I would go to jail to protect my daughter, but I won’t have to.

September 24th, 2014

 

Jennifer Whalen, a Pennsylvania mother of three, is currently serving a prison sentence for the “crime” of obtaining misoprostol and mifeprestone for her 16-year-old daughter, who used the drug to induce a miscarriage in the first trimester of an unplanned pregnancy.

In more SEO-worthy terms, this woman in in jail for helping her daughter have an abortion.

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Like Whalen, I have a daughter. If she needed me to help her end an unwanted pregnancy, I would do it. Here are the steps we would take:

1. We would make an appointment at the Planned Parenthood clinic that is less than five miles from our home.

Jennifer Whalen’s nearest abortion clinic was 75 miles away.

2. As required by Minnesota law, my husband and I would provide written documentation that we were told of our daughter’s decision to terminate her pregnancy at least 48 hours before the procedure.

Whalen “knew [her daughter's father] would be upset,” so she didn’t tell him about the pregnancy.

3. 24 hours before the procedure, my daughter would be required to listen to a five minute phone call about fetal development, the medical risks of abortion, and the medical risks of continuing the pregnancy to term. This is part of Minnesota’s “Woman’s Right to Know” Act, which was passed in 2003 under the assumption that all sexually active women must be stupid.

I don’t know if Pennsylvania has a bullshit law like this, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

4. At no point would I be concerned about the time this would take, because all of the work I do for pay is done at home.

A personal-care aide at an assisted-living center for the elderly, Whalen worried that taking time off for travel and waiting periods would endanger her job.

5. If I were unable to drive my daughter to the clinic on appointment day, we would take a bus to the light rail line that stops just two blocks away.

At the time of her daughter’s pregnancy, the Whalen family also had only one car, which both parents juggled to get to work. When my family’s second car crapped out in 2010, we realized that abundant local transit options made purchasing a replacement unnecessary.

6. The fee for my daughter’s first trimester abortion would be covered by the health insurance provided by my husband’s employer, a Fortune 500 company.

Emily Bazelon’s article about the family states that the pregnant daughter was uninsured. I’m guessing that Jennifer and her other two daughters weren’t insured, either.

7. If there were complications, I could take my daughter to the hospital without fear of being reported to child protective services.

Guess how the state of Pennsylvania learned about what Whalen did?
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As I work on the promotional and marketing materials for my book The Radical Housewife, I find myself looking back to the very first days of my feminist reawakening, to the time when the birth of my children made real for me all of the feminist talking points I’d only read about or listened to on my old Free to Be…You and Me record. Having a kid not only puts your heart on the outside of your body, it puts your guts and soul out there too. It forces you to confront painful realities, one of which is the cold hard fact that when I put myself in Jennifer Whalen’s shoes, I can see myself doing the same thing for my daughter but never, EVER experiencing the same consequences.

That’s wrong. That’s why I can’t sit idly in my safe socioeconomic bubble and be content with the status quo.

This story illustrates perfectly why many abortion rights activists are no longer using the term “pro-choice.” What good does being “pro-choice” do to help women whose choices have been taken from them?

I stand for reproductive justice and for the release of Jennifer Whalen.

 

 

 

Why doesn’t she leave? Only she knows

September 9th, 2014

This post was originally published in 2012, but is being revised and reposted because not much has changed in the world of victim-blaming since then. My thoughts are with Janay Rice and her daughter Rayven, both of whom are in even graver danger today than they were a few months ago. If I were the praying kind, my knees would be worn out for them.

 

I love my feminist sisters and brothers, but they aren’t perfect.  Feminists can be power trippers, backstabbers, and my-shit-don’t-stinkers as much as any other segment of the human population.

That said, there are certain ground rules that are accepted when one claims membership in The Feminist Club.  They are so mind-numbingly obvious that I feel idiotic even replicating them, but here they are:

Feminists who’ve had abortions are not called “baby-killers.”

Feminists of color are not called racist slurs.

Feminists who are rape survivors are not called “sluts.”

Feminists who are LGBTQ are not called any homophobic/transphobic insults.

We gird ourselves daily against this disapprobation from the general population, so we should understand that when we are in a feminist space, we will be safe from this kind of garbage. It follows, then, that this is also a Feminist Club Ground Rule:

Feminists in abusive relationships are not called “weak,” and/or shamed publicly for what they are going through.

Yet it happens, and much more often than you’d think.  WHY?  Marie De Santos, director of the Women’s Justice Center, an advocacy group in Sonoma County California wrote this in a piece called “Why Doesn’t She Leave?”
why the glaring blind spot in regard to domestic violence victims? Why are women denied even the validation of the dangerous dynamics of her dilemma? Why do so many people still hold a view, as cloaked as it may be in paternal tones, that is more in sync with the perpetrator’s stance than with the victim’s? 

Why, indeed. There was a time, I admit, when I did think that the first thing an abused woman should do was leave. She should walk out, call the cops, get one of those restraining order thingies that I thought solved everything. There was also a time when I didn’t think that women could be raped by their boyfriends.

I also spent a portion of my life believing in Santa Claus.

What happened? I listened, I learned, I grew the fuck up. Despite our gut feeling that a woman in an abusive relationship “needs” to leave, she might have good reasons for not going anywhere.  Statistics tell us that the victim is actually in the MOST danger when she is in the process of leaving–and 76% of women killed by their abusers had been stalked prior to their murders.

On December 28, 2011, the author, entrepreneur & blogger Penelope Trunk posted a photo of the bruise her husband gave her.  Naturally, it went viral.  Four days later, she responded: “I’m absolutely shocked by the collective hatred and disdain for women who are in violent relationships….for some reason, people feel it is honorable to rip a woman to shreds if she is living with domestic violence.”  She also declared, in no uncertain terms, that she is staying with her husband. A cursory glance at her blog in 2014 shows that she hasn’t changed her mind.

I think I wouldn’t…..but I don’t know for sure. If I were Penelope’s friend, though, I’d let her know that she had my support whenever and wherever she needed it. If she showed interest, I’d help her create a detailed and thorough safety plan. Penelope isn’t keeping her abuse a secret, obviously, but other women might want to, so I would be absolutely certain that I didn’t expose my friend’s situation without her permission. After all, the consequences of breaking the silence would be borne by my friend, not me.

Reality check: 30% of women homicide victims were killed by their intimate partners.  

If you aren’t sure about how to react to a person’s story of domestic violence,  don’t judge. Listen. Answers will reveal themselves, one story at a time.

 

TO LEARN MORE:

F YOU NEED HELP: The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

10 things this feminist is afraid of (and one she’s not)

September 4th, 2014

 

1. Heights

2. Centipedes, or as they’re known in our house, “creepy crawlies”

3. Elliott starts college in four years and our measly savings will only pay for his first calculus textbook

4. Cancer

5. Smiling with coffee grounds in my teeth

6. Holding a book event on October 9 in Minneapolis that no one attends but my mother

7. The check engine light

8. Any suggestion that “General Hospital” might be canceled

9. The steady erosion of reproductive health care access around the country

10. My children enduring physical and/or emotional harm

 

BUT!

One thing I am NOT, repeat NOT afraid of is…..

 

Afraid to be SAHMS

 

….being a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been one for 14 years. I’ve been a feminist even longer. Of course I write a little, including a new book that is now available in print from Powell’s or Amazon , but my primary gig since the year 2000 has been stay-at-home momming.

Feminism didn’t scare me away from anything.

I await the opportunity to appear on Fox & Friends to provide a thoughtful and only slightly vitriolic rebuttal. Booking agents should write theradicalhousewife at gmail dot com.

 

I guess I’m lucky no one wants a signed ebook…

August 22nd, 2014

…which is available at these fine outlets, if you don’t have yours already:

So this happened:

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I had my State Fair tickets, my kids’ school supplies, a bitchin’ book press release–I thought I had My. Shit. TOGETHER!

Then I stumbled in the dark and broke my right wrist. Yep, my dominant hand. I told the ER doc that I was signing books in about seven weeks and received a very pitying look. I plan on proving him wrong.

But to do that I need to cut waaaay back on my social media and marketing plans so I can heal. Will you help me out by talking up the book to your friends? By Tweeting about the book with the hashtag #RadicalHousewife? By pitching the book to your book club? By asking your favorite media outlet to review it?

Thanks fans, friends, feminists! I love you all (and that ain’t just the Vicodin talkin’).

 

 

This book thing is actually happening

August 4th, 2014

 

You’d think after five years of work I wouldn’t be surprised that I wrote a book, and yet….
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…I guess I am.

The copy I’m reading is merely a proof, the kind of thing that authors parse for EVERY TINY LITTLE ERROR until it makes their publishers want to murder them, even from a thousand miles away. So far I’ve only found a couple, a few more glaring than others. I’m trying not to lie awake at night obsessing about them, instead reminding myself that to do so would be missing the forest for the trees, and in this case the forest is MY GODDAMN BOOK.

While print copies are not yet available, the ebook is ready for downloading on KindleKobo, and Nook. And I’m already getting some reviews, including this absolutely bananas post from Renia Carsillo that includes her favorite quotes:

 

Bitch

 

 

And NO we are not related–in fact, we have never met. That will change in the virtual realm when I join Renia and her readers in a Google hangout to talk about the book on August 22. I hope you’ll join us to dish on the book and all things feminist parenting.

Those who join my mailing list will be the first to get the scoop on when print copies are available, as well as where I’ll be doing my first signing. BIG HINT: it’s in Minneapolis, but it’s not at my house (thank gawd).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to write edit read.

 

 

 

 

It’s almost here!

July 22nd, 2014

 

 

 

 

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Why do I write a blog?

July 21st, 2014

 

I received my first blank book as a Christmas present in 1982. Prior to then I scribbled my thoughts and various Archie fanfics (though in those days we didn’t call them fanfics, we called them silly stories about comic book characters) in notebooks and scratch pads around the house. My mother believed me when I said I wanted to be a Writer When I Grew Up, so she thought I finally needed something Fancy to Write In.

And write in it I did. I was a faithful correspondent in that book for months, pushing myself to write something every day, including what I had for dinner (Green Mill pizza) what I watched on TV (Powerhouse) and whose family got a mysterious machine called a VCR that showed movies you actually wanted to watch (Rachel’s, the lucky girl). Then I realized that my fifth grade existence was actually pretty boring and I gave it up.

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In 8th grade I was given a new book, perhaps to sort out my complicated feelings about my parents’ yearlong separation, but family problems barely made its pages, devoted as they were to my single-minded pursuit of the cute boy who sat in front of me in math class. Oh sweet heavens, he was adorable. Even the sudden death of a classmate gets only a page of reflection before devolving into a navel-gazing meditation on how important it was to make that cute boy like me before I, like Lisa, got run over by a car on my way home from school.

After reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in high school (another gift from my mother, who still believed me when I said I wanted to be a Writer When I Grew Up), I ditched the B. Dalton brand blank books and returned to notebooks. Goldberg swore by the unassuming nature of the lowly school notebook, believing that fancy books deterred creativity instead of inspiring it. I kept a journal only sporadically, however, as I was more interested in writing teenage angst fiction based on the skaters and McPunks who hung out at the Uptown McDonald’s.

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After graduation, I decided to take up the journaling habit again, this time in a series of beat-up notebooks covered in random stickers, including one from my place of employment. I wrote constantly. I wrote at home, in coffee shops, at bars. I wrote so much I gave myself cramps in my hands. In 1997, I fell head over heels for the cute boy at the record store–but this time, I was so busy being loved  in return that I didn’t have to pine about it. Requited love is a great productivity killer. I stopped journaling for a very long time.

Until I started a blog.

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Of course I wasn’t nearly as candid in a blog as I was with my blank books or journals, but I was still pretty honest when I wrote about my children, my family of origin, my best friend, the parents at my kids’ school.

Surprise! The only people who weren’t pissed off were my kids–because they were too young to have MySpace accounts.

About a month ago I wrote another personal blog post in which I reflected on the end of a friendship. I received a swift and brutal response from the person I wrote about, in the form of a comment that hit me so hard I felt dizzy and unsettled for days (last week I finally removed it). Again, I had to wonder why I ever thought to make the jump from easily hidden packs of paper to digital diaries that are open to the whole goddamn world. Why?

Why do I write a blog? These days I could say that I do it to push the soon-to-be-published book that shares the blog’s name. But we’re going to go deeper and REALLY WONDER WHY:

To make friends? To make enemies? To make manifest the promised Writer When I Grew Up? To feed my penchant for narcissistic navel-gazing? To make sense of what Mary Oliver called my one wild and precious life? To embarrass myself? To make myself happy?

All of the above?

I’m sure I’ll post something here when I’ve figured it out.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hobby Lobby debacle, in other people’s words

July 1st, 2014

 

I’ve written that health care discrimination is wrong.

I’ve written that we need a goddamn Equal Rights Amendment already.

I just can’t bring myself to write anything more, so the Official Radical Housewife™ reaction to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. will be brought to you by people and organizations with the ability to react while in the throes of a massive, never-ending headache.

I am grateful to them.

 

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To the trans friend who recently dropped me on Facebook

June 25th, 2014

 

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry because I’m pretty sure I know why you did it–to spare yourself pain that I caused you.

I am not writing now to ask you to reconsider your decision. I’ve been unfriended by people before (including members of my own family) and I will be again. I respect that unfriending can be an act of self-care, and I know you believe, as I do, that…

 

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You warned me, though, that my ardent, passionate love for the show RuPaul’s Drag Race was irritating to you. You said you just didn’t get why so many straight women like me were so enamored of drag queens, especially a cis-male queen like RuPaul who casually used words that you found hateful and transphobic.

For the record, I have never used those words, but I do have an alarming tendency to repeat other Ru-isms from the show. I use “WERRK” and “GUUURRL” so often so that now my kids use them to express great approval.

Is this okay? Can I co-opt the language of a culture I admire for my own entertainment?

 

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Um….

I am a cis-gendered straight white woman, oozing with all kinds of privilege.  In fact, I have the privilege to wear neither makeup nor dresses in my day to day life. I don’t get crap for dressing like what presents as “BOY,” unlike boys who get crap for dressing in what codes as “GIRL.” Sexism rewards me for my Chuck Taylors and jeans.

As an ally of social justice movements, being called out for my privilege hurts. Like I’ve written before, my natural impulse is to yell “NOT ALL [insert privilege here]!” With a little help from the Twittersphere, blogosphere, whatever you want to call it, I work on shutting my damn mouth and listening to what the call-outers are saying.

You never accused me of being transphobic, but I suspect you had enough when I posted how excited I was to hear RuPaul was a guest on my favorite podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. I hadn’t heard the episode yet, but I am such a big fan of both the guest and the show that I couldn’t help but announce my glee on social media. I didn’t have a clue that this show would be where Ru unloaded all of his frustration with those who object to some of his show’s content. As Ru put it:

Don’t you dare tell me what I can do or what I can say. It’s just words. Yeah, words do hurt. ‘Words hurt me.’ You know what? Bitch, you need to get stronger. You really do. Because you know what? If you think, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think. I’m telling you this.

I listened to the podcast but I did not comment on it. It is not my business to offer an opinion on whether or not it is okay to use problematic words that don’t apply to me.

I did watch the discussion unfold on Twitter, where RuPaul posted:

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…and where trans Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera responded:

 

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Ouch.

There is so much pain out there, and I know you have endured more than your fair share. That word is just one of many painful things you’ve endured since you transitioned. We didn’t talk about it all that much, but you mentioned that you lost a partner you loved. Your family isn’t supportive. You have trouble holding a steady job because of the harassment. Public bathrooms, which cis-folks like me take for granted, can be a nightmare.

I tried to show you how much I care about you and your journey when I asked Kate Bornstein to sign a copy of her memoir A Queer and Pleasant Danger to you. I guess I should have TOLD you myself, but (ironically in this case) words got in the way. How do you say to someone who is just living their goddamn life that you admire them like hell for doing it? For having the guts to be their authentic self? How?!

Is it transphobic of me to like RuPaul and his body of work? I don’t think so. I think it would be much worse for me to insert myself in a debate over whether or not it’s okay for someone to self-identify with a word that others find distasteful. That’s why I did nothing.

I’m sorry if you interpreted my RuPaul fandom and my silence on the controversy around the word as an endorsement of that word being used.

You didn’t need my admiration or a stupid hashtag–you just needed to know that I had your back. And in that moment on Facebook, you felt that I didn’t.

Whether you extend a Facebook friend request to me in the future is not as important to me as the fact that you know, via this blog post/open letter, that I care about you and that I regret the hurt I caused. We may never cross paths in real or virtual spaces again, and that’s okay. I’ll always be glad that I knew you, the WHOLE you, a smart and funny and talented and compassionate person.

Continue to take care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My son and #YesAllWomen

June 5th, 2014

 

Last week my firstborn, 14-year-old Elliott, informed me that a group of girls at his middle school were (and I am quoting him directly here) “causing a fuss about #YesAllWomen.”

I was delighted, shocked and confused at the same time. Ever since the Isla Vista killings on May 23rd, I’d been mulling over how I was going to talk to my children about the latest mass murder to occur in the good old USA. I even started a blog post about it that bore the long-winded title “I know I should talk to my kids about Isla Vista but I don’t know if I can.”

Why the hangup? You try telling your third grade daughter about the ubiquity of gender-based violence. You try telling your keenly logical Asperger’s son about the misogyny that fuels so much of said violence–because this is what he will say:

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And that is exactly what came out of Elliott’s mouth when he explained how uncomfortable the girls’ fuss made him.

Asperger’s tends to produce thinking that is black/white, good/bad, wrong/right. To him, the fact that HE has never committed an atrocity against women or girls in his life PROVES that “not all men.” If that is a FACT, and really and truly a FACT, then it MUST be brought to everyone’s attention.

 

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Please do not read the above and think that my son is an unfeeling robot on autopilot, as current stereotypes might lead you to believe. In fact, he has an extremely tender heart, a characteristic not usually attributed to Aspies but should be; the Aspies in my acquaintance (and there are many) may flounder with the finer points of social etiquette but they are loyal and loving when it counts. I remember well how Elliott’s already pale cheeks whitened several shades when I explained the Newtown shootings over a year ago.* CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT IN SCHOOL, his mind raced. CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT. WRONG WRONG WRONG. I think that the detachment some see in spectrum people is really just terrible confusion and anxiety at a world that isn’t easily categorized as they would like.

The “fuss” that the girls were causing involved writing down some of their favorite #YesAllWomen tweets and posting them on the walls of their school. I thought this was fan-freaking-tastic and told him so.

“But it made me feel bad,” Elliott said.

“Why?” I said.

“Because I don’t do that stuff,” he said.

“I know that,” I said.

“But posting all that makes me think that I’m like that, but I’m really not,” he said.

I sighed. “And you felt like you had to tell those girls that you were NOT ALL MEN, right?”

He looked bewildered and more than a little embarrassed: did his mother actually know what happened on the internet?!!

 

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I found an excuse to take him for a walk around the neighborhood, as I’ve found my kids do their best thinking when active. We must have gone back and forth for at least 30 minutes before I stopped him on Park Avenue and asked, “Elliott, have you ever made fun of someone just because she was a girl?”

“No,” he said immediately.

“Have you ever made fun of a girl’s clothes?”

“Why would I do that?” he asked.

“Have you ever called a girl a slut?”

He looked like he was going to throw up. “No way,” he said.

“Have you ever hurt a girl? Physically or mentally? Have you? HAVE YOU?” By now I had my hands on his shoulders and I was staring directly into his adorable hazel eyes.**

“NO!” he shouted, so loudly that I’m sure the neighbors heard.

“THEN YOU DON’T NEED TO WORRY,” I announced, “BECAUSE THE GIRLS IN SCHOOL ARE NOT TALKING TO YOU.”

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He made a face like the one above (taken in response to the lousy defense in the first quarter of the Minnesota Lynx home opener), took a deep breath, and….

UNDERSTOOD.

We hugged. It was amazing. It was beautiful. I have a feeling it will go down as one of my favorite parenting moments, ever.

Which is why I am blogging it and sharing it with you, and with the Elliott of the future when he Googles his mother’s name.

Elliott, if you are reading this, know that I love you and I am so proud of the boy you are and the man you will become.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 *it sickens me that I must have this conversation every few months. GUN SENSE NOW!

 **seriously, he’s the cutest boy in the world

 

 


EBOOK NOW AVAILABLE!

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Ebook cover 978-0-9797152-2-8 copy

"With The Radical Housewife, Shannon Drury shares her journey as a stay-at-home mother and activist, filling in a wide gap within the feminist sphere. Drury not only takes the reader through her own feminist awakening and activist career, but also provides a bit of Feminist 101, reviewing the history of US feminism in an easily accessible way. A mixture of unflinching honesty and snarky humor, this book serves as a necessary reminder that mothers are an integral part of the feminist movement, despite not always being recognized as such." --Avital Norman Nathman, editor of The Good Mother Myth