Thursday, April 30, 2009

What She Learned from Marching Band

Today i am proud to have been a marching band girl for 11 years:

QUARTZ HILL, Calif. (AP) — Don't mess with the marching band.

That's what California authorities are saying after a 17-year-old girl used her marching band baton to beat back two would-be muggers.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Michael Rust says the Quartz Hill girl was walking to school April 24 when two men approached her from behind, tried to grab her coat and demanded money.

Instead, one got a punch in the nose and the other a kick to the groin. Rust says the girl then beat both of them with her band baton before she ran away.

The men had not been caught. But Rust says there's a clear message to take from the encounter:
"The moral to this story is don't mess with the marching band girls, or you just might get what you deserve. Final score: marching band 2, thugs 0."

The Lost Generation

Thanks, Jackie, for sending this. Very moving message and clever video:

Obama's "Swagga"

Um, excuse me, but WHAT?!

Check out the commentary even before they start the interview, too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

UCLA Study On Friendship Among Women

A friend and coworker sent me this article last week in an email forward. We both work in research and have always valued empirical evidence. But this friend is also very holistic. She's been a nurse for over 40 years and is a certified acupuncturist. She likes to remind us that though science and "proof" is important, especially in our line of work (substance abuse treatment), it's just as vital to follow instincts, connect with one another, and be present in the moment. She forwarded this article along that contains research to support just that...

©2002 Gale Berkowitz
"A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research---most of it on men---upside down. Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded, says Dr. Klein. When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There's no doubt, says Dr. Klein, that friends are helping us live longer.

In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses' Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

And that's not all. When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate. Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That's a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships (Three Rivers Press, 1998). The following paragraph is, in my opinion, very, very true and something all women should be aware of and NOT put our female friends on the back burners.

Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women, explains Dr. Josselson. We push the m right to the back burner. That's really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they're with other women. It's a very healing experience."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

First Male-less Species of Ant

Seriously, please don't read into this and write in comments exclaiming, "ah ha! you think men are useless!" I am just putting this up as a new scientific finding that my brother sent along to me ;)

Asexual Ants Give up on Males

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

April 15, 2009 -- "Men, who needs them?" is a question sometimes uttered by frustrated women, but a widespread species of tropical ant has taken that position to the extreme by becoming asexual and only producing females, according to a new study.

The insect, Mycocepurus smithii, represents the first documented male-less species of ant, the scientists believe. What's more, all of its female ant colonies are thriving on clonal fungi, and appear to have stopped producing males a long time ago, puzzling experts who believe asexuality is evolutionarily disadvantageous.

Lead author Anna Himler explained that a life without sex might not be so bad after all.

"Sexual reproduction is costly in several ways and asexual reproduction -- the lack of sex -- can be advantageous," she said, offering four reasons.

First, "asexuality avoids the energetic cost of producing males, and thus doubles the number of reproductive females produced each generation from 50 percent to 100 percent of offspring," said Himler, a researcher at the University of Arizona's Center for Insect Science.

She added there is no need to expend energy trying to find a partner, genes are not broken up, and "the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or parasites" goes out the window.

The two main advantages for sexual reproduction, she said, are more effective elimination of deleterious gene mutations and "faster evolution via mixing genes with those of a mate."

For the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Himler and her colleagues conducted field surveys at hundreds of nests for the ant in Panama, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Brazil. The scientists failed to find any males.

They then collected colonies from five Panama populations of the ant and put them through a barrage of tests. DNA extracted from offspring showed that they were all clones of their mothers. Dissections of colony queens revealed they not only hadn't mated, but their mating apparatus had degenerated, indicating the species has probably been reproducing asexually for a long time.

Since certain bacteria can curb sexual activity in insects, the scientists tested for the presence of those, and even administered antibiotics to see if they could "cure" the ants of their no-sex state. Nothing happened.

Finally, they conducted "a fungal-switch experiment," whereby the ant's normal fungus garden -- which also happens to be asexual -- was replaced with a different fungus. The queen ants produced workers first but, again, all females.

Aside from having a sexless existence, the lack of males doesn't appear to change the ants' lives much since, as Himler explained, "in most ant species, males have little to no role in the daily activities of the ant colony...[so] the absence of males does not generate extra work for the female worker ants."

Jacobus Boomsma, director of the Center for Social Evolution and a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen, told Discovery News, "Time will tell whether this ant is an ancient 'asexual scandal' that flies in the face of commonly accepted theory or whether there is a good explanation, albeit perhaps an unusual one."

His "hunch is that the answer lies in this ant being extremely Catholic in its association with a wide array of fungal partners."

Humans are, of course, a sexual species, but "in theory, genetic engineering could in the distant future enable male-less reproduction," Himler said. "A female could then reproduce without any male mate, whereas a male would still need a female mate to reproduce because males don't have the reproductive machinery to make babies."

She added, "How such theoretical societies would look is difficult to predict."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day!

In case you aren't clear on terms and because I find Urban Dictionary ridiculously hilarious: tea-bagging

Way To Go, ScarJo!

This post may shock those of you who know me, because I am the absolute last person to keep up with pop culture and celebrities. However, I have a special place in my heart for stars like Scarlett Johansson who speak out against the media and for positive body image.

Johansson is preparing for a role in Iron Man 2, for which the tabloids claim, she is starving and over exercising herself to lose 14 pounds. ScarJo spoke out in an article featured in The Huffington Post on Monday about body image, irresponsible journalism, and making healthy choices:

"Eating healthy and getting fit is about commitment, determination, consistency and the dedication to self-preservation," She wrote. "People come in all shapes and sizes and everyone has the capability to meet their maximum potential. Once filming is completed, I'll no longer need to rehash the 50 ways to lift a dumbbell, but I'll commit to working out at least 30 minutes a day and eating a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and lean proteins."

My favorite part of her article is when she calls out the "media" and their "utterly lunatic" claims that she is losing so much weight and being heavily influenced by co-stars. ScarJo is super snarky in her response, and hopefully this will help set some "journalists" straight - we see celebrities' appearance up for discussion way too often (wasn't Jessica Simpson criticized for putting on some weight not too long ago?).

"Since dedicating myself to getting into 'superhero shape,' several articles regarding my weight have been brought to my attention. Claims have been made that I've been on a strict workout routine regulated by co-stars, whipped into shape by trainers I've never met, eating sprouted grains I can't pronounce and ultimately losing 14 pounds off my 5'3" frame. Losing 14 pounds out of necessity in order to live a healthier life is a huge victory. I'm a petite person to begin with, so the idea of my losing this amount of weight is utter lunacy. If I were to lose 14 pounds, I'd have to part with both arms. And a foot. I'm frustrated with the irresponsibility of tabloid media who sell the public ideas about what we should look like and how we should get there."

"I believe it's reckless and dangerous for these publications to sell the story that these are acceptable ways to looking like a 'movie star'... The press should be held accountable for the false ideals they sell to their readers regarding body image — that's the real weight of the issue."

"The concept of 'Stars Are Just Like Us!" makes us feel connected to lifestyles that can sometime seem out of this world. Yes, celebrities are just like us. They struggle with demons and overcome obstacles and have annoying habits and battle vices. That said, I would be absolutely mortified to discover that some 15-year-old girl in Kansas City read one of these "articles" and decided she wasn't going to eat for a couple of weeks so she too could "crash diet" and look like Scarlett Johansson."

Way to go Scarlett Johansson, really well said. Except wait, "celebrities are just like us"?? You ARE a celebrity: own it and do good by it, just like you did in this article.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about bullying lately, specifically bullying among girls and women. The more research i did on the topic, the more i found relating to bullying's effects on the victims, how girls bully, and the difficulty of breaking free of bullying. What i didn't find much of is WHY girls bully and how this bullying translates to adult female relationships.

Bullying among girls has been on the rise since the early 1990's. Also, the bullying isn't stereotypical physical violence you think of when "bully" comes to mind (though it can be). Bullying among girls usually takes on more subtle and calculated characteristics. The NCPC defines a female bully as a girl who "is popular, well-liked by adults, does well in school, and can even be friends with the girls she bullies. She doesn't get into fist fights, although some girls who bully do. Instead, she spreads rumors, gossips, excludes others, shares secrets, and teases girls about their hair, weight, intelligence, and athletic ability. She usually bullies in a group and others join in or pressure her to bully."

No wonder I came to the conclusion of "hating girls" in middle and high school. Obviously i didn't, because i am female myself, but it was the best way my 12 year old self knew to cope and to separate myself from the stereotypically female characteristics that were supposedly bad. You know, girls being portrayed as catty, oversensitive, and manipulative. Grown up me recognizes that not all women (and girls) are those things (though some sure can be...) but 12 year old me, who needed external validation, knew she'd get it most by identifying as little with stereotypically female traits as possible. I've heard women, again and again, note that "women (or girls) are so difficult to be friends with" or all their close friends are male because "men are easier to deal with." When i started to really think about this i realized we were being socialized to hate ourselves.

I think one of the biggest problems is girls aren't being taught the qualities they should be valuing. Qualities like cooperation, strength, diversity, warmth, respect, communication, responsibility, empathy, and many others. Instead, they're being judged based on their appearance, clothes, weight, and popularity (which fluctuates daily based on who's in their "circle" that day) and their actions to become popular based on those terms are only reinforced by movies, television, music, and toys.

Kimmi and Courtney talked about core self-esteem back in December. They discussed how it's created and nurtured and the dangers of being unaware of ones self-esteem or having false (merely outward) self-esteem as many "tough girls" do. Courtney has been working with the Dove Self Esteem Fund to raise self-esteem in girls and train dedicated adults to do the same. She mentioned a Dove nationwide study that found 7 out of 10 girls felt they didn't measure up in some way. Out of the girls that felt they didn't measure up, half engaged in negative behaviors like smoking, drinking, bullying, and disordered eating. Kimmi and Courtney also talked about the importance of responding honestly to our own feelings and being able to recognize them as apposed to rationalizing and pretending they are something else. This is a tough thing to do, especially for young girls. At that age, girls are often looking for external validation and not inward, at their actions, reactions, and emotions. But looking inward, and focusing on the positive values i mentioned earlier is what fosters self-esteem. However, if we're never taught to love our sisters, and we are taught that we don't quite measure up, how can we develop a strong sense of self, positive self-esteem, and close relationships with each other? Also, how can we begin to understand the damaging effects of bullying, especially in the way that girls bully, if we don't understand our own value?

So how does all this translate into adult female relationships? Well i think very similarly. I think core self-esteem and self acceptance has a lot to do with it, followed by having respect for others. Also, not knowing how to connect with people in a meaningful way and thus using "relationships" for manipulation and even punishment. I think a lot of times bullies get caught in a web of their actions and don't know how to connect with other women in genuine ways. They end up pushing others out and only having their negative thoughts and behaviors to focus on. This isn't necessarily their fault, like i said, girls aren't taught to develop honest relationships with each other from a young level.

Rachel Simmons wrote a great book on bullying, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, that is now referenced in most developmental psych classes. One of the terms Simmons uses is "relational aggression" which is described as any behavior intended to harm someone else through manipulation in relationships. As an adult, there are several adult women i know who utilize this. Some relational aggression tactics that are discussed in the book for adolescents and teenage girls, but i have witnessed adult women use, include: exclusion, ignoring, malicious gossip, intimidation, manipulation, alliance building, and cyberbullying. And though Rachel Simmons finally gave a much needed voice to young female bullying victims in her book, she doesn't address female bullying in adult relationships. To assume this behavior ends in adulthood, is naive.

Why do seemingly adult women engage in bullying? I think most of it is for the same reasons girls do - such as power, control, popularity, to become closer with someone else, manipulation, etc. But as adults, there is also often a competitive nature that goes along with bullying, as well as a sense of "keeping someone in their place." Both of these elements can somewhat be explained through socialization. We are constantly bombarded with messages of women competing with one another for men, jobs, fashion, appearance... We see a lot of this type of bullying at work or among "friends" during or after college.

Are you or your kids being emotionally bullied?? If so, below are some tips for parents and helpful links for resources. Also, feel free to share any stories you are comfortable sharing in the comments section.

Some Tips for Parents:

  • Involve girls in activities outside of school so they are exposed to different types of people
  • Encourage relationships with adults and other children who appreciate them for what they are
  • Be available to listen and don’t downplay the importance of an incident
  • Teach kindness and model that behavior
  • Talk about both sides of an issue. Girls may tell you about being a victim but not talk about being the aggressor
  • If your daughter is caught in the middle, encourage her to take the high road and support the victim, or at least not take part in the aggression
  • If necessary, see professional counseling.
  • Become computer savvy.
  • Do not allow your child to have a computer in their room or other isolated area. If they have laptops, set guidelines for where they can use it and the length of time they can use it.
  • Be aware of the online activities of your child
  • Research filtering and parental control programs for your computer
Some possibly helpful websites:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This Year at Passover

Last year I wrote about feminist Passover Seder alternatives, such as an orange representing the inclusion of all genders and sexualities at the table:

Susannah Heschel, a leading feminist scholar, is the woman responsible for popularizing the custom of an orange on the Seder plate. The story goes that during one of Susannah Heschel's lectures at a synagogue in Miami, an elderly rabbi stood up and said, "A woman belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on the Seder plate." "To show support for the changing role of women in American Jewish society, the tradition of placing an orange on the Seder plate began, and Heschel became a household name at many Passover celebrations around the globe."But don't be fooled... this isn't the actual story of the orange. In the early 80's a feminist Haggadah instructed that Jews place a crust of bread on the Seder plate to represent marginalized Jews, particularly Jewish lesbians and gay men, in the Jewish community. Although Heschel liked the notion of reintroducing oppressed groups into Passover, she did not agree that the symbol should be bread. Heschel felt that by putting bread on the Seder plate we would be indicating that gay men and women are violating Judaism like leavened foods (the bread) violate Passover. Heschel instead chose an orange to symbolize the inclusion of gays and lesbians (as well as others who are marginalized and oppressed within Jewish law and tradition). Heschel chose an orange for two reasons: 1. to symbolize the "fruitfulness of all Jews" (aka it's better when EVERYONE gets a chance to participate, and everyone benefits when all are included) and 2. the seeds, as they are spit out, act as a symbol of the homophobia and discrimination we are protesting.

Additionally, Heschel was more than a bit (rightfully) peeved when the story about the elderly male rabbi began to circulate because (she writes) "somehow the typical patriarchal maneuver occurred: My idea of an orange and my intention of affirming lesbians and gay men were transformed. Now the story circulates that a man said to me that a woman belongs on the bimah as an orange on the seder plate. A woman's words are attributed to a man, and the affirmation of lesbians and gay men is erased. Isn't that precisely what's happened over the centuries to women's ideas?"

Don't forget to bring an orange to your first seder tonight. And definitely pass along the story of why it's there.

This year at Passover i find myself feeling differently about Judaism and Israel, especially during a holiday that celebrates "freedom" and the story of the Jews' Exodus from Egypt to our "promised land." So much of the story this year is entangled with increased conflict in the Middle East and the basic human rights of the people living there, the Palestinians and Israelis alike. Rights like safety, shelter, food, education...

This year at Passover i am forced to consider the real meaning of the holiday, a time to remember and re-tell the story of my people. At my house though, we've never kept to the haggadah word for word, and even more rarely have we waited to eat until the final blessing. You see, the first night of Passover (tonight) is celebrated by the first seder, a time for families to come together and retell the story of the Exodus and think about how it affects each of us uniquely and the Jews as a whole. To do this we use a haggadah, a short book or pamphlet from which we read prayers, stories, and instruction. My family always tries (and fails) to read through the haggadah in it's entirety and instead we dive into the amazing spread that my mom miraculously creates. Matzah ball soup, chicken (free range chicken the past few years because she's good to me like that), kugel, charoset, apple pie, and lots lots more, all without flour. No one realizes that she spends days, if not weeks, preparing for this event.

My cousin, Mia, sent me an updated haggadah today that her dad found that incorporates feminism and even vegetarianism into the holiday's traditions. This version of the haggadah even includes a poem by Adrienne Rich:

Freedom. It isn’t once, to walk out
under the Milky Way, feeling the rivers
of light, the fields of dark—
freedom is daily, prose-bound, routine
remembering. Putting together, inch by inch
the starry worlds. From all the lost collections.

It also includes an interesting look at the Exodus:

"Passover celebrates freedom, exemplified in the story of our Exodus from Egypt. That story leads our entry into Israel—not exactly a simple redemption tale. Especially not now, as Israelis and Palestinians continue to fight for their mutual Promised Land, and to shed blood in pursuit of its ownership. In light of that situation, some of us may have complicated feelings about identifying with Israel. But “Israel” doesn’t refer only to the Land. “Israel” is the name which was given to Jacob after he spent the night wrestling with an angel of God. Therefore “the people Israel” can be interpreted as “Godwrestling people”—“people who take on the holy obligation of engaging with the divine.”

I've often felt the traditional haggadah was dated and often irrelevant, referencing the importance of sons (not "children" to include daughters) and fearful of the plagues that include lice, frogs, hail, and boils. These don't pose the same threat for us today as they did our ancestors. This updated haggadah urges us to consider the plagues of our time, such as:

Apathy in the face of evil
Brutal torture of the helpless
Cruel mockery of the old and the weak
Despair of human goodness
Envy of the joy of others
Falsehood and deception corroding our faith
Greedy theft of earth’s resources
Hatred of learning and culture
Instigation of war and aggression
Justice delayed, justice denied, justice mocked...

This haggadah also explains the tradition of the orange, "representing the radical feminist notion that there is—there must be—a place at the table for all of us, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. As Jews we constantly re-create ourselves; our symbol is a fruit that carries within the seeds of its own rebirth" and also the importance of an olive, which i had never heard before:

"The final item on our seder plate is an olive. After the Flood, Noah’s dove brought back an olive branch as a sign that the earth was again habitable. Today ancient olive groves are destroyed by violence, making a powerful symbol of peace into a casualty of war. We keep an olive on our seder plate as an embodied prayer for peace, in the Middle East and every place where war destroys lives, hopes, and the freedoms we celebrate tonight."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Taking Up Space

I've always been really interested in the idea of space in relation to gender. What i mean by that is how much space men utilize daily versus how much space women use and how that plays a role in sexism and weight issues. A lot of this intersects with standards of beauty and our culture's drive for women's thinness but i have always been a bit paranoid that it goes beyond just that. When i started studying body image and eating disorders i thought i had uncovered the greatest conspiracy of our time: the more women are pushed to be preoccupied with their weight and appearance, the less they'll have time, energy, and money to succeed in anything else.

I strongly believe that women's preoccupation with weight goes far beyond fulfilling an impossible standard of beauty. Our obsession with thinness is largely intertwined with the amount of space women are expected and "allowed" to take up in society, both physically and mentally. I came back to this thought today as I waited for a client in the lobby the substance abuse clinic where i work. I sat on the end of the bench in the waiting area as three men walked into the clinic. They continued talking to each other and two sat on the bench next to me while one remained standing. I moved as far to the side of the bench as i could and sat with my legs crossed and arms to my sides. The man next to me sat down and stretched his arms up and placed them on the top of the bench, making himself as wide as possible. There were other dynamics at play here such as status for example, because i am staff and they are clients, but i felt uncomfortable because this man almost had his arm around me... so i moved. As i stood by the wall i thought about space and just how much of it women are expected to take up, and give up, based on the circumstance.

None of us are new to the idea that advertising sells more than the products illustrated. Advertising and media also sell values and ideals that we're expected to buy into. For women, there is no greater concept sold with products than thinness. The video below is a short segment from Jean Kilbourne's lecture series about advertising and the obsession with weight and dieting. What struck me most about it was her discussion of a Virginia Slims ad that reads: "if i ran the world calories wouldn't count." But of course she doesn't run the world, and calories "do" count so she should grab a cigarette instead of eating. This ad blatantly instructs women to SMOKE instead of EAT. Women shouldn't eat, they should diet, they should take up as little space as possible, the thinner the better... but what does "the thinner the better really mean?"

The message of "the thinner the better" is an extremely pervasive attempt for women to become as thin and small as possible and thus take up as little space in the world as they can. And this message isn't just taught to us by mainstream media. It's taught in etiquette classes across the country. Women are instructed to sit gracefully with their legs crossed while men are usually found sprawled out, taking up as much space as they can on the chair. Men even reach their arms out when sitting, and make their frame as large as they can to take up as much space as possible. Women keep their arms at their sides, or crossed on their lap. Again, women are supposed to take up as little space in the world as they possibly can, be it with actions or their physical appearance.

I have seen a trend recently in advertisements depicting women with muscle and strength. It's about time women are shown kicking ass, lifting weights, and using their bodies in ways we haven't seen in mainstream media in the past. The obsession with thinness goes beyond weight and extends to women's place in the world and women's right to use 50% of the space in our environment.

What do you do to take up space? To make sure you are a known force in the world? Is this something you've ever considered or acted on?

My example may not be life changing but it's one i'll share with you: I love fall for many reasons, but one of the biggest is because i get the chance to feel like i exist in the universe while i walk outside. When i was younger (ok who am i kidding, i do it now, too) i deliberately step on the dry leaves on the ground and celebrate internally as each one goes "CRUNCH." I feel like my presence was known in the world with each leaf i squash. The noiser the better. I love that CRUNCH feel and love putting a sound to my walking through the world.

UPDATE: I posted this in the Feministing Community section, where there is currently a lot of discussion, feel free to add to it there, or here in comments :)