The Right To Bear Arms vs Everything

What fascinates me about people who insist the Second Amendment gives them a right to bear military weapons at brunch is how often they ignore what arms meant. Or the bit about a well regulated militia. Or that a standing permanent military force was never intended to exist alongside that militia. The Second Amendment was written in the era of cannons, muskets & flintlock pistols. No one could have envisioned 300 round bursts, much less the 1200 to 1500 rounds a minute that early Tommy guns were capable of firing. I won’t even get into rocket launchers or grenades. Your right to bear arms was never intended for this level of weaponry.

Sensible gun control that recognizes the intent of the 2nd Amendment would limit the number & the capabilities of weapons in a home. The ship sailed on the US giving up guns decades ago. Okay I can accept that we won’t do as Australia did and surrender every weapon to a mass buyback. After all the US has 300 million guns,  not the 3 million or so estimated to be in civilian hands in Australia. So, how about limiting the number per household & restricting the size of magazines nationwide?

Let’s Talk About Education. Public Education

I know, I know it has been forever. In my defense…I have none really, except busy writing for other places and figuring some things out behind the scenes here. Hood Feminism is going to be a solo act going forward, and I have been working out how to handle that part. Still figuring it out to be honest, but I have some political thoughts on education and suddenly remembered I can rant and provide content! Win/win!

So, as we talk about school choice & vouchers and Betsy DeVos being spectacularly unqualified, I see more and more people pointing to “failing” public schools as proof that American ed needs a revolution. Invariably they point to lower test scores at schools with a 99% poverty rate and no social services left after 12 rounds of budget cuts. They skip right over stories about lead in school water fountains and in homes across the country.  They pretend that school breakfast and lunch options are programs that “need” to be cut for the good of the children. Never mind the fact that hungry kids don’t learn, certainly don’t discuss the impact of poverty on students in public schools. Just cut funds for libraries, nurses, teachers, food, clean water, books, and then blame public education for low scores on tests that are fundamentally useless.

Meanwhile as a parent of two kids in public school, who went to public schools (Chicago Public Schools at that), I want some things out about how public education actually works when the funding is there and the kids can focus. It’s a ride, but let’s go.

I started public school at 3. There’s a whole story involving birth certificates that I won’t go into, but suffice to say I was a smart kid. I could read, do some basic math (shout out to PBS and the wonders of 321 Contact, Electric Company, and Sesame Street), I was also for a host of reasons what they called an “at-risk” kid. No father, lived with a grandparent, unstable living situations prior to that point…you know, I was slated to be one of those girls. A statistic that someone would insist could never succeed given my situation.

Except with access to quality public education I thrived. Lots of my old report cards talk about me not living up to my potential, but that was because I had C’s in the classes that didn’t interest me and A’s in the ones that did. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills in 3rd grade gave my school a clue on how to direct my talents. By 4th I was in Gifted & Talented classes and I was doing pretty well. My home life remained imperfect, my social skills could have been better, but suddenly the stories I wrote for myself at home had value. Because my teachers read them and my family had an idea that I wasn’t just a daydreamer. I went to K-12 in public schools. I joined the military to pay for college and went to a public university. I didn’t go to a private school until I got my Masters from DePaul and even that happened because they have a robust selection of evening and summer classes and the campus was next to my job in the Chicago federal building.

My husband is dyslexic. He started in a private Catholic school but they weren’t equipped to help him. Eventually his parents sent him to the local public school because by law they had to provide services. He went from not being able to read to being at the top of his class by the time he graduated from a public high school. We met in college, at a public university. We graduated together from the University of Illinois and now he’s the one at DePaul getting his MA. Neither of us ever considered sending our kids anywhere but public school.

My oldest son will graduate from a Chicago public high school in June. He will go to a public university in the fall, and much like his parents he will graduate in a few years and go on to follow his dreams. Because he had access to the same free public education that we did. Well not quite the same, see when I was a kid my school had a full time librarian, nurse, and a staff that cooked and cleaned to support the teachers, principal, and vice principal. Class sizes were small, between 20 and 25 kids on average. Art, music, gym and recess were standard. Afterschool and summer offerings were pretty robust, and I could choose between free options.

My husband is 4 years younger than me, and things had already begun to change by the time his parents transferred him into his public elementary school. The librarian was there part time. So was the nurse. Class sizes were closer to 30, he had gym and music but no art, and there were fewer support staff. He had summer options, though not as many as I did and many of the Gifted & Talented programs had already been cut.  But still, he did well and his parents made up for the things that were no longer available.

Fast forward to our kids. My oldest still had recess and gym, but we had to pay for most of his access to art and music. His school had a library and a librarian, but that had a lot to do with PTA fundraising. His brother is at the same school and every year there’s a little more gone. The cuts outpace the fundraising now, and the class sizes in the high 20’s to low 30’s when my oldest was in school there, are now mid 30’s to just shy of 40. It would be 40, but the building is old and the fire codes for most of the rooms max out at 38.

My youngest has an IEP because he’s on the autism spectrum. He gets his services because well the law mandates them and he has the parental support needed to combat a system that is faltering under the weight of not enough money and too many people convinced that at risk kids don’t deserve a chance.

When someone like DeVos compares education to choosing between Uber, Lyft and a taxi, and never stops to consider the people who ride public transit, bike, or walk, that betrays a fundamental lack of understanding not only education but our larger society. Sure, for upper middle class parents with a neuro typical child school choice probably sounds great. Heck, in many cities it probably could be great. But what about the kids who don’t come from that mold, the ones who need extra support or who can excel in some ways, but struggle in others? What about the kids that are hard to teach, harder still to help because of family issues? I could get counseling in 6th grade when I needed it because that was an in school service. My son gets speech therapy because his access to education is mandated by law so the school has to provide the extras that he needs.

What happens after public ed is gutted? I understand the appeal of the myth of choice. After all, in a big city you’ll have lots of options. One of them will probably work out, but what about those with mobility issues who can only find a school on the other side of the city? That 2 hour bus ride doesn’t lend itself to successful outcomes. What about suburban and rural areas where there are only a handful of schools and none want to take on a kid who needs extra support? We’ve already seen that vouchers don’t fix the problem,  that charter schools have not been the magic bullet either, in fact what we do know is that public ed works best when the funding isn’t subject to whims or dependent on test scores, when class sizes are small and the surrounding community is thriving.

Public education isn’t a handout, isn’t a gift given to the undeserving. It is an investment by a society into itself, and into its future. It’s one of the cornerstones of a healthy community, and behind all the smoke and mirrors, what’s on offer is a poisoned pill. It’s shiny, it sounds great in a distant way when you don’t think too hard about much funding public schools have lost to create this option. When you don’t ask yourself about the limits of the schools that are “better” because classrooms still have finite space, and what happens when those schools run out of space, and there are still kids that need an education, but now their local school has been gutted because the already threadbare budget has collapsed?

We have to think beyond the immediate, beyond the children in our house and think about what’s good for all children. Or we end up backing policies that will help some kids in the very short term and ruin access for most kids in the long term. A well funded well run public school system remains the best of all possible options for all possible children.

Sometimes voting feels like a waste of time…Chicago’s apathy in the runoff election explained

If you’re not from Chicago, it may seem like Rahm Emanuel’s deep pockets and political ties should make him a shoe-in to be mayor for another four years. Yet for many Chicago residents, Rahm’s first term was more enraging than exciting. Voting in this mayoral election isn’t about who has the deepest pockets, it’s about the way the last four years have gone, and deciding which candidate is least likely to ruin the next four years of our collective lives. On one hand, you have current Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s curiously pitiful “Well yes, I was rude, overbearing, and I didn’t listen to you, but I’ll do better next time,” interspersed with “Chuy’s going to act like every other Chicago politician” and on the other you have his opponent, Cook County Commissioner Jesús G. “Chuy” García’s “Rahm did a terrible job, I can’t be any worse” mixed with “I’ll promise to do whatever it takes to get your votes.” Frankly, neither set of messages is remotely convincing, but they exemplify what’s going wrong in Chicago politics this year.

Like many residents of Chicago I’m angry at what happened over the last four years as mental health clinics, schools, and other resources were gutted, often with little or no input from affected residents. Rahm’s decision to cut funding for teachers right before announcing the building of a new $60 million-dollar school is probably more memorable than anything else he might say during a campaign. Whether the discussion is school funding, Rahm’s alleged poor treatment of a grieving mother who wanted answers about the closing of the mental health clinics, or any of a dozen other examples, in many ways Rahm’s bad behavior is the candidate, not the softer image he’s trying to peddle now. The idea of voting for Rahm to have a second term feels like deliberately choosing to vote for Voldemort.
Meanwhile Chuy’s campaign can’t help but be underwhelming, especially given the fact that his political record in Chicago is so bland as to be nearly forgettable. The most damning thing Rahm’s campaign can find about his history is that he voted for an unpopular but necessary property tax almost 30 years ago. However pragmatically Chuy may have voted over the years, the fact that he wasn’t the first, second or third choice to be Rahm’s opponent outweighs any flowery rhetoric his camp can write for him. This isn’t even a case of choosing between the devil you know, and the one that you don’t. It’s more, “Well do I pick the devil sitting at the table, or the one standing in front of it?” Chuy isn’t necessarily exciting or inspiring as candidates go, but he doesn’t need to be for his campaign to be a refreshing change.

Chicago politics are a contact sport in any year, because even with our creaky crooked machine, would-be politicians have to work their way into the system, and then work very hard to stay in it. Despite the implied anointing of Rahm’s candidacy via his ties to Mayor Daley and to the White House, no politician in Chicago can ever afford to rest on their laurels. A recession, a pension crisis, and a range of long standing financially questionable political decisions have upped the stakes so much that Rahm’s educational agenda alone would have been enough to put his seat at risk. Add the much-publicized shootings in Chicago’s most economically vulnerable neighborhoods, the announcement that police misconduct cases cost the city over $521 million in the last decade, school budget cuts that followed the closing of 50 schools, the refusal to explain the closing of six mental health clinics, the push to spend TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds on a stadium for a private school, and the “solution” of shifting that funding to a hotel project? Rahm has consistently made choices that could torpedo any incumbent’s hopes for reelection.
While in office Rahm focused on plans that appealed to the upper middle class and outright wealthy voters who largely funded his first campaign run. And though he paid lip service to wanting the best for all of Chicago, many of his decisions have been detrimental to the lower middle class and low income voters who actually carried the last election for him. Much is made of racial segregation in Chicago, but in reality it’s often economic differences that divide Chicago’s North, South, and West sides from each other. Race and class are heavy factors here, candidates can’t afford to ignore either. I’m a middle class Black woman on the South side now, but I spent years in one of the lowest possible income brackets and like many I vote based on where I was, and where I am now.
Jesús G. “Chuy” García is for many voters a contender this year despite his history, not because of it. After nearly 30 years in Chicago politics, Chuy’s record doesn’t show that he’s the best candidate, so much as it shows that he is more in tune with the reality that Chicago voters live in places that aren’t the north side, and at socioeconomic levels below the Federal poverty line. Promises to support an elected school board, come up with a better financial plan for a foundering city budget, and do more to stop street violence sound good on paper. Unfortunately, without more concrete information, it is not as though voters can be sure he’ll keep all of his campaign promises. Unlike Karen Lewis, Chuy’s mild mannered “We will come up with a way to fix this” isn’t the firebrand rhetoric that swayed many voters to support the idea of her run for Mayor before illness made that impossible.

I can’t state for sure who will be the next mayor of Chicago. I know that as a native of Chicago’s South Side, a parent and a long time voter, my trip to the polls today wasn’t the optimistic bounce of someone excited about the future of Chicago politics. It is the pragmatic choice between the devil I know has ignored the needs of many constituents, and one who has at least had the good sense to try to work with voters who measure their income in hourly wages, and not in capital gains. Rahm might mean to keep his promises to do better, to listen more, and to make all of Chicago’s communities a priority. Chuy might be able to keep his promises to clean up the mess that predated Rahm’s term, as well as correct some of the things that went wrong under Rahm. Or they might both be full of it, and Chicago will stay mired in the same ugly mess that it has been in for decades.
Voting in a Republican, a different Democrat, or an Independent has been touted as the answer so many times, and every time the choices have come down to picking who voters thought would do the least harm. Because a single candidate can’t remake the whole system no matter how much we wish they had the power. This is democracy, this is politics in an era where best choice for the job may never even run, and even if they do, they might never have the funding needed to mount a successful campaign.

Your Feminism is Probably Bullshit…You Should Clean That Up

Patricia Arquette’s onstage comments from the Oscars were a meme before the show even finished airing. She was lauded for speaking up for equal pay for women, and bringing up the “Women earn 78 cents to every dollar a man earns” which sounds really awful. But which men? Which women? The answers of course are to a white man’s dollar and that white women make that 78 cents, while Asian women make an average of 90 cents to that dollar. Black, Latina, and Indigenous women make substantially less from 65 cents all the way down to 54 cents. So it’s important to talk about equal pay in a context of the reality that some women are making substantially less than others. And that white and Asian men and women earn more than many other groups including Black, Latino & Indigenous men. If we’re going to talk about equal pay in this age of demands that women “Lean In” let’s talk about who is getting hired, and for what jobs. Let’s talk about racial bias in hiring that means that qualified people of color (and yes that includes women, because despite the clumsy alienating phrase women and people of color, women of color do exist) may not get hired at all, much less have a chance to fight for pay equal to a white man’s.

Of course that takes us into the rest of Patricia Arquette’s comments at the Oscars. The ones made backstage in the press room that said “And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” because that’s where things go sideways. While a federal amendment guaranteeing equal pay for women sounds great, it doesn’t do much to get marginalized people any closer to actually being hired. It doesn’t do anything to correct structural inequalities that make it harder for some people to get hired at all. It certainly doesn’t address the fact that calls like Arquette’s which specifically cite stats based on white women aren’t actually inclusive, or respectful of the work that marginalized people have been doing to get the minimum wage raised to a living wage, to get better protections for transgender people in the work place, to make child care affordable, to get better protections for people in care giving positions, to keep programs like Job Corps alive etc. Where are those voices when women veterans are facing higher rates of homelessness, or when low income women are penalized for being poor?

White women are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, yet more than one lawsuit against it has been filed by white women who claim that the limited success of POC unfairly disenfranchised them. So it rings incredibly false to see not only Arquette’s speech demanding the support of marginalized people so that white women can achieve pay equality, but the words of organizations lauding her for saying white women’s pay is an issue that everyone should be focusing on, as though white women are the ones who have been waiting the longest for access to opportunity. Equality doesn’t trickle down, liberation rhetoric isn’t meant to be the lubrication for the advancement of white women at the expense of everyone else. So why are we still having these same teach ins about the facts of inequality? Intersectionality isn’t a difficult concept with hard to grasp tenets that fly above the heads of people in positions of power. It is literally taking the step back and asking yourself, “If X affects me and people like me in this way, how does it affect others?” and then doing the (not at all) heavy lifting of listening to the lived experiences of people who are not like you.

Arquette’s most ardent defenders will laud her as a feminist, call any critiques of her words last night divisive and short sighted. It’s the same routine every time, yet those same feminist voices are mysteriously silent when discussions of a living wage, discriminatory hiring, educational and other social inequalities that primarily impact POC and other marginalized people come up. Equal pay for equal work is incredibly important, of course so is equal access to opportunity. So is equal protection under the law, and equal respect for the work being that done that actually has helped white women all along. If your calls for solidarity aren’t informed, inclusive, and intentional in focusing on ending inequality for everyone then all you’re doing is demanding that you be supported in your quest to be an equal oppressor. I’m certain Arquette’s intentions were to be feminist, but that doesn’t make what she said intersectional, that doesn’t negate the harmful impact of her behavior or that of her supporters.

Flavia Dodzan said it best, “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit” and it still applies today. What is Patricia Arquette’s feminism? What is yours? What equality can be found when the face of feminism is all about leaning in to making as much as a white man, and not about making sure that every woman can afford to eat, can access education, healthcare, affordable housing and other basic needs? It’s great to pursue your dreams, it’s even better when everyone else can pursue theirs too because they’re not struggling to to gain entry to a living wage. Equal pay is one of the last steps on the road to equality, not the first one for all women so stop insisting that it matters more than anything else, stop demanding that other people struggling to survive drop what they’re doing in fights you don’t participate in, to support your desire to have even more than you already do. Or you know…keep going with the bullshit feminism that hurts far more people than it helps.

The sad reality is that Arquette’s comments were just the latest in a long line of such incidents. They aren’t going to be the last examples of this problem either. Whether we’re talking comments made on E!’s Fashion Police about Zendaya’s Oscar night look or the way that some of Arquette’s defenders have used offensive rhetoric against any critics of her speech the reality is that in many ways a refusal to hear that feminism isn’t one size fits all is actively hurting progressive causes. Imagine what could be done with this kind of feminist star power if it was actually used to benefit the most vulnerable people in the progressive movement instead of being used against them? Everyone’s feminism is imperfect, because everyone is imperfect but if you’re not trying to be more inclusive, then what exactly are you doing calling yourself a part of any progressive movement?

History Books We Love Or Would Love To Read

I started tweeting this list, but umm…I have a book problem. It’s possible I’ve never met a history book I wouldn’t at least skim. And many that found their way home with me. I blame used bookstores like Powells, Afterwords, O’Gara & Wilson’s, & whatever stores I might wander into when I’m on vacation. And libraries. And reading apps. And…it’s me isn’t it? It’s me. This is an incomplete list because well…I really do have a lot of books in various formats. I was a book dragon in a former life.

The Souls of Black Folk  by W.E.B. Du Bois

Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City by St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton

Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch

Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization Paperback by Arnold R. Hirsch

Romanticism, Revolution, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718-1868 by Caryn Cosse Bell

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist


American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass by Douglas S. Massey

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

At the Dark End of The Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle McGuire

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement by Barbara Ransby

For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Chana Kai Lee

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis

Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000 by George Reid Andrews

The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture by Neil Foley

In my defense my focus in undergrad was Afro American history & it sparked an interest in other histories that has maybe led my wallet astray some times. Maybe. What books do you think I should be reading? What histories fascinate you?

On Abuse, Consent, & Life After Childhood Sexual Abuse

I’m so sick of talking about Lena Dunham. I’m even sicker of talking about what’s wrong with white feminists. Feel free to read any missing backstory here on how those things intersect for this piece.  It’s a lot to rehash & really the Google machine exists for a reason. But, people keep asking me about why I am not on the “Lena’s being maligned unfairly” bandwagon. And no, it’s not about my personal distaste for her work. I don’t like it, I’m probably not going to like it. I’ve long since accepted it’s not for people like me. And I have a long running policy of mostly ignoring it & by extension her because I don’t find “ironic hipster racism” funny or quirky or whatever it is that people are going to tell me her schtick is. That’s life. I don’t like Sarah Silverman, Lisa Lampanelli or a dozen other “Tee hee I’m too delicate to do harm” white comedians making their bones that way. You’ll note that none of them have been accused of writing about behaving in sexually inappropriate ways with a child. Because as far as I know, none of them did. Lena Dunham did. And yeah, we could debate the validity of the story from when she was 7 on any number of fronts. And I’ve seen a few defenses of the masturbation in the bed next to her sister at 17 too. You want to defend that? Your bag. Not mine. I find it repellent & vaguely triggering & I have learned how many people exist that I would never let watch my kids. And yes, she was younger & there’s a whole child development & parenting post that I could write, but really…I don’t want to write more than one post, and this one is probably going to be too long.

This isn’t really about Lena, Grace, or the dozens of people who are sure to flood my mentions on Twitter later to disagree with me from the bottom of their hearts. I read the book (well most of it, I skipped the food diary because really I just don’t give a fuck about it), and I have my read on the words on the page. But I’m not Grace. And I don’t have to live with Lena (thank fuck for that because OMG), or try to reconcile myself to a sister who outs me & talks about my private life as though it belongs to her. Who I am, what I am, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who spent years pretending it didn’t happen, followed by even more years of trying to come to terms with it. And like everyone else my personal bias colors my interpretation of the words on the page. Lena is not my abuser. I know that, you know that, but damn…she sure sounds like him in so many awful ways.

The person who abused me was a long time family friend who told similar stories to me, and about me later at family functions. He had a special nickname for me that some members of my family might still use if I spoke to them because they don’t know any better. He plied me with candy, access to TV shows, and other treats to get me to sit on his lap, to get me to agree to things that weren’t necessarily physically painful, but are to this day emotionally painful. And while I hope and pray for Grace’s sake that I am misreading, that all of us that find this narrative disturbing are wrong as wrong can be…there is something starkly horrifying about the casual way an adult Lena Dunham describes herself as behaving like a sexual predator to win affection from her sister. This is not about punishing the 7 year old, or the 17 year old for me or many other people.

This is about all of us taking a good hard look at what the adult is saying, how the adult is saying it, and the way that people are rushing in to insist that the person they like, look up to, (or have a business relationship with) is completely innocent of all wrongdoing. This is a cultural problem writ small and large, inasmuch as we may never know what happened in the Dunham house, but we are still pretending that abusers can’t be children, can’t be women, can’t have meant no harm but caused it anyway. Because I suspect that conversation (which should be forthcoming) isn’t going to happen in any larger way I’m going to try to have a part of it here and now.

Here’s the thing about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse that no one really wants to talk about, but maybe we need to anyway. A lot of it is innocuous, so much so that you may forever doubt if what happened to you is really abuse. Some of it even feels good. And if things never get truly painful or scary (mine did, which is not something I will detail, but in some ways it makes it easier for me to label) or if the abuser is someone you love, then your mind and social norms work together to make you reject the idea that it was really abuse. And maybe that’s Grace’s story. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t know her or how she feels. And that’s not all that unusual because there’s another peg in all of this which seems to have been tossed aside for some folks for whatever reason. Even when survivors admit the abuse to themselves they often don’t admit it to others. It was a secret, it stays a secret.

My primary abuser is dead. Has been for years, and while I still have nightmares about some things I have never ever come right out and told my family what he did to me. They loved him, have fond memories of him, and I don’t know what value there is for me in raking all of the bad things up now. They get to keep their memories, I don’t have to suffer through the telling, or the recriminations, or the questions I can’t answer without causing more pain about why I didn’t tell anyone. And while it has damaged some things in me, it doesn’t define me, so I have made the choices I can live with in handling it. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Didn’t hurt. His love for me doesn’t lessen the harm he did to me. And the years I spent feigning affection for him that I wasn’t sure I felt are long gone, never to be recovered. But at least I get to be the one who tells my story, and since he can’t consent to me giving out his name in public, I choose to give him what he didn’t give me. Privacy. Respect for the harm I might do those who love him. Because consent always matters, even in situations that are awful and complicated. I was too young to consent to what he did to me (not that I would have I think, but who knows?) and as an adult I shudder at the thought of replicating that behavior. It might be my story too, but I’m not the only one involved.

Other survivors who are struggling to reconcile themselves with a feminism that says someone can’t be an abuser because…reasons are probably going to be more articulate in examining what’s gone wrong. In hashing out why consent keeps getting ignored, disrespected, and generally erased from a place where it belongs. They are probably better equipped to address this assumption that jealousy is a factor instead of you know…normal human feelings that we all have on reading something designed to evoke a response. It might not be the desired response, but welcome to the world of writing in public. People get to read what you put on paper and dislike it. They get to interpret the words on the page, and decide how to respond.

You don’t have to like my opinion of Dunham’s work, book, or self. That’s fine. But keep in mind I don’t have to like yours, and like so many other people in this conversation I don’t have to agree with it. Or keep liking you. We all have our places where we make a stand. Mine is: If you present yourself as someone who doesn’t respect boundaries, thinks racism is a joke, and who engages in a string of things that I find repellent? I’m not going to be here for you on any level. All your faves are problematic. Yes, including me. All I can do, all you can do, is decide what you can live with and move on. I can’t live with pretending to see nothing wrong with what Dunham says about herself, and so she can be your fave, but she’ll never be mine. All any of us can do is make the choice that suits our own morals.

#WeNeedDiverseMedia for reasons….part 96464864 of a never ending list

So this interview with Mathew Klickstein about the Golden Age of Nickelodeon is up at Flavorwire. It should have been a fluffy little piece as part of the press for New York Comic Con. I’m pretty sure that was the intent, and I say this as someone who has written these kinds of pieces, and who will be on a panel at Comic con preceded by a similar interview. Instead Klickstein decides to talk about how hard it is to be a white guy, with a side of “diversity is exploitation” that…well I think he had a point somewhere in there that doesn’t sound quite so racist. But I had to dig to find it, and I’m 99.9% certain that he made it by accident. What was it? That having white creators present one of a handful of characters of color isn’t really diversity. And I agree with him. Diverse media absolutely requires diverse creators, show runners, and executives. But, where things fall apart is his idea that there needs to be a reason for a character of color to exist at all. Because some how it’s find for kids of color to have to identify with white leads, but if the lead is a POC then there needs to be a reason for that.

Yet, it’s already been established that TV is damaging to the self esteem of anyone that isn’t a white male. And I guess it is possible that Klickstein somehow missed all of the discussions before and after that study about media’s impact on kids. Maybe he even ignored #WeNeedDiverseBooks and their data on the impact that having characters of color has on a kid’s desire to read, though one wonders how none of these things penetrated. Of course, it’s also entirely possible, and in fact probable that Klickstein is aware of these things, and just doesn’t care. It seems much more likely given his response to Clarissa’s success that anything that doesn’t center white men isn’t important to him. Nothing anyone says or does is likely to change that, and frankly I don’t really want to bother arguing that same point again.

It’s just more proof of why #WeNeedDiverseMedia. It’s not enough to be a token character bringing diversity to a white protagonist’s story. Nor do we need white savior creators to speak up for POC as though we don’t have our own stories to tell. We have been telling our own stories to combat racist tropes for generations.We haven’t let our history, our cultures, or our stake in our creations be erased even when it was just this side of illegal for us to exist at all.

Now, the problem is avoiding tokenism in terms of creators. What Shonda Rimes has accomplished is amazing, but she made history by being a showrunner on primetime broadcast TV recently. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stop having “The first Black/first POC to do X in media” because it wasn’t so hard for creators of color to get access to major platforms? Wouldn’t it be great if the demographics of people in power in publishing houses, Hollywood, and major cable networks reflected the populations they claim to represent? No one’s going to hand us seats at those proverbial tables though, so we create our own tables, and clearly when we do, we have to be aware that for some people we need a reason to exist, and we can’t afford to worry about what those people, all we can do is focus on the work in front of us.

Delux_vivens…my feminist icon

My first attempt to run an intersectional feminist community was sex_and_race on Livejournal. Delux_vivens helped me found it, run it, and in the process became a mother to me. To this day, I don’t know what she saw in me (I was a mess in my 20’s) but she was always there in email or on the phone, whatever to tell me I could have more, be more, and should not stop trying. Her feminism wasn’t about waves, or performance or publicity. She was incredibly private to be honest, so much so that we joked about her being a spy. But, she reached out to a lot of young people who were struggling to find a place for ourselves in feminist circles and in the world. Her feminism was literally about community, I have siblings now because she loved so many of us, mentored, nurtured, supported so many of us when we needed it most. And since we first got news of her death, we have wept, raged, and denied our loss in turns.

It is a little discussed fact in some feminist circles how important it is to have mentors who are there for more than theory. Folks who will invest in you, support you, love you and be willing (when necessary) to check you or defend you. Delux did all of those things, and so many more as each person she cared for might need. She asked for very little in return (almost nothing to be honest), and always managed to guide you in the right directions without seeming at all preachy or overbearing. She’d probably hate that I wrote this post, but it has to be said that every day feminist icons exist and are all around us. The work isn’t just focused outward on larger issues, it’s focused inward on building up the people doing it so that they can keep doing it.

I won’t stop going. She would not want that and I will honor her wishes. But more importantly I will do more to honor her spirit. Try to be to others what she was to me. I may not be any good at it some days, but Delux was a voice of reason when I needed it. She kept me from making some big mistakes, supported me through others, and I was just one of several people who got the calls, emails, texts, you name it daily or weekly. Sex_and_race had a lot to do with the development of Hood Feminism, but more importantly Delux had a lot to do with my development as a person and a feminist. I only hope that I can do the same. Honor the feminist (whether they use the label or not) in your home and community who may never write a treatise, but who will always do the work. They’re the ones that matter the most.



Maybe it’s time for #MyFeministIcon

It seems like we can’t go a week without a thinkpiece or two about who is a “real” feminist icon. So let’s talk about who our feminist icons are, not just the people on the “approved” list. I mean the people who matter to you. They don’t have to wear the label to inspire you to great heights. Post pics, write blog posts, tag it with #MyFeministIcon. It’s time we re-frame this conversation. It’s not about the “right” kind of feminist icon. It’s about the feminist icons that matter to you. Come on down to Hood Feminism, your blogs, Tumblr, or Twitter and talk about who matters the most to you. Personally #MyFeministIcon list would include Stagecoach Mary, Josephine Baker, Maya Angelou, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Shirley Chisolm…I have a lot of icons. You get the idea.

Why I Stopped Identifying With White Feminism

There’s something amazing about white feminist who are willing to do their own heavy lifting.


(Inspired by @SamAmbreen’s post here: We will not let white feminism divide and conquer us)

Today I’ve been talking with @HadleyFreeman about a series of posts she made to @JudeinLondon earlier in the day. Short story: Freeman wrote a problematic article, Jude discussed it on Twitter without linking to Freeman, someone emailed Freeman about Jude’s response and Freeman demanded, repeatedly, that Jude take the discussion offline. In my opinion, she abused her platform and privilege. She called Jude’s preemptive blocking of her account “childish” when it was an act of self care. Eventually, she used the same tone policing on me and I believe she has blocked my account, although I fully admit to blocking her and not checking back. Maybe later. It was yet another example of why I don’t belong in White feminism and why many other white feminists feel the same way. Today, @SamAmbreen asked for…

View original post 1,532 more words