First World Problems

I’m having a bad day.

I got about 4 hours of sleep last night, and the commute to work this morning was even more of a nightmare than usual. On the way, I discovered that my radio somehow got rid of my preprogramming for KNKX, and since I don’t know their position on the dial by heart, I missed their weekly broadcast of BirdNote, which is something I always look forward to. And I’m falling behind on my blog and feeling particularly uninspired. And I’m getting a pimple on my chin.

At times like these, there’s this little voice inside my head that tends to give me a reality check. I call her Third World Barb. Here’s what she had to say today:

“What? Is that all you got, girl? I’m starving, struggling, sweating, and do not have a safe place to call home. Thanks to Trump, there’s no asylum for me. I have no hope of an education or a decent job. I consider myself lucky when I have access to indoor plumbing and eat more than once a day. I hear gun shots outside my window every night, and women screaming, when the sounds of my own screams don’t block them out. My life expectancy is probably half of yours. I have never known stability. It’s hard to hear you whine about someone peeing in your Post Toasties when every minute of my life is about the desperate pursuit of food, clothing, and shelter.”

Perspective. It’s a beautiful thing.

Forced Perspective

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Celebrating Women

Happy International Women’s Day!

Personally, I think women should be celebrated every day, not just on March 8th, but I figured this was the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the many blog posts I’ve written over the years on women’s issues. For a complete list, click on my “Feminism” category. You’ll discover that this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

I have shared one post, in particular, with various authorities in the City of Seattle, to no avail. Entitled The Cubic Yard Test, it highlights the city’s ridiculous and unnecessary test that pretty much excludes most women from ever being able to obtain a field work positions in Seattle.

I’ve participated in a few hashtag movements, including #WhyIDidntReport,   #MeToo and #ShoutYourAbortion.

I’ve spoken out about the thousands of indigenous women in this country that disappear without a trace in The Value of Human Life.

I’ve talked about the difficulty of being a woman in a male oriented job in Do a Search of Women and Drawbridges , Women of the Ship Canal , and I am NOT Made of Glass .

And I’ve shone a light on some of the absurdly antiquated misogynistic ideas that are held by our politicians in 10 Quotes That Should Piss Off Any Woman With Sense.

I’ve even lamented the insane practice of Corrective Rape.

One of the most powerful weapons that we have as women is the ability to effectively communicate. So I’ll continue to write about these issues. I hope you’ll continue to read these posts and spread the word.

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Another Feminist Wedge Issue

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.

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An Open Letter to White Supremacists

First, let me give you my “bonafides”. According to Ancestry DNA, I’m about as white as a human being can be. That always has, and probably always will give me a leg up in society. I won’t even try to deny it. I also won’t deny that I’ve done little or nothing to earn this leg up. I was born into it, and oh, do I ever take advantage of it.

I can go weeks, months, even years not having to think about pesky racial issues if I so choose. I can live in a white bubble and have absolutely no contact with any minority for days on end. I don’t have to watch “them” on TV, or listen to “them” on the radio if I don’t want to. I can simply close my eyes and clutch my pearls. If I so desire, I can shop exclusively at white-owned stores without putting forth much effort at all. I probably do without even realizing it. I have the luxury of not having to care one way or the other.

People assume I’m law-abiding and honest. People assume I’m non-violent. People assume that I’m supposed to be wherever I happen to be, any time of the day or night. I’m a harmless fat old white woman. I’m as likely to get shot as I am to be struck by lightning. Most people don’t even look at me. I can become invisible. I often feel invisible. It’s lonely, but it has its advantages.

No, I’m not rich. I’m barely middle class, and I’ve only clawed my way up to this precarious and ever-shrinking perch in the past 3 years. I know what it’s like to be down there in that bucket of crabs, where everyone is scrabbling to get out, and just when you think you’ve made it, the other crabs pull you back down. I was there for 50 years. It’s frustrating. It’s heartbreaking. I understand that despair.

But here’s where you and I part company: I don’t assume that all the crabs that have been pulling me down are non-white. I don’t even bother to blame the other crabs regardless of their color. If you’re caught in a crowded, desperate bucket, it’s only natural to want to get your crabby butt out of there. It’s not the other crabs, guys. It’s the freakin’ bucket. There shouldn’t be a bucket.

That bucket was made by rich white people.  It’s the corporations and the politicians and the institutions that are your biggest threat. It’s the military-industrial complex that is using you as cannon fodder and replaceable cogs in the machine.

Railing at your crab-mates is a mere distraction. Glorifying Confederates, who lost for good reason, and Nazis, who lost for good reason, makes you look like fools. Being violent because you’re angry does not further your cause. It will never bring you respect or support or dignity. It won’t get you out of the bucket. Fascism has never benefited the masses, and like it or not, we are part of the masses.

I know it sucks that we’ll never have a delightful and stress-free retirement. I know it’s scary that things are getting more crowded and therefore more competitive. It’s high time you realize that automation is a much bigger threat to your job than other humans are. And most of those machines, by the way, are owned by white people.

If you honestly think for one minute that your crab-mates are out to destroy you or your way of life, ask yourself this: why are all of us striving for the same things? We all want a decent, safe, secure life. A way to feed our children. A roof over our heads. Peace. We have a lot more in common than you seem to think.

Don’t you get it? We are all in this together. And together we are stronger. The very fact that we are a mass is the one thing we have that those bucket manufacturers do not.

The reason you have the day off today is thanks to the labor movement, a movement of the masses. We can do great things if we stand shoulder to shoulder rather than turning our back on each other, or even worse, locking ourselves into mortal combat with each other while the bucket manufacturers gleefully watch from a distance.

Turning on each other is the last thing, the absolute last thing, we should be doing. Don’t be a pawn.

crabs

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What to Do When You Can’t March

I used to lament being born in the early 60’s. I was too young to participate in the “really good” protests. Be careful what you wish for. Here we are again.

Unfortunately, I have a really strange work schedule, so most marches march right on past me. I would have loved to participate in the women’s march on Washington, for example. Or the protest against the immigration ban, or the march for science, or even the produce your dang tax returns one. But nooo… I get to sit in my lonely little work tower, wishing I could lend my voice to the ever-increasing cacophony.

Other people can’t march for other reasons. Health issues. Location. Having small children at home. Time constraints. For everyone that does march, there are probably 5 who would like to, but can’t. It can feel really frustrating.

But there are still things that you can do. I think the most important thing you can do is speak up. Let people know how you feel. When it’s perceived that the majority feel a certain way, it becomes the norm. So you don’t have to march to be a part of the strengthening tide of protest. You just need to let others know you’re with them. I highly recommend blogging. But even just posting something on your Facebook page, or bringing issues up with friends and family, can be effective. If you get even one person to stop and think, “Hmmm. Maybe the earth isn’t flat after all!” then you’ve done something. You’ve become part of progress.

It is also important to put your money where your mouth is if you can. Support Planned Parenthood. Support public radio. Support the ACLU. Also, boycott companies that you feel are not on the right side of history for whatever reason, such as United Airlines, Ivanka Trump, Wells Fargo, Monsanto and Walmart. Money talks.

In addition, it’s extremely important to let your congressmen know how you feel on various issues. Call them. E-mail them. Write them. Pester them. Sign legitimate petitions. Vote. It’s the people who didn’t bother to vote who got us in this protest-worthy situation in the first place.

I also wear my heart on my sleeve in the form of bumper stickers on my car. I think this is a lot more effective than most people realize. I see people taking pictures of my bumper all the time. And I also sport a yard sign, as you can see, below.

Ask yourself this: do most of the people who know you know exactly where you stand? Then you’re doing well! Keep it up! #resist

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Little Shards of Emotion

When I was around 17 it was decided that I needed my wisdom teeth removed. Unfortunately three of them were so deeply impacted that the dentist had to saw away parts of my jaw to get to them. Needless to say, the healing process was no picnic. But what they didn’t warn me about was the fact that for the next 6 months or so, I would occasionally eject little shards of bone at random moments. It would always bring me up short. “Ptooey! Where did that come from?”

I have noticed that at various times in my life I’ve had the emotional equivalent of that experience. During times of great stress and/or great change, certain issues will rise to the surface and take me by surprise. Fears or insecurities I didn’t know I had. Anger that I thought I’d long since gotten past. Gratitude for things and people I had been taking for granted for ages.

When I start reacting in ways that even I can’t predict, it’s time for me to take a deep breath, step back and really think about the true source of my emotions. Often the current situation is simply reminding me of something from the past. And the older I get, the more past I have to draw upon.

It’s important for me to keep in mind that the question of where something came from doesn’t just apply to little shards of bone. And answering that question when it comes up is the key to understanding, coping, and moving on.

Shards

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Don’t Get Your Knickers in a Twist

Is it just me, or is everyone experiencing a spate of mounting hysteria? I know the economy is bad, and there are wars and abuses and crime and tragedy. I know that there are plenty of causes and issues that need to be addressed. The four horses of the apocalypse are being kept quite busy, indeed. But something is different.

For example, here in America you’ll always get your fair share of people complaining about the president if he wasn’t the guy they voted for. That’s the beauty of democracy, in my opinion. But suddenly it’s not just the usual griping, it’s extreme panic. To hear them tell it, all guns will be confiscated so that we can all be trundled into concentration camps by the illegal immigrants, our senior citizens will be killed off, the rest of us are going to be sprayed in the face with some new government created virus, and while we experience a slow and agonizing death from that, we’ll all be forced into a gay marriage. But hey, at least the weather will be nice, because global warming is apparently some huge hoax that was devised in a worldwide conspiracy by 98 percent of all scientists to benefit…whom exactly? Beats me.

It’s even getting to the point where Facebook isn’t fun to visit anymore. Not only does it seem like the latest global outrage is the order of the day, but three times in the past two weeks I’ve watched debates turn into fights in which people who are supposed to be friends engage in hostile name calling.

What has happened to reasoned discourse? Where have courtesy and respect gone? What has happened to checking facts instead of spreading ridiculous rumors? When did we become so gullible? At the rate we’re going, this time next week people will actually believe that Godzilla is rampaging through the streets of New York City.

I long to sit down in a restaurant and hear everyone around me discussing sports, the weather, books they’ve read, their kid’s t-ball game, movies, music, art, dating, travel…anything, ANYTHING but fear, prejudice, hatred, disaster and death. Please. I’m begging you.

If I were queen of the world, the first thing I would do is issue a brown paper bag to all my subjects so that we could all breathe into them and stop this global hyperventilation.

Everything is going to be okay. Really.

Namaste