My Name Is Not ‘Ma’: Why Street Harassment Is Everyone’s Problem

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post*

god bless u

Image courtesy of Rob Bliss/Hollaback

If you’ve ever walked down a NYC block it is likely that you’ve heard “Hey yo, ma, can I holler at you for a sec?” or “ Damn, ma, you’re fine,” or “God bless you, ma,” or “But why aren’t you smiling?” as if women walk around all day smiling for no reason at all. If you haven’t been the victim of catcalling, then consider yourself lucky, but the reality for many women is that they’ve experienced some form of street harassment.

We are disrespected almost every day by men who feel they have a right to talk to us, approach us, or even go so far as to touch us without permission. Men, who believe we should feel flattered because they’ve noticed us or given us a compliment. From the time a woman walks out the door of her home in the morning, be it walking to the corner bodega or to school, she is forced to dodge the unsolicited advances from men just to keep herself safe and we are taught do so from a very early age.

By the time a young girl hits puberty she is faced with having to deal with unwanted sexual attention and harassment by her peers and older men alike. As she gets older and enters womanhood the harassment continues, and instead of educating boys and men on how to treat women, women are taught to accept and deal with it. It’s the reason we cross to the other side of the street when we see a group of men together. It’s the reason why we’ll speed walk like we’re preparing for an event at the next Olympic Games when a man approaches and begins walking alongside us. We’ve been taught to ignore it while our male counterparts haven’t been taught anything at all.

Women are not afforded the opportunity to express their feelings when confronted with harassment. Why? Because a woman who defends herself or vocalizes her discomfort risks the chance of the incident escalating by either being verbally abused by the harasser or even experiencing a possible physical threat. Because you know, “You wasn’t all that anyway, b*tch.” The thing is, women have a right to defend themselves and click here to read the rest

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The FIERCE Girl 2015 Teen Summit: Raising FIERCE Women

Posted by Nancy Arroyo Ruffin

It’s not easy being a teenage girl now-a-days.  The teenage years can be some of the most challenging for a young person as they are trying to find themselves and how they fit in with the rest of the world. With a world full of mean girls, reality television, and fashion magazines full of photo editing, girls can easily fall prey to low self-esteem. The popularity of the internet, social media, and sites like Instagram further contribute and promote the #Selfie culture, with many young girls and women willing to bare it all just to see how many “likes” and “followers” they can amass. As if, these numbers somehow validate their beauty, worth,  their existence even. This obsession can be distracting and can lead young girls down the wrong path looking to celebrities and reality TV personalities for cues on how to look, speak, and act.

As a very active user of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter it can be a very lonely and scary place to be if you’re not confident and sure of who you are. Social media has made it very easy for someone to become a target of bullying leaving oneself open to criticism and ridicule by people who have no clue of who you really are. As a mother of a little girl and aunt to two pre-teen girls I worry about the images they are exposed to. I worry that they will allow this fixation with Instagram and the media to influence how they see themselves and place value on the wrong things. One of my responsibilities as a mother, aunt, and self proclaimed #FIERCEWoman is to make sure that I raise #FIERCEGirls and cultivate the same values in other young ladies.

I believe that the key to creating F.I.E.R.C.E Women is to create F.I.E.R.C.E Girls. By engaging our young girls between the ages of 12-19 in discussions about positive body image, self-esteem, dreams, goals, and how to accomplish them we begin to expose them to the qualities and traits that The F.I.E.R.C.E Woman embodies. These include self-confidence, kindness, empathy, strength, humility, gratitude, and a responsibility to give back to our communities. We as parents, guardians, and role models have to give our young girls other images to aspire to. We have to be the models they look to for their cues as young women. We have to exhibit the qualities we want them to embody.

Carolyn Danckaert, founder of A Mighty Girl, an online resource for parents to find media, books, clothing and toys that feature girls as leaders, heroes and champions that save the day, rather than just damsels in distress, says:

“The types of media a child is exposed to — books, films or music — have a tremendous impact on how they see their place in the world. Girls can’t be what they can’t see, so exposing girls to these types of empowering messages from a young age is essential.“

They may  not always see positive images online and so we have to be the messengers of the types of messages we want them to see, learn, and adopt.

This past Saturday, August 29th, The FIERCE Woman held it’s first annual FIERCE Girls Teen Summit. It’s purpose was to prepare  teen girls for the upcoming school year by providing them with the tools necessary to set goals and achieve them. The event program included a

  • Vision Board Workshop – vision boards have proven to be a useful tool to help clarify, concentrate, and maintain focus on a specific life goal. We will teach the teens to identify their vision for the upcoming school year. We will help make their vision clear, specific, and set realistic time frames. We will teach them how to reinforce their vision through the use of daily affirmations and to use the vision board to help keep their attention on their intentions.
  • Self-Esteem/Body Image Workshop – For many young girls entering their teens and starting high school, self-esteem and body image becomes very important. This workshop will focus on helping to foster positive self-esteem, learning to love ourselves wholly and completely despite our differences. We will talk to the girls about embracing their uniqueness and the things that make them stand out from the rest. We will briefly discuss how to handle unwanted sexual attention and harassment
  • Skin Care and Make-Up presentation – A professional make-up artist will talk to the girls about proper skin care, offer make-up tips and product recommendations that are suitable and appropriate for their age group.

The event proved to be a success with over 40 attendees. Despite starting a little bit behind schedule the event was everything I hoped it would be. It allowed these young women to come together, network, and be inspired.

Our 18 yr old guest speaker & 2015 FIERCE Girl of the Year, Miczjhane Clay spoke to the girls about the importance of planning ahead and setting goals.  She  spoke to them about how she started her fashion design company, Destined Designs and how her grandmother was the inspiration behind the name of the company. Destined Designs is founded upon knowing your self worth & embracing it through your sense of style. Micznhane’s mission is to design clothes that make women feel beautiful whenever they were them.

As I walked around the room and spoke to some of the mothers and young ladies in attendance  they thanked me for putting the event together and stressed the importance of building up our young girls and speaking success into them.  We have to take an active role in the success of the young women we are raising .Together, we can take over the world. That’s how you raise FIERCE Women.

 

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Don’t forget to follow The Fierce Woman™ on Facebook to stay updated on all future events and workshops.


 

Writer Bio: Nancy Arroyo Ruffin is an award winning author and motivational speaker. Her work has been cited and published online at The Elephant Journal, The Daily Voice, La Respuesta Magazine, For Harriet, Duende Literary Journal, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Sunday Tribune-Spectrum, MUTHA Magazine, Moms Magazine and CentroVOICES. You can follow Nancy on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram @IAmNancyRuffin, on Facebook @ Nancy Arroyo Ruffin or by visiting her blog at http://www.nancyruffin.net

Ode to the FIERCE Woman

Ink

There are those who will try and break you
shatter spirits shrouded in their own insecurities
Inflict wounds with splintered tongues
They will call you every name except your own
make you doubt your greatness.

They will compare you to Nina, Jessica, and Marie.
Make you question your beauty, as if your glory
could ever be contained in mere flesh and bone.

Why do you entertain such vernacular?

When yours is the back where aspirations are born
the roadmap to creativity and ambition
the house of the holy and divine.

Your hips will give life to the future.
Your lips will inspire revolution.

You are Hera, Athena, and Isis.
Goddess is your birthright.

Make them kneel to you in prayer.
Plant roots on soil coveted by Gods.
Establish your foundation in this life and the next.

Remind them that you were born from star dust
so the next time they forget your name
tell them you are royalty
and make them bow their heads
in respect.

©2014 Nancy Arroyo Ruffin

Effectively Working With Affirmations: How to speak into existence the life of your dreams

 

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~Buddha

I am a huge advocate of affirmations and a firm believer of speaking into existence that which we want. People are often curious about how to make affirmations work and how to use affirmations effectively.

What is an affirmation?

Affirmations are, well, affirming statements that you say out loud to yourself on a regular basis. The goal is to re-program your subconscious mind with positive thoughts so that you can remove any negative thoughts preventing you from pursuing your goals and dreams. Affirmations are a powerful personal development tool that I’ve used over the past few years to help me stay present to the possibility of living my ideal life.

We all have that little pesky inner voice that completely takes over our mind at times. How we have trained that voice to speak can either help us achieve the life of our dreams or it can derail us and completely throw us off track. What we constantly tell ourselves either consciously or subconsciously is what we become, whether we realize it or not.  We all have some type of negative mental chatter  that often prevents us from truly following our dreams.This chatter can be caused by fear, doubt, low self-esteem, lack of confidence or simply limiting beliefs that you probably developed during childhood. This self-criticism tends to reinforce the general theories we’ve come to believe about ourselves or our circumstances.

The good news is you can begin to override these destructive messages using the power of positive affirmations. Affirmations can reinforce productive behaviors and change ones that need changing. Here’s how to create affirmations you can identify with so they can help you improve your life!

I found this great article by Katheryn Hoban and thought it would be helpful. Enjoy!

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In my years of teaching and counseling I have come to the conclusion that many people are unsure of what affirmations are, how to use them, what great tools they can be, or what good benefits can be manifested by working with affirmations in both children and adults. In the simplest form an affirmation is a statement of a positive effect, result, or of a future event that you would like to achieve. Usually an affirmation is stated in the present moment and in positive verbiage and wordage. For an example “ I can do this” as opposed to “I’d like to do this” or “I’m going to do this.” The sentence “ I can do this” is set in the present moment and it implies confidence in one’s ability to accomplish the task and an immediacy to take action. The statement “ I’d like to do this.” Implies that it is not quite possible but you are yearning to do it but (something out of your control) is preventing that. “I’m going to do this” implies sometime in the future when all the conditions are right. In that case we can make an assumption that the conditions will never be right.

To effectively work and create affirmations for yourself  it is better to create patterns of repetition in saying the phrase out loud many times per day if need be, or weekly and using a creative visualization technique to anchor the effects of the affirmation in your mind and your body. For an example if you wish to give up smoking. The best way to phrase the affirmation would be “I’m smoke free.” “I enjoy being smoke free.” “ I enjoy being a non-smoker.”
In these examples you would repeat the affirmations and design a creative visualization (of events in the future but seen in present moment time) of you being a fulfilled non-smoker. You could imagine yourself doing an activity and feeling free and joyful that you are without a cigarette. You could imagine that you are visiting with children who previously were reluctant to spend time with you because of your smoking and how much you enjoy that visit. You could imagine that you feel the breath in your lungs very different and that you can actually breathe freely.

On repeating the affirmations, a new pattern of hope, expectancy and action would be created for future moments to unfold. If you can picture in your mind the thing that you want to achieve, as if it is already done, and you are feeling wonderful about receiving it, that combined with the affirmation is a very effective tool of change.

Let’s look at some affirmations. “I’m easily and effortlessly attracting the right business contacts to promote my work.” If you imagined in your mind; the smiles, the handshakes and the business meeting going very well and the ultimate picture of you receiving the benefits of new business and the achieving the results that you want and need every time that you said that affirmation, you begin to attract what you are confirming to the universe.

“I am fearless.” If you said this out loud it would be very effective to raise your voice and emphasis the word fearless. If you raised your hand in a strong gesture it further anchors the strength and courage that you feel in your body. The visual image that may go along with “I am fearless,” could be seeing yourself confronting a strong adversary and you looking right into his or her eyes and feeling in your heart that you are too strong to cower, and that you are planted firmly to the Earth.

“I can do this easily and effortlessly.” Imagine yourself in the zone so to speak where you barely make any effort at all and everything falls into place. Feel in your body and heart, how joyful, casual and confident you are about everything coming quickly together for you. Use an example in your past successes when something came together just as easily and remember how happy and light you felt when it did.

“I am the perfect weight for me.” Instead of focusing on how much weight you wish to lose, which implies that you are not perfect as you are, focus on how it would feel to fit into the size jeans that you always wanted to fit into. Also focus on how good it would feel in your slim clothing and seeing yourself in the mirror at the weight that your body looks absolutely fabulous in. See yourself very energized with your newly trim fit body, and how then you would act, walk, run, play and enjoy yourself.

Affirmations are best spoken out loud; the vibrations of the spoken positive expression are impactful to your psyche or a child’s. They are also best repeated until a new pattern is created. Create your own affirmations, or read from a book of affirmations, or listen to affirmations on tapes or CD’s. Keep revisiting these affirmations daily. Affirmations build confidence, help you to overcome low self-esteem, create balance, and space, helps you to get past feelings of guilt, and condemnation, clears obstacles, or limitations, create new patterns of health and well-being, and may produce feelings of prosperity and abundance. Of course Affirmations are not a cure-all, but they are very powerful and effective tools for you and your child to transform a challenging area in life. Every time that you say an affirmation with conviction you are creating a new unfolding moment to engage in a new fulfilled, balance, healthy, or abundant way of being.
_______________________
Katheryn Hoban is a certified yoga teacher and Reiki Master teacher with 10 years of experience. She has created two CD on affirmations. (Affirmations for Children and Teens and Affirmations for Adults.)
She can be reached at PO Box 7564 North Bergen, NJ 07047 or e-mail katscoolcorner@yahoo.com. You can purchase each CD for $10 + 2.00 shipping and handling or with paypal.
Wholesale prices are also available for a minimum purchase of 10 CD’s @$4.00 per CD plus $1.00 shipping ($50.00). Paypal is also an acceptable form of payment.

Revolutionary Women: We are not our mother’s daughters

women_against_veil

As many of you may know I am a writer. For those of you that don’t know I have written 3 books all of which are heavily influenced by my experiences as a Puerto Rican woman born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Last night I had the opportunity to talk to a phenomenal woman who read my book Letters to My Daughter and one of her favorite lines is “You preferred me voiceless” from a piece I wrote entitled Skin. That particular line comes from what I saw as child growing up in a traditional Puerto Rican family.

I grew up in a family where the men made all the decisions. Generational conditioning had acclimatized the women in my family to do as their husbands, fathers, brothers said and to never question them about anything. To me, these women were voiceless; powerless. They were nothing more than trophies, porcelain dolls, or expensive pieces of art to be hung on display. They were to be seen and not heard.

My paternal grandmother played her role well, always mindful of my grandfather’s needs and desires. If she was the trophy he was the conquistador equipped with charm that comes only from experience. A big spender, he knew exactly how to court a woman. His wandering eye often impelled him to send over a round of drinks to any woman who happened to gain his attention at the night club. Other times, if he was feeling particularly cocky he’d invite the woman over to his table to join him. If she agreed, she’d be on one side of him and my grandmother would be sitting on the other. For a poor man who migrated to the US from Puerto Rico without much, he knew that as long as he had money there was nothing he could not attain.

My father was like him in that sense. He also knew that with money came respect, status, and power, though not always in that order. And while my father was the younger version of my grandfather mirroring everything about him from his name, to his flashiness, to how he pursued and treated women they both wanted more for their own daughters. They never wanted their daughters to be one of those women.

My mother admits that it was my father’s nice car and flashy style that she was initially attracted to and although my father wasn’t as brazen as my grandfather with his infidelity there were always rumors. As I got older and started to get a better understanding of gender roles (both traditional and non-traditional) I began to wonder why both my mother and grandmother allowed themselves to be disrespected and in a sense de-valued. For a very long time it affected how I viewed relationships and marriage. By the time I was 17 I’d decided that I didn’t want any of it. I didn’t want a relationship nor did I want to get married. My fear was that I’d lose myself in a relationship; I equated being in a relationship and more specifically being married with loss of freedom and power.

For years I had seen my mother ask my father for permission for everything as if she were a child. If she wanted to go out with her friends or sisters she needed permission. When she wanted to go back to school (an endeavor that my father supported) she needed permission. When she finally started working (after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years) she’d hand her paycheck over to my father and then have to ask him for money when she needed it. To this day she has never paid a bill, lived on her own, or made any major decisions on her own. If my sister and I wanted to do something or go anywhere it was my father who we needed to get permission from. My mom had no power as a woman, wife, even mother.

After years of successfully avoiding a serious relationship I eventually met and fell in love with the man who would become my husband. When I got married I started doing the very things that I’d sworn I would never do or put up with. Little by little I saw myself metamorphosing into my mother and while my husband didn’t cheat (not that I’m aware of) there were other similarities. I found myself asking for permission to do basic things like go out with my sister and girlfriends. As a married woman I thought it was what I was supposed to do. That was due in part to my naiveté as a young bride and what I saw between my parents growing up. Subconsciously it had been embedded in my psyche.

My desire to be a good wife (whatever that meant) as well as be an independent and progressive woman, clashed. I did not know how to reconcile the two, resulting in my husband and me separating many times. I was continuing the cycle. I was repeating everything I had witnessed in my parents’ and grandparents’ marriages. My grandmother eventually divorced my grandfather and although she re-married a couple of times she died alone with no spouse or partner.

My parents since then have come a long way. They now have a healthy and loving marriage where they each are equal partners. Still, it did not come without hard work and sacrifice from both of them. They realized that in order to make it work they would both have to give up some of the things they had conditioned themselves to do. This was true for my marriage too. After many separations my husband and I realized that if we wanted our marriage to survive and thrive we had to be willing to break free of the cultural conditioning we had been taught –either directly, or indirectly on gender roles. We needed to decide if our marriage was worth it or if we were going our separate ways. In the end we decided it was worth it.

A while ago in a writing workshop I was asked what my origin story is. Initially, I didn’t have an answer. After giving it some thought, I realized everything I witnessed as a child has influenced who I am, but more specifically my writing. I realized that my desire to write comes from the things I wished my grandmother, my mother, even I would have said all those times we conceded to our husbands. I realized that I write so that I never lose my voice or power. I write so that my daughter does not repeat the cycle. I write so that I can tell the stories of women who are not brave enough to tell their own. I write because I refuse to be anyone’s trophy, porcelain doll, or piece of art. Am I a feminist? Maybe. All I know is that I want my voice to be the voice of the voiceless. My writing is my revolution. I write so that we can be heard. I write because I refuse to be voiceless.

On love and finding the person who completes you

“i found god in myself and i loved her. i loved her fiercely.”  – Ntozake Shange

Most of us spend a great deal of our lives looking for love, chasing love, recuperating from love or complaining about love. Never realizing that in our quest for love we are neglecting the person that matters most.  Ourselves.

I believe that as women we often disregard our own needs as a result of always taking care of other people. We spend so much time seeking out and working on developing external relationships that often times we forget to work on the relationship within.  We give so much of ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually that  eventually we end up depleted seeking fulfillment from someone else.

However, we can not look to another to fulfill us, “to complete us”, as eloquently stated in Jerry Maguire. We can only seek to fulfill ourselves, to give to ourselves that which we freely give to others; others, who often times don’t deserve it and that is LOVE.  Learn to fall in love with YOU!

Love yourself! Deeply and profoundly! Know that the most important relationship that you could ever have is the relationship that you have with yourself. When that relationship is strong you will see that you will be happier, healthier, and that you will no longer put up with or accept mediocrity from anyone.

Walk in your divine self. You are love, made from love and made to be loved. By loving yourself you teach others how to love you.  Love is not something that comes from someone else; it is an extension of our own minds, reverberating back to us in what seems to be another person’s smile (Williamson, 1993).

When you learn to truly fall in love with you, your entire life begins to change. It changes because when you are in love your main priority is making the person you’re in love with happy. Imagine applying that concept to yourself. Imagine putting your own happiness first. Only you have the power to do this. When you take back your power you take back control of your happiness because you now realize that happiness comes from within. Any happiness that you find with someone else is in addition to the happiness that you already have.

There is no other person on the Universe that can complete you. You were born a “whole” individual, you were not born in pieces. Movies and music will have you believe that in order to be completely happy you need someone else. This is a fallacy. When you allow yourself to believe this you are saying to the other person “I can only be happy if I am with you”…This sort of thinking is the thinking that allows many to stay in hurtful, dysfunctional, abusive relationships because the individual believes that they can only be happy with this abuser. Here’s a reality check if it hurts chances are you aren’t happy. Therefore, why stay in a hurtful situation? Love isn’t supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to encourage, uplift, inspire, motivate, empower. Love is supposed to feel good. When you love yourself you don’t hurt yourself. Therefore, you should never allow someone who says they love you to hurt you either. If they do then it’s time to kick them to curb.

I am aware that until we get to the point where  we’ve had enough of things that hurt and long more than anything for a peaceful love, we are bound to take painful roads. We are destined to play out frivolous disasters until we declare ourselves finished and done with them (Williamson, 1993). This is the nature of life, but when you truly love yourself you will put up with far less nonsense and get out of that unhealthy relationship much sooner.

The following passage I read somewhere and post here for all of you. It reminds me of the power that I have when I choose to take control of my thoughts and feelings.

You can completely transform any relationship, no matter what it’s like right now.  Every single relationship you have is a reflection of how you feel inside about you. You are a magnet attracting to you all things, via the signal you are emitting through your thoughts and feelings. Every relationship you have and every interaction with every person, is a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings in that very moment. To transform every single relationship you have in your life:

Fall in love with YOU!

Make lists of the hundreds and hundreds of wonderful things about you. Keep adding to it every day. Know that you are perfect. Do not think any negative thoughts about you. Know that you are worthy and deserving of anything and everything you could possibly want in your life. Focus on the wonderful things in every person. Look for only those things. Do not blame or criticize anybody, ever. Set an intention that you are going to see the best in everything and everyone. Make your happiness the number one thing in your life. Happiness is an inside job. Free yourself of the responsibility of trying to make other people happy. Respect and love them enough to allow them to take care of their own happiness. Get your attention off those things in others that don’t make you feel good. Appreciate and love yourself in every moment you can. Do not expect others to behave in a way you want, so you will be happy. Release yourself forevermore and know that you alone control your happiness and it is a choice, no matter what anyone else is doing. Love and respect yourself completely. Know that you are perfect right now.- Unknown

Because you are.

The FIERCE Woman™