Viewing entries tagged
feminism

Women are NOT Property

Women are NOT Property

I’ve recently found myself privy to one too many conversations where women are spoken of in ways that objectify, minimize, and commercialize their womanhood. Sometimes it’s subtle. And other times I’m left dumbfounded at the blatant and aggressive misogyny that motivates such rhetoric and/or behavior.

I know womanhood and gender politics can be complicated, but let’s make one thing simple and clear: WE ARE NOT PROPERTY.

Being a woman means having pride and acceptance for who you are (even if that changes day to day). For so long I wanted to fit into what society told me was feminine. I wanted to be slender, beautiful, giving, and like-able. These acculturated gender stereotypes dominated my conception and expression of self.

After much work and self-exploration, I’ve redefined MY understanding of femininity – it means I have physical and mental fortitude. It means my body can be athletic and strong. I can shave my legs because I love the way my calves feel sans hair and not because some commercial tells me to. It demands that I admit my vulnerabilities and/or shortcomings without letting them define me. It means showing up for myself and my fellow women by accepting others exactly where they are in their journey.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.

What is Dressember?

What is Dressember?

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!  Photo by  Even Keel Imagery  -  Miriam Brummel .

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!

Photo by Even Keel Imagery - Miriam Brummel.

There’s a common misconception that human trafficking happens “somewhere else” or “overseas.” According to Annalisa Enrile, clinical associate professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work: “Human trafficking occurs in every country—even in first-world countries such as the United States.” In fact, in 2017, 26,557 calls were answered by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (U.S.). We’ve also learned that Los Angeles has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as one of the thirteen high intensity hubs for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth (CSECY).

It surely can be overwhelming to come across such alarming statistics. Blythe Hill, the founder of Dressember, is no stranger to that feeling when you became passionate about making waves and yet simultaneously reminded of your limitations. In an interview with Starfish Project, Hill remarked that she first learned about human trafficking as a teenager, and “For years, I felt a sense of personal urgency to do something but I also felt powerless. I’m not a cop, a lawyer, a social worker, or a psychologist….I felt helpless. Then, as Dressember grew, I felt compelled to use it as a way to engage in the fight.”

So, what is Dressember?

Dressember is a month-long campaign where people wear dresses or ties/bow ties every day in December as a way to raise awareness and money for human trafficking programs.

It started in 2009 as a personal style challenge with no cause or fundraising element to it. As it grew, and Hill saw people she didn’t even know personally who wanted to join in, she realized it was a good idea and started dreaming about using it as a way to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking. In 2013, Hill aligned Dressember with its first grant partner, International Justice Mission (IJM), and set what felt like an ambitious goal of $25,000. They hit that goal on day 3, and then proceeded to raise over $165,000. Since then, Dressember has extended it reach and now partners with 12 organizations, including IJM, A21, CAST Los Angeles, Love146, Saving Innocence, and Olive Crest, that are leading the charge in their respective areas of expertise to end modern-day slavery.

Since 2016, the team at Michelle Harwell Therapy have advocated for Dressember while putting their own creative spin on it. Women and girls historically have been the most vulnerable to human trafficking, and we have wanted to draw attention to this fact by challenging stale, one-dimensional notions and images of femininity. This year is no different except we’ve raised the bar for our fundraising goal — setting it to $6,719, which will fund a full rescue operation to bring victims safely into freedom and begin the process of recovery and restoration.

It’s incredible how far a small donation can go - contributions in the range between $20 and $50 can secure a survivor with vital services, such as a night in a shelter, a care package, or a therapy session.

Will you consider standing with us?


-Brighid Quinn, Marketing Intern at MHT


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.

Women are NOT their Genitalia

Women are NOT their Genitalia

One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.
— Simone de Beauvoir

Filling in the statement “women are….” with “not their genitalia” was a move rather out of character. There’s something about it that’s a little risky, a little provocative, perhaps even a little exhibitionistic — qualities that aren’t completely foreign to me but not readily accessed and even less so in a public forum. I tend to take the road of making myself palatable — and more and more I’m realizing* that it isn’t only a matter of temperament but also something that has been shaped by cultural messages about how a woman should be (*with thanks to women like Adrienne Harris who write so eloquently on the complexity and fluidity of gender and its cultural situatedness). 

That all said, I must admit that the statement on my t-shirt didn’t originate from me. It was essentially stolen (with permission) from my friend M — who is one of the most badass women I’ve ever known. When I asked her to complete the sentence at hand, she responded without hesitation: “Not their genitalia.”

I felt a resounding YES. The phrase somehow distilled and articulated so many disparate thoughts into one phrase. It spoke to my desire to make space for transwomen in this conversation about what it means to be a woman — and to be sensitive to the fact that not every woman has a vagina. And as we here at MHT raise awareness about human trafficking this month, it feels important to note that transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation

And it brings to mind Simone de Beauvoir’s declaration that “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.”

It spoke to the trauma of being a woman — and to something about the word pussy showing up in mainstream media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

And it spoke to reclamations of womanhood that allowed for rage and joy. To all the pussy hats at women’s marches. To Pussy Riot. To Janelle Monáe’s music video for Pynk. To female sexuality as an embodied space for varied experience. 

We aren’t used to seeing bold celebrations of the mighty yoni. And for that matter…the same could be said about menstruation, menopause, or the “fourth trimester.” 

The sentiment is women are not ONLY their genitalia. We aren’t only pussies to be grabbed. 

We OWN our own genitalia. We OWN our own sexuality. We OWN how we define ourselves. 

My hope for the future is that we all begin to tell a more inclusive and expansive story about womanhood. And, I believe, that will require you and me to show up to the conversation with our whole selves, armed with creativity, openness toward fumbling around, and willingness to take risks. 


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Taz MorganMA, is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples. 

Women Are Healers

Women Are Healers

...What has most shaped me as a woman is the way my relationships with other women have healed me.

As I scroll through the catalogue of my experiences both as a woman and as a recipient of love and friendship from other women, I am reminded of how many descriptors women embody. We are creative, resourceful, wise, wild, deep. And we wear so many hats. We have thriving careers, bear children, foster friendships, build businesses, care for the home — yes, sometimes overextending ourselves to show up for and love others. But what has most shaped me as a woman is the way my relationships with other women have healed me. The turning toward me in times of distress and offering care and compassion. The deep listening. The calming “coos” and soft body language. The gentle patience while I find the answers for myself.

Women are healers. I know that to be true deep in my bones. And I believe women are the antidote to the overly masculinized culture that has forced a broken, patriarchal system on us all.

I think of the places I work - MHT and Alive and Well Women – both with powerful women at the helm who use their strengths to lift others. These women are willing to collaborate and dialogue with their employees rather than prescribe solutions. They do not manage with absolute control or over-emphasize productivity, but instead empower employees to find balance in work life and soul life. They have cultivated cultures that nourish development and health.

It is not to say that men can’t also lead in this way, but I believe it is a mode of leadership that is perhaps archetypally connected to the feminine. Our history of men in the seats of power and the attendant systemic oppression of women seems to bear testament to this. However, the impact of women in my life and this powerful changing of the tide that I have been fortunate to witness in my young adult years has taught me to embrace the strength of my femininity and has given me hope for a different way.

Women are HEALERS.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Lauren Joy Furutani, MA, LMFT, helps individuals and families of all ethnic and faith backgrounds maneuver through the unexpected turns in life.

Women of Style: Anais Nin

Women of Style: Anais Nin

It’s all right for a woman to be, above all, human. I am a woman first of all
— Anaïs Nin
anais nin.jpg

I have a complex relationship with my closet. It's a place that greets me each morning with the question, "Who will you be today?" It's a somber and celebratory catalogue of the many selves I have lived and hoped to live (maybe still secretly hope to return to). It's filled with greatest hits and one hit wonders alike. As women, I think our closet evokes a complex conversation with ourselves, a dialogue with the multitude of women that live inside.

This is what I like most about Anaïs Nin. Her writing gives you a front row seat to the fullness and complexity of the feminine internal life. While Nin published an array of fiction and poetry throughout her career, it is really the extensive diaries that she kept for over 40 years that best display her artistry.

Her diaries are complicated and controversial, even paradoxical which, to me, makes her all the more compelling and real. I think she was a woman determined to live her own life and to understand it as it emerges. I think it is a strong act to engage in the journey to know thyself and to lend that journey to others to witness and be inspired by. Now that’s style.

081Michelle Harwell-3901.jpg
I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits.
— Anaïs Nin
AnaisNin-455x350.jpg

HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. 

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising page.


Dr. Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma and attachment. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor. Michelle completed her PhD in Psychoanalysis from The Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. She received her BA in English Literature from University of Oklahoma, MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology.

Women of Style: Louise Brooks

Women of Style: Louise Brooks

A well dressed woman, even though her purse is painfully empty, can conquer the world.
— Louise Brooks

I can’t exactly recall when I developed my penchant for all things 1920s, but I know that falling in love with silent movies in my late teens sealed the deal. A big part of the charm was Louise Brooks. I adored her look - bobbed haircut (also described as a black helmet), enigmatic expressions, dark eyes, and elegant dresses. And like any good fan, I wanted to know everything about her. What I found (and rediscovered in embodying her for this project) was a multifaceted woman and a feminist ahead of her time.

louise brooks 2.jpg
louise brooks_blog MHT.jpg

Never really considered a major star in her day, Brooks is now most famous for her lead roles in Pandora’s Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). In these films, Brooks epitomized the flapper style on screen. This style was emblematic of the “New Woman” of the 1920s that pushed gender roles and shed the restrictive laces, corsets, and hoops that dominated women’s fashion at the time. 

065Michelle Harwell-3848.jpg

Not only was Brooks radical in dress, but she was unafraid to cross powerful men in Hollywood - turning down deals with major studios to live and work in Germany. Moreover, her acting approach and choice of projects marked a trailblazer spirit. Brooks was a pioneer of naturalistic acting, predating Marlon Brando and James Dean by decades. Her portrayal of female sexuality on screen also pushed boundaries. In Pandora’s Box, she played one of cinema’s first bisexual characters. Off-screen, she had multiple romances with directors and co-stars, Charlie Chaplin and supposedly Greta Garbo included. 

By the time Brooks was in her mid-twenties, her movie career was already over. Despite her youth while active in front of the camera, she defied the stereotype of the naïve ingenue. Rather, she was noted for her fierce intelligence, which I so respect. She reportedly read the work of Schopenhauer on set (this tidbit gets me chuckling). Her 1982 memoir Lulu in Hollywood also revealed a mind and voice that could understand and articulate the language of film on par with the most celebrated critics.

I thoroughly admire her different-ness and complicated nature. A trailblazer. An underdog. A sex symbol. An intellectual. A style icon. A woman comprised of many parts - both messily human and otherworldly in her own way. Henri Langlois, one of the founders of the La Cinémathèque française, famously said, "There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks.” I couldn’t agree more.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. 

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising page.


Taz MorganMA, is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Vanessa Spooner, PsyD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples. 

Women of Style

Women of Style

One of our major goals for the month of December, beyond raising funds to combat sexual exploitation and sex trafficking with the Dressember Foundation, was to find ways to empower women through storytelling. As we were beginning our planning for the Dressember month, I wanted to create a central project for the MHT team that embraced both the perfunctory nature and the profundity of dress and style, as well as tell stories about different kinds of women. I was inspired by a book lent to me by one of our therapist Taz Morgan, a women who oozes style. The book is Women in Clothesa collection of interviews and beautiful photography that seeks to understand embodied women and their relationship to clothes. This book reinforced to me that style is less about the particularities and organization of clothing and much more about the mind, movement and meaning of the woman inhabiting them. Our own Women of Style series is an attempt to get to know and share stories about the embodied women who inspire us.

Each of our therapists participated in a photoshoot in which they were asked to embody the style and presence of a woman that has influenced them and then tell us about it. We hope you enjoy this intimate and inspired series!


Here's how you can participate IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. 

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising page.


Dr. Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma and attachment. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor. Michelle completed her PhD in Psychoanalysis from The Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. She received her BA in English Literature from University of Oklahoma, MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology.