Sunday, April 22, 2012

April: Pink is Out! Real Women Aren't Always Princesses

I just finished, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein. This book looks at how marketers and seemingly benevolent "toy manufacturers" are cranking out images and concepts that formulate negative concepts in young girls (pre-school to pre-teens) minds. I couldn't understand why my daughter-in-law and son didn't want anything "pink" or "princess" items for my granddaughter.  Oh yes, it was a difficult pill to swallow, but I honored it and didn't argue.  After reading this book, I now understand how pink has become more than a color. It is marketing "blitz krieg."

Is "Prince Charming" really necessary for happiness? Does one need to be recognized for his or her looks and not for deeds? If we want to make a difference, we must be vigilant to the forces that are trying to manipulate our children's images of themselves. We as women have fought for years not to be classified by a "look," but to be recognized for our achievements and accreditations.  

We are capable of being studious, great homemakers, amazing tailors, phenomenal with numbers, artists with flair, athletic, etc.?  How long have we wanted to be more than a "pretty face,"  "a great outfit," or " a sexy body?" Well, look at what you are doing for your daughter, granddaughter, and fellow women around you. Are you helping them becoming a better person or are you just reinforcing the marketers vision of what a "woman wants or needs" to be a productive and fulfilled woman?  "Pretty Woman" is not a real woman. 

Can a young girl only get attention from her family and peers by acting as a princess? We are not talking "dress up" using thrift shop dresses, hats, and mom's old shoes in the box in the corner. We are talking elaborate costly costumes, kiddie makeup, and personal grooming items.

What about pre-teen girls gyrating to music that has blatantly sexual content? We are talking about 5-10 year olds. Recently, a  current pop culture singer stated she appreciated the younger fans, but her product was never intended for that young of an audience. Mom, Dad, are you on duty?

Youngsters need role models to let them know they don't have to wait for a fairy godmother to come along and make them beautiful or handsome. They don't have to rub a magic lamp to get what they want. The adults in a child's life need to help he or she understand you need work for the things you need and sometimes you get even the things you want. They should also be taught that life isn't fair. Yes! Life isn't fair.  That doesn't mean it won't hurt, but it does mean that they need help in learning how to cope with what isn't fair and how to go about fixing it, (if it's possible).

You can begin to "chip away at the marketeers who paint unreachable images. The next time you have a conversation with a female (of any age).  Avoid the conversational openers "Oh you look lovely today" or “Your hair looks great!'  Start with "Tell me everything about what you have been doing" or "Have you been following your passion?"
    Encourage her to talk about the things she is doing instead what she can't do. 
    Talk about her dreams. 
    Discuss with her what is keeping her from accomplishing them.
    Ask her what is her plan to achieve her dream. 

It is when we are busy doing what makes us happy that we are fulfilled. The best thing women can do for civilization and the future is to teach each other to be better human beings.  When we start supporting each other in developing our strengths and accomplishing our goals, we become real women. Real women contribute to society by modeling behaviors for our children and others in our circles.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April: Tax Time

"Tax Time,"  those two words bring on a myriad of emotions from U.S. citizens across the country. There are those American who eagerly await their W-2 forms to file their taxes in hope of getting a refund to augment their family's annual income, plan a family vacation, or just pay off a few bills. There are those who make an early appointment with their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) because he or she gets booked up quickly and they don't want to have to file for an extension. Many Americans go to walk-in tax preparers with the hope that they have brought all their paper work and that they can get their taxes done.

Then there is a group of us that use a computer software to do our own taxes.  It is not that we don't trust the calculator, CPA, or the "walk-in" tax preparers. We happen to enjoy the thrill of watching the tax obligation go down as we go through the process of entering information. It is pretty cut and dry, if you are doing a straight 1040EZ.  If you are doing deductions, it is a lesson in the intricacies of the tax codes that have been changed and massaged by Congress. 

You heard how the "Affordable Healthcare Act" has helped Americans in 2011. When you use a computer software program and do you own taxes, you actually see how it does in the "medical deduction section." You heard of the "American Government Educational Credit Act," you see it working on your tax form as you enter your child's college tuition.  There is the "Earned Income Credit" and how to file your "Gambling Winnings." It is a variable encyclopedia of tax information and a reflection of what our legislatures have been doing in Congress.

Check out the "Capital Gains" and "Inheritance Gifts." Did you know that "COBRA Premium Assistance" is considered taxable income? Now that is really going to help with the deficit (this is a sarcastic remark). Educational savings accounts like Coverdells and 529 are considered income, now think about that! You paid your taxes on these savings. Saved your money gave it to a child, relative, or even yourself in some cases. Now you have to count that savings as income! But remember, we are giving tax breaks to the oil companies. Subsidies and incentives are given daily by state municipalities to entice business to locate in the name of  "business development and jobs."

So, if you have the time and patience and really want the skinny of who is paying what:
      • Get yourself a tax preparation software 
      • Take your time going through the software steps
      • Look at every available deduction 
      • Click on those blue underlined words
      • Garner the information
      • Use it to challenge your representatives in your State and Federal delegation