Archive for the ‘Awesome’ Category
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:
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.
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?!!
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.”
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….
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.
*it sickens me that I must have this conversation every few months. GUN SENSE NOW!
**seriously, he’s the cutest boy in the world
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my love-hate relationship with the Democratic Party. Though the party tends to be where those on the liberal end of the political spectrum end up, there are far too many in the party whose loyalty lies with power and influence, not actual, honest-to-gawd ideological principles. Heck, back in the Obamacare Battles of 2011, I wrote not one, not two, but THREE posts in a row raging against the colossal idiocy of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But I am veering away from my point, which is this: Democrats who actually vote for LIBERAL social and economic policies are giving me hope! HOPE, DAMMIT! It’s like they read my aforementioned blog posts and pondered the question I posed, namely:
WHAT WOULD SHIRLEY CHISHOLM DO?
Here is what they are doing: last week, my state Senate passed the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act (MNWESA), a kickass package of bills that take on some of the biggest barriers to women’s physical and economic safety. Among other things, the bill would (and I’m quoting directly from the MNWESA website here):
- Increase the minimum wage to $9.50
- Expand unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from 6 to 12 weeks
- Add pregnancy to the Minnesota Parental Leave Act
- Allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to use paid leave to obtain services
- Expand unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault
- Require private businesses with more than 40 employees that have contracts with the state of $500,000 or more to ensure and state compliance with equal pay laws
- Increase reimbursement rates for child care providers participating in the Child Care Assistance Program
That is some serious family values in action there. That’s going to immediately affect sick kids, poor kids, vulnerable kids, endangered kids. It’s a huge start towards making workplaces more family-friendly. And friendly families create healthy, functional kids. And happy, safe kids make our communities better places. WIN-WIN-WIN!
Meanwhile, three years ago, the first Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature in two generations spent all of its political capitol on amendments attempting to ban same-sex marriage and restrict people from being able to vote.
What’s next? The House and Senate need to hash out a few differences in their versions of the bill, which they’re doing in conference committee today. I wonder if our governor will sign it?
I’ll give you a hint: here’s what happened in 2013 when the NEWLY Democratic Minnesota legislature gave him a bill THEY wrote that would legalize same-sex marriage:
He not only signed that bill, he did so in the middle of a big ol’ PARTY!
THIS is what happens when liberals LEGISLATE like liberals–just like Shirley Chisholm did.
Where were YOU on April 25, 2004?
I was in Washington DC with my mom, my sister, and over a million of my friends.
In case you can’t see me in the crowd, here’s what I looked like ten years ago:
My hair was shorter and my middle was smaller, but I was just as passionate about reproductive justice as I am today.
Actually, I may be even MORE passionate, as almost exactly one year after this picture was taken I gave birth to my second child, a girl. It crushes me a little bit that our massive march didn’t make it possible for Miriam to be born under a Kerry administration, but I do know that day made a difference. As Zoe Nicholson has discussed in her books and speeches (much more eloquently than I ever could), no one who attends a march like this comes away untouched by it.
I can’t wait for the next March for Women’s Lives, whenever it may be, for I know that I will be there with my own daughter. And with my son! And maybe with you and your kids.
Should we start making plans?
“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ”
“….when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
Today’s excerpt is dedicated to two people I love dearly, who appear in my book under the pseudonyms Kelly and Gretchen. They are very important members of my family, and whenever anybody asks me why a straight middle class housewife gives a crap about marriage equality*, I mention them. In fact, Kelly took this picture of Elliott at a marriage equality rally our families attended on February 12, 2009:
I remember that rally well–I delivered a speech on behalf of Minnesota NOW that was received warmly by the less then the few dozen people who bothered to show up. Today, my friend Kelly is back at the Capitol, with THOUSANDS of ecstatic people ready to celebrate marriage equality in our state. Among those thousands are Kelly and Gretchen’s two daughters, who can’t wait to be bridesmaids in their mothers’ LEGAL Minnesota wedding.
I can’t believe it.
Kelly and I were both good American girls, born in the land of the free, rewarded with Social Security Cards and easily obtained passports. Had I fallen for a lederhosen-wearing Bavarian named Matthias Schwarz (instead of a professor’s brat born within a mile of UC-Berkeley), his road to citizenship would be assured. Kelly, on the other hand, had no such opportunity. She could not legally sponsor the citizenship of the foreign-born person she loved.
“Ugh,” Matt said, his usual eloquence failing him.
Deep in the throes of liberal guilt, I blurted, “you’re lucky, then, that you’re a white European and not a dark-looking terrorist.” Post-9/11 hysteria brought new reports daily of Muhammads and Fatimas kicked off airplanes, hijab-wearers taunted with racial slurs, rocks thrown in mosque windows. Gretchen admitted that her citizenship class had zero attendees of obviously Arab descent. The Muslim students took great pains to announce that they were Somali war refugees. Well into 2003 there was still palpable fear that al-Qaeda lurked in every (swarthy, hijab-clad) corner.
Matt returned us to the original point. “It shouldn’t be against the law to sponsor the person you love.”
Kelly shrugged. “We can’t get married,” she said simply. “If we’re not legally married, our relationship doesn’t exist.”
“But we have some domestic partner laws,” I said. “Are you able to register as partners?”
Gretchen lifted her head from her thick textbook. “We can register all day long, but it still doesn’t mean anything.” Then she returned to The New Citizen’s Guide to the Constitution.
Kelly shrugged. “I guess it would be nice to have a big party,” she said, “but it’s true that it doesn’t mean much. I still can’t give Gretchen any of my job’s benefits. I can’t even carry her on my health insurance.”
“I have to buy my own,” the student of American law announced.
I decided, after draining my Summit Extra Pale Ale too quickly, that The Happy Hetero ought to state the obvious. “That’s really expensive.”
Kelly nodded. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, it is.” At least [their son] Morgan could be added to Kelly’s coverage without any trouble; unmarried mothers, once a category as publicly shunned as homosexual couples, were wholly unexciting in the 21st century.
Gretchen passed her citizenship exam easily, returning home from her swearing-in ceremony with the gift awarded to her by the Customs Bureau, a tiny American flag stapled to a barbecue skewer. “USA! USA!” she taught Morgan to shout. He ran around the yard, chanting and waving, chased by Elliott, who shrieked that he wanted a turn. Frustrated, Elliott grabbed Morgan by his overall straps and threw him to the ground, WWF style. The home of the brave, indeed.
*though anyone who would ask me such a stupid thing deserves a kick in the crotch, not a polite answer
I know it’s time. You know it’s time. We all know it’s time.
Yet whenever I read this phrase, so casually and coolly dropped into news articles on the happenings at my state capitol today….
“Minnesota is expected to become the 12th state making same-sex marriage legal”
….I have to do a little:
OH MY GAWD!
IT REALLY IS TIME!
The unemotional can watch the Uptake’s live stream, but I am already a bit too verklempt, especially since the person introducing the bill in the House is Rep. Karen Clark, the longest serving openly lesbian member to serve in a state legislature in the United States. Since 1980 she has kicked all kinds of butt for equality and justice in Minnesota, and everyone exulting today (on the live stream you can hear them chanting, howling, and screaming outside the House chamber) owes her an enormous debt of gratitude.
Now I just have to break the news to Elliott that he’s probably a little too old to be a ring bearer.
I have started and stopped this post more than a dozen times. Here’s the conversation I hear as I type, delete, type, hit save draft…
Head: “It’s time to write a blog post.”
Heart: “Yeah, probably, but I don’t wanna.”
Head: “You have stuff to say, publications to plug, yadda yadda.”
Heart: “Ugh, I would rather sit under a blanket and watch Scandal, the best show on television.”
Head: “You streamed every episode available. There won’t be a new one until March 21. WRITE THAT POST.”
In last month’s issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press, themed “Matters of the Heart,” I wrote a fan letter to feminist men. It was pretty good, I think–at least good enough to warrant many hetero women to inquire where I found my awesome feminist husband (behind the counter at Cheapo, of course). But I didn’t do the usual thing and hawk it here, for an uncomfortable reason.
My big fat feminist heart is in pieces.
On January 30, my friend Pam Taylor passed away from brain cancer. She died with her family at her side, at home, in typically stubborn fashion–her doctors gave her just weeks to live, but she pushed that out to fourteen months. If you knew Pam, you knew she was not about to leave her two daughters THAT quickly. No way.
Usually, I respond to upheaval by writing. I wrote volumes when my dear friend Liz passed away in 2007, also of cancer, also at home, also leaving behind two young daughters. At the time I kept my blog on MySpace, a charmingly mindless place to vent about the ugliness and unfairness of life. As a plus, you could add the music you were listening to at the time, which in 2007 was always Paul Westerberg’s “Let the Bad Times Roll“:
The good times hide/and so do I/out of my control/I dig a hole/I’m gonna let the bad times roll
It should be noted that this song was released in 2002, a decade before Scandal was available to cheer ol’ Paul up.
In the years (yes, years) that I’ve been working on The Radical Housewife, the book, I’ve utilized the services of a number of industry professionals who advised me that my blog should be a place where I “build my platform,” such as it is. I must be vigorous about promoting myself and my work at the Women’s Press, at MPR, at the Minnesota NOW Times, at any analog and/or digital publication that would have me–nevermind that this is contrary to every introverted cell in my body. I find that this push towards “branding” has strangled my natural impulse to write directly from my heart, whether it’s broken or whole.
And more and more often I see bloggers are clashing with each other (and with their readers, sometimes) over anything and everything. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg seem to have reinvigorated the Mommy Wars for 2013, and every feminist writer I know has taken a side. Page views and well-placed editorials are the reward for the winner, dontcha know! The Feminist Breeder was so fed up she put up a paywall on her site. Kinda makes you wish we were all gluing up zines at Kinko’s doesn’t it?
Goddammit, whatever happened to GIRL POWER?! Forgive us, Bratmobile and Sporty Spice! We need you!
Ultimately, waxing nostalgic for long-lost “good old days” is as unhelpful as wishing very very VERY hard that people wouldn’t die. You can give it a go, just don’t expect results.
The heart is a fragile thing.
Photo credit: the sickening minds at Logo TV
Not many people know this, but I am a massive Lesley Gore fan and have been ever since I heard her wail on my mother’s scratchy old 45s. I love her so much that I sat through all of the cheapie 1965 B-movie “The Girls on the Beach” to watch her star as the primmest Alpha Beta sorority sister.* She sang “Leave Me Alone” and she fucking KILLED it.
But who knew that her greatest performance was yet to come? In a You Tube PSA for the 2012 elections, no less?
Says Lesley: “I recorded ‘You Don’t Own Me’ in 1964. It’s hard for me to believe but we’re still fighting for the same things we were then. Yes ladies, we’ve go to come together, get out there and vote, and protect our bodies. They’re ours. Please vote.”
I love it. And it gave me a brilliant idea.
Could 2016 be the year that we have a new and improved Clinton/Gore presidential ticket??
OH MY GAWD, I HOPE SO!
*okay, okay, I also watched it for the Beach Boys. You got me.