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Tag Archives: celebration of women

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Viola Davis, Shut Up Already

viola-davis-emmys-2015-speech-so-inspiringI’m sure that is what many people thought (or even said) when Viola Davis made her acceptance speech at the 67th Prime-time Emmy Awards this past Sunday night as she walked away as the first African-American woman to win the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

What started all of this?

Was it Halle Berry in 2002, who is still the only black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress, who mentioned “…every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance tonight because this door has been opened” during her acceptance speech?

Or was it Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech earlier this year that demanded “wage equality once and for all” and now Voila Davis’ proclamation that “[t]he only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

Or is it simply the other countless speeches, articles and studies written each and every year about the lack of roles and opportunities for women in Hollywood.

But to Halle, Patricia and Viola, you won? Isn’t that enough? When you stand to accept an award, must every woman make some political statement about the plight of Hollywood and opportunities for women in this country?

The orchestra conductor need not worry about the length of this answer because it is short and sweet – yes.

The question is not “how dare she make these types of statements at such prestigious occasions?” The real question is “how can she not?”

Stats-ViolaDavisHow can she not when only 31% of speaking roles in films are given to women and only 23% of protagonists in film are women. And behind the camera on the tip top floors of the high rise buildings in the C-suites, film studio heads are 94% white and 100% percent male while television network and studio heads are 96% white and 71% male, as reported by the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report.

I’m sure Viola Davis would have preferred to stand in front of the Emmy audience and simply thank her family and friends for all of their support. I can only imagine how Patricia Arquette’s mind must have been racing as she walked up the stairs to accept her Academy Award asking herself over and over again if she would truly speak the words written on the note in her hand. But they did and they spoke for all of us, not Black women or Hispanic women or Asian women – women period. That is no small feat.

It is a complicated issue for which right now we are only armed with a simple solution: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and we won’t stop, we can’t stop until the playing field is leveled.

As happy as I am for Viola Davis’ award at the Emmys (and I am ecstatic), I am equally disturbed that in 2015 we are still experiencing these types of “firsts”. And for the millions of dollars we hear that actors are receiving everyday for numerous roles to know that the woman who is possibly standing right next to them in the movie/television promotion poster doesn’t make the same wage is mind-blowing.

So thank you Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Regina King, Patricia Arquette, Meryl Streep, Dame Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Kerry Washington, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Mindy Kaling, Geena Davis and many many others for having the courage to use “your time to shine” for us. Ladies, continue to squeak that wheel until, as Harriet Tubman stated, “we all can cross that ‘line’”.

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There is No Good Cancer – Tara’s Story

“Doesn’t everyone?” was my response to the nurse practitioner after she ran her three fingers down the front of my throat, asked me to swallow and said, “I feel something.” To be 100% accurate, my response was, “Oh, my Adam’s Apple? Doesn’t everyone have one?” To which she replied, “Not women.”¹

In an instant, I went from the busy “self-centered” (“self-absorbed” is probably more accurate) carefree life of a 26-year-old MBA student who just applied to law school to a completely confused and frightened kid calling to make an appointment with a surgeon so I could get this “neck lump” checked out.

My mother and I sat in the surgeon’s office as the doctor explained that I potentially had a thyroid issue and he would need to take a needle – a long thin needle and remove fluid from the lump in my neck in order to truly assess the situation. What resulted from that fine-needle aspiration biopsy as the discovery that the one side of my thyroid gland was enlarged and definitely needed to be removed.

Oh but there was more…
There was also the possibility that my thyroid gland was cancerous and would need to be removed in its entirety; however, we wouldn’t and couldn’t know for certain until I was on the operating table. I sat there dazed as my mother asked, “Will she still be able to have children?” and other questions that if my brain was working maybe I could have asked but the words, “thyroid cancer” was the only thing I could hear.

My mother and I left the doctor’s appointment separately as she had met me there and she asked me if I was okay as I got into my car. Of course, I told her yes but “HELL NO” was what was really going on in my head. Is there cancer in my body? Will I need chemotherapy? Radiation? Will my hair fall out? Will I be able to finish graduate school? Go to law school? I had lost my father to lung cancer five years earlier so his experience, my devastation due to losing him was my only point of reference at this point. I thought of my family. I couldn’t imagine what my mother was thinking and feeling. I had no idea how I was going to tell my brother and sister.

And then my main questions hit me, “What in the hell is a THYROID and how in the hell did mine get CANCER?”

What resulted from that doctor’s appointment was a surgery, a cancer diagnosis, the complete removal of my thyroid gland, a 25+ lb. weight gain, over 2 years of constant doctor’s appointments, body scans, radioactive iodine treatments and a lifetime of management and I’ll be honest “worry”….never-ending concern and worry about reoccurrence, the effectiveness of drug regime and my future.
But I was blessed. I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, which accounts for 90% of the diagnoses and the cancerous cells tend to grow very slowly. I also consider it a blessing that I learned how precious life is at such a young age.

But like so many others, at one time in my life, I considered and actually told people that thyroid cancer was “the good cancer” to have. I shake my head now as I type this thinking how crazy I must have sounded. No cancer is good cancer. That is why they call it “cancer.”

That’s one of the reasons why I and Words, Wine and Women are so honored to be working with

 

Supporting Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

Tara Supporting Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Assoc., Inc.

ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association. Even though I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer many years ago (how many is not important – a true lady never reveals her age), ThyCa has helped me so learn so much about living as a thyroid cancer survivor and the latest research regarding thyroid cancer.

Now I’m dedicated to is helping spread the word about thyroid cancer awareness, encouraging people to “get your neck check” and if you have been recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer or are living as a survivor, know that you are not in this fight alone.

In order to show your support for ThyCa and dispel the myths about Thyroid Cancer, use the hashtag #TruthAboutTC today! For more information about thyroid cancer and early detection, visit www.thyca.org.

 

¹Women actually do have Adam’s Apples; however, due to the normal higher percentage of body fat of women, a female’s Adam’s Apple is normally unseen.

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Body Shaming Should Change to Body Respect

“You should lose some weight”, “Girl, you need to gain some weight”, “Maybe heels will make you more attractive”, “Wow, you in heels, look like a towering giant”. Body shaming, it comes from direct criticism of your body or it can come as “friendly suggestions”. Any way it is said, it hurts and, as women, we tend to internalize our hurt and begin being ashamed of the way we look. Even worse, we perpetuate the cycle by continuing the criticism of others. Our society should focus on body-respecting.

Source: Facebook – not a diet

No woman seems free of body shaming in today’s society. With social media’s outreach growing and Hollywood’s stardom becoming the main attraction, we see how even our greatest stars can suffer from body shame and body-critics. Instagram is now beginning to see a roll of “nude” celebrity women standing up for their own beautiful bodies. Kim Kardashian is putting out rumors of a surrogacy with her nude selfie, Naya Rivera also did a photo shoot where she poses nude with a fur stole holding her baby bump and Christina Aguilera does an Instagram post of her getting “personal” with her followers. Of course, there are supporters and then there are the naysayers. Yet these women are showing that their bodies, no matter the judgement of others, are beautiful!

Of course beautiful women are being body-shamed regardless of their shape, according to the media, the only perfect body type is no body-type. As seen when Serena Williams is called out for being too muscular in an article from Ben Rothenberg, who writes for The New York Times, “has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame”. Further insult happens when the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska is quoted to say,

“It’s our decision to keep her as the smallest player in the top 10,” said Tomasz Wiktorowski, the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska, who is listed at 5 feet 8 and 123 pounds. “Because, first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman.”

It is this mindset that a woman is only a woman if she is petite and feminine in every aspect of her life which makes being a woman difficult. In truth a woman can look or be any way that she chooses, just as a man can. Being athletic is not a crime, nor is being muscular. Yet it is not only the “muscular” women who are under attack. Claire Danes recently came out saying “I feel like my body is monitored” in an interview with People magazine. She goes on to say,

“I remember a couple of Emmys ago, Lena Dunham and I were on the carpet together. We were singled out and criticized for having different body types – I was too skinny and she was too big…She is a dear friend of mine, and it made me angry because this is just how we are.”

Words, Wine, and Women-305
And our bodies are exactly that, just how they are. There is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing shameful about being a woman. In reality, we all look different and have different traits. These are not flaws or imperfections but simply differences in looks. Our Words, Wine and Women team all look different, have different personalities, styles and looks, but each one is beautiful, just like you, the reader are.

It is a hope of mine that one day women AND men everywhere no longer have to feel the stress and shame of not having that “photoshop perfect” body. Of being proud of the body they have and realizing they ARE beautiful as is. The way this hope becomes a reality is by each of us appreciating our own bodies and respecting those who have a different body. Body shaming should become body respecting and it starts with us!

We want to hear your story of how body shaming has affected you and how you overcame it. Comment below, share on our Facebook page or tweet us @wordswinewomen. Let’s get the discussion going!

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New Online Talk Show Liberates Words, Wine and Women

This article originally appeared on tv.com on June 11, 2015.

Can we talk?

If you answered ‘yes’ to this question then you’re gonna love the new online talk show Words, Wine and Women.

The show comes from host and creator Tara Johnson, who recently appeared as a host on the ‘after-show’ online network AfterBuzz TV and co-host on Black Hollywood Live’s “Phenomenal Women.” Now, she’s gathered 5 diverse women to chat about edgy issues affecting today’s real woman.

I recently had a chance to interview Tara Johnson to find out what happens when Words, Wine and Women all come together.

Q: Tell us about your new show Words, Wine and Women?

TARA: Words, Wine and Women is an real look inside the raw honest fun that happens when women get together over a delicious glass of wine (or two) to discuss life, love, careers, parenting, dating, politics and everything else in between. Words, Wine and Women strives to create a community that celebrates the mystery, beauty and joy of being a woman.

Q: What’s different about your new talk show?

TARA: Several things make us different. The first thing is the women. Each of these women bring something completely different to the table – different life experiences, life views, career paths but I think each of us connect with our target audience. Plus, we’re just regular women figuring it out.

Our topics are different. Not that we don’t love pop culture. Who doesn’t love Beyoncé’s latest anything or Kim and Kanye’s latest escapade but we all know that those are not the only things real women discuss. We look for those topics that are not mainstream like medicinal marijuana for children. We question things in the hopes that you might look at some things differently like is technology helping or destroying present day relationships and parenting?

Lastly, the wine! Drinking wine isn’t different but I would also describe Words, Wine and Women as an infotainment program. Just like we offer our audience tips on online dating, we also want to bring in sommeliers who can educate our viewers on wine. I mean if you are going to drink it, let’s learn something too.

Q: Where do you find the topics for each episode?

The greatest thing about the topics we discuss is that we get them from everyday life. Anything can spark a discussion – a question, an article or a simple conversation. My co-hosts are so creative that the topics are endless.

Q: Were you shocked by anything you’ve learned on the show?

TARA: Yes, I didn’t know women could squirt! If you are not sure what that is or what that means, keep watching.

Q: What made you want to create a new talk show series from scratch?

TARA: I just thought there was a missing piece to how women are portrayed in the media today. So many of the depictions don’t look anything like me, my family or the women in my life. I wanted to create something that resembled how I interact and feel about other women and how the women in my life have supported, challenged and encouraged me. We don’t always agree but I’m definitely better for having those relationships and conversations.

Q: Tell us the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the project?

TARA: Starting anything from scratch definitely isn’t easy but it is worth every lesson, delay and trial. I’m simply a better person because of this project. I hope that translates into me being a better producer and a better co-host for Words, Wine and Women and each one of our viewers.

Watch Words, Wine and Women the series at: www.WordsWineWomen.com

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Rachel Dolezal (from the desk of Jacque Borowski)

As many of know (since this is the topic of the day) Rachel Dolezal recently came out as, what one could call, “transracial”.

The comparison to “transracial” has been made to “transgender”. Caitlyn Jenner recently came out as transgender. For the most part, the world applauded her for her bravery. This article at “The Wrap” contemplates the struggle I’m having within myself, “If I accepted Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, why can’t I accept Rachel Dolezal as African American?” My first thought was “Dolezal lied” and it makes me angry that she lied… to so many people. But didn’t Caitlyn Jenner (when she was Bruce Jenner) lie to protect herself from those who wouldn’t understand? And I thought about it more and I realized that gender is a 50/50 chance we all have at birth. Race is not. Gender is also something that can be easily changed through surgery, Race is not. There are performative aspects to both gender and race (many of them based on stereotypes of what we think gender and race should be or look like) but, race is part of a person’s heritage and a part of a person’s identity that is attached to family history AND attached to world history. Being transgendered is not the same thing as being transracial. Gender and race are two separate topics as gender is part of sexual identity.

What if Dolezal had been adopted into an African American family and had been raised by African American parents? Might I feel differently about her lie then? Ellie Freeman, who identifies as “transracial” has an excellent article on this. She explains, “Simply put, a transracial person is someone raised in a culture or race different from their own.” The reason that Dolezal’s lie is so frustrating and baffling is that, as far as we can tell, she seems to come from a privileged background and is associating herself with a race that has been historically mistreated. Why did she do it? When I’ve discussed this topic with friends, most everyone agrees that she could have been a successful civil rights leader without identifying as African American. I understand that Dolezal formed a connection with an African American man she thought of as “dad” and that her sons are African American. I can’t blame Rachel for wanting to find her place in the world, wanting to find people that she connects with. As Ellie Freeman explains, “It is normal, and quite healthy, to be interested in another culture than your own. But if the people of that culture cannot pick and choose their own race – whether it’s biologically or through shared history – then neither can you. All you can do is be a good ally.” In fact, it’s arguable that she’s undone any of the good work she did as a civil rights leader by not being honest.

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New original series ‘Words, Wine & Women’ premieres edgy straight-talk

This article originally appeared on examiner.com on May 20, 2015.

Ladies – you know how dangerous it is when you get together with your gal pals, open a bottle of wine and make no subject off-limits?

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Why Words, Wine and Women?

Hello to all, I’m Tara Johnson, the creator, executive producer and one of the host of Words, Wine, and Women™, an online women’s talk show dedicated to the real raw fun that happens when female friends meet a couple of glasses of wine. 

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