On having mixed feelings for Ivanka

My ideas here may not be well-received. I get it. Ivanka Trump is a woman who grew up with more than just your average white girl privilege (which in and of itself is more than enough). She was (and is) rich AF, richer than rich. While there are some things I actually sorta admire about her, my blood boils more often than not when it comes to her. Her public image is often that of an entitled and extremely privileged woman who is disconnected from the average American woman. Worse still, she often appears completely uninterested in even considering what life is like for most women.

Growing up, I was vaguely aware of her. Hell, I was vaguely aware of one Donald J Trump until The Apprentice aired and subsequently took off in popularity. I knew of this absurdly (perhaps allegedly??) wealthy family with a daughter about my age. Like many Americans, I can fall into the trap of being intrigued by the uber rich and on rare occasions, I was fascinated by this girl and wondering what her life must be like. Mostly though, I had little knowledge of the family and rarely did I care.

Still. We don’t need to speculate that her dad is a creeper. He painted himself that way, with all the yucky things he’s said about his daughter – in public, mind you. Who the hell knows what happens behind closed doors?! Furthermore, when Ivanka is portrayed or called the new FLOTUS, it is, to me, creepy and (to go off on a tangent for a moment) reminds me of Geli Raubal, Hitler’s niece. There are many public images of Ms. Raubal with her uncle that make it look as though she is totally at ease in his presence but articles about her paint another picture entirely. If we are confused by the counter images of her, we can consider the impact of complex trauma on survivors’ seemingly contradictory behavior. History has not been kind to Ms. Raubal either. Even attempts to uncover “mysteries” surrounding her life and death call her “an enchantress” or reference quotes that she was “an empty-headed little slut who manipulated her uncle.” And while I don’t mean to say that every time a woman with power or privilege commits an atrocity she is actually a victim because that is simply not true. And yet society is quick to universally paint women as “evil” and simply using their “feminine wiles” to one-up the men in their lives, as if the women are the ones with all the control. That is also simply not true. When it comes to the interplay of privilege and oppression, there have been instances of both free will and coercion throughout history. Final thought on this matter; there are many times when privileged women make bad choices and need to be held accountable.

Anyways, the point I was making is that we don’t know all that much about DJT’s relationship with his eldest daughter. What we do know is enough to label his beliefs and behaviors towards his daughter as creepy. He has made some pretty awful choices in his public treatment of his daughter. That’s why I’m not super comfortable with the boycotting of Ivanka’s products. It’s true Donald Trump’s reactive behavior to the perhaps subsequent dropping of his daughter’s brand has been unethical perhaps illegal. It’s also true I’m not planning to buy her products. On the one hand, I think of the choices and messages she puts out, many of which, I’m guessing, are not coerced but rather are of her own free will. And I just can’t stomach buying her brand. I also shudder at the idea of having her name on anything I have bought. And yet, a nagging thought keeps surfacing in my head. It’s that this woman has already had to bear the brunt of many of her father’s bad decisions, so now she must endure further consequences of her father’s wretched behaviors? Or is it really that she is spoiled and has chosen to continue to use her birth right to accrue wealth of her own?

There’s no way to know for sure. And perhaps a bit of both possibilities is true. There is so much more I could say on this matter too, like that he has said awful things about his own daughter but then said he hopes she would quit if she were sexually harassed not to mention the victim should never be the one who has to quit (or be fired).

While I will not buy her products, I can’t help but feel bad for her too. Still. The loss of sales at Nordstrom and many others is hardly going to hurt her. I’m sure many of the wealthy white women who backed her father will back her now, because it wasn’t just working class whites who supported Trump. Ivanka Trump will still be richer than the astounding majority of women. And no amount of money will ever protect her from her father… as we’ve seen there hasn’t been much in the way of accountability for his creepy public treatment of her and we can only speculate what happens behind closed doors….

Also despite this little excursion, don’t caught up too much in all the smoke and mirrors. There will be many.

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Wise Mind for a Chaotic World

Disclaimer: This post is written by a straight, white, cis, able-bodied, American-born, middle class woman who has a lot of privilege. I am hoping there is a little something for everyone in this post but I also know that much of it may be most relevant for people, who like me, want to be better allies.

The United States was built on racism. We uphold and rely on systems of oppression. We are always in chaos and always in crisis. Do not forget this. And now we are at a moment in time when crisis is impacting those who typically live comfortably amidst the chaos. In other words, we feel the chaos more than we usually do, especially those of us who have a lot of privilege.

When I was in grad school, a professor said that when the middle class gets uncomfortable, social justice movements really take off. And I think what she, a woman of color, meant but perhaps felt unable to say is that when white, liberal, middle class people (aka her students) get uncomfortable that is when change happens. And not because we’re better at social change than people of color or poor folks are – puh-lease, we are so not. But because we’re privileged, we do have more resources and power at our disposal. It is an embarrassment and injustice that we wait until we’re uncomfortable to join movements but that’s a whole other blog post. The only other thing I’ll say on that is DO NOT CO-OPT the work of people with less privilege than you. We didn’t start the work – they did. If not for them, we would not know where to start. I am eternally grateful to so many people who have been doing this work all along. My advice to you; Listen to them and join them. Follow their lead for a change (pun intended). Believe me, they have everyone’s best interests at heart whereas we, often, only have our own best interests at heart.

When the 2008 recession struck, I thought that disaster was going to be what catapulted us into action. I thought then ‘oh this is what my professor meant!’ And in small ways it did. Obama was elected. The Occupy movements rose up. Those were big moments and movements and there was discomfort but not enough of it, apparently.

So here we are more than eight years later. And I think THIS might be it. There is a lot I have to say now that the privileged folks are committed to change too. But the first I will address is self-care and coping. These, as Audre Lorde points out, are survival skills.

Self-care to me is all about being self-aware and it is about balance. I use DBT skills, and find that the concept of Wise Mind is particularly useful. That link has more of an official definition/explanation. But the best way I can explain it is that when a crisis or trauma occurs, we go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Everything is all or nothing in an emergency. We have to react. That is essential for our survival. But when we have been through a particularly hideous trauma, we begin to live the entirety of our lives in survival mode. The same is true when we’ve gone through or are going through chronic stress or trauma. The next four years will likely be a state of constant stress, chaos and crisis. But we cannot live in survival mode for four years. Spoiler alert; that is neither good nor helpful for us or anyone or anything. Wise Mind brings us back to a place of balance where people, events and life are as they truly are; neither all good nor all bad.

And hey, it is okay to react in stressful situations. In fact in true emergencies it is necessary. And when there is or has been chronic stress it is normal to start living in constant survival mode. After all, you are human and this is what humans do. But humans  are also resilient AF and they adapt. As humans we have the ability (and gift) to reflect on how we feel and how to best support ourselves. So when shit gets real, ask yourself, what do I need right now?

I always need balance. I need downtime. I need moments to reflect on what I’m going through, how I’m feeling and why. I need peaceful moments. I feel better when I remember there are peaceful moments even during chaotic times and that you can be peaceful even during chaos. Incorporating these beliefs into my day-to-day helps me to be able to respond more than I react.

The oppressor will demand urgency, the oppressor will provoke reaction, the oppressor will often be reactive while also being calculated, the oppressor will thrive off extremes, the oppressor will split us. And we stay whole, we find balance and we respond. And we forgive ourselves. If we react and in hindsight think we didn’t need to, we be gentle with ourselves. It is absolutely normal to feel intense emotions when everything around you is so intense. What is happening is not okay but you, wonderful, kind and flawed human that you are, are okay.

If you have privilege, it can be easy to feel guilty. It is easy to feel like you have to always be working because other people don’t get breaks, they don’t get breaks from their oppression. And that is true. Unfortunately there is no break from racism, sexism, homophobia etc. And people who live with more than one oppression are working overtime without breaks. Still, it is essential for all of us to be balanced. This article talks about it and I can give an example from my own life. I did not choose to be born female and thus be a gender that is disproportionately impacted by intimate partner abuse and sexual assault, among other things. But I chose to work in Domestic Violence for a loonnnggggg time. I had no choice but to be impacted more by these issues than a straight, cis man is impacted by them. But in doing DV work, I became aware of just how prevalent this violence is. Despite my own personal experiences with it, I was exposed to it significantly more than I would have been had I not done that work. I learned even more about the ways sexism impacts all women. And I learned about the ways my white privilege minimizes some of the impacts of sexism. I learned that women and people living with multiple forms of oppression are even further harmed by misogyny. As Gloria Steinem (who is perhaps more woke than she used to be) said recently “Sexism is always made worse by racism — and vice versa.”

In short, I became more aware of my experience of oppression because of sexism but even more so, I became more aware of my privilege. Because I am white, I could have chosen a more comfortable job. Dare I say even as a social worker, there are many more comfortable jobs than doing domestic violence work. Because I am white, I could have ignored the intersection of racism and sexism. Because I am white, I could have lived very comfortably even with all the sexism I experience (granted many white women have been significantly more impacted by misogyny than me. Still they will fare far less uncomfortably in the aftermath than women of color, especially middle class white women).

While I did DV work, I chose to take breaks. I did not spend every waking second thinking about DV. I took breaks and tried to do fun things in my spare time as much as possible. True, my privilege made it easier for me to do this. It is important to recognize that so I don’t lose sight of all the advocacy that must be done for others to have the same privileges I have. And I am certain that I could not have done the work for as long as I did without engaging in essential self-care. Even now as I work a non-DV job, I am still doing DV work. By that I mean that I still attend to DV; I, among other actions, ensure my office is DV and trauma-informed and responsive. If I didn’t care for myself, I could not do that. So I think that when you take breaks from the resistance, it does not mean you’ve stopped doing the work. On the contrary, you are further committing yourself to doing the work.

The only other thing I’ll say is that if, like me, you have far more privilege than you don’t, please attend to those with less privilege. Offer them unconditional support. Don’t use them to get your needs met. Be mindful of the emotional labor that people of privilege ask of people with less privilege. Achieving a just, balanced society will only be possible after privileged folks have committed to giving more than taking. Because we already have more than enough.

fullsizerender

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Full of ire, don’t lose your fire

CN (Content Note): This post talks about suicide and forms of oppression. Please consider this and the impact it may have on you. If you are feeling very depressed or suicidal, please seek help. This is a personal blog only, not a resource for professional mental health support.

In the wee hours of November 9th, I put myself to bed, full of despair. The election was not yet called but it looked bad. Really bad. I’d been there before, I could see the writing on the (electoral college) wall. In the early morning hours of November 3, 2004, the election was too close to call but it seemed likely that W would be re-elected. So in 2004 and with a heavy heart, I tried to go to sleep and come morning, I’d faced the dawn and reality that there would be four. more. years. So just a few weeks ago, I climbed into bed, knowing that when my alarm rang on 11/9/16, I’d wake to doomsday – to find that Trump had, in fact, won the election.

In those dark, early hours, I thought about throwing myself out of my second floor bedroom window. It was a passing thought but still as I thought of having to look at that nasty man’s face for the next four years, I panicked. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live under the rule of someone who so outwardly supports rape culture, who rape apologizes like no other. But the acute, life-threatening despair passed. I didn’t really want to die, though I was overwhelmed past the point of knowing how to cope. And I knew that I needed to stick around and hope and fight for things to get better.

No doubt the brevity of this suicidal ideation was a combined function of my privilege and mild depression. I’ve, fortunately, never been actively suicidal, I’ve never had more than passive, passing thoughts of suicide. And I don’t mean to minimize that experience, it’s still real and still painful. But it’s also different than someone who lives with severe depression and actively plans their death.

Still it was an additional punch to the gut when I saw a headline that white supremacists are promoting online harassment of Clinton-supporters in hopes they will kill themselves. The pain I’d experienced and still experience, the heightened depression, it’s real. To be so raw and to know people were delighting in my anguish was, and is, a terrifyingly painful and isolating place to be.

But the thing is, my isolation in that moment was an illusion. More people than not wanted Clinton to be president and even more people did not actively support either candidate. I know people who didn’t vote and were devastated that Trump won. The people I know who elected (wordplay intended) not to vote are people of color who don’t see this system as made for them nor valuing them nor actively promoting their participation in it. And they’re right. And they also know that Trump will exponentially maintain the system as one relevant to only white people, especially white, straight, able-bodied cis men. And they’re right.

So my point is many people are unhappy. More of us are dismayed than not. We are not alone.

The fact that white supremacists are actually hoping we’ll kill ourselves, disturbing as that is, means we’re doing something right. It means they have contempt for us yes, but it also means they feel threatened by us. We’ve barely even gotten started with a progressive, inclusive agenda. But we have made some gains and those gains have clearly scared the alt-right.

Don’t forget your power. Their backlash, their violence is to be condemned but it also shows the importance of you. If you didn’t matter, if you didn’t have strength, if you didn’t have something in you that challenges their power and their dominance then they would ignore you. They want you to be obsolete, to not matter, to not exist or rather to exist only in a way that justifies their superiority and ensures they always get their way.

But you do matter. And they know that. And it scares them. So they try to make you question your significance, your value. They make you feel like an outlier or isolated in your beliefs. But you are not.

So keep fighting. Because it’s working. Keep fighting because we still have a very long way to go. When they retaliate, feel the pain, feel the fear but never forget to feel the gain. Because backlash only occurs when progress has been made. And that is something that is worth fighting for.

And of course, people who engage in violent behavior must be held accountable. But accountability is different than retaliation or vengeance. And you know that. So be proud. Feel the power and compassion within you that lets you face horrifying contempt without succumbing to it. You know how to disapprove of someone’s actions and condemn their behaviors without demonizing or dehumanizing them. That is a powerful skill. So keep it, hone it and improve upon it. Be strong, be unwavering, be pragmatic, be kind but be no-nonsense about the BS. Be gentle but firm.

Recognize that your experience, what you offer to the fight and the boundaries you must set will depend on a multitude of things including the current quality of your mental health and the amount of privilege you have (or don’t have). Remember that if you have privilege and non-debilitating mental health then you have an obligation to get out there and use your resources to fight and you have a responsibility to not monopolize the fight nor take credit for the work of those with fewer resources and less privilege.

And again if you are considering suicide, please seek help. You matter.

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Dear White Ladies, let’s talk.

Dear White Ladies,

I write to you as one of your own as I, too, am a white lady. I know the sting of sexism and misogyny but I also am (at least somewhat) aware of my own privilege. It seems many of you are not.

In the aftermath of the 2016 POTUS election, I’ve been thinking a lot about you all, about us; the white, American woman. On the one hand, I’m (unfortunately) not that surprised that so many white  people, including white women, voted for Trump. I know white people and I know how we can be, including us liberal ones, who often deny our own racism and white supremacy and become defensive and dismissive when people of color point this out to us – not to mention it shouldn’t be on people of color to point this out to us. We should be holding ourselves and each other accountable. Still. On the other hand, I am still deeply ashamed, disappointed and horrified by how many of us voted for Trump. And I’ve been trying to discern why this happened. I recognized and feared this could happen and yet I was too wrapped up in my own privilege before to really think of why…So let’s talk. Let me ask some questions and try to figure this out. I’m going to try to understand where you were coming from and then I’m going to help you understand that you need to cut the crap.

Just to put one thing out there…. However mind-boggling it is that any group of women voted against their own rights, I also think that significant focus on any one group of women detracts from the responsibility of those at the tippy-top; the straight, white, able-bodied, American cis men. Still as a white woman, I feel it is imperative to acknowledge the privilege white women do have and to ask those in my cohort why on earth they’d vote for one Donald John Trump. Also I think that, as a white woman, I have at least a little credibility when it comes to our experience.

So what the fuck happened last week? For what are we so willing to overlook society’s hatred of us? Is it white supremacy? Does white supremacy have such a hold on us that we’re willing to overlook blatant violence against women? I ask that rhetorically as it’s clear that it does. So I’m going to be blunt and say the ugly and awful truth… We are willing to look the other way and normalize sexual violence if it means our race stays at the top. We really are such xenophobes that we’ll brush off threats of sexual violence if it means we get to keep “those people” out. No matter what socioeconomic class we’re in, we know that our neighborhoods will always be safer and more desirable than the of color neighborhood in our class bracket (not that these class differences should exist, but that’s an issue for another post). And we, apparently, plan to keep it that way. At all costs. We want the guarantee that we will have – that our children will have – full access to better schools and healthcare than people of color and their children. If white supremacy’s existence is perpetuated then we are guaranteed comfort for ourselves and loved ones and we so uncompromisingly want that, want to be at the top, that we’ll risk our own degradation. Hey, we may not be safe or equal in our own homes but at least we are safe and superior outside them – better that than what women of color and non-cisgender folks of color experience, which is danger everywhere, always.

But here’s the thing, women of color and all people of color aren’t asking us to switch places with them. They’re just asking for equal access to the things we have. They’re asking for good schools, healthcare, ubiquitous safety and so much more. They want those things to be seen as they are; rights everyone should have rather than privileges afforded only to some. It is complete BS that some people have to be sacrificed for the sake of others and we white women know this. We know this but we make other choices because of our xenophobia and because we, as a group, apparently can’t stand the thought of people of color having what we have. Do I hear some of you saying ‘No that’s not how we are’? Well now that it’s post-election, it’s clear we are that way; that the majority of white women range from apathy towards people of color to contempt for people of color. And that is completely unacceptable. We need to hold each other and ourselves accountable for these harmful beliefs and behaviors.

I want to spend a moment acknowledging our own internalization of misogyny and how that plays out for us versus how it plays out for women of color. All women, including white women, internalize misogyny. After all I’ve heard liberal, supposedly empowered white women say their husbands are more rational and calm than they are because they (the ladies) have those pesky female hormones. Never mind the fact that women tend to still carry more of the home-life burdens and responsibilities, do all kinds of emotional labor and be exposed at higher rates to violence by someones they know and its subsequent trauma. Perhaps those reasons understandably make us more emotional. And seriously, does the ability to feel our feelings really make us less rational? Isn’t the belief that women are emotional and therefore less rational one of the root beliefs of patriarchy? Isn’t it the patriarchy that  validates men’s anger and dismisses women’s sadness and distress (and anger)? Isn’t a systemically oppressive belief that you can only be one way or the other; stern, measured, rational and in control (male) or overwhelmed, hysterical, out of control and irrational (female). And yes that’s an over-simplified breakdown that’s strictly focusing on gender and not the many ways that people of color of all genders are labeled as too emotional.

And all this came up for me after a conversation with more progressive (white) women. So what do these beliefs look like for more conservative, “traditional” white women? Perhaps they look like this or this. So what happens when those white ladies are married and hitting the polls? Not to mention that far too many- though certainly not all or even most – straight, white women experience intimate partner abuse and can feel flat-out brainwashed by their abusive partners. If their partners are overt white supremacists then they likely internalize those beliefs even more so. I say even more so because all white women have internalized white supremacy. But chances are that a woman who marries a higher-up in the KKK (who, let’s face it, is probably a batterer) likely entered that relationship, at least initially, willingly and therefore was either pretty damn racist herself or pretty damn indifferent. Either one is unacceptable.

But lest we forget women of color experience all that same misogyny. They even further downplay their own needs because of the intersection of white supremacy and misogyny (not to mention any other oppression many of them also experience, i.e., homophobia, ableism). Also women of color are even further impacted by intimate partner abuse. But they didn’t vote for Trump at nearly the same rates. So what gives white ladies? Were we more apt to vote for Trump simply because the men in our lives, the overwhelming majority of whom are white, were voting for Trump?

Even though that may be part of the truth, the reality is not that simple. And none of this excuses white women’s white supremacy. However dominated by our male counterparts, we do still have agency and certainly have societal power and we need to make better choices. We can be both privileged and oppressed at the same time. Responsibility for our privilege and internalized supremacy is not minimized by our oppression. So why did I even bring it up? To provide context. And to alleviate confusion (feigned or real) about where we stand and why we must hold ourselves accountable.

All of the things I have mentioned are true; white women experience oppression by men and they also are so racist that they’ll sacrifice their rights in order to maintain white supremacy. So let me break it down for you. White ladies, this isn’t about you. On many levels, it is not about you. The world makes us feel less-than as women but that’s not because we are, it’s because men created a gendered hierarchy wherein any gender that is not cis male is inferior. Society’s disdain for us is not our fault and it’s not because of anything wrong with us but rather something wrong with society. And if your partner puts you down and assaults you verbally, emotionally, sexually, financially and/or physically, it is not your fault and it is not about you. It is about your partner’s beliefs and bad decision to abuse you. So white ladies this is not about you and this is not just about us. We aren’t the only people oppressed by cis men. Women of color and non-cisgender folks of color also experience misogyny as well as racism. Perhaps we white ladies didn’t initiate white supremacy but we certainly participated in its creation and perpetuation. It’s not just about us. Think what it’s like for people of color, all people of color and then think what it’s like for people of color who aren’t cis men. We have to think of others. It’s not just about us. So even if you prefer a more traditional marriage, remember it’s not only your preferences that matter. If Clinton were president, you could keep your traditional marriage but with Trump as president many people fear they will lose their lives or their loved ones.

And this isn’t just for Trump voting white ladies. I was shaken to my core by the recordings of Trump in 2005 talking about assaulting women. It dredged up bad experiences and memories for me, both personally and through my work. Those tapes left me reeling for the last month of the election and this past week. And while I donated to Hillary and posted in support of her, I was still so content in my white comfort that I took little meaningful action. Even though I feared and dreaded there was a good chance Trump could win, which he did, I wasn’t driven to action. I know people who voted for Trump and I did little to reach out to them and talk about this. I didn’t join BLM marches and actively support women of color. I hardly acknowledged that Hillary called children of color “super predators.” I mean, I could have supported her and asked her to provide restitution to people harmed by such beliefs. Why didn’t I? What unchecked privilege and supremacy led me to be relatively passive in the face of such violent talk towards women and about people of color?

And now I have to dig deep in myself and realize what a hold white supremacy has on me and just how much of myself I’ve been willing to give up because it keeps me overall comfortable.

Well I’m not comfortable now. And you shouldn’t be either. I’m keeping front and center in my mind that it’s not just about me. And I’m going to do better and I’m not going to stop. And I urge those in my privileged white lady cohort to do the same.

Sincerely,

Izzy

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One Week Out

Disclaimer: I am trying to be aware of my privilege as I process the recent US election. As a white, well-off, educated, able-bodied, cisgendered, straight  woman I have a lot of damn privilege. So I put this out there just to say I recognize this post may reek of privilege, try as I might.

One week out and I’m still despairing. It’s not that I necessarily thought I’d feel different as time went on. I didn’t and that’s part of why I woke up so utterly gutted one week ago.

So let’s go back to that, what was happening for me one week ago. After a mostly sleepless night, I woke up and double-checked the election results, just in case. But nope, Trump had still been elected. So I got ready to face the day. I wasn’t hungry but I ate. I was in a foggy daze as I went through the motions of my morning. I wanted to cry but wasn’t sure why. I mean, was I overreacting, like was I reacting to a catastrophic fear of what his presidency might mean, things like nuclear war and concentration camps? That would be horrific but it also might be extreme.

Or might it?

Side note- I’m not saying I was overreacting because the idea of either of those things is pretty terrifying, I’m just saying those were my thoughts in that moment. So I tested myself and let a tear fall. And the next thing I knew, I was sobbing and gasping for breath. Because the reality is that I’d never felt before such an acute likelihood of a genocide or world war happening in my country. Hopefully it won’t happen. But it no longer feels like some far-off unlikelihood. It feels like it could happen, like it wouldn’t surprise me if it did happen. And not only is your perception your reality but for genocide to be even a remote possibility is pretty damn horrific.

And the truth is, many people in the US especially people who aren’t white, already live with this feeling. Slavery, the war on drugs and mass incarceration are less overt but still so damaging and so insidious for people of color. And that these injustices are hidden in plain sight, I’d imagine, only adds to the devastation. So I bring all this up to acknowledge my privilege and that my feeling of shock over Trump’s election may not be shared by everyone.

So my tears fell for this reason. But also, as a woman, even a privileged woman, I broke down because I felt violated. Since this whole icky election began, Trump had always triggered my traumas and sadness but when the tapes from his 2005 discussion with Billy Bush were revealed, it hit another level for me. I… Looking at him, all I could see was men who have groped me or harassed me. All I could feel was the misogyny I’ve been exposed to throughout my life, but especially during my years in the DV field. It wasn’t just anger that filled me as I listened to those recordings. It was pain. A feeling of being so degraded and feeling like no one cared – men and women still supported him (in terms of women, especially white women but more on that later). It was like people witnessed his violence (because yes talking about assaulting someone is violence) and they witnessed the pain he inflicted on so many people and they still didn’t care. It was a hurtful betrayal. And so standing alone in my kitchen on November 9, 2016, I felt emotionally hit by a Mack truck as I realized I have no choice, I have to look at that nasty man for the next four years and be re-traumatized over and over and there’s nothing I can do to stop that.

I cried for myself. For the pain and bad memories I won’t be able to escape any time soon. I cried for my well-being and hoping I never end up in some awful situation and need an abortion. I cried knowing so many others would rather earn more money or cling to jobs that are long-gone than value my right to choose, my life. I know these are long-shots and in terms of abortion rights, I’ll probably be fine. But two things; one, that I at all fear being unable to get necessary health care is not okay. And two, it’s not just about me. There are many women and people with female anatomy who are far more vulnerable than me and who much more need the right to choose than I do, at this point in my life.

So I sobbed for others. For people less privileged than me. For people I know and love with less privilege. For people I don’t know personally but I know they still matter and that now more than ever, society has given a big fat, fatal middle finger to their very existence. I shattered again and again, wondering how it was possible people were this way and wondering more how I managed to go in some denial about this. It’s my privilege, I know. And I wasn’t totally in denial. My past DV work exposed me to the entitled beliefs that are the seeds of all oppression. I knew those beliefs were there; whether they were sexist, racist, ableist and so forth beliefs. I knew they were there and that they would be what could facilitate a Trump presidency. It shouldn’t be a surprise and in ways it wasn’t but in ways it was… And I didn’t understand how I didn’t completely see this coming and why I had failed so many people.

It would be grandiose to say it all comes down to me. I only know so many people and blah, blah, blah. But I could have tried so much harder and that I didn’t… it’s shameful. And now I, and so many of us, are left with a big, gaping wound and a paralyzing fear for what the next four years will be.

I’m not feeling better. Because how could I be? But that he’s really truly going to be our president is still a shock. And how terrible I feel is still a shock, even if it was also somewhat predictable.

So here I am, sad, scared, depressed, terrified…I’m heartbroken, missing Obama already and wondering how I could have ever thought anything could be so bad when he was our president …and look I know he still is an American president and there’s only so much good a president of an imperialistic country can do. But still… I’m going to miss him and can’t believe he’s being replaced by that man. I am a bit more composed one week out but no less broken. The election goes, thanks to my privilege, out of my head for a moment but then I remember, I remember this is really happening. And I’m punched in the gut all over again. I again realize that I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next four years, I don’t know how I can feel okay and safe and valued when I heard our president talk about the very things I fear so much; rape and sexual assault. And so many people just didn’t give a shit. Every day is so heavy, it carries so much weight that even if I mobilize and even if his presidency only lasts four years, it will take so much longer to shift.

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On The Cusp

The end is nigh. My days of carefree, unadulterated freedom are almost over. Or, at least, hopefully they are.

What on earth am I talking about? I’m talking about trying to have a baby, of course! My husband and I, after three years of unspoiled-by-a-baby wedded bliss, are officially trying for a baby. So my days of free time and sanity (so I’m told!) are almost over. So I say hopefully because I’ve never tried to make a baby before. It could take us years to conceive, if we ever do at all. Or I could be knocked up tomorrow. Who knows?!

Am I ready for a baby? Yes. Or well, I’m the least unready that I’ll ever be. I’ve been happily married for three years. My marriage has been put to the test thanks to (multiple) bouts of unemployment this past year. And we weathered it beautifully. It wasn’t all peaches and roses, of course, because getting laid off is pretty terrible – it happening twice in seven months is a special kind of hell. But my husband and I are a team. We are equal partners and we get shit done all while supporting each other, having fun and making sure we each get our needs met. If we can get through that, I’d say there’s a good chance (nothing is ever 100% certain right?) that we can get through anything.

Plus I’m in my mid-thirties now (yikes!). Which means my eggs are as dry as a raisin in the sun, which is pretty damn dry when you think about it. Okay my eggs are (hopefully) not dried up yet but it’s not like I’m 25 (thank goodness!) or 30, for that matter. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it sooner than later.

Because we want to do this. As a “seasoned” millennial, I used to feel like these still youthful millennials. But, as it does for many (though certainly not all), things changed for me. I started to want one of those adorable, poopy, causers of severe sleep deprivation bundles of joy. I never really liked babies til I was 26. I always liked kids, I just didn’t really understand them until they could walk, talk and independently use the toilet. Prior to that, I felt like, okay here’s this oddly proportioned, human-like little being. Then it happened. I was sitting with a woman one day and her baby and I felt adoration. Like, ohmygoodnesss look at this little adorable, cutie pie, gaga googoo (do all adults who love babies experience a regression to toddler vocabulary when faced with a particularly cute infant… or is it just me?). I didn’t want a baby at that point in time. And tbh I never had the desire to have a baby right this second until I was 31 and a newlywed. Even then, I thought, ‘let’s just let this marinate a bit and make sure this desire is legit.’ It is. Several years later, I still want one of my very own. As does my husband.

Do I want to be sleepless, without any free time and unable to go to the bathroom on my own? NOPE! But I want a baby and that’s all part of the package so I have to suck it up and just do it.

But if I’m completely honest, I’m scared. I mean, I love sleep. And I do very badly when I’m sleep deprived. I mean, does anyone actually do well when they’re sleep deprived? Some people claim to not need much sleep but I side-eye them and I also tend to imagine they do better when they sleep more, not less. And yet. I get the feeling that going without sleep – especially the anticipation of being sleepless – truly gets under my skin.

For even further honesty, I’m wondering just how difficult it will be for me. Oh don’t get me wrong. I know it will be incredibly and at times painfully hard. I’m a huge advocate for parents, especially moms. I think society is brutally disrespectful and unappreciative to parents, again especially mothers. So I want to encourage parents to speak up and explain all that they actually do and that it’s way more work than most jobs. Because most jobs are not 24/7 and most jobs don’t require you to dress, diaper change and feed (often from your own body) another human being. So yes, I expect it to be DAMN hard. I expect it to be harder than I can currently imagine.

And yet when I read articles like this or this and I sense, well… entitlement and privilege seeping through and I start to wonder where we draw the line. I’m sure some of it is said tongue-in-cheek and I again I really support moms putting their realities out there… it’s just that then, joke or not, these type of posts imply that parenting is the only tough life experience out there and no one else has the “right” to complain.

Parenting is not the only hard life experience. It’s not. As my friend of a toddler told me after her mother passed away, “Grief is the most exhausting experience. Yes I was tired after my son was born but there was an excitement and an adrenaline surge too. This sadness, it just takes everything out of me.” That she was parenting a toddler while grieving her mother probably made things way past overwhelming for her.

My hardest work experience to-date was graduate school. I have a masters in social work and the experience, for me, was grueling. I was pretty privileged and had money leftover from undergrad that I used for living expenses during grad school. That said, my income was very fixed. And I took out loans, for the first time in my life, for tuition – which even with scholarships, was quite costly. So I had very little money and virtually no time to work for pay. My time was spent in class, reading articles and writing papers, doing joyous tedious process recordings and going to internship. And no, my internship was not the go on coffee runs type. It was a little training and then doing the actual work. But I didn’t get paid, oh no – I paid to do it.

I’ve never regretted going to social work school but that doesn’t change the fact that I hated my life during grad school. My first year was particularly tough. All week, I spent my days in class or internship and then came home to read or write papers/process recordings. I rarely stopped even for dinner. I just ate my microwavable meal while reading an article on the complex trauma endured after surviving genocide. Then came Friday when I’d almost cry as my roommates got ready to go out and I… got ready to hit the books. I did the same thing on Saturday morning and maybe took a break on Saturday night for dinner and drinks – but not too many drinks lest I be hungover when it was time to start up again at 8 am on Sunday morning. I was 24 years old.

I desperately wanted to be like other 20-somethings. I wanted to spend exorbitant amounts of time on MySpace (this was the mid-2000s) and spend my small paycheck on cheap booze (oh to have ANY-sized paycheck!). And all my friends just thought I was in round 2 of college. It. Was. Not. College. It was hellish. I felt so alone. On my walk to the subway, I’d look at restaurant signs announcing their specials and I felt like the whole world was meant for everyone but me. It was meant for people who had free time and disposable income and where did I fit into that? Nowhere.

If this sounds dramatic, it might be a little. Sometimes I’m dramatic. But it is how I really felt. I also recognize that I still was really privileged (see my note on finances above) and sometimes I did go out. I also made friends with my classmates and they helped as we bonded over the perils of social work school. And then there’s the fact that some of my classmates did not find it all that difficult. A classmate sneered and told me, “It’s not rocket science.” This same classmate also once proudly told me that she never did the reading and when it came time to write a paper, she would pick a source at random from the course bibliography and insert it as needed. She cheated. Hell, she copied one of my papers and when I confronted her, she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “But that’s not a problem, is it?” But no, Social Work School isn’t that hard – if you’re like her.

Still. I know not everyone finds the experience of Social Work school as challenging as I did. I’m a perfectionist and that makes school particularly difficult for me. I also have massive anxiety and I was coming off a particularly difficult round of OCD when I started school. None of these things made the experience any easier for me.

So I wonder how I will find parenting to be after that experience, which is all too fresh in my mind. After all, my friends who are parents watch TV, I never did that when I was in grad school. Okay that’s a lie. I watched Grey’s Anatomy every Thursday during my second year of school.I would have loved to go on a play-date – being outside or someplace fun and being able to at least sort-of talk with another adult!

But I know I’m seeing all this through my non-parent eyes. There are a million things I don’t understand about parenting or play dates that I will never understand til I’m doing them myself. I also realize that when I was in grad school, I had vacations. I had winter break – four weeks in December-January with few obligations. I had summer when I was like a “normal” person again and went to work and earned MONEY and did nothing but whatever the freak I wanted at the end of the day! And the whole experience was over after two short years. There are no breaks in parenting and it lasts decades, not two years. I explained my concerns about parenting being like grad school all over again to a friend of mine who is a parent and who was also in a strenuous grad school program and she said, “Grad school is like a sprint whereas parenting is more of a slow burn.” Will I find it that way too? It’s different for everyone and I won’t know what it’s like for me until I’m in the experience myself.

My first job out of grad school was no walk in the park either. I did domestic violence work for almost a decade and my first post-grad school job was one in which I had to be on-call 24/7 one week per month. My on-call weeks varied, sometimes I only got one call from shelter staff, asking about where to find a broom. Sometimes I’d be up all night doing intakes for the shelter or covering the shelter for an awake, overnight shift when one of the hourly workers called out last minute. On a quieter week, I’d sit down to watch The Office, knowing I could be interrupted at any moment because of a crisis at the shelter. It was exhaustively overwhelming and I only lasted a little over a year at that job. Still. It was less difficult for me than grad school had been. And. The job ended. I wasn’t always on-call. There were breaks. There are no breaks in parenting.

As I was leaving that job, I had a particularly negative experience with the executive director. In hindsight, I can see that she could be cruel and she made bad decisions. I sometimes think of writing a book about her and calling it, “The Devil Has A Social Work Degree.” But I won’t…. Anyways, I have past trauma and this situation with her triggered a lot for me. So I got to start a new job – a dream job, mind you – feeling completely triggered and insecure. Unlike my first bad bout of OCD, I couldn’t take time off and I had to prove that I was worthy of this DV job at an elite and prestigious institution in a major city. It was so draining. And I don’t feel like I’ve been well-rested once since starting it. Well maybe there have been two days when I felt well-rested. I started that job seven years ago.

These are all job experiences. My hardest life experience was my first serious round of OCD. There were significant stressors and some trauma leading up to my first experience with OCD. But none of my real-life drama compared to the hell of OCD. I remember the worst day being a Wednesday in August in the mid-2000’s. I got ready for work after being kept up most of the night with a different sort of nightmare. I ate breakfast and immediately got sick, the fear consuming me making it impossible to consume anything. I walked into the summer heat and went to my job. All the while, every step I took that day, I was terrified. I was scared a misstep would surely shatter me and out would pour all the ugliness and horror that my life had become, for all to see. It was dreadful.

I’ve recovered greatly. And while my OCD has returned, it’s never been so brutal. I cope better and I’m stronger. Still. It was an excruciatingly difficult time for me. Will parenting be that hard? When people talk about it being the hardest thing ever, I just think of all I’ve survived… and hope those experiences that ultimately made me stronger will pay off when it comes to future challenges. I think in many ways they already have…

Which brings me to the last point… so much of what the pop culture internet props up as evidence of parenting being so hard just reeks of privilege. I’ve been through some shit but I have never – and hopefully will never – go through what so many people go through. The people who talk about the hardships of parenting all seem to be coupled off (in hopefully healthy relationships – as Lord knows Domestic Violence makes for a nightmare all its own). Anyways they aren’t single parents working three jobs. They’re (mostly) white and educated people who mourn going out to nice dinners and sleeping in. And while I’ll miss those things, I know it is a privilege that I’ve gotten the past eight years since finishing social work school to have them. Furthermore, I already don’t have so much of what people talk about missing. Because of all my past personal and professional trauma, I rarely feel well-rested. I used to have nightmares so frequent and so bad I didn’t even want to go to sleep. Now I just wake up frequently through the night- my depression waking me or my overactive bladder – cuz I already have one of those. I also have stomach issues that make me easily spend 20+ minutes on a single bowel movement. So the 45 minute poop mentioned in this article doesn’t sound too unimaginable to me. I don’t eat gluten so I’m already planning all my meals, I never have the luxury of just grabbing something to eat. Plus I’ve been trying to lose weight for like ever so I hardly ever just go out spontaneously. Over the past seven years I can only remember making last minute plans to go out once, and it was thanks to the prompting of my colleague, who is, mind you, mom to a 2 and 4 year old.

That said, there are things I will miss. And there are reasons why I’ve procrastinated and waited several years after my biological clock started ticking at me. Case in point, it’s Sunday evening and I’m still in my pj’s after sleeping til noon today. I sleep in ridiculously late on weekends because of how badly I sleep during the week – oh, and because I don’t have children. I binge-watch like it’s my job and I read away my days off. Binge-watching and binge-reading are things I’ll have to give up – at least until after the kiddos are tucked in and even then there’s a good chance I’ll be interrupted.

So I say all this to say, I have no expectations for parenthood other than that I expect it to be harder than I imagine. Maybe someday I’ll read this post and think I was oh so naive – when I’m up to my elbows in diapers (wait, if I mean that literally that would be kinda gross because if I’m up to my elbows in diapers, I really shouldn’t be on my laptop too, haha). But that’s part of why I wanted to write it now, while I’m on the cusp of parenthood, about to take the plunge with no real insight. I’m curious how I’ll feel later on. And I really encourage parents, especially moms, to speak their realities so that society maybe starts giving some goddamn respect. But don’t be a jerk about it either. I would have loved to have ranted and raved as so many of you do when I was in grad school or in the middle of a particularly miserable on-call week. But people would have been pretty mad at me if I’d demanded they bring me expensive take-out or been condescending. And rightly so. So if I didn’t get a pass then, perhaps you don’t get one now either.

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Over It: The Oppression Olympics

Down in Rio, the 2016 Summer Olympics are underway. Meanwhile, in Cyber Land, another type of Olympics are well underway and have been for decades. These would be the Oppression Olympics, a “competition” of sorts in which groups of oppressed people vie for the title of “Most Oppressed.” Ever. Always. Yeah.

As a privileged white lady, I make the disclaimer that I’ve competed in this silly game. Though not necessarily for the team you’d think. I tend to think racism, at least in the United States, takes a heavier toll than sexism. I say that as an unwavering, fiercely-loyal feminist and one who also tries to eschew the Oppression Olympics. Still. It’s hard for me to not get sucked in to this comparison game sometimes and think, on some level, that racism wreaks more havoc than sexism does in the US. Maybe it’s because I’m female. Let’s face it, women of all races, though especially women of color, tend to downplay their own needs, which leads to a tendency to say “Oh, its not so bad for me.” And well maybe that plays a role in my conviction… But more than that, it’s likely because I am aware that racism is a huge part of the US’s foundation and that I have a very comfortable life, even as a woman, because of my white skin.

So that’s a disclaimer to this post. Perhaps a hypocritical one and perhaps one stemming from some unchecked white guilt. Still, I wanted to put it out there. And now I have.

That said, the overall point of this post is to say that even if there is one oppression that is more harmful than the others, does it really matter? At the end of the day, it’s all oppression and it’s all injustice and all of it has to stop. And sooner than later.

So what are some of the concerns that have come up for me in regards to the Oppression Olympics? Well, one concern is it can lead to dangerous beliefs that “more oppressed people” cannot cause “real” harm to more privileged people. Case in point is this everyday feminism post. There are many layers to an example mentioned in the post in which the writer recalls telling a friend, who is of color, to stop abusing his white boyfriend. The layers are that yes, DV is a form of oppression against women because it would not exist without patriarchy but yes the notion of controlling your partner to get what you want has spread to the LGBTQ community and yes it’s just as harmful then and yes the individual referenced in the post is a disenfranchised person using a tool developed by misogyny in his relationship with a man, and yes, in this individual situation, said individual’s abuse of his white partner is not systemically supported… but it is still abuse. Got that? Well regardless, more on that in other posts – past and present.

The thing is that we, as humans, really need to embrace the idea that none of us have the right to harm someone else. No matter what. This idea is about more than “violence is not the answer” and “you can’t fight fire with fire.” It’s about a deeper recognition that justification of any violence paves the way for justification of any and all violence. If there’s truly no excuse for violence then it is significantly less likely that the cycle of violence will spin on. Look when I started doing DV work, it was easy for me to fall into revenge fantasies. It was a means of coping. These were fantasies, mind you, ones I never would have actually done. And yet, ultimately I realized how unhealthy this type of coping is – for many reasons. But not the least of which is that by having these fantasies I was dehumanizing people who abuse their partners. And it is precisely dehumanization that enables batterers to abuse, to justify their violence. And while I would never have done IRL what I dreamed of doing, harboring those beliefs was unhelpful, unhealthy and ultimately counterproductive. And it wasn’t just ‘oh I can’t stoop to their level’ – because even that is dehumanizes them. It’s a richer belief than that. Because even after all batterers have to done to their partners, if there is no justification for violence towards them then there is no justification for their violence either. And this does not signify, by any means, that batterers are not to be held accountable. It just means we never lose sight of their – or anyone’s – humanity.

And yes, sometimes we need to defend ourselves but we also need to seriously ask ourselves, how often are we defending versus how often are we avenging? True self-defense does not involve the dehumanization. It involves a need for survival and a lack of any other options.

The other concern is that out of the Oppression Olympics comes the idea that people who belong to a marginalized group but also belong to a very privileged group are only kinda oppressed or are not oppressed at all. I take issue with these arguments and, as a white, straight woman, can speak more accurately to the claim that white women aren’t oppressed but rather suppressed – which if you look those two words up are defined essentially the same way (see links on each word above). I can see how saying white women are oppressed may sound like an implication that there is some form of oppression that white women experience that other women do not. It’s important recognize that white women are oppressed because they’re women but they’re privileged because they’re white. I absolutely agree that the damage caused by racism and sexism to women of color is ten-fold to what white women have experienced and that there is a hellish level of inhumane cruelty that is unleashed on people who live at the intersection of multiple oppressions. Also white women must recognize their white privilege and that we have historically been very brutal to women of color. And yet, sexism oppresses all women, even white women. I say this because like all women (even if to a lesser degree) white women fight to be safe in their communities and especially to be safe in their own homes; free from the violence of rape, street harassment and domestic violence. We’ve fought, and continue to fight, for bodily autonomy and to be viewed as more than vessels for future human lives. We’ve fought to vote and to be equal to, not less than, men. We fight to not be second-class citizens and not be relegated to marginalized roles and restricted personalities and abilities. We’ve fought to be viewed as humans and not sexual objects. We’ve fought for independence from men, which when you consider the frequency of DV and rape that occurs in intimate partner relationships and that this violence disproportionately impacts women, you can see that our quest for independence runs deeprer than simply being able to work and earn money. Though those abilities are important too… And all this said, women of color experience all these same issues severely compounded by racism.

I must point out here because it would be ignorant and dismissive not to that the article I linked to above was written by a black woman. The article IMW(hite)O, makes really good points. There just were a few aspects of the article that bothered me. And I wish I had some other articles to reference. There are many other examples I’ve come across written by men, by white women, by transgender that have brought up the same concerns for me. And yet that article is the ones that most stuck with me – perhaps because of my privilege and some unchecked entitlement. And for that, I am sorry.

Another one of the absurdities that most irks me are people’s tendencies to take a single example or single form of oppression and use it as “proof” that one oppression is worse than the other. We saw this when Obama won the nomination in 2008 and plenty of people (mainly white women) claimed this meant that sexism hasn’t been as easily vanquished as racism. What the what?!

There are countless other examples of this – that men of color first sustained the right to vote but white women have never been blocked from voting the way people of color have. And while this is true, it is one example. You could also say that white women haven’t had voting their rights denied (which is true) but all women’s right to bodily autonomy continues to be threatened via attacks on places like Planned Parenthood (although it’s also true that reproductive issues aren’t unique to women as black men had their reproductive ability thwarted through pretty disgusting practices). The Civil Rights Act was enacted more than 50 years ago but it’s also debatable how effective it has been because of the War on Drugs. Still. The pro-woman legislature of The Equal Rights Amendment was never enacted at all (thanks White Lady, Phyllis Schlafly). You could also point to the fact that while white women don’t often experience domestic violence by men of color, the reality is that patriarchy wins out in (straight) intimate partner relationships and so if a man of color is abusive and dates a white woman, he will be able to effectively dominate her. So a-ha! The smoking gun, patriarchy trumps white supremacy. Except for the fact that white women are usually abused by white men but white women are conditioned to fear black men and black men have been scapegoated repeatedly and treated in ways that are inhumane no matter what crime may (or may not) have been committed. But wait, lest we forget that women of color are harmed by all of this.

Wow, so I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve just been on a never-ending, high-speed merry-go-round. And that was only “comparing” sexism and racism – just think of all the other oppressions we could add in there! Not to mention, I’ve yet to throw in any of the realities of intersectional oppression. Oh joy… (sarcasm).

Then sometimes I wonder if maybe what is blocked more for any given group is what the dominant group perceives to be the most powerful right for that group. The one that might give them the best shot at overcoming oppression. Like how people of color are blocked from voting and women are blocked from abortions. But once again, the people most screwed over by this are women of color who are impacted by both systemic attempts to stifle their right to vote and right to choose.

But in the end, does it really matter? Should you really compare types of injustice? If one is more harmful than another… then what? Do we ignore or take less seriously the “less bad” oppression(s)?  I mean, it’s all oppression – it’s all harmful and degrading. It’s all based on the notion that one group is superior to another and the group deemed inferior is deserving of maltreatment and restriction of rights.  And honestly, it’s kind of supremacist to categorize and stratify humans. Human needs are human needs and human rights are human rights. These are humanitarian issues – ones which should not be checked off, put in a box and placed in some sort of hierarchy.

So what to do? Don’t buy into it. When someone is speaking of their experience, don’t interrupt them. Don’t try to one up them. Don’t say “well the same is true for me because I’m… x, y and/or z.” Even if that’s true just hear that person out. Support them. Comparing, judging and assuming – none of that is supportive and none of it is helpful.

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