Doing Feminism In The 2000s

The increasing attention on the abusive treatment Britney Spears has received in the media throughout her career as well as a conservatorship that robs this talented, brilliant woman of basic control over her own life has put the spotlight on a number of important conversations, including the rights of people with disabilities to live with autonomy and dignity and the real crappiness and sexism of the 2000s.

This is when my feminist activism began, and I recall how being a feminist not of the baby boom generation was considered such an abberation at the time that basically anyone was labelled a “young feminist,” whether they were 5 or 45. I was one of them, and would like to pause and reflect back on how different it was to do feminism then than it is now.

We were marginalized. Basically everyone, whether or not they identified as feminist, was getting date raped whether they acknowledged it as that or not. People repeated Rush Limbaugh’s “feminazi” slur uncritically. Literally the first question I usually got was, “are you a lesbian?,” which rules because lesbians are awesome, but made no sense coming from people like a live-in boyfriend’s family.

While there was really exciting growth of activism among my age cohort, and second wave feminists pursued incremental progress within the corridors of power, overall the movement was in a fallow period. This is not a slam. The young feminists of the 2000s and early 2010s were successful beyond our wildest dreams. In the span of those years, feminism shifted from a punchline to a mainstream value. While I love the more radical, less-mainstreamy stuff, especially the hard questions about claiming sexual equality and pleasure, deconstructing white womanhood and its relation to systemic racism, and challenging gender roles and gender period, it matters when people more generally want to advance gender equality. We engineered that change, us feminists in the 2000s, through blogs and protests in the streets when most people thought what we did was a joke and older feminists thought we really needed to cover up our midriffs. It is because of our work that the numbers grew. There are so many more feminist activists today, just look!

Of course we talked about Britney then. We were, like everyone else, obsessed with her. We would endlessly debate whether Britney and other stars were empowering for women and what it all meant. But we were climbing up hill, all of us. I’m proud of how far we have come.

2020: The Year I Became A Parent

My daughter was born in 2013. 2020 is the year I became her parent. I do not say this to diminish all the things we did prior to that point: nursing, learning to walk, potty-training, cuddling through sicknesses, and going out for ice cream after summer camp. March 13, 2020, the day she no longer went to school, changed everything.

Since that time we have remained in isolation with her dad, save a few masked, distanced outdoor gatherings with friends and one month when we moved to Minnesota to be closer to grandparents. I have not had outside childcare. She has not set foot in a school building. Together, we have sat in my office, her doing school, and me doing work, an absurd situation that does not work but that we have been forced to make work as elected officials continue with cowardly decisions that prioritize bars, restaurants, and movie theaters over sending kids back to school.

During this time we have come to know one another in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. I know everything about Harry Potter and how much these stories have captivated her mind. Being her only playmate for recess, I learned how to build fairy houses from sticks and offered some interior design ideas of my own. She knows what misoprostol is, what it does, and how it works to safely self-manage abortion because she works in my office. One day she summed up my work as follows: “Abortion, abortion, abortion, and Trump sucks.” (“What? That’s what you say on calls all day.”)

That I have become a parent in this all-encompassing way has hit me on days with recurring frequency, many frustrating but others sweet as hell, with one morning in December providing an appropriate vignette:

It is 5:30 a.m. It is pitch dark outside but my lights are on. I am in my office, writing out her daily schedule on the whiteboard that used to be for work but became the epicenter of her schoolhouse. I am excited for the ‘theme day’ ahead, the activities I have planned for her, and I am wearing a fuzzy hat with two horns sticking out of it. I have been working since 4 a.m. so that when she wakes up, I will be able to focus some of my attention on her, to lead her through writing in her journal, sharing something she’s grateful for, dancing and singing to a song with me, and going for a snack before beginning remote schooling on her iPad at a table three feet from my desk.

I work hard, always have, always will. Before 2020 we had a deep relationship that involved shuttling her off to before- and after-care at school, and racing to get there on time for pickup from meetings downtown. I took her to the library every week, we went to swim class, she had enrichments. Now, because I love her, I have become the enrichments, the reader, the teacher, the playground pal. This has changed our relationship, and me, forever. One of the few good things to come from a wretched, murderous year.

An Advent Calendar To Get Eating Disorder Culture Out Of Your Holidays

The holidays are here, and for those who struggle with eating disorders or negative self-image this time of year can get pretty real. Some of my worst memories of anorexia involve the holidays, and so my recovery present to you (and me!) is an advent calendar to tell eating disorder culture to back off.

December 8
Repeat aloud: I am adequate just as I am. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice the feeling of your body, and praise it.

December 9
Donate the ‘skinny’ clothes in your closet.

December 10
Repeat aloud: I deserve to enjoy food, including holiday foods made for celebration or given to me as a gift. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Silently thank yourself for the affirmation.

December 11
Take Instagram off your phone for a week. (Okay it’s not realistic as the month goes on, so try now!) If a week is too much, take three days off. Notice how you feel not looking at pictures of other people.

December 12
Repeat aloud: I deserve to eat food I don’t normally eat without fear of having to punish myself for it. Visualize your favorite holiday foods with love in your heart. If you feel fear or anger, imagine yourself bopping the feeling over the head with a mallet, Whack-A-Mole style.

December 13
Grab a pen, and write down three unhealthy behaviors or thoughts you’ve had that beat up your body. Rip up the paper and throw it in the trash.

December 14
Repeat aloud: I deserve to eat before and after holiday meals, without engaging in other behaviors to ‘make up’ for those meals. Visualize what the days immediately before and after your holidays will look like, and imagine three square meals and the snacks you need to stay fueled. Then, look in the mirror and blow yourself a kiss!

December 15
Take a #diet break — mute the people on social media who take pictures of their weird weight loss foods. They’ll never know.

December 16
Put the emphasis on hunger where it belongs: Donate or volunteer to support your local food bank.

December 17
Take yourself for a walk outside. Breathe deep (through your mask). Appreciate your body and its ability to move you through this beautiful Earth.

December 18
Come up with a one-liner to talk back to negative self-talk about your body. Then, keep using it. (When I had anorexia, I developed “Shut up, you’re trying to kill me,” and I still use it as needed.)

December 19
Write a list of 50 cool things your body has allowed you to do, and doodle pretty pictures in the margins.

December 20
Hide diet advertisements from your feed.

December 21
Sit in a comfortable position, and do a body scan, noticing how you feel all over your body, area by area. It’s harder to hate a body that you are appreciating piece by piece.

December 22
Make a body-affirming playlist!

December 23
Prepare a short response for family members or friends who make a comment about your body or your food choices, such as, “I’m just fine, thank you.”

December 24
Gift yourself a dessert you wouldn’t be ashamed to leave out for Santa.

December 25
Carve out three minutes to meditate in silence, appreciating your body.

December 26
Take your eating disorder or negative self-image for a walk to take out the trash, and literally push your arms toward the dumpster, saying, “be gone.”

December 27
Evaluate relationships that may no longer be serving you, particularly with people who may make you feel bad about yourself, and develop an action plan to deal with them.

December 28
Write a thank-you note to your therapist for the ways they have helped you see your body in a new way. (Don’t have a therapist? Research to find a body-positive one!)

December 29
Think of someone you respect who seems comfortable in their body. Journal about what seems to make it work for them.

December 30
Cancel your gym membership. I don’t care if they have hand sanitizer by the door, we’re in the middle of a freaking pandemic! Bonus avoidance: January in the gym is a self-image hell hole.

December 31
Set a new year’s resolution to love yourself and love your body. Praise it for getting you through 2020, the worst year of so many people’s lives.

What Distance Running Has Taught Me About Activism

Whether you’re a runner, an activist, both, or neither, the ability to set goals, adapt, and persevere is critical to success. I’ve been distance running seriously for a few years, and doing activism my whole life.

Here are things I’ve learned that aren’t covered in political, organizing, and direct action trainings (but should be!):

1. Pacing is going slower than you want to now so you can maintain energy to keep going. I get it, 2020 is a dumpster fire and, at the time of writing, we’re days from the election. But it does not all need to be fixed by you right now. If you are acting like it does, you are very likely to drop out. Success comes from protecting your ability to show up 17 miles later.

2. If you’re working so hard you can’t keep up in a conversation, you need to slow down. Literally. Physically. Now.

3. Take injury seriously. If it hurts your body is telling you to stop. Rest for as long as you need to, which is often weeks or even months. Nothing is more important than your health. ‘Pushing through’ is amateur, and a threat to your ability to continue doing what you love. Breaks and down cycles, including the ones you didn’t plan for, are part of the work.

4. Planning and goal-setting is as important as doing. Accomplishing large goals requires months of advance planning and committing to bite-sized daily goals on your calendar.

5. The smaller slogs are more profound than the flashy moments. The four-mile run on a Tuesday when the weather sucks and you have an early-morning car repair appointment is what makes a marathoner far more than a long-distance run on the best trail or a personal record on the GPS. Phone-banking at home by yourself to catch one person live for a real conversation makes an activist far more than the rare instances of having your picture at a rally on the front page of the news.

6. Journal. Write down what worked and what didn’t, every day. Take the journal with you everywhere you travel.

7. Take fueling seriously. Make sure you’re eating enough throughout the day (every day, not just big run days) and being strategic to eat substantive food that will give you energy, won’t upset your stomach, and doesn’t set your body on edge.

8. Quality sleep is everything. It’s not just the number of hours per day. I’ve found my sleep quality and feeling of being rested upon waking improves markedly when I abstain totally from alcohol.

9. Sturdy underwear. Seriously, what the hell are you trying to do with a wedgie?! I’m sad for you.

10. Make a point to enjoy life along the way. Like running, organizing and activism involves doing a lot of stuff outside — make time to enjoy what you see, smile, and say hi to people.

Parenting + Homeschooling Resources for Indigenous Peoples’ Day (We’re Making It A Week)

Monday is Indigenous’ Peoples Day, and we’re going to make a week of it for my second grader. Here are resources we’re going to be using next week:

Build A Teepee School Art Project

Native American Counting Song

Pocahontas, followed by critical discussion about what and whose purpose is served by narratives like the ridiculously implausible and offensive one about Pocahontas and white man colonizer John Smith

Native American Folk Songs for Kids

Brain Pop Unit: American Indians

America’s Great Indian Nations

Meet the Youth at Standing Rock Protests Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Art Project: Native American War or Medicine Shield

We’re also going to be exploring Native American agriculture by looking at corn fields and areas where Native Americans grew wild rice, perhaps eating some, too!

Note: I’m sharing these resources because frankly I was disgusted by how hard I had to look for them on the Internet while preparing for the upcoming week. I share these resources with acknowledgement that as a white person I live on stolen land and that surely there are other resources that Native Americans might prefer; however, as a white woman committed to anti-racist work and anti-racist parenting I also think it’s important for white people to do our own damn work rather than pushing it onto others. So here I am sharing mine. Feel free to add additional resources for the kids in the comments!

This Is Authoritarianism

It’s not a Republican National Convention. It’s a Trump National Convention. Our executive branch isn’t flirting with authoritarianism. It is authoritarianism.

Consider this:

  • The speakers are primarily Trump’s family, and White House officials potentially violating the Hatch Act, meant to separate political activities from the somber affairs of state.
  • There is no Republican Party platform this year. This is a novel break with tradition and shows there are no ideas in the party beyond following this mercurial, awful man into hell.
  • The United States Postal Service is being deliberately stripped of resources required to make our elections move in a pandemic. This is an active attempt at make it impossible for people to vote.
  • The president has not said whether he will honor an election result, and has made a number of statements casting doubt on the election.
  • The speakers at the convention supporting the president are using tools of right-wing authoritarianism, including fear, demonization of political opponents, and violent-tinged reactionary rhetoric, including on abortion and immigration.

I’m going to be honest. The first night of the Democratic National Convention, I had to step away from the television because I started tearing up, then all-out crying. Not because of what the Democrats were or were not doing (I thought they did a good job considering the circumstances), but because it became so clear to me how much our country has lost during four years of Donald Trump.

Our children are not going to school. They cannot hug their grandparents. People are dying, of coronavirus, of racism. Our economy is down the tubes. We have lost so much so quickly since November 2016, including democratic freedoms that were never perfect but always something to work from.

This is not a hypothetical warning. Authoritarianism has already become more entrenched than even most Democrats would have believed in November 2016. If we believe in democracy, we are going to have to fight for people to vote, for votes to be counted, and for election results and ultimately our Constitution to be honored. It will not be easy, but the alternative is a country where people face state-sponsored violence for typing things like this blog post. That future is uncomfortably close.