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.