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.

Our white children need pictures of black leaders on their walls

My entire life I have seen black and brown leaders celebrated for their accomplishments. I don’t recall a time where whatever racism I may have seen as a child was so overt that people of color were condemned or judged for reaching for the stars. The feedback from my family and my culture was generally positive when someone whose skin was different from my own did something remarkable.

But what I didn’t realize until I had a daughter was that even in celebration and recognition of the importance of representation, there was still a distinct sense that those heroes and heroines were somehow not valuable to me, or worth looking up to myself.

As a white woman, I have plenty of white heroes and heroines to look up to. I don’t need more inspiration. I don’t need more representation. But amazing people like Barack Obama, Mae Jamison, Martin Luther King Jr, Maya Angelou, and many others were introduced to me as representatives “for other people.”

It was as though they somehow maintained the “second rate citizen” status that antiracism sought to abolish, just by being “for the others.”

As though, being white, I didn’t need them. I shouldn’t bother. They were second-tier heroes for second-tier people.

“It’s so great for them to experience Barack Obama as president.”

“It’s so great for them to see Oprah Winfrey as successful as she is.”

It is undoubtedly a beautiful and powerful thing for children with dark skin to see people who look like them doing incredible things. It’s necessary, and it’s part of what will move our country out of a insidious antiquated age of racism and segregation.

But if our white children grow up believing that those darker skinned heroes are only valuable to darker skinned children, that “other” mentality will linger.

My white daughter needs pictures of black heroes on her walls if she is to grow up understanding that we celebrate differences in race and culture, in appearance, and that those differences have no bearing on a person’s worth.

My white daughter needs to learn about these powerful icons in her history who overcame obstacles she personally will never need to face by virtue of her fair skin.

Brown and black heroes in our past do not belong in a category labeled “for the others.” Their struggles and obstacles related to their race should be taught clearly and unapologetically. But our white children need to know that, even though these heroes faced racism and discrimination in a way white people don’t, they are not “other.”

Our white children need to be taught that black leaders are not second-rate, a consolation prize for the minority. That the black leaders, thinkers, heroes, movers, and changers in this world brought brilliance, inspiration, innovation, eloquence, and courage to the table that we should all strive to emulate.

My daughter needs to learn to look up to inspirational black people.

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.

How I can be pro-choice and still love my daughter

“How can you be pro-choice if you are a mother?” 

I understand the emotion behind this question. I have heard women ask this question with tears in their eyes, in the middle of infertility struggles, or recovering from miscarriages. I have heard this question asked with anger in their voices they try and wrap their heads around the fact that I love my child and would fight for the rights of other women to, from their perspective, abort their own. There is a lot of pain in this question. And a lot of confusion.

But there is an answer too.

Most of the people who ask this question belong to the Christian community in which I live and relate. They believe that life begins when a heart starts to beat, or even earlier, at the point of conception. The problem I have with this theory is that it reduces my daughter to her heartbeat. But my daughter’s personhood is not contingent on her biological systems. 

Her personhood is in her humor, her tenacity, her ability to learn and grow and interact with the world around her. Her personhood is defined and demonstrated by her ability to feel pain and experience beauty, her brain’s ability to create and recall memories. Those are the things that make her my Molly. And these are all things, science tells us, that her tiny brain was not capable of until close to 25 weeks into gestation.

So before that 25-week-mark, I believe – based on my layman’s understanding of the scientific research I have been able to read – my daughter was not a person.

This is the point that causes so much pain and confusion. This is the point that invokes the tears. And if I end my narrative there, it leaves out what is possibly the most important aspect of my beliefs regarding personhood.

Namely, that long before my daughter was a person, I was her mother.

Long before her little synapsis began to fire, creating humanity inside a grouping of fetal cells, I loved her. I gave her a name. I made a place for her in my heart, and in my future, and in my home. I bought her a bed, clothing, food. I built for her a family, designating those around me as “grandma” grandpa”, “aunt” and “uncle.” I wrapped her in a blanket of tertiary personhood, woven of my love for her, until she was able to develop her own.

Mothers are the true creators in this world, not just because our biology allows us to create more autonomous biology, but because our hearts have the capability to bestow personhood on someone who does not yet exist. 

Ask my friend who adopted from overseas, and she will tell you that she loved her son with all her heart long before she knew that he was hers. Ask another who endured the horrors of a miscarriage very early in her pregnancy, and she will tell you that she still feels love for the child that never developed far enough to attain independent personhood. That child is still hers. That child is still real. That child is still deeply loved.

A mother’s love is a powerful force that transcends time and biology. It moves across oceans and creates life and personhood long before our biological systems do. My daughter’s heart beat did not give her life and humanity. I did.

I loved my Molly when she was an unfertilized egg resting deep inside my reproductive system. I loved her long before she implanted in my uterine wall, long before my hormones began to signal that my body was developing a fetus, long before I could watch that development happen on an ultrasound. She was a person to me, and I was her mother, long before her heart began to beat.

But not every woman who houses a fertilized egg is that fetus’ mother.

Just as women across the world use birth control to prevent natural processes in their bodies from initiating pregnancy, similarly, some women choose to abort the process of pregnancy before the developing fetus achieves its own personhood – before that tiny brain ever lights up at all.

They could bestow personhood on that fetus, but they choose not to do so. This is their right. The creator has the right to choose not to create.

I do love my daughter with every fiber of my being. I have loved her since long before she existed. I chose to create her as a person long before her physical form developed, long before her brain begin to function, long before she gained her own personhood. 

And I stand for the rights of women who choose, for their own personal, important, often private reasons, not to create. I can stand for these women, not despite my status as a mother, but because of it.

Because my daughter is so much more than her heartbeat.

Why the obvious is not so obvious

I downloaded the Medium app today. Like most personalized feed apps, my sign-up process included choosing from a list of topics in which I am interested. I wondered as I clicked “social justice” “women in tech” and “refugees” and bypassed “Donald Trump” and “sports” whether or not someone looking at my long list of selections could tell that I am a progressive millennial. They probably could.

Most of my progressive millennial friends are also interested in LGBT+ rights, our current cultural climate, and personal stories from people like themselves. These are all things I selected as wanting to see on my feed.

This process is a perfect example of how we as a culture digest our news now. Our Facebook newsfeeds are limited to the things we want to see, courtesy of the “hide” button. Our Twitter feeds are full of only people whose opinions we deem valuable enough to solicit. We curate the news we want, and in an age where news and entertainment are almost inextricably linked, that means choosing the facts we want.

This phenomenon also explains, for me, how I can see the obvious rationale in my decisions, and not understand why a person on the other side of the political aisle could not see things the way I do.

For example, it makes perfect sense to me that if your business is in trouble you do not hand over the keys to someone who has bankrupted their own business multiple times. It makes perfect sense to me that when there is legislation being passed regarding women’s rights, you don’t leave the decision in the hands of someone who has a long history of misogyny and accusations of sexual assault against women. It just makes common sense to me that you don’t elect, as the leader of a widely diverse country, someone who has exhibited so much racism and xenophobia for as long as we have listened to him.

These things just seem obvious.

So when people who have different political opinions from mine, and people that I know first hand to be intelligent, well-read individuals don’t see these obvious realities the way I see them, I have to ask “why?” Why are we still being told, by people who can see, hear, and read with their own senses the atrocities being committed against women, against refugees, and against the poor, that we need to “trust that [45] knows what he is doing” and “just watch and see what happens?”

The answer is pretty obvious, and yet I couldn’t see it. (How’s that for irony?)

If you have an iPhone with the news widget enabled, click to your homepage and swipe right until your notifications pop up. You may see the weather, and, if your widgets are set up the way mine are, below that a list of recent articles from many of our major news outlets.

Here’s how mine looks right now:

ABC News and CNN, two news agencies that I recognize can be skewed toward liberal bias, but whom I generally trust for information, are reporting on some major executive orders that 45 has recently signed. FOXNews is still talking about something that happened on Twitter. They’ve been talking about it for five hours now.

So if your only input (or your primary input) of news comes from FOXnews, your hearing a lot about a Twitter feud, and very little about the atrocities being leveled at desperate women overseas. You’re hearing a lot about petty arguments on social media and very little on where ridiculous amounts of federal tax dollars are headed for no reason other than racial bias.

When you curate your news, this is what you see. This is what you get. Welcome to the bubble.

Progressives don’t come out winning in this situation. My unintentionally curated news reports didn’t tell me that pro-life women had been shouted down and harassed at the women’s march – but my conservative friends on Facebook saw that information in their feeds. That’s important information for a feminist to know. That’s incredibly important information for modern feminists across the country to know as we attempt to move forward in solidarity. But I didn’t see it.

We have to find our way out of the bubble. We have to find ways to intentionally combat the curation of facts that crosses our field of vision. Otherwise, we sink deeper and deeper into our respective safe spaces, oblivious to the humanity of the other side.

45 wants us divided. His administration wants us divided. The wealthy in our government right now profit on our division. We have to combat that division by standing with each other, by listening to each other, and by pulling our heads out of the sand.

Next time Medium or any other app asks me to choose my interests, I’m going to make a concerted effort to pick interests I normally wouldn’t. I’m going to make an intentional decision to select topics I don’t usually care about. I’m going to cast a broader net. Will you do the same?

Four Types of Women Modern Feminism is Failing (as demonstrated by the women’s march)

Modern feminism has turned its volume up to 11. With the advent of this new administration, and a misogynistic force “on the throne,” women across America have attempted to join hands and remind our Congress and our White House that they work for us. But even as millions of women in our country and across the world marched in seeming solidarity for our rights, four very specific groups of women found themselves marginalized yet again. It’s time to take a look at where we might have blind spots in our feminism, and ask ourselves very seriously what we can do to create a feminism for every woman from every demographic and every walk of life.

Black women

We have all by now seen the iconic photograph on our Facebook newsfeeds: a gentleman with dark skin, holding a simple cardboard sign that reads “We will see you nice white women at the next #BlackLivesMatter march, right?” It’s not a rhetorical question. White feminism has a long excluded the needs and oppression of black women from its rhetoric and histories. Going as far back as Susan B. Anthony, black women have been relegated to the back of the parade, both literally and metaphorically.

What you can do about it:

Start by acknowledging your privilege, if you enjoy light skin. As difficult as it may be, resist the urge to get defensive when that privilege is addressed by our dark-skinned sisters. Black women across America are telling us how we can better support them. Listen more closely. Put your ego on the back burner, ask genuine questions, respect their safe spaces, and commit to relinquishing the megaphone when your black sisters have something to say. An important aspect of living within your privilege is knowing when to make yourself smaller so that someone else can be larger.

Indigenous and Native women

Many of us who walked in the women’s march also care enough about social issues to have followed the DAPL saga over the last several months. But despite our awareness of this social and ecological travesty, white feminism still has not closed the gap with our native sisters. Throughout the women’s march, women of Native American descent reported feeling like they were on display, being muted or dismissed when they brought up issues specific to American Indians, or being treated like a novelty or a prop. This is flat-out unacceptable. 

What you can do about it: 

Scroll up and read the “what you can do about it” from the last section. Study up on intersectional feminism, and learn about the psychological and social effects of colonization and disenfranchisement. Educate yourself. Ask respectful questions. Learn when to stop talking.

Transgender women

45’s egregious misogyny toward women, and the now infamous tape that has been so creatively dubbed “pussygate” led to a very intentional and empowering display of vulva-inspired artwork at the March. Empowering, that is, for women who own vulvas. What was seen as a demand for normalization of and the end of sexual assault against certain parts of cisgender female anatomy was taken by our trans sisters to be a point of separation and marginalization.

What you can do about it: 

First off, refusal to acknowledge transgender women as real women is an act of violence, full stop. White feminism does not do a great job of creating safety and welcome for women who once did not, or may still not, possess certain aspects of female anatomy. It’s not enough to just allow trans women to join our ranks. We must actively welcome them, and actively affirm their place in our society as equal in sisterhood. This means, for cisgender woman, more listening, and, you guessed it, more education.

Pro-life women

Stick with me here. Much of modern feminism focuses on a woman’s right to choose what is done with her own body. But whether you fall on the side of the line that says that life begins with a heartbeat, or the side that maintains that the development of a soul coincides with the introduction of brain activity, we can all agree that the goal, ultimately, is fewer and fewer abortions. No one at the march was in favor of killing babies. No one on either side of this debate thinks abortion is a fun-time entertainment activity like going to the movies or shopping for a new pair shoes. But pro-choice women are developing a nasty trend of allowing their emotion on the topic to dictate how they treat pro-life women. There are pro-life women in this world who are vicious toward pro-choice women. That’s a reality. But this reality does not in any way excuse violence in the other direction. When pro-life women are showing up to a march to support their fellow feminists and being heckled, shoved aside, and shouted down, we have taken a step back as a gender. 

What you can do about it:

Make peace with the reality that even with in our feminist ranks we will disagree with each other. Learn to put out fires, rather than throwing kerosene on the flames. Yes, we will disagree. We will debate. But initiating violence in the face of peaceful protest is the opposite of what we hope to accomplish. Pro-choice women don’t want pro-life woman yelling at them as we enter Planned Parenthood. And pro-life women do not deserve to be shouted down at a women’s march, or anywhere else, while they are exercising their right to peacefully protest. Let’s look for common ground, focus on education, and refuse to sink to the level of inciting violence.