What are your every day, must-reads, online or off?
I am a public health and policy nerd so my must-reads are usually Kaiser Health News and the Washington Post Wonk Blog. But I’m recently getting into Seth Godin’s work and find his perspective motivating and enlightening. I am a pretty avid Jezebel reader. Most of my “fun reading time” is spent on Twitter and Facebook.
You work in HIV/AIDS field. What are the biggest rewards or your work? The biggest challenges?
I work for the local Department of Public Health on the planning of HIV care and prevention services. But my actual workday is a nice balance of close work with the community and policy/paper pushing work.I really love the work I do with the Positive Committee, a group of advocates living with HIV/AIDS. I get to talk about all kinds of taboo topics (sex! drugs!) and learn from all of their rich life experiences. It’s my favorite part of my work. Of particular importance to me is keeping the needs and experiences of women in the conversation about HIV prevention. So often we focus on condoms and abstinence; these don’t work for everybody, especially women in situations when they are unable to advocate or negotiate for condom use.
The biggest challenge to me is not becoming bitter or losing my passion for social change and social justice. Working for and with government institutions can be frustrating, but it is also the way for the greatest good to be realized. I continually work on knowing when to speak up and when to bite my tongue.
You’re a strong feminist (awesome! so are we!). You have two sons – how do you teach them to be respectful of women?
My sons have lots of feminist role models in their lives, including their dad. Their dad and I work on being equal co-parents, honoring each boys expression of his individuality, modeling respect for ALL people, and dropping lessons about inequality and social justice into everyday life, when it is appropriate. My boys go to a Quaker school, so the values of equality, community, and honoring each individual’s spirit are just part of how we do things.
We also talk a lot about respecting others’ physical space and listening for when someone wants you to stop wrestling, tickling, etc. Consent is something we have to teach kids very early. We repeat over and over that we each have a right to say no to someone touching us, even if it is a “nice” touch. The boys are small, but I hope these lessons provide them with a great foundation for happy and healthy relationships with future partners and everyone else.
If you could give your 16 year old self advice, what would you say?
Be brave. You are full of so much energy, creativity, love, beauty, curiosity, and adventure — go and do it! Life is short, but youth is shorter. Take the time to be free while you can. Explore the possibilities of life. Don’t let shame or fear be your guides. Be a compassionate bad-ass.
Your perfect day. What would it look like?
Sleeping in to at least 8am. An outdoor adventure with my boys – in the woods or at the beach. A dinner of something spicy and exotic with good friends. A night spent outside sipping adult beverages and chatting until the wee hours of the morning.
Thanks for sharing, Nicole!