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Lianne Downey Posts

Women Unite: It’s Time for a Jeans Rebellion

This is a rant and a personal campaign against the jeans-ing of American women. It’s time for a Jeans Rebellion!

Collectively, we’ve lost our sense of style. Men look good in jeans. Women? Not so much. So why is nearly every woman at the mall and the farmer’s market clad in them? Because they’re easy? Or are we universally depressed and want to make ourselves look bad? Well, we’ve succeeded.

A recent trip to an upscale mall confirmed it: nearly every woman wore jeans. I have it on good authority that only the rare female looks appealing in denim. Old, young, in between, tall, thin, short, plump—doesn’t matter. For most they’re terribly unflattering, says my male resource. Same with that stretchy active wear that might feel comfortable but does nothing for your, um, profile.

So why wear these things?

They crush, they bind, they confine, they pinch, they are stiff and unyielding and hot and constrict your movements. Ah, now maybe we are getting somewhere. Are they a device, a plot to keep women in check?

Are You Race Neutral?

Last Friday, the day before an event in Charlottesville, Virginia, which may soon bring down a President, a total stranger and I experienced a profound moment that made the next day’s clashes that much more horrifying, and yet, gave us an insight into how the country might heal.

It’s not your usual rhetoric from social scientists, as helpful as that might be. Our solution is what you might consider “out there” in terms of its underlying philosophy. But if this stranger and I could see, feel, and understand it—simultaneously—isn’t there hope for others whose lives seem, on the surface, to come from completely different cultures? A divide we have trouble crossing?

What unites us? We are human. As human beings, we all possess … hair. As women … it matters to us. A lot. We think about it every morning. We fret over it and we style it and we curse it and we admire ourselves in mirrors when it does what we want it to. And yet—we have a natural divide. Your hair and my hair and her hair and his hair—they are all unique, right? What you have to do with yours to get it into shape, well, it’s something I might not know about.

If this stranger and I could see, feel, and understand it …

The philosopher/psychologist William James wrote about this in a famous essay titled On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings and it’s one of my favorites. We will never, ever, ever fully understand the “other”—unless we step outside of our insular worlds and ask. Even so, we only have words to tell us and anything we can find in our own experience that relates, roughly, to that description.

I had a need to know something highly personal about an “other,” so that’s exactly what I did. I stopped a total stranger and asked her about her hair. Not so strange you say? It happens in salons? We were shopping in a Target store, completely minding our own business inside the usual silent divide. Still not unheard of? I am white and the woman is black.

5 Lessons from Hawk Totem: The Harriers Who Live Here

For months now we’ve been learning from a pair of Northern Harrier hawks nesting near our three townhouse balconies, which overlook the San Diego River Gorge. Hawk totem. Teaching us how to be fierce in our commitments.

Whoosh! I was standing on the small balcony outside our bedroom when from behind the wall on my left swooped a v-shaped pair of grey wings that soared up into a tall eucalyptus, about four trees to my right. A few minutes later, I could see him soaring back with a stick held perpendicularly in his beak like a trapeze artist’s balancing bar, longer than his body length. It was early March, nesting season.

How can he fly with that thing? I wondered. He landed in another eucalyptus just off our port bow, a few yards away.

Hawks tend to surprise me. I think of them as flying miles above, soaring on the air currents. But I’ve also had the startling realization that one was sitting on the fence four or five feet away, watching me water the garden bank long before I noticed his magnificent presence. Only then did he choose to open his wings and veer away, slipping easily into obscurity among the back yard tangles of suburbia.

That was two houses ago, and a different species. He taught me to Pay Attention.

Hawk is one of my totem animals—a messenger who speaks to me of things I might be neglecting or forgetting. If you’ve read my post about rabbits, or beetles, you know that I believe animal encounters relate to our current state of mind and body. They are not as random as we might think, and they almost always have something to teach us about our life at the moment.