Tag Archives: feminism

Bendy Straws

Every Little Bit

Every little bit counts. I have to believe that.

Even though my carefully-written letters to my political representatives go unanswered. Even though those representatives are already doing all the things I’d be asking them to, and supporting all the resistance that makes sense. It feels odd to write to them, knowing that their minds are already made up and they’re already on my side in the fight. But I have to believe that my calls and letters end up tallied on a spreadsheet somewhere and make a row or column just a little more impressive, make someone nod to themselves and say yes, yes I am doing right by these people.

I’m not changing votes. I’m not going to be the one who saves the ACA or finally gets the president’s tax returns into the light. I can’t give Trans kids the protection they need and I can’t keep states from shredding apart abortion rights. I don’t have the power to overturn immigration bans. The people whose minds need changing on these issues aren’t my representatives and aren’t listening to me.

But I did get an unexpected response this week from a local Islamic school, thanking me for my letter and expressing comfort in the knowledge that so many in the community reached out to them.

I’ve been reading Washington Post articles without the pressure of a paywall, and feeling good that a journalist is getting paid for their hard work today. Maybe one more stone will be turned, and one more important article will be written.

I received an email from my professional organization, thanking me for my engagement and informing me that they have written to the president and issued a public statement condemning the immigration ban.

Someone saw the Black Lives Matter pin on my coat, and asked where they could get one.

Maybe it’s okay that our actions are small and feel insignificant. Maybe it’s okay that all we have are straws. If we can get together and concentrate our efforts on the right camels, maybe the straws will be enough, in the end.

I have to believe that every little bit helps.

Get out there and find a camel to put your straw on.




This Month In Resistance And Accountability

I’m writing this today because I need to keep track of how I’m resisting the efforts of this administration to undo the hard work that’s improved health care and the economy and equal rights for so many. It’s not enough to talk about the fight: we need resistance and accountability. I need to make lists of my efforts so I’m not just telling myself that I’m fighting for equality and for access to health care and public schools and clean water and other basic human necessities. Talk is cheap. What have I done to back up my intentions?

Accountability

I have called or emailed (often both!) my Senators and my Congressman daily. They have already made their disagreement with Trump’s agenda very clear, often putting out public statements against his nominees and his hasty and bigoted Executive Orders before I’ve even had a chance to ask them to speak out. I call anyway, to thank them and to share stories about why their votes matter to me and my family.

I contacted my professional organization, asking them to make a public statement condemning the immigration ban.

I have been sharing the This Week in Autocracy spreadsheet on Facebook, hoping that others can use it to investigate news stories and find new ways they can safely protest and resist this administration.

I’ve followed more voices from minority communities on Twitter, so I can try and learn to listen, and to understand how I am helping – or hurting – with the choices I make.

I wrote a dozen letters to local Islamic centers and mosques, telling them that they have friends here who will fight for their rights and freedoms.

I signed up to volunteer for Lawyers for Good Government, who have been fighting the immigration ban and providing legal counsel to those who were detained in airports across the country when the ban was enacted. I haven’t been contacted yet, but at least I’m on their list if they need me.

I contacted my county executive, asking him to reconsider his veto of a local bill which would have made my area a “sanctuary” county where police couldn’t harass or detain people on suspicion of illegal immigration status. I also contacted my representative on the county council and thanked her for voting for the bill even though she knew it couldn’t pass the veto.

I bought Organizing for Social Change after writing to my local library asking that they purchase copies for their collection. And I’ve been reading it, and I’m examining my budget to try and make it possible for me to attend a related workshop in Baltimore next fall. It’s a longshot, especially trying to collect enough vacation time for the week-long event, but you never know.

Am I doing enough? Oh, of course not. I should be attending local meetings, doing more research into local and state politics, and planning to attend rallies and protests. I should be donating more money to groups doing the hard work. But I’m human, and there are only so many hours in a day and only so much energy in my body and money in my wallet. I sometimes need to remind myself that even little things count. I am small, and my actions are only the tiniest of ripples in this ocean. But ripples can make waves. We are many, and our actions are more powerful together.

Tell me: what are you doing to resist? How are you finding ways to fit activism into your life without completely sacrificing your mental and physical health?




Activism For Beginners

Millions of people took part in marches in cities across the country this weekend, their voices raised for equality, justice, and kindness. Among their number, and watching at home, were thousands of brand new activists just waking up to the reality we’re in and the power we hold to change it.

Whether you were able to attend or not, I hope that stories about the event have awakened the activist within you. Because this is only the beginning. This march was a message to those in power: we’re important, we’re many, we’re watching, and you’re not going to get away with evil. How do we take this spirit and push forward with it to create change? Because marching isn’t enough. We’ve got a long road ahead as this administration works to sell outright lies to us while dismantling our rights.

There are so many activists out there who know a lot more than me, and who are already writing better posts than this one about what to do next. I’m new to this myself, and have so very much to learn*. But I’m hoping that maybe hearing some of this from a friend might make it less intimidating.

Here are some steps that we all need to take in the next few weeks. And once we’ve stepped those steps, we need to step’ em again. And again and again. Then more steps, and bigger steps, until we see results. And then? Keep going.

Activism for Beginners: Baby Steps

Get Familiar With Your Bias and Privilege

We’re all biased. It’s the way the brain gets wired through years of experience with the world, cultural expectations, exchanges with others in the community and outside of it, and consumption of media in all its forms. Everyone, to some degree, holds preconceived notions in their heads about groups of people, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it. You can test your implicit bias through Project Implicit, even though there’s a good chance you’ll be uncomfortable with the results. I know I was uncomfortable with mine. The important thing is what you choose to do with that discomfort. It’s easy to want to dismiss it, saying there’s no way it can be accurate, because you’re not racist or ableist. You’re a good person! Yes, you probably are. You probably try to do everything right and treat people fairly, but it’s important to know the ways in which your brain may be making decisions for you without you even being aware of them. Look at your results. Know where you may need to be exerting a little more conscious control over situations and choices. Just be more aware.

Once you’ve had some time to sit with your biases and pledge to work against them, look at your privilege. Privilege doesn’t mean you’re rich and happy and have never had it tough. It just means that there are some things that you have never had to experience, simply because of the different circumstances of your existence. Acknowledging that other people’s lives and experiences can be very different than yours is important: it’s a way to train yourself out of getting defensive when someone calls you out. The fact is, if you’re white, you’ve had it easier than every other group out there. You owe them the space to tell their stories, and you owe them some difficult homework in understanding and working towards equality.

Get Educated

Open up your eyes and mind to some new perspectives by following some activists on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to their blogs or the publications that they contribute to. This is the easiest possible doorway to activism. Just read. Read the words of Black women. Read the words of Indigenous women. Read the words of Trans folks. Read the words of disabled folks. Read as much as you can from people whose lives are different from yours, and who have more to lose in the upcoming political horror show. Listen, learn, and try hard to understand how your actions may need to change in order to stand behind these people in a meaningful way.

And I do mean listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t get defensive, don’t make the conversation about you, and don’t ask for citations to back up their words. If they bring up historical facts you don’t recognize, make a note to go home and put in the work researching and understanding where they’re coming from. If they make you feel uncomfortable, examine those feelings and try to get to the root of them so you can work on being a better and more empathetic person.

While you’re reading, why not support good journalism by subscribing or donating to sites that are doing a good job out there getting actual news to the people? Fight the clickbait economy and support them with your dollars. I’ve subscribed to Mother Jones, the Washington Post, and Teen Vogue (no, seriously), and I’ve donated to the Guardian. If we want good journalism, we need to make it possible for these places to pay good journalists.

Teen Vogue website

Yes, this is a screenshot of Teen Vogue’s site on Saturday.

Get Political

Yes, start calling your representatives in the federal government about all the things going on that you disagree with. Tell them how you’d prefer that they vote on matters that are important to you. Then, afterwards, call to either thank them for voting that way or tell them you’re disappointed that they didn’t. But this isn’t just about the federal government. There are state governments and local governments that speak for you, too. Do you know who represents you when everyone meets for votes in your state capital? Who is on your local board of education? Who’s your mayor? What do they stand for? What important matters are coming up for votes? These people all have offices and phones, and they need to hear your voice.

Do your research and figure out what’s going on closer to home, and then get involved in whatever ways you can, from letters to the editor to attending public meetings to running for office yourself, if you’re qualified (and brave).

Get Involved

What causes matter the most to you right now? How can you help them? Whether it’s time or money, see what you might be able to donate to organizations that are doing some of the hardest work in this fight. There are big ones, like ACLU Planned Parenthood, and Campaign Zero, but don’t forget to act locally, too. Food banks, domestic violence shelters, job centers, children’s groups: find them, and ask them how you can be involved.

Even everyday interactions can make a difference. With so much hate swirling around, and actual Nazis among those in charge of the country, plenty of people have reason to worry for their safety and well-being. Smile at the veiled woman on the bus. Tell the Hispanic barista you like her earrings. Tip the Black waitress a little extra. Speak up when you hear someone say something that is not okay. Fight the normalization of hate speech. Normalize kindness and tolerance. Model good behavior and hope others catch on.

Get Prioritized

Do you need more help prioritizing your energies while your outrage meter keeps overloading with every fresh news story? I’m right there with you. I highly recommend signing up for regular emails from Indivisible and re:act, which contain simple weekly action items, including telephone scripts you can use when calling your representatives. The group behind the Women’s March is rolling out an action plan. Many other national groups, like Planned Parenthood, Moms Demand Action, and the ACLU are also giving out useful information about ways to participate. Sign up for their mailing lists, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on what they need you to do.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. The list of horrible things we need to fight against keeps growing, and no one person can possibly manage to work against all of it, every day. Rage burnout is a real thing. But every little bit does help, and it’s okay to choose only a few points for your action list. I make a list every weekend, using the mailing lists above as a guide to urgent priorities like hearings or votes. I have a regular slot in my calendar for calling my elected officials over my lunch break.

Get Loud

There is power in numbers – just look at how many turned out for the marches this weekend, and how much it shook the administration. We need to keep people engaged and involved so that the movement continues. Share your hard work in ways that might inspire others, even if it’s just on Facebook where your conservative aunties might see it. See if a coworker wants to volunteer with you. Write letters to the editors in your local papers. Forward links to activist mailing lists to friends who may want to do more. If you’re more extroverted and feel up for it, maybe get a local discussion group together in your neighborhood so you can plan to act as a group and reach more people. Go to town hall meetings and ask your representative important questions, so their answers will be recorded by local journalists for all to see or read.

Beginner activism is still activism. It still counts and can make a difference. Don’t let your inexperience stop you from trying, failing, learning, and trying again. Listen when you’re given feedback from folks who have been fighting this fight longer than you. Share what you learn. Most of all, keep going. Even if we can create change, we need to sustain it, as this election has shown us all too well.

 

*I’m still learning, and I understand that I’m unlikely to get any of this completely right on the first try. Please, let me know if I’m missing important things here, and I’ll do my best to edit this post in response.




It’s not beer, it’s me. Or maybe it’s you.

Tasha is one of my best friends. Tasha is a beer geek – she’s serious enough about the stuff that she’s working towards getting her Cicerone certification, which I think is amazing. On her MetaCookBook blog this week, she’s asked for people’s thoughts on the beer community and what sorts of topics they should be talking about. Tough topics – like diversity in the community. I’m very interested to read the replies, but I wasn’t going to join in the conversation, because beer isn’t my world. I can only understand Tasha’s passion by comparing it to my loves of other things, because I don’t really “get” beer. I like the stuff (some of it) well enough. But I’m intimidated by beer geeks sometimes, because I don’t feel like I belong to their “community.” So maybe I do have something to say after all.

I’m not saying that beer lovers are hipsters and phonies and are running this exclusionary club on purpose. Maybe it’s my own perception of “beer people” that makes me hesitant to really get into beer.

I feel like there’s this big movement around beer, and some people take it super seriously. There are beer bloggers and beer conventions and people have opinions. I don’t want to commit to all that. I just want to sometimes drink something that doesn’t suck. With friends who also don’t suck. I don’t read beer blogs or keep up on beer news and I don’t know a lager from an ale. I just know a few kinds I like and I usually order those. So far nobody I’ve ever gone out for a drink with has ever rolled their eyes at me or made me feel bad for liking the “wrong” beer, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel a small twinge of anxiety every time I order. Beer is intimidating.

That’s a totally weird thing for me to say, because I love wine and wine tastings, (hell, I made wine charms this one time) and I get all nerdy over the tasting notes (which are all lies, people – NOBODY tastes plum and leather in Merlot. NOBODY). I learned about wine by going to tastings and having pros guide me through the general characteristics of different styles, and there’s no reason not to do that with beers. Except that I don’t know where to go. And I have this vague impression that the beer tasting rooms will be populated with dudes and I’ll feel out of place and/or not be taken seriously because I’m a woman. There are Groupon “wine and canvas nights” marketed to moms like me, and memes about mommy needing a glass of wine after a hard week, but I feel like beer is for daddy. It’s such a pervasive concept that we’re even slapping it on baby onesies. Why?

mommy wine daddy beer

WHY? (Available at femailcreations.com, if you’re so inclined)

Again, I’m not saying that anyone is making me feel this way. It’s just these hazy impressions I have of “the beer community.” And since Tasha wanted to know what the beer community should be talking about, here’s my thought: why do I feel like the world of beer probably isn’t for me? Is it all my own self-doubt and social anxiety, or is there some subtle signal I’m getting from the beercommunity that this isn’t my place?

It’s my party; I won’t cry if I don’t want to.

When is a moody bitch not a moody bitch? When she decides she doesn’t want to be.

I was at home enjoying a snow day when I saw folks on the Today Show talking about a new self-improvement/pop-psychology book. The interview annoyed me so much that I yelled at my TV. Then someone shared this CNN article with me, and I yelled at the internet.

The book in question is titled Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy, and it’s written by a psychiatrist who has apparently never ever been held back in any way by being labeled irrational, moody, or hormonal. She doesn’t think mood swings are a problem at all and that women need to embrace them instead of fighting them:

“Women have this idea that we are supposed to not be moody and we’re supposed to tamp down that moodiness,” said Julie Holland, author of “Moody Bitches” and a psychiatrist who has practiced in New York for 20 years.

“It’s like a problem to be fixed and really, I think it’s our greatest asset. It’s certainly our greatest psychological asset.”

“I hate to see us medicating away our sensitivity and emotionality for the comfort of other people in the workplace. I think it’s a big mistake.”

Sure, it’s nice to say we shouldn’t have to suppress emotions because of someone else’s discomfort at work. But it’s not realistic. Until we can get everyone into training seminars about how women are equals and totally competent even if they cry or snap at someone once in a while, we have to try to keep our emotions level. To do otherwise is to risk being labeled and pushed aside. You’re expected to leave your personal life and issues at home – and this goes for the men too – and focus on work. Being emotional at work is a liability, not an asset. Nobody is going to promote you if you’re sobbing at your desk all the time.

It’s not that women “have this idea that we are supposed to not be moody.” It’s an idea that prevails in almost every workplace. There’s a very sticky stereotype that women are irrational and emotional and aren’t as good as men under pressure.  That we’re hysterical and that we can’t be trusted to make assessments and decisions without letting our girly soft feelings drip all over everything.

Men aren’t immune from criticism about “emotionality,” of course. But it’s not quite the same – at least men are given more freedom to be certain kinds of emotional. They’re not supposed to cry, because that makes them wimps, but they can be pushy or aggressive or confrontational and nobody is going to dismiss them as “moody.” It seems like women are screwed no matter what kind of emotions we show. When we get mad or assertive, it’s because we’re on the rag, and if we show enthusiasm and joy, it’s because we’re flighty and stupid.

“After all, our empathetic nature helps us understand nonverbal babies — and not-always-the-most-communicative husbands and partners”

This is the sort of thinking that keeps women out of science and math and engineering. Out of higher management positions. Keeps them from making the same salaries as their male colleagues in neighboring cubicles. Enough people see women as “moody bitches” already. It’s no surprise that women who want to advance their careers and have the respect of their coworkers feel the need to rein in their emotions as much as possible.

I know that this empower-your-true-self, don’t-let-the-bastards-change-you stuff sells books. LOTS of books. And gets you on TV. I can see how it can get women fist-pumping and saying “yeah, I’m going to be me and if they don’t like it they can go to hell!” But the reality is that we women have to be a different “me” in different contexts, or risk consequences.

The author suggests that too many women are on antidepressants (1 in 4 women vs 1 in 7 men) and many of them don’t need to be. They’re getting depressed looking at Facebook and comparing themselves to others and deciding they must not be happy enough, so they go to their doctors and get medications to help. Let’s ignore for a moment how dismissive the article is about women’s real and serious mental health concerns and focus on that medication for a minute. Why blame the patients? Shouldn’t the doctors be able to differentiate between “real” depression and a Facebook funk, and keep the prescriptions for those who actually need them? And since many women who don’t necessarily fit the clinical labels of depression/anxiety/etc nonetheless feel they need help in controlling their emotional outbursts, shouldn’t there be better access (and insurance coverage) to therapy, anger-management classes, and the like? If you’re going to decide that medications aren’t the answer, you need to find something that is the answer. And “let it all out, you warrior princess of a woman” isn’t going to cut it.

I would love a world where I can be a moody bitch when and where I please and nobody will think any less of me for it. But we’re not there yet. I’m glad to know women who embrace the “fuck it” attitude and let their bitch flags fly, but it’s just not possible – not yet – for all of us to follow their lead. So many of us risk careers and relationships if we stop suppressing our natural mood swings. We just don’t live in a world where we’re allowed to feel freely, and I think that it would be much more helpful for us to be discussing ways we can get there rather than reading self-help books that tell us to pretend we already are.

I Can’t Keep Quiet

I was going to write something nice today. I wanted to write a tribute to America for the Fourth of July, just as I did for Canada on its big day earlier this week. But I’m too angry.

People ask me all the time whether I plan on becoming an American citizen. My answer has always been “when I feel that I can take the oath, and mean it.”

This is the Oath of Citizenship, which everyone must recite before being officially naturalized (bolding mine):

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

I cannot, at this time, assert that I have no mental reservations about bearing true faith and allegiance to the United States and its constitution and laws.

Why?

State after state after state after state1 is enacting laws that restrict access to abortion, “to protect women’s health.” The aim of these laws is to close clinics, cut funding, and add hoops for doctors and their patients to jump through, making abortion all but impossible for women in those states.

At the same time, these politicians work to restrict access to contraception and remove sex education from schools. And without paid maternity leave, without adequate protections against being fired for their pregnancy, without affordable childcare, how are these women, pregnant when they don’t want to be, supposed to cope?

What of the 20% of American women who are uninsured? Or those who have insurance with no maternity coverage? Do the legislators outlawing abortion want to see these women bankrupt from the emergency C-section delivery of a baby they already knew they couldn’t afford, in the most expensive health-care system in the world?

How can I love a country that is comfortable treating its women this way?

I’m mad. I’m so very very angry. I take all of this intensely personally, because I am a woman. I don’t want an abortion. I can’t imagine ever wanting one. But that should be my decision. It’s always a difficult decision to make, bringing with it lifelong emotional baggage, and most people aren’t happy about resorting to abortion. But sometimes it’s the only way out of a bad situation. And taking that option away and trapping someone in that bad situation, without offering any alternative help, is inhumane.

To make it all the more insulting, the overwhelming majority of these decisions regarding women’s bodies and reproductive rights are being made by men.

See anyone there with a uterus? I sure don’t.

Why are the anti-choice bills passing? Why does everyone keep electing people whose values and opinions are stuck in the 1950s? Why aren’t we managing to keep a grip on the rights already afforded to us in a Supreme Court decision made FORTY years ago? Why aren’t we fighting for paid parental leave, adequate and accessible health insurance, and more flexibility towards pregnant women and parents in our workplaces? Why are American women putting up with this bullshit? Why aren’t more people angry?

I bet you do, buddy.

I bet you do, buddy.

I don’t know what to do with all of my frustration. Not all of this legislation affects me personally, of course. I live in a different state with a different political climate. But I feel that I have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with all the women who are affected.  I don’t get to vote in this country unless and until I become a citizen, but I can put my money where my mouth is. I can donate to organizations that fight to keep choices open for women.

Whatever small sound my voice makes in this world, I add it to the chorus of strong and wonderful women who will not be controlled.

1. I stopped at four states because I was getting angry reading the articles and needed to back off to keep my blood pressure at a safe level. But there are plenty more, if you care to look into it.