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!

 

 


 

Getting to know your friendly neighborhood feminist

March 19th, 2014

 

 

Recently I met with a friend who had just finished reading my manuscript and wanted to give me her feedback.

(Whaddaya mean what manuscript?!!  THIS ONE. The one that’s going to be available in both digital and analog form later this year.)

Unlike my oldest friends, who have known me ever since I was a ranty Bratmobile-blasting young feminist, and my activist friends, who know me as a ranty radical housewife and mama, this particular friend and I met in circumstances in which my feminism wasn’t front and center.  She admitted that when she learned that I was the president of Minnesota NOW, she panicked a little and wondered when she would say something to offend me.

Isn’t that funny?  A liberal, south Minneapolis Obama voter worried that she’d be snarled at by an Angry Feminist! Even one who had the not-very-P.C. job of housewife!

Really, is there anything terrifying about this weirdo at the March for Women’s Lives, April 2004?

 

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On second thought, don’t answer that.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that this friend not only liked the book, she felt that it laid out a pretty good argument about how feminism is relevant and important not only to ranters, riot grrrls and radicals but to all parents everywhere.

As I write in my introduction:

Beyond the white picket fence that surrounds Focus on the Family, the American Family Council, Concerned Women for America, and other groups coalesced around “family values,” things aren’t all that great.  If American families were valued, schools would be fully funded and kindergarten bake sales abolished.  Childcare workers would be paid six figures.  Men would clamor for mandated paternity leave, eager to gain the respect and recognition that comes with dedicating time and energy to the diapering of a newborn.  Health care would be a right, not a privilege.  Safe contraception would be available in your grocery store or gas station.  Pro-lifers would direct their considerable resources towards the health and education of post-born children instead of fussing over two-celled blobs in petri dishes or worse, the wombs of sentient female adults.  

Damn!  That’s good stuff.

I can’t wait for you to read it yourself.  I want you, YES YOU, to be among the first to know when The Radical Housewife is available from the good people at Medusa’s Muse Press.  To that end, I am setting up an Official Radical Housewife Mailing List™ and if you’ll kindly share your e-mail address with me I promise to use it only in the service of REDEFINING FAMILY VALUES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.  I will never give it to a third party, no matter nicely they ask.

What are you waiting for?

Subscribe to The Radical Housewife mailing list!


Thank you!

When the news makes you sick

March 6th, 2014

 

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I’ve been ill lately.  Really ill.  So ill that when my kids made me a get well card, my daughter kindly added a drawing of me spewing what looks like banana pudding somewhat near our toilet. The red circle slash meant that vomiting would henceforth be banned in our house, and you know what–it worked!  I haven’t thrown up in days. Good job, Miriam!

I took the extra step of making this the profile picture on my personal Facebook page, and I may need to involve it in the rest of my online activity because lately it seems I can’t open Google Chrome without wanting to hurl:

Paul Ryan: Free School Lunch Means Parents Don’t Care About Kids (Talking Points Memo)

Two Texas Reproductive Health Clinics Close, Harbinger of Coming Access Crisis (RH Reality Check)

Marissa Alexander Now Faces 60 Years in Prison for Firing Warning Shot in Self-Defense (The Nation)

WestJet Passenger Note Claims “The Cockpit of an Airliner is No Place for a Woman” (Babble)

Court Says Secretly Taking Photo Up Woman’s Skirt Not a Crime (Care2)

Gillibrand’s Military Sexual Assault Reform Fails in the Senate (HuffPo)

 

 

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Thank you, JWOWW, for doing what I can’t.

 

 

Manuscript Monday: the myth of the mama grizzly

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?

 

 

I’m a white feminist writing something inflammatory

February 26th, 2014

 

Good day, Internet!

I am a cis white feminist.  This is my blog.

I AM WRITING SOMETHING ENRAGING THAT I KNOW WILL PISS YOU OFF.

If I know it will piss you off, why would I write it?  Because it will “start a debate”? Because it’s “my perspective on a complicated topic”? Because I believe that it’s “true”?

WHO CARES?  Here is a cute picture of my daughter:

 

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(I am tempted to say something provocative about her, too, like how much smarter and prettier and well-behaved she is compared to YOUR helicopter-parented kid, but that would be off topic.  Another day, perhaps.)

NOW I AM WRITING SOMETHING EVEN MORE OBNOXIOUS THAN THE PREVIOUS THING!

Didn’t see that coming, did ya?

Go give it a hashtag.  I’ll wait.

While I’ll wait I’ll keep myself busy appropriating Flavia Dzodan’s “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit” to express an opinion that is less feminist than self-aggrandizing.

After all, I feel great about myself for writing something so deliberately outrageous that  my pageviews have gone through the roof. Numbers validate me!

Oh dear.  You didn’t like what I said.  You called it “problematic.”

This hurts my feelings.

I justify myself by calling you a bully, and why not?  You hurt my feelings.

I don’t like it when people hurt my feelings, so… I DIG IN DEEPER AND REFUSE TO ACCEPT ANYONE ELSE’S POINT OF VIEW.

Why should I?  The inflammatory blog post has gone viral.  VIRAL, DAMMIT!

Besides, it’s a well-known fact that obstinacy confers accuracy.

I think I’m going to break that down and bold it, just for fun: REFUSING TO BUDGE ON MY INITIAL STATEMENT ACTUALLY MAKES IT MORE TRUE! 

Don’t ask me to prove it.  Instead, look at this picture of my son and me at Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit:

 

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You leave me a comment.  I leave one that’s longer and meaner and ends with “THIS IS MY BLOG, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT YOU CAN LEAVE.”

Also: “WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING THAT HURTS MY FEELINGS, THE PATRIARCHY WINS.”

I might need to bold that one too….

WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING THAT HURTS MY FEELINGS, THE PATRIARCHY WINS.

Put that in your sausage and smooch it!

I hope we’ve learned something today.  I know I have.

And that’s what counts.

 

 

 

 

 

Career advice from the Radical Housewife

February 24th, 2014

 

 

 

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If you are morally opposed to gangsta rap and/or Taylor Swift, you should not go into selling or promoting popular music.

If you are morally opposed to the wiping the snot from other people’s faces, you should not look for work in a hospital, an elementary school or a daycare.

If you are morally opposed to the possibility of using lethal force on anther person, you should not seek a career in the military or the police.

If you are morally opposed to toxic chemicals, you should not train to be a manicurist or a decontamination engineer at a nuclear power plant.

If you are morally opposed to eating animals, you should not aspire to be a butcher or as a chef at Outback Steak House.

 

 

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And finally….

If you are morally opposed to dispensing a legal, FDA-approved medication to a person with a valid prescription, YOU SHOULD NOT BE A PHARMACIST.

Duh.

 

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“The Escalating War on Hormonal Contraception,”  the report by Robin Marty that inspired this foray into career counseling, can (AND SHOULD!) be read at Care2.

Feminist + feminist = awesome

February 14th, 2014

This entry from the RHW archives first went up on January 4, 2011, but I figure it’s still relevant three years later–after all, feminist love is always, ALWAYS the best love.  Happy Valentine’s Day! 

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I posted the following in reply to Jill at Feministe, who wondered, while reading her New York Times last Sunday: “are feminist marriages more satisfying?

I’m a hetero feminist woman married to a hetero feminist man. On paper, we look like a “traditional” pair, as he earns our family’s living while I tend to our two kiddos.

But thanks to feminism, we understand that home-based caregiving, while unpaid, is a job like any other. My at-home parent status does not give my husband license to lounge on the couch after work while I scrub myself silly. The household grunt work is still everyone’s responsibility, just as it would be if I worked outside the home. Feminism upends “traditional” expectations, to everyone’s benefit: my kids have a close and loving relationship with their dad, who puts in quality time AND quantity time with them; my time building a freelance writing career is not seen as a detriment to our family; our foundation of mutual trust and respect gets us through the times in our relationship that are shitty.

FEMINISM is our secret! Pass it on!

What makes a “good” Aspie mother? (with a giveaway!)

February 10th, 2014

 

Last week, Gina Crosley-Corcoran of the blog The Feminist Breeder wrote on her Facebook fan page that her oldest son was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  When I saw her post, I responded as I always do to parents sharing this news for the first time: “WELCOME TO THE CLUB!”

In my essay in the book The Good Mother Myth, I write about my son’s diagnosis:

…I hardly mourned when my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was seven. After all, as countless psychologists reminded me, this was likely the same neurological quirk that made Bill Gates the wealthiest man in the world.  Hell, in my wholly overeducated social circle (I am one of very few with “just” a bachelor’s degree), you’d be hard pressed to find a young boy without a spot on the autism spectrum.  

The words here are elegant and composed, but in 2007 I was a wreck.  In truth, I had been a wreck ever since my perfectly adorable infant opened his mouth in February 2000 and SCREAMED.  He wouldn’t stop for months.

 

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So I did mourn: I mourned the stubbornly persistent belief that parenting was supposed to look like it did on TV, that my child and I would be so naturally in sync that I would know his every need, that my child would be warmly accepted into the fabric of modern society by virtue of his very existence.

Instead, I had a kid who was regularly singled out by frustrated relatives as well as preschool, kindergarten, and grade school teachers for not being their version of “normal.” I had his preschool classmate tell me, upon learning whose mother I was: “I don’t like Elliott.  He screams a lot.”

I have to pause here an collect myself because I am tearing up.  I haven’t thought about that preschool experience in years, yet the memory still makes me clench my teeth so hard I can feel my crowns loosen.

It is painful to imagine a world that might not love your child as much as you love him.  This is true for any parent of any kid, with or without special needs.  A childhood diagnosis, however, kicks this panic up a thousand notches, for moms especially.

Why moms?  Because we parent under the excruciating glare of  The Good Mother Myth.

 

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Gina herself has an essay in this anthology, a poignant look at abuse and neglect she suffered in her childhood and her determination to break the cycle with her own kids.  I write in my own essay about how much I fear passing on my family’s tendency towards anxiety:

My seven-year-old daughter Miriam bites her nails.  She chews them down to angry red nubs that even I, her loving (good!) mother, must admit are really quite ugly.  “It’s a bad habit,” she laments, using language she learned from a Berenstain Bears book on the subject.  “I want to stop it, but I can’t.”  I tell her I know how she feels.  When I was her age, my fingers were raw and bloody too, like the tips of ten half-eaten hot dogs.  

You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway: I believe that autism is genetic.  My wholly unscientific theory is that in the latter part of the 20th century, nerds and geeks who might have been isolated from one another were suddenly let loose on the campuses of research universities and liberal arts colleges where they met, fell in love, and decided to breed (this theory holds true for my friends in same-sex couples, who selected donors that shared their interests, like, y’know, science and engineering).

Gina is very well-known in the blogosphere and in social media, so naturally the post about her son drew a lot of traffic.  What drew even MORE traffic was a series of followup comments and posts between Gina and autistic self-advocates who objected to what they perceived as Gina’s desire to “cure” her son of his condition.  I won’t take a side in the debate, which as of this writing has devolved into a very bitter affair that includes name-calling, accusations of lying and harassment, the works.  Nothing good comes of that, online or elsewhere.

Here’s what I do know: there is genuine and deep pain on all sides.  Autistic adults hurt because they feel humiliated and denigrated when the complexity of their lives is reduced to the image of a missing puzzle piece and ridiculous stunts like turning the Empire State Building blue.  I can’t speak for Gina, but holy crap did I feel hurt and vulnerable when people tried to tell me the “best” way to support my son’s diagnosis.  For a few years there I walked around like an open wound.  Every suggestion stabbed my heart to a very familiar refrain:

“YOU ARE NOT A GOOD MOTHER.”

 

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There is good news: my son is the coolest boy in the universe, and I would not change a damn thing about him.  Not a damn thing!  I WANT to give him the tools he needs to be a happy, socially successful adult., so I offer him help with skills that don’t come naturally–like reciprocal conversation, sensory processing, nonverbal communication, etc–but I wouldn’t change him.  He knows he has Asperger’s, and he’s not ashamed of it.  In fact, he wrote a short essay for his school newspaper about his life as an Aspie.  I love him so much that I want not only to be a GOOD mother, but the BEST mother that he needs.

I don’t always succeed, though, and that’s why I’m sharing some other good news:  the kind people at Seal Press, publishers of The Good Mother Myth, want to send a Radical Housewife reader a copy of the book for FREE.  Yes, FREE!  In addition to Gina and me, contributors include Sharon Lerner, K.J. Dell’Antonia, Soraya Chemaly, Jennifer Baumgardner, and many other smart, funny, thoughtful parents who are committed to doing the best they can.

Which is pretty good, I think.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To linger at the bus stop

January 30th, 2014

 

I can usually be counted on to announce when one of my columns appears in the Minnesota Women’s Press.  I like the gig, I want to keep it, and I’m proud of the work that I’ve done for the magazine.  But the column that appeared in last October’s issue was different.  It felt too raw, too emotional, too vulnerable to link to on Twitter with the usual “HEY EVERYBODY CHECK THIS OUT!”

How could I be happy to publicize a column I wrote about a loved one who is dead?

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My friend and neighbor Pam Taylor was diagnosed with an aggressive and virtually untreatable brain tumor in November 2011.  In one week Pam went from being just another mama at the school bus stop to a semi-paralyzed terminally ill hospital patient.

This was nothing at all like other times cancer has touched my life.  My friend Liz’s colon cancer treatment, though eventually futile, allowed her at least some time with mobility, hair, and most importantly, hope.  A family member with lung cancer has been trucking along for six and a half years, switching out medications in search of whatever works.  Not Pam.  Once her cancer was diagnosed it was too late for anything but goodbye.

 

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A new mother I know told me recently that she was surprised to see the parents in her neighborhood linger at the bus stop long after the children had been whisked away to school.  It seemed odd to her that busy people, commuter mugs in hand, would yak at the corner for up to a half hour in the mornings, longer on warm afternoons.  I told her that I might have thought that was silly, too, if I hadn’t lingered at my own bus stop and gotten to know some incredibly funny, thoughtful and supportive parents who I’m happy to say became dear friends.  Including Pam.

 

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Pam’s diagnosis was shattering for me.  In late 2011 I was already in a pretty crappy headspace, dealing with professional rejection, interpersonal drama, and a long-festering depression that required more attention than I cared to give it.  I used to write a couple blogs a week, but in 2012 and 2013, I wrote a couple blogs a month.  I say this just to be honest, not to make you think that my own pain in any way compares to the suffering endured by Pam and her family.  And what a family!  Pam loved her two daughters so fiercely that she defied the odds and lived 14 months after her diagnosis, more than a year than any fancypants oncologist expected.  She was stubborn like that.

Pam passed away on January 30, 2013, in the house just up the street from where I type one year later.  I still miss her.  As I wrote in that October 2013 column:

I could pretend, in my worst days, that Pam was merely behind schedule and was seconds away from opening the kitchen window to ask me if I’d seen the school bus cresting the top of the hill. All of that pretending failed to make her materialize; on my very worst days, I blamed myself for not trying harder. 

The bus is scheduled to drop my daughter and Pam’s youngest off in ten minutes, but will likely be delayed due to last night’s heavy snow that has yet to be fully plowed.  With the windchill factored in, it feels like three above zero, not the ideal conditions for hanging out on a street corner, gabbing.

But I’ll do it anyway, and if you have the opportunity, I hope you can too.  Who knows?  Taking the time to linger at the bus stop could change your life.

It changed mine, for the better.

 

 

 

 

Repose en paix, Monsieur Seeger

January 28th, 2014

 

“Aw no, Pete Seeger died,” I said, turning up the radio so I could hear the entire report from NPR news.

“Who’s Pete Seeger?” Elliott asked.

I paused for a moment, listening to the familiar plinkety-plunk of his banjo on the cold airwaves.  “I know you’ve heard of him,” I said.  “Pete Seeger, probably the world’s most famous folk singer.”

“Nope,” Elliott said.

“Have you heard of him, Miriam?” I asked.

She stared at me blankly. “Who?”

“Are you telling me that you’ve both been in public elementary school music programs for years and you’ve never had to sing “If I Had a Hammer”?’

“NO,” they shouted.

“Crap,” I said, snapping the radio dial off when talk returned to the ongoing disaster in Syria, the kind of hopeless warring between brothers and sisters that Seeger spent his music career denouncing.  “I’m sorry,” I added.  “I guess I goofed on an important part of your musical education.”

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I cannot hope to add much to the public conversation about Seeger’s contribution to music, politics, and culture.  Instead, I’ll use my tiny platform to share my favorite version of “If I Had a Hammer” outside of an elementary school music class. In the wobbly but magnificent clip below, it is performed in French ye-ye style by the obscure but amazing group Les Surfs.  Enjoy it as part of your musical education.

Merci beaucoup, M. Seeger.  RIP.

 

 

 

 


EBOOK NOW AVAILABLE!

for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and more!

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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