Privilege Part 2: Internal vs External Effects

By Kimberly Congdon, PhD

Previously, I wrote a piece explaining privilege and intersectionality. This is just a brief follow-up. If you missed it, check here. From that, it should be clear the trouble that is created by privilege in modern western society. The focus of much of today’s activism is in dismantling the effect of privilege, through enacting protections for groups lacking those privileges, and through making us all aware of how privilege affects us. This has led to disagreement over the impact of privilege, who really has it, and how much it matters. In order to get past this argument, we have to understand how privilege impacts our lives. The truth is that privilege has TWO effects – an internal effect, and an external effect. Often when people disagree on the role of privilege, it’s because they aren’t talking about the same effect.

Let’s start with the external effect of privilege. This is when people, or a system, treat you differently because of your identity. It results in things like white people having an easier time getting mortgages than black people, wealthy kids being able to access educational support not available to poor kids, and cisgender people having an easier time getting hired than transgender people. These, ultimately, are examples of discrimination, which in some cases is illegal already, in other cases is not but should be, and in yet other cases, not reasonably dictated by law, but in need of changing through policy measures nonetheless. This differential access to resources, based off aspects of identity, is the core of the inherent inequality in our society. It’s what racism/sexism/homophobia/insert-bigotry-of-your-choice-here looks like. When people say things like “The system is racist!” this is what they’re talking about. So, the external effect of privilege is really important, because it helps to maintain the power imbalance, by giving more advantages to the people already benefitting the most from inequality.

With that said, the internal effect of privilege may actually be more insidious, and harder to eradicate. Because the internal effect is the belief that you actually deserve the benefits of privilege. It’s the internalization of a lifetime of advantage and deference that is actually just the result of your identity, incorporated instead as a sense of merit. You didn’t get that job because you’re white, you got it because you earned it. You didn’t get into Harvard because your parents went to Harvard, you got in because you deserved to. You didn’t ace the SAT because your parents could afford a tutor, you aced it because you’re just that smart. And so on. Dangerously, the internal effects of privilege are very good at blinding people to the external effects of privilege. Because in order to get people to recognize their privilege, they have to be willing to believe that, perhaps, they DIDN’T earn that promotion, they aren’t that smart, they aren’t that talented, they’re just privileged. That’s a very hard pill for almost anyone to swallow, so there’s no wonder they resist it. Especially in the US, where we’ve done such a great job selling the American Dream, convincing people that they’ve succeeded not on their merits, but on their race, gender, sexual identity or orientation, family status, etc, is bound to be an uphill battle. It can even be so insidious that people will fully recognize the existence of privilege IN GENERAL while refusing to recognize that they themselves benefitted from it. When people are resistant to recognizing their own privilege, they will be unable to ally with others and fight for their equality. Instead, they will interpret their sphere as one that’s unique in being merit-based, and disbelieve that others are disadvantaged because of their identity. These are people who will vote liberally, donate to charities, spend their time registering voters, and in their own workplace, not speak up when time and again, POC are passed over for promotion, gay co-workers face microaggressions not lobbed at straight co-workers, and disabled co-workers are seen as lazy, instead of lacking necessary accommodations. And just like all politics are local, so is all activism. If you aren’t an ally in your own backyard, you’re not really an ally anywhere.

If we do a sufficient job of eradicating the external effects of privilege, eventually the internal effects disappear. However, it’s unlikely we’ll have the power to do that without the support of people who have been brainwashed by the internal effects of privilege. Therefore, our first goal has to be developing techniques for making people aware of not just privilege in general, but the role of privilege in their own lives.

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Dr. Congdon is an anthropologist, anatomist, scientist, feminist, activist conservationist. When those things collide, she writes about it here. She wants you to vote, and stop littering.

Understanding Privilege and Intersectionality: A Primer

By Kimberly Congdon, PhD

 

Privilege and intersectionality are two concepts that get tossed around a lot these days. “Privilege” can be a very contentious idea, and there has been a lot of pushback and denial that it even exists, let alone that it’s an important sociocultural force. “Intersectionality” on the other hand is the newest buzzword among allies. The problem is that a lot of so-called allies touting intersectionality are the same people arguing against the existence and power of privilege, and that’s a problem because – privilege and intersectionality are linked concepts. You can’t really understand one if you don’t understand the other. That also means you can’t be truly intersectional unless you understand and acknowledge privilege. So, here’s a primer, breaking the two down, and explaining how they link.

Intersectionality is the idea that each person’s identity is made up of multiple components. No one is just one thing. I am a woman, and white, and a liberal, and a scientist, and an academic, and single, and middle class, and an American citizen, and a native English speaker, and and and … If we think of life as made up of adjacent and overlapping spheres, then each element composing our identity affects our ability to move in those spheres. Spheres come in all types. Your work environment is a sphere. The bar you go to for Friday Happy Hour is a sphere. The subway car is a sphere. The Internet is a sphere. Each sphere has a power structure, and where you fit in that power structure dictates the ease with which you move through that sphere. The various aspects of your identity determine where you fit into each power structure controlling each sphere. Access to that power structure is a privilege.

Privilege is the positive consequence inherently associated with specific elements of an identity. Depending on the sphere, certain privileges may be worth more than they are in other spheres. If a privilege is associated with a certain identity, and you have that identity, you have that privilege. It doesn’t matter if you feel it, or if you’ve ever recognized the effect, because privilege comes from how others treat you, and that relies on how THEY see you, not how you see yourself (more on this another day). Privilege comes in two types – those that are innate, and those you can acquire. For innate privilege, we’re talking about issues like race, sex, gender, sexual orientation and citizenship. Acquired privileges are things like education, wealth and residency (although you can be born into some of those, too). Having innate privileges can make it easier to get acquired privileges. Changing circumstances can eliminate acquired privileges, but never innate privileges. And lacking one type of privilege does not necessarily eliminate the effects of the other kinds. For example, growing up in poverty doesn’t eliminate any racial privilege you may have, it just means you lack economic/class privilege. Since some spheres are controlled by a power structure based on race, and others are controlled by a power structure based on class or wealth, you still have privilege in the race-based spheres, regardless of how you’re treated in the wealth-based spheres.

Who has the most privilege? Rich, straight, cis, white men will always have the most power, in any sphere. After that, generally speaking, white people have more privilege than non-white people. But the problem is that people think this is an adding game. It isn’t. It’s about spheres of influence, unfair power differentials, and using our privilege to elevate those who lack it. Spheres overlap more often than they stack. A white woman will have more privilege than a black man in spheres where race is more important, and less privilege in spheres where gender is more important. (This may seem complicated, but it’s still a simplified view. The idea of spheres I’ve presented is much more discrete than the reality. In reality, no matter the sphere – race ALWAYS matters, gender ALWAYS matters, sexual orientation ALWAYS matters – it’s really more about proportions than absolutes. And because of the variable nature of humans, things can vary. Not all work spheres are created equal. In some jobs, gender carries more power than race, and in others, it’s the opposite. So you can’t really ever take your personal experience and judge the validity of the claims of others based on whether or not it matches yours. Keep that in mind when you encounter people who state they’ve experienced biases you’re unfamiliar with.)

What this all means is that no two people who share one identity have experienced that identity in the same way. It means that what my experience of womanhood has been is not the same as the experience of womanhood of a black woman because my experience of womanhood has been modified by my whiteness, while hers has been modified by her blackness. However, her experience is not necessarily identical to that of another black woman, either, because one may be an American citizen and the other may not be, or one my straight while the other is gay ….. see how it starts to get complicated? This complexity matters, and treating it like it matters is called “being intersectional”. The REASON it matters is that those individuals who lack power in a sphere also lack visibility. When we identify figureheads for identities, we tend to choose those who are visible. Therefore, when we talk about “feminism”, we’re probably talking about white feminism, when we talk about what women need to be equal, we’re probably talking about what WHITE women need – because they’re the ones we see. They’re the ones with the visibility, and they get inserted into the default setting. But when we do that, and we address the issues of white women under the false notion that we are in fact helping ALL women, all we do is increase the gap between white women and non-white women (or cis women and trans women, or straight women and gay women, etc). We have to recognize the least visible and acknowledge that their needs, while different, are just as important. And THAT is being “intersectional” – it’s recognizing the diverse needs of people who share one identity that is the result of the fact that they have other identities that they don’t share with you.

I also want to take a minute to be clear – this is not just about race. Too often, people dissolve “intersectionality” down to an issue of race. That is specifically problematic in intersectional feminism, when it gets treated as meaning “women of color have it worse than white women”. That’s true, but that’s not the be-all, end-all of intersectionality. Intersectionality isn’t just about race. It’s about gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, economic status, citizenship…ALL identities can be served by an intersectional approach to activism, not just racial ones.

So, recognize what privileges you have, recognize what spheres in which you have power, and start using that power to elevate the voices of those trying to exist in that sphere without the advantage of the privilege. That’s really the only way we save everyone – by elevating those with the least power – by being intersectional.

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Dr. Congdon is an anthropologist, anatomist, scientist, feminist, activist conservationist. When those things collide, she writes about it here. She wants you to vote, and stop littering.

Save The Children

In its persistent quest for justice and to champion ALL women everywhere, Lipstick Republic is proud to announce a new contributor to our site. Rachael Severino is a sixteen-year-old high school student who will lend her voice to our mission. We hope you enjoy this first of many Op-ed pieces by her below.
By Rachael Severino

Continue reading “Save The Children”

A Modest Proposal To Eliminate Gun Violence (Hint: It Has Nothing To Do With the Size of Your Weapon or How Quickly You Discharge It)

By Judi Zirin

It would be surprisingly easy to limit gun violence in the US. There is one particular group that should be precluded from owning guns. This is a group that has been shown, consistently and statistically, to both be more violent and have more guns, so it makes sense they should have their access to firearms appropriately limited. They are most likely to engage in violent criminal behavior, most likely to both own guns and to misuse them, most likely to kill for sport, and most likely to keep their guns stored close by, locked and loaded.

Continue reading “A Modest Proposal To Eliminate Gun Violence (Hint: It Has Nothing To Do With the Size of Your Weapon or How Quickly You Discharge It)”

Violations and Vocabulary: How Policing Language Silences Victims

**TRIGGER WARNING: The following article may contain graphic depictions of sexual abuse**

By Kimberly Congdon, PhD

At this point, you’ve probably already heard of Larry Nassar. If not, see HERE. And HERE. And HERE.  There is no question that what this man did was wrong. There is no question it was criminal. There is no question it was sexual abuse, and that he deserves to be punished for unbelievably heinous crimes against children and young women. We can recognize the incredible wrongness of his actions even without delving into the fact that his position as a doctor added another element of psychological trauma for his victims. Larry Nassar is done – quite literally. His victims have proven themselves to be remarkable, brave women who will foster a new generation of remarkable, brave women. The judge who oversaw his case has become a figurehead for women’s rights. His trial was a watershed moment for feminism and equality. The questions still loom. How was something like this able to happen? How could something so obviously wrong persist for so long? How do we stop it from happening again?

There are a lot of factors that specifically enabled Nassar to abuse women for decades. Those specific issues must be addressed, and specific individuals must face consequences. But ultimately, Nassar is a symptom of a larger problem. First, we have to acknowledge that Nassar is not nearly as rare as we would wish him to be. An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found more than 2,400 cases of doctors sexually abusing patients since 1999, occurring across all 50 states. At least half of those physicians still had their medical licenses as of 2016. And these numbers are guaranteed to be low, as sex abuse in all forms is chronically underreported. So Nassar is a monster, but he has a lot of company. What’s going on here?

Unpacking the issues that allow abuse of women to persist would take a lifetime.  There is, however, one thing that underlies it all, and it may not be what you think. It’s language. The words we use matter, the words we emphasize and teach matter. This is the principle of linguistic relativity. It tells us that the structure of a language affects the worldview of the people who speak it. The classic example is Benjamin Whorf’s claim that “Eskimos” have 50 words for snow. His point was that snow is very important to Inuit language groups, and that importance is reflected by the fact that they have a lot of words for it. It’s a rather basic, intuitive idea. Your culture will have many ways to discuss what’s important, few ways to discuss what is unimportant, and no words to discuss what it has no conception of at all. So what happens to a culture when we restrict the words that can be used to describe reproductive anatomy? Misogyny has stolen from women the very words they need to comprehend and assert their own bodily autonomy. And when you don’t have the words to describe your experience, when the words you do have teach you shame, when they don’t empower you and reaffirm your own bodily autonomy, how can you ever find your own voice to speak out against these atrocities?

We have allowed the words that describe reproductive anatomy to become stigmatized, under the guise of “polite” behavior. Parents teach their children euphemisms for their own body parts, students are punished for using words like “penis” and “vagina” in school (and sometimes even sex-ed teachers), and often it’s because they use them as expletives, having been taught they are inherently “naughty”. All this works together to teach kids that certain parts of their body can’t be discussed, which serves to build a barrier between our own anatomy and the ownership of it. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 24 states and D.C. mandate sex education in schools. Only thirteen of those states mandate that the instruction be medically accurate, twenty-six states require that “the information be appropriate for the students’ age”, and ONLY TWO prohibit the program from promoting religion. This combination of factors is a recipe for disaster when it comes to language. If a program is not required to be medically accurate, students are not going to learn technical terms about their own anatomy. When we accept the fallacy that sex education has an “age appropriate” element, we allow for the introduction of shame associated with female bodies. What are we telling young girls who HAVE vaginas that they are too young for the WORD vagina? If we teach girls that they have to mature into the ownership of their own body parts, is it so surprising that men with power so easily assert their own rights to those parts over their actual owners? And if we CORRECT children who use the proper terms, if we insist on euphemisms, is it such a surprise that they’re reluctant to speak out when needed?

Larry Nassar’s victims ranged from girls as young as six to young women in their teens and early 20s. He told them that inserting his fingers into their vaginas and leaning towards them to whisper “How does that feel”, often with an erection, was medical treatment. In their victim statements, many discussed how he abused their trust, how he made them ashamed to discuss what he did, some of them still referenced shame in speaking out, in a courtroom where he had pled guilty – an open admission that what he had done was wrong – and they had no reason to be ashamed. They speak of being touched in private places, the loss of innocence, but above all – confusion. Confusion over whether what he did was wrong, confusion over who to tell. They speak of knowledge that internal pelvic floor therapies exist, and are legitimate – leading to a difficulty to distinguish legitimate treatment from sexual violation. One victim STILL questions her own interpretation of the experience, she is still unable to tell if she was being molested or treated. That kind of confusion can happen when we don’t give girls the tools to tell medicine from abuse, when we don’t teach them about their anatomy, and don’t give them the words to understand what is happening to them. Rachael Denhollander, the first accuser to file a police report and start the ball rolling against Nassar, says one of her earlier complaints was dismissed because “a 15-year-old girl thinks everything between her legs is a vagina”. The assumption that girls don’t know their own bodies was used to dismiss an accusation of forced penetration – and it worked, because so many young girls DON’T know their own bodies. The girls that did come forward in the late 90s were repeatedly told they were confused about what had happened – an easy thing to push when you’ve already robbed people of the language they need to conceptualize the event in the first place.

For years, child psychologists have been emphasizing both the importance and appropriateness of teaching children proper terms for their anatomy from Day One. It will empower them to speak out against inappropriate touching, teach body positivity, and perhaps even protect them from predators who will recognize that a child who knows the words vulva and vagina likely has parents that will discuss these subjects with them, and listen if they report abuse. Body-related shame is a real and persistent problem. We all know adults who won’t use the word penis or vagina or insist on whispering them if they must be said. People who aren’t comfortable discussing their body will struggle to tell health care providers about medical problems. They will struggle to tell sexual partners if something causes them pain or discomfort. They will be more susceptible to those who would manipulate them via that shame. And if we start by teaching kids shame about body parts, we’ll continue with shame about all language that
discusses sex. This will disproportionately hurt girls, who are made to believe that they should not want or enjoy sex, that they should not express sexual desire for fear of being labeled a slut, and that if sexual contact is forced upon them, it was somehow their own fault. In short, sex euphemisms are a tool of female oppression. We de-emphasize the importance of that anatomy and suggest there is inherent shame in those body parts since we won’t use the actual words to discuss them. This is a problem that can be overcome at home, but politicians at the local and state level who advocate for comprehensive sex education also need our support. Too much of what we learn about language happens in school for this to go unaddressed.

People who criticize women inspired to speak out during the resurgence of #metoo discuss female agency, female responsibility – they ask why women don’t say no, don’t speak out against behavior that bothers them. How can we demand women speak out when we deprive them of the language to describe what happened to them and teach them that putting it into words is shameful? We have to reclaim our vulvas and vaginas, our penises and testicles. Before we can assert autonomy over our anatomy, we have to know what to call our anatomical parts and deny that discussing our bodies is shameful or wrong.

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Dr. Congdon is an anthropologist, anatomist, scientist, feminist, activist conservationist. When those things collide, she writes about it here. She wants you to vote, and stop littering.

The Women’s March welcomes all women – except Feminist Zionists?

Power To The Polls _Womens March Anniversary Event Jan 2018See the Women’s March Host Planning Committee above? I’m in that photo. I thought the Women’s March would be a great opportunity to register Millennials to come out and vote and loved the catchy “Power To The Polls” slogan thought up to entice young people to make their vote count in these midterm elections coming up. The idea of it all was punchy and persuasive.

After the 2017 Women’s March – the largest protest in the history of the United States – I felt like I was part of a sisterhood, a feminist collective voicing their needs while wearing crocheted pink hats and locking arms together across the country (and the world). To me, the only thing missing about that glorious day that we all needed so badly after enduring Trump’s election, was the presence of the real hero for many of us – Hillary Clinton.  Let’s be real. In those one million bodies holding signs and chanting in unison most of them were heartbroken to know DJT was going to be sitting in the Oval and not HRC.

Fast forward to a year later when I got the news that a local group of which I’m a member was asked to be part of a planning committee because the founding members of the Women’s March had decided to hold their anniversary event in Las Vegas, Nevada where I live. Nevada is a key battleground state and is also home to the first female Latina United States Senator (Catherine Cortez Masto), is the state with the second largest number of females in its legislature (second only to Vermont), has the 5th largest school district in the country (Clark County School District in Las Vegas), is the number one tourist destination in the world (Las Vegas), and recently was the site of the worst shooting massacre in modern US history. You can imagine my excitement. As a dedicated feminist, activist, and a staunch supporter of progressive causes, why would I have any reservations at all when it came to this opportunity? Two words.

LINDA SARSOUR. 

Seeing the Women’s March 2017 organizers giving the cold shoulder to Hillary was a bitter pill for me to swallow, I did it knowing that Hillary herself was tweeting that she was proud of the women who were marching, who were raising their voices, who believed in racial/social/economic/political equality and justice for ALL women (the true definition of a Feminist, by the way). I did it because I saw the importance of the larger picture. I understood the strategy. This time around though, that pill is a little harder to swallow. Why? It’s those pesky two words again.

LINDA SARSOUR.

Linda Sarsour QandA Lipstick Republic Blog

Ms. Sarsour makes no secret of her disdain for Feminist Zionists. In fact,  when asked for her response to an op-ed article written by Emily Shire of the NY Times, Linda said it wasn’t possible for a person to be a Feminist AND a Zionist.  Clearly, Linda needs to brush up on her vocabulary because the definition of Zionism is not a bad thing. Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination and freedom in their historic homeland. Being a Zionist does not mean that you agree with Israeli politics or that you’re a fan of Bibi or the Likud Party or that you don’t care about Palestinian Arabs. It simply means that you believe in the things stated above and that you believe the Jewish people have a right to liberation (they have, after all, been in existence for 5,777 years without a generation passing since the Babylonians where somewhere in the world some nation or ruler hasn’t tried to lobby for their extinction) and protection. Sarsour’s misdirected and misinformed beliefs she espouses with loud vitriol have rankled me for quite some time. I decided to share some of my concerns with her at a committee planning meeting she and the other three Women’s March co-founders were at with me along with a crowd full of people.

Below is part of the transcribed version of the video/audio that was taken which is still in the process of being uploaded. 

M: It’s no secret that a lot of Jewish women felt unwelcome at the Chicago Dyke March. So my question is, what do I say to women who are hesitant to come to this Women’s March event? Are women who identify as Jewish Americans welcome? Are they going to be turned away for wearing the Star of David? Are they going to be turned away for being Zionists? What should I say to them?

Linda Sarsour: This is a domestic movement meant to bring to attention the tyranny we’re living under. This is not a moment for any community to come and invoke their political position on our campaign. We don’t talk about foreign policy. There’s been conflation by some people. Not all Jewish people are Zionists. In fact, we have included all communities in our movement. In fact, at a recent convention we just had, it was I that organized the Shabbat Friday evening. It was I that paid for the kosher meal. It was I that coordinated groups like Jews for Justice and Jewish Voices for Peace to attend. Everybody has always been included. I think it’s important for people to understand that we don’t have time in groups like this for this conversation. It’s very clear that I’m Palestinian. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m very proud to be Palestinian. Unfortunately, that in and of itself and my very existence has created controversy just by the virtue of who I am and particular positions that directly impact me and my family.

M: So are you saying that wearing a Star of David or being a Zionist won’t make them unwelcome at the event?

Linda Sarsour: What I want to say to people is that we have a tyrant in the White House and we are being stripped of our rights and if you care about the rights of your fellow Americans then show up to this March.

*This was just one of three questions I asked Ms. Sarsour. I plan to probe more at our next meeting and then blend both video recordings to upload here on the blog. This way, readers can see and hear all the questions and answers in full. 

Her answers did nothing to allay my concerns. In fact, they compounded them for me. She completely deflected my question about the Star of David and responded by basically saying that the political positions of other communities are not meant to be heard or shown at Women’s March events. Since when was the Star of David a political position? Last time I checked it was a religious symbol. Why are attendees allowed to wear Free Palestine t-shirts and hijabs but Feminist Zionists are shut down and told they have to choose between those identities. Also, groups like Jews for Justice or Jewish Voices for Peace are about as relevant and authentic to me as Jews for Jesus or groups like BDS in representing me. For her to try to spin their participation to allyship is laughable.

Sarsour’s social media accounts are rife with her own glaring modus operandi that is illustrated flagrantly. Why is she not held to the same standards she expects of other feminists in their intersectionality? Why can she have an outspoken Muslim voice but Jews with outspoken Zionist beliefs are “invoking their political issues on the WM”?

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It would appear from Ms. Sarsour’s propaganda and behavior that she is intent on using the Women’s March as a platform for her own designs disguised as championing feminism. When author and brave victim of female genital mutilation Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke out in her book “Infidel: My Life” about crimes committed in the name of Islam, Sarsour had some very supportive (insert sarcasm here) words about the issue.

Linda Sarsour Twitter Rant _Lipstick Republic BlogCompassion and concern for all women really just radiate from Linda.  It’s evident that all views are fine as long as they are Linda’s views. Seriously though, if that’s not enough proof for you, try a quick Google search on Linda and you’ll find that she also endorses Siraj Wahaj, unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who believes homosexuality is a disease.

Linda doesn’t seem to realize that Jewish women have always been at the forefront of the both the Women’s Rights and the Civil Rights movements. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem are Jews. In fact,  It was the Women’s Movement that made Betty the proud Zionist she grew to be and spent her lifetime defending.

I know many Feminist Zionists are choosing to boycott the event in Las Vegas because of Ms. Sarsour’s stance on Zionism and interest in competing in what many call Woke Olympics. While I can certainly understand their pain and anger, I will be taking a different approach. On January 21, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada I will be at the  Women’s March: Power To The Polls. I will not let Linda Sarsour’s twisted definition of Zionism or Feminism dictate my narrative. I will not take off my Magen David. I will not be silent. Linda Sarsour does not represent me or any of my values with her support of violence or intolerance.

That’s not the sort of sisterhood I want to be a part of or the sort of feminism that I believe in – not today, not ever.

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Mimi Bergman is a business owner, historian, wife, and mom. She’s an ardent feminist, Zionist, and activist. Mimi is a fourth generation Chicago Cubs baseball fan.

Get a grip. No, really.

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[Dr. Julie Buzby and Chloe]

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in 2017 Americans spent a total of $69.36B (billion!) on their pets. With figures consistently growing year after year, it’s pretty obvious we love our furry friends in this country. Among those leading the pack, providing care and service to pet owners is Dr. Julie Buzby, who lives in Beaufort, South Carolina. Dr. Buzby is a woman on the go who wears lots of hats. We were fortunate enough to get some time with her and learn more about her amazing company, Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips.

LR: I know you’ve been a veterinarian for over twenty years and have pets of your own. Did you ever think you’d become a product inventor too?

JB: Never. I am an accidental entrepreneur. A client of mine came up with the idea of putting something on his dog’s toenails to keep his senior dog quiet on the floors at night. He quickly realized his device did much more than that though. I saw the early prototypes at our veterinary hospital’s annual Open House and it was love at first sight! I like to say he had me at “hello”. He pointed to his dog’s toes and my mind started racing. Because my practice is now predominantly caring for senior and special needs dogs, I knew there was a huge need. We could impact and improve pain and mobility for these dogs but not slipping. Slipping is a biomechanics problem. These simple devices were what I’d been looking for my whole career, I just didn’t know what they looked like until I saw them that day. My friend didn’t want to pursue his idea. He was busy patenting something else and said, “If you think you can help dogs with it, Julie, go for it.” And that’s how our business launched. I knew this product was going to change the way we care for our senior, slipping patients and that they needed this solution.

LR: For those who aren’t familiar, can you explain what ToeGrips are and how they’re used?

JB: ToeGrips are nonslip rings that fit onto a dog’s toenails to enable traction on slippery floors. Dogs use their nails for traction. They flex their paws and engage their nails like soccer cleats digging into the ground. Hard nails can’t grip hard floors. ToeGrips work by allowing the nails to grip, unlike dog socks and boots, which interfere with a dog’s natural gripping mechanism. ToeGrips are simple, natural, affordable, and effective!

LR: What types of dogs benefit most from ToeGrips?

JB: Senior and special needs dogs and even more specifically would be arthritic dogs, dogs with hip dysplasia, dogs with cruciate ligament injury, dogs with hind-end weakness, blind dogs, Tripawd dogs, dogs that use wheelchairs, dogs with IVDD, and rehabilitating and post-surgical dogs.

LR: Are ToeGrips unisex? Do they come in different sizes?

JB: Yes, they are unisex, come in seven sizes (XS-XXXL), and are color-coded by size for simplicity.

LR: I know you operate a vet practice, run Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips, and are a Full-Time mama to a large brood of human kiddos too. How do you balance it all?

JB: I owned a practice in Pennsylvania and sold it so I could be home with my kids. We homeschool them and that’s what I really what I consider my Full-Time job. Practicing veterinary medicine is part-time now and ToeGrips is my hobby, even though I put in about 40+ hours per a week in the company. When your work is your passion, it doesn’t feel like work. My husband often says to me when I go to the veterinary hospital, “You’re the only person I know who looks a hundred times better when you come home from work than when you go.” Caring for my clients and patients brings me great joy. Caring for our customers and their dogs is also very rewarding! How do I balance it? I have a great husband who’s actively involved in keeping me afloat. I also have great help – we have a close family friend whom we’ve hired to help us homeschool since we have seven grade levels being taught right now.

LR: What advice would you give to women looking to follow their passions and start their own business?

JB: Start on a shoe=string budget and expand as you are able. Debt is crippling. The less debt you have, the faster you will become profitable! Have a core group of wise counselors whom you go to for advice. Plans succeed with many counselors and it’s dangerous to go it alone.

LR: Where can people go for more information or shop ToeGrips?

JB: By going directly to our website www.ToeGrips.com, on Facebook by clicking HERE. or at @drbuzby on Twitter.