Such a simple, elegant phrase. Such a kind and decent concept. I don’t know why so many people struggle with it.
There are so many out there who make it a point to say just the opposite. You’re not welcome. You shouldn’t be able to come here. You can’t buy my cake. You should sit at the back of the bus. You shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person that you love. You are not welcome to be a part of our club. You shouldn’t have the right to vote. You can’t rent my apartment. You don’t belong here. America used to be great when we didn’t have to treat you with respect. How dare you speak up? We get to control what you do with your body. You must be walled off. You must be silenced.
We see it everywhere. In the red MAGA hats, in the “lock her up!” chants, in the attacks on innocent people on the streets. We see it in the hatred that oozes from the mouth of the very man who is supposed to lead this country. You’re not welcome. You are an enemy of the people.
Hate makes you look ugly. It reveals the disease in your very soul. It makes us all so much less than what we could be.
When you hate, when you marginalize people, when you try to prevent people from having the same rights that you do, you cause suffering in this world. Why would anyone want to do that? I will never understand it as long as I live.
When you find yourself in a place of inclusion, where people are welcoming and accepting and embracing of your unique qualities, it’s such a freeing experience. I’d rather be wrapped in a rainbow than beaten by a tiki torch any day of the week. That should be obvious. Why isn’t it obvious?
I’m feeling very ineloquent about this whole subject compared to the conversation Ellen Page had with Stephen Colbert recently. Check out the video here. It’s really worth watching.
Thanks, Lee (and Ellen Page) for inspiring this post!
If you believe that women should have the same rights as men (and why anyone wouldn’t believe that is beyond me, since we’re not a subspecies), then you’re a feminist whether you admit it or not. I happen to be a feminist, loud and proud. But I’m willing to concede that the movement itself sometimes frustrates the hell out of me.
There is so much work to do that all sorts of side issues crop up that cause infighting and divisions. I think these wedge issues, while often very important in and of themselves, are counterproductive to the movement as a whole. We shouldn’t be fighting amongst ourselves. That gets us nowhere.
There are debates as to whether the transgender community should be included in the movement. There are debates as to whether men should be aggressively kept out of the movement or be allowed to participate. Some feminists treat stay at home mothers and sex workers as if they have sold out. Others feel that women of color have been marginalized in the movement for so long that they should be its only leaders now. We butt heads about abortion and the death penalty, too.
The newest wedge issue that I’ve noticed centers around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Many view Palestinian women as some of the most oppressed women in the world, and they feel that if we don’t support all oppressed women, we don’t support women, full stop. Others feel that this issue is simply an attempt to exclude and alienate Jewish women.
I’m not expressing any opinion about any of the above topics in this post. But I will say this: any issue that excludes people from sitting at the table, or prevents anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, religion, career choices, or what have you, from showing up and speaking out, has no place in my feminism. We all need to come together and empower each other, and we do that by setting aside our prejudices and differences and looking at the bigger picture.
I recently wrote about the Seattle Womxn’s March, and what a joyful experience it was. I still believe that. But I must say that there was one moment of tension that I didn’t appreciate. One side of the Palestinian-Israeli debate was out there with a bullhorn, chanting their opinion. Many of us supported that opinion, and in another march I might have chanted along with them. But I could also see that it was making a lot of women in the crowd extremely tense. I felt like the situation took away from the march as a whole. For a few minutes there, I didn’t want to be where I was. And that’s the last thing any movement needs.
Should we ignore these issues entirely? Definitely not. They are important. But it’s absurd to expect every single one of us to agree on every single thing. So rather than have these issues fracture the entire movement, we should focus on having a core movement, and then also break out in focus groups to support or oppose these related topics as well. Otherwise, we’re cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
I don’t know about you, but I happen to like my nose.
The day after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, there was a Woman’s march in Washington DC, and in many major cities across the country, including Seattle, where 130,000 people showed up and spoke out. I wanted to be there so badly that it nearly killed me, but I had to work. (I always work on the weekends, so I miss a lot of the good stuff.)
I also wanted to attend the march in 2018, but I was in the throes of a deep, dark, yawning pit of loneliness, one that I knew would only be magnified by being surrounded by strangers, so I couldn’t bring myself to go alone. But I swore to myself that in 2019, come hell or high water, I was going to attend the march. I was so determined that I asked for the day off a year in advance.
It just so happened that I married an amazingly woke and liberal guy in the interim, one who would walk beside me, supporting women, without hesitation. So I got increasingly excited about this event. I spent months trying to decide what signs to carry.
I settled on the two below. Special thanks to my best-friend-in-law, Mike, who is an airbrush magician extraordinaire, for making the signs at really short notice. I was proud to carry them, and was often stopped on the parade route by people who wanted to take pictures.
So, my impression of the Seattle Womxn’s March:
It was a safe, welcoming atmosphere, full of people of all shapes, colors, ages, and sizes, coming together to speak out on women’s rights, gender equality, health care, the wall, immigration, and the current sorry state of politics.
There was one little 4 year old girl in the crowd, proudly carrying a sign that she made herself. It was multi-colored scribbles. It was on a little stick. That sign brought tears to my eyes, and made me want to hug her mother. That’s right, mama, start ‘em off early. There will always be work to do.
There was also a 92 year old woman from France. She had protested fascism in her country in her younger days, and she was still going strong. I was impressed that she made it the entire 2.5 miles.
There were people on walkers and in wheelchairs, too. Because this stuff is too important to stay away. There were mothers carrying babies.
The march went on for blocks and blocks and blocks. I particularly love the photos included with the article from the Seattle Times. They show what a powerful sea of humanity was out there. And I was right in the middle of it.
There was this amazing, cheering wave that moved from one end of the parade to the other, and back again. It was like doing the wave at a sports stadium. It made my heart swell with hope and joy.
It made me feel much better about the future of this country. We care. We’re not going to be silent. We won’t go away. It was healing to be in that crowd. I was proud of us again, for the first time in a long time.
And then, at parade’s end, like the middle class white folks that we are, we stuck our protest signs in the trunk of an Uber, rode back to our Volvo, and came home to soak our aching backs and feet in the hot tub. But, I mean, hey… baby steps, right?
There are more events going on today, so if you missed the march, you can still participate. And if you can’t do that, for God’s sake, vote.
Here are some amazing photos from yesterday, a day I’ll never forget and was thrilled to be a part of.
It happened again the other day. I heard someone use “Communism” and “Fascism” interchangeably, like they are the same exact thing. And that thing, in that uneducated person’s mind, seemed simply to be a synonym for “bad”.
I can’t criticize oversimplification. I tend to use that crutch quite a bit in this blog, and could arguably be accused of it in this very post. But I’d like to think that I shy away from utter ignorance and stupidity. Most of the time, anyway.
So to break it down for you into nice bite sized pieces, I’ll start by saying Communism does not equal Fascism. If you have any doubts on this subject, read up on the Spanish Civil War. (But that can get pretty darned complicated in and of itself.)
A big difference in the two ideologies, in OversimplificationLand, is what they worship. Fascists worship a past that never truly existed. They tend to use slogans like Make America Great Again, implying that America used to be just how they want it to be: A lily white land where everyone of “value” is rich and there’s no crime or conflict, and women stay in their places and everyone is heterosexual.
Communists, on the other hand, don’t worship the past. They claim to worship a future that can never truly exist. Their slogans run along the lines of Workers of the World Unite, implying that there’s some magical yet not-too-far-off place where everyone is going to agree on everything and play fair. They think we’ll all work as hard as we possibly can (“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”) and that we’ll equally share in the world’s bounty, as if greed and corruption doesn’t exist.
Indeed, Communism stresses equality in all things, in word if not in deed, as if no one is going to keep score and be resentful of those who they feel are found wanting. Fascists have a slightly more uncomfortable problem, because their unspoken truth is that they stress inequality. They don’t want minorities to have equal rights. They don’t want women to have equal power. They certainly don’t want homosexuals to lead equally comfortable lives. That’s what attracts people to Fascism: the idea that they deserve to be better off than others.
Neither ideology appeals to me. Neither one is realistic. Both require corruption and cruelty and lies to survive. They are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. But we make the mistake of looking at the spectrum as a straight line to our peril. Because they are so similar in their evil intent to control the masses and get what they want and to hell with the common man that they bend that spectrum like a horseshoe. They are at opposite ends, and yet they practically meet up.
(Don’t even get me started on capitalism, here, which is also greedy, corrupt, and attempts to control the masses. Our ideology is complicit, too. What does that do to the shape of this hypothetical spectrum? It boggles the mind. Maybe it’s one big cloverleaf with greed at the intersection.)
Most of us aren’t on any team, and never will be. We won’t even be invited to play. We are cannon fodder. As mentioned in Galaxy Quest, we are the collective redshirt guy a la Star Trek. No one knows his name because he’s only there to die halfway through the episode to prove that s**t just got real. We serve our purposes. It might be fun to get us all riled up every now and again, but in the end, we only have bit parts in this grand power play.
But dammit, Jim, the least we can do is not use Communist and Fascist interchangeably. Yeah, in OversimplificationLand, they can be used as synonyms for bad, as can capitalism, but they’re different kinds of bad. At least get that right.
I have always been drawn to people who zig when the rest of the world expects them to zag. I delight in those who refuse to be defined by others. They are the ones who often make us see things in a different way.
Sister Wendy Beckett was definitely one of those people. She entered a congregation of religious sisters at the age of 16, and spent much of her life in silence and isolation. In many ways she might be considered old-fashioned. A consecrated virgin, she continued to wear the habit when many of her contemporaries were donning ordinary clothes. She was a member of the very conservative Carmelite order.
Sister Wendy was also highly educated and was drawn to the teaching profession. She was known as an art historian, and that brought her to the attention of the BBC. It is through her very popular appearances on the BBC and PBS that many of us got to know and love Sister Wendy, a woman who would otherwise have spent her entire life out of the public eye.
Having a nun wax poetic about the beauty of the naked human body was enough to make one blink. But she did so, enthusiastically and with no apologies. She had a delightful sense of humor. She loved art, and beauty in all its many forms.
She, herself, could not be considered a classic beauty. She wore thick glasses, had protruding teeth and a speech impediment. The rest of her was shrouded in black. And yet her beauty shone through in her enthusiasm, her intelligence, her thoughtfulness and her kindness. She is the only nun I have ever wanted to hug.
She also did not shy away from discussing controversial art, such as a photograph by Andres Serano of a crucifix soaked in urine. She did not react with outrage. She gave a thoughtful critique of this artwork. She did so confidently. According to this article, “The work could be interpreted as a critique of the way modern man had despised the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ, she thought. In her view, it was not a great work of art, because it was not the kind of thing one would want to look at twice, but it might be a valid piece of commentary.”
She would probably be shocked to hear that I consider her the ultimate feminist. She chose the life she wanted to live. She lived it. She didn’t take into consideration what anybody might think. She lived, she learned, she spoke her truth.
Sister Wendy Beckett was always true to herself. And from that position of strength and confidence, she loved her god, adored art, and treated her fellow humans with dignity and respect. She was an amazing woman, and the world will be ever-so-slightly less bright and ever-so-slightly more predictable without her.
One of my regular readers, Linda, whom I now consider to be a friend, sent me a link to an article entitled “Stan Lee Taught Me How To Be Amazing” by John Pavlovitz. It is a great read, as is all of his writing.
But my friend made an excellent point. This article was definitely written from the male perspective. As Linda said, “I never once dreamed of being powerful like Spiderman. There weren’t even female superheroes back then, although they did add some later.”
That made me come at the article from a different angle entirely. I love that Pavlovitz could imagine that he was Spiderman when he was growing up. I’m sure that did wonders for his self-esteem. But what was I, and most of the girls of my generation, thinking about back then?
We were Cinderella, or Rapunzel, or Snow White. I doubt many of us related to Wonder Woman, as she was hypersexualized to such a degree that she seemed way out of our leagues. I read Archie Comics. Betty and Veronica weren’t exactly something to aspire to.
There was a lot of damage done to the women of my generation. We weren’t given as much to dream about. It’s not nearly as bad now. Now, we have intelligent, spunky and brave characters, like Ariel and Elsa and Mulan, Elastagirl and her daughter Violet, Fiona, and Hermoine Granger, just to name a few.
And the little girls of today have more ability to connect and learn about some of the amazing kick-ass women in real life, such as Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and J.K. Rowling.
Lest we forget, there have always been amazing women out there. Anne Frank, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart… But my generation wasn’t taught much about them in school, except as afterthoughts and footnotes to the “real” heroes. And we didn’t have the computer access to allow us to track them down ourselves.
Now, at least, girls have more access. Now, at least, animation is catching up with our awesomeness. (Although the sexualization part still tends to rear its ugly head. There’s still a lot of work to do.)
If I were a kid today, I’d totally be out in that back alley, pretending to be Hermoine Granger. Wingardium Leviosa!
On the day I wrote this, I got grease all over the cuff of my favorite work jacket. And I’m not talking grease from an order of French fries, here. I’m talking industrial grade mechanical grease, nearly the consistency of peanut butter. (SWEPCO 113, for those of you who are curious.)
It made me smile.
Don’t get me wrong. I tried to avoid it. It’s a royal pain in the butt to get out. I’m soaking the sleeve in simple green even as we speak, and will probably do so for about 24 hours before washing. But as a bridgetender, I have to do my part to keep my drawbridge operating smoothly, so greasy I’m bound to get every now and then.
What made me smile is that if you were profiling me, you wouldn’t expect that I was the sort of woman who even comes in contact with grease, let alone gets it all over her clothes. If I were on What’s My Line, you’d never guess correctly.
And yet, here I am. Pushing the boundaries. Breaking the stereotypes.
I was tempted to smear some of that grease on my cheekbones while I was at it. A badge of honor. A shot across the frontal lobe of your pigeon-holing mind.
Every time I surprise someone by walking down the street in my hardhat, or by adding insulation to the subfloor of my house, or even by offering someone the use of my jumper cables, I’m broadening their worldview just a tiny bit. And I like that.
Because every time I take a tiny chip out of your typecast, it makes it all the more easy for the women who come behind me to be themselves. It may not be much, but if we all keep chip, chip, chipping away, ignorance and hate will lose, and those of us who don’t mind getting greasy will find it more possible to do so.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go dig the crud out from under my short, raggedy nails.