“Every Artistic Intervention Is A Political Act” – Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz spoke at the Arlington Public Library last night. Even the overflow room was standing room only. It was worth every swollen ankle moment for my pregnant body.

For those of you who don’t know Diaz, he wrote The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, one of my favorite recent novels. Junot Diaz deserves his Pulitzer Prize so bad it makes you want to cry with enthusiastic happiness, like on the level if Miss America were crowned on live television and responded with: “But I’m smart. When are you going to give a shit about that?”

Junot Diaz

While not surprising, it was still delightful to discover that he grew up reading feminist, women of color novelists. Throughout his talk he slammed white patriarchal supremacy, telling us that culture tries to make artists and writers and everyone as white, male and straight as it can, with a message that if you do this, you will be loved. He talked about having his students at MIT look through The New York Times bestseller list one year and identify that an author of color was in the bestseller list only one out of 52 weeks. He spoke defiantly against rampant discrimination directed toward the Latino community, including the pressure to not speak Spanish.

He also spoke a great deal about the unquestioned status of capitalism in our society, and how it appears to be infecting children to the point that they display the pressure to specialize early in life. I enjoyed his comments about capitalism and art, in particular his view that writers and artists shouldn’t expect their art to “do something” (such as make money, or make other people happy), because we must create for the future and not the now. In other words Junot Diaz is a flaming anti-racist, feminist, unabashedly progressive, rebel artist dude. Which makes me want to read more of his books.

He’s brilliant and chill at the same time. I loved his self-deprecating, though not self-apologizing, style. One of my favorite quotes from the evening arose from a question as to why he named the title of one book, Drown, differently in the English and Spanish versions. He chalked it up to being stupid and in his 20s. Summing it up, he said: “It’s like you always have these great ideas as an artist, and then you execute, and then it’s super ass.”

VIDEO: April 2013 To The Contrary Appearance

I appeared on this week’s To The Contrary with Bonnie Erbé, discussing a sexist attack on The New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, a new film about Saudi women’s rights, and students using social media to fight sexual assault on campus. You can watch it here:

Is Adoption A Feminist Issue?

As a feminist and a woman with an adoptive father, I take high interest in adoption-focused commentary. Generally it comes from segments of the right wing without adoptive experiences within their own families. Generally it pisses me off.

Typically the focus is on love. Can love between adoptive and biological families be just as real? From my vantage point (I was raised with equal love from my biological mother and adoptive father), the answer is a strong yes. I find it downright insulting when people insinuate to me personally, or generally within the news media, that something emotional exists between biological parents and biological children that can’t be created in any other way.

I don’t deny that adoptive families can lead to complex emotions and realities. I have struggled to negotiate what not knowing a biological parent means to me. I have felt loss. I have felt shame. I have felt sorrow. I have gone through grief. It has been alienating at times. It is very personal. Every adoptive situation is. Where I’ve landed, at least for now, is a pretty cool place: I feel exceedingly blessed knowing that not two, but three, have actively considered themselves to be my parent. There are three family branches that seem to be equally proud of (and, as needed, exasperated with) me in ways that only families care, regardless of who has the genes and who has been a part of my day-to-day life.

I recently learned a dear friend is an adoptive mother. Her daughter will soon meet her birth mother for the first time. We had a wonderful conversation, riveted by one another’s perspective. For me, it was a relief to hear from the other side, ask questions and share thoughts without fear of somehow hurting those personally invested in how I feel about the facts of my life. I realized, listening to her, how similar adoptive childhood and parenthood can silently feel. It’s not easy, but in the end family is what we declare it to be.

A publication I tend to agree with, the Minnesota Women’s Press, has two features on adoption in the current issue. Feminist Lens On Adoption is written by a transnational adoptee who decided against adoption on feminist grounds after learning of her own infertility, and Love and Loss is written by an adopted mother of a transnational daughter. I am extremely upset with the presentation of these articles together without a third, positive viewpoint.

The first article brings up two great points from a feminist lens. First, transnational adoptees experience intensified ambiguity. Moreso, the notion of “a better life” often carries white supremacist overtones. Though all of my parents are white like me, I can’t begin to imagine how much more complicated my personal experience would feel if culture and color were thrown into the mix. I cannot speak for the transnational adoptee experience, just as they can’t really speak for same-culture experience. Though some issues are the same, others are very different.

Second, many transnational (and heterocultural) adoptions are forced by a lack of resources. It is absolutely shameful that parents who otherwise desire to raise their biological children feel forced to sell them for money, or give them up due to one-child policies, or give them to someone else who has the resources to raise a child. Harkening back to one of those feminist issues that just won’t seem to go away: Empowering care is a human right disgracefully neglected on national and international levels.

I followed up that article with Love and Loss, a column by the editor. The mother of a young transnational adoptive daughter, she wrote that she recently explained “It was the best thing that ever happened to Mommy and Daddy. But it might not be that way for you.” Those comments don’t bother me. But the following sentence really, really does: “Adoption is about loss.”

In my own experience, adoption is a gain, the biggest gain of my life, not a loss. It followed a loss, certainly, but I don’t know that we can globalize that to every adoption, especially those within the U.S. In many cases you have women who choose not to have abortions, willing throughout their pregnancies to give a very big gift to a couple they’ve chosen. I can’t understand how to frame that as loss. I feel pain for others who must be reading this article and feeling similarly written out of the publication.

Taken in tandem, these articles seem to take the issue of transnational adoption and globalize it to all adoption. Because there are strong feminist critiques of the transnational adoption space, there must be feminist critiques for all adoptions. (Though this conclusion is only drawn in the editor’s column.) Of course adoption is a feminist issue, but one that is complicated and must be viewed from the experiences and positions of different women without allowing one to speak for all. That’s what feminism is supposed to do.

This piece was originally published in 2008 on a previous personal blog that is no longer available online. Rather than make edits I will acknowledge the consternation I feel while considering how much I have or have not grown as a writer during these past five years. There are also views stated that I would broaden today. Regardless I am publishing this piece now, as I realize that I may wish to write more about adoption and feminism and identity  from my new, present-day lens as a pregnant woman.

This Needs To Be Said: Americans Look Like Everyone

Who didn’t watch the news coverage of the senseless terrorist bombings in Boston with a mixture of horror and sadness? After coverage shifted from deaths and injuries to the Federal Bureau of Investigation releasing photographs of the suspects, some news anchors suggested that you couldn’t tell by the pictures if they were American or not.

Clearly, this needs to be said: Americans look like everyone.

Americans come in every skin color, hue, and shade that pigment and sunlight know how to put together.

Americans are girls, women, boys, and men. There is not a gender identity or sexual orientation that doesn’t look American – in military uniform, in scouting uniform, or in casual clothes.

Americans have faith. Americans don’t have faith. The Constitution contains a declaration of faith that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This means that Atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and EVERYONE get to look like themselves and look like Americans at the same time.

And American hairstyles, oh so many variations! Sometimes hair is curly, nappy, straight, short, long, or not there for you to see under a traditional head covering.

Americans are short, tall, skinny, fat, and every shape and size that life is able to put together. Americans have ability and disability. There are more than 11 million people here who already look like Americans and are waiting on documents to back them up. Good people are working on that, because diversity is our strength, not our weakness, and it’s freaking amazing gorgeous.

Americans look like everyone. There is not a single American who doesn’t look like an American, because the bottom line is that diversity – which includes so much more than the most privileged white men whom journalists are used to talking to on television – is what America looks like.

Difference, and diversity, and standing up for diversity are what make us look like Americans.

Standing against racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and xenophobia, and ableism are what make us look like Americans.

It is laws and assumptions that separate us on the basis of our skin, on the contents of our underwear, on the accent in our voice that look, frankly, un-American.

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This post is part of the YWCA Stand Against Racism blog carnival – we invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.

Is Volunteer Activism More Legit?

It is fashionable, in feminist quarters, to bash the non-profit industrial complex. To imply that activist work done while receiving a paycheck is somehow less legitimate than a labor of love and only love.

There are a number of problems with this argument. Namely confusing the solution to movement organizations doing a bad job, which is creating and/or fostering movement organizations in a position to do a better job, with martyr-like personal sacrifice. However much your actions matter — and they do profoundly — personal solutions, especially ones that hurt you, will not resolve systemic problems.

Many feminists express justifiable anger with and avoidance of “feminist” organizations that purport to speak for all women while actually representing the needs of women who are and/or look like their leadership; or compromise to the point of becoming a partisan pom squad; or treat the women who work for them like shit. I agree with that. I’m there. But I want you to have your principles and be able to get paid. Here’s why.

First, “don’t get paid” feeds right into economic exploitation, particularly of younger people, that is already common practice at many non-profit women’s organizations. Unpaid internships to do clerical work? Sure, budgets are tight and maybe it’s not illegal, the way it is in for-profit business environments. It’s still highly unethical for the workers it displaces and the students who are often paying tuition for the privilege of answering phones and making copies. And don’t get me started on the low wages many junior staffers are paid, particularly when there’s enough money for others to pull decent salaries. It’s disgusting and a source for shame.

Second, the women’s movement is shifting and needs to keep shifting. #femfuture, a recent report created by online feminists in New York, named and began offering potential solutions to a problem that desperately needs to be resolved: The unsustainable nature of the unpaid work model for online feminism. I argue the concern needs to be extended to feminist activism in general, online and offline (we’re almost at the point where these distinctions shouldn’t be made anymore). We all need to be having #femfuture discussions of our own. There is a point, when people are working so hard to the point of exhaustion, that we need to say — you know what? The old model of feminist organizing, which was heavily dependent on volunteers who were — what do you know — white middle-class housewives, can’t be force-fit to women struggling to pay student loans and support families and “get it all done.” It’s impractical to the point of ridiculous to think that model can somehow be revised to fit the present-day, at least if success is the end goal. We need to figure out a way for more activists to get paid.

Finally, your activist work is not inherently more or less legitimate based on how much you are not or are getting paid for it. Period.

Now that I’ve said that, I’m going to give some advice and share an experience that are outside the realm of “go work for a feminist paycheck.” Because wanting non-profits to pay you for your work, if that’s what you want, and wanting the best for you are not perfectly overlapping circles.

Realistically you can make a lot more money working outside the women’s movement, and making money is not a bad thing. Practically you can make a huge difference in workplaces that aren’t primarily feminist spaces. We need feminists in every industry. If you can do that, and still want to do volunteer activism that speaks to your heart, great. Much of my career has gone this way.

These days I get paid for some of the feminist work I do, but certainly not all of it. It’s a newer situation. After leaving a movement job last year, I was not paid at all for the work I continued to do for some months on a self-directed basis, and I can honestly say what I’ve just described is one of the best things I’ve done for my feminism. Dreams and integrity are too precious to be outsourced to any non-profit organization, no matter what it purports to represent. But I also recognize that it’s not all lofty. I was in a situation at the time where I could afford to have my presence, including a lack thereof, match my values. Being able to afford time for unpaid activist work doesn’t make me any better than someone who can’t.

So in summary, is volunteer activism more legit? No, not inherently. More of this work needs to be paid, and there’s nothing wrong with insisting that you be paid fairly for it. At the same time, unpaid opportunities offer you chances to follow your heart that a check signer may never endorse. I know you’ll do what’s best for you.

Shulamith Firestone, Sheryl Sandberg And #femfuture (Oh My)

“Sisterhood is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters.”  – Ti-Grace Atkinson

Ti-Grace Atkinson

Madness, rivalry, wobbling (and ultimately collapsing) on two legs alone — reading Susan Faludi on the life and death of radical feminist Shulamith Firestone is no trip to the Thomas Kinkade kiosk. One theme I’d like to unpack, which is oddly prescient, has to do with fighting feminists, a topic that gets a lot of attention and little resolution.

There’s actually a simple solution. Ready?

Don’t be an asshole.

No really, don’t be an asshole.

I consider myself to be a cultural feminist, by which I mean that practicing feminist values is an inextricable ingredient of my fight for political and social equality and justice for women and girls. By practicing feminist values, I refer to an orientation to elevate the softer voices in a room, to treat others with accommodation and inclusion and respect, not a “dos and don’ts feminism” that focuses on feminism as a means of correcting the behavior of feminists and/or women. Dos and don’ts feminism, I believe, suggests that we can choose our way out of systematic discrimination against women, if only by not wearing that slutty thing or taking his last name or, if you’ve been listening to the gun lobby, buying a gun. This, in my opinion, leads to judgement and stigma and is the antithesis of inclusive feminism.

A feminist framework of power must in my opinion be culturally feminist, built upon principles of inclusion — let’s empower everyone — rather than dominance, or an approach that says let’s have the loudest voice and shout the others down. At its core, being an asshole is a particularly disagreeable way of exerting dominance over others. And, disgustingly, it happens within the women’s movement all the time. Oftentimes this takes the form of attacking feminist women who in good faith try something new with the goal of helping women advance, like Sheryl Sandberg and the authors of #femfuture, a new report with ideas about how to make online feminism more sustainable.

Do Sheryl Sandberg or the authors of #femfuture perfectly represent my views? No, they don’t. I’m sure they don’t represent yours perfectly, either. And I’m also pretty damn sure that insisting they do or you’ll shout them down in a sea accusations about why they personally are “problematic” in lieu of offering additional perspectives about the problem they attempt to tackle is not productive. In a movement built upon inclusion, everything is a starting point. (I don’t mean to minimize some good concerns that inclusion could be increased — in both works it could, which would improve them very much — but am calling for feminists with additional perspectives to proactively add their voices to the topics at hand rather than declaring the intentions of the speakers to exclude them.)

Within the feminist community, please, let’s not let problematic be the enemy of progress. And let’s focus on the progress.

Faludi’s piece references Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood, a piece by Jo Freeman that I have read and reread several times over the years.  One of the best conclusions is:

Isn’t it time we stopped looking for enemies within and began to attack the real enemy without?

My Morning With The Morning After Pill

You can be a good person, you can be responsible and you can still find yourself, without warning, in an uncomfortable and stigmatized situation.

One night after having sex with someone I was dating, I saw the condom broke. Not like a little. Totally shredded. This scared the hell out of me but I played it cool.

“Are you okay,” he asked. I brushed it off.

“I’m fine,” I lied. “Don’t worry about this.”

Sometimes in a moment of crisis the safest thing to do is not let others know you see it as a moment of crisis. This was one of those moments.

As he slept through the night, I kept my body motionless, bored my eyes into the dark ceiling that seemed ready to suffocate me and FREAKED OUT. “I can’t believe this just happened to me. How could this happen to me? How could I let this happen to me?” The whole gamut of denial and fear and shame.

A calmer synopsis:

At the time I did not want to become a parent, and my life circumstances wouldn’t have made it possible for me to be the kind of parent I want to be today. We, in the context of that relationship, were not suited to be parents together. It wasn’t a bad relationship. It was a decent relationship. But it did not include a shared desire to build a family together. We didn’t even discuss those issues. Some people are scandalized by those who have sex with no intention of getting married and having children, but I didn’t and don’t think there’s anything wrong with adults in their twenties, which we were, who have consensual sex. It’s normal.

This happened at a time when if you needed emergency contraception fast, which I did, your options were to call your doctor, try an emergency room or go to Planned Parenthood. The easiest and quickest thing was what I wanted. Hyper after a sleepless and terrified night, I called Planned Parenthood within minutes of opening, and did not waste any time to have breakfast, drink coffee, shower, brush my teeth or do anything else before going to to pick up some Plan B. I walked up to the front desk, showed them my driver’s license to prove my age, paid what I could afford and that was that.

In the car ride home I wept. I beat myself up for finding myself alone with a box of Plan B in a relationship where I felt most comfortable doing what needed to be done in silence. Alone. I thought of all the horrible things said by sexual fundamentalists who want to make or keep illegal every sex act that doesn’t produce a baby, and I started to internalize them. Emergency contraception is abortion and abortion is murder, they say. Never mind that there’s no science to back that up. When you feel really alone and really scared it’s easy to beat yourself up with others’ words, even ones that are incorrect and you find offensive.

Home at last. It was not even nine in the morning, I was wearing clothes from the day before and I felt like I had been walking up a difficult mountain for weeks. I kept crying in my apartment. I didn’t want to be someone who had irresponsible sex. I was trying to be responsible this time, I swear. I didn’t want to be someone who took emergency contraception without telling her boyfriend. This situation was built for other people — not me — other people. I was, as now, an ardent feminist and an advocate for emergency contraception. This was just not a situation I had been anticipating that morning. I didn’t want it. I wanted to be at work in a boring meeting. I wanted to erase and start over.

Drinking a glass of water to calm down, I read the instructions in the box. I opened the box. I told myself I would go to the bathroom, and then I would take it. I breathed. And, in the bathroom, in those moments before I was going to take the pill I wanted to scream at, I discovered that my period had started.

This story is very personal, but I’ve decided to write about it because in hindsight I’ve gained perspectives on a few themes within this story that I feel need to be said at this point in time.

First, this week’s court decision overturning the Obama administration’s order to, against the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration, block over-the-counter access to emergency contraception for women of all ages is an important milestone for public health. As someone who has gone to get the morning after pill the morning after, I can tell you that time is not a resource to be wasted when you need to avoid a pregnancy effective now. Time is agony. Further, situations can be such that you don’t want to talk to anyone about it, even a pharmacist.

Second, I read what I just wrote and while I was beating the crap out of myself at the time, I think that what I did was incredibly mature. While I was in my twenties then, I think this holds true for women of all ages, including women in high school. Getting emergency contraception as quickly as you can when have already had unprotected sex and don’t want to be pregnant is taking control of your health, your life, your future. Teen pregnancy prevention was supposed to be a bipartisan cause. No one, including the president of the United States, should be looking at young women who know they need emergency contraception as anything but incredibly mature.

Third, I think it’s okay to acknowledge that it’s normal to have a wide range of feelings about reproductive health care. Sexuality and reproduction are intensely personal matters. I felt very sad at the time, and I was a reproductive rights advocate then. I’m one now. Having felt intense feelings nowhere near “I am woman, hear me roar” when preparing to take emergency contraception doesn’t make me any less of a feminist or a strong woman. It’s okay to talk about tough times as tough times. Tough times happen to good people, and acknowledging tough times as they are can help make all of us better people.

Fourth, I’m quite pregnant as I type this today. In fact I’m looking over a huge bubble in my abdomen, holding my future daughter. In contrast to some of the negative self-talk I engaged in then, it is so crystal clear to me at this time that preventing pregnancy is nothing like ending a pregnancy. They should not be talked about as equivalent, and shame on the mainstream media for often allowing this confusion to continue. Having used contraception regularly until I decided to become pregnant is one of the best gifts I’m giving my future daughter, because now I’m ready to have her and give her the best life I can.

If she ever needs emergency contraception and chooses to tell me about it, I will be so proud of her. Sexuality and sexual health can be really hard, sometimes. If she ever cries to me I will not judge her, but support her. I think about these things when reflecting on my morning with the morning after pill.

You Are The Ones You Are Waiting For: Successfully Working With People You Already Have

We could [do this really cool thing], but we don’t have enough people yet.

Ah, recruiting more activists to come to meetings before moving forward with plans to change the world. Having worked with a lot of activists I can tell you this is one of the most common ways people get derailed.

Truth is, you are the ones you are waiting for. Why would you delegate your readiness to be the change you want to see to a mythical army of people you haven’t met yet? They may not exist. But you, brilliant feminist, certainly do.

When you believe in yourselves and work together, small groups of people can be incredibly successful to seed cultural change, force a bad actor to change course, or create or implement a new policy. Many times I’ve pulled off successful actions with small core organizing groups sized anywhere from three to 10 people.

Using a small core organizing group doesn’t preclude you from having a large event where many people show up — and it means you don’t have to keep calling meetings expecting all those people to show up until you give yourselves permission to act (under those pretenses, that day may never come).

Still don’t believe me? Anthropologist Margaret Mead knew a thing or two about peoples and cultures. She said so, too:

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

So ready to get cracking? Here are some additional tips for successfully working with people you already have:

If you’re a leader, be a feminist. Delegate. Listen. Lead in the shape of a circle (emphasizing interconnections and intersections) rather than a triangle (emphasizing hierarchy). It’s not just the right thing to do — it works better.
Although some people never get this memo over the course of a lifetime, it’s especially common when first thrust into leadership to believe that you need to prove you can do it all by yourself and/or tell others exactly what to do and how to do it. That’s a disaster! Not only will you burn yourself out and drive people away, your activism will suffer as a result. More thoughts and more skills create more opportunities to kick ass.

Leadership is working through other people. Orient your thinking around what your small group can accomplish together to boost your odds of success.

Activity: Have everyone go around the room and say three things they can do really well (in the context of an action or campaign).
I love this activity! You may think you know your friends and colleagues, but chances are you don’t know what skills each other has. Next time you’re together, take the time to each say three things you can do really well, such as negotiating, or writing, or editing video, or dealing with difficult people in crisis situations, or logistical details or … Chances are strong you will learn about skills within your group you weren’t aware of before. This becomes really helpful in divvying up tasks.

Due to socialization, it’s more common for women to announce what we can’t do. Affirming what you and others can do is power.

Make sure everyone gets included in discussions.
Some people like to talk. Some people don’t hesitate to throw out the first idea or reaction when the room is silent. Some people are comfortable speaking up in the middle of a spirited conversation. The people who don’t fit in this category have insights no less valuable, so it’s up to you to be a feminist and make sure everyone is included in the discussion. If someone hasn’t spoken in awhile, ask them directly what they think. Or think back to the skills activity and ask them “so what about this from a, for example, photography perspective? Any additional thoughts?”

Elevating the softer voices in a room is one of the most important aspects of feminist leadership. At a micro-level. At a macro-level. Practice it routinely.

Everyone has a job. Every new person who shows up leaves with a job for next time.
Being part of something larger is what energizes people, but don’t mistake sitting there and soaking in other people’s work as filling that hole. Successfully working with the people you already have means engaging all of them. Make sure everyone has a role. Want people to come back (especially first-timers)? Don’t ever leave a meeting or an action without a new activity for everyone to do. That could include something as simple as an invitation to join a celebration potluck after a demonstration, or agreeing to research a policy before coming to the next gathering.

Both new people and existing people are precious. Don’t just treat them that way, acknowledge their worth by explicitly including their presence and their work at your next gathering.

Use the people you already have to recruit people for your big day(s).
Publicizing is great — do it online, do it through social media, do it through likeminded associations, do it through reporters and public relations, do it through public calendars and bulletin boards — but don’t just do that and expect your big crowd to fall out of the sky and into your event. Leveraging the core organizing group you already have means counting on your people to bring people to show up on your big day. Depending on the scale of what you are doing, you might want to ask everyone to commit to bringing one friend to the delivery of a formal letter to a decision-maker (just promise me you’ll record what you’re doing and post the video online), or you might want to ask everyone to commit to recruiting 50 signatures for your petition.

The people you already have are your most important asset, and that includes not just their skills but their networks. Use them or lose them!

A bias toward action is the seed of feminist change. One of the best ways to foster that bias is to believe in, and work with, the people you already have. The likelihood that someone is going to mythically appear and give you permission to move forward is low. The odds are statistically against your favor if you believe that holding meeting after meeting will somehow give you enough people to suddenly believe there are enough people to do something more than meet again and hope for more people. But your ability to kick ass is omnipresent. So grab it and go!

Why I Am Not Posting Pregnancy Photos To Facebook

I am a pregnant woman. Never in my adult life have I had fewer rights under the law, more intrusive comments and questions from people in the public space. I don’t need to be objectified any more than I already am. This is not a body for you to glance at, scroll down, expand the window, draw your own conclusions about and “Like.”

That is why I am not posting pregnancy photos to Facebook.

We, as a culture, live in public. I, as a human being, made a strategic decision to live in public several years ago. I believe that a woman telling her story has the power to change society.

That is why I rely strongly on personal narrative, because I want you to know I’m proud to be pregnant and pro-choice, I’m proud to be pregnant and an eating disorder survivor, and I want you to be proud to be whoever you are and tell your stories without shame — whether you relate to my experiences or not.

So why am I drawing the line at pregnancy photos?

Because I want to share my pregnancy in the way I experience it and choose to share it, not in a way for others to see it and choose to interpret it.

Because carrying a wanted pregnancy is an act of immense love and sacrifice that is, at its core, an astonishing and sacred experience of beauty. For me. This time.

Others’ experiences are, I’m sure, different.

I am fortunate to have, to be able to have, a loving spouse with whom to share doubts, fears, glee, joy and stomach troubles during these most private of times.

I am offended to imagine breaking the spell of our intimacy as a couple and family, and my integrity to sense of self as seen fit to share by posing, anticipating others looking at me and calling it “cute.”

A number of friends have begged for photos. I know you mean well. I know you want to share this time with me. I am happy to “Like” your pregnancy photos if you choose to share them with me. I encourage you to be happy that I am sharing this time in my life on my level.

If you are itching to honor me during this time, or do something quick online to lift my spirits because I’m pregnant and my back hurts, I will point you directly to the Meet the Press website where you can, in solidarity, share your alarm that recently they had one token woman against reproductive rights and four men discussing the new six-week abortion ban in North Dakota, the most restrictive abortion law on the books. By presenting reproductive rights as a matter of public morality, mainly as judged by men, rather than the lived and incredibly visceral experiences of individual women, the mainstream media is colluding in the massive infringement of my civil and human rights.

When the silencing of people like me in mainstream media and public policy is so extreme, it is hard for me to get excited about the voyeurism of cutesy pregnancy mania on social media. It is hard for me to believe the pressure to perform for the camera and the pressure to keep my mouth shut about my human rights are not interconnected.

Maybe if we all get together socially and “Like” one other’s pregnancies it will be okay. But it’s not. One of us might find ourselves pregnant and in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then, in the name of someone else’s abstract notions of morality enforced by the state, one of us might die. Or have a forced C-section. Or be incarcerated or detained because we were pregnant.

I refuse to be a smiling snapshot of this awful era for pregnant women. Opting out is my act of difference. Speaking out is my act of defiance.