Best Girlfriends

I keep seeing annoying articles about how having best girlfriends will help a woman live longer. The posts are usually accompanied by a picture of a group of women in tiny outfits with drinks in their hands.

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My best girlfriends and I don’t live as close together as we once did. We aren’t as skinny as we once were. We don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. We don’t wear maxi dresses. We don’t post pictures on Facebook or Instagram of us going out with our nails painted. We don’t visit L.A., New York, or Las Vegas. We have rarely gone on any vacations together in our adult lives.

My best girlfriends and I have been friends for more than 20 years. My best girlfriends are my people. They are my heart. My best girlfriends and I love each other. We look out for each other. We worry about each other. We talk to each other. We talk about each other. All of us would go to battle for one another in a heartbeat, even if we knew ahead of time that we would face defeat. We are sisters and that’s infallible.

Also, we are adults. My best girlfriends and I, for the most part, grew up together. But mostly, we grew up.

We have jobs. We have hobbies. We have classes. We have debts. We have to pay our rent or our mortgages. We have to pay our bills.

Some of us have children and we have to think about childcare or babysitting. Some of us have husbands or wives and we consider our partners in our plans. Some of us are dating. Some of us have more than one job or more than two jobs or more than three jobs. Some of us are struggling with money or depression or both.

Some of us have lost family members. Some of us have aging parents. Some of us have family members who are struggling and take up our time. Some of us live paycheck to paycheck and are trying to get by.  Some of us are working on our Master’s Degree. Some of us would rather work in the garden than check email. We all have different lives.

For the last six months I have tried to make plans with my best friends. Sometimes the plans work out.  Most of the time something comes up and we have to reschedule.

Never once have I wondered if my best friends have forgotten me. I don’t need a trip to Vegas or a fancy manicure or a medical study or a cheesy stock photo to give credence to a relationship that is obviously sustaining and precious.

I love my best girlfriends. I know that regardless of what life brings us, we will always have each other.

If having best girlfriends will help a woman live longer, I’m excited to live forever.

Enough Enough Enough

Today, a lot of my friends on Facebook circulated the video of Ellen’s monologue from her talk show condemning new discriminatory legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi.  At first, I didn’t watch the video.  I had already seen so many comments from my friends and from several activists.  I read the legislation and I know what it means for LGTBQ people in North Carolina and Mississippi. It means that they would be safer if they moved out of state. There’s a scene from the movie, Milk, that keeps playing over and over in my mind:

I love Ellen.  I love her show.  I admire her trailblazing.  I adore her for what she has done for women in comedy.  I will forever be grateful for her role in LGBTQ visibility and progress.  There is no doubt that she sacrificed her career and personal well-being when she came out publicly.  What she has done for LGBTQ people is nothing short of revolutionary.  I appreciate everything that she has historically put on the line for the LGBTQ movement.

That said, I thought her commentary about recent legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi was frivolous and insensitive.

We are past the point of cute jokes and ha-ha interludes. They belittle the argument about human rights. From the perspective of a queer person, from someone who has also experienced discrimination for being a lesbian, I thought that Ellen’s monologue was weak. Since North Carolina’s discriminatory law passed, at least two LGBTQ people have committed suicide, citing injustice and a lack of protection. We will see the same in Mississippi. Children and friends are dying, literally dying, because of these laws. There is no room for joking.

For some people within the LGBTQ community, it is easy to feel tired about the the fact that we are still fighting. On many days, I feel tired.  The privileged, passing, white, middle-class part of me, feels tired.  Because the privileged, passing, white, middle-class part of me can, for the most part, live in peace.

Recent legislation in the south is a stark indication that we are not yet out the weeds on the issue of human rights for LGBTQ people.  This is especially true when it comes to particular cross sections of the LGBTQ community–transgender people, people of color, young people, and poor members of our community.

It is not okay to make light of recent discriminatory laws enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi.  It’s not okay to use a mass media platform to joke about spelling or references to musical groups in the context of discrimination, suicide, and hate.

There are many of us in the LGBTQ community who have seen incredible progress in the last decade.  We have seen incredible victories.  Let us not forget that in more than half the states in the union it is completely legal to be fired from a job for no reason other than one’s sexual orientation. Essentially, in more than 27 states, it is perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay.  In many states, an LGBTQ orientation can lawfully get you kicked out of a restaurant or refused service from a retail store.

The elders of the LGBTQ community in the United States have worked loudly, smartly, and diligently for years to gain the equal rights and protections that so many of the LGBTQ community enjoy today.  There has been incredible progress.  But, to be fair, the LGBTQ community didn’t earn “equal rights” because our small percent of the population was loud enough to make it happen.  The LGBTQ community was granted marriage equality and a smattering of other equal protections because there were several communities, including privileged and straight allies, who came to the table and demanded equal protection. Marriage equality and other protections happened for the gay community, not because we were here and queer, but because we worked for it and because we had help.

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There are still many people in the LGBTQ community working and there are still many people within the community who need help.  Not all of us live in big cities.  Not all of us have financial resources.  Not all of us are white.  There are many people who live under the LGBTQ umbrella and who live in places with laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation. There are many people who face discrimination even when the law is supposed to protect them.

Right now North Carolina and Mississippi are the most glaring cases because they are current and have been in the news.  However, there are people all over our country living in fear.  Subtle discrimination can be just as dehumanizing as lawful and overt discrimination.

When a state passes legislation that puts an entire population of people at risk, it is no time for making jokes.  There is nothing light or funny about the lawful marginalization of people.  It is up to those of us who live in places of privilege, or who come from places of privilege, to stick our necks out for those who are hurting the most.  It is the only way that justice can be realized.

 

How To Be A Terrible House Guest

The holidays aren’t easy.  This season is filled with chasms of disappointment and stress.  If you are taking up quarters with a friend or loved one, there is really no point in trying to make this time of year easier. Don’t bother picking up after yourself or offering to help with household chores.  If you are staying with a friend or family member any time soon, just make yourself comfortable and let your hostess deal with everything.

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Here is a list of things you can incorporate as a part of your stay in order to make your stay as excruciating as possible for everyone around you:

  1. In the planning process for your stay, try to be as vague as possible. Don’t bother to consider the hostess and her schedule.  Suggest no definite dates and instead give an approximate time frame about when you might show up and when you might leave.  Plan to stay for at least a week.  When you finally report on an approximate arrival date, arrive two days early so that whatever the hostess had planned for those two days has to be cancelled.
  2. Bring far more bags than you need for your stay. When you arrive, bring one or two bags into the house on your own but then demand help after that.  After the hostess has shown you where you will stay, express exasperation and the need for help with the rest of your baggage.  When the hostess begins to help, direct her as to where you wish your stuff to go.
  3. Once your ample bags have been removed from the car, strew them all over the room you are staying in so that it is impossible to access any closets. If the hostess offers cubbies or a dresser for you to put your stuff away, ignore her wholeheartedly and leave your stuff in bags on the floor for the duration of your stay. While you are at it, go ahead and leave stuff in the kitchen and in other rooms of the house as well.  As an added insult, bring extra boxes from your car that you won’t need during your stay and add them to your mess.  Further, if you are related to the person and will see them in the future, bring extra boxes of miscellany and ask the hostess to store them for you for an indeterminate amount of time.
  4. Bring your dog or other family pet. To really foster misery, bring a cat if the household you are visiting has a dog, or bring a dog if the household has cats. Set the pet’s bed in the kitchen or dining room, somewhere very intrusive.  When other guests wonder about your pet, ask if they knit and then demand that they make little sweaters for your animal.
  5. When things start to settle and people seem to accept your rudeness for idiosyncratic eccentricities, set up elaborate and messy art projects in common areas of the house. If possible, choose an art project that requires many colors of paint or glitter.  To be particularly awful, set up your art supplies at the kitchen table just before dinner.
  6. For the entire duration of your stay, do not do any dishes. Don’t do any chores at all.  If the hostess asks you to please excuse her as she tries to take out the garbage or completes another household chore in front of you, shoot her a dirty look for interrupting you (and your art project).
  7. Ask the hostess to do your laundry for you. When she makes your bed every day for the entirety of your stay, neglect to thank her.
  8. Never ever offer to contribute to a household meal. Snack while the hostess is clearly slaving away in the kitchen.  Complain about the food when it is served.
  9. Ignore most of the conversations provided by the other people in the house. While other members of the household sit at the table talking jovially, bring out a board game, set it up, and commence playing by yourself. Don’t ask if anyone wants to play.  Set up the game as if everyone at the table volunteered to play.  When they show no interest, roll for each person until they finally give in and start playing.
  10. When bored, rearrange the household décor. Take tchotchkes from one shelf and move them across the room.  Hide mementos and family heirlooms without saying anything so that when you finally leave the hostess wonders if you stole them.
  11. Disengage from the normal household conversation. Don’t bother to try and contribute to on-going conversations.  Instead, take out your iPad or phone and ignore everyone until you shout about various things you’ve seen on Facebook. Shout things like, “This cat is on a goat!” or, “I love the new Pope.”  Interrupt everyone.  When things seem calm and quiet, start directing everyone about what they should be doing but never get up from the table.
  12. If the hostess expresses frustration with some of your inconsideration, remind the hostess about something you paid for in order to shut her up.

 

The holidays are hard.  Why bother trying to make them easier with goodwill or manners?  Go big or go home.

 

My Fat

For the past few weeks I have been participating in a weight loss challenge through my gym, the South Yuba Club, in Grass Valley and Nevada City. The challenge has been fun and the people at the gym have been supportive and great. I haven’t really said much about it except for some alluding hashtags on my Instagram account with pictures of salads and fresh food. Truthfully, I feel like the whole weight-loss culture is annoying.

I applaud people who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I understand the culture. Since I have been going to the gym a lot lately, I totally get it. It feels good to make good choices. But the constant social media updates are annoying. They range from, “I took a wonderful walk today” (Not bad.) to “I’ve lost 40 pounds with Vegal Life and YOU CAN TOO!” (Excruciating.)

I have an acquaintance on Facebook who has lost a lot of weight in the past year. If there is anything else going on in her life, I have no idea. She hasn’t posted about anything else. The only thing she cares about is how much weight she has lost and how many half marathons she plans to run. I no longer know anything about her except that she has lost weight.

One month ago, I was the fattest that I had ever been. But, honestly, I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. It turns out that the two are completely mutually exclusive. I’m happily married. I have a great job. My family is healthy and happy. I have lots of hobbies and friends and things to do. I love my garden and my cats. I feel good when I get up in the morning.

My weight has fluctuated my entire adult life. When I was in the 6th grade, I was one of the chubby kids. By the time I hit the 8th grade, I was one of the popular girls. Since I turned 22, my weight has ranged from 125 pounds to 216 pounds and everywhere in between. I’m now 34 years old. When I graduated college when I was 24, I weighed 200 pounds. By the time I hit 26, I was in the best shape of my life and climbed Mt. Whitney in a day. By 2009 I was working an office job and had gained 40 pounds. In 2010, I started jogging and got back down to 135 pounds and was running 3 miles each day and riding my bike to work. Then I moved to a small town with no sidewalks or trails and I gained weight again.

Me, fours years ago, when I weighed 135 pounds.

Me, fours years ago, when I weighed 135 pounds.

Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult. For me, the weight-loss culture is almost as annoying as the fat-shaming culture.

In the past decade, my weight has fluctuated enough to know, with no equivocation, that people treat me differently when I’m fat. When I’m overweight, people question my intelligence, my judgment, and my input. I don’t get invited to places as much when I’m overweight. My IQ, my innovation and my capability doesn’t change with my body size but the respect I receive definitely changes. And it’s excruciating.

And that’s why I want to lose weight.

50 Shades of Black and White

A response to Miriam Grossman’s Open Letter to Young People About 50 Shades of Grey:

As someone who lives in a loving, committed relationship which, up until very recently, was seen as obscene or perverse and, in some places in the world today, is still punishable by death, I am incredibly weary when people, especially medical professionals, begin making blanket statements about what is and is not “healthy,” “normal,” or “appropriate” for young people or adults in consensual relationships.

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I am an out lesbian with a wife. I’m still fairly young. Every time I introduce my spouse to someone new and say, “This is my wife,” I am coming out of the closet and assuming a vulnerability that few people have to face on any regular basis when making introductions and small talk. It has been a while since I have faced outright discrimination or blatant disgust about my homosexuality but, over the years, I have been spat on, chased, and threatened with violence.

It was only 25 years ago that the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Today, in the United States, there are still 13 states where it is illegal for same-sex partners to marry. In 29 US States, being gay is still a legal reason to fire someone from their job. If I had been born in Yemen or Iran, my punishment for being born gay would be death.

The fact of the matter is that it is no one’s business what my wife and I do in our bedroom. But, for those who are really interested: we mostly sleep, sometimes we read, sometimes we watch Downton Abbey or Once Upon A Time or So You Think You Can Dance, and sometimes we make love. Mostly, our lives are fairly routine and we have to do things like go to work, pick up the groceries, clean the house, and pay the bills. Sometimes, on good days, we get to go out to dinner or catch a movie. Being a lesbian is almost as boring as being heterosexual.

In addition to being a lesbian, I am also an out and proud feminist. (Though, trust me, the two are mutually exclusive.) It somewhat pains me to admit, in a public forum, that I read all three of the Fifty Shades of Grey books by E.L. James. Since I have a degree in English Literature, it further pains me to admit that I really enjoyed reading them, especially the end of the third book. They were fun. The story was a fairytale, a fantasy. I didn’t read the books looking for relationship advice in the same way that I didn’t read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild as a field guide for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. There are flaws in the E.L James trilogy but, from my perspective, most of the problems are with the adjectives and the occasionally watery dialogue, not with something that might have made the feminist hairs on my body stand up.

Dr. Grossman delivers her warning to young people as though young women have no license or knowledge about their own desires and sexual health. She assumes that every young woman is a victim and has no ownership about what she wants or desires sexually.

It is important to acknowledge that a healthy relationship is a relationship that involves people consenting to the terms of their relationship. Consent is a verb and I think the best definition of the word was found on the back of a t-shirt produced by the California National Organization for Women in 2004: consent, v. to actively and willingly participate in any given activity, without coercion or force. Consent is a verb available to those who are of sound mind and body, able to give consent wholly. I want to be clear that children, animals, the mentally disabled, and those not in control of their faculties for whatever reason, do not fall into the category of able consent.

Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey are literary characters. They do not provide us with a clinical study. They are not scientific beings. They are not available for psychological analysis because, simply, they do not actually exist. It is unfair and unrealistic to base a scientific opinion on how relationships exist based on literary characters. I will go as far to say that I feel it is inappropriate and irresponsible to give blanket professional advice about real-world issues using literary examples.

Relationships are hard. Sexuality is an even more difficult subject to dissect. Young men and women in the United States today are facing an unprecedented era in sexuality. With the abundant availability of literary genres covering sex as a topic, the internet allowing young people to view pornography and active sexual acts at each person’s fingertips and, with less and less comprehensive sexual education and reduced access to services like family planning and birth control, we now have a large population of young people with lots of questions and hardly any real answers.

Further misinformation and blanket directives are not going to help.

I remember being young and confused. I remember experimenting with my sexuality. I remember wondering if I could be “normal” or “okay.” I took risks to understand myself. I took consensual risks. I had trusted boyfriends and girlfriends. I had sexual escapades. (Sorry Mom and Dad. I know that you read my blog. Love you.) I experimented sexually until I was ready to understand myself sexually and what my sexuality meant. It was a confusing and an enlightening process. But I had consensual partners. As a gay woman trying to make sense of things, I felt kinky and awkward and outcast for many years.

Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey do not give people an accurate sense of relationship. But they give people a platform. They give people a place to start a conversation.

I don’t think that any outside relationship can give people an accurate depiction of relationships. We have to love how we love. We have to want how we want. We have to be how we are. Relationships happen in relationships. Love happens in love. Life happens in life.

Sexuality is a tenuous subject. What pleases us and what makes us hot is individual.

It’s okay to have sexual fantasies. It’s okay to want to play. It’s okay to act out. As long as the people involved establish sober boundaries and set parameters, and as long as they decide what the limits are, it’s okay.

What we do in our own consensual relationships is no one’s business. For grown women and for young women and for the partners we choose.

If what we choose is consensual, there are no shades of gray.

My Feminist Crossroads

Sometimes we hold it in. Sometimes we bite our tongues. Sometimes we lose our poise and our diplomacy. Sometimes there are things we wish to say but know that we would be better for not saying. Sometimes we say those things anyhow. Sometimes we lose our shit.

I am ready to lose my shit.

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But I know that words like “bitch,” “cunt,” “whore,” and “slut” are words better never said. Even when they are viscerally on the tip of the tongue.

I am at a feminist cross roads.

The last time that I can remember wanting to use the word “bitch” in print was in college, ten years ago, when I was monitoring the website for the UC Davis chapter of the National Organization for Women and was quoting an article from the feminist periodical Bitch Magazine.

These days I’d like to use the word bitch in a traditional and phenomenal way.

My family recently found out that, for the past several months, my brother’s wife has been cheating on him with a mediocre rapper from the San Francisco Bay Area. The only word I want to use these days, with regard to this issue, is “bitch.”

Well “bitch,” “cunt,” “whore,” and “slut”. Those are the particular words I’d like to put into print over and over over and over. (Not on my blog. I’d like to put them into a series of text messages directly to my brother’s wife’s phone number.) I’m trying to be polite by posting them here for every one else to see.

My brother isn’t perfect. (And for complete disclosure, the man whom I’m referring to in this blog is actually my brother-in-law, my wife’s brother, and not my actual blood. But still, he’s my brother.)

My brother is a great man and he is also an imperfect man. First and flawlessly, he is a wonderful father to my nieces, two beautiful young women, whom he has primary custody of. He is sweet and often insecure. He has a hard time dealing with his insecurity and so he tends to act out when he is afraid. Sometimes he raises his voice. Sometimes he argues. Sometimes he is so insecure that he picks fights for reassurance. He is an artist and a beautiful vocalist. He plays the guitar and he paints. He has had a hard time having successful relationships because he hasn’t had a lot of reasonable role models for successful relationships in his life. (I know the issues. I’m married to his older sister.) But, like his older sister, my wife, he is a lover and he tries.

I am not saying these things to validate my desires to use terrible words against a particular woman. Too often, as women, we use a few nice men to invalidate or eliminate the male-dominated indoctrination and misogynistic society that we live in. Just because my brother is a nice and complicated guy doesn’t mean that an entire gender isn’t also marginalized. Please don’t misunderstand me.

My brother is a good man. Women still make $.76 to a man’s dollar and are usually demonized or marginalized when successful, pretty, happy, skinny, married, single, poor, ugly, fat, religious, depressed, childless, motherly, atheist, cheerful, athletic, or basically any incarnation of woman that a woman can be.

I am finding myself in uncharted waters.

I don’t know how to be a feminist woman and concurrently feel biting anger and vehement disapproval of my brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife’s infidelity and sexual indiscretion. I honestly just want to lash out.

My Thoughts on Sexual Assault

Let me put it short and simple.  Let me be clear: ALCOHOL DOES NOT RAPE; RAPISTS RAPE. CLOTHES DO NOT RAPE; RAPISTS RAPE. A woman should be at leisure to go out by herself and enjoy a night alone in whatever outfit she chooses, the same way that a man is afforded the same such opportunity in our society. A woman should be allowed to approach an establishment and order a drink, without the fear of being drugged or coerced, the same way that a man is allowed to. Any woman, in any fashioned outfit should be allowed to patron any bar, restaurant, or any other place of public enjoyment without ridicule or fear that she may be targeted, drugged or assaulted. No woman should be targeted or forced to be the victim of assumed consent for any reason. Not ever. Not ever. It is never okay to assume that a woman is a “slut” or “giving it up” or a willing participant in sexual activity simply because of what she wears or what she drinks. A woman is never allowed to be characterized as a willing victim of sexual violence because she had a drink or wore a short skirt. No woman deserves to have violence thrust upon her person simply because she enjoyed a martini (or several) or because she wore a skirt above her knee. There is nothing that a woman can do that allows the activity of a man preying upon her to be acceptable or lawful. No. Never. Not ever. Stop talking to your daughters about what they should wear or what they should drink, and start talking to your sons about how they should treat women.

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Twerking: Our Words Matter

I turned on National Public Radio in my car to hear local and national news.

I heard a word that I’ve never heard before: “Twerking”

As an educated person, with a degree in English Literature, this new word intrigued me. If NPR is using it, it must be a real word. Right? I’d never heard it before.

At the first stop light, I did what every English Nerd does with a new word: I grabbed the Webster’s Dictionary from the backseat of my car and searched frantically.

Nothing. No twerk. No twerking. Tweet, tweeter, tweezers, twelve, twenty, twerp, twice, twiddle. Twerk wasn’t there.

Hmmm. Maybe “twerking” was a new word from some wonderful obscure novel I hadn’t heard of yet. Maybe it was like “Muggle” in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Series or “Sneetch” of Dr. Seuss fame. I turned up the radio to catch the rest of the story. Something about Miley Cyrus. Something about an awards show.

video killed the radio star MTV

It wasn’t until I sat in front of a computer, and could search the word “twerking,” before I actually understood it’s definition.

There it was. It was a part of mainstream headlines. CNN. NPR. It wasn’t from a book review. It was headline news.

(As defined by UrbanDictionary.com and quoted from the website), Twerking is defined this way: “Also known as dirty dancing. When a woman slams her bottom on a mans pelvic area while dancing. The man can also lunge his pelvic area forward for a harder bang. This is usually performed in a dance club along with upbeat music.” Example sentences include: “Damn, her ass was twerkin’ on my junk, I hope she didn’t feel my shlong.” And “I saw you twerking with that girl. That ass was bouncing all over you”

Aside from The Urban Dictionary, there is no other dictionary in the world—in print or online—that recognizes the word “twerking”. CNN and NPR ran lead stories this morning using “twerking”in the headline, a word that is not recognized by any academic or professional institution.

The Onion has poked fun. Bloggers have made some comments about the raunchy performance. The socially-enlightened have mused about the cultural context of Ms. Cyrus’ dancing. Actor Will Smith and his family were visibly aghast as they sat in the audience for the presentation. We can talk forever about slut-shaming, womanhood, white-black issues and our young female icons.

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I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about words.

I’m not saying that made-up words are bad. Shakespeare’s use of the word “swagger” in Midsummer Night’s Dream is a wonderful way to use a new word. In the context of Act 3, Scene 1, swagger was an onamonapia presentation of what was happening in the scene. Swagger made sense. Words have context. Words mean something.

As a poet and a writer, words mean something to me. As a person who updates her Facebook status and sends emails, I’m pretty sure that words mean something to other people as well.

I received my degree in English Literature from UC Davis less than a decade ago. It was before Facebook and social media. Myspace had barely begun to break ground. We used newspapers and magazines to read articles; they weren’t just for packing boxes while moving. People thought carefully about what they said. There was something about the tangible feel of print on paper that made journalists careful about the words they chose.  Clearly, those days are gone.

video killed the radio star

I have been worried about words. I have been weary about media. I had hoped that there was still some level of journalistic integrity left in America.

We need journalistic integrity in America more than we have ever needed it.

Today, I have lost all hope.

As a country, we have riches. We are privileged. We have clean water. We have incredible infrastructure. There is food on our grocery store shelves. Not all of our citizens are receiving the trickle down, many remain hungry, without water and food. That’s a shameful tragedy. As a nation, we have our share of problems. Still, as a nation, we have much, much more than most people who live on this earth with us.

Included in our riches, we have the luxury and necessity of a free press.

We have a constitutional precedent that no other county on earth has. We have, written into the law of our land, the first amendment of our constitution, an amendment that sanctions words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

When our forefathers wrote that we should have freedom of press, it wasn’t for the word “twerking”.

Today, we live in a world climate, a world that our forefathers could have scarcely imagined. We live in a world economy. We live with a world awareness. We live in this world together. We live altogether on this earth. America and its media cannot deny its power. America has a means that most of the world doesn’t have and cannot even fathom.

What Egypt is going through today, is what we are all going through, because it is something we can all have an impact on. What Syria is going though, is something we are also suffering. Where there is hunger, there could be food. Where there is disease, there could be inoculation. Where there is war, there could be peace.

We have more knowledge than ever. We have more access than ever. We have more technology than ever. We have more understanding than we have ever had on earth.

For the first time in the world’s history, we have 24/7 access to the rest of the world.

Today, in the greatest world-power on our earth, in the country with the greatest constitution, in a place that has the most unprecedented, historical access to words, in a place where words are handed to citizens by our government”s gospel, in a place where our media is protected by law, our nation’s sanctioned media decided to lead the day’s stories with Miley Cyrus and the way she dances, using a word that most people had to look up on the internet and that doesn’t exist except in slang.

The media is degraded. The excuses are terrible.

No more excuses. We could do better. We have to do better.

Words matter.

Stop Buying Girl Scout Cookies

I remember my first and last Girl Scout meeting. My mom told me that I was going to be a scout and I was so excited to learn to tie knots, and for wilderness adventures, that I was jumping for joy. When, at the first meeting, I was told that I would learn to sew a pillow and not much else, I was incredibly disappointed. I refused to return. I am hopeful that the Girl Scouts have come a long way baby in the last 20 years but the fact that the organization still calls itself the “Girl” Scouts, still recruits based on gender interpretation, and whose primary fundraiser involves the distribution of sugar-laden, processed food tells me that the organization still has a long way to go.

Recently, the Huffington Post ran an article about a young Girl Scout who was launching a campaign against the organization for what she perceived to be outward support of transgender rights. She called for the boycott of the organization and their tasty cookies because she didn’t want to support an organization that even remotely tolerates gender non-conformity or is perceived to support LGBT rights. (Too bad she couldn’t be a boy scout. That organization still outwardly discriminates against homosexuals, who are forbidden to join the Boy Scouts or participate in the organization’s activities.) As a counter-action and as a supportive strategy to combating this outright gender discrimination, and gender-perception discrimination, on the part of one particular Girl Scout and those who share her views, many supporters of the LGBT community have begun upping their orders of Girl Scout Cookies.

According to an article put out by CBS News, Girl Scout Cookies are produced by subsidiary agencies of Keebler, whose parent company is Kellogg’s. Like most giant food corporations, the Kellogg Company has been the guilty party in a number of dirty dealings in recent years. Kellogg’s had to pay consumers after a class-action lawsuit determined that the company purposefully misled consumers about the health of their products. Currently, the company is under investigation after three deaths resulting from Salmonella poisoning were genetically linked to the company’s products. Among a vast number of organizations, an organization known as Eco Women, which was founded by women from all across the US to promote access to healthy foods and a healthy environment, called for the boycott of the Kellogg Company in 2008 because of its use of genetically-modified sugar beets in their products. For a well-researched and cited article about the risks of genetically modified foods: http://citizensforjustice.org/component/content/article/112

I am an organic farmer on a small, organic, sustainable farm. I am also a lesbian. I implore folks who are trying to end discriminatory practices to immediately discontinue the policy of buying Girl Scout Cookies. I understand the message our community is trying to send, but buying corporate and processed foods will not end discrimination. On the contrary, buying and supporting corporate agribusiness will absolutely further discrimination in the deepest roots of our societal fabric.

The disenfranchisement of marginalized populations that results from agri-business, and the mass-production and distribution of processed food is many-fold. Corporate food conglomerates have served to destroy small, family-owned businesses all across the country, taking government subsidies to further mono-crop productivity and out-pricing small, diverse farms; they have infiltrated low-income populations with unhealthy foods by systematically cornering markets and blocking access to healthier alternatives; they have consistently and successfully lobbied to limit consumer choices; they have been responsible for a number of extreme pollution incidents, particularly with regard to pesticides and water-poisoning in rural and poorer communities; they have, without apology or a hint of regret, introduced genetically modified foods with no labeling and little or no research as to the GMOs long-term effects on either the earth or the human body; and they are almost single-handedly responsible for the obesity epidemic in this country, which by and large adversely affects already underserved populations, specifically women, children and people of color. The answer to one person’s discriminatory policy should not be to support another’s.

I believe that we need to combat discrimination, empower young women and support our community. I am for supporting programs and organizations that strengthen the community, encourage diversity and enrich lives. Unfortunately, the buying, distributing and eating of Girl Scout Cookies does not serve that purpose.

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Women and the New Paradigm

I look good in a dress.  I love to cook.  I find a sweet triumph in making jam.  I swoon for a bouquet of flowers and stop to smell scented candles at any opportunity.  These may not be the initial attributes used to describe a feminist but I am that also.  My mother was a feminist before me.  Growing up, she made sure that I had met a female police officer, firefighter and member of clergy before I could read.  She wanted me to believe that I could have any job I wanted.

I mowed the lawn today. I can use a power drill. I can fix irrigation and am handy with a pipe cutter. I own a staple gun, a ratchet set and a saw.  I can dig a ditch.  Despite my upbringing, my relationship with power tools is new.  Though I was sure that I could be/do anything, I majored in English Lit in college, took a few women’s studies classes and joined an employment sector dominated by women: social services.

I often wonder what my mother thinks now that I have no job at all.  At least, not in the traditional, paid-work sense.  When she was trying to arm me with the attitude that I could have any job I wanted, no matter that I was born a girl, she didn’t know that, when I grew up, there would be no jobs and that, not just women, but men as well, would have to learn to develop through that.  As a strong woman, with feminist values, I think my mother saw an opportunity and duty to instill in me a sense of opportunity so that a next generation of women wouldn’t have to back track on all the victories women of her generation gave to the women of mine.

Still, for all the trail-blazing done by past generations of women, women today are still under-served, under-represented and suffering. A study published by the Boulder Community Network, a service sponsored by the University of Colorado, reveals that, of the 14 million AFDC (more commonly known as welfare) recipients, only 4.5 million are adults and of those 4.5 million adults, 90 percent are women.  As our government officials, a strong majority of whom are men, debate our national debt and kick around the idea of cutting social programs (which the Elite Right has dubbed “entitlement programs”), I fear more for the women and children of this country above all others.  If other nations can shed light on the current plight of this country, I have reasonable cause to worry.

For many, the initial reaction to this opinion may fall somewhere between ambivalence and outrage.  I believe in social programs and understand why they exist.  I also know that if there is no money to fund a program, that program can’t get funded. I am sad for the little future astronauts that went to space camp last summer but I understand why NASA won’t be making another space mission anytime soon, if ever.  Space exploration is incredible but it won’t grow food for the people starving in this country. As further programs are cut, more sadness is to follow.  And I doubt, wholeheartedly, that when our elected officials make deep cuts to our nation’s budget, they will have the real interests of women and children at heart.

I know that women are not the only ones suffering through this economic downturn.  At the worst of this past decade of recession, the collapsing job market affected men at a higher rate than it did women. A Reuter’s report highlighted that, “US data show men’s employment as a share of total population fell by 2.7% from the end of 2007 to the end of 2008, while the ratio for women eased 0.8%. As of December 2008, the unemployment rate for men was 7.9%, up 2.9 percentage pointsfrom a year earlier, while the rate for women was 6.4%, up 1.6 points.” However, the report failed to mention that the job decrease for men put America’s employment force at a near 50/50 for the gender gap for the first time in our nation’s history.  Reports since have highlighted that, because many of the jobs affected by the recession were in sectors disproportionately dominated by men, specifically in all aspects of construction, men were disproportionately affected by the losses to those sectors.  Now, however, as we are seeing a blip in the economy, a momentary upturn, men are once again the benefactors of this ray of prosperity.  The Christian Post published an article earlier this year on July 11th noting, “A report by the Pew Research Center shows that in the two years since the recession ended, men gained 768,000 jobs and reduced their unemployment numbers by 1.1 percent, while women lost 218,000 jobs over the same amount of time and actually saw their unemployment increase by 0.2 percent.”  I have no illusions about the economy and will in no way ascertain that the so-called recession has ended.  What we are witnessing is a long, overdo, worldwide attrition.  But the current trends are clear about who will come out on top as the shit continues to hit the fan.

The collapse of industrial civilization is a process, something that we are watching the constant unveiling of.  It is something that we are witnessing in this lifetime. Mystics may call it a realignment. The religious may call it the rapture or end times. Progressives have called it a transition. Doomers call it collapse.  I go back and forth depending on my mood.  Whatever a person calls it, however, the attrition of the excessive consumption of the past few decades is no longer something any sane person denies.  Common people all over the world are learning to live with less.

But how does a person live with less when less is all that they have known?  That is a question faced and answered by women each day.

Reaching the post-petroleum era may actually take decades.  In both the novel, “A World Made by Hand” by James Howard Kunstler, and in the TV series, “Jericho,” the post-petroleum era happens almost over night, after a series of nuclear events.  For a young woman witnessing collapse, brought on by decades of over-spending, mass consumption and a male-run military industrial complex, I have to ponder the possibility that collapse may be a long-term relationship and the ripping-off-the-bandaid moment, to propel us into the next leg of the journey, may not actually be a quick and painless instance. It may actually be a movement, one that is happening now and one they may continue for a long while.

What makes the collapse movement particularly significant for women, is the other movements that women have historically been a part of.  A completely watered-down (and, albeit somewhat offensive) history of the feminist movement goes like this: The initial movement, prelude to the later, perhaps more radical movement of the 1960s and 70s, was characterized by the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century.  Decades later, taking place parallel to the broader civil right’s movement, what became known to the general population as the feminist movement, but is now known by scholars and historians as “2nd Wave Feminism”, is distinguished by the women’s fight to enter the work force in meaningful, paid employment and to have control over one’s reproductive health and choices.  The current popular movement is known as “3rd Wave Feminism” and takes the foundation of what came before and builds a more inclusive movement, taking into account the unique experiences of women of color, the gender defiant and the international experiences of women to create a whole-systems, more-balanced approach to women’s experiences, wants and needs. While the 2nd Wave ascertained that women can enter the work force, the 3rd Wave advocates that women should be honored for whatever meaning contribution is made, and moreover, societies and nations are better when they take that step.  But we are dawning on a completely different way of life, where traditional terms of employment will be null and void for everyone, not just women.  We are on the horizon of a time  where the items of convenience (dishwashers, air conditioning, cars) will be unaffordable and unavailable to the general population. Our country’s poor (i.e. women) are already experiencing this.  The feminist movement faces unprecedented challenges.

Without industrialized society, the modern feminist movement may not have been realized.  While women, for centuries preceding industrialization, were feeling angst about the roles that they were handed, (I can cite ample evidence to this affect but I will spare you,) for the majority of women, there was no time to explore other possibilities, more or less form a movement around those possibilities.  The age of petroleum gave women a lot of time to consider things that they otherwise might not have. When the modernized washing and cooking machines came on the scene, women, who had by and large been delegated such tasks, and spent entire days carrying out those tasks, suddenly began having time to think about doing other things that might have more meaning to them.  (Conversely, and more recently, men have also now had the opportunity to think about a career at home.) Women have openly fought for a century to be recognized for their equal ability and, now that we are sure that that ability exists, the fall of industrialized society cannot take it away.

For women in the new paradigm, ovens and washing machines will be a thing of the past. But feminism is a movement. One cannot stop knowing what one already knows.  And while the post-petroleum age will require that much more attention be paid to home, garden, family and community, the hard lessons learned by women in the past century, will come with them as we all learn to live simpler.

Women have always known resilience in a way that is unlike that of our male counterparts.We have cooked and cleaned in worst circumstances than now.  Many of us have done so while also holding a child in our arms.We are practical and resourceful and the current world situation calls on us to be substantially more so than we ever have been before.  The social constructs that have kept women from the true equality that they have fought so hard for, will dissolve along with industrial society.  The initial and present suffering that women are experiencing is terrible but promises a new soeciety, where the work of all people is honored and relevant.  Women cannot just sit back and watch industrialized society collapse. If any of our fellow man is to survive, women’s involvement is imperative.  All our lives depend on it.

For me, the post-petroleum feminist is someone who can cook and clean but who can also filet a fish and build a fire.  My commitment to learning and practicing skills not traditionally adopted by women is less about my feminism than it is about my survival.  While I advocate that women learn to weild a fire arm, for their protection and their safety, I have declined to adopt the skill because it is my belief that killing another, in any circumstance, is wrong. For me, the preservation of my soul is more important than the preservation of my life.  But that is my own dogma and I am completely aware that it coincides with the reality of the violent world we live in.  Still, I am completely for women taking feminism to the survivalist level.

The post-petroleum feminist will need to be physically healthy and strong–not the gym-rat version of strength, but the type of strength that can carry a bucket of water up a hill or walk several miles.  The current advocacy of beauty involving lipstick and augmentation is already detrimental but will also be irrelevant.  As women who are already living without a car know, an hour at the gym is needless.  The post-petroleum feminist will need to know how to grow food for herself and her loved ones.  We are all already witnessing the prices at the grocery store skyrocket.  With budget cuts threatening food stamps, and climate change preventing millions of acres of grains and produce from being planted, the small home garden is no longer a novelty, it is a necessity.  The post-petroleum feminist will need to know how to barter.  Women often take a passive role when it comes to money or trade.  We know we have been left out of financial opportunities and decision-making.  Now is the time that we all learn to play hard ball.  Our skills and goods are not worth less because we are women and we need to start practicing that fact in all that we do. The post-petroleum feminist will need to know how to fix things.  Not just the poor, but many middle class families as well, are watching their appliances break with no means to buy new ones and no skills to fix the broken ones they have. People are trading in their old dryers for clothes lines and giving up the old clunker car for a single shared automobile or public transportation.  Women have never had equal access to knowledge when it comes to mechanics but it is time we demand it and seek it out.  During WWII, women were called on to build war ships and airplanes and did so with so much skill and attention to detail that many of those vessels are still operable today.  Each of us needs to get back to that legacy.  Take classes.  Find a trusted person to learn basic skills.  Form cooperative learning groups.  Knowledge is not just power.  It is freedom.

Lastly, and by far most important, the post-petroleum feminist will need to know how to defend herself.  With budget cuts to law enforcement, cut backs to emergency services, jail over-crowding and a broken judicial system, the likelihood of having any sort of protection when it comes to things like abuse, assault, battery or rape is slim to none. There is strength in numbers but each woman can defend herself by herself and should be armed with the skills to know how.  If a woman finds herself in a situation where she is being harassed, mistreated or worse, she needs to be empowered with the ability to correct the situation.  Many communities have self-defense classes.  If you are in a rural area or cannot get to a self-defense class, there are online resources that you can use right now.  YouTube has several videos on the subject.  When all hell breaks loose women are the first to suffer and suffer the most.

Make no mistake. All hell is breaking loose. But for the first time in history, all hell is breaking loose with women having a collective consciousness and basic understanding that they are worthy of equality and respect.  The post-petroleum era will take away our cars, our appliances, access to food and many basic services but it will not take away our dignity or power.

Many women already live on their own. Many women are raising children on their own.  Self-sufficiency is not a giant leap. All women are on the edge of post-petroleum feminism. We can all take the step into the new paradigm.