Category Archives: Feminism

7 things I learned when I wrote to every abortion clinic in the USA

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Just after Thanksgiving of last year, I embarked upon a mailing project that I thought would be more fun than sending out the same lame Christmas photos of my increasingly surly children: I would send a postcard of support to every abortion clinic in America.

The idea came from comedian Lizz Winstead, who Tweeted that abortion providers could use some cheering up in the wake of the November 27 attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that left three people dead. Her feminist action group, Lady Parts Justice, was sending postcards because security concerns precluded actual cards or letters. This by itself is a good reason to send a card of support: clinic staff has good reason to be fearful of opening their mail. Their mail!

I still had a pile of promotional postcards left over from the 2014 launch of my book The Radical Housewife, and this sounded like the best possible way to use them. Armed with a roll of postcard stamps, a couple of pens, and the website of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), I set out to write a message to every clinic in the country.

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Here’s what I learned, should you decide to take on this goodwill gesture yourself.

  1. Get out your wallet. Postcard stamps are significantly higher than they were twenty years ago, when correspondence via kitschy postcard was the way I kept in touch with my friends in the dark days before social media. As of this writing they are 35 cents a pop, and like regular postage are marked “forever” so that their value can be readjusted as the government sees fit. If you’re thinking about doing this project I suggest you buy them in a rolls of a hundred; you’ll need that many stamps, which is both good and bad news.
  2. You may need an Advil. The good news about having so many clinics to write to? You will get a cramp in your wrist from writing “reproductive freedom is a family value!” on hundreds of cards because you thought that printing out a sticker with that message would lack the warmth of your increasingly messy handwriting. This cramping, as well as the demands of everyday life, will make it impossible for you to complete this project in the time frame you imagined. I aimed for winter holiday cards, but came closer to St. Patrick’s Day greetings. Yours could make it by Halloween!
  3. You may also need a rage-soothing cupcake. The bad news about having so many clinics to write to? Without heading to Google, I can guesstimate about 150 million people in the United States with the ability to get pregnant. There are about 500 abortion clinics to service that population. And no thanks to the laws known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP), burdensome and unnecessary regulations are piling up on practices, forcing them to close at an alarming clip. Many clinics listed on the NAF website are no longer in business.
  4. Stalkers keep thorough records. I was able to learn more about these clinic closures no thanks to an abortion provider stalking site called AbortionDocs.org. This site had more up-to-date information about abortion providers than the NAF did, which is a testament to their truly mad obsession with terrorizing these people until they crack—or until they are murdered by maniacs able to find their home addresses on AbortionDocs.org. A disclaimer on the site states that “it is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff,” which is pretty rich from a site that has creepy photos of doctors just trying to walk to their cars. The group behind AbortionDocs, Pro-Life Nation, is led by Troy Newman, who has publicly announced that killing abortion doctors is “justifiable defensive action.” These stalkers are nothing if not thorough; every time I had a question about whether a clinic was operational, they had the information I needed.
  5. Location, location, location. There are a lot of clinics in cities like Chicago and New York, but there isn’t a single one in the state of Wyoming. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi have one clinic each. I’ve never been to the Deep South, but the Dakotas border my home state of Minnesota, and I can tell you from experience that these states are big. Good Lord, they are big! Traversing them is no joke. I can’t imagine the anxiety of a pregnant tour guide at Mt. Rushmore who needed to travel 400 miles to Sioux Falls in time for the first appointment at Planned Parenthood that would be a state-mandated 72 hours before the appointment for the actual procedure. That doesn’t sound like a “choice” to me; it sounds more like a forced vacation. Given the “choice,” I would prefer to spend a week on a Caribbean cruise, not sitting around Sioux Falls. Even the most loyal South Dakotan would probably agree with me.
  6. As always, it helps to be rich. Several clinics advertised “private and concierge services,” which in Miami means getting the procedure done twice as quickly, and in Las Vegas means “ultra-privacy,” for which you must pay in cash. Wealthy women had access to medical abortions before Roe v. Wade, and they’ll have it even if the unthinkable happens and President Trump appoints more anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. I need another cupcake.
  7. Feminists are awesome. There is an abortion clinic in Iowa City named after radical anarchist Emma Goldman. I had no idea!

I may have endured cramps, costs, and cupcake-induced indigestion, but those annoyances pale in comparison to the very real threats facing abortion providers and their staff every day. Winstead and Lady Parts Justice had it right—we owe them our gratitude, and it’s on us to show it. Grab a pack of cards from your local stationer and get writing!

 

Radical homemakers vs. radical housewives

This post was first published on May 20, 2010, but is relevant today because a search for MY book, “The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century” might lead you down a different path. And we wouldn’t want that!

 

Book Kitchen

Here’s the cover you need to look for, kids! Just for fun, I took this picture in my messy kitchen. Told ya I’m a housewife, not a homemaker!

 

A note from one of the publishers at the Minnesota Women’s Press reminded me of my long-delayed intention of talking a bit about a fellow Radical Shannon out there: Shannon Hayes, she of the Radical Homemaking book and series of articles in Yes! magazine. I appreciate her ideas (for the world needs MORE radical Shannons in it, not fewer) but she and I have totally different practices and goals.

Hayes’s subtitle is “reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture.” As a committed pinko, I like anything that questions the status quo. Capitalism exists to make us all desperately unhappy sheep. The short term consequences are increased L’Oreal and Bud Lite sales–long term consequences are entrenched classism, racism, and sexism.

Hayes’s book site states that “it is the story of pioneering men and women who are redefining feminism and the good life by adhering to simple principles of ecological sustainability, social justice, community engagement and family well-being.” Elsewhere, she writes: “in essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires.”

And that’s where we part ways.

It starts with the word “homemaker,” one that I have always found problematic. How does one MAKE a home? I haven’t a clue. Is it by washing the floors? Baking from scratch? Quilting? Gardening? Reading bedtime stories? Nurturing relationships? I clean my home. In the interest of sustainability, I recycle and compost like a maniac, carry my cloth bags with me, bike it up, etc. etc. But I don’t think that keeping a coop of chickens or canning the beans from my garden is the way towards a more just world.

For one thing, “rekindling the home fires” implies turning inward, reaffirming the family as the basic unit of society, just like the folks at the Christian Coalition. Now, I don’t know if Shannon Hayes is religiously motivated. But once you start turning inwards, towards a unit that looks like you, talks like you and thinks like you, you start getting out of touch with the complex systems that conspire against the people who DON’T look like you!

Feminism is about fighting oppression in all its forms. That means we must work outward, not inward. This is why I must place Radical Homemaking on the Mommy Wars spectrum, despite its fine intentions. Examples of Radical Homemakers, the author included, have only been well-off, highly educated white women.  “The Opt-Out Revolution,” anyone?

A discussion on the subject at Bitch led me to the blogger Vegan Burnout, who wrote: “to frame the choice between working a soulless 9-to-5 or building a backyard chicken coop and learning to can tomatoes as the only feminist options is reductive and insulting.” It’s easy to choose your choice when you have so many choices to choose from that when you do choose, your choice is automatically THE BEST ONE! It’s the Opt-Out argument from 2003 all over again.

So why did I pick the Radical Housewife moniker, then? Because I find the word “housewife” really funny. That’s why. When I’m asked to fill in the box marked “occupation,” I say I’m a writer and an at-home parent. The damn home can make itself for all I care.

Sorry, Radical Shannon. I just don’t buy it (anti-capitalist pun intended).

 

If YOU’RE in the mood to buy, why not get a copy of The Radical Housewife from these fine retailers? 

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s 

Your local indie store (via IndieBound)

 

Why doesn’t she leave? Only she knows

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)

 

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.