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Terri Kneipp

on the subject of the feminine in our culture

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The Great Adventure

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The Fairer Sex

What’s Fair about Discrimination?

Equality under the law. Justice is blind. An interesting concept, but is this true in any shape or form? Are women treated equally by our legal system, by the laws established or carried out? We are horrified at how women are regarded in “other” countries, but how about right here in the good ole’ U.S. of A.? Surely we are far superior: women can work, vote, own property, get divorced, and even run for President. However, are laws slanted against women? Lately, my blood has boiled seeing some of the glaring examples of inequality play out right before my eyes.

Let’s look at a topic that affects us all, equal pay. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 states that men and women should be given equal pay for equal work in a given establishment. As well, discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability is prohibited in Title VII, the ADEA and the ADA. But, do any of us truly believe pay inequality has been eliminated? When a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, the facts speak for themselves. So, what did our dutifully elected officials do?

They killed the Paycheck Fairness Act for the fourth time in September of 2014, which was to improve and make modifications to the EPA, by a vote of 52 yeas to 40 nays when 60 votes were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. The reason for not passing the bill expressed by Senator Mitch McConnell was: “At a time when the Obama economy is already hurting women so much, this legislation would double down on job loss, all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers.” Republicans argued that women wouldn’t get hired because companies would be afraid of lawsuits. If they weren’t doing anything wrong, why would a company be afraid of a lawsuit?  Please!! Many companies explicitly forbid employees from discussing their salaries with the threat of dismissal. This bill was to give employees the right to discuss salaries without fear of recrimination, impose harsher penalties on employers who discriminate in pay and require employers to prove that wage gaps are not based on gender. As Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said before the vote “If it were reversed, I’d be standing here fighting for the men. It’s not right.”1 This link shows the April 2014 vote

Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican presidential hopeful, voted against the bill. When casting our votes in November, this is an issue women may want to consider. Sen. Bernie Sanders voted for the bill. Pay attention ladies, a lack of transparency is a key reason women are still underpaid; and, who doesn’t want transparency? What are they actually afraid of? Women gaining power, not accepting crumbs but expecting the cake. This is legitimized bullying at the highest level. All across the spectrum women are shortchanged, bullied and paying the price, especially those living on the fringe, struggling.

As we have all been hearing lately, all lives matter. Then, why do we not hear that women are incarcerated at a rate double that of men for primarily nonviolent drug-related offences getting little notice in criminal justice reform measures with African American women being incarcerated at a rate of 3 times that of White women and Hispanic women at a rate of 69% higher than White women.3 Many women and girls enter the criminal justice system with a background of emotional, physical and sexual abuse that is not taken into account with 85-90% having experienced domestic or sexual abuse.4

A major problem is that there are not gender-specific considerations. Many of these women are the primary parent, thus when they are incarcerated, rather than receiving treatment or rehabilitation due to traumatic past events or substance abuse, their children are placed in foster care. If the women are pregnant, although it is illegal, many are shackled during delivery.  How inhumane, not to mention dangerous for the mother and child, is our system? Why is this allowed to continue? I can’t help but wonder if this has to do with a system that is privatized and for-profit. Imagine….

When we looking at the current candidates, interesting facts should be considered. Cruz, a lawyer, strongly supports the private prison business; Clinton sees the need for reform acknowledging the inadequacies of the system; however, Sanders has asked for action to be taken against tax breaks that allow private prisons to avoid corporate income taxes by claiming their income is from rent and has voted in investing in alternative sentencing. Trump doesn’t address most of the issues other than undocumented workers and violent felons. From his comments, he has been a staunch advocate for being tough on crime ignoring the fact that crime rates have been declining for decades and feeding the false notion that we are facing a crime wave. Follow the money. Cruz and Trump are in favor of more private prisons with more prisoners costing taxpayers more money, but look at what the research shows.

“We delved deep into over 30 years of data collected from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities. The results are sharply etched: We do not know with precision what caused the crime decline, but the growth in incarceration played only a minor role, and now has a negligible impact.”5 What we also know is that women, especially poor and minority women, pay the highest price.

Can we afford more of these policies? We, as women, need to look at the harsh realities confronting our sisters, raise our voices by casting our votes to make a difference for those who can’t fight for themselves and for ourselves. We all deserve more!







What Will Your Daughters See?

Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty. Snow White. Rapunzel. These were the females from my childhood. Beautiful creatures waiting on their prince to rescue them, riding off into a bright, safe future free of the past, living on love and the minor conveniences that came with marrying the prince. Always the victims of some despicable, bitter stepmother or single woman. Did I expect to be rescued and run off to live in a land far away? No. Did I grow up thinking I didn’t have to work hard, be responsible and be prepared to fight my own battles? NO, certainly not! But…in reality, I wanted to get married, have children, be a caretaker, that’s just who I am.  Growing up I didn’t hear stories about strong, courageous women extremely often. Instead, I saw them.

The women in my world were many, varied, some spectacular examples of women ahead of their time, others from another place and time: but, all taught me lessons that have served me well. One of my grandmothers worked because she enjoyed her job and the camaraderie of the workplace refusing to quit when my grandfather retired, not wanting to stay home but choosing the path that was fulfilling to her, a sassafras to the end. The other never worked a day of her life out of the home, didn’t know how to drive and was content with the simpler ways of life… but, my, oh my, could she bake and comfort. Mile high lemon meringue pies were nothing to her: crusts so flakey they melted in your mouth…pure skill that I did not inherit, but skipped a generation and re-emerged in my daughters---yes! She also taught me to cherish the old hymns as we sat on her giant bed, sang The Old Rugged Cross, Standing on the Promises and What a Friend We Have in Jesus and felt the love and comfort they provided. There were other women: the women at my church who laughed and loved boldly, teachers who took an interest and encouraged a shy, but eager student, friends who shared their secrets and trusted they would be kept, and bosses who challenged me to learn and grow. What do our daughters see?

When my daughters were young they told me which princesses they wanted to be. Was it Cinderella or Snow White, Sleeping Beauty? No, Belle and Mulan were their favorites—smart, feisty, daring. Better, but still princesses that ended up with their princes. I remember thinking how can I guide them to be self-confident, capable women who will conquer the world? Leading by example was a piece of the puzzle. Buying books about famous, adventurous, successful females, I was determined that they understood that the world was their oyster. We read about queens, artists, writers, women who followed their passion contributing immeasurably. But, they also needed what I had: flesh and bone, living, breathing role models and they got it. A Meme, their grandmother, who had spunk and love to spare, was their first heroine, but there were many others who stepped up to the plate: the coaches who gave their time, teachers who pushed them to achieve and advocates who fought for the rights of all. It takes a village to raise a child and our village excelled. Now, watching them as they take on the world, they have become the examples!

Young, vibrant, strong-willed, my girls have turned into their own heroines. They don’t need to be rescued, but can be the rescuers. I grew up with fine examples and am blessed to have even better ones in them. The world is a different place now, with a generation of out-spoken, caring, opinionated, sassy women at the helm. They may still play dress-up and dance at the ball, but they also might be solving the problem, playing in the band, building the castle, or slaying the dragon all-alone. Encourage them to trust in their abilities and we, as a society, will reap the benefits while watching all the princesses shine! Dance with Cinderella, but remember the time goes swiftly, the clock strikes midnight and our time is up. What will your daughters see? 

Like A Girl

Yes! Like A Girl

Wow. I feel remiss. Evidently I was supposed to feel responsible for the inappropriate ways men have ogled me since I was 12 or to think only girls should have to dress conservatively for school. This week has been full of stereotypical negative phrases, images and responsibilities about or toward girls and women being bandied about, discussed in multiple arenas, debated ad nauseam in other words, my mind is spinning. Between school dress codes to a broader discussion on modest dress to limiting phrases, let’s dive into the deep end.

Early in the week on a ladies forum, the talk turned to modest dress: what was appropriate, how to help men behave themselves, should cleavage be shown or not, etc. This in itself is a powder keg ready to start a maelstrom. My first thought was that it’s not my job to “help men” control their impulses; but, also that it was demeaning to men, assuming they couldn’t control themselves. Give the guys some credit: they all aren’t lecherous, leering dolts who are unable to be respectful using common decorum in every day life. Luckily, I found a video for Christian men from a Christian man (, so if you are not a Christian, you may not see an issue, that isn’t the point. My point is taking the responsibility for any action off of anyone other than the person who is committing the action. If a crime is committed, it should never be the victim’s fault.  If I choose to wear a tank top that shows a little cleavage, heaven forbid, because it is summer, I have an ample chest and it’s freaking hot and some man stares, that’s on him. I am not dressing a certain way to elicit a given response, but I am also not going to over react unless the behavior is obnoxious and intrusive. Being bundled from head to toe in puffy ski gear, I have had men make comments that weren’t appreciated and I dealt with them as any mature woman would, swiftly, clearly and leaving no doubt of my meaning. With that said, dressing fairly modestly is what works for me.

Am I trying to help men? No! I grew up when movies showed men and women going into a room and closing the door, playing suggestive music while leaving much to the imagination. Innuendo is sublime: a little mystery goes a long way. The debate is ensuing concerning a local school’s dress code. Teaching children to respect, value each other and themselves including their opinions would be the way I would handle the situation. The code should address both sexes equally and fairly with the students having input. They are in high school, preparing to go out into the world, making adult decisions that will impact their futures. Shouldn’t we encourage them to start making decisions that don’t have dire consequences at an early age? Have a committee with students, parents, and teachers to draft a policy, let the student body see it and vote on it, then implement the policy. What wonderful lessons will be learned! The policy will more likely be followed with the staff not having to waste time being enforcers but doing their jobs, teaching, coaching, and being administrators.  Hopefully, the policy will use language that is empowering to students rather than demeaning or condemning as phrasing so often can be.

Words. Pretty, sweet, nice, helpful. A commercial ran the other day, showing a girl as she grew with typical instances where words thoughtlessly said played a role in her career path: don’t get your dress dirty, let your brother do it, that project is too complicated. You can imagine the ending. The fact is few girls go into the fields of math and science, probably because the wrong messages are sent from an early age without some of us stopping to think about it. The same can be said about other phrases that we neglect to notice and are powerfully destructive. When you hear or read the phrase “like a girl,” what is your reaction? Honestly, as a woman, I had not given this phrase much thought. Not that I ever use the phrase because it does feel disrespectful, but had it put limitations on a younger me? Had I unwittingly used other phrases that limited my daughters? Did I stop playing ball because someone said: “You throw like a girl” with disdain? When did doing things “like a girl” become associated with doing something in an inferior manner?  I was sent an interesting video that brought this point home. ( What was found was that most who hear “like a girl” have a negative connotation. This commercial is addressing this and attempting to change this perception. I am proud to do things “like a girl” now because I am a girl, so however I do anything is how a girl would do it: efficiently, logically, carefully, precisely, and energetically.

If we teach our children to feel proud of being girls or boys, of valuing themselves exactly as they are for their strengths, and to respect others for being unique individuals, then we won’t need to worry about dress codes, career choices, bullying. Our children will be happy and empowered not needing to diminish others in order to feel good about themselves. Let’s change the conversation play in the mud, climb the wall, and fix that tire. The next time I hear someone say: “you’re doing it like a girl,” I’m going to say thank you! How about you? What will you do?

Daddy’s Little Girls

Who are the main influences in little girls’ lives? Parents, siblings and friends at different stages each of these entities play a significant role. But, when it comes down to it, one of the biggest influences in many girls’ lives is their Dad, Daddy, Papa. The idea isn’t new; however what does it actually mean? What do they influence? Clothes…ha! Hair…not a chance! Boyfriends…oh, please…or do they?! They touch those hidden, squishy areas that are hard to pinpoint, but every person has deep inside, love, value and respect. The problem is as women we may not realize how our relationship with our fathers’ affects all our other relationships with men.

If we want society to value the feminine in all of us, then we have to start with women valuing themselves. Where do they learn to respect, honor and know their worth? Through the first men in their lives, you got it-Dad!  My daddy was wonderful at telling me I was smart, beautiful and special: I believed him. Being one of two daughters, I was allowed to try to do anything I wanted-paint the house, you bet; ride a mini-bike, heck yea; and, fix cars with my dad, yes sir. Responsible by nature, I was the typical over-achiever, not wanting to be a burden, not letting anyone take care of me because I could do it myself. I was taught to be self-reliant and independent. Those are admirable qualities that I am thankful to possess. However, having those attributes means I am the consummate caregiver not allowing others to take care of me-ever.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t have many rules that I had to follow. No curfew-call if I was going to be late, pretty well summed it up. To be fair, I was an easy kid, rule follower, never in trouble, so my parents trusted me. As a parent I understand that, but as a child I craved boundaries. I’ll never forget asking my dad for a curfew when I was headed out on a date and he looked shocked, finally stammering out: “Be home by 12, no later!” I whispered thank you feeling an immense sense of relief. My parents divorced when I was 19 with the thinking being that at this age it no longer affects a child---wrong! But, the real change came when my father re-married. Going from the main event to a footnote was devastating. The man I adored no longer saw me as important, or at least that was how it felt somewhere in the recesses of my heart. After divorce a time of reflection is common; hopefully, leading to emotional growth and renewal. Starting this process myself by reading 5 Love Languages, studying non-violent communication and dabbling in the Enneagram was necessary and rewarding, yet I wasn’t prepared for the “Doh” moment I recently experienced. Upon further introspection I realized how this need to feel cherished, protected and adored had translated for me to being valued and loved altering my perception and therefore my reactions, at times. Acknowledging where this need came from and what it was completely shifted my thinking. What a revelation, a release and a comeuppance!

Now, I do not mean to say I expect or even want a man to take care of me or adore me, well maybe not all the time. Why does this matter? In the terms of non-violent communication, trying to have our intrinsic needs met is what motivates each of us. This will affect the types of men that are attractive to us; the way we deal with the men in our lives on many levels; and, the emotional growth we may or may not experience. It isn’t about the man of the moment, but the man of the past!

Daddies take care of your little and older girls: they need your love and respect to help them grow into confident women who feel valued! Do your job well so some other shmuck doesn’t have to, but instead is lucky to find an emotionally healthy partner standing right in front of him! The rest of us, maybe we need to value dads in the rearing of children more giving them the love, respect and support they need. Here’s to dads, may they know their worth!