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My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

In remembrance of my Grandmother who died earlier this year, I wanted to reflect during this Women's History Month on just how much impact a seemingly ordinary woman can have. 

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She could be easy to overlook given her humble lifestyle, and although she never earned fame or notoriety, she was certainly well-known and deeply respected within her communities.  She had an impressive capacity for care, kindness, compassion, and endurance.  She was one of 12 siblings, 8 of whom fought in WWII, and she grew up in rural Pennsylvania fighting her own way out of a sometimes stifling small town. She imagined more for herself - a life with a far greater reach.  

She had many wonderful years as a student and a missionary, starting her own family on international missions. She had an amazing faith and ability to go with the swing of things. I think she was truly shocked and devastated when she found herself abandoned as a single mother of 6 children, at a time when her youngest was just barely starting school and they had all moved to a new city. Despite the many challenges that came with raising children alone, she managed to find a way to put herself through nursing school while working three jobs, and somehow maintained closeness and connection to her kids. 

It has always struck me that despite how hard she worked, she always seemed so emotionally available and generous with her time. She prioritized her family, and showed up in times of need.  I'm sure I also learned some questionable things from her including how to evade student loan debt (it doesn't really work), but it never seemed to keep her down and she was able to keep her relational priorities straight. I think she was truly happier for that, and for the risks she took. 

This is not an uncommon story, many women and mothers rise to their maternal duties. She lived her life as a member of the working poor and ultimately devoted herself to work with the church of the Salvation Army. This is not exactly a 'pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' success story, but celebration for her comes from the fact that she carried on working diligently while never surrendering her values or losing her sense of humor, humility, or self. She managed to continually lift-up others and was an inspiration for the many women in our family to own their sense of independence, hold on to their opinions, and speak-up against those trying to keep them down. 

My Grandma certainly faced hardships that I will never know, and I can only hope that some fraction of her enormous strength has been passed down to me.  To some she may seem like just another lady who slipped through life unnoticed, but to me and to my family we know just how many lives she touched. She was an inspired role model of determination, sturdiness, and above all - love.  


Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

Women are Creators

Women are Creators

An embodied woman...has access to her appetite, her desire...a woman who can act, who can harness her creative energies, an alive and fertile mind, ready to give birth to many things.

Recently, I hung a piece of art in one of our therapy rooms that elicited strong reactions from our staff; feelings of embarrassment, discomfort, and mild disgust were expressed. One staff even admitted to turning the piece around when working in that room. What was the subject of such an evocative image? Breasts.

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As a group of all-female therapists, I found these responses to be both curious and illuminating. It got me thinking about the internal dialogue we women are often having with our bodies, our sexuality, and the outside world. It strikes me that part of what is so dysregulating in viewing such a straight-forward image of breasts is the potency of desire it has the capacity to evoke, the immediacy of arousal and the direct awareness of the power we women carry just in our form. It feels dangerous.

So what does all of this have to do with a woman’s creativity or the embrace of women as creators? It is my belief that the disavowal of our sexuality is, in part, a disavowal of our creative selves. Sexuality or eros is not simply about sex but about appetite; what we crave, what we desire. To me, a foundational element of creative energy; a basic requirement in troubling the rough and unknown terrain between imagination and manifestation. Audre Lorde describes this energy as, “a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.” To say it another way, eros is about vitality, life-force and the importance in learning to trust, shape, and share our self-knowledge and self-expression. Sensuality is about the embodiment of this energy; about an ability to inhabit and own oneself and utilize that energy in the process of creation. A powerful elixir.  An embodied woman who has access to her appetite, her desire, is a woman who can act, who can harness her creative energies, an alive and fertile mind, ready to give birth to many things.

 I return to image of the breasts but this time I imagine them as part of a whole, a full body of an alive and vital woman. A small act of rebellion to the discomfort and internalized patriarchy that has taught me to fear myself, to view my body and sexuality through the exclusive lens as an object of another’s desire. This woman I imagine has a subjectivity and a sexuality that is part of the whole, a sexuality that is deeply embedded in the story of woman.

So the picture remains. It hangs in testimony of the dialogue and tension we seek to hold as an all female staff. We are nurturers, comforters, and caretakers, we are also vitalized, embodied selves with the ability to dream, make, and do big things in this world.


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.


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. 

Women are Fecund

Women are Fecund

We are meant to give birth to love.
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Fecund. Such a fun word. Fecund. See, what I mean? It’s so fun to say. And, then, when you look up the definition, because you do have to look it up, (how else would I have known what it means??), it’s so deeply meaningful. “Capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc. in abundance: prolific: fruitful. Very productive or creative intellectually.” A powerful combination - a word that contains the joy of playfulness and depth of meaning - and what it’s like to work at MHT. I came on board as Clinical Director with this group of wonderful women about six months ago and my time has been just that, joyful and deeply meaningful. 

And with Christmas upon us, I keep thinking about how this joyful, deeply meaningful word - fecund - encapsulates the message of Christmas in the Judeo-Christian narrative. The story starts with an ever important announcement - the Angel Gabriel visiting the virgin Mary in Luke 1:26-38. The story is fantastical! An angel visiting a terrified, virgin woman, telling her she is to give birth to the son of God. Crazy! Right? But I say dismissing it as “crazy” is old news. How about we let ourselves play with it a little bit, give our imagination some room, and let the story be a parable of sorts, with room for metaphor. The concrete, literal message has a broader reach. A deeper meaning for our everyday lives, loaded with a crucial message for us.

When we let metaphor in, the story teaches us that, as women, (and humans), we are meant to give birth to love. Generative and creative and help meet the world’s needs. No matter our circumstances and when we think it’s impossible, we are called to be growthful, fruitful, and, in abundance, for the world’s sake. Fecund. And, if we remember the way love permeates Jesus’s message in the story as it continues - “For god so love the world, he gave his only son,” “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. And the greatest of these is love,” “love the lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments.” 

This is the message of Christmas to me - that we are called to give birth to love and this love will heal us, forgive us, and ultimately, save us. I wrote a poem in this fecund spirit. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you from MHT!


Love Has Come

The Angel Gabriel and Mary. 

The encounter. 


She, 

cowering in the corner, 

hiding in the darkness. 


The message. 


Love has been born, 

inside you. 

You are pregnant 

with love.


The floor is moving, 

the walls shaking, 

the house’s foundation 

put to test. 

Earthquake news. 

An identity crisis.


Love has come,

out of the darkness.

Out of the cold.

Through you. 


I know you didn't know, 

how hard it would be,

to love. To birth love. 

To steward love. 

Terror. Rage. Despair.

The hardest thing 

you’ve ever done. 

I know you're scared. 

I'm scared too. 

But just because 

you're scared, 

doesn't mean 

you can't do it. 

You can’t not. 


We can’t not. 

Where will we be 

If we don’t bear love? 

Lost.Alone.Dead.


The walking dead,

I tell you. Do you 

get what I'm saying?

Love has come, inside you.


We.are.the.mother.of.love.


Labor.Birth.Growth.

 

This is how healing takes place.

This is where our suffering

can be held. 

This is what we need 

to be human.


Love has come. 


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.


Dr. Gabrielle Taylor serves as Clinical Director at Michelle Harwell Therapy and is a licensed Psychologist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Pasadena, CA. She is also a member at New Center for Psychoanalysis where she serves on the Admissions Committee. She is Core Faculty at Wright Institute Los Angeles whee she supervises and teaches – her class The Poetry of Psychoanalysis: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theory is favored among many of the students.

Women are Victorious

Women are Victorious

I am Victorious because I chose MYSELF and listened to my inner voice. I am a Warrior because I am fighting against the status quo. And I am Brave because I seek help when I need it.

When thinking of the phrase, Women Are Victorious, I look to my amazing tribe of friends — strong individuals who have protected me, shaped me, and helped me rise above adversity, pain, and trauma. These women (and one man) have displayed courage, inspiration, and wisdom — and that to me shows Victoriousness. I wanted to celebrate them in this piece as well as share some of my own thoughts.

You know that feeling when you get goosebumps because something resonates with you so deeply? Yep, that’s what happened to me as I was compiling these vignettes from my friends. My heart felt raw with emotion as I was filled up by their inspiring words.

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Shared by Lorena: 

I smile because

I have survived everything

the world has thrown at me. 

I smile because 

when I was knocked down 

I got back up.

             -Anonymous. 

"My life has changed dramatically from broken to repaired. It took a lot of work but I did it and I'm so damn proud of myself. A year ago today, I wanted to find the nearest hole and crawl into it. The despair I felt was unbearable, the embarrassment from the betrayal on so many levels was too much to take. A year later my life is so different and it feels Fabulous!"

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Shared by Taz:

"My mom is a victorious woman! I know it's cliche but she truly has turned obstacles into opportunities. And that has been inspiring to me when I've felt defeated." 
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Shared by "She":

“I've suffered from the age of 4 when my father died in an accident. Soon after that tragedy, despair and sexual abuse caused great horrifying pain in my life. I found faith in Jesus, which has really kept me going, I would copy Bible verses and memorize them during that time. My teachers would help me too even though they never knew what I was going through. There were sturdy figures and their consistency helped ground me. Later in life, I found therapy to be of great help. My first therapist was an angel! She saved me in many ways I cannot put into words. I've had many therapists since, and I value the personal and spiritual growth that comes with going to therapy regularly.”

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Shared by Marcos:

As I think of Victorious Women in my life, I think of two important women: 1. My little sister 2. My mother. 

My sister surpassed what many people expected, including doctors, due to her medical diagnosis. Living with fibromatosis she has shown me repeatedly how strong she is and how she does not feel defeated. Now she is a mother of a healthy baby boy. She was told she would have a complicated pregnancy and the baby would have high chances of having the illness, but what a miracle to see her and the baby thriving. When I think of her I think Warrior!! Undefeated!!

My mother - her whole life has always been tough in one way or another. But it is safe to say she's overcome - her father passing at a young age, her bad luck with husbands , and the struggles of being a single mother of three in a foreign country. She has taught me many things in life, such as integrity, hard working ethics, self-respect, and family values. To me, she means the WORLD! She reminds me of a mosaic: broken into many pieces, but a beautiful masterpiece when the light shines through and you take a step back and admire the edges, light, and color. I love her. 

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Shared by Nina:

I feel honored to be included.

I have had my share of struggles, including abusive relationships and being brainwashed into believing I was worthless as a Woman. Anger, resentment, and hatred used to plague me. What I have learned from my life of anger was to forgive and extend Grace on those who have hurt me including myself. I found out God loved me regardless of what I had done or what had been done to me. The security of feeling I was completely forgiven of ALL my sins give me a sense of internal freedom and rejoiced in my Christianity. 

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Shared by Author - Maria Elena:

What led me down this long, windy path of becoming a therapist is Victoriousness. Throughout my life, I have collapsed and have felt insecure about my sense of worth, and yet have continually chosen to stay true to myself. One such crossroad emerged in my life when I thought I had found love, but it was actually abusive, dishonest, and destructive.

Guess what I chose?

That’s right — my self, my self-respect, my dignity and my ability to rise above the falsity of that love. I was brokenhearted for 5 years after the dissolution of that relationship, but that hurt ultimately took me down a path of curiosity which ultimately helped me discover my calling.

I sought out understanding about the nature of relationships. I wondered: How do relationships last? How does one become aware of relationship ed flags? How does one heal from childhood trauma? And how do I become the best version of myself as a Latina woman? 

My mother has been my rock, my safety, my reality checker, and along the way I found other amazing women to encourage, inspire, and hold me in making the decision to start a new career. I immersed myself in my studies about relationship dynamics and connected to grow my own capacity for love. I am now an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist who loves to challenge couples, individuals, and families to tune inward, to express their fears and remain curious about their rules, roles and contradictions. I am healing as my clients are healing. I am Victorious because I chose MYSELF and listened to my inner voice. I am a Warrior because I am fighting against the status quo. And I am Brave because I seek help when I need it.

Women are Victorious. As the women and man featured in this post have shown, Victoriousness is all around us. If we can face our fears with courage, reflection, or a sacred space of surrender, then often we can find a sense of freedom, pride, and creativity on the other side of adversity.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this: 

Shared by Beatriz:

Women are victorious when we unite, commune, invite, and remain curious despite fear of rejection or pain - and choosing a different path, changing the rigid holdings of the mind and allowing light to enter and creating positivity.

Shared by Rebecca:

Just like Esther, you were born for such a time as this, you came at the right time, you are not an accident, God knew you were coming and He prepared for you. Your life is for a divine purpose.  -Esther 4:14


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.


Maria Elena Marquez, MA, is a bilingual Spanish-English Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #103470, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. As an art therapist, Maria is passionate about helping clients unravel complex cultural beliefs and family pressures through the use of expressive arts.

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 Powerful

Women are Powerful

Owning our voices safely is not always easy to do. We cannot do that alone by sheer will. We are social beings through and through. We are deeply influenced and affected by one another, and therefore, deeply vulnerable in one another’s company...When we feel we lose our power, it is as if we are boxed in.

WOMEN ARE POWERFUL. This phrase was inspired by a young client who is not yet an adult woman. It has special meaning for her because she has experienced bullying and yet is a strong, bright, and compassionate girl. She is finding healing in the midst of the messiness and owning her voice – her vulnerability, her fierceness, her unflinching sense of justice, her laughter, her grace, and her ability to say what is true for the sheer simple reason that it IS true. What she knew of women and girls was that we have a voice AND that each voice is strong - this IS powerful.

Owning our voices safely is not always easy to do. We cannot do that alone by sheer will. We are social beings through and through. We are deeply influenced and affected by one another, and therefore, deeply vulnerable in one another’s company. We have a whole field of social psychology that has shown us this. When we feel we lose our power, it is as if we are boxed in.

What I found fascinating, and also frustrating, while searching for a word to describe what women are to me, is that words have often have the unintentional effect of boxing us in. Each word has a cultural connotation and means something different to the person hearing it. Now, THIS is powerful, too. For example, women are POWERFUL. Maybe I mean that women are strong and able to connect deeply to themselves and others; are able to unarm someone’s defenses with a smile and a few words spoken in the right tone at the right time. That is powerful, that is beautiful, and that is love in a sense.

Now, but what does POWERFUL mean in a cultural context? Perhaps a powerful person is seen as domineering, controlling, and ruthless. And we have heard, at times, that strong and/or powerful woman can be intimidating or worse…

So, I ask myself, what kind of power has most value to me, in my world? How do I want to show up or stand up?

I want my power to come through in my listening, in my attuning to myself, to others, to my family, to my friends, to the tree outside my window, and to the sand beneath my feet when the ocean water flows gently around my legs from it’s source. The power of love I feel when I look at the night sky with the moon and the stars reflecting in my eyes. And the power to say no, to stand up, to not back down, the power to fight – all when necessary. Power to discriminate or to discern.

“They” say we are at a crossroads in our humanity on this planet. And maybe that is true. I ask you, what is real power? What does it mean to be powerful in the most beautiful interpretation of the word?

For me, what is powerful is both my vulnerability and my fierceness. BOTH are necessary.

I bow to you, to us, to our humanity, to what makes us the same, so we may support each other in our differences and in our sameness. To not give up on ourselves, to remember to use the power that is our birthright. The power of our hands, of our voice, of our heart, of our minds, and of our feelings of connection.


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.


Michelle Levy, PhD, is a Registered Psychological Assistant #PSB94024010 working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Dr. Levy’s clinical interests focus on parenting practices, attachment, child mental health and developmental concerns as well as the effects of trauma on youth, families and communities. 

Women are Bold

Women are Bold

All humans are capable of bold acts, but being a woman requires it daily.  

Being a woman means many different things to the wide-world of self-identifying women. For me, being a woman takes a certain amount of boldness to be oneself and to honor the unique value of our more feminine traits, even in the face of misogyny and patriarchal structures. Bold may not be a word that readily comes to mind for some people when they think about women, especially considering that historically women have been considered more submissive, polite, and accommodating. However, inherent in being bold is a courage to take risks and be seen.

Without getting too political, I must say that bold was a word that came to mind after listening to the Kavanaugh hearing as I considered the enormous risk that Christine Blasey Ford was taking to have her voice heard. As a therapist and someone who has made a career of listening to people’s stories, I was particularly struck by the bold conviction she had to be heard and to voice injustices against women that can be all too cavalier. To speak of justice at the hearing of a supreme court justice nominee was a bold decision. Despite facing public ridicule and overwhelming threats on the safety of her and her family, she boldly went forward in a room full of predominantly high-powered men and spoke her truth.    

This act of boldness reminded me of the everyday struggle for women to be heard, to be accepted as ‘credible,’ and to be themselves in a societal structure designed to make them fight for their rights time and time again. The risks we take every day even in deciding what to wear in a world that has been known to blame survivors of sexual assault based on their personal expression of style, takes an inborn boldness to carry on and demand that we be treated fairly.  All humans are capable of bold acts, but being a woman requires it daily.  


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.


Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

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.