I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed Biden’s family plan and non-religious women. Watch here:
I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed Biden’s family plan and non-religious women. Watch here:
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.
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.
I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed diversity and the Biden cabinet, and white women voters. Watch here:
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.
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.
Donate the ‘skinny’ clothes in your closet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Take a #diet break — mute the people on social media who take pictures of their weird weight loss foods. They’ll never know.
Put the emphasis on hunger where it belongs: Donate or volunteer to support your local food bank.
Take yourself for a walk outside. Breathe deep (through your mask). Appreciate your body and its ability to move you through this beautiful Earth.
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.)
Write a list of 50 cool things your body has allowed you to do, and doodle pretty pictures in the margins.
Hide diet advertisements from your feed.
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.
Make a body-affirming playlist!
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.”
Gift yourself a dessert you wouldn’t be ashamed to leave out for Santa.
Carve out three minutes to meditate in silence, appreciating your body.
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.”
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.
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!)
Think of someone you respect who seems comfortable in their body. Journal about what seems to make it work for them.
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.
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.
I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed COVID and women, the women’s vote, and moving past Donald Trump:
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.
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:
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
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!
It’s not a Republican National Convention. It’s a Trump National Convention. Our executive branch isn’t flirting with authoritarianism. It is authoritarianism.
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.
Kids not going back to school. An inability to travel across state lines and give grandma a hug that won’t kill her (or you). People being laid off from their jobs.
The problem is leadership failure, not coronavirus.
Other countries have identified how to manage coronavirus in a way that doesn’t destroy everyone’s lives. The virus is not somehow different in the United States. What is different about the United States, more than anything, is a lack of leadership at the national level.
It’s low-hanging fruit to attack people going to the bar, and believe me, I have some choice words for those recklessly having drinks at the bar as U.S. infections top five million. But you know what? The real problem is a lack of national leadership that would be courageous enough to acknowledge the severity of the crisis and create measures to deal with it.
If we had a national leader, we would have meaningful, temporary lockdowns to cut transmission so that we can have meaningful, in-person contact. Like schools. Sports. Vacations. An economy that can actually move up rather than cutting, shriveling down.
If we had a national leader, we would have testing available to everyone who needs it with rapid results, and contact tracing that would make real life more workable so that we can do the things that we enjoy, for real, not sort of while assuring ourselves that it’s maybe ‘safe’ because there is hand sanitizer as one enters the nail salon.
If we had a national leader, masks would be mandated, not politicized, the needs of children and the most vulnerable would be prioritized when weighing what services to reopen and when, and school board members and governors would not be on the front lines of making decisions for which there should be national policy, guided by public health professionals.
We don’t have a national leader. We have an authoritarian, racist psychopath who doesn’t care how many Americans die.
Coronavirus isn’t doing this to us. A leadership failure is. And so, I am no longer saying COVID or coronavirus is making life tough. I’m saying leadership failure. When my daughter adds to her never-ending list of things she wants to do “when coronavirus is over,” I gently correct her with, “when the leadership failure has passed.”