Privilege

I woke up this morning to the sound of rumbling thunder outside my window.

I love waking up to rain. It is peaceful and cleansing.
To me it feels like the world is giving me permission to take a break and be present.

But then, I picked up my phone and did a quick scroll through Instagram and every bit of peace left my body and was replaced with a tightness in my chest.

I saw people crying. I saw broken glass. I saw fires. I saw people pushing each other and dragging each other. I saw people yelling. I saw fists in the air. I saw kneeling. I saw Courage, I saw fear. I saw love. I saw hatred. I saw solidarity.

“this is not 1968. this is 2020. tell me why we are still here. a young black man wearing a t-shirt saying “stop all violence” gets dragged away by police officers both in uniform and civilian clothes. i’ve seen enough and i’m over it. | BROOKLYN, 2020” All photos are from protests in New York captured by my friend Julian (@mf.julian)
All photos are from protests in New York captured by my friend Julian (@mf.julian)
All photos are from protests in New York captured by my friend Julian (@mf.julian)
All photos are from protests in New York captured by my friend Julian (@mf.julian)
All photos are from protests in New York captured by my friend Julian (@mf.julian)
All photos are from protests in New York captured by my friend Julian (@mf.julian)
All photos are from protests in New York captured by my friend Julian (@mf.julian)



I saw myself being part of the problem.

I have been too passive on this issue.

In one of the very first LTMLS meetings we talked about how even though there were mostly white women, that I wanted to be and feel inclusive for ALL women. I am not interested in a white-washed version of sisterhood. I want the real thing. All people – because the only way we can change the world is TOGETHER.

But if I’m being honest, I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how to make that obvious and I was scared of saying something wrong. I didn’t realize that all I had to say was:

If you are a woman of color please know there is space for you here. We want to hear your voice. You are my sister and I love you.

I am sorry I didn’t speak up sooner.
I own that. I own my privilege.
I choose to be part of the solution.
I am doing my part now.
I will stand up for you.

To stand with our brothers and sisters, I created a list of resources below based on the core pilars of Letters to My Little Sisters as a brand: Education, Community, and Reflection. We want to dive to the root of the issue. We want to build up the leaders and create lasting change that starts in the heart and perspective of the individual.

I tried to keep the list relatively small, but if you begin to feel overwhelmed as you read it, just look for 1 or 2 things that you can commit to doing today. Then come back and pick 1 or thing for the next day, and so on.

Education:

“Unpacking White Feminism” by Rachel Cargel ($35 Lecture) – In order to better serve ALL sisters through LTMLS I will be taking notes on this lecture over the weekend.

If you find yourself holding back because you are required to purchase, please remember that anytime you buy something, it is an act of support for that person or organization.

Community:

Please note that it is of the UTMOST importance that our privileged voices join the conversation. Minority groups need allys. It is the same reason it is so powerful and healing to have a mans voice speak up in support of female rape survivors. POC are tired of fighting. It’s our turn to stand up and support them.

  • Show up at a protest (please stay safe, aware, and be smart)
  • Text a POC (person of color) you care about and check in on them.
    “Hey, I’ve been seeing a lot of crazy stuff on the news and I just wanted to check in on you and let you know that I care about you. I’m here for you and I support you.”
  • 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice Resource Guide written by Corinne Shutack.


Reflection:

  • “#Dothework” Course (FREE) – 30 challenge with daily information, community, and conversation around the ways you can be actively and intentionally anti-racist. by Rachel Cargel. Maybe grab a friend and do the challenge together!
  • There are two resources that are available in the LTMLS shop right now to help you do the work:

Invisible Knapsack or Privilege” by Peggy McIntosh Is a simple exercise I did in my first year of college that opened my eyes to privilege and I recommend that everyone do this at some point in their lives.

Personal Check-in – this one is for EVERYONE. If you are feeling utterly overwhelmed by the news media or by the pain of your loved ones, or are feeling drained from being caught in such a tumultuous season, this packet will help you process all of those uncomfy emotions and help you create a simple action plan. We are responsible for effectively processing and acknowledging our feelings so that we can show up to do our part in the world from a place of love and peace.

Thank you to every voice that came before me that taught me, asked for justice, and worked for equality. I am happy to join in the chorus and I invite you to do the same. Together, we will create a more compassionate world.

A Letter to (Myself? You?)

Today I shared a video on IGTV reading aloud a letter I had written for my “therapy homework”. Below you’ll find the words I shared if you prefer reading over listening….

Description:

A few days ago I shared a snippet of a letter I wrote on Instagram and asked if you would be interested in reading the full letter. 100% of the people who voted, voted YES.

In therapy last week we started “Belief Work”. Belief Work is identifying beliefs I have about myself that are not serving me (lies), uprooting them, and replacing them with truth. A lot of these detrimental beliefs took root after my rape experience in college, and although I have healed a lot from that time, there are still a few things that I haven’t been able to shake… I haven’t quite healed what being raped made me believe about myself.

In our previous session, my therapist invited me to imagine that an 18 year girl confided in me about her own survivor story and believed that she was “dirty”, “a slut”, “unlovable” and “worthless” (all the words I had used to describe myself at the time) and what I would say to her.

This scenario is not very far fetched for me. Many young women and men have trusted me with their stories after I became vocal about mine, and I have found that each time I try to comfort another survivor, I tell them something I needed to hear myself. This letter, I quickly discovered, was no different.

Letter:

Dear little lightworker,

This letter is to remind you of the TRUTH of WHO YOU ARE.

I know how it feels to be where you are right now. Lost in the empty dark room of your mind, numb to all that is both inside and outside of you. It feels as if the connection to your inherent divinity – your inherent goodness – has been severed and with it, your identity has been lost too.

Luckily, just because it seems that way, doesn’t make it true.

In fact, I invite you to look at this experience as an initiation of sorts – no matter how brutal – this experience is an invitation to dive deep.

Since you were little you know you were called to do great things. You were called to have a big impact on people’s hearts and minds.

But in order to realize this calling, you must intimately understand the depth of the human experience, in all forms.

There is beauty in all of it. In every tear and every gasp of air.

It is beautiful because no matter how much you feel, believe or experience the ugly of this world, NOTHING can change the truth of your nature. None of it will ever change how much you have to give or how much you are worth to the world.

In fact, one could argue that the more tragedy you endure the more you will have to give. But ONLY if you are able to transmute those experiences into light.

Sweet one, you were born into this world a shining bright and beautiful soul. I’m convinced there were shimmers of fairy dust around you when you emerged from your mother’s womb.

So pure.

Purity is not a thing that can be lost by the way, only forgotten.

This life is about remembering who you are.

I know what you are searching for desperately in the arms of strangers. You wish to be SEEN because you can’t see yourself. But I am here today to tell you that I see you. I know your truth. I can see it clearly without the obstruction of the dark, and you need to know that what I see is beautiful. You are just as bright and wonderous as the place from which you came.

Everything you feel right now can and will be healed.

The triggers will go away, the Numbness will dissolve into joy. However, the confusion will come and go until you are able to solidify your faith in yourself and in the universe.

You may not believe me now, but a day will come when people won’t be able to do anything but smile when they see you.

You are already the warmth you seek.

You are already the bravery you need.

You are already the love you desire.

It is all there inside of you already, waiting for you to take notice.

Love, Annabelle

View this post on Instagram

A few days ago I shared a snippet of a letter I wrote on Instagram and asked if you would be interested in reading the full letter. 100% of the people who voted, voted YES. In therapy last week we started “Belief Work”. Belief Work is identifying beliefs I have about myself that are not serving me (lies), uprooting them, and replacing them with truth. A lot of these detrimental beliefs took root after my rape experience in college, and although I have healed a lot from that time, there are still a few things that I haven’t been able to shake…. I haven’t quite healed what being raped made me believe about myself. In our previous session, my therapist invited me to imagine that an 18 year girl confided in me about her own survivor story and believed that she was “dirty”, “a slut”, “unlovable” and “worthless” (all the words I had used to describe myself at the time) and what I would say to her. This scenario is not very far fetched for me. Many young women and men have trusted me with their stories after I became vocal about mine, and I have found that each time I try to comfort another survivor, I tell them something I needed to hear myself. This letter, I quickly discovered, was no different. PS I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THE DINGING IN THIS VIDEO! The general manager from the restaurant was messaging me about new equipment ??‍♀️

A post shared by [Formerly @annasbanana123] (@letterstomylittlesisters) on

Let’s Get Waxed

I laid on the waxing table with my knees spread, trying to keep my tears hidden under the fluorescent lights.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I heard…


I first got body hair around 11 or 12 years old.

I didn’t really notice it until one day in gym class, my friends and I sat in a row with our legs out in front of us. We were observing the stubble on our shins. Some of my friends had dark stubble, some had softer stubble, some barely had any, and others, like me – hadn’t shaved at all.

“If you ever feel like shaving your legs, don’t,” my mom told me a year or so prior to my friends leg hair competition in gym class, “let me know and we will get you waxed instead so you don’t get stubble like me.” Her legs were kind of prickly like some of my friends.

So later that afternoon, when I got home from school, we made an appointment. The idea is that waxing over time destroys the hair follicle and actually makes the hair stop growing or grow lighter. The next time my friends and I compared legs, I won the smoothest.

“They’re so soft!!” They exclaimed. “Did it hurt?”

“Not really” I lied. 


The first time I got my bikini line waxed was summer after high school. My friend invited me on a cruise with her family and neither of us wanted to worry about shaving in a tiny cabin bathroom and I didn’t want to irritate my skin shaving every day. Bumps and stubble along a bikini line are not cute… I remembered from that day in middle school that stubble = ugly.

I’ve been waxing since – even though I hate going to the appoints because as you can imagine, having hair ripped from your genitals in chunks fucking hurts.

BUT I was conditioned to HATE my body hair. And I’ve learned how to breathe through the pain of the strip. (Literally, you do breathwork to minimize the pain you feel – it doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me!)


So last week, my 1034th time (or something like that) at European Wax Center, I walked in confidently, made friends with the front desk girl & chatted a bit with my specialist as she did my eyebrows and waxed my lips.

It was my first night back in like 2 or 3 months. Which is a LOOONGGG time since I normally go every 3 weeks. In that time I’ve been doing a lot of work emotionally and spiritually and also A LOT of traveling & moving around.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been here” I warned her.

“Hey there’s nothing wrong will all natural” She pulled the first strip and my chin started to quiver.

I managed to hold myself together long enough to pay and walk out to the parking lot before I totally lost it. The cries that came out of me sounded like they belonged to a scared 10 year old girl. My whole face was wet & each inhale was sharp and I thought I might work myself into a panic attack in the parking lot.

Then I heard it again, “Why would you do this to me?”

Recently I had been learning a lot about “the inner child”. It’s this idea that everyone at their core is this little boy or little girl that wants to play, be creative, explore and be loved. However, as we grow up we tell ourselves “no I don’t have time I have to work” or “no I can’t do that I have other responsibilities to take care of.” Denying our selves of the freedom and exploration we crave makes us miserable. I had just started to learn the ways that I shut myself down when this happened.

Over the last 2 or 3 months, I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to accept more love for myself and embracing this childlike side of me.

For the first time, I heard little Annabelle speak to me, “Why would you do this to me?”
I didn’t know what it meant.

I just knew that for the first time, getting waxed felt like I was being punished.
I felt like I had been tricked or lied to.

The truth is, every time I look in the mirror I have to practice gratitude for the body I have and what my body allows me to do – otherwise, I get stuck in a self-loathing pit of doom and the insecurity leaks into everything. And if you want to know the things that adult Annabelle does not have time for, it’s self-loathing and insecurity.

My only explanation for this meltdown is that by after almost 3 months of practicing gratitude for my body JUST the way it is, I rid myself of the insecurity I had about my body hair, and then suddenly, I was back in the waxing room, submitting myself to a world of pain to get rid of a part of me I had grown to accept. 

I started waxing because I wanted to be pretty. 
I wanted to be confident.
I wanted to be desirable.

It was something I did because I felt ugly and part of me, I think, accepted it as punishment or penance for existing the way I was made.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned that body hair isn’t really that big of a deal. That a zillion years of evolution left body hair for protection, for warmth, and for comfort.

Over the past few months, I realized that personally, I don’t really care if I have body hair or not.

For the record, I don’t blame my mom for making my first wax appointment, she was preparing her daughter to live a culture that would be cruel to her for keeping her body hair. She was trying to make it easier for me to live in this world.

The sad part about this story is that I still feel like it’s something I have to hide. I know my culture doesn’t like to see women with body hair. And I don’t know if I’m brave enough to shock people with my hair yet.

I hope one day we will raise our daughters to embrace and celebrate themselves and each other. The way they are, the way they were made. And That they take ownership over their own bodies and only remove or alter hair because they want to, not because they feel like they HAVE TO.

If you have a Vagina…

I’ve wanted to write this piece for a while.

Like a really long time.

When I realized today that other people really are struggling with this thing too, I decided to .

So this is for the little sisters…

I’m talking about Vaginal health today because no one else is.

Mainly, Yeast Infections and abnormal discharge. (Omg Yay I know.) I’ve struggled with both and felt a lot of shame through the whole process. I didn’t really tell anyone, and when I did, I kept my voice really low.

And kept my legs crossed…. at all times.

I  had gone to the OBGYN a few times and asked for help, but neither of them had anything useful to say to say to me. “Everything looks fine, just wear cotton underwear and don’t douche”

Helpful…. thanks.

After a few weeks of particularly uncomfortable discharge, I called my aunt. My Tia. She’s the one that always asks me about how my sex life is (LOL)
I asked her if she had ever struggled with abnormal discharge.
“oh yes, almost my whole young adult life!”

When I asked her how she dealt with it, her voice got softer as she told me
“I just changed my underwear a lot”

I could hear shame strangle her words, and I got angry for her, for me, and for every other woman that struggles with this kind of thing.

The pain is bad enough but the shame is worse. The shame silences us.

I think for me, the shame came from the jokes that people made about women “smelling like fish” in high school. Those comments somehow aways linked back to being dirty, or promiscuous. (Our culture shames women for having a sexuality, but that’s another blog post… or 3)

I remember hearing people say those things in high school and still feeling shame even though I knew that those jokes weren’t true, because I struggled with weird discharge and  I was a virgin.

On top of that, vaginal health is something that I was never taught, so I thought there must have been something really, REALLY wrong with me.

75 % of women have experienced a yeast infection or have struggled with abnormal discharge at some point in their life. 

Why the actual EF do we not talk about this more? Why did it take 23 years for me to actually learn something about this, only after doing extensive research online??

So to fight the shame, to fight the stigma around the conversation about vaginal health, I decided to write this blog post.

Below, you’ll find a list of random things I learned (mostly about condoms) that helped me bring my vaginal health back to balance.

Here are the things no one taught me:

1. Sugar
We have good bacteria in our body that “eats”, for lack of a better word, bad bacteria. Bad bacteria is fueled by sugar (Glycerin), and sugar is literally in everything. Candy, bread, processed foods, salads at McDonald’s…

I was eating a LOT of spaghetti, so I cut back on that and actually noticed a difference. (Yes, I was eating that much spaghetti). When the bad bacteria get out of control, it can cause yeast infections.
(There is absolutely more to this, so feel free to do more research here)

2. PH
Healthy Vaginal PH is between 3.8 and a 4.5. Which is acidic. anything higher than 4.5 creates a great environment for bacteria to grow.  So it’s important to know what changes this PH.

For my journey, it was important to know that this was the thing I was trying to balance. There are also lists online about different foods that affect your PH level that might help!
More Here.

3. CONDOMS
I saved the best for last. If you get heated easily about Feminist topics, clear your immediate physical space of any flammable objects before you keep reading.

If your vaginal area gets irritated during or after sex, I’m 90% sure that it has NOTHING to do with you and everything to do with the condoms you’re using.

I used to feel burning and then develop a YEAST INFECTION after having sex. For a second I thought I had either developed a terribly strong allergy to latex, or contracted some kind of horrible STD, but after some research, I realized it was the FUCKING CONDOMS.

The condoms you buy at the gas station or Walgreens or CVS or the grocery store are your generic “drugstore” brand, mainly (70%) Trojan, and have a bunch of chemicals that are absolutely DETRIMENTAL to your vaginal health.

These are the top Toxic Chemicals that can be found in your average condom:

1. Spermicides – the chemical used to kill sperm can also cause micro-tears in the vaginal walls, which causes inflammation and can sometimes can lead to infection. After my partner and I used a Trojan condom with spermicide, I was so raw that I could barely walk.  Everything was inflamed and it was excruciating if anything touched it.

2. Benzocaine – This is a local anesthetic. Yes. It numbs you. It’s supposed to make men last longer, but it’s been tested and doesn’t really work. Instead, it actually can cause discomfort for men.

3. Glycerine – Glycerine is used in condoms as a lubricant. It can transform into a sugar if left in the vagina for too long (WTF?) and eventually throw off your body’s pH balance, which can increase your chances of contracting a yeast infection. 

4. N-9 – Supposed to reduce chances of contracting STDs, but it doesn’t really do much for that. Instead, it is reported to tear down cell walls making both partners susceptible to UTI’s

5. Parabens – Supposed to prevent bacterial growth, but causes Estrogen imbalance in the body and throws off your PH levels, which can cause yeast infections.

Read about the shit they put in condoms.
And more
even more

When I learned about all of this I was so angry that these manufacturers give absolutely no shits about I ran around and told EVERYONE I could. It was the best way for me to blow off steam… education!

But the lesson here is balance. Health is found in balance, so it’s so important to listen to what your body is telling you to find and keep that balance.

There’s Hope!

Safe Condoms:
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use condoms. Definitely still use them, just make sure you are super CLEAR about what you are putting into your body.

The Good Ones

I’ve used Glyde and L. Condoms and let me tell you the difference is incredible. Sex is NOT supposed to be painful. Who knew!? You can get them online or at Whole Foods!

Yeast Infection Remedy:
If you are just looking for relief from Yeast Infections I found some really awesome stuff that worked so quickly and helped me get rid of my issues FOR GOOD. (PS. Stop buying Monistat.)

Boric Acid Suppository  – This helps level out your vaginal pH levels. I used before bed and put a liner on because there is a little bit a leakage during the night and in the morning. but after 2 nights I was clear. (Monistat takes 7+ days). I also used a few times during/right after my period to keep everything level because hormonal changes during this time in your cycle can cause an imbalance of estrogen which can also trigger abnormal discharge.

Vulva Cream – Immediate relief. Really.

In the End…

Don’t just take my word for it. Do your research, pay attention to how your body reacts to things. You are no over-exaggerating, it is NOT your fault and you are NOT dirty for having these issues.

Take OWNERSHIP over your body and what you put in it. You have so much power in your hands, don’t let culture, big pharma, or even your mom, tell you what is best for your body.
Only YOU know that.

Thank You

Feminists are often mistaken as “Man Haters”.

And because I call myself a feminist, I also like to emphasize that I love, respect and admire both men & women equally. (Feminism MEANS the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men – READ THIS) 

Except after my last “situationship” went south a few months ago, I’ve been really jaded. I felt myself slowly slide into man-hating and I started to blame eveything on men, and thought that my life would be a lot better without them.

My professor in college told us that our experiences shape the way in which we see the world.
He told us that your expereinces are like bugs that fly into the windshield when you’re driving. They alter what you’re able to see, sometimes blocking your view.

So if you think about all of the expereinces that have gone “splat” against my view of the world, it makes sense that I got jaded…

I was raped by a man.
I have been talked down to by men.
I have been lied to & used by men.
I have been manipulated by a man.
I have had my dreams squished by a man.
I have been honked at & catcalled by men.
I have been sexually assaulted by men.
I have felt worthless because of the way men have treated me.

Men, have made my life way harder than it needs to be and hurt me in so many ways. These experiences have created a reeeeally nice layer of bug guts on my windshield, and after so many hurtful expereinces with men, I started to feel like I would never meet a good man in this world.

Dramatic I know, but remember my windshield was dirty, and any time I thought about men, I couldn’t see clearly – only a dirty windshield.

Last week, I assigned homework to our interns to write Thank You notes to three different people. I made it my homework to write each of them a Thank You note as well, and as I was writing, I thought it would be nice to write a note for each of the two men I work with too.

One of the men is Kelby,
and when I sat down to write Kelby’s note, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for him.

Kelby is disciplined, listens to loud Electronic music, works out so that he can “look good naked” (his words),  is very organized, clean, and leaves a lot of space inbetween you when he gives hugs.

I realized that he is a beautiful example of what a good man can look like – not becuase of his taste of music or love of working out but because of the way he’s treated me. And because of him, it’s impossible for me to be a “man hater” because to be a “man hater” I would have to hate all men, and I don’t hate all men because I love Kelby.

In my note to him, I thanked him for making me feel respected, heard and valued always. I thanked him for his vulnerability, his loyalty and for the way he communicates. At the end of the letter I asked him to hold on to these qualities, even though the world might tell him otherwise, because they make him an amazing man.

I made Kelby read the note before I left that day, and when he got down to the bottom of the letter he smiled, and gave me a hug. This time, with no space inbetween.

That day, I realized that we don’t celebrate our men enough. We don’t celebrate and thank them enough for the qualities that make them good humans. And I think we should because our culture constantly tells them that hyper-masculinity is the only way to be a man.

So I decided to write down a list of men in my life that I love and admire to write thank you notes to.
And that list is now longer than the list of men who have hurt me.

This has been one of the most healing things I’ve done.
Who knew that Thank You Notes could make such great windshield wipers?