3 Things You Can Do Today to Work Towards Social Change

As some of you know, I moved to northwestern Connecticut in the beginning of November. Since then, I’ve been enjoying small town life again but feel a little isolated from the big organizing going on in cities before Trump takes office. I’ll be moving to a city again soon, but I wanted to share a few things I’m doing in this lag time to prepare myself for a Trump presidency. I’m also keeping this short because I’ve found myself overwhelmed by longer lists recently and want to point to small, specific things.

  1. Join the Democratic Socialists of America

Okay, so this is a little bit of a cop-out, because my partner gifted me my membership for Hanukkah, but since then I’ve been learning as much as I can about the organization and signing up for call-ins.The DSA is a large force that works towards radical social change. There’s no CT chapter (yet!) but you can find a list of chapters here and learn how to get involved here

  1. Learn your class, recognize your class culture, and use these tools when organizing

Class differences are often invisible and go unnoticed and unacknowledged, which hinders inter-class progress and organizing. This website is a great tool for learning your own class culture, speech idiosyncrasies, and movements, with guides about how to create class conscious movements. There’s games! Go do it!

  1. Use your money, if you have it

This might be obvious, but I know it’s hard sometimes when you’re just entering the workforce to donate money. With all the “Why Aren’t Millennials Saving Money” articles, it can be hard to justify sending a hundred dollars to a non-profit when you don’t have a lot of savings. So I’m not going to go into how to save little bits to donate or how you shouldn’t be spending money on X, but if you have money to spare, find causes. Find Go fund me’s for marginalized peoples, non-profits you agree with, and organizations you want to be a part of.

Trump wins, We lose.

For days, I listened to a horror-story podcast while making cards at night. It was the only thing that got my mind off the election. Last night, I went to bed with my jeans still on. I woke up at 2am and didn’t fall back asleep til 4. This morning, I am at a loss. At a loss for what to say, at a loss for how to comfort those closest to me. This morning, I walked into an empty field with a person I love, but nothing I say can make this day better. I can’t remember the last time I had such a hard time smiling. I love so many people and I cannot make this day any easier for them.

I don’t know what will happen to my country, to my safety. I’m a small, defenseless, queer Jewish woman. My mother saw anti-semitism. My father’s mother escaped from a war. What will happen? What stories will I tell my grandchildren? Will I be around to tell them?

A Book Review that is Mostly Questions

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Thomas Hardy
400 pages; literary fiction

Quick Summary: Tess Durbeyfield and her family are poor, so her parents decide to send her to Alec d’Urberville to claim kinship and therefore receive some financial aid. The plan is disastrous; Tess comes home, but finding her home life unbearable, she decides to move and work at a farm. Years pass, and Tess falls in love with another man, Angel Clare. However, she is unable to marry him due to the secret she is keeping.

Discussion (Spoilers ahead):

So I read this book because I am teaching it to my AP classes in October. Otherwise, I probably would have thrown the book across the room halfway through. Alec is terrible person, and ends up raping Tess after drugging her. Because this is England and because it’s the 1800’s, Tess is suddenly not pure and hates herself. When she falls in love with Angel, she doesn’t want to marry him because she is not a virgin and this will reflect bad on her/him for marrying her. Still, they get married and on their first night as husband and wife, he tells her he’s not a virgin, she tells him the exact same thing, and he flips his shit. He goes to Brazil to try farming and basically is a terrible husband who never talks to his wife. The ending is even weirder, but I’ll save that for those who want to read it.

So the first thing I was angry about was that a white man was writing about a woman getting raped. Is he writing to help women gain sympathy? Is it trauma porn? One time in a college class of mine, my professor asked us this: “If you write about an experience, are you automatically aestheticizing it?” Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk about it in class, but the question lingers.

I think this reminds me the most of slam poetry. I remember Andrea Gibson saying something along the lines of “No girl grows up dreaming about writing poems about sexism,” but she said it had to be done. But the question is still valid: if we write about sexism, if we perform our poetry about it, are we trying to make an ugly thing beautiful? Obviously this applies to other types of art as well, and no clear lines have been drawn. Obvious, too, is the fact that writing can be healing.

I’m going to sidetrack here to a story from a friend.

So a teacher is starting his first year teaching history. He’s super woke, so he plans an entire curriculum talking about racism and sexism and how all these terrible things happened in the past. He thinks it’s going great. Then, one day, a few weeks into the semester, two young black girls approach him after class. “Mr. ______, we appreciate what you’re doing here, but do you always have to be so negative?” Why, they were asking, couldn’t he also focus on the achievements of people of color, and not just the trauma they experienced?

Another side note: the podcast Another Round discusses the idea of coming of age movies. What they found was that the white characters get to have a life-changing event (think Stranger Things where the girl is sacrificed) but come out ultimately okay, whereas the black characters and black girls in particular have stories focused around trauma, stories where they don’t get to be teenagers or adolescents at all, but rather skip from children to adults.

I wonder that about poetry, about stories, about writing. If young women grow up only hearing stories and poems about rape, sexism, and fear, how much will they think is available to them? How does one strike a balance between acknowledging victim-status and also acknowledging autonomy, power, and pride? 

Is it okay for Hardy to write about rape, even though he’s a man? If it’s to inspire empathy? Is it just voyeurism? If we write about an experience, are we automatically aestheticizing it? How do we write stories that are both true to life and uplifting? Or rather, how do we write stories in which all paths are available to all people? Where minorities are not defined by their traumas, but neither are those traumas ignored?

The Dream, Part 2: Mostly Questions

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 2.30.35 PMThis past week, I deleted most of my social media apps from my phone, but kept the accounts so I could log on on my computer. Without going into too much sappy-goey-personal stuff, I found I felt a little bit lighter without them. Saturday I barely touched my phone, and I spent most of the day outside, reading, swimming, and enjoying my company. But it felt beautiful as much as it did temporary, like the weekend would end and I would be back on facebook and twitter soon enough. I wonder if that feeling of being present, of enjoying the moment, is a momentary thing, if it can only be beautiful because we know the other world lurks behind us.

I wonder, too, if we are more trapped in technology than we are freed by it. I might sound like that crochety old person shaking their head and saying “kids these days!” while not knowing how to turn off an Iphone…but I think the question is worth considering. We have all these social media apps, and most of the time when we check them, it’s to check our notifications: How many likes/reblogs/retweets/shares/comments did we get on our accounts? Who is noticing us? 

Michael Harris details this idea in his book, The End of Absence: 

In reality, life outside of orderly institutions like schools, jobs, and prisons is lacking in ‘gold star’ moments; it passes by in a not-so-dignified way, and nobody tells us whether we’re getting it right or wrong. But publish your experience online and an institutional approval system rises to meet it–your photo is liked, your status is gilded with commentary….This furthers our enjoyable sense of an ordered life. We become consistent, we are approved, we are a known and sanctioned quantity.

To take a page from Descartes, is the new philosophy, “I tweet, therefore I am”?

Another line of questioning: Do women benefit more or less from technology? Certainly we benefit less monetarily, as Silicon Valley is still primarily men. Are social justice blogs, posts, facebook accounts, a way for marginalized groups to speak out? Or is it just because, with many things, they are given a platform that can easily oppress them (hello, trolls) and they want to turn it into something helpful? I don’t want to downplay the importance of social justice writers who have changed my mind and the minds of my friends. But I think it’s worth examining: Does technology/specific platforms help dismantle or recreate white, cis, heteropatriarchal standards? For example, a facebook page “Black Love,” featuring black couples, got reported and shut down. Facebook also deleted Korryn Gaines’s profile. 

I guess my hesitation comes from the comments section of my recently published article. Did I change anyone’s mind? I don’t know. Did I give words to people who already agreed with me? Sure. And I worry that we place too much emphasis on the power of social media–and not enough power on day to day interactions with people. Just yesterday I was behind a pickup truck parked in the middle of the road. I was annoyed at first, being 3 blocks from home, but my friend pointed out to me the sticker on the truck: it was a blue lives matter bumper sticker, and he was talking to a group of young black men. We watched, unable to hear the interaction, but at the end, the men shook hands and everyone was on their way. I think that interaction in itself is devalued–and I would argue it’s the type of interaction we need to have more. [As I mentioned in my previous blog post/alluded to in my article, people aren’t going to become less racist unless woke people interact with them. Is it the oppressed people’s job to explain things? No, absolutely not. Should we anyways? I don’t know.]

What is the way forward here?

The Dream, Part 1

20b348ac-069f-4827-89b2-8c1ee0213756I’ve been trying to write a piece recently that somehow incorporated Marge Piercy, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the American Dream, Cuddly Whiskers from Bojack Horseman, and Betty Friedan. Also, technology. Unsurprisingly, I have no realized that doing that in one blog post/article, even if the article was long form, is going to be impossible. The only way forward is piece by piece, so I’m going to start with the bit about technology.


I wrote a piece for the Mary Sue recently about how Bojack Horseman can help us during election years. Perhaps what I should have written was, Technology is Toxic During Election Years, because of the 260+, most of them missed the point (which, if you’re wondering, was simply that we should treat each other with kindness). I suppose that is the deal when you publish something online: it takes two seconds to write a comment, so anyone who has anything to say, says so. It’s not like print media, where you would have to email your comment to someone, or mail it by snail mail back in the day.

Anyways, I am not going to spend this blog post defending my article. I am going to use it to examine where I stand with technology.

In School

I had a lot of different experiences with this, having student taught in one school in the fall last year, and been a long term sub in two other schools in the spring. It’s hard to sum everything up, but what I found most interesting was how my teaching changed once every student had a laptop. My teaching changed, and I don’t think it was for the better. Sure, I used Google Classroom and Google Forms and Google Drive and all the other start-with-caps brand names of platforms. My students used it, I used it, and on we went. But I felt the students less creative, less willing to say anything that might be wrong. When I asked them to talk about a chapter, then submit notes over Google Drive, they skipped the conversation part, and just went right to typing what they thought. I felt like we were all hiding behind our screens.

In my life

I recently aquired a twitter account. It was fun, for a few days, and it’s a nice platform for talking to people you might not otherwise have the chance to talk with. But it’s also just another form of self-assurance: people liking your tweets, following you, retweeting shit, etc. Facebook was another platform that I have grown more tired of in the past week. A recent article for Quartz told me what I feared to be true: posting political articles doesn’t change anyone’s opinion. We all just siphon off the people who disagree with us, either by unfriending or unfollowing; we get into heated arguments over the smallest of things, and this does nothing but stress us out. Or me, at least. It stresses me out. If I’m going to talk to someone, about anything important really, I want it to be face-to-face. I want us to remember what that feels like.

A lot of people go into online conversations with the mindset of “I want to convince this person of X,” instead of “I want to understand where this person is coming from.” And I think this is only exacerbated by the election year.

A note on privilege

I realize that I am treated a certain way because of my skin color, as well as my apparent gender and sexuality. I realize that if I was trans, perhaps some Trump supporters wouldn’t even talk to me. But do I know that? Have I talked to any?

The best example of this is my best friend’s dad. I’ve known him since I was 8, and my bff told me he was voting for Trump this year. Do I still talk to him? Of course. We don’t treat each other any differently because of our votes. Should I stop talking to him, in the name of Social Justice? I think a lot of people would say yes. “Yes, it’s a powerful thing to stop talking to someone because of their views.” I even wrote in a recent blog post that guys can use their privilege to stop being friends with abusers and other shitty people. But here is where I see the difference: If I stop being friends with a guy who abused someone, I am protecting my friend. If I stop talking to my best friend’s dad, who is kind and cooks for us and has never harmed me, who am I protecting? Who is he hurting?

I suppose some would argue he’ll be hurting a lot of people if he votes for Trump. That may be true. I may be hurting a lot of foreigners if I vote for Hillary. I don’t really know. But if we are to create a better world, we need to talk with people who disagree with us. How else will we work towards a better, more equal future?

Another post to think about, from Philadelphia Printwork’s blog: “Those who lose their jobs over racist comments will not feel less vitriol towards brown people, but more. In their minds we were already the cause of all white tears and the loss of employment is further evidence of our destructive power. But now all they have to do is waltz into their next job knowing what never to say publically no matter how angry they get. They become more crafty and only share their loathing with close friends, their hatred surfaces in microaggressions that go unnoticed by people who ain’t woke.

If we fire everyone who is racist, will anyone stop being racist? If we shut them out, will they ever understand BLM’s needs?

All this to say:

71_Debugging-bias

Illustration by Jacky Sheridan

I am tired of shutting people out for different views. [Again, toxic relationships are different, and can and should be avoided. But those aren’t the type of relationships I am discussing]. I am tired, also, of how technology has become a habit for me. Another quote, this time from an article in Bitch Magazine by Felicia Montalvo: “‘Habit formation is the magic phrase in Silicon Valley…linking digital platform use to a user’s daily routine and emotions is the best way to ensure loyalty–and, by extension, profit. The habit-formation model argues that digital platforms should be designed as a response to particular emotional triggers, especially internalized ones. You’re anxious? Check Facebook. Bored? Hop on Twitter. Depressed? Scroll through Instagram…Once a platform is recognized as a balm for these triggered internal emotions, we don’t even need the triggers anymore, but simply return on our own. The habit formation model does not satisfy a need, it creates an incessant craving.”

I drove home from a bookshop today and it was the first time driving in the city that I didn’t look at my phone every red light or use it for a GPS. It was freeing. I deleted twitter and all other social media apps from my phone. Also freeing. Those facebook notifications can wait til I get home. It all can. We’re so conditioned to these habits, and I want to break them. I want to see what my life is like if I just do one thing at a time, if I stop multi-tasking, if I stop feeling good about myself based on the number of likes or retweets or whatever else we have to boost our egos on the internet. I want to see what I’m like without the habits I’ve been conditioned to enjoy.

I’m going to unplug, slowly. I might travel, I might teach, I don’t really know at this point what I’m ready for or not. But this blog will be my home for all my thoughts, as it has been. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Stranger Things’ Treatment of Barbara Holland

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Disclaimer: This post contains SPOILERS.

So let me start off this post by saying that I loved Stranger Things. I finished in within a day and a half and was terrified during most episodes. That being said, we need to talk about Barb.

I’ve been perusing the internet a bit after finishing Netflix’s Stranger Things, and although I’ve seen some criticism of Stranger Things’ treatment of women, none of the articles I’ve seen have pointed out what seems to me the very obvious fact: Barb is a plus-sized woman, and she’s treated like garbage.

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When we first see Barb in the Hawkins High School Hallway, she’s sporting a short (queer?) haircut, jeans that are too big for her, and a button down. Later she’s spotted in a frilly pink top. Meanwhile, Nancy gets a delicate white shirt in this scene, and cute sweaters throughout the rest of the season. Now, 80’s costuming aside, the producers definitely could have put Barb in more flattering clothing, but I guess what they’re saying is plus-sized women don’t know how to dress themselves?

Besides her fashion, Barb is generally mistreated throughout the show. Nancy tells her to go home so she can sleep with Steve (who she ends up with! I’m not sure I’m okay with any of this–but getting into Steve’s character would be a whole other post). The boys ridicule her, and Nancy ignores her. When she gets taken to the upside, she’s hardly mentioned. She doesn’t get a mother, or her friends frantically trying to find her. She doesn’t get a family, or even much screentime in The Upside Down. Her case at the police station is thrown out after the Staties find her car at the bus station.

I think what bothers me the most about Barb’s plot line is that no one really cares about her death; at the very least, we could have gotten more than 15 seconds of Nancy mourning for her. Vox’s article points out that Stranger Things‘ childhood lens simply couldn’t imagine what happened to a girl boys didn’t think was cute,” but it appears that the show producers couldn’t imagine it either: they couldn’t imagine a plus-sized girl having her own nuanced life. 

The show repeats what, by now in 2016, is a very outdated and discriminatory message: the people who win in life are skinny and mostly boys. Stranger Things’ treatment of Barb is not just about the show’s treatment of women, it’s about the treatment of anyone who isn’t a size 0. It’s 2016, and we deserve better.

9 Simple Ways to Use Your Male Privilege

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I’ve been discussing masculinity a lot lately, and how male privilege can be used for good. This article is intended for male-identifying people who are already feminists, and looking for ways to be a better ally. So, without further ado, here’s 9 ways you can use your male privilege!

1. Give Women Physical Space
I’ve heard of women experimenting in large cities: when about to walk into a man, they stop where they are, and the guy walks into them. Men always expect women to move. Don’t expect that, that’s dumb. Also, when walking at night, be aware of your surroundings! If there’s a woman alone, chances are she’s afraid. DO NOT rush up to her to tell her how much of a feminist you are. Sit down, stop walking, pull out your phone, whatever. Just give her enough space so she is confident you are not following her. That’s enough.

2. Stop Talking About Dicks
There’s a great video, “If Women Talked About Vaginas Like Men Talked About Dicks.” Watching it, it’s clear how uncomfortable men would be. So, don’t do the same to women. This applies to: discussing length, discussing balls, DICK JOKES (seriously, there’s other ways to make people laugh). It also, by way of that, applies to male-centric sex jokes and comments. “Oh, he’s gonna do her so hard!!” Not appropriate. Stop that. No one “does” anyone in consensual sex, because both people are “doing” things. Let’s move on from that.

3. Stop Being Friends With Shitty People
Honestly, I think this one is completely overlooked or ignored most of the time. If I told a guy friend, “Hey, your friend ______ was really shitty to me because he __________,” the chances are, my friend will still be friends with that shitty person. STOP THAT. If I tell you a guy has been inappropriate, has made racist comments, is a rapist, has made rape jokes, etc etc, either CONFRONT the friend, or STOP TALKING TO THEM. It’s a powerful thing to say to another person, “Your behavior is problematic, and I no longer want to interact with you.” It means SO MUCH to us women when you do that. You’re standing up for us and you’re condemning bad, anti-feminist behavior. I think if all feminists stopped being friends with sexist people, feminism would be a lot easier to spread.

4. Re-direct Attention if Women Aren’t Talking in a Group
As a woman, it’s often difficult to insert ourselves into conversations (see above). When you see women in male-centric spaces not participating, chances are we’re not having fun, and we may or may not already feel uncomfortable based on the situation. So, invite us in. Honestly, this is just part of being a good friend, but it applies here too. Let us talk. “But about what?” Okay, great question. Here’s a good starting list:
“Hey Lisa, watched any good TV lately?”
“Lauren, have any good plans this weekend/week/summer/winter?”

Or, more generally,
“What do you think about that? What’s your opinion on this, Holly? Do you agree with that? Have you been in a similar situation?”

The other way this comes up is, I’ve noticed, at bars. Men will be with their girlfriends/wives/whatever, and they’ll talk to other men, and ignore the women completely. So, moving on to our next item…

5. Don’t Let Us Be Cut Off/Ignored
Oftentimes, men will interrupt us, knowingly or unknowingly. When you notice this happen, cut the guy off. “Oh, hold on, I think Maya was saying something!” or “Wait, sorry, Maya, what were you going to say?” Got it? Wonderful.

The other place this applies is in introductions! If you see a man introduce himself to only the men in the room, call him out. Doesn’t have to be rude. Just “Hey George you forgot to introduce yourself to Maya, Lisa, Lauren…” Actually, the longer the list the funnier it will be. Anyways, men who ignore women in introductions are sexist whether they see it or not and it’s annoying as shit.

6. Create Safe Spaces for Women
This includes not letting rape jokes happen, and letting us join the conversation. It also means that if we hang out with you, we know that friend #12 that assaulted us won’t be there. It means that if we go to your party, friend #8 who made a pass and then yelled when we said no, won’t be there.

7. Call out your friends
Now, this doesn’t have to be public, but say I tell you that friend #4 makes dick jokes a lot, and it makes me uncomfortable. “Okay, I’ll talk to him about that,” is a great response. Really, I shouldn’t even have to point it out. If you notice your friends being sexist, and you’re not ready to stop being friends with them, call them out. Explain things to them. And if they get defensive, or pissy, or start yelling or blaming the woman that you’re friends with for “turning you into a pushover or a pansy,” leave. Leave the room, leave the friendship.

8. Believe your friends
When I say friend #2 is sexist, don’t question it. If I say ______ assaulted my friend in college, believe me. If I say your coworker got drunk and yelled at me, believe me. We live in a world where women have to prove themselves, prove their stories, whilst everything men say is taken for truth. Let’s change this. Just believe your girlfriends. We don’t want this shit to be true, but it is.

9. And Finally, Convince your friends to be feminists
Simple. Create a more feminist world.

History Wednesdays: Week 3

Israel_mapSo before this week’s post, another disclaimer: I am going to be talking about Israel’s origins. I myself grew up in a Jewish household, and my temple was, as far as I remember, pro-zionist. I understand the need for Israel as a country. There was a wonderful debate in the NY times awhile back about whether or not criticizing Israel was a form of anti semitism. For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to say that it’s not.

Racism in Israel’s Beginnings
There are two main types of Jews I’ll be discussing: Ashkenazi Jews, who are Jews from European descent, and Mizrahi Jews, Jews from Arab descent.

Israel was founded in 1948 by mainly Ashkenazi Jews, who thought themselves unfit for menial labor. Needing people to do the hard labor they would not, the Ashkenazi advocated to bring Mizrahi jews to Israel. They agitated anti-semitism in Muslim countries so the jews there would be encouraged to leave. Once in Israel, the Mizrahis were put in temporary housing, and had to wait for years to be put in permanent housing. Even once in permanent housing, these homes were often far from central areas and didn’t offer the resources, such as transportation, that Mizrahis needed; Ashkenazis were homed in the central, well to do areas.

 

 

During the 1950’s, there was severe anti-Mizrahi rhetoric within the Ashkenazi jew population, and in the leaders of Israel. An Israeli journalist called them “primitive people” with “utter ignorance” and lacking “the ability to understand anything spiritual.” The prime minister himself wrote that “They lack even the most basic and rudimentary concept of civilization…they are unable to detect even the most minimal hygienic needs.” The Mizrahis, who were often well-off and had good education in their home countries, came to Israel only to be put down by those in power.

 

 

 

By marking Mizrahis as primitive and unable to care for themselves and their children, Israel justified the kidnapping of Mizrahi children from their parents. Oftentimes, Mizrahi parents would bring their children to the doctor with minor illnesses. The hospital would pronounce them dead to the parents, and later sell the children abroad or give them to Ashkenazi parents to be adopted. Eisner writes, “In some cases, graves were shown to the parents–these were later revealed to be empty. In thirty known cases, children were returned to their parents after being declared “dead” following protest by the parents. In the other seventeen thousand known cases, the children were lost forever” (emphasis mine). This period of history was later named The Yemenite Children Affair, and lasted from 1948 until 1956, although the children kidnapped were from many countries besides Yemen. (You can read some of their stories here). 

On the worse end of the scale, the Israeli government performed medical experiments on one hundred thousand Mizrahi children, many of whom died from exposure to radiation. On the not-so-terrible-but-still-horrible end of the scale, the Mizrahi students were tracked into lower and vocational education, meaning that many families could not progress in society, having no academic training. As I mentioned earlier, the Ashkenazis thought themselves too good for menial labor, so the Mizrahis ended up with these jobs: both the adults who had had a good education prior to immigrating, and the children who were tracked into these jobs from the start.

It’s been 60 years since the blatant racism of Israel’s elite forced children away from their homes. However, without explicitly dealing with this past, the racism still lingers.

Top Five Tuesday–Podcasts!

So I’m doing a lot of traveling this summer, between visiting my boyfriend in Connecticut, and my family in New Hampshire, and my sister in Maine. Which means A LOT of driving! This is actually okay though, because I get to listen to podcasts. Here are my top five podcasts to listen to, along with my favorite specific episodes to get you started.

  1. This American Life, The Problem We All Live With
    Okay, so if you’ve been friends with me for any length of time at all, I’ve already mentioned this to you. I talk about this probably at least once a week. The short of it: A reporter decides to research bussing, being a product of bussing herself, and finds that desegregation efforts worked. They worked!! Not perfectly, of course. But they worked, and then…the efforts stopped. The whole history of this movement is so fascinating, and listening to this podcast half made me want to go into politics/administration. Alas, I’ll stick to the classroom for now, but it’s still an amazing episode.
  1. Code Switch, Can We Talk About Whiteness
    So I’m going to mention here that the creators of this show are probably my heros right now. This is a podcast that so needed to happen, and it happened at the exact right time. I listened to them debrief Orlando. I listened to them debrief Anton and Philando. I listened to stories and journalists and researchers and professors. I listened to feel less alone. Which I know sounds strange, coming from a white woman, listening to a podcast by and for people of color. But it did. It allowed me to feel sadness and frustration and also hope. I’m recommending this first episode because I think it’s maybe the most important one: it discusses how we need to have difficult conversations.
  1. Another Round, Episode 1
    Okay, so I just started listening to these two women and they are HILARIOUS. Like, seriously was laughing so hard, alone in my car, while listening to them. It’s a mixture of things: stories, bad jokes, interviews, readings, short stories, etc. The first episode I found particularly hilarious, because Tracey tells the story of this terrible party she went to, and I think a lot of us can relate to that absurdity.
  1. Dear Sugar, Big Love
    Dear Sugar is great for advice of all sorts. This episode about polyamory especially sticks out to me because it’s not often talked about in a positive light. The story of this woman and her husband was really interesting to me, and I like how it turned out. It made me understand polyamory a lot better, and it also made me examine my own beliefs, practices, and ideas about marriage as well.
  1. TED Radio Hour, From Curiosity to Discovery
    I remember very clearly the drive I listened to this on. I was so happy, even though I was driving to probably break up with someone, because this episode just opened up possibilities, reminded me that the world is this huge, big, amazing place that we know so little about.

 

What are your top five podcasts? Tell me in the comments below!

On Discourse, Part 2

Last week, I discussed the importance of having discourse, of using your privilege, and of listening. This week, I was going to post the second half of the story: what happened when, recently, while hanging out with only other men, I called out a white man for using the n-word. Long story short, it didn’t go well. But, in the end, the guy got why he couldn’t use that word. Not by my doing, but because one of my friends explained it to him, after I went for a drive.

Why did I randomly go for a drive?

Well, for the same reason that I want to drive to Canada right now. I’m incredibly angry and frustrated and, quite honestly, scared. Last night in Portland, Maine, police officers pushed through white protestors to arrest women of color. (Just listening to the video frightened me, if I’m being honest). A few days prior, Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate, who’s been vehemently anti-choice and anti-LGBT rights. After the shootings in Orlando, I am occasionally visited by these thoughts: what if someone shoots up a school I end up working in? What if someone terrible comes to queeraoke? What if I am shot because of who I am?

None of those questions are new to any people of color, but I know a lot of white people read my blog, so please be aware. I have those questions, and I am worried but not in danger; I can dismiss these thoughts because I recognize them for what they are: worst case scenarios, anxieties, my imagination getting out of hand. People of color don’t have that privilege, don’t have the ability to dismiss those questions. They are in so much danger and most of the time I just feel helpless.

A while ago, I saw this post on tumblr:

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There’s a debate that follows, and ultimately blames LGBT+ kids for their own oppression, saying they are “unwilling to engage in a debate”…about their own rights.

I guess where I end up is, can we stop pretending that this a debate? Can we stop pretending that people who disagree with the BLM are anything but what they are, (racist)? Can we stop pretending that there are two sides to this?

The answer, I’m aware, is no. At least I don’t think so, because people who disagree with racism, with BLM, will always fight for their side. People like Mike Pence who actively work against people like me will continue to hold power, continue to have people behind him. Donald Trump will always have supporters.

And I’m scared. I don’t know what else to say except for that. I am writing, and posting, and reading, and trying to be an ally. I know it’s not enough. I know I need to show up for more events in Boston, go to protests, teach better, learn better, call my senators. But right now I want to curl into a ball and not look out the window.

I think Roxane Gay put it best: “I don’t know where we go from here because those of us who recognize the injustice are not the problem. Law enforcement, militarized and indifferent to black lives, is the problem. Law enforcement that sees black people as criminals rather than human beings with full and deserving lives is the problem. A justice system that rarely prosecutes or convicts police officers who kill innocent people in the line of duty is the problem.” And I think, as Shannon Houston writes, “Why Shouldn’t Black American Revolt?” and I think that neither of us really has a good answer to that.

Roxane Gay goes on to write in her article that “this [violence] happens so often that resignation or apathy are reasonable responses is the problem.” And I guess that’s what I’m feeling right now: not exactly an apathy, but the sense that I am powerless. That I can only do so much by writing, teaching, being a person.

But we can’t have that attitude. I know we can’t. We all need to be better. So, I’m going to end this with the small little moment, with a sense of my own failure, but also with the sense that things can change, even if incrementally, even if by the slowest, smallest degrees.

It was Saturday night and I was hanging out with my long time friend Tim* and his friends, David and Mitchell. I was tired and a little hungry. David had been making sex jokes, and then at one point he said the N word (-a ending). I was immediately angry, as I had not been entirely comfortable with this friend to begin with. So here’s how the conversation went:

Me (close to yelling): You know you can’t say that, right?
David: Well I was just making fun of Mitchell, he used to say it–
Me: So you’re telling me that Mitchell has learned better, but you still want to use it?
Tim and Mitchell: Okay, so moving on. Did you see that meme…

I stayed for a few minutes, then decided to go for a drive. In my mind, I had already come off as the “hysterical female” to Tim’s friends. I felt that anything I said would continue that stereotype so I removed myself from the situation. After I left, Tim told David that I was right, and him and Mitchell explained why the n word shouldn’t be used by white people, with the -a or -er ending, in any context. They used an example, saying, “you wouldn’t use it in front of our [black friend], right? How would he feel if he heard you say it, even casually?” At the end of their conversation, David understood and apologized for the awkward situation.

I talked to my friend Tim afterwards, about why he didn’t stand up for me when I was in the room. “Well,” he told me, “You put David in a situation where he couldn’t speak, where he was going to be wrong no matter what.” Yes, I did do that. And yes, even though I was on the right side, I needed to give this person room to speak. Room to have a dialogue. Room to be wrong, but have that be okay. 

“I’m sorry I wasn’t quicker to support you,” he told me. And I’m sorry I am quick to anger. I’m sorry that I can’t stand when men don’t see me and I end up leaving the situation.

There’s a right side and a wrong side. Let’s not pretend there isn’t. But even so, we have to have hope that those on the wrong side will make their way over. David learned something small that day because I decided to get angry. If we are going to believe in the movement, we also need to believe that people can learn, and change.

*Names changed for privacy