Privilege and #metoo Pt. 2

Thank you for your response to Part 1 of this subject. It’s crucial that we not forget the intersections of our identities and how they’re all at play at the same time (if you’re not sure what I mean by that, let me know and I’m happy to speak more about it). Just like with most viral movements, there are some problems but there’s some good, too.

So last week when #metoo was going around, it came with it so many complications. Like, does everyone who’s ever experienced sexual violence have to share? And does it have to be rape for it to count? No. On both counts. First of all, just like when it comes to National Coming Out Day, you don’t have to say anything about yourself or your life experience that doesn’t feel really good and safe to you. And secondly, no one ever gets to tell you whether or not your experience counts. If it was uncomfortable enough to live in the front of your mind, yeah, that counts.

I had a conversation with a person who kept saying that most of the girls who posted #metoo weren’t even raped, so how does he know if this person was just “offended” or actually assaulted? The answer is, dude, it doesn’t matter. Because it didn’t happen to you, it happened to her. So… buggar off and try to be more productive.

Which brings me to… so what do we do? I know, we play the long game. We raise our children to not feel like they have to accommodate people and also to respect other people’s bodies and we just wait for the older generation to die out. I guess?

And we do all we can to lobby and enact policy change that actually punishes rapists. But again, that’s a long game, too. I hear a lot of people saying, “We need to create a society in which people who are assaulted feel comfortable enough to come forward.” But that still doesn’t feel exactly right to me because the last thing that a violated person should have to do is be forced to take on all the labor of dealing with it all.
It’s so hard. It’s so, so hard. A rape test kit, in and of itself, can take up to 4-6 hours. It’s a very extensive and invasive process–especially for a person who has just undergone trauma. Learn more about what keeps people from going through the full process of prosecuting someone for a rape at Endthebacklog. That doesn’t even go into the way that a person can be traumatically violated without the experience fitting the traditionally accepted definition of rape.

So, this all started because Harvey Weinstein was abusing the hell out of a bunch of women who worked for/ with him. He violated Hollywood Royalty as well as other people who weren’t as well known. He didn’t do it because he was horny or because those women were sexually attractive. He did it as a power move. Rape and sexual violence are never about sexual attraction and always about power. Recognize that. Repeat it. Remember it. It’s about power. He did it because he knew he could get away with it and keep himself in a position of power. Until he couldn’t.

So that tells me that we need to be expediting the “until he couldn’t” part of the story. Look, you don’t know Harvey Weinstein. You might not even know anyone rich and famous who is systematically assaulting people. But you do know people. I promise you know someone who has had a non-consensual experience with someone else that you know. It happens all the time. Yesterday, I read that every 7 hours or so, someone in Kansas reports a rape. That’s a lot of people. And when you consider the people who have been violated in a way that isn’t necessarily definable as “rape”, and those who haven’t ever reported what happened to them, that’s a hell of a lot more.

I know that my audience, here, is primarily women but I want to talk to the few men who are reading this… you have an obligation. You have to do what you can to make the people around you feel like they’ll never get away with treating someone with such disrespect. Whatever it may be: an unwanted pat on the bum, whispering in someone’s ear, telling a joke that belittles women. You don’t have to be the rapist to be complicit in the violation of others.
And why is it on your shoulders? Because if these people gave a damn about what we had to say about it, this would have been solved a long time ago. Because we’ve been screaming for ages, “hey please treat us like the equal humans that we are.” And if you’ve spent 15 minutes anywhere on the internet, you’ll see what happens when we ask for respect. It’s not great.

Look, a person needs to know that he’s going to face some kind of social repercussions for his disgusting behavior. Like, his friends who refuse to be associated with someone who’s grab assing when he gets drunk. Like getting zero laughs and uncomfortable silence when he makes a messed up joke about women. Like knowing that he’ll have no safe spaces to go to when he violates someone.
Try stepping in when you hear someone refer to a woman as “baby”, “honey”, “sugar”. It’s not that hard, “she has a name”. We’re putting our bodies on the lines just by existing in this world. The absolute least you can do is correct your asshole friend.

Men, people with this masculine privilege, we are literally out here dying for you to step in and do something.
When “the good ones” in our lives are still doing nothing at all… I hope you understand how hopeless it can feel.

We can’t get policy changed as long as the people who are running this joint still don’t seem to understand that there’s a problem. It’s not a matter of waiting until the older generation to die out so the younger, better generation can take over. Because a) the older generation is training the younger and b) there’s no such thing as generations who are better than each other. There’s no such thing as any group of people that’s better than another. That’s the whole point!

I’m just so tired. And like I said in the last post, I know that I barely even have any right to be. But I am. We all are.


Privilege and #metoo Pt. 1

I feel like I’m always a little late to the game when it comes to addressing these social topics but I have to tell you, that’s not unintentional. For me, it’s important to digest something and really get a grip on what I believe before I speak out to the rest of you about the thing. And also, these kinds of things are really exhausting. A lot of emotional labor goes into processing and writing all of this out. Some people have a fire lit underneath them early and that’s where you get these brilliant, quick articles. But I go into shutdown mode and come back when there’s a pile of warm ash. That’s okay, it’s still important.
So, I know that #metoo was sooo last week but it’s, heartbreakingly, a timeless story.  I would love to talk to you about some problems with the campaign as well as the importance of it and what practical actions we can take in the wake of it. What do you say, can we go there, together?

So, the internet exploded with #metoo after Alyssa Milano posted about it on Twitter. Last Monday, my Facebook feed was filled with #metoo after #metoo. I posted it. I *liked* in solidarity with my sisters who were adding their voices. In private groups, I said “it’s okay” to the people who could only bring themselves to share it in small, safe spaces. It was everywhere. And I do believe that it was/ is vitally important to make sure that people are allowed to put up their hands in solidarity with one another.
Still though, something about it doesn’t sit perfectly in my soul but also, what IS going to feel right when it comes to this subject? It felt… little. It felt tired. Like, how many times do we have to set the world on fire with our screams about how sexual violence is real and happening all the time every single minute of every single day before someone listens? Just a little over a year ago we were all telling our stories when Brock Turner got… what was it… six and a half minutes in prison for brutally raping a woman? It feels like every few months something like this happens and we all feel like, “this time someone’s going to listen! This time, someone’s going to stop this.” I am so tired.

I can’t help but be reminded that if I think that I, a white, cis-gendered woman, am tired–what about the others who don’t have the privileges that I have? I’m not a feminist if my heart and my hands don’t quickly jump to those who are less protected than I. In particular, I can’t stop thinking of the undocumented people among us who are constantly victims of sexual abuse and trauma with no where to go. Where exactly are they supposed to report that? A police officer? Please.
People with disabilities that make them particularly vulnerable to the people who are supposed to help care for them but instead take their advantages. Black women who are fighting, inarguably, harder than anyone in my circles for their own humanity to be recognized. And I think I’m tired?

I make a point to follow a lot of people of color–particularly those who see themselves as educators–on  social media to make sure I don’t get stuck in my own bubble too much. I’m grateful every day for these people who are showing me the ways that I’m resting on my privilege–things I don’t see right away. Showing me different perspectives, even if I’m not their target audience. It’s crucial for me to listen and learn.
A few days after #metoo started, I was hearing, here and there, about how Alyssa Milano didn’t start this after all like we all thought. A black woman named Tarana Burke did–ten years ago.
For even a few days after that information came out, I wondered, “okay but why does it matter?” Why does it matter that someone else came up with it if the concept is being utilized right now? I’m embarrassed that it took me days and days to realize this.

It’s because when it was black women trying to be heard, no one paid attention. A rich white woman sends a tweet and the whole world freaks out! That’s the issue. Or… that’s one of the major issues. Why aren’t we listening to and fighting for the black women among us?

Ericka Hart and Ebony Donnley have a podcast called Hoodrat to Headwrap: A Decolonized Podcast where they talk casually and educationally about everything that I wonder about the most in life. Sex, gender, race, the problem of white people… all of it. On their latest episode, Ericka mentioned kind of… exasperatedly that of course a black woman came up with Me Too ten years ago. And of course no one really paid attention until a white woman decided to use it.
Not only that but in this podcast, I learned that it was a woman of color who brought these charges against Harvey Weinstein in the first place but until Rose McGowan and Gwynneth Paltrow said something, no one paid attention. Why are we making black women pave the way to make space for our white voices?

And no, it’s not our fault that we didn’t know the whole entire history of it all before we participated in it but… gah! Isn’t that how it all is, though? Over and over again, if you go back to the history of most things in America, everything was built on the pain of people of color. And then I can just dance right over it all like everything is so easy but it was never easy–someone else just did all the hardest work for us.

I’m angry that people have to fight so hard to be heard and I’m even angrier that it took a lot of us so long to see that these other people have been doing it for centuries.

“Now that it’s happening to you–now we’re all up in arms? No, we’ve been up in arms! Where have you been?”
–Ericka Hart, Hoodrat to Headwrap: A Decolonized Podcast, Episode 8

I know that we (“we” being you and me, reader) really and truly believe that unless all of us are free, none of us are free. I know we don’t actively believe that one skin color is inherently better than another. But we need to make that a practice. We need to actively practice our intersectionality if it’s ever going to mean anything (and by the way, even the word “intersectional” as we apply it to Feminism was developed by, who? Say it with me, a black woman!) We need to listen to and believe the marginalized among us. A lot of people keep saying that we need to give these people a voice. No, these people have a voice it’s just that we aren’t listening.
Listen. And pass the mic that you were born with.

Now, I have a lot more to say about #metoo and I’m going to post about that in a few days but I just couldn’t go into this conversation without acknowledging the way that privilege is taking a super front seat in this conversation.

In Part 2 I want to talk about practical things we can do in the wake of this viral movement.
Thank you for listening to me.
As always, please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments or on Facebook.


I Want You to Want

So, for me it started in High School. I don’t know what it was that prompted all of us to adopt this attitude that caring about things was lame. What a time to start that, eh? Right around the time that you want things so badly you’d do anything to have them all while pretending to be completely ambivalent about it all.

Did I want cool clothes? Psh. No. I was fine with the clothes my mom had been sewing for me since birth. I’m not materialistic like that.
Please, God, please let me have an Arizona jacket for Christmas like all the other kids have!

Did I want to be invited to the parties that all the other kids were going to on the weekends? No. Gross. I didn’t want to become an alcoholic at seventeen!
What’s wrong with me that no one wants to spend time with me outside of school?

Did I want to be asked to dance at the Oktoberfest street dance? Ugh. Please, I didn’t even want to be here.
I’ve been planning my outfit for weeks and I stole my mom’s navy blue eyeliner to apply in the Duckwalls bathroom before the dance started.

Part of it was the constant rejection of being the fat kid. Some of it was growing up in a house with four kids and there was just never quite enough money to go around. Asking for things was selfish. It was easier for everyone if we just pretended we didn’t want for anything. Another bit of it was being a woman in a Christian environment where we’re encouraged to chase contentment in all things that are handed to us. And where all these identities intersect is the perfect storm to create a person who doesn’t know she’s allowed to care. Wanting is for other people.

Even still, my partner is constantly asking me, “What do you want?” It’s become a lesson. Wanting is something that I have to practice.
It’s not that I don’t feel comfortable speaking up for what I want–it’s that for the most part, I’m incapable of wanting. I don’t want anything–at least not that I know of. My desire is constantly buried under a pile of things that come first. Other people’s preferences or needs or comfort.

I’ve built a life of defense mechanisms. Reactive to what’s around me without even recognizing that being proactive is an option. Proactive is new to me and it’s hard. But we can do hard things if we practice.

When it comes to this blog, I’ve been pretending that what happens happens and I’ll be okay with it even if no one reads it, I’m just happy to be writing. And that’s true. That is the core of why I’m even here in the first place. But as my honesty has increased in this space, so has the visibility of it. Other outlets are seeing what I’m writing and as their interest grows, so does mine. I want to grow. I want to reach more people and I’ve never said that before because I’m supposed to just be happy where I’m at. And I am! You can be happy and want more. You can be so many things all at once.

I want to be successful. I want to grind it out. I want to build a community full of people who are wanting space to be honest with one another. I want it and it feels really vulnerable to be seen as a woman with desires but here I am standing in my honesty with you.

I have desires. You do, too. We’re groomed to push those down and when we vocalize these desires, we’re taking up space. Which is another thing we’re not supposed to do.  We’re inconvenient. We’re disrupting the narrative that they’ve written about us in their minds. But that’s their thing to figure out. It really has nothing to do with you.

But I want.
And I want you to want what you want, too. IMG_3296

Don’t be afraid to be seen. Don’t be afraid to be seen as someone who desires.


What Does She Owe You?

Earlier this week I took Fiona to the dog park. We love to go out there. She likes to run. I like to sit in the sun all by myself and unplug from the internet for a while. Sometimes, I bring a book but I almost never read it because my mind really just loves to wander. We’re usually alone.


This time, though, a gentleman was there with his three dogs. This man did not share my joy in solitude and quietness out there. He was so enthusiastic and trying so hard to engage me in conversation despite my use of the polite nod, headphones, and actively walking away from him. Finally after his fourth failed attempt at getting a conversation going he said to me, in the exact same tone of voice that he used when speaking to his tiny dogs, “well you’re just not very friendly are you?” Like, he could have easily finished that up with, “Who’s not a friendly girl? You aren’t! No you’re not!”

Frankly, I was just grateful that he was rounding the corner towards giving up so I just said, “not really,” put my earbuds back in and texted my friends about this guy. Look, could I have made an effort? Yeah. Of course. Am I required to? I am certainly not. And why not? Because I’m tired. We’re tired. And also because I’m just a person doing her damn best at being alive some days.

Last year, immediately following the funeral of a friend, I was filling my car up with gas and the man across the terminal said to me, “Come on, baby, smile. Things can’t be that bad.”

A dear friend was walking out to her car in a grocery store parking lot in the middle of the day as a man approached and asked her to him show her tits.

Last winter, a stranger approached me as I was closing up the bookstore and asked me to drive him out to his home in the middle of the country well after dark. And when I very extra politely declined, he said, “well I hope someone helps you out when you need help one day.”

Someone I know was once physically assaulted at work by a man who was upset that her nail polish was chipped. He claimed that she didn’t show him respect by making the effort to appear presentable.

For some people, it can be easy to “see both sides”. It’s easy–really easy to make us look like the bitch because we each said “no” to these men who wanted a piece of us.
That guy was just being friendly or he needed help or he obviously has issues. And because of these special circumstances, we’re expected to make a sacrifice of ourselves to be as polite as possible to these men who are so entitled to us. Entitled to our friendliness. To our bodies, our time, our resources, our devotion.

Sometimes we’re polite because our comfort comes secondary to those around us. It’s part of being a woman. We give and give and give. That’s the way we’re raised and that’s what men were raised to expect from us.
Other times, we’re polite as a means of survival. Because we don’t know how they’ll react to a rejection, we have to butter it up in the most sticky, sweet, gratitude. So flattered that they’ve chosen us to talk to on this lucky, special day.

It’s exhausting.

So when you come to me at the dog park and want to become best friends immediately without taking a minute to read the room, when you need a favor from a stranger, or you want some girl to take her top off or change her nail color to make you feel good I beg you. I BEG YOU to take a second and repeat after me:

This person owes me nothing.



Digging for Truth in Rubble

I grew up in a world that preached of a need for a redeemer—of my failures and my inability to do any good on my own. This is the story of my redemption and finding the greatest joy my heart has ever known.

I was born into the role of the enemy in my own life’s story. Every thought I had—sinful. Every action I took—double minded. I would never know a pure mind or heart because we live in a sinful world where that can’t possibly exist. The language that was used to show us that Christ was our savior, more than anything, drove the point home that I was worthless—I could never be a hero, even in my own imagination. Regardless, my job was to keep working towards purity and holiness despite the fact that achieving it was well known to be impossible. A treadmill pointed in the direction of Heaven.

I longed for the eventual day when all of this self-hatred would burst forth into the freedom and joy that we sang of from our hymnals. I knew that if I was just more holy, finally I would see light. Seeking guidance, I had learned to explain away the perpetual guilt and bondage that I felt as simply an indicator that I was far from understanding the complex nature of God’s salvation. I wasn’t working hard enough.

I hated myself as an act of obedience to Christ. I was full of sin and he was full of light and there is no darkness in him. So while I prayed, daily, for him to come live inside of my heart I had an inkling that even if he did, our spirits could not really co-exist. I knew he was there because I’d asked him to be there and they told me those were the rules. But I could not feel him. I pictured him setting up camp in a sealed jar inside of my heart, present but never risking contamination.

They preached modesty because our bodies belonged to Jesus as well as our one-day husbands. The boys’ minds will wander and how dare we lead them down a path of sexual destruction when their minds should be focused on the holy things. The mind of a boy—the way his whole life could be derailed simply by bearing witness to the presence of skin was my responsibility.

What if you happened upon someone who didn’t know that Jesus would save them from Hell if only they’d ask him to? It’s so easy if you just tell them about what he can do for them. I hadn’t yet felt this freedom they promised but I was sure it was coming—in fact, maybe I’d finally feel it if I helped to save a person from themselves. Just stop and tell them about Jesus—it’s easy. On top of all these other things to feel guilty about, what’s the weight of another person’s soul? Pile it on, I’d learned to bear the weight.

I was nearing the end of my education at a liberal arts Christian University before the heaviness became too much to bear and I started to toy with the idea of dropping some of it. I stopped going to church on Sunday mornings. That first Sunday, I realized that the only other people in the dorm at that time of day were the hung-over girls and they weren’t going to judge me. I became the one who would retrieve food for them. I’d bring them water and tacos and help them to feel a little better. I never felt guilt over missing church and fully embraced my position as Administrator of Fast Food. It was the first time that I remember feeling like I could breathe full, whole breaths unencumbered by the weight of duty.

I had been told that people who turned their backs on the way that we’d been raised would have no moral compass—that there was nothing to pull them towards living a good life. One person told me that the only thing keeping him from cold-blooded murder was his love for Jesus and the same was true of me. Of course I believed him but it turns out, this wasn’t true. More than anything, my love for others blossomed under the freedom that I finally felt when I began to leave that life behind.

I started dropping other small things and by the time I was 25, I’d given it all up. All of it. I was shocked at how quickly and effortlessly it all just slipped away. The guilt, the self-hatred, the responsibility for the lives and afterlives of others—it dropped right off. Things I held so tightly for so long didn’t hold onto me at all. It felt like sun on my back and wind on my face after a lifetime in a basement. Regardless of this relief, I couldn’t help but resent the faith that I was born into. I blamed it for keeping this joy from me for so long. But with all the rubble of my former belief system at my feet, I began a decade-long excavation process where I was able to pick things up individually, research, and listen to find out exactly how I really felt about subjects.

It was around this time that a dear friend of mine breezily referred to herself and her husband as feminists. I played it cool but I was flabbergasted by what she said. She mentioned it in such a way that suggested that anyone who isn’t a total monster is a feminist. I laughed along, pretended to understand what she was talking about and made a note to do some Googling when I got home. It’s not that I’d never heard of feminism before—it’s just that the only way it had ever been presented to me was in a negative context. In the world in which I grew up, a feminist was basically the worst thing that a woman could be. She laughed in the face of tradition and she sought to destroy God’s idea of family. In my research, I tried to maintain a cynical point of view. I didn’t want to blindly accept something simply because it felt to be in conflict with the faith I had left behind. In the deconstruction of my faith, it never occurred to me to pick up this concept, turn it over in my hands, and learn about it in a new way. But when I did, I saw that there was nothing scary about feminism. In fact there was nothing about feminism that didn’t feel absolutely right deep inside of my spirit.

On a basic level, I agree with my friend: anyone who has much basic decency is a feminist at least to a certain degree—whether they acknowledge it or not. Believing that all persons should be honored as humans and not treated differently based on gender is really all it takes. A whole and happy life is for all of us. Feminism told me that I was the hero of my story and that I didn’t have to wait around for someone to save me or even that I needed saved in the first place. When I encountered this world, it was the first time that I’d ever been told that I was worthy of good things or that I was capable of making them happen. I learned that I had certain skills and affinities for certain tasks—I didn’t just have a list of things that women must do. I finally felt an ownership over my life and my body. All this and more compelled me to seek out ways that I could shine this truth to other people, as well. I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “Have you seen this? Did you know how great and capable you are?!”

In more recent years, I joined a private Feminist Facebook group and that has been personally revolutionary in so many ways—not only in a community building sense, but in prompting me to look more closely at the faith with which I was raised. Perhaps there was a baby in that bathwater all along. Many of my deepest friends are believers and they have found a way to marry their faith with their feminism—I see it play out in a certain ways that make it look like the two concepts were made for each other and I wish this was something I’d seen in my youth. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just too late for me–I’m not there and I might never be and I’m very comfortable with that. Cynicism is still an important aspect to the way that I view the world but the bitterness is getting left behind on account of all of this joy.

“If you’re going to share widely, make sure you’re sharing from your scars, not from your open wounds.” –Nadia Bolz-Webber via Glennon Doyle Melton

The more I learned about equality, I learned about my privileges, Intersectionality, and the way that I could be advocating for equality between all types of people. It’s never been about raising up women and leaving everyone else in the dirt—contrary to what I’d been originally taught. Advocacy for safety and security of all people of all races, gender identities, sexual orientations, all abilities and sizes is crucial to the feminism to which I subscribe. Feminism tells me to stand in the way of those things set to destroy others.

Feminism gave me everything that decades in the church promised would come to me in time—but in a completely different and unexpected way. “Feminist” was the first and only label that I adopted after I decided that I didn’t want them anymore. It’s the only label that has given me more freedom than chains. I feel free when I am strong enough in my body and in my mind to stand up on behalf of someone else. Whether it’s to serve tacos to the hung over or to march on behalf of the forgotten in our community—I have found strength in these bones to rise up. I have finally found redemption.


PS: As you know, I’m always happy to address any and all questions. Email me or send a direct message on Instagram or Facebook and I’ll do my best to address any questions that come up.

Lead photo: Blue Muse Photography