Tag Archives: gay rights

Mandate This – Progress Marches On

There are a couple of things that I want to talk about – things I am tired of hearing already, and I want to explain why.

“It’s time to get over it. Trump won. We need to come together. After all, you didn’t see people lining up to protest when Obama won.”

First – It’s amazing how fast national amnesia works, isn’t it?!? And granted, that link won’t take you to large-scale street marches – for a couple of reasons. Namely that Obama won both the popular vote and the electoral college vote by decent margins. Also, his election inspired the Republicans in congress to protest his every move in unprecedented ways. We faced eight years of a do-nothing congress intent on blocking his every move, including shutting down the government. The people who were unhappy didn’t have to march, because their representatives protested for them. (And I have recently seen more than one acquaintance say that those representatives were performing the duties of their job faithfully by shutting down the government to block the majority party from writing or enacting legislation, so…)

Second – Obama did not fuel his campaign on open hate speech and anti-POC, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ*, anti-woman, anti-Muslim (or anti-any other religion) rhetoric. Trump did. Telling someone to “get in line” to support a president who ran a fear and hate filled campaign is… just no. You don’t get to tell people that they need to support their abuser. Ever. Nope.

Third – Obama was not endorsed by any hate groups.

Fourth – Have we all already forgotten that Trump, his supporters AND the GOP establishment ALL vowed in various ways to directly oppose a Clinton presidency if she won the election? From Trump telling his followers that the election was rigged and that her presidency would be illegitimate and hinting that he would not accept the outcome if she won, to his followers vowing to load their guns and march in the streets if she won (answering his call for second amendment solutions to a Clinton presidency), to the GOP establishment in the Senate openly vowing to block ANY nominee she put up for Supreme Court positions… But we’re supposed to get in line!?! Really?

“Give him a chance. He’s not really going to do the things he said he would.”

Give him a chance? Okay – Chance #1, VP pick: Mike Pence, a governor who actively helped legislate a reign of terror against LGBTQ* folk, women and public education in his home state.

“That’s not fair, that was before the election. That was just pandering to the base.”

Okay, so you admit that the GOP base is misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic. Let’s dive into the rest.

Chance #2 – Cabinet positions: Steve Bannon for Chief Strategist and Lead Council. That’d be a known, active leader in the alt-right/white nationalist movement. Super not okay ever. Extra super not okay when there is a wave of hate crimes sweeping the nation post-Trump “victory.”

Stop telling me to give him a chance. He’s had several and he has squandered them all. See above note regarding running a hate fueled campaign.

“Trump and the GOP received a mandate on their platform this election.”

No. Nope. Not even a little bit.

First – approximately 42% of eligible voters did not even cast a ballot.

Second – Hillary won the popular vote by around a million votes. Despite hearing from various people that CNN, TIME magazine, Snopes, politifact, etc. are all liberal patsies, you can click on their names to see how they are reporting this data because I’m pretty sure they’re actually the closest to neutral that we have.

Third – If you look at how close this election really was, and if you look at how people voted on issues down ballot, you’ll see a couple of things: First, we’re living in a fairly divided nation – BUT! It’s not as divided as we’ve been led to believe.

Americans actually agree on a ton of stuff. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans believe we are a stronger, better nation because of immigrants. We believe that LGBTQ* people should have the same rights as cis-gender, heterosexual folk, including the right to marry, to form families, to adopt, to receive services from public officials and private businesses open to the public, to use a restroom, etc. We believe that women should have access to safe, legal abortions, and birth control. We believe in universal access to free, quality education. We want universal access to affordable,quality health care. We want universal background checks on firearm purchases…

There are more issues that Americans agree on, like reinstating the Voting Rights Act, undoing Citizens United to try to get money further away from politics, or at least make it more transparent when someone is trying to buy an election, closing tax loopholes, penalizing folk who stash money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes, etc. We agree that we need to invest in infrastructure. We agree that we need to help people transition from obsolete jobs and industries into new fields. And that all Americans who are able and willing to work should have access to jobs that pay a living wage.

Those are the mandates that the government should take seriously. A functioning democracy should be looking at these issues, the issues that the vast majority of Americans agree on, and we should be moving forward on them. We should be making progress, not rolling it back. That’s our mandate.

And so, to the folk still upset about this election – stay angry, stay frustrated – BUT DON’T GIVE IN TO DESPAIR. We need you. All of you, to fight. To hold the line. To hold our elected officials accountable. To reach out to the white folk who keep voting against not only their own best interests, but also their stated goals. We need to reach the people who claim to be “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative” and ask them to join us in holding their elected officials accountable to the values that the majority of Americans agree on. That’s the common ground we need to work on, and it has nothing to do with hate.

*I’ve been asked if I’ll be posting an action list. Yes – but not tonight, I have a pile of other work I have to do. ALSO, I am working on compiling a list of resources for folk who have been directly threatened by a Trump presidency. I’m not entirely sure what form this directory will take, but I feel like that is also an important piece of action that I can and should take. I am hoping to have both posts up before Thanksgiving. If you have suggestions for either – please drop them in the comments! Thank you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Musings on the purpose of life.

I suppose I should start by asking if life even has a purpose before I dive into what that purpose might be.

And the truth is – I don’t really think life does have a purpose. I think it’s totally random and ultimately meaningless in the REALLY BIG PICTURE scale.

But… We don’t live life on that scale, we live life in the here and now – and here and now, everything we do has meaning, and consequences. In the here and now, we are all struggling to define ourselves, to make our mark, to create our legacies, to mean something.

On that level – yes, our lives have purpose.

The hitch is that, we have to create that purpose, because there is no god, no deity, no greater power doing that work for us. We are here, what we do with that is up to us.

the meaning of life

What does your life mean?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and talking around it in various circles. I’ve heard some interesting things.

My dad made a statement recently that there is far more suffering in the world than joy because joy is fleeting while suffering tends to last.

Both my husband and I took issue with that – and yes, we’re privileged white folk living in middle class America, so our level of suffering is pretty low – but even still, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, I spent my 21st birthday not out at the bars drinking until I puked, but in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border and in that place where I thought I should see only despair, what I mostly saw was joy – joy in playing a game of cane ball, joy in friendship, joy in the little day-to-day things, like shoes that fit and food on the plate, that my middle-class American upbringing has made me blind to…

joy in a refugee camp thirst aid

Unbridled joy in a refugee camp

I think from the outside we see much more suffering than is really there in the world.

Suffering makes headlines, suffering fills the news reels, suffering – far more even than sex – sells.

This is not to say that suffering doesn’t exist, or that we don’t need to worry about refugee kids, or starving families, or injustice because look – those kids are smiling, it is simply acknowledging that despite all of the suffering – joy can be found nearly everywhere we look.

I’ve heard from another group of friends that our purpose here is to accumulate goods, property, material wealth… And that strikes me as odd because when I look at the suffering in the world, most of it is caused by this pursuit.

First, there is the obvious – that in order to accumulate material wealth we have to take it from someone else. Sometimes we trade fairly, sometimes we steal it, often we try to make our theft look like fair trade. Those acts of theft leave suffering in their wake.

Also, in order to accumulate material wealth, we have to take the materials from the earth – and it’s not usually a pretty process. There’s a lot of destruction that goes into our need to have a constantly growing economy based on consumption. That environmental destruction and degradation creates additional suffering.

Last, there is the suffering of the pursuers for whom there will never be enough, because someone else will always appear to have more. The constant striving and never fully achieving “enough” creates another layer of suffering.

Then last night, I was talking with my husband who is feeling pressure to decide “what he wants to be when he grows up” and is sick and tired of the idea that our careers should define us, and that we have to base who we are on what we do to make money to accumulate things.

He pointed out that when he dies and his life flashes before his eyes, he doubts he’s going to be taking a tally of the shit he acquired.

Much more likely, he will see the faces of the people he affected for good or ill.

If there is any judgement coming, it will be based, not on how much crap he owns or how much money he made, but on whether he made life better or worse for the people around him.

If there is a legacy to be left, it won’t be in a pile of material goods, but in the stories people tell and the memories they share of him.

And when he dies, and those images flash before him, and those judgements are passed – he wants to be remembered for the smiles he shared, the smiles he helped create, the good moments he helped others enjoy.

When his life is weighed, he wants the joy he created to outweigh the suffering.

And I had my Ah-ha!

Because he’s right.

At the end of the day, at the end of my life, what I want to be remembered for and measured by is not how much stuff I hoarded – I am not a Viking trying to buy my way in to Valhalla with my accumulated mountain of useless baubles – but how many lives I touched and by how well I followed the campsite rule of leaving each day better than I found it.

It’s one of the things I like most about my new job, 90% of it revolves around making people smile, giving them 2 hours of joy as well as the skills they need to take it home and do it again. Am I changing the world? Perhaps not, but I’m shaping moments, and moments, like pennies, add up.

I can’t tell you what your purpose is, but I can say that I believe that if we all focused more on what we were doing to make our corners of the world better for the people we interact with and better for our communities, instead of focusing on how much material crap we had – the world would be a better place, not just for the people around us – but for ourselves too.

If we focused on making sure everyone had enough, instead of worrying about how we were going to get more… The world would be a better place.

MLK the purpose of life

What are you sharing with the world?

The Buddhists have long taught that striving is the source of suffering, and I believe that to be true.

We forget, so often, here in the whirlwind busyness of the West, that most of us have plenty, more than plenty. We get so busy striving and counting and hoarding that we forget to even appreciate what we have, and more, we forget that often the best way to appreciate something is to share it.

I have enough, I have more than enough, so this year I am going to focus on sharing more and hoarding less and the only thing I am going to strive for is more smiles.

I wish you all the feeling of plenty in the coming year.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Things that work

What’s at Stake in the Midterm Elections? Or – VOTE DAMNIT.

I don’t want to tell you how to vote. (Well, that’s not really true, I desperately want to tell you how to vote – but I’m not going to. Because what’s best for me might not be what is best for you, and I respect that.) And I’m not going to tell you how I voted. Anyone who knows me can probably guess with at least 80% accuracy. (I say 80% because I surprised even myself on a couple of issues and people this year.)

What I want to do is remind you what is at stake, in your town, in your county, in your state, and in our country this mid-term election. Because, I keep hearing how close the polling is on a bunch of candidates and a bunch of issues this year.

The infamous They say it is because many people tune out during the mid-terms and don’t bother getting themselves to the polls, or in my state – filling out the ballot they send you in the mail using the information they send you weeks before hand to make sure you’re at least minimally informed and then sending the ballot back.

SERIOUSLY – it’s not hard.

THEY SEND YOU THE BALLOT.

IT COMES TO YOUR DOOR.

YOU JUST HAVE TO HAVE A PEN AND TWO STAMPS.

If you are in one of these states – THERE ARE NO EXCUSES.

But hey, maybe you live in a state where you actually have to leave your house to vote, and where voting only takes place one day a year and there are HUGE lines and you have to miss work, which you can’t afford to do, and you have to have special ID that isn’t required in your regular life and costs money that you need for groceries or… Maybe you live in one of the states where they have made it so freaking hard to vote that it feels impossible to do, even if you wanted to, which you’re not sure you do because hey, your district has been so gerrymandered that your vote won’t count anyway…

I can *almost* sympathize with those folk. And I say almost because, if you don’t make that HUGE sacrifice to vote, it’s not going to get any better.

Vote for change

It’s up to us to be the change.

Or maybe none of the candidates really represents you, your wishes for your town/state/country. I get that. Sometimes, and I truly hate it when I have to do this, but sometimes I have to vote against someone rather than FOR someone. It happened this year and I’m super annoyed by it. I even wrote to the person and party that got my vote to let them know that it was NOT a vote for them, and why and what they needed to change/improve if they did want my vote for real. Personally I blame the two party system and the way that often forces us to vote for the lesser of two evils rather than the candidate we really want. This is something I hope we all get annoyed enough by that we work to change it.

Just remember, if you don’t vote – you are letting others vote for you.

Or maybe you’re one of those people who thinks that voting doesn’t matter – the game is rigged, all politicians are the same, government is owned by big business anyway, your vote doesn’t count, blah, blah, blah…

And look, I feel you. Sometimes it does feel like none of it matters.

The very first presidential election I got to vote in was Bush Jr. vs Gore. Remember that one? The one where I thought Gore won, and then I woke up to a Bush victory and then maybe it really was Gore and then we all waited, and waited, and waited and then the supreme court picked our president for us?

Yeah, after that it was a little harder to drag my ass to the ballot box. But even so, I voted. EVERY CHANCE I GOT.

Because if voting doesn’t matter, then why are some people trying to make it so hard to exercise that right?

If voting doesn’t matter what are they so scared of? Heck, let everyone vote if it doesn’t make a difference…

But voting DOES matter, it does make a difference, ESPECIALLY in the off years, the mid-terms, the non-presidential years.

Here in America we often make fun of the Brits for still having a royal family. And yet, every four years we all rush out to elect a president who doesn’t change our day to day life all that much, who is mostly a symbol, a person who has much less power than we all seem to think. And every other year we pass up the opportunity to vote on people and issues that REALLY matter, that really will affect our everyday lives.

So, this midterm, I’m asking, begging really, please – VOTE. And if you live in a state with a mail-in-ballot and you just don’t have the stamps, tell me. I’ll totally front you a couple. Seriously. I will send you stamps.

If you have to take time off work, and stand in line for 13 hours, and purchase a new ID – first, remember your boss CANNOT fire you for taking time off to vote. That is illegal. Second, bring snacks – and water. Last, I wish I could front everyone the money they need to get the proper ID and to pay for the time you have to take off work to get it since those offices are only open during regular working hours and… But I’m not that rich. If I ever win the lotto –  I pledge my winnings to the cause. In the meantime – maybe you can crowdfund it? Or ask on social media. You can certainly ask in the comments. Maybe we can all get together and help. But seriously – VOTE, because this shit isn’t going to get any better if you don’t.

So, now that YOU ARE GOING TO VOTE – let’s talk about some of the issues you’re likely going to be seeing on the ballot this year.

1. Voting Rights

I feel compelled to start here – if you want the right to vote – you better exercise that right. AND as you exercise it, you need to think about your candidate’s stand on this issue. Do they believe that all Americans should be able to access and exercise their right to vote, or do they believe that right should be curtailed for people who cannot jump through an increasingly complex, time-consuming and expensive series of hoops?

2. Women’s reproductive rights and health issues.

In light of recent Supreme Court rulings regarding buffer zones, birth control access and abortion access, lots of states have reproductive rights issues on the ballot. My state is voting yet again on a fetal-personhood bill and wishing that there was a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy on introducing legislation to voters so we could finally put this issue to rest for good.

Regardless of your personal stance on abortion, fetal personhood goes too far. It usurps FEMALE personhood and comes with a whole host of secondary problems, like criminalizing miscarriages and poor pregnancy outcomes if the mother’s behavior during the pregnancy was less than perfect. This is already happening in multiple states.

Even if women’s reproductive rights are not directly on the ballot in your state, there is a good chance that your candidates have strong positions on this issue. This is one of the many issues where I would argue that not all politicians are the same – and it matters!

I’ve been told for years now that this is a red-herring/straw-man/make-believe issue. But all you have to do is look around the country to see heinous abortion restrictions being implemented over and over again. And yes, some of them are being blocked in the courts, but many are not. Reproductive justice is no longer universal, our nation is covered in a patchwork of laws and barriers and hoops that must be jumped through for a woman to make a decision about her own health care.

Pay attention to the politicians you are electing. Not only do they have the power to enact legislation that can harm or liberate women and families on this issue, they also have the power to appoint the judges who  may one day be called in to determine just how many barriers present an “unreasonable burden” to reproductive health care access.

3. Social Services including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Mental Health funding, SNAP, Section 8 Housing, education, libraries, roads, emergency services etc.

Yes, I know someone who knows someone who told someone about a family who was getting rich on welfare. Damn those lazy bastards gaming the system. BUT, I also know a much larger number of actual people who are working their asses off to make ends meet and need a little help to get there. And even more people who already worked their asses off for a few decades and have earned the right to stop working their asses off and still expect to have a roof over their head, food on their table, clothes on their back and access to competent medical care. All of that is at risk in this midterm election.

These issues are on the ballots not just in the candidates we vote for, but also in more direct ways. My state has a law that makes it so people get to vote on any/every proposed tax increase or extension. The problem is, people hate taxes, no matter what they are for. I have a friend who totally shot herself in the foot by voting no across the board on all tax proposals and then she was upset when some of her benefits got cut. DUDE – WHERE DID YOU THINK THAT MONEY WAS COMING FROM!?!

Services cost money. If we want services to exist, we have to vote yes on taxes from time to time. If the taxes say they are going to something you wish was funded better, or funded at all, vote yes and try to get your people to vote yes with you.

4. Prison reform and the militarization of the police

This is another issue that probably isn’t directly on the ballot, but which you should be paying close attention to – where do your candidates stand on these issues. What are they saying about military style SWAT raids, about police killing unarmed youth in the streets, racially biased mandatory drug sentencing laws, prison overcrowding (is their solution to build more prisons, reduce sentences, or change laws?), a for-profit prison system that rewards high incarceration rates and penalizes rehabilitation programs… etc. Remember, beyond creating policy and law, the people you vote for also have the power to appoint justices who will ultimately decide about the legality of some of these actions.

5. Gun regulations and gun rights

This is one of those touchy issues. In this country the right to bear arms is seen as more basic and protected than the right to vote, the right to access medical care, and even the right to life. You want to talk about sacred fucking cows – talk to someone who thinks that all people everywhere should have access to all the guns and all the ammo all the time. (Unless they are black and living in Ferguson…)

Personally, I think there is some room for nuance. I promised I wouldn’t tell you how to vote, so instead I will just ask you to look at the candidates on your local ballots and look at their voting records if they have them, listen to what they themselves have said on the issue (as opposed to any attack ads their opponent has funded) and think about the world you want to live in and who will best represent your vision for that world.

6. Campaign Finance Reform

I’ve heard that this is a lost cause, that Citizens United is the law of the land and we will never put the genie back in the bottle. Call me a naive idealist, but isn’t the whole point of a democracy of the people and for the people that we can change anything we don’t like if enough of us get together and raise hell, ahem, VOTE.

7. The Environment

From climate change to smaller, more immediate environmental issues – local droughts being exacerbated by certain water hungry/water killing businesses, extended wildfire seasons, water contamination from unregulated chemical storage facilities, exploding train cars that weren’t voluntarily upgraded to be safe to carry their contents without exploding, dying bees and colony collapse disorder which will affect our food security far into the future, pollutants in rivers, streams, lakes and the ocean which is killing fish – again putting our food security at risk…

I keep hearing that I should shut up about the environment because, JOBS! whatever the fuck that means. I’m pretty sure without air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat I’m not going to need a fucking job… Sorry, that came awfully close to telling you how to vote. But seriously, why would anyone vote for a candidate who thinks we can afford to trash our home, or who doesn’t believe that trashing our planet carries real consequences?

8. Immigration reform

Those are some loaded words – depending on who you are they either mean – “Send them all back and build a giant wall to keep them out!” Because, ya know, that worked so well for China. Or, they mean, “Hey, let’s create a process to help people who have come to America become contributing members of our society beyond doing all the shit jobs we don’t want to do.”

So, whichever side of that line you fall on – again, look at who your legislators are and what their position is on this issue. It’s not an issue that is likely to go away any time soon, and it’s an issue that really matters to real people. I’ve seen so many families torn in half because of our broken immigration system, not to mention all the unaccompanied minors who are stranded in legal no-man’s land.

9. WAR!

The war drums are beating again and we haven’t even started paying for the two longest wars in American history. So, unless you want deeper reductions in service programs, or seriously high tax increases, or most likely both – see where your candidates stand on increasing our use of the military in our efforts to police the world and maintain a constant flow of cheap goods to our borders.

10. Minimum wage and worker’s rights

A few decades ago people literally fought and died so that the average American could have weekends, bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, an 8 hour work day… We still don’t have a guaranteed living wage, parental leave, sick pay, vacation days… Unions are being busted and not all workers even have the right to unionize. Minimum wage employees are being asked to sign non-compete clauses and getting paid with fee-riddled debit cards, wages are being stolen in ridiculous (or ingenious depending on your political leanings) ways. CEOs are now earning about 300 times more than their lowest paid employee. That means every day a CEO brings home what it takes their employees an entire year to earn.

Look at what your candidates think and say about this issue, what does their voting record say? Do they think that all workers deserve a living wage, or do they think that only the workers who were privileged enough to graduate college and land a coveted job deserve the right to live?

11. Health Care

Beyond just ObamaCare and whether it gets repealed, revisited, rewritten, or possibly improved… Health care access is at stake in many ways from reproductive health care, covered above, to insurance law, to various states toying with their own levels of opting into or out of ObamaCare and medicaid expansion. There are also issues on some ballots that will directly affect access to mental health care vs imprisonment of mentally ill people. If you’re tired of prisons being used to house people who need rehabilitative mental health care, pay attention this year, and listen to what your candidates are saying about this issue.

12. Gay rights, trans* rights, civil rights and other social justice issues

Equal rights for all people are absolutely on the ballot this year, from gay marriage to protections for trans* people to equality under the law regardless of skin tone or gender – think long and hard as you vote for your candidates and listen to their definition of liberty and justice – are they talking about liberty for businesses, or for actual people?

13. Judicial Appointments

I touched on this a little above, but please keep in mind as you vote for your candidates that some of them have the power to appoint justices to state supreme courts, appellate courts, etc. AND others have the power to confirm or block those appointments. Who we vote for in the midterms matters – it matters WAY more than who we vote for for president.

Now that you’re all fired up to VOTE because you see how important it is – make sure you’re registered to vote – If you aren’t registered, check your state’s laws and see if you still have time. Check and see what the voting laws, regulations and restrictions are and make sure you’re all set to vote when you show up at the polls.

Get yourself educated on the candidates and issues that are on your ballot. If you live in a state that sends you a non-partisan information book, take the time to read it. Read the for and against arguments on the issues, read the full text of the measures and the summaries of what they will mean for your state or town.

It’s easier than ever to do the research into candidates and issues, we have The Google and there are non-partisan organizations trying to get past all the noise filling the airwaves and deliver real information to voters. Use them.

Ignore the attack ads, even the ones that confirm your biases. Attack ads are crap.

AND – If I missed an important issue that is on the ballots this year – drop it in the comments.

5 Comments

Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant, Things that work

Redefining Man – A Modest Proposal

This is *hopefully* going to be a quickie.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

So – when our constitution was written there were lots of clauses defining the rights and responsibilities of “man” and “men.” Many of our laws still reflect this pronoun preference.

At that time, in that culture/society that word was loosely defined as “white propertied male.” People back then didn’t talk so much about sexual orientation, but I think we can safely add “straight” to the list of included adjectives.

Since that time we have had to add amendments to the constitution to grant basic rights – like citizenship, the right to vote – to African-Americans, women and other minorities.

At present some supreme court justices have said that they do not believe that the 14th amendment, put in place after the civil war to grant equal rights to former slaves and free African-Americans, applies to women! Or gays. Or…

In addition, that amendment was not enough to grant African-Americans the right to vote – that came later, with the 15th amendment. Which did not extend voting rights to women, only to men of all races, regardless of “previous conditions of servitude.”

It took another 50 years for voting rights, aka full citizenship status, to be granted to women.

And still… We’re not really there yet. We are still having battles over what is a right, what is a privilege and who is a real, full citizen.

We see it in the gay rights movement right now, as well as with the renewed push to ratify the ERA – Equal Rights Amendment, which would grant women the same actual, full legal rights and protections currently granted to men in this country. We see it in the push for immigration reform. We see it in the battles for full rights to be granted to disabled and differently abled people, including the right to marry.

But… What if we simply passed an amendment stating that throughout the constitution of the United States of America, the word man would be taken to mean “person.”

Non-gendered, non-racially charged, non-sexual orientated, non-ability specific.

Would that make a difference?

If people were legally defined as equal, would it help?

What if this amendment went a step further and redefined “man” in all legislation to simply “person” and the same for “woman”?

Then on documents regarding one man and one woman – well, it would just be one person and one person.

Is changing the language enough to change minds? Can we get to a place where we are all just people, regardless of the color of our skin, the language our parents speak at home, the organs between our legs – or the legs of the person we love, the gender we identify with in our core, our mental and physical abilities…

Is there a way to get there from here?

Is there a way to include all of the people all at once instead of this piece-meal approach where every couple of decades we recognize the humanity of a new sub-group of our nation’s population? Is there a way to wave a magic wand, or pen, and simply grant the full range of inalienable human rights to every living, breathing person?

Could it be as simple as affording the same rights, privileges and responsibilities of “man” to all people?

human rights

Human rights belong to everyone.

10 Comments

Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Homophobia and misogyny – Are you man enough?

I’m far from the first person to comment on the links between homophobia and misogyny.

But after reflecting on my Pandora issues, I realized just how true and tight that connection is.

Let’s talk about the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis station I tried to have.

I have to start by saying that I am overly Caucasian. All those “white people can’t dance” jokes – yeah, they’re talking about me. I have no rhythm.

What I am though, is a poet.

I feel the music – but I listen to the words.

So, I won’t comment on the musical abilities of M&RL – instead, I’ll comment on their message and words.

“If I was gay, I’d think hip hop hates me. Have you read the YouTube comments lately?”

Followed shortly by, “No freedom ’till we’re equal, damn right I support it.

My daughters LOVE M&RL. They put their hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us every time they come on the air.

In fact my girls dig hip hop in general. They like the heavy beats, the hard rhythms, the poppy hooks…

And, given Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s generally positive and upbeat messaging, I thought – hey, this is probably a safe station to create for my kids.

I don’t worry about swearing, but I do care about the over all message of the songs we listen to.

As you can imagine, I was super disappointed to hear my M&RL station devolve into a vile spiral of misogynistic music glorifying beating women, raping women and even killing women “She deserved it, the skanky ho.” (Clearly Pandora’s algorithms do not take lyrical content into account!) I skipped the allowed 6 songs – IN A ROW – before I gave up and nuked the station.

Many people have long commented that as much as hip hop hates gays, it also hates women.

Recent research gives us some insight into the connection – There are certain subgroups of men who become “hypermasculine” due to various cultural forces. One of these forces appears to be the creation of a pack mentality in groups of boys and men where women are excluded or simply not present.

Sports teams, gangs, certain religious sects and the military are a couple of the main examples of this.

In these subgroups, the men involved struggle to define their gender identity and come to designate it as “Not female.”

no girls tee

I’m not a girl, so I must be a man.

However, by defining themselves in the negative, “Not female,” they are constantly insecure. If a woman does something as well as them – does that mean they aren’t man enough? If a woman likes something they like, are they still allowed to like it?

This insecurity is the root of misogyny.

These subgroups of “hypermasculine” men must keep women separate from themselves in order to stand tall. They must keep women down, lesser, other – in order to define themselves as complete, whole, acceptable.

It is also the root of homophobia, because homosexual males defy this edict that “Man equals Not Woman” by engaging in some feminine behaviors – primarily that of having sexual relations with men. And homosexual women defy the edict by “taking” something that is not theirs to take – other women, the clear property of (straight) males!

If “real” men don’t do, or enjoy, or like the same things as women – then men who do must be feminine and therefore WRONG!

If women enjoy and engage in the same activities as men, either those women are usurpers – or those activities are not properly masculine.

What do we do to change this? How do we help these men see that they are more than “Not female”?

How do we help more people – male and female see that we all have a blend of masculine and feminine traits? That gender is a construct, not something static handed out at birth? That we are ALL living between the lines?

There are a number of women who also buy into this creed – that men and women are inherently different, and that men are naturally on top. To some extent, I was one of them. I was a female chauvinist pig for much of high school. I thought my value rested in my ability to keep up with the boys, because I did not want my value to rest between my legs – where other girls supposedly kept theirs. I thought I was a feminist because I defied that norm, because I refused to let my sex define me. What I failed to realize was that – by denying my sex, I was still falling victim to sexism. Worse, I was in fact, perpetuating it.

I was one of those tomboy usurpers throughout high school. I was the girl who got invited to all the bro-downs and not because I put out (I didn’t) but because my truck was bigger than theirs AND I knew how to drive it. I also only owned logging boots for about 7 years. I rock climbed barefoot and kicked ass. I was a bro, but ya know, with a vagina. And, as long as I didn’t remind my guy friends that I had that vagina, we were okay. As long as I didn’t call them out when they made sexist jokes or talked trash about their girlfriends, I could pretend I belonged.

I still tend toward the “masculine” in lots of ways, though I’ll admit getting married and starting a family has helped me come off my own trip through manville.

One of the things that helped me the most was marrying a man who has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt, and pigtails. Just because it was hot out and that was what was comfortable. And pigtails are sexy – those might have been for me. But being with a man who values the “feminine” as well as the “masculine” – who sews and cooks and cleans AND builds houses, drives a truck, camps, hikes, etc. helped me find balance in my own life.

He has helped me accept my own feminine as something to be valued, rather than something to be hidden.

I find I have a lot less to prove these days – and I find my guy friends are a lot more willing to take a walk down the feminine side with me than they were 20 years ago.

The truth is, gender norms aren’t as hard-wired as we’d like to think. They’re social constructs. We know this because we live in a time where people can travel all over the world. We can visit other cultures. We have people who study the past and make sense of it.

We know that there are still matrilineal and matriarchal cultures. We know there used to be a lot more. If gender traits were hard wired – they would also be universal.

We know that women in this culture, in this country, used to be expected to wear skirts and dresses – but now we can all wear pants if we want to without being burned at the stake. However, the tide hasn’t shifted the other way – not quite yet. It’s rare to see a straight cis-man wearing a skirt in the street. The occasional kilt, perhaps – but a skirt or a dress? Not so much.

And why not?

Because it’s girly?

tony porter

Until that pendulum swings back the other direction, until we free men of the “Man box” we will still have homophobia and misogyny. Until boys and men are allowed by our culture and our society to express a full range of emotions, choose from a full range of loves, passions, careers and favorite bands – until men are allowed to be more than “Not woman” – we’re stuck.

So, in the last gasp of this long post – I want to give a HUGE shout out to all the gay rights activists, the transgender communities and the cross dressers.

Why? Because, right now, they are the front line – they are the ones who have taken the torch and are showing the world that people are people are people.

They are the leaders showing the world that real men can wear skirts, real men can love other men, real men can start out life with a vagina.

They are the ones continuing the march for women. Sure we’ve got pants and jobs now, but the LGBTQ community is showing the world that real women are more than the opposite of men.

They are showing the world that we truly are all blurring the lines.

All the progress that feminists have made – so that women are now “allowed” to like sports, have jobs, climb the corporate ladder, wear pants – and army boots – it’s a lot, but we’re only half way.

We still need to free the other half of their gender constraints.

No freedom ’til we’re equal. Damn right I support it.

Are you man enough to climb out of the man box? Here’s a hand, we’ll help.

38 Comments

Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

The Love Police

I was talking with my kids tonight about Mary Lambert – the amazing woman with the amazing voice who wrote the amazing hook to the amazing song “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

(I encourage you to listen while you read.)

I don’t know a whole lot about her. In fact, I am horribly late to this “Same Love” party. What I do know, from an article I read and her twitter description is that she is “hella gay” and that the haunting closing refrain “Not cryin’ on Sunday, Not cryin’ on Sunday” was inspired by her real life experience going to a less than gay friendly church and coming home feeling pretty broken, alone, scared and hurt. Not quite how I imagine we want people to feel after they go to church.

Then again, I’m an atheist and I haven’t been to church in decades so what do I know. Maybe that’s exactly how they want people to feel.

All I know is that if I set up a church, it would be to love. Love is the only thing I ever really believed in. The power of love to help, to heal, to right wrongs and expand minds and hearts.

If I had a church, I would want people to leave feeling filled up, inspired, empowered… Loved and lifted.

Anyway, we were talking about Mary and my girls asked if she was married. I said I didn’t know. We talked about the patchwork of laws surrounding gay marriage. (I didn’t get into whether or not Mary even wanted to be married. Despite my best efforts, my daughters still refuse to believe that there is anything between “I love you” and “I do”.)

The idea that there were some places where gays can get married and some where they can’t confused my daughters. The fact that there are still places where two people in love wouldn’t be allowed to get married upset them. Why would anyone not want someone like Mary to be allowed to marry the person they love? Why would anyone want to put up barriers or roadblocks to Love. (Which is exactly what “Same Love” is about, and why it was written.)

They asked why gay people couldn’t just “do it anyway”. (Get married, that is.) I explained about the legal benefits of marriage, like if my husband gets in an accident, I get a phone call and immediate access to him in the hospital. If he is incapacitated, I get to make his medical decisions, even if one of his parents shows up and disagrees with them. If he dies it is assumed that I get everything he has unless he has stated otherwise in a legal will. Both of our names are on our children’s birth certificates. We are both their legal parents. This makes things like school registration, doctor’s appointments, medical emergencies, etc. MUCH, MUCH, MUCH easier. There are upwards of 1,000 other legal rights that my husband and I have that gay couples don’t.

My daughters wanted to know what they could do to right this wrong. “Love, be open, be accepting. Understand that everyone is different, and that Love is the only truth.”

Yesterday this post by a cyber pal of mine caught my eye. I’d been reading the news article about this story and my blood was boiling because the love police were at it again. This time they were preventing a legally married couple from living together because they were “mentally incompetent”, despite the fact that the state of New York where they live deemed them capable and competent enough to wed.

Decades ago people railed against interracial marriages. Many people still flinch at interfaith marriages, though there is no actual law banning it, many faiths have their own rules against this practice.

People get upset about all kinds of love that doesn’t look like their love, or like Disney love, or like the love their church told them was acceptable love.

But, as Emily Dickinson once said, “The heart wants what it wants.”

And as the Bible says, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And other things like, “Let he who is without Sin cast the first stone.” Because, we are all imperfect – but LOVE, Love is what makes us whole again. Love is what brings us together – in ourselves, and in the world.

To steal another quote from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) ” Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

The Talmud tells us, “Loving kindness is greater than laws; and the charities of life are more than all ceremonies.”

The Quran offers this from Mawadda 30:21, “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”

The Tao Te Ching, the Buddhist Dhamma, and other ancient texts all preach that Love conquers all, Love supersedes all, Love is what will save us – if we will only open our hearts to it and allow it in.

And yet, us petty humans cannot seem to get even that right. We cannot stop cramming everyone into “Us” and “Them” boxes. We can’t seem to stop policing Love and trying to tell others who they can love, and how they can love, and even when they can love. We can’t seem to just get out of the way, and Let Love Rule.

Perhaps Old Turtle was right. Perhaps the truth is simply broken.

Broken Truth

You Are Loved. And so Are They.

Because, if I am loved – so are you. If we are loved – so are they.

Remember, I am also a You. And You are also a Them. And we are all just trying to get by.

And Love – Love is the answer that gets us there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Start Something

This is sort of a warm up post to a big announcement that I’ve got coming soon.

This morning I was going through my email, cleaning it out and cleaning it up. It’s the account where I get all of my political action notices, articles, petitions, etc. Most of the time I skim through it on rapid fire, my brain on a constant Sun Tzu, Art of War, loop – “Never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake.” I am able to delete 80% of the URGENT! petitions this way without even having to open them. The other 20% are asking me to encourage people/organizations to stand strong in their stated direction. Supporting your team when they are doing what you consider to be right, or encouraging them to shift course to do better – that fits into my world view.

This morning I got my gazillionth or so email petition about the Boy Scouts of America and their anti-gay policies. This one was regarding a troop in my home state, so I opened it. I read it. And then, instead of looping back to Sun Tzu, I remembered something a fellow blogger wrote recently. (And which helped me make the crucial decision that is leading to the big announcement that I am teasing you with…)

It was a simple post, a simple statement – but so powerful, and so on point.

“Start your own whatever…”

I realized that that is what is annoying me about all of these “Tell so and so to stop being such and such” petitions.

Insitutionalized Discrimination Encouraged

No girls, gays, or godless allowed!

Why? Aside from Sun Tzu’s logic, the truth is, the Boy Scouts are what they are. I don’t agree with their policies. I never have, from the time they refused to let me join because I have a vagina instead of a penis, I have disliked and disagreed with them.

I didn’t want the consolation prize of being a Girl Scout. I didn’t want to sell cookies and learn to sew and do crafts. I wanted to go hiking and camping and build fires and tie knots and carry a pocket knife… So, the Boy Scouts and me – not on the best of terms.

All the same, my little 7-year-old ego was convinced it was their loss. I moved on and started my own club and invited boys AND girls to join me for camping and hiking and spelunking and other mischievous mayhem.

GOP war on wombs

Finally, government small enough to fit inside my uterus!!

I am tired of getting email petitions asking me to tell the GOP that we disagree with their war on women, or their attacks on sanity or… They already know that. They lost the last election. They are bleeding women, Latinos, gays, the poor and middle class…

The truth is, I am not part of them. I don’t want to be part of them. I look at what the so-called leadership of that party is doing at the state level and at the national level and I want nothing to do with it. They don’t include me or consider me in their policy, much like the Boy Scouts, so… It’s time to walk away and start my own thing.

If enough of us do this – walk away from the businesses, organizations and groups who are failing us, or refusing to represent us – those groups will fade. They have made the decision to become exclusive to a small subset of Americans. Let them.

Stop whining about how they are failing you, and get out there and start your own thing.

gay boy scouts

Face it, you’re too good for the Boy scouts.

The Boy Scouts know how we feel. They know that the majority of Americans believe that gays are people deserving of equal rights and equal opportunity. However, they also know that their vocal base supporters disagree. Shouting that they are wrong, louder, won’t change the equation. Walking away from them and starting something better and more inclusive, might.

The GOP knows that the majority of Americans disagree with their 1950’s social policies, and their failed Reagonomics. The majority of us voted against those policies in the last election. Reminding them of that via petition, marches, and call ins isn’t changing anything. Why? Because they are still pandering to their “base”.

The only thing that will change American politics is we the people, walking away from failed parties too stubborn to grow up. (And many of my readers feel this way about the Democrats too. Again, walk away. We have to stop voting for the lesser of two evils, or the guy who sucks less. We have to start voting for the candidates that really speak to us. And we have to start including 3rd parties in that equation.)

This is the politics of the free market at play. Our money and our participation matter. So don’t whine that the Boy Scouts suck for all non-white, non-Christian, non-males. We have known that for decades. Stop trying to make them include you. They’re the mean clique in high school, they don’t want to include you. And frankly, you should value yourself enough to not want to be included by them.

Kid Scouts

Kid Scouts of America!

Instead, do what I tell my daughters to do when they’re feeling excluded – start something better, and then sit back and wait for the mean kids to come to you. And when they do… Lead by example, and let them in – just don’t let them take over!

And because I have fallen completely in love with Katie Goodman and relish any excuse to share her videos, I’ll leave you with this.

You’re welcome!

5 Comments

Filed under Kids, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant