On “normal” and a year in chains

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It’s not normal for anyone to wear chains on both arms for a year. But if you put heavy steel chains on your wrists and wear them 24/7, after a while it starts to feel normal. And that’s what I did.

On November 18, 2016, I dug lengths of leftover chain from an old hanging light fixture out of my toolbox and asked my long-suffering boyfriend to use pliers to affix them to my wrists. It was, at first, an homage to the suffragettes of the 20th century who chained themselves to the railings outside Downing Street. It was a peaceful protest, and an artistic act of resistance.

But now they’re normal to me.

They jingle when I move, when I pick up my daughter and bring her to my hip, when I pet my cat, when I write on a desk or turn the steering wheel of my car. The sound no longer registers in my ears. It just is. It’s a part of me.

I flick them back from the wrist joint when I teach yoga, ensuring they don’t inhibit my downward dog. I slip the long sleeves of my shirts between the metal and my arms on cold days. The steel irritates my skin, so hydrocortisone cream and ace bandages are a part of my bedtime routine now. I hardly think about it.

My baby girl likes to play with mommy’s “bracelets” and I contemplate how to explain to her why they exist. I’m grateful for more time to think. People ask about them and my answer has condensed from its early rambling version to a simple “they are a reminder.”

I swapped one link in each bracelet for a carabiner when TSA informed me they wouldn’t let me through security with them on (they totally did), and a security guard at my local police station showed me how to cross my arms in front of my chest so the metal detector wouldn’t beep when I came and went.

Normal.

My chains are not the only thing that have become oddly normal in the last year. It didn’t used to be normal to have a president who would regularly tantrum on social media like a petulant child, but now it is.

It didn’t used to be normal to have an administration that turns over as frequently as a college town Waffle House, but now it is.

It didn’t used to be normal to have to call senators and representatives on a daily basis and beg for them not to make devastating, sweeping changes to crucial aspects of our social structure. But now it is.

These “new normals” are horrifying. We struggle to cling to what is acceptable and real as people in the highest levels of our government gaslight and lie their way through everything single day.

But as I take a moment to consider the new normal in my little life, I have to acknowledge some other “new normals” that aren’t so bad after all.

It didn’t used to be normal for powerful men to experience real-time consequences for their abuse, but it’s becoming so.

It didn’t used to be normal for women to speak out against the injustices we face every day, but it is becoming so.

It didn’t used to be normal for members of America’s most powerful religion to call out those who use their religious platform for their own sinister ends. But we are getting there.

As normal shifts all around us, an entire generation waits with bated breath to see how it will fall out. How will America look to my daughter’s generation? How much more normal will change before the dust settles? It’s tempting to see a lot of this as the end of an era, but maybe it’s just the beginning.

Our country and our world will have so much to recover from when this chaotic, devastating presidency is finally over. The system is that created this tragedy in the first place continues in the forms of voter suppression, racial tension, class warfare, and the way Americans have begun to choose the facts they want, rather than vetting and researching their own information.

Even if our Congress steps up and does something about the forces that are bulldozing our democracy, the fallout will take a long time to clean up.

But we will keep fighting. We will keep resisting. We will keep recording all those little subtle changes happening around us. We will keep re-writing normal in ways that are healthier, more honest, and more transformative.

In the past year, I have gone back to school, first for Women’s and Gender Studies, and then for Journalism. I have begun to write, to tell my story and others’. I’ve become active in my city council’s human rights coalition, begun work on a book about spousal abuse in complimentarian Christianity, and offered my services as a yoga instructor to my university’s LGBT center. The way forward is so much busier and more complex than the addition of an accessory.

We will not get dragged down by those we have elected to serve us. Americans will reclaim our democracy. If we learn to listen to and believe women (particularly women of color), if we find a zero-tolerance policy for assault, pedophilia, and sexism, and if we continue to replace those who abuse their power with representatives who care about their constituents, we can find our way to firmer ground. This I believe.

And in the meantime, here’s to another year in chains, and the lessons it will bring.

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We are addressing this Pence situation all wrong


I know I’m terribly late to the conversation on this one, and honestly, I wasn’t even going to weigh in. Mike Pence admitting recently that he would never meet with another woman without a third person present, or consume alcohol in public without his wife at his side has opened the floodgates for a conversation about gender roles, lust, and the blaming of women for the actions of men. There’s a lot to say on the topic, but I have really only one thought to share today.

Every article, tweet, and news story I have read on the subject asks the question “how does Pence’s personal standard affect the women who need to work with him?” 

I think this is entirely the wrong question. I think we all need to ask: why did Mike Pence apply for and accept a job he cannot fully perform without compromising his personal beliefs?

We all know where Mike Pence stands on issues like abortion or homosexuality, so it probably goes without saying that he would never accept a job at an Planned Parenthood or a support home for LGBT youth who have been abandoned by their parents for being gay. I don’t think it would be a reach to assume that he would think either of those positions went too far against his religious beliefs for him to engage as an effective or responsible employee.

Why then would he apply for the job of second in command of the United States of America, if there is an entire gender of people with whom he cannot interact in a private setting? Why would he take a role that could one day put him in the highest seat in the land, if he couldn’t accept classified or closed door briefings from female advisers?

On a superficial level, this may seem like a non-problem, but what if one day Pence does become POTUS? Are meetings with female ambassadors, female foreign dignitaries, female security council members, female cabinet members, or female United Nations representatives to only be scheduled when another person with equal security clearance is able to be present? What happens when a female member of the joint chiefs needs to disclose important security information for POTUS’ ears only? Is Pence planning to give a random aide the highest security clearance possible so that he will have someone on-hand to be a third-party in every single meeting?

What happens when a female foreign dignitary needs to meet with him in a private setting to discuss extremely sensitive matters between our two countries? A refusal to have such a meeting would be, at best, embarrassing, and at worst, flat-out hostile.

During a job interview, potential employers will often ask what, if any, the potential employee needs with regard to reasonable accommodations. It is understood that if you want a job you must be able to perform the basic functions of the job. If you are unable to perform the job, you won’t be hired. So why then would Pence apply for and accept a job he potentially cannot perform to the fullest extent of the position?

I have a number of married male friends who have implemented the Billy Graham Rule in their marriages. I applaud them for this. I think setting in place boundaries to protect your relationship is valliant and beautiful. But the same men have declined to go into certain fields (such as psychiatry or medicine) that may put them in a situation where, in order to properly perform their job, they would have to interact with a woman in a one-on-one private setting. They understand that with this personal standard they cannot properly fulfill the functions of such a position, and they act accordingly.

Going forward, Mike Pence needs to very seriously consider whether or not he is able or willing to perform all of the functions of every job he seeks. And, if the rumors are true and he has his sights set on the oval for 2020, he should be willing to be honest and admit that he is not capable of upholding his personal religious standard and doing whatever is necessary to perform the responsibilities of POTUS to the fullest extent. To fail to do so is extremely misleading.

For as long as our high-level government positions have the potential for necessary private meetings between two people of opposite genders, and for as long as Mike Pence refuses to participate in such meetings, it’s not unreasonable to say that our VPOTUS needs to find himself a different line of work.

White cis male “allies”: it’s time to get off your asses


Dear white, cisgender men,

The rest of us are so tired. We are not just tired of having to protest every single time our predominately white, male, cisgendered government tries to put something in place that will actually harm us and our children, but we are tired of making sure that you know we are not mad at you for it.

I am tired of coddling your egos, adding the “I know you aren’t like this but…” disclaimer to every single expression of frustration and hurt. I’m tired of watching your faces light up in that perfectly uniform way every single time I reference your particular demographic. That involuntary expression that says “surely you are not talking about me? Me, your friend, your ally, who lets you rant about injustice and even supports you in your protesting endeavors? Not me!”

Yeah, you. Listen up.

Thank you for using your words to be supportive of the actions we are doing. That’s great. Also, it’s time to get off your asses.

I get it, OK. I understand that you have almost nothing to gain or lose by any of the social justice movements that are happening in our world right now. This complacency for this exact reason is not new. In fact, 28 years ago Peggy McIntosh had you pegged when she said “I have met very few men who are truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance.”

And why would you be?

You have nothing to lose, and largely nothing to gain from much of the injustice that is happening on a social level in our country. The idea of making your voice heard in a powerful revolutionary way is not that exciting for you, when you can open literally any history textbook and see yourself represented. You don’t feel silenced or ignored when a dramatically disproportionate majority of heroes in your favorite television shows and movies look just like you. And you sit safe in the knowledge that the men in power in this country will always protect their own interests, which just happen to look exactly like your interests.

I know it may feel difficult, perhaps even unfathomable for you to wrap your head around the fact that you could put in enormous time, effort, and sacrifice to gain rights you do not currently need and end discrimination you do not currently face.

But if I have to listen to one more man who has hit the demographic jackpot whine about how today’s feminists are so independent and they don’t “need you” anymore, I might actually physically scream. Like a pterodactyl. Really loudly. Maybe even in public. I’ll do it. I don’t care.

You want to be needed? You already fucking are. You hold so much power and sway in this country. People in your exact demographic elected this nightmare of a president. People in your exact demographic are currently writing legislation that will actively fuck up my life and the lives of every other woman you know. People in your exact demographic are getting a slap on the wrist – if anything – for actual rape and murder of citizens who do not look like them. 

People in your exact demographic literally hold the keys to the kingdom right now. That. Means. You. Too.

And people in your demographic need to get out of your lazy boy armchairs and start fixing it.

So if you really want to be needed, if you really want to be valued, if you really want to make a difference in this world, get the hell on a picket line.

Stop whining about women who “demoralize” you by insisting on paying for their own dinners, or getting upset when you try to hold the door for them, and actually engage in ways that we need it.

And for the love of God, stop responding to every statement we make about social injustice with: “But I don’t do that!” If you don’t, great. That’s fine. But being not-horrible should not be a goal for your life. Engaging in active, passionate social change should be.

Remember The Lost World: Jurassic Park? Specifically, do you remember the conversation between Julianne Moore and Jeff Goldblum about his – maybe well-intentioned but ultimately lazy – definition of “rescuing”? Here, I’ll refresh your memory:

Moore: If you wanted to rescue me from something, why didn’t you bail me out of that fund raiser at the Museum three weeks ago, like you said you would?

Goldblum: Ah, there’s a slightly different situation.

Moore: Or, why not rescue me from that dinner with your parents that you never showed up for? Or why not rescue me when I really need it; actually be there when you say you will? Look; I love that you rode in here on a white horse. I really do! It’s very touching. Very romantic. I just need you to show up in a cab every once in awhile too!

White male cisgender allies: we love that you want to be needed. It’s very sweet that it matters to you whether or not we are mad at you for the sins of others in your demographic. It’s very sweet that you want to pay for dinner, and that you want to hold the door. But those are not areas in which we need rescuing. 

We are fighting tooth and nail every single day to rescue ourselves from gigantic systems of oppression and injustice, and what we really need from you now, more than anything, is for you to stop making excuses, leave your safe little blanket fort of complacency, pick up a picket sign, and start putting your privilege to some fucking patriotic use.

Love,

Literally Everyone Else

Lies Christians told me to keep me in the Republican Party

Trigger warning: in this article, I am not nice to Christian Republicans, and if my anger is likely to hurt your feelings, you may not want to read this.

I have made no apologies about leaving Christianity in recent months, and I have no intention of going back. I know for a fact that there are good Christians in the world, (and by “good” I mean people who aren’t soaking in luxurious bubble baths while eating bonbons and laughing “let them eat cake” at the parade of impoverished children crossing their television screens). But let’s face it, given the performance of the “moral majority” in recent days, the bar for “decent Christian” is set pretty goddamn low.

I have been stunned as I have begun to distance myself from the toxic and harmful beliefs of people that I truly do care about, and how many lies and falsehoods I was fed as a Christian, which seemed so reasonable at the time, encased in my safe little bubble of religious arrogance.

But one by one, as I have re-engaged my brain, I have come to discover how many of these are not only false, but pretty reprehensible in the light of Jesus’ teachings. Here are a handful.

“Jesus’ teachings applied to individuals, not to bodies of government”

This one is a favorite of certain members of my family, who, when confronted with the reality that Jesus taught socialist principles, feel they are safe in arguing that those principles only apply to individuals interacting with individuals, and not to systems of government. Because our government is made up of robots, apparently? 

Either way, I know the Bible pretty well, and I certainly couldn’t name for you a place where Jesus said “feed the poor, clothe the naked, shelter those who seek refuge, and love your neighbor – which, by the way is everybody – EXCEPT in situations where the government is MAKING you do these things. Then you’re off the hook.”

“Jesus would have condemned taxation on this level as theft”

Another important point to my very conservative friends and family members is how completely unfair it is that the government has the right to take money out of their paychecks to pay for things they don’t want. Honestly, I feel that unfairness too. I’m pretty sick of huge chunks of my paycheck going toward wars that we should not be participating in, and government bailouts for giant corporations who refuse to pay their workers a living wage and live like fat cats in the meantime.

But arguing that pennypinching your tax dollars, which go to things like feeding poor children, is the moral thing to do because Jesus would have called it theft is pretty low, even for the GOP.

“Caring for the poor is the responsibility of the church, not of the government”

This one is not necessarily a lie in and of itself, so much as a glaring logical fallacy. Sure, the church was commanded in the Bible to take care of the poor, but nowhere was it instructed to do so to the exclusion of any other organization also helping the poor. And furthermore, the logical fallacy comes when you realize that without government intervention, many Christians just won’t do it.

The implication that if the government would just get out of the church’s way and put money back in Christians’ pockets than they could zoom about like busy little bees doing the good work themselves is just flat false. I don’t know a single far-right Republican who has plans to set aside portions of their income, should their taxes be lowered, in order to funnel toward people who need it. You want your taxes lower so you can keep more of your money for yourself. It’s that simple. 

“Abortion at any stage in geststation is always murder.”

Again, not necessarily a lie (though also not true) so much as dishonest in its framing. I believe that it is okay to believe that life begins at conception. I do not think it’s cool to teach children something that is basically a religious belief as though it was scientific fact. 

Here are some scientific facts: the parts of your brain responsible for making you a person – basically, setting you apart from any other clump of organic matter – do not develop until about halfway through a pregnancy. So if you want to believe that life begins at conception, go for it. But don’t teach your children that this is a fact when in reality it is part of your religious belief system.

“It is moral to use the poor treatment of American veterans as an excuse to not help other demographics”

This one makes me extremely angry, because the way that our country treats veterans is not only appalling but abhorrent. So when I see memes going around on Facebook arguing against raising the minimum-wage because “people flipping burgers should not make more than our service people do” I kind of want to scream. 

Reality check for you: Liberals have been trying to get your party to flow more money into veteran services for very long time, and just because your party isn’t interested in paying service people better doesn’t mean that our party is bad for wanting to be sure children don’t starve. The two are not mutually exclusive.

“If people really want to make a living, they will find a way to do it.”

Even I was guilty of spreading this ridiculous falsehood when I was a Republican Christian. Then I became a single mother, and now hearing people I care about echo this lie just breaks my heart.

The implication that a woman like me, raising a daughter, working two jobs just to pay rent, trying to put myself through school so that my child can have a future outside of this low income hell, should just “find a way” to make the money necessary to pay for health insurance I can’t afford without government help, is disgusting.

The sheer lack of compassion coming from the conservative side of the aisle makes me ill. Your party doesn’t want me to make a living wage working 40 hours a week, wants me to have to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt to continue my education and better my future, isn’t interested in offering me childcare services so that I can draw from a broader pool of employment, and expects me to somehow find time for a third job to pay for my child’s health insurance?

“The United States should stop taking in refugees because it needs to focus on its own people first.”

But. You. Don’t.

You don’t care for your own people first. You don’t work to pull hardworking people out of poverty. You don’t care about senior citizens, about young children, about the disabled. You pretend they don’t exist and slam their caretakers for not doing enough to provide for them. 

And at the end of the day, we see right through you. We see how your racism and xenophobia is fueling this fight, and how your own fears are ruling your head and destroying any hope of kindness or generosity. If you were hoping to emulate Jesus, you could not have gone further in the wrong direction.

So, in a nutshell, really quickly, here is my short list of reasons why I have abandoned the Republican Party and will never look back:

– I believe that every parent who is willing to work 40 hours a week should be able to pay their bills on what they make.

– I believe that the lack of a stay-at-home parent in a household should not prevent a low-income person from finding employment.

– I believe that someone who has just found out their child has cancer should be able to survive the ordeal without going bankrupt in the process.

– I believe that the wealthiest 1% in our country should be expected to pull their weight and pour back into the system that allowed them to acquire their wealth in the first place.

– I believe that compassion should always trump fear, and that while our country has the resources to do so, it should keep its borders open to any human being fleeing terror and violence.

– I believe decisions about womens bodies should be made by women. Full stop.

– I do not have a problem, even as someone who scrapes by at the end of every month, contributing my taxes to be sure someone else’s children have food and healthcare. And I cannot fathom how you do not feel the same.

Tomi Lahren isn’t worth my time – or yours

The Republican Party has a very young very blonde new player, and her primary contribution to our country is sitting behind a desk and trying to make the left angry. 

Very soon, the same girl will visit my Pacific Northwest town, and already people in my community have organized protests against her appearance at a hotel in downtown.

I understand. I feel the same anger and disgust toward this horrifyingly ignorant, exasperatingly closed-minded girl that everyone else does. I would love to see her television reign and and her racist, hateful platform be dismantled. That would be wonderful.

But it’s probably not going to go down that way. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are two prime examples of loud, relatively useless talking heads who have just enough of a fanbase among of the ignorant and the bigoted to keep them funded. They get paid to shout at the strawman perversions of liberals who don’t exist in real life but who serve as convenient punching bags to keep the alt-right rabid and foamy.

And young Tomi, who is more than likely just spouting back the ignorance and fabricated outrage she has learned from her parents and her very sheltered culture, will join them in their bigotry. As long as hate sells, she will be able to profit from it.

So after this post, I’m not going to ever talk about her again, and unless you really really want to, you don’t have to either.

We have the option – those of us who are fighting real battles about real things – to just literally ignore her. We have the option to allow her to melt back into obsecurity, surrounded by her angry little fan base, and just go on with our lives without dignifying her crusade with a response.

We can totally just decide to allow her to keep screaming into her rapidly dwindling alt-right echo chamber, and we can move on to the things that matter.

My city has a huge human trafficking issue. A lot of other cities in this country do too. My country is being run by people who would happily overturn Roe v Wade, and if that becomes a fight, millions of desperate women’s actual lives could be in jeopardy. Our economy is on track for a dramatic tank, which will set our cities, our neighborhoods, and our families on a destructive path. The rape culture in our society received a gigantic shot in the arm with this past election cycle, and we are still recovering from the effects of that horrifying reality.

Those of us on the front lines of the resistance have real issues to worry about. We have a real problems facing us. And if we would rather not engage with someone whose only real impact on our world is ranting at people who already agree with her, we don’t have to.

Let Tomi, Ann, Rush, and the rest sit behind their desks and talk. I’m not giving them any more free publicity. I’m not giving them any more Facebook clicks, any more YouTube views, any more retweets. They aren’t worth it. We have actual battles to fight. 

I’m going to keep doing real work that impacts real people. You’re welcome to join me.

I don’t like my party anymore


I am a young Democrat, and I want a new party.

I, like so many of my fellow progressives, am incredibly passionate about many of the issues facing my country today. I feel solid in my moral stance that racism, sexism, xenophobia, heteronormativity, and transphobia, among others are rampant and must be extracted, with tooth and nail if need be, from our culture.

I, like so many of my fellow millennials am awakening to the reality that my voice matters in our world. That I have the ability and responsibility to influence our political climate. That I have the right and the duty to hold my representatives to the truth.

But I don’t like my party anymore.

I don’t like the fact that young Democrats have traded picket signs for thoughtful, compassionate debate. I don’t like the way we have decided that sharing inflammatory Facebook posts is somehow superior to actual education. I don’t like the way we have targeted Republicans, conservatives, antiabortionists, and many others whose only real sin may be actual ignorance. I don’t like that, rather than spreading knowledge and encouraging active listening, we shout down people who disagree with us.

I get it. I do. I am every bit as angry as the rest of my party. I am every bit as frightened as every other queer woman out there. I am every bit as sickened by racism, Islamiphobia, homophobia, and the rest as everyone else. I believe that anger is a powerful catalyst for change, and that loud, unapologetic protest is an important piece of democracy.

But I hate that so many in my party have decided to stop there. I hate that so many Democrats now live in a state of perpetual outrage. I hate that it has become our instinct to immediately unfriended, ignore, shun, ostracize, and mock anyone whose opinions differ from our own, rather than attempt to engage people in thoughtful, informed discussion.

I wish my party knew how to be angry in the face of injustice without compromising our commitment to education and compassion.

I wish my party would stand firm as the party of enlightenment and knowledge, rather than sinking to the level of screaming masses who refused to step outside of their protest lines and engage with individuals on the other side of the aisle.

I wish my party knew how to channel their outrage and fury into productive, fact-based action.

I’m tired of being a part of the Angry On Facebook Party. I want a different one.

Progressives, We Have Got to Chill Out


We have just survived what feels like the longest two weeks in history. The right has come out of the gate fast and furious, hell-bent on flooding every inch of our executive branch of government with people who will dismantle things that we on the left believe to be not only crucial pillars of our democracy but essential hallmarks of our alleged status as “the greatest nation on earth.” 

And we have fought back. We have called a representatives ceaselessly, we have marched, we have worn pink, we have worn red, we have flooded our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds with fellow progressives, supportive organizations, and battle strategies. 

Millennials are finally beginning to wake up to the realization that we drive this car. That we get to decide who sits in our Congress, who writes and vetoes our bills, who makes or breaks our laws. It’s an exciting time, seeing my generation step out of political obscurity and take the helm in a way we never have before.

But now, as Betsy Devos and Jeff Sessions are confirmed, the frenzy is beginning to slow to a trickle, and we must rethink our strategy if our fight is to continue.

We had a chance, my fellow progressives, at the beginning of 45’s administration, to force him to fill his cabinet with people who would apply the values that make our country great, and that chance is all but gone. Now comes the hard part. Now comes the flood of legislation, the back door dealings, the subtle pushes toward bills and vetoes. Now comes the real fight, and for this we must be thoroughly educated, impeccably informed, and above all, we must be calm.

The GOP has already begun to issue attacks on our character. Ted Cruz recently called Democrats in the Senate out by implying that our blue state Congresspeople were flat-out crazy. This is not going to stop. Where liberal-leaning news sources cover “peaceful protests” you can count on their conservative counterparts calling us “rioters” and “looters”. When progressive representatives praise us for our strikes, our campaigns, for using our voices, the far right will label us as insane, tantrum-throwing children, special snowflakes with hurt feelings.

Now is the time to buckle down. Now is the time to educate yourself on exactly what is happening in our Congress. Ask yourself this question, every time you’re tempted to share a meme or post on Facebook: “Can I defend, with actual facts, statistics, and reliable sources, the information contained in this Facebook post?” If the answer is no, you have a duty to yourself, to your party, to your country, and to your future to find out the information you would need if presented with a dissenting argument.

We have a lot of support in Congress, but I can guarantee you that Uncle Bernie and Aunt Liz want us to be citing our goddamn sources.

We have to step twice as fast in order to get half as much done now. We have to be twice as educated and informed to combat the ad hominem attacks coming our way. We have to be completely above reproach if we want to continue to have our voices heard and maintain any hope of changing anyone’s mind.

And occasionally, for the sake of our health, we have to drink some tea, turn off Facebook, and watch some Netflix. Or, here is a fantastic article by Ariana Huffington about how to remain calm and collected in the resistance.

Stay angry, my fellow progressives, but stay in control. Onward.