Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lesbian Privilege

Yeah, you read that title right. No, I'm not crazy.

Look. I know as well as anyone that the "lavender menace" (thanks, Betty) has not always been welcome in feminist circles, okay? I know we're not necessarily included in the lady folds (read into that what you will). However, it's time to put on our big girl panties and move on, because there's a shitstorm (shithurricane? shitsharknado?) of oppression happening on our shores, and ain't nobody got time for that.

As a future member of the Gold Star Club, let me preface this by saying I have no intention of ever requiring an abortion. Dicks kinda freak me out, ya dig? And I know that some of my fellow lady-loving ladies may feel that, because this issue is rather a moot point, it's easier to just ignore it and let the heteros sort this out. Well, the clock is ticking, and they're not sorting it out. So we gotta jump in.

Honestly, it never crossed my mind that this is an issue of sexuality until recently. I had a conversation with a woman who said her gay friends weren't really paying attention to North Carolina or Ohio or even Texas. She said that because it wouldn't directly affect them, they weren't trying to directly affect it. To that I say, uGHHH, because are you an idiot? That's exactly what the GOP assclowns writing these laws are doing!

Quinn knows how I feel.
In all seriousness, though, the reason we can never get anything done is that we never try. You try, and I try, and they try, but where is the collective outcry? I have donated all the money I can spare to make sure that Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli isn't elected the next governor of my state. I have helped ensure that #StandWithWendy trended on Twitter. I have pored over facts, and data points, and poll results, all to try and stop the radical right from taking away mine. But it's not enough, unless you help too.

Abortion isn't a joke. It's not a punchline, or a birth control plan, or something to be taken lightly at all. But that's the thing of it, right? No one put in that position is taking anything lightly. It's a serious thing, and a serious choice. But it is a choice. And really, 90% of women feel relief once they've had an abortion. The only guilt is projected, and perhaps less people would lie about cause and effect if there were less people listening.

Anti-choice is coming around, and soon it will be everywhere if we don't do something about it. Donate to Planned Parenthood or NARAL if you can. Write a letter to your congresspeople - tell them you won't sit idly by while they take control of our bodies, ourselves. Tweet about it; Facebook it; Instagram the hell out of every face that deserves the right to make her own way, on her own terms. We can make it happen if we do it together.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome to Women's Week

Who am I kidding? Every week is Women's Week here at S&W. But in all seriousness, there is some crazy malarkey happening in the world of vaginae, and it's time to rub it out (zing). This is gonna be so much fun, you guys!

For MM this week, I have decided to put together a little primer, if you will, on some of the most incredible feminist media out there. Some are documentaries, some are fiction, but all are spot-on brilliant.

First up, the PBS special MAKERS: Women Who Make America. MAKERS aired in February, but you can watch the whole thing at the link above. This three-part doc interviews many women who were involved in feminism, from the early Mystique days to Women's Lib to some of Fortune 500's featured CEOs. Also, Ms. Streep narrates, so that's a huge bonus.

MAKERS is one of my favorite pieces of television, not only on this loose topic, but in general. I think it's because the film doesn't preach (well, anymore than it should). Merely, it presents the ideas of women from varying backgrounds and viewpoints, the stone-cold facts of the women's movement, and allows you to draw your own conclusions about feminism and the places women find themselves in today.

From the fictional - well, historical fiction - aspect of things, I bring to you the HBO miniseries/docudrama Iron Jawed Angels. I first saw this movie in an honors class I took in high school, and it was the most incredible, heart-wrenching, vomit-inducing, pride-filling spectacle I'd ever encountered. Iron Jawed Angels takes a look at the story of Women's Suffrage, through the lens of Alice Paul (played by Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns. These courageous women, and their devoted compatriots, face innumerable obstacles and unbelievable hardship. From idiotic catcallers to unsympathetic husbands to the President himself, Paul perseveres. She does not falter in her beliefs, nor does she waver in her stance on injustice. 

Iron Jawed Angels may be flawed from a factual perspective (Carrie Chapman Catt, though portrayed quite evilly by Anjelica Huston in the film, was in real life quite influential in suffrage). However, it doesn't take away the impact that watching these events has. One scene that had quite an effect on me is Alice Paul's hunger strike during her imprisonment at the Occoquan Workhouse (my brother's high school crew team raced at Occoquan, so that alone hit close to home). Based on the real-life event, we see tubes forced down Paul's throat, and raw egg poured down them. It's brutal, and scary, and no one should discredit the amount of bravery necessary to continue on after that. Obviously, there is a good outcome, but that doesn't mean the fight was easy.

The last movie is a modern-day exposé; an account of exploitation, defamation, and objectification of women and girls in the media. It's called Miss Representation, and it's quite awesome. The director is Jennifer Siebel-Newsom, wife of California's Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and former actress/current activist. She came up with the idea for the film when she had her second child, and he was a boy. When her daughter was born, they received many congratulations and gifts, she says. But when her son was born, he received a t-shirt that said "FUTURE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES". And she was mystified, and miffed, but accuses herself of similar actions. For example, she was picking out Halloween costumes for her children. And instead of going for the princess/Power Ranger section, she figured animals were safe. Only, she picked a lamb costume for Montana, and got Hunter a lion.

Miss Representation is not, I don't think, trying to say that girls should be tough and boys should be gentle (though there are tough girls and sweet boys and that's okay). It is, though, saying that in the 2nd grade, roughly equal numbers of boys and girls want to be President. By middle school, the number of girls has decreased by over two-thirds. It is saying that commercials and ads in magazines and billboards and reality TV saying over and over and over that girls are there to look pretty. That girls only matter if they're hot. That girls aren't/shouldn't be/can't be smart and pretty, kind and tough...and it's hurting us. It's causing eating disorders and mental illness and our obsession with makeup is not born, it's raised. 

I hope you stay tuned this week, because this stuff is important. I'll be back tomorrow with a special edition of Painted Constellations. As always, peace and love.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Absence of Fear

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something is more important than fear." ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt

It's a quarter 'til three in the morning, but I had to get this down before I lost my nerve. I'm not quite sure where to begin, so I'll start in the middle and see if we can find the original thread. 

Tonight, I watched a movie. That's not unusual, and it wasn't a particularly good movie so I'll spare you the title. The ending of the movie sent me into a crying fit. Also not unusual - I have a tendency, as I've noted previously, to get emotionally invested in the lives of fictional characters. I cry at sad movies; I cry at happy movies; I cry at comedies, because sometimes they're actually funny. But this was not a cry that ended. Sometimes, I start crying and I can't stop.

At first I thought it was because I went off my meds. Then I thought, well, maybe it's because tonight wasn't the best night (it wasn't). But the crying didn't, and hasn't, stopped. And I knew that there was a better reason. It's because the movie touched me, like many bad movies and shows do so well. They reach inside me, to that most tender of spots, and they poke and prod and jab and jar until I can't take anymore. And then they stop, and I have to deal with the aftermath.

There's a scene in the movie where the daughter is literally running away from her mother. And they're both angry and scared and upset, but the mother keeps running. Even though she's two steps behind, in heels, and completely hungover, she keeps running. And eventually the daughter stops, and they talk it out. But the mother never gives up. And I realized that I don't think I know what that's like. I can't say for certain that my parents would chase me.

I've written countless letters to myself. Younger, older, and in-between. I try to give encouragement; a bit of kindness from the future, and a bit of hope from the past. My sixth grade self told me she hopes we're better at "the whole family thing." I don't know if we are or not. I've also written letters to my future children, should I be lucky enough to have any. I wanted them to have written proof that I would do anything for them. But now I'm starting to think that maybe that message was meant for me.

"Dear You," the letter says. "You don't know me yet, but I am your mother. Well, one of them. And I just wanted you to know that, even though we haven't met, and I don't know how you look or act or smile or cry, I love you more than anything. I will always love you more than anything, even if we fight or if you get mad at me or you break the law. Even if you kill somebody (heaven forbid), I will be there to help you hide the body. That's what parents are for."

I haven't been able to make the assessment that anything is more important than self-preservation. I can't tell my parents that I wish they'd tried harder to understand me and less hard to change me. I can't say that I wish my parents hadn't scarred me so deeply or left me so wounded. I'm white; I live in a good house, in a good neighborhood; I have had a brilliant education; my parents make more than enough money for the four of us. I understand privilege. But I don't think privilege has a place anymore when you're a little girl screaming out for attention and love. I don't believe privilege is relevant when all you want is to stop being hurt.

How do the statements I make about pacifism and charity carry any weight if I can't forgive my parents for trying to do the right things? I think it's all over with and I think I've moved past this baggage but then it's 3:15 AM and I've been crying for two hours and it's hard to breathe.

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. My nose is clogged from crying, which is why my vision got fuzzy. I forgot I could breathe through my mouth, too. I want to go to sleep - my head is killing me - but I'm afraid of the nightmares. Those happen more often than I'd like. I feel silly for being afraid, and I feel sillier for what I'm afraid of. They're always people I know - teachers, friends, family - and they tell me that they're tired. That they can't associate with me anymore. That I'm too much to handle. Same words, different people, and always like a punch to the gut. I think they're worse because they're real. If I couldn't imagine them happening in person, they might not be as scary. But they've happened before.

I used to wish I was adopted. That somehow, my real parents made a mistake, and they were in a better place and wanted to take me in. I used to picture myself running away, and having some kindly family take me in and raise me as their own. I could've written and starred in so many '90s family movies that it's kind of a bummer I wasn't born earlier, but I have countless early stories featuring me in various stages of pitiable-ness. 

Sometimes my closet isn't so scary. There are some skeletons, sure, but the door's open and the light's bright and the stack of suitcases in the corner make a nice bench to curl up on. Sometimes the bulb breaks and sometimes the suitcase wobbles and sometimes I can't go in there at all. But I'm getting better. I'm realizing that patterns can start to look symmetrical, but if you examine further, there's a different commonality that's more irregular than not. I'm realizing that even if things are technically about me, that doesn't mean that it started or ended that way. I'm realizing that bags are lighter if you share the loads.

I stopped crying. I still wish there was someone to sing me a lullaby, but I feel a little better when I sing one to myself. Good night.