Archive for the ‘NOW’ Category

Does this binder make me look fat?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012


It’s Love Your Body Day 2012, everyone!  I’m celebrating by having pizza for lunch and feeling really, really terrible about it.



Ugh….that triangle skirt looks like a slice….  *burp* …. I made sure I had a salad and hummus for dinner.

I wish I loved my body every day.  If I did, I would have vast supplies of psychic energy available to me if I dropped the daily anxiety about my wobbly bits–oh, the things I could accomplish!  Instead, I grow mushier and gushier every year, unlike the Yummy Mummies I see on the newsracks at Target and Cub Foods.  Why is it that I get softer while Madonna, who is also 12 years older than me, gets harder?

I’ve already written truckloads about bodies, body image, and body shame.  Check out these posts for ideas that can be safely chewed on without gastric distress:

  • Perfect diet. (Minnesota Women’s Press, July 2007) In which I reflect on periods when I was quite thin due to some really horrendous circumstances that had nothing whatever to do with health–quite the opposite, actually.
  • The stories bodies tell. (Minnesota Women’s Press, June 2009) In which I admit that I weigh more than I did when I wrote that 2007 column, and how much that irritates me.
  • It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so let’s talk about it. (February 2011) In which I write a blog post that refers back to the 2009 column that mentions the 2007 column AND a piece I wrote for HipMama many moons ago.

And around and around we go.

It’s like I’m stuck.  Trapped in three cold, metallic rings that are squeezing me, crushing me, HOLDING ME BACK!




Do you feel that way, too?



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, continued: “We are all leaders and followers and the ones we have been looking for”

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Today we have more from my conversation with activist rockstar Zoe Nicholson.

Read part one here.

THE RADICAL HOUSEWIFE: Reading your writing is really a balm for me.  You are a Second Wave vet who harkens back to the First, with arms and heart wide open for the Third, Fourth, and others yet to come.  I wish this weren’t such an elusive quality, but it is.  We become activists because we are compassionate and sensitive, yet those qualities often lead to frustration and burnout.  Some who claim a desire to dismantle power structures cling to the power they do have and refuse to let go!  How do you cultivate your own openness?  What advice do you give others?

ZOE NICHOLSON: I am so very fond of being open.  It is the ultimate coming out.  And shared power is the only way to insulate from self-importance.  I like the new non-hierarchical movement.  I think one advantage is I went to professional computer school in 1985 and got my first PC in 1982.  I love technology.  Of course, I also love to write so there is no loneliness in using a keyboard to communicate.


(Zoe is pictured at left.  Read more about her strike for the ERA in her book The Hungry Heart. )

There is a calling to sit together.  I want someone to push my wheelchair and I want to be in on the latest joke or gossip or political coup.  Recently I went to an event for the Second Wave  at a college.  All the Second ladies had an elegant luncheon in a private college dining room with a shut door.  I refused and ate in the cafeteria with my old friends, my new friends and we had a blast.  Weeks later, a student wrote about that.  She honored Grace Welch and me for sitting with the students.  I hope they will remember it for a life time and use it.

On the other direction – I can tell you that I went to a Second Wave party and the President, Jacqui [Ceballos of the Veteran Feminists of America], who is my mentor, started walking across the room to me while holding Kate Millett’s hand.  “Zoe, there is someone here who wants to meet you.”  I stopped her in her tracks and put out my hand, burst into tears and said, “Yes, I know who this is, and thank you, Kate, for changing my life.”  After that exchange, I got my coat and left.  It was all toooooooooooooo  much.  Just too much.  I am as in love with the women of the Second Wave as anyone could be.


Finally, let me say that the older ladies just don’t know what to do except what they perceived worked for them.  They thrived on meetings, rules, printed material, phone calls and Sisterhood.  They were lonely to have like-minded sisters.  Non-hierarchical movements, intersectionality, it all sounds and feels like chaos.  There is only one other who genuinely gets all this and that is Gloria Steinem.  And the Second Wavers are consciously looking for a successor.  I hope that does not happen.  We are all leaders and followers and the ones we have been looking for.

Show up. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, October 28th, 2011

From the November 2001 issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press:

Show up … more than once
“Showing up is hard-that’s why so few people do it. Even fewer show up the
second time, or the third.”

by Shannon Drury

Somewhere in the bleak midwinter of 2003, I wandered into a squat brick building in the shadow of our state Capitol. In a spare conference room in the building’s basement, I found a room decorated with familiar round signs that I’d seen in rally photos from the late ’60s forward. I noticed a skinny young woman at one end of the table slapping a nametag marked ERIN onto her Riot Grrrl T-shirt. I was in the right place: an open house for new members of Minnesota NOW (National Organization for Women).

There is always a tendency to romanticize, in hindsight, those moments that set major life changes in motion. I wax nostalgic about this two-hour event in St. Paul often, not only as a neat starting point for my activist career, but for introducing me to Erin Matson, current executive vice president of National NOW and a very dear friend. When I remember what it felt like to show up that day, I forget the stomach-flipping anxiety that I almost certainly endured.

Showing up is hard-that’s why so few people do it. Even fewer show up the second time, or the third. Also present at that Activist Open House were several other women whom I never saw again. Where did they go? To political campaigns that could afford to brew Starbucks, not Folgers? To organizations with a different focus? Back to families, jobs, bills-in short, the minutia of everyday life?

In these pages I’ll admit what no one but my husband knows: There have been more than a few times I’ve returned from meetings determined to quit. Instead of volunteering for Minnesota NOW, I reasoned, I could learn to crochet, to speak Italian, to prepare every recipe in the “Moosewood Cookbook.” The most tragic outcome would be a scorched pan or a tangle of yarn, not the disappointment of my peers, or worse, the frustration of an entire movement.

I suspect the latter might be what prevents so many from volunteering for issues-based organizations like mine-the suspicion that one needs the otherworldly determination of Susan B. Anthony or Rosa Parks to feel like you’re actually getting anywhere. Showing up isn’t easy no matter what coffee is brewing. It’s certainly more convenient to direct cranky and accusatory emails at the person listed online as the organization’s leader, for this can be done in one’s pajamas. No American feminist organization carries more historical baggage than NOW, for good or ill, and the demands to do more, be more, and say more can be exhausting. All the work I’ve done for NOW has been unpaid, a fact which often surprises those who have yet to show up.

When I reply to these electronic brickbats, my initial inquiry is always the same: Are you a member? Only rarely is the answer affirmative. I remind these folks that filling out a membership form is as easy as Googling my name; I do acknowledge, however, that the substantive changes they seek will only occur when they decide to show up.

These changes might not be as world-shaking as the ones wrought by women named Susan and Rosa, but I doubt those two were half as fun at a conference as my friend Erin. Or my friend Barbra, my friend Kristi, my friends Beth (there are two!), my friend Mary Ann, and all those who still, day after day, year after year, show up.

Shannon Drury is the president of Minnesota NOW. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and is a self-described radical housewife.

FFI: Minnesota NOW (National Organization for Women)