Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

The writings of “an extreme liberal/feminist/atheist and occupy supporter”

Friday, September 14th, 2012

 

Sigh.

Yes, that’s me, tippity-tap-tapping away at my dented Compaq for your reading enjoyment.  I do my writing on the dining room table, though.  Who can type on a couch?  Here’s a small sampling of what I’ve had published lately.  Interpret according to your identity politics*:

 

Global patriarchy back in business. Minnesota Women’s Press, September 2012.

 

 

Periods of great national stress tend to demand scapegoats, even ones as unlikely as Sandra Fluke, the law school student at Georgetown who was called a slut and a prostitute after testifying before a Congressional committee in favor of legislation supporting birth control. The control of women and their bodies is a political imperative in cultures around the world and in eras throughout human history, and nothing brings out misogyny more than global recession, prolonged war and environmental catastrophe. Women are the canaries in this ever-deepening coal mine. 

 

Lawn signs have their place, but shouldn’t neighbors be talking too?  Minnesota Public Radio News, September 12, 2012.

 

She wouldn’t have learned much from me, but she might have learned something from other neighbors at National Night Out. Neighbors like the gay couple across the alley and the lesbian couple several doors down. Lest she think that all GLBT people in the area are in a mad dash to the altar, she could also have met the singleton known to mingle in Palm Springs at Dinah Shore Weekend.

And these were just the folks who were out; untold others could be B (bisexual), or T (transgender), or part of the rainbow of difference in countless other ways. At our block’s annual event last month, there were elderly neighbors, toddler neighbors, surly teenage neighbors, neighbors of color, white neighbors, a neighbor in a wheelchair, a neighbor with multiple disabilities, gluten-free neighbors who avoided the brownies and vegetarian neighbors who avoided the hot dogs.

 

“An Atheist Grieves.” Atheist Voices of Minnesota. Edited by Bill Lehto.  Freethought House, 2012.
(enter to win your own signed copy of the book HERE!)

 

My son and daughter, ages 11 and 6 respectively, have never attended a funeral. By the time I was Elliott’s age I’d lost both of my Greatest Generation-era grandfathers; Elliott and Miriam’s four grandparents are Baby Boomers who are reaping the benefits of the late 20th century’s scientific advances, including the once-mocked theory that smoking cigarettes is a bad idea.  My kids are lucky, though they don’t know it.

The nearest my children have come to the reality of death occurred in November of 2007, when my very dear friend Liz succumbed to colon cancer when she was only 35.  Her death was painful, but foreseeable; during the final year of her life she was seriously ill, with more surgeries and hospital visits than I could count.  I visited her as often as I could, but for my Minneapolis-based children her death outside Boston happened offstage, not unlike the lead character’s mother in Bambi.  Instead of an echoing gunshot, my children heard the telephone ring at an hour too early for good news and the dull thud of my body as I slumped to the floor.

 

Finally, we have something that I didn’t write, but it’s too hilarious not to repost here.  It’s in reference to a comment I made in support of a piece by fellow MPR scribe Haddayr Copley-Woods:

 

 

How, HOW, did this young lady** discover my secret?  For years I’ve endeavored to hide my liberalism, my feminism, my atheism, and my socialist tendencies from the world!   Sure, the masthead photos on this website feature the word “abortion” twice, but doesn’t everybody’s?

Doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

*my parents are under no illusions whatsoever about me working in an office. They know my all-time favorite job (other than child-rearing of course! derp) was selling used CDs at Cheapo.  Gotta aim big, you guys!

**yes, Nicole, I know how to do Google searches too.  In fact, it took me just a few clicks to discover that your boyfriend of nearly six years still hasn’t proposed, much to your family & friends’ chagrin.  My “liberal/feminist/atheist and occupy supporter” advice would be to propose to him yourself, but you probably wouldn’t listen.  If you’re truly as antifeminist as you claim, you ought to ask your Facebook pal Rush Limbaugh for his opinion, which I’m guessing would be: “stop putting out, you dirty tramp.”

 

 

 

Why you’ll never be mom enough

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Tits out, ladies!

Unhook your bras and settle in for another battle in the Mommy Wars 2012, kicked into gear ever since Hilary Rosen thoughtlessly insisted that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.”  And maybe you heard about that Elisabeth Badinter book?

Why, even the New York Times devoted an opinion page to a debate it called “Motherhood vs. Feminism”   (this happened, like, a whole week and a half before the infamous Time magazine boob cover, so you can be forgiven for not recalling it).

Yes: motherhood VERSUS feminism, as if the two are mutually exclusive.  Please direct your attention to the left of your screen, to the “About Me” widget, for my thoughtful perspective.*

One of the NYT essays is titled “Let’s Not Pass Judgement.”  It’s not as good as the piece by Annie Urban, which you really MUST read, but I agree with its sentiment.  Women shouldn’t be fighting each other for our “choices”–we should be wagging our shame fingers at the systems that conspire against us, consumer culture and patriarchal capitalism in particular.  Repeat after me: class wars, not Mommy Wars.

I’ve been thinking about this not-passing-of-judgment thing.  A few weeks ago, a feminist site I enjoy posted a photo on Facebook of the now-infamous Tanorexic Mom, wondering if all the harsh criticism of this woman’s “choice” to fry her pale skin wasn’t antithetical to the feminist ideal of to each her own?

Hmm.

 

HMMMMMMMM.

Once again, we must return to the tricky notion of “choice.”  This woman chose to change her appearance rather drastically.  But did she, really?  Let’s ask our frenemy, good old consumer culture.  Pale women are told to buy creams and tanning beds to look acceptable.  Dark women are told to buy fading creams and treatments (like Photoshop) to look acceptable.  It doesn’t take long for these messages to tip vulnerable people into obsession, if not outright mental illness.

Is Patricia Krentcil mom enough?  A lot of people don’t think so.  For one thing, she is awfully ugly…unlike the lovely Jamie Lynne Grumet, she of the boob seen ’round the world:

 

 

Breastfeeding is, of course, a very good thing.  Unlike tanning, it has clear health benefits and does not cause cancer.  The fact that Grumet nurses her 4-year-old threatens me not a whit.  Her defiant stance, however, coupled with the hysterical cover copy, adds more fuel to the already tired notion of breastfeeding as a lifestyle “choice,”  and that’s when I get pissed.

I hate to break it to y’all, but nursing a baby is a biological function.  Our bodies are designed to do it–but please do not confuse this fact with a moral judgment upon you for not doing it!  PLEASE!  If you feel threatened by what you perceive to be my judgment, you are going to waste your time battling little old ME, not demanding change from the systems that conspire against a truly family-friendly society.

Suck on this: the United States is one of only four countries in the world that does not offer some kind of paid maternity leave.  The other three are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.  The latter country has an annual per capita income of $1600, so I can see why they can’t afford it.  The USA, not so much.

Would you “choose” to nurse your child if you had the “choice” to take paid maternity leave?  I bet you would.  And no matter your skin color, your body size or shape, you’d look damned good doing it.

According to patriarchal capitalism, you are NOT mom enough, and you never will be.  You have to hate yourself to buy what they’re selling….tanning packages, magazines, economic systems that trickle down slower than a dried-up teat (and that’s s-l-o-w).

So tuck those boobs back in and start shopping!

 

 

*short version: it’s bullshit

 

 

Ladies unite for the War on Women!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The following is a guest post by Mrs. Matthew Black, member of the Twin Cities chapter of Ladies Against Women.  Though I object to everything she wrote here, she threatened to reveal my eBay username if I didn’t allow her to post this unedited. –SD

On April 28, 2012, I was invited by local ladies of my acquaintance to attend an event relating to this War on Women that everyone’s talking about. I usually don’t express myself in public in this manner (preferring to let my husband speak for me, of course), but I felt that a War on Women was something that the ladies and I could get behind. Here we are:

Photo credit: a young man who was thrilled to be of service

Mrs. Ballentine looks depressed because she accidentally left her pearls at home, the poor dear.  I would chide her for this oversight if I weren’t guilty of a crime against decency myself–the wearing of white shoes before Memorial Day.  I share this unretouched photo in hopes that my gentle readers will learn from my mistake:

Photo credit: Mrs. Robert Rolle

It will take a little more than a wardrobe faux pas to keep me from speaking my mind about this War on Women.  As I said in my remarks, just about everything wrong with America can be traced back to the day in 1920 when non-male adults were given permission to vote.  On this issue I agree with Miss Ann Coulter, though I don’t make it a habit to pay attention to women who don’t have the sense to get married at least once.  Even vulgar trollops like Misses Madonna Ciccone and Britney Spears have been married twice each (just not to each other, for heaven’s sake).

Photo credit: Mrs. Robert Rolle

Confidential to strapping bachelors and wealthy widowers: Miss Emily Johnston, the young lady holding my umbrella, is single and looking for a breadwinner who will allow her occasional use of his Kohl’s card!  Interested gentlemen may send resumes, sperm counts, and credit reports to MrsMatthewBlack@LadiesAgainstWomen.org.

The crowd really seemed to enjoy my story about how I reacted when people assumed I supported Michele Bachmann for president.  The very idea of a WOMAN president gives me horrible gas.  It twists me up so that I can’t help making faces like this:

Photo credit: some feminist in cahoots with Sen. Sandy Pappas, a speaker at the rally

Here’s something that keeps me popping Tums late into the night: I assumed a member of the Minnesota legislature who goes by “Sandy” must have the first name Alexander on his birth certificate.  Was I ever wrong!  This Sandy creature and Michele Bachmann are two of a kind–women who forgot that they are supposed to be working in the kind of house that has a white picket fence around it.  Leave the state and federal Houses to the menfolk, please!

It’s my great hope that this day of rallies in support of the War on Women will alert ladies and the gentlemen who support them to the danger posed by women legislators, contraceptives, and the unmarried.  I invite ladies across the country to join me in not voting on November 6.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Matthew Black

Repeat after me: CLASS WARS, not Mommy Wars

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

So Hilary Rosen Ann Romney blah blah blah.  You didn’t get comment from me on the matter because  last week was the buildup to the 2012 Minnesota NOW conference, which involved a great deal of work…..for which I was not paid.

At the conference I was approached by a political campaign that was interested talking with me about my writing.  ”Is this a volunteer opportunity or a job?” I asked.

You can guess the answer.

A friend of mine works more than 40 hours weekly where our daughters attend school.  She monitors the cafeteria, goes on field trips, assists with special events, and fundraises like a maniac.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that school would crumble without her.  What’s her job title, you ask?

Co-Chair of the PTA.  Yearly salary: nothing.

On Facebook, a friend posted one of the bajillion links to the Rosen/Romney feud and one of HER friends claimed that her stay-at-home-mommy work is “priceless” and she would be “offended” if the government paid her.

I said:

And I wasn’t kidding.

Jill at Feministe wrote a few thousand words on the subject before getting to the real heart of the matter, which is:

Free female labor props up our economy and saves us all tax money.  …women with children, whether they work outside the home or not, aren’t just doing the inside the home care-taking work; they’re volunteering at schools, in community centers, on sports teams. They’re filling the gaps that state and federal funding leaves, so in the short term kids get necessary classroom assistance when lawmakers cut programs. Women are much more likely to be a (again unpaid) care-taker for an aging or ill relative. As a nation, we can afford to not pay for necessary things because there are so many women who are doing those things for free.

Again, in bold and all-caps: “FREE FEMALE LABOR PROPS UP OUR ECONOMY.”

Capitalism depends on our unpaid work.  We are conditioned to do it at every turn.  My job is  so idealized by our culture that my colleagues in the business (women like the Facebook poster) feel ashamed to ask for what is their due.  Ashamed! Can you believe it?

Second Wave feminism declared that women should have opportunities outside the home, but forgot to add that men need to shoulder the burdens inside the home.  The revolution should have demanded as many stay-at-home dads as female CEOs.  But it didn’t.  The goals of the movement became allied with making money, which is one reason why feminism gets accused of being anti-family.  Family is so precious is cannot be allied with something DIRTY like MAKING MONEY!  It’s the madonna/whore binary all over again.

No matter what women do, we’re made to be either/or.  To rob us of nuance is to rob us of autonomy, and that’s just how patriarchal capitalism likes it!

If you think that all of your decisions in life are your own, that you “choose your choice,” then you fail to question the systems in place that perpetuate oppression.  Systems like capitalism, patriarchy, racism, classism, you name it.

Here’s an example.

Minneapolis Public Schools is in trouble.  Every year, the budget cuts get deeper and deeper and the achievement gap between poor and not-poor students is astonishing. Yet somehow, my daughter’s school seems to persevere, and will continue to do so as the ax drops in the future.  Why?  Because of people like that PTA co-chair I know.  One day I asked her: “Would you consider going on strike to highlight how much free work the district gets out of you?”  She looked at me like I was nuts, and I knew why–a PTA strike in our school would only hurt the children, and women are conditioned to think of the children and not themselves.  Minneapolis Public Schools counts on the free labor of middle- to upper-class women to prop up schools when their budgets are cut.  Schools without the free labor force are left to fend for themselves, and their test scores show it.  Class systems stay rigidly enforced.

If women went on strike and refused to volunteer, our school district would have to put much more, and I do mean MUCH MORE, pressure on government officials to fund them adequately.  If the women who prop up our school system went on strike, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak would be forced to put $150 million of city tax money towards hiring school staff, not towards a Vikings stadium–whose profits will be funneled straight into the pockets of the 1%.

Here’s a picture of our poor, old, inadequate football stadium.  I think it just needs an army of unpaid women to puff it back up again, don’t you?  Maybe we gals could install some of those fancy new corporate suites that the menfolk say they need to conduct the networking business whatchamacallit.

The Official Mommy War Narrative™ would have this PTA co-chair incredibly offended by me suggesting  such radical ideas.  We live under consumer capitalism, a system that encourages competition and discontent–if I’m right, you’re wrong.  Either/or.   If I pick a philosophical fight with Hilary Rosen, Ann Romney, the PTA moms, Linda Hirshman, Jessica Valenti, Phyllis Schlafly, The Feminist Breeder, Amanda Marcotte, the editors at Jezebel, and/or Hillary Clinton, I’ll be distracted.  In my absence, Minneapolis will build a billion dollar football stadium, and its achievement gap will remain one of the worst in the nation.

The (white, male) rich will get richer, the poor will get…..

 

 


 

Zoe Nicholson: “Don’t dismiss me. Invite me. Push my wheelchair. Tell me your issues.”

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Can you handle more of the genius that is Zoe Nicholson?  Read parts one and two of our conversation, then dive in:

 

THE RADICAL HOUSEWIFE: We discussed a bit about intergenerational tension, and now I’m wondering if you have any insight about how to bridge conflict within the waves themselves.  Intersectionality, as you pointed out, does look a bit like chaos–witness SlutWalk and the current online Mommy Wars being waged among prominent Third Wave bloggers.  How can we unite something that, on the surface, feels fractured beyond repair?

ZOE NICHOLSON: My answer may surprise you but here it goes – I don’t think that work on “repair” is work well spent.  I think the answer is to be the answer.  Your life demonstrating the politics, your writing expressing the diversity is the only thing that actually works as it lives beyond “repairing.”

Let me give you a famous example: Gloria Steinem always insists on diversity on any panel.  You may also know that she traveled with Women of Color as her speaking partners.  The officiate at her wedding was Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  There is no veracity in accusing Ms. Steinem of racism as she has consistently demonstrated otherwise in her life.

From left: Angela Davis, Wilma Mankiller, Gloria Steinem

Another fine example is Harvey Milk who traveled with his speaking partner, Sally Miller Gearhart.  Harvey was a champion of the Daughters of Bilitis and Labor Unions.  These people could have written a paper reaching out, stood strongly on the issue of diversity but nothing is as pure and powerful as being the change you seek.

Another irresistible component is to insist on standing behind the least in the crowd.  Gandhi renamed the untouchables, the harijan, Children of God. He shared his ashram, food, even latrines with harijan.  Applying that to the Women’s movement, when we talk about wage inequity, we say women make 77 cents on a man’s dollar ~ well not really.  Black women make 69 cents, Latinas make 59 cents.  Gandhi would have instantly said – women make 59 cents – not even going for the average – but rather identifying with the least favored. 

I had a truly remarkable thing happen to me a couple of years ago.  While defending ENDA-I, inclusive ENDA, I was asked if I was a Transgendered woman.  In that moment, I was able to identify how I really feel about transgendered people and discrimination in regards to transgendered people.  Following it down the road of my mind, I saw what each answer would transmit.  I did the only thing I could think of that would demonstrate my true feelings – I declined to answer. My intention was/is to demonstrate that I embrace all women and do not want to claim any ground of being higher than another.  I did not want to step away from anyone, diminish the question, lift my petticoats and tiptoe away.  Now if asked, I say that I am queer and that is all the information I will give.  WbW or trans are both women.

I recommend to the Second Wave to collect their information, their inspiration and find an heir.  To the Third wave, to share their skills, their ideas and, most importantly, identity their issues for the Second Wave.

A long time ago I went to an event at the Wilshire Ebell Theater where all of the women who were over 40, professional, renown, established were on the main floor seating.  In the balcony you would have found all the interns, clinic escorts, hotline volunteers ~ the young women in the movement who do all the heavy lifting for so little money, recognition or gratitude.  My ideal is, not reverse it, but to integrate the entire event.  Imagine if a profoundly active women in her 80’s was sitting next to a clinic escort; the older one having demonstrated in 1972 for Roe and the younger one now facing the anti-choice people in a clinic parking lot. That would be a conversation!

Don’t dismiss me.  Don’t leave me home thinking Facebook is for kids.  Invite me.  Push my wheelchair.  Tell me your issues.  Ask me to be involved with you.  To my older sisters, keep the chair next to you open and invite your heir to sit with you, not behind you.  No, you can’t have my torch – make your own – but please light yours from mine.  This is a dynasty with lineage.

If you are integrated and you live that way – when the criticisms fly – they just fly by.  Your life shows otherwise.  (by the way, I sat in the balcony)

Zoe Nicholson on intergenerational feminism

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

One of the great perks of my position as Minnesota NOW president has been making the acquaintance of activists across the country.  Few have knocked me out quite like Pacific Shore NOW member Zoe Nicholson, though!

Author of “The Hungry Heart,” a diary of the 37 days she fasted for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, Zoe is also a board member of the Veteran Feminists of America, founder of  The Bridge Project, a featured subject in the LGBT equality documentary “March On!” (which has its Midwest premiere April 13, 2012), and a popular speaker at schools and events nationwide.

As a matter of fact, she’ll be delivering the keynote address at the combined Minnesota NOW and Prairie States Regional NOW conference, held April 14, 2012, with a presentation she calls “The Life of an Activist.”  She kindly agreed to share some of her thoughts with me for my blog readers.

What follows is just the beginning of our conversation…

 

 

THE RADICAL HOUSEWIFE: I want to start with your thoughts about intergenerational feminism.  I admit that one of the first thoughts I had when I finished “The Hungry Heart” was how damned exciting the Second Wave must have been!  How do we resist the urge to think of the feminist movement as something that had its best years in its past?  

ZOE NICHOLSON: There are many answers but at the root is a call to embrace and participate in change.  Society is breathing and changing just like each of us.  The U.S. Women’s Movement (shall we call its birth 1848?) is a living breathing entity who is unfolding, advancing, evolving.

In 1967, women marching on Wall Street for credit, marching on 5th Avenue for jobs, meeting in homes to share stories was really about the oppressed collecting their energy and focus to advance social change.  Today the tools, the ground of experience, the venues may be different but the movement is the same.  Women, and the men who love them, are collecting around issues making social constructs quake.

There is an illusion that nothing is happening now to rival 35/40 years ago.  If you judge on stars, single charismatic people; Millett, Steinem, Abzug, Friedan, yes that form of igniting action is over.  But that is just a longing for nostalgia, like Mad Man or Marilyn or easy bake ovens.  We are in a great shift of how information is collated, distributed, interpreted and inspires.

Today we are driven by conflict, issues, ideas, crisis, oppressions.  Just to name a few, look at Slutwalk, Occupy, Dreamers, Keystone.  We may clamor for a leader but, ultimately, that is not what is creating the motion ~ it is the oppression itself.  Let’s be sophisticated enough to say, without apology, that the GOP War on Women is the galvanizing force for 4/28.  We are not celebrating that a Toronto woman was told to not dress like a slut but it was our call to action.  It was not a single person standing in front of a microphone, or in the paper, or on a talk show that got us to say, “enough is enough.”  Ideas are our new stars.  Equality is our now both our end and our means.

I want to be clear that I am NOT saying we are reactionary only.  That would be only returning in kind.  I am saying that we are now free from mimeo machines, bulk mailing, home gatherings.  We are enabled with the whole world of electronic communication and just ask the Congressional switchboard how that’s working when a tweet goes out recommending we all call on a certain vote. [Susan B.] Anthony taking the train, waiting for a letter from Elizabeth [Cady Stanton], traveling the West to tell women about the vote – oh how she would have been enabled to reach across the country from a keyboard.  And in the doing, we might have not noticed who said what, we are content driven now.

You ask about our best years.  They are straight ahead.  Everything that has happened since 1848 is on a trajectory.  Women standing in front of Wilson’s White House, Ms. Paul force fed in prison, lesbians held at the gate of Houston 1977 finally invited in, 89 years of work to explicitly include women in the Constitution,  oh, too many to list; are all on the move to change the human paradigm to full equality.  If you are not excited and inspired, you are looking in the wrong direction.

For more from Zoe, watch this space, or check out these links: 

Online With Zoe (her wonderful blog)

MARCH ON! The Movie (a truly great film by Laura McFerrin about the National Equality March of 2009)

Zoe’s Amazon author page, including the brand-new edition of The Hungry Heart for Kindle (a document of the Second Wave that I probably can’t recommend enough)

 

Diary of a mad birth control mom

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

One year ago, Skirt! magazine published an essay of mine entitled “Love in the Time of Contraception.”  In the piece, I laid bare (pun intended) many sordid details from my love life to make the point that there is no sexual blunder more embarrassing than ignorance….and that includes having to ask your boyfriend to retrieve a Today sponge gone rogue in your lady parts.

Rereading the essay, I find myself cringing once more at the stubborn persistence of America’s Puritanical values.  I wish my European forebears had thought to resettle in the British colony settled by criminals, not uptight prudes.  Fleeing famine and/or conscription leaves one with limited choices, I realize, but I have to believe that my great-great-greats would have preferred their descendants to spend Good Friday frolicking on sandy beach instead of heading out to show solidarity for a legal, but beleaguered and threatened, facility that performs legal procedures and dispenses legal medications.

This picture was taken on Good Friday seven years ago, not long before I gave birth to my daughter.  Yep, I’ve been involved in pro-choice activism for a long time, and I’m committed to it.  I’m a realist, and I know that the anti-choicers won’t go away.  I didn’t assume that one day I wouldn’t have to show up–I assumed that one day I’d be out in St. Paul with a pair of teenagers, demonstrating our support for safe, legal abortion, on demand and without apology.

But here we are in 2012, and I cannot believe I just might have to fight for their right to contraception!

Remember contraception?  The stuff that makes controversial procedures like abortions unnecessary? (Duhhh.)

Isn’t it our right as Americans to be embarrassed by slimy sponges?  To go soft at the crinkling sound of the condom wrapper?  To take a pill that makes you a hysterical, bloated mess, so on edge that no one wants to have sex with you anyway (or is that just me?)….?!

But it’s come to that.  And now, millions of moms who wouldn’t have dragged their kids to Planned Parenthood in the past are being jolted into action.

Of course, none other than reknowned slut (four wives) and prostitute (uses his big fucking mouth for money) Rush Limbaugh doesn’t believe that there are such things as Birth Control Moms.  Sayeth he:

Isn’t that kind of contradictory? A birth control mom? How do you become a mom if you’re into birth control?

Well, duh.  You use condoms so you don’t become a 19-year-old parent with a boyfriend who is a manipulative asshole.  Or you use sponges AND condoms so you don’t become a 22-year-old parent with a boyfriend who is much nicer than the old one, but who still has a few mental health issues to clear up.  Et cetera.

Get the idea?  The clinic is called PLANNED Parenthood for a reason.  Parenting is a job too important to leave either to chance or to anyone too young to run for Congress.*

(Rush also said some not-very-nice things about a contraceptive fan named Sandra Fluke, but you know that already.)

Are YOU a pissed-off Birth Control Mom?  Are you looking to do more than spread Santorum jokes and bemoan our country’s flight back to the Bad Old Days?  Good Friday is April 6, right around the corner–there’s probably a family planning clinic in your neighborhood that could use your voice for reproductive freedom.  If you’re in the Twin Cities, please say hi to me at the event in St. Paul.  I’ll be accompanied by my two PLANNED children, and I’ll be saying this:

 

If your clinic isn’t planning a solidarity action, why not send them a bouquet of flowers (with your donation check, natch) to thank them for the fine work they’re doing?  Find a location at www.plannedparenthood.org.

 

*Dear younger readers: please don’t bother writing with the admonition that you are doing a better job than say, Bristol Palin, Snooki, or my own parental units, who spawned me at the tender age of 21.  I think we all can agree that it would be preferable for children to be raised by grownups who’ve been slutty, had their hearts broken a few times, visited New York City, etc. and have the acquired wisdom that such experience implies.

 

 

Why doesn’t she leave? Only she knows

Friday, January 27th, 2012

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 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 dissed 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…  but 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.

I wouldn’t.  But I’m not Penelope Trunk.  If I were her 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:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Resource Center

IF YOU NEED HELP:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

Gender policing’s teachable moments

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

By now, I’m sure all y’all have seen the video of a Colorado Girl Scout complaining that your Thin Mint dollars are being spent on including transgender girls in the organization.  Sprinkled throughout last week’s Facebook timeline were sighs of relief, for our cookie addictions can now be reclassified as Important Political Statements.  I love when things come together like that!

What a cutie. I wonder what chromosomes ze has?  Normally I wouldn’t ask, but it seems everyone’s talking about what’s under those green skirts.  Used to be we just cared about the cookies, not the genitalia.

On a related note, my post on the conundrum of feminist mental health garnered this comment, with some unexpected advice:

the only thing helpful i have to offer is this: the more i move into separatism, the more i do whatever it takes to have less and less to do with men and male-identified women, the happier i become. and the easier it is to be happy and at peace. just personal experience, but it makes a lot of political sense too. 

As an aghast Mr. Beinstock said to Daphne and Josephine in Some Like it Hot (watch the clip here): “I BEG your pardon, miss!”

Occasional bouts of misandrist rage, I understand.  Patriarchy can turn any woman, whether cis- or trans-, into a lunatic.  But separatism?  Isn’t that what we’re fighting with our cookie purchases?

Admittedly, I always feel prickly whenever it is suggested that heterosexual feminists like me are Doing It Wrong.  Personal rebuff aside, it implies that Rick Santorum is correct in his belief that sexuality is a choice, which leads us all into a bullshit-filled rabbit hole.  And I defy any radical separatist to come to my house to have a crack at the difficult daily work of raising a feminist son.  I might even go out on a limb and suggest that it’s the most important work of our movement–that is, if I were the sort of person prone to the kind of “nyah nyah, my feminism is better than yours” that I try to avoid.

Really, I do.

You know who’s an unequivocally GREAT feminist, though? That boy of mine.  He could out-feminist a wannabe like Sarah Palin in a heartbeat.  And with his gorgeous hazel eyes, he’d look amazing in a green and white uniform.  Say, why does it have to be Girl Scouts, anyway?  Isn’t it time we had Kid Scouts, open to anyone interested in hustling Thin Mints for merit badges? (please don’t talk about Boy Scouts, that haven for god-fearing pedos who lack the patience to join the priesthood.)  Is there some way we could convince Kate Bornstein and Chaz Bono to spearhead a movement that untethers Scouting from gender entirely?

And for once, can we let cookies be cookies and kids be kids, regardless of flavor?

 

The problem of feminist mental health

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

In 1963, Betty Friedan dropped a bomb on American culture called The Feminine Mystique, a book that diagnosed untold millions of women with “the problem that has no name.”  The book kicked off the Second Wave of feminism, but if you’re a regular reader here you already know that.

What I want to talk about is another problem that, though it is named and we all know it exists, is rarely discussed openly in feminist circles: the stubborn problem of feminist mental health.   Everyone we know is on an antidepressant or twelve, yet we talk more about abortion, sexual assault, gender identity and other formerly taboo topics than we do our own addled minds.

Believe me, this is no royal “we” I’m utilizing here.  My own mental health, on unstable ground since my teens, has been in a slow decline for the better part of a year, due to factors both internal (genetic predisposition, hormone disregulation) and external (professional disappointment, thorny family issues, a friend’s terminal illness).  Like many other smart, capable, honest women I know, this is how I faced it:

Some time ago, I expressed my disgust over one body part or another (belly? batwings? blotches? pick ‘em) and a feminist friend stopped short.  ”You?” she asked.  ”You feel body shame?”

“Of course I do!” I replied.

“But,” she spluttered,  ”you are such a GOOD FEMINIST!”

I laughed and told her I was a feminist because I have body shame, I know how much it sucks, and I want to stop it!  Duh!  I use this anecdote to illustrate something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: are feminists depressed/anxious because they’re feminists, or are they feminists because they’re depressed/anxious?  Are we the chickens, or are we the eggs?

From childhood on I felt uneasy with cultural norms–I was always the only kid in my social circle who loathed the ending of “Grease.”  We sensitive types recognize injustice more quickly and are attuned to suffering more deeply, so it makes sense that we would seek to participate in movements that are dedicated to ending injustice and relieving suffering.

We are chickens.  Depressives and anxiety fiends make great feminists.

The work of feminism, whether in action or in our own minds, is exhausting.  Being aware of oppression is a painful state.  In the phraseology of most popular philosophical text of the late 20th century, we swallowed the red pills, not the blue ones.  Additionally, feminism confronts the horrors of rape, sexual assault and abuse, domestic and dating violence and other REALLY REALLY AWFUL THINGS that over time become re-traumatizing.  A lot of the things I hear and know are very upsetting, and there are times when I just can’t fucking take anymore.

We are eggs.  Feminism can make you greatly depressed and anxious.

Oh lordy.  Pass me a doll, won’t you, love?

And what do you know: it’s red.  How appropriate!

Like all GOOD (if not great!) feminists, however, I try not to paint everything into a binary box, so I am in no way suggesting that this is an either/or proposition: feminism and happiness are not mutually exclusive.  Why, one arm of the vast right wing conspiracy is dedicated solely to convincing women that we’d be better off in our pre-Friedan kitchens and baby nurseries, because all this agitating for equal rights is what’s making us so cranky!   Perhaps that is one reason that feminists like me have been cagey about admitting to emotional frailty.  Despite the fact that 11% of Americans take antidepressant medication these days, talking frankly about mental health care feels about as safe as walking down a dark alley, drunk, in nothing but filmy lingerie.

Didja get the analogy there?  In America today, the prevailing wisdom is that people with mental health challenges bear some of the blame for their condition.  As in, “yeah, no one deserves to be raped, but y’know, you really shouldn’t have been in that alley, drunk, in your underwear.”  Anorexics are told to EAT A SANDWICH.  The anxious are told to PRACTICE YOGA.  Addicts are told to QUIT ALREADY.  Depressives are told to SUCK IT UP FOR GOD’S SAKE, YOU’RE BRINGING ME DOWN.

Ahem.

This is the part of the blog post in which you, dear reader, usually discover the Great Lesson in all this, but today I don’t have one.  In fact, I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for weeks, hoping for a bolt of clarity, either intellectual or emotional, that has yet to strike.  I am eager to hear your thoughts on the matter, though, both as they relate to your own story and to the big-picture issue of keeping sane in a world that isn’t.

In any case, I’m resolved in 2012 to speak more frankly about my own struggles.  Will it be more or less difficult than my perennial resolutions to exercise daily and eat more green food (apple Laffy Taffy excepted)?

Watch this space to find out.