Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What We've Been Up To

I can't believe that it's already the middle of September. This month has flown by! I've been on "summer break" since the 2nd week of August, but life seems busier that before. I think that part of that is that I'm going back to teaching (part time) this fall, and whenever you have something you're not completely looking forward to, time seems to speed by.

Steven:
We started potty training about 3 weeks ago, and it is going extremely well. He stays dry most of the day and has been wearing underwear a lot of the time. He's even started telling me when he has to go and is going almost as soon as he sits on his potty seat. Instead of potty training in the bathroom (which is pretty small), we keep his potty seat in the living room with a big plastic mat underneath it. He sits on it when he's watching Sesame Street or his Noah video, and that has worked really well.

Steven is currently teething--he's getting SEVEN new teeth right now, and he only had eight to start with! Fortunately, he's a great teether, and I didn't even realize he was teething until I felt around in his mouth out of curiosity.

He's started developing an imagination and likes to pretend. He is completely into Noah and loves watching his Noah video. Last week, he pretended to call Noah on his cell phone and asked him how his boat was :) It is so fun to watch him learn more about God!

Steven's also adding new words to his vocabulary everyday. This week he started saying haircut, arm pit (learned that one from bath time!), washcloth, and a couple others that I don't remember anymore. I'm having a hard time understanding a lot of what he's saying since he's using so many new words, but I'm catching on as he uses them in context or shows me what he means.

Michelle:
The peanut is on the move! She is crawling (but not on her hands and knees yet) like crazy and wants to be wherever her big brother is. Steven didn't move until much later, so it's a huge adjustment to have to chase her down all the time! She loves to play with toys, and I spend a lot of time making sure that Steven doesn't steal her toys. She rarely cries when he does, but it's not something we want Steven doing. He is starting to catch on, though, that if he brings her a different toy, she'll usually drop the one that he wants :)

Michelle is also learning new things. When I went to get her out of her crib last week, she was clapping, and just today, she pulled up on the baby gate so she was on her knees. Of course, she was crying because she was over tired and Mark and Steven were on the other side of the gate. She's definitely not as content playing by herself as Steven was, but I am seeing more and more that Steven was an exception to the rule.

Mark:
Mark's been super busy at work consolidating the Michigan and Ohio offices of the company. His overtime was eliminated over a year ago, but he is now approved for a few hours during the busiest week of the month. It does mean that he is home more, and that is definitely nice. Steven loves playing with him, and Mark enjoys teaching him all about basketball and baseball.

Me:
As I mentioned, I'm going back to teaching a week from tomorrow. I haven't taught since Steven was 4 months old, so I'm nervous about going back. On top of that, they have 100% changed the curriculum this fall, and I missed all the training in the spring since I didn't know I'd be teaching. It used to be a literature-based writing class, and now there is no literature in the book at all. I've been working through the different material I've been given, and my project for the week is to read the new text. It's also going to be a huge adjustment to go from working one day a week with no prep or grading to working three days a week and a lot of prep and grading, esp. since my class is full.

Tomorrow the kids and I are meeting up with my parents during their layover at the airport, and I am really looking forward to it. Steven and I spent time with my dad last Saturday when he was flying through, and Steven was crying "More Grandpa, more Grandpa!" in a very sad voice when we dropped my dad off at the airport. I felt so bad for him! This time I'm going to remember my camera, so I should have some good pictures to post tomorrow. I've hardly taken any pictures this month, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Pictures posts are so much more interesting!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Appalling

In an earlier post, I talked about issues with Black hair, but this article I just found is truly appalling.


Cosmetic advertisements in Asia are targeting men with blunt campaigns aimed at skin color that one lawmaker labels racist.

In one TV commercial, two men, one with dark skin, the other with light skin; stand on a balcony overlooking a neighborhood. The dark skin guy turns to his friend and says in Hindi, "I am unlucky because of my face." His light skin friend replies, "Not because of your face, because of the color of your face."

Suddenly the light skin guy throws his friend a cream. It's a whitening cream.

It is one of several television commercials aimed at men in Pakistan and India. In the end the darker skin actor is shown several shades lighter and he gets the girl he was after. Most of the ads end up that way.

The commercials are sending a not so subtle message to men in Asia. Get whiter skin and you'll get the girl and the job of your dreams or at the very least you'll be noticed.

"We always have a complex towards a white skin, towards foreign skin or foreign hair." Jawed Habib says. Habib should know, he owns a chain of 140 salons located in India and across the world. "We Indian people, we Asian people are more darker so we want to look more fair."

Skin whiteners were once targeted only to women. Now the products are a hot commodity for men. Many of the brands being advertised for men are well known around the world including Nivea and Garnier.

A marketing study found sales for skin whitening creams have jumped more than 100 percent in rural India and sales for male grooming products are increasing 20 percent annually.

Hindustan Unilever, one of the largest consumer products companies in India, noted in recent annual reports that "skin lightening continues to be a major area of emphasis" for its skin care division.

And Emami Ltd., the company which produces "Fair and Handsome," sent CNN an email saying: "Fair and Handsome is a market leader with almost 70 percent market share in India and doing extremely well in Gulf countries and the Middle East as well."

But in a country where most people have brown skin, the message being sent to men and women has some people outraged.

"Basically if you need a job you have to have white skin. If you want a good partner, a companion you need white skin and you always seem to get it once you've used the fairness cream. Basically I think it's completely racist and highly objectionable," says Brinda Karat.

Karat is a member of India's Parliament who has made formal complaints about the advertisements to Indian authorities. She says they ads are simply playing on a social stigma that already exists in India.

To get a good look at the pervasiveness of the stigma attached to dark skin in India all you have to do is look at the want ads for Brides and Grooms in the newspaper.

Arranged marriages are still commonplace in India and the advertisements for brides and grooms often list physical attributes of the person being sought. Many of the ads list "fair" as one of the wanted physical characteristics.

"I mean at a time when we're talking about talents and skills, and the need for the accessibility to that to develop our potential; what does it do to dark persons' self esteem? Karat says. "I think it should be stopped."

But the product makers say they are simply giving the public what it wants and a few Indian consumers we spoke with agreed. Deepak Rajput said: "Everybody wants to look handsome and beautiful, why not me?"

Salon owner Jawed Habib says he will accommodate if that is what the customer wants but he doesn't push the skin whitening products. "Why do you even think about it?" He says: "Let's accept the way we are."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Good Hair"

When Chris Rock’s daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl's head!

Good Hair visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, and self-esteem of black people. Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven SymonĂ©, Maya Angelou, and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question.

What he discovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn’t always benefit the black community and little Lola’s question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside.

Watch the official trailer here. (Not all content is appropriate for the younger audience.)

Why Hair is Such a Big Deal

I just read the article "Why Michelle Obama's Hair Matters" on Time Magazine's website. (And no, Michelle was not named after her!) Most non-black people have no idea how important black hair is and how much controversy there can be over how women wear it. Over the past 1 1/2 years, I've been educating myself as much as possible on it. I've taken a class on it, I've read books and magazines and websites about it, and I have stopped many, many people in the store or on the street or at work to ask them about it. I also ask my own personal expert, Auntie E, whatever questions I have. (And she is very quick to tell me what I'm doing wrong!)

The biggest debate seems to be over natural hair--hair that has not been permed (straightened) or had anything else done to change the texture of it. Michelle Obama's hair is far from natural, as it most black women's hair. There is a growing movement that pushes for natural hair, but our society definitely treats women differently when they have natural hair instead of permed/altered hair.

The article explains that "the choice many black women make to alter their hair's natural texture has undeniable historical and psychological underpinnings. It has been attributed to everything from a history of oppression and assimilation to media-influenced notions of beauty and simple personal aesthetics. But one thing is certain. For the many who wear straightened styles like Michelle's, the decision is deliberate, and the maintenance is significant."

What caught my attention the most, though, was what several women said about wearing their hair natural in the workplace:

Some black women note that Michelle's choice to wear her hair straightened affirms unfair expectations about what looks professional. On Blacksnob.com a reader empathized with Michelle's playing it safe in the White House and outlined her own approach: "Whenever I start a new job I always wear my hair straight for the first three months until I get health care. Then gradually the curly-do comes out." Another echoed the practice: "I wait about four to six months before I put the [mousse] in and wear it curly ... I have to pace myself because it usually turns into a big to-do in the office."

Obviously, as a mother of a black girl, this is a very significant issue for me, but it also applies to all of us, even you. We always say that we aren't racist or at "color blind" (which really isn't a good thing, but that's another post), but how would we react if someone such as Michelle Obama went natural (aka kinky)? Our immediate reaction is that we wouldn't really have a reaction at all, but I guarantee that almost all of us would have some sort of reaction (and probably not a very positive one) if that did happen.