This piece was originally written in December 2015 and never published on my blog. Since penning this in 2015, I’ve spent time exploring Womanism and find that it is a far better explanation for my views on womanhood, sisterhood, and what it means to be supported and loved while remaining free to make the choices best suited for our individual and collective lives. The issues addressed below are still relevant almost eight years later in what is now aptly named White Feminism.
The image is of a room with dim lighting. The floor is comprised of dark gray planks, the walls are black and white wallpaper in an intricate design. The lighting illuminates seven doors along the wall. The light is brightest at the center door and fades as it spreads from there. Photo is by Pixabay.
Leaning in, it gets mentioned in every article, book, or motivational speech geared toward women. It’s not always worded in the same way, but the same theory holds true. This notion of women leaning in, or that women can and should put their careers first, has always left a sour taste in my mouth. And not for the reasons you might expect. My beef is this, it packages itself as this attainable goal every woman can reach if she works hard enough, goes to the right school, takes the right chances, and -here’s the kicker- marries the right man. At the end of the day, leaning in falls back on the same practices white men have relied on for generations. That is the practice of having someone else there to do what you aren’t capable of doing.
The person is either your spouse or the people you and your spouse are able to afford to do these things. At the end of the day, your ability to lean in is determined by the privilege of having someone to lean on which makes the practice, heavily supported by the mainstream -easily consumable- feminism, an exclusive club whose entry hinges on the notion that life is depended on making the “right choices”. However, none of these books, articles, or speeches ever address the 12 million single-family homes, 83% of which are headed by women. Half of them live at or below the poverty line despite working more hours than their leaning in counterparts. These women put career first out of necessity and have been doing so long before Sandberg coined the phrase ‘Lean In’. Yet mainstream feminism has ignored these women and their struggles.
When Sandberg’s chart-topping book became mainstream feminism’s bible I couldn’t help but ask myself “what about the other working mothers”? What about the women holding down two or even three jobs because none of those jobs pay a living wage or grant her a full work week? What about the women who are juggling children, work, and school? Where do women with disabilities factor in? What about the women cleaning the homes and raising the children of the women who are leaning in? Where do minority women, who are making between 50–64 cents on the dollar, and their families factor in? It’s easy to tell women to lean in and to say “it’s possible” when your spouse brings home all the benefits of white male privilege, but what about the women whose spouses don’t enjoy this privilege either due to race, class, education, ability, or a combination of all of the above? Where do those women factor in? And what about the women partnered with other women? Not only does this notion of leaning in, or as I like to say, leaning on white privilege, completely ignore single mothers and the struggles of women of color, but it also alienates LGBTQ women by operating on the notion that a woman must pick the right -white- man and this will be one of the greatest things she will ever do. This brings me to my next point…
This notion that all is possible if a woman makes the “right choices” also ignores, as bell hooks pointed out, the choices made by her husband. A woman has no control over what her spouse ultimately decides to do in any facet of his life be it a career, family, or life choices that impact his health and well-being. Those are individualized choices. Making the “right choice” on your wedding day doesn’t guarantee that, that will still be the right choice years later. To tout the notion that a woman simply needs to marry the “right” man diminishes the work and struggles of all the women who didn’t make the magical “right choice”. This makes ‘leaning in’ white heteronormative middle-class feminism with a catchphrase. It ignores anything outside of the white heteronormative bubble and places any failure to reach these supposedly attainable goals squarely on the shoulders of the women it actively excludes.
While who we chose to partner with is important, should we choose to partner at all, it should not be what defines a woman on her road to success. What should define a woman, and her road, should be her and her alone.
As I’ve said before feminism is supposed to be about respecting every woman’s right to make the choices she feels compelled to make. It’s also about giving women the freedom to make these choices. A woman who doesn’t fit into the white heteronormative middle-class bubble shouldn’t be excluded or limited in her ability to reach whatever goals she has personally chosen for herself.
Feminism should be about lifting every woman up so no matter her circumstances she is free to choose if and when she wants to lean in, out, or somewhere in the middle. None of these options should be seen as the ultimate mark of a woman’s worth, nor should her choices in life be used as a weapon against her especially when options and choices are impacted by things outside of her control such as her race, class, education level, if she’s disabled or not, if she’s cisgender or trans, the list can and does literally go on.
Did your choices work out for you? Hoo-fucking-ray. Not every woman has that privilege. The important thing is to see that, recognize it, and then get to work building up your fellow women. The goal shouldn’t be to force them into a neat consumable box of acceptable feminism, but instead to help them break down the motherfucking walls so every woman can be herself in whatever form that takes. Anything else is exclusive feminism and that isn’t helping any damn body.
To read more about the impact of choices and why a sustainable movement for women needs to support ALL women, check this out!
Copyright(c) 2015 Rayven Holmes
1/13/2023 0 Comments
The Myth of Perfect
This article was originally published on Ramblings of a Dysfunctional Homeschooler in 2015. Previous pieces from that blog will be uploaded here as I am willing and able to. In the piece below, The Spouse refers to my now ex-husband.
A little over a month ago I tossed an inflatable into the room we’ve lovely dubbed “The Library” and fired the first of what would be a series of shots on both ends that ultimately brought about the moment every couple swears they’ll never experience when they get married. The “we need to divorce” talk. There have been tears, rage, and more tears, because even when you know it’s the right thing to do that doesn’t erase the emotions that went into the relationship. Instead they bubble up, unexpectedly, encompassing you without a moment’s notice. You find yourself standing in a group of people completely in control and then out of nowhere the air leaves your lungs and your balance feels unsteady.
You struggle to regain your composure before anyone notices the haze filling your eyes, it’s painful and frustrating especially when the world doesn’t know the truth. You are at war with your emotions and logic, and even some days your spouse, but to the rest of the world you and your family are as they always have been. That’s the myth of perfect at work. Two weeks ago, The Spouse and I started the uncomfortable process of letting the outside world know where we were headed. His outing involved work. I went with social media because, I figured it would be like pulling off a band-aid. Quick and virtually painless. While it was quick, painless it was not.
Our lives go through filters. This isn’t a new concept brought about by social media, no matter what the newest trending article claims, it’s something we as a human race have done for generations. Always smiling and putting the best image of ourselves, our family, and our relationships forward. Every now and then a bit of the truth slips out, but, for the most part, our lives are heavily edited to produce a show we want people to believe really takes place. Maybe that’s why reality television is so popular, we’re all doing it and reality television reminds us that we’re not the only ones using more than Instagram filters when interacting with the world. Of course when bits and pieces of the filters fall away and people get to actually view the unedited footage there are questions. One question, or a variation of it, that I keep encountering is “You guys looked so happy and perfect, what happened?”
There’s that word, perfect. I won’t lie, we did look pretty damn perfect some days and not all of those conversations or pictures were put through a filter. Plenty of them were, though, and even more were left on the cutting room floor to never be gazed upon by anyone other than myself. Why? Because they didn’t support the myth of perfect. The myth that my marriage and my life were aspirations that others should reach for. I would often cringe when someone would tell me that they longed for a relationship like the one the Spouse and I had. Of course, they only knew the bits I shared and I made sure to never share the ugly bits. Having to share the ugly bits, or at least acknowledge that we had enough of them to terminate our relationship, has been painful. A variety of things seems to happen when you tell people where you truly are in life, you either get support, advice which isn’t always useful or solicited, questions you often don’t have the answers to, or booze and trauma vultures. And because you can’t peel away the veneer that the perfect myth places on life without taking some flesh with it, you get plenty of pain.
The pain is a double edged sword, on one hand it begs you to go back to the safety of the myth. It wants you to bask in the comfort of those rose colored filters where the reality of your life was lived alone and isolated from the prying eyes that would offer their half-baked thoughts and opinions on your situation. Then the pain grabs you and reminds you why it exist. It shakes you and rocks you to your core, preventing you from going anywhere but forward. While the truth hurts, pretending kills. So you stop pretending.
Now that you all know that dysfunctional wasn’t just a cute blog title, but an actual indication of the insanity in which our family has lived, where do we go from here? I know the question portion is coming.
*Engaging announcer font* Will The Bringers of Mayhem still be homeschooled? Was it the military that caused this breakdown of such a lovely family? Did you try hard enough?
The line of questioning folks throw at you boarders on fucking insane, while some are legitimate and ok to ask, others are not. I would say most, actually, are not ok to ask. I have to tell you all before you hit that comment button, think first!
I will go ahead and answer the most asked questions, because I’m nice like that: that’s what we all want to see happen, it’s not completely to blame nor is it totally blameless, and I don’t understand that question. What exactly is enough and who gets to determine when you’ve reached it?
If you ask me I will say yes, if you ask The Spouse he’ll probably say no. We see our relationship and its end through a different set of eyes and experiences even when some of those experiences were shared. That’s the reality of any human relationship. We all see the world through different eyes and different experiences. At some point in time those differences either become the relationship's strength or it becomes their weakness. No matter how many filters we apply or edits we make for the world, we still have to view our relationships with our eyes wide open no matter how much it hurts.
Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes
1/10/2023 1 Comment
The Year of No
Hello old friend, did you miss me? I can’t say with certainty that I missed you - elements of you sure but the labor and guilt-inducing shame that comes from setting blogging goals and then watching them rush past you in the mad dash that is life? Not so much.
Truth be told, I’ve been tired, well we all have I’m sure. I approached the last few years as an opportunity to say yes to almost everything in hopes of drowning out the dread that encompasses this time of our lives. All my saying yes meant bending myself into positions that were palatable to others and disastrous for me—trying to carve out spaces at tables that I thought could feed me only to be left starving and questioning my sanity.
I reached the last quarter of 2022 and spent a lot of time crying and debating the validity of my existence. If you’ve been around a while you know about my shadow mistress. She and I dance together often, after years in this body I can usually spin her into submission but last year she pulled out footwork that left me stumbling on the dance floor as I attempted to lead us through the muck.
Where is my place in the world? Is it here? Is it there? Why am I fighting to be heard amongst individuals and groups that have shown they have a vested interest in not understanding me? Are they worth the pain they cause? And who am I outside of what I give to everyone else?
When I stopped fighting, stopped trying to lead my shadow mistress, and instead followed her down the rabbit hole I found that I already knew all the answers. The footwork wasn’t foreign I was merely getting in my own way because the answers to my questions scared me.
Is my place here? Nope. Is it there? Also, nope. It’s wherever I am when I feel at peace and celebrated. It could be here, there, anywhere, and nowhere. I was fighting because I was still trying to prove that my life has value and worth and that it matters. Still wanting to prove I’m enough even though I know damn well that my value isn’t tied to anyone but myself. Somehow I had lost my way, wrapped in scarcity, stuck in a trauma cycle of simply trying to keep myself and my offspring alive as a pandemic raged on around us. I was hearing the notes of the music but not the rhythm. She wanted me to see the rhythm that went with my blues. I can give myself grace for losing my footing, it happens, and my shadow mistress is always there to remind me that death is a viable answer should I want it. It’s up to me to decide whether I want the dance to end or not.
I opted to keep dancing on my own terms. To find the rhythm that vibes with my blues. As the music faded into something I recognized and my mistress gave up control I was left with one lingering thought, this has to be the year I say no.
No to the people, places, things, and organizations that require more energy than they give back.
No to anything that doesn’t spark joy - with some caveats because having a place to sleep, food to eat, and running water spark joy but the actions needed to achieve those things aren’t always agents of joy.
No to apologies that aren’t accompanied by changed actions.
No to pretending that life is back to normal, it’s not and it never will be again.
No to last-minute plans that feel more like obligations than adventures.
Just fucking no.
If what’s presented to me isn’t worth the compromise required of me the answer is going to be no. My mistress knows her place when I remember that my number one job is to protect my mental health and that isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s necessary. That’s been made abundantly clear to me.
The last few years have been long and trying, as we move into whatever will transpire this year and beyond ask yourself this, if it doesn’t feed you -either physically or spiritually-, excite you, please you, or pay you then why are you doing it? If you can’t give yourself an honest authentic answer that isn’t tied to obligation then it’s time to consider your options and forge a new path.
Find the rhythm that blends with your blues instead of trying to make someone else’s melody the song of your life.
Until next time remember, if it’s not an enthusiastic yes then it’s a hell fucking no and you should go ahead and say that.
Copyright(c)2023 Rayven Holmes
5/1/2019 2 Comments
Oops I Did It Again...
Second weddings are strange. From debating on if you can wear white, obviously, the virginal jig is up when you’re walking down the aisle with three kids. To who gets an invite, it’s a no on your ex folks. It can be overwhelming. Factor in the immense anxiety that accompanies remarriage and you’ll feel like you’re drowning in a sea of bullshit instead of a comfortable bottle of wine.
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
4/25/2019 0 Comments
Lemonade. An album that became a cultural phenomenon and changed the game. I’m not a music blogger, so this won’t be a dissection of an album that dropped three years ago. Instead, it will be a reflection on the way the meaning of songs can change as we move through the various stages of our lives.
Three years ago, Lemonade filled the recesses of my mind with empowering lyrics I needed to hear. From the raw pain of “Hold Up” to the give no fucks boss bitch anthems of “Sorry” and “6 Inch”, I had words to scream when I failed to find the courage to speak. I cried into bottles of Jack and Captain Morgan while listening to “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”. Most of all, I found hope in “All Night”.
That was three years ago.
Today, with all the clarity and wounds of the past three years, I see Lemonade differently. It is still a stunning piece of work on the emotional weight that comes with pouring yourself into another human being and being left with nothing in return but heartache. Now, though, the songs seem less like declarations to the source of one’s pain and more like letters to oneself urging the tortured to turn their pain into something glorious.
I no longer see “All Night” with the rose-colored glasses of hope. I no longer blast it crying out for a love that seemed to elude me. This change, though, has nothing to do with my current relationship status. Over the last three years I had to find the courage to love myself wholly in all my brokenness. I had to learn to give up the fantasies I was sold from a young age about love and family. Instead, taking time to carve out what those things meant for me in the remnants of my soul.
I had to find the truth beneath the lies I was told and discover the truest love of all was the love I had for myself. As bitter as they may have been to accept and grow from, I had to learn to see my own scars and kiss my own crimes. I learned to trust myself and not fall victim to the people who wanted to consume me but never fully see me.
True love is a remedy for an aching heart and is absolutely the best weapon against pain. But life has shown me that it’s foolish to seek that remedy in another. We must arm ourselves with an unwavering passion for who we are, the good, bad, and downright ugly; if we ever want to make headway on the road of healing from that which tortures us.
It’s not an easy road to travel. So, remember to offer yourself the sweet love you deserve. Life’s too short to spend it forgetting to love the one person you’re guaranteed to be with forever.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
4/19/2019 0 Comments
Ask The Smiths
We love our holidays and celebrate them with wild abandon. Each has traditions that have been tweaked and fine tuned over the years. New Year’s Eve is no exception. On New Year’s Eve, as part of our annual countdown to midnight, we do end of the year interviews. For the past six years, I’ve pulled out a list of questions and placed each of the Bringers of Mayhem in front of our Christmas tree. It is one of our traditions I look forward to the most each year. As they have developed as individuals their answers have morphed from simple words into eloquent thoughts. Watching this change happen every year has been immensely enjoyable. In accordance with my “if I want you to do it I’ll do it too” parenting style I would also position myself in front of the camera. I didn’t put much emphasis on the way my answers changed. This past New Year’s Eve my sister had a request that The Bearded One and I answer some couples questions. While this may seem like an adorable request to make of a newlywed couple he and I weren’t feeling the newlywed love vibes.
Our first holiday season as married partners attempting to blend our two worlds was a series of train wrecks. Factor in holiday financial stressors and we weren’t feeling anything but frustration. My sister knew this. My sister is one of my closest friends and my rock. She also firmly believes that 90% of relationship problems can be solved when you remember why you’re building your life with that person. The other 10%? Well that’s what divorce lawyers are for. I won’t say she’s right, because she already knows she is.
So on New Year’s Eve, The Bearded One and I sat next to each other, engulfed in our strife, and answered questions while my sister live streamed it on Facebook. By the end, we were laughing and she was asserting we are a strange couple. We are. But sis, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wandering around the woods at night as long as you’re prepared! Did the Q&A solve all our problems? Absolutely not. That’s what therapists are for. But, working on your shit should be fun sometimes and answering random questions about our life together was fun. Later that evening a few friends shared they would love to see us answer questions again. We figured why not, but the questions would have to come from others. The decision on when it happened was tossed into my court to figure out. After some thought, and seeing how busy our life is, I settled on twice a year. May and December. Yeah, next month. Surprise!
Here’s how this will work, on May 10th at 9pm we’ll go live on the Malice in Wonderland Facebook page. Questions are due by noon on the 10th. Either comment them below, send them through a Facebook message, or text me if we’re cool like that. We’ll hang out for about fifteen minutes on Facebook. If we make it through the questions sent in then we may take some during the live feed but do NOT bank on this. If there is something you want to know, and there is literally no limit to what you are allowed to ask, then send it in by NOON on the 10th!
I’ll post the aftermath either on here or YouTube or both. Who knows. Like with my life, I’m making this shit up as I go and calling it a plan when it all comes together.
If you got questions, get to asking!
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
3/1/2019 0 Comments
The Feast of Life
I was going to start this by saying it’s been a while but apparently, it’s only been about a month since my last post. Congrats to me for slowly creeping toward my goal of posting once a week again. So, what brings me to this junction of thoughts and virtual paper today? A theory. Yup a theory. Not a scientific one. This one is about work-life balance and a stove. I was introduced to the four-burner theory during a small business support group. For those who are unaware of this theory, like I was, pull up a seat and let me give you a quick crash course on it. This theory approaches our lives as if they are small four-burner stoves. Oh, you thought you were one of those grand stoves with six or eight burners? Me too. But apparently, in this theory, we’re not. We’re all tiny stoves that are slightly broken because in order to be “successful” you must cut off burners. So, if your existence was a meal, for this meal to be tasty you can only cook two items at a time.
Now each burner is an item. You have your family, your friends, your health, and your work. No hobbies. No spiritual or personal growth. Just your family, friends, health, and essentially wealth. When this theory is brought up in the work/life balance discussion success is usually meant in terms of one’s career and not overall enjoyment of one’s life. Since being introduced to this way of dissecting our lives, I’ve bounced around in my head what success means to me. I don’t see my life as a simple stove where only two burners can work efficiently at the same time. I know I can’t have ten burners going full blast at once. That’s a level of anarchy that I’ve been there and got the t-shirt for and have no desire to ever recreate. I get the general gist of this theory and the notion that we do have to occasionally put some things on the “back burner” so to speak in order to focus more on other areas. I hate the way this theory breaks elements of our life down into burners instead of realizing those are the meals we’re creating for the feast that is our life, though. My life is more than four burners. And I don’t gauge my success in this life by how well the work/wealth burner is doing. I gauge my comfort, as well as my family’s, by how well what I’m cooking on that burner is doing. But it isn’t the meter I use to determine if I’m winning at life.
There’s more to a successful life, for me, than having a winning career. There are moments with my kids, laughter with friends, self-discovery, and new experiences. Because of those things I’d rather tweak this theory to be a more accurate representation of the richness of our lives. Yes, there is give and take, but it doesn’t mean a burner has to be shut off. Simmer is a perfectly legitimate setting to use in cooking whether literally or figuratively. True to form, I crafted my own life theory and I shall call it the Feast of Life.
How does it work? First, let’s throw out that crappy four burner stove and upgrade ourselves to one of those commercial grade six burner stoves with a griddle and not one but two ovens. With this we can really do some cooking, but before we start throwing down in the kitchen, we must first know what courses we want to make and what ingredients we need to ensure a delicious meal. Every quality chef has a plan before they bust out the hardware. I’ve spent the greater part of last year breaking down the ingredients I need in my life and exploring the configurations of those elements that would yield a feast I can be proud of.
While the four-burner theory is a quick and easy way to dissect our lives, it doesn’t challenge us to dig deep into what we need to truly be happy in this one life we have. Sure, career success is great but is that truly what will bring you fulfillment in life? If so, awesome. If not, then what would? Now’s your time to sit and marinate on that. What areas of your life do you want to be remembered for? Break the notion that a successful life is one that can have a price tag put on it. Instead, look at what ignites that spark in you and run with it. That’s your main course. We all have one, it’s the area of our life that sustains us and breathes life into our existence. It’s the guiding hand as we're moving through this world making vital and even benign decisions.
For me, my main course is family. According to the four burners theory I need to put that on the front and crank that burner up to high. Easy. Except not really because nothing worth having in life is as simple as tossing a pot on high and calling it a day. To be able to call my life a success I had to take it a step further and look at what makes up the meal that is family. My kids are a given. As well as my spouse. But there’s more there. The Ex is family too, for better or worse we’re in the business of co-parenting the bringers of mayhem until we take our last breaths. Then there are the relationships with my parents, siblings, friends who became family, and various extended branches on my family tree that are important to me in one way or another. Each connection is an ingredient, family is a complicated dish in more ways than one; which means it gets three burners and part of the griddle. And half the bottle of cooking wine, but that’s a post for another day.
It’s up to you to determine how best to tackle your main course. What needs to simmer or be a rolling boil and when those things need to happen. The relationship with my boys is always on high, but once they are grown and living their own lives? It’ll get turned down. Life is fluid and our cooking should be as well.
Alright, we’ve got our main course bubbling away, what’s next? Our soup of course. Not a soup person? Well for the sake of this metaphor pretend that you are. A soup only needs one burner set to a nice steady simmer so the flavors can blend together nicely. You stir it every so often, check the flavor, and add a bit more kick as needed.
For me, I call that dish friendship. It’s dependable and brings comfort all year long. Especially in those moments when life seems bleakest. It’s complex, but not in the same way my family relationships are. It’s a meal I can survive on, and Thor knows I have, but I need both it and my main course in order to thrive in this life. What you set in your soup pot is the element of your life that won’t implode if you look away for five or ten minutes to tend to another dish but is still vital in creating a memorable feast.
We’ve got our main course and our soup dish. That still leaves us with two burners, two ovens, and the rest of the griddle. For me, the remaining burners and griddle space belong to my side dishes: health, career, and personal growth. The number of side dishes you have will be determined by how much of the griddle and how many burners you need to cook your main dish. Your side(s) are those things that compliment your main course without overshadowing it. My health, career, and personal growth are important elements because they aid in creating a well-rounded life by providing the tools I need to maintain the parts of my life that matter the most to me. What are the elements of your life that compliment your main course without demanding to be the star of your feast?
At this point, we’re breaking a sweat and the kitchen smells amazing, but we still have two piping hot ovens ready. What are those for? They are the bread and dessert courses. Also known as the filler and icing on the cake. These are the things that one could do without in their life but having them brings great joy and ensures a fulfilling life feast. For me, those are hobbies and bucket list items. These are items that aren’t tied to personal growth but instead add to the overall joy in my life. Things like tattoos, running a race, or celebrating New Years in Sydney aren’t vital to my satisfaction with life, but accomplishing these things did and would add that extra something to my feast that would ensure I went out of this life stuffed and victorious by my own standards.
Everyone’s feast is different. Everyone is fulfilled in life in their own way. For some their main course is work and their baked goods are their relationships with family and friends. Only we can decide how our feast will be constructed. It is our job as the head chefs of our lives to take the time to sit down and look at what success and life fulfillment truly means for us and then set to work cooking a feast that will be enjoyed long after we’re gone.
Our lives aren’t easy bake ovens or simple four-burner stoves where we can turn two off and keep on trucking. It’s time we turned the work-life balance narrative on its head and realize it’s all part of the same life. Balance is a lie. We’re all in search of fulfillment. Balance is just the hustle they sell you to keep you slaving over a small stove. Get a bigger stove and cook up the life that brings you the most joy. You’ll be glad you did.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
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