Feminist Suffrage Parade, New York City, 1912 - public domain

Women’s Equality Day

Musings
Feminist Suffrage Parade, New York City, 1912 - public domain

Feminist Suffrage Parade, New York City, 1912 – public domain

So, apparently today is Women’s Equality Day. You know, one of those bullshit, made-up, inconsequential holidays (in this case, made even more ridiculous by purporting to celebrate a thing that doesn’t even exist). It’s a thing that gives people permission to sit back, relax, and do next-to-nothing for the other 364 days each year, since – hey! I gave at the office on Women’s Equality Day, used the hashtag and everything.

I woke up irritated this morning, because I went to bed irritated. Last night, I saw a message on Twitter from a guy I’ve followed there for several years, a message about Beyonce’s VMA appearance:

“Have just come across the Beyoncé/VMA thing. The most self-involved shit I’ve ever seen. Girl’s bat-shit crazy.”

I hadn’t seen the show, so I went online and watched her whole performance. It was, in a word, perfect. It doesn’t matter what you think of her music, she is a perfectionist when it comes to her shows, and she put on a show that was right on the money. Then I replied to that Twitter message, asking if it was her performance he objected to, since I thought it was spotless. His reply?

“Hypocritical to the point of insulting. Don’t build your career as independent woman & then perform songs about ‘pleasing your man'”

Okay. Umm, what?

It’s very easy for me to forget that outside of my progressive little bubble – both where I live literally in Portland where I live virtually online – that many, many people still have no idea what feminism is. None. If my Twitterer had been paying closer attention to Beyonce’s VMA performance, he would have heard the definition loud and clear:

A feminist is a person “who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

The words were spoken by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Beyonce stood silhouetted against the enormous word FEMINIST behind her. It was a powerful moment. It made me smile. And apparently not everyone was listening.

I challenged my Twitterer:

“Being an independent woman doesn’t mean you don’t want to please others. What exactly do you think being a feminist means?”

And he replied:

“Probably not spreading your legs in front of your infant daughter. But that’s just me.”

And then I got angry. I probably shouldn’t have said what I said next, since I was already tired, heading for bed, and about to turn off my phone. But I said this:

“Here’s what I think. You’re spectacularly ignorant about what feminism is/is not, but have no problem calling people crazy.”

So I went to bed agitated. I woke up with a headache, still thinking about the exchange. (He didn’t reply.) I was reminded of an exchange I had on Facebook not long ago, when I posted a graphic that read, “Feminism isn’t about destroying families, turning people into lesbians, destroying America, bashing men, bashing conservatives, communism. Feminism is about equality.” My Facebook friend declared that “all feminists should be made to recite that before they put pen to paper.” I take issue with statements that begin “All members of X group should be made to do Y,” and I said so. He shot back with, “The sexist feminists do more harm than good.”

Yes, sexist people suck. And sexism goes both ways. What my Facebook friend doesn’t like is that the people he’s referring to are sexist. Which is not feminism.

I didn’t have the wherewithal to continue the Twitter conversation last night, but the more I think about it, the more I wish I would have said:

A feminist is a person “who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” Being an independent person doesn’t mean one is a hermit who hates other people. Feminists come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and degrees. They can be promiscuous and chaste. They can be extroverts and introverts. They can be gay and straight. They can be boasting and modest. They can be strippers and schoolteachers. They can be men and women. Because none of those things has anything to do with what feminism means. What you took issue with was, perhaps, a moral compass that’s pointing in a different direction than yours is. And that’s fine. That’s okay. What is not okay, however, is to cover that moral disagreement with the veil of “feminism” and pretend they’re the same thing. You have put the proverbial apples and oranges in a bowl, declared them all the same thing, and decided they are bad. That is, it seems to me, ignorant and foolish.

I am tired of these conversations. I am tired of having to spend more time explaining what feminism is not than people spend learning what feminism is. I am tired of people objecting to something – getting judgemental about something, getting defensive against something – that they fundamentally don’t understand. And I am tired of so many of us looking away when we hear comments like this, pretending it’s someone else’s job to speak up. Because when we stay silent, we perpetuate the falsehoods. Let’s call bullshit when we see it.

And let’s start with a bullshit non-holiday that, really, must be mocking us it’s so obviously not celebrating a real thing. I’d give up and call it Tooth Fairy Day, but I think more people believe the Tooth Fairy exists than equality of the sexes exist.

Good reading: Beyonce’s VMA Performance Was the Feminist Moment I’ve Been Waiting For

Amuse-Bouches [Links I Love]: June 11 – August 19

Amuse-Bouches

Here’s the latest list of stuff I found interesting on the interwebz, June 11 through August 19:

  • 12 things white people can do now because Ferguson
    "Michael Brown was a good kid, by accounts of those who knew him during his short life. But that’s not why his death is tragic. His death isn’t tragic because he was a sweet kid on his way to college next week. His death is tragic because he was a human being and his life mattered. The Good Kid narrative might provoke some sympathy but what it really does is support the lie that as a rule black people, black men in particular, have a norm of violence or criminal behavior. The Good Kid narrative says that this kid didn’t deserve to die because his goodness was the exception to the rule. This is wrong. This kid didn’t deserve to die because he was a human being and black lives matter."
  • Our Moloch
    This is perhaps the most powerful piece on our culture's insatiable desire to keep and bear arms – at any cost – that I've read. It was written a few days after the Newtown elementary school massacre, and could have been written after every one of the 74 school shootings that have happened since that day.

    We are, intentionally and knowingly, sacrificing our children to guns – our Moloch – every day. We have let this happen. We sit mutely as it continues to happen. We let our elected officials get away with doing nothing to stop it. We should be ashamed.

  • Obama Goes off on Mass Shootings
    "Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this. Now, we have a different tradition. We have a Second Amendment. We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights. But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can't just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon — it makes no sense."

    I really like that the President says things like this. I just wish he could (would?) do something about it.

  • Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This.
    This is really, really awesome. Everyone should read this.

    That means you, too.

  • Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East?
    "Both sides have plenty of good people who just want the best for their children and their communities, and also plenty of myopic zealots who preach hatred. A starting point is to put away the good vs. evil narrative and recognize this as the aching story of two peoples — each with legitimate grievances — colliding with each other. "Here we have a conflict between right and right that has been hijacked by hard-liners on each side who feed each other. It’s not that they are the same, and what I see isn’t equivalence. Yet there is, in some ways, a painful symmetry — and one element is that each side vigorously denies that there is any symmetry at all."
  • Artists in Conversation: Kathleen Hanna by Melissa Febos
    Even though I'm usually fairly confident in my own singing voice, it is still heartwarming to read that a successful singer & recording artist also felt that familiar insecurity about singing in front of bandmates. Sometimes I cringe at what comes out of my mouth, even when I know my bandmates like what they hear.

    The self-criticism muscle is maybe the only one I've ever worked on consistently (& unintentionally), every damned day of my life.

  • A Free-Range Life: On the Road with Pam Mandel
    Pam's travel tips, toward the end of this interview, could have come out of my own mouth. This is, I'm sure, one of the many reasons we are friends. I have a very fond memory of wandering the aisles of the supermarket across from our hotel in Girona, Pam picking up chocolate-covered almonds to bring home to her bandmates.

    Supermarkets – always a good idea. Always.

  • Which Side Are You On, Girl?
    A really excellent piece by Lauren Quinn on class in America… And swimming. Because of course.
  • 37 reasons why Andrea Pirlo is the world’s greatest living human man
    THIS is the guy who's responsible for getting me into soccer in the first place. Watching him in the 2006 World Cup was like watching a magician. He is still a marvel to watch.
photo by Kenneth Barton - June 2014

Anthem After a Downpour

Music
photo by Kenneth Barton - June 2014

photo by Kenneth Barton – June 2014

Earlier this month, I had a chance to sing a song I’ve known by heart since I was a kid. I’ve performed it more times than I can remember, but never by myself.

And, as any singer will tell you, “The Star Spangled Banner” can be a bitch of a song to get right.

I’m proud to report that my first solo rendition of the US national anthem went swimmingly, despite the fact that I’d had almost no voice five days before. I’m also going to downplay how few people were left in the grandstands by the time I sang late in the afternoon, blaming it on the epic downpour that left the race track with so much standing water that an earlier race was cancelled. The torrential rain ended before I had to sing, thankfully.

I think my dad would have been really proud to stand in the rain and watch his little girl sing that song, on Father’s Day, in his adopted country.

Now, we’ll just see if I can find someone in the Timbers organization to whom I can forward this video.

creative commons image by AK Rockefeller

No One Left to Speak For Us

Personal
creative commons image by AK Rockefeller

creative commons image by AK Rockefeller

I stood over my laundry on December 14, 2012, dumbstruck as CNN kept saying that there had been a school shooting in my hometown of Newtown, Connecticut – surely they meant someplace else? someplace bigger? When it finally sank in that, yes, it was Newtown, I crumbled over the ironing board and wept. I cried for days, weeks, on and off. I still cry when I think about it. The news was then, and remains, too devastating to contemplate. And yet? I was hopeful. Finally, I thought, finally something will change. Congress will act. The American people will rise up and say they’ve had enough. Certainly, this can’t be swept under the rug.

And yet?

Here we are, 18 months later, (at least) 74 school shootings later, and the latest one is on my doorstep on this side of the country. An as-yet-unnamed student walked into Reynolds High School in Troutdale first thing this morning and killed a freshman boy before police said the incident was “contained.” It’s a polite euphemism hiding the fact that not one but two kids lost their lives today.

For all my weeping after Newtown, I find that today I am resigned. I am sickened, heartbroken, and angry – and after those feelings come and go I open a new brower window and go back to my work. Which makes me more sick, heartbroken, and angry.

After the school shooting earlier last week at the Seattle Pacific campus, I was reminded of that famous speech by Martin Niemöller, the German pastor who, after World War II, criticized the German elite for not doing more to stop the spread of Nazism before it was too late. His words were turned into a poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Many of us are asking now, as we asked after Newtown and so many school shootings before that, what will it take? What is it actually going to take for something to change? I confess that my own answers to that question are getting more and more outlandish and disgusting. But I no longer have any faith that we’ll do what it takes – oust members of Congress who are firmly in the pockets of the NRA so they can finally enact meaningful gun control legislation – without something disgusting and outlandish happening.

What will it take for you to act? Don’t offer your thoughts and prayers. We don’t need those. We need your action.

If you can’t be bothered to do something, to say something, then you deserve exactly the society riddled with unpredictable gun violence that we’ve got. If you can’t stand up against terrorists like the NRA, even when you haven’t lost a loved one to gun violence, then eventually there won’t be anyone left to speak for you, either.

Send a #NotOneMore postcard to your elected officials right now. It takes 10 seconds. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And every day until they listen. And please, please, please – remember this on election day.

Amuse-Bouches [Links I Love]: May 9 – June 5

Amuse-Bouches

Here’s the latest list of stuff I found interesting on the interwebz, May 9 through June 5:

  • How to Get a World Cup Style Soccer Experience in the U.S.
    MapQuest has launched a series of "99 Summer Travel Quests" – one for each of summer's 99 days – and they asked me to write about going to a Timbers game as one of the quests. I was more than happy to oblige – my only consternation was about the word limit (I could have gone on and on about the fan atmosphere).
  • We’re Drinking Whiskey Faster Than Distillers Can Make More
    It is a very good thing that I both (a) live in a place where there are local distilleries making kick-ass whiskey I can get before it hits store shelves, and (b) also freaking adore gin.
  • The Prettiest Girl At The Party
    I really liked this profile of Jill Abramson, particularly this paragraph:

    "Your power does not come from luck. Your power comes from you, and what you invest in it every day, in the work and the sweat and the giving a damn. That is what you carry around with you, even as you walk out of your fancy top job for the last time. That is what you carry into the next thing, and there will be a next thing, because you are good and because that’s what you do. That is your capital."

  • Archaeologists’ findings may prove Rome a century older than thought
    Okay, so when you're talking about a city that just celebrated its 2767th birthday, saying that it might actually be 100 or so years older than previously thought may not seem like much to get excited about. But in Rome, it is.
  • Rome police pit Twitter against crazy parking
    Italians have a knack for parking in "creative" ways, in that they can see a cross walk in the middle of the street & decide it's the perfect place to park. Now Rome's police are fighting back – via Twitter. Incensed Romans can send a message to a specific Twitter account & the police will reply when they've dealt with the offending car. Pretty amazing, particularly for Italy.
creative commons photo by Todd

Father’s Day Anthem

Music
creative commons photo by Todd

creative commons photo by Todd

As I recently noted, I have just bought a new-to-me car for only the third time in my life. The previous one lasted me more than 18 years. Suffice it to say, then, that I am not a car person. My father, however, was – very much.

It’s a little bittersweet, then, to note that I’ve managed to secure a gig singing the national anthem before the Rose Cup Races on Father’s Day. One of my bandmates works for a company that is a sponsor of the races, and he somehow finagled things so that I’m singing the anthem on Sunday, which I think is the day of the main event races. I’m almost equal parts excited and nervous – it’ll be just me, standing in front of a crowd of race fans who are probably eager to get to the whole racing thing, and “The Star Spangled Banner” is a notoriously difficult song to pull off well. It spans more than an octave from top note to bottom, and if you make the mistake of starting out too high (as one friend put it) your “rockets will glare in an unsightly fashion.” I’ve never owned a pitch pipe, but – of course – there’s an app for that. I’m still worried I’ll look like a complete ass holding a phone up to my ear just as they’re asking spectators to remove their hats for the national anthem (“Excuse me, couldja hang on? I gotta take this.“), but I’d rather do that than risk sounding terrible.

The good news is that I know the song – I’ve performed it in choirs for umpteen gazillion years, and I sing it in the stands at every Timbers home game. Now, I just have to pull it off a cappella, solo, outdoors, in front of a crowd. I’ll be thinking of my dad. I’m sure he’d be proud.

And who knows? If this goes well, I’m one step closer to officially singing the anthem before a Timbers game. And wouldn’t that be something?

If you’ll be at the Rose Cup Races on Sunday, June 15th, be on the lookout for me singing the national anthem just before, I think, that whole “start your engines” bit.

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