Archives for category: activism

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 10.07.50 AM

Me too. The hashtag that took over social media this past weekend. I had to look it up, to be honest.  I had a feeling what it was, but googled it to be sure. Sadly, I was correct. The day before this started trending I shared a brief story of my own via a Facebook status. It was about the first time I vividly recall being sexually harassed, and maybe by some definitions, assaulted. In middle school, by a teacher. It was in light of the discussions of men in positions of power abusing that trust and role. Using that position to hurt women. The next day I stated seeing “me too” all over Facebook and Instagram.

I haven’t posted a “me too” status though. Why? Because I am very open about my stories of assault and harassment and date rape. I have found my voice over the last few years and I talk about it until I am blue in the face, until all my Facebook friends probably roll their eyes and think, here we go again, (I don’t care though). I talk and write and write and talk because it is important. Because for 13 years I lost my voice. Because maybe my stories will help another woman. Because these moments happened, are happening, and will happen again.

Tomorrow is the culmination of my Resistance Writing Workshop. I set out to write another piece on sexual harassment. I even have a first draft written up. In the end, I shifted to a piece on mass shootings. I will share that after my critique and edits. But at the front of my mind, when I first stepped foot into that class 6 weeks ago, was writing about sexual harassment. Before the “shocking” Weinstein story (is it all that shocking? It seems the whole industry knew) and before “me too.” Why? Because this isn’t a trending hashtag. This is real life. This is my real life. This is the real life of most women I know. Because a teacher massaged my shoulders and ran his hands through my hair when I was in middle school. (I don’t even think I had gotten my first period yet.) Because an adult coworker followed me into a freezer when I was 16, closed the door, pinned me against a shelf, and kissed me, without my consent. Because I woke up in a hospital, no underwear, questions about what happened to my genitals being barked at me by a doctor. Because a man trapped me in an elevator and commented on my legs, while I was carrying my wedding veil. Because a man masturbated in his car, next to mine, watching me, as I put my first born son into his car seat, at 10 a.m. on a weekday. Because a drunk man sexually harassed me at noon on a weekday when I was pushing my 2 year old in his stroller. And so many more instances. All of that gets lost with just “me too.” You don’t quite get the disgusting nature of these moments when you chalk it up to “me too.”

I think the stories are important. It is more than “me too.” The narrative matters. What happened? Who did it? How did you feel? How did it affect your life? How are you doing now? How have you recovered? You matter! The details matter. Me too doesn’t solve anything. Awareness, sure, but we are all aware this happens. We live it. We see it. We read it. We hear it. Now we need to change it. Talk, speak, tell your story, insist on fairness, require body autonomy, demand that your sons will walk into this world differently, men, speak up when you see it happening, not after it comes to light. Bosses, refuse to tolerate any employee feeling uncomfortable in your office/company/business. The burden is not on us victims. The burden is on society to get its shit together. To refuse to tolerate sexual harassment and assault. Maybe because I am a writer, I feel that the stories are so important. “Me too” glosses over the nitty gritty ugly details, and maybe that is what we need. A bold look in the mirror, face the ugliness, the hideousness, the shame that we continue to let people (men, mostly) get away with these acts. Then enact bold and revolutionary change.

I am in the middle of an amazing Resistance Writing Workshop. This week we focused on resistance through fiction. One of our exercises was to take life as it is and reimagine it as it should be. This short story came to me based on a shirt my 6 year old wore to the march for science earlier this year. It reads “save the earth. It’s the only planet with pizza.” So without further ado, my first dabble into fiction in a very long time! 

Earth’s Most Delicious Hero

Pizza. Everybody likes pizza. There’s a topping for every tastebud. There are city rivalries based on pizza. Rats carry pieces around New York. There are different sizes, shapes, and depths. People are passionate about their pizza preferences. Chicagoans scoff when they see “Chicago Style Pizza!” anywhere outside of Chicago. There is no way they get that right, no way! Pizza is a simple yet serious part of our collective ethos. Funny thing though, Earth is the only planet with pizza. You can’t find a thin crispy crust cheese slice on any other planet, that we know about.

Pizza is what saved this planet. The force that finally led world leaders to collectively sigh and say, “ok! We have to do something about climate change, or this is it. We are done for! Finished, gone, extinct!” Not Cat 5 hurricanes, or flooding islands, or unbearably hot Septembers, or ice shelves falling off. No, we humans live through our bellies. And it turns out, the way to a man’s brain (not heart, we had that one wrong) is through his belly.

Pizza. That perfectly warm golden tangy delight, too delectable to ever give up, was the Earth’s champion. The reason we all work harder to reduce our impact and waste. The reason our air is cleaner and our oceans are cooler. And come to think of it, why everyone smiles more. Who can be mad when every single Friday is International Pizza Night? Obviously started to commemorate our shared, global, hero. You don’t have to Go Green. You can just Go Cheesy (but please, skip the anchovies).

IMG_5503

There are many people who woke up differently last November. Their eyes were opened and they felt shock and outrage that they may not have experienced before. While I rallied against him for the entire campaign, I think that I also felt shocked on a different level. I was distraught that so many people did not see beyond the simply phrased rhetoric and shut their eyes and ears to his ugliness.

I immediately joined the ACLU. As soon as I caught wind of the Women’s March I made reservations so I could attend it in D.C. I searched for groups to attend. The political and social justice fire inside of me was fanned and grew even larger.  I attended the march and it will remain one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I also looked to get involved locally and on a grassroots level. I attended a couple meetings where I was living, but then we moved. I wasted no time in searching out new grassroots meetings to get involved with. I have now attended two in the city. Sometimes I have spoken up more and other times I have really intently just listened.

As I quickly walked the cold Chicago streets with my husband on our way home from a People Power gathering last night, I explained to him how I was feeling:

My favorite part of all of these meetings is the chance to listen to so many different perspectives. While, most people are there for similar reasons, it doesn’t mean that every reason is strictly the same. Gaining knowledge by listening to what someone else has gone through or is feeling really is important. I have learned so many personal challenges and hopes just by being in these meetings. I really think and wish this was something we all did. That we took the time to hear what other people have gone through. I think that the country would be in a better place if that happened a little more. 

I cherish the opportunity to hear respectful but sometimes differing dialogue. Last night we were all there for similar reasons, we felt called to action. The ACLU laid out a plan for us to tackle. In the group there were many differing opinions on how to go about that. Back and forth until a plan of sorts was agreed upon. It wasn’t a mean discussion. It wasn’t aggressive or ugly. It was just discourse.

I wrote about how a young Muslim girl I met on my D.C. trip described America as a salad instead of a melting pot. That hasn’t left me. This high school student taught me something. I have carried that thought with me. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences during and since the election has enriched my life. I am a white female. That comes with its privileges and with its struggles. I recognize that and I respect that. No two life experiences are exactly the same. Learning how other humans have lived and what they have dealt with has enriched my corner of the salad we live in. Opening your eyes to the fact that your experience differs from the next person’s experience can only make this world better. I want to think beyond a call for empathy. It is about being a decent human. Understanding the people around you are loved by other people just as you are loved by other people. They matter. You matter. We all matter. To forget that is at our own peril.

Take the time to listen to a stranger, a neighbor, a friend. Your salad will be even more flavorful.

huddle

 

 

 

I have written a few times here about how I feel about the current political climate. I have written about my Women’s March experiences. I wrote about why I marched. On my other social media outlets I have written and posted rather extensively (or annoyingly to some people, sorry definitely not sorry). It is not something I plan to end anytime soon. However, I want to touch on how this is making our children feel. Or rather my six year old in particular.

Let me rewind a bit, to last summer when I was young and naive. When I thought there was literally no way this would be where our country is. Surely, enough people could see and hear what I could see and hear. Well, they did popular vote-wise, but do not get me started about my feelings on that. My then five year old told us at our kitchen table he liked (vomits a little) Donald Trump. We both were very shocked. Neither of us had ever said anything remotely nice about that garbage fire. However, being parents who have an open door policy on discussions here, we asked him why. He said matter of factly, “I think he is funny. He is like a cartoon!” We both let out a sigh of relief, this we could work with. We explained he does look and sound funny, for sure.

Then came the Clinton campaign commercial with women reciting all of the terrible, sexist, disgusting, and misogynistic comments he has said about women. I had him watch it. After, I asked him how he felt about it. I asked him if he thought those were kind things to say about women? I am a woman, his grandmas are women, his aunts are women, his cousins are women, how would he feel if we were the women Trump was speaking of? Would he be ok with mommy being called a fat pig? Making fun of my looks. He said those things were very mean and he would not like that at all. From that moment on his view on the funny sounding orange cartoon character shifted.

Fast forward to this week. During dinner we caught maybe two minutes of a Showtime documentary about the election and Trump’s campaign in particular. During those 1-2 minutes they happened to show the violence that Trump called for at his rallies. He saw protestors. He asked what they were doing. I said they are protesting Trump, like mommy did when I went to D.C. Then he saw one of them get punched in the face by a Trump supporter. Then he saw it again as they slowed it down. He kept asking questions. I frantically urged my husband to turn something else on. This was too much. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We moved on to something else.

During our bedtime ritual of all reading books together, I could tell something was bugging him. He seemed a little bothered, agitated, just not paying attention to the book. I stopped reading and asked him what was wrong.

“What if Donald Trump does bad things to our country?”

I was a bit startled, as that is not what I assumed was the problem. But I immediately knew, the brief 2 minutes had been burned in his six year old brain. I calmly explained checks and balances to him. That there are other parts of our government around to prevent the president from having all the power. He cannot do whatever he wants. He has other people to answer to.

“Ok. But what if he is sneaky about it?”

I said that is a fair point, but there are a lot of people who do not like him. A lot of people watching him. To make sure that he is not sneaky. Then I said it is nothing he has to worry about. I promise nothing too sneaky will happen. All eyes are on him.

I am sorry that show came on. I really am. I wish I had gotten it turned off a few moments sooner. My husband said to me later “he has to learn about checks and balances.” I let him know I briefly explained that. We also decided we need to be far more careful with our watching of news coverage around him in particular.

Our kids are watching and listening. They always are, we know this. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to feel like our children cannot be privy to what the Commander in Chief is doing. We shouldn’t have to explain to them the leader of our nation won’t be allowed to be too sneaky because we are all watching, but in the back of our minds not even believing that whole heartedly. I was always happy to let them be around when Obama was speaking. I never felt that he was going to make them afraid. My son never felt anxious during story time over something Obama said or did. There are times, during some of the countless mass shootings, that I turned the tv off, sure. That was more to do with the evil going on and not anything to do with how it was being responded to.

I am sad that we have to have these hushed conversations about the current situation. However, I will not stop telling him that I am protesting this. I will let him know that I am being vocal. When he has questions I will answer them and I will reassure him. I will try to shelter him from the worst of it. I will try to make him feel safe. Our children are watching. The next move is ours.

589a0dc025000034080b77e3

16195101_10154069657470836_716451684621067609_n

It has been six days since my boots marched on D.C. streets. I feel like it was just yesterday. This week went by quickly as I was getting back into the routine around here, planning a move, cuddling with a toddler who seems to be needing to make up for lost time, and every other normal task I tackle daily. Realizing that it has been almost a week and the dust is settling felt a bit surreal this morning.

I wrote about my experience during the entire trip. I want to touch on why I marched. Why I will continue to march. I touched base on this via my instagram a month ago. I then tagged it properly and much to my utter astonishment, the Women’s March shared the post! I shared it knowing they asked for our reasons. I shared it not ever thinking it would be shared by them. Ultimately, I shared it because I am involved and want to stay vocal and active.

Why did I march? I will start with my opening point on the post. I march because I am a mom of two boys. Two little boys who will leave my home one day knowing that women are strong, equal, intelligent, capable, and worthy of respect. I refuse to put two more men into the world who treat women and other humans poorly. I will fight tooth and nail to help them be open hearted, tolerant, kind, respectful, and open-minded men.

I encourage them to dress and play with whatever they want. They love Shopkins and Minecraft. You can walk through my home and hear me saying “There is no such thing as boy toys and girl toys, there are just toys.” I let them grab items from the girls clothing department if they see a shirt or something they like. They will check out every aisle in the toy section, there is no invisible border for them between the clearly divided sections.

I repeatedly explain that “everyone is different.” My oldest has carried that with him into the world. As they grown they begin to encounter people who are not raised as they have been. Kids have given him a hard time that sometimes his water bottles do not have boy things on them. He replies “there are no girl or boy things. Everyone is different.” I asked him many times if it is bothersome to him when comments are made, and he always says no. I reassure him to be himself and I use blue water bottles, I use pink water bottles. Who cares what the bottle looks like, we just want the water! One time kids were harassing him to try ketchup, which he hates, and finally he told them (at the age of 4) “I don’t like it and that is ok because everyone is different!”

I marched because I have a responsibility to help shape the next generation of men. I only have two of them to guide and love, but two people can make a difference. Two boys can go out there and be helpers not harmers. I will end rape culture within my home. Boys will not be boys. Boys will be kind humans and do good works. I will do my best for them to see a strong woman with a loud and active voice. I will do my best for them to know that women can do anything they want, that men aren’t inherently better at certain things than women. I marched so that when they look at me and ask “Mommy what did you do to stop Trump? What did YOU do during this period in our history?” I can look them in the eye and say, “I fought with all my heart. I marched. I tried to be a voice that championed love, equality, kindness, respect, openness, and strength.”

I marched a woman who has experienced sexual assault. I marched because there is a man in the White House who openly admitted to grabbing women by the pussy, and yet a sickening number of white women still voted for him. Maybe they have never had their pussies violated. I don’t know their story. Everyone is different. But my story? That includes a sexual assault that left me blacked out before waking up in a hospital scared, alone, and not knowing where I was. When you talk about trigger warnings, he is one giant trigger warning for people who have been violated sexually. The most respected office in the country is filled by a man that flippantly discusses sexual assault and then is not in the least bit remorseful. In fact, he just attacks any of the women who then came forward to talk about their experience with his tiny grabby hands. I marched for myself, for the other women who have told me their rape stories, for women who may not have told me their stories, for women who haven’t been assault and for their right to not have someone violate them, and for women who unfortunately may be assaulted in the future. I marched for all of us in an attempt to change the narrative about rape. To shift the focus on the attacker and not the victim. It took me 13 years to come forward and open up entirely about this. Women shouldn’t be afraid. We shouldn’t have to walk to our car with keys in our hands. We shouldn’t be thinking “dont’ get raped.” The world should be shouting “Don’t fucking rape people! (or grab them by the pussy)” I marched because that is just one instance of sexual violation in my 31 years on this planet. There are many other smaller stories I have gone though. I am not alone in that. That is why I marched.

I marched because I am aware as a white woman with a comfortable income, that my experience may be uniquely different than my other sisters out there. That intersectional feminism is the only way we will move forward together. I recognize the privilege I have based on my skin color, sexual orientation, economic status, and life experience. I respect the fact that not every woman experiences sexism and injustice in the same way. There are layers to each person’s life experience and things are not so clear cut. I marched because I want to listen, learn, support, and engage in meaningful educational moments from women that are different from me.

I marched with my mom. I marched with her because I have seen a fire lit in her during this election. It has given me a push forward on my strong opinions. I marched with her because she has always told me I can do whatever I want to do. I marched with her because she is responsible for the eventual family motto I coined “everyone is different.” She instilled that in me growing up. I marched with her because marching with your mom is so incredibly empowering. I was not aware of how empowering that would feel. To stand arm in arm with the woman who birthed you. I was in the position of the child asking my mom “What did you do to resist this?” Her answer will always be, “I marched. I resisted. I refused to go away quietly.”

I marched for myself, my nieces, my sisters in law, my aunts, my cousins, my friends, the strangers I met along the way, and yes, even the women who are against this movement. I marched for you just in case you ever need a hand to lift you up. I hope not. I hope you can live your life without feeling marginalized, but if something changes, here is my hand, to hold and march with yours. I marched for all people who are aghast at the fact that this is where we are as a nation right now. I marched for our future.

Where do we go from here? There are many ways to stay active. There are more marches coming up. Personally, I will be attending volunteer expo event at the end of February. I have some ideas of where I would like to put my time, but I think the expo will open my eyes to even more choices. Then, I pick a place and I get involved. If you are in Illinois, this is a grass roots organization, Action for a Better Tomorrow . It started out of Pantsuit Nation and grew into its own movement. There are local chapters. I started to get involved in the local one in the ‘burbs where I am now, but we are moving, so I will have to shift focus once we are settled in.

The march is not where it ended. It was the beginning. Keep speaking out, writing, volunteering, calling your representatives, reading and researching, sharing  things on your social media. Do not become complacent now that our boots are back in the closets or shoe racks. Keep those boots dirty. Nasty, if you will.