Archive for the ‘The radical manuscript’ Category

Manuscript Monday: the myth of the mama grizzly

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

 

From the introduction:

Perhaps no recent phenomenon embodies the perceived split between feminism and family than a certain Alaskan mother of five who owes an enormous, yet unacknowledged, debt to the Second Wave—former Governor Sarah Palin.

 

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A beneficiary of Title IX as a young basketball player and a political trailblazer in the mold of Nellie Ross, the first woman elected to govern a U.S. state, Palin remains convinced that a shady feminist cabal despises her for having five children with her high school sweetheart.

There’s plenty about Palin’s politics to dislike without dragging her brood into the picture, yet the five kids are what give Palin traction and feed her mythology as a Mama Grizzly determined to “take this country back.”

She’s left open just where the country would be taken on her watch, but most agree that going “back” implies a return to tradition, which includes the very long standing tradition that the vast majority of state governors in the United States are men.

Would a truly protective mother bear in the wild yearn for the days when she didn’t have teeth?

 

 

Manuscript Monday: how we became “traditional”

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

 

 

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Elliott in the baby carriage!  That Matt and I became the poster children for the “Traditional” (hetero) American Family was no accident.  We didn’t have to ponder our choices because many of our paths were proscribed for us years before we met.

Matt was born into an educated, upper middle class family, expected from childhood to match the level of education obtained by his parents, who started dating while pursuing advanced degrees at UC-Berkeley.  His natural aptitude for mathematics was encouraged by his parents and high school teachers, who encouraged him to college level study while still a teen.  After earning his BA, he knocked around in a skronk-punk band, earning beer money at the record store where he met me, aware all the time that dorking around after college was a choice for a man of his socioeconomic status.  When he decided to leave, he could.  He started on the bottom rung of a startup software company’s ladder, but today his salary comfortably supports himself, his wife and his two children.

As for me, I found math maddening, and I heard no objections when I decided to drop the subject after tenth grade.  My guidance counselor did not raise the notion that taking all these English and history classes might land me in a pink-collar ghetto….

Ultimately, I got an English degree that would have prepared me for graduate school, had I not been so burned out by academia after earning it that I couldn’t face another day in the classroom again. But If I’d changed my mind, and jumped in the professor pool with both feet, I still would have been paid less and been less likely to receive tenure than my male peers!  

 

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Manuscript Monday: Building my brand, losing my mind

Monday, November 18th, 2013

 An excerpt from chapter 12, “Burnout”:

 

I clicked to open a browser and loaded up the dashboard of my fancy new site, theradicalhousewife.com.  After MySpace tanked, I wrote for a while on a Blogger platform before determining that it was time to bite the bullet and, in the parlance of mommybloggers across the country, “build my brand.”

 

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The dashboard stared at me.  I knew I ought to write a new post, but instead I loaded up the fancy statistics widget that revealed my total number of page views, incoming search terms, referring sites, and the like.  Reading that stats widget was like swallowing a Krispy Kreme in one gulp every morning—addictively sweet, but never truly fulfilling or even satisfying.  If I had a hundred page views, I wanted a thousand.  If I had a thousand, it was usually because a blogger with a much larger following, like Gina Crosley-Corcoran of The Feminist Breeder, had linked to me, and I felt pangs of jealousy that I wasn’t yet in her league.

I couldn’t feel grateful or humbled that my blogging peers seemed to enjoy my work; instead, I wondered why I wasn’t being asked to appear on Ricki Lake.

 

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In another attempt at brand-building, I appeared at a local Netroots conference, suffering a lonely panic attack in the women’s bathroom before shakily convening a panel called “Feminist Activism in a Gone-Rogue Age.”  When I submitted the (surprisingly successful!) panel to the national conference, I was told that I didn’t have enough name recognition yet—The Radical Housewife was not yet a brand.

 

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I stared at the keyboard, the mouse, the monitor, blank screen with NEW POST at the top.  What exactly did a brand write about, anyway?  Shannon Drury once wrote about any old crap that came into her head, hiding behind a goofy moniker as a joke that she thought would make Erin and Christine laugh.  Then Erin moved to DC, Christine moved to San Diego, and The Radical Housewife moved to her own URL address.

I stared at the blinking cursor.  There wasn’t a shortage of topics to write about; thanks to global patriarchy, half a million ideas buzzed through my mind through any given day.  I could take a controversial position.  I could repost on Daily Kos, Minnesota Progressive Project, orFeministing.  A writing friend gave me the contact information for an editor at the Huffington Post, the site around which gone-viral careers were being made, but I couldn’t type her a sentence, much less pitch her an article that might build my brand.

I couldn’t write.  I didn’t want to write.  This scared me back into talk therapy.

 

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….with [the therapist's] help I began the process of untangling the knot of my many identities: feminist, activist, writer, mom, even “radical housewife.”  I’d worked myself into a this/that, us/them, either/or box just like the one I thought I was fighting against years before.

Instead of me naming a MySpace page back in 2006, my MySpace page named me!

 

 

Manuscript Monday: “Are you doing the right thing?”

Monday, September 9th, 2013

 

 

Hey y’all!  Remember that I’m writing a book?  (I think even I forgot for a while.) This excerpt is from Chapter 8, “Welcome to the Mommy Wars.”

 

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Like most cultural debates, the “Mommy Wars” are a wholly-media manufactured phenomenon, a solution in search of a problem.  Sure, there are moms who were jealous of other moms’ ability to stay home, their ability to keep working, their ability to dress their babies in Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons, but hey, this is AMERICA, a nation built on jealousy.  The cult of manifest destiny rested upon the notion that indigenous tribes were hogging all the good stuff for themselves.  Why the Trail of Tears?  Andrew Jackson saw some tasty, arable land and felt deeply envious of the Seminoles and Cherokees living there.  In our century, the Lancome cosmetics company puts Julia Roberts in its advertising to inspire envy, not amiability.  You want to buy the product to steal a little bit of her beauty for yourself.

 

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The way the Mommy Wars work their magic is to demand the following of mothers: are you doing the right thing?  What if your baby loses out?  What if you lose out?  Will my children hate me?  What if this has all been a terrible mistake?  Then you’re so incredibly confused that the tragedy of child hunger in America feels not nearly as important as whether Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge is nursing the heir to the British crown.

The Mommy Wars, as they stand today, serve as an effective check on the ambitions of the American mother.  The phenomenon keeps women in a perpetual state of guilt, shame, and inadequacy–and does so without involving anyone but wealthy white women!  Behind the punditry, the blog posts, the endless shaming of individuals who are making individual choices is a quiet but urgent message: I care about me. The rest of you can go fuck yourselves. 

 

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I asked this back in chapter one: when is a choice not a choice?  When you understand that many of your “decisions” are based on circumstances set in motion before you got out of diapers yourself, let alone changed one on a baby of your own.  Do working class women of color have the choices that Linda Hirshman and I do?  No.  It’s very unlikely that a garbageman’s daughter will become CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  Hell, it’s unlikely that an upper class woman of color will do that!  The playing field remains uneven to a disorienting degree.

Carping about what women “should” do avoids serious debate about the consequences of entrenched economic inequality.  Women of all races earn less than men, but they receive no proportional discount on food, rent, clothing, utility bills, health care, child care, or college tuition.

Just IMAGINE what we could accomplish if we redirected all that Mommy Wars energy…..!

 

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Wow.

 

 

Manuscript Monday: “Patriarchy and our sons”

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Hi readers!  Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, but it’s sorta hard to type when you’re hiding under your thickest blanket, scared to death not only of the bizarro Minnesota weather (nine inches of snow last week, eight inches more expected tonight) but also of the United States Senate.  And that thing that happened in Boston.

 

 

I can’t get over how young and vulnerable the boy in this photograph seems.  He’s a baby!  What the hell happened between the moment this picture was taken and the moment he decided to drop a bomb in a crowd full of people?  

As this face flashed across my television and computer screens myriad times over the last five days I flashed back to the intense, white-knuckled terror I felt in 1999 when, within weeks of each other, the Columbine tapes were released and discovered the sex of my first child.  

 

 

Since [my] angst-filled first pregnancy, I’ve become convinced that the greatest challenge of the 21st century women’s movement is to raise feminist boys who become feminist men.  I chanted this mantra to myself in 1999 to build up my confidence, to be sure, but the reality is that no part of our culture will change until men make it happen.

If you’ve forgotten, we live under patriarchy.  Men make the world go ‘round.  Women like Indira Gandhi of India, Golda Meir of Israel, Margaret Thatcher of the UK, Michelle Bachelet of Argentina, and our own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are exceptions, but not the rule.  A 2007 report from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) discovered that  “women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the [world’s] food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.”

Successful civil rights movements acknowledge that power can’t be shifted without the consent of the powerful.  Women got the vote by appealing to the consciences of their menfolk.  How will we upend patriarchy?  By raising a generation of boys who reject the rigidity of gendered society in favor of a balance of power that will ultimately benefit everybody.

Deeper minds than mine have probed the motives and psyches of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; I cannot claim to improve on their work here.  But would these broken children have expressed their frustrations differently in a world less accepting of testosterone-fueled violence?  Could some gender flexibility instead of ingrained machismo have allowed Klebold to ask for help with his suicidal ideation?  Perhaps suicide was an inevitable outcome of his mental illness—chronic depression has as high a fatality rate as cancer—but where does a boy get the idea to kill others, too?

The prevailing wisdom is that Harris was an irredeemable psychopath.  Where does such a lack of empathy for others begin?  In the cradle, where boy babies are less likely than their sisters to be held when they cry?

Is it too radical to suggest that feminism could have prevented Columbine?  I don’t think so.  Feminism asks that we critically examine the interconnections between gender roles and social behavior, and there’s no better starting point for such a discussion than in our persistent, almost intractable, culture of violence.

 

 

So why the hell are you so angry, fellas?  Why, with virtually all the power on the planet, do you still need to hurt others?  Why do you, yourselves, hurt so badly?

Would you like to talk about it?

 

 

Manuscript Monday: “A whole world of moms needing to connect with one another”

Monday, April 8th, 2013

This week’s excerpt is from Chapter Two.

I needed to snap out of my isolation and get out into the world again, this time with a stroller in tow.

My liberal arts background prepared me to tackle each and every problem in one place: the library.  Deep in the stacks, past the What to Expect When You’re Expecting volumes and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, I spied a book called The Hip Mama Survival Guide.  This was it: a book that acknowledged the dirty truth that parenthood is something to survive, like middle school, meningitis, or the Vietnam War.  I wanted to be surrounded by mamas as salty-smart as the book’s author, Ariel Gore.  Unfortunately, Ariel lived on the West Coast and had given birth as a naïve teenager; much of her mothering spunk derived from the fact that she was still in the midst of her own bratty youth.

We had a teenage mom on our own block, Matt and I discovered.  The homeowner directly across the street from us was Clinton Avenue’s designated loonball (there’s always one), the furious type who believed that the ten feet of curb outside of her house was a valuable piece of real estate and no one, NO ONE, but her was allowed to park anywhere near it.  When Matt and I spotted her daughter clutching a bundle that looked more like a baby than a stack of algebra books, we wondered if all of that energy protecting a cement slab might have been put to better use.

This girl cornered Matt on the street one evening, offering him use of her son’s old bassinet if we needed it.  Matt said she seemed eager to bond with me about our babies, but I found this horrifying.  We were both mothers, this sixteen-year-old and I, but she was not my peer.  I wanted to shake her by her shoulders and yell, “You’re sixteen!  You should go to the mall to gorge on Cinnabons and buy earrings at Claire’s with your friends, not going to Bob the Builder at Toddler Tuesdays with your kid!”

Our friendship, though imaginary, was over before it could begin.

I clicked through some postings on the forums of HipMama.com, where I found others eager to connect, so much so that the profiles were coded as strenuously as any on eHarmony or OKCupid.  SAHM (we know what that means), BFOD (breastfeeding on demand), VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), AP (attachment parenting or advanced placement? Did they want to know my scores?) DS (darling son?), DH (does that mean she lives with a dickhead?), et cetera.  The acronyms tacked onto each blog post made me cross-eyed, though they were all Very Important in the virtual world, for like a pair of Louboutins in the real world, they broadcast to the world exactly Who You Are.

The listings’ very existence spoke to a whole world of moms needing to connect with one another—yet the coded language was so mysterious and ultimately alienating that I abandoned the site without completing a profile.

 

To find out what happens next, keep me motivated by telling me how much you want to read The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century, coming sometime soon (!) from Medusa’s Muse Press

Manuscript Monday: “Two moms, two dads, who cares?”

Monday, March 25th, 2013

An excerpt from Chapter 8:

GLBT-friendly diversity curriculum being proposed for our elementary school might bring out a crank or two from the Catholic parish across the street, but no sensible person at my school would object to inclusivity.

Would they?

 

The first sign that I was wrong appeared when Elliott and I approached the northeast side of the school.  Cars were double-parked in the school’s surface lot, with more cars lining the streets as far as I could see. I soon discovered the reason for the parking squeeze—the entire south side of the school block was swallowed up by four Minneapolis Police squad cars and an enormous mobile satellite truck from the local Fox affiliate.  “Cool!” my son squawked from the back seat.

I allowed him to gawk the crowds and cops without registering that this was, in fact, a bad thing.  This meant that someone, somewhere, anticipated a burst of hysteria that four, count ‘em, four MPD officers would be required to quell.  Elliott also failed to notice that he was the only child in the overcrowded music room.  “HEY!” he yelled as a teacher waved from across the aisle.  “DID YOU SEE THE NEWS TRUCK OUT THERE?  COOL, HUH?”  She nodded and stifled a giggle.

A school district representative approached the microphone with a plea for respect and self-restraint ahead of the short film that would preface our discussion.  From her tremulous, agitated tone I assumed we would be watching a clip from Good Will Humping or You’ve Got Male, and I had my hands ready to cover my son’s eyes and ears if need be.  I was disappointed to see a fairly boring five minutes of cute multi-culti children gabbing about their families, a few of which were headed by same-sex parents.

 

Post-viewing, a stack of index cards was passed throughout the room.  Did we wish to share our opinions with the group?  I nudged Elliott.  “Yeah,” he said, cookie crumbs from the snack table tumbling down his shirt, “I wanna.”  I wrote out our names and handed the card back down my row.

“Okay everybody,” announced the school principal, his usual look of hurried anxiety replaced with what looked like defiance.  “Please,” he urged, “remember to be respectful and to honor everyone’s opinions.  Our first speaker is Shannon Drury.”

Elliott squeaked with glee.  I felt a moment of deep gratitude for holding off on the Thin Mints, for when the Fox 9 News camera operator caught sight of me he whipped his enormous lens directly into my face, where any telltale brown specks would be instantly visible.  I edged through the crowd to the microphone, Elliott bumping knees and elbows with abandon as he trailed behind.

I cleared my throat, blushing under the telephoto lens and the hundreds of eyes fixed upon me.  “First of all, I want to express how grateful I am that our school is offering to pilot this program,” I said.  “It means the world to me that our school takes seriously the fact that children are already bullying and stereotyping each other.  I am a member of the Human Rights Campaign, and I believe in their mission of equality and civil rights for everyone.”

A murmur went through the crowd.  Had I said something wrong?  Hell, you’d have thought I just declared myself a feminist.

As I warmed up, I revealed the shockingly obvious truth that children, our innocent and loving children, are born without prejudice.  Their social phobias are learned from the adults who pass them along.  I explained that when it finally dawned on Elliott that his best friend Morgan had two moms, his reaction was not “ew, gross,” but “NO FAIR! I only have ONE!”

I paused for the laughs that never came.  That story usually killed, but in this crowd, it died.  Tense anticipation showed in the sea of clenched jaws surrounding me.  Every chest in that room was crossed with defiant arms ending in tightly balled fists.  Uh oh.

I gave up and adjusted the mic for my short partner.  “Hi, I’m Elliott, and I’m in second grade,” he said.  The cameraman moved in closer.  For a second I feared Elliott would shout in the mic for the guy to back off, which would be a trigger for pandemonium.  Instead, he remained calm.  “I think that bullying is just wrong,” he said.  “Two moms, two dads, who cares?  It doesn’t matter!”

The room erupted—with applause.  The camera caught Elliott’s truly perplexed shrug as he wandered away for another dozen cookies.

 

 

To find out what happened next, check out my June 2008 column “What Would You Call a Welcoming School?”  ….and of course my long-threatened book The Radical Housewife,  coming to you soonish from Medusa’s Muse Press.

All illustrations by the brilliant Todd Parr

 

Manuscript Monday: “Bitch”

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Readers!  Welcome to a new feature on the blog I’m calling Manuscript Monday.  It’s a chance for you to get a preview of my book during the editing process as well as an opportunity for me to hold my procrastinatin’ ass accountable to the three of you who are still reading my blog on a regular basis.  Enjoy!

 

I can’t remember the moment I was labeled bitch for the first time, but it sure wasn’t in the blogosphere of 2008.   It was well before the blogosphere, let alone the World Wide Web, even existed.  The first time I was called a bitch, the home computer of choice was a Vic 20, capable of playing Pong and calculating to eight decimal points but not much else.

Boys called me bitch.  Girls called me bitch.  I remain, as always, an equal opportunity threat.

What they call rage, I recognize as power.  The constant challenge is to prevent this force from turning within, for those who keep their truths to themselves self-destruct at an alarming rate.  Lady Lazarus may have had nine times to die, but Sylvia Plath didn’t.

Honesty is a weapon.  It threatens the dominant, it questions authority, and it upends embedded systems, even systems as relatively benign as the typical suburban high school, which is why I couldn’t get a date until I was eighteen.

Male honesty is intrepid.  Female honesty is hostile.

Medusa and Medea.  The Sirens.  Salome, rewarded for her sensuality with John the Baptist’s head on a platter (a mistake—she should have demanded his saintly balls).  Eve and the sweet-tasting apple.  Delilah and her lover’s soft hair.  Madonna once said, “I’m tough and I know exactly what I want.  If that makes me a bitch, okay.”  OKAY!

Assertive men are admired.  Assertive women are unpleasant, unattractive, unsympathetic. As Barack Obama said to Hillary Clinton: “you’re likeable enough.”

Some feminist softies tried to divert our attention with a celebration of something called the “uppity woman.”  Derived, perhaps, from the legendary Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote that “well behaved women rarely make history.”  I like this idea, but not as much as I like the word BITCH.  The word tears out of your mouth like a dog ripping the flesh off a bone—and not just any dog, either.  A female one.

A briskly selling gift item over the winter holidays of 2007 was a nutcracker in the shape of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuited thighs.  Between her legs was the fulcrum of her power, her Cunt as Destroyer.  How obvious could you get?

By the way, a lot of feminists get very upset when anyone, male or female, uses the word “cunt.”  I have also been tut-tutted for using “bitch,” though by now most folks agree that the B-word, when used by women, has a similar defanging effect as when gay folks call themselves “queer.”  I have trouble explaining this nuance to my young son, however, who knows I had an essay published in Bitch magazine but is surprised when I ask him not to share this information with anybody.

 

 

Abortion rights and the failure of “choice,” revisited

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

To honor the long-awaited decision of Planned Parenthood to drop the word “pro-choice” in favor of more, er, neutral language (I don’t hear them tooting the “reproductive justice” horn, unfortch), I am sharing these thoughts on the subject, excerpted from my book The Radical Housewife and first posted on this blog in 2011.   Choose to enjoy it!

The late, great Shirley Chisholm wrote the following in her autobiography Unbought & Unbossed, addressing men on her staff who tried to convince her to avoid speaking out in support of abortion rights:

“Women are dying every day, did you know that? They’re being butchered and maimed. No matter what men think, abortion is a fact of life. Women will have them; they always have and always will. Are they going to have good ones or bad ones? Will the good ones be reserved for the rich, while poor women have to go to quacks? Why don’t we talk about real problems instead of phony ones?”*

Rep. Chisholm wrote these words in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, when dying from a botched abortion was a very real threat to women across the country, particularly poor women of color. Two generations later, not a lot has changed. Accessing an abortion is easy for well-heeled urban women, the vast majority of whom (as it was in 1970) are white.

In Shirley Chisholm’s day, the term “pro-choice” was used to remind people of the personal matter of the procedure. The “choice” to have the abortion should be the woman’s, centering the debate on the right to individual autonomy, a concept that Republicans claim to embrace. Senator John Kerry declared in a 2004 Presidential debate that having an abortion “is a woman’s choice. It’s between a woman, God, and her doctor.”

Oh, if it were only that easy, John! God and doctors are often in very short supply when they are needed the most. If you get accidentally knocked up in Wyoming or Mississippi, you better pray as hard as you can, because your states have no provider at all.

In fact, a 2008 report funded by the Guttmacher Institute announced that 87 percent of counties in the United States do not have an abortion provider.That’s a big enough number to put in all caps: EIGHTY-SEVEN PERCENT! That makes getting an abortion seem less like a “choice” and more like a forced road trip.

Or a financial ordeal. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1977 and reauthorized every year since, bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Rep. Chisholm worried that poor women would have to go to quacks; she didn’t realize that when they won the right to access abortions from a trained doctor, they’d have to surrender their rent checks. The Hyde Amendment, predictably, reinforces the idea that wealthy women have the “choice,” but poor women don’t. And lest we forget, the poorest women are the ones who lack access to contraceptive information and services anyway, dammit!

When I demonstrated with over one million other people on the U.S. Capitol Mall in 2004, I wrote the word “choice” on my sign, but the event was officially called the March for Women’s Lives.**

The name, though, made some mainstream feminists cranky. Shouldn’t it be called the March for Choice? Not so fast, declared a coalition of poverty activists and health care groups for women of color. The word “choice” obscures the “real problems” that Rep. Chisholm talked about: racism, poverty, and other forms of pervasive inequality.

I no longer identify as pro-choice. How can I, when Sarah Palin congratulates herself for the “choice” to carry her Down’s Syndrome child to term? Bringing a special needs baby into a tightly-knit, financially stable family that has access to health care and other forms of support is no big whoop, except for the baby in question—Trig Palin is one hell of a lucky kid. So is Tripp Johnston, the child carried to term by Trig’s seventeen-year-old sister. All four of them appeared on a celebrity tabloid in the early days of 2010, declaring “we’re glad we chose life!”

That’s that sneaky, slippery power of language again! Can you imagine a headline that read “we’re so glad we didn’t have abortions!” I can’t either.

Remember chapter one?*** I don’t deserve a medal for surviving life with the colicky, special needs baby I had in the year 2000. Accidents of fortune gave me everything I needed, and my child reaped the benefits.

I don’t care if Sarah and Bristol Palin keep on breeding–that’s their beeswax, not mine. But under Gov. Palin’s leadership, Alaska’s rates of domestic violence and sexual assault were twice the national average.**** When Palin ran for office in 2006, she announced (in so many words) that if her then 14-year-old daughter were raped, she wouldn’t allow the girl to have an abortion—a very likely scenario, considering Palin’s vocal support for parental notification laws. In yet another nimble linguistic twist, Palin averred that the issue was one of “parents’ rights.” Welcome to Palinverse, where a pre-born fetus had greater bodily autonomy than a post-born teen.

Feminists of any/every Wave, listen up: “choice” is over. It’s done. NO MORE.

 

*Oh my gaaaawd, I love Shirley Chisholm so much!!!!!!

**It was awesome.  I can’t wait until Erin Matson’s Feminist Jetpack Factory™ organizes another one. 

***You WILL remember it when you buy your copy from Medusa’s Muse Press this fall!  Woot!

****This statistic was disturbing when I wrote it, but it’s even worse now that Bristol claims her virginity was “stolen” while she was drunk (for a discussion on why Bristol may have resisted calling her experience rape, read this piece at the Daily Beast–as if we needed another reminder of the power of words).

Writing November (and beyond)

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Get our your typewriter ribbons, everyone!  It’s NaBloPoMo!

NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month, brought to you in 2011 by BlogHer, the folks responsible for the flurry of exciting ads to the right of your screen. Inspired by National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo lets us blogging types in on the fun, for it’s very important that everyone with a computer write themselves crazy for the month of November.

As is typical of everything we do here at Radical HQ, I’m joining a day late.  Deal with it.

I love the motivation behind NaNoWriMo, for it recalls the sage advice within Natalie Goldberg’s classic guide Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, a book I’ve had in my possession for 25 years.  Drawing from her study of Zen meditation, Goldberg reveals that the secret to being a writer is….

(wait for it)

….to write.  Just write!   Tap on your typewriter, scratch on your notebook, click on your keyboard.  Write.

Some of what we write will be crap. Some will be good.  Some will be great.  But we’ll never know what will our writing will be like until we write, over and over again.

In 2004, I joined NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote a novel that was four hundred pages of melodramatic garbage.  In 2005, I wrote two-thirds of a novel than was slightly better.  In 2006, my friends suggested that I start a blog on MySpace that accidentally led to a paid writing gig, which led to another, and another.  I discovered that I love writing nonfiction.  The work is better because I enjoy it more.  No longer an aspiring Margaret Atwood, today I am an aspiring Joan Didion! (but more on that later)

In November of 2009, I pondered the raft of blog posts, newspaper columns, and essays on my hard drive and wondered if my month might be put to good use in the service of what I’ve come to call The Radical Manuscript.  Named after that ancient MySpace blog, it would trace my journey from a quiet riot grrrl to a post-partum depression-addled mom to a feminist activist crusader determined up upend the myth of American “family values” one dirty diaper at a time.

This November, I am thrilled to announce that Medusa’s Muse, an independent press based in Ukiah, California, will be publishing The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century in 2012.  Terena Scott is a fellow rad mom who started the press with the same DIY spirit that the creators of NaNoWriMo had back in 1999.  I’m very excited about collaborating with Medusa’s Muse to bring this November-inspired project to a bookstore near you.

So what are you waiting for?  It’s November 2nd already!  Unroll that ribbon, sharpen that pencil, plug in that laptop!  Do whatever you need to do–just WRITE!