Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Can We Not?

Last week, a group called Stop Patriarchy kicked off what they are calling their "abortion rights freedom ride" with the goal of ending both patriarchy and pornography. There is so much wrong here it's hard to know where to begin.

Let's start with the name. "Abortion rights freedom ride" obviously calls to mind the freedom rides of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. If you need to brush up on the history there, Wikipedia has a pretty good detailed description, but the quick and dirty overview is that a group of civil rights activist rode buses throughout the southeastern US to challenge segregation. Supreme Court decisions outlawing segregation in public places were not being enforced, and Jim Crow laws were still in place. The riders were frequently subjected to arrest and violence, and were even decried by the Kennedys as "unpatriotic."

The freedom rides were an historic milestone for civil rights. There is no denying their importance, and wanting to recreate that is an understandable feeling. However, using the name is misguided at best. The riders were putting themselves in very serious danger to correct an injustice, and appropriating their language dilutes what they did and disrespects their memory. And considering that one of their biggest name draws is Eve Ensler (who wrote an endorsement for them; it's unclear what her involvement is beyond that), I'm going to go out on a limb and say they are a very White Feminist (TM) group and didn't actually consult any activists of color when choosing this name. It's incredibly egregious when you consider how mainstream feminists have ignored non-white voices in the past and present.

In another linguistic form of appropriation, the group refers to forced motherhood as "female enslavement." While I agree that forced birth is horrible and torturous, using slavery-related terminology to discuss anything BUT actual slavery is simply unacceptable. There are many other ways to phrase this and get the same message across, so let's not misuse this one. Plus, "female" ignores trans* and other non-binary individuals who may have a uterus but do not identify as women.

Map of abortion rights freedom ride routes.
Image from

We need to talk about their routes, as well. The three states that have been in the news lately for their horrific anti-choice legislation -- Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina -- barely feature on the tour. It seems they are going to blow through Texas and North Carolina without doing anything at all. There is one stop in Cleveland. You know, the major city that is only a few hours drive from New York, where reproductive rights are still pretty well protected. People in rural Ohio aren't on the group's radar, I guess.

If you look at the map above, you'll notice that even in states that are less known for their reproductive freedoms, the rides still stop in major cities. Chicago, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and so on, are included instead of the small towns where people in need of abortion services are being the most screwed over. This indicates to me that the tour is more about making headlines and less about actually helping people.

The rides kicked off July 23 in, of all places, New York City and San Francisco. This makes the whole event reek of "let's take a poverty tour" where the activists can stay safely contained in their buses until they reach the nice cities where they can hold their rallies.

This group has raised plenty of money, as well. The figure I've heard is somewhere in the $20,000 range, and while I cannot find a specific plan for the money listed anywhere, I have to assume much of that is going toward travel costs. This amount of money could do a lot more good being sent directly to clinics or to organizations that provide funds or transportation to impoverished people who need reproductive services. Paying to bus in some coastal activists seems like such a waste.

The last thing that really needs to be addressed is the group's anti-pornography stance. I understand that the mainstream porn industry has a lot of problems, but ending porn altogether -- as if that were even possible -- is not the way to go. There are many people out there who identify as feminists who find sex work in varying forms empowering. Many people who do it voluntarily, because they enjoy it and can make a good living that way. Dismissing all porn and sex work as evil shames and degrades these individuals while also attempting to remove their freedom to choose their profession. It would be much more useful to reform the porn industry and legalize different forms of sex work so that they can be subject to regulations that protect against the more negative aspects.

This group needs to rethink its events and stances. There are ways to fight the anti-choicers and problematic aspects of our society without wasting money or appropriating language.

Opinions on this post are my own. However, I want to give credit where credit is due and thank @AngryBlackLady, @dwalton1, @meadowgirl, and many others for the Twitter discussions that brought this to my attention.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Crossposted: Can We Stop Being Shocked That Thin People Sometimes Date Fat People?

[This post originally appeared at Persephone Magazine on July 26, 2013]

Earlier, I was directed to a pair of articles on Yahoo! from two halves of a couple. The first was from a woman who is fat and dating a thin man. The second is the boyfriend's perspective. While I'm happy for them, and appreciate that they are putting it out there that fat people are not loveless, sexless pariahs unable to find happiness, I'm pretty sick of how a preference for fat bodies is treated like some kind of freak show.

Some people prefer redheads, some like taller partners, some people are into big boobs, shapely arms, booties, or curly hair. We all have things that make us take note of our preferred gender. It is absurd that we can accept so many other sets of differences within a couple but not one of size, especially when the woman is larger (in a hetero couple). Obviously, this is a reflection of the way our society views fat people: as inhuman, as less-than, as below second class, as completely undeserving of affection.

I'm not angry with this couple for writing about their relationship. They have, it seems, dealt with some ignorant people and needed to clear the air. And if publishing on Yahoo! makes someone think that fat bodies aren't unlovable bodies, then great.

What I am angry at, however, is a society that makes this kind of thing necessary. I'm angry at the notion that fat people are so dehumanized that anyone who loves us but could "do better" needs to explain themselves. I'm angry that "do better" means "find someone thinner." I'm angry at the double standard that allows King of Queens and The Simpsons to show a fat husband and thin wife, but demands answers from a thin man attracted to fat women. I'm angry that this notion is so heteronormative and sexist that a woman's body is judged by whether or not men will like it.

I'm angry at the constant reminders that my body is some kind of circus act, that I'm what someone settles for when he can't do better (since my body probably means I'm grateful for whatever attention I can get). I'm angry that two consenting adults — any two consenting adults — can't just be together without having to answer invasive questions, including those about sex mechanics.

So how about when our friends or family members are in a relationship, or say that are interested in someone, we just take them at their word? Unless that person is a known serial killer or abuser, don't question someone's interests. Preferences are personal. They don't need to be headlines.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reflections on Losing My Job

In my last post, I wrote about having lost my job only a few days after it happened. In the nearly three weeks since then, I've been working on sorting out my feelings on the matter, and feel like I've figured a few things out. I'd like to share some tips and reflections I've come up with.
  • Don't be ashamed. People lose their jobs for a lot of reasons. Assuming you didn't do something awful like steal or harass people, try not to let the cause of your termination (if you were given one) haunt you. Forgive yourself if you need to, try to learn from it, and move forward.
  • Rely on whatever support system you have. I am fortunate, I know, that my parents are nearby and willing to help me financially. I would prefer to be completely independent, but I'm not. And I have rent and bills that I need help with. Instead of wallowing, I am accepting the help while trying to find a way to get back on my feet.
  • Apply for unemployment. Government aid is there for a reason. Besides, you were paying into it. There's no shame in taking help. That's why it exists. No, it won't solve all of your problems, but it's there to give you a little cushion so you aren't completely lost. The labor department for your state should have a website with info.
  • Take some time to grieve, but don't wallow. Obviously, your financial need may dictate how long you can go before finding more work, but it can be healthy to take a few days and be sad and angry or consider plans for firebombing your former place of employment (note: don't actually do that). But don't let yourself fall into a hole you can't climb out of. Start looking for jobs as soon as you feel sort of human again.
  • Keep yourself busy. It's really easy to sleep all day and watch Netflix all evening. And maybe that makes you feel better for a few days. But try and do some productive things as well. Clean your apartment. Read. Work on that novel, or some crafts, or whatever creative outlet you've been meaning to try. Find free events and explore your city. Find things that you enjoy but haven't had time to do, and do them in between sending out job applications.
  • Stay up-to-date. Make sure your resume is accurate and you have a good basic cover letter you can tailor to different job applications. On top of that, keep abreast of happenings in your field. Do some research. Also, follow the news every day. If you land an interview you want to be as sharp as possible, and not like someone who just crawled out of a cave and threw on a suit.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sorting Out Feelings

It's been a few days, and I'm ready to talk about it more publicly: I was fired from Purl Soho on Friday.

I'm still not completely sure why. The manager wouldn't give me a concrete reason, only that it "wasn't a good fit." This has, of course, raised my hackles. I find this pretty suspicious. It seems to me that if it were a legit, concrete reason, I would have been told. So likely it was something superficial (my brain naturally goes to assuming the fat chick didn't fit into their aesthetic, which is all-white, female, and a bit snooty) that they couldn't tell me because of obvious reasons.

I have gone through a whole range of emotions since then. Anger, sadness, vengeance (is that an emotion? Whatever). I'm sure I'm not done yet, either. But I have to move on, because I'm too good to waste myself wallowing over a menial job.

So what's next? I don't know. I am going out of town this weekend, then again later in July, so I don't know that I'll be able to find another job right away. I have a little money saved from work and last year's student loans, so I will be OK until my fall loans come through. I also applied for unemployment, but I don't know if I worked long enough to collect.

Maybe I'll spend the next two months enjoying myself. Reading, exploring my city, and working on some writing and photography projects. Hey, J.K. Rowling was on public assistance when she wrote the first Harry Potter novel, and William Peter Blatty was collecting unemployment when he wrote The Exorcist.