Tag Archives: politics

Women’s March on Washington: I’m Going To Do This All Wrong

I tried writing this essay for a couple of days before I left for the Women’s March on Washington. It never would come together. Now it has. I’ll write more over the coming days but I had to start from where I started.


I’m going to the Women’s March on Washington this weekend and I’m pretty sure I’m going to do this all wrong.

For weeks, I’ve heard white friends grow more excited about the March as it coalesces. Lots of Wesleyannes are going–Pris is hosting Sherry and her daughter among others, Jan and Lindi are making it into a mini class reunion. Allison is on the way from Michigan, and Mandy from Baltimore. Courtney and her son are riding up on the bus, along with just about every midwife I know. Those who aren’t making the trip to DC are marching in their towns. Seth and his daughters in North Carolina. Lisa in the Great Plains. San Diego and New York and Florida. It’s exciting to literally STAND UP for what we believe in.

At the same time, I’ve heard friends who are women of color taking a pass on this march. Its birth was awfully centered on white feminism and they are not feeling the space as a safe one. Even choosing a name was problematic, with organizers who had too little knowledge of marches that had come before and spaces that have already been occupied by black women. Women who have been fighting this fight a lot longer than I have. What if I mess this up and the simple act of going makes my friends trust me less? What if I fail to listen? To learn? To follow?

I’m going to do it wrong.

But I’m going to do it. And I’m going to do it wrong.

Looking over the list of speakers, I recognize fewer names than I should. I have grown up knowing about Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem. I recognize Ilyasah Shabazz’ name from her mother, Betty Shabazz, but I just learned Janet Mock’s name a couple months ago and Zendaya a few before that (from Tom and Lorenzo’s fashion blog). I’ll probably miss the most rousing speech of the day because I didn’t know the person’s name and decided to stand in line at the portapotty.

I don't look like any of these faces on the posters.

I don’t look like any of these faces on the posters. And that’s OK. I joined the crowdfunding on this one and chose the poster of the woman with the flower in her hair, because she looks like my daughters. But not like me.

I’m learning to keep my feminism intersectional so that I work for women of all races, ages, sexualities, and economic groups, but there’s no way I won’t mess that up. I’m always going to start from being a white, middle class, cis-gendered, middle age, straight woman. My reflex when I think about pay disparity will be to think “77 cents to the dollar” because that’s what white women make. That’s my number. For Black women, it’s 63 cents and for Latinas, it’s 54. I should probably write Latinx. I messed that up.

I will cry when the Mothers of the Movement tell their stories, but I haven’t heard their stories enough to remember which mama lost which son in which city. It’s all so much to keep straight these days. I believe that Black Lives Matter, but I still feel like a poser when I say it because I don’t know how to do the work behind the slogan.

I know more lyrics from the Indigo Girls than Janelle Monae (did I spell that right?). I did start listening to her Pandora station and damn, that Beyonce’s “Lemonade” is sweet but I know it’s not for me. I mean, I’m not a full-on Becky but I got some Becky in my DNA. Somewhere.

 

hat

 

Should I wear the pink pussy hat? I love the insouciance of the idea, the reclaiming of a slur and turning it against the one who grabbed it. I love that Diane can’t go to the March but already had a hat waiting on her needles that she gave to me. But some feminists think the hat is too precious–it smacks of hashtag activism and Pinterest politics. We don’t have to sweeten or soften ourselves to make it OK to rally. Then again, one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington dismissed the question about the pussy hats by pointing out that women are always turned into caricatures, no matter what we do. We’re too loud, speak too softly, use vocal fry or up speak or we get shrill. We dress like we’re asking for it or we dress to negate our selves. If we say pussy it’s vulgar and crude and invalidates our point, but if he says it…it’s locker room talk and shouldn’t stop anyone from being elected President. Wear the hat or don’t wear the hat? I’ll probably fuck that up too. Oops. I’ll probably do that wrong too.

Are these new boots going to be warm enough? What if my hip starts to ache? I’m not in any shape for all this walking. I should have put more time into getting in shape. And more thought into what I was going wear. A shirt to represent my home state? Something clever written on it? Ugh. I am so going to dress wrong.

What about my sign? That’s a minefield of things to mess up. I want to put something Constitutional, like “EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER LAW” but that is awfully dry, even on pink poster paper. If I put something like “U.S. OUT OF MY UTERUS” does that turn me into a one-issue feminist? I think about a simple “BLACK LIVES MATTER” because I am convinced that I should use my white privilege to amplify the message that is being dismissed. Police are careful when white women are around. People listen when white women talk. Except politicians. And the church. And and and…damn. There’s no way I’m going to find the right words for any of this.

It’s all so confusing and I’m wondering if I should drop out, stay home, shut up. Let people who can do these things RIGHT do them. I’ll watch and learn. I’ll do it next time, once I’ve thought my way through all the snags.

Overthinking things is one thing I absolutely know how to do, a craft that I have refined over decades of consistent training and relentless dedication to chasing my own tail.

DAMMIT.

I looked at the stuff I had been throwing in a suitcase so I wouldn’t forget to take it and that’s when I made up my mind. I’m going. And I’m going to do this all wrong. I’m going, so that I can do this, even if I do it wrong. Because my mom left a laughing voicemail that said when she told my 98-year-old Grandmama Irene that I was going to the March, Grandmama replied, “GOOD. Somebody needs to do SOMETHING.”

 

My baggage.

My baggage.

I’m taking my “I am a woman” shirt from Wesleyan College, a place that taught me how important it is that I know myself and speak my truth. I’m taking a fanny pack from my son’s camp time at E.S.P., because he’s a specially educated person and Betsy Damn Devos has no business in the Department of Education, even if she can tame the grizzly bear threat. I’m taking my boots, which still have some mud on them from volunteering on MLK Day of Service. I’m new to putting my boots on the ground, but I’m not afraid of getting dirty. I’m taking a book about being a Bad Feminist because I am definitely doing that already. And my other book is about shepherding a daughter through adolescence and even though I haven’t read it yet, I’m pretty certain it doesn’t say, “Sit on the sidelines until you can do it perfectly.” I’m trying to show her how to live out President Obama’s advice: Show up. Dive In. Keep at It. And I’m taking not just one pink pussyhat, but three. Diane is a damn fast knitter. Jean, who isn’t exactly a fan of pink will wear one and Courtney has claimed the other. Shannah is sending a couple more from Queens and I hope they get here in time.

Because every adventure has to start somewhere. Every person who goes on a quest carries some baggage along.

I’m going, and I’m going to do this all wrong.

 

Stand Up! Sit Down! Fight, Fight, Fight!

I promised a 10 day check in on that post about passing some common sense gun laws after the massacre in Orlando. Yes, it’s been 14 days. As it has been for most of this year, I wrote then I got an attack of the “Who do you think you are” virus. Right now, I’m forcing myself to write so that voice will be drowned out by the sound of a keyboard clickety clacking.

Two weeks later, I’m still mad, but I feel better because I’m doing some small things to make my opinion clear on common sense gun regulations.

An Old Cheer

My school did a cheer that went something like this:

Lean to the left…

Lean to the right…

Stand up!

Sit down!

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

Those words came back to me over the last two weeks when I saw what people are starting to do to curb gun violence.

Stand Up: The Democratic Filibuster

Senator Chris Murphy really got things going for me when he began a filibuster on the floor of the Senate to call for a bill on closing the loophole that allows people on the terrorist “no fly” list to buy a gun. For almost fifteen hours, he held the floor and used the platform to tell the stories of his district and the horrors unleashed there at Sandy Hook Elementary School. All evening, I watched with pride for the elegant democratic process in my country as senators offered questions and statements in support. A filibuster is a clever thing when used to deliver actual content, not to run out the clock with Green Eggs and Ham.

Like thousands of other citizens, I called my representatives to make it clear that I was in support of common sense gun regulations. I added that I want the CDC to be allowed to research gun violence as a public health crisis (they haven’t received funding for that in decades).

filibuster

 

The filibuster worked…kind of. Senate Republicans agreed to hear four bills. Of the four bills that were put up for vote, none passed. Voting went straight down party lines.

From the filibuster, I learned that we need to be paying just as much attention to the “other” elections in 2016 as we are to the presidential election. When you look at the graphic below, remember that these are direct donations–the numbers don’t include advertising dollars spent by the NRA in favor of a candidate or against a candidate’s opponent.

NRA donations

Sit Down: #GoodTrouble

Sometimes you have to put yourself in the way to get noticed. I was downright tickled when Georgia’s own Representative John Lewis showed the House how it’s done. As a young activist, Lewis organized sit-ins in Nashville to protest segregated lunch counters.

lewis tweet

Again, they asked for a VOTE. The majority party sets the legislative agenda in each house of our Congress. In a Republican controlled government, all they have to do is say “No.” No vote will be taken, no bill will be discussed, no law will be passed. No. No. No. There’s time for 60+ unsuccessful votes to repeal Obamacare, but no time to debate gun legislation.

I called and I emailed and I donated. I got G to call as well. Even John Lewis couldn’t get them to bring a bill to the floor. But he sure as hell raised the question, and I’m sure he and other representatives will continue to raise the question.

And wasn’t it lovely to watch a flummoxed Paul Ryan try to stop the story by turning off the cameras? Thank you, Facebook Live and Periscope for reminding him of the importance of transparency in democracy!

 

Fight, Fight, Fight: What’s Left to Do?

Fourteen days and nothing has changed. Except me. I have changed. I feel more involved, simply by paying attention. The outrage wave rolls on to new worries. Istanbul, West Virginia, Rio, Brexit. The funerals in Orlando are over. What will we do while we wait for the next massacre? Does anyone think it won’t come?

Raise your voice. Get informed then share what you know. Vote with your ballot, your dollar, your hours.

Whether you lean to the left, or lean to the right–stand up, sit down…fight, fight, fight.

Check Back in Ten Days

Something cracked in me this Sunday, after the massacre at Pulse in Orlando. I couldn’t say anything about it for a day, Then I jumped on the social media outrage train. But I didn’t say anything HERE. No blog words about Orlando, or home-grown terrorism, or guns.  Nothing about Islamophobia and homophobia (I agree with Morgan Freeman–it’s not really a phobia; it’s just people being assholes.)

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I couldn’t think of any words that wouldn’t just blow away in the hurricane of hot air. Many LGBTQ friends have cried out in the last two days, asking “Where are our straight friends?”

Here. I raise my hand.

Here’s what I would say:

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that your safe space was poisoned by that violence. I’m sorry that churches have spewed shit about “Love the sinner, hate the sin” for so long. I’m sorry that you have grown up in the Land of the Free having to watch over your shoulder that you aren’t caught kissing the one you love in public. I’m sorry that people will say “This is an attack on ALL Americans” when the truth is that queer citizens have stood in the front ranks of that attack. I’m sorry that the body count rises. I’m sorry that it’s been your problem to bear. Too often alone.

I am numb with outrage. All I’ve done is make a breathless space for the pain and the outrage yet I have sat still.

160608090607-brock-turner-mugshot-large-tease

Five days ago, it was #RapistBrockTurner that had me outraged. I bet his family was tickled pink at the news from Orlando because it wiped him off the front page. Maybe his mother can finally decorate the new house and his dad can grill steaks. Man, I was pissed about that. But did I do anything?

What were we all talking about five days before the Stanford rape case? The #gorilla? What was his name? Harambe? I didn’t get too worked up in that case but it seemed to be all anyone was talking about online. Poor parents (I’ve been there). Poor gorilla (he didn’t do anything wrong). Poor zookeepers. Poor zoo animals. Poor Harambe.

gorilla-1132784_1280

 

I was mad about #HB2 in North Carolina. If y’all are so concerned about pedophiles, go watch Dennis Hastert’s house. Hang out in the men’s room where boys haven’t been safe EVER. Can’t we all pee in peace? I was mad about that, but the only thing I did was shop at Target, but I always shop at Target.

HB2PROTEST5-NE-040216-HLL

If I keep going back five days and five days and five days, through the newsfeed of my outrage, I’ll get to Charleston. I’ll remember that massacre too. I was mad. Heartbroken. Sorry. And I didn’t do anything except bitch about it on the internet.

charleston-shooting.jpeg4-1280x960

Well, like I said, this week has been different. I joined Moms Demand Action to join the fight against the chokehold the NRA has on our government. I educated myself about specific, actionable changes, common sense gun laws. I signed petitions to ban the sale of the AR-15 to civilians after seeing an interview with the engineer who designed it. I contacted my representatives. I have started talking to my five year old about guns. “If you ever see a gun, do not touch it. Go find a grownup and tell them.” I looked up how much money each of Georgia’s Congressional representatives have received from the NRA (congratulations to Senator David Perdue on $1.9 MILLION in support).

Yeah, I’m mad right now. And I want to stay mad, even when the next horrible thing comes along, probably in a week at the rate we’re going. I made a vow to myself that I’ll check in every week to see what ACTION I have taken to make sure my silence is never mistaken for consent.

So much of this feeling of silence and helplessness started when I slid into depression around my dad’s final illness and death. I looked up from that darkness and saw my country going mad for a fascist who is nothing but a bullshit artist. I remembered calling some politician a fascist in front of Daddy and he said, “Do you even know what that means?” I answered, “A political idealogue of the far right who uses strict control of the media and a jingoistic sense of nationalism to sway the masses.” He said, “OK…I guess you do.” Daddy was a die-hard conservative. I can’t imagine what he would think of his Grand Old Party today. I haven’t been saying those things in this space but it’s time to reclaim my voice. I have the right and the responsibility to call out bullshit. We are not this.

One reason I didn’t write about some of these issues–politics, LGBTQ rights, rape culture, gorillas–was that I couldn’t BELIEVE it was necessary to say some of these things explicitly. Apparently, it is.

I’ll check on myself in 10 days and see what actions I’ve taken. Y’all are my accountability partners.

Gluten Soaked Republican Plastic Surgeons Need Not Apply

Vintage postcard, Picadilly Circus, London

Vintage postcard, Picadilly Circus, London

Have you noticed anything new about the look of the blog? Yep, those are ads. Upppppp there ^^^, and ovvvvver there >>>. I hope you will forgive the crass commercialization of Baddest Mother Ever. I write because it brings me bliss, but my kids don’t eat bliss.

The BlogHer publishing network makes it easy for small publishers like me to find advertising content that matches the audience (hello, tampons and Capri Sun!). They also make it easy for bloggers to find ads that match our ethical boundaries. When I set up my publishing network account, I was given a long list of advertising campaigns from which I could opt out.

Like diet pills–would you REALLY expect to see an ad for diet pills on Baddest Mother Ever? I think not. Or cosmetic surgery. Newp. And religion? This isn’t the place. (But I am intrigued to see what kind of religious ads are available.  “Jesus! Coming Soon to an outlet near you!”)

Some of the options made me think about things that I do support–like breastfeeding. If you are so inclined, you can opt out of any ad for an infant formula, a bottle, a nipple. I was a BF mom, but I’m not opposed to nipples made of something other than me. Animal products–that’s another option I had. I left it open because BACON. Sorry to my vegan friends, but BACON.

Lingerie ads? Hmmm. I was about to check “No” but that depends on the ad. If it’s lingerie that makes women feel more beautiful and comfortable, absolutely. If there is any hint of a pouting ingenue in some Kardashiesque getup…nope.

Gluten? Sure. Because, to quote Jim Gaffigan, I don’t know what gluten is, but it’s delicious.

There was one choice that gave me pause AND reminded me of a funny story. Political ads. Would I want political ads to have space on Baddest Mother Ever? I don’t talk politics very often on here but y’all can probably smell a knee jerk, bleeding heart flaming liberal vibe coming from my general direction. (You’d be right.)

One time, my late husband Richard (who was the opposite of me in all things political and religious) and I were talking about our potential possible children that might one day come.

He asked me, “So what if our kid is born blind?”

I waved away the very thought. “So what? We take what we get and call ourselves lucky.”

“What if our child is gay?”

“Same thing,” I answered. “They’re born whoever they are and we love them no matter what.”

He considered for a second, then said, “What if our kid turns out to be…a Republican?”

I clutched my pearls and gave him the stink-eye. “THAT? That is just poor parenting.”

Hahahaha….I kid, I kid. He and I may have canceled each other’s votes in the big picture, but we were on the same team in the everyday matter of living this life. My dad says that his parents never fought except over local politics. They’d get so mad about county commision or mayor that they wouldn’t speak for days. Legend has it that Grandmama Eunice once threw an entire fried chicken out the car window on the way to a church supper over Grandaddy Joe teasing her about a school board election. If you ever had the honor of tasting her fried chicken, you’d know just what a tragedy that was.

I guess my point is I had to do some thinking about what I feel strongly enough about to BAN from my space. We all do this all the time–and the digital social world that we live in has made it so easy to click a button and decide “I’m don’t want to see that.”

So if you’re a Republican cosmetic surgeon looking for a place to talk about your gluten-filled diet pills, keep moving.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program!

Stolen Chicken and Racism

chicken_thieves_040613Let me come clean right off the bat:  I stole $8 worth of chicken from Kroger last night.  Here’s what happened…

I got home from Kroger at 7:30pm, frazzled and tired.  As G and I were putting away the groceries, I noticed that the brown shopping bag was missing.  I knew I had taken it with me.  It was nowhere in the car, the kitchen, anywhere.  I tried to figure out if we were missing anything, so I opened the meat drawer.  There was the pound of ground beef and the turkey pepperoni.

“Where’s the chicken?”

G shook his head and said, “I didn’t see any chicken.”  I fumbled through the freezer and checked the countertops.  No chicken.

I cussed a good bit then stomped off to Kroger to claim my brown shopping bag and my missing chicken.  Grrr… grumble grumble grrr.

I trolled the parking lot in search of my chicken.  No luck.  I walked in through the out door, right past the security guard and started checking each bagging station for my chicken.  AHA!  There sat my brown shopping bag, camouflaged by the brown plastic bags.  But still no chicken.  I grabbed the bag.  The cashier who was now working that lane (not the one who had rung up my stuff) asked me if she could help.  “I found my bag but I can’t find my chicken.  I paid for 2 lbs of chicken tenderloins but they weren’t in my shopping bags when I got home.”  She couldn’t help.

The cashier who had helped me came up.  I explained to him and he took me over to the customer service counter to check for returned items.  Nope, no chicken.  At this point, the store manager walked over and I explained it to him.  He said, “I’m sorry about that.  If you’d like, go grab another pack of chicken and we’ll stick it in a bag for you.  If you discover other things that you’re missing, just bring back the receipt and we’ll fix you up.  No problem.”

I did exactly that.  I walked to the back of the store, grabbed another 2 lb pack of chicken and took it up to the front.  They slapped it in a bag and handed it over.  I thanked them then waved a thank you to the store manager.  Home ten minutes later with chicken in the fridge.

This morning, I discovered that I was a chicken thief.  While fixing breakfast, I reached in the deli drawer for some cheese and there sat a 2lb pack of chicken, right on top of my havarti.  I held it up to G like it was a bloody glove and cried, “What’s THIS???”  He ducked his head and mumbled, “I must not have recognized it.”  Dude.  It says “TYSON” and “CHICKEN” right here on the clear wrap that contains a whole bunch of CHICKEN.

It’s not like I could return the pilfered chicken to Kroger this morning.  Or donate it to the Food Bank. So I guess we will eat the Chicken of Shame and move on with our lives.

But the whole incident got me thinking.  Last week, in the midst of the turmoil after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, a friend shared an intriguing quote.  It comes from a one-year-old article that was published in The Atlantic–“Fear of a Black President” by .  I recommend the entire article, but these are the words I’ve been carrying around with me:

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.”
 

Sympathy and skepticism.  I’m speaking as myself here–a middle-aged, middle-class, European extraction white woman from a small town in the Deep South.  I walked into Kroger as an unwitting chicken thief and I got sympathy.  Another woman, say with a Spanish accent or darker skin, could have walked into Kroger with the same story about missing chicken and gotten skepticism.  At least she might have been asked to show a receipt or maybe sign something.  Or the skepticism she had faced in other situations would have stopped her from even trying to go back to Kroger to ask for her chicken.

The friend who shared the quote is a middle-aged, middle-class, African extraction woman from the same small town in the Deep South.  She’s a lawyer, dresses a whole lot better than I do and probably has more money to spend.  But she and her daughters have been followed around in department stores due to skepticism.

Sometimes it’s hard to participate in the discourse about racism because we look for simplistic hatred and DON’T SEE IT.  I don’t know many people who treat others with simplistic hatred, but I know well this sympathy/skepticism divide.  I don’t treat people with simplistic hatred, but I certainly waver between sympathy and skepticism based on my snap assessment of them.  If a young black man in a hoodie approaches me in the parking deck at night, I would be more prone to skepticism.  If a young black man in a white lab coat approaches me in the parking deck at night, I would be more prone to sympathy.

Photo credit: Nikkolas Smith via Van Jones

Photo credit: Nikkolas Smith via Van Jones

So that’s what I end up thinking about when I accidentally steal chicken from Kroger on a Sunday night.  I appreciate the sympathy that I received, but I also understand that it isn’t handed out evenly.

“I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. ” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.