I was visiting my family this past weekend when I heard about Charlottesville. As I was sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight back down to LA, I was writing down some thoughts in my journal. This is what I wrote:
"But I struggle with my perspective as a white cis middle class woman - haven't we had enough of those [stories]? I don't want to be more of the same. I want to change. But this is where I am. A young woman. Or am I just a woman now that I'm 30? I am part of the problem. I need to do more.
It's vulnerable for me to share those words on this platform. Writing in my journal is a safe space where I can let it all out without any repercussion or outcome. It's just word vomit. But I wanted to share the words above because I feel like I'm not alone in some of these thoughts. A lot of people I know are struggling with how to voice their feelings with everything they're watching on the news. A lot of people are not talking about it. A lot of people are saying we need more love in the world. A lot of people are open to friendly discourse and conversation. Me? I'm thinking about jumping on a plane and flying to Charlottesville or somewhere else in the world to get more involved. I'm not going to, but the thought is there. I'm looking for protests, panels, and marches in my area. And yeah, I'm definitely open to talking about different perspectives, but when it comes to racism, bigotry, classism, or anything close to those? Fuck it. I want to scream in a lot of people's faces right about now. I am angry. I am full of rage. I am thinking some horrible thoughts. I am ready for action, instead of just sitting behind my computer, observing everything that's taking place. I am thinking too much about myself.
What about you? What are you doing? What are you feeling? Do you have any words to share? The quote I keep in mind lately is "If you are silent in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu. Other words in my mind are from Ani Difranco. Who, around 2011, rewrote some of the verses of a 1930's labor song "What Side Are You On?" and it seems appropriate to share some of the lyrics today:
"Too many stories written
These words have echoed in my mind for 72+ hours. What side are you on?
Our SCROTUS thinks there are many sides to this. Many sides. WTF. He said, "I think there is blame on both sides... You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.” It's infuriating. It makes my blood boil. I thank whatever god you believe in that I'm not in high school right now and can pour myself a very large scotch to numb myself from the pain.
I wish I had a better note to end on this week, but with everything going on in the news, it's hard to focus on anything else. So for now, I'd like to take the time to think more, reflect, listen, scream, and do more than contribute my $5 to whatever non-profit can help people out this month.
First of all, I highly recommend that you listen to the Nerdette podcast. It's quickly become one of my favorite things to listen to and from work. The guests provide homework for the listeners, which I am so into and have fulfilled all of the assignments I've listened to so far (yes, I'm a nerd and it's the Hermione Granger in me that's coming out).
Second of all, if you haven't seen the film Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre and starring Jenny Slate, do yourself a favor and rent it on Amazon. To this day, it's still one of the best movie going experiences I shared with some of my close lady friends.
Now, with both of those things said, I want to share something that happened to me the other day while I was driving home from work, listening to Jenny Slate on the Nerdette podcast.
Jenny was speaking about how amazing Gillian is to work with, and as she was saying "while she loves men, she has just no time to bend towards the male gaze," I looked to my right and saw this old dude in a beat up mini van just staring at me in a very creepy manner. Jenny's voice continued, but I couldn't hear the rest of it. My ears seemed to stop working because all I could focus on out of my peripheral vision was that dude continuing to stare at me.
I tried to get back to Nerdette, but my mind was running all over the place. I thought of that 30 Rock scene when Liz mentions the male gaze and Hazel responds, "Yeah, they're all a bunch of gays." I thought of earlier in the day when a guy catcalled me from his car as I walking down the street. I though of when I learned about the male gaze in college and how that opened my eyes up to cinema more. I thought of Orange is the New Black, Wonder Woman, the manic pixie dream girl and the cool girl. And as I was thinking about each of those, I was focusing on the male gazing at me from his window. How dare he objectify me. How dare he stare at me. How dare he continue to do so even when I looked back at him, clearly seeming upset.
The light turned green and we each drove off, me in a slightly more raged state than before. I rewound the podcast to hear what I had missed. Jenny's voice calmly surrounded me in my car: "she has just no time to bend towards the male gaze, and I needed that. I needed a role model like that in my life. It changed everything from my personal style to how I think about myself in my community to how I pick my jobs. And I like that she allows me to play women who are sexually active, have sexual preferences, but are not sexualized in any way that is going to create a marketplace for the patriarchy. I like that."
We need more people like Gillian Robespierre.
In that moment, I breathed a little easier. I felt comforted, understood, and not alone. It was as if Gillian and Jenny were in the car with me, and we were driving off to create more badass feminist art. And we definitely don’t have time to deal with any of the bullshit that is the male gaze.
Last night, I attended a panel put on by Amplifier at their LA Pop-Up Studio in Silver Lake. The title of the event was The New Feminist Agenda: Where the Women’s March Goes From Here, and it included a group of five artists and activists. I attended this in hopes of finding some answers to the questions I've been asking:
The speakers also mentioned the importance of finding our tribes. We need to utilize the people around us and start the work from there, building out. I was instantly reminded of the Leslie Knope quote: "Not to say that public service isn’t sexy because it definitely is, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because we get the chance to work hard at work worth doing, alongside a team of people you love. So I thank those people who’ve walked with me, and I thank you for this honor. Now, go find your team and get to work." It's one of my favorite quotes of all time. A close contender, however, might be from one of the panelists - Paola Mendoza - last night, who said: "Organizing out of anger is exhausting. But if you organize out of love, it's energizing. Love keeps you fighting. What got me out of bed on November 9th was love for the undocumented community. My love for democracy."
Those words are definitely what I needed to hear, and why I left feeling better than when I arrived. Those words reminded me that so many of us are fighting with love right beside us. It's love that keeps us going, not anger. Anger is what is coming out of the White House currently. Well that, and fear. It's a lot of old white men in there that want to control others, to fit us in this mold they made for us. And when we don't, they don't know how to handle it so insane things just continue to happen. Those crazy things might make us angry, which is good. That is the fire within us, but what fuels the fire? That's love. We need to keep the love burning and light each other up with inspiration.
Oh, also, something important I took away from this panel. Don't be afraid to be uncomfortable. We all have to be more uncomfortable to incite change.
Six months ago (well on July 21st six months ago) the Women's March took place around the world. Since then, it's been - for lack of a better phrase - a shit show trying to keep up with everything that's happened. If you're like me and struggle with tracking it all, I recommend subscribing to the newsletter What The Fuck Just Happened Today? or checking out summaries like this one from Refinery29. It can definitely become overwhelming, so I also like to balance it with photos of newborn alpacas and the Food Network.
Some things, however, might be overwhelming but are too important to overlook. Like today, for example, we find the Senate beginning to debate, amend, and ultimately vote on the future of Obamacare - which if repealed would leave 32 million more Americans uninsured in a decade. This is terrifying and effects all of us whether or not we want to believe it. And yet, so many people are just watching it happen without taking any action forward. Seriously? Where are all the women from the march?
I get though. A lot of us don't want to deal with it. We're tired. We're working. We're frustrated. We've done our part. The phone calls to our representatives aren't doing anything we can see. It's out of our hands. But (imagine I'm doing a great Dwight Schrute impression), I say "FALSE." The future is entirely in our hands. We just have to keep fighting. Look at someone like Elizabeth Warren, who was out on the streets making her voice heard today. She's telling us to be strong and loud. And if she can keep it pushing after six months of this shit show, then so can we.
Women have been leading the charge against the Trump administration since his first day in office when more than half a million protestors in the Women's March showed up on his doorstep. And now, women make up a whopping 86 percent of the calls to Congressional representatives against the Trump administration's goals. It's not just the future that's female, it's the resistance as well.
Trust me, I know inspiration might be hard to find sometimes. I've been struggling a lot to keep the fight in me alive. It's incredibly easy to get weighed down by everything going on. But you know what? I've heard rumor that angry women are uniting on November 6th, 2018 at voting booths all across the country. That may seem so far away from where we are today, but between now and then let's try our best to take care of ourselves and one another. Let's keep the calls, chants, and conversations going. To all you warriors out there, let's keep the fight alive.
This past Fourth of July, I painted my nails red and wore a Rosie the Riveter style blue bandana with a red stripped shirt. I represented the holiday as I have in years before, but something about this one felt different to me. There was a sense of sadness looming over it and I couldn't help but feel pain as I recited the Hamilton lyrics in my head over and over again: "But we’ll never be truly free, until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me." I kept thinking about our nation's history and where we are today. And you know what? There's a lot to take into account what's wrong with our country. Just take a look at Shaun King's article Here's why the United States is not the best country in the world.
Part of me didn't even want to celebrate Independence Day this year. It felt fake and phony to participate in a day that's primarily focused on BBQ's and songs about our nation's pride, when I was lacking any amount of pride in what this country currently represents. But that part of me that continuously wants to just curl up in a ball and ignore the news, she never wins in a fight. No. The one that wins is the woman in me that refuses to just give up and move to another country. She's the one that stands tall, tries to stay as informed as possible, continues to grow as an individual, treats people with respect, and strives to be the best possible version of herself for her and those around her. She's the one that looks at the young girls she works with and has hope for the future of our country. Yeah, sure, it sucks right now. It's sucked before. It might not get immediately better. We might not all see eye to eye. But there is hope. I have to believe in hope, no matter how naive that might sound coming from a middle class white cis feminist. I have to believe in it because I see the work that so many other people are doing. I see those boycotting the Fourth of July because we took this land away from Native Americans. I see people quoting Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and Michelle Obama. I see the Women's March planning a protest against the NRA. And I see people like my friend Ana Maria (who I think said it best on Facebook): "Resistance is patriotic, naming historic atrocities is freedom of speech, and protesting against injustice and a government that tries to harm us or others in the name of profit or personal benefit is the American Way."
My love for people like Ana Maria and my country runs deep, because I believe there are those of us working towards achieving greatness. It's tiring and grueling, and we have a long way to go, but if anything, hopefully we'll leave this place a little better for the generations to follow (that is if we don't all die from global warming, a nuclear bomb, or just a giant meteor). Sorry to be bleak. It is hard to drown out my pessimism completely! Best to summarize all of this with (yet again) more Hamilton lyrics: "You will come of age with our young nation. We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you, and you’ll blow us all away. Someday, someday. Yeah, you’ll blow us all away. Someday, someday."
Thank you to those who keep fighting, protesting, marching, walking, writing, and speaking out. You are the ones who fill me with hope that someday we might just be a nation to be proud of.
In May of this year, the Marine Corps released a new recruitment ad aimed towards women. The ad is titled "Battle Up" and came close after the breaking story of the Marines United Scandal (which I briefly touched upon in a blog back in March). Maj. Janine Garner spoke to NPR about the ad and a letter that she and 100 Marine Corps women signed insisting the Corps leaders deal with the issues of sexual assault they have faced:
"We have allowed to thrive and, in some instances, even encouraged a culture where women are devalued, demeaned and their contributions diminished," the letter says.
While I applaud the letter they wrote and understand the thinking behind recruiting more women might benefit the Marine Corps., I don't think it is a solid solution to fixing the issues of harassment these women have been dealing with. Like I said in my blog nolite te bastardes carborundorum: "We say it’s equality, but haven’t we as women been building ourselves up to be equal to men? What have we been doing to help men be equal to us?" We can try to recruit more women for the Marine Corps., in the work force, and behind film sets, but if we are simply trying to gain more power to help eliminate the injustices we've faced, is that really dealing with the problem at hand? We need an ad that is focused on men and women talking about sexual assault and ways to prevent it, not to pretend like it doesn't exist. We need an ad that shows a man standing up for a woman being assaulted. We need an ad that shows a woman standing up for a man being assaulted, because we often forget about that.
Yes, it's good that we're encouraging women to be strong, go after their dreams, and fight for our country - but knowing the current reputation the Marines Corps. has, is that really something we want to encourage our daughters to enlist in? Or do we want to teach our sons to treat these women with respect? Our culture has become so focused on toppling the patriarchy, that we've forgotten what equality actually looks like. It's about raising our sons and daughters with the same moral values. And I fear that if we keep trying to take power away from each other - if we keep trying to bring women into a man's world but not men into a woman's world - that this paradigm shift we've been nearing will topple over itself and chaos among the sexes will ensue (if it hasn't already).
Do I think we need more women in the Marine Corps., the work force, behind film sets, etc.? Yes, obviously, I'm all about women living up to their greatest potential and doing the job they want to do, but I don't think we should ignore the issues men are facing as well (The Mask You Live In and Miss Representation - both part of The Representation Project - are great films to watch and gain more insight on our gender dilemmas). If we start bringing more women into the Marine Corps., without dealing with the deep underlying issues of sexual assault, how are benefitting both parties? We need to clean up the toxic masculinity overpowering our country before we tell women to "Battle Up".
Two years ago I received the opportunity to write monologues for Draw the Line - a campaign for the Center for Reproductive Rights. The research involved reading and listening to a series of first-hand accounts from women who have come face to face with the repercussions of our healthcare system, primarily focusing on reproductive health. I remember crying over each story. Sobbing, as I took notes about their experience. I remember wondering if it was something I could actually do - hear their stories and rework them into monologues, while still having them remain true to themselves. I did the best I could, but it was no easy feat.
Since then, I have heard countless other stories from friends, family, and strangers. Stories regarding healthcare and the frustrations they have endured simply trying to take care of their bodies. With the announcement of the new healthcare bill (which includes deep cuts to Medicaid and fundamentally reshapes the program from an open-ended government commitment to a system of capped federal payments that limit federal spending), my mind has been thinking more and more about these stories. And it pains me to think about all that can change if this passes. People will die. Women will lose more rights to their bodies than before. Money will be taken from the poor and the sick, and given to the wealthy. How is this at all okay? How is this fair? When all we want is to protect our bodies and those we love. We all deserve the right to affordable healthcare. We all deserve the opportunity to take care of ourselves.
The women whose stories I read for Draw the Line, most of them were facing serious health issues themselves. They didn't choose to have an abortion lightly. They chose to protect themselves and their child in the best way possible. We all deserve to have a choice with what we want to do with our bodies.
So, I'm asking (pleading/begging), please contact your Senators (and even those in other states) and share your own story with them. You can call them at (202) 224-3121. Tell them how you feel about this new healthcare plan and how you see it affecting yourself and others. And please remember, it is your body. It doesn't belong to anyone else but you.
This Wednesday, June 21, marks the summer solstice - the longest day of the year. It also marks a day surrounding love. Love for all those affected by Alzheimer's disease. For those suffering from or caring for someone with Alzheimer's, some days can feel like the most grueling experiences. This movement, #TheLongestDay, was created to serve as a reminder to people that they are not in it alone. There are millions of others that are in the same boat, dealing with the same horrible disease, and continuing to fight against it in whatever way they can. This day is about doing something to honor the person(s) this disease has affected. It's about doing something fun, celebrating love, and raising awareness (and money) for organizations like The Alzheimer's Association. I urge you to look into this further and doing an activity of some sort that encompasses all of this.
Since my dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's in 2012, my family and I have been greatly involved with the Alzheimer's Association. My parents are amazing advocates that have been speakers at events and panels, and recently went to the State Capitol to meet with legislatures to speak out about the importance of funding for the Alzheimer's Association. Together, we have participated in and raised money for the Walk to End Alzheimer's over the past four years. The second year we attended the Walk, I wanted to document the event as best I could - feeling so humbled and grateful for all those people who donated to our cause - so I created a Thank You video. Looking at it now, I think it's time to create an updated version of it, encompassing all the other achievements my parents have accomplished since then. Until the next Walk, however, please enjoy the video, continue to spread awareness for the Alzheimer's Association (donate to the organization!), and share with others your experience on #TheLongestDay.
For more information, please check out http://www.alz.org.
Maybe it's because my birthday (and it's a big one) is coming up next month, but lately I've been asking myself this question a lot, and that question is: "what is my life?" Seriously. I find myself sitting in meetings, just wondering if everyone is looking at me wondering who let this child into the room, because majority of the time I feel like I'm just playing pretend. It's like I woke up in the morning and said, "Okay, let's imagine I'm a fancy business woman who loves to wear blazers and bright red lipstick. Yeah, that's the part I want to play today!" Except, I'm not pretending anymore. That's just who I naturally am, and it scares the bejeezus out of me. How did I suddenly go from dressing up like Liesl von Trapp and singing "You Are Sixteen Going On Seventeen" alone in my room to my stuffed animals to cruising down the 405 listening to NPR and wondering if I'm prepared for this meeting?
And I've noticed other women feel this way as well! I'm sure men do too, but I work with all women, so my perspective is limited these days. It's funny to me though that none of us feel we're actually the age we are today. When we're in our thirties, we feel like we are fifteen years younger, and when we're in our twenties, we feel like we are fifteen years older. There's no winning the age game (as Leslie Knope, I mean, Amy Poehler, eluded to in her recent Glamour speech). It is just a number after all, but it's amazing how fast time flies. Before you know it, you're the older woman sitting at a table with others looking to you for advice. But what about the advice I still need? Can't you tell I have no idea what I'm doing? Isn't it obvious I'm just dressing the part? Oh, maybe you're thinking I'm like Elle Woods and pretending to be something I am. That's cool. I can roll with that.
I can roll with most things, as long as the work I'm doing is dedicated towards empowering others. And my goal, as I get older, is that I'll be able to maintain my Sound of Music imagination and freedom as I continue to work alongside the girls, women, and people that make it all so meaningful. So to all those wondering the same thing out there, asking themselves "what is my life?" - I urge you to remember the freedom and imagination that got you to where you are today. Like me, you might still feel like you're playing this massive game of pretend, but honestly none of us know what we're doing with our lives and we never know who else is looking up to us, waiting for our awesome advice.
Today, I found myself rocking out to the "Feminist Friday" playlist on Spotify (because you don't just have to listen to it on Friday. Am I right?) When Bonnie Tyler's "If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)" came on, I couldn't hold myself back from belting the lyrics as loud as I could while driving on the 101. The song brought me back to last week, when I saw Wonder Woman with two of my friends. I wanted to show Diana Prince as much respect as possible so I showed up to the theater with my makeup done right, my hair somewhat curled, and my Wonder Woman t-shirt proudly resting beneath my awesome business blazer. Now, I won't spoil any of the plot here, but I want to share a popular reaction many of us have been feeling about a few specific moments of the film. That reaction: crying.
For me, it was during one specific action scene. I completely lost it, like silently hyperventilating and all. I saw this woman going up against all these gun shots, explosions, etc. and I couldn't help but think, "that's how every woman feels with everything thrown our way. It's all the negative words, the 'nevertheless, she persisted', the fight we all face to make our way through the bull shit this world feeds us. I thought I was alone in this reaction until I read Meredith Woerner's commentary: Why I cried through the fight scenes in 'Wonder Woman'. It rang so true to me and I was so excited to learn that others have been feeling this way as well. The unification of this is beyond powerful. This is a time when I feel sisterhood is true and present. It feels like we are learning more about what it means to be a feminist while reaching across the aisle to each other and seeing what we have in common and what makes us unique. It's about how we (women and men) relate to one another, to Diana Prince, and what Wonder Woman represents to each of us. As Bonnie Tyler says, "How's it feel to be a woman? How's it feel to be a man? Are we really that different? Tell me where you stand."
I don't know about you, but I stand with Wonder Woman.