Friday, July 8, 2016

please don't ask me to teach you how to be an ally

I'm a writer – one whose writing often focuses on helping people to understand what it's like to be part of a marginalized community in this country. I'm a peer mediator at heart. I tend to take the position that through dialogue and critical thinking, we can actually start to chip away at some of the oppressive structures that are holding so many Americans back. Listening to each other and trying to understand differences in experience is among the most basic first steps toward social change.

That said, I can't do all of your research for you. Please don't ask me to teach you how to be an ally.

Listen, I know when people ask for my opinion on things, it's generally coming from a good place. And sometimes I even appreciate when a friend asks me to help them respond to something they know is wrong but don't have the words to properly address. Sometimes you hit a wall and you're just like, “PLEASE! Someone who knows more about this than I do, bail me out!” I'm not necessarily opposed to coming in clutch to help you out of a bind.

But when you post breathless statuses about how you just don't know how to help and then go on to tag me in comments begging for some guidance, it frustrates and exhausts me. I can't be expected to perform the labor of being an ally for you. If you want to help me, don't make me do that. What it tells me is that you want everyone – me, especially – to know that you wish things were different, but you don't want to put in the actual work it takes to make the change. I know. That's not the intention. But when it happens all day every day, it's hard not to want to slam my head against my keyboard and scream to any god who will listen, DO THEY NOT KNOW GOOGLE EXISTS?? There are books and blogs to be read, Facebook groups to be joined, public intellectuals and activists to be followed, protests and marches to be attended, government representatives to be called. I shouldn't have to provide you with the links and phone numbers, an annotated bibliography, and a passionate plea for you and your friends to understand my plight. It reads to me like you're more interested in getting the brownie points for publicly stating your solidarity than you are in really being an advocate. It's standing next to a life preserver while a person drowns, but throwing up your hands and lamenting that you wish there were something you could do.

I appreciate that you value my opinions. Follow me on Twitter and you'll see them all day, every day. To expect thoughtful engagement from me in response to all of your racist relatives and political questions is unfair, though. Believe it or not, people actually pay me to give my perspective. It's work. I don't have the time, energy, or emotional endurance to do it every time a white friend doesn't understand something. Chances are, many of your other outspoken POC or LGBTQ+ friends probably feel the same way. Some of them are not shy in saying so, and you may feel defensive when they call you out for requiring that they calmly and rationally explain to you their own oppression. It is not their job to make sure your feelings aren't hurt when you tear open their very fresh wounds.

I'm not telling you to feel bad or guilty if you've done this to me or your other friends. That's a waste of time and energy. Nobody knows how to be a good ally before someone tells them how to be a good ally. So I'm telling you right now: Don't task marginalized people with doing the emotional and intellectual labor of explaining their marginalization to you. If they offer that labor to you, there's no reason to feel bad about accepting it. But asking for it is like saying you'll help somebody move and then sitting on the couch telling them how hard it looks while they do all the heavy lifting. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

black lives, white discomfort

This post is a slightly expanded-upon version of a facebook status update I wrote in response this clip from Black-ish in which Anthony Anderson discusses with his wife how they should talk to their children about police violence against black Americans. As I stated on my original facebook post, I don't want to hear your opinion if you are not willing to read the whole post. I know you'll give it to me anyway, but I'll likely ignore it.

Before you respond to this video by lecturing me on how #bluelivesmatter or #alllivesmatter or whatever else, take a second to imagine this reality. Imagine actually living it. Yes, all people's lives DO matter, and no one is disputing that, but there are groups of people in this country who have to fight to be treated that way.

On many occasions, I've tried to strategize what I would do instead of calling the police if I were in certain situations like a home invasion or a mugging. I think about how I'd try to get far away before calling if it was absolutely necessary, so I don't get mistaken for the bad guy, or just shot because I moved too fast and the officer was scared of me. One day, I found a frightened, white toddler wandering lost around my apartment complex, and I couldn't bring myself to hold her hand because I was afraid someone would call the police on me. Even when the CHP pulled up to help me after I got into a car accident, my heart was racing and I was trying to remember if they had guns or not. I've imagined what photo they'd use to make me look like I deserved to be killed, and what incident from my past would surface to show that the world was better off without me.

Me. The PhD student who's been called an Oreo her whole life. I'm terrified of police.

When Obama was elected, I was naively hopeful, too. Since then, I've watched friends who once actually seemed like allies embrace racist and jingoistic rhetoric as politics and ideology started once again demanding white people and people of color sit at different lunch counters. To assert that black people should not be executed in the street for minor offenses is framed as "anti-police," and for black people to celebrate their history and culture has been framed as "anti-white," because our country has bought into the lie that for people of color to be treated as equals means that white people will be treated as lesser. Just take a minute to think about what it is that scares you about white people becoming a minority, or about acknowledging that racial prejudice plays a role in ALL of our consciousness, no matter what color we are, or that disproportionate incarceration and housing discrimination and employment discrimination and gerrymandering and on and on actually do affect the lives of people of color more than they affect white people. Yes, these things affect white people, but differently, and not as much. Not. As. Much. Why is acknowledging that so fraught? Is it perhaps because we know already that the system is rigged, and to call it out means risking having it rigged the other way? Shouldn't it worry us that we can see that things are unequal, but the reaction is to preserve the status quo so that the balance of power doesn't tip the other way?

We've been lied to. We've been had. We've been manipulated to believe that black and white power cannot coexist, but instead require a winner and a loser. We think it's perfectly normal and acceptable to live in a country that carries on like the Hunger Games, where the only way to avoid upsetting the power structure is to pit the people against one another and make them enemies. This country is not white vs. black, or police vs. black, or immigrant vs. citizen, or any other binary opposition we accept as part of the game of America. But it sure is convenient to frame it that way so that we pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. When we say "black lives matter" and you respond "blue lives matter," you're not telling us something we don't know. You're saying police lives matter MORE -- like you think we're two opposing sports team cheering our own and booing our competition. The thing is, while there will always be a subset of people who celebrate violence against those who they feel have wronged them, the vast majority of people trying to get the point across that black lives matter do not want to see harm come to police, white people, or anyone else. We're not trying to win. We want to play for the same team.

I know your kneejerk reaction right now is to not even finish reading what I wrote because all you want to do is fight me and tell me that my reality is not, in fact, real. Don't do it. Think about it. Sit on it for a little bit. Consider how it feels to me every time you post a crime committed by a black person and say, "A HA! SEE!! Why is no one talking about these thugs?" Everyone is talking about the thugs. That's why we need the conversation about how most of us AREN'T thugs. We need it because every day we see our facebook friends and the media and politicians trying to prove to us that we're the bad guys, and telling us that if we'd just be good, obedient little boys and girls, we would be AOK. We won't be. We're not going to be okay until our power and our equality are not seen as threats. We're not going to be okay until non-criminal black people are seen as the rule, not the exception; until our white friends stop cheering when police act as judge, jury, and executioner on city streets; until our white friends hurt when we hurt instead of trying to blame us for hurting. Yes, we will keep teaching our children to acknowledge that the world is unsafe for them, even if that makes white people uncomfortable. White discomfort does not trump black lives.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

jewel-in-my-crown christians

You've probably seen that article (and its gazillion clickbait permutations) making the rounds on Facebook about how kids who are raised with religion are less generous and altruistic than kids raised without religion. Admittedly, the methodology of the study is a little weird, but for many of my peers, our response has been, "well, duh." We lived in the Christian bubble and, unless guilt-tithing once a year, a super amazing trip to Africa that totally changed your profile picture, and constantly insisting that you'd DEFINITELY give money to charity if it weren't for the darn government taxing it all away counts as generosity or altruism, most of our acquaintances failed. When my friend Lian, whom I've known since our tweenage days of church youth group, posted the article and I commented with my lack of surprise, she replied, "Jewels in my crown motivated." I'll come back to this. It's important.

For the record, this was my profile picture w/ African children. #guilty

To back up a little, in case you don't already know, I went to a small, Christian university in Southern California. I formed many a profound relationship there that I treasure to this day, which is about the only reason I don't wish I'd never stepped foot on that campus. For a little over $100,000, you can spend four years being dragged before a disciplinary board whose goal is to "break you down," (yes, that's how they would put it) until you cry for infractions such as having someone of the opposite sex in your room after hours (even if it was your dad), burning candles, not keeping your room clean enough, and a whole heap of other things for which a simple, "Hey, don't do that or we'll fine you next time" would more than suffice. The breaking was the goal. They liked to say that what was really happening when someone came in for a minor infraction and left an absolute shambles, was that they'd managed to show the person their rebellious heart. They didn't just burn a candle because they liked the way it smelled. They burned a candle because Satan had hardened them toward the authority God had set before them on earth, and this was just one way in which that rebellion was manifesting itself. It was lucky they caught it before it became sex or dancing or something.

That was all bullshit, of course. And I don't just mean the obvious fact that small infractions every college student commits clearly are not the work of the devil. What was bullshit was that they even pretended to think that was the case. As they'd tell us in Resident Assistant class, with self-satisfied smirks, about the latest sinner they'd driven to repentance for playing their music too loud after quiet hours, it was clear to any of us with enough insight into human nature to recognize patterns of abuse that this was about power. They broke students because they could. And they silenced our concerns about it by appealing to our fear of standing up to godly authority on someone else's behalf, lest our souls be the ones tarnished.

At an RA retreat one January, the head of residence life berated me in front of the entire residence staff. More than fifty people watched as he screamed at me, telling me that I, personally, was the only reason that anyone had any problems with the way things were run around the school. I was a pot stirrer. I was a dissenter who was causing disunity -- which, in Christian circles, is essentially the modern equivalent of calling someone a witch. Causing disunity amongst the body of Christ is basically a burn-at-the-stake offense. My infraction, by the way, had been pointing out that several of my colleagues had made suggestions to him after he'd asked specifically for suggestions, and that he'd dismissed them all without considering them further. It may sound like I'm downplaying my role in this, but anyone who was there can vouch for me. More than fifty people. More than fifty people who sat in stunned silence as my boss screamed, turning bright red and occasionally letting globs of spit fly in my face. When he finished, I simply replied, "I'm sorry you feel that way," and remained where I sat. I'll never forget the look on his face when he realized he hadn't broken me. He hadn't had the power to make me react, to make me get up and scream back at him so that he could point at me and go, "SEE!!! SEE HOW HARDENED HER SPIRIT IS! GET HER OUT!" He wanted me to show that I should be fired for questioning him, but it didn't work. He had no recourse but to go back to the meeting and pretend nothing had just transpired, even though it was the only thing on anyone's minds. At the end of the meeting, he asked if we could talk. I told him, "No. Not right now." I walked away.

For the rest of that weekend, people who were there apologized to me for not saying anything. For not getting in between a 6'2" authority figure and his 5'4" college student employee as he towered over me and spat his unwarranted venom. Everyone knew he was wrong, but they were too scared to say anything about it. Or they knew his reaction was wrong, but they did feel that I probably deserved it because I questioned too much and was a problem in general. And here's the kicker: They apologized to me, but they never said a word to him. [edit: A friend just pointed out that one person did, in fact, talk to him about it later and insist he apologize. I didn't know this.] They never challenged him. A few did on various other things, but they regretted it. Anyone who challenged him was made to regret it. Because that's not how these kinds of Christian communities work. Authority is to be unquestioned, and if you question it, no matter how grotesque a form it is taking, you have a rebellious spirit that needs to be either disciplined or removed. See: Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill house of horrors.

The funny thing is, after I stared down my abusive boss and told him I was sorry he felt that I was such a demon spawn, he spent the rest of the year trying to act like we were best friends. He would sit next to me at lunch or during RA class and make jokes. I had never had a conversation with him before the day he screamed at me. Not one. We knew each other's names and maybe said "hi" in passing, but we had never actually talked to one another. Now, all of a sudden, we were TOTALLY buddies? Right? Because buddies don't like, go to HR and stuff, right? Christians who are willing to take the personal consequence for standing up for others are a real problem for authorities who rely on compliance.

Christians LOVE to read about martyrs in other countries. It's a straight up fetish. People get so excited to read the gory details of what happens to people who dare to be Christian in hostile environments (which is actually a very real and terrible thing, btw). And then they also like to pretend that we have martyrs in ours: People who have to bake cakes for gay couples, multi-million dollar corporations that have to provide healthcare to their underpaid workers, folks who have to put up with being told "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas," a guy who was fired for posting racial slurs about his students or someone he arrested or a member of his congregation or whatever the case may be. They write petitions and boycott businesses and store up jewels in their crown in heaven for making the Lord famous, no matter how much that's synonymous with making the Lord hated. We are very concerned with standing up for other people... as long as they're just like us.

Meanwhile, we have schools like mine, where a twenty-two year old can be torn to shreds by someone who's supposed to be an example of Christ, and no one says anything. Where another girl dares to call out bad behavior on behalf of her superiors and is called into a secret meeting where she is intimidated and has to swear never to speak of it again -- even though there were other witnesses -- and no one says anything. And where faculty members who question the administration are ganged up on and pushed out as troublemakers, while no one says anything. I'm not calling any of us martyrs, and I'm not calling my school unique. This is sadly normal for many Christian organizations. That's why just about anyone who's spent a good chunk of their life in the flock has at some point rolled their eyes and said, "Ugh, church politics."

But it's not because this is how the Bible says church should be run. There's no part in there where Jesus is like, "And the tallest and whitest of you should definitely be the most powerful, and everyone who doesn't listen to you is DEFINITELY a pain in the ass who needs to be tormented until they give in or get kicked out." We have a selfish Christianity here. We have a Christianity that says, well, I would do the right thing but.... We have a Christianity that is also a political party; a Christianity that does a lot of good in terms of serving the poor, but doesn't speak up when "Christians" insist that the government shouldn't be involved and therefore relegate people to even worse poverty; we have a Christianity that is individualistic, and is openly hostile to collectivism in nearly any form beyond the church potluck; we have a Christianity that's OBSESSED with what's fair, that says "no matter how much I have, I earned it, and if someone else needs it, they'd better earn it themselves." We have a Christianity that insists people prove they deserve our help. They have to prove they don't drink or do drugs, that they don't have modern conveniences like iPhones or microwaves, that they were born in the right country and have the right papers, and the list goes on. We would do the right thing but it costs us something -- money, discomfort, ostracization, our jobs, our friends -- and that's not fair. 

Altruism is the opposite of fairness. It means potentially not getting what you deserve because your concern for someone else outweighs your need for everything to be fair. Altruism can help to level an unbalanced playing field, so that we're all playing a fair game -- or at least playing the same game -- but it's not about making sure no one has as much as you who doesn't deserve it. As Louis CK, put it, "The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to make sure you have as much as them."

I'm not even slightly surprised to find that Christian kids don't show a particular knack for putting others before themselves. The times that I saw it happen, usually there was a pretty sweet reward in it for them. They couldn't do good with their right hand and not let the left hand (and the entire church) see. They'd be patted on the back for it, brought up in front of the church and praised for it, get to sing in the mega-church's worship band. Whatever. Oh, and they'd get to go to heaven. Many people I went to school with would argue that you can't be "good without God," as the saying goes. People only have a sense of morality if it is imparted upon them through their belief in God, and their desire to do God's will. If that's what motivates you to do good things and otherwise you'd be an asshole, then I'm REALLY glad you believe in God. It's silly to discount all the wonderful things people do, think, feel, create, etc. without a belief in God, though. Thus, we come back to the "jewel in my crown" motivation. Shirking earthly reward for the idea that one's reward is in heaven is not, in itself, altruistic. It says, I'm doing this thing now because I believe that something awesome awaits me when I die. There is absolutely nothing wrong with believing that. The problem comes in being motivated by that.

If I'm standing in line behind someone who can't afford to pay for their groceries, my first thought isn't, "What would Jesus do?" It's "What can I do?" It's nice to think that after I toss that person a fiver God's like, "Yoooo, well done my good and faithful servant," but that heavenly fist bump doesn't motivate me in the slightest. If I see someone publicly humiliating their child or their employee or a waiter, I don't think, "That's terrible. I'll pray for them." I think, "Someone's gotta stop this abuse. Nobody? Okay, me, then."

I went to school with kids who were petrified of doing what was right for fear of repercussion, and who were paralyzed by a need for everything to be fair. The greatest motivation for doing good was to gain God brownie points. And that's not to say that I don't know amazing people from that school. Like I said, the relationships I gained there are what I value most. But it's also worth noting that those with whom I am now closest have since shed that obsession with what's fair and embraced the altruistic. When people act selflessly toward others without concern for reward or repercussion, in life or the afterlife, they turn out to be great people. That's not exclusive to any type of person, religious or otherwise. But a lot of religious households could probably stand to benefit from a little less focus on jewels in their crowns and a little more focus on the humans they're using to earn them.

Friday, November 6, 2015

seth, me, bernie sanders, and the "lamestream" media

I think it's always important to have friends who are way smarter than you on a particular subject. Personally, I'm sort of a half-assed political junkie. I read a lot of political media, watch a lot of political television, and listen to a lot of political radio. It may not seem that way because I also despise talking politics with people who aren't at least marginally on my side. The example I like to give is that I'm a strong advocate of gun control. If I had my way, there would be no guns left in this fine country, but because I know that's impossible, I'm all about making them as hard to obtain and use as possible. I can have a conversation with many sensible gun owners and gun advocates about that, and we may not see eye-to-eye, but we see where the other's coming from. However, if someone is coming from an entirely different ideological universe, it is absolutely USELESS to engage. I had a guy tell me once that no number of dead children's right to life trumped his right to have as many guns as he wanted. If you can actually say that guns are more important than children with a straight face, the only possible outcome of the conversation is that we're both really mad at each other, and, if this is facebook, several of our friends have jumped in and started tossing out ad hominem attacks like "libtard" and "repuglican" and worse. I keep my political posts to twitter, where if someone decides to throw out a rape threat because I don't believe in the death penalty, they're generally not someone I once considered a friend and confidante. They're just someone I have now blocked.

I'm always thankful for friends on whatever part of the political belief spectrum with whom I can have a civil conversation (before somebody's friend joins in and say something horribly offensive). One time my friend Josh and I, who are about as politically opposite as can be, had a conversation after which he actually changed his position on a belief he'd had for a while. It wasn't that, in my brilliance, I had suddenly said something that turned him liberal. It was that by having a discussion about it, he'd realized that this belief that he was holding actually wasn't consistent with other core aspects of his belief system. That's totally valid. A lot of people call that flip flopping. I call that growing up and actually thinking through your ideologies. Conversations with people who disagree with me, like Josh, and with people who generally agree with me, like my friend Seth, have sharpened me in more ways than I can count. I do not hold the same beliefs I held in high school, or college, or even last week in some cases.

Let's be clear -- and I don't think this is going to come as a shock to anyone -- I'm a libbity libface liberal. I once would have claimed to be a moderate (and maybe even a Republican for like, two and a half minutes when I thought that was what Christians were SUPPOSED to be. That ended fairly quickly when Republicans at my Christian school would tear down any poster of John Kerry they found on people's dorm rooms or around campus. That, and when they would mock the group on campus that helped feed the homeless and fight for equality, SSA, by taunting, "SSA is ASS backwards!" That ended the Christian Republican phase).  I'm not a moderate. I've taken that quiz enough to know that. There's nuance to liberalism, of course. I think that's a thing people forget. And many of my good friends who are Republicans are largely like, "WTF?!?!?!" when it comes to today's Republican party. Some aren't. Josh thinks there's some serious substance to Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. I think they're morons. We still have great conversations.

This is Seth. He is brilliant and a fan of cookies.
Anyway, I'm a firm believer in the whole iron sharpening iron thing, and one of the people I go to most often to have my iron sharpened -- to extend that metaphor perhaps beyond utility -- is my dear friend Seth Millstein. You may not know his name, but there's a very good chance you've read something he's written on Bustle, The Daily Dot, Timeline, and a million other things. Plus, he was on my podcast!

Every now and again, I shoot Seth a message asking for his input on some issue that's been pressing on my mind as a half-assed political junkie. He is a political junkie with his full ass. It's very convenient.

A Bernie Sanders supporter myself, I can at times be wary of the seeming lack of respect for his candidacy in various news outlets. However, unlike Seth, I spend most of my days reading about things I study for school, which is, y'know, my job. I'm not seeing everything out there, and I recognize that that leaves a giant hole in my knowledge. So, today, I put forth a question to Seth regarding Bernie Sanders and the media. This was the conversation that ensued:

As I mention in my response to Seth, I was frustrated by the way that the debate results were proclaimed by the so-called "Mainstream Media." And I think that's fair, whether my fist-shaking response was simply emotional indignation at seeing my candidate deemed second place when non-pundits who watched seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm for him, or whether there was actually some basis for the accusation of media bias. There's not really a lot that can be done to prove that either way, but my greater question was about this whole concept of the evil, Mainstream Media -- which liberals and conservatives use in equal measure to describe some shadow organization that meets in dark conference rooms and decide the elections ahead of time. There are, to be sure, things that CNN or Fox News or the New York Times and so on don't cover that are of great interest to many people, but that's not necessarily conspiracy. That's "sellin' papes," to borrow a Newsies-ism. Further, many of the things that people cry foul about are either a) non-issues, or b) local issues. I once saw a blog post listing all the tyrannical things Barack Obama had done in his time in office. One of the things listed was a city ordinance from San Rafael, California -- a couple towns over from where Seth and I spent our teenage years -- which banned cigarette smoking inside residences. In reality, all that would have been necessary to avoid this would be for people to go to city council meetings and make themselves heard, and then vote. Instead, though, I watched as dozens of people on my newsfeed who aren't even FROM Marin County reposted that list as evidence of Obama's slow metamorphosis into half-black Hitler.

Listen, none of us is totally innocent of sometimes buying into media narratives just because they back up what we already want to to believe. As adult citizens of the United States with the power to actually change (or maintain) the way that it is run, though, we have got to get past this X-Files mentality that the truth is out there but we have no access to it because of some mysterious "they" who don't want us to know what's really going on. In my experience, the worst things that are happening are actually things you can plainly see with your naked eye. For the love of Pete (Wrigley, because that's the Pete I always think of), stop with the "WHAT AREN'T THEY TELLING US???" and start thinking about what they ARE telling us that we can totally push back against. If you think this shadowy Mainstream Media isn't talking about Bernie (or whoever your candidate is) enough, start a website, start sending out mailers, start posting all over your Facebook and Twitter, start painting some murals. Then you might change something. I just cannot tell you how sick I am of people who only get their news from extremist websites trying to tell us all that the Mainstream Media is somehow cutting us off from what's actually friggin' everywhere. In the words of The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with at a Party: Learn a book.

And for good measure:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

debate twitter is best twitter

Lawd, I love Twitter during an event. The Oscars, the VMAs, a car chase. Doesn't matter what it is, Twitter snark makes it better. This is perhaps best demonstrated during political debates. I've compiled a list of some of my favorite snark from tonight's Democratic debate on CNN, much of which is aimed at Jim Webb because HOLY HELL, AMIRITE?

Anything I missed that killed you? Let me know.

(^ when asked about the greatest threat America faces)

And I think we can all agree that, for all Webb's ridiculousness, the true loser of the debate was Mike Huckabee.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I read these and you should too - 10.11.2015

"The White Man in That Photo" | Riccardo Gazzaniga
"Back in the change-resisting, whitewashed Australia he was treated like an outsider, his family outcasted, and work impossible to find. For a time he worked as a gym teacher, continuing to struggle against inequalities as a trade unionist and occasionally working in a butcher shop. An injury caused Norman to contract gangrene which led to issues with depression and alcoholism.
As John Carlos said, 'If we were getting beat up, Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone.' For years Norman had only one chance to save himself: he was invited to condemn his co-athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s gesture in exchange for a pardon from the system that ostracized him.
A pardon that would have allowed him to find a stable job through the Australian Olympic Committee and be part of the organization of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Norman never gave in and never condemned the choice of the two Americans."
Why This?: It's a powerful story of a man who decided to stand for racial justice and spent the rest of his life paying for it. 

"Why Must We Hate the Things Teen Girls Love?" | Laura Moss
"'There's an underlying assumption that teen girls are not in control of their emotions or interests and become overly excited or upset for no reason,' she said. 'When the reality is that teen girls are often very intentional about what they're interested in and aware of the social influences behind those media products, and they deliberately use excitement and passion as the foundation for community-building and empathetic development.'"
Why This?: Everyone knows I love boy bands and YA novels and getting all dolled up for a selfie, but I wasn't always so open about my girly pursuits. In middle school, my friends loved Hanson, but would refer to them as Third Eye Blind when boys were around so that they wouldn't be judged. This article is an excellent primer on why it's harmful for girls to consider their interests as less valuable then the serious pursuits of their male counterparts. 

"Things I Have Yelled at My Television, Which Cannot Hear Me, While Watching 'Miss Fisher's Mysteries' During My Convalescence" | Mallory Ortberg
Why This?: Because Mallory Ortberg's thoughts are all of our thoughts on this.

"It's Not About Mental Illness: The Big Lie That Always Follows Mass Shootings by White Males" | Arthur Chu
"That’s as deliberately obtuse as reading the Facebook rants of a man who rambled on at great length about how much he hated religion and in particular hated Islam and deciding that the explanation for his murdering a Muslim family is that he must’ve just 'gone crazy' over a parking dispute.
Now we’ve got a man who wore symbols of solidarity with apartheid regimes, a man who lived in a culture surrounded by deadly weapons who, like many others, received a gift of a deadly weapon as a rite of passage into manhood.
He straight-up told his victims, before shooting them, that he was doing it to defend 'our country' from black people 'taking over.' He told a woman that he was intentionally sparing her life so she could tell people what he did.
There is no reasonable interpretation of his actions that don’t make this a textbook act of terrorism against black Americans as a community.
And yet almost immediately we’ve heard the same, tired refrain of 'The real issue is mental illness.'"
Why This?: The inimitable Arthur Chu explains why bigotry toward and scapegoating of mentally ill people is a cop-out to avoid dealing with the real ideologies behind acts of domestic terrorism. Even when faced with manifestos and confessions detailing their reasoning, we brush them off as mentally ill, as if the illness created the toxic ideology. If it's just crazies being crazy, we can keep insisting there's just nothing we can do.

"'The Raven Symone' by Edgar Allen No" | Lauren Duca

Song of the Week:

This little rediscovery from 2011, "La Seine" by Vanessa Paradis and M, is magical. Many thanks to Michelle for bringing it to my attention.

Monday, June 29, 2015

stress made me chubby... and people still frickin' LOVE me.

'Cause Spanx are a girl's best friend.
As someone who's got a pretty heavy web presence, and will even be on the old fashioned boob tube on Syfy in a few weeks, there's basically nothing that makes me more nervous than the fact that I've chubbed out over the past eight months or so. There was very little I could do about it. It's not like I've been nomming on McDonalds and eating bon bons while lying on the couch. In fact, one of my profs pointed out to me that he knows my schedule must be busy because every time he sees me, I'm running. I literally started wearing running shoes to school every day because my schedule didn't allow for leisurely strolls from place to place. I ran upstairs every day like I was frickin' Rocky Balboa or one of those Washington D.C. interns, all the while surviving off of a half cup of greek yogurt and a small bag of chips most days. Not super healthy, I'll grant, but also equaling out to about 900 calories at most probably 5/7 days a week. But I'm also on several medications to deal with various mental health issues, and the stress I was under that led to my averaging 3-4 hours of sleep most nights meant my body was like, "Screw you. I'm punishing you with fat." It's 2015, the height of fitness culture. This is basically like my body deciding it never wants friends or success or respect, or anything else that validates a human being.

Or so I thought.

Clearly, people find me to be a disgusting beast.

Despite the seemingly unstoppable expanding of my belly, arms, and boobs, I'm still a pretty confident person. I'm still a fairly witty person. I still smile constantly, dance like no one's watching, hug anyone who asks, affirm folks whenever I get a chance. And because of all that, people love me. And lest that sound like I'm bragging about how super awesome I am, I don't think awesomeness has anything to do with it. It's about being the kind of person who makes other people feel good. It's about choosing not to to spend all my time thinking about the way I look, and instead just focusing on having a really good time with the people I love. And that seems to more than compensate for my increasing body mass. Go figure.

I almost didn't post this amazing pic because of my chubby arms.
Now, I don't plan for this to be my permanent state. Hopefully my stress level will become manageable, my need for medication will dwindle, and all the running and squatting and push-upping I do will finally balance out my body's apparent need to sabotage itself. I want to avoid whatever health issues come along with carrying too much extra baggage. But either way, I'm kind of glad for this terrible season, because I realized that what I have to offer is so far beyond my measurements. So many people told me at my friends' wedding the other day that I looked great, at a time in which I feel like I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I don't think they were blowing smoke and trying to make me feel good about myself. I think when you genuinely love and like people, and like yourself, there's this radiance that others can't help but see over everything else.

Listen: I know there are people who were at my high school reunion, or at my friends' wedding, or who follow me on instagram who are probably like, "Oh, damn. She got FAT. lol." But screw them because they haven't walked two moons in my moccasins. They may feel like they're better because they weigh what they weighed in high school, but even if I'm heavier than I want to be, I live the life I want to live. I read books I want to read, meet celebrities I want to meet, podcast with one of my best friends every week, dance with another of my best friends at his wedding, and get told constantly that I'm talented, intelligent, beautiful, inspiring. Why do I effing care if I'm also overweight? That is the dumbest thing on the planet. I am worth so much more than my stupid, chubby arms.

And so are you. Because most of you are right there with me, for various reasons. You want to be the person who spends a couple hours at the gym every day and can pretend to like gluten free, vegan food, and has time to prepare such things even if you ARE the kind of person who enjoys eating what is essentially dog food for humans. No, seriously, that stuff is the worst, but I'm proud of you for deluding yourself into thinking it tastes good. You want to be the person who has a B-cup and never has to wear Spanx, despite the scourge of genetics that you should accept says, "NOPE. I have made that physically impossible." I mean, make sure you go to the doctor and you're not slowly killing yourself, but if you're fat and healthy and a good person, you are what the world needs. People don't constantly affirm me because I'm special. Unless you're a douchebag, you're probably just as awesome to be around as I am. It's summer, beach time, and it's as good a time as any to stop shopping for the perfect cover-up and start being the winner Shia LaBeouf knows you can be. Let's do this, chubby folk.