Who doesn’t walk home on the train tracks at night?

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I was thinking about this last night on my way home from a meeting. Not the silly part about hurting yourself on a treadmill (although, Maude knows that seems to be true, too) but the part about how risk taking has changed for me over the years. What constitutes a risk has changed for me, not only as I’ve aged but since I had a child.

I took a bunch of stupid risks when I was younger. Most of them were of the sort that put my physical safety in jeopardy: walking home late at night on the train tracks, or through the park, that sort of thing. (Interestingly, you couldn’t have paid me to walk through a neighborhood of fraternity houses on a night they were all throwing parties – mob mentality has always made me nervous.) I walked with my keys tucked into my fingers, and paid very close attention to sounds and my surroundings figuring I would be fine. I didn’t think what I was doing was safe exactly, but like my dad always used to say, “The young, they think they are invincible!” Looking back, sometimes, I guess I was pretty sure I was invincible. (I mean really? Train tracks alone at 3am? Holy shit was I dumb.)

About 3 months after Kidlet was born, he and I were driving home from a friend’s house. It was December so 9pm was DARK, and I remember the night being kind of chilly. About 2 minutes into the 10 minute drive home kidlet started screaming from the back seat. I wanted to stop so I could make sure he was okay, and only yelling because that’s what he did in the car seat. And I remember thinking to myself, I need to stop somewhere where I will be safe. Where there is a lot of light, and hopefully people. I wasn’t on some desolate back road 20 miles from the nearest house, I was driving through a populated  neighborhood.

I chose to pull into a shopping plaza where there was a grocery store that was likely to have people coming and going. I found an area of the parking lot that was brightly lit, and put the car in park. I sat for a second, worried about getting out of the car with the car running to check Kidlet in the back seat; What if someone tried to steal the car? He would go with it. But I didn’t want to turn the car off because I wanted to keep the heat running, etc.  While these thoughts plowed through my head I also thought, Woah. This is a whole new level of feeling like a target. All of a sudden I realized that keeping myself and him safe had become an imperative. It had gone from being a good idea to something that must be done.

And this popped into my head last night while I was driving around trying to find a parking spot. Where’s the risk? I was looking for a spot that wasn’t more than a block or two from where I was going, and on a street that was well lit, without lots of shadows. And then again when I was walking back to the car, where’s the risk? I decided to walk in the middle of the street instead of on the sidewalk because streetlights point into the road and not onto the sidewalks, so there was a lot of light in the road, whereas the sidewalk was relatively dark.

My sense of risk intersects more aggressively now with what it means to be female. With what it means to be short. With what it means to not be in the best physical shape of my life. With what it means to wear glasses. With what it means to be a parent. All kinds of things that I gave minimal thought to when I was 25.

So, take risks now! Just don’t take stupid ones.

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I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about them: Generational evolution and activism

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “Young people just don’t get it,” in the last 2 years I’d have at least enough money to buy a nice, used car. I’m tired of it. Let’s all agree to retire the phrase, mmmkay?

First of all, while I have no empirical evidence to support this beyond hearing it out of the mouths of my grandparents, I’m pretty sure every generation says this about the generations following them. “When I was a kid I walked uphill to school in a foot of snow both ways! Kids today, they just don’t get it!” It’s like generational hazing. And it’s basically noise. It has no substance. It’s highlighting a “problem” that doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps what people really mean is “Young people are doing things differently than I did them and I find that unsettling because I want my way to be the best and only way of doing things.” I’m cool with that, it’s honest, and it doesn’t have the silencing effect of, “Young people don’t care.”

Second of all, NO NO NO. It’s just not true. Young people DO get it. Older generations just need to start looking for things that aren’t on the tip of their nose and get their egos out of the way.

This cliche pops up pretty regularly in the reproductive rights movement. Nancy Keenan, outgoing president of NARAL Pro-Choice America has, on more than one occasion, stated that she has concerns about younger generations taking the reins of reprorights activism. In a recent Salon piece Keenan suggested, again, that millennials don’t prioritize abortion rights the way the Boomers do. Of course, she went on to clarify that she’s not talking about the women and men who are committed, only those that aren’t.

What really bugs me about this sentiment is that it assumes that Boomers, as a bloc, care about reprorights more  than subsequent generations. And I think this is based, almost entirely, on the blinders of a cohort.

When you find your activist cohort, you might think that no one but your cohort is involved because, when you’re planning activisty things, your friends are the people that show up, and not people that you’ve never talked to before. Which makes sense, right? I mean, you know that this group will want to be involved, so you call them up and involve them. And then sit around wringing your hands about how “there are no new faces, they must not care.” When, in reality, the new faces that you’re trying to attract are holding their own party, because they got sick of hearing, as Keenan said, “Young people don’t care. Oh, but I don’t mean you. You’re different.” If you’re going to denigrate my cohort, I don’t have a whole lot of interest in participating in your stuff.

I don’t think there is a divide in the reprorights movement, I think there is the way things have always been done, and a new way of doing things. It’s evolution. Which is absolutely necessary in order for a movement to remain relevant.

 

 

 

 

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Don’t give me this “small government” stuff.

Rachel Maddow on small government. Transcript after the video.

Small government is a great political brand. It looks great on a bumper sticker. People who don’t want the government to help unemployed people, or the elderly, or people without health insurance, who don’t want the government to create jobs , they say it’s because government has to be small. They also want government to be monitoring every pregnancy in the country to make sure the government’s chosen outcome is the result of that pregnancy, under penalty of jail. So, make your case that you don’t want the government to help the economy, but don’t give me this ‘small government’ stuff, c’mon.

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Fantastic.

Crates and Ribbons

The kissing sailor, Greta Zimmer Friedman, George Mendonsa

Most of us are familiar with this picture. Captured in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945, it has become one of the most iconic photographs of American history, symbolizing the jubilation and exuberance felt throughout the country at the end of World War II.

For a long time, the identity of the pair remained a mystery. It certainly looks passionate and romantic enough, with many speculating that they were a couple – a sailor and a nurse, celebrating and sharing their joy. This year, however, historians have finally confirmed that the woman is Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental nurse at the time, and George Mendonsa, a sailor.

Have a look at some articles about it. Do you get the feeling that something is not quite right?

Huffington Post

Daily Mail

CBS News

A few facts have come to light. Far from being a kiss between a loving couple, we learn…

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Parenting in the face of misogyny

Last week I wrote this post about how I’m trying to raise a confident, kick-ass kid who will be happy to have a penis and wear pink shoes his whole life. He’ll totally be able to stand up to bullies, and is the future of paradigm shifting in the world. My kid is awesome, and, in this respect, kidlet’s dad and I are rocking this parenting gig.

And then Unladylike Musings left a comment that drives home a lot of the fear I have for raising my kid.

“You have so much power over who that little person becomes. You know who you want them to be. Someone who is courageous. Someone who isn’t tied down by the gendering of small children. But there’s only so much a parent can do. Society, other children, other parents, and teachers can also have a huge impression on your child, for good or bad. And that, to me, is terrifying.”

PARENTING IS TERRIFYING. WHAT IF I FUCK IT UP? WHAT IF, DESPITE MY BEST INTENTIONS, MY KID TURNS INTO AN ASSHOLE?

This is a fear I felt to my toes when I found out I was pregnant with a boy. I cried, big, sobbing, gasping for breath tears. Not because I was unhappy I was going to birth a boy, please don’t misunderstand this, but because I felt so utterly un-equipped to raise him in a culture that encourages violence, misogyny, and sexual aggression from our boys. FROM MY SON.

And all of that fear came rushing back to me, like an avalanche, as I read Soraya Chemaly‘s piece at Feministe about Facebook’s newest fuckwittery, the “12 Year Old Slut Meme” page. A Facebook page which advocates public branding, and shaming of TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRLS.  Status update from the page,

“As long as there are sluts, we will put them in their place. “

The page has 215 THOUSAND ‘likes.’

I read this Friday and I cried a little. I remember being that girl, the object of this type of harassment. I remember that hot anxiety that would overcome me, well into my twenties, when I found myself in a group of a certain type of men. When I knew I was being sized up, judged, and would probably be subjected to some subtle, or maybe not, harassment. When standing up for myself would lead to nothing but more judgment and ridicule. I remember wondering, through my tears, what I should do differently so that I wouldn’t be subjected to these assholes.

WHAT IF MY SON TURNS OUT TO BE ONE OF THOSE BOYS? What if he toes the USian rape culture line, embracing his middle-class white male privileged status with a gleeful smile on his face? What if all of my efforts and best intentions yield nothing? OH MY MAUDE I worry about this daily.

But I have to believe, I have to believe that my efforts will yield an empathetic, inclusive, confident person who will appreciate and seek out differences in people. And who will be courageous enough to turn to his friends, when they try on these hyper-masculine costumes of assholery, and gently but firmly and repeatedly tell them to knock it the fuck off.

 

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These are for boys and those are for girls

A few months ago I was standing in line at the craft store,  there was a short wait and the woman behind me was with her son, who was, predictably, grabbing all the stuff at toddler level and asking for it. “How old is your child?” I asked. “He’s almost 4,” the woman replied. Me, with a chuckle, “I have an almost 3 year old.” How nice, two women sharing the bond of parenthood.

Until the boy picked up a bright pink foam tiara and asked his mom to buy it for him while putting it on his head. “PUT THAT DOWN,” she hissed at him, reaching to take it out of his hand, “that’s for girls and you’re a boy.” He whined that he wanted it and she repeated, “PUT IT DOWN, you’re NOT a girl and that’s for girls.”

And my heart broke a little.

Kidlet’s favorite shoes are his “sparkly sneakers.” They have pink and blue glitter on them, and light up when he walks. He picked them out a few months ago and wears them all the time. Yesterday, outfitted in a t-shirt, shorts, a pair of baby legs with helicopters on them, purple socks, and his sparkly sneakers, we headed out to the park after I picked him up from school.

And it happened. One of the moments I’ve been dreading. Another child, a little boy, ran up to us and asked, “How old is she?” I said, “He just turned 3, how old are you?” And the boy said, “He? But he has girl shoes on!” And I died a little. Here it was – kidlet’s first direct challenge to his choice of footwear. I tried to find a smile and gentle tone as I replied, “They’re pink and blue sparkly shoes, they’re for anyone,” but my mind raced. Had kidlet heard this? Would he remember it some morning while getting dressed for school? Would I hear him refuse to put them on while explaining that they were “for girls”?

Shoes

We live in a binary world. I understand that. I understand that when I go shopping for my own clothes I shop in the “women’s” department. And I understand that 9 out of 10 times I buy kidlet’s clothes in the “boy’s” department. I participate in gendering him. But, as I said to Alison Piepmeier here, “If my penis-having child wants to wear a tiara WHY IN THE EVER LOVING HELL WOULD I STOP HIM?” If he presents me with something that HE WANTS, that doesn’t fit our culture’s gender binary, why would I refuse him?

I guess that’s a terrifically complicated answer. I mean, I wouldn’t refuse him. But I know parents that would, and I don’t fault them for it. We are taught to conform. And we’re punished, literally maybe, and socially often, when we don’t. We tease, or are teased, we laugh, or are laughed at, we use words and body language to directly or indirectly remind people that non-conformity is suspect and will not be tolerated, outside the safest of spaces.

So I want my kid to have a safe space. And I will do everything I can to provide him with a safe space, both in our home, and in the communities I choose to introduce him to. It’s a terrifically privileged position to have – that I have the ability to choose his communities – I recognize that. Not everyone has that option. Maybe the mom standing behind me at the craft store doesn’t have that privilege. Maybe she has a family or a community that would punish her for allowing her child to express himself how he wanted to. I don’t know.

I was blessed with 2 parents whose bedrock principle of life was non-conformity. They encouraged me, from birth basically, to question everything, to challenge the status quo, to demand an explanation when I was told that something was supposed to be a certain way. I was expected to form my own positions and opinions based on the answers to questions I asked. And I was supported. Which was the most important gift of all.

Yesterday the little boy who challenged kidlet’s shoes turned out to be a pretty nice kid. He and kidlet spent the next 20 minutes or so playing football, which mostly amounted to the older child letting kidlet chase him around and tackle him. It was really cute to see them playing. And while they were playing, another mom said to me, “It’s really great to see his creative expression” as she gestured to his clothes, “you don’t see a lot of parents who will let their kids do that.”

All the patterns

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Virginia and the state of the uterus

This is what went down in Virginia on Friday (9/14). If you don’t think it could happen where you live, if you want to write it off as “stuff that happens in the South,” or think, “Well, what do you expect, it’s Virginia,” you can probably go ahead and kiss my ass right now. This kind of shit can AND WILL happen anywhere in the United States. It’s not isolated to the red states, it’s not isolated to the south, or the midwest, or the southwest. IT IS EVERYWHERE.

I speak at the 5:05 mark, if you need a specific reason to watch. But you shouldn’t need one – you should watch because THIS is how this kind of stuff goes down.

How Virginia is Shutting Down Women’s Clinics from Kontra on Vimeo.

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