Ten years ago I moved across the country without knowing a soul. Covered in snow, the New London town welcomed me with drinks in a pub that kept me warm. I, along with the belongings I carried with me moved twelve times between Connecticut and New York. It was then that I called Harlem, Brooklyn, and Washington Heights my home. I wrote plays and journaled my travels as I began working a full time job that led me to DC, Chicago, Atlanta, and more. My heart called me back to California, and it’s here that I’ve resided for six years. There’s been a great deal of learning.
The biggest lesson is to be able to let things go, especially those elements outside of our control. Be in the moment and keep in mind that nothing is permanent. Depression is a hurdle and it’s important to be patient with yourself. Treasure the loves of your life and the dates you go on. You never know where it will lead or what that person will teach you. This decade bent my spine, broke me down, and lifted me up. I still feel I’m on the upward climb, and with me I carry the places I come from, the people who inspire me, and the words I have yet to write.
I look forward to seeing what the next ten years bring, knowing it won’t be perfect (perfectionism is overrated anyway), but it will be a new adventure that I will embrace with my whole spirit. Ideally while wearing my new Pride and Prejudice scarf.
This photo isn't easy to share. Neither is the story that goes with it.
I had just climbed the highest point of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My parents and I were on a vacation visiting national parks across Utah and at the last minute we decided to check out the Grand Canyon. My dad had traveled there with his dad when he was younger and I thought it would be a nice moment for he and I to share. My dad's the one who taught me photography. His dad was also a photographer, and it kind of got passed down to me. My mom, who simply doesn't do heights, waited by the restaurant as my dad and I ventured along the trail to the rim.
When we got there, I climbed up this cliff, leaving my dad below with my camera and his (it was too sketchy to make the climb with my camera in hand). I had wanted this epic photo of me basically on top of the world. "Take a photo with my camera," I hollered at him. He looked at both cameras, confused. "It's the one around your neck," I said. He aimed my camera at me. I looked down and told him the lens cap was still on. "Why can't I see you?" he asked, just looking at the screen on the body of the camera. "You have to look through the viewfinder," I responded. "Okay, I have the perfect shot," he tried to convince himself. "You have the lens cap still on," I said. Tears were welling in my eyes. He didn't understand how to use a camera anymore. He could manage an easy digital one or his phone, but not a single-lens reflex camera (SLR) similar to what he taught me to use years ago, the one he gave me that he got when he served in Vietnam.
My dad took a photo of me. Luckily for me, it was from far away, because I couldn't stop the tears running down my face as I stood there. There, on top of the world, while my entire world was shifting below me. He was fading away right before my eyes. I climbed back down and we walked back to meet my mom at the restaurant (which is where she took this photo of us). The walk back to meet her was silent between my dad and I. We both knew something huge had just happened, but didn't want to acknowledge it with any words. Instead we kept moving, trying to enjoy the view.
This was only two years after my dad was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. It's been seven years. He's in the middle stage now, and doesn't really take any photos anymore. He goes on walks and listens to music. He's still the same human deep in there, but the person I grew up knowing, the man who taught me the art of photography, the fearless man who I used to go on epic hikes with, he's sitting back on the rim of the Grand Canyon with his own camera in hand, capturing moments of life and smiling.
I remember texting my friend, asking her if she thought it was weird that I was going to grab a drink with a male coworker one evening. I thought it was a little strange he asked me out, me knowing he was married, but it seemed friendly and innocent enough. We walked to a nearby bar, each had a beer, shared an order of onion rings, and that was it.
A couple months later, at the office holiday party, I remember dancing with some coworkers, only to look up to the balcony and see him watching me. I smiled. He smiled back. We had become friends since our first beer and onion ring outing. It was nice. I enjoyed hanging out with him.
A bunch of us continued the holiday party to an Irish pub nearby. I remember it was raining. I don't remember much else. It's all kind of a blur of images between me leaving the bar, this male coworker following me down the street, pulling me aside and kissing me under an awning. The only reason I distinctly remember the rain is because of how miserable I was standing in a puddle of water trying to hail a cab, trying to get away from this man as fast as possible after pushing him away. I remember sobbing to my friend on the phone as the cab drove me away. I remember asking, "is it my fault?" I remember the gut wrenching pain I felt that night. I remember feeling so incredibly low and ashamed. I didn't want to go into work. I didn't want to go anywhere. And I blamed myself over and over again for his actions. I counted it as my mistake. Maybe I had flirted too much. Maybe I liked the attention. Maybe I was looking for the attention from a man because the guy I was seeing at the time was treating me like utter crap.
I remember sitting in a psychiatrist's office the morning after the holiday party. The appointment had been scheduled for weeks, but timing worked out great for me. He recommended a therapist to me, which helped me deal with some of my issues with men. Not all, because they never go away completely. I can't forget the other married one who groped me in my car after a small cast party which I was the designated driver for, me hoping he was too drunk to forget that uncomfortable situation. He wasn't, and wanted to pursue an affair (to which I said hard pass). I can't forget the guy I worked with at the feed store who pinched my ass (to which I turned around and punched him in the arm). More than that though, I can't forget the stories I've heard from my friends, both male and female over the years. And you know what? It's not fair that we have to continue to relive these moments, to share these accounts, in order for everyone else to wake up and pay attention.
Sure, expel Harvey Weinstein from the Academy, but let's not focus on one awful human being when we need to shine a big massive light on this systemic problem that's been going on for years. Going back to what I wrote about in my last blog, The Tyranny of Masculinity, this is something we need to find solutions for instead of continuing to point out the problems. As Jackson Katz (seriously, watch his TED talk) says, "We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women... Even the term 'violence against women' is problematic. It's a passive construction; there's no active agent in the sentence. It's a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term 'violence against women,' nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them... Men aren't even a part of it!"
While I do think it's important we hear and share the #MeToo stories, we also need to keep in mind that the perpetrators people are writing about aren't just monsters that go away when we turn the light on. No, these are people in our everyday lives. One of my favorite Instagrammers, @feministastic posted this today and I had to share because I couldn't have said it better myself:
This is not to say that #MeToo is a bad thing at all; just that, once again, the burden falls on the oppressed group (people who have been assaulted/harassed) to appeal to the moral sense of their oppressors. @femmefeministe explains, "Each time I pour my soul into a piece about assault, I draw out words and put them together with the hope that someone will feel connected or some sense of solidarity.
I write for victims, but I also write for those who don’t know what it’s like, I have written with the hope that those of you who have never felt themselves shredded and stripped of their autonomy will hear us and fight alongside us because we need more people to stand up against rape culture.
We march, we carry signs, we hold hands, we cry, we scream — but who’s listening? Sometimes it feels as if no matter how many times we write our stories, no matter how many statistics we show you, you don’t really care. For a moment you ingest our pain; you read details and see flashes of images pushed into the sentences we stitch together. Perhaps you almost feel a sense of revulsion, or even guilt.
You think we were raped by monsters, but the people in our nightmares are people like your fathers, your brothers, your friends... How many stories will we have to write for you to care? Or have you read too many of our horrors? Are you desensitized now? Your friend made a rape joke, but hey, he’s a good guy. Right?
I won’t tell you about the person who destroyed me. I won’t tell you about the scars. I won’t tell you about the night terrors or the depression or the anxiety or loneliness — because, to you, I’m just another bitch who was probably asking for it. I’m a statistic you will forget, these words of mine, you will forget but I will go back to bed and not have the luxury of forgetting.
I am tired of proving to you just how difficult it is to recover. I cannot do that labor anymore. The numbers are out there for you to research: the essays, the songs, the art and the speeches are there for you to absorb and carry within your heart so that perhaps one day you can find the time to actually help us dismantle rape culture.”
So yeah, #MeToo. And yeah, I hated being reminded of that male coworker who followed me after the office party years ago, because it brings me back to that moment of sobbing in the cab. I don't want to relive that, but I also don't want young men and women to have to live through situations like that themselves as well. That's the thing though, isn't it? It shouldn't have to fall on the survivors to prevent it from happening again. We've done enough and have lived through it. What about you? Those who are remaining silent. Those of you who are standing by watching all this happen. Those of you reading the statuses and the comments, saying how you get in almost fights defending harassment. Those of you who say you're heartbroken seeing so many of your friends share #MeToo. Those of you who have witnessed sexual assault and said nothing. Done nothing. Those of you who enabled people like Weinstein for years, knowing full well what was going on. Where's your action with all of this? And what are you going to do now that you know the monsters aren't just going to go away because we've turned the lights on?
I've been thinking a lot about that word a lot lately. Masculinity. It's hard not to with the news surrounding Stephen Paddock and the Las Vegas shooting, Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault allegations, Trump, with well everything he says and does. My partner was recently watching Manhunt: Unabomber, and as I caught bits and pieces of it in the background, I found it interesting to hear the history behind the Unabomber, what were the causes that led him to those horrendous life-altering decisions. There's some kind of empathy that goes with it when you learn more about the type of upbringing a person like that had. You see them more than what their actions represent and realize there's layer after layer built onto them as a person. There's things that happen in all of our lives that shape us, change us, and influence us to become the person we are today. So what is happening to men that leads them to behave in such an atrocious manner?
Now, I'm not pointing fingers at men, saying "What's wrong with you? It's all your fault!" On the contrary, I'm looking at our culture and trying to figure out what we can all do to help the toxic masculinity syndrome that's been breeding for far too long.
"The feelings of entitlement behind so many mass shootings may explain why shooters skew not just male but white male. According to the findings of a 2013 study at the University of Washington: “Among many mass killers, the triple privileges of white heterosexual masculinity which make subsequent life course losses more unexpected and thus more painfully shameful ultimately buckle under the failures of downward mobility and result in a final cumulative act of violence to stave off subordinated masculinity.” As Madfis explains, “If we’re talking about mass murderers, they often have gone through life with a series of losses—they’ve failed in lots of respects, haven’t gotten jobs they wanted, been passed over for promotion, these kinds of things. Then something bad happens, they get fired, there’s kind of an acute event” that triggers the shooting."
I recently watched a couple TED talks surrounding this subject. In the first one, I found it interesting that Tony Porter's 2010 talk titled "A call to men" ended with him bringing up his daughter and the type of world he envisions her living in. He says, "how do I want men to be acting and behaving?" in relation to her. Yet, he didn't bring up his son (who he mentioned at the beginning) and the type of world he envisions for him or what actions he can take as he grows up. Why is that? Why do we tend to focus more on the world we want young girls to grow up in but not young boys? Do we assume they're taken care of? That it's more important for girls to feel safe than to help men from acting out in a dominate manner?
In the second TED video, Jackson Katz turned the table with his talk "Violence against women — it's a men's issue". He focused on the type of language we use (based on the feminist linguist Julia Penelope's work) and how important it is to ask a different set of questions when looking at violence. Now, instead of reiterating it, I want to share with you exactly what he said: "Because this isn't about individual perpetrators. That's a naive way to understanding what is a much deeper and more systematic social problem. The perpetrators aren't these monsters who crawl out of the swamp and come into town and do their nasty business and then retreat into the darkness. That's a very naive notion, right? Perpetrators are much more normal than that, and everyday than that. So the question is, what are we doing here in our society and in the world? What are the roles of various institutions in helping to produce abusive men? What's the role of religious belief systems, the sports culture, the pornography culture, the family structure, economics, and how that intersects, and race and ethnicity and how that intersects? How does all this work?"
Jackson Katz's TED talk is from 2012, by the way.
"I understand that a lot of women who have been trying to speak out about these issues, today and yesterday and for years and years, often get shouted down for their efforts. They get called nasty names like "male-basher" and "man-hater," and the disgusting and offensive "feminazi", right?"
The language sure has shifted over the years (note the sarcasm, please). Nowadays, women just get called "nasty" if they speak up.
"And you know what all this is about? It's called kill the messenger. It's because the women who are standing up and speaking out for themselves and for other women as well as for men and boys, it's a statement to them to sit down and shut up, keep the current system in place, because we don't like it when people rock the boat. We don't like it when people challenge our power. You'd better sit down and shut up, basically. And thank goodness that women haven't done that. Thank goodness that we live in a world where there's so much women's leadership that can counteract that."
Again, this talk is from 2012, so I wonder where the women's leadership lies nowadays. In a world where the Education Secretary (who is a woman) scrapped a key part of government policy on campus sexual assault, where the President is rolling back the birth control mandate because it's important to focus on limiting women's reproductive rights rather than gun control. With all this, it's evident how scared the current administration is of women and men speaking up, wanting to shift the system, and free others from toxicity of masculinity we've been seeing. The masculinity of men carrying tiki torches, so afraid of their role in society being compromised.
"But strip away the so-called toxic aspects of masculinity: the aggression, the violence, the hate, the guns, and what are you left with? Strength, endurance, a woody-scented perfume, a liking for the colour blue? Certainly nothing that need be associated with manhood or maleness. These are simply individual qualities. The only reason to code them as “masculine” is to preserve a social hierarchy that ought to be destroyed."
We see men like Harvey Weinstein who claim they need training on how to be appropriate in the work place and to women, saying his behavior is due to growing up in a different age. To quote Jackson Katz again, "My argument is, he doesn't need sensitivity training. He needs leadership training, because he's being a bad leader, because in a society with gender diversity and sexual diversity and racial and ethnic diversity, you make those kind of comments, you're failing at your leadership." And how can we not hear that, look at Weinstein, and then look at Trump and hear the leader of the United States say "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now."
We see it. We hear it. We know toxic masculinity exits, and yet so many people will say things like "boys will be boys," and let it go. No. We cannot be silent when we hear that. We cannot be silent with any of these situations. It's time we stop being bystanders and get involved. The topic of toxic masculinity is a hard one to tackle, but it's important to recognize it than to just pretend it doesn't exist in hopes that it will go away. Young boys are still being brought up with the idea that they shouldn't cry, that conquering women is the goal, that if they fail - then their manhood is in question.
I've started coaching a group of young girls through a running program. The other day, we were outside and their male classmates yelled at them, "have fun at girls on the walk" (implying girls can't run). The girls asked me to call them jerks, but I told them I couldn't do that because I have to set a good example. I want to be a good leader for all genders. Because, while a lot of my work focuses on empowering girls and women, I don't want to leave behind the boys and men who are struggling to find their place in society as well.
So I replied to the boys, "I don't know what you're talking about. These girls run." Not at all what I would have liked to say. I would have liked to ask them why they felt the need to make fun of the girls. But I know the answer. They're jealous they don't have a group of their own to partake in. And if there was a group dedicated to empowering young boys, people would say that's only feeding into the patriarchy or something like that. Which yeah, some of those that I've seen out there seem like they're doing that. But there are some organizations dedicated to mentoring young boys, which is awesome. We need more of that. Because if we continue to only focus on lifting women up, we're going to leave behind a lot of people who are struggling to find their place in the world too.
"Well, the tyranny of masculinity and the tyranny of patriarchy I think has been much more deadly to men than it has to women. It hasn't killed our hearts. It's killed men's hearts. It's silenced them; it's cut them off."
Again, we all have our own stories and backgrounds that have shaped us into the people we are today. And toxic masculinity isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But it starts somewhere and we don't have to be silent about it. One way to start taking action against it is to take the following pledge with the Representation Project: "I pledge to use my voice to challenge society's limiting representations of gender." Other ways to get involved are signing up for their campaign and newsletter for more information, continue to educate yourself and others, and join forces with those in your life that are leading by an amazing example for our children. It's up to all of us. Not just men. Not just women. We all have to partake in this conversation and get involved to see the changes we want to see.
Over the past few weeks, I've watched the Harry Potter films a handful of times (the first was binge watching the DVDs while recovering from surgery and since then it's been on Freeform all the time, so of course I keep watching them!). I actually have Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 on in the background as I type this. Judge all you like. You're just jealous because you want to be watching it too.
So, while running away from reality and disappearing to Hogwarts, I'm taking in as much of J.K. Rowling's wisdom as I possibly can. I know the movies aren't strict adaptations of the books, because what movie actually is as good as the book? To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe, but I digress. One line has stood out to me though, amongst the Harry Potter films. Upon the third time watching Order of the Phoenix earlier today, I heard Luna Lovegood's line in a different context than I had before. She's talking to Harry about how her and her father believe him regarding You-Know-Who being back. Harry replies they're probably the only ones, and Luna (being her honest self) replies that's probably what Voldemort wants, for him to be alone. "Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone, you're not as much of a threat."
When I heard that line, I had an image of Colin Kaepernick kneeling by himself and could hear 45 (the other He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, because his name causes me to feel nauseous and makes my blood boil) say, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ ” And then I thought of The Kaepernick Effect taking place, and my eyes welled with tears. 45's words led to a series of protests among the N.F.L. and beyond today, showing that one person can start a movement, but they really need the support of others to keep it going.
I believe it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." It's true, and I think we're all seeing that now. There's no room to be silent anymore. There's too much at stake. With our health coverage, natural disasters (and people that don't believe in global warming), DACA, and the list goes on and on and on. Silence is no longer an option, and we can't let the world rest on one person's shoulders. We must divide the weight, do our part to make a change, and let others help as well. It's not fair to take on the burden ourselves. We must be leaders and listeners.
I've noticed this with Stories of the Resistance, the fundraiser I'm organizing for Planned Parenthood. I find myself taking on so much and wanting to do everything (it's the recovering perfectionist in me), but then I see the joy other people feel when I ask them for help and it makes it beyond rewarding. Those that I'm reaching out to, they want to make a difference, same as I do, but sometimes a lot of us just don't know where to start. As I mentioned in my previous post, that's how Stories of the Resistance began. With one Facebook status asking if anyone wanted to join in a theatrical fundraiser to talk about health care and reproductive rights. And it's amazing the response it's received. I look at all the stories we're going to share this coming Saturday night, and so many of them are individual struggles dealing with health coverage. People going about things alone with no one helping them, but Planned Parenthood helped them. They were there for them when no one else was, because Planned Parenthood doesn't want you to feel cut off from everyone else. They want to provide you with the appropriate knowledge, resources, and understanding so you can decide what's best for your body.
Because isn't that what we've seen from the men deciding the rights of women's bodies? They're threatened by us and want to control us. Like how Dolores Umbridge tried to control the students at Hogwarts with all her rules. She tried to silence them. She tried to tell them what to believe (cough cough global warming isn't real). She even punished them. But despite her actions, an army was born. Dumbedore's Army, as Neville Longbottom so aptly put, is "supposed to be about doing something real." And despite Harry insisting he go about things alone, Hermione (of course) reminded him: "When are you going to get it into your head? We're in this together!"
Yes, Hermione. We are in fact all in this together.
Last year, around mid-November, I put a call out on social media to see if anyone would be interested in participating in a theatrical fundraiser to benefit Planned Parenthood. A lot of people expressed they wanted to be involved. They wanted to tell their stories. So, this idea grew over time and became a part of my passion project I AM S.H.E (Stories Heard Everywhere). Thanks to the incredible powers of Allie Harris and Tiffany Adeline Cole (amazing queens, friends, and co-founders of I AM S.H.E.), we recently announced our first event! It's titled Stories of the Resistance and will be taking place on September 30th in Los Angeles with another one set for the spring in NYC.
For the LA event, we are striving to raise $2,000 to support Planned Parenthood's commitment to ensuring access to quality health care, education, and information for all individuals and families worldwide. Each of the stories being told are personal accounts relating to reproductive rights, the health care system, and our current political climate. They're incredibly powerful, and I can't wait to share them with the world. The event will be live streamed, so if you're not in the LA area, you can watch it online. More information can be found on our Facebook page and website.
While working on Stories of the Resistance, I've been finding myself extremely overwhelmed by people's generosity to help make it happen. To see so many people jump at the chance to get involved, I'm reminded that there's still hope in the world (look for the helpers!), how we are people making a positive change (be strong and loud!), and that working on something that matters to you is such an amazing feeling (is this what Wonder Woman feels like?).
So I urge you to check out our event, donate what you can to support Planned Parenthood, and ask yourself: are you ready to join the Resistance with us?
First things first, here are some ways you can help those affected by Harvey:
Second of all, I honestly don't have much to write about because all I can think about is Houston and how they need our help. Please do what you can.
And finally, I just want to share a few social media highlights from the last few days.
Professor Wolbrecht goes on about this for about 11 tweets. My response to Matt Walsh: Yes, this is how it ought to be, people helping people. As @iwillharness posted:
@iwillharness is HARNESS YOUR ENERGY TO POWER CHANGE (founded by America Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams, and Wilmer Valderrama, Harness connects communities through conversation to inspire action and power change). Check them out.
Last week, I shared this Tina Fey sketch on Facebook and thought it was somewhat cathartic to see Fey eat a sheet cake (because that does seem relatable) but there has been some serious backlash against this sketch that is worth reading and acknowledging our part in it as well. While some are claiming the brilliant satire of Fey to be overlooked, I believe with that platform she had that night, she could have done so much more with it, especially knowing that a lot of people were looking for something we're clearly not getting from 45.
She's a smart lady and uses humor well most of the time. I've been a fan of hers for years. Hell, my branding is to say I'm a lovechild of Tina Fey and Audrey Hepburn. But, while I have admired the witty New York writer, I am becoming more aware that she does not have the best reputation in the feminist world. She sides more with white feminism than intersectional feminism, and a lot of her humor is pretty damn racist. I noticed more of it in Kimmy Schmidt, but it's definitely seen throughout 30 Rock as well. And yes, she's a comedian. A lot of people felt the need to remind us of that after the backlash began with the sheet caking. Comedian or not though, a lot of POC took great offense to the sketch, and that should be enough for us to look at it (and ourselves) with greater perspective. While I don't think it's fair to hold Fey to that level of presiding over us, we the people were expecting/needing more in that moment. No, she's not a leader, but she's the face we saw and looked to for hope.
I do wish she had ended the bit with a more of a unifying tone instead of telling us to stay at home (because a lot of people thought she was seriously suggesting that). When I initially watched it, I thought there was something to it, the idea behind not giving power to the white men whining about their rights. It seemed to say "take care of yourself, you're not alone, don't just sit around and do nothing though," which who's to say if that's what she was going for or not. Either way, the audience for that message was people like me. White ladies overwhelmed by guilt and the sad state of the world. It reminded me of the following Bo Burnham lyric from his song "Sad":
"That's it, laughter, it's the key to everything
It's the way to solve all the sadness in the world
I mean, not for the people that are actually sad, but for the people like us who've gotta fucking deal with 'em all the time
Being a comedian isn't being an insensitive prick capitalizing on the most animalistic impulses of the public, it's being a hero!
The world isn't sad. The world's funny! I get it now! I'm a sociopath!"
And the other day at a Town Hall meeting with my Congressman, was I tempted to get up and ask him: "So, what do you think of Tina Fey's cake sketch?" Yes. Without a doubt. I wanted to get up, ask my silly question, and tell everyone there I brought enough sheet cake for us all to share (which obviously I didn't). I wanted to do that because the room was so full of hate, anger, and shouting, my friend and I were holding hands throughout a lot of it because of how intense it was. So, I created a humorous situation in my head to ease the pain. Because humor is a wonderful thing to turn to during moments of struggle, but sometimes it's truly not enough.
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.
I’ve been so intrigued by the news surrounding the “Wonder Woman” screening that has angered loads of grown ass men. When this theater in Austin announced that they’re holding a women’s only night of the film, it sold out so insanely fast, I know if I lived nearby I would have snatched up a ticket within the hour as well. But some men don’t seem so excited about this. They claim beautiful chestnuts such as: "Boy oh boy, turn it around and ban a woman from seeing a movie…All hell would break loose! Women would be out picketing…Alamo Drafthouse, epic fail.” Gotta love Alamo Drafthouse’s responses though:
But yes, if there was to be a screening only for men nowadays, that wouldn’t be so chill for us. All hell would in face break loose and we would be claiming it to be sexist as well. I understand that argument men are raising, and it's valid (to some extent). Feminism is all about equality, not separating the sexes.
If the roles were reversed though, and I mean truly reversed: Like say we've had 45 female presidents for the past 240 plus years and the first man to run for president just lost last year. Like since 1920, there have been about 130 superhero and comic book films with solo protagonists in the United States and eight have been male. Like there's no such thing as feminism but there's masculinism. Like men get make 45% - 84% to what women make in the work force. Like 9 to 5 was about three men dealing with their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss. I mean, I guess Horrible Bosses kind of did that, now that I think about it. But, anyway, you get the point. If the tables were really turned and news of an all male screening surfaced, would women be upset? Yes, because in this made up world I'm imagining, men have to live by our rules. You can't forget about us, or ignore us, or empower yourselves because that's just silly. Which is exactly what these men are preaching.This Rolling Stone article said it best:
After all, feminism and female empowerment are only acceptable according to men's terms. Wonder Woman's presence among the DC superheroes (like Superman, Batman and The Flash) is accepted because her strength is a fetish. So long as she is confined to sexual fantasies, men welcome the novelty of a woman who beats men at their game. She becomes less desirable when she resists a conventional male gaze, or when she becomes a model for other women to emulate. And she becomes a bonafide problem when she is rendered inaccessible, even for a night.
Do I think feminism has to do a better job of reaching across the aisle and include more people that don't identify as women in the movement? Yes. Definitely. We need to be more inclusive and not perpetuate the stereotype that we're man-hatting, don't shave our armpits, burn our bras, feminists. But, for Oprah's sake, we deserve one night to celebrate ourselves and watch Wonder Woman kick some ass. If not for the history we've gone through, we deserve to celebrate what she's gone through and what she represents to us as The Last Amazon.
Note: The title is from Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monáe featuring Erykah Badu.
Warning: this blog post contains subject matters such as murder and suicide.
One person was killed and at least a dozen injured when a car struck pedestrians in New York's Times Square this past week. What hasn’t been making the major headlines: Kingston Frazier, a six-year-old who was found dead in Madison County from a gunshot wound while sitting in the backseat of the vehicle. Three teenagers are accused of killing him. They’re 17 and 19-years-old.
When news of Times Square surfaced, I was thinking of all my friends in NYC and while I was glad to hear they were safe upon checking in, I couldn't help but think that the 26-year-old driver had to undergo a series of tests to get his license. What about those teenagers who used the gun on Kingston Frazier though? What kind of testing was involved allowing them to obtain a gun? Definitely not the same lengthy testing that goes into getting a drivers license. It just reminded me, we so need to enforce the same rules between getting your license and getting a gun. There needs to be better background checks for both instances and while we raise this up with our representatives, we also need to pay attention to what's going on around us. Kington was sleeping in the backseat of his mother’s car when it was stolen. Were any people around to see it happen? Maybe not. And the driver in NYC, it all happened so fast. But there were signs of him having mental health issues in the past. How did those go on for so long without anyone raising a flag? I understand it’s really hard for us to keep our eyes open for any behavior that might not seem normal to us (especially as we are growing more accustomed to a society where normal news is such a rarity). Most of us are caught up in our own worlds, and cell phones and technology don’t help much with that. But sometimes the signs are so apparent to us if we just took a moment and looked around.
I stopped watching the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why about halfway through the series. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter, it has to do with a young girl in high school ending her own life, but not before she leaves a series of tapes for people to know how they contributed to her death. Now, I don’t think that gives too much away regarding the plot, but if you’re still interested in watching it, maybe don’t read the rest of what I’m going to say about it. For me, the show glamorized certain aspects of suicide and summed up a lot of what teenagers go through by throwing it all on one girl. Yes, one person can go through all that, but it frustrated me to see certain stereotypical situations happen to one character over and over again. It would be interesting to see how other people dealt with similar events or done something differently with the plot to gain perspective. Outside of my critique of the show, The Mighty came out with this video regarding a few things to kick off a conversation about suicide revolving around ’13 Reasons Why.’ I suggest you watch it. Or even watch the episode of Friends (season 7: episode 13) when Phoebe gets involved with a suicidal worker. In my opinion, that episode does a better job of showing people how to pay attention and speak up when they see someone suffering from mental illness. It doesn’t glamorize it or make it any more dramatic than it needs to be. And I’m not trying to hate on anyone who loves 13 Reasons Why with all of this. It’s just the idea that we hold so much power in our hands that I’m focusing on. We have to power to grab a steering wheel, a gun, whatever it may be, and choose to do with it what we want. Sometimes, it’s not even a choice, but something outside our control. And while that’s scary to think about, a lot of us have the power to incite change.
We can choose to get more involved, raise the issues of mental illness and gun violence prevention up to our government, speak out at high schools, sign petitions, check in on our friends, share stories that might be going unheard like Kingston’s, and simply put down our phones and connect to one another. It’s worth staying informed, aware, and present. It’s worth making a fuss about it. Because, yeah, there are lots of shitty things that happen in the world that are outside our control, but we owe it to ourselves and to do what we can to make it a little bit better.
"We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for instability? It was in the air; and it was still in the air, an after-thought, as we tried to sleep, in the army cots that had been set up in rows, with spaces between so we could not talk." - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. That's how the story begins: in what used to be a gymnasium.
I just re-ordered the book because I gave my copy away to someone and haven't been able to track it down. Earlier today, my best friend and I were talking about the book and the Hulu TV show for maybe close to an hour. It's so easy to get swept up into our conversations, especially when we're talking about something that is so deeply rooted in us. I leant her my copy of The Handmaid's Tale years ago. She called me when she finished it, so upset by how it ended. Don't worry, I won't spoil it here for you if you haven't read it. But I'm looking forward to reading it again, myself. It'll be refreshing to go back to a story that resonated so much with me in college, as if I'm returning to one of my favorite professors. It feels safe almost, to return to a dystopian world that is familiar to me. I know how it ends. I know how it goes. Unlike the world in which we live in today.
It seems that everyday there is a new story alerting us of some catastrophe in D.C. Some new thing that the president and his team of minions hid from us, lied to us about, or manipulated to get the outcome they wanted. And yes, it's hard to keep track of it all. A newsletter I just came across and recommend is What The Fuck Just Happened Today? - a good recap of what's going on, because it's so hard to keep track of everything, isn't it?
The talent for instability is something I'm still learning. I'm a very structured person and crave stability in my life. With a new job within the past couple months, my life has felt anything but stable as I learn how to juggle various work loads, fundraising initiatives, writing deadlines, etc. all while trying to stay aware and alert of what's happening in the world. I feel bad because I have gotten used to the headlines and sigh when I see them, no longer muttering to myself "this is not normal." It's become a pattern and I'm writing this out to remind myself to get used to the instability of it all, to embrace the changes and the uncertainties, to go with the flow no matter how big of a current it might be. No matter what, I must be prepared to dive in head first and adjust to the water as it moves around me.
In a recent interview with HuffPost and MAKERS, Gloria Steinem recently said, “There is no such thing as white feminism. Because if it’s white, it’s not feminism. It’s either talking about all women, or it’s not.” While I understand where Steinem (a woman I tend to admire and quote often) is coming from, I strongly disagree with how she phrased that. There is a difference between white feminism and feminism, yes. But we can’t say there’s no such thing as white feminism when that is been predominately the main focus on gender equality since, well, for a very long time. It would be the same as saying there’s no such thing as racism, because if it’s racism, it’s not equality. We need to stop ignoring the problems at hand by saying that these issues aren’t real just because we don’t believe in them.
Feminism has been a predominately white movement since the 1960’s, and the mainstream media hasn’t done a lot to help promote the concept of it being intersectional. When you search for feminist celebrities online, the first thing that comes up is this list from a 2014 MTV article:
These things are also reiterating to me how fucking privileged I am and how naïve I’ve been over the years. I’m truly trying to keep educating myself and becoming more aware of what’s going on. I want to learn how we can bridge the gap between people throughout our country and have peaceful conversations with someone with opposing ideologies. Which again, might be naïve of me to think that is possible, but looking at the state we are in today, we definitely need to learn how to come together and stop ignoring what is happening. As Sam says in Dear White People, "None of this is a threat to you because you already have the power. Kurt. Can’t you see that?" White feminism and racism are very real issues we need to face, and we can’t think they have nothing to do with us simply based off our gender or skin color. They affect all of us even if we don't want to see it. I know ignorance is bliss sometimes, but closing our eyes isn't going to make it all magically go away. We don't have any ruby slippers to transform us into another world that feels more like home. Not this time. This is the world we live in and it's time we woke up.
“Don’t let the bastards grind you down” or "nolite te bastardes carborundorum” becomes a battle cry for Offred in Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a phrase that is regaining momentum with the release the new TV show under the same title now available on Hulu. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of the first episode the night before the show was released. Margaret Atwood was among the audience members, and it overwhelmed me to think that she was sitting there thirty years after the release of her novel, watching it and witnessing the relevance it plays on so many of our lives today. Now, I’ve heard a lot of fans of the book exclaim that they don’t want to watch the show because they are such fans of the written version and don’t want to taint it with something else. To those, I say, get over it. I’m a fan of the book as well. I had "nolite te bastardes carborundorum” glued on my graduation cap from college because those words struck such a cord in me. This TV show is something that reflects a great deal of what’s happening in today’s society. And it’s scary as shit.
At the end of the first episode, the credits roll with a remixed version of “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace. Instantly (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this), I was reminded of the film First Wives Club, where Goldie, Bette, and Diane traipse around in their beautiful white outfits singing this song. It was their battle cry in the 90’s, and yes, it still resonates with us today. And yes, that movie was also based on a book.
We have these iconic moments that stick with us. These phrases and songs that dig their nails deep into our souls and remind us we want to break free from all the bullshit that is keeping us down. We want to smash the patriarchy, (and now for the big question) do we have any idea of want we want to rebuild in its place?
Patriarchy has been this looming thing over us, representing those bastards telling women what to do, how to think, and what we should do with our lives. As feminism has struggled with its own identity over the years, and looking at where it stands today, I wonder have we actually become that which we are fighting against. Jessa Crispin mentions this in her book Why I Am Not a Feminist: “In order to succeed in a patriarchal world, we took on the role of patriarchs ourselves. In order to win in this world, we had to exhibit the characteristics the patriarchal world values and discard what it does not.” As you may tell (if you read my previous blog Feminism for Sale), I have serious love/hate relationship with Crispin’s book. Reading it is making me question a lot about how I identify as a feminist. But I like the questions it’s making me ask myself.
I love using the phrase “smash the patriarchy” or “topple the patriarchy”. Either of those are known to be my battle cry. But do I actually know what I’m saying with it? Do I have any intention of bringing change to the world after we topple it? The answer I’m learning, is no, I don’t. I know I strive for equality, but what does that mean? For me, as a white cis feminist, that means something totally different to me than to you. And it’s so easy for us all to blame that which we don’t understand. It’s easy to jump on the feminist bandwagon and shout some cheers, screaming out against the man, but what else are we doing? We saw this with the Women’s March. There were SO MANY people who showed up for that, but how many people are continuing to keep the work going? How many joined just to be a part of something cool? If the feminist movement wants to stand strong, we have to keep these people engaged and actually know what we’re wanting to achieve.
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? Feminism has left out a lot of people and turned a blind eye to race and gender fluidity. Maybe it’s getting better though. Maybe the Women’s March in January was the start of something great. In my heart, I think it was. But I also think a lot of people wanted to shout out their battle cries against the bastards and the patriarchy (I mean, yeah, it makes me feel empowered as hell when I do that too!). The empowerment is good. We should feel strong with who we are, but we need to be careful that we don’t actually become the bastards we’re accusing of grinding us down.
"If we understand that the problem feminists have with Björk has nothing to do with her actions and is only about her language and way of identifying herself, then we can recognize that this is about a feminist marketing campaign and not a philosophy. Compare her to the shiny pop stars who have discovered the market for feminist girl power and who use the word loudly while displaying regressive ideas, images, and messages. The word feminist acts as a shield from criticism, and many of these women are celebrated as heroes. If you use the proper word, then all is forgiven. You get a free pass. If you do not use the proper word, this overshadows all the good work you have done in your life." - excerpt from Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin
I was reminded earlier this week that my best friend of almost ten years has never referred to herself as a feminist. It took me by surprise (as it usually does) and she looked at me and said, "Christine, you've known this." She was right. I have known this, but tend to always forget that fact because whenever I look at her, I automatically see someone whom I would identify as one. She believes in a lot of the same values as I do, but she has made the choice to live her life without labeling herself with the infamous "F" word. Me, on the other hand, I have chosen to embrace the word with all senses of the word fervor.
While discussing this subject, I thought of the words I recently read by Jessa Crispin that I included above. The idea of feminism has become a large part of marketing opportunities for people and corporations. See any of the articles listed below for more information:
Now, my friend lives her life the way she wishes. I don’t try to convince her to label herself to go buy some cool new merch with the word Feminist with a capital F embroidered on it (even though I probably did years ago). The two of us have different associations to it and understandings of what that word means. And that's okay.
I’m definitely guilty of buying into the feminist brand. But, I try my best to buy from organizations and independent companies that are donating their proceeds to Planned Parenthood or other non-profits I want to support. Do I also drink coffee from my “Male Tears” mug and sit around in my “Nasty Woman” tee shirt while reading Gloria Steinem? Yes. I buy into the label and wear it proudly because it has become so much of my identity over the years. It for real started for me back in college (probably around 2007/2008) and has morphed into this beast within me that won’t back down. I have “Feminist as F#ck” framed above my desk for Oprah’s sake (I try to avoid saying Christ’s sake and Oprah is pretty damn awesome, so we’ll go with that). I know I don’t have to wear my “Nevertheless, She Persisted” shirt for people to know what I stand for, but when I do, it does strike up a lot of conversations (mostly encouraging ones) and for that I’m incredibly happy. If wearing my beliefs on my sleeves is helping other people think about the construction of feminism, maybe it’s actually doing some good.
Because, let’s face it. There is a universal misunderstanding for what the word “feminist” means. I see it in the mainstream and question if I actually relate to some of these people who seem to know what they’re talking about. I read articles about Jessica Williams having to defend the idea of intersectional feminism a women's brunch, and I wonder why. Shouldn't we all be on the same page at this point? No. The movement behind it keeps changing, and is leaving a lot of us left behind. I truly used to think I knew what it meant back when I was studying Gender Studies in college, but now, who knows! I find myself often lost in thought thinking about it and questioning what I'm preaching. One description that stands out to me lately is from a post I saw:
Not only is that the perfect summary of patriarchy, but it's also a great way to discuss the difference between equality and equity. As a brief reminder (because I often need a refresh on this as well), equality is treating everyone the same and equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. For me, that is what being a feminist is all about: those two words. We all deserve to be treated equally (cough, cough equal pay, duh) and more often than not, women need to be given what we need to be successful (cough, cough, just treat us like people, not objects... oh, and equal pay would be great as well).
We all might have different understandings of what the "F" word means, and that's okay. Not all of us have to claim it. It's kind of like vaccines. Not all of us have to get vaccines, but they do work best when the vast majority of the population gets them. Bill Nye does a great job of explaining this (about vaccines, not feminism) in his new show Bill Bye Saves the World on Netflix He discusses at the end of Episode 6 that, “we should all take a shot in the arm for those who can’t get a shot in the arm,” and implores us to make vaccines cool again. We should wear them like a badge of pride. Sound familiar? Feminism has definitely become cool again, but are we really educating ourselves on that the word means? If we’re wearing it like a badge of honor on our sleeve, are we willing to go the extra mile and stand up for those who haven’t taken the shot yet? It’s okay if they haven’t. Maybe they will someday. But we shouldn’t let a blood-thirsty-orange-haired-Cheetoh virus attack them in the meantime.
I recently watched the 1996 film The Craft, which I was never allowed to rent as a kid due to the R rating it received. Without going into too much detail or spoiling any of the movie for you, it has to do with four high school witches learning about their powers. They receive more abilities over time and then they have the choice of giving into the dark or light side of magic. The film does an adequate job of highlighting both sides. But, while watching it, I was reminded of another (greater) storyline that has to do with the same concept.
"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." we learned about the Force. Or at least you did if you're a big nerd like me, who relates movies like Star Wars to her daily life. If you are unfamiliar with the franchise, the plot, or anything relating to this, I think you can still follow along. You can even relate it to Harry Potter if that's more your style. This theme of good versus evil is a well-known one and covers a lot of ground.
Before I go too far into the nerd zone, I want to share my theory with you. I believe we all have powers within ourselves, which typically run in line with what we are most passionate about. Sometimes they don't, and that's okay. But more or less, what we love to do is the power we are meant to bring into this world. And it's a choice as to whether we want to sacrifice these gifts for the dark side or let them thrive within the light.
Now, to summarize some of what's happened this month (ugh, maybe even this past week), we have: a man who has bragged about dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb and overturning a ruling on Title X that could affect state funding for Planned Parenthood, Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam's body was found in the Hudson, Neill Gorsuch was confirmed by Senate as Supreme Court Justice after so much shit went down, a school shooting occurred in San Bernardino, Chechnya detained 100 gay men in first concentration camps since the Holocaust, North Korea may be preparing its 6th nuclear test, twin bombings in Egypt, and I know there's been tons of other shit that's happened, but that's about all my brain can handle.
Amongst all the news headlines, I also read this piece from Cheryl Strayed, which I highly recommend. She says, "I know it’s a hard moment in our cultural and political life to remember the unifying power of art—many of us feel deeply divided from our fellow citizens—and yet seldom has there been a more important time that we do. High among the few things that have kept me from sinking into the deepest despair over the recent election results has been remembering how writers create that sense of me too."
It seems like it's this idea of "me too" that connects us with our gifts. It's the belief that we are all in this together and can relate to one another through our suffering and our strength. That's where the real power lies: as a united front versus alone in the darkness, hidden behind a mask. With so many negative things happening in the world, it's easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of sadness, anxiety, stress, and depression. It's easy to give into those fears and let them tear us down, making us feel small. It's easy to give into the darkness and join it instead of fighting against it. In Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, even Yoda tells Luke, "Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will." He also says, "Do... or do not. There is no try," which is one of my favorite quotes of all time.
Between re-watching the three best Star Wars movies, reading the news, and crushing on Cheryl Strayed, I've also been reading the book You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living and Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. She even talks about the Force as well! (See it all comes together.) Sincero mentions that our idea of God could be relabeled with terms such as Source Energy, the Force, The Grand Poobah, etc. It's your choice, whatever works for you. But it's about your beliefs and the powers you hold within yourself. "This isn't just about believing and being all high-vibe when the sun is out and the bunnies are hopping around, either. This is about believing, even when things are at their most uncertain or absolute crappiest, that there is a bright shiny flipside within your reach. As French author and fearless truth-seeker, André Gide, so aptly put it, "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." This is about believing that we live in a loving, kind and abundant Universe instead of one that's petty, mean, and likes other people more than it likes you. This is about your faith being greater than your fear."
This is about our lightness overpowering the dark shit that's happening in the world. It's about living up to our full potential, embracing our bad ass qualities, and letting the world see us for who we are: part of the Resistance. (Sorry, I couldn't let it go without one more Star Wars reference.) Let your nerd flag fly high and let that light superpower you hold within yourself shine bright.