Two days after the most recent election, I traveled to the Reproductive Justice Leadership Summit and 20th Anniversary Celebration, or “RJ at 20,” to meet with fellow reproductive justice warriors in Chicago. I had just spent months working hard alongside other members, partners, and allies of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) to defeat a dangerous and deceptive amendment that would have added fetal “personhood” to the Colorado Constitution. This was the third time “personhood” amendments have appeared on the Colorado ballot, and COLOR has been part of the coalition working to defeat them each time; this year, it also led a robust grassroots effort focused on Latina voters in eight counties throughout the state.
After appearing on a “Movement Stories, Our Work with Allies” panel at RJ at 20, which was hosted by the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, I was touched by a movement sister who told me I was dropping truth about working with allies that we all know and live but rarely speak. I then reflected on our recent campaign battle, along with the countless other experiences I’ve had during my years of movement building work as a queer Latina activist. With that in mind, I’ve created a fusion of lessons learned from the past and advice for the fights of the future.
I present this with sincerity and respect for my sisters and brothers in the struggle—some of whom inspired this list with words of advice—in addition to our allies who join us on the journey toward reproductive justice.
Racism is real. So are oppression, microaggressions, and macroaggressions. It’s important to call out racist moments, publicly and privately. Knowing when to do so, however, is an art I’m still mastering. Partners can be well-intended and still make racist statements or perform racist actions. Worse yet, they can become radio silent in the face of oppression.
The issue of language translation of campaign literature, for example, is a perennial one. This year, I finally landed on the best way to challenge the question of whether we would translate all anti-personhood materials and messages into Spanish, considering the importance of the Latino electorate in Colorado. I felt a breakthrough moment when stating, “By not translating ALL campaign materials and messages, you’re saying that Spanish-speakers deserve a lesser campaign experience.”
Not only is language translation an issue, so are assumptions about whose job it is. It’s time for people to stop assuming that it’s the de facto job of Latino organizations—or any other organization or person representing an important community whose dominant language is not English—to provide translation services. Translation and interpretation are professional services with standards that campaigns and coalitions should prioritize and invest in from the outset, rather than naively burdening native speakers or groups representing these communities with this “task.” Instead of minimizing the importance of translation, it’s time we see it as critical to ensuring that key communities, no matter their language, are treated fairly. I’m happy to say that this happened for Spanish-speakers in Colorado this election season.
Who are your people? Find and befriend allies. Find those partners and individuals who will lift up your message when you’re not in a room and amplify your message when you are. Too often, we have the experience as women of color of saying something in a meeting or discussion and effectively being met with silence—only to have our white counterpart say it seconds later and receive the acknowledgement of a “great idea, great statement, or excellent contribution.” Plan for those infuriating and oppressive moments by inviting trusted allies to strategically amplify your messages. Who are your people? Find them, befriend them, thank them for being an ally.
Hustle, baby! Forget gatekeepers; open your own damn gate. For many women of color, the personal is political. Own this truth and make your own movement happen. Don’t allow others, such as pollsters, campaign consultants, or reporters, to be gatekeepers of spaces or relationships that are yours to claim. We have power to open our own gates or hurdle over them when necessary. Request meetings with power brokers. Trust your knowledge and expertise of the communities you serve and represent.
I was pleasantly surprised that doing this led to new campaign advancements for COLOR: By meeting with pollsters and campaign managers, we put ourselves in the position to advocate for and advise on Latina focus groups in English and Spanish, while earning respect for the work we do with Latinas. We forged ties that will benefit our community for future battles and victories. By opening our own gates and taking control of these relationships, we win for our community while building new alliances.
When kindness isn’t enough, kill ‘em with culture. Family, funk, and fire is what I think of when I remember one of the best cafecito/canvasses COLOR hosted during the campaign season. Joined by friends and families we played funk music, lit an outdoor fire, and we generated a buzz that we know how to throw a party and host a fiercely effective, intersectional canvass. Grounded in cultura, we employed our cafecito model of having comida, pan dulce, and musica as an entrée to our canvass kickoffs. We hosted in our own homes and opened the doors to a diverse set of partners with delicious comida and cultural flair; we ate, danced, and rallied. We also got nods from national organization representatives for “revolutionizing the way Latinas organize in Colorado” by doing what we do—both during and beyond campaign season. For us, it was breathing culture into our work; for our partners it was a warm experience that differed from more mainstream events.
Find common ground. No matter where we stand, under our feet is common ground. Find it. For this past election, that common ground was a shared passion for the protection of women and families and the engagement of Colorado’s rising American electorate (RAE). Our organization mobilizes and represents Latinos, young people, and women—a huge part of our state’s RAE. We, too, have a shared desire to keep all Colorado women and families free of threats to their autonomy. We can find common ground while holding our ground. Don’t confuse finding common ground with compromising values, however. Allyship needs to happen on our own terms and benefit our communities too. We win not by compromising values, but by uniting behind them.
Movement building is about community liberation. As a queer activist from the border who is passionate about intersections, I live this mantra and challenge allies to do the same: “We don’t advance unless we all advance together.” Or, to borrow Audre Lorde’s powerful message, “Without community, there is no liberation.” In other words, my liberation depends on yours. Liberation is not just racial equality or relationship recognition. It is justice for everyone. It has no borders; it acknowledges that we are all citizens of this planet and we don’t advance unless we all advance together.
Own your story. If we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will. History shows us that our work and contributions are either erased or never told. Combat this by telling your stories at every turn. This election, we used social and earned media, wrote blogs, gave presentations and staged conversations at conferences, and showed up to the table to tell our story. Whether we experience victory or heartbreaking defeats, it’s critical we talk about it formally and informally. Don’t let shadows of larger partners dim your truth. And model good allyship by finding time to engage partners and acknowledging their efforts.
Reflect and share. I penned this piece because I believe in the importance of reflecting on and sharing lessons learned. Much of this list comes from discussions with other activist leaders and friends across many different movements who are en la lucha (in the struggle) working to make the world a better place. Taking time to reflect inspired deep gratitude to my RJ family who live this work, share in similar experiences, and are committed to peacefully and collaboratively advancing the beautiful and diverse communities we represent.
I hope these lessons learned are helpful to you as you take on your work. I am ever encouraged by the strong women of our movement. Adelante!
The post Lessons on Allyship From the Fight Against Colorado’s ‘Personhood’ Amendment appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Today in the wake of the Grand Jury decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, here are Ferguson-related reads on our radar:
The following is the statement of Eleanor Smeal, founder and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation:
The Feminist Majority Foundation is outraged at the decision not to indict Darren Wilson.
This should have been a public trial. Wilson should have been charged immediately after the shooting of Michael Brown, who was shot at least six times and left unattended to in the streets of Ferguson for at least four hours.
If Brown, who was an unarmed Black teenager, can’t get justice when the entire world is watching, how can any other Black person expect to receive justice if shot by a white police officer?
If this was an isolated case it would still be an atrocity, but it is not. There is a pattern and practice of police brutality against people of color in the United States, especially against Black women and men. Let us not forget the 13 Black women who were raped and sexually assaulted by an on-duty Oklahoma City police officer. In just the last two weeks, two more Black women, Tanesha Anderson and Aura Rosser, were gunned down by officers in Ohio and Michigan, respectively.
Robert McCulloch, the prosecutor in the Brown case has never indicted any police officer involved in any shooting and chose to slow-walk this case. He used a secretive grand jury, instead of charging the officer and allowing this to be a public trial.
This is a grave injustice. The failure to hold a public trial disrespects the African-American majority in Ferguson that peacefully demanded transparency. The Black community’s legitimate grievances have been disrespected. Instead, Ferguson and Missouri have acted with a militarized response from Day One.
Now more than ever, the Department of Justice Civil Rights investigation and action is needed as soon as possible.
Ferguson has put the nation on edge because this is not simply about Ferguson, but it is about a broader U.S. experience of a culture of impunity surrounding members of law enforcement in dealing with African Americans and Latinos. There is now testimony from a large coalition of American citizens representing Black constituencies from not only Ferguson, but also Chicago, Miami, Ohio and other areas with the United Nations Committee Against Torture to classify this pattern of excessive police force as a form of torture in the United States, not only on the street, but also in prisons.
The University of Texas, Austin nabbed the rights to preserve and present the late Nobel winner's collected writings. Also: HBO takes on Scientology, and Aretha Franklin decries her new biography.
Filled with tender moments and a remarkable family, Karelia Stetz-Waters’ YA novel Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before (Ooligan Press) is a queer coming of age story set against the political landscape of rural Oregon in 1992. What’s timeless about this novel is the familiar teenage struggle to find love, acceptance, and oneself. The story opens with Triinu and her best friend Isabel dealing with the aftermath of an incident at Christian summer camp, where an older camper has come onto Triinu, who then stabbed him with a pen. From the start, it’s clear that Triinu’s world includes adults who do not have her best interest at heart, like the sinister Principal Pinn, who dismisses death threats and belittles Triinu, leading to a dramatic confrontation by the story’s end. The violent language and sexual harassment Triinu experiences at school are raw and explicit, far from the land of after-school specials and textbook examples of bullying. When escape offers itself by way of cigarette-bumming Pru Ann, Triinu quickly abandons Isabel to hang out with the punks in the smoking yard. Soon after, she adopts a goth look and pretends to care about Pru Ann’s accelerated agenda for them to both lose their virginity.
Antidote to the smokers and the bullies are Triinu’s parents, a pair of loving, Estonian immigrants who recite Auden to one another, creating a household made of literature and poetry. It’s always refreshing in a YA novel to have parent figures who are not the enemy, but are rather nuanced, supportive adults. They serve as a touchstone for Triinu as her high school years unfold.
True to adolescence, although at times hard to keep up with, Triinu’s life is populated by a full cast of characters. After abandoning Isabel for Pru Ann, Pru Ann is sent away after her parents catch her smoking, and gone, too, are the awkward older boys Pru Ann had culled as boyfriend for her and Triinu. There’s Ursula, a girl from church camp that Triinu connects with, immediately drawn to Ursula’s warmth and boldness. There’s Deirdre, the goth senior who heckles Triinu’s worst bully, Pip Weston, enchanting Triinu with her cool disregard for authority. There’s Chloe, the corset-wearing friend Ursula complains about but who proves to be ultimately kind just when Triinu needs an ally. There’s Ava, the British pen pal of Chloe’s who appears one fateful night. Any narrative that spans a few years of high school will seem epic in the heart of the narrator, and Triinu’s story is no different. She fixates upon Ursula, who Triinu quickly falls in love with, then agonizes over when and how to tell her, as Ursula prepares for a year abroad in France. It’s a love that seems to seize Triinu, but in the confusion of first queer crushes, who could blame her?
Parallel to Triinu’s own self-discovery is the growing presence of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, an organization that wants to make it “illegal to be gay.” Part of Ursula’s charm is her supposive interest in the debate, and several scenes revolve around the political unrest and homophobia the organization provokes. Ursula and Triinu smoke pot in a park one day and discuss the ballot measure, while Triinu worries about when to kiss her:
I didn’t want to talk about politics. I wanted Ursula to lie down beside me, take my hand and clasp it to her chest. In my daydreams she said, “Oh, Triinu, I can’t bear to leave you. I’m staying in Oregon. Is that wrong?” In real life, she asked, “Have you heard of Bowers v. Hardwick?”
Of course I hadn’t. I felt small. “No,” I said sullenly.
“Michael Hardwick was this gay guy. He was going down on a guy in his own bedroom. The cops came in and arrested him because gay sex is illegal in georgia.”
“Yes, still! Right now. And the OCA wants to make it illegal in Oregon too.”
It’s heartbreaking to watch a queer teenager try to come out amongst so much hostility and anti-gay rhetoric. While Ursula proves to be more shallow than bold, Triinu befriends Chloe and Aaron, who take her to a gay dance club and introduce her to Ava. There are those aching moments that many readers will identify with—the thrill of seeing other queer people for the first time, as well as the relief of a repaired friendship. Isabel re-enters Triinu’s life, handing her a flyer for her band’s show like an olive branch. There’s a moving scene where Triinu sees Isabel perform, and can recognize how her childhood friend has grown into herself as Triinu does the same. Ursula returns from France, and the fissure between she and Triinu deepens, confused by hurt feelings and poor choices, until Triinu has enough confidence to put Ursula in her place.
Covering four years of high school, the novel takes some time to pick up speed, so that the most rewarding chapters happen around Triinu’s senior year, where the promise of college hangs on the horizon, she stands up for herself in more than one arena, and the Oregon Citizens Alliance’s campaign comes to a head. The novel includes an ambitious mix of politics, first loves, lost friends, family, grief, cultural heritage, and identity. Readers will be rewarded with a thoughtful narrator, whose bravery shines brighter with every page, and a touching portrait of family and true friends, who shower Triinu’s bravery with love.
Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before
by Karelia Stetz-Waters
Paperback, 9781932010732, 304 pp.
Merry Thankschrismakuh! The holiday season of hollering about politics at, with, and around our beloved relatives is among us. In keeping with the season, it is appropriate, I think, that I begin this piece with a parable. A tale as old as time, a story we all know so well. Children are involved:
On Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of joining a panel of Texas political experts, party leaders, and writers for a discussion about the recent midterm elections at the fall Texas Junior State of America conference for high school students.
It was pretty cool. Students got to fill up the seats on the Texas House of Representatives floor, where our actual state reps sit in during our legislative session. They had the opportunity to ask questions of Will Hailer, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, and John McCord, the political director of the Republican Party of Texas.
They also got to see, live and in person, what happens when a Democrat tries to argue about facts with a Republican. This is where the tale-as-old-as-time part comes in. Or at least the tale as old as Texas Democrats losing every statewide race in the last two decades to Republicans.
In the course of the panel discussion, Hailer launched into a pointed criticism of Texas’ voter ID law and noted that a federal judge had called the law a racist “poll tax.” Not surprisingly, McCord jumped at the opportunity to refute Hailer’s claims, taking particular issue with a figure Hailer had mentioned—specifically, the number of people who didn’t have a valid photo identification when the voter ID law was passed. Then, of course, it was Hailer’s turn to explain his side.
Suffice to say that what ensued was a pretty predictable pissing match, with each guy jumping up to the microphone to address the other guy’s claims. Things got a little testy. A little awkward. And, frankly, kind of boring for a lot of people.
You will probably not be shocked to learn, for that matter, that Hailer wasn’t able to get McCord to concede the point he wanted him to concede: that the voter ID law is intended to disenfranchise minority voters. Instead, I watched a couple hundred politically motivated, go-getter high school eyes glaze over.
It was an instructive moment in a larger conversation about what progressives could do to encourage more Democrats and left-leaning voters to get out to the polls—something we’d discussed just minutes earlier on the same panel. And Hailer demonstrated precisely what doesn’t, and hasn’t, worked. He walked into the trap that liberals and progressives set for ourselves time and time again: He tried to use facts and logic to win a policy argument with a conservative. In the process, he lost the support—and the interest—of all the neutral potential allies standing by.
I want you to remember this throughout this holiday season, when you’re sitting down to break bread with your Tea Party uncle, your Republican aunt, or your libertarian cousin. You will never win the fights you have with these people, even if you ultimately “win” them. Hours, days, weeks later—however long it takes, you might eventually secure a grudging concession. But even if, under the best and most unlikely of circumstances, you eventually get your opponent, as it were, to agree to any part of your argument, you will have lost the ears of those around you—and a very important opportunity in the process.
What opportunity? The opportunity to stop talking about policy on conservative terms, and to shift the conversation to something more productive: offering affirmative progressive alternatives.
Sure, the Democrats in that audience on Sunday probably felt validated to hear Hailer say what was on their minds. I know I did. And no doubt the Republicans enjoyed seeing McCord refute his points; certainly McCord seemed pleased at the opportunity to tout the necessity of voter ID laws. But the debate was beneficial for us—people who already knew the answers we were looking for. It wasn’t for folks who are looking for something more relevant to their daily lives, like the high schoolers in the audience.
And I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t have discussions—even heated discussions—about voter ID, or any other political issue. I’m not saying that those topics don’t have an impact on folks’ everyday existence. They do. But although having these arguments is a necessary and important part of civic engagement, they rarely show unengaged voters a new path. Instead, they help people who have already made up their minds shore up their own points of view.
So this kind of dialogue, where folks are entrenched in their own beliefs and interested only in scoring points with the other side—if it can be called a “dialogue” at all—doesn’t advance the ball. At least, not in the meaningful way that Democrats need to advance it if, in Texas, they’re ever going to end the GOP domination of politics in a state with the lowest voter turnout in the country. People on the outside of these debates aren’t seeking “gotcha” points. They’re looking for reasons to vote for a person who espouses a policy that will help them in their daily lives. And I think a lot of what they hear when these conversations happen is something akin to Charlie Brown’s teacher: wooaaaahh waaaah waaaaaaaaah, with a Democratic or Republican accent.
Instead of getting into weedy and wonky arguments that put Republican policies and ideologies front-and-center, Democrats need to start a new conversation about what they’d like to see happen. We need to stop getting defensive, or putting Republicans on the defensive.
This holiday season—and, hell, in the months that follow—stop engaging in bad-faith debates about whether Republican policy is bad, and start talking about progressive solutions to the problems presented and magnified by right-wing legislators. There’s a fundamental disconnect that I see when progressives engage conservatives, and it has to do with the fact that we’re not engaging each other on the same basic terms. Liberals believe in battling systemic oppression perpetuated by the state, for example, in the form of things like voter ID laws and abortion restrictions; Republicans, on the other hand, couch these things as protecting fundamental freedoms.
We’re not on the same starting line. We’re not even playing on the same field when it comes to our respective political ideologies. When Democrats try to argue that voter ID laws are racist, or that abortion restrictions are meant to, well, restrict abortion access, they expect that Republicans are playing the same game. They’re not. They’re not even playing the same sport. And honestly, there are barely any spectators.
By contrast, we’ve seen that when Democrats propose progressive changes, or take bold stances on issues like abortion and immigration, the response is positive, and people who otherwise might not take an interest in politics get engaged and excited. We saw it in Texas at the state capitol during Wendy Davis’ filibuster. We’ve seen it in the days since Obama’s immigration reform announcement.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t criticisms to be made, or that every progressive is pleased with any given Democratic policy, but it shows people—potential voters who are exhausted by the talking-heads game and turned off by negative political advertising—that there’s more to politics than tit-for-tat exchanges that inevitably put Democrats on the defensive.
What if people like us simply said: I believe in ending private prisons, implementing a minimum wage increase, same-day voter registration, marriage equality, immigration reform, or affordable health care, and talked about why, and let those ideas simmer with our friends and loved ones?
Here’s what I suggest: if the conversation turns, over turkey, to the Fox News Headlines of the Day, refuse to engage. And y’all know this kind of thing is coming for you, because ole’ Uncle Tri-Corner Hat has already spent every day since last Thanksgiving thinking of new ways to get the mouthy feminist at the table all riled up over abortion again. Then he gets to give his impassioned lecture about the baybeeeees again, and you get to throw up your hands in frustration because that’s what happens when you try to argue with a self-aggrandizing brick wall.
I don’t mean refuse to speak. I don’t mean change the subject to the great Black Friday deals at Kohl’s tomorrow. I mean refuse to engage with the idea that you, as a progressive or a feminist or a liberal or a Democrat owe anyone, least of all Auntie Anchor Babies, a full accounting of your personal political beliefs.
Yes, talk about why you believe the things you do. But don’t feel obligated to respond to right-wing talking points that presume you’re the bad guy, that force you to defend positions you don’t have. Yes, Grandma They’re Taking Our Jobs thinks you want to chew the U.S. Constitution to tiny bits and grant asylum to serial killers. It’s tempting to try and refute those claims, because they feel so wrong and so hurtful. You know they don’t reflect your beliefs or your actions. Don’t give them the opportunity to entertain the idea in the first place.
What do we get at the end of these kinds of arguments, most of the time? Bad feelings, frustration, and antagonism. Maybe some validation. Maybe some more wine. What we don’t get are new conversations about solutions that might help people live more economically sound, healthier lives.
Have a look around at some proposals that Democrats have made in your particular geographic area. If you live in Texas, you can check out some of the bills that have already been filed in advance of the 84th Legislature coming up in January. Rep. Celia Israel has proposed a bill that would allow for electronic voter registration. Rep. Mary Gonzalez filed a bill that will lower the age requirement for participation in the Texas Women’s Health Program. A number of Democrats have proposed raising the minimum wage and starting universal pre-K programs for underprivileged and at-risk kids.
Talk about why you support these ideas. Talk about why you think they’re good for your city, your county, your state. Acknowledge that Cousin Pull Up Your Pants disagrees, and move on.
Because somebody at your table is dying to witness more than a pissing match that taints the gravy. Somebody at your table is dying to hear new alternatives, and they’re anxious to hear about them from someone they love.
The post Progressives: Don’t Talk Turkey This Holiday Season appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Originally posted on June 16, 2005; I thought I’d repost this, since moving one more time is hopefully on the horizon.
No moss on this rolling stone
Lately, I’ve been thinking about a family friend who has helped me move on numerous occasions. That got me thinking… exactly how many times have I moved? Not counting all the times I’ve helped friends move…
My first move was when I was about a year old, so that hardly counts. That was just from one house in Baltimore, to another.
My second move was when I was around 3-ish, from the Southway house to Florida. But here’s the “splitting hairs” question… do I count it as one long six-month move? Or do I count it as two, as in “we moved from Baltimore into a pink schoolbus, and then from the schoolbus into a house in Largo”…? Lets just call it one move. I’m sure the numbers are going to pretty high as it is.
The third move was after my parents got divorced, when I was maybe just past 4? 5? I moved from living with my mother in Largo to with my father and his friends in Bayport.
The fourth move was about two and a half years later; from the cracker house in Bayport to a mobile home in New Port Richey. Hey, we really knew how to live, I tell ya!
The fifth move, the summer before I turned 10, brought us to Gainesville, a place from which I’ve tried to leave and keep getting pulled back. Our first house in Gainesville was a rental on 4th Avenue, right around the corner from J.J. Finley.
Next year we moved again, to a house not even a block away. It was right around the corner on 20th.
The seventh move was the summer between sixth and seventh grade. Dad and The Stepmonster™ took a break from each other. Dad and I moved to Ormond Beach, where we lived a few minutes away from Uncle Joe, and right next door to old family friends Bill and Doris, who’d recently moved back up from Key West.
Six months later, around Christmas, we moved back to Gainesville, into the same house on 20th.
Move number nine was a year and a half later, 1983… the summer before I turned fourteen (did I do that math right? Born in October 1969…). That was my least favorite move. That’s the one where The Stepmonster™ came home on Friday and told me to pack everything I owned because we were moving the next Monday—everything I didn’t pack was getting left behind and good luck finding boxes. Nice notice. Bitch. We were moving out to the southwest corner of the county, where they’d purchased a 40-acre farm near Watermelon Pond. Dad had to sell the property when they got divorced in early 1994.
I only lived there, at first, for three years. I got (little known Lorena trivia alert!) accepted at the Florida School of the Arts, or as we called it, “Florida School of the Art Fags” or just “Flo-Arts” (motto: We thought it would be like Fame; it was more like Deliverance.) Thus began a slew of moves brought to yours truly by the Dad-and-his-good-friend-Bill Show (motto: We don’t move things that start with the letter “P”—no pool tables, no printing presses, and no pedastals!). They loaded me up and moved me to Palatka.
During the two years I lived there, I moved three times. I moved there. Then I moved home for summer but left everything in storage—but won’t count that. We will count when I moved back and into a new apartment with a friend (whoo, boy-howdy, housemates should be a whole ‘nuther post!) who turned out to not be a good roommate… three months into that lease I got out of it and moved into a one-bedroom in the same complex.
The spring of 1988 brought me to my thirteenth and fourteenth moves. I was almost nineteen years old. Dad and Bill moved me back to Gainesville into a small apartment with a short-term summer lease. Right before fall semester they moved me again. I lived in that apartment with a roommate for a year, and at the end of the lease dad and Bill moved me again (number fifteen, for anyone still trying to count).
At the end of that lease, came The Big Virgina Move (#16). Not only did Bill and Dad move me, but Bill’s wife, Doris, helped. And so did Quinn and our friends Michael and Jeffrey. I lived in Northern Virginia with Quinn for not quite a year, coming back to Gainesville with Dad and Bill having come up to help me. This time, move #17, we rented a U-haul rather than try it all in trucks. That brought me back out to my dad’s farm in the early summer of 1991.
Late summer of the same year I had move #18, which was into a house in the student Ghetto that Bill and Doris had lived in until they got a place out on the Suwannee River. I lived there with a roommate for a year, and then had move #19 into a lovely apartment wherein I was broken into three times in three months. Needless to say, move #20 was a quick one (thanks again to dad and Bill) out to another apartment owned by the same slumlord. I lived there for nine months, until the end of my lease. After that, Bill and dad moved me for the last time, back out to the farm to be with my dad. I lived there until… uh… some time in 1994, when my then-fiancé and I moved back into town (#22, and we paid for movers) into a tiny cramped upper floor of a house in which my friend Pat and his wife Sandy had recently lived. It was funny; the first time I went over there, I said I thought I’d been to a party there before. I had, because my friend John Marron had lived in the house next door. Every time someone new came to visit, the first thing they said was “I think I’ve been to a party here before!” If you’re an old Gainesvillian, it was on NW 4th Ave, between 12th and 11th. The first two-story yellow house if you turn on from 12th. Yeah. I thought you’d been there.
Let’s see… where was I… ah! That brings me to the last move. Number 23, into the house I currently own. Also done with movers. What, you say? I haven’t moved since 1995? What’s the matter with me?! Well… I kind of think that 23 moves in the first 25 years of my life is really… enough for quite a while.
And now it’s 2014, and we’re looking at buying a piece of property and moving soon. Will that be the last move? Will they, as the line goes, bury me out there? Time will tell.
Please add links in comments.
Addendum: some links via The Belle Jar: On Ferguson – The System Isn’t Broken, It Was Built This Way
I have friends who have Black sons, and today, as they struggle through grief and pain and fear, they are trying to figure out how to make sure that their son isn’t the next Mike Brown or Trayon Martin. They want to know what they have to tell their kids in order to keep them safe. I wish I had some kind of answer for them, but of course I don’t – both because I’m white and this is so far outside of my realm of personal experience that I am absolutely not in a place to give advice, and also because there are no answers. The only way to ensure these boys’ safety would be for them to be white – and that’s both an impossible and terrible response. There is nothing about this situation that doesn’t feel impossible and terrible – and, again, that’s me as a white person saying that, and I can’t even imagine the depth of horror Black communities are experiencing right now.
Below are some excellent pieces by Black writers. If you are white, please take some time to go through it and educate yourself. That is our job right now.
Youth Are on the Frontlines in Ferguson, and They Refuse to Back Down by Muna Mire
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Following Monday night’s grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, protesters and supporters in Ferguson, Missouri, released an open letter.
“For 108 days, we have continuously been admonished that we should ‘let the system work,’ and wait to see what the results are,” they explain. “The results are in.”
“And we still don’t have justice.”
Read the full letter here: The Results Are in Open Letter 11.24.14
The post ‘We Still Don’t Have Justice’: An Open Letter From Ferguson Protesters and Supporters appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Thousands turned in on a livestream (above) as prosecutor Bob McCulloch read the indictment news tonight.
Here at Ms., we’re always on the hunt for feminist documentaries and love showcasing them on the blog and in Ms. magazine. Feminist filmmakers telling the stories of women in new and interesting ways help to push women’s issues into the cultural mainstream and highlight societal problems that otherwise may have been overlooked. And these terrific films are not hard to find! Here are 10 great feminist documentaries that are streaming on Netflix Instant right now, many of which have been reviewed in Ms.:
Late-term abortions make up only 1.5 percent of the abortions performed in the U.S., but attract disproportionate attention from anti-abortion advocates. This film follows four abortion providers, all part of the small handful of physicians willing to terminate third-semester pregnancies. All four worked closely with the late Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009 by Scott Roeder while attending church services in Wichita, Kansas. These doctors offer compassionate abortion care to women in crisis, and the film highlights the daily toll of this task–the grueling hours spent traveling from clinic to clinic, the death threats from extremists–as well as the profound sense of purpose they get from continuing the mission of their friend and colleague.
Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Missrepresentation calls out mainstream media for its limited and often degrading portrayals of girls and women. The documentary intertwines interviews with teenage girls with ones featuring famed women such as Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Lisa Ling, Rachel Maddow and Gloria Steinem. The interviews are bolstered by compelling statistics such as this one: 53 percent of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, but that number increases to 78 percent by age 17.
This film tackles the rampant problem of gendercide, primarily in India and China, where more girls are “eliminated” than are born in the U.S. In certain provinces, the ratio of very young men to young women runs as high as 140 to 100. This imbalance leads to increased sex trafficking, prostitution and, in China, kidnapping girls for brides. In India, a quarter of girls don’t survive to puberty. The directors even interview a mother in India who nonchalantly talks of strangling the eight newborn girls she has given birth to. It’s a Girl helps to piece together what has happened to the 200 million girls the U.N. estimates are missing worldwide.
After she nearly died from a postpartum hemorrhage, former model Christy Turlington Burns was inspired to make her directorial debut with a documentary on maternal mortality around the globe. The hour-long film follows several women around the world as they deal with barriers facing women during pregnancy. It lets viewers see such moments as doctors brusquely dismissing poor pregnant women in Bangladesh to post-abortion care in Guatemala (where nobody says the word abortion). As the narrative jumps from Turlington Burn’s New York apartment to Tanzanian hospitals, we see that women from all economic backgrounds are affected by maternal healthcare.
This documentary by feminist stripper Julia Query follows about 80 other strippers as they unionize, hire a lawyer and mount a strike in an attempt to gain more worker rights. The women of Lusty Lady in San Francisco argue that stripping is a valid occupation and that they should have the same protections as any other worker. The film also exposes the wage-stealing and discriminatory practices of some strip clubs: owners who misclassify strippers as independent contractors to avoid paying fair wages, and who book dancers based on race, hair color or breast size. Live Nude Girls Unite tells the story of the struggle to organize the first ever “stripper union” while pushing to humanize and destigmatize exotic dancing.
This raw and emotional documentary explores the challenges dark-skinned women face in their own communities and the world at large. Including a history of skin color in the United States and a collection of jarring interviews with dark-skinned black women–one of whom is actor Viola Davis–Dark Girls provides a candid look into the meaning of color in black America. Though the film has been rightfully criticized by some black thought leaders for portraying colorism as an internalized aspect of black pathology instead of a problem of white supremacy, its overarching message remains revealing and relevant.
An even-handed documentary about the sex industry that does its best to explore both sides of the prostitution debate, Buying Sex contains interviews with abolitionists, sex workers, johns and politicians. This Canadian film also chronicles the heated battle over the decriminalization of sex work in Canada, following an influential Ontario Superior Court ruling that struck down laws regulating prostitution. Does decriminalization give women more freedom, or does it just give male buyers and pimps greater leeway to exploit women? The film ultimately leaves it up to viewers to decide which side they fall on.
Director Sini Anderson captures the feminist punk movement of the early ’90s, Riot Grrrl, through a compelling portrait of Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill. Using two decades worth of archival footage and original interviews, she follows Hanna from her artistic roots in the Pacific Northwest to her activism in the D.C. Riot Grrrl scene. Even though sometimes too hagiographic, The Punk Singer chronicles the lionization of a reluctant and often-reticent hero and celebrates her pivotal place in feminist art.
This documentary—filmed in 10 countries with narrations from celebrities such as Olivia Wilde, Eva Mendes and Meg Ryan—tells uplifting stories of women around the world who are fighting back against systemic oppression. The film presents gender equality as the unfinished business of the our time and highlights women who are working to improve everything from healthcare to education.Though one of the faces of the Half the Sky movement, Somaly Mam, has recently been exposed for allegedly fabricating her harrowing story, it doesn’t diminish the power of this meaningful film.
Using interviews with survivors, this documentary explores the culture of impunity that has allowed a military rape epidemic to flourish. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York credited the film as her inspiration for drafting a recent bill that aims to curb rape in the military and bring justice to perpetrators. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Academy Awards.
Hope you’re all updating your queues after reading this! The list is by no means exhaustive, so please add other feminist Netflix doc suggestions in the comments!
Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
On the Ms. Blog just over four years ago, I wrote about Mattel’s (then) newest and largest doll launch: the Monster High line. Mattel was proudly offering girls dolls that were “different” and that strayed from the look of their long-lasting progeny, Barbie, and her contentious, estranged cousin, the Bratz dolls, (at that time, still under litigious dispute over their origin story). In my research, however, what I found was that despite the “freakish” appearance of the dolls, the story lines espoused by each, never mind social stereotypes promoted, were nothing new. Body shapes were as stereotypically thin as ever, and the narratives of social aggression and jealous sniping recycled the same tropes.
What amazed me, however, was the debate in the comments about whether this line was truly unique—or not. For me, the most interesting remark came from an adult woman who read the dolls as representative of disability since they were, technically, monsters, and not the “average” norm. “This means there is now a mainstream doll for many youth with disabilities,” she wrote, strikingly. Her message struck me as so filled with longing—the desire to have a doll that, literally, was not mainstream and offered some kind of different image. Yet, as another commenter posted, when the discussion turned to whether or not a doll who erred from the standard could even be imagined, she questioned: “Exactly what is a fat doll going to come with? Food? A treadmill? Plus size clothing?” The comment reflects the idea that it’s virtually impossible to understand how this can be offered and would be considered a desirable toy.
But more recently there have been some real breakthroughs. There is the still-new Lottie doll, with articulated knees, hips and hands, whose body proportions are based on that of a 9-year-old girl. And this past week, it was the Lammily doll, promoted with the tagline “Average is Beautiful,” that made a splash. Crowd-funded with such gusto that 19,000 dolls were pre-ordered, and interestingly developed by a man, (artist Nickolay Lamm), Lammily is based on average proportions of a 19-year-old woman. So far, the accessories one can buy include wardrobe sets that reflect different travel destinations (“A Stroll through Paris,” “Exploring Rio”) with nary a high heel in sight.
What’s gotten more attention, however, is the optional set of “Marks” (vinyl stickers) that you can purchase to individualize each doll with distinguishing features such as moles, stretch marks, tattoos, bandages, bruises, dirt stains and scars, among others things. Criticism of the doll, so far, seems to range from just plain bewildered that a non-skinny, non-blonde figure could even be made and marketed, to horror over the “realism” that anyone would want to apply such body details such as cellulite. More thoughtfully, some have questioned that the doll is only available in one skin tone and her narrative, thus far, seems to be only about appearance, in contrast to “career girl” Barbie.
Lammily’s heart-warming video of second graders (including a boy) first encountering the doll, however, tells a different story, and one that is optimistic. Several of the students mention how the doll reminds them of their sisters and her realness is of strong appeal. When they hold Barbie in hand and are asked which they prefer, there’s no contest—Lammily wins every time. Granted, the short film is likely edited to cast her as the winner, but the students’ enthusiasm seems entirely real. A quick check on Amazon makes it seem that orders are not filling fast enough to meet with demand. I have every reason to believe that the desire for an alternative is genuine, as parents have had so few options against the lockhold of the Disney princesses and the ubiquitous Barbie. Barbie’s distorted proportions have been commented upon for years, yet, as the attempt made by Monster High revealed, nothing much has been made new by Mattel.
This past week proved, despite the fact that she’s now entered the digital age, it’s the Mattel creators who haven’t advanced at all. The epic fail of a new Barbie picture book, I Can Be a Computer Engineer, featured Barbie recycling (in spirit, not literally) her now famous lament, “Math class is tough!” by way of the more modern comment that she’s “just the designer” on a new game but “I’m only creating the design ideas … I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” further exacerbated when she needs the boys’ help again to fix a computer virus she’s unwittingly passed along.
Outraged reaction was swift and Mattel has issued an apology and pulled the book. But not before feminist intervention hacked the text with inventive and corrective alternatives. Feminist Hacker Barbie is a delight to use and to read with cathartically sharp rewriting that reverses the stereotypes Mattel unthinkingly perpetuates. In her post “Barbie Fucks it Up Again,” writer Pamela Ribon ably deconstructs the outrage she shares with a friend (both mothers of young girls), circling back to her own experiences in the world of coding and its entrenched sexism, and how the original text does nothing but reinforce this. She writes, “Steven and Brian represent every time I was talked over and interrupted—every time I didn’t post a code solution in a forum because I didn’t want to spend the next 72 years defending it.”
Casey Fiesler, a PhD student in human-centered computing at Georgia Tech, wasted no time rewriting the book, available for free download and shown here. Fiesler details her own experience with sexism in the tech world and comments that she wanted, foremost, to give Barbie agency and take out her incompetence, and she first rewrote the book as a cathartic exercise. “Change the narrative” is a theme Fiesler reiterates, particularly with bringing girls more solidly into STEM fields. Just as she has, so the Lammily doll offers new options. Striking to me in the comments on my own previous article was the ever-present “but it’s just a doll” retort to any weight being given to girls’ takeaway from what they play with. A doll models not only body shape but possibilities is how I would respond. It’s great to see this new contribution changing the narrative of what is made available to both girls and boys alike. “If she can see it, she can be it” is a tagline from Seejane.org, under the umbrella of the Geena Davis Institute, which seeks to promote gender equity in television and film. Mattel pulling their latest Barbie iteration due to pressure for its sexist stereotypes just as the avid hunger for a new doll is made clear signals more visible and necessary change to come.
Photo of Lammily via Lammily.com
Elline Lipkin is a research scholar with UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women. The author of Girls’ Studies and The Errant Thread, she teaches creative writing in Los Angeles and is active with advocacy groups for girls.
Known as the "Joan Anderson Letter," the 18-page, single-spaced, stream of consciousness note from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac was found amid the dusty papers of a now-closed publishing house.
Walmart, for the second consecutive year, is holding a holiday food drive for its own employees. The retail giant has decided once again that instead of raising the wages of its 2.1 million employees, it will ask workers with a bit more disposable income to donate food to their associates with less.
A Walmart store in Ohio gained national attention last year when it hosted a Thanksgiving food drive for workers who don’t make enough money at the store to buy food for dinners. About 825,000 hourly employees at Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, make less than $25,000 a year.
OUR Walmart, a union-backed organizing group, has estimated that most employees make less than $9 per hour.
An Oklahoma store this month is hosting a similar drive. A picture of a bin reading “Let’s succeed by donating to associates in need!!!” was posted to the Making Change Facebook page and attributed to a Walmart in the state.
The company is owned by the six members of the Walton family, who, in 2012 had a collective net worth of $90 billion, or more than the combined income of the lowest-earning 42 percent of Americans. That year, Walmart’s net sales added up to $419 billion, more than the GDP of Norway.
Walmart employees and labor justice groups have targeted the company for its low-wage jobs and lack of support for employees. Since 2012, Walmart workers and allies have organized one-day walkout protests, culminating in strikes during Black Friday, the largest retail event of the year, starting the day after Thanksgiving.
Democrats in the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce concluded in a 2013 study that Walmart’s low wages and benefits force its employees to turn to government aid and cost taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store, every year.
Speaking out for better working conditions comes with a price; early this year, the National Labor Relations Board found that Walmart illegally fired, disciplined, or threatened at least 60 employees for complaining publicly about wages.
“The Walmart economy—a business model where a few profit significantly on the backs of the working poor and a diminishing middle class—perpetuates the income inequality problems that are devastating our country,” OUR Walmart and the United Food and Commercial Workers union said in a statement Monday.
The supplementing of Walmart workers comes during a national economic recovery fueled mostly by low-paying jobs. And it’s a recovery that has left many groups behind.
The unemployment rates from August to September went down about a full percentage point for African-American women (down from 10.6 to 9.6 percent), Hispanic women (down from 8.1 to 7.2 percent) and Hispanic men (down from 5.9 to 4.8 percent), and single mothers (down from 9.3 to 8.3 percent).