My son and #YesAllWomen

June 5th, 2014

 

Last week my firstborn, 14-year-old Elliott, informed me that a group of girls at his middle school were (and I am quoting him directly here) “causing a fuss about #YesAllWomen.”

I was delighted, shocked and confused at the same time. Ever since the Isla Vista killings on May 23rd, I’d been mulling over how I was going to talk to my children about the latest mass murder to occur in the good old USA. I even started a blog post about it that bore the long-winded title “I know I should talk to my kids about Isla Vista but I don’t know if I can.”

Why the hangup? You try telling your third grade daughter about the ubiquity of gender-based violence. You try telling your keenly logical Asperger’s son about the misogyny that fuels so much of said violence–because this is what he will say:

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And that is exactly what came out of Elliott’s mouth when he explained how uncomfortable the girls’ fuss made him.

Asperger’s tends to produce thinking that is black/white, good/bad, wrong/right. To him, the fact that HE has never committed an atrocity against women or girls in his life PROVES that “not all men.” If that is a FACT, and really and truly a FACT, then it MUST be brought to everyone’s attention.

 

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Please do not read the above and think that my son is an unfeeling robot on autopilot, as current stereotypes might lead you to believe. In fact, he has an extremely tender heart, a characteristic not usually attributed to Aspies but should be; the Aspies in my acquaintance (and there are many) may flounder with the finer points of social etiquette but they are loyal and loving when it counts. I remember well how Elliott’s already pale cheeks whitened several shades when I explained the Newtown shootings over a year ago.* CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT IN SCHOOL, his mind raced. CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT. WRONG WRONG WRONG. I think that the detachment some see in spectrum people is really just terrible confusion and anxiety at a world that isn’t easily categorized as they would like.

The “fuss” that the girls were causing involved writing down some of their favorite #YesAllWomen tweets and posting them on the walls of their school. I thought this was fan-freaking-tastic and told him so.

“But it made me feel bad,” Elliott said.

“Why?” I said.

“Because I don’t do that stuff,” he said.

“I know that,” I said.

“But posting all that makes me think that I’m like that, but I’m really not,” he said.

I sighed. “And you felt like you had to tell those girls that you were NOT ALL MEN, right?”

He looked bewildered and more than a little embarrassed: did his mother actually know what happened on the internet?!!

 

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I found an excuse to take him for a walk around the neighborhood, as I’ve found my kids do their best thinking when active. We must have gone back and forth for at least 30 minutes before I stopped him on Park Avenue and asked, “Elliott, have you ever made fun of someone just because she was a girl?”

“No,” he said immediately.

“Have you ever made fun of a girl’s clothes?”

“Why would I do that?” he asked.

“Have you ever called a girl a slut?”

He looked like he was going to throw up. “No way,” he said.

“Have you ever hurt a girl? Physically or mentally? Have you? HAVE YOU?” By now I had my hands on his shoulders and I was staring directly into his adorable hazel eyes.**

“NO!” he shouted, so loudly that I’m sure the neighbors heard.

“THEN YOU DON’T NEED TO WORRY,” I announced, “BECAUSE THE GIRLS IN SCHOOL ARE NOT TALKING TO YOU.”

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He made a face like the one above (taken in response to the lousy defense in the first quarter of the Minnesota Lynx home opener), took a deep breath, and….

UNDERSTOOD.

We hugged. It was amazing. It was beautiful. I have a feeling it will go down as one of my favorite parenting moments, ever.

Which is why I am blogging it and sharing it with you, and with the Elliott of the future when he Googles his mother’s name.

Elliott, if you are reading this, know that I love you and I am so proud of the boy you are and the man you will become.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 *it sickens me that I must have this conversation every few months. GUN SENSE NOW!

 **seriously, he’s the cutest boy in the world

 

 

The complicated feminist sisterhood

May 21st, 2014

 

This clip is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, White Christmas:

 

My own sister and I love to sing it whenever the opportunity strikes–and strike they do, for she and I have the typically complicated relationship that the song describes.* We love each other as much as we hate each other, and we are as alike as we are different.

 

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Here we are on Good Friday 2012, with my kids and her daughter. Our expressions are EXACTLY THE SAME. My son has her green eyes. Her brunette daughter looks like I did when I was a first grader, right down to the banged haircut.

Yet we are so different sometimes it’s hard to believe we can relate, much less be relatives. As I write in my new Minnesota Women’s Press column:

My sister and I look so much alike that often people can’t tell who’s younger and who’s older. They assume that my elegant and fashionable sister, who looks like she stepped out of InStyle magazine, must be more mature than the woman who’s wearing scuffed Doc Martens well into her 40s. As a born introvert…the idea of joining a group called Women in Networking makes me break out in a rash, but my gregarious sister has built a thriving real estate business on the connections she’s made there. 

I can’t tell you how horrible I would be at selling real estate, as it requires smiling at and talking to strange people all day. The only strange people I like are my husband and children. But as her sister, I am very proud of her and her work, so if you’re in the Twin Cities and need a good realtor, call her up. She’s good!

Now, let’s talk about that OTHER sisterhood of ours…

 

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Above is the graphic that was created by the Nation for their infamous piece “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars.” If you didn’t read it in January, I will summarize it for you: “feminism is supposed to be a sisterhood where we all get along in our pursuit of a common goal, and if you don’t agree with me, it not only hurts my feelings, it hurts The Movement!!”

I am really tired of people acting like it’s a BFD when self-identified feminists don’t get along beautifully. Again, from my column:

The relationship I have with my biological sister is among the most complicated in my life; why should the sisterhood of feminists be any different? 

I admit that I’m more than a little glad that my children are different genders, born five years apart: there isn’t an automatic cultural assumption that they will get along, nor is there the belief that if they don’t then there is something TERRIBLY WRONG with them.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a couple of people in a family, let alone a few million in a social movement.

But there’s hope!

When I realized how different my sister and I really were, I had to relax many of my expectations about our relationship, but I didn’t love her any less. I learned that sisterhood is strengthened when it has the opportunity to prove its resilience. 

#SisterhoodIsStrengthenedWhenItHasTheOpportunityToProveItsResilience

#ResilientFeminism

#TheFeministSisterhoodIsGoingToBeOkay

#ThisIsNotMyForteUnfortunately

#Let’sWatchRosemaryClooneyAndVeraEllenAgain

#WhatDoYouThink?

 

 

 

 

 *”when a certain gentleman arrived from Rome, Leah wore the dress and Shannon stayed home!”

 

 

Explaining rape culture to a man named Kyle

May 14th, 2014

 

TW:  rape culture, victim-blaming

 

Today’s post is dedicated to Kyle, a fellow who recently left a comment on a SlutWalk themed-post that was first published in 2011. That piece was called “To our male allies: a challenge,” and if you follow the link you may read his thoughts in their entirety; I will only quote from it here. Be warned that the original post is triggering as hell!

 

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Dear Kyle,

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I don’t know what brought you here, but it’s obvious that you are exactly the sort of man that feminists like myself are trying to reach when we talk about rape culture.

This is one thing about feminism that rubs me the wrong way,” you wrote, “what do you all mean when you say that you want the right to ‘walk down the street and exist and not have to fear assault? I really don’t understand that.What are you saying? Do you not feel safe when you walk down the street?”

From your defensive, almost unbelievably naive viewpoint, I assume that you are the sort of person who has led a pretty charmed life. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet my Replacements tickets  that you are a cis-gendered straight white male who is about to run to Google to research what the hell “cis-gendered” means. You haven’t met many people likely to challenge you on your rosy view of the world, but when you do, you say what you wrote in your comment to me:

“That sucks, but what exactly do you want me to do about it?” 

This is such a common reaction that it has its own meme. Several, actually. I like this one:

 

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You continue: “What do you want? More police on the street? Ankle tracking bracelets on all men? Is this even that big of a problem? Is there really an epidemic of rape going on, or are you all just sensationalizing a story and getting worked up into an irrational fear of the outside world?”

Kyle, this is the part of your comment that really breaks my heart. I’m totally serious. You can sit at a computer screen, with THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD at your fingertips, and still believe that rape and sexual assault might not be “even that big of a problem.”  But let me be clear: my heart does not break for you, Kyle, but for the women in your life.

Because, Kyle, you know women who have experienced rape and sexual assault. The Joyful Heart Foundation quotes a 2010 CDC study that found one in five American women are raped in their lifetime.

Think about the last time you gathered with your family, Kyle. Maybe it was for Easter, for a Passover seder, or just a birthday party. Were there five women in the room? Grandma, aunts, cousins, nieces? Maybe you were there with your wife and your daughters. One in five of those women is keeping a secret from you.

Why? Because you are an insensitive creep who would dare suggest that rape is not “even that big of a problem.” It’s not a problem to you, Kyle, because the stigmatization of survivors prevents them from telling you that they are part of you family, part of your community, part of your world. That’s what we mean by rape culture. If your daughter were robbed, no one would tell her that the theft was her fault, but the same would not be said if she were raped, especially if she were raped by someone she knows, which happens in 60 percent of cases.

You end your comment with this statement, the caps yours:

“If you want to feel safe, then YOU NEED TO STOP FEELING AFRAID.”

This is rape culture, Kyle. A statement like this makes sexual assault an issue to be resolved by victims, not perpetrators.

You say you don’t rape. That’s great. Now allow me to quote MYSELF from the 2011 post, the point of which you totally missed in your clumsy attempt to absolve yourself of any blame for sexism in America:

Help us end [rape culture], guys. We can’t do it without your help. We need you to speak out against this warped view of the world. You are not dogs, and we are not meat. We are all human beings who deserve respect, safety, and freedom.

I hope you’re listening, Kyle, and that you’ll allow compassion for the survivors in your life to soften your angry, defensive heart.

Sincerely,

The Radical Housewife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Mother’s Day gift to each other: economic security

May 7th, 2014

 

Minnesotans, this post is for you. If you live in the other 49, though, don’t worry: the economic security of women, especially mothers and caregivers, is a big deal for you too! Study the work of the Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security and see how its strategies can be applied in  your state.

 

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The Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act (MNWESA), which I have written about before, needs to clear one more legislative hurdle before it can be signed into law. After being hashed out in conference committee, the bill needs a new vote in both the House and Senate.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking: “Big deal! They passed it once, they can pass it again, right?” WRONG.

Today one of my colleagues in Minnesota NOW sent me a dire e-mail: “[Senate DFLers] are getting pressure from the business community to oppose the provision protecting caregivers from workplace discrimination. Without their vote, the bill might not pass the Senate. Please….CALL OR E-MAIL NOW, even if it’s not your particular Senator!  They need to hear from MN Constituents. They need to hear from YOU!

I am happy to report that my own senator is firmly in the YES column, so today I emailed ten others:

Tom Bakk: via email form

Terri Bonoff: sen.terri.bonoff@senate.mn

Bobby Joe Champion: sen.bobby.champion@senate.mn

Melisa Franzen: sen.melisa.franzen@senate.mn

Vicki Jensen via email form

Lyle Koenen: sen.lyle.koenen@senate.mn

Ron Latz: via email form

James Metzen: sen.jim.metzen@senate.mn

Ann Rest: via email form

Dan Sparks: sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn

 

The good people behind the coalition to pass MNWESA provided a template which I amended for Radical Housewife readers. Since many of you are mothers, I know you need protection from workplace discrimination more than you need a bouquet of tulips on Sunday morning. By putting in just a few minutes of work today, you might get both!

My Mother’s Day gift to you is giving you the names and addresses above and the message below, one that can be easily cut, pasted & customized.  And that darned header is so cute!

 

 


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Dear Sen. [HIS OR HER NAME HERE!] ,

Sunday is Mother’s Day, that day when Minnesota moms like me are honored for the hard work we do for our families 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

This year you have the opportunity to honor us with a gift that will last longer than brunch and flowers!

Moms, and the people who love them, want equal pay and equal opportunities to contribute to Minnesota’s economic prosperity.

As a Minnesota mom, I urge you to support the common sense provisions included in the Women’s Economic Security Act:
• Expansion of unpaid family leave and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees
• Greater participation of women in high-wage, high-demand nontraditional work
• Improved enforcement of equal pay laws
• Protections from workplace discrimination based on being a mother
• Support for women dealing with the economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault
• Expanded opportunities for grandparents to pitch in and use earned sick time to help care for grandchildren
• Serious consideration of more options for increased retirement security

We moms hear every Mother’s Day that mothering is the most important job in the world—here is your chance to prove that you agree! Minnesota moms need you to vote “yes” on the Women’s Economic Security Act!
Sincerely,
[YOUR NAME HERE!]
Mom of [KID COUNT HERE!]

 


 

 

Your Mother’s Day gift to me? Posting in the comments that you did it!

 

 

 

 

Living family values with a liberal majority

April 29th, 2014

 

 

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my love-hate relationship with the Democratic Party. Though the party tends to be where those on the liberal end of the political spectrum end up, there are far too many in the party whose loyalty lies with power and influence, not actual, honest-to-gawd ideological principles. Heck, back in the Obamacare Battles of 2011, I wrote not one, not two, but THREE posts in a row raging against the colossal idiocy of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But I am veering away from my point, which is this: Democrats who actually vote for LIBERAL social and economic policies are giving me hope! HOPE, DAMMIT! It’s like they read my aforementioned blog posts and pondered the question I posed, namely:

WHAT WOULD SHIRLEY CHISHOLM DO?

 

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Here is what they are doing: last week, my state Senate passed the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act (MNWESA), a kickass package of bills that take on some of the biggest barriers to women’s physical and economic safety. Among other things, the bill would (and I’m quoting directly from the MNWESA website here):

  • Increase the minimum wage to $9.50 
  • Expand unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from 6 to 12 weeks 
  • Add pregnancy to the Minnesota Parental Leave Act 
  • Allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to use paid leave to obtain services 
  • Expand unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault
  • Require private businesses with more than 40 employees that have contracts with the state of $500,000 or more to ensure and state compliance with equal pay laws
  • Increase reimbursement rates for child care providers participating in the Child Care Assistance Program

Wow!

That is some serious family values in action there. That’s going to immediately affect sick kids, poor kids, vulnerable kids, endangered kids. It’s a huge start towards making workplaces more family-friendly. And friendly families create healthy, functional kids. And happy, safe kids make our communities better places. WIN-WIN-WIN!

Meanwhile, three years ago, the first Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature in two generations spent all of its political capitol on amendments attempting to ban same-sex marriage and restrict people from being able to vote.

 

 

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What’s next? The House and Senate need to hash out a few differences in their versions of the bill, which they’re doing in conference committee today. I wonder if our governor will sign it?

I’ll give you a hint: here’s what happened in 2013 when the NEWLY Democratic Minnesota legislature gave him a bill THEY wrote that would legalize same-sex marriage:

 

Mark-Dayton-signs-the-marriage-bill

 

He not only signed that bill, he did so in the middle of a big ol’ PARTY!

THIS is what happens when liberals LEGISLATE like liberals–just like Shirley Chisholm did.

HOORAY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten years ago, we marched.

April 25th, 2014

 

Where were YOU on April 25, 2004?

I was in Washington DC with my mom, my sister, and over a million of my friends.

 

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In case you can’t see me in the crowd, here’s what I looked like ten years ago:

 

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My hair was shorter and my middle was smaller, but I was just as passionate about reproductive justice as I am today.

Actually, I may be even MORE passionate, as almost exactly one year after this picture was taken I gave birth to my second child, a girl. It crushes me a little bit that our massive march didn’t make it possible for Miriam to be born under a Kerry administration, but I do know that day made a difference. As Zoe Nicholson has discussed in her books and speeches (much more eloquently than I ever could), no one who attends a march like this comes away untouched by it.

I can’t wait for the next March for Women’s Lives, whenever it may be, for I know that I will be there with my own daughter. And with my son! And maybe with you and your kids.

Should we start making plans?

 

 

 

I wrote a blog post about confidence and you won’t believe what happened next!

April 21st, 2014

 

Many, many of you weren’t touched by my last post, “My exclusive secrets to self-confidence!” The feedback has been literally underwhelming.

So I looked up Katty Kay and Claire Shipman for some advice. I took a quiz and here’s what I got:

Screenshot (3)

 

Ha, ha, ha.

 

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BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. This morning my therapist sent me a link to an article that she thought was relevant to our session several days ago.  The article?

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Seriously?!!

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And how is YOUR case of the Mondays going?

 

 

 

 

My exclusive secrets to self-confidence!

April 15th, 2014

 

This post is inspired by the copy of The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman that was sent to me by their publisher’s PR department. It was released today and you can get it on Amazon or wherever. I haven’t finished it.

But! I had an experience recently in which my own usually dismal self-esteem got a major boost. I did it in a series of steps that I am thrilled to share with my readers, all two of you, EXCLUSIVELY! Do as I do and be prepared to be the most self-assured person in the room.

 

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First of all, get a column for a newspaper or magazine.  Spend several years building a relationship with your audience. Discuss feminism, death, marriage, Madonna, food–all the really important stuff.  Then hit ‘em with a confession that they weren’t expecting:

I have to know: Am I appealing to you? Do you think I’m doing the right thing? Do you think I’m good enough? 
Do you like me? 

Continue with stories from childhood, careful not to blame lack of self-esteem on either parents or kindly old kindergarten teachers. Be sure to consult your thesaurus so you sound more like a professor than a cowering wimp when you write things like:

Without your approval, I am bereft. When I have it, I am momentarily delighted, yet always aware of how deeply in its thrall I remain – and how much it is my master. 

I know what you’re thinking: the idea of writing these words for public consumption is mortifying. It’s embarrassing enough to FEEL this way, but to confess it?! Trust me. I know what I’m doing here.

You, dear reader, wield extraordinary power, though most of you don’t know it. Hell, most of you reading this don’t even know me.(Would you like to? Please say yes.) 

Send the piece to your editor, with a joking tagline of “hope you like it!” Lol, rofl, lmfao, etc.

When the essay appears in print and online, read it, then cringe. What is worse: displaying your underpants or your emotional vulnerability in public? You think you know the answer until the messages start popping up in your inbox.

Me too.

I totally relate!

Thank you for writing this. I’m a big fan.

!!!

Imagine all of that stuff happening to you. It feels pretty great, doesn’t it? The feeling will last until you are pitched a book about why women have no self-confidence, it occurs to you to write a blog about it, and then you find yourself wasting hours taking and deleting selfies with the book because your frizzy hair looks like crap today.

It takes Kay and Shipman until page 141 to get to the meat of their book, which is the advice: “when in doubt, act.”

So I’m publishing this blog and the least awful picture of me, the book, and my hair.

I’m going to quote from my column again:

….give me a little feedback on this [piece]. Did it delight you? Excite you? Flatter you? 

I’m not going anywhere. I’ll wait to hear from you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

March 25th, 2014

 

insurance

 

1. Your insulin

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

2. Your statin drugs

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

3. Your heart stents

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

4. Your kid’s stimulants

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

5. Your mole removal

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

6. Your painkillers

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

7. Your infertility treatments

God made you barren for a reason.

8. Your cesarean section

God gave you a stretchy vagina for a reason.

9. Your Viagra

God gave you a limp dick for a reason.

10. Your sad, pathetic life

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

 

hobbylobby

 

FFI:

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

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

The Hobby Lobby Case is About Spreading Lies About Contraception

Five Reasons Contraceptive Care Is Essential

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

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Andrea Kieffer’s money where her mouth is

March 20th, 2014

 

By now I’m sure you’ve heard the story coming out of my home state in which a Republican legislator objected to an omnibus bill called the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act.  It’s calling for long overdue changes to state law like a higher minimum wage, expanded sick leave, and most frustratingly of all, pay equity.

Why so frustrating?  Because the legislator opposed to this bill is a WOMAN.

Here’s a transcript if you aren’t willing and/or able to endure the flat Midwestern accent:

“We heard several bills last week about women’s issues, and I kept thinking to myself: these bills are putting us backwards in time. We are losing the respect that we so dearly want in the workplace by bringing up all these special bills for women, and almost making us look like whiners.”

Whiners?  Oh dear.

Poor Andrea Kieffer is now all over the news, being raked over the proverbial coals for her ill-informed remarks. I HAVE GREAT NEWS FOR HER!  I have a quick and easy solution that will restore her credibility.

Members of the Minnesota Legislature earn a yearly salary of $31,140.  According to a 2013 report from the National Women’s Law Center, in the private sector, white women like Rep. Kieffer typically earn only 77 percent of what their white male counterparts do.

Pardon me while I crunch the numbers:

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To put her money literally where her mouth is, Rep. Andrea Kieffer can accept an immediate salary reduction to $23,978 per annum.  

If that seems like too bitter a pill to swallow,she should thank her lucky stars that she’s not African-American or Hispanic, because those House members would have their pay cut down to $19,929 and $16,815, respectively.

I’m going to write Rep. Kieffer an email RIGHT NOW (rep.andrea.kieffer@house.mn and andrea.kieffer@yahoo.com) to let her know of this brilliant plan. I would hate it, JUST HATE IT, if anyone thought she was a hypocrite!

 

 


 


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"With The Radical Housewife, Shannon Drury shares her journey as a stay-at-home mother and activist, filling in a wide gap within the feminist sphere. Drury not only takes the reader through her own feminist awakening and activist career, but also provides a bit of Feminist 101, reviewing the history of US feminism in an easily accessible way. A mixture of unflinching honesty and snarky humor, this book serves as a necessary reminder that mothers are an integral part of the feminist movement, despite not always being recognized as such." --Avital Norman Nathman, editor of The Good Mother Myth