Archive for the ‘Culture Wars’ Category

To the trans friend who recently dropped me on Facebook

Wednesday, 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?





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:



…and where trans Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera responded:





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.









Ten things I don’t want my insurance money to pay for

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014




1. Your insulin

After all, it was your choice to eat a jelly donut every morning. Now it’s my choice not to stabilize your blood sugar.

2. Your statin drugs

See above. When you weren’t eating donuts, you were eating bacon! Sometimes you had both at one sitting! YOUR choice, not mine.

3. Your heart stents

See above, fatty! You shoulda been eating bran flakes.

4. Your kid’s stimulants

I think little Tommy’s just got an attitude problem. Discipline is what he needs, not money from my pocket.

5. Your mole removal

You got to go to the beach every year for spring break? Well, I had to go to a museum. Who’s pissed off now?

6. Your painkillers

I hear that street heroin is easily and cheaply available on the street. As a capitalist, I believe the free market is preferable to the artificial price controls of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Go chase that dragon on your own!

7. Your infertility treatments

God made you barren for a reason.

8. Your cesarean section

God gave you a stretchy vagina for a reason.

9. Your Viagra

God gave you a limp dick for a reason.

10. Your sad, pathetic life

Enough of this “civil society” crap. My money is MINE, and I want to spend it on plastic flowers, yarn and glitter glue at:





Twelve Myths in the Hobby Lobby Case, as Clarified by Jodi Jacobson

What Sandra Fluke Knows About Hobby Lobby: a Case Beyond “Religious Liberty”

The Hobby Lobby Case is About Spreading Lies About Contraception

Five Reasons Contraceptive Care Is Essential

Here’s What the Christian Right Hopes to Gain From the Hobby Lobby Case






Seven alternatives to Miley Cyrus

Monday, October 7th, 2013


As the parent of a 13-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter, I have an interest in the ongoing pop culture debates over art vs. raunch, nakedness vs. maturity, empowerment vs. exploitation.

But I am also an admitted fan of pop music, and in my considered opinion, the stuff Miley Cyrus is putting out is just boring.

I could spend hours discussing the impact of Rihanna, Ke$ha and Britney on impressionable children, because “We Found Love,” “Tik Tok,” and “Toxic” are kickass singles.  I tried “We Can’t Stop,” but I don’t get it.  I don’t even think it would be a good Rihanna record.

As a result, Miley’s antics with foam fingers, teddy bears, and cultural appropriation are not even on my kids’ radar–but they might be on yours. If that true, then I’m here to help!  Below is a Radical Housewife-approved list of hip-hop/pop gems by women that I guarantee inspiring mad twerking that you can feel good about.


Your kids might be surprised to learn that this talk show host used to be cool:


Mary’s groove is as fierce as her clothes are hideous:


Everyone in my house loves M.I.A.–and the family that galangs together, stays together:


Miley DREAMS of being as hot as Neneh Cherry:


Amanda Blank is Brooklyn’s answer to Ke$ha (and that’s a good thing):


One of my closest college pals went to high school with Santigold, a totally pointless factoid I trot out to seem “hip”:


And Le Tigre, of course:


If you disagree with these selections, please refrain from writing me an open letter.  I’d prefer you just leave me a comment.




Corporate food sensitivity

Friday, April 12th, 2013


If you’re a certain kind of hippy-dippy, über-crunchy, lefty pinko mom of particular socioeconomic status, you probably ingest (and perhaps most importantly, serve to your children) some kind of organic food product.

You don’t go the full Paltrow, of course, but you try, and you try because you care: about your family’s health, about Big Ag, about the environment, about everything.  This is why liberals are called bleeding hearts–we care.  We are sensitive not only to the lactose in cow’s milk, but also to the myriad injustices of the world.  We don’t just care, we ache, dammit!  We so want to do the Right Thing, especially at the breakfast table.

We also read in large numbers.  I know I’m not the only mom who gagged on her chocolate soymilk & coffee yesterday morning when she read this headline from the site:  ORGANIC EDEN FOODS’ QUIET RIGHT WING AGENDA



Irin Carmon writes that Eden Foods is on the list of companies suing the Obama Administration for the contraceptive coverage requirements in the Afforable Care Act–quite surprising for a biz that started as a hippy-dippy, über-crunchy co-op 45 years ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I mean, it’s no shocker that an Oklahoma-based craft supply store might raise a fuss such things, but would you ever imagine phrases like THESE:

  • “The Affordable Care Act…attacks and desecrates a foremost tenet of the Catholic Church”
  • “The Affordable Care Act’s contraception, abortion, and abortifacient mandate violates the rights of Plaintiffs”
  • “Plaintiff has never offered insurance which included coverage for contraception and abortifacients”
  • “Plaintiffs believe and teach that ‘any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation, whether as an end or as a means’—including contraception, abortifacients, and abortion—is immoral and unnatural”

…coming from a hippy-dippy, über-crunchy organic foods company?!   That started in the late ’60s in a college town?  One imagines their original clientele had more problems with the immorality of deodorant than with non-procreative sex.

Just who does Eden Foods CEO Michael Potter think his customer base is?  Let me give him a hint.  It looks less like this:



…than this:



…and Gwyneth, for all of her annoying organic macrobiotic gluten-free GOOPiness, is a loud and proud supporter of Planned Parenthood.

Happily, I do not drink Edensoy in my coffee, preferring the creamy deliciousness of Silk Light Chocolate Soymilk every morning.  Instructed not to buy it from Whole Foods, I get it from the co-op we joined a year ago, or when I’m in a hurry, from my local Cub, which has a fully unionized workforce.  I CARE.

Just to be on the safe side, though, I thought I’d give Silk a Google to see what came up.



I guess I’ll be taking my (shade-grown, fair trade) coffee black from now on.




Answering the abortion rights question

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

While we’re reminiscing today, the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let’s take a moment to remember what I looked like on Good Friday, 2005, just one of the many days I have honored my commitment to speak out for reproductive rights:



Back then, my son was a five-year-old preschooler, obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and the Hardy Boys.  Today my son is almost thirteen, a fan of Katniss Everdeen and dubstep music that makes my head hurt.  He has always been a very curious kid, and now that he is older he is very interested in what I call The Big Questions: life, death, and the tools we use to make sense of what lies in between.

Not long ago he asked me how I felt about abortion. “I think whether or not to have an abortion is a woman’s business and no one else’s,” I replied.

“But don’t you think it’s killing a baby?”


Of course this discussion had to happen in the car, so I wasn’t able to whip out the smartphone to add visuals to our conversation.  It took much longer while driving to explain that THIS:



…or even THIS:



…is not the same thing as THIS:



…which is what his sister looked like six months OUTSIDE of my body.

“Some people think that a two-celled zygote is a human life,” I told Elliott.  “Some people think that a four-week zygote is, too.  I saw you on a sonogram only nine weeks after conception, and I saw your little heart fluttering.”

“You did?”  He was impressed.  I was too, back in the summer of 1999, and I wrote about the experience in my book The Radical Housewife.  I shared the excerpt here on Blog For Choice Day 2011:

Lacking the framework of faith, I seek not perfection, but balance. When I looked my blob, I understood him as the culmination of countless events and choices, the sum total of my years on the earth. My years, and no one else’s. I also saw a creature that drew sustenance from me and me alone. He lived on my blood, my nutrients, my oxygen, my energy: all of it mine. If I died, so did he. His tail could not wiggle outside the safety of my womb.

I gave him life. I also gave him meaning.

When does life begin? I suspect it is a process requiring a complex engagement between both the being and its world, much like a story requires a reader. Otherwise, the words remain only a series of unintelligible scratches on a page. If we accept that a story has different meaning for a different reader, we may understand that no person will approach either their soul, or a zygote’s, identically.

The above language is a little fancy for the average 13-year-old, even one as brilliant and handsome as my son, so I tried to craft my feelings about abortion, and life, so that he could understand.

“A woman must have the right to decide what happens to her body.  How I feel about pregnancy, or how you feel, or how the lady next door feels, or the President feels or the Pope feels, can never be more important than the feelings of the woman going through it.  No one can decide but her.”

The backseat was quiet for a moment–a rare thing.  Then he said:

“I get it.”




In circles about abortion

Friday, January 11th, 2013


It’s no secret that reproductive rights activists and the anti-choice crowd read each others’ websites and Twitter feeds.  And by read, I mean parse in ever more minute detail.   Aside from providing insight into the other side’s strategies and tactics, it’s fun!  The circle-jerk that gets going after a blog post responds to a Twitter war kicked off by a online news report is a great way to waste a quiet afternoon.

I’m not going to link you to the site that inspired this post, because I think you should have your own moment of bliss when you are forced to Google “Gloria Steinem abort Erin Matson.”

You all know Erin, right? The former Action Vice President for NOW who spoke to Time magazine for their January 14, 2013 cover story on the reproductive justice movement 40 years after Roe v. Wade?  The woman in the article with the staple in her face?

Photo credit: my crummy Samsung Galaxy

Erin should also be familiar to my regular readers as a longtime friend, one so dear that I would trek from Cub Foods to Walgreens to Rainbow to find a damned copy of the very prominent national magazine with her picture in it AND be pissed to find that there’s a fucking STAPLE in the photo I was going to hang up by my desk!  I didn’t pay five bucks to have a clear picture of Nancy Keenan, I’ll tell you that!

Ooooh, did you catch that thinly veiled jab at the soon-to-be-former president of NARAL?  Look for it to be headline news in the blogosphere tomorrow.

If you performed the aforementioned Google as directed, you went to a site that had a rather snide take on the concerns of Erin, Steph Herold, and other young women in the reproductive rights movement.  If you read closely (as I do whenever I see a piece with Erin’s picture attached), you noticed that the post’s author believes that intergenerational tension is due in no small part to our elders’ subconscious desire to have aborted us.

(Well, not ME.  I was born in 1971, and everyone knows that no abortions occurred before January 22, 1973.)

Yes, folks, it’s true: Gloria Steinem wants to abort Erin.  When Erin told me the story of why she felt she had to leave her job at National NOW, she failed to add that Terry O’Neill, a 60-year-old Second Waver, kept chasing her around the office with a coat hanger.

I realize, of course, that writing a blog post about a blog post about a magazine article (and a blog post) is contributing yet another jerk to this particular circle, but I can’t help myself.  It’s too, too funny!

If I don’t see a response to this post from Lila Rose or the New Wave “Feminists” that in turn inspires a snarky rebuttal from Amanda Marcotte, I will be very disappointed.



Voting NO for the children we love

Monday, November 5th, 2012



I’m voting NO on Minnesota’s ballot question on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, of course.  For a while I was convinced that regular readers of my blog didn’t need me to itemize the reasons, including but not limited to the appalling notion of discrimination being enshrined into state law.  Yuck.

My heterosexual hubby, Matt, and I even had a depressing conversation about how the totally symbolic nature of the amendment fight (for Minnesota already has a state statute banning same-sex marriage) is draining untold millions of dollars from actual, honest-to-gawd, on the ground work that both sides could be doing to achieve a more just society.  Catholics and other religious groups are NOT feeding the hungry and healing the sick; lefties like yours truly are NOT fully funding Lambda Legal, the group working on the LGBT rights movement’s version of Brown v. Board of Education.  

Instead, an estimated FIFTEEN MILLION SMACKEROOS is going to ad agencies, television studios, lawn sign assemblers, radio announcers, t-shirt printers, leaflet copiers, et cetera.  I’ve mentioned that I’m burned out, yes?  Cynical, exhausted, ornery, drained, annoyed, jaded, the works?

Last weekend my hardened heart opened up again, and I remembered why I got into this business in the first place: because I love children and care desperately about their physical and mental well-being.



To be specific, I love and care for a child that my regular readers know as Mia.  This little girl is as dear to me as my own daughter. I met her only hours after she was born, and I’ll never forget the joy of nuzzling her squishy pink nose and telling her how happy I was to be a part of her life.  Nothing activates the protective instinct more than a vulnerable newborn, so tiny and dependent upon loving grown-ups to nurture and protect her.

Mia is a third-grader now, and her vulnerability is different: her parents revealed to me that she has been driven to tears by the barrage of advertising by those who call this a marriage “protection” amendment.  Mia cried when she saw strangers on the television tell her that:

  • Her family structure is inappropriate at best, aberrant at worst
  • Her parents are selfish egotists who shouldn’t have had her in the first place
  • Her family is a threat to society

Imagine all of that crap entering your head when YOU were only nine years old.  What would YOU do?

You’d probably cry.

This post has been pinging around in my own head for two days, moving from brain to fingers to webpage with great difficulty, for every time I imagine Mia crying, I start welling up.  There are fat tear splotches on my keyboard right now, so please forgive any egregious spelling and/or grammar mistakes.

The vote on the amendment tomorrow won’t change any laws.  It is symbolic–but what a symbol it would be to a little girl like Mia, a kid being raised by two loving and committed parents who just happen to be women.  What a symbol a resounding rejection of this amendment would be to the thousands of Minnesota children who wonder where they fit, not only on the rainbow of queer identity, but in the fabric of our community.

Is there another symbol that could so powerfully represent a cultural shift away from fear and towards love?

I can’t think of one.



Lesley Gore approves this message!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

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??  




*okay, okay, I also watched it for the Beach Boys.  You got me.


Surprise, surprise

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

So THIS just appeared across the street:


It’s the first VOTE YES marriage amendment sign I’ve seen anywhere, let alone in a deeply blue corner of the People’s Republic of South Minneapolis.  I don’t know the neighbors, who haven’t attended a National Night Out function in the nine years I’ve lived here and therefore haven’t clue about the many LGBT people living on our street and on streets nearby.

I think I’m supposed to feel rage or contempt, but mostly, I just feel sad.

Really sad.


To get your own ORANGE lawn sign for a donation of only $10, please contact Minnesotans United for All Families.





Friday, August 3rd, 2012

On August 1, the women of Crunk Feminist Collective wrote a perfect response to the whitewashing of the USA women’s gymnastics coverage that I cannot improve upon here, so I won’t try.  The post is called “UPDATE: Gabby Douglas leads Team USA to the gold” and very much deserving of your time and attention.  In this space, however, I would like to share what Gabby Douglas means to my daughter–my white, blonde, blue-eyed daughter.

Now, it shouldn’t matter that my daughter and Gabby don’t look alike, but this is America, and it does.  Not to Miriam, of course, and probably not to Gabby herself–but it seems to matter a hell of a lot to the people at NBC, who built their women’s gymnastics coverage around 2011 world champion Jordyn Weiber, a pale-skinned brunette.  Even when Weiber choked in the qualification rounds, NBC seemed determined that the story of Olympic gymnastics would be hers: would Weiber achieve her dream with the team gold? how does it feel for Weiber to see her dream go down in flames? et cetera.

Miriam, on the other hand, saw in Gabby Douglas a lovely, charming, and massively talented young woman and fell in love.

I am not some goopy hippie stereotype who likes to coo “my daughter doesn’t see color.”  My daughter sees color.  She’s not stupid.  She sees color with the literal eye of a young child who refers to her own skin as pink and Gabby’s as brown.

And as a child, she sees Gabby Douglas as a whole person, not a marketing gimmick.  This must be why the mainstream media has been so slow to catch on to what children of all colors understood the instant Gabby entered North Greenwich Arena.

Will that change now that Gabby is the all-around gold medalist?  Hey, everybody loves a winner.  I try to teach my kids to be gracious in victory as well as defeat, but I think if I were Natalie Hawkins I’d give my golden girl permission to say to NBC: