Akron, Ohio: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

I’m not sure that there’s ever been a time in my life where I’ve missed living in Ohio more than this. Because on Friday April 26th, you guys have the opportunity to hang out and walk for an excellent cause with cool people like this:

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BAD. ASS.

The 8th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is for everybody- men, women, teenagers and children from Summit County and the surrounding communities (MEDINA! Represent). Walk through downtown Akron to protest rape, sexual assault and gender violence- causes that can never have even light shed on them.

My favorite part?

Men are encouraged (but not required) to walk in women’s shoes.

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Proceeds from this event will benefit the Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties. The walk is scheduled to begin at 6 PM with registration starting at 5 PM in Downtown Akron (Lock 3).

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“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes provides an opportunity for the community to stand together against sexual assault and to raise awareness about this violent crime. Even though the original idea emphasizes men’s involvement, their partners, sisters, mothers and friends often join in too” said Dave Rich, WAMIHS planning committee member. Started in 2001 by Frank Baird Walk a Mile in Her Shoes has grown to become an internationally recognized event. Dave states that “men wobbling in heels or fuzzy pink slippers on downtown Akron sidewalks can be pretty amusing but the cause they are marching for is quite serious. While sexual assault has traditionally been viewed as a women’s issue the reality is that sexually violent crimes have no boundaries and affect us all. Statistics show us that approximately 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males will be affected by sexual violence in their lifetime.” Akron’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is in its 8th year and is quickly becoming a unique tradition in the Akron community.

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Start a fundraising team today and help to fight gender violence one step at a time!

Help the Rape Crisis Center raise money by donating here.

To start your own team, click here.

Contact Dana Zedak at 330-777-4723 or DanaZ@scmcbws.org with any questions if you prefer not to register online. 

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Body Image, Rock & Roll and You

It takes a lot to “move me” these days or to keep my attention long enough to get through what you’re trying to convey. But today, on three separate accounts, it happened.

I’m in bed listening to my really epic “Pop Punk” playlist on Spotify (you should follow me, I’m great) and I’ve just read these articles and it made me feel like a person. People don’t keep it real enough these days.

The first one was about Against Me!’s Tom Gabel and his (now her) first year as a woman by Cosmo. Incredible. Tom is now Laura. Laura is awesome and Joan Jett tucked Laura’s daughter into bed, which is probably cooler than anything that will ever happen to you. So punk rock. But for real- read this story.

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Tom left, Laura right.

Next came a story about how selling your stuff on Craiglist can change your life, in which the author explains how doing so restored some of her own faith in humanity, but that is really unrelated to what I’m trying to say, so moving on.

Then this happened. Lily, thank you. This is one of the most genuine accounts of how women deal with body image I’ve ever encountered.

Accept it, fix it? Accept it, fix it? This is a question that I have been grappling with my whole life. When it comes to the shape of my body, I have constantly and perpetually struggled to decipher whether my physique is inherently wrong in some way (something to work on fixing) or whether it is beautiful and perfect as it is (something that I need to work on accepting). Do I need to try to become a slimmer version of myself in order to feel amazing in my clothes, sex appeal, and general swagger, or do I need to unlearn a fabricated societal notion that beautiful and slender are synonymous, while having curves implies that something is broken?

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Lily, the queen.

First off, the fact that we as women feel like this- this amount of pressure, sense of inadequacy, dissatisfaction and so on, is so insanely fucked up. I’ve struggled with body image since I was probably 12 or so. I was gawky and awkward and actually quite skinny looking back, but at the time I was certain that my thighs were fat. I had an obsession with my thighs being “too big” for years.

Let me put this into perspective for you, I don’t even think I was a size two at this point. I think in 7th grade I hit 100 pounds and that number scared me. 100 POUNDS. Are you kidding me?

I was 5 foot 4 and I got big boobs in high school and teetered between a size two and four for its entirely. Not fat. At all. And yet, I thought I was.

Then I moved to Chicago for college and instead of gaining the “freshman 15,” I lost maybe 10. I was 105 pounds that year and I loved my body at that weight, but that wasn’t normal for me and I probably wasn’t being very healthy. I wasn’t happy. I was lost and I didn’t even know who I was or who I was trying to be.

I gained weight that summer. Went up a jean size. Got my boobs back. I probably looked better, but instead a guy I used to see commented to my co-workers about how I had “put on weight.” Which lead to a whole new phase of obsession and self-loathing.

Now I’m 22. I do the whole full-time job thing, I’ve got the Bachelor’s degree, I blog and eats lots of fruits and veggies. I’m in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful man. But most importantly, I’ve sort of got the whole “me” thing down. I like myself. But I still don’t like my body. And that’s bullshit.

I’m 115 pounds and I pick myself apart in the mirror every single day. Why do I do this?

It’s probably obvious at this point, but I’m sort of a big fan of fashion. And I love models. No, I don’t want to emulate them. Not only is that unrealistic, but I like having boobs and a booty and all of that. Despite this, I poke at my thighs and tummy and arms and think “not content.” It’s not about trying to be something that’s literally impossible. It’s not about blaming fashion or the models who display it. It’s about the way I feel when my own clothing doesn’t hang the same way because I’m a C-cup and a size four instead of a zero. It doesn’t look the same on me or fit as effortlessly, etc.

The problem isn’t the fashion industry and the girls who walk the runways. Fashion is an art and the models are human portraits. That’s not real life. That’s not the rest of the population. And why would any woman want to have the body of a 14-year-old boy?

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Freja Beha Erichsen

The problem is the fact that we view this as a standard of what a beautiful, sexy woman should look like. The type of women who are placed in advertisements to try and make us long after material goods are not a reflection of who we are. Why don’t they look like us? But as someone who loves fashion and devours countless Tumblrs looking for inspiration via models’ impeccable street style, is it even possible to draw a line between that sort of “art” and life?

I’m sure my personal interests lead you to believe that I’m setting myself up for disaster when it comes to my own body image. But I would never categorize myself as an insecure person. I wear miniskirts and daisy dukes and little dresses and I am capable of feeling very sexy and comfortable in my own skin. I know I’m not fat.

But how can we teach ourselves, our future daughters, our friends to embrace our own unique shapes? Especially when one of my favorite hobbies is fashion blogging. Is this impossible? Am I a hypocrite?

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I can say that today’s models need to gain some weight. 100% on board with this needing to happen ASAP. I’m thinking curvy 90s supermodels before heroin chic happened. Those women didn’t look sick. They were slim and fit and healthy looking. Nowadays we see a whole lot of skeleton action, which needs to stop. Some regulations have been passed here and there, but it’s not working. Yet at least. But enough about that. Let’s talk about you.

What I’m trying to say with all of this is that if you see these pictures of women and the supermodels and the fashion shows and the style blogs- you see the size zero jeans at the store and you see your own body in the mirror and wonder why that’s not you, take a step back. Skinny, curvy, whatever. The cool thing about being you is that there isn’t anyone else like you in the world. You probably have really wonderful qualities that people envy you over and I’m sure sometimes you’re less than admirable. THANK GOODNESS. You’re real!

The best part about being a person are all the things you’re capable of feeling. Joy, bliss, love, jealously, rage. All of that makes a life meaningful. You’ll accomplish things and you’ll fail and most of that- most of life- has nothing to do with your weight.

It was becoming increasingly clear that I was actually attempting to fight nature. Around that same time, I was beginning to delve deep into my work with StyleLikeU. Inspired by the confident women I was exposed to — no matter their shape or size — I realized for the first time that it was truly possible for women to tailor their style to their bodies rather than tailor their bodies to trends. This revelation, while it seems obvious in retrospect, was perhaps one of the most liberating moments in my journey with my body.

Liking fashion or looking beautiful or being sexy shouldn’t coincide with being skinny. If we’re lucky, we’ll also achieve a similar revelation of sorts as Lily. But if you take nothing else away from this post, hear me out on this.

Embrace your weirdness. You know the things you hate about yourself the most? Learn to accept that these so-called flaws are what make you a person. And that no one is ever content with themselves and that’s fine. Instead, let’s take all of that self-criticism and attempt to use it to our advantage. Be hard on yourself when it comes to your work and be hard on yourself when you haven’t treated people as nicely as you should have.

Don’t be hard on yourself about your body. Your body is hot and you’re probably a total babe and I want you to know that if you read this blog that I want you to look at the fashion posts as art and as inspiration for cute outfits and nothing more.

Hashtag self love.

Save Teen Lives: The MStar Foundation Needs Your Help

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Michelle Sanderbeck, 15

This picture was the last one she left us with on her MySpace page. The caption read “When you left I lost a part of me,” which at the time, were lyrics from Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.” She had no idea how much more those words would mean to us.

On March 4, 2006, one of my beloved friends was killed in a careless car accident. It wasn’t alcohol related, the driver wasn’t on drugs- instead, he was simply reckless (and stupid) and left a million broken pieces behind due to his actions.

Instead of staying in the shadows with their grief, Ray and Debbie Sanderbeck- a second family to me- created the Michelle’s Leading Star Foundation, or “MStar,” in order to save teen lives.

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Michelle’s Leading Star Foundation was established by the family of Michelle Lee Sanderbeck in 2006. With the purpose of reducing the number of teenage deaths in America and to honor the life of Michelle Lee Sanderbeck and all others whose lives were claimed by Teen Drivers.

We know that with our combined efforts, we will make a difference in keeping our children/teens safe.

The Sanderbeck family has already played an incredible role in improving teen driving in the state of Ohio, but now they need your help. We’re in jeopardy of losing the special MStar Foundation license plates they worked so hard for. Another 350 plates need to sell this year to prevent them from going away. Proceeds of the plates go towards funding better driving programs in the state of Ohio.

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Please consider purchasing one and sharing this video with others:

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In loving memory of Michelle Lee Sanderbeck

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Me vs. Feminism

Circa before it all.

It’s almost 5 A.M. in Chicago and I just spent the past 30 minutes walking home. I did so by myself- a stubborn habit I’ve adapted due to impatience waiting for public transportation at this hour and an as attempt to retrieve the serenity I feel when I’m alone after an entire evening spent socializing over too many cocktails.

What would probably be considered an average Saturday night for most 21-year-olds, I’ve somehow seized as an opportunity to confront a conflict I wasn’t quite sure existed in the first place. The conflict being myself vs. the alter-ego I like to think I portray.

I write about women’s issues and I call myself a feminist because feminists are women I admire and attempt to emulate. On most days, I do so successfully, for the most part, at least. But then you have nights like tonight- nothing exactly goes wrong, but one thing leads to another and I’m suddenly reminded why I’ve chosen this path in the first place.

Don’t let the all-black monochromatic wardrobe fool you. I may opt for leather jackets and combat boots, but my favorite movie is Breakfast at Tiffany’s and my grandparents are the loves of my life. As much as I’d like to be seen as this strong, outspoken, bad ass lady example for my “baby sisters” to look up to, I sometimes have a hard time grasping the concept that I’m still healing. I do my thing and I love what I do, but my own vulnerability comes through more often than I’d like. It leaves me feeling like I’m 6-years-old and playing dress up.

It’s hard to come to terms with things like this when you’re a perfectionist/control freak. Get good grades, do this, do that- all of that you have power over. When things are taken out of your control, it’s hard to accept the fact that side effects are also inevitable. It’s impossible to explain how badly you want to move on when you’ve been a coward about taking the steps to get there in the first place.

My question is this: at what point do you stop emulating the people you admire and instead, stand next to them?

I talk about how women shouldn’t be judged for their sexuality and yet, I’ve subconsciously taken up a modest Hepburn-esque wardrobe that doesn’t translate as sexy to most people. I have to wonder if I’m just developing a more sophisticated preference and growing up or am I actually running away from the sort of freedoms I speak up for every day?

At this point, I’m sleepy and as a favor to all of you to remain coherent in my writing, I’m going to bed. But I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me and everything I believe in. Words can’t describe what you’ve done for me.

We hurt men, too.

“This is very difficult for mainstream society to accept as we have been socialized to believe that only men batter women,” says Barb Topliss of the Canon City Daily Record.

But it’s something that needs to be brought to the surface.

According to Topliss, 39% of domestic violence victims in the U.S. are, in fact, men.

I’ve become open about my own sexual assault this past year. Saturday marks the two year anniversary. While I’ve moved on from the unexplainable need to keep this part of my history secretive, it’s still very much a part of my present as well.

It’s important to understand that people who have been in this situation are very, very angry. So much so that they may act out violently as a result. No, I’ve never caused physical harm to another person because of this, but I have acted out in ways I have recently recognized as being “violent.”

It took me a while to realize this.

Mostly because I felt I had some sort of right to treat this person as I did because I’m a woman and he’s a man, which means he isn’t allowed to reciprocate, right? Somehow this justified my actions. And somehow I was able to keep myself in line. The anger was there though and it scared me.

The thing that women like me have in common with men who have encountered such side effects is that we stay silent. And it’s that silence that causes the most harm.