Category Archives: Think

Support Autistic Artists

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be hosting a series of Wednesday articles that focus on the financial challenges and triumphs those on the spectrum face and achieve.

Today, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to #StandWithSmall business owners, I wanted to bring back this post. All of the featured pieces sold, so the features have been updated to reflect the freshest of what’s out there.

I wrote it a couple years ago before moving into my new place. It’s frivolous if you’re facing economic turmoil right now.

But if you do have some money to spend and are looking to use it in support of others during this crisis, check out these amazing Autistic artists.

Wow, there's some great artists on this list--a lot of them working for Autism Acceptance! Headed to Etsy...

I’m getting ready to move in the very near future here. It’s the first time in my life that I’ll have complete control over how my place is decorated, and I’m pretty psyched about that part.

In my mind’s eye, I can already see a couple blank spaces on the wall that I want to fill. While I’m not sure I will — because budget — that didn’t stop me from engaging in my guilty pleasure: browsing Etsy.

Because it’s Autism Acceptance Month, I decided to check out autistic artists on the platform. Last year, I got a pair of earrings that really spoke to me (words I never thought I’d say) from an autistic artist who communicates primarily through visuals. As April snuck up again this year, I realized I should be doing this more than one month out of the year.

Here are some of the artists I’ve found, and pieces of their work that I love.

RoryDoyleArt

I’m in love with so many things in Rory Doyle’s Etsy Shop. This one is the Rise of the Jellyfish.

This autistic artist has many pieces featuring wildlife, landscapes and abstract designs.

Retrophiliac

If you love cats, you will love Margaux Wosk’s shop: Retrophiliac.

I mean, kittens in teacups, ski bum kitties, Picaso cats — the list goes on, and all of it is delightful.

CadenceInspirations

Cadence is an 11-year-old Australian girl who has produced a fair amount of art and writing for her age. Some of her work has focused on autism and spreading acceptance.

I love this painting from her Etsy shop, but you can view even more of her work on her website.

HeAndSheSullivan

Gah, I had such a hard time picking just one from this shop! Sarah Neat-Sullivan has a lot of work up on Etsy. Some of it’s related to autism. Some of it isn’t. She has jewelry, paintings, and art made from felt or stitching.

It’s all pretty amazing, but the one I chose to show you is called The Slow Breathing of a Hill.

Those Blank Spaces

My budget may restrict me from filling those blank spaces right now, but when that’s no longer the case, I’m excited to turn to one of these artists to fill the void.

In recent years I’ve moved from the mindset of simply spending the least amount of money possible to holding off on the purchase if possible (it’s not, always) until I am able to make a purchase that supports people or companies doing good things.

Would you open up the Amazon app and get the $10 poster delivered to your door tomorrow because you pay extra for the extra-fast delivery service?

Or would you save up for meaningful art, letting the void just sit till your budget’s ready — forget aesthetics?

Support Small Business with Fun Face Masks

This post is in collaboration with Etsy.

Wearing masks was not a part of American culture prior to this pandemic. But masks are an effective way to combat this virus and get our society back to functional sooner.

Studies show that while wearing a mask yourself can protect you to some degree and is definitely a good hygiene habit in our current environment, the most important reason to wear a mask is to respect and protect those around you.

The virus is fought most effectively when those who may have the virus keep microdroplets from escaping their own personal space in the first place. That is accomplished by wearing a mask.

It’s important to note that your viral load is highest before you start showing symptoms. That means that those who are most likely to spread the virus won’t have any idea they even have it until after the threat of giving it to others is at its highest.

It’s estimated that if we could get at least 80% of people wearing masks, we’d be able to fight this virus more effectively than through additional shut downs where people are not wearing masks. You can learn more about this and other science here.

While I’m spending money on masks anyways, I’m looking to spend it at a small business.

Fortunately, there’s a platform that meets all three of my personal shopping criteria. Etsy is a platform full of small businesses, and the non-medical-grade, machine-washable face mask options are plentiful.

10 Fun Face Masks

As I was narrowing down my options, I came to a realization: I’m a nerdy kid from the 90s, and it shows.

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite fun face masks I found on Etsy:

Vader Face Mask

Join the dark side with this Imperial covering from CreativeTeamLA!

Baby Yoda Face Mask

How is everything with baby Yoda on it so adorable? If you prefer the light side, check out OneStopRave!

Black & Gold Face Mask

Be still, my yinzer heart. I’m choosing to interpret this black and gold face mask from GoldenSkyToronto as an ode to Pittsburgh.

Sequin Mask

I’m not really doing any fancy things lately — and super don’t encourage you to, either. But for those occasions when you venture out of the house and want to take things to the next level just for you, these sequin masks from PersianJewelryShop are it.

Plus, they come in 25 different colors!

DC Heroines Face Mask

I feel like this time of crisis is a good time to call on these female archetypes. Available via pinkpurr.

Hello Kitty Face Mask

Who else crushed on Hello Kitty when they were a kid? Hello Kitty’s still rad, so I was excited when I found this mask from Macochi.

It comes in child and adult size!

Tiger Face Mask

I love this one because it simultaneously celebrates our collective cultural obsession with Tiger King while throwing us back to Thundercats, but it’s not so specific that it won’t still bring smiles after any one, specific trend has faded.

Handcraftedsterling has a bunch of other fun animal face masks in her shop, too.

Don’t forget the kids’ face masks!

A lot of the face masks on Etsy can be ordered in kid size or adult size. I did stumble across a couple cute ones made especially for kids!

Kids’ Girl Face Masks

I’m in love with this print, but GreerTW has a TON of different options for girls. There are some traditionally boy-themed patterns, too, but options skew pink.

Kids’ Boy Face Masks

Lots of traditionally boy-themed options, at DeTudoUmPoucobyAddie. Though I legit would have loved these when I was a kid, too. There’s also some pink sprinkled into the fabric options.

Buzz Lightyear Face Mask

You can pick up this cotton kids’ face mask at ByZari’s Etsy shop. This particular pattern sold out!

We’ll get through this, friends. To infinity, and beyond!

The Power of Math: Lessons from Social Distancing School

I’ve always been good at math.

I mean, I was a girl who went through school primarily in the 20th century, so any skills I had were rarely praised, and I didn’t recognize them in myself. I got mad credit from my teachers for my language and musical skills. Probably too much for the musical skills, honestly.

But math was always something I enjoyed. It felt like it was related to linguistics; the same skills I used to craft an argumentative essay or master a song on an instrument could be applied to mathematical theory, and there was something so deeply satisfying in that.

Nontrad Life

I didn’t realize just how good I was at math until I attended college as a nontraditional student. I cared about my education in a way I never had before. Didn’t give a damn about looking cool. I gave a damn about maintaining my 4.0 GPA so I could keep all my scholarships.

With this newfound freedom, I pushed my teachers. Particularly my math teacher. To his credit, he loved every moment of the challenge. In a room full of 18-year-olds who do still care about looking cool and don’t particularly care about the quadratic equation, I think I was a much-needed boredom buster.

Every time he would expand a problem and show us how to solve, I’d ask him the same question:

Why?

The numbers on the board were nice, and I knew how to follow the pattern, but I wanted to understand the theory behind every last equation. I knew that if I understood the reasoning behind the process, I could double check my numbers and get the answer right every time.

My obnoxiousness worked. After I took down my walls, I scored over 100% on every test. Not because I’m some genius.

I’m definitely not.

But because I understood the process all the way from initial problem to end solution.

Negative Punishment and Schooling at Home

My kids have been home from school, like most kids in this country. I’m planning on it being for at least the rest of this school year, though Pennsylvania has only officially cancelled until halfway through April so far.

My kids are super lucky in that their district has mechanisms set up to educate them at home. This is a dry run; we were supposed to practice and then implement this for the first time this year during snow days. It was a light winter. That never quite happened.

It’s been bumpy.

Last week, one of my kids brought an app to me. They were really upset.

I listened and messed around with the app to see what had them so undone. It turns out, this app was using a point system that used positive reinforcement when a student completed a problem correctly with no assistance. Great.

But then it also used negative punishment if they did need to expand the problem. To see the theory. To ask:

Why?

Without getting too much into it, negative punishment is rarely an effective way to educate — at least over the long-term.

This isn’t the teacher’s fault, to be clear. My kids are very lucky to have absolutely phenomenal educators supporting them. This is a reward game usually. She hadn’t had a chance to teach the kids the theory of the particular lesson my child had picked out.

What is math?

I was pretty frustrated with the app, too. For punishing my kid when they needed to understand not only what the answer was, but how they got to that answer.

I found myself explaining to my child that math isn’t about having all the numbers memorized. Having the basics pulled up for instant recall makes things go faster, sure, but the important thing we’re trying to learn with math is problem solving.

If we don’t know the answer, is there another way we can find it? What are the numbers actually asking of us? Theoretically? Is there another way we can solve the problem? To find a solution that will help us explain the world around us in a way that allows us to move forward?

It was all more age-appropriate than that, but equally grand.

Solving Our Problems

My kid still gets frustrated with the app. But now they understand they’re not bad at math; this particular app is bad at teaching. They’re working through the theory, and asking for explanations when they need them. Then generalizing that explanation to similar math problems with different numbers.

Our conversation happened at a time where I’m overwhelmed. The change is a lot, and we’re under pretty strict restrictions here in Allegheny County. I’m grateful our governor is taking leadership and saving as many lives as he can. I’m infuriated that the President has slowed down testing efforts and gotten us to this point. We have a known outbreak and the anecdotes from the people I know alone pin us at waiting 7+ days for test results in this region.

Death is knocking every door. And in too many cases, about to slither its way inside.

Perspective.

I’m not going to understand why with this one. There is no reason. The virus only wants to survive, just like we do. The extent it affected our country absolutely could have been helped. But now that our leadership has put us in this dark situation, we can only solve the problems in front of us before we head to the polls.

I, like most everyone else, have lost access to the physical community that makes my life possible over the course of the past week. There’s nothing that can be done about it. It’s not going back to the way it was any time soon.

I don’t know what the solution to our problems is going to end up being. But I do know that it’s there somewhere.

We’ve made an official schedule to help us ward off our anxiety and prevent boredom. I’m accepting that I’m going to have to do things that aren’t fair and are going to mess up what I had planned for my life in unpreventable ways.

Math’s greatest lesson.

But this is where we’re at, like it or not, and I just might be ready to take the greatest lesson math has taught me and apply it.

Math teaches lessons through personal finance, sure.

Balancing a budget does, in fact, include subtraction, addition and a little bit of division and multiplication if you get all fancy with that spreadsheet.

But the greatest lesson mathematics can teach us is not to give up. To walk away when we feel frustrated and come back with fresh eyes. To know that there is a solution; we just have to get creative and believe in our own capabilities enough to make it happen.

The answer isn’t always going to be what we want it to be. And we have to remember — especially in our society — that behind the death tolls and unemployment numbers and educational metrics are real, human lives we have a collective moral obligation to protect without infringing upon individual Constitutional Rights.

If you’re having trouble finding answers, know that telehealth services are widely available right now, like the ones from www.betterhelp.com.

These are hard problems in dark times. But we can solve hard problems. We can do hard things. We can turn our individual and collective failures and struggles into our greatest strengths.

I’m not sure of any of the concrete solutions just yet, other than the ones referenced on this resource page that may help you depending on your life circumstances.

But I’ll let you know as I find more of them. Share yours with me, too, okay?

This is one test where it’s totally cool to look at each other’s papers.

You don’t need a daughter to care about gender equality.

This weekend we’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day. On March 8th, to be exact.

This post is just one of many in a content celebration over at Personal Finance by Women. The entire celebration will be live on Sunday — be sure to check it out!

Why is gender equality important?

You shouldn’t care about gender equality only because you have a mother.

Or a daughter.

Or a wife.

You should care about gender equality at a basic moral level. Because when one group of people’s freedoms are limited, no one is truly free.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Little Justice Leaders (@littlejusticeleaders) on

You should care about gender equality because it’s screwed up that someone can work just as many hours and earn less money.

It’s screwed up that it will be argued that those hours aren’t worked “as hard” when they’re worked by women.

It’s screwed up that women feel pressured to reenter the labor force before they’re physically healed from childbirth. Because we’re under some legitimately crazy notion in this country that the cause of the gender pay  gap is somehow maternity leave.

Women lead the small business sector in terms of growth. It’s messed up that they have trouble securing funding for those small businesses. Most of the money goes to male-owned startups. Effectively stunting growth.

Actions spurred on by gender inequality are illogical.

Its impacts may be disproportionate, but not pursuing gender equality negatively impacts everyone in a society.

Don’t care just because you have a female relative.

Care because it’s wrong and detrimental to society at large.

How does gender equality help support sustainable development?

Gender equality is the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal.

Why is it so important?

Well, for one thing, the world economy can and has benefited from increased gender equality. Over the past 50 years, 50% of global economic growth can be directly attributed to the increased education of girls.

Today, it is estimated that increasing female employment rates in OECD countries to that of Sweden — which is one of the most gender equal countries in the world — would boost GDP by $6 trillion.

When women are allowed to work and are then compensated fairly for their work, the entire economy performs better.

It is also important to note that the UN has determined the most dangerous place in the world for a woman is in her own home, and that domestic violence is a primary concern when we talk about sustainable development.

What can I do to run a gender-equal workplace?

Obviously big, institutional changes need to happen if we’re going to squash gender inequality completely, if that’s even an obtainable goal.

But there are things you can do to work towards a more gender-equal world, especially if you own a business or have some type of managerial control over your work environment.

Don’t Demonstrate or Tolerate Pervy Workplace Behavior

The only workplaces I’ve operated in where I have not experienced pervy behavior have been those dominated by women.

Whether you’re hitting on a woman, telling a gross joke, or comparing her looks to those of her coworkers, none of it is appropriate.

Don’t even get close to that line, and do not tolerate the behavior in any of your business dealings — whether it’s a client you’re assigning to the sales team or that annoying jackass at the water cooler.

If women don’t feel safe in the workplace, they’re less likely to advocate for themselves — with due cause. This can result in anything from less confidence in salary negotiations to her leaving the job altogether — perhaps even without an explanation.

Pervy behavior makes women feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter whether you think it ‘should’ make them feel unsafe or not. It does.

And that is more than enough reason to stop.

Flexible Work Hours

In an office environment, you could operate your business so it’s open longer, but employees have more flexible options.

For example, you may be open 7a to 6p. You could then require employees to pick any 8 hours to come in and work. As long as they’re attending necessary meetings and getting their work done, it shouldn’t matter if they need to run home for an hour to get their kids off the bus or drive someone to soccer practice.

This and other larger, institutional measures are suggested by Chatón T. Turner, Esq. in The Feminist Financial Handbook.

Implement Parental Leave Policies

Oh, did you just assume that was mom getting the kids off the bus and driving everyone to soccer practice?

It’s okay.

I would have assumed the same thing.

We assume women are primary caretakers. We assume that is their primary role — one they are morally obligated to dedicate more time to than the paid work which feeds their families.

If we want to remove this perception, we need to encourage and recognize that men can be primary caretakers, as well.

Providing parental leave policies, and actively encouraging employees to take advantage of them, is a key step.

Allow for Remote Work Opportunities

Where possible, allow for remote work opportunities. While we’re working towards a gender equal world, the burden of childcare still falls largely on women in this moment. Women who are the heads of the overwhelming majority of single-parent homes.

Allowing for remote work acknowledges the extra burden women continue to shoulder as de facto primary caretakers. It permits them to stay home when the kiddos are sick without losing their job. It allows them to add value to your company even in a situation where they’d typically face gender discrimination — and you’d typically have to go through the time and expense of finding a new hire.

And it allows men to do the same, further normalizing the care of children as a responsibility all parents must shoulder regardless of gender.

Publish Salary Audits

Oof. No fun.

But neither is the gender pay gap.

Or the racial/etnocentric pay gap.

Or the pay gap gender minorities experience in the workplace.

Publishing salary audits does a few different things. First, it keeps you honest. You know you’re going to be publishing this information. Hopefully that fact encourages you to pay people equitably.

It also builds trust. Your employees are now empowered to ask for what they’re worth if they’re not getting it. If they are, it builds further respect.

I’m not a boss. How can I work towards a more gender equal world?

While the burden is on no individual woman to force the system to respect her, there are things you can do even if you’re not the one in charge of your workplace.

A lot of the changes we need to happen are cultural, and cultural opinions change one person at a time. When you find yourself in a conversation where gender discrimination is at play, challenge it when it’s safe to do so.

The other big thing you can do is vote. Research who is running in your area, where they stand on different issues, and if they support the cause of equality in potential legislation or judicial conscience.

Not just gender equality. Also racial equality. Equality for the Rainbow community. Equality for the disabled, the victims of Islamaphobia, xenophobia and all the prejudices that come up against Americans in the workplace and elsewhere in their day-to-day lives.

Because until we all have equal access to true economic freedom and justice, all the arguments about individual economic actualization are bullshit.

Comparable Worth and Early Childhood Education

a bunch of toys lined up with a color scheme of green, orange blue and white.

Last Spring, I attended an event called Statement. The first day, a bunch of us money writers listened to panel after interesting panel, each taking on a different aspect of working within our field as women.

One of the panels in particular delved into economic inequality. The idea of comparable worth was brought up. It’s an argument that was made in the 80s that essentially says we should compensate those working in female-dominated fields the same as those working in male-dominated fields.

I was stunned. I’m too young to remember that argument in real time, and had been sheltered from it until Statement.

That doesn’t mean it’s not an argument I hadn’t considered before, though. So many excuses for the gender wage gap hinge on the fact that women tend to enter lower-paying fields than men. While we this is true, there are two contingencies we must consider alongside this argument:

  1. Even when we norm out for these differences in career choices, women still face a discriminatory pay gap.
  2. Why the hell do we pay those working in female-dominated fields less in the first place?

Historical Cultural Norms and the Gender Pay Gap

number one amazon new release womens money

I actually unknowingly made an argument for comparable worth in The Feminist Financial Handbook, which was published the October before I attended Statement. From Chapter VII: The Elephant in the Womb. Full sourcing available in the book:

It is true that women tend to go into less lucrative fields. Jobs in fields like education and domestic work pay far less than opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM.) It is also true that we have a cultural tendency to encourage our daughters towards these lower-paying fields, failing to nurture and praise talents that could one day be used in the higher-paying fields. We tend to do the opposite with our sons.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that you shouldn’t encourage your daughter towards STEM professions. If that is where their interests and talents lie, or it’s not and they simply want to get money out of their career rather than passion, I personally think it’s a good idea. I would say the same for our sons.

However, I also think we need to look at this issue on a deeper level. Why do fields like education and domestic work pay less? I’d argue that it’s less about the importance of the work and more about inherited cultural norms we don’t even think to question.

Teachers, for example, are in high demand in many parts of the United States. The profession requires a quality education, and skills beyond content knowledge. You have to actually be able to apply the concepts you learned about in school to your work and interactions with human beings. Those human beings will grow up to be taxpayers and hopefully innovators, pushing our societies to what we hope will be higher planes of moral and material comfort. We all want our children to have a better life than we did, and a huge part of making that happen is getting a good education from skilled teachers.

Yet, this profession notoriously pays low wages. Over the past year, there have been multiple teacher strikes across the country, often in some of the lowest-paid regions.

Another example is domestic work. In America, more than 90% of workers in this labor-intensive field are female, and immigrant populations are disproportionately represented. Keeping in mind that many workers in this industry have employers who illegally pay under the table—presumably at lower-than-legal wages–and therefore do not have their wages reported to the government, the average weekly wage of domestic workers in private households in the fourth quarter of 2017 was $398.72. Adding insult to injury, female domestic workers are often subjected to physical, sexual, emotional and/or verbal abuse within the households where they work .

Compare this to a field involving manual labor where men typically work: construction. Here, the average American weekly pay in that fourth quarter of 2017 was $977.99/week. That comes out to about $24.45/hour if you assume a 40-hour work week, and you may have benefits and protections as an employee, especially if you’re in a union. I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture—this field has its problems, too. In particular, opioid addiction tends to be high, but that is another issue for another day.

The average domestic worker gets paid less than half that of the average construction worker, and neither job is great for your body long-term. One field is dominated by women, and the other by men.

When we look back on our liberation as women, we have to think about the work we used to do for free. Domestic labor and raising children was the work of women—and our society and cultural norms dictated that we did it all for free. Education was one of the first fields where women were able to find some equal footing, but again, the compensation in this field tends to be low. Men, on the other hand, had their value assessed by their ability to bring in an income and provide for their family.

So which is more true: women gravitate towards fields that pay less, or we as a society value the fields that women are traditionally encouraged towards at a lower dollar amount?

It’s probably a little bit of both. But when we recognize that the field has been devalued because of the gender that’s dominated it rather than the actual value of the work, we can take steps towards fixing the system rather than placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of young women as they choose their career paths.

Comparable Worth in the Real World

The gender pay gap doesn’t just affect womxn. It affects our entire society. I loved this thread by Piggy from Bitches Get Riches explaining how this plays out when it comes to child care decisions, and the fact that those actually doing the hard, on-the-ground work are often compensated pitifully despite the mind-boggling costs.

The Twitter Thread on the Pay Gap and Comparable Worth

Comparable Worth in the Early Childhood Education

So the wage gap is a problem, forcing parents to make hard decisions about child care vs career before baby even arrives.

But because of rising rent across the country and the fact that when you’re taking care of infants and young children, you need a seriously low adult-to-child ratio to do things legally and safely, the money parents are paying rarely trickles down into the pockets of the people actually taking care of their kids in the form of larger salaries. Childcare workers still routinely make less than $10/hour, with the average right above the double-digit mark.

What if we cut daycare and early childhood education centers tax breaks and offered them lucrative incentives to move into our neighborhoods and communities like we do for oil and gas companies? Or automakers?

Is it because historically, women have taken care of children for free? So paying them anything at all is a generosity in our collective, societal eyes? While male-dominated fields like oil, gas and the world of vehicle production tend to either pay well or offer fantastic long-term benefits to W-2 employees? While the companies at large receive not just subsidies, but incentives, from both state and local governments?

Like Piggy, I don’t have any concrete, actionable answers, but I do think these are questions we should be asking. Because we sure as hell need the solutions. We’re not going to find them by telling moms their only choice is to stay home and sacrifice their economic independence.