed worthy enough by a bunch of random people will they be qualified to get the look that is set forth by the western beauty myth.

But I will not thank you. I don’t want more business. I want a world where the young women and girls I treat will feel good enough just because they already are good enough. I want a world where women and girls will be encouraged to speak, disagree, earn, change policy, and be president. I want a world where my teenage daughter isn’t reduced to a body. I want a world where my teenage son isn’t bombarded with hyper-sexualized images and lyrics of women—and now, radio contest announcements that lure women to their very own best in show—that might train him to think of his future girlfriend as nothing more than an object were it not for the protective way my husband and I raise him.

I want a world where I can turn on the radio and no man will ever tell his listeners how women and girls can be better. Because here’s the truth—we already are.




YUP, RANI PATEL IN FULL EFFECT IS FEMINIST AF.

I’m passionate about providing psychiatric treatment to diverse teens who are struggling through various hardships. Along the way, these teens make poor choices in relationships and in self-care because that’s how real life often plays out when youth are raised in chaos. It’s important to me that their imperfect journeys aren’t dismissed. That’s why I’m also dedicated to translating their struggles into realistic young adult fiction that isn’t written to please but rather to expand narrow-minded views of mental health issues and diverse life experiences.

Real life isn’t perfect prose. Real life isn’t a perfect plot. Real life isn’t a perfect, happy ending. Real life can be brutal, scattered, mistake-filled, and beautiful. And when these real-life teens embrace their worth and learn to use their voice, they are fierce. They are feminist AF. Like my teen patients. Like Rani.

This School Library Journal blog post lists amazing, diverse feminist YA books. I’m delighted that RANI PATEL IN FULL EFFECT is on it!

Click on this link:

Feminist AF: Feminist YA That Does Not Disappoint, A Guest Post by Mary Ellis

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Thank you, San Jose Public Library!

I am a HUGE fan of BTS, so this blog post from San Jose Public Library made my day! Click this link to check it out:

YA Friday: Welcome! This is your first time with BTS, right?

FOOD EXTREMISM CAN BE DANGEROUS

There are no solid medical studies (randomized placebo controlled trials) to prove that any type of dietary restriction (plant-based diets, veganism, vegetarianism, gluten-free, sugar-free, cleanses, etc.)  has definitive long-term benefits on growing children and teens (or adults, for that matter). Yet, many parents and youth are seduced by the lure of dietary extremism. As a physician who provides psychotherapy to kids and teens with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, adjustment issues, etc., I need to express my deep concern about this. There are multiple levels of physical and emotional damage that can occur as a result of engaging in restrictive food behavior. And no matter how mature youth may seem, their abstract thinking is still in development and they may not fully comprehend that "cutting out carbs" may not just be "cutting out carbs." It may be a way to feel more in control of their chaotic lives. It may be a way to lose weight because they think that'll make them feel better about themselves. It may be a subtle holier-than-thou attitude they pick up from grown-ups in their lives. The list goes on.

Today’s food restriction culture is dangerous, especially for our youth. Even if well-meaning parents, adults, documentaries, and magazines don’t say the following exactly, many teens tell me that the underlying nutrition lessons are: “deny yourself and you’re better,” “restricting is not an option,” “if you don’t eat organic, you might as well eat fast food.” These smart youth describe first world food restriction as "privileged" and "elitist"  but they nevertheless feel compelled to subscribe to it. They feel alienated from their parents and peers who follow extreme diets but can't help but to follow suit. And then...oh the dark, dark places they reveal their vulnerable, developing minds go…

Bottom line: unless a youth has a serious, diagnosed medical condition that requires dietary restriction or is being raised in a family with longstanding religious dietary guidelines, it's worthwhile to take a step back from all the food hoopla and consider the potential harm in unfounded claims of miracle, cure-all, one-size-fits-all food plans and diets. 

I advise parents of my patients to keep it simple. Eat well-balanced, nutritious, and home-cooked meals with your kids as often as possible. Briefly express gratitude to the cook or comment on the deliciousness of the food, but avoid negative or black-and-white food judgments or opinions that aren't backed by science  (like “bread is crap,” “the piece of fat on the steak is so gross,” “sugar is horrible,” etc.). Kids will learn to choose good, nutritious, varied foods in appropriate portions if it’s role modeled at family meals.

Food is fuel. Meals and snacks bring people together and teach social skills and reinforce positive self-worth. Beyond that, thinking, controlling, and restricting food isn’t necessary and can be harmful.

Here are some “food for thought” articles about the pitfalls of food extremism:

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/7/25/16018658/what-the-health-documentary-review-vegan-diet

https://www.jad-journal.com/article/S0165-0327(16)32391-6/pdf

https://www.self.com/story/i-used-to-be-a-wellness-influencer


 

My Own Hero

It took decades to escape the prison

Of Indian & American patriarchy and I’m newly arisen

Sober from the narcosis of Bollywood heroin: to be a heroine-

long-haired, buxom woman in need of a male “good samaritan”

To save her. To validate her worthiness.

Not so anymore. These days I am my own hero, impervious

To misogynistic fog, walking tall in my Timberlands

Stomping over narrow-minded hoopla, ready to withstand

The negativity that keeps coming when I’m brave & use my well-intentioned voice

To help others discover their truth and choices.

Free from the shackles of giving a fuck what you think

Cuz you haven’t lived in my skin or been on my brink.