Category Archives: Feminism

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in America.

At least it is in the blue states.  In the cities that try to make the streets safe for people instead of safe for cops.  In the jurisdictions overseen by the kind and conscientious instead of the hateful and fearful.

In the other places, the red districts, the small towns with cowboy-hatted bigots masquerading as a real government, today isn’t Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  It’s something else.

So it goes.

The US government gives us a Day for Washington, who created a legal process for recapturing human property in jurisdictions that had outlawed slavery.

A Day for all of the 45 men who have managed to become president, by whatever deeds, fair or foul, to share between them.

A Day for all the bluecoats, regardless of what they did or whether they wanted to do it, whether they were monsters looking for the chance to kill or were shattered inside by the first gunshot they were forced to fire.

A Day for all the bluecoats who died because one of those 45 special men couldn’t use their words to solve their problems.

A Day for workers, which most workers don’t have off, and specifically scheduled to undermine the legitimacy of the labor movement.

A Day for Jesus.

A Day for pretending that dangerous, violent, repressive religious extremists DID, in fact, receive a whole hemisphere of the earth as a present from their god, and the local native people were happy to be their magical savages.

A Day for congratulating all the above parties on how they totally 100% successfully created a great Enlightenment Eutopia.

A Day for Martin Luther King, Jr., killed by a “lone wolf” acting out the government’s wishes, for being audacious enough to dream of a day when his children could have white friends.

A Day to mark the beginning of a new Gregorian calendar year.

And, on paper, a Day for Christopher Columbus, a religious fanatic who stole things and people from dozens of foreign nations to present them as tokens of conquest to the architects of the Spanish Inquisition.

We’re supposed to feel grateful that the millions of people who were killed, raped, tortured, kidnapped, enslaved, brainwashed, imprisoned, disenfranchised, and stripped of their families, possessions, homelands, languages, cultures, and identities by the legacy of this “explorer” are allowed to share his Day of recognition.

Because that makes it all better.

Columbus Day is a recent holiday, created because a particular, influential group of male, Catholic Italian-Americans didn’t feel like they were getting enough white privilege.  They wanted someone who was like them to be upheld as part of the American identity.  They wanted recognition of Italian and Catholic contributions to the US built into the myths of white American national identity.

There is no holiday specifically setting out Irish or German or Welsh or French or Greek or Ethiopian or Congolese or Sioux contributions to American history.

There is no holiday celebrating a great hero of atheism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Islam, or Judaism for their contributions to American history.

There is no holiday celebrating the contributions of queer people to American history.

There is no holiday celebrating an American woman, or even ALL American women generally, for contributions to American history.

There is no holiday recognizing that the state machine of the US was built by black slave labor, greased with native blood, powered by the sacrifices of unpaid femininity, maintained by a constant ingress of disenfranchised and vulnerable immigrants, and run on tracks laid by indentured Chinese immigrants over land stolen from native communities through more than a century of war.

Bullshit excuses and band-aid solutions like national “observances” of a “history month” won’t cut it.

Native people have been victimized by the United States from its infancy.  It’s time for the government to take responsibility for that legacy.  It’s time to be honest about it.

It’s time for white Americans to learn that the history of the oppressed is the history of the oppressor as well.  It’s time to own it, to face what happened, and do better moving forward.

It is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in America.  Today.

What will tomorrow be?

“How do I explain this to my kids?”

People love to invoke terrifying conversations that scar children for life whenever progressives are pushing for changes that will improve the lives of marginalized people.  Over the course of my life, I’ve heard people object to same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting on the basis that they couldn’t explain it to their children.

This is manifestly bullshit.  If your kid comes home from kindergarten and asks you where Heather’s daddy is and why she has two mommies, you say “There are all kinds of different families– some people have a mommy and a daddy, and some people have two mommies, and some people have two daddies, and some people have just one parent.  People are all kinds of ways.”  Done and done.

But there are some things I shouldn’t have to explain to my kids, because they shouldn’t be real.  For example:

20 Things I Shouldn’t Have to Explain to My Kids

  1. Normalization of non-consensual touching.  Obviously this includes rape, but more often, especially in children’s media, it’s smaller things like kissing someone or tapping their shoulder over their objections, that are overwhelmingly dismissed as “teasing” but obviously normalize a lack of bodily autonomy.
  2. Deportation of unaccompanied child refugees.  Did you know that children as young as three years of age are expected to act as their own attorneys in deportation proceedings?  Disgusting.
  3. Islamophobic violence.  I don’t even know where to start on this one.
  4. Children dying of neglect or abuse, especially when the people who are supposed to protect children from harm in the worst case scenarios (cops, social workers, CPS, etc.) are aware of the situation and failed to act.
  5. The glass ceiling.  We’ve had MANY talks about this one in the last several months.
  6. The “gay panic” legal defense.  What.  The.  Actual.  Fuck.
  7. Police murdering young people of color in the street with apparent impunity.
  8. Body shaming.  Why is the episode of Phineas and Ferb about Candance body-swapping with Perry the Platypus called “Does This Duckbill Make Me Look Fat?”?  How is that child-appropriate, Disney?
  9. Cartoon misogyny and gender policing in general.  It is absurd that I have to point out to my children explicitly that non-femmefolk have eyelashes in real life.
  10. “Chief Wahoo”, “Chief Thunderthud”, and Tonto.  None of that shit should have happened.  None of that shit should be CONTINUING to happen.
  11. Blackface.  We recently looked up some of Bojangles Robinson’s tap dancing on YouTube and inadvertently opened a whole can of horrible racist worms.  Thanks, 20th-century America!
  12. Rooms full of old white men making decisions about children, women, and people of color.
  13. “Sundown Towns” and lynch law and slavery and the Back to Africa movement and everything else white supremacist society has cooked up to eliminate black people.
  14. Dr. Seuss’ political cartoons advocating the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans, and, in fact, Japanese and Japanese-American internment itself.
  15. Reservations, the Trail of Tears, extermination campaigns (aka “the Indian Wars”), Indian scalp bounties, buffalo culls, Philip “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” Sheridan, the Indian Removal Act, and the cultural holocaust (including residential schools and the Dawes Act).  Not a complete list.
  16. Accidental shooting deaths of children.  The NRA has successfully lobbied against parents receiving information about the dangers of guns at child well-visits, and apparently everyone is just okay with this even though TODDLERS continue to accidentally shoot themselves and their family members on a regular basis in this country.  I cannot with this.
  17. The criminalization of abuse victims who act in self-defense.  How am I supposed to raise kids who stick up for themselves enough but not “too much”?
  18. Companies paying millions of dollars to defend their right to destroy the planet on which all their employees and customers live.  WHAT.
  19. The Flint water crisis.  And, by the same token, Love Canal, Cancer Alley and whatever the next poisoned, neglected, and gaslit community is going to be.
  20. The pay gap, the second shift, and all that other bullshit that characterizes the price of living while female in this country of supposed liberty and justice.

35 Things To Call Donald Trump

Just because he’s a braying jackass of a human being doesn’t make it okay to body-shame him, and just because he is the living embodiment of his Klan-hooded Father’s retrograde id doesn’t mean it’s fair to dismiss him by ascribing his behavior to presumed mental illness.

English has a huge and colorful vocabulary.  We can label and describe him without debasing ourselves by using color, hair texture, body size, physical proportions, or neurological function.

So, to mark this, his 35th day in office as the Popular Vote Losing Illegitimate Swamp President, I present the first 35 things I could think of to call Donald Trump, limited to adjectives and adjectival phrases.

35 Things To Call Donald Trump

  1. Mendacious
  2. Self-Aggrandizing
  3. Abusive
  4. Predatory
  5. Amoral
  6. Authoritarian
  7. Petty
  8. Shallow
  9. Vain
  10. Greedy
  11. Vile
  12. Hateful
  13. Fear-mongering
  14. Monstrous
  15. Ostentatious
  16. Narcissistic
  17. Cruel
  18. Callous
  19. Traitorous
  20. Slanderous
  21. Indecent
  22. Despicable
  23. Embarrassing
  24. Xenophobic
  25. Ignorant
  26. Hypocritical
  27. Bullying
  28. White supremacist
  29. Apocalyptic
  30. Chauvinist
  31. Divisive
  32. Egotistical
  33. Conniving
  34. Bigoted
  35. Hostile

Where We’ve Been

Lately, we’ve been reading ALL the bad news.

I have been crying for all the sweet babies and other human beings in peril and deprivation.

I have been writing all of the angry letters to politicians and leaving all of the broken-voice messages with their staff.

We’ve been washing every handkerchief in the house probably once a week.

Each of us has had a whole day, minimum, when we just couldn’t do it.  Couldn’t get up, couldn’t wake up, couldn’t be brought to bear with the day’s work.

We’ve been running low on the resources that keep us from yelling and pushing and fighting among ourselves.

We’ve been eating ALL the comfort food: starchy, creamy, cheesy, oh yes.

Robert has been listening to people say they’re scared to come to school.

Robert and I have been sitting up until dawn, talking.  Angry.  Scared.  Sad.

I have been quoting The New Colossus and warning people that this is the moment.  This.  Is.  The.  Moment.  in which they can choose to collaborate with evil or use their privilege to agitate for what’s right.

Mostly, though, what we’ve been doing– what, I think, we’ve ALL been doing for the past few weeks, is turning to everyone we meet, holding up what we loved about our lives in this country, and saying “Fix it.”

When Númenor was a toddler, he would bring things to me and plaintively lisp out “Broken.  Fix it?”

That’s where we all are right now.

It’s broken.

Fix it?

Someone?

Please?

At least tell us where to start.

What glue do you buy to put families divided by immigration policy back together?

What stitch can we use to patch up our hopes for the future?

How would you break down dismantling the imbalance of power between the traditional checks and balances into easy weekend projects?

Which infomercial tells me about the space-age no-mess solution for getting back what little transparency and accountability our government had?

How can we restore life, re-build places of worship, un-do what just happened?

Ultimately, a society isn’t a toy, and no amount of clever clamping and wood glue will fix a government that’s cracked through.

But still we stand here, outraged and unbelieving, sad and furious and on the verge of a toddler tantrum, demanding that someone fix it.

 

That’s where we’ve been.

I think we might be here for a while yet.  And that’s okay.  But it won’t be forever.  Someday, we will find the way forward.  We’ll land on the methods of resistance that work best.  We’ll find a strategy, and identify a first step, and then another, and another.  We’ll crawl back to the light.

In the meantime, people may be a little quiet and a little fragile, me included.

So take good care of yourselves, folks.  And watch out for each other– sometimes people lack the good sense to come in out of the rain.

These Two Things

I’ve been scrabbling desperately to get a grip on the way forward this month, so I’ve been hanging back, practicing self-care, and just trying to get my head clear.

Here’s what I have:

The world has gotten scary.  People are dying in the streets.  The white hoods are back.  The government is torturing Indians in furtherance of giving them poison to drink.  Children are learning that hate is an American value.

There are two things that I know are true, that we can use against this terror and darkness.

Over the past weeks, they have seemed like laughably inconsequential things and impossibly large things, but they’ve never stopped being primal.

The first thing is love.  We can love ourselves.  We can love each other.  We can love fat people, not-conventionally-attractive people, “fours”, “losers”, black people, people who don’t speak English, trans people, disabled people, gay people, people who have had abortions, Muslim people, native people, people who have been “grabbed”, all the people.  We can love them.  We can love us.

And that’s the most powerful tool we have against hate and fear: we can choose love instead.  We can reject the notion that some are so different that they are unlovable.  We can laugh in the face of the cultural rubric we’re supposed to use to judge the value of femmefolk and just love them instead.

We can practice self-care.  We can make safe spaces for each other.  We can help one another.  We can reach out.  We can stand in the street in front of the mosque and say “These people are my neighbors.  I love them, and I won’t let you harm them.”  We can give a colleague a hug and say “You are loved.”  We can offer flowers to strangers, like hippies, and we can tell them– yes, those people we don’t even know– that we love them.  We can see someone struggling and offer our help.  We can ask what the family down the street needs to be safe, and help them get it.  We can love.  We can love the white working-class, and let them know that there’s a place for them in the future.  We can raise children who know, like Mister Rogers used to say, that there’s no one in the world quite like them and people can like them just the way they are.  We can tell gay kids and fat kids and brown-skinned kids that the world is fucked up, but they are just fine the way they are.  We can listen to people, especially when they say they are being harmed.

We can love the earth, too.  I know that this is like, “Again with the hippie nonsense?!”, but it’s still true.  We can love the trees.  We can lovingly plant wildflowers for pollinators to find.  We can pick up trash at the beach because we love the ocean, and the birds, and the sand.  We can sit outside and breathe deep and love the air.

We can reach out into our communities and our world and love what we find.  We don’t have to withdraw and fear what’s outside.  We can offer love as an alternative to hate.

That’s the first thing.

The second thing is a bit harder.

Yes, harder than loving strangers.

But it’s just as important.

The second thing is independence.  We can do it ourselves.  We can stop relying on the state to protect our interests.  We can stop calling the police.  We can stop shopping at the Wal-Mart.  We can stop expecting anomic society to take care of our problems.  We can take responsibility for our own needs.  It doesn’t matter how horrible, how corrupt, how oppressive these institutions become if we deny them legitimacy and reject their attempts to shape our lives.  They need US, not the other way around.

We don’t have to participate in systems that oppress us or others.  We don’t have to be complicit in the state’s oppression of its enemies.  We can choose and build our communities for ourselves.  We can think critically about our actions and listen to those who are harmed by them, even in steps of the process that seem beyond our control.  We can make slave labor, deforestation, pollution, and factory farming unprofitable for businesses by refusing to profit by them ourselves.

We can vote with our dollars for the future we want.  We can support local businesses run by our neighbors and friends.  We can see our supply chains and improve them.  We can offer help to people who are struggling instead of reporting them to the authorities.  We can share our resources with those in need instead of expecting the state to feed, clothe, and house them.  We can clean it up ourselves instead of filing a complaint about litter.  We can leverage our privilege to protect marginalized people.  We can protect each other and set expectations for our communities instead of relying on the police to enforce the state’s rules.  We can learn to make things ourselves.  We can grow our own food, or join CSAs.  We can buy things from independent artisans instead of faceless factories.  We can get together with our neighbors to do hard things together.  We can raise barns and put up jam and bring homemade bread and soup to the old lady next door who has trouble walking.  We can start a childcare co-op, or shop at the farmer’s market, or learn to sew our own clothes.  We can choose a midwife instead of submitting to industrial medicine.  We can learn about the natural world around us and work with it instead of destroying it.  We can buy good things, made with love and designed to work well, and maintain them.  We can mend things that break.

We can be proactive and make a better future for everyone.  We don’t have to accept the options the state-industrial complex offers us, and we don’t have to chase the 1%’s definition of success.  We can make our own society.

And together, if we all work on those two things– love and independence– we will be unstoppable.  Whether you can only participate in little ways, or you have the resources to make big changes, everything will make a difference.

I’m not saying that the dark forces at work in our world won’t matter or won’t be able to harm people, but we don’t have to sit back and let them take over.  We can both choose not to be bullies ourselves AND not to allow bullying around us.  We don’t have to give up ground.  We don’t have to stop pushing forward.  We can still make progress if we all work together.

We can find the way forward– or make a new one for ourselves– if we can all practice love and seek independence.

That’s what I think, anyway.

With love and gratitude for all of you,

Elizabeth

Resource Round-Up

This same strategy will work for ALL public harassment– don’t be a bystander when you could help someone!

Some things that have come across my virtual desk recently on the topic of resistance/survival in Trump’s America:

The “Oh Shit!  What Should I do Before January?” Guide.  Some really phenomenal ideas in here for both self-care and advocacy– a one-stop shop.  Personally, I highly recommend checking out the section on abortion access and reproductive health for advice about getting and removing an IUD, notes on how to self-abort if you need to, and excellent suggestions about securing emergency contraception access.  Please please please, if you have disposable income and a decent relationship with an OBGYN, get a prescription for Ella (which is the only emergency contraceptive approved for people who weigh more than 160 lbs) and buy up as much as you can.  Store it in a red wine fridge for maximum shelf-life, which should be, co-incidentally, about 4 years.  You might need it, your friends and family might need it, strangers might need it– it might literally save lives.

If An Agent Knocks.  Available in English, Spanish, Urdu, and Arabic, a comprehensive guide to your rights and abilities when dealing with federal agents such as the FBI and anti-terrorism officers.  Print it out if you can and leave it in high-traffic areas in neighborhoods with lots of immigrants, especially laundromats, grocery stores and bodegas, libraries, and mosques and other places of worship.

What To Do Instead of Calling the Police.  A collection of links to articles and other resources intended to move people and communities past the need for violent authoritarian state-backed law enforcement.

Support organizations and causes that will come under fire or that work to defend the vulnerable:

Planned Parenthood  STI testing, pregnancy options counseling, safer sex information, contraception education and access, well-woman care, reproductive cancer screening, abortion access.

NOW— their website has crashed, for now you can donate here.  Women’s rights, equal pay, workplace protections, anti-rape advocacy.

NARAL  Abortion access.

The ACLU  Constitutional rights.

KIND  Legal services for child migrants and refugees facing deportation.

HRC  LGBTQI+ rights and equality.

NRDC  Climate and environment, natural resources, water and land rights.

Obviously this is not a complete list, but it’s a good place to start.

Stay safe out there, people!

Remember this moment

“Remember this moment.”  I said to my children.

“Someday, someone will tell you that feminism is no longer necessary.  That men and women are equal in society.  But right now, you can see that’s not true.  Because more than 50 million Americans have just legally declared themselves willing to be led by Donald Trump, even though he is terrible and dangerous and unqualified in every way, rather than a woman, even though she may be the most qualified candidate for political office in all of human history.”

We were huddled together against the chill and the hatred, watching the election returns.  The mood had been jovial, if a little manic, but slowly turned to terror and shock.  I couldn’t stop shaking and felt nauseous.  Robert tried to argue that it wasn’t over yet, but I knew it was.  None of us understood it, but we saw it.

Ithilien put his hand to my face.  “Shh, Mommy, it’s okay.  He won’t win the whole race.”

“Yes he will,” I said, my eyes stinging, “this is the whole race.  It’s over.”  Ithilien curled his lip as tears formed in his eyes.

“Maybe it’s just a mistake.” Númenor offered, his fists tight with anger and incomprehension.  “It must be wrong.”

But we knew.

I started to cry.

What went wrong?  What happened?  Could we have prevented this?  Would it have made a difference if we had donated more money?  If we had been brave enough to put up a yard sign?  If we had flown to Florida to GOTV, would that have been enough?

I suspect not.

I think, in my heart of hearts, that what we saw tonight was an ugly reminder of how much we have left to grow as a society.  A frightening harbinger of a new era of hate and horror, certainly, but mostly a reflection of how hateful and horrible our past and has made our present.

I have said that America isn’t great.  That there’s still so much left to be done.  I wish I hadn’t been shown I was right tonight– I honestly thought we were ready for a female president.  I know I was.

Hillary Clinton lost tonight.  So did tolerance, love, peace, fairness, understanding, rationality, and the way forward.

Right now I don’t know if we can find those things again.  But I’m going to keep looking.  I’m going to keep raising children who expect those things and who will help foster them.  I’m going to keep looking for the light ahead, the distant goal, that “greatness,” and strive for it with my whole being.

Just as I would have if the election had gone the way we expected.